Between the Shadow and the Soul

by The Grrrl

Title: Between the Shadow and the Soul

Author: The Grrrl

Author's email: thegrrrl2002@gmail.com.com

Author's URL: http://thegrrrl2002.slashcity.org/

Archive: Ask first.

Fandom: Stargate SG-1

Rating: NC-17

Pairing: Jack/Daniel

Summary: Daniel, body paint, and an interesting ritual. Jack's world is rocked.

Notes: Thank you to Qlara and Babs, for their wonderful beta'ing. It's much appreciated!

I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

—Pablo Neruda (Love Sonnet XII)

"They want you guys to help," Daniel told us as he climbed onto the small stone platform.

Right. I took the clay bowl being offered to me. Carter and Teal'c did the same. "You sure about this?" I asked. "I'm not exactly known for my artistic abilities."

Daniel conversed briefly with the priest, then nodded. "It's necessary for my tribe to assist in, um, adorning me."

I wondered just where and how much of him we were supposed to adorn. There was one hell of a lot of Daniel skin showing at the moment, dressed as he was, in a simple little loincloth. And it was quite literally a loincloth, just barely enough the cover—well, his loins. A little piece of cloth, joined at either side of his hips, with slits on either side. This didn't seem to faze him, though. Not that it should have, I suppose. He may not have even noticed, focused as he was on the ceremonial crap. Still, he wore it well. Really well. Wore it so well I couldn't look at anything else in the damn room.

Daniel spoke to a woman busily stirring a large bowl. She paused in her work to gesture impatiently at the walls of the hut. Her heavy bracelets jangled, her arm waved while she spoke rapidly. I finally tore my eyes away from Daniel, and noticed that the walls were covered with illustrations, outlines of human forms filled with squiggles and curves and spots. Lots of squiggles and spots and curves.

"It's supposed to looked kind of like that—I think it's sort of their 'wall of fame'," Daniel explained. At Carter's concerned expression he hurriedly added, "but it's only rough guide, really, Sam. Feel free to use your own, ah, artistic license."

"You know me, Daniel. Not sure that I have one," Carter said. "But if you're willing to risk it." Her voice trailed off as the she poured the liquid from her bowl into each of ours. We each got a brush, but then just sort of stood there, hesitating, with the brushes in one hand and bowls of blue paint in the other.

"This stuff washes off, doesn't it?" I asked the priestess, who just looked at me uncomprehendingly, then at Daniel, shaking her head. She was obviously wondering what kind of loser tribe this Tauri had gotten saddled with.

"Priestess Yaasida would like to get started—this needs to be done before sundown," Daniel said encouragingly.

Finally I shrugged. If he was all right with it, then so was I. "Okay," I turned to Carter and Teal'c. "Let's get to work."

The priestess joined us, settling herself on a small stool, and started with a thin, blue stripe down Daniel's shin. I was thinking that we had had worse missions. If it came down to a choice of being shot at by Jaffa, or painting Daniel so he could be the guest star in some crazy springtime ceremonial rite, not to mention while wearing nothing but a sweet little skirt, the answer was pretty obvious. So I pulled up a stool for myself and got up close to Daniel's leg, taking a moment to secretly admire it. Because it was a thing of beauty, all lean muscle and smooth skin, covered with fine golden hair. Beautiful, just like the rest of him.

Some days I almost hated him for that, even though I loved him. Because he a painful reminder that I had given up loving men like him a long time ago, traded in that part of myself for a uniform and dog tags. And I had been okay with that decision, really. Been okay with it for a long time. It had seemed like a fair trade—I got a career, got married, had a family. I was respectable, I was happy. Sort of.

Until I lost everything that was important to me. I lost Charlie, lost Sarah. Nearly lost myself. But then Daniel came into my life, and the Stargate. My world turned upside down. I started traveling to other planets, halfway across the freakin' galaxy, which has got to be just about the craziest thing I could have possibly thought of doing. With a beautiful man that I loved more than life itself. I suppose I never really was able to trade in that part of myself after all. It had just stayed hidden, deep inside my soul. And I was determined that it was going to stay there.

But that didn't mean I couldn't enjoy the situation at hand. Yeah, we've had worse missions.

I checked out one of the illustrations on the wall, and began copying it onto Daniel's lower leg. "Hey, Teal'c," I called out casually, "how do you spell 'Kiss My Ass' in Goa'uld?"

"Jack," Daniel growled.

Teal'c spoke without looking up from his careful work on Daniel's forearm. "Do you honestly wish to know, O'Neill?"

Good old Teal'c. He knew how to tread the fine line of going along with both of us at the same time. "No, wait—how about "bite me"?"

"Jack."

"Yes, Daniel?" I asked innocently.

Daniel just shook his head.

In the end we spent an enjoyable hour or so adorning Daniel's body. I took my damn sweet time doing it, too, watching my paintbrush lick his skin, leaving behind trails of creamy blue paint. His skin was insanely appealing, flawless, beautiful, just asking to be touched. Being that I was never one to resist a cheap thrill, I lingered on a swirl that climbed up along his inner thigh, right up to the hem of that damn skirt. I caught some intriguing loin movement under the cream-colored cloth and a small sound came from deep in Daniel's throat.

"Daniel?" Carter asked, "Something the matter?" We all stopped for a moment, paintbrushes poised.

"Uh, tickled," he explained.

Tickled, my ass.

