Hidden Giftsby JoaG
Jack walked along the deserted corridors, feeling odd knowing the base was empty except for a skeleton crew, and would remain so for the next three days. But still, it was weird, not meeting people everywhere he went.
He was just about ready to leave for the day, his duties were done. He had personally stopped by Hammond's empty office while undertaking a final check when he noticed lights were on in the Control Room. SG-2, the only off-world team had returned, on schedule, just over two hours ago. Everyone should have left by now, so he hurried down the circular stairs to see if anything was amiss.
The relief in Technician Davis' voice immediately caught Jack's attention.
"Doctor Jackson is overdue and technically, he's lost his window to Abydos. What should I tell him should he arrive?"
Jack stood dumbfounded as the man stared up at him. He hadn't spoken to Daniel in the past twenty-four hours and it took him several seconds to realize that his friend was leaving today.
Of course it would be today. Daniel would have been scheduled to travel through the Stargate today since no other missions had been planned before or after SG-2's arrival, due to the time of year. Every team member except for Teal'c was now on Earth, considerations given to allow the staff time to enjoy Christmas with their families.
Then it hit him. Daniel was still here on Earth! He hadn't left! Something had to have happened to him – even if he'd changed his mind about leaving, Daniel would have informed both the senior officer, who today was Jack since Hammond had taken leave, and the person in the Control Room, who had spent the two hours of his own time waiting for Daniel to show up.
Daniel had requested permission to go offworld weeks ago to spend his time off with Kasuf and Skaara. The request had come through Jack's desk and it had pissed him off to no end. He had sort of expected to spend the holidays with Daniel, hoping to somehow bridge the gap that had opened up in the middle of their burgeoning relationship. But when he'd seen the request, rage and sorrow had slowly simmered through him and he knew there was little chance to reconcile what had barely been there in the first place.
Jack knew how much his Abydonian family meant to Daniel – with Shau'ri's recent death and with Jack coming across like a dumb ass after his return from Edora, leaving Earth had probably seemed like Daniel's only means of escape.
And Daniel's search for escape had been totally, irrevocably, Jack's fault. And which he had wanted to try and repair, but with the sting operation Jack had been recruited for coming right after his months marooned offworld, all he'd managed to do was end up shoving a larger wedge between the two of them.
Jack hadn't even bothered to bring up the subject of Abydos. He'd initialed the request, sent it on its way, and then had refused to talk about it. And Daniel had tried – much to Jack's shame.
"Huh?" Jack brought himself back to the present and realized that Davis was still waiting for a reply.
"Lock it up, Sergeant," Jack said, shoving his hands in his pockets. "You've done more than what was necessary." Jack pointed at the exit with his chin. "Go home, enjoy the holidays. "
"Yes, sir." Davis immediately began shutting down the Stargate's controls, his fingers flying over the controls. The computers would shut down to idling mode; the system wouldn't be used again unless their allies attempted to contact them, or a Goa'uld tried to attack them. But unless something of great importance happened, no teams would be stepping offworld for the next three days.
"Did anyone try to contact Doctor Jackson?"
"I tried his home." Davis froze, his hands floating above the keyboard. He turned to look at Jack. "Twice. There was no answer. I also tried to get in touch with you, sir, but you weren't in your office. I hope he's all right."
"Don't worry about it, I'll check up on him on my way home." Jack walked to the door, then put a hand out on the frame and turned back. "Merry Christmas."
Davis smiled and returned the wish. Jack hurried out the room to go change. Something was wrong, definitely wrong, if Daniel hadn't even tried to contact the base.
- - - - - -
Jack hit speed dial on his cell phone for the umpteenth time as he turned into the street where Daniel lived. Since leaving the mountain, his worry level had gone up a couple of notches. While driving down, he'd half expected to find Daniel's car in a ditch, but the roads were clear and he hadn't spotted any signs of an accident. He deftly parked the Avalanche and hurried out into the cold.
"Is Doctor Jackson in?" Jack impatiently pressed the elevator button as the doorman tried to recall if he'd seen Daniel. "Never mind." Jack quickly stepped into the elevator, pressed Daniel's floor and breathed deeply as the car seemed to rise far too slowly for his liking.
Jack hurried down the hallway and stopped before Daniel's door. He raised a hand to knock, then listened carefully for any sounds coming from inside. Other than the faint echoes of a Christmas carol coming from across the hallway, Jack couldn't hear anything.
He knocked, then after several seconds, rang the bell. When the door still didn't open, Jack used his key, having already separated it from the others on his keychain while standing in the elevator.
The odor of sickness hit him the moment he stepped into Daniel's apartment. The shades were drawn, and the room was stifling. Jack hit the light switch and looked around. A packed knapsack waited beside the door. A box with bits of Christmas wrappings still taped to it sat on an antique desk near the door, beside Daniel's keys. Jack smiled when he peeked in the box. Cassie had given him the same bath and shower stuff as a Christmas gift.
He called Daniel's name and waited. There was no answer. As he walked into the living room, he smelled, even before he saw, the puddle of vomit on the floor partly covered with a wad of soiled paper towels, evidence that someone, probably Daniel, had attempted to clean up the mess.
There was an untidy mass of blankets on the couch. Jack could just barely make out an arm hanging off the couch, the fingers lying limply on the floor. His heart hammering painfully in his chest, he stepped across the puddle on the floor and hurried to the couch.
He peeled back the blankets and uncovered Daniel's shivering form. He placed a shaking hand to Daniel's cheek and felt the unnaturally high heat radiating off his skin. At his touch, Daniel jerked and opened glazed eyes.
