Copious quantities of gratitude to elynross for putting up with my thrice-daily installments of ten lines apiece, and to Lucy & Maygra for giving it a test run. :-) (And for that major continuity save that I would have totally screwed up...)
by the lady of shalott
Wow. Did his head hurt.
On the bright side, he was lying on something soft, and he didn't seem to be tied up or injured or dead, and he had the vague sense that he'd had a really good time last night. So all in all, nothing much to complain about. All he needed was about another twenty-four hours of sleep. He rolled onto his side and tried to shove his head into the pillow.
Oh, right. That's what had woken him. "Yeah, yeah."
"Jack." Daniel really wanted him to wake up.
Jack groaned softly and levered himself up. "Okay, what's the rush?" He rubbed a hand over his face and lifted one of the gauzy curtains aside to peer out of the bed, half-expecting to see a couple of Goa'uld with an army of Jaffa standing around the room, given their usual luck. No, nothing out of the ordinary, as long as you considered Early Byzantingly Whatever ordinary. Did they really have to plate everything with gold? Rubbing his eyes, he turned back to Daniel. "So?"
Daniel stared at him.
Jack stared back, raising his eyebrows, inviting Daniel to clue him in.
Daniel just kept staring, and it suddenly penetrated Jack's brain that Daniel was pretty close. In fact, Daniel was in the bed with him. And he wasn't wearing a shirt. Jack looked down at himself. Also no shirt. Cautiously, he lifted the covers and peeked.
He slapped the covers back down. "There's an explanation for this."
"Right," Daniel said.
Jack waited expectantly. Daniel stared back.
The bells on the entryway tapestry chimed, and they both jumped like rabbits and nearly ripped the sheet in half trying to wrap up in it. The young servant girl looked at them oddly as she lifted the bedcurtains, but said only, "Egranai parando?"
"I think she's asking if we want to come to breakfast," Daniel said, frozen.
"Breakfast sounds good," Jack said. Anything that involved getting out of this bed before Carter or Teal'c found them sounded good. He gave the kid an attempt at a smile. Her answering expression said clearly she thought he was nuts, which would have bothered him less if he wasn't kind of agreeing with her at the moment.
"Ah, conventarmi... advens?" Daniel said, which was apparently right, since she bowed and left the room.
Jack jumped out of the bed before the hangings had even stopped swaying and started looking for his clothes.
"Over here," Daniel said from the other side. "What's left of them."
That wasn't something he really wanted to hear. Jack came over and surveyed the wreckage. "Okay, this is a problem."
Daniel was staring down at some small reddish bruises on his chest. "Uh, Jack, do you remember anything from--"
"Nothing happened!" Jack said loudly, grabbing his fatigues and pulling them on without bothering to look for his briefs. His head was pounding like a marching band.
Daniel raised his hands. "Forget I said anything-- Hey, that's my shirt."
Jack looked at the black T-shirt in his hands and down at the crumpled one on the floor. "How can you tell?"
"Because it's got chalk marks from the pictures I was drawing for the Eikonoi on the sleeves," Daniel said, snatching it out of his hands. Jack grabbed for it too late and scowled while Daniel pulled it on. Well, who wanted it, anyway, covered with chalk.
He snagged the other shirt, and it fell open in his hands, ripped from collar to hem. His mouth abruptly went dry. His shoulders remembered bracing against the fabric while hands tore it open, unraveling cotton trailing over his skin.
He dropped it from scorched fingers and grabbed his jacket, zipping it shut over bare skin as he headed out the door. He didn't want to wait for Daniel, but the passageway branched away in three directions, and he had no idea where they were.
"Hurry up!" he yelled over his shoulder, and Daniel scrambled out the door, still tucking his shirt into his pants, and nearly fell flat on his face, which made Jack relax a little. At least that was normal.
"This way," Daniel said, straightening his glasses.
"How do you know?" Jack grumbled, following him down the corridor.
"The floor plan's in the domical style, they've just added more interior walls." Daniel turned around and walked backwards, waving his hands and looking like a tour guide more than anything. "It's obvious these people originated from the Byzantine Empire, their culture practically hasn't changed since then. Which is pretty bizarre, when you think about it -- that's more than two thousand years, and their language and architecture are still so close. I wouldn't expect that from a world where the Goa'uld have been gone for so long--"
"Yeah, yeah, we went through this last night," Jack said, then stopped short.
Daniel stopped too. "You remember."
Jack squeezed his eyes shut. "I had something." Daniel leaning over a table towards him, lips moving soundlessly, hands and eyes urgent. The flash of memory faded. "Damn. It's gone."
Daniel paced back and forth across the width of the hallway. "Okay. Let's start from the beginning. They asked us back here for dinner, we ate, Sam said she was tired and they showed her to a room, Teal'c went too, and then..." He held out his hand expectantly.
Jack shook his head. "Nada."
Daniel clenched his hand and let it drop. "Me, either." He folded his arms, tapping his lips with his fingers.
Jack stared, watching the fingers tapping, another flash of memory. Fingers on his mouth, stroking his lips, wet. "We're not getting anything done sitting around here," he snapped. "Let's get moving."
Daniel blinked at him, then shrugged and led on.
The dining hall looked pretty much the same as the night before, the tables practically sagging under the weight of food and gold plate. Carter waved at them from the head table and slid over on the couch to make room. Jack sat down next to her and eyed the food suspiciously, but Carter and Teal'c were scarfing it down, and neither of them seemed about to do anything unusual. Daniel hesitated a moment, then went to the seat across the table from him.
At the head of the table, Patriarch Beram grinned at them. "Salvarato! Dornatai banai? Chelma nishro malaki nai, dosore."
"Daniel?" Jack said.
"Um. He's saying good morning, and..." Daniel hesitated, glancing at Carter and Teal'c, then went on quickly, "and he apologizes that they gave us too much of something called 'malak' last night."
"Malak?" Carter said.
"I'd guess it's some kind of liquor," Daniel said uncomfortably.
Carter half turned in her seat, giving Jack the laser beam look. "Sir?" she said pointedly.
Jack poured himself a glass of water, pretending not to hear her.
"We... might have had a little too much to drink last night," Daniel said without meeting his eyes.
"Ah," she said, and went back to her food. Jack scowled. He so hated the way Carter could pack an entire lecture into one syllable, all without violating one single Air Force regulation against insubordination.