"But, it's kind of nice." His eyebrows twitched as he slyly glanced down at me. Damn. It had never occurred to me that maybe Daniel enjoyed a cheap thrill now and then, too.

"Glad you're enjoying this. But hold still, or else you'll ruin my masterpiece," I told him. "I'm not putting in all this hard work for nothing." I rolled my shoulders and stretched my back, as if I had been performing hard labor. Dipping the brush into my pot, I stirred the paint thoughtfully, wondering if I could fit one last swirl, or maybe a series of dots. I really didn't want to leave his thigh.

Daniel jumped. "Daniel!" Carter scolded.

The priestess had started on his belly.

"Shit," he gasped. "Sorry. This is harder than it looks, really."

The priestess spoke sharply to him, tossing her head, earrings and necklaces banging together as she wiped away a smear. Daniel made a contrite face and shrugged. She smiled, white teeth contrasting against her dark skin, and returned to her task, shaking her head.

"Hey, it was your idea, remember?" I called out. Like I minded.

Lucky me, I got to help paint Daniel's belly next. I shared the space with Yaasida, though, occasionally bumping shoulders with her. I tried not to stare at his navel. And that faint little line of fur trailing directly south. Or think too hard about how low that damn skirt hung on his hips, practically down to his friggin' hairline. Or about my how long, sweeping brushstrokes made his stomach quiver.

We worked to the sounds of the village folk preparing for the ceremony, women laughing and talking, skirts rustling, children yelling and running. The breeze brought in the mouthwatering scent of roasting meat, seasoned with some weird-ass spices. Still, it smelled good. Carter chuckled over a murmured comment from Teal'c, something about dinner being served soon. I was pretty hungry, too. But it had nothing to do with food.

The priestess poked at me, then pointed her finger toward Daniel's face. "Yes, ma'am," I said, saluting her. She was pushy but I kind of liked her. After all, she shared his stomach with me.

I joined Daniel on the platform, even though there was barely enough room for the two of us. I had to balance one foot on a stool in order to find a comfortable working position. Daniel made an odd face, wrinkling his nose, then frowning.

"What?" I asked. I obviously couldn't do any painting with that going on.

"Jack, would you please scratch my nose," Daniel asked.

I sighed as though it was a huge imposition, then rubbed his nose with my hand. He has a pretty damn cute nose, although I would never tell him that. He pushed it against my hand, scratching whatever itch, reminding me in an odd way of a dog I had growing up. He nodded. "Okay. Thank you."

"You're welcome." I examined my hand carefully. "Better no be any boogers left behind. Now hold still." I waved my paintbrush at him.

"Okay."

"And stop that smiling."

"Okay." He made a valiant attempt.

"Or else I'll paint a big handlebar mustache on you," I warned. I could hear Carter snickering to my left.

Now he frowned. "Don't you dare."

"Or how about, you know, the whole "Kiss" thing? I just know you always wanted to be a rock star."

"Jack," he started, his voice low and ominous.

I grinned at him, but when he started to grin in response I pointed my brush at him. "Ah—what did I say about smiling?"

He pursed his lips, trying his best to appear expressionless. But I was still smiling as I began to slide my brush over his cheek. It was hard not to, being that up close to his face, his big baby blues watching me with such exasperated affection. I wondered, not for the first time, why he put up with me. Our friendship was so freakin' weird. We're so different. We argue with over the stupidest things. Yet we still spent all our free time together, just hanging around, not doing much of anything, with an easy companionship that only made me want him more.

I busied myself painting lines on Daniel's cheeks, a line down his nose, a swirl along his stubbled jaw, all the while feeling his eyes on my face. I put spots on either side of the lines, and he carefully kept his face still, although I'm pretty sure it was killing him not to talk. Lucky for him, the paint dried pretty fast. I was putting the finishing touches on when his eyes went wide.

"Sam—" Daniel cried out, his voice rising. "What—what are you doing?"

"Just signing my work, Daniel. Teal'c—I left a spot for you."

Carter was signing her work. Right on his pert little ass. You go, Carter. "I get dibs on the right cheek," I announced.

Daniel just closed his eyes. Carter held up the bit of cloth for Teal'c, who swirled his name with a great deal of panache, in his native language of course, across Daniel's curved rump.

I jumped down from the platform and added my own scrawl. "Is this where they got that phrase 'just turn the other cheek'?" I asked, just to bug him. And to distract myself from the nearness of all those interesting Daniel parts. His ass was fucking gorgeous. I envied the paintbrush.

Yaasida watched me, her dark face thoughtful, but she didn't comment.

We stepped away from Daniel, admiring our handiwork, looking him up and down. Carter laughed. "Wow, Daniel, you look great—really." She nudged Teal'c. "We're pretty good at this."

"Indeed, MajorCarter," Teal'c said. Despite his stern expression I knew Teal'c well enough to see that he really was pleased

"Yeah Daniel, just great," I added. "Kind of like…." and I couldn't think of one wiseass comment to make. Because he looked good. Really good. "A person with paint all over their body," I finished lamely.

He was looking down at his body. "Huh. Pretty neat." Waving a hand in the direction of his face, he asked, "Jack didn't do that stupid mustache thing, did he?"

Teal'c and Carter assured him that I didn't, damn them. I could have had fun with that one all evening. Carter got out the digital recorder. "Just for posterity's sake," she assured him, over his protests.

"Wouldn't you want a record of this, DanielJackson? You said yourself that these people were directly descended from the ancient Ta-Sety people of your world," Teal'c helpfully pointed out.

