a thousand petals, a thousand paths

This time, they were awake when they were taken out of the sarcophagus together, their skin healthy but their minds pale. Limp and terrified, they averted their eyes from the blood-spattered tile as they were dragged, unresisting, back to their room with the flowing curtains. They sat naked at the table with the fresh fruits and cheeses, and ate like automatons. They drank both pitchers of water, trying to wash the dusty taste of sand from their memories. As soon as they were finished, they went to the bed, huddling in the center of it, their arms wrapped tightly around each other, bare flesh pressed to bare flesh, legs tangled, trying to find themselves in each other, something that had once been so easy.

As they whispered and held each other, they thought, with cutting clarity, of the past two days of horror and how those days of death had stripped the fine layers of bullshit from their minds, like the layers of an onion, leaving a shining kernel of bitter, poignant truth in each of them.

For Jack, his initial reaction to Bast stroking Daniel’s face, when they had first been taken prisoner, had been white-hot rage, searing and pure. At the time, he’d been convinced that it had everything to do with friendship and being Daniel’s teammate and the fact that Daniel was not in control of his own body, vulnerable and defiant. Now, though .. now, when they had only each other for succor, for reassurance, for the reminder that they were more than mere toys, Jack wanted to free both himself and Daniel and … and be the reason that Daniel gave up control of that fine body, willingly, joyfully, be on the receiving end of that great love, that immense empathy. While this was a novel, alien thought, Jack embraced it. Yes, he was military, and repression was a required class at the Academy. But now, as they lost their lives in violent and painful ways, over and over and over again, he was focusing on what really mattered to him.

And that was Daniel. Beautiful, frustrating, compassionate, idealistic, stubborn Daniel. With eyes like tropical waters, with skin like silk, with lips like … well, he didn’t know what like, he was no good at the romantic comparisons, but he knew that Daniel moved him, deep inside where he’d stored away his humanity where no one could touch it. No one except Daniel.

For Daniel, Jack was strength. He’d always known that Jack was his pillar, his touchstone, his foundation, and the past two days had only deepened that belief. When Jack had lashed out at Bast, Daniel had felt only warmth at being so valued, and now, that valued feeling, though threatened every minute in that courtyard, simply grew into cherishing. When Daniel felt himself succumbing to the darkling tide of despair in his mind, he’d look at Jack, meet his eyes, and the touch of Jack’s soul on his would bolster him for a few more minutes, a few more breaths to be spent with Jack. Jack was what really mattered to him.

Jack, with all his hasty, hotheaded, stubborn, caring ways, his dark eyes, his silver hair, and the lean body that was scarred with a lifetime of battle. Jack touched him inside where he’d locked away his needs, his desires to be held and wanted and never let go. Only Jack could reach his tiny reservoir of trust and be gifted with it all. No one but Jack.

~*~

Bast brought them to the courtyard and had them chained down to the decorative tiles, arms pulled uncomfortable taut above their heads, legs locked with a foot of space between their knees. If they stretched every muscle, they could barely touch fingertips as they lay, side by side. The courtyard floor was cool beneath their skin, and never seemed to warm, not even later when their blood splashed and pooled, when it should have warmed the slate. Bast’s Jaffa forced the smoke into them until their limbs were lax, their mouths slack, and their dicks harder than they’d ever been in their lives. Bast walked around them, between them, over them, her skirt barely brushing the bottom of her ass, her breasts barely covered by a wisp of blue lapis-colored cloth. She was beautiful, exotic, and the very thought of her would have reduced any hardness to a tiny, pale shadow of itself, if it weren’t for the drugging smoke.

Today, she decided her favorite was Daniel. Yesterday’s romp through the sandbox had been Jack’s day – Bast had sucked him off as he suffocated in the sand. Today, she walked on Daniel. Her small feet started at his legs, then slowly, carefully, flexed over his thighs, pausing at his groin, her toes dipping to stroke his balls with a pointed, hardened nail. Then she walked his chest, three mincing steps, coming to rest with a foot on each shoulder. Smiling down at him, she touched herself, rocking on her heels, Daniel’s body shifting back and forth on the tiles. He turned his head, away from Jack, and there were sounds of retching.