Okay, so they'd gotten plastered last night. Big deal. Nothing else had happened. The Eikonoi had probably just stuck them in the same room because they didn't have enough guest rooms. Jack paid no attention to the voice in his head, sounding suspiciously like Daniel, that insisted on pointing out that this palace was big enough to have a thousand spare rooms.
At least the food stayed down, and his head stopped pounding after three glasses of water, no thanks to Daniel, who kept tossing out random comments about the architecture and the language and how fascinating the whole place was. He probably thought he was being subtle.
"Relax, okay? We can stay a while longer," Jack said finally, giving up on getting him through the Stargate ahead of schedule. He pushed up from the table, staring down the puzzled looks Carter and Teal'c gave him. What, he couldn't let Daniel explore a little more once in a while? "What exactly do you want to do before we head back?"
Daniel looked up at him open-mouthed for a moment, then sat up eagerly. "Well, I want to interview Beram and some of the other priests -- see if they have any legends about how they got here, where they were before--"
Jack cut him off. "Okay. Teal'c, you stick with him, got it? Carter, you're with me. We're going to take a look around this place."
"I advise caution, Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c said. "Though we have seen no signs of Goa'uld technology here, there are indications that the Goa'uld were here once. They could be concealing themselves from us."
"Or these people could have run them off like they say they did, in which case we want to know how," Jack said. "We'll check in every hour. And we're leaving at 1700 hours, no matter what. Got it?" He looked at Daniel.
Daniel nodded and turned to Beram immediately, already starting to translate his questions. Jack sighed and jerked his head. "Come on, Carter, let's get out of here before we die of boredom."
Carter followed him out of the hall. "Sir, don't you think it might be better if we stayed here? If Teal'c's right to be suspicious, we'd be safer together, and even if we do find something, we won't be able to interpret it without Daniel."
"We'll get more ground covered if we split up, Carter. Come on, this way," Jack said.
"With all due respect, sir, do you have any idea where we're going?" she asked pointedly.
"All the important rooms in Byzantine temples face east," Jack said, then thought about that. "Actually, here it'll be west. The direction the sun rises in."
"So anyway, I figure if they've got anything important here, that's where it ought to be," Jack finished.
"Right," Carter said. "Um. No offense, sir, but-- did Daniel tell you that?"
Jack paused. "Yeah," he said, trying to remember when. A memory of Daniel's voice poured over him suddenly, words he couldn't remember breathed into his ear, liquid and warm, and he had to lock his knees to keep standing. He scrubbed his face hard, almost wishing for the headache back.
Jack looked at her. "Carter, if anyone offers you anything stronger than water here--"
"Just say no?" she said dryly.
"Right. Let's go." He needed something to do. Maybe if he got lucky someone would jump them. A good fistfight right about now would do wonders for his temper, and Daniel could just shut up about violence not being a solution.
They hit paydirt in the westernmost room in the palace, its curving walls covered with elaborate mosaics that glowed in the late morning sunlight.
"Wow," Carter said.
"Yeah," Jack said, a little overwhelmed himself. The level of detail was unbelievable -- a dozen shades of blue in the irises of one figure, a pattern of light and shadow dappled over grass in a small corner -- it reminded him of something back on Earth, a dig outside Constantinople. He shook his head and got back down to business. "Anything that looks useful?"
"Over here, sir. This is definitely the Stargate. And take a look at that figure that's halfway through it."
"Nice eyes," Jack said, studying the bright gold chips. "Goa'uld?"
"Looks like it to me." Carter said. "But I don't see any signs of a special weapon or anything like that here," she went on, studying the pictures further back along the wall.
"Quini consartai?" One of the priests was in the doorway, frowning at them.
"Uh, evalagram quam protrevai Goa'uld?" Jack asked, pointing at the image.
"What?" Carter said, staring.
"Huh?" He looked at her.
"What did you just say?" Carter looked like she was on the verge of going for her gun.
"I just asked him how they beat the Goa'uld," Jack said, eyeing her oddly.
"Okay," Carter said. "And just how did you know how to ask him that?"
"Daniel told me," Jack said automatically, then paused.
"I don't see Daniel here, do you?"
Jack put a hand to his head. What the hell was going on? He really had heard Daniel telling him what to say.
"Sir? Are you all right?" Carter grabbed his arm.
"Jack?" Daniel's voice was clear and sharp in his ears, anxious, and Jack jerked his head up, looking around. Daniel wasn't there. He wasn't in the room.
The priest was coming forward, looking concerned now, and Jack let him and Carter guide him to a bench.
"Colonel, tell me what's going on," Carter said urgently.
Daniel came bursting into the room, Teal'c one step behind, and stopped just inside the doorway, turning around slowly. "My god."
"Teal'c, Daniel, the Colonel's sick. We're going back right now," Carter said, standing up.
"He's not sick," Daniel said, staring at the mosaic of the Goa'uld.
"Major Carter, Daniel Jackson described this room to me in detail a few moments ago," Teal'c said. He looked over the walls. "His description was entirely accurate."
"That's impossible," Carter said.
"Well, apparently not." Daniel turned around to Jack. "Can you hear this?"
Jack stared. Daniel's mouth hadn't moved on the last part. "Shit."
"I'll take that as a yes," Daniel said.
Jack groaned and put his face in his hands. He was going to be hearing monologues about rocks and ancient languages for the rest of his life.
"Maybe it'll wear off?"
"Did you say that out loud or not?" Jack asked warily.
"Wait just one second. Are you trying to say you two have suddenly become telepathic?" Carter said.
"Actually, I don't know if it fits the definition of telepathy. I mean, it seems to be limited to just the two of us," Daniel said. "I can't tell what anyone except Jack is thinking." Jack desperately tried not to think of anything. "Uh, Jack, will you please stop that? It's like getting static on a radio station or something."
Glaring at him, Jack vengefully started mentally humming the macarena.
Daniel took off his glasses and rubbed the bridge of his nose. "Thank you, Jack, that's just... so much better."
Jack smirked. Damned if he was going to be the only one suffering here. Then he paused. Oh, hell. Now he had the macarena stuck in his head.
"Serves you right," Daniel said.
"Okay, that's enough. Can we just get back to the topic?" Carter cut in. "Somehow I don't think it's a coincidence that you drank this malak and we didn't, and this is only hitting the two of you."
"Right," Jack said, standing up. "Let's go find Beram and get some answers."