I chimed in. "Make sure you get the signatures, too, Carter."

Daniel protested again, but I could tell Carter's brain was working, trying to figure out how to justify such a thing. I swear, the women on the base were just as shameless as men when it came to such things. I fully expected to find a mysterious little password-protected file on the server a few hours after we got back.

Yaasida pushed her way in front of us, interrupting our nonsense. She circled Daniel, brush in hand. I guess she was in charge of the final approval of our artwork. She touched up a spot on his lower back, his shoulder, his arm. Then, with her arms crossed, she nodded, and called out something unintelligible over her shoulder. A priest approached, presenting a large book to Daniel. Yaasida stared at us, and with a grand sweep of her arms, gestured toward the door.

"I guess that's our cue for the tribe to leave," I said. "Daniel?"

Daniel just grunted without looking up from the page.

Carter cocked her head and gave a little wave. "Have fun."

He responded with a vague wave, which was more than I got. But now Yaasida was looking impatient, so we filed out the door. Teal'c paused to bow his head in her direction. "Priestess," he said, in a respectful tone, and she nodded graciously in response.

We blinked in the bright sunlight. The village was noisy and bustling. By my reckoning it was a couple of hours to sundown. "Okay, kids, feel free to take a look around, see if there's anything interesting going on. We'll meet back here at sundown," I announced. "Keep an eye out for anything, you know, weird. In a Gou'ald sort of way." And with a nod, they were off to explore and visit with the natives.

The natives of this planet were pretty friendly. They had been happy to have visitors, and once they figured out who we were, we quickly became guests of honor. It also became clear that after being brought here from Nubia long ago, the Goa'uld had somehow lost their phone number and so never called back.

I wandered over to where the older women were preparing food, pointing to big slabs of meat, asking questions, getting in their way, generally making a nuisance of myself. They knew exactly what I was up to, despite the language barrier, and when I was finally shooed away, I had food in hand—a big chunk of greasy meat on a skewer. I ate it while relaxing on a bench, watching kids playing, chasing each other around. But all the while I while kept a weather eye on the hut where Daniel was. The ceremony, as he had described it to me, seemed pretty harmless on the face of it, but you just never know when some sort of weird shit was going to happen when you were on another planet.

Despite my vague anxiety it was turning out a pleasant, relaxing mission. A nice change from our usual situations, which of late have included a few too many grand finale of running full-tilt at the 'gate while being shot at. Not my idea of good mission. Or a productive one. So, even though, technically speaking, there was no reason for us stay on the planet, there we were. After our initial contact it became clear these folks had nothing to offer us in way of weapons or technology. But when I reported back to Hammond, suggesting we stay for the upcoming ceremony, along with the post-ceremony feast and he'd agreed. Enough shit had gone down during the past couple of missions that I knew SG1 was ready for a break. But I just knew that if we had downtime at the base Carter would spend it with her nose in god-knows-what in the lab, and Daniel would be burning the midnight oil with his translations, trying to ignore my attempts to coax him out with offers of pizza and beer.

I figured this would be nice, soothing little outing for all of us.

***

The ceremony began after sundown. The village square was lit by torches, and we all took our seats at long wooden tables. Yaasida escorted Daniel to the dais. He looked strange and wonderful in the firelight, the patterns on his body accentuating his movements. I couldn't take my eyes off of him as he prayed, chanted, lit candles, waved around some incense, all that sort of religious stuff. Finally an offering was made at the alter, with what looked like a bit of meat, and some grain, and next some liquid was splashed on it. Everyone around us began praying, chanting softly, then with a thump of a drum it was done.

Daniel smiled shyly at Yaasida, and she took the stage and made an announcement. I didn't have to translate this one—I was pretty sure it was "let the feast begin".

Things got pretty noisy, with lots of whooping and hollering. These folks weren't a stoic bunch, that was for damn sure. I began to like them even more. Daniel hopped down from the dais, and I made room for him at the bench, right next to me. He put a hand on my shoulder as he climbed over the bench, giving me, and everyone else, an eyeful as he lifted his leg.

"Daniel, skirt—remember?" I told him.

He just laughed, his face flushed. "It was just amazing, Jack. The scripture they use, it's remarkable—unchanged for thousands of years—" And he was off, jabbering away about stuff I only pretended to care about. Carter and Teal'c did a much better job at it, asking the right questions at all the right moments. Sometimes I think they really were interested. I just liked to watch as Daniel talked, especially this time with the stripes and spots accentuating his expressive face, his brows rising and falling, his hands moving through the air. Even better was the one glorious moment when his arm and shoulder bumped up against mine as he reached for a dish.

We stuffed ourselves silly with all that food, endless plates heaped full of meats, grains, vegetables, and some other stuff I couldn't quite identify but ate anyway. Teal'c in particular put away an amazing amount, and I made a mental note to get the poor guy out of the commissary more often. There was also a wine of some type, sweet and spicy. Not the sort of thing I usually go for, but since it was there, I drank it, and soon was feeling pleasantly buzzed, enjoying the company, the conversation, and, of course, all that exposed Daniel skin. Even though it was torture just to look at him, because my eyes just didn't know where to go. Especially when he fidgeted around in his seat, causing his skirt to ride up. I wondered if there was any way I could get away with copping a feel, and if I even had the guts to try. I had played it straight for so long I was sure Daniel would never catch on, that his mind would just never go there.