Bast took her time, her torture not in blood and pain, but in saliva and pleasure, kissing every inch of their sun-warmed flesh, running her tongue along shinbones, kissing the swell of hips, brushing her softness against their hardness. Now, Jack and Daniel tried hard not to speak to each other, equally embarrassed and horrified by their reluctant reactions, their hips bucking, their muscles twitching, the moans coming, unbidden, from behind their clenching teeth.

It was a short time to this death, but Bast drew it out as long as possible. Sinking her heat down over each man in turn, she put her small hands around their throats and rode them, her grip tightening incrementally, the pressure around their windpipes increasing as the pleasure built. And through it all she whispered, “Next time, it shall be my Jaffa who shall take you, my Jaffa who shall ride you, my Jaffa who shall ravish you, my Jaffa who shall be so intimately pleasured. Oh, my beautiful Tau’ri, you are more tender than ever I had thought.” As she came, and they came, her hands crushed their thoraxes, her nails drove into their carotid arteries, and they died while their release still shuddered through them.

~*~

They awoke together in the sarcophagus before the lid had even begun to move, on their sides, pressed chest to chest, hip to hip and nose to nose. Clutching each other tightly, they breathed each other’s scents while they waited for the Jaffa to take them out.

“Jack,” Daniel whispered, resting his forehead on Jack’s shoulder. Jack’s arms were around his waist, and Daniel could feel their slight trembling, an echo of the shivers that wracked his own body.

“I know,” Jack answered softly, leaning his cheek on Daniel’s soft hair. “I know.”

They were silent for a bit, holding each other fiercely, trying not to notice how the white light inside the sarcophagus washed their skin to a pale blue, the color of whey milk. There was only the sound of their lungs working to breathe, their blood pumping with renewed vitality, and that soft white light, like some sort of purgatorial sun that had no source.

“How much longer,” Daniel said finally, rubbing his cheek against Jack’s. His eyes were blue as a lotus flower in the half-light from the sarcophagus.

Jack shook his head, keeping the soft pressure of Daniel’s skin against his. “I don’t know, Daniel,” he replied. “I really don’t. She could do this for a very long time.”

“But Sam … Teal’c,” Daniel said, with almost a note of hope in his voice. “How many days has it been?”

“This is only day four,” answered Jack. The white light leached the color from Daniel’s cheeks.

Daniel choked. “Only,” he echoed. “Only. They’ll be coming soon. They must be coming soon. They – ”

The sarcophagus’s lid began to move and Daniel stopped talking, his eyes meeting Jack’s briefly, the exchange of hope and strength swift and penetrating. Without thinking twice, Jack pressed his lips firmly to Daniel’s for a glancing second, then let the Jaffa manhandle him out of the sarcophagus, followed by Daniel.

“Tau’ri,” said Bast’s First Prime, of whose name Jack and Daniel had never been made aware. His large, sun-darkened hands fell heavily on Daniel’s shoulders, and with a finger he lifted Daniel’s face up to meet his eyes. “You are very pretty indeed,” the First Prime said, rubbing his thumb over Daniel’s lips. “My goddess has exquisite taste.”

“Your goddess is a false goddess,” Jack said harshly, futilely, straining against the arms that held him. “She’s nothing more than a cheap whore.”

The First Prime backhanded Jack with little effort. “Silence, Tau’ri. My goddess has decreed that we may not enjoy the fruits of your flesh until the morrow, but that does not mean I cannot taste a little beforehand.”

If possible, Daniel paled even further. “Fruits?” he mouthed silently at Jack. Jack shrugged, his face tight.

The Jaffa had seen the exchange and smiled, stepping closer to Daniel until there was barely half an inch between their skins, Daniel’s head craned back to match the First Prime’s gaze. “Fruits,” he whispered into Daniel’s mouth, hands clamped to Daniel’s head, his lips a mere breath away from kissing Daniel. Jack could see the tremor that shot through Daniel, but his friend continued to glare at the First Prime.

“Some fruits are poisonous,” Daniel said softly, and snapped his teeth forward, biting at the Jaffa’s lips.

With a roar, the First Prime flung Daniel away from him, his face flushing dark red with anger, Goa’uld obscenities dirtying the air.

Jack tried to repress a grin again, and for the first time today felt a brief stirring of hope, a brief flash of his old self. “He called you a hassock,” he informed Daniel politely.

Daniel nodded, biting to keep back his own grin, ignoring the two minor Jaffa who held him in a painful grip. “I’m so insulted,” he said mildly. “I hate being called a piece of furniture.” Jack did grin this time, and together they looked at the First Prime.