That didn't turn out to be much of a project, since Beram was sitting alone in the dining hall, apparently waiting for them. Jack slipped the safety off his sidearm and glanced back at Carter to put her on alert. In his book, the situation had just been reclassified from unexpected-accident-caused-by-wacky-foreign-booze to deliberate-attempt-to-screw-with-our-heads.
Predictably, Daniel started making some kind of protest about not jumping to conclusions, but Jack didn't let it make it into words even inside his brain before he stomped on it hard, and amazingly, Daniel actually stopped right there without opening his mouth. Okay, so there was at least one good thing about the whole mess. Wasn't going to be enough to save Beram from getting his ass kicked, but it made him feel a little better.
"Okay, Beram," Jack said, gesturing invitingly with his pistol. He figured that was a universal language. "How about you tell us what's going on?"
Beram eyed the gun a little nervously. "There's no need for threats," he said. "Please, sit down. I'll explain everything."
Jack halted. "Uh, when did you start speaking English?"
"Huh?" Carter looked at him blankly.
"Oh, come on!" Jack yelled. Bad enough to have Daniel rummaging around in his brain, now everyone on this planet was going to be invited to join in?
Beram actually laughed out loud, choking it off only when Jack started a mental countdown to pulling the trigger. "I apologize," he said hastily. "But you must understand, we have drunk of separate vines. I only hear the thoughts you send most clearly, those that are almost spoken."
Jack eyed him suspiciously. "Daniel? Explain."
Daniel shrugged at him. "I think he's saying we can hear more from each other than he can hear from us, because we drank the same malak and he didn't."
"Okay, fine, so he can still hear plenty." He turned to Beram. "You didn't think this minor side effect was worth mentioning before you gave it to us?"
"When you came to us, we could see at once that you had more powerful weapons than we did. We couldn't be sure that you weren't scouts sent ahead by the Goa'uld to try and conquer us again. That is why we did not tell you about the gift." Beram sat back as if that explained everything. The bastard didn't even have the grace to look sorry.
"And so you thought you'd just drug us with this malak stuff so you could read our minds," Jack said flatly.
"Drug you?" Beram said. "You asked us to share with you the gift that enabled us to defeat the Goa'uld. We have only given you what you asked for."
"Oh, I don't believe this," Jack said.
"Sir, would you mind including the rest of us in this conversation?"
"You're not missing much," he said sourly. "They say this thing is how they beat the Goa'uld, and we were asking for it, so what are we yapping about."
She winced. "Ah."
Daniel, as usual, was all for giving the guy the benefit of the doubt. "They just weren't sure we were really enemies of the Goa'uld," he explained to Carter. "Apparently, anyone else who's also got this telepathy can hear some of our thoughts--" He turned back to Beram. "Let me guess. You can't lie this way?"
Beram nodded. "Not deliberately."
"Jack, do you realize, this must be why their society has remained so stable." Daniel turned back to them, going off on one of his tangents again. "No lying, no wars, no social upheaval -- "
"Now where's the fun in that?" Jack muttered.
"So when Jack asked that priest how they defeated the Goa'uld--" Carter said with growing interest, apparently getting into the spirit.
Daniel nodded. "Exactly. At that point they knew we really meant it--"
"Okay, okay, fine, they're our pals now," Jack said, cutting him off. "So Beram, how about telling us how we turn this thing off?"
Beram stared at him blankly, obviously taken aback. "Turn it off? Close yourself back into your own mind?"
"Yeah. We call it privacy, and I want it back." Jack paused. "There is a way to turn this off, right?"
The look on Beram's face was answer enough. Jack ground the heels of his hands into his eyes.
"I do not see the problem," Teal'c said. "This seems a most advantageous skill for a warrior."
Yeah, and when's the last time you jerked off with an audience? Jack thought. Daniel made a strangled sort of noise, and Carter and Teal'c immediately looked straight at Jack. "What?" he said defensively, wondering how to send Daniel a swift mental kick in the rear.
Janet swiveled the computer monitor around so they could all see. "The malak is actually just the carrier for a parasite." She turned back to the screen and magnified the image, pointing to a series of small dark blobs. "Although maybe I should call it a symbiote. From what I can tell, they seem to latch on to your neurons and broadcast the electrical signals to other symbiotes -- kind of the way bees tell each other about flowers."
"But how could that possibly work?" Carter asked. "I mean, the electrical energy in a brain signal just isn't high enough to travel across a room."
Janet magnified the screen again. The dark blobs turned into squishy-looking transparent bags with a single dark sliver on the inside. "That's the key. It's actually a tiny fragment of naquada."
"Of course! They must be using that to boost the signals and absorb them from other parasites," Sam said. "But with just that tiny amount? Wow. Janet, is there any way we could get some of them to study? I wonder if we could develop a form of wireless communications based on this technique. Maybe even boost power output from the naquada reactor--"
"I'm so glad you're enjoying this, Major," Jack cut her off. It was bad enough when he only got the technobabble from the outside. Right now all Daniel seemed to be able to think about was how fascinating this was and how human society would evolve with a change like this and blah blah blah in five directions at the same time.
Then he caught Daniel's latest brilliant thought as it headed for the surface and blanched even before Daniel had opened his mouth. Okay, that would end his career pretty quick.
"Janet, if these things are broadcasting, are you saying anyone can build a receiver and pick up our thoughts?" Daniel asked.
"No, that's the most intriguing part of it," she said. "The symbiotes seem to be encoding the transmission with portions of their own DNA; the weaker the signal, the more of their own DNA they use. So only someone with symbiotes that are closely related can receive and decode the signals. Otherwise, it's just electrical noise."
Jack decided that if he had to deal with any more enthusiasm here, he was going to scream. "So, in between figuring all this 'intriguing' stuff out, did you manage to find a way to get them out of our heads?"
Janet sighed the bad sigh, the one that meant he wasn't going to like the answer. "Not yet, Colonel, I'm sorry. These parasites are spread throughout your brain, and that's a tricky part of the body to start playing with. Seeing as how they don't seem to be doing any harm, I think it's a good idea to take it slow for now." She turned to Hammond, and Jack let his head sag. He knew what was coming next.
"General, I'd like to recommend that SG-1 be placed on stand-down until we've had a chance to observe this some more." Yeah, that was all he needed to make this day perfect.
"Is that really necessary, doctor?" Hammond asked, and Jack looked up hopefully. That sounded promising.
"Well, yes," Janet said, folding her arms around her clipboard. "We've never seen parasites like this before. They might not seem harmful right now, but we just haven't seen enough to be sure."
