Rating: NC- 17- Slash (male/male relationship)
Pairings: Jack Daniel
Category: AU. Angst. Scenes taken from the movie: Stargate
Status: Complete
Date: 30th October, 2000
Feedback: nessessitee@hotmail.com

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THE BUS TRIP - Epilogue
By Nessessitee

I must have read the name on the file at least a hundred times. Dr. Daniel Jackson. Could it be the same one? How many years has it been now? At least thirteen, by my reckoning. When I went back to the town many months later, he was gone. I tried his old apartment but no one had heard of him. I went to the University, but they wouldn't give me a forwarding address. I couldn't remember any names of his friends, so I was at a dead end. I thought, 'the kid's moved on,' and from that point in my life, I tried to move on, too. I missed him, I *really* missed him, and I thought about him often - in the beginning..... but, like with all things in life, you change and with change comes 'forgetfulness'.

I shake myself. This is stupid, I say as I stand behind the desk of the temporary quarters I've been assigned to by General West. It can't be him. Yet looking down at the dossier opened before me of the 'expert' Dr Langford had brought in on this ludicrous assignment I can't help but wonder. Something within that too-small type catches my attention and I sink to my seat, intently reading the file and becoming more and more sure that this man, this so-called Genius, who'd been ridiculed and laughed out of academia, was the same person I knew all those years ago.

I find I'm drifting in my thoughts. I can't, for the life of me, recall his face or recollect any feature of him at this moment - yet I once knew him so well. Despite this shortfall, merely thinking about him again fills me with a warmth that I can't quite fathom at the moment - it's like a soft warm breeze over my face and body that isn't tangible, but felt, just the same. I'm also recalling something Sara once said to me.

//Our mind often forgets things our heart never can, Jack...//

I can't recall what conversation we were having at the time, but the words make more sense to me now.

His file is in my hands - minus his picture which is yet to come from upstairs where they are processing it still. Curiosity is getting the better of me now, I'm really starting to wonder what he looks like. After reading this dossier, I have a fair idea what he'd been doing the past few years - being laughed at, being shunned by his society - but the kid still held in there! He was *still* tenacious...

I mumble to myself, "Well, the kid really *did* have the balls..."

I realize now that I'm smiling fondly, almost proudly, as I read about him. These words - acerbic attacks of his beliefs, his theories, his life-work - do nothing to lessen my opinion on him, an opinion long buried and, I'd thought, forgotten. But it comes flooding around me, like a soft wind, conjuring up memories I hadn't drawn on in years, reminding me of a person who, without my ever acknowledging it, shaped my whole life until now.

I grab up my cigarettes - a permanent friend since the night I left him I realize *now* - and I leave my rooms. I stride down the corridors, the oppressing gray walls close in on me the closer I get to the room.

I hear his voice before I even see him and some trigger releases in my head, setting forth ancient memories that now tumble forward in my head and slam up behind my eyes. In my mind I recall his smile and I hear his laughter - and slowly his face begins to appear before me - like some misty memory, slowly awakening my thoughts, memories and feelings of this boy...

His soft voice flutters over me like a velvet blanket as I step into the room now. He is there, standing there talking to a short, dumpy woman. His hair is longer and darker, but apart from that, he looks the same. It isn't until he faces me that I am one hundred percent sure, though. There is still such an innocence to his face even though he is now older than I had been back when we first met. I realize I'm holding my breath.

I make sure I punch my name when I say it, but he doesn't seem to flinch. Perhaps he didn't hear me, I thought, because he showed no iota of recognition by the looks of it as he turns back to the woman and speaks to her in soft tones once more.

"That's classified," I snap, insulted that he hasn't recognized me when, even after all these years, all I needed was his name, for crying out loud!

He looks a little bemused then and eyes me cautiously, and I see curiosity swelling behind his eyes. I turn to speak to Lt. Feretti, instructing him that no one was to be told anything without my say-so before I make a point of looking back at him. Our eyes meet again and for a flicker of a second I see recognition in his azure gaze. But he turns away again and so do I.

I turn and leave the room.

*

I'm sitting here, folders and dossiers opened before me but I read nothing of them. I stare at the gray wall, recalling my son's beautiful face. I recall his enlightening smile, his innocence, his trusting eyes and I suddenly realize *who* it is that he's reminded me of all these years.

Odd to think about it now, but there were times when he was growing up that Charlie sparked a faint memory within me, and all the time I could never quite put my finger on what it was I was seeking to recall. Like an aroma that conjures up a feeling or a certain warmth from one's past but not an image from it - Charlie and his innocence did that to me several times. Now I see that it was Daniel that he was reminding me of, even though they don't look similar at all. It was something about their innocence, their trust, that tied them together in my mind.

Even after my marriage I occasionally thought about him - but it was always with a level of guilt that made me uncomfortable, and a little on edge. Recalling the incredible time we shared was poisoned in my mind by the abrupt ending - and the 'pain' that I caused him that day lives with me even now. But over the years the guilt, the pain, lessened - but only at the sacrifice of the memories. I stopped thinking about him, stopped recalling what it felt like to be with him.... and I lost myself in Sara instead - and when we were blessed with him, in Charlie too.

The last time I can consciously remember thinking about Daniel was when I was tucking Charlie into bed one night, he was about seven at the time, and he asked if it was alright that he didn't like girls. At first I thought nothing of his question, I just kissed his forehead and told him that it was okay not to like girls at his age. He asked if he had to play kiss-chasey at lunchtimes with the bigger boys and girls that he had befriended, and I told him that he didn't. He seemed relieved and the smile he gave me sent a flood of warmth throughout my body - there was such trust, such innocence in his smile. I did tell him, though, that there might come a time when he wanted to play kiss-chasey and to leave his options open. He told me that he would and we hugged before I switched off the light and went downstairs to help with the dishes.

Standing in the kitchen I thought about Daniel for the first time in a long time.. though I couldn't recall him even by then. Couldn't really *see* him in my mind's eye. He was just a warm memory. What I could recall, with vividness, was his trust and his innocence and I suddenly felt a gnawing in the pit of my stomach over how I'd betrayed those qualities in him. My stomach knotted as I thought that no matter what Charlie decided as an adult, I only hoped he had a better introduction to sex than I gave Daniel. It didn't bother me what orientation Charlie grew up with, I just wanted someone to treat him 'right' when the time came... male or female! I suddenly saw in Charlie a level of Daniel's innocence and my guilt choked me. Sara had come in at that moment and I took her straight up to our room and I made love to her, as gently and as lovingly as I could, trying to cleanse my mind of it's guilt. It must have worked because the guilt went away - and I stopped thinking about Daniel.

But now, with hindsight, I can see that Daniel and Charlie were more similar than I could ever have known because it was these two people, and these two people *alone* - whom I have loved my entire life. I start to feel a tremble within my body that I don't even bother to try to shake off as, for once, I begin to be honest with myself.

Since Charlie's death, I can't help but wonder if I'm destined to be alone for the rest of my life. An odd thing to think when you realize that I'm a married man.

I cover my face now as I think about Sara. The suffering she went through during the sham of a marriage that I really believe that, even today, I tried to make work. I gave it all I could, it was just I didn't have much to give it- and I never even knew why, really. That part of it - the part of distancing myself from those I thought I loved so that bad things didn't happen to them - I didn't understand until right *now*. And now, now it's too late. She'll be gone by the time I return home, I know that. I saw it in her green eyes the last time I looked at her. I saw the pain, the questions that came, unbidden, to her mind when she said good-bye.