"Jack?" His voice was hoarse, barely there. "Wha' r you doin' 'ere?"
"God, Daniel. You're burning up."
"I feel awful." Daniel more or less mouthed the words, then coughed, and winced, rubbing his chest.
"Yeah, I bet. Looks like you caught what was going around the base." Jack reached over and turned on the light beside the couch. Its stark illumination showed the dark shadows beneath Daniel's eyes, the chapped lips, the pale face with the blush of fever high on his cheekbones. Daniel's eyes were shiny with illness as he blinked in the sudden light.
"Have you taken anything for the fever?" Jack stood up, looking around to see if there was any Tylenol nearby.
"Yes," Daniel croaked.
"When?" Daniel blinked up at Jack. "When did you last take something?"
Daniel shivered and pulled the blankets back up to his chin. "When I woke up."
He nodded, closing his eyes.
"Damnit. That was hours ago!"
"It can't be. It's still dark outside." Daniel's voice broke on a few of the syllables, making him sound like a teenager.
"The sun's already set, Daniel. Of course it's—" Jack stopped mid-sentence, realizing that Daniel was so ill, he probably had slept most of the day away. "It's late afternoon." He softened his tone, realizing it wasn't Daniel's fault. "You're probably a little disoriented."
"What time is it?" Daniel shoved the blankets from his chest and looked at his watch. "Oh shit, it can't be. I have to get to the... I... Shit." He lowered his arm over his forehead, swearing a little more. The arm soon disappeared beneath the blankets once again, the mound shaking as Daniel shivered beneath it.
Not knowing what to say, Jack went into the bathroom and found, not only the bottle of Tylenol sitting on the bathroom counter, but Daniel's soiled pajamas lying in the corner. He rummaged in the medicine cabinet, found the old-fashioned glass thermometer, shook it while he returned to Daniel, stuck it into his mouth, went to the kitchen to get some water, then sat on the coffee table, waiting.
After three minutes, he pulled the thermometer from Daniel's mouth, and realized Daniel had dozed off. Jack tilted it towards the light until he could see how high the mercury had risen. Damn. 104.4.
He shook out three Tylenol and gently shook Daniel awake. He handed the pills to a slightly dazed Daniel, and then coaxed him to take more than two sips of water. When Daniel had swallowed half the glass, Jack put the glass down.
"Wouldn't you be more comfortable in bed?"
"I know, you've caught the flu."
Daniel shook his head, and said something else, but his voice chose that moment to abandon him and Jack couldn't make out what he was trying to say. Daniel closed his eyes again and Jack figured he'd let him sleep a while longer, at least until the pills hopefully brought his fever down.
Jack shrugged his jacket off and laid it on the back of the couch. He may as well clean up Daniel's mess and see if there was anything in the apartment that could help his upset stomach.
He found several cans of clear soda so he popped one open and poured it into a glass. Warm and flat, it would probably help ease the nausea and the sugar in it would help give Daniel some energy.
He found a bucket, filled it with soapy water, and returned to the living room and set to work. When he finished, he stood up and realized how drab Daniel's home was compared to his own. Despite his own loneliness, Jack had put up some decorations in and around his house. He realized now it had subconsciously been in the hopes that Daniel would change his mind and come visit. But there wasn't one sign of Christmas in the apartment except for Cassie's gift, and a handful of cards that had been neatly arranged on the piano.
He wandered over and picked up and examined each card. One of the cards was from Hammond's granddaughters, one from Fraiser and Cassie, and one with a business card taped inside. Jack checked it out and saw it was from the dealer where Daniel had bought his car.
The last card was signed by both Carter and Teal'c. Beside it was a smaller envelope with Carter's handwriting. Jack opened it up and found two tickets to an exhibition at a museum in Denver being held later next month. With a sigh, Jack put the tickets back into the envelope. He remembered Daniel talking excitedly about this coming attraction and Jack had planned on going with him to it. It felt like such a long time ago.
He ran a hand through his hair as he turned to look at the sleeping man on the couch. Jack's heart contracted painfully as he thought back to the one night so long ago when he and Daniel had haltingly confessed their attraction for one another. They had fumbled, a little giddily and awkwardly, in the bedroom, bringing one another to completion with promises to do the deed more thoroughly after some research.
They had gotten together twice after that eventful night, neither having the guts to attempt more than a hand job for one another. But there had been laughter and exploration and intimacy and it had been the start of something Jack knew would be powerful and satisfying.
Until he'd gotten stranded on Edora, and had finally given up all hopes of going back home. Returning to Earth had been difficult for him, he honestly had cared for Laira and he'd needed time to sort things through.
He had pulled away from his friends, Daniel, especially. Seeing Daniel confused Jack too much - he thought he'd come to terms with falling for his best friend who just happened to be a man... and then Jack had been attracted for a woman.
For those few days after his return to Earth, the idea of giving up his command and retiring to Edora had been tempting. Everything about home had been loud, dirty and so different from the quiet, but backwater planet he'd lived on for a hundred days.
There had been something satisfying about working the land, working with his hands, having lost all access to technology he'd grown up with. But the moment he'd returned to work after a few days of acclimation, and had come face to face with Daniel, he knew that his destiny should lie with blue eyes, a sharp wit and a stubbly face.
So why did Laira's image continue to haunt him?
Jack sighed. So much time wasted. He should have swallowed his pride and gone to talk to Daniel.