"What's up, General?" Jack asked, trying to sound concerned and responsible instead of desperate.
Hammond glanced at him. "SG-7 hasn't reported in from P3X-394 on schedule. I was hoping to send you after them tomorrow if they miss their second check-in. We don't have another team available at the moment."
"Sir, if SG-7's in trouble--" Jack said, ignoring Daniel's snide comment about his sudden devotion to 'the geek squad.'
Hammond raised a hand to stop him. "Doctor?" he asked.
Janet glanced at Jack, who did his best to look perky. Across the room, Daniel started having a coughing fit. "Well." She sighed. "Considering that the Eikonoi seem to live with this organism..."
Hammond nodded. "All right. Colonel, I want you all to stay on base and get some rest. Mission briefing at 0900 tomorrow morning."
Yes! Jack gloated.
Jack lay on the bunk and stared at the ceiling. Four languages trickled through his mind with the irregular rhythm of rain, words forming and dissolving, linking up into chains that solidified and then faded away completely. There was a music to it, and it might have been relaxing if it hadn't been so appalling that he could actually imagine enjoying this stuff.
He got up. Time to arrange for some sleep.
Daniel never looked up from his scribbling when Jack came in. "In a minute," he said.
Jack ignored him and started turning off the lights. Daniel kept working until the second he flipped off the desk lamp, and even then tried to keep writing in the dark until he took the pen away. "Jack!"
"I'm trying to get some sleep here," Jack said.
"So go to sleep! I'm not--" Daniel paused. "Oh. Sorry."
"Right. Go to bed."
"But Jack, I won't have time to translate this tomorrow--"
"--and it's important, SG-9 needs this to communicate with the natives on P3X--"
Jack swiveled the chair around, took Daniel by the shoulders and hauled him up. Daniel wobbled a little, catching Jack's arms to steady himself. He was breathing softly through his mouth, Jack could feel it on his own lips, warm and heavy. They had stood like this before, only closer, and the bittersweet liquored memory of Daniel's mouth was so vivid he wasn't sure they weren't kissing right now.
"Jack." Daniel's voice was scratchy and too deep, and Jack let go and backed away.
"Go to sleep," he said roughly, and banged out the door with Daniel's wistful hunger trailing after him.
Jack tucked in a couple more packets of Kleenex, then dumped his duffel on the floor and sat down to lace up his boots. Teal'c was already standing by the doorway in statue mode, waiting for the rest of them, Carter was cleaning her guns (unnecessarily), and Daniel... Daniel was in his office, still working on that translation. Jack straightened up, exasperated. "Daniel."
"I'm almost done..."
"Okay, okay!" Words faded out into a general sense of grumbling, but he was moving.
Jack shook his head and started to bend back down, then paused. Carter was staring at him again, and Teal'c was doing the raised-eyebrow thing. He shrugged at them a little helplessly. Yeah, okay, it was weird, but it beat having to go over there in person to drag Daniel over.
Daniel blew in a minute later and started packing up his gear rapidly. "Sorry, didn't mean to be late--"
"It's okay, we've still got fifteen minutes to gate time," Sam said. "Take your time."
"--the Nemrayan dialect's just fascinating," Daniel went on, taking the dusty, standard-issue MP5 he hadn't used in four years out of his locker. Jack watched Daniel's hands move surely and automatically over the gun, stripping it down without even a pause in his monologue. Carter looked like she was hesitating on the brink of saying something, her eyes going back and forth between him and Daniel.
Daniel wound down when he noticed that no one was interrupting him, and his hands abruptly jerked to stillness. He slowly stared down at them as if they belonged to someone else, and Jack felt Daniel's uneasiness creeping over his own skin, felt the swallow going down his own throat. His hands moving stiffly now, Daniel collected up the gun parts and put them back in his locker, pretending not to notice the rest of them watching.
Jack stood up. "Let's get moving."
"Okay, you two just stay put," Jack said, and eased himself down slowly. "We're going to hang out here for a while," he told Teal'c. "Apparently the natives' idea of an execution is to party until sundown, then leave the condemned to die of starvation."
"Ah." Teal'c nodded. "So we need merely wait until they have left to rescue SG-7."
"Yeah, should be a piece of cake." Jack settled back against a rock wall. "So smoke 'em if you've got 'em."
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "I do not have a piece of cake, O'Neill. Nor do I understand how I would smoke one if I did."
Jack grinned at Teal'c. This was good. This was simple. He tossed out the weird sayings, Teal'c did his deadpan thing, and it all worked. Everyone knew what they were supposed to be doing. Easy.
"What is that, the military guide to interpersonal relationships?" Daniel asked, lightly mocking laughter lurking under the words. Jack mentally stuck out his tongue and didn't answer, picking up a few rough pebbles and rolling them in his hands, focusing on the sensation until Daniel's thoughts receded.
"What are Major Carter and Daniel Jackson doing?" Teal'c asked.
"They're going to stay on the other side of the ridge," Jack said. "It'll be good to have cover fire from that side if we do run into any trouble." Which was true, and made a great excuse for staying apart.
Now all he had to do was keep from thinking for the next seven hours. Fortunately, he'd come prepared. He reached into his duffel. "So, Teal'c. Want to learn poker?"
By the time poker stopped doing duty in that capacity, the heat of the day had taken over. Unfortunately, the Weather Channel hadn't branched out to P3X-394 yet, and the MALPs, cute though they were, basically thought weather came in the three-little-bears varieties: too hot for humans, too cold for humans, and just right. At this point, Jack was inclined to have the place reclassified into the first category.
He fought down the temptation to dump his canteen out over his head and only allowed himself a couple of lukewarm swallows before he closed it again and tipped his head back to rest against the dusty rock. His face prickled and itched with the heat, but he couldn't get up the energy to scratch. Even Teal'c was starting to look a little wilted, his eyes half-lidded and his mouth relaxed into that pulled-down frown.
