by Dale Edmonds

They go swimming every day. Loren won't go into the water but after a few days, he rolls up his pants and wades into the shallows, picking up shells that Carter helps him categorize, tracing the spirals and slopes of alien shells and talking enthusiastically about mathematics and biology. She's dumbing it down for the kid, Jack knows, and Loren listens patiently and asks some pretty sharp questions, but mostly he just looks for prettier shells and strings the ones that glitter together for a necklace.

Carter wears it and they build sandcastles in the afternoons, and Jack tries not to look at the shimmer of shells round her neck, her tanned legs or the wet curves of her swimsuit. He doesn't look at Teal'c, who swims naked because he's Teal'c and sees no point in a couple of inches of flimsy nylon, or Daniel who wears the same military issues speedoes and proves Teal'c's point. Jack concentrates on building really good sandcastles. They build villages, towns and then cities. Carter makes bridges that narrow to a finger's width and don't crumble, high enough for Loren to crawl through, laughing like a kid should on a summer day.

They build Abydos one day and leave it for the tide to wash away overnight.

There's food, not just the MREs and pizzas that the General sends through, but real food assembled by machines in a warren of service rooms under the palace. Loren shows them how to work it, and they eat his world's food for a week and then Carter programs lasagna for everyone. Loren throws that up, but he loves ice-cream, and Jack thinks the fried tentacly thing of Loren's is pretty good. There's coffee and Daniel makes hot chocolate when it rains once in a while. No-one goes hungry.

They go for walks on the miles of sun-kissed sand, the most private beach in the galaxy. Teal'c and Jack spar. They have long, hot baths and they get a little drunk on machine-made champagne one night, and wake up with horrible hangovers that Frasier lectures them about on the vidlink. No more alcohol, but it's five star the rest of the way. Plenty of alien technology and writing to keep Carter and Daniel happy. Teal'c goes back to the base with their blood samples and returns with laptops full of paperwork, and base gossip, and Jack can't exactly complain.

They've been working hard. Everyone else on the base is envious. Trust SG1 to get themselves quarantined on a pleasure planet for a month. Lucky, lucky them.

Pleasure planet.

That should mean endless hockey games and cold beer on tap, not an abandoned Gou'uld brothel. Jack would like to point this out to - to someone, someone he could talk to about this stuff, except really there's no-one with the security clearance but SG1 and General Hammond. Frasier maybe, but he's pretty sure she'd arch an eyebrow and give him the Health Science lecture from 5th grade again.

He needs a wife or a best friend. He had them, and the Stargate took them one way or another, and now - he looks around the room. Daniel's frowning over a text reader, Teal'c is patiently going through starmaps with Loren as they figure out where to return him, Carter - Carter's staring right back at him. That puzzled look on her face like Jack's something fascinating in a petri dish. He smirks at her and she quirks her eyebrow exactly like Janet, and god, he's suspicious about that, but don't ask, don't tell.

Don't tell. That'd require someone to talk to. Teal'c's come close but he knows he wants someone who isn't going to be understanding and kind. He wants someone to recoil in horror, to look at him in confusion. Someone to give him the same look his mirror does.

His mirror. Little rust speckles at the bottom, the blue enamel sink, the window that shows a quarter slice of his neighbour's garden - god, he's homesick. He looks at his hands on his laptop, halfway through tapping out another overdue mission report, and thinks about his house on Earth. His bed with soft cotton sheets and the blankets folded over the bottom to keep his feet warm. They don't have beds here, just these giant squishy globes that feel like breasts and in one particularly lurid room, look like them complete with nipples the size of beer bottles. There are jets of air that Daniel swears can be balanced on, but they're all still sleeping on their bedrolls next to the stargate. It's a big building, an empty palace full of dusty machines and forgotten words. The air smells off, and Jack knows it's just his imagination, but there's no looking at a room full of whirling dildoes and not getting strange ideas.

He wants to go home to his quiet house which pretty much no-one visits. Go home, have a cold shower and be alone.

