Falling Sky
by
Destina Fortunato


Many thanks to Lori and Brighid for helping me to reach and fix the wounded places.
And thanks also to zoot and Carol, just because.
Neige has made a beautiful collage to match the story; it can be found here. Her main page is here.





Daniel slept peacefully through the restless late hours. Jack stroked Daniel’s back, touching the memory of skin that had borne no scars five years before. He took small comfort in the strong, steady heartbeat that belied the holes and cracks and marks of loss.

No need to ask Daniel for the story the wounds could tell. Jack knew the book by heart.

“You don’t go without me,” Jack whispered. An order, but one Daniel was powerless to obey; a prayer, if he still believed in such things. If either of them did. Strength of will was not enough where fate was concerned.

Jack kissed the smooth, firm jut of Daniel’s shoulder. They were strong shoulders, able to bear a man off a battlefield; they could bear so much more, burdens Jack could no longer carry.

Finally, Jack slept without dreaming. When he woke, Daniel lay beside him, sleeping still.


***

“You’re…choking…me,” Daniel gasped, words thin against the pressure on his throat.

“So do something about it,” Jack grunted, and tightened his arm against Daniel’s windpipe. In about five seconds, Daniel would either be unconscious, or he’d be loose. Jack really wasn’t sure which way it would go, but he tightened his hold another notch.

Daniel gripped Jack’s arm and rolled it down, toward his chest; Jack leaned back and pulled Daniel’s weight with him, eliminating the safety valve. Daniel wheezed – if he’d been thinking about a jab to Jack’s solar plexus, Jack supposed he wouldn’t try that again. Daniel turned his head into the crook of Jack’s arm and reached back, scrabbling at Jack’s face. Jack applied another increment of merciless force to Daniel’s neck. “Better hurry,” he said, struggling to keep the pressure up.

With a hard pull on Jack’s arm and a twist and lean toward the bend in Jack’s elbow, Daniel finally succeeded in pulling Jack off balance. He gasped for air as Jack flipped around his body and fell flat to the floor; Daniel toppled down beside him. Jack lunged at him, but Daniel scrambled away and turned so his feet faced Jack, ready to kick him in the head.

“Good enough,” Jack said, and sat back down on the mat.

Daniel put a hand to his throat; his breathing was labored. After a moment, he dropped his guard and sat up. Jack looked at his bruised neck and then at Daniel’s hand, which rubbed over the aching spots in circles. “You all right?” he asked.

“Yes.” The circling hand stilled, and then: “Did you have to choke me that hard?”

Jack put on his hardest, most practical face. “Combat training’s no good unless it counts for something when you’re actually about to die, Daniel.”

“I see your point.”

“Nice job, by the way. You’ve picked up a lot. You were faster to change your tactics this time.”

“I wanted to breathe,” Daniel said dryly.

“There ya go. Best motivation of all.”

“I’m better at this than you thought I’d be,” Daniel said. A self-satisfied smile broke ground on his sweaty face. “A lot better.”

“Yeah, well,” Jack said, gruff because it was true.

“What’s next?”

Jack thought that over. Daniel was on a steep learning curve, but… “Let’s try something,” he said, and rolled from the mat to a standing position. “Come on.”

Daniel stood in response to the familiar command and moved to the standard position of readiness, one Jack had drilled into his head.  “Here.” Jack fished in his gym bag and pulled out an ordinary stick. He handed it to Daniel. “Pretend that’s a knife.”

“It’s not very threatening,” Daniel said, turning the stick over in his hands.

“Be glad. You get the sharp toys soon enough.” Jack bent his knees and gestured to Daniel. “Come at me.”

“Jack, I don’t—”

“Hey.” Jack raised his eyebrows. Daniel sighed.

And lunged forward.

With a simple motion of his arm, Jack knocked Daniel’s arm aside, then stepped out of his way. Daniel pulled up short and waved the stick in his direction. “Deflection. I get it.”

“Get this, too. Never hold a knife in an overhand position. Always under.” Jack took the stick and demonstrated. “Try again.”

Another try, and another, until Daniel succeeded in touching Jack with the stick. From that point on, Jack never let him have a second to breathe. They moved rapidly from one exercise to the next, from one new skill to another. Jack felt a thrill of satisfaction at the moment Daniel crashed down on Jack’s chest, stick poised in the air above Jack’s carotid artery, ready to strike. Something dangerous flashed in Daniel’s eyes for a moment…and then it faded into smug amusement.

“You, uh. Can get up now,” Jack said, out of breath.

“If you want,” Daniel said, nonchalant. “What’s next?”

“What’s next?” Jack echoed. “You’ve had enough for today. And if you haven’t, I have.”

“Not getting your kicks out of this anymore?” Daniel asked as he got to his feet. He held out a hand to Jack.

“Surprisingly, no.” He held onto Daniel’s sure hand for a moment after Daniel hauled him off the ground. “Tomorrow we move on from unarmed defensive tactics. We’ll continue hand-to-hand combat training.”