The sun was just halfway through the long slide down to night. Still hours left to go. Sweat pooled slowly between his shoulder blades, hovering on the verge of trickling down his back. Daniel's tongue was cool by contrast, licking up the salt drops, tracing patterns on his back. Daniel's lips, warm and a little chapped from the sun, brushing over his skin, wet wet mouth closing briefly on each knob along his spine, sucking gently. Jack inhaled a deep, stuttering breath and shifted his legs apart for Daniel's hand, tilted his head back to give Daniel his throat, already so close--
"Hey, don't fall asleep on me, Daniel." Sam's voice broke them apart brutally, and Jack bolted upright, Daniel's sudden hot rush of embarrassment only making his own worse. And he was hard, aching in that sweet lingering way, and he wanted it, and he couldn't even hide that from Daniel, because Daniel couldn't hide it from him. His hands shook as he opened the canteen and poured precious water into a cupped hand, splashed it on his face. He didn't look at Teal'c, pretended he didn't see the inquiring eyebrow.
"Jack," Daniel whispered, and Jack shook his head. What was the point in talking about it?
"We have to. You know we do."
Jack didn't know anything of the sort. He pushed away, and after a moment Daniel gave up, his thoughts sliding into obscure verb conjugations, but his wordless frustration lingered like a sour taste in Jack's mouth. He dropped his head forward into his hands and groaned softly.
"O'Neill," Teal'c said sharply.
Jack's head jerked up at his tone. Teal'c beckoned him over, pointing over the sheltering ridge down into the valley. Jack rolled up to his feet and came to crouch next to him. "They're quitting early?" Jack said. "Maybe the heat got to them." The natives were milling around the members of SG-7, pushing them down to the ground and tying their arms to heavy beams of wood. "Looks like they're just tying them up."
"I do not think so," Teal'c said. "Is Daniel Jackson certain that they will be left to starve?"
"The priest said they'd be left 'for the earth and sky to devour' and all that good stuff," Jack said, reluctant to reach out. He looked over the ridge again. Now they were making the team members get up with the beams still tied on and were marching them over to a bunch of stakes set in the ground. Oh hell.
He poked out experimentally. "Daniel?" Nothing. All he was getting was the third declension of Latin verbs. Daniel could focus when he wanted to, he'd give him that. "Come on, Daniel, quit it, we've got a situation here."
"What?" Daniel said irritably, the flow of grammar interrupted.
"Take a look at this." Jack peered over the ridge again. "Teal'c thinks they're doing something-- crucifying?" He blurted the word out loud, and Teal'c grabbed his arm to shush him. Jack squatted back down, still choking on the idea.
"Well, that's the way it was done most of the time, tying them to the crossbeams. Same principle as with nails, though," Daniel said, feeling queasy. "It's the suffocation that kills you. Jack, we can't just wait. Aside from the pain, it could kill them in a few hours, less than that if they break their legs, which is what the Romans used to do... I'll stop now," he finished, as Jack did his best to convey the fact that he had all the information he wanted, really.
"Okay, here's what what we're going to do," Jack said. "You and Carter give us ten, then drop a couple of grenades over the side. If they run, great, if they head your way--"
"--we'll lead them over to the forest and circle around to meet you back at the gate, got it," Daniel finished, already turning to Sam.
Jack dug into his pack for the zat gun. "Teal'c, we're going in. Once we hit the ground, cover me while I get them loose."
They headed down the ridge in a coordinated pattern, alternating the lead. The grenades went off as they reached the bottom, and the natives stampeded right past the bushes they were hiding behind. Jack concentrated, then relaxed. Daniel and Sam were on the move, well ahead of the posse.
He poked his head out cautiously. Still about a dozen of the natives, prodding SG-7 over to the stakes with spears, along with Fuzzy Robe Guy. Shouldn't be a problem...
"Jack." Daniel was breathing a little hard, but still okay.
"These people aren't our enemies. They don't deserve to die."
"Oh, for crying-- Daniel, didn't you just tell me they're about to crucify our people out there? I'd say that makes them our enemies."
"Jack," Daniel paused to jump over a fallen log, "For all we know, this is just some misunderstanding. SG-7 probably broke some taboo of theirs. That doesn't make them evil--"
"Okay, okay!" Jack rubbed his forehead. "We'll do it the hard way." He sighed. "Teal'c," he said softly, "new plan: don't kill the natives."
Teal'c cocked an eyebrow and Jack rolled his eyes meaningfully.
"I heard that," Daniel panted.
"Stop eavesdropping and watch where you're going," Jack said, shoving Daniel out of his mind. He held up three fingers to Teal'c and counted down, then they swung out and charged.
The zat took down the three closest, and Teal'c's staff weapon knocked a couple others off their feet, then they were in close and adrenaline and reflexes took over. Jack ducked under a spear thrust and heaved the guy over his shoulder; another one charged him head-on, helpfully, and went flying with only minimal assistance. A quick look back: Teal'c had downed one more and was dealing with another.
Jack turned to find the last three circling towards him, crouching, spears held low. He squinted as they came on, feeling oddly detached, and it was so easy to see what to do: jump to the side to get out of range of two of them, grab the third one's spear, drag him around to get in the others' way. Pull him forward, a solid punch to the kidney to put him down. Two left: a diving roll to the side, shove out the spear and trip the one further away flat; for the last one, spear slammed across the kneecaps -- hey, cool cracking sound -- and a whack at the back of the neck for good measure.
Well, that hadn't been too hard. Jack rolled up to his feet and looked around, dusting himself off. Teal'c came up, breathing hard, and gave him a weird look. "What?" he asked, covertly glancing down at himself.
"You fought most effectively, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
Jack paused, then glanced over at the assorted unhappy bad guys, counting in his head. "So, that was four for you and... eight for me." He looked at Teal'c. Impassive, Teal'c raised an eyebrow and said nothing. Jack grinned at him broadly. "Cool." They pulled out knives and headed over to the stakes to cut SG-7 loose.
Dr. Kovachek and the rest of his team were pitifully grateful to be rescued, but they couldn't move nearly fast enough to satisfy Jack. Daniel's legs were heavy, aching with fatigue, and the natives weren't being obliging enough to lose the trail. Sam was just a couple of steps ahead, her panting ragged enough to make him worry even more.
After what seemed like an hour, he and Teal'c finally managed to get all of SG-7 up out of the valley and in sight of the gate. "Get going," Jack ordered, tossing Kovachek his transmitter, and jerked his head at Teal'c. "We're clear, come to the gate," he told Daniel urgently while he and Teal'c ran towards the forest. The agreement was wordless, thick with exhaustion. He and Sam were half-running, half-stumbling, branches slapping them in the face. His glasses were missing.