The Jaffa was standing with one hand clenched, the other wiping the blood from his mouth. Then he smeared the blood along Daniel’s lips. “I will take great pleasure in you, Tau’ri,” he growled, grabbing Daniel’s chin in a painful grip. “You will feel me in every inch of your body, and I will seed you as you die.” Then he shoved Daniel away from him again and gestured for the Jaffa to take them away.

~*~

The moon was still and cool against his face as he sat, huddled, by the veranda doors. There was no wind tonight, and the frothy white draperies hung still and quiet. The wall was hard against his shoulder blades.

“Jack,” Daniel said softly, his eyes fixed on the tiled floor, tracing the glimmering line of moonlight that sneaked in under the pale curtain. Jack moved from the dining table to sit next to Daniel, their bare skin flinching from the slick floor beneath them.

“Yeah,” Jack whispered, pulling Daniel close to him with an arm around his shoulders.

“She’s going to kill us again.”

“I know.”

Daniel’s eyes drifted shut for a moment. “She’s going to kill us with them,” he said finally, thrusting his chin towards the door, and beyond, where Bast’s Jaffa waited.

“I know,” Jack said again. He pulled Daniel even tighter to him, resting his chin on the crown of Daniel’s head.

“I keep trying to figure out what we can do, what we can say – ”

“There’s nothing,” Jack said sharply, shaking Daniel gently. “Stop trying to think you can do something to affect her. We need to think about how to get around her.”

“I’m wondering if we should try the veranda anyway,” Daniel said, wrapping his arms around his knees, drawn up tight against his chest. “I mean, at the very least, it’ll throw her schedule off, right? Put off the Fruits of the Flesh Fiesta she’s planning.”

Jack shook his head. “C’mon, Daniel. You don’t want to buy another run in the sarcophagus.”

Daniel sighed. “No. I don’t. I’m just … ”

“I know.”

Silence again, hearing the soft tread as Bast’s Jaffa measured out their perimeters beyond the veranda doors. No wind. No birds. Nothing to alleviate the dead silence of this sandy planet.

“I … ” Shuddering, Daniel raised his eyes and Jack couldn’t help but meet them with his own. “I don’t want to die having that be my first time,” Daniel gulped. “She’ll bring me back in the sarcophagus, and the only thing I’ll know is that my first time with a man was rape. I don’t want it to be that.”

Jack’s eyes widened, his breath shortening as his agile mind tumbled over what Daniel was asking, was offering … was needing. Then, so slowly, waiting for a rebuff that never came, he tilted Daniel’s face towards his, running his thumb along the strong jawline. “Then it won’t be the first time,” he whispered, and lowered his lips to Daniel’s. Daniel made a tiny sound, whether shock or pleasure, Jack didn’t know. He eased the pressure of his mouth on Daniel’s, then pressed more firmly when Daniel’s lips opened and his tongue tickled Jack’s.

So unexpected, this turn of events, but so simple to fall into, so right, so easy. Their bodies shifted towards each other, hands coming up to run over arms, shoulders, over chests and hips, soft, stroking, and so tender. Together, they rose, lips still touching, tongues exploring, and once standing they pressed tightly together, arms wrapped around each other like fleshly bonds, feeling the last four days dim to insubstantial shadows in the moonlight.

It was only a few short steps from the windows to the bed, and they fell together, still locked, still exploring, still so immensely careful. Daniel didn’t ask if Jack knew what he was doing, didn’t care, simply felt the warmth of Jack’s body pressing him into the mattress and was quietly soothed.

When Jack finally took him, his way eased with a thick oil from their dinner table, he was so slow, so cherishing, and Daniel felt the tears slide, unbidden, down his cheeks, tears that Jack caught on his tongue then shared with Daniel in a salty, agonizing kiss. There was still no wind to rustle about them, only the hushed sounds of their breathing, of Daniel’s grunt of surprise as Jack entered him, the tiny “ah, ah, ah” sounds Daniel made as Jack found a rhythm, moving hot and deep, rocking his hips, skin sliding with sweat and tears. When Jack’s hand found him, curved against his belly, he groaned, sharp and heartfelt, moving with Jack, the silk sheets whispering against their heated skin, their rhythm quickening, stuttering, still so deep and filling. Daniel’s senses were overcome, flooded, shattered, his body a tingling nerve that shuddered with every brush of Jack’s hands, lips, hips, thighs. And then they were coming, moans crawling, strained, from their throats, fingers pressing, bruising, into pale skin, heels digging into the bed.

