Giving Up The Ghost
J/D, PG-13, no relationship yet
3109 words, unbetaed
Daniel pushed aside the tent flap and walked into the tall two-person tent. He unbuckled his tactical vest with angry jerks and tossed it toward the other side of his sleeping bag. It landed with a thunk that was hardly satisfying. He wanted to break something. Maybe bones. And he had to put a stop to this anger and now. He was dangerously close to connecting a sexual desire with an act of violence. Sex and mild violence was fun, of course. Nothing wrong with a little role-play and bondage. But this feeling . . .
It wasn’t like him. Daniel held a belief that physical violence was only necessary if your life was in immediate danger—and immediate meant within an hour, not days. But right now, he was angry at himself. So whose bones did he want to break? His own? Of course not.
Daniel closed his eyes and took several long, slow breaths.
Analyze. Question. Run it through the steps, Daniel.
Why the anger at this feeling?
It wasn’t anger at feeling sexual desire. It was at whom. Jack. But he wasn’t to blame.
Can he do something about it?
No. Not only no, but hell no. Well, he can halt the anger. Just give him a few days and he’d be more or less right as rain. But could he tell Jack? Oh, sure, that would go over well.
“Are you out of your goddamn mind?” would be the follow-up response.
And Jack would be right to ask the question. The emotional response behind it on the other hand . . .
That Daniel couldn’t handle. He could face a million System Lords with calm composure compared to how he’d face Jack if he so much as breathed “I’m bi, wanna fuck?” vibes. Well, maybe not that hardcore stupid but it would be close.
Never mind the response. Is he out of his goddamn mind? Yes.
If he said anything it would be three shades of suicide. Professional suicide. Political suicide. Relationship suicide. So he couldn’t say anything. Ever.
How the hell had this happened? How? He was a wiser person if one could say a trip to Ascension Town made one wise—he was on the fence. And he was more street savvy. Or heart savvy. He knew better. But it had happened anyway.
He was in love with Jack.
Why had it happened now? Things were finally leveling out, he had most of his memories back after deascension. He was enjoying his job again. Jack was treating him a lot better. Did that mean he had to fall for the ludicrous idiot?
He had two choices, neither of which was appealing. He would tell Jack or he would keep his trap shut. If he told Jack, he’d have to resign. And he’d have to go to Abydos because Earth just didn’t feel like home. While there was a laundry list of things and people that he’d miss . . . he could easily do without. Even Jack.
Resentment filled his mind as he removed his boots, fatigue shirt, and pants and removed his gray Air Force shorts from his rucksack, and pulled them on over his black boxer briefs. He pulled at his t-shirt to test its smell and detected only light sweat, not rancidness. He reached over toward the center tent pole and clicked on the tap light they’d set up so they could see. The sun was setting and he could only see shadows now.
“Daniel, have you seen the field shovel?” Jack asked outside. He sounded like he was on the other side of the clearing and their campfire.
Daniel bent over and picked up the shovel that had been leaning against the center pole and walked out of the tent in his stocking feet. He crossed the clearing and Jack met him halfway around the fire. He held out the shovel, which was really more like a collapsible trowel than a shovel, and Jack took it.
“Where was it?” Jack asked, frowning as he looked Daniel over.
“Where you left it, leaning against the center tent pole.”
“Right,” Jack said, clearly distracted as he looked at all of him.
“What?” Daniel asked, looking down at himself, then turning in a half circle one way, then the other as he tried to spot something wrong.
“Nothing,” Jack said, waving an airy hand at Daniel. “You’re just . . . different. More built than you were before.”
“Oh,” Daniel said with exaggeration and turned away so Jack wouldn’t see the blush on his cheeks. Honestly, he was nearly forty years old. Wasn’t it time to stop this embarrassing body reaction? “I didn’t realize it showed.”
“What showed?” Jack asked.
Daniel looked over his shoulder and Jack was still looking at him. He grimaced and turned away, heading back to the tent and a safe rescue into his sleeping bag. It would cover a lot of sins.
