The Lake by JoaG
Daniel limped angrily down to the water's edge, disregarding the burning ache in his ankle. He took hold of the rowboat, and with a heave, shoved it into the water. He jumped in awkwardly at the last second and held on to the boat's sides as it rocked, propelled into the lake with his thrust.
Leaning low so as not to upset the small boat, he carefully moved over the seats and sat down. In an angry motion, he shoved the oars into the water and took a heavy pull with one of them. The boat slewed sideways at the uneven stroke and Daniel quickly adjusted his course as he turned it towards the center of the lake.
He dragged the oars through the water, moving away from the shore, away from the arguments, the heated words. His stomach rumbled hungrily and he rued his uneaten supper now sitting at the bottom of the garbage can, thrown there in a pique of temper.
After a few awkward attempts, Daniel got the rhythm going and the rowboat flew across the water. His ankle throbbed so he propped it on the seat before him. He braced his other foot on the edge of the same wooden seat, using his thigh muscle to make his strokes even more powerful.
The slam of a closing door echoed across the lake and Daniel glanced towards the cabin, which was slowly fading from view. Jack was standing on the veranda watching him. Daniel jabbed the right oar into the water and the boat moved to the left. Soon the cabin was out of view, hidden by a stand of fir trees.
He continued rowing, the wooden oars burning his palms, his shoulders and arms straining as he began to sweat from his exertions. Daniel cast a glance behind him and realized he had nearly crossed the length of the lake. He slowed his speed slightly, letting one oar drag into the water while lifting the other out, guiding the boat so it turned to follow the tree-enshrouded shore.
He followed the edge of the lake, rowing as fast and powerfully as he could to try and work out the rage that was boiling inside of him. Weeks of nastiness between him and Jack, arguments, heated words, glares, attempts at making up leading to still more arguments... had left Daniel and Jack tired and edgy. They'd taken a few days off, rented the cabin at this lake to get away from the stresses of work and try and get their lives back on track again.
For one month now, Daniel had been sidelined from going offworld due to a badly sprained ankle. SG-1, on the other hand, seemed to be going on missions more often than usual, what with two S&Rs thrown in between their regularly scheduled jaunts to other planets.
Daniel had worried about his friends, wanting to be out there with them. He wasn't sleeping, was having trouble concentrating on his work, missing Jack terribly when he was away for days on end and arguing with him during their short times together.
Jack was tired and stressed, one mission after another beginning to take a toll. Each night on Earth brought a new argument between them, a new fight, more words spoken in anger, until they seemed to be sniping at one another for no reason at all.
Finally, after three days of ignoring one another at work and each going off to their respective homes at night, Jack had suggested they take a much-needed break and come here together to try and relax.
Daniel had hesitated at first, not sure he wanted Jack's company at the moment. But something needed to be done, so he'd accepted.
At first it seemed to work, they'd arrived early last evening, unpacked the Avalanche and had taken a short walk around the area, had gone to bed early and woken up late. Most of the morning and afternoon had been spent in bed where they'd made slow, wonderful love and had lazily dozed in one another's arms.
Finally they'd gotten up and Daniel had gone for a walk before supper. Despite Jack's cautions about not going far, Daniel had ended up losing his footing on the uneven ground and had injured his ankle again. The moment Jack had seen him limping back to the cabin he'd lit into Daniel, accused him of being careless, and all the old arguments had come rushing back.
Unable to take it anymore, Daniel had gotten up from the table, dumped his supper into the garbage and stormed out of the cabin, needing to get away from the senseless arguing.
He breathed deeply, concentrating on the flexing of his muscles, the sound of the oarlocks thumping against the boat's wooden sides, the splash of water as the oars dipped into the lake's depth. A loon cried mournfully nearby, echoing his sentiments.
On his third time around the lake, Daniel slowed his strokes. He let the boat glide for a moment and wiped the sweat from his face with the back of his hand. He shifted on the wooden seat, trying to get comfortable.