I shouldn't have been even thinking of such things. I don't know why I even let my mind go there. But I couldn't help myself. Maybe it was the wine. Or the paint fumes. Or maybe it was because I couldn't even remember what it was like to touch another man.

Music start up, all sorts of percussion, and a weird-sounding flute picked up an alien-sounding melody. Yaasida appeared, tapping on Daniel's shoulder, speaking to him softly. As I watched he frowned and nodded, then got up to follow her.

"Daniel?" I called out after him.

He waved a hand at me in acknowledgement, but his head was bent toward Yaasida, trying to hear her over the drums as they walked away. They disappeared behind the temple, and another priest followed with the book again. Maybe the ceremony wasn't over yet. I waited, maybe ten minutes, feeling uneasy, as I always did when we were off-world and Daniel was out of my sight.

Yaasida appeared again, catching my eye and motioning me to come over. She took me to Daniel. He was pacing along the dark shadows behind the temple, hand in his hair, a worried expression on his face. Panic rippled in my stomach.

"Oh, Jack—" he said, clearly surprised to see me. "Jack—I—uh—thanks, Yaasida."

She left us alone, there behind the temple. "Daniel, what is it?" I growled. His obvious agitation got me a little freaked. Something wasn't right here.

But then he let out a burst of nervous laughter. "I guess I need some help—funny, she brought you." He rubbed his nose, then stopped, remembering the paint. "I need to get ready for the final part of the ceremony, it's uh, you know," he stammered. "It requires, ah…" his voice trailed off, and he examined the paint dabs on his feet.

Frustrated, I demanded, "Spit it out, Daniel. What the hell is going on?"

He raised his head, stared at me for a long moment, then blurted out, "Seed."

"Seed?" I repeated, not comprehending at all.

"Seed. As in semen." His brows came together, and he took a deep breath. "I have to, um, you know," he waved his hands at his crotch, "on the temple. Anoint it."

"Anoint? What do you mean, anoint—" Then it hit me. Shit. He had to jack off—and do it on the altar. "You've got to be kidding me." It was so ludicrous, I had to laugh.

"Quit it," he hissed, giving me a little shove. "It's not funny. It's a religious thing for these people." But he was laughing too.

Anoint. Give me a freakin' break here. "Yes, it is funny, Daniel." I wiped my eyes. "Only you."

"Oh, and what's that supposed to mean?"

"Never mind. So, is this like, in front of everyone?" I asked hopefully.

"No, well, sort of," he replied, smoothing out his little bit of clothing. "I get to keep my back to the audience, while the priestess recites from the book of fertility."

I really liked these folks. "Wait—are you sure this isn't their idea of a practical joke?"

Daniel shook his head resolutely. "No. It's right there, in their ceremonial text. First time I read it, I just skimmed through that section, and, uh, my interpretation was faulty. You see, they used the root for 'seed' from the ancient—"

"Daniel," I said sharply, cutting him off in mid-academic breath, "you know you don't have to do it."

"Yeah, you're right, Jack, I don't have to do it, but do we want them to tell stories for the next 100 generations about the neurotic and uptight Tauri?"

"So it's a matter of pride then," I said.

"Well, I am representing the people of earth here, and, well it's—"

"So it's a matter of pride."

"It's a matter of pride," he conceded.

"Then, go at it, Danny-boy. Get up there and spank that monkey. Go," and I started laughing again, "anoint."

Daniel shifted his weight from foot to foot, obviously uncomfortable. He moved to fold his arms across chest, then stopped, saying in a quiet voice, "There's one, ah, small problem."

"Yeah?"

"The ceremony's about to begin, and—" he hesitated again.

"And?"

He stepped up close to me. "I guess it's got stage fright," he whispered.

"Not, ah, rising to the occasion?" I asked.

"Let's just say it's taken up residence somewhere behind my belly button."

"And you want me to do something about it?" I teased.

Daniel looked me straight in the eye and breathed, "Yes. Please."

"What, like talk dirty to you?" I wasn't so sure I was teasing anymore.

Now Daniel looked uncertain. "Yes. No. Um, anything. Anything you want. Use your imagination." He ducked his head, fingering the edge of his skirt, then took a deep breath.

If only he knew what was in my imagination. "Me, Daniel? Why me?"

"You're the best man for the job," he said bluntly, raising his head, gazing at me steadily.

I closed in on him. Before I could think the consequences or the implications of what I was doing my hands reached for his body, coming to rest on his hips, my fingers caressing the rough cloth. Daniel's hands went to my shoulders, his eyes never moving from my face, not even when my hands slid down past the hem the hem of that little skirt. The next thing I knew I was touching his thighs, my fingers skimming over the painted lines I had put there myself. His skin was warm to the touch, but I could feel him tremble.

"Does that help?" I whispered.

"Yes." His grip on my shoulders tightened, fingers digging into my muscles, his eyes flickering shut. I crowded him, pushing him back against the wall, the smell of his sweat, the paint surrounding me. My hands were under his skirt now, seeking that source of heat, wanting, needing—

"Oh, oh, that's it, Jack—" he sighed, like some sort of fucking soundtrack from my private late night fantasies. His hips moved, swaying gently as he murmured my name again.

I couldn't help myself. I brought my hands together and touched him, touched his cock, cradled it in my palms, wrapped my fingers around the hard, hot length reverently, as if it was some sort of holy grail. He breathed in sharply, stiffening, growing harder and I got hard right along with him. His eyes flew open, and I could see everything right there. Desire. Need. Maybe even love.