“Daniel, what’s up?” Jack asked.
Daniel had almost reached the tent. He stopped and slowly closed his eyes. He mastered himself by angrily condemning his actions and turned around to face Jack. He swallowed and it made a sound, making Jack’s eyebrows rise a little. Unnecessarily drying his palms on his hips he took a few steps back toward Jack.
Daniel looked around for Sam and Teal’c, hoping for a rescue, but they were on Perimeter Survey, aka taking a walk around camp to discern possible dangers during the night. His patrol wasn’t scheduled because he wasn’t Air Force. Neither was Teal’c but that’s because Teal’c was a walking-talking advertisement for Security.
“They’re on patrol,” Jack said.
Daniel nodded. He swallowed again and said, “I . . .” He turned away and kept wiping the palms of his hands on his pants. “Think I have to leave. Go to Abydos. Do research the rest of my life.” He grimaced again, hating the idea.
“Why?” Jack asked.
Daniel glanced at him and did a double-take. Jack was fully stunned. Daniel then began an internal countdown, counting down the time it would take Jack to recover from the shock and retreat to a safe unemotional state. “Because as I watched you down at the lake, I came to the conclusion that I love you. And I could either share it or repress it. And that last won’t hold. So . . .” He sighed again and closed his eyes. “I just have to give up the ghost. Or whatever. Not sure that made sense.”
“Get over here and sit the hell down,” Jack demanded.
It was Daniel’s turn to be stunned. “Why?” He let his arms rise and fall in exasperation as he turned to face him. “We know each other pretty well so we already know what we’re going to say to each other.”
“Humor me,” Jack growled and pointed at the short log that Daniel had been using, which sat ninety degrees to Jack’s left. “Sit.”
With a heavy sigh, Daniel forced himself to really look at Jack. He’d gone from surprised to “unemotional mad” pretty damn quick. He hadn’t expected that. So . . . he was wrong. He didn’t know how this conversation would go. How the hell had that happened?
Daniel brushed at his pants and looked at the log. Not sitting on bark with a thin strip of cotton between it and his ass. “Um, back in a sec.”
“Daniel,” Jack chided.
Did he sound a little breathless? Came the question as he retrieved his trousers and walked out of the tent. He arranged his pants on the fallen trunk and sat down. He then got up and began to pace.
“I can’t,” Daniel said, shaking his hands. “I’m too wound up. And on display. And . . . do we have to do this?”
“Yes, now, grab a can of coke from the cooler so you’ll have something to hold onto and sit the fuck down.”
“You know, this was a really cool idea,” Daniel said as he complied. It was automatic. He had told himself that that was one thing he’d change: to back Jack’s play. And if that meant something as simple as sitting the fuck down, then he’d sit the fuck down. He snapped the tab on the coke, doing it well away from his face (just in case), and drank damn near a third of it. He hadn’t known he was that thirsty. And Coke wasn’t exactly what was called for but he didn’t want to retrieve the bottled water he’d stashed by his cot.
“So,” Jack began. “You’re bisexual?”
It was rhetorical. And completely beside the point because the only answer to that rhetoric was, “Well no shit, Sherlock.” “That’s the direction you want this conversation to go?” Daniel asked, glancing at him.
Jack frowned. “Okay. Why do you have to leave?”
“It’s self-explanatory,” Daniel said.
Daniel scowled. “Jack, I said what I said, okay? I’m no shrinking violet who’ll pine silently away in a corner like some overdone Woe Is Me song straight out of Madame Butterfly. So the other option is to leave. Besides, it’s a violation of regs.”
“Since nothing has happened, how is it that frat regs come into play?” Jack asked.
“The attraction is what’s illegal, Jack. Acting on it is assumed. You know that.”
Jack wrinkled his nose. “That . . . okay, we can argue about that another time.”
“I guess,” Daniel shrugged.