Recalling the dirty clothes in the bathroom, Jack thought Daniel would appreciate wearing something clean. He entered Daniel's bedroom, only to realize that the living room wasn't the only place Daniel had been sick in.
Breathing shallowly through his mouth against the stench, Jack began stripping the bed. While he worked, Daniel's phone rang. He located the chiming receiver hidden in the folds of the soiled bedspread.
Jack recognized Sergeant Davis' voice immediately.
"Daniel's fine," Jack said before the man could ask. "Well, as fine as you can be with a case of the flu."
"Oh, I'm so relieved it's nothing serious. I was a little worried and couldn't help calling again."
"I appreciate the concern."
"It's no problem, sir. Bye."
Jack tossed the phone on the bureau, finished stripping the bed and put the dirty linen into the washing machine. He opened the window to air out the room, and shut the door behind him to prevent the cold air from cooling off the rest of the apartment.
Jack put clean sheets on the bed and after several minutes worth of searching for more blankets, closed the window and went to check on Daniel.
Daniel was still asleep, his face now shiny with sweat, his hair damp where it peeked from beneath the blankets. Jack was relieved; he hadn't relished the idea of dragging Daniel into an overcrowded waiting room at the hospital if he hadn't been able to bring down the fever.
Returning to the bedroom and bringing out clean sweats, Jack ran a bath, shut the bathroom door, and went to wake Daniel.
"Come on," Jack coaxed with a smile as drowsy, half-lidded eyes stared up at him from the couch. "I've cleaned everything up except you."
Daniel pushed the blankets off and sat up, his bare leg sliding between the edges of the blanket.
"I think I'm dying." Daniel leaned his weight over his legs, coughing.
"It's just the flu. You'll live." As Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack, he handed him the flat, warm soda. Daniel took a sip, and grimaced.
"Drink it up," Jack ordered. Daniel took a few more sips before handing Jack the glass. As Daniel peeled back a layer of blankets Jack realized he should have taken Daniel's temperature before giving him something to drink. Daniel leaned his head against the sofa's back. As his eyes began to drift shut, Jack quickly put a hand on his blanket-covered arm.
"Don't go to sleep just yet. I ran you a bath, it won't take long and you'll feel better for it."
"Bath?" Daniel coughed, and cleared his throat.
"Yeah, a quick one, just to freshen you up."
Daniel got up slowly, looking as if every muscle in his body ached. He kept a blanket held tightly over his shoulders as he made his way to the bathroom. Jack shut the door behind them, trying to keep the humid heat in the small room. Daniel dropped the blanket, and Jack saw he was clad only in a pair of boxers.
The sour smell of vomit and sweat assailed Jack, and as Daniel shivered in the damp air Jack quickly urged him into the tub.
Daniel was too weak to do much in the way of cleaning himself, so Jack grabbed soap and cloth and made short work of it. As he was helping Daniel out of the tub, Daniel slipped and fell back in. The water splashed over Jack's chest and face, soaking his shirt.
"It's okay, it'll dry."
He got Daniel out of the tub without mishap and sat him on the lowered toilet seat and quickly toweled him dry. As he helped Daniel into his clean sweats, he could tell that just this little bit of effort had exhausted him. He handed Daniel his toothbrush and waited while Daniel brushed his teeth.
When they walked out into the hallway, Daniel turned towards the living room. Jack took hold of his arm to stop him.
"You'll be more comfortable in bed."
"Bed's cold." Daniel shivered, as if to prove a point.
Jack realized how uncomfortable it was to get into bed alone in the wintertime; the sheets always seemed to take forever to warm up to body temperature. Add a fever to that, and the feeling of cold would be accentuated.
Feeling awkward, but knowing his body heat might be welcome, Jack tentatively asked, "Want me to help warm it up?"
Without a word, Daniel turned to the bedroom. With a sigh, Daniel sat on the bed. Unsure of himself, Jack sat down beside him. Daniel reached for Jack's wet shirt, tugging at the buttons.
"You'll catch cold," he rasped. "Take it off."
Realizing that the damp shirt wouldn't help warm them, Jack quickly stripped. He used the dry part of the shirt to wipe his chest. As Daniel slid into the center part of the bed, Jack told him he'd be right back.
He quickly gathered the thermometer, medicine, water and soda, and returned to the bedroom.
Daniel was sitting in the center of the bed, arms crossed over his chest, looking a little lost. Jack sat down beside him and handed him the thermometer. He urged Daniel under the covers and lay down beside him, pulling the blankets over them both.
Daniel shivered at the coolness of the sheets and Jack rolled over to plaster his length over Daniel's still too-hot body. It felt strange feeling hard muscles lying against him instead of curved softness, but still, it also felt right.
Once again, Daniel dozed off just before the allotted three minutes. His jaw relaxed and the thermometer began sliding out from between his teeth. Smiling, Jack caught the glass rod and checked the reading. Good, the readings confirmed Daniel's temperature had gone down a few degrees.
He reached back and placed the thermometer on the bedside table behind him. The movement disturbed Daniel and he opened his eyes.
"Here, let's get some more liquids into you." Jack sat up and picked up the glass. He waited while Daniel drank most of it down before snuggling back under the covers.
Daniel leaned into Jack, searching for more heat. His legs intertwined between Jack's and he drew one hand up between their chests. The other reached around Jack's shoulders, pulling him close. Apparently, Daniel also thought it felt right. Jack suppressed a grin as Daniel burrowed over into Jack's pillow.