//Where did we go wrong?//

The painful thing was, she never failed me. As a wife or a lover, or a mother - she was the best. It was me. I always feared that what happened that night with Daniel would happen again - *if* I allowed myself to get too close. So I guess I kept my distance. I may have said all the right things, and sometimes maybe I even thought I *felt* them too, but it's so easy to see now that what I gave wasn't half of what I got in return from her. Back then I didn't know it was 'because' of Daniel himself and not because of what had happened when I let myself get too close to him.

When Sara got pregnant soon after our first anniversary things changed. Now, I thought, we are a *family* - the military won't tear us apart and no way will Sara leave me now! I got out of Special Ops so that I had a greater chance of actually seeing this kid grow up! Sara was very happy. It meant I came home on the weekends a lot more often. When I got assigned to the desk job in the town where we were stationed, she was even happier. I wasn't, but I had a 'family' to think about here!

So life kicked over routinely and I even began to give in to the dream of what it could be like. Despite my dissatisfaction with my career at that point, *we* - as a family unit - were happy and I don't think that was a facade. Charlie was the cement I needed to 'believe' things might last for us. He was the reason I went to work each day behind the desk and he was the reason I came home each night. The problem was I stopped thinking of Sara and me as a couple and only thought of us in terms of a 'family'. We did nothing without Charlie and, for a while, Sara didn't seem to mind that.

But as he got older, and less dependant on me, my job seemed to grow more and more frustrating. I began to buck the system, began to lose it a little. Finally, I told Sara I needed to get back into the action. She took the news a lot better than I thought she would, just nodded and told me to do whatever made me 'happy again'. I didn't think about the choice of words she used at the time, but I did recall them a long while later...

We were sitting in bed, she was reading whatever book she used to read, and I was reading a book whose words and pages I don't recall anymore. I was home from a recent covert mission and somehow the serenity of 'home life' seemed weird - like I was play acting in someone else's life.

We were keeping to our own sides of the beds, as we so often did those days - rarely did we have sex and the only kiss we exchanged apart from that was on my return or departure. We were, I thought, settled into this routine of allowing the other to do their own thing. She, on the other hand, thought otherwise. I can recall it now as if it were yesterday, and in truth, it wasn't that long ago really. It was just before Charlie's death, she sat beside me and, putting down her book down into her lap, asked if I ever really saw her anymore.

I wasn't sure what to answer because as I turned to look at her, I realized how much older she was looking. I hadn't noticed that, she was always the same age to me, but I suddenly saw her sallow cheeks, the lines around her eyes, the tightness in her mouth. That, in itself, was enough to tell me that 'no', I did not see her anymore. She was always just *there*. Perhaps, maybe, I shouldn't have told her that - should've have made up another answer, but I was conditioned to tell the truth and I didn't like to lie to her...

We argued that night and it was the first of many hateful arguments about how I never seem to be home, even when I was. That I seemed to live totally for my career and how I always concentrated on Charlie when I came back. He was the first thing I asked about the minute I walked in the door. I hadn't thought about it, but perhaps she was right.

Four nights later we made love for the first time in a long time and while satisfying, it didn't set the bed-sheets on fire. I knew then that something was missing - and I hadn't even noticed it before.

We argued so much after Charlie's death and my own guilt, my grief, tore at us like nothing else on earth could have. While she needed me more, tried to reach for me, to touch me, to hold me... I backed off.

My old fears returned and it seemed that everything I truly love was taken from me. This was no longer a family unit, this was two people - perhaps not even two people in love anymore - trying to piece together shattered lives amongst debris...

And I blamed all the wrong things for this when the truth was now hitting me in the face, slapping at me like a pair of hands did so many years ago.. trying to push me away - to stop me from touching ......*him*....

I sense I'm on the verge of discovering something here, but I don't get the chance to find out what it is before there's a soft knock on my door and I call the person in without looking up. When I do I almost stumble to my feet as Daniel steps inside, looking at once lost and unsure like he had that afternoon in my living room.

"Jack?" He tilts his head and stares at me from behind large round frames.

I smile, and resist the urge to hug him with every fiber of my being....

//I hate you with every fiber of my being...//

"Daniel Jackson..."

"Oh, my god! That *is* you!" He squeaks, making me laugh, for probably the first time in a very long time. He steps forward and we don't seem to quite know how to greet each other. He looks like he could hug, but decides against it, instead he juts out his hand before yanking it back then, seeing I was about to shake his hand, he juts it out once again. We both laugh at our awkwardness as we finally shake hands then he shoves his hands deep into his coat pockets and stands there, smiling shyly at me.

"Look at you! You haven't changed!" he erupts after a small pause, throwing his hands up in some kind of appraisal of my appearance. I arch a brow at him and he chuckles, dipping his face shyly. "Okay, maybe a little.."

"I've aged, Daniel." It's true. While not so much physically, definitely mentally. Losing a kid will do that to you. Kind of makes you shut down a while. Still, I wave my hand at my head and mutter, "Hair's still the same color but there's a little less of it now." I run my hand over my newly shorn head which, up until a few hours ago, sported a mane that would have put Daniel's to shame. It wasn't until they shaved it that I noted how hard my face had become, how permanent a few of my frown lines were now, how the dimples in my cheeks were now permanent creases instead. Not that it was something that bothered me, it was just something I noticed.

"If you want to talk about someone not changing, it's you!" I say, tossing my hand towards the bunk bed in some sloppy invitation to him to sit down. He goes over and sits immediately. As I'm about to sit myself, I ask him, "Isn't that the same coat you used to wear to university?"

Daniel tugs at his coat, looking at it like he'd never really seen it before. "No," he says, and I start laughing. He looks up and tells me, "I left that one in your apartment that night...."

I stop laughing. His eyes, crystal blue and shimmering even in this light, even with these dull walls, hold me mesmerized. We're quiet for a long time and he laces his hands before him, then lowers his face like he's begun to believe he's just said the wrong thing to me. I stare at the dark blond hair, the long bangs that still flop into his eyes. Mentally I'm groping for something to say.

"I see you stood up to academia..." Then I cringe as he looks up, his desolate look saying everything.

"And I think it's me who's been knocked on his butt.." He mumbles, shifting back and leaning against the wall, dragging his knees to his chest and hooking his arms around them to keep them there.

"Dr Langford believes in you..." I say, unable to meet his eyes.

He snorts then mutters sardonically, "well, she doesn't know me!"

I look up at him and I'm surprised by the bitterness in his voice that's aimed at himself. I recall the kid I knew and I remember him being shy, but he had a certain quiet confidence about himself, and a little cheekiness if I remember him right! The man he's become however, seems a lot less sure of himself, folded up like he is on my bed. To be fair, the kid he was wasn't as world weary as the man he's become. Daniel has certainly been dragged through the mire over his beliefs, if some of the scathing reports I read in his dossier were any guide for judgment. Still, you'd think he'd have some confidence in himself, he's a goddamn genius, for crying out loud!!!

"I just got here a few hours ago," he went on to explain, and I note that perhaps his viciousness is more to do with being tired than any self-rebuke, as he yawns while he tells me, "we've hardly spoken really." Then he rubs his hand over his face, dislodging the glasses as he sighs before replacing them once more on his nose. On a tired whisper he says apologetically, "I haven't slept in days. All I really want to do is find out what it is this Dr Langford wants from me then I want to fall asleep, in someplace warm!"