“Which is…?”

“More of what you just tried. Knives, disarming techniques, weapons retention – that kind of thing.”

“Oh.”

The shift in Daniel’s tone made Jack look up. “This the part you weren’t looking forward to?”

“This is the part where I remind myself I asked for this.”

“Good point.” Jack didn’t bother to say that if Daniel hadn’t asked, he’d have pressed the issue anyway. There was one discussion they had never had – they’d never even skirted the edges of it.

“I appreciate the time you’re taking to show me…teach me.”

Jack gave a tiny shrug of his shoulders, deflecting the gratitude. “I’d give this instruction to anyone assigned to my team, Daniel. With you, I had to be…sure you were ready.”

“Sure I wasn’t going to quit, you mean.” Daniel’s smile was warm. “You’d think you’d have realized I wasn’t going anywhere after the whole saving the world thing, the first time.”

“I wondered…once your personal reasons…sort of…” Jack groped for a word. “I thought maybe you’d be a little tired of dodging zats and Goa’uld, after Sha’re.”

“I’m in it for the long haul,” Daniel said quietly.

Jack knew already, had known as soon as Daniel came home from mourning his wife and didn’t immediately look for a job in the world outside the mountain. It was the kind of knowing Jack carried home with him at night, alongside the nagging sense that he hadn’t done right by Daniel, hadn’t taught him what he needed to be a part of a field unit. On-the-job training only went so far, but not far enough. Jack was working hard to correct his mistake.

Daniel scooped up a towel and tossed it to Jack, then took his own from the chair by the door. The tiny storage room was not Jack’s idea of an ideal training site, and he wasn’t done beating that horse to death. “Still say we’d be better off doing this—”

“No.”

“Daniel.” Jack thought for a split second about adopting some kind of strategy, some persuasive bullshit, but discarded the idea on the spot. Truth always worked better. “Look. I understand you don’t want to be tossed around in the gym in front of the other SG teams, but – look around. This is a closet. Not my idea of a great training site. The fitness facilities at the Academy—”

“No, Jack.”

Jack was helpless in the face of such resolve, and Daniel knew it. These were Daniel’s rules; it all hinged on Daniel’s comfort level. “Okay.” Jack pretended to consider other options. “I could drop a mat in the backyard. There’s more room.”

“This is not the kind of work I want to take home with us,” Daniel said.

Jack leaned against the wall and said, “Then I guess we’ll just keep disappearing into a closet for a half an hour a day, every day, so I can kick your ass.”

Daniel leaned in close, so close Jack could have had him on the ground in the blink of an eye, and his gaze traveled from Jack’s eyes, to his lips, and back again. “At least you’re at home in here,” he whispered. He hung his towel around Jack’s shoulders, then pulled back with a smile. “See you at the briefing.”

“I hate it when you do that,” Jack said, to the empty room. He reached low, adjusted his BDUs for the first of what would likely be several times that day, and took a deep breath. He thought of Daniel naked in the locker room. No way was he leaving the storage room until Daniel was showered and gone.

“You’re a fucking lunatic,” he told himself, and buried his face in Daniel’s towel.



***

Jack was only just starting to learn all Daniel’s waking-up quirks. First, a slow shifting of arms and legs as if Daniel’s body was coming to life all at once, and then a long stretch and a sigh. Next, Daniel’s eyes would open, bleary and blue, and search for something familiar.

Search for Jack.

“Hello,” he said, when Jack’s face became clear.

“Morning.” Jack loved the moment when the smile appeared, whether it was residual satisfaction from hours before, or a promise of more to come, later. He kissed Daniel, hungry for the taste of him.

“You okay?” Daniel’s hands on Jack’s body served a more serious purpose than just a morning grope. It seemed oddly backwards to Jack.

“Sore. That’s all.”

“That’s enough.” Daniel smiled again.

The light in Daniel’s eyes made Jack hard. He was sore, all right. He reveled in it when he tightened the muscles of his ass, and when he straddled Daniel’s thighs.

They kissed for a long time, languorous and content. “You remember what you promised me last night?” Daniel asked, between kisses.

Jack sighed and rested his forehead against Daniel's. “Yep.”

“You ready to deliver?”

“No.”

“Don’t get cranky.” Daniel flipped him over neatly and pinned him to the bed. Jack remembered teaching him that move.

“I was under duress at the time,” Jack protested weakly.

“Like hell.” Daniel was licking Jack’s nipples, so it seemed impossible to argue just at that moment. Daniel went on, talking into Jack’s chest. Warm breath over cool wet skin, and Jack shivered. “A promise is a promise.”

“Fine. Then can we get on with it?” A unexpected reluctance was settling over Jack. The past was the past, and best left there, he’d always thought. Too many nights wrestling demons; no point in dredging them up. Not even for Daniel.