When he was sure Daniel was sleeping, Jack carefully disentangled himself from Daniel and got out of bed. He couldn't resist pressing his mouth against Daniel's temple, feeling the heat and smooth skin against his lips.
So different from Laira, from Sara. But just as nice to be able to caress.
He grabbed one of Daniel's shirts and picked up his own damp one from the floor. He emptied the clothes washer and placed the now clean, wet linen into the dryer, and started a second load of laundry with the blankets that were on the sofa. He popped open another can of soda and poured it into another glass for later, and checked out Daniel's fridge and cupboards.
There wasn't much in the kitchen to tempt Daniel's appetite should he begin to start feeling better. Knowing that most stores would be closed by now due to the holiday, Jack decided to make a quick run home.
The traffic was light and it took him less than ten minutes. He grabbed some apple juice, Gatorade, canned soup, cheese and a few staples for himself. He packed some items of clothing and toiletries, a book, a handful of DVDs and a few other items. He picked everything up and as he was stepping towards the door, he saw the gifts laid out beneath his Christmas tree.
He stopped, realizing he needed to make a phone call.
"Sara?" His ex-wife's familiar voice suddenly made him feel guilty about his thoughts about Daniel earlier.
// Hi Jack. Are you on your way? // Her voice sounded happy, something he hadn't heard in a long time. There was music and laughter in the background
He heard the background noise disappear and knew she had moved away from the party.
// Is something wrong? Are you all right? //
"I'm fine. It's just a friend of mine - Daniel, I've mentioned him before, remember?"
// I met him, didn't I? When Charlie... //
"Yes, you did. Anyways, I just found out he's not well and I really feel uncomfortable about leaving him alone."
// Why don't you bring him with you? You know, the more the merrier. //
Jack smiled. "He's got a bad case of the flu, hon. He's really weak and ended up missing his flight, so he'll be spending Christmas in bed. I just thought I'd best stay over and make sure he takes all his meds and eats something."
// Just you take care of yourself, Jack. You'll probably end up catching that bug and then who'll take care of you? //
"I'll just lay on the guilt and Daniel'll be happy to do it. Look, I really am sorry, I was looking forward to seeing everyone, it's been a long time—"
// Yes, it has. I'm sorry you won't be coming. //
"I'll drop by later this week. I got you a little something."
// Jack. // He could hear the pleasure in her voice, and he was very glad he and Sara had finally gotten over their hurt and had remained friends. They didn't see each other often, but there was no longer any recrimination between them when they did. He'd bumped into her several days ago at the mall and when she'd discovered he was going to be alone for Christmas, she'd invited him over to both a Christmas Eve party and Christmas dinner the next day.
He'd jumped at the chance, not wanting to spend the time alone. Not after losing both Laira and Daniel in such a short period of time.
"Say hi to everyone, and I'll give you a call before I come by."
// I will. I'll save some turkey for you. //
"I'll look forward to it. Bye."
Pocketing his cell, Jack grabbed his bags and hurried back to Daniel's.
- - - - - -
Daniel woke up coughing, his throat dry and swollen and sore. His head throbbed horribly, his joints ached and he was cold. He reached out for Jack, and as his hands touched cold fabric, he realized he was alone in his bed.
He wondered if he'd dreamed that Jack had come by. He squinted in the dark room, seeing no signs that anyone had been here. Sighing, he pushed the blankets aside and sat up. The room spun for a moment and he grabbed at the mattress.
That was when he realized he'd been covered with his spare blankets, and his comforter was nowhere to be seen.
He waited a few seconds until everything righted itself, and slowly got up and shuffled his way to the bathroom on stiff, trembling legs, needing to hold onto the wall so he didn't topple over.
As he stood before the toilet, swaying slightly as he tried to aim his urine into the basin, he had vague images of sitting in the tub and Jack washing him. Sensations of Jack lying beside him in bed, wrapping him up in his arms. Memories of his being nauseous during the night and not making it to the bathroom on time. Being too weak and ill to do anything else but curl up on the couch where he'd spent part of the night waiting for the sun to rise. He'd dreamed of the desert heat of Abydos, the heat of the sun burning him cruelly.
He flushed the toilet and washed his hands, and debated going back to bed or curling up on the couch.
Bed was closer, couch wasn't quite as big and lonely. Closer won out and he gratefully crawled back in, sweating, dizzy and out of breath from the short walk back.
There was water by his bedside and he gratefully drank it down. It was tepid, but it quenched his thirst. But before he could screw the cap back onto the bottle, he began to shiver.
He quickly curled up beneath the blankets, searching for the warmth his body had earlier imparted onto the sheets and trying to absorb it back into his body. His teeth chattered as deep shivers wracked him, and he wished for Jack's length lying against him and holding him close.
God, he was so pathetic. A touch of flu and he wanted to cling to someone who had made it clear what had happened between them had been a mistake. He grabbed the extra pillow and pulled it against his chest, hoping it would help warm him up.
He remembered Jack's face when they'd found him on Edora. How Jack had barely looked at him, had brushed past Sam, and had gone to Laira instead. Rather than be elated his friends had found him, Jack had been more than obvious in his disappointment in his rescue.
It hadn't taken much deduction to see there had been something between Jack and Laira. Seeing them together had hurt more than Daniel could ever admit to Jack. This, coming on top of Shau'ri's death, had Daniel fighting to stop from withdrawing into himself. Still, when Jack had suddenly gone *bad*, Daniel had been the one who'd gone to visit Jack.