I look around the cold cell I'm in then I check my watch before I rise from my chair and go over to grab my leather bomber jacket from the hook behind the door. Unfastening the top two buttons of my shirt, I tell him, "Come on," as I pat his shoulder and encourage him to stand. "Let's hit the town.."

"Jack, I'm meant to be working here.." He tells me. I shrug as I thrust my hands in my pockets. With a soft laugh he looks from the door to me again, "I'm sure they expect me to stay *here*, at least a few hours until they can fully explain what it is they want me to do for them. I know it's something to do with that ancient cover-stone and something to do with what they found under it, but ..." He shrugs, looking up at me with large blue eyes, like he wondered if I had any news to tell him.

I sigh. "This is the military, Daniel. They're gonna tell you squat!"

Our eyes meet again and I'm sure he's recalling our abrupt tryst just like I am. I reach forward now, grip his upper arm and lift him to his feet. "And when they do get around to telling you, they expect you to drop everything for them..." He blinks quickly then looks down. I pat his shoulder again. "So, until that time comes, let's go out and enjoy ourselves..."

*

We head to the elevators together and I sign him out, before jerking my head and silently indicating for him to follow me again. We make it into town without much more than chit-chat but once we're settled at a table in O'Malley's I ask him, "how long did you stay in Chicago?"

Daniel lifts his beer to his lips and shrugs. "Until the end of my course - a few months."

I nod and swallow a mouthful of bitter amber fluid. "I went back, you know.."

His eyes went wide. "No!? When?"

"After Christmas..." I say, toying with the frost down the side of my beer mug.

"Christmas? I left on the 23rd..." he tells me. I close my eyes slowly and groan while he laughs and says, "We just had really lousy timing, huh!" He says it so innocently as he pops some peanuts into his mouth. I'm staring at him when he looks back. He seems aware of this and lowers his eyes.

"So, tell me the Reader's Digest version of the Jack O'Neill story.." He asks as he lifts his beer and then sips it, finally meeting my eyes over the rim of his mug.

I shrug, then pop some peanuts into my mouth as I say, "I went back to town, you were gone so I started dating Sara from the bus instead..."

"Because I was gone..?" He asks, cynicism on the tip of his words. I look at him then shrug once more.

"Well, I got lonely," I try to sound flippant. He smiles, for which I'm grateful then with a cheeky chuckle he asks me how many other people did I date from the bus.

"Just you and her..."

He seems to rock in his chair uneasily as he says, "but we didn't really date.. did we? We just by-passed all that and went straight to the bedroom..."

When I look up at him, I think I see resentment in his eyes. I lower my voice as I say, "well, she and I did that, too..."

"Ah," he comments with a nod as he studies the table cloth before him.

"And then we got married..." I say and watch his head snap up, his azure eyes wide and staring.

"Oh!" he says after a few short moments. A smile twitches at the corners of my mouth but I'm not sure if he's surprised or angry now so I lose the smile - fast.

"Ah... Married?" He stammers then tilts his head to the side as his brow furrows slightly.

"Yeah!" I have to look down at my hands. I can't read his expressions anymore so I don't know if he's surprised, shocked or mortified. I'm betting it's mortified as I have always felt guilty for doing what I did to him - imagining that I'd left him scarred somehow. Not that I thought I was all that, you understand, but the kid trusted me.. and I voided that trust the minute I got out of that car and walked away from him. How was he meant to trust again after all that I'd promised him yet proved, within a few short hours, that something *else* meant more to me than he ever could.

Still, he has asked about my life, and I'm just telling him. I'm not sure how it's affecting him, to be honest, as he sits there probably imagining me skipping through life with a pretty new bride at my side. I gulp as I make one final disclosure; " And we had a boy, Charlie..."

I almost hear the thud as the final blow hits him. "Oh.. god.." He looks at me and slowly he tilts his head. "Charlie?"

I nod, knowing what he's thinking right now. And who wouldn't? My kid's got his middle name. "Actually," I tell him in all honesty, "Sara named him."

I realize that sounded a little harsher than I'd intended it to and I regret the look in his eyes before he lowers his face now. I wet my lips quickly before toying with the frost on my glass once more. "But Charlie died a year ago now..."

"Oh.. God!" His voice sounds strained with empathy now. I look into his eyes then as I inhale deeply I'm hit by his scent. After all these years....... I'm discovering that a whiff of his scent still makes my heart suddenly flutter.

"Danny, it's fine.." I try to ease his look slightly and bring my own thoughts back to reality again. He nods and looks away, but soon he's looking back at me, like he can't keep his eyes off me. Perhaps I'm just being hopeful here. Perhaps, for him, it's a little like a car-wreck instead!

"So you and Sara are still...?"

"No," I say on a sigh then I drain my glass of its contents. "We're in the process of separating.."

"Process?"

"Yeah." I roll my eyes as I sit back, hooking my arm over the back of my chair. "We're at the 'no-speaking', 'no-tolerance', stage at the moment..."

I hear his inhale of breath then he leans forward in his seat, looking up at me from under long lashes. "Jack, I'm so sorry..."

"Yeah.." I say softly as I lower my face, resting my chin on my chest. We were silent a moment then I tilt my face to gaze across the table at him. He's met my eyes and we both smile. "So now I'm wondering about you..?"

"Well," he begins, in a self-effacing manner, "Much like my career, my private life is in tatters, too. I guess I wasn't so 'good' after all, Jack.."

I was amazed by the things this kid.. this man... remembers from back then, but why should I be? The whole thing is filtering through my every thought. Words we said to each other, things we did, confidences we shared - all fill my thoughts and send tendrils of warmth throughout me, rekindling a part of my heart I thought was long dead. I drop my face again.

"Maybe they just weren't ready for you," I suggest quietly, guilt strangling my words.

Daniel's eyes go wide behind the lenses then he blinks quickly as he tilts his face to look at me. "My lovers or Academia?" He asks in a low, soft voice.

Chewing on the inside of my mouth, I shrug. "Both?"

He did that thing with his eyes again, not quite a roll but not so much of a brow raise either - I recall vividly how he used to do it a lot when he didn't quite buy what I was telling him.

"Somehow I think it was me that wasn't ready for them," he mumbles. I sit there, staring at the top of his head a while, watching him feeling shy, perhaps ashamed, by this confession.

"Tell me something," I say in a low voice. His face lifts once more and tilts slightly. "These ... lovers?" I have no right to be curious but I suddenly am.

"What about them?" He asks, his voice as soft and deep as my own and it's like we're in this surreal bubble of time, enveloping us from the outside world.

"Male or female?" I surprise myself with my brashness.

With a wry smile he lowers his voice as he confesses, "Men. Only... men.." He gulps down a mouthful of beer now, looking embarrassed again.

"So," I say, trying to lift his veil of blush from his cheeks with a friendly jibe, "no more Mrs. Robinsons then?" I am referring to, of course, his older woman and I surprise myself that I can recall that conversation so vividly now.

His head is bowed and his shoulders start to shake as he laughs quietly, then he swipes at his eye with his thumb. His head is still bowed as he mumbles against his chest, "oh, no! Definitely not. I just didn't find women attractive after...." He looks up and somehow seems a little startled to see me there - almost like he'd forgotten who it was he was talking to. It seems to me that his eyes grow wide as his mind finally realizes, I think, what his mouth was about to reveal. Perhaps it's wishful thinking at this stage, but when he says, ".. her.." I simply don't believe him.