“I suppose.” Daniel gave him a searching look, like he was a glyph to be deciphered. With a fingernail, he scratched a line down the deadened scar through Jack’s left eyebrow – asking a question with his touch. Oddly tentative, Jack thought, but quietly determined. “This one.”

“You would start with that.”

“Yes, I would.”

“Shaving cut,” Jack said, and got a slap on the side of his ass for his trouble.

“If you’re not going to be serious about this, let’s just forget it.” Daniel’s tone was clipped, not quite angry, but a little betrayed.

“No, no.” Another sigh, heavier; Jack felt the weight of it, and wondered if Daniel could, too. “Shrapnel. From a grenade. My own fault. I wasn’t always as quick with the arm as I am now. It was a helluva lesson. Those things require some practice.”

”You’ve been cut there since then,” Daniel said. “Remember?”

“Twice, since then.” At Daniel’s questioning look, Jack added, “A cut from a ring, in a bar brawl. Fist to face…always messy.”

“Really?” Daniel perked up at that. “What was the fight over?”

“My wife.”

“Well, that was worth it, then.” Daniel kissed the scar, mouthing it softly. Warmth surged through Jack – not a sexual heat, but raw affection for a man who could know what Sara meant to him and not mind.

He was lucky, no doubt about it. It was the kind of luck that led him to make promises he’d never make to anyone else, and want to keep them.

“So, we done now?”

“Just getting started,” Daniel said, with another gentle kiss.


***

Fresh from a shower and change of clothes, Jack hiked the stairs to the briefing room. The scent of Daniel’s soap lingered faintly in the stairwell. "Good morning, sir," Carter said. She was too cheerful for 0750. Jack wondered if she'd slept in her lab, one leg thrown up on the counter and her jacket underneath her neck to prevent rolling. She had that look about her, the half-crazed sleep-deprived look. He mumbled a greeting back at her and headed for the coffee carafe on the far table.

Daniel was already there, sucking down a cup of coffee. He drained the mug in two gulps and poured a second cup. "Caffeine hog," Jack grumbled as he snatched the carafe from Daniel's hand.

"Not my fault I couldn't get any coffee at home this morning," Daniel said softly. "Someone forgot to buy coffee."

"That means someone forgot to put it on their shopping list." Jack took a long sip and smiled into his mug.

"Sir, did you by any chance read the mission briefing?" Carter eased the carafe out of Jack’s clutching fingers and poured herself the last of the coffee.

"Of course I did, Carter!" Jack turned to her. "Your skepticism wounds me."

"Right, sir," she said, eyeing him.

He followed her to the table, but didn’t sit down until Hammond appeared out of his office right on time and got the briefing underway. Team chatter was merely the prelude to Carter’s monologue, where she began to explain all the things Jack had skimmed over in his reading the night before. He tuned out the informative droning and glanced at Daniel, who was directly across the table. Daniel's eyes had a caffeine-and-adrenaline enhanced gleam.  

Jack sipped his coffee and shifted his gaze to the SGC emblem on the wall – a convenient reminder of the business at hand.

"...Daniel with SG-11 for a few weeks, we can meet up again on M7C-431 to compare the results of- "

"Whoa, back up. Say that again?" Jack looked down at his closed briefing packet, then over at Carter. That'd teach him to skim.

"I said, sir, that Daniel would go planetside with SG-11 for a few weeks, and that we'd meet up again on-"

"Caught that part," he said. He looked at Daniel as suspicion coalesced into certainty. "You rigged this to get down time in the field, didn’t you? Look at all those creepy exowhatsis…”

“Skeletons,” Teal’c supplied.

“It won’t be down time, exactly,” Daniel said. He drank down the last of his coffee and licked his lips. Jack resolved on the spot to make sure there was a cupboard full of coffee when Daniel got home. “I’ve been hoping for the chance to spend time on the Yeten homeworld for months now, but…” He looked up at Carter and smiled, as if there was some sort of conspiracy between them. “It’s not the kind of thing the flagship team should waste its time on.”

“Oh, I don’t know,” Jack said. “Lots of boring skeletons. It sounds pretty much like an average day with you on the team.”

Daniel smiled tolerantly. “Very funny.”

“I thought so.”

“Sir.” Carter distracted him. Just as it should be, just the way it had to be. He listened to her description of their next mission, a naquada recovery operation on PC1-0874, and thought about what a hell of a leader she would make someday. Soon, maybe. It was time for her to lead her own team and find a path of her own. Her promotion would open doors for her. For all of them, eventually.


***

Jack felt like an artifact under scrutiny. Daniel’s unrelenting hands were all over him, surveying him. Jack was restless beneath the examination. “You’re worse than Fraiser,” he said, knowing Fraiser would never touch his balls the way Daniel was just at that moment.

Daniel’s attention had turned to the scar high up on Jack’s left thigh, near the joint of thigh and hipbone. He traced the pale, jagged edges with his tongue. Jack bent his knee and shifted on the bed; the scar stretched taut across his thigh, becoming almost invisible. “When did you get this one?” Daniel asked, fingers light, almost tickling.