Well, they say bad things come in threes. First Shau'ri's death, then Jack and Laira, and then the no friendship angle.
But wait, it hadn't stopped there. He'd had to give up Shau'ri's son after he realized he had no way of properly protecting the boy, and if that hadn't been enough, his grandfather had left him to go stay with a planetful of aliens.
Talk about constantly getting the short end of the deal.
Then again, Jack hadn't really turned bad, and the baby *was* better off with the alien entity, and at least Nick had proven he hadn't truly been crazy and they'd both managed a truce between them.
So it had been down to Jack and Daniel, once again. Despite the cold shoulder from Jack, and after getting over the shock that it had been a covert operation, Daniel had made a couple of tentative suggestions that he and Jack get together and talk. It had taken Daniel a while, but he had finally caught on. Jack wanted nothing to do with him.
So why had Jack shown up today?
The shivers finally abated and Daniel relaxed. His hips and shoulders ached, so he tried turning onto his back. Soon his lower back ached, so he turned onto his side once again. His legs were hot so he kicked off a layer of blankets. His head pounded as he coughed. Another layer had to go; he couldn't stand the heat. And he was so thirsty.
He opened his eyes and eyed the glass full of clear liquid beside the nearly empty water bottle. It was tantalizing, but reaching for it meant he had to sit up. With a sigh, he pulled himself onto his elbows and reached for the glass. He was surprised at how little strength he had and the difficulty he had in holding the position.
He pushed himself into a sitting position, and the motion made him queasy. The drink now forgotten, Daniel concentrated on his breathing, hoping he wouldn't get sick. As the nausea increased, Daniel knew he was going to lose the battle.
He didn't remember rushing to the bathroom. As he knelt before the cold porcelain, he simply felt grateful that this time he had made it before his stomach rebelled. Then as his insides convulsed, he stopped thinking and once again, wished he would die so the misery would end.
- - - - - -
A cool hand on his face woke him up and he saw white enamel before him. He was cold, the smooth tiles doing nothing to warm him up.
"Can you sit up?" A hand supported his head and neck, another tugged at his arm. He raised his torso and for a moment, didn't think he'd make it up on his own. Then he was upright and leaning against Jack's chest and shoulder.
"You done puking?"
"Hope so." He lowered his forehead against Jack's neck.
"I'm so sorry." The hand was heavy against Daniel's upper back, rubbing small circles on it. "I ran a few errands. I shouldn't have left you alone."
"You didn't have to come back." He knew he'd spoken; there were sounds, but they were hardly describable as words. His voice was laryngitic. Speaking hurt his throat, and he hoped Jack had understood because he didn't have the energy to start repeating his sentences.
He was so tired. Physically tired. Mentally tired. Tired of hurting, tired of being hurt. Tired of being sick. Tired of being tired. He closed his eyes and sank more deeply against Jack's warmth, greedily taking this small bit of comfort Jack was offering before *it* got yanked away from him again.
Hands shook his shoulder, a soft voice spoke near his ear. "Don't go to sleep on me here. Let's get you back into bed."
Bed? No, that would involve moving. And standing. And walking. He was warm and comfortable right where he was. Well, okay, he admitted the floor was hard and cold beneath his butt. But if he had to get back to bed, that would mean separating his body from Jack's.
He raised a hand to catch Jack's jersey to hold him close and was surprised to find damp wool instead. He opened his eyes and pulled back, realizing Jack was still wearing a jacket.
"Come on, big guy, up and at 'em." Jack pulled away from Daniel, and with a loud grunt, helped him up onto his feet. With the walls leaning at a strange angle, Daniel walked down the hallway and back into his bedroom.
The damned chills were back, body-shaking shivers that made the bed tremble with their force. He felt fingers against his mouth, felt something pushed in against his teeth and he thought Jack was taking chances with getting his fingertips bitten off by putting them so close to Daniel's helplessly chattering teeth. Something sweet dribbled onto his lips and he managed to swallow the liquid and pills as they flowed down his throat.
Then Jack was lying against him, his arms holding him close and it felt so good. He hated being this vulnerable, this helpless, this needy. Even as shame added its heat to his fevered body, he burrowed closer to Jack, wanting, taking, savouring.
He slept, as restless as his fevered dreams, waking often and in discomfort. Jack was there each time, offering water, medication, a kiss and comfort. At times Daniel thought he was delirious, maybe this Jack, here in his bed, was actually a figment of his imagination. Something he'd wanted for so long and had had it cruelly taken away.
Such had been his life thus far, why shouldn't his love for Jack be any different? Daniel shifted his aching body, and realized his head was supported on something harder than his pillow.
He opened one eye and saw Jack smiling down at him.
Daniel opened his other eye, realizing suddenly Jack hadn't been a dream, after all. Not only was he in bed with Daniel, half his body was curled up *on* Jack. And Jack had his arms wrapped around him.
"Merry Christmas, Daniel." Jack's voice was strangely soft and gentle, matching the glow Daniel saw in his eyes.
"Christmas?" All that came out of Daniel's mouth was a hissing sound, and he giggled at how strange it was. The giggles sounded strangled, and he choked back the laughter at the discomfort even that action caused his poor throat.
"You were running a pretty high fever yesterday. You might have lost track of time there. Yep, it's Christmas morning."
"Why'd you come?" Daniel whispered the words instead of speaking them, and the action still irritated his throat, causing him to cough. His hands were caught under the blanket so he lowered his head so he wouldn't spray Jack's face.
"You didn't show up for your trip to Abydos. I was worried."
