Because then it would be raqs' birthday and I wouldn't be tardy. Of course, in my defense, I was road-tripping down the left coast and completely without internetz, which, we all know, is like a time void or something. It's totally a plausible defense.
So, anyway, for raqs, on the occasion of her birthday +24 hours.
Title: Desert Made of Glass
Setting: S10, pre-Line in the Sand
Pairing: Daniel/Jack, mostly
Word count: 2600
Beta help: Thanks to betas rydra_wong and synecdochic, who are allowed to still make adjustments since I posted without the official direction (but! raqs' birthday!)
A/N: For the extraordinary raqs, a present.
Daniel woke up on Jack's side of the bed, with the sense of dislocation that a few weeks hadn't quite reassured away. It wasn't Jack's bed, wasn't his bedroom with the light shades open, the window catching full morning light on the bed. Jack would be angry he'd moved. Jack was gone for a reason. Daniel wasn't allowed here in the mornings, only the nights, in the dark.
Jack was gone. Jack had left. Or Jack had changed.
All of which were too heavy. It was too early, despite the warmth of the sunlight on his hair, to contemplate such disaster, or he was too jet-lagged. Daniel shoved his face further into his pillow, and wrapped his arms around it as well, partly for comfort, partly to block out the light, partly to retain the sense of safety.
He shoved his doubts, sour like morning breath, down too.
We are close, but we haven't quite found him.
Daniel took a calculated risk and moved from mouth to neck, fitting his lips under the tendon, above the clavicle, where Jack's pulse visibly raced. He kissed Jack's heartbeat.
His mouth was prepared to move downward, to play with teeth over skin over tendon, over bone, to the open space in Jack's shirt. Suddenly, though, he knew; he knew Jack wouldn't be ready for that, so he paused, breath rolling over wet skin. Jack's hands moved up to carefully cup his jaw, bring his face up to eye level. Daniel could feel Jack’s palms nervously hovering over his skin, with barely restrained strength, like he would break. Daniel braced his hands against the wall, one near blue jeans and one near brown hair. Protecting, though he didn’t know against what. So he waited.
Eye to eye, which felt right, and then off. Like actors who realized they were off-script. And then Jack shifted his hands, elbows between them, forearms braced on Daniel's shoulders. He shook Daniel a little and said, with the finality of a plea, and a rejection, "Not for pity, Daniel, not some experiment-thing."
The words were familiar, like a treasured artifact given place of pride. And Daniel knew his response, but instead he said, "Jack, you've said that before."
"What?" Jack replied, close distance making his eyes dart left and right to look quickly into Daniel's eyes, one after the other and back. His scent was rich in Daniel's memory, taste ingrained in his mouth, pressure on his jaw speaking of restrained need or panic. Not worried that Daniel would leave anymore, but that he would be taken away.
And suddenly the déjà vu was gone, like a name you couldn't remember. Daniel was looking into focusing pupils, swollen mouth, feeling long fingers trailing up his cheekbones. "Yes, Jack," he said, hands rising to pull away the arms keeping a respectable distance between them, shoulder ducking under the defenses. "Yes," he said, losing the last part of the word into Jack's mouth.
It echoed through Daniel's mind with the ferocity of an army preparing for battle.
That's it, we've found him.
"Run," Daniel said, all seriousness in the warm safety of Jack's living room.
"What?" Daniel didn't remember seeing Jack's lips move to frame the words, but the red orange light was flooding over his shoulders, his mouth was in shadow. Daniel turned him, like he was on a spit, to better see Jack’s face in all its colorful glory; Jack let him. The light softened the echo of sound, the dry creak of voices sore from shouting at nightmares.
Red orange light over sickly purple turned sections of Jack's skin a deep black. "Never mind," Daniel said, "I don't know why I said that." He ran his fingertips around the edges of a goose-egg on Jack's forehead, then mirrored the movement around the old bruise on his shoulder, healing in lurid greens and blacks.