I pulled my hands back as if I had been burned. "Okay," I said, "there. You're ready. Go."

He called out after me but I nearly ran back to the tables, almost running over Yaasida along the way, stumbling in my shock and surprise. I had no idea. Hadn't realized it until now, never once thought it might be possible that Daniel wasn't straight. I tried to tell myself that any guy would respond to getting his dick stroked like that. But that look, the look in his eye, told me it was something more. That Daniel wanted me as much as I wanted him. What a goddamn kick in the pants. I never thought, never even considered the possibility of anything more than friendship between us. It was all to fucking much.

I reached my seat and slumped down into it, my dogtags thumping against my chest, reminding me of who I was. Who I chose to be.

"Sir?" Carter asked, "What's going on? Are you okay?"

Producing my best sarcastic, amused expression I told her, "One last part of the ceremony coming up—you gotta see it—and there he is—." I grabbed a cup of wine and gulped it down, closing my eyes wishing we had never come to this planet, wishing I was anywhere else in the universe.

But of course I watched. Watched Daniel as he climbed onto the stand, his broad, painted back facing us. Yaasida stood to one side, between two large, lit candles and began chanting in a rich, melodious voice. Daniel reached down to his crotch. His arm began moving.

It was obvious what was going on, his arm reaching down in front of him, his arm flexing slowly, the designs that Carter had so carefully painted on his back rolling gracefully. I saw movement from the corner of my eye, and realized that Carter, bless her heart, was setting up the digital recorder.

Yaasida picked up speed, her repeating chants and calling growing faster. Daniel leaned one arm against the carved stone wall, bowing his head, working his arm. I could see every breath he took, I was breathing along with him, panting, getting painfully hard. His hips began to move, just a little, the skirt swaying with his rhythm. I wished I could be anywhere else, anyplace where I couldn't see this, wouldn't have to watch what I had wanted so badly, for so long a time. But I was stuck, right there, watching as he pressed his head against his forearm, turning it slightly, his back and shoulder moving faster . I didn't want to watch, but life's a bitch, and I couldn't stop watching him, couldn't stop yearning to be there with him, to be touching him. To have him come all over me.

His arm moved even faster; the rhythm grew erratic. His body shivered, his ass jerked, froze, and then it was over, at least for him, his body slumping, relaxing.

I was completely, utterly miserable.

***

We walked together, in complete silence. I could tell that he had his eye on me, but I was ignoring him as best I could. I just needed to get through this mission, just needed to get back to the base.

When we reached the water's edge he started. "Jack, we need to talk."

I knew that was coming. "There's nothing to talk about," I snapped.

"Nothing? How can you call that nothing—we—you—" he sputtered in disbelief, hands flailing in the air as words failed him. "I never knew—

"Because there is nothing, okay?" I spat at him. "Nothing." I wished he would get in the damn water, wash off those stupid markings, and get back into his BDUs so I wouldn't have to look at him anymore. But Daniel being Daniel, he stayed right in my face.

"Why? Why didn't you ever tell me?"

"Because there's nothing to tell. Nothing to ask, either." I waved my tags at him. "See? You remember these?"

He glared at the tags in my hand. I saw everything right there in his face, just as I always did. Anger, Confusion. Pain. "So that's it?" he said motioning at my tags, now clutched in my fist, "You'll let them own you? Own your soul? Dictate who you are?"

I wished we had never set foot on the damn planet. "This is who I am." I told him. "It's who I've always been. And don't you ever dare think otherwise." I wasn't sure which of us I was trying to convince.

He stalked off toward the water's edge, then turned. "Know what I think?"

"No, and I don't care," I lied glibly.

"I think—I think you're just scared. Scared shitless." He dispatched with the loincloth, and plunged into the water. "Fuck, this is cold," I heard him mutter. I wasn't sure if he was referring to the water or me.

Sad thing was, Daniel was right, and I think he knew it. I was terrified. I had kept my sexuality under wraps for years, until I hardly recognized that part of myself anymore. It was the only way I knew how to be. Being heterosexual was safe. Simple. It let me be a soldier. Even a colonel. A colonel who was part of the SGC and who could never get involved with one of his team members. Because that would be wrong.

So even thought I loved him there was just too much at stake, too much that could go wrong. But Daniel, he wouldn't understand. Couldn't. The whole military thing was completely alien to him. Because his code of conduct was based on something entirely different, something deep within him. But mine was military. I was military, right down to my bones. I couldn't be like him.

I patrolled the edge of the water, feeling like shit, watching him rub the paint off his skin. The sky had lightened—dawn was coming. The food I had feast on was lying heavy in my stomach, and the wine left my mouth feeling dry and pasty.

The water might have been cold, but Daniel took his time. Finally he climbed out of the water, sleek and wet and still angry, rivulets of water cascading off his skin. I picked up the blanket and started to wrap it around his body but he snatched it out of my hands. "Just don't, Jack," he said softly, and walked away. There was sadness in his voice now.

I didn't kid myself that it was over. I knew there'd be more to discuss. Because this was Daniel, and I just knew he wasn't about to let this go. Not without a fight.

I realized I found that thought oddly comforting.

***

"Ready, Daniel?" I asked casually as I shouldered my pack.

He gave me a dark look, then turned back to Yaasida, basically ignoring me. I got pissed, and was about to speak again when he finished up his goodbyes and grabbed his pack. "Let's go," he said curtly.