His ankle gave a twinge and he leaned forward and unlaced his sneaker. He pulled his sock off and stuck it into his shoe, then massaged his ankle, which had begun to swell. Impulsively, he placed the oars back into the boat and allowed the vessel to drift aimlessly. He rolled up his pant leg and dipped his foot past his ankle into the cool lake water. The temperature was chilly and he grit his teeth until he got used it.
Feeling a bit calmer now, Daniel took the time to look around. The trees were beginning to change colour, flashes of reds, oranges and yellows evident amongst the green surrounding him. A dragonfly flashed by, all wings and eyes. A lone duck flew overhead, quacking loudly. A fly zipped by, then zipped back the other way.
Daniel breathed deeply and closed his eyes. He couldn't go on like this. Jack couldn't go on like this. Everyone was walking around the both of them on tenterhooks, and Daniel knew he couldn't rejoin SG-1 if he and Jack were constantly at odds. He knew how it could affect the team's safety if either one of them put their anger before the team.
The boat drifted slowly with little current or wind to propel it along. Both the deep blue of the sky and the vibrant colors of the trees were reflected in the mirror image of the lake. Daniel blinked. He couldn't tell where the water stopped and the reflection began, so clear and calm was the water.
He sat there for the longest time, until his butt became numb and he needed to shift position. He pulled his foot out of the water and wiped the excess water off of it. He examined his ankle, noting that although there was some swelling, he didn't think he had re-injured it too badly. He propped his foot back onto the bench and took up the oars again. This time he stroked slowly, the lengthening shadows near the shore feeling cooler as he passed across them. Water bugs skated on the water's surface, skimming out of the boat's way. A loud splash to his right startled him, and he saw the large, concentric circles indicating where a fish had jumped out of the water.
He realized a light mist had risen from the water as he'd sat quietly in the boat, making everything look softer and almost surreal in its peacefulness. He pulled on the oars, raised them out of the water and watched the droplets drip back into the water as he brought the paddles slowly back. He exerted just enough force to keep the boat moving at a slow, leisurely pace.
A fish jumped out of the water right next to the boat, trying to catch a water droplet. Daniel smiled, wishing Jack were here so he could tell him 'who needs a fishing rod and lure when a plain old oar would do'.
And then the world came crashing right back down on Daniel, reminding him why he was out here, hungry, hurting and his heart near to breaking. He didn't know what to do. Maybe he should just break their relationship off, and then transfer onto another team. Hell, at this point he was so depressed that he toyed with the thought of leaving the SGC altogether.
As Daniel rowed near the shore's edge, he saw a pile of greenery floating in shadow. He'd seen it earlier but hadn't really paid attention. He moved closer to the growth, noting bits of pink and yellow peeping amongst it, and realized they were lily pads. A frog slid off of one large green leaf and swam away. Daniel smiled, and shifted the oar so he wouldn't disturb the plants.
It was getting dark, the mist cool and damp and penetrating his sweat-dampened shirt. He glanced towards the cabin, noting that Jack had turned a light on inside. There were no other lights in any other cabins around the lake; they were the only two here. A perfect romantic getaway… what a waste.
Daniel made one more slow crawl around the lake, trying to delay his return until the last possible moment. The sky had begun to turn dark, and he could see Venus shining brightly up above to his right. A crescent moon peeked through the treetops, too small to provide enough light for him to stay out on the lake.
He knew he needed to head back to shore now, staying here any longer was tantamount to stupidity. He looked behind him to make sure he was aiming the boat towards their cabin, then kept the shadows of a large fir tree in the darkening sky even with his big toe as a marker.
The darkness arrived quickly, the waning sunlight being quickly obscured by the mountains surrounding them. By the time he arrived near the shore, he was aiming for a lighter patch of ground amongst darker shadows. He made sure he had a clear opening between the other rowboats and sped up the last few feet so that the boat would ride up a few inches onto the gravel through its momentum. To his surprise, the boat kept moving and Daniel grabbed the edges for balance. Jack had come down and was pulling the boat up out of the water and onto the shore.
Keeping his back to Jack, Daniel reached for his sock and put it on. As he put his sneaker on, he made his decision. He'd insist on leaving here first thing in the morning, and then he'd ask for a transfer off of SG-1.