Alone where Sam and Teal'c don't have loud and detailed discussions about Tauri and Jaffa sex practices. Where Daniel doesn't translate pornography over dinner. The first time he started reading passages from The Light of Her Womb, Jack had swallowed his lasagna the wrong way and then after he'd finished choking, snapped "Daniel! There's a kid present!"

Hadn't really helped when Daniel explained that Loren had helped him translate the words. Kid had a knack for machines and languages. "My third mother, she wrote, no, drew is the word? Drew the pictures for such things. My father wrote the immersion software. I helped sometimes with the words. My father's husband taught me to speak English, Aramaic and -" the kid rattled off a string of sounds that had Daniel nodding and then replying with some stumbling and fairly brazen hand gestures, so Loren ended up nodding.

Everyone nodded happily and then Daniel resumed reading about the seven different oils, and Jack decided to go for a nice long walk instead of dessert.

So he's on the longest vacation he's had since the last time Daniel died, and he's with the people he's closest to in the world, hanging out with a pretty cool kid, a smart kid who he gets to teach baseball on lazy afternoons, and he's got all the luxury that a System Lord might want.

Everything's great. Everything's fine.

Jack doesn't sleep well, and when Daniel wakes up, not screaming but with a harsh panting that seems to echo, Jack turns over, still half-asleep and opens his arms, offers a shoulder for Daniel to push his tear-wet face against. Daniel grips like he's forgotten how strong he is now, a grown man with military muscle. He grips and Jack winces and pats Daniel's back, slows down to steady strokes after a while. Daniel wears a t-shirt to bed, thin boxers. He goes back to sleep, with no talking, not even looking at Jack's face as he cries quietly from whatever nightmare it was this time. Slips a leg between Jack's during the night, turns in his sleep so that they're face to face, chest to chest.

In his sleep, Daniel looks younger. He looks the way he did when they first met, and his mouth parts a little, opening as though he was going to say something, maybe kiss someone.

Jack sleeps in and wakes up alone. Nobody mentions anything, and there're plenty of empty rooms, even ones without creepy murals and sex toys, to find some privacy. It's like every long mission, and a guy goes a little crazy without some relief, no big fucking deal.

In the water, in the evenings when it's warmed up, Jack swims out so their voices don't reach them, so he can turn his back and imagine he's alone in this alien world. Alone with no village, no people reaching for him.

He drifts and he lets himself remember. Keeps his hands floating on the surface of the water, never lets himself go completely, but it's enough to keep him sane. Or maybe drive him insane, but he'd stopped thinking that way after the first time.

Daniel has apologized. Calm, steady gaze and he'd said all the right things - stress, memory loss, bisexual, inappropriate - lied with grace, and Jack had lied right back. Up against the walls in the mines, pushing that ragged vest off Daniel, their tongues sliding, thrusting, teeth and there'd been steam all around them, the salt of sweat and the taste of Daniel, remembered after so long. God, he'd been hungry for him, desperate. Would've fucked him there in a dank, dirty corridor if Teal'c hadn't come looking for them.

Teal'c has said nothing, and Jack isn't sure if he should be grateful for that or angry. Angry at who?

They'd repeated ten hours for weeks. No need to sleep because they blipped right back to fresh as a daisy over Fruit Loops. He'd asked Fraiser about that, if lack of sleep had maybe caused them to go a little crazy. "Like what?" she'd asked and he'd stammered out about kissing Carter and she'd done that eyebrow-thing and told him as she snapped another pair of latex gloves on, that in her opinion, he had probably been bored.

Bored. Boredom maybe explained the first kiss, because Carter had been first. Good too, and if she was on SG2 or anyone else but his Carter, he wouldn't be the guy who dressed an infected cut on her ass for a week in a rainforest, then turned his back automatically when she got changed in their locker room.

But she is, and maybe she always would be, alternate dimensions aside. Those guys never had another Daniel.