Yaasida's stared at me as we headed back to the gate. As did Teal'c and Carter. Throughout the morning as we ate breakfast and packed Daniel had spoken to me only when absolutely necessary. His eyes avoided me. I did the soldier thing, hanging out quietly in the background, glad for the fussing of the priests and various hangers-on, distracting us, distracting Daniel. Several of them insisted on accompanying us to the gate. I guess they didn't get many visitors. We promised to try and come back in time for the next ceremony.

Carter appeared at my side as we walked. "Sir," she asked quietly, "is everything all right?"

Shit. "Everything's fine, Carter," I told her, a little too sharply.

She continued, "because you and Daniel, well, things seem to be a bit tense between you two."

"Yeah, well, it's no big deal." I wondered how much she knew. Probably nothing. After Daniel's performance last night, she and Teal'c had joined the line of dancers, and I sat in the back, wallowing in my own misery. I didn't think she saw anything.

"No?" she asked, her face growing concerned.

She was worse than Daniel sometimes, never knowing when to leave something the hell alone. "No. Just a stupid little argument." There, she'd believe that. Common occurrence. "Daniel and me, well, we're just two very different people, with different opinions on lots of things."

She thought for a moment as we strode on. Then said, "Actually, sir, I don't know if you realize it, but deep down inside—you two are very much alike."

I jerked my head up but she wasn't looking at me, just staring straight ahead.

It was an eternity before we finally went through that gate again. The drab interior of the gateroom soothed me though. It suited me.

Somehow I made it through the post-mission physical, the debriefing, and assorted business I had to deal with, all with my usual pointless sarcasm. Maybe it was more pointless and sharper than usual, who knows. The details of the ceremony were glossed over in the debriefing, that much the four of us had agreed upon ahead of time.

Daniel barely looked at me, barely acknowledged my presence, but that was fine with me. More than fine. The one time he did look over at me, during the debriefing, his eyes fixed on my tags briefly before looking away. I'm sure he was wondering how he could have been such an idiot.

Finally I escaped. To my quiet, dusty house. Only I couldn't really escape Daniel, because I could still feel his skin on my fingertips, still feel his hard, heavy dick in my hands. Hard because I was touching him. Me. Jack O'Neill. And I had panicked, completely and utterly panicked.

I thought about all the time we had spent together. Quiet little moments off-world, watching him scribble in his journal, sharing a tent, sleeping together under strange skies. Or moments right here in this house, eating chinese take out. Me watching the food fly from his chopsticks as he talked and waved his hands, excitedly describing some damn alien culture or artifact or whatever. I loved him. And I wanted him. Wanted him so badly that sometimes it made me crazy. My frustration would get the better of me and I would get snappish and cranky at him, but he was never driven away by it. I used to wonder why he put up with me.

But now, now that I had made him gasp and shiver, made him utter my name with such yearning, with such love—now I knew. I had discovered what I didn't ever need to know.

I was just sitting there, on my couch, staring into space, when the doorbell rang. And rang again. After the third ring I heaved myself off the couch, opened the door and faced a very determined-looking Daniel.

"Daniel," I said wearily as he pushed past me, "there's nothing more to—"

He grabbed my head in his hands and kissed me.

I wanted to ask him what the hell he thought he was doing, to tell him that he couldn't just barge into my house and kiss me. But I was too busy kissing him back, my hands reaching for him once again, my arms wrapping around his slim waist. He kissed me as if his very life depended on it, his lips smashed up against mine, his tongue invading my mouth. I was stumbling, moving backwards from the sheer force of his desire, until my back hit the wall, and then he shoved his body up against mine, flattening me against it.

His hands were everywhere, on my arms, in my hair, around my neck, under my shirt. Lifting, pulling up my shirt, pulling it up and off my body. He let my mouth go just for a second as he yanked it over my head and I took advantage of the opportunity

"Daniel, you just can't—" I protested, even though of course he could, because he just had.

"Yes, I can, damn it," he snarled, biting my lip. "We can." Those lips plastered themselves back onto mine, making it clear that he owned my mouth, then his lips slid wetly across my cheek. He pushed his thigh between my legs, spreading them, rubbing against my cock. "We're doing this, Jack," he said, his insistent hips rocking mine. His hands traveled over my chest, trailing fire, and when his fingers tangled with my dogtags he frowned. "God damn military." He grabbed them in his fist, and pulled them over off over my head. Without a second glance he threw them aside and they struck the far wall with a thump.

Daniel in conqueror mode—it was breathtaking. I was delirious. And terrified. I knew there was no going back now, not after this.

This time I pulled him to me and kissed him. He reached his hands down to my pants, unzipping them, then he was touching my aching, throbbing cock. "We're so doing this, you stupid ass," he said.

"Daniel," I groaned, burying my face in his neck. I wasn't protesting anymore. I couldn't stop him, couldn't find the strength to even try.

"And we're going to keep on doing this." His hand closed around my erection, squeezing.

A shock surged through my body. "Dan—Danny—" I stammered, my mouth on his skin. I didn't want to stop him. Ever. I just wanted him, all of him.

"I'll be damned if I'll let anyone—" He moved his fist along my shaft, gripping me tightly. "Or anything—"

Dazzling pleasure now, as I clutched helplessly at his arms. "Oh god, Daniel—"

"Get between us." With his other hand he raised my head so I could see his face. "Because I love you."