“1969.”

Daniel looked up. “That long ago?”

“I was twelve.” Jack touched Daniel’s face, ran a hand through Daniel’s hair. “Fell off the back porch and landed on the woodpile.”

“What cut you?” Daniel asked. He kissed the raised mark.

“Don’t remember. Something ripped through my jeans and gashed me. My grandmother screamed when she saw all that blood.”

“Did you scream?” Daniel asked. He licked down closer to the crease of thigh and groin.

 Jack drew in a sharp breath. “No…don’t remember screaming.” He arched, edgy with talking, with wanting.

“Bet you’ve never screamed in your life,” Daniel said, and took Jack in his mouth, from the tip of his cock to the root in one smooth, wet motion. His teeth scraped down the length with precision, just a hint of danger.

Jack proved him wrong on the spot. It was more of a shout, he supposed, but Daniel would never let him forget it anyway. Bones melted and nerves fused under the attention of Daniel’s hot, precise tongue. Pleasure dragged Jack quickly to the edge, and he tipped over it…falling…



***

Bright blue grass was all over the place, like a kid had splattered paint across the ground – a watercolor sky, underfoot. It reminded Jack of a crazy cartoon, a world turned upside down. He lowered his shades and tried to ignore it. Over his shoulder, he asked Daniel, “So you’re telling me you spent this entire trip looking for petrified shit?” Carter chuckled behind him.

“Coprolites,” Daniel said patiently.

“Like a three-syllable word makes that *so* much better,” Jack said.

“We can never have too much information about the Goa’uld – including what diseases they suffered from and what parasites may have infested their hosts.” Daniel was beside him now, keeping pace with Jack’s stride.

“Parasites with parasites,” Jack muttered.  

“Actually, sir, there’s precedent for that in nature,” Carter began.

Jack cut her off. “Spare me, okay? Enough with the bodily functions for one day.”

“O’Neill,” Teal’c said quietly. They all looked ahead to see his closed fist in the air, and then a downward motion. All four dropped and crouched low in the leafy overgrowth. Jack calculated the distance to the stargate – still a hundred yards or more away, once they left the shelter of the forest.

Jack crawled up next to Teal’c for a better view. Bodies of villagers – their original welcoming committee – surrounded the base of the gate and DHD. Jack took out field binoculars for a better look. “They must’ve come through right after us – the villagers hadn’t started to head back. Looks like staff weapon wounds.”

Teal’c took the binoculars and had a long look at the site. “The tracks of many Jaffa surround the gate. Until I can examine them more closely, I cannot be certain which direction they have gone.”

“Maybe they’ve gone back through the gate already,” Carter said. “Teal’c, if they came here to collect hosts, they wouldn’t stick around long, would they?”

“If they came to harvest hosts, why then would they not collect those at the gate and be done with it?”

“Greed?” Daniel suggested.

“It is a poor strategy,” Teal’c said. Disapproval born of long experience, thought Jack.  

“Maybe there’s something else they thought might be more valuable,” Jack pointed out, and gestured to the MALP, half-hidden behind the bushes. He and Carter exchanged a glance. “We’d better get the hell out of here while the gettin’s good. Teal’c, take point. Carter, cover Daniel while he dials out. I’ll be right behind you.”
They moved forward as one, rising on Teal’c’s silent command and following him into the small clearing. They moved quickly – over four years together, and they could almost hear each others’ thoughts at moments like this.

The first blast missed Daniel by a hair, but it was close enough to singe his clothing on the left side. “Cover!” Jack shouted. Teal’c and Carter bolted behind the edges of the stargate; Daniel huddled down next to Jack behind the DHD, while Jack returned fire.

“Can you dial if I give you cover?” he asked Daniel, who was scattering shots from his Beretta into the thick overgrowth.
 
“Five seconds is all I need,” Daniel answered.

“Wait for it,” Jack said, and communicated his orders to Teal’c and Carter with a flurry of precise hand signals.

Carter, Teal’c and Jack unleashed a volley of gunfire and staff blasts. Daniel took a deep breath and stood at a half-crouch to begin dialing. Jack watched him out of the corner of his eye; no need to yank him back down once the gate activated. He was already practically in Jack’s lap.

Jack signaled to Carter, who nodded her understanding. She climbed the steps two at a time in a dead run and dove through the event horizon. Jack motioned to Teal’c, who hesitated only a moment before following Carter. “I’ll cover you,” Jack said to Daniel.

“No.”

Jack’s head whipped around; he stared at Daniel. “That wasn’t a suggestion. Get off your ass and move.” He fired at random into the trees, tracking the sounds of bullets bouncing against armor, a sound that was coming closer with every shot.  

“No. That’ll leave you here with no cover. You’ll be killed the moment you step out.” Daniel dropped the empty clip out of the Beretta and slammed another into place.