They were quiet and Daniel was trying to guess how the conversation would continue. But he didn’t expect Jack to ask, “Why tell me?”
“What?” Daniel asked, confused. “I just said I’m not one to keep it to myself. You deserved to know.”
“So . . . what if I said I didn’t need to know that?”
Daniel scowled. “What if? Jack, if you wanna tell me that you didn’t need to know that, then just say it.”
“I can’t,” Jack said and dropped his head down, staring at the Coke can he held in his hands.
Daniel blinked a few times. “I’m confused. Why can’t you say it?”
“Because . . . I was asking a hypothetical. Maybe trying to avoid this whole conversation, I don’t know.”
“Right,” Daniel said, rolling his eyes. “You told me to sit down. I assumed that meant to talk about what I said.”
“That you love me,” Jack said, and there was a touch of skepticism in his tone.
“Yes.” He pinched the bridge of his nose, knowing what was coming next.
“Are you sure?” Jack asked.
“Unfortunately,” Daniel said, sighing again with masterful effect, letting Jack know he was disgusted with himself in just that sigh.
And to Daniel’s astonishment, Jack went defensively sarcastic. “Sorry to hear that’s such a chore for you.”
Daniel’s mouth dropped open. He had absolutely no idea what to say, so he got up and picked up his trousers, and returned to the tent. “A chore? He asks. A chore. Jesus. I should’ve kept my mind on business. I should’ve stayed silent. But no, I had to put my foot in my mouth.” And he was angry all over again, just with an added insult to stew over.
He kept shaking his head as he sat down and brushed off his feet before sticking them in the sleeping bag. They had another day of sensor readings. Then what? He’d get back to the SGC, write up his resignation, then request to be sent back to Abydos. Colonel Edwards would be relieved. Sam and Teal’c, not so much. He grimaced and thought about waiting up for them but dismissed it. They needed their sleep. He could talk to them when they got home. Over the next few minutes, it began to sink in: he was leaving. It induced a panicky denial. He should’ve kept his mouth shut. Maybe he could convince Jack that he was kidding? No, that was stupid. Could they work together? Yes. It would be awkward, but over time, Jack would start to treat it as a joke so he could make fun of him.
Well, that was better than leaving, wasn’t it? He wasn’t so sure. After another few minutes, he fell asleep.
. . .
“Daniel, wake up.”
Daniel groaned in his sleep.
He was shaken slightly.
“Daniel, wake up.”
“What?” Daniel asked, pushing himself up on his elbows and groggily opened his eyes. Jack was squatting by his cot. “Jack? What’s wrong?” He panicked slightly and went on alert. “Oh, crap. My turn, right?” He was still half-asleep when he pushed the bag down and withdrew his legs.
“No, no, stay where you are. You’re not due to wake up for two more hours.”
Daniel fell back onto his cot and pinched the bridge of his nose. “Then why are you waking me up? Is it about what I said? How about we forget I said anything? It’ll only take a month or two. Then you can spend every so often making fun of my feelings. And I promise . . .” He held up his right hand, but his eyes were still half-closed with sleep. “I promise not to be too offended. Okay? Nighty-night.” He shoved his feet back in the sleeping bag and turned his back to Jack, who pushed at him to continue.
“Daniel, we have to talk.”
Daniel sighed. “About?” Jack cleared his throat for over a minute. It got Daniel’s attention. He sighed again and pushed himself up on his elbows once again.
“After you died, I realized that I loved you.”
Daniel blinked blearily at him. “Okay,” he said. “What are you saying?”
“I love you too?” Jack said in a half-question.
Daniel woke up a bit more, completely confused. “What? That doesn’t . . . you aren’t . . . since when are . . .” He sat up straight. “What the fuck? Since when is Mister Straight As An Arrow bisexual?” Jack gave him a crooked grin. A grin. He was smirking that adorable grin and it was aggravating as hell.
“Since I’ve been in the Air Force for over thirty years, Daniel, and faking it is one skill I had to learn or else.”