Daniel lifted his head from where he'd buried it against the blankets. "That was yesterday?"
"You could have just called."
"I did." Jack's face curled into an odd-looking smile that Daniel couldn't quite make out. "Several times."
Somehow Daniel couldn't picture Jack standing by the Stargate, waiting to say goodbye to him as he left through the 'gate, especially seeing the way their relationship, not to mention their friendship, had been going downhill. "You came to see me off?" he asked Jack suspiciously.
A familiar pressure and tingling in his sinuses warned him of the coming sneeze. He wrinkled his nose, trying to it stave off but it exploded out of him before he could even turn his head. Sneeze after sneeze assailed him, forcing air in and out of his lungs, each succeeding sneeze more powerful than the last, leaving him lightheaded and gasping as the last and thirteenth explosion of air echoed in the room.
Daniel pushed away from Jack and eyes streaming, groped for tissues in the night table beside the bed. He sat up and blew his nose, trying to ignore the pounding in his head. As he reached for yet another tissue, the chill bedroom air made him realize his clothes and bed sheets were wet.
"You're gonna catch this, you know," he whispered once he was done, tossing the soiled tissues onto the bedside table and pulling the damp material of his sweats away from his skin.
Daniel stood up, his legs feeling like wet pasta. Despite the weakness, he made it to the bathroom without weaving too much. He turned the shower on and took the time to brush his teeth. Just that little bit of cleanliness made him feel a whole lot better.
The steam began to permeate the small room and he breathed it in as best he could, feeling it start to unclog his sinuses. He stepped beneath the warm stream, and holding a hand against the shower tiles for support, simply stood there and let the water run down his body. It felt wonderful.
After several minutes he began feeling lightheaded again and he quickly turned the water off. He carefully stepped out of the tub and sat down heavily on the toilet seat, dripping water everywhere. The air was cooler now that there wasn't warm liquid cascading over him and he grabbed a hand towel from beside the sink and ineffectively tried to blot up his soaked skin. Even that small feat left his arms trembling weakly.
The door opened and cool air rushed inside.
"You okay?" Jack peeked around the door and Daniel simply nodded.
"Here." A large fluffy pillow enveloped him and Daniel let his hands drop beneath his thighs, curling around the now damp towel. Jack dried him quickly and roughly, the sensation evoking odd memories of feeling loved and cared for. When Jack finished wiping Daniel's feet, he raised the corners of the towel up and brought them to either side of Daniel's face. He wiped his face and neck slowly and gently, then quickly toweled his hair. Jack gave a quick peck to Daniel's nose before ordering him to stand up.
Daniel shamelessly grabbed hold of Jack's biceps and used their strength to haul himself up. Then the towel was now at his butt, moving slowly back and forth before curling around to his groin. The sensations would have been arousing had he not felt so lousy. Still, his cock twitched approvingly, showing them both that the attention might be appreciated at a later time, when his body wasn't screaming at him that it wanted to go lie down. Strange that his body wanted what his heart wasn't sure about.
He let Jack guide him back to the bedroom and hand him a pair of clean, dry sweats. "Can you manage? I'll be right back."
Daniel took the clothes and sat down on the bed before pulling them on. As he slid back against the pillows that had been stacked against the headboard, Daniel realized that Jack had put clean sheets on the bed again. He was pulling the blankets up past his hips when Jack came into the bedroom carrying a tray. Daniel eyed the toast and juice with a leery eye as Jack placed the food on his lap.
"I'm not hungry." He appreciated Jack popping the bread into the toaster and cutting it into small, fancy triangles, but the last thing he wanted right now was to eat.
Jack sat on the bed and curled a leg up beside him. "I know, but try a couple bites at least."
Daniel sipped the juice and decided it was apple. He couldn't taste anything but he appreciated its coolness as it slid down his throat. He knew orange juice would have been painful to swallow and he knew for a fact that he had none in the house. This must have been one of the errands he vaguely remembered Jack mentioning doing last night.
As he sipped his juice, Jack picked up a piece of toast. He spread a bit of jam over the corner of it and handed it to Daniel. He truly wasn't hungry but he ate the tidbit anyways, for Jack, despite its cardboard consistency and taste. He swallowed, waited a moment to see how his stomach would react, then drank some more juice to wash the crumbs down.
He managed another three bites before pushing the tray away. He was exhausted, the shower and sitting up for this short time were taking a toll on him. As Jack took the tray from his lap, Daniel simply turned onto his side, grabbing the topmost pillow and snuggled into it. He felt the weight of the blankets as they were raised to cover his shoulders and he sighed appreciatively, although the sigh ended up sounding more like a wheeze.
He felt a touch on the back of his neck and then there were fingers gently stroking his nape. The tender touch combined with Jack's presence made him feel cared-for, but the memory of Jack's action over the past months warred with the familiar stranger now sitting on his bed.
He fought the pull of sleep, wanting to stay awake and cherish Jack's attentions. But he couldn't keep his eyes open and was fast asleep between one stroke and another.
- - - - - -
Daniel staggered from the bathroom back to the bedroom on wobbly legs, feeling like he'd been doing this forever. The house was dim, the faint light of the setting sun barely illuminating the hallway.
He stopped in the doorway, looking at the rumpled bed, and as inviting as it was, he craved Jack's company more. He could hear the television playing faintly in the living room, and decision made, he turned around and went to join his friend.