I make a point of letting him know that as I fondle my glass and say, "ah.."

When he settles back in his chair then looks around the restaurant, I'm sure it's to avoid talking to me a moment while he lets some of his self-consciousness die down. So I remain silent too, watching him from the corner of my eyes while assessing the damage I did to this kid all those years ago. Maybe I've been wrong all this time? Maybe, in a way, his introduction to male lovers *might* have been successful - as, by his own confession - he preferred men, so perhaps my damage wasn't *that* bad?

I take a moment to allow myself to believe that thought, then I glance at him. His eyes, which have obviously been watching me, divert the instant I look at him. My stomach flips. For crying out loud, who am I kidding? The man can barely breath from embarrassment at the moment recalling his failed love life and if I wasn't to blame for that disaster - introducing him like I did, with promises of trust and gentleness only to rip his heart out the next day, all at the vulnerable age of eighteen - then I don't know what else is! Being introduced like that - giving up so much - only to have it thrown back in his face the next day like it was some unwanted rag, it must have had an affect on him - must have taught him to be unsure. He was probably gun-shy of having his heart ripped out again by some heartless bastard...

He's watching me from across the table again and I'm wondering now if he's silently cursing me for doing that to him. I know I'd hate the man who did that to Charlie... should he have-

I bow my head and I sigh, heavily.

"Don't.." His voice is soft but determined.

"Don't what?" I ask, looking up slowly at him.

"Blame yourself.."

"I wasn't," I protest, even though I was and the fact that he knew I would be only shows me how well he still knows me.

As his plate is placed before him, he shifts his cutlery around a little then waits until my plate is placed and the waiter departed, until he says, "I've always known why the relationships failed. It was me."

Hey, I've been with him, there was nothing wrong with him performance wise... so there's that old gun-shy thing, hitting me in the face. God, I hate being right sometimes! So what do I do?

"Why you?" I argue with him now (like that's going to help him) as I drop my napkin into my lap. "It takes two to tango.."

He stares at me silently and, of course, I see his sullenness as a challenge so I tilt my head a fraction as I try to read his expression. Then, lost in those blue eyes, my subconscious finally reveals the last of my hazy puzzle to me - I wasn't distant from Sara all these years because I feared losing her if I got too close..... I just wasn't 'there' with her! My heart was just always somewhere else and it wasn't until now - until *right* now - that I know that...

My grip on my cutlery tightens and I start to shiver throughout as my mind teases me now, taunting me with the truth - I have always been in love with Daniel.

//Good going, O'Neill! You have a lifetime of marriage behind you and it's only NOW realize that you were always in love with someone else....//

His blue eyes hold me spellbound as I come to realize that my feelings for him never went away - they were merely 'forgotten' in my attempt to be what I thought I 'should' be - for Sara, for Charlie, for my career...

Oh, god! What a time for an epiphany! To top it, if that realization *could* be topped at this moment, I know that he certainly doesn't feel the same about me. In short, he must hate me for what I did to him...

He gives a soft sigh as he lowers his eyes, hiding them behind long, golden lashes, then he starts toying at his food with his fork. "That's the point," he continues to tell me, in a fatalistic tone, why his relationships never worked: "it was my fault. I was never really there..."

*

I splash water on my face and stare at the reflection in the mirror.

//God, O'Neill, what on earth did you do to this kid?//

Nothing I hadn't done to myself, I know, but he went through the past few years fully aware that he wouldn't love again. Me? I was too much of a coward to face myself so I blocked it in my mind, and never tried to find a reason for my distance, other than to blame the military for it.. and some stupid belief in a 'family curse'. No O'Neill, it seemed, was allowed to be happy...

Daniel enters the men's room behind me and I watch his reflection. He strides across with confidence but it isn't in his eyes. His azure gaze is full of concern.

"Jack, I'm sorry," he begins to tell me, "I'm tired and I'm ... Well, actually I'm not quite sure what it was that I said that was so wrong, but I know I said something that made you jump up and run off like that.. and I'm sorry.." He's rambling a little, one hand flinging out while one remains on his hip. When he finally stops his tirade he bites his lips together then tilts his head at my reflection.

I grip the edge of the basin as I lower my face. I can't take any more of his honesty, or his belief that everything wrong is his fault. "You did nothing wrong.."

"Come on!" He scoffs sarcastically. "I'm talking and suddenly you jump up and practically bowl over a waiter to get away from me..."

"It wasn't you.."

"Then tell me..!" His voice is strained but soft. When I'm brave enough to face him I see his brow is set in a frown, his eyes sharp and blue. They seem to soften when he sees my eyes. "Jack, oh god.. Look I'm sorry. This is wrong.. this is all wrong.. I'm probably bringing back memories you thought were dead and buried, I'm so sorry!" He shakes his head as he turns towards the door, telling me, "I'll tell Dr Langford I can't work on this project.."

He's out of the restaurant even before I can get back to our table. I grab my jacket from the back of my chair and go to follow him, but the waiter catches me and I'm reminded about the check. Cursing softly under my breath, I pay and tell them over and over again that there was nothing wrong with our untouched dinners, it was just we weren't that hungry after all.

On the street I'm relieved to find him there, arms across his chest, waiting, it seems, for me. I stride up to him and he lifts his face up.

"I need a ride," he tells me, "back to the base, if you don't mind."

"Daniel.." I start to say but he blocks me with a hand.

"Jack, I'm tired. Can we, please, not talk about it."

I shrug then we head to the car, but we are going to talk about this. Just not out here, in public.

*

Daniel's sullen in the seat beside me, his arms held tightly across his chest, his head bowed and his eyes shut. This kid.. this 'man'... surely doesn't want to talk so I leave him alone. It's not until I pull the car up that I realize he's been so quiet because he's been asleep. He jerks awake then looks around at the unfamiliar surroundings. He turns to me.

"Where are we?"

"We need to talk.." Is all I say as I get out of the car and head to the front office of the roadside motel on the very out-skirts of Colorado Springs. I sign us into a twin room and step onto the porch. Daniel is waiting in the car but he gets out now and follows me, wordlessly, to the room.

It's a flea-trap, and I begin to wonder if I should have sprung for a better class of motel, but this one is anonymous at least. I hear him shut the door behind us as I reach for the bedside lamp and switch it on. Tossing the keys onto the bed I look at him. His hands are on his hips, his mouth is tight.

"There's no way we can discuss what we need to discuss back at the base," I tell him casually, shrugging off my jacket and laying it on the foot of one of the beds. I reach for the only chair in the room, turn it around and straddle it. I rest my chin on my folded arms along its back. Daniel looks around then sits on the foot of the other bed, his hands in his lap.

"Is it any more private here?" He wonders, apparently unintentionally aloud as he suddenly looks at me with a little surprise in his eyes.

"There's no one either side of us, I made sure of that," I tell him. In truth, there's no one in the whole place, apart from the over-weight, singlet-wearing man in the front office, and I doubt anything could drag him from his television set - I had enough trouble getting his attention when I was standing in his damn office!

Daniel nods at this news then sighs as he leans back onto out-stretched arms.

"I meant what I said," he comments without looking at me. "I'll tell Dr Langford that I can't help her.."

"Don't be a fool, Daniel," I say with a strained sigh. He looks at me now, his eyes wide and innocent once more. "They need the best..." I tell him, feeling a smile twitching the corners of my mouth.

"You seriously can't mean that!"

"I've read your dossier. You've done everything you told me you wanted to do, you stood up to the Academics.."