Panting, they lay tangled, still connected, the sweat drying on their skin in a breeze that had finally arisen and made its tentative way into their bedroom, pleasurable tremors rippling through them as their heartbeats slowed. They didn’t speak, just moved skin over skin, inch by savoring inch, storing up the memories for the day ahead, an armory of sensation.

There was no discussion of repercussions, here or home. Those didn’t matter anymore. They really didn’t. The Air Force, Bast, neither of those things was material in this place, where all they had was each other and the thin shells of their skin to keep back the despair and horror. That they found rapture in the melding of those shells was a sweet luxury, a beneficence that wasn’t to be wasted.

Later, when the moon was setting, Jack took Daniel in his mouth, slowly, languorously, hands cupping the long pale flanks of his thighs, the skin soft as the petals of a lotus flower, Daniel’s toes flexing and arching as the heat spread through him, his blood zipping like it was filled with champagne bubbles. Feeling Daniel come in his mouth, a tiny “oh” escaping his lips, Jack felt his own release flood his stomach, and there was a moment of purest happiness.

Later still, when the moon had set, and Daniel whispered, “Thank you,” and shyly tried to move away, Jack kept him close, lips pressed to Daniel’s temple, hands rubbing in soothing circles on his back.

They were still awake when the dawn found them in the morning, holding tightly to each other.

~*~

Bast’s First Prime and his merry band of Jaffa were there first thing in the morning, pulling them out of each other’s arms and out of the bed, their arms twisted behind them. With his large hands, the First Prime found every bruise from the previous night, his eyes darkening with rage. With that crushing grip, he pulled Jack towards him. “You had him last night,” he grated, his hands tightening about Jack’s throat.

Jack didn’t reply, merely met the man’s gaze with equal hatred.

The hands tightened further. “You took my prize,” the First Prime continued, and Jack started to choke.

“Yes, he had me,” Daniel said venomously, pulling against his captors’ hands. “And when you’re fucking me, he’ll be the one I’m thinking of. Not you, not ever!”

Again, an inarticulate sound of rage from the man, and Jack and Daniel were hauled through the hallways of Bast’s palace to the loathed courtyard and tethered to their marble pillars, their chains long enough so that they could be turned and flipped, facing the pillar or facing the sarcophagus, pliable and easily manipulated.

Bast sat on the end of her sarcophagus, clad in a diaphanous shift of finest linen, her arms, fingers, neck and ears laden with gold and faience jewelry, the ribbon device on her left hand. On her head she wore the pschent, the double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, and Daniel felt his reality shift even more, sliding further into the surreal. This woman, this host, she had been Egyptian, ancient Egyptian, and then she’d been taken by the Goa’uld. She had ruled, this dual personality, for who knows how long, controlling the people that lived along the Nile River. That double crown was so much of Earth, and now … so much of the nightmare their days had become in this sere, alien world.

“You know,” Jack started, glaring balefully at the Goa’uld sitting so demurely on the golden casket, her legs crossed at the knees, “I fucking hate cats. I really do.”

“Jack,” Daniel said, eyes wide. “What are you – ”

Jack pressed on. “There’s the fur and the fleas and the scratching the furniture and the litter everywhere and they’re constantly licking their assholes. God. Nasty little creatures. I kick ‘em whenever I can.” Bast slid off the sarcophagus, her face white with rage. “What about you? No? Because I find nothing more soothing that a good, swift kick – ”

Bast couldn’t even speak past the fury in her throat. The hand with the ribbon device stretched out, and the red light swelled and throbbed, beginning its burning path between Jack’s eyes.

“Stop!” Daniel shouted, his body bowed with the effort to escape his chains. “You’re killing him!”

“That is what the sarcophagus is for, Daniel Jackson,” Bast spat, practically hissing with her wrath. “He will die, I will raise him again, and – ”

“No! Enough! Look, you don’t want your Jaffa to wait, do you?” Shuddering, Daniel looked to Jack, hoping for forgiveness. The fewer times in the sarcophagus, the better. But at this point, was it simply becoming a matter of “six of one, half dozen of the other”?