"Paranoia is really my gig, you know," Jack said, drawing Daniel's attention up from the extra heat emanating from discolored skin. “You really need to have the grey hair to fully pull it off.” Daniel had a flash of wild hair, not cut for decades, centuries, and a full beard. It overlay Jack like a ghost, but only for a brief moment.
"It's coming to a head," Daniel said, "Soon." He traced the lines of nose, jaw and collarbone with his eyes. Pulled lightly at wiry chest hair, let the tip of his thumb hook lightly in Jack's bellybutton. Tried to hide the white medical tape under his hand by stretching his fingers wide; the tape covered too great an area. Daniel wished for a moment that he had bigger hands.
"Take the moment now, then.” Jack said softly, and then with the echo of familiarity, “Not broken.”
"Close," Daniel replied, eyes on where the tape had pulled away from skin, leaving a sticky line that caught at the grey lint from Jack's shirt and a few wayward grey hairs.
"Not even," Jack protested lightly, face still serious, "what are you so worried about?"
Daniel didn't answer, except to shift his hand from bellybutton to hipbone, half on skin and half over jeans, and shove gently. Jack gave easily and recovered, a belt loop shifting slightly and catching Daniel's ring finger. He rubbed at the place where the delineation of Jack's ribs disappeared under tape with his other hand.
Jack had taken a deep breath to speak again when Daniel finally said, "Your rib might take exception to that dismissal," and heard him snap his jaw shut with a click. It was the sound of Jack thinking. Daniel worried at a loose thread in the underside of the belt loop with his free fingers. A lifeline, a way to keep them both there, in the moment. To keep them connected to each other, and everyone else out.
"You can be nice," he said after a pause. It caused Daniel to raise one eyebrow in challenge. "I can be still," he continued.
"You can't be still," Daniel said, the unspoken 'Jaaaack,' a missing coda to anchor the banter, to signal that he'd let it go.
"It'll be worth it, Daniel," Jack said, eyes already flinching from the expected reaction to his near-mushiness. But Daniel’d loved it, he’d just never said so.
Three days, Daniel thought, enough for bruises to look older and newer. "We came as fast as we could, Jack," He repeated, his hands still on the tape, still trapped in the belt loop.
"It was fast enough," Jack said, hands twitching at his sides.
"No, it wasn't," Daniel said, squinting behind his glasses. He resolutely did not look at the grocery list of reasons on Jack’s body why it most certainly was not fast enough; did not look at the old scars, little white reminders of how it was never fast enough. Not in this job.
"Not yet, Daniel," Jack said, hands coming up inside Daniel's to carefully grasp the arms of Daniel's glasses and tip them forward off his nose. "We're not there yet." Daniel watched Jack fold his glasses and felt him dip his legs to turn to his good side without twisting his back and set them down on the side table.
He waited until Jack had turned back, straightened back into full height, brought his good arm up to cup Daniel's face and kissed him, once, carefully, chastely; a brush of chapped lips and healing scabs. The heat of it was fading from his mouth when Daniel said, smile pulling at him from both cheeks, "Knew you couldn't stay still."
“There just isn’t time anymore,” Jack said.
I require you to jump ahead. A time like this, before he left, before he died.
"You're not dead," Daniel said with finality. The blue tinge of Thor's ship echoing the words between stale light particles.
"Yeah, thanks for that, stasis not being all they promised in the brochures." Jack sounded tired, bizarrely, considering how long he'd slept. “There’s no need to advertise it, though, seriously.”
"She wants something from us, Jack."
"Who does?" He was curious, happy, not as tired. The light was warmer, Jack bounced on his toes.
In the distance, Daniel heard sounds from the women's tent on Abydos; the sound of many women talking at once, when no men were present. Chatter carried on the wind, over the sands. The sound was wrong, it echoed in a large room.
"You can ask me anything, Daniel," Jack said, sand burn on his face stopping at the line on his forehead his cover had protected. The look was out of place in Daniel’s concrete office.