Then Sam went flying, tripped by a rope stretched ankle-high across the trail. A slim figure jumped out of the shadows in front of him, spear raised. He knocked it aside, no thought required, blocked a wild punch and slammed the heel of his palm up into the attacker's nose, and the young brown eyes in front of his went surprised and vacant as the septum crunched straight into the brain and blood spurted all over his hands and my god what did I just do?
Daniel was on his knees uselessly trying to give the dead man CPR when Jack and Teal'c reached them. Jack grabbed his arm and dragged him up, away from the body, while Teal'c helped Carter back to her feet. Daniel staggered along next to him as they ran and shuddered a little when shrieks rose along the trail behind them. "Just keep moving," Jack said, keeping his grip on Daniel's arm. He didn't even know if he was speaking out loud anymore. "Just keep moving."
Slumped at the briefing room table, Jack kept his eyes down and spun the pen around on his knuckles again. He'd never been able to do this before. It was the kind of thing geeks did in high school to show off how much time they spent doing work.
And Daniel had never been able to kill a man with his bare hands before. So, all in all, they were pretty much even, right? He threw the pen down on the report, ignoring Carter's worried look.
Hammond came in and took his seat. "Where's Dr. Jackson?"
Daniel was in his office, focusing with iron dedication on sharpening every pencil in range. The low buzz stopped abruptly with Hammond's question. Jack knew almost before Daniel did that he wasn't coming, felt the cold edges of car keys pressing into his fingers. Jack clenched his teeth as Daniel's thoughts ran away from his like sand pouring through his hands. "Sir, permission to go haul him over here."
Hammond frowned, then shook his head. "Permission denied, Colonel. I understand he's had a tough mission. We can do this without him for once." Then Hammond looked at him and had the nerve to add, "And as I understand it, you can report on his behalf, can't you?"
Outraged, Jack almost said that if he was going to be expected to do Daniel's job now, too, he wanted the same salary. He swallowed it and opened the report, the absence of Daniel's usual snide reaction an unpleasant silence in his head.
"All right, let's get started. Dr. Kovachek, what happened?"
Kovachek shrugged helplessly. "To be honest, Sir, I don't know. We were doing a survey of soil samples--"
Well, that sounded just thrilling.
"--and we hadn't even seen them before they grabbed us."
"You guys probably broke some kind of taboo," Jack informed him loftily, remembering what Daniel had said.
Kovachek gave him a brief astonished look, then said uncertainly, "I suppose, but I don't know what we could have done to set them off..."
Silence fell. After a moment, Jack realized everyone was looking at him expectantly. "What?" he said loudly, glaring around the table. He had nothing to give them, Daniel's determined blankness standing like a wall between them. And now the sense of him was fading as the elevator carried him up and through the layers and layers of solid rock and metal. Hammond was saying something, but it didn't matter. He couldn't hear Daniel, couldn't feel him at all. Jack shoved his chair back and walked out, fast, and by the time he reached the elevators he was running.
He found Daniel waiting for him on the first floor, sitting at the security guard's desk with his elbows braced against his knees, head hanging. His head came up, and they stared at each other, silently, and after a while Daniel got up and they went to his car.
Jack drummed his fingers on the dashboard. He wished he were driving.
"You didn't have to come," Daniel said shortly.
"Will you quit that? I'm not going to be responsible for every damn thing that pops into my head."
"Well, no, that's true, since I'm going to be responsible for about half of them." Daniel took the turn into the garage too fast, tires squealing a little in protest, and stole a parking space from a too-cautious SUV backing up to get more room.
In other words, Jack was responsible for half the crap in Daniel's head at the moment. Daniel didn't say anything to deny it, and Jack bristled. It wasn't his fault, and anyway, would Daniel have preferred being dead?
Daniel slammed the car door hard and walked for the elevator with his back rigid, refusing to apologize. They rode up to his apartment in silence. Daniel sat at the kitchen table and stirred the papers scattered across it with a finger. Jack took a beer from the fridge and wandered out into the living room and sat down on the couch.
He looked down at his hands. Daniel couldn't stop remembering the feel of blood on his fingers, and the only thing strange about it to him was how strange it felt to Daniel. And goddamn it, he wasn't sorry, he wasn't going to be sorry, there was no need to be sorry. "You're okay, Carter's okay, that's what matters!" he yelled over his shoulder. It felt good to say it out loud, to hear his own voice.
"That's not the point!" Daniel came into the living room and stood in front of him, angry. "I didn't want to kill him!"
"I didn't either!" Jack said.
"So why the hell is he dead?"
Jack rubbed his forehead. "Daniel."
"Don't even say it." Daniel turned and walked away.
Well, too bad, because he was going to hear it whether he liked it or not. Jack stood up and followed Daniel into the kitchen. "The guy was coming at you with a spear!"
Daniel braced his hands against the counter, his shoulders and back taut. "We broke their laws, Jack. Explain to me why he deserved to die for that."
Jack grabbed his shoulders and turned him around. "So SG-7 deserved to die for making one goddamned mistake? You and Carter deserved to die for trying to save their lives?" he asked, starting to lose patience. Why did Daniel always have to make it this hard?
"It should be this hard," Daniel said flatly, knocking his hands away. "There were alternatives. I didn't have to kill him."
Jack caught hold of him again. "You didn't have time to think about it. In a situation like that, you just have to react, and that's what you did."
"Did I?" Daniel said, and Jack let go abruptly and edged away from him, pushing Daniel's thoughts away. No. He did not want to go there. But now it was Daniel's turn to not let him off the hook. "Did I?" he repeated, softly. "Or did you?"
"Okay, that's it," Jack said, picking angry over scared. "This isn't invasion of the body snatchers here. I didn't take over your body and kill the guy. You killed him, and maybe this thing we have going here helped, and you know, I don't have a problem with any of that. You do, fine, you sit here and beat yourself up all you want, but leave me out of it!"
"Except I can't," Daniel said. "Aren't you getting tired of pretending nothing's changed? I can't leave you out of anything now. Any more than you can leave me." His eyes never left Jack's, and he wasn't just talking about the killing anymore.
Jack's skin prickled with his gaze. Too much, too close, and last time he hadn't stepped back. He'd stood still, and Daniel had taken his face in his hands and breathed on his lips, licked them softly until he'd opened his mouth and leaned in just enough to fall and keep falling, and he was damn well going to stop now while he still had a chance of climbing out of the hole he was digging for himself.
"Watch me," he said, and walked out.