Thoughtfully, Bast raised her hand, the red light winking out, and Jack sagged in his chains, the skin on his forehead blistered and angry. “Perhaps you are right, my lovely boy,” she said, her voice calmer. She nudged Jack with her knee, then pulled him upright with a hand about his throat.

Jack swallowed convulsively against the pain in his head, the bright, blooming agony that pressed against his skull and corpuscles. “Bitch,” he gasped, then glanced at Daniel. “Anyway, that’s why I don’t own a cat.”

Daniel nodded solemnly, grateful for the respite, however temporary. “I can understand that,” he said agreeably, as if they were having a lovely chat over beers at a bar. Why on Earth had Jack done that? Antagonized Bast like that?

And then he knew. To keep Bast and the First Prime and her horde of Jaffa away from Daniel just that little bit longer. Even though it wouldn’t make much of a difference in the long run, it was the only thing Jack could do for him, and the realization of that dedication, that commitment of self, flushed Daniel’s body and pierced his heart like a javelin.

He loved Jack.

Jack loved him.

And the knowledge of each other was like a burning wire that hissed and sizzled in the air between them.

And if they died over and over again in this place, if they changed and grew hard and parasitical themselves, at least in this one moment there had been born something pure and deep and all-encompassing, something that could halt the universe in its great expansion. It was love, and it was theirs, and the nightmare of their reality couldn’t dim that diamond shine.

~*~

Bast’s First Prime and her Jaffa were nothing if not thorough. Their enjoyment of Jack and Daniel was slow, wretched, and ravishingly horrible. Wishing his pets-for-the-day to be as receptive as possible, the First Prime had them smoked up again with the people-nip, as Jack stupidly called it. Again, they were reduced to fuzzy vision, cottonmouth, and a hard-on that could power-drive nails through oak.

Bast’s First Prime was a perverted fellow. He had one Jaffa stand by each prisoner and simply hold his head so he could do nothing but stare at his counterpart chained to the other pillar. Even as Jaffa after Jaffa knelt down and took them into their hot, alien mouths, Daniel and Jack stared at each other, eyes burning across the intervening space, the memory of the night before shining brilliantly in their minds.

~*~

It was to be expected. The Jaffa were turning Daniel and Jack in their chains, strapping them to face the pillar, their legs spread and manacled in place. Their heads felt like they were stuffed full of cotton, their temples throbbed with the headache of Jaffa hands squeezing their skulls, and their dicks were sore from a dozen mouths. The sound of chain mail armor and plating being removed was loud in the courtyard, and Daniel knew it would be just a matter of minutes before the First Prime began his fruit harvest.

That’s when the cavalry arrived, all of SG-2, SG-3, Teal’c and Sam. It was impressive, or would have been if Jack and Daniel hadn’t been stoned out of their minds. Between craving cheese popcorn and Smirnoff, Jack had the vague, yet potent, thought that it was a good thing they could leave now, before they needed to use the sarcophagus again.

Jack was quite sure he heard Daniel whisper, “Finally,” as the Jaffa were drawn away from them and engaged in battle. Teal’c was suddenly next to Daniel and yanking the chains out of the pillar with sheer, brute force, his face more rock-like than Jack had ever seen it. Then he was propping Daniel up against the pillar next to Jack while he yanked at Jack’s chains.

“Thanks, T,” Jack said, and his voice was hoarse and smoky. “Got any clothes on ya? My ass is hanging out, here.”

“Nice ass,” Daniel whispered for Jack’s ears alone, hands cupped over his tenderized groin, and leaned his head back against the column, completely oblivious, or simply uncaring of the carnage going on around them. Every once in a while, he made a snuffling sound, like he was trying to repress laughter.

It looked like every Jaffa Bast had was coming out to play with the SG teams. Bast’s First Prime had literally been caught with his pants down, and was scrambling to gain some sort of upper hand in the situation. Bellowing directions at his Jaffa, he had a staff weapon in one hand and … well, Jack smirked, his staff weapon in the other, and was looking nothing like imposing. No wonder Daniel was laughing.

The SG teams were all business, though. There was Ferretti going hog-wild with his P-90, the marines were clearly in their element, and Sam was smacking C4 onto columns with an almost balletic grace. While Teal’c yanked some linen draperies off a nearby divan and wrapped them around Daniel, Jack sidled off to yank a tablecloth from a table – and the flowers are still standing! – and tied it around him like a toga. Then he slithered onto the edges of the fight, snatched up a staff weapon that had fallen closest to him, and charged it up, looking for a clear shot. He might be stoned, but he wasn’t stupid – he’d have to be very careful with his aim so as not to hit anyone on Team Good Guys. Explaining to Hammond how he aerated Ferretti while high on kitty hashish was nowhere on his Top Ten List of Fun Things To Do.