Daniel’s voice was calm, Jack thought, but there was something just beneath. Anger, maybe. No time to figure it out. The urge to shout in Daniel’s face was building, to throw him up toward the steps, toward safety. Tension grew thick in Jack’s gut. “Not a democracy, Daniel. Move your ass.”

“You’ll run out of ammo before the reinforcements get here.” Daniel was firing into the woods now; the conversation was frantic, calm, surreal, hyper-real.

“Son of a…I’m not going to argue with you. It’s an order, Daniel. Get the fuck out of here!”

Daniel didn’t look at him. He just kept firing, with his jaw set in that stubborn, annoying line. Jack thought if he hadn’t been so damned busy trying to keep the Jaffa from overrunning their position he’d have strangled Daniel on the spot.  

The gate shut itself off.  “Guess that’s that,” Daniel told him. “They made it.”

“This isn’t over,” Jack growled, but Daniel turned to look at him and met his gaze without flinching.

“With me here, you’re right. It’s not.”

“Tau’ri!” The Jaffa shouted to them from the trees. “We surround you! Surrender your weapons.”

“How long will it take them to get back?” Daniel asked, the smart military question, and Jack glanced over at the gate.

“Ten minutes, maybe. All they have to do is regroup and gear up.”

“Hope the Jaffa don’t take us through the gate before then,” Daniel said. He glanced nervously back towards the woods.

“Yeah,” Jack agreed. It was an accurate assessment of the danger of surrender; stated out loud that way, it chilled him. The call came again and there was nothing else to do but stand up and drop their weapons, as commanded.



***

“And this one?”

“You don’t quit, do you?”

“That’s not an answer. You promised.”

“I feel like a fucking tour guide.”

“You are.” Daniel nuzzled Jack’s belly, then rose over him to press a kiss to open lips. He shared the salt-bitter taste of Jack, allowed Jack to lick his mouth open, to take him more deeply. Jack wanted to be inside him; Daniel could never bring him far enough past the edges of skin to satisfy his need. “Tell me.”

“1984. Hand to hand combat. It was a mission in Laos, a chance to rescue…” Jack hesitated. Shadows filled his memories. “We didn’t succeed.”

Daniel’s expression had grown thoughtful, searching. Jack was uncomfortable under that gaze. Too many dark memories were churning in his head, things he’d taken pains to forget. “In all those years, Jack…how many times did you truly fail?”

Jack pushed him away. “That’s what pisses me off about it. Fuck.”

“Jack?”

“Sorry.” Jack sighed and curled up on the edge of the bed with his back to Daniel. “It’s not the times you succeed that follow you around, Daniel. It’s the times you fuck up on missions, the times things go wrong. When they go bad, every detail just…digs down. I can’t get it out. All I can do is ignore it.”

“Scars,” Daniel said.

“Yes,” Jack said, understanding his meaning very well.

“You want me to let you ignore them,” Daniel said, also understanding.

Jack was silent.

Daniel drew his fingertips across the long, jagged scar across Jack’s back. “And this one?”

“Daniel.” There was a pained, quiet plea there, but Daniel ignored it.

“Tell me.”

“Resurrecting all this bullshit is just making me…”

“Restless?” Daniel suggested. His hands covered Jack’s back, moving constantly.

“Yes.”

“Because you think you’ve put it to rest.”

“I don’t live in it. I don’t dwell on things.”

“Don’t you?” The question of a man who knew him far too well – who knew him *when*.

“Not anymore.”

“So, then, it shouldn’t bother you, to take me back there with you. Share it with me,” Daniel said.

Jack twisted in the bed and reached for Daniel, pulled him close and kissed him rougly. “Why is this so damned important to you?” he asked.

“I want to know you,” Daniel said softly. “Even the parts of yourself you don’t want to know.”


***

Shove, push, pull. The Jaffa delighted in abusing them. Jack was used to it, and that realization didn’t do much for him. They dragged him to the edge of the clearing with Daniel right behind him. No one spoke. Another freaky intimidation tactic.

He offered up token resistance – a knee to the groin and a head-butt against a sullen face, and Jack was headed for the trees. The first fiery pain struck around his neck, and the blue fire raced down from there, until he was on the ground, compliant and responsive. They dragged him back; Jack knew Daniel’s eyes were on him, but he couldn’t bear to look.

The First Prime’s angry shove wasn’t a promise of tolerant treatment. All of Jack’s nerves were jangling with pain; only Daniel’s shoulder against his back kept him from falling over. Jack wanted to ask Daniel whose smudgy brand was on these Jaffa, which Goa’uld was giving the orders, but he couldn’t. Mentally, he counted down – five minutes to go, no more.

Unless Hammond had decided it was too dangerous to send anyone back.

Jack wasn’t going to go there, especially with the blue evil of zat fire still ringing in his body.

“My master will be pleased.” The First Prime walked a circle around them. Daniel nudged Jack, and Jack centered himself over his knees again without Daniel to lean on. “Which of you is the leader?”