"And I've been ostracized because of it," he erupts passionately and I'm not sure if it's from anger or embarrassment. He's standing now, pacing a little. "Jack, please. This is.. hard enough.."

"Why?"

"Why?" He asks in disbelief. "Look at you then look at me! You're a colonel in the US air force, you're married, you've raised a child... I'm some failure who can't get people to sit in a room long enough to convince them of my beliefs.."

"You're no failure, Daniel!"

He snorts. "Jack, I only came here because I have nothing! I have no home, no money and my Grants have all run out. Everything I own - *everything*- is in two suitcases back at the base.." His face is flushed and even the tips of his ears are red. I think back to his apartment when I knew him all those years ago - all his books, all his belongings... all gone now? I know he's looking at me until I look at him and then he diverts his eyes away.

"Possessions don't equate to success.." I tell him - from experience. He's shaking his head at me.

"So says a man who has it all..." He mutters.

"Had.." I correct him and suddenly he looks at me with more regret than anyone looked at me at Charlie's funeral.

"Oh, Jack.." He sighs, mortified at his own insensitivity, I bet. I stand and cross to him and he rolls his eyes as, if I know him and I realize now that I do, he mentally berates himself.

I search the features on his face. Reacquaint myself with the shape of his eyes, the line of his nose, the pout of his lips. He's more handsome now than he was when I knew him. His face has a sharpness to it that it didn't have before. His jaw is stronger. His eyes seem to be wiser, and I believe, a little sadder.

"I'm sorry to hear about your son.." he says in a tight voice as he finally flicks his eyes towards me again.

I nod, captivated in the depths of the blue. "Thank you."

He swallows. "Can I ask what happened?"

With a sigh, I say, "Charlie..." then the strength goes out of my voice as I feel weak at the memory of that day. "He.. he.. killed himself in his bedroom ... with my hand gun. He was ten.."

His eyes go wide. "Oh.. Jesus..." Without warning he grabs me and hugs me tightly as he whispers again, "I'm so sorry, Jack."

Despite the circumstance, I find my skin tingling where his breath puffs over it. I bury my face against his throat and I inhale - long and deeply - until he pulls us apart again. "I can't even imagine what it must have been like," he confesses. I nod again, regretting him stepping back and feeling a chill settle over me. "I haven't even lost a cat.." He rambles then seems to realize the inappropriateness of it and rolls his eyes at himself, "actually, I've never had a cat.." He shuts up suddenly after that, wrapping his arms across his own chest tightly as he turns from me.

I shrug and stare at the back of his head. "That's because you're allergic to them.." I say. He swings around to face me so fast he almost falls over.

"You remember that?"

I nod now. "I remember a .. lot.. of things," I tell him, hoping there's enough in my voice to get him to talk to me about this.

He blinks as he tells me, hesitantly, "so do I."

I catch my voice in the sudden inhale of air. "I thought, after I'd lost Charlie, that I was cursed - like one of your damn Egyptian Mummies."

Daniel smiles slightly then blinks as he lowers his eyes to the floor. "I didn't know you believed in such things, Jack."

"Normally I don't..."

He looks up and nods, then his eyes dart around the room before settling back onto me again. "But you needed some reason for it all, huh?"

I nod. "Kinda."

He's chewing on his bottom lip as he crosses his arms over his chest once more. "Only, sometimes there are no reasons..."

"There's always reasons.."

With a shake of his head he says, "then perhaps there's no explanations .."

I nod. "Maybe," I say, lowering my eyes from his.

"Just curses.." His voice is so abrogating that I look up again into wide, misty blue eyes.

"*If* you believe in that kind of thing," I mumbled.

"Well, I do," he snorts softly as he rubs his hand beneath his nose before tucking it back under his armpit. "I'm an archaeologist.. it comes with the territory."

"Ah huh." I rock on the balls of my feet now as I shrug. "I'm an O'Neill. It kinda comes with the territory, too."

He smiles now, broadly, and then his tongue comes out to swipe his lips. "So why is that then?"

I roll my eyes as I go to the window and, brushing the brittle curtain aside, I look out into the highway and the headlights of the cars passing by on it. "O'Neill's are notorious for being unlucky in life, but mostly, in love."

"Ah," Daniel's voice gains some lightness now. "I'm sure Sara would love to hear that."

"Oh, she knows, especially now," I comment then I give a quick jerk of my head at the pessimism in my voice. Trying to lighten up again I say, "She's always known. She'd just laugh and say that we were the O'Neill's to break the mould.." I flinch as the headlights of a car pulling into the Motel shines on me. Ducking away from the window I turn to face him now. His mouth is parted slightly and his lips look moist. "But we're not. Odd that we're discussing bad luck because it's been thirteen years of it for her."

"I doubt she'll agree to that, Jack, there must have been good times, too."

I nod. "There were, but not lately." I go over to my bed and pick up my coat. I retrieve the cigarettes from a pocket and step out the door, leaving him inside.

*

I'm almost finished when he joins me out there, perching himself onto the railing and turning his face towards the road. It's dark in the corner of the world where we are. The roadside hotel is right on the outskirts of the town, facing north, so there are no road lights nearby. Cars travel pass but their headlights don't shine into the yard at all. No interior lights are on in any of the other rooms either. There is, however, a faint glow from the overhead marquee that lights Daniel just enough for me to see his face faintly. I look at the line of his profile, the shape of his Adam's Apple, etched in the shadows. Wind puffs at his long hair, and he closes his eyes for a moment. God, he has no idea how beautiful he is!

He sighs then turns to look at me and smiles, even if it's a sad smile. "In the beginning I kept seeing you about the place. In the faces in the street. It took me such a long time to realize you were really gone..."

I swallow and lower my face. The pain in his voice is hard enough to bear, without seeing the look on his face, too. I note a slight change in his tone now, it's a little edgier whereas it had been wistful a minute ago.

"And so I finished my degree and moved on. I went back home for a while, but then I tried standing on my own feet, only to discover that no one, not even my own tutor, believed in my theories. Stephen began to resent me and that resent turned to hate..."

"Who's Stephen?"

Daniel sighs, somewhat dramatically. "He and I were assistants to Professor Jordan, my archaeology professor, and then Sarah rounded out the absurd triangle perfectly." There's a chuckle in his voice though when he tilts his head back and slots his eyes to look at me as he remarks, "Stephen fancied her, she fancied me and I fancied Stephen." He rolls his eyes slightly as he sits forward.

I note casually that he's had a Sarah in his life too, though not to the extent that I had had one in mine. Still, the coincidence was interesting, to say the least about it. However, as he had no interest in her, my immediate attention was focused on the one he did have an interest in.. this Stephen guy..

"So you and Stephen were..?" I probe, trying to sound casual.

He laughs, like it was a joke. "Oh no, no, no, no..." He shakes his head then chuckles some more to himself. I don't quite see the joke myself, but I guess it was a good one! "It was a disaster from the start," he tells me as he drags one knee to his chest now before he looks back at the passing car lights. There's such sadness, such melancholy in his voice, I want to reach out and touch him, to give him some kind of comfort, but it's not what he needs. I'm sure he doesn't need the man that stuffed it all up for him years ago trying to console himself now with a touch. What Daniel needs, I decide, is the truth.

"Daniel, I'm sorry..."

"Don't be, Jack. It not like it's your fault.."

"If I hadn't left like that.. If I hadn't done.. to you what I did to you .. well, you'd probably trust people more and you wouldn't have... "

"Hey.." Daniel's face swings around to me now. "What you 'did' to me...?" He queries.