Bored, bored, bored, and Latin was a dry dusty language that he should've known better than to complain to Daniel about. Who knew Dr Jackson kept a stash of dirty books in his desk drawer? Catullus in five different translations and Daniel reading them over his shoulder, hot breath against the back of his neck, arm stretched so that every time Jack turned a page he leaned back a little and Daniel's arm shivered against him. Daniel who thought he might as well be flirting with a rock because Jack only did women, married-Jack, Jack-the-ladies'-man. Daniel who flirted with everyone and no-one minded because half the time they didn't realize that when Daniel looked up through his lashes, when Daniel let a smile curve his mouth, he was thinking about sex.

Flirting across a hundred cultures had taught them all to be cautious, but Daniel spoke a dozen languages fluently, had made love like they all had with people from other worlds, people they saw for one night and forgot about the next mission. Daniel remembered what they'd said in bed, how to whisper endearments in other tongues, and everyone knew. Everyone knew, and no-one said anything, and Jack was always safe for Daniel to flirt with.

Catullus and boredom he could blame for the first kiss. Worth it, he thought then, for the look of shock on Daniel's face.

Not worth it when Daniel licked his mouth and said thoughtfully, "I'm not going to remember this, am I? When you loop again?"

Sex on the desk, sex in cupboards, sex on the floor, sex on the campbed that broke, sex in the showers. Daniel caught on quickly in every loop and Jack learnt how to whisper filth, the kind of filth he'd spat on as a jarhead, slurs that he'd have punched a man for once, the kind of filth that sounded like poetry in Latin, like love murmured against Daniel's neck, against the arch of pale skin that made Daniel groan when Jack bit there and left a mark that vanished in three hours.

Sex over and over, and Daniel told him stories afterwards, confessed secrets and lies. Daniel's mouth ghosting kisses on him, learning every time the sound that Jack made, and every time it was new and the same, and Jack thought he'd go crazy if he had to loop one more time, if he had to wait for Daniel to reach hesitantly for him one more time.

The loop broke, and he took a week off and had a lot of cold showers. Teal'c came by with beer and watched ice hockey in silence with him. He walked Teal'c out, waited for something to be said. Didn't expect the bear hug, but appreciated it. Nothing said, nothing judged, and - life went on.

Daniel got kidnapped by sentient water then an Unas, then an old girlfriend. Jack thought he was going to die, didn't and life went on.

On and on, and if it felt some days like he was looping, Jack had made his peace drifting out to space. Made his peace and Teal'c had said nothing except that Daniel Jackson was a good man.

A good man, and Jack gives up on the report he's typing because it had been a boring-as-fuck world with nothing but some crumbling huts and drizzling rain. Daniel had kicked around the ruins for a while, the rain dripping from his glasses, and Jack'd pushed them up for him and Daniel had smiled a little, and maybe he could've just slid his hand into Daniel's, leaned over and kissed him. They'd been alone, on another world in a steady grey rain, and Daniel would've kissed him back. The heat of Daniel's mouth against the cold damp, and Jack had stepped back instead, walked off to check the perimeter instead.

He watches Daniel read for a while, ignoring Carter's sneaky little glances the way he's ignoring her attempts to have a talk with him, because he's a grown man, and there's only another week to go.

One week, and he'll be home. No-one talking about sex, just weapons and naqueda, missions and memos. He snaps his laptop shut and puts it down on the floor. "Going for a walk," he says and they nod, absorbed in their own work.

He walks, and he ends up at the beach again, watching the horizon. Storm brewing which will make a nice break to all the cheerful sunshine, he thinks. Good cleansing storm.

He's lost in his own thoughts when he hears footprints and whirls around with his knife drawn because they're almost certainly alone on this world.

It's Daniel, and he thinks he'd have rather talked to Carter or even the General when Daniel stands there, just looking at him. Serene as though he had the secrets of the universe figured out, or Jack O'Neill at least.