“Who wants to know?” Jack said, and received an armored boot to the side for his trouble. He could practically hear his ribs cracking on contact.

“You do not ask the questions!” The First Prime bent down and grabbed a handful of Jack’s shirt, the better to haul him up with. “It must be you, then. Your arrogance gives you away. Your insolence will not be tolerated by my master.”

“You going to keep us in suspense, or tell us who your master is?” Jack took a few experimental, shallow breaths. There was no serious pain, so no broken ribs, though he suspected that wouldn’t last long.

“You’ll know soon enough.” The First Prime pointed to Daniel. “Begin with this one.”

“Begin…what?” Daniel asked, with a wary glance up at the Jaffa who encircled him.

“Your lesson,” said the First Prime. He struck Daniel full in the face. “You will cooperate or you will die. We need only one of you.” He gestured to their packs and weapons just behind him. “Fail to cooperate and you will be left here with the rest of your garbage.”

“Well, that’s just peachy,” Jack muttered. Five minutes, said his internal clock. He wondered how much damage they could do to Daniel in five minutes.

“Tell us why you came to this world,” said an ugly-looking Jaffa from just behind Daniel. He prodded Daniel with his staff weapon.

“We’re peaceful explorers,” Daniel began, but the Jaffa struck him hard in the back with the staff weapon; Daniel arched back and then slumped over.

“Your mission here!” barked the Jaffa.

“Forget it,” Daniel said. Or gasped, actually, since his breath still hadn’t come back.

Jack’s entire body tensed. “Hey!” Jack lunged forward and received a vicious blow to the head for his trouble. He grunted and fell to the ground, curled with pain. His face was close enough to Daniel’s that Jack could smell the sourness of his breath, feel the warmth of it. Their gazes crossed and locked and beneath the whirl of frantic thought there was calm. Just a moment's worth, but it was all Jack needed.

The First Prime dropped to one knee and locked a staff weapon underneath Jack’s chin. He pressed it into place, holding Jack prisoner as his Jaffa set to work on Daniel with fists, boots, and staffs – anything handy, it seemed. The questions had stopped coming. Jack supposed they’d start up again when they thought Daniel had had enough. Anger simmered in him, coming to boil beneath the surface of his skin as he struggled with the guards, as red blotches and streaks of blood appeared on Daniel’s face.

And then it was over, and Jack fell to the ground, to scoot toward Daniel in the dirt. Daniel rolled over, bruised and bloody but animated, and so furious. He caught Jack’s eye. He followed Jack’s gaze to the pile of equipment just beyond reach and answered with a nod. Ready for business, as soon as the chance came.

Jack thought of Daniel on the mats, curious face and knowing eyes, and wondered how much of the training had really taken root.

Stone grated against stone as ancient technology turned in circles. The sound drew Jack’s eye toward the gate. He strained to see past the Jaffa, but they yanked him up to his knees and closed ranks around their prisoners.

“You all right?” he asked. Daniel nodded and swallowed hard. Jack knew the reflex; pain, and lots of it. Daniel was strong. He’d make it.

Something silver flew out of the gate and clattered down the steps. The grenade blew in a mist of beige smoke.

Chaos took hold.


***

“Prison,” was all Jack would say. Jack knew the scar was jagged and uneven. A clean cut would have straight edges. This cut had healed badly in the stink and filth of an Iraqi prison.  

Daniel rested a hand on Jack’s hip and began to kiss his back. Tiny kisses, slow, up the length of the scar. He drew his hand up Jack’s side, over Jack’s much-abused body, across marks he’d been charting all night.

Jack shivered beneath Daniel’s lips. Daniel wrapped his arm around Jack, held him in place, while he took his time traveling up toward the middle of Jack’s back, and the next point of injury.

“This one?” Daniel breathed, against the circular scar, and rubbed his cheek against it.

In a half-strangled tone, Jack said, “Daniel. Please.”

“Jack.”

Jack sighed. Beneath Daniel’s resting arm, his heart beat faster.  “It’s an old bullet wound. I caught a round in the back as we were running for support craft. My team had to drag me out of there.”

“It’s so close to your heart….”

“Too damn close. Pierced the vest I had on. Damn near killed me.”

“You’re tough to kill,” Daniel said, and smiled into Jack’s broad back as Jack snorted with laughter. For a moment, the humor raised another memory, of Daniel addicted to the sarcophagus and out of his mind. Jack had a souvenir of that adventure, too – a long scrape from a pick-axe across his shoulder, the gift of a careless fellow slave. Daniel gave it some loving attention, then turned back to territory he knew nothing about.

The faint red mark of a fading bullet wound – the aftermath of rescuing Carter – was still evident on Jack’s arm. Daniel passed that by and examined the small circular mark on Jack’s shoulder.

“This one,” he said, and nipped gently at it.

”Got it in one.”

“What? Oh.” Daniel smiled. “Who bit you?”