I gulp back a breath then bounce on my feet again. "Yeah," I say sadly, "What I *did* to you."

He shifts one leg off the railing now, dropping it to the floor where his heel thumps in the still night air. "You did nothing to me.. Jack. Nothing.. but show me what it was like to be loved..." His voice is low and hushed, probably so that the neighbors couldn't hear. Not that there were any neighbors, mind you!

"For one night?" I snort.

"No!" He fidgets on the rail now like he doesn't seem to know what to do with his hands. Quickly he gets up, his mouth pulled into a tight line as he frowns at me. Grabbing my sleeve he directs me back into our room and shuts the door carefully.

"Look," he starts even before he's turned around to face me. He stands before me now, one hand on his hip and his weight onto one foot as he bows his head. With a quick scratch of his thumb across his jaw line he says to me in a tight voice, "I know this is all behind you.... now. You married, you fathered a child - I'm sure having an ex-lover, a *male* ex-lover, come back into your life was the last thing you expected.... Maybe even a little embarrassing for you-" I go to protest but he holds a hand up, silencing me. "Jack, I saw it.. I saw the way you dipped your face when I mentioned it..."

"When?" I'm confused. When did I seem embarrassed by the memory of what we shared. How the hell did I make him think that when it was so far from the truth? I'm angry at how I ended it, but I'm not embarrassed by him..

"Huh?" His head lifts, his glasses are perched half-way down his nose.

"I'm not embarrassed.." I say as succinctly as I can.

He shakes his head and lowers his face again. "It's not important. I just want to say - and we *never* have to discuss this again, okay-" He meets my eyes again as he makes that point very clear to me. I wonder if he doesn't want to discuss it again, or he thinks that I don't. He continues before I can ask him about that; "but what we did that night..." he sighs and grows wistful again, "Jack, that wasn't a one night thing for me. It was the culmination of months of deep friendship... I thought you felt that too..?"

I nod. I did. "But the fact I ran out on you like that has stuffed up your trust now.."

He frowns at me as he says softly, "I'm not sure I follow you here..?"

"You said it yourself. You don't trust people.."

"When?"

"At dinner."

He frowns even more. "No, I didn't.."

"Yes, you did.."

"No, I didn't.."

"Yes! You said that it was your fault your relationships failed. That you were never really there.. now, if that isn't because you were guarding your heart against getting hurt again.. I don't know what is!"

He laughs, shaking his head slightly. "Is that what you thought I meant?"

"Yeah," I say, hesitantly slipping my hands into my pant pockets now. I frown at him as he smirks and licks his lips once more. "Not what you meant, huh?" I ask him.

He shakes his head as he goes over and shrugs off his coat before he sits down on the end of the bed.

"As far as my relationships went, it really was just that old cliché of the ones that liked me, I didn't like, and the ones I liked...." He pauses as he leans back onto his outstretched arms while our eyes meet in the dim lamplight, "well, they go off and get married and..." He deliberately leaves it off there and even attempts to smile at me, but I can see it's an embarrassed smile. When I don't respond he sits up quickly, lacing his hands together as he hunches himself forward. "So I guess you can now see why I can't work on this project, Jack.."

I instinctually shake my head as I say, "I can't see why.."

With a snort, he rises to his feet and presses past me. "Think about it.."

I stare at his back, broader than I recall it being now that he's finally removed that damn coat of his. "I'm thinking..." I say and I hear a soft explosion of laughter from him. When he turns around his face is brighter with a smile.

"That's the Jack O'Neill I know and..." He stops then wets his lips as he tries to twist from my scrutiny.

I know the ending of that cliché... Know and *love*... Like a bolt it's finally hit me. This kid was somehow still in love with me? Even after everything I did to him?

"Danny," I say as I cross the room to stand before him.

"Stupid having a crush all this time, huh?" Even though he wears a shy smile he mutters this ashamedly as he finally meets my eyes.

// Crush?//

He goes on without stopping; "I recall reading somewhere that you never really forget your first love.." He's over by the television now, trying to drive his thumbnail into the top of the wooden box. "I guess it's just that, huh?"

"I guess..." I say cautiously. I'm not sure what he wants here, what it is he's saying to me. "But I wasn't your first love, was I?" I says hesitantly, unsure if I'm getting everything all screwed up here and if he's about to laugh his ass off when he suddenly realizes what I think he's trying to tell me. When he looks at me with sad, questioning eyes though, I'm sure I'm not too far off the mark so I clarify my question to him, "Mrs. Robinson..?" I shrug, still hoping I'm not making a fool of myself here.

He blinks quickly then looks down at where he's still trying to screw his thumbnail into the top of the television casing. "She wasn't my first *love*, Jack.."

The breath stalls in my throat. I hear the blood pulsing in my ears and my heart starts to race behind my ribs as I realize that all that I had to walk away from all those years ago was still in this man before me, embroiled within his thoughts and everyday actions.

He twitches a little then stands up straighter, folding his arms over his chest as he tries to gallantly meet my eyes with a jut of his chin. He fails too quickly and looks away as he chews on his bottom lip tenaciously. I step closer and he suddenly jerks back to look at me. He looks scared in his eyes: fear - it's all I see - and it reminds me of standing outside the lecture hall with him thirteen years ago.

"I'm sorry I hurt you," I tell him, trying to sound as gentle as I want to be at this moment. I note he swallows as his Adam's Apple bobs quickly.

"I could have coped.." His throbbing whisper hisses on his lips, "I.. I was coping... but seeing you again.." He gives a soft laugh like he's defeated and then mutters, as he looks around at the floor, and I'm not sure why - probably just to avoid my eyes right now as he says, "I always held this hope, this 'romantic' hope, foolish huh! We'd meet again and things could be.. like they were..." He's met my eyes again, but he's blinking and I see the pain it's causing for him to be this honest with me. A sad smile twitches across his face. "But you've definitely moved on, huh? Got married, had a child... My first thought was how embarrassing it must be for you now, having an ex-lover return to ruin your life.."

I frown. How could he think I'd be embarrassed by him?

"Then when you told me you'd called your child Charlie I thought.. for a split second.. that maybe it was... because of .. me..." He shrugs then dips his face with embarrassment then he speaks again, in a more aloof tone now. "But I see it was Sara's idea, not yours.." I swallow and watch as he shakes his head slowly, desolation overcoming him finally.

//Oh, Danny!//

"When Sara came to me, seven months into the pregnancy and told me she wanted to name the kid Charles..." I catch my breath as his sad blue eyes fix onto me again. "I didn't object, Danny.." I tell him softly, hoping that meant something to him at least. He nods but says nothing and I feel compelled to be brutally honest with him. "Of course the name made me think of you, brought back everything we shared - not just that night but for the whole few months.... and for a short while, they were good memories - *great* memories!" I see a faint twitch of a smile in the corners of his mouth now and I lower my eyes so I can't see the pain my next honest tirade will inflict on him.

"But after Charlie was born things changed. *I* changed, and my fathering instincts kicked in. It all just compounded my guilt about how I treated you that night and brought it to a level I could barely contain..." I sigh then lower my face as I try to keep my voice even. "And babies have a way of helping you forget things..." I look up into his quizzical blue eyes and I hate myself for what I'm about to say to him. "They help you.. forget.."

He understands me, I can see it in the little twitches across his face now as he begins to turn from me. He's shaking his head, his mouth tight as he bites back his emotions. "Nice to be so easily .. forgotten.."