He stopped in the entrance, surprised. There, strung around the large mirror of the antique desk, was a set of blinking Christmas lights. A few ornaments had been placed in strategic spots, the vivid colours looking strange and bright amongst his artifacts. He grinned at the sight of a smiling Santa sitting on the handle of an ornamental axe hanging from the wall.
"Hey." Jack sat up and lowered his feet from the coffee table as Daniel almost stumbled, weak-kneed, down the two stops to join him on the couch. "Feeling better?"
"Not really." Oh, his voice was back. Well, not completely back, but at least some sort of noise came out of his mouth when he tried to speak. "I like what you've done with the place." He waved his hand around the room, indicating the decorations.
"Thought you might."
As Jack grinned at him, Daniel snuggled up into the corner of the couch, bringing his feet up off the floor and digging them into the space between cushions.
There was a Christmas movie playing on TV. Daniel sat there a moment watching the show, wondering why Jack was watching something so sappy. Then the channel changed, and Homer Simpson was there yelling at his son's antics.
"Was waiting for the commercial to end," Jack explained as he put the remote down. Jack's attention seemed riveted to the show, effectively ignoring Daniel.
Daniel nodded, watching the cartoon in a daze, suddenly sorry he hadn't gone to bed instead. He decided he just wanted peace and quiet and to be left alone; but he'd had that all day long as he'd tossed and turned restlessly, his fever preventing him from resting comfortably. Jack had checked in on him frequently, making sure he had water, juice and meds handy at all times.
But he also wanted the Jack of this morning and last night. Attentive and touching, like the Jack who had told Daniel he loved him months ago and who had shown him that he wanted more of a relationship than pure friendship.
Somehow in his fevered dreams, Daniel had thought that Jack was back. Now, he wasn't so sure. He felt so insecure and vulnerable at the moment and decided to head back to his bed when he began to feel cold and tired.
He lowered his feet to the ground and made to sit up when Jack asked him if he was cold.
"Sort of. Gonna go lie down."
"Stay. I'll get a blanket." Jack was up and gone before Daniel could stand so instead he stretched out on the couch. He could always go to bed later, if he felt like it.
Jack returned and spread the blanket over Daniel. "Here, sit up a sec and move your butt over a bit."
Daniel followed Jack's directions and to his surprise, Jack slid in behind him on the couch and pulled Daniel close. "Let me know if you get tired, and I'll move."
Daniel nodded, but had already decided that he'd stay like this even if it meant his legs and arms falling asleep or cramping. This was what he'd been craving. Intimacy. Touch.
He felt tears prickle behind his eyelids and he blinked them back. Why now? Why was Jack showing him all this attention now, when Daniel felt so awful and too damned emotional?
"You never answered my question earlier," Daniel asked in an attempt to distract himself.
"Hmmm? Which question?"
"Were you waiting to see me off to Abydos?"
He felt Jack stiffen, then relax with a sigh.
"No, I wasn't, not really. I wasn't even sure what day you'd planned on leaving. But when I heard you missed your window and you weren't answering your phone, I realized then how much I cared. I always did, Daniel." Jack shifted lightly as he moved to kiss Daniel's temple. "That's why I turned into such an asshole. I cared, and I scared myself."
His head felt too heavy to lift, but he did manage to turn it to look up at Jack.
"Scared of caring for a guy?"
"Yeah. I thought I was sure about my feelings. Then I got stuck on Edora and Laira was attracted to me." Jack paused, and his fingers played with the blanket's edge. "A lot. I wasn't blind, but I didn't lead her on. But I was flattered, y'know?"
Daniel chuckled. "Still nice to know you still got it."
"Yeah. That it is. But I didn't... we didn't... get close... until the day before you guys found us."
Daniel closed his eyes against the remembered look on Jack's face. "You asked her to come back with you."
"At that moment, I was... confused. I wanted... something... something she wanted also and... well, it was just so—"
"She wanted a child from me and for a little while I got caught up in her dream."
"I can't help you with that," Daniel whispered, realizing he knew now that Jack wanted a real marriage, complete with white picket fence and a wife waiting for him at home, with a baby in her arms.
"No. But that reality wasn't to be. I was blessed with Charlie for a few, short years. I have to move on. I know that, now. And I'm truly, truly sorry I hurt you."
"I think I'll go back to bed now." Daniel pushed the blanket and Jack's arm away from him and made his way blindly back to the bedroom.
- - - - - -
Daniel stiffened when he heard Jack approaching the bedroom. He still felt torn - despite Jack's admission. He wanted to explore the possibility that he and Jack had a chance for a relationship together, and at the same time he wanted Jack out of his house, out of his life. How could one want two conflicting things so badly? It just didn't make sense and he just couldn't cope with the emotions coursing through him anymore.
The bed creaked and the mattress shifted as Jack sat down on it. He felt a hand on his hip and Daniel tried not to flinch away from the touch.
Daniel remained silent, trying to ignore Jack.
"I never wanted to hurt you. I was just..."
The arm moved to his shoulder and tugged, urging Daniel to turn onto his back. With a sigh, Daniel rolled over.
"Up until a few months ago, I never expected to be attracted to..."
Daniel sniffed. "A man?" Daniel supplied.
"My best friend."
"Who happens to be a man."
"So when a woman showed interest in me..."
"Woman, opposite of man."
"I was confused."
"Because she wasn't a man?"
"Daniel, you're not making this any easier." Jack ran a hand through his hair in exasperation. But Daniel kept quiet, waiting for Jack to go on.
"I thought, once we'd..." Jack made circling motions between himself and Daniel, "you know..."