“Sara.”

“You’re kidding. She bit you hard enough to leave a scar?” Murmured against the skin, mouth open and soft and tasting.

“Passion, Daniel. We were married, you know.”

“So you have to be married to have passion?”

“That’s not what I meant…” Jack sighed, and moved. Suddenly Daniel was pinned neatly beneath Jack’s weight.

That brought Daniel face to face with the most recent of Jack’s wounds. He tried to free his hands from Jack’s grasp, to touch, to lay himself over the budding scar on Jack’s side and mark it with kisses, but Jack held him in place. “Jack. I need—”

“I know,” Jack said. He kissed Daniel, kissed him until Daniel was breathless beneath him. Jack closed his eyes and his thoughts scattered, away from his body, from his guilt. Jack’s teeth sank into Daniel’s shoulder, testing him, and Daniel’s body surrendered.


***

Dozens of Jaffa, everywhere, filling the clearing. In their midst, SG-3 and SG-6 were running and firing; Carter and Teal’c were close behind. Daniel was somewhere in the chaos. Jack had lost sight of him and his shouts barely penetrated the noise of war.

He locked eyes with Carter, who was seeking the same thing he was: a lost teammate in a sea of destruction.

And then he saw Daniel. As though he were frozen in the moment, Jack stared, watched as Daniel struggled with the big Jaffa – the ugly one, with the heavy feet – pinned, until he reversed things, and kicked the Jaffa in the head.

Jack started toward him, shouting a warning, but then he was – falling.

He hit the ground hard and stared up at the sky. He gasped for air, conscious of the roar of death gliders overhead, of the shouts of dying men around him.  Smoke rose from his side as the pain hit in a wave, large and overpowering. Drowning him.

He rolled to his stomach and crawled toward his P-90, on the ground between him and Daniel. Daniel was on his back, too far away for Jack to reach him in time. The Jaffa snarled words Jack could barely understand, but the meaning was clear. Death was now as close as the hand of the man who straddled Daniel.  The Jaffa stabbed down with his knife, cutting clean into Daniel’s side; Daniel shouted in pain as the Jaffa wrenched it out of his body.

“Daniel!” Jack roared.

He saw a flash of silver – Daniel’s knife, in motion, as he closed his fingers around the hilt and drove it into the Jaffa’s neck. One quick, deep stab and a twist. Daniel turned the knife quickly and stabbed it beneath the armor at the armpit, a downward cut, between ribs and toward the heart.

I taught him that, Jack thought vaguely, as blood gushed from the Jaffa’s wounds. The Jaffa cried out and dropped his knife.

Jack’s world narrowed to gray, pinpoints of silence and darkness. Daniel’s voice lured him closer. Jack barely recognized the raw sound of it. He was rushing away, into a tunnel of silence.

“Jack!”

Blood everywhere, turning the blue field to black, changing the colors of life to the shadows of death. The bodies of their enemy were scattered across their path; nothing left but carnage. Jack looked down at the hand locked beneath his armpit, followed it as it wrenched him to his feet. He looked past the hand up the arm and into Daniel’s red-smeared face. “Jack!” Daniel lifted Jack’s arm and slung it over his shoulder. “Come on!”

They ran with small steps, moving as fast as they could until they reached the gate. Daniel staggered up to the base of the stargate and crouched there, pulling Jack down with him. Jack wasn’t sure if Daniel had been holding him up, or the other way around.

He looked at Daniel’s bloody hand, noticed his bloody clothes. He grabbed Daniel with one hand and patted him down; Daniel didn’t protest, but drew in his breath when Jack’s hands pressed close to the hidden stab wound. Carter was dialing, he saw that now, with half of SG-3 at her back. She was opening the door to safety and softness and quiet and oh, what Daniel had done that day…

Teal’c shouted to Jack, above the din. He stared at Teal’c until he realized: the blood on Daniel was not all Daniel’s blood. That’s what Teal’c was trying to tell him. Teal’c had seen it all.

Pain flashed through Jack again; adrenaline wasn’t going to hold it at bay for much longer. He hauled Daniel to his feet as the stargate burst into life; Daniel winced and hunched forward. “Let’s go,” Jack said. They started moving slowly, together.

“Who’s saving who, here?” Daniel said to him, with a tight, gritted smile. Jack’s heart turned over.

A few steps more – long steps, hard to manage, but better with the two of them leaning on each other – and they plunged into the icy darkness of the wormhole.

Daniel staggered as they emerged on the ramp. Jack’s grip on his arm was the only thing keeping him upright. Or maybe it was the other way around. The smell of burning flesh was all around them –  even in the gateroom. Jack realized the stench was not in the air, but on him, clinging to his clothes, on his skin.

Together they half-fell, half-sat on the ramp.

Jack twisted around, seeking the rest of his team. Carter stepped through the gate, scraped and bruised. Teal’c was just behind her.