"Aw, geez, Danny, what the hell was I meant to do?" I pleaded with him. He shrugs like he has no idea. Perhaps I shouldn't have been so damn honest with him, but what kind of friendship would it be then? "I couldn't carry you in my heart forever.."

"I did!" He snaps then bites his lips together before turning away again. He tosses his hand in the air then lets it slap against his thigh as he steps into the kitchen part of our cheap Motel room. I let him have his distance, pitiful that it is, but it's what he needs and I don't want to encroach on him. In a rush he stomps from the kitchenette and, in one fluid move, he's snatched up his coat and reached the door before I can even react. My hand goes over his on the door knob and he yanks his hand free, like I've just scolded him.

Through clenched teeth I say one word, "Please..."

He blinks as he searches my face and then he steps away from the door, circling me widely as he goes back to the bed. I flick the lock on before stepping away from the door myself.

Rubbing my hands over my face I start to pace, trying to work through the emotions rising within me. I'm stupefied to think that this gorgeous man could still want me.. after all these years and even looking, now, as I look. He watches me pace and he does not looking happy at all. I realize that's all my fault. I'm not conveying my feelings properly here. It's hard. It's not something I'm good at - or haven't been good at for thirteen years now. With Sara, while it was good between us, it was easy. But when things went rough, neither of us could express ourselves properly, which probably led to the huge breakdown in communication over the past year.

"I'm sorry Jack," he mumbles after a long silence between us. I stop pacing and look at him. He lifts his face. "I shouldn't have snapped like that. I'm tired and.."

"You were being honest, Daniel. What's wrong with admitting to that, for crying out loud!"

He sucks back a tired sigh then shrugs.

I squat before him and he seems a little surprised by that action. I grip the bed either side of him as I look up into his eyes. "I think being honest is what it's all about here, isn't it? I mean, I've been honest with you, and I'm sorry it's hurt you but .."

He nods then a slow, sad smile creeps over his face. "Now *that's* the Jack I know.. and love.. too." He wets his lips nervously as he cringes a little, whispering, "sorry," as he diverts his eyes.

I arch my brow and realize that I might still have a chance of salvaging this with him. I sigh as I rise to my feet and sit beside him on the bed end. He shifts slightly so that he can see me next to him.

My voice is hoarse as I swallow back my emotions and begin, "Thirteen years ago I *had* to walk away from you - I had no choice. It was my job and my duty. And at the time it damn near broke my heart, Danny..."

I hear his soft inhale now and I see the confusion lift in his eyes a little. My heart races as I hope I'm saying the right things to him now. "And now, well, now my loyalty to my duty has brought you back into my life..."

He blinks and I confess, "For the past year I was not a soldier. I was de-activated after Charlie's death. I just couldn't cope. I completely lost it..."

He swallows and nods but says nothing.

I move away from him, rising to my feet so that I can't see the horror in his eyes now as I tell him, "and five hours ago I was sitting in Charlie's bedroom, my gun in my hand..."

"Oh.. god.." He gasps softly then I feel him behind me, his body lightly brushing the back of mine. I turn to him slowly and I see absolution in his eyes, for everything 'we'd' been through, because of this confession.

I wasn't after his pity. I had a distinct reason for telling him this story so I continue to tell him, "but at that moment two officers visited me to *inform* me that I was reactivated for duty..."

My voice starts to crack on the last few words and I feel him shuffling slightly. I wonder if he's trying to ascertain if I want or need some kind of physical comfort right now. I do, but he has to make that decision for himself. The timing has to be right for both of us.

I hear how shaky my voice is as I continue to speak, through clenched teeth, "And I got up, like the good damn soldier that I am and I went down those stairs and I stopped and looked at Sara by the door. I knew if I went through that door there was nothing to come home to. But I still went.." I inhale noisily and it sounds something like a sob.

His lips don't move but I'm sure I hear him softly sigh my name, then he touches me. It's a simple touch, but my heart has stopped beating, if only for a second until I get used to the fact that he's touching me again, his eyes filled with compassion .. and love. His hand cups the back of my head and I feel his fingers rub my short hair as he silently comforts me. I lower my eyes as I say, in a voice barely louder than a whisper, "And I pulled out of the driveway, with her on the front step - and I felt 'nothing'...." I look up, straight into the shimmering pools of blue. "I felt nothing..."

His face folds in a frown then he pulls me closer. For a moment I think he's going to kiss me but he pulls me into a hug instead, and his breath puffs against my ear lightly. My whole body tingles, whether from the cathartic emotion outburst I'd just gone through, or the fact that he was holding me once more - I couldn't be sure. My arms finally move, engulfing him in a tight embrace as I bury my face against the bend of his neck and shoulder. He shifts to accommodate the hug even more and I'm grateful for his strength, his compassion at this moment. All the while, I feel his fingertips rubbing small circles in my short cropped hair.

"Oh.. God.. Danny!" I grip him as tight as I can now and I hear the wheeze of breath forcibly expelled from him.

"Shh.." He coos softly "It's alright Jack.." His jaw is gently nudging the side of my face now and I sigh as I gather him even closer.

"No - it's not.." I mumble. He grips my face in his hands and pull me back. I'm reluctant to go but he's stronger than he looks and he hold me out where he can see the tears in my eyes now. He says nothing, but he folds me into his arms, pressing me against his chest once more. I feel safe, at last.

I go on. "When I arrived at the Mountain, I was cold. Right to my bone. It wasn't until I saw your name on a file on my desk..." I shiver and his hand slips from my head onto my back, where he rubs me a little with his warm palm. I tilt my head back enough so that I can now look into his eyes. "Then I started to feel warm again.. and I realized what had happened... Fate was bringing us together - again."

He frowns a little then I confess, "I didn't carry you in my heart Danny, but my sub-conscious never forgot you. I can't explain it... but seeing you again, it's unlocked something I didn't realize I'd locked away..."

He wets his lips then says, in a soft, husky voice, "I used to think of our relationship as being a summer spent in a garden." I must look skeptical for he dips his face slightly and laughs gently before adding, "Forgive my romanticism, Jack, but I felt warm and safe whenever I thought of you. When you went away that night I felt like someone had locked that garden away and only you and I had the key. I couldn't return there without you.."

I roll my eyes and mutter, "Only I'd lost the damn key.."

He smiles sadly. "Misplaced it. Couldn't remember where you'd put it, but.." His thumb swipes a wayward tear that squeezed out of the corner of my eye now. "I think you realize now, you always had it.."

I swallow. Christ, that was romanticized, but, sheesh! So damn accurate! He seems to read my mind and he laughs louder this time.

"Yeah, I know, that was bad.. but give me a break, I was eighteen!"

I smile at him and I touch my hand to his face for the first time in the way that I *want* to touch my hand to his face. We fall silent immediately and he seems to be holding his breath.

"Breath, Danny.." I smile at him.

"I don't think .. I can..." Then he laughs and looks at me again. "Well, okay, yes I can..."

I laugh too.

He draws back a soft breath then begins to tell me, "When you were in that room, barking at us all..." We both laugh softly now. "I didn't really recognize you. Once you left I asked Dr Langford who you were and she told me. You have no idea the thoughts that went through my head when I walked towards your office.."

"Some .. idea.." I comment with a shrug. He smiles at me then nods.