Jack heard singing. At first, he thought it was just a ringing in his ears, but the sound slowly resolved into you are my sunshine, my only sunshine, you make me happy, when skies are grey. Turning, wide-eyed, he saw Daniel, pushing Teal’c away from him, staggeringly loopy, and stooping to grab up a staff weapon for himself. “Where’s that scrofulous hag?” Daniel shouted over the sounds of battle, smiling beatifically. “I’m gonna declaw that bitch!”

“Teal’c!” Jack roared, gesticulating wildly at Daniel. “Would you do something about that, please?”

Teal’c was already lunging for Daniel, though, clamping one of his enormous hands around Daniel’s bicep. “DanielJackson, you must come with me.”

“No!” Daniel yelled, yanking his arm out of Teal’c’s grasp. “That revolting whore dared to wear the pschent, and I’m going to knock it right off her pointy little head!” He whirled, all linen and glassy eyes, the staff weapon charged and ready in his hands, searching for the tiny figure of Bast.

The reverberated voice could clearly be heard behind them, even with men dying and groaning and weapons firing behind them. “I am here, my pretty Tau’ri,” said Bast, her eyes glowing and her ribbon device raised and ready.

And then it was a jumble of images and sounds.

“Sir! Behind you!”

The sound of another staff weapon charging.

“Shol’va!”

A ribbon device extruding waves of power.

Jack’s body slamming into a pillar.

“Jack!”

Another staff weapon charging.

And then there was just Sam, a staff weapon in her hands, and a blazing, smoking hole where Bast’s breasts used to be. The goddess’s eyes flared one more time, then the lifeless body keeled over like a felled tree.

“No!” Daniel shrieked, throwing his own staff weapon at Sam, who hopped to avoid the skittering length of metal. “I wanted to kill her,” Daniel grated, his eyes smoky with drugs.

Jack sat up slowly, muzzily chagrined that his time on Planet Kitty Litter was ending just as it had begun, with him smacking into another column. “Daniel,” he said woozily, checking his head to make sure there wasn’t any blood. “Daniel,” he said again, and things began to shift and jive. The combination of whapping into the pillar and the people-nip was doing some seriously nauseating things to him. “Let’s go home, Daniel,” he whispered, and felt his friend – his lover, oh, boy, were they going to have a talk when they got home – assist with hands in the armpits.

Then they were shuffling out of that vile courtyard, surrounded and supported by the SG teams, they were transported in the rings to the gate, and from a distance, there was the muffled sound of C4 detonating. Bast’s palace blew apart in a cloud of sand and stone that could be seen for miles.

~*~

He knew it was Jack at the door from the first sharp rap against wood. They hadn’t had a chance to talk in the past forty-eight hours, what with their medical checks, the showering while trying not to scrub off every inch of violated skin, and the debriefing. After listening carefully and with his best reading-between-the-lines expression for a couple of hours, Hammond had granted them a week’s downtime to get their heads right and set up appointments with a therapist. For once, Jack and Daniel didn’t argue, and made appointments for single and paired sessions. Their bodies might be healing nicely – they’d just been sore, with no bleeding or bruising – but their minds were going to need a little more time. And it also remained to be seen if there was going to be any residual addiction from the sarcophagus. It was hoped by all that there wouldn’t be, as usage had been limited and they’d been .. well, dead, the theory being that the threat of addiction and personality change were less if the body was deceased before being placed in the casket.

So when Jack knocked on the door, Daniel knew the hour had come ‘round at last to have their discussion about what happened on Planet Kitty Litter, as Jack insisted on calling it. Daniel’d been grateful for the lag time, though. He needed space to figure out his head and his heart without the adrenaline rush of torture and rape to distract him. He’d pretty much figured out what he wanted and where he wanted to go with all this by the time Jack showed up on his doorstep.

It looked like Jack had done some thinking, too. He was dressed in his usual comfy jeans, but he also wore a sharp black shirt that was a pleasing contrast to his silvering hair. His dark eyes, though, were pained and confused as he requested entrance.