Medics surrounded them. Fraiser was talking in his ear; Jack swatted her away. “I’m all right,” he said. He craned his neck to see Daniel.

“Hold still, Colonel!” Fraiser said, just as testy.

Hands pushed him until he was flat on the ramp. Daniel stood, where Jack could see him, swaying slightly with Teal’c’s hand on his arm. Daniel was covered in dark red. Not all of it was Daniel’s blood. Not just the blood of the dead Jaffa, either.

Jack’s blood.

Jack looked down at his torso. For the first time, the staff weapon wound seemed visible where it had torn through his vest, his shirt, down to skin.

He looked up at Daniel, but his voice had stopped working. Daniel.

The world dissolved in a haze of pain.


***

Slow, deep strokes; Jack moved inside Daniel, the way Daniel liked it, though a part of Jack wanted to go rough, without mercy.

“My turn now,” Jack breathed, and arched over Daniel, to kiss the raw, red scar at his side. He tasted the ghosts of bruises on Daniel’s ribs and chest, reminders of how close it had been, this time.

They rocked together, building toward climax. Jack was bursting out of his skin, but Daniel’s touch kept him whole; Daniel’s eyes carried the weight of his shame, and their truth.  

Words Daniel had wanted to say poured out, to be absorbed by Jack’s silence. “I could have lost you,” Daniel whispered, and his breath caught in his throat as Jack drove into him, forcing the pain out.

Jack’s hands slipped beneath his hips, lifting him. Jack was deep, so deep, past the boundaries and walls and layers between, where knives and guns and weapons couldn’t touch. He hoped Daniel felt it, felt him. “Still here,” Jack said, and on his tongue the words were jagged, raw. His hands were not gentle, but the touch was filled with tenderness, and the ache inside him was too familiar.


***

Daniel came up cursing and flailing, swinging hard at phantoms.

Jack hopped from his own bed and caught Daniel’s arms, held him in place before he could knock loose all the tubes and wires and bells and whistles. One fist landed squarely against Jack’s chin; the blow staggered him. “Daniel,” he said softly. “Daniel.” His nod dismissed the SFs. They looked dubiously at him, but stepped away.

The memories released Daniel into the custody of Jack’s voice, the anchor of the present. He stilled in Jack’s arms but didn’t open his eyes.

Jack covered Daniel’s hand with his own. A small thing, but it was all he could do. His side throbbed; Daniel’s matching wound was deeper, different, but just as dangerous.

“Jack?” Daniel whispered. He opened his eyes.

“Here,” Jack said.

Daniel sighed and the tension drained from his body. Jack leaned on the edge of his own bed, exhausted. His shoulder side throbbed painfully where the bandage had slipped and torn at the wound. He looked at Daniel, at the pulse beating at the side of his throat. “Daniel, are you…” He stopped, unsure of what to say or how to ask. He changed his mind. “What were you dreaming?”

“Jaffa. I was surrounded by Jaffa. And I couldn’t find my knife.”

A chill went up Jack’s spine, followed by a moment of stark gratitude that Daniel was alive.

“You don’t have to hover. I’m all right.”

“You almost dropped me with that punch.” Jack traced the sore spot on his jaw.

“I’m a quick learner.”

Jack closed his eyes. “You weren’t ready,” he said, and meant so many things.

“I managed.” Daniel’s stare cut right through him.  

“Yes.” Jack hopped back on his bed and sat still at the edge. Nervous energy jittered inside him.

“I’m okay, Jack,” Daniel said, startling him.

“Are you?”

Daniel’s expression became guarded. “Shouldn’t I be?”

“I expected it to be harder for you. Killing a man with your bare hands…it wasn’t easy for me, the first time, and I’m…” He hesitated. “Let’s just say we’re nothing alike.”

“No kidding,” Daniel said, with a tiny smile. “I didn’t say it was easy. Just that I’m okay.”

“Okay.” Jack wanted to pretend indifference, but Daniel knew him too well, so he didn’t try. He lifted his head and nodded at Daniel’s wound. “I saved you, you know.”

“You saved me?” Daniel’s eyebrows arched up. “Really.”

“Depending on how you look at it,” Jack answered. He lay back down on the bed and stuffed his pillow under his neck.

“Right,” Daniel said, but Jack could tell he was smiling.


***

Jack looked into Daniel’s eyes, daring him to look away. Pleasure rolled through him as Daniel’s eyes narrowed and darkened. His breath came quickly as Jack devoured him, eyes open, waiting to see Daniel’s face as he came. He wanted to see inside Daniel; he wanted to remember this, to see the longing in Daniel’s eyes as the layers were ripped away and truth was exposed.

Jack released Daniel’s arms and Daniel lifted them to touch, to hold, to drag Jack closer still, pull him tighter, inside, until they were locked together. Jack kissed him, ferocious in his need, and murmured something, something he’d only just begun to comprehend.

Somewhere, in another place, the sky was falling. But not in this bed, between their bodies, in their world.


End
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