"Yeah, I guess you do. When you told me you were married now, and about Charlie, I just.. I realized how much you'd moved on from what we'd shared. I felt, to be honest, embarrassed. Not only for me, but for you. I thought I was probably this dirty secret that you would hate to get out - to your military friends or your wife..." Shaking my head at that suggestion I reach for, and pick up, his hand. Our fingers entwine as he continues, "The last thing I meant for you to think was that you'd *ruined* me.."

I roll my eyes and he grips my cheek, forcing me to look at him. "Don't you remember what we said to each other that day? Jack, you didn't 'steal' anything from me.. I just wish you'd believe that now!"

I shake my head as my hand cups his cheek too. "You were so young," I murmur and he nudges my hand.

"And you were so wonderful. .. and that was the reason no other relationship worked for me - they weren't *you*." I swallow when I hear the thickness in his voice now.

"We've wasted so much time," I tell him.

He smiles then kisses the base of my thumb. "I have, maybe, but you certainly didn't." It was true. I couldn't say that I regretted it - because of Charlie - but I was glad I had this second chance, at last!

I tilt his face up slightly then I hold his gaze a long moment until I can't wait any longer. I close the space between us, allowing his face to grow blurry but never taking my eyes off him, for fear he would vanish the moment I did.

His lips are soft and moist - just as I remember them being. His tongue, hesitant, tentative, prods my lips seeking permission to enter - which I grant immediately. With a low moan at the base of his throat, Daniel shifts closer to me, drawing me against his firm body now, his arms encircling me tightly.

I'm lost in the mere act of kissing him. I'd forgotten what it felt like to have every nerve, every cell of your body electrified just by this simple act. He's doing that right now. I've never felt so alive, so on fire. His face tilts against mine, his tongue tumbles across mine and slips under it. My groin twitches as my locked memories flood forth. He moans again, and I'm sure it's in response to my twitch. I force one twitch now, just to check his reaction and I feel his moan against my lips once more. I smile against his lips and he bows his head, breaking our kiss as he steps back from me.

I stare at him and I'm a little confused, a little out of breath and a lot aroused. He's wiping his bottom lip with his thumb then he turns side on to me as he says, "This isn't so wise.. is it?"

I raise my eyebrows as I tilt my face. "What?" So wise? This is *all* I want - what the hell does wisdom have to do with it?

He swallows then rolls a hand between us as he says, in a soft voice, "you're a Colonel and married man now, Jack..."

"Yeah.... So?"

With a small laugh, I think it's at himself, Daniel shrugs then leans himself back to sit against the cupboard the television is on as his hands grip the edge either side of his thighs. I step over his outstretched legs to stand, straddled, before him. I cup his chin in my hand and lift his face. "If you think I'm gonna let you go again, you can damn well think again, Daniel.."

He blinks but says nothing. Suddenly his eyes dart around the room before looking back at me. I smile. He's so damn cute! "And your .. wife... ?" He tilts his head now.

"I doubt she's still there.." I tell him honestly.

He nods then gets up and moves away from me. "So, when I was no longer there.. you picked up with her.. and now that she's no longer..."

"Oh, for crying out loud!" I hiss.

"No!" He yells at me now, the veins on his throat standing out against the red flesh. He holds a finger up between us as he says to me, "Jack, I can't.. . with the way my life is going at the moment.. I can't... do ... this.."

I'm not sure what words I want to use at the moment, and everything falls from my lips like a jumbled mess. "Do what? You just told me.."

He jabs the air with that finger between us again as he bites his lips together firmly. After a quick swallow he says, in a voice raspier than I was expecting, "Jack, I accepted you walking out on me the first time.. but it's me I won't forgive if I put myself through that again.. can't you see?"

"It's not gonna happen!" I argue passionately and he throws his head back in a scoff.

"How can you be sure you won't be posted somewhere else *tomorrow*..." He blurts out and I think he's surprised himself as much as me with the passionate outburst. He catches his breath then drags his eyes from mine as he turns side on to me and lowers his face.

I nod. It's a valid fear, I know that. I can't promise him it won't happen again, because, knowing the military, it just might. There's only one thing I can promise him. I step closer and I turn him back around to face me. Slowly his eyes lift to meet mine.

"They won't separate us before this is over," I tell him and he nods like he agrees to that, so I go on, "I'm not sure how long this will take but let's just enjoy it while it lasts..."

Rolling his eyes he sighs. "And if I'm not ready to let you go at the end of it?"

I laugh. "You'll probably be glad to see the back end of me.."

He smiles then it twists into a slightly smutty smirk. I understand his thoughts and then we both laugh. "You know what I mean," I say, nudging him gently.

He nods then his smile fades slightly as he asks, "What if I'm not though?"

"What if I'm not..?" I add. He shrugs. I cup his jaw lightly as I say to him, in all honesty, "while we're happy, they won't separate us.."

He frowns slightly. "How can you be sure, though," he asks, and I think he really needs a proper answer, not some romanticized promise.

"Because I'll resign before they do that to us....this time."

He blinks. "Jack?"

I shake my head. "I'm not making false promises here, Danny. I meant what I said, I'm not letting you go again!"

"But you're married.. what about Sara?"

I swallow. How can I explain that I now realize that the past thirteen years, and all the good things that came out of it, were all built on the husk of a dead heart? I just smile as I brush my thumb across his bottom lip. "You worry about that thing back at the base...."

"The Stargate.." he tells me. I frown and he shrugs. "That's what it's called, the Stargate. I worked it out for them tonight. They had the translations all wrong."

"Well anyway," I say with an uncertain nod, "you worry about this... stargate.. and try to work out the secrets of it..." I lean forward and kiss his mouth softly. In response his hands touch my butt ever-so-lightly and my body erupts in gooseflesh at his mere touch. I pull back and watch him slowly open his eyes and we both smile now. "And I'll worry about Sara..."

He nods. I caress his cheek with my thumb as I stare into his azure eyes again then I tell him, "and if this thing goes on a while, what say you and I, both strangers in this town, share a place together.... to cut costs..."

He grins at me now, a little wantonly, as he says, "to cut costs, huh? Sounds .. good to me.."

I nod and then stroke his mouth tenderly before I lean in until we almost touch. "Oh, and one more thing..."

"Yeah, Jack?" he asks, his lips hovering against mine. The anticipation in his voice is audible.

"Take your time with this Stargate thing and we *could* be in for a long ride....."

He chuckles softly against my lips. "Long ride.. huh? So long as it beats taking the bus.."

"Hey," I say nonchalantly, "catching a bus has it's advantages...."

He sucks back a breathy sigh. "I know..." Then he closes the gap and I kiss him, as gently as I can for a long as I can.

And I intend to go on kissing him.. for a very long time... so let's hope this ride *is* a long one!

The end.


Authors notes: Although it occurred to me that this might lend itself beautifully to a follow up (ie: what happened between Jack and Daniel that makes Daniel remain behind on Abydos? Even Jack's parting words to him - "You going to be alright?" and Daniel's response of "Yeah, I think I am..." (words to that effect.. sorry not watching it at the moment!) gave me the thought that something had happened between them.. perhaps they just realized what they had thirteen years ago wasn't enough and Jack realized that the military was still his mistress - therefore they would never have survived - hence, prompting Daniel to remain with a promise of love instead. I could so easily see that but, you know? I'm way too lazy to write it :) Sorry.. but if you were thinking along those terms, it might help you to realize that so was I? If you want to write it... write to me and we'll discuss it - you won't be the first to write a 'companion piece' to something I've penned!

Regards, Nessessitee....