And that was it. I lost it, just lost it completely, coming all over him, joyously, shaking, thrusting into his hand, moaning his name. I was his.

Finally I opened my eyes, to find Daniel staring at me, looking stunned and sweet, his big blue eyes opened wide, shirt spattered with my come. "Oh—oh wow, Jack."

I don't think it was until then that he realized what power he had over me, how badly I had wanted him. Needed him. He kissed me, gently, sweetly this time, kissed my lips, my cheeks, my forehead.

"Yeah. Wow," I mumbled, slumping into his arms. I felt wonderful. My heart was pounding, my legs were like rubber. I would have slid to the floor but Daniel hugged me, holding on tight, his solid, sturdy body supporting me. Just as he'd always done before, whenever I've needed it. He was so strong, and I always seemed to forget that.

It occurred to me we were still standing in the hallway. "Bed sound like a good idea to you?" I asked when I could speak properly.

A huff of laughter caressed my cheek. "Bed sounds good."

I hitched up my pants but then leaned back against the wall and just stared at Daniel. He was flushed and rumpled, and looked so damned smug, as befitted a conqueror. "What?" he asked, in response to my scrutiny.

"Did you get the number of the truck that just hit me?" I asked.

His eyes narrowed. "I'm not done with you yet, O'Neill." He took me by the hand and hauled me off to my bedroom.

I knew he'd be a kind and just ruler.

I fell gratefully onto the bed. "Clothes, Jack," Daniel commanded, unbuttoning his shirt. He looked around curiously, taking in the disarray with interest.

I scrambled out of bed. It never occurred to me to protest that this was my bed, my house, my rules. I just got naked and dove back in, watching eagerly as he stripped down. Getting naked. For me. Broad chest, long, long legs, flat stomach. His dick was fucking beautiful, all shiny red and swollen. He was beautiful, he was naked. I was naked. We were naked together. And I didn't care. It was all too wonderful.

Because Daniel was climbing in my bed, naked skin and all, especially that sweet, pretty cock. Our bodies touched, our lips met and we kissed, not like before, desperate and frantic, but a slow, sweet sweep of tongues. Tasting. Savoring. I ran my hands over his body, caressing all that skin. I fingered his nipples, making him sigh into my mouth. I grabbed onto his perfect little ass and he groaned.

"Do me," I said, when he released my mouth.

"What?" Daniel stammered.

My hands weren't enough, I had to pull him over me, so that his big heavy body was touching me all over, pushing my body down into the mattress. It had been so damn long since I had felt a man against me like this, at least one that wasn't trying to kill me. He felt so good, so right, especially with the way his cock was digging into my belly. I wanted that cock. "You know, do me," I explained with a wiggle of my hips. "Hard."

"I can—you want me to fuck you?" Daniel's smile got positively nasty, and I got that excited, twisty feeling in my gut that I hadn't felt in years.

"Oh yeah. If you want to, that is."

"Oh, I want to. You can't imagine how many times I've thought about it." His cock twitched and he rubbed it against my stomach. "Jack, when was the last time you—"

I thought for a moment. "Probably before you were born, Daniel."

"I'm not that young, Jack," he informed me. "Unless you were extremely precocious?"

"Okay, okay, How about before you hit puberty?"

Daniel's face suddenly softened, and he kissed me. "I'm sorry. Was it worth it? The whole damn military thing? The sacrifice?"

"It was. For a while," I said, but then conceded, "Or maybe I just wanted to believe it was." I touched his cheek. "Then you came along. My dark little secret."

He smiled, but it was a sad smile. I didn't want to see that. I had already caused him enough grief. I cradled his head in my hands, kissing his mouth, his nose, his eyelids. "I love you, Daniel," I whispered, "I always have." I brushed my lips against his delicate ear. "Now do me."

He rolled off of me, laughing, shaking his head. Much better, I thought.

"You have anything to use?" he asked.

"So I gather you've done this before?" I asked, fumbling along the nighttable, finding a jar of goopy hand lotion.

He nodded, then started reading the label, which was just so very Daniel. I nudged him. "Gettin' old here".

"This from the man who waited five years to put his hand on my dick," he said, unscrewing the lid.

Okay, so he had a point. I started pulling him into place, rolling him onto his side. "Like this," I said. "Face to face." I slung one leg over his hip, and he reached around to my ass, touching me with a cool, slick finger, pushing it inside of me, a little clumsy in his eagerness, or maybe a little nervous, I don't know. All I did know was that it felt so right, so damn perfect. I ached for more, for him to reach deep inside and find all those dark places within me.

"Daniel," I sighed as the pressure increased, more fingers, twisting and turning, waking up parts of my body that had been asleep for a long, long time. He was watching my face so intently, looking for something, smiling a little when he finally found it, whatever it was.

I pulled his head close to mine and kissed him. "I'm sorry," I said against his mouth. "Sorry I was such an ass—oh—" I gasped as his fingers hit someplace very nice.

"Yes, you were. Are." Daniel told me, "But it's okay. You're my ass now."

"I was scared. Still am. You know, old dog, new tricks…" my voice trailed off, distracted by the stroking movement inside of me.

"I love you, Jack," he simply said, as if it was all that mattered.

And maybe he was right, maybe it was that simple. Maybe it was the only thing that mattered. My hand skimmed down his chest, down to his stomach, over those hard muscles, then over the wet tip of his cock. I held it in my hands, realizing that it was okay now, it was okay to be touching another man's cock. I found the cream, and spread it on his hot shaft, and he moaned, his fingers still deep inside of me, rubbing his lips against my face, shivering all over. "Ready?" I asked.