Not having a car was good. It gave him an excuse for hanging out in the diner six blocks away, close enough to keep off the ugly, empty sensation of being alone in his own head. The coffee sucked, but it kept coming, even through two waitresses who gave him progressively nastier looks the further he got from the greasy dinner he'd eaten. Soon he'd get a cab and go home. Or maybe he'd just stay here and make Daniel give him a ride back to SGC in the morning.
Okay, yeah, the second option was looking more likely every minute, despite the lousy coffee and the seriously uncomfortable vinyl seats. Jack rubbed his face and stared into the faintly opalescent oil slick on the surface of the coffee. He wondered if anyone had ever tried reading coffee slicks instead of tea leaves. Of course, with tea leaves the tea didn't get cold while you were busy trying to foretell the future. Small problem there. He wondered if it was him wondering that, or Daniel.
He poked at the soggy apple pie on his plate with his fork and snagged a mushy yellowish slice to nibble on. It was tasteless, sugar syrup congealed over it like squishy armor. He set it back down on the plate and looked at his oily coffee.
Fuck this. He needed a drink.
He left a few bills on the table and went back outside. It was late enough everything but the diner and the bars were closed, but that was good enough for him. He picked the first one he came across and ordered a shot and a beer chaser from the bartender, who poured without ever taking his eyes away from the Rockies game. The Tuesday night crowd -- a few die-hards slouched at the bar, a few kids who looked too young to be in the place giggling and shoving each other in one of the booths. Nobody else.
He took his drinks to the last booth in the back, settled into the darkness. The whiskey went down smooth and hot, and he let his head fall back against the padded backrest while he caught his breath a little. The liquid heat of it warmed him through, unknotting the muscles at the back of his neck.
A roar went up from the television -- Rockies had just tied the game in the ninth. He watched idly for a minute, then closed his eyes. He couldn't really hear anything from Daniel, the background noise of his thoughts lost in the rumble from Coors Stadium. It was pretty close to solitude, and if he was honest with himself, it sucked.
Right. So what idiot had ever said honesty was the best policy? Jack got up and took his empty glass to the bar, got a refill and a spare and brought them back. Getting drunk was safe. Thinking wasn't. Thinking meant remembering, and he couldn't. Couldn't remember the taste of Daniel's mouth, the startling, welcome strength of his hands as they caught his shirt at the collar, tore it open and shoved it down his arms. The bunching muscles along Daniel's shoulders, shuddering under Jack's hands, yielding to his teeth, the salt-sweat on his tongue.
He stared blindly at the opposite side of the booth, trying to breathe quietly. He knew what happened next. The sheets, crisp old-fashioned linen, worn thin and fine with years, heavy silk moving like water beneath them, the weight of Daniel's body over him and beside him and under him. Daniel's thigh pressing between his legs, Daniel's hand sliding over his chest, down his side. Daniel's pulse quick and frantic under his mouth, the echo of it under his fingers as they wrapped slowly around Daniel's flesh, stroking.
Color spilling over their skin in flickering waves, torchlight through the curtains. And fingers exploring his body, barely skimming the flesh, riding the curve of his legs into the hollow of his knees, over the crest of his thighs. Breath coming quicker, his or Daniel's, he didn't know, nothing solid to him now but want and the hands on his body, the body under his hands. All the boundaries were dissolving, his hands moving without guidance to where they needed to be, and he was forgetting how to be afraid of this, sinking into Daniel's arms, pulling him closer, giving way.
Another roar of sound startled him, and he opened his eyes, not sure when he'd closed them. It wasn't a surprise to find Daniel sitting across from him, his eyes opaque and reflecting the neon lights behind the bar, his hands folded on the table. He was holding himself unnaturally still, waiting, and Jack stared at the table and desperately tried to convince them both he didn't want what was being offered. What was going to happen.
Daniel reached out and took his last shot. Jack tasted the lingering bite in his own mouth as the whiskey slid down Daniel's throat, burning. Daniel licked his lips and took his beer, too. Jack watched Daniel's mouth shape to the bottle he'd drunk from, and both of them stopped breathing for a moment. Daniel took a careful, deliberate swallow, then set the bottle back down. He slid out of the booth, stood waiting by the side with his hands in his pockets while Jack fumbled a few bills out onto the table.
They kept a good foot between them while they walked back to Daniel's apartment, rode up wedged into opposite corners of the elevator, pretending they weren't both thinking about elevator sex. Daniel locked the door behind them while Jack hung up his jacket. Then Jack made the mistake of looking at Daniel while he stripped off his coat, broad shoulders moving easily under his shirt, and they were up against the wall, trying to climb inside each other, hands sliding under clothing.
Buttons popped and clattered on the floor, and Jack sank his teeth into Daniel's shoulder while he wrestled with Daniel's pants. They fell down on their way to the bedroom, tripping over the carpet and not bothering to catch themselves, too busy fighting their way out of their clothing without letting go. Pinned down, Jack thrust his hips up against Daniel's body, shuddering, and Daniel put more of his weight on him, pressing him to the floor, and started licking along his collarbone.
Jack shuddered all over again and caught Daniel's hand, brought the fingers to his mouth and sucked on them hard while he unbuckled his belt. Daniel pushed off him for a moment to let Jack get his pants down, then lowered himself back down and nudged Jack's chin up with his nose, exposing his neck. Jack spread his legs to let Daniel settle further into him, his head falling back while Daniel mapped out his throat with urgent lips, teeth grazing along the straining lines of his tendons.
It looked like they were going to fuck right here on the floor, and the moment he thought it, Daniel groaned and pushed into him harder, wishing he could get inside just by trying, and Jack twisted against him involuntarily, panicked and hungry at the same time. Daniel's hands dug into his hips while Jack wrapped his arms around Daniel's shoulders, and they moved together, scraping against each other, grabbing kisses when they could spare the breath.
Daniel's cock was sliding clumsy and hot between his thighs, bumping against his balls, his cock, teasing the sensitive skin, and he was so ready he couldn't help reaching down to grab himself. He thrust into his hand, every move rubbing him against Daniel's cock, and Daniel shifted his hips and put his cock against Jack's ass and pushed, not really trying to get in, just nudging, and Daniel was already imagining the next time, how tight Jack was going to be, how hot, and suddenly he was over the edge, and the head pushed in just a little way while Daniel came all over him and god it was good, it was going to be so good, and Jack closed his eyes and let his arms sprawl out while he came so hard his hips jerked them both off the floor three times.