Shivering slightly in the damp air, he got up off the bench and, still crouched so he could hold onto the boat's edge for balance, carefully stepped out of the rowboat. He started walking past Jack, who was standing silently beside the boat.
"Daniel. I'm sorry."
He ignored Jack, limping back towards the cabin, when he felt Jack's hand brush his arm.
Daniel glanced at Jack and even in the dim light reflecting from the cabin's windows, Daniel saw something in Jack's face he never thought he'd see.
Fear of losing Daniel.
And suddenly, Daniel realized how much he loved this man. Without thought, he reached for his lover, pulling Jack hard against him. One arm squeezed Jack's waist while the other went around his neck.
Jack held tightly onto Daniel, and he felt Jack's breath catch in what could have been a sob. They stood there for what seemed like an eternity, feeling and hearing one another's ragged breaths, until Daniel became aware of the hordes of mosquitoes swarming around them and the damp air sending shivers up and down his back.
He let Jack go, but kept his arm around Jack's waist. He couldn't see his feet and he didn't want to chance injuring his foot again in the dark. Jack reciprocated, walking slowly so Daniel could feel his way.
They climbed the steps and entered the cabin. Without a word, they shut the light and went straight to their bedroom.
They stripped and got into the rumpled bed. Still no words were exchanged as they slid under the covers. Jack took one of the pillows and placed it at the foot of the bed on Daniel's side and Daniel placed his injured foot on top of it. Then he turned to face Jack and laid his head on Jack's chest.
This was the man he loved more than life itself. There had to be a way to fix this, to get past the need to spitefully hurt one another, and find what they seemed to have lost.
He could hear Jack's heart beating, thumping more rapidly than his relaxed state should have warranted. Jack was obviously nervous, worried that maybe they'd just gone that one step too far.
He threaded his fingers through Jack's chest hairs, and then moved to nuzzle the nipple lying tantalizingly close to his mouth. But he really didn't want to start anything at this point; sex wasn't always the fix-all remedy to everything.
His stomach gurgled loudly, reminding Daniel that he hadn't had anything to eat since late this morning. He felt Jack's chest vibrate beneath his ear as Jack chuckled. To his dismay, Jack slid out from beneath Daniel and with a kiss to his temple, whispered, "I'll be right back."
Daniel rolled onto his back as Jack turned on a small bedside lamp before walking into the cabin's small kitchen. Cabinet doors opened and closed, the sound of cutlery chimed in the small cabin's confines.
Daniel's stomach gurgled one more, this time in anticipation of the food he knew Jack was preparing. A few minutes later Jack returned with a tray, several peanut butter and jelly sandwiches piled high, two glasses of milk, cheese, crackers and cookies.
Smiling, Daniel sat up and eagerly reached for a sandwich before Jack could put the tray down on the bed. They leaned shoulder to shoulder against the wall, eating their late meal silently.
Once they'd finished, Jack placed the now-empty tray on the floor, turned off the light and stretched back out onto the bed. This time Jack curled up beside Daniel, his head resting against Daniel's shoulder.
'Amazing', Daniel thought, how this sudden peace between them had happened with so very few words being uttered. Now that he wasn't so angry, he could acknowledge they had both flown over the edge for no reason at all. And that it hadn't been their first rough time, and it certainly wouldn't be their last. He just had to remember that, the next time one of them blew up over nothing. That this was all about love, good and bad, arguments and silence. Two sides to the coin of life.
"Did you enjoy the lake?" Jack's breath puffed warmly against his neck.
"Mmmm. Fish were jumping."
"Feel like trout for breakfast?"
"We'd have to go out and catch it first."
"We can do that, or just enjoy the lake. Early morning's almost as magical as sunset out there."
Daniel sighed happily, looking forward to sharing the lake's magic again, this time with Jack.
Author's Comments:Just a little plot bunny that came up after emails with a friend about a rowboat. Unfortunately, she doesn't read slash, but I'm forever grateful to her for giving me the idea for this fic.
This story is totally unbeta’d. Any errors are mine. Hugs to devra for the Alpha and her sharp eye.
And to the sisters of my heart, my thanks, as always.
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