Daniel pushed back a little and gestured at the foot of his bed. “Okay. Your turn to sit. Your knees will give you hell later if you don’t.”
Jack sat at the foot of the cot. “Good thing these things can take the extra weight.”
Daniel knew he didn’t mean to insert a double entendre but it’s where Daniel’s mind went anyway. Damn him. He decided to ignore it. It was just a squirrel to distract him. Instead, he went over the last few minutes.
“You’ve, uh, um, mastered that skill. I had no clue.”
“Right back at ya,” Jack said.
“What? No, no, I never prevaricated or pretended otherwise. I hadn’t a clue. Sometimes I can be like that about myself. Mostly a defense mechanism that—”
“Daniel,” Jack said wearily.
“What? Oh.” Daniel cleared his throat. “Well, anyway, as I said, I didn’t have a clue. Not until I was watching you clean up at the lake. I’ve done that a thousand times on other missions. Most of the time, I was either talking to you or thinking about something else entirely. But this time . . .” He swallowed and looked away. “I felt something.”
Jack’s brows went up. “There’s a big difference between sexual desire and love, Daniel.”
“Jack,” Daniel said wearily. “I’m gonna be forty in two weeks. I know the difference.”
“You’re gonna be forty?” Jack asked, distracted.
“Squirrel, Jack. Skip the age thing. I felt love, watching you. The shit that used to bug me no longer bugs me. I even think it’s cute, and no, I’m not ever gonna tell you what that is, so don’t ask.”
“I’m asking,” Jack said, clearly willing to be distracted. “What’s cute?”
“Nope, nada, zilch. Give it up, Jack. Not gonna say.”
“Fine, then I won’t tell you what I used to think of as annoying is now in the cute department.”
Daniel barked out a surprised laugh. “Oh, really? Well, since neither of us is gonna spill, what else is there to talk about?”
They were grinning at each other for almost a minute. Then things went serious and warm. And Daniel didn’t mind. Or at least, he was bound and determined not to look like a deer caught in the headlights. Neither of them moved.
Until Jack leaned a little closer. Maybe an inch.
Daniel leaned in slightly, as cautious as a person walking in a minefield.
Jack leaned in more.
Daniel had to match him.
Was this going to happen?
They were less than a foot apart and to back out now would be of the highest insult.
“O’Neill, we are back,” came Teal’c’s deep voice.
“Got it, T,” Jack said, staring into his eyes and refusing to move away.
“Do you wish to hear our report?” Teal’c asked, sounding only slightly further away.
“In the morning, big guy,” Jack said.
“As you wish.”
“Goodnight, Teal’c,” Jack said.
“Goodnight, sir,” came Sam’s voice.
“Goodnight, Carter,” Jack said, closing his eyes and murmuring under his breath, “For cryin’ out loud, is this the fucking Waltons?”
Daniel started to laugh, snorting softly through his nose. And that’s when Jack kissed him.
Heat, long-starved, catapulted throughout his body as he instantly responded by snaking an arm around Jack’s neck. When Jack didn’t show that he minded, Daniel began to pull him forward as he himself reclined. And then Jack stopped. Cursed under his breath. Drew backward. Daniel let him go. He knew why as well as Jack did. The unwritten law of teams on missions: save it till you get home.
“Damn,” Daniel said as he watched Jack go to his cot.
“Ditto,” Jack said.
“I’ve got an erection that would slice steel,” Daniel confessed.
He set Jack into a minute of laughter that he’d rarely seen from him. And it warmed his heart all over again. Because that was what he’d seen at the lake. Jack laughing. And laughing at his expense. It had surprised Daniel to find that it no longer bothered him. That he thought it was cute. The answer to why that was now the case was love. For cryin’ out loud.
“Mine could slice through aluminum,” Jack said. “I think.”
“Is that good or bad?” Daniel asked smiling.
“Okay, ‘nough talk. Sleep. Or we’ll drive ourselves mad.”
And it was. For them both.