Jack stared up at the familiar ceiling that wasn't really familiar. Daniel was big and warm next to him, curving bicep half-hidden under the pillow his face was buried in, his hair spiky. He smelled good, a hint of sweat over showered skin. Jack sat up and rubbed his hands over his face. Okay, so by his count this made the second time he'd woken up in bed with Daniel with no real clue how he'd gotten here. This was starting to be a habit.
Daniel sighed into the pillow and slowly rolled over onto his back, mildly exasperated. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but you were pretty willing to climb in here last night, Jack." He paused, pretending to think. "Oh, no, wait, I'm wrong. You wanted me to carry you."
"I did not," Jack said. So the thought had crossed his mind. He hadn't actually asked or anything.
Daniel sat up, rubbing the bridge of his nose with one hand, and reached for his glasses, then turned and fixed him steadily. "So."
"So." Jack dropped his hands into his lap, glanced away.
"Do you think we could maybe try talking about this now?"
"Let me think about that."
"Okay, so you tell me, what is there to talk about?" Jack demanded. "We've just got to deal with this until Frasier finds a cure."
"And if there isn't a cure?"
"See, there you go being pessimistic again," Jack said, and immediately and ruthlessly squashed his irrational twinge of relief.
But Daniel had already heard it. Jack's hands clenched in the sheets.
"And if there is a cure?" Daniel asked softly.
Jack threw back the covers and fled to the bathroom, fixing his mind on the details: exactly the right amount of toothpaste to use, brushing in circles perfect enough to make a dental hygenist weep. As he was finishing, Daniel came to the door and leaned against the frame, watching him rinse his toothbrush out. Jack paused. Oh. Daniel's toothbrush. He stared at it and thought about flossing.
"I'm lonely, too."
Jack closed his eyes and braced against the sink. Jesus, Daniel had actually said it. You weren't allowed to say things like that.
"But you can walk out on Hammond and spend the night sitting six blocks away from my apartment because you don't want to be alone?"
Okay, put that way, it did sound a little less than brilliant. "What do you want from me, Daniel?" He meant to sound angry, but it came out tired instead. Heavily, he sat down on the john and studied the floor tiles.
Daniel slid down the wall to the floor. "It would be nice to have some idea how you feel about this."
"If I knew how I felt about this, wouldn't you be the first to know?"
"Well, see, that's my point, Jack. You haven't thought about this for more than thirty seconds if you could help it."
Jack shrugged a little. So maybe avoidance wasn't working too well.
"Just tell me, what are you scared of?" Daniel asked, and he didn't mean it rhetorically.
Getting used to this. The thought flashed into Jack's mind in perfect clarity, and he didn't even have to wonder if Daniel had gotten it. He cleared his throat. "You?"
So many things. Losing himself, losing any more of himself, and Jack flinched, because he'd never really thought much about what it meant to Daniel to be the square peg always trying to fit himself into the round hole. The distance between them had always just been an annoyance to him -- why couldn't Daniel just follow orders, why couldn't he accept mission priorities, why couldn't he be more like Sam, just as brilliant but at least she'd shut up and do what she was told when push came to shove --
"No!" He went to the floor next to Daniel and shook him. "Goddamnit, Daniel, that is not how I feel!"
Daniel blinked at him, paused and waited.
Jack let go and sat back, trying to find the right words. "I'm not saying I don't wish you'd be a little more... cooperative sometimes," he said. "But I figure it's a pretty good tradeoff." Like, for saving their asses a few dozen times? Hello?
Daniel was frowning intently at a spot on the floor. "Oh."
"Come on. Are you telling me you didn't get that?" Jack couldn't entirely believe it, but apparently having a scarily high IQ didn't stop you from being an idiot.
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel said dryly, his mouth quirking, but he felt better anyway, and Jack leaned over to kiss him without really thinking about it. Daniel cupped his head and met him halfway, slow and hot, as smoothly as if they'd planned the whole thing out in advance, and this was so not good, because he was already used to this, he'd been used to it since the minute it started.
They broke apart and caught their breath, foreheads pressed together.
Daniel sighed. "This is a little..."
"Yeah. Stupid would work, too."
"Okay, I'll cover stupid if you take crazy," Jack said.
But Daniel just looked at him, serious again, goddamnit. "Until there's a cure?"
Jack met his eyes and didn't say anything. He had nothing to say.
Jack rubbed his hair dry a little more and tossed the towel into his bag. Daniel was still in the shower, letting the hot water pound the strained muscles he'd picked up from lugging three bags of rocks while running for the gate with a pack of things halfway between wild boars and saber-tooth tigers on their tails. Yeah, okay, extremely fascinating rocks, sure.
He shrugged into his jacket and crossed the room to Daniel's locker, got out his journal and sat down to leaf through it while Daniel finished up. He was hungry. Maybe sushi? Daniel was in the mood for tempura. They could do that little place on Morningside. Yeah, that would work. He leaned over and fished Daniel's glasses out of the locker. Daniel came out, towel wrapped around his waist, and put them on.
When he was dressed, Jack got up and stretched a little, tossed the journal back to him. "Ready?"
Before Daniel could nod, the intercom crackled. "Colonel O'Neill to the infirmary. Dr. Jackson to the infirmary."
They didn't move for a moment, just stood there looking at each other. Maybe it was something else. They could have picked up something on the last mission. Jack sighed. It was a hell of a lot harder to get talked down when you knew the guy doing the talking didn't believe a word he was saying.
The announcement repeated, and they slowly picked up their bags and headed for the elevator. Janet met them just inside the door, smiling, and took them to her office. Jack didn't pay much attention to her explanation. Daniel was handling that. He was handling the freaking-out part. It had been three weeks. He'd gotten used to not having a choice. They both had.
Janet paused. "Don't thank me all at once or anything."
Daniel's head came up. "Oh. Sorry, we were just thinking. When--"
"The serum will be ready tomorrow morning," she said, still looking back and forth between them. "Come by at 0800 hours."
Jack nodded and pushed himself to his feet. They weren't going to deal with this here. "Thanks, Doc."
Jack held out the bottle as Daniel settled down next to him. It was a cold night and a new moon, cloudless, perfect for looking at the stars. They shared the beer back and forth in silence, Jack tracing constellations in his mind while Daniel leaned against him with his eyes closed and remembered a dozen legends for each one. After a while, Daniel's hand closed around his, their fingers interlacing.
They were cold, but it was worth it. Nights like this didn't come along all that often. They'd sleep in tomorrow.
# End #