He keeps his knife out a fraction too long and Daniel just waits.

"What?" he snaps.

"We should have sex again," Daniel says. Calmly, and the little furrow between his eyes, and set of his shoulders - he's saying something that's blindingly obvious, saying it until he gets heard. Jack's seen Daniel do this on other worlds, to the General and the President, and it usually works.

He runs through all his replies, all the reasons he's carefully assembled and listed out in his head. He's thought about the future.

Daniel's died, and he'll die. He'll die, or Jack will die, and someone else will have to hold Daniel as he grieves. When Daniel dies, Jack wonders where he'll go. Who'll hold him. He thinks about Daniel dying and his heart stops, cold and heavy in his chest. There are words in between them, and some things cannot be breached, some bridges cannot be built. He will lose Daniel because he has lost him before, and Jack's eyes prickle, his throat tightens and he wishes this was over already. Over and mourned and lost.

Daniel looks at him calmly, and Jack steps forward and kisses him silently. They kiss, and Daniel's mouth opens willingly, remembered heat and tongue. He raises his hands to the back of Daniel's head, his eyes closed and when Daniel's hands circle his back, run in returned strokes down Jack's back, he forgets to hold back.

They make love on the grassy dunes, clothed and then naked, and they swim afterwards. The sun begins to slide into the water, and the storm clouds are gone. Daniel cups water in his hand and washes Jack's back, presses his wet hands against Jack's face and kisses him intently. Jack kneels in the surf and feels old and worn out as Daniel swims out with confident sure strokes.

Phosphorus glitters around Daniel where he breaks the water, and Jack wades out and the light scatters around him. They make love again, and his Latin comes back to him as Daniel's back arches, as he bends to Jack's touch, to Jack's mouth.

"You talk in your sleep," Daniel says later as they dress by the light of a flarestick shoved in the sand. Jack looks at him sharply, and Daniel shrugs, lacing his boots. "Ask Sam or Teal'c."


"Not really. Usually it's just words. Random words. Latin sometimes." The flarestick gives off a washed out light, colour drained away to monochrome and Daniel is all greys, his glasses glinting. Jack wonders if this is a run-up to one of those "we'll-still-be-friends speeches", whether he'll shrug and slap Daniel on the back and give him his "men-on-missions, normal-male-bonding" speech, the one he's given in return before with a friendly grin and friendly jerking off, because they were all buddies, helping each other out. Maybe Daniel means the corridor in the mines, maybe Daniel drew the short straw when they noticed Jack was a little bored, a little low on the holiday spirit.

He zips up his jacket and braces himself. Cheerful grin, casual stance, and a shrug of his shoulders. "Yeah, well. Long as I don't give away military secrets."

Daniel knots his laces and stands up, suddenly right in Jack's face, right up against him, and his hands are on Jack's waist, pinning him with the slightest pressure. "Nothing military," Daniel says. He must be whispering because his mouth is right against Jack's, breath shivering over his lips, and Jack can't quite hear him. "Secrets, maybe."

Then Daniel's eyes close and his hands loosen a little, enough that Jack could step back. Step away and walk back to the palace. Daniel, he knows, will wait a while, then follow him back. Daniel will say nothing more about this night. His secrets are his own, and Daniel waits, not because he believes Jack will chose him, but because he will walk back quietly and alone, will say nothing when Jack shifts his bedroll across the room and does not meet Daniel's gaze for a long time.

On the ledge, the traffic nine stories lower had sounded like the waves here, a distant roar. Daniel had closed his eyes and looked away, his face bleak. His knuckles had been white on the railing. It had been cold, bitterly cold and Daniel had shivered and clung to him, eyes open and hurt, and there had been no comfort there. Nothing Jack could offer that would not hurt more.

His mouth is on Daniel's and this warmth is all he has, the press of his palms against Daniel's face, and he says "Danny, Danny," and Daniel nods and kisses him carefully, touches his face and says "I know," as if Jack has said something with meaning, something real.


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