"Are you?" he asked in return, his voice silky.

"Ah, no, I've got a few phone calls to make first. What do you think?"

Daniel growled, his fingers leaving my ass to grab at my knees, pulling my legs up. I managed to get one underneath him, and finally had my legs wrapped around his waist, my ass pulled up onto his lap, his wet, slick cock sliding easily between my cheeks, his warm thighs pressed against my ass. Perfect. Fucking perfect.

And then it got even more perfect, because he was moving into me, pushing, straining. I took a deep breath, relaxed, and he suddenly slid in all way, pushing in easily. "Oh, oh. Sorry, Jack, did I hurt you?" he asked breathlessly. "It's so—it's so—oh god it's good."

His hips were moving, stroking into me, gently, sweetly, and it was good, so damn good I could barely speak. "Fuck no," I groaned. "Didn't hurt. Good."

"Good. Good," he said, looking dazed.

At least I wasn't the only one getting incoherent. I rocked onto him, flexing my legs and he breathed in sharply, his eyes closed, an ecstatic expression coming over his face. He kept making these soft little sounds as he clutched convulsively at my legs, pushing his palm along my thigh. Hot breath and dry, frantic kisses on my face as he went on making short little thrusts into my body, hands gripping my ass, pushing our bodies even closer together. My dick was smashed against his stomach, still only half-hard, and he reached for it, holding on to it carefully with his long fingers, caressing it, then cradling my balls.

"I appreciate it, Daniel," I panted, "But, you know, it's not going to be ready again for a while." Eyes still closed, he smiled, wrapping his fingers around it again.

I ran my fingers across his familiar face, touching that smile, marveling over it, marveling over the fact his dick was in me, pushing into me over and over again, making my ass burn, and my body sing. I clenched tight around him, his body jerked and his mouth flew open. I squeezed again, timing it as he stroked into me, making him have to push against me.

"Jack—" he hissed, sounding as if he were in pain, his body trembling. He thrust faster and faster, losing control, his breath sobbing in his throat.

"Oh yeah, Danny-boy," I whispered, holding his tense, sweaty body. I pinched his nipple, lightly at first, then harder as he arched his back, pushing his chest into my hand. "Come on baby, it's okay," I coaxed.

He pounded into me wildly, lips moving, gasping, and then with one last shove deep inside of me he froze. I could feel his cock throbbing, pulsating as he climaxed, silently at first, then with a long, deep moan. He was stunning in his ecstasy, eyes screwed shut, mouth open, a line of sweat trickling down his brow. I grabbed his face and kissed him as he came down from it, his body relaxing, melting against mine. He sighed as he finally came to, nuzzling my face, eyelashes brushing my cheek, lips finding my mouth.

"Mmm, Jack. Nice," he mumbled. "So nice."

"Yeeeah, nice." His cock was still in my ass, twitching a little.

"Dreamed of this," he said, coming in for another long, wet, warm kiss, one hand coming up to cup the back of my neck, the other still wrapped around my dick. Not that it minded.

"Not going anywhere, you know." I stroked his forearm.

One blue eye opened, regarding me warily. "Just making sure."

I held him tight with my legs. "Do I look like I'm trying to escape?"

"So this is okay? You going to be able to handle this? Us?" he asked, serious now. "Because I have no intention of this being a one-time thing."

"So damn pushy," I told him. But it was a good question. My life was moving into new territory. Once again. "It's not going to be easy."

Daniel rolled his eyes. "Jack, nothing about you is ever easy." In response I nestled my ass further into his lap, his softening cock still snugged up inside of me. "Well, maybe that," he admitted.

"I just mean that being military is a big part of me. I've done it for a long time. A long, long time. And on missions—having to put you in danger. Not to mention we're breakin' a mighty big regulation here, and there are plenty of folks who would—"

"Jack—" he interrupted just as I was warming to my subject.

"Yeah, Daniel. I can handle this," I said, kissing him.

He was thoughtful. "Dangerous situations. Did you have trouble dealing with it before—before this?"

"Yeah, sort of." He had no idea how much it freaked me out to see him hurt. Which he managed to do with scary regularity. "Aside from that lying awake at night stuff, it was just fine."

He smiled. "But now when you wake up, I'll be there."

I thought about it for a moment. Post mission. Coming home with Daniel, having dinner with Daniel. Then, instead of saying good night and watching him leave, cuddling up and getting naked with Daniel. Checking over every inch of Daniel to make sure he wasn't injured. Making sure all his parts still worked correctly. Especially that 'yelling out Jack's name in ecstasy part'. I began to smile. "Yeah, you will be, won't you. Wrapped up around me, all naked and sweaty. Hmm. That just might work."

He smiled at me, a sneaky little smile that hinted of all sorts of possibilities. "We'll see who'll be the sweatiest one."

We untangled ourselves, then got all tangled up again, Daniel's head tucked into my chest, his leg draped over me. I managed to tug the sheet halfway over us before giving up. I kissed the top of his head, and he rubbed his face on my chest, abrading me with his beard stubble. Been a long time since I felt that, I realized. Been a long time since I felt this good, too. Because of Daniel. Because Daniel was there for me. Because Daniel had reached in and dragged that hidden part of me, kicking and screaming, out of the shadows and into the light.

And, like most dark things, in the light of day, it really wasn't so scary after all.

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