“Of course,” Daniel murmured, and stepped aside, Jack brushing past him with no bodily contact. So it was going to be like that, was it? “Beer?” he asked as he followed Jack into his living room.

Jack shook his head and merely said, “Water would be fine.” So Daniel brought them back two enormous glasses of icy water, one of which Jack cradled in his hands like a precious gem. “Can’t seem to get enough water,” Jack said softly, sipping slowly, luxuriously, at his glass. “After all that sand … ”

“I know,” Daniel replied, sitting on the opposite end of the couch. “I feel sort of the same way. I feel like I’m always in the sun. I keep looking for a tree or something to stand under.”

“Which is stupid,” Jack continued, almost as if Daniel hadn’t spoken. “It’s not like she staked us out in the desert and left us to rot.”

“Didn’t she?” Daniel asked rhetorically, and took a mighty gulp of his water.

Jack just shrugged and stared at the Senet game on the coffee table. “Do you ever play that?” he asked, gesturing at the ivory box.

“When Teal’c’s over,” Daniel said.

And they were silent again for a while, long enough for Daniel to take their glasses, refill them, and bring them back, along with a large pitcher of ice-filled water.

“So,” Daniel said finally, putting his glass down. “Let’s cut to the chase, shall we?”

Jack looked up, surprised. “Daniel – ” he started, but Daniel held up a finger.

“No, Jack, I’m going to speak first,” Daniel said, and cleared his throat nervously. “It wasn’t a mistake. I’ll tell you that right off the bat. I don’t regret what we did.” Jack’s eyes were big. “And I don’t blame you, so you can stop torturing yourself with guilt that you took advantage of me, or something equally idiotic.” Jack’s eyes got even bigger, if that were possible. “In fact, I’m glad we did it. It brought a lot of things to the fore that I think we’ve both been dancing around, and didn’t even realize it.”

“But – ” Jack tried, and Daniel raised that finger again.

“No, Jack, I’m not done.” Daniel took a deep breath and sipped from his water again, turning the glass slowly in his hands, tracing patterns in the condensation. “I could almost thank Bast for that little silver lining to our imprisonment. She made us face something that’s been going on for a long time.” Daniel looked up and gave Jack a rueful smile. “But I won’t thank her. I’d like to think we would’ve gotten there on our own, eventually. The thing of it is, Jack … ” Daniel took another deep breath, holding it, then letting it out explosively. “I feel … a lot. For you. You’re … ” Daniel rolled his eyes self-deprecatingly. “God, why is this so hard?”

“Cuz we’re guys?” Jack asked, almost smiling, then the ghost of a smile was gone in an instant. “Daniel, I agree with you.”

There was dead silence as Daniel stared at him. “What?” he asked finally.

“I agree with you,” Jack repeated, making patterns on his own glass and not meeting Daniel’s eyes.

“Oh,” was all Daniel could say, and Jack grinned, the first pain-free smile since they’d landed on Planet Kitty Litter.

“Oh? All I get is an ‘oh’?” Jack asked teasingly, looking up and catching Daniel’s gaze. “I agree with you that this has been coming for a long time, and all you have for me is a measly ‘oh’??”

The smile that crept slowly over Daniel’s face was brilliant. “You get an ‘oh’ and a ‘then where do we go from here?’” Daniel answered.

Jack sobered quickly. “I know where I’d like it to go,” Jack said slowly, and he went back to his inspection of his water glass. “But I don’t know what you want.”

“I want you,” Daniel said simply. “You’re already in my life. And you’ve been in my heart longer than I ever realized. So I want you in my bed. Permanently. Well, not permanently, but often, you know, we still have to go to work and – ”

“Daniel. Babbling,” Jack said, and Daniel shut up. “I want that, too,” Jack said quietly after a moment, and looked up at Daniel, his brown eyes soft. “But it’s going to mean discretion and subterfuge.”

Daniel’s face saddened. “I know. I hate doing that to Sam and Teal’c, but your career – ”

Jack shook his head. “No, not my career. I’m not worried about that, not really. I figure, if someone found out and tried to put me in prison, the President would be more than happy to send me on my way with an honorable discharge and my pension. I mean, gimme a break, we’ve saved the planet too many times for them not to give us keys to the White House, for crying out loud. No, it’s the SGC, it’s fighting the good fight. I’m not ready to give up, not yet, there’s too much we may still be able to accomplish, both of us. We can’t walk away from that, not yet. So the question is, Daniel … can you be comfortable with that? With the lying, with the deception, with the not being honest about who or what we are?”