"Made love?" Which they hadn't, really. Not the way Daniel had eventually wanted to get to know and love Jack.
"Acknowledged our affection for one another."
"I didn't think I'd be attracted to a woman after that."
"Obviously you were wrong."
"Yeah. And I was... confused."
"You didn't look confused to me. It took you, what, three months before deciding to sleep with her?"
"I didn't think I was coming home!" Jack pushed up off the bed and angrily paced for several seconds before stopping and returning to the bed. "I thought I'd never see you again. I thought I was stuck on Edora for the rest of my life. I didn't give up. I kept expecting someone to rescue us. But every day without rescue, without being able to unearth the Stargate, I began to lose hope. Life had to go on. The people needed every available hand so I began spending more time helping them. It felt like an eternity to me, until someone began showing me kindness. All the people were wonderful, but damnit, one has to survive.
"Look." Jack sat back down on the bed. "If I truly had wanted to be with Laira, I could have retired... gone back to Edora to live with her. I could have tried to convince her to come back to Earth - I asked her once, Daniel, and I was thinking of the possibility of her being pregnant at the time, rather than of *her* spending the rest of her life with me. But she's not pregnant, we... I know that now."
"She told you? When?"
"She sent a letter for me when the last team went to visit Edora to check up on the people..."
"So you wanted a child more than a relationship?"
"No. If the possibility was there, I'd have committed to the child."
Daniel nodded. Daniel realized how much the news would have depressed Jack. So maybe part of Jack's coldness with Daniel had been from the fact that he wasn't going to be a father again. He knew how much Jack had loved Charlie and hell, if Daniel had had a means to keep Shau'ri's baby safe, he wouldn't have left him with Kasuf, but would have brought him back to Earth and raised him himself. He still wasn't sure if he'd made the right decision, but with a Harsesis here on Earth, it would have meant a greater threat for the planet should any of the Goa'uld get wind of it. He felt some of his anger melt away.
"I got you something... for Christmas. You wanna open it?"
"You did?" Daniel frowned.
Jack's face lit up like a little kid's. "Yep. Be right back."
As Jack rushed out of the room, Daniel pulled himself up into a sitting position and reached for his glasses. Jack was back seconds later, holding a long, flat box, gaily wrapped in paper decorated with Homer Simpson and a Christmas theme.
"I didn't get you anything." Daniel hesitantly accepted the gift, but Jack waved Daniel's embarrassment away.
"Well, yes, it does matter." Daniel carefully placed a finger underneath a piece of scotch tape and teased it away, taking his time. "I thought that we..." He paused, and looked at Jack. "Wait, you got me a gift, even after you wanted nothing to do with me?"
"Told you I was confused." Jack's face suddenly lost its gaiety, and he looked worried.
Daniel laughed. He couldn't help it. He brought his attention back to the box and quickly unwrapped it. Inside was a burgundy-coloured cashmere sweater. Daniel picked it up, the wool incredible soft.
"It's wonderful." He smiled up at Jack, and saw some of the worry fade away from his face. "Thank you."
Jack smiled back, and took the box and sweater away from Daniel, putting it on a nearby bureau.
"Look." Daniel toyed with the edge of the blanket nervously. "I don't have a Christmas gift, but I did buy some... things... a while ago. If you'd go look in my closet..."
Immediately Jack went to the closet and following Daniel's instructions, dug out a shoe box from where Daniel had buried it weeks ago. Jack, his face lighting up with curiosity, brought it back to the bed and he sat close to Daniel before opening the lid.
Jack's easy smile eased some of the tension that had gripped itself around Daniel's chest. He coughed, feeling better both physically and emotionally at seeing Jack's enthusiasm as he pulled out article after article from the box.
"Condoms." Jack lifted the several packs and looked them over. "Glow in the dark?" He fingered the package thoughtfully and put them down with a smirk. Daniel suspected that these would be the first item that Jack would check out.
"Lube. Massage Oil. Flavoured? How many... Daniel, you dog!"
Daniel ducked his head, trying to hold back a smile as Jack picked up a few other objects with a confused look on his face. He thought he'd have fun explaining to Jack what they were for.
"How-to books on gay sex?" Jack was laughing outright now, and was holding one of the books in his hand, waving it at Daniel. "You won't believe this. I have this exact book at home."
"I thought you said you were confused?"
"Doesn't mean I wasn't thinking about you and me." Jack put the book down, suddenly serious. "I was. I guess my subconscious kept telling me it knew what it wanted; it just took me a while to finally listen to it."
"So, you really want this?" Daniel motioned to the paraphernalia littering the bed.
"Oh yeah. Thank you for my Christmas gift." He leaned over, and kissed Daniel on the mouth. Jack's lips were soft and gentle. Daniel opened his mouth to Jack, having problems breathing through his mouth since his nose was clogged, gasping for breath for the few seconds of their kiss. Jack pulled away, promising more once Daniel was feeling better.
"You're gonna catch my germs," Daniel protested when Jack nuzzled Daniel's neck.
"Too late," Jack said, quickly pulling away, his face tightening into a grimace. He sneezed three times in succession, then raised his eyes, looking at Daniel with a hangdog expression.
Daniel laughed and patted the space beside him on the bed. "May as well make yourself comfortable now, it sounds like you'll be spending some time here with me."
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas for accepting this story for her E-zine 'Ancients Gate V - Depths'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
And HUGS and thanks to devra, who once again went above and beyond to look at this fic with an eagle eye, and thanks to the sisters of my heart, who always keep me in check
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