Daniel stared at him for a long moment, turning Jack’s words over in his mind, thinking about his teammates, about General Hammond, and about how they’d be lying not only to them, but to their alien allies, allies who probably didn’t give a Replicator what side of the sheets the two men slept or with how many people or with what gender. Pondering, Daniel stood, squeezed Jack’s shoulder, and went into the kitchen.

He put a kettle of water on to boil for tea and got a cup ready, a teabag draping its stringed tag over the side. Breathing deeply, Daniel held onto the counter, his head bowed, his knees locked with the strength of conviction. He loved Jack. That time on Bast’s planet, where everything got blown away by the horror and the pain and sheer strange, surreal nature of it all, that had done nothing but make things simple. So they’d lie. They’d lied about lots of things, and really, he wasn’t worried about Teal’c, Sam, Hammond or Janet. They’d all figure it out, they’d all know why he and Jack hadn’t said anything, and they wouldn’t care, as long as he and Jack were happy. They were the only people to whom he really cared about lying. And at the heart of it all, no pun intended, it was what he and Jack were to each other. Honest. Trusted. Loved. So, no. Lying was not a problem. There’d be no deception.

Turning, his mind clear and calm, he left the kitchen and strode to the living room. Silently, he pulled Jack off the couch and into his arms, heavy and warm and solid. Their lips met, caressed, found tiny points of pressure that sparkled like Roman Candles on the Fourth of July. Jack’s hand in his, Daniel led the way to the bedroom, where they stripped slowly, thoughtfully, hands touching every tingling pore and joint, lips following hands. Where there had been bruises, wounds, life-defeating gouges, there were now kisses and wet strokes with tongues. Where hands had clutched around throats there was now the gentle, feather-touch of knuckles and fingertips. Where there had been violence and power, there was now healing and surrender. It was quiet. It was needed. It was something that no one else could ever understand and that was truly theirs.

Women must feel this, Daniel thought hazily, as Jack slid inside him, slowly, creeping, like a tide coming in, inexorable, powerful. Spread open, vulnerable, both controlled and controlling, filled from the inside, no longer a single entity, but two, one held in the other in a cradle of flesh that throbbed and pulsed. Tremors wracked them both as hands clutched shoulders, teeth bit on tender ligaments, tongues gentled and soothed the bite marks, flesh slapping quietly, like banners in the wind.

Stroking deep within Daniel, those pretty legs wrapped around his waist, Daniel’s cheeks flushed and his lips bite-swollen, and as the kettle water shrieked and steamed away in the kitchen, Jack felt the dry taste of the desert slip away from him, leaving cool water and lotus flowers behind.

Daniel, his hands clenching on Jack’s lean biceps and in his silvery hair, felt shade and solace where once there had been only the crippling heat of the sun.

 

 

“As if I’d slept a thousand years underwater I wake into a new season. I am the blue lotus rising. I am the cup of dreams and memory opening–I, the thousand-petaled flower. At dawn the sun rises naked and new as a babe; I open myself and am entered by light. This is the joy, the slow awakening into fire as one by one the petals open, as the fingers that held tight the secret unfurl. I let go of the past and release the fragrance of flowers.

I open and light descends, fills me and passes through, each thin blue petal reflected perfectly in clear water. I am that lotus filled with light reflected in the world. I float content within myself, one flower with a thousand petals, one life lived a thousand years without haste, one universe sparking a thousand stars, one god alive in a thousand people.

If you stood on a summer’s morning on the bank under a brilliant sky, you would see the thousand petals and say that together they make the lotus. But if you lived in its heart, invisible from without, you might see how the ecstasy at its fragrant core gives rise to its thousand petals. What is beautiful is always that which is itself in essence, a certainly of being. I marvel at myself and the things of earth.

I float among the days in peace, content. Not part of the world, the world is all the parts of me. I open toward the light and lift myself to the gods on the perfume of prayer. I ask for nothing beyond myself. I own everything I need. I am content in the company of god, a prayer that contains its own answer. I am the lotus. As if from a dream, I wake up laughing. “  ~  “Becoming the Lotus” from the Scroll of Ani, Awakening Osiris: The Egyptian Book of the Dead, Normandi Ellis (Translator). 

.:.

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