"Do you remember Sha're? Remember how we gave it up for lost and suddenly there was this revolution and it was all her?" Daniel's voice cracked on the last word and he looked down at the cavernous box as thought it held the echo of everything he wasn't saying: Before she was only Victim and Loss. Visible echoes.
Jack said, "I love a self-made entrepreneur; though I think she was probably way smarter than me too, which gets old."
"Entrepreneur of what? What did she get for all that, Jack?" Anger, naturally. He hated analyzing himself. Sometimes you just had to go with it and there was no ease in naming how much of an ass you were being. Sometimes the only solution was to name how much of an ass other people were being, intruding into memories.
"You, Daniel." It was against all fair laws that Daniel's voice felt even more likely to break and shatter when Jack spoke. He picked up a piece of pottery from the box to have something grounding, solid, less fragile, less dangerous, in hand. "Pretty good bargain."
Daniel looked down at the box, feeling the refutation too strongly to speak it. A burst of airconditioning lifted the edges of the box and raised with it the smell of baked stones, glaze, and a desert of shattered glass pieces, melting.
“I’m not the one you want to fight, you know,” Jack said, the ease completely jarring.
“My grandfather once told me that voices in your head always say that,” Daniel said, defeated.
Speak of Antarctica, talk of remarkable things.
"What did it feel like? In the chair?" Their noses were mere hair's breadth apart; hands on each other had helped synch up their breathing, and so they snuffed gentle puffs of air into each other's faces. Daniel resisted closing his eyes every time hot breath threatened to leave condensation on his eyelashes. At first it had been because he didn't want to miss anything, but he was beginning to suspect Jack was playing with him and it was becoming a point of pride not to blink.
At the question, Jack broke off his growingly comical loud breathing and drew back an inch so as to actually focus on Daniel's face. "I still knew you were there."
Daniel looked sideways and down, rephrasing the question while idly pondering how many years of training it took to get you to unconsciously drape your leg, post-coitally even, in a way most likely to give you leverage should you need to break into hand to hand combat. Jack had long legs, and Daniel could run his hand over them if he wanted to.
He pulled his palm in a line from hip to knee, feeling the hair slide coarsely along his lifeline, heart line, head line; he held his fingertips away from contact.
"What was it like, talking to the system? What did it sound like? What did you say?" He dropped his fingers to skin and carded backwards back up to Jack's hip and over, to backside.
What did it take to initialize the system?
"Jack," Daniel felt the panic well up and fall away, a quiet resignation seeping up in its place. "Did you initialize the system to respond to any of us?"
"You want to talk to her yourself? It felt like flying to me, Daniel, I didn't hear it in vowels and accents and," Jack fluttered his fingers on Daniel's chest in a minimized hand gesture, "dipthongs."
"Dipthongs?" Jack looked smug and wonderful, but Daniel saw years of long distance and loss. "It's not for me, Jack."
"Sure it is; anyone can do it. Of course, it's a weapon, so they'll probably use soldiers, not civilians." Daniel didn't remember it this way, didn't remember the question, didn't remember the asking, the answer; not like this, not those words, not that meaning. Different vowels, consonants and dipthongs. Same protective instinct.
"Okay," he said, catching half a breath in his throat, "So we'll be fine."
"Yeah, sure," Jack said, eyes steady, "No problems. Just watch."
The silence echoed so loudly Daniel couldn't hear Jack breathing any more.
We feared this, but will not let it stop us.
Daniel tipped his head forward in the deafening silence to rest his forehead against Jack's chin. "Good enough," he said.
"She go?" Jack said, "Think they bought it? I got a little carried away with the optimism at the end."
"Yeah, she’s gone," Daniel felt weary, heavy, “I think.” Muscles thick with molasses and current. "Thank you for protecting him," Daniel said. Jack smiled in a doting way and pulled in a deep, settling breath. Daniel’s grip tightened over Jack's knee and his heel pressed into Jack’s calf; ready to fight, ready to go down clinging. He pulled his head back to stare fiercely into Jack's eyes; they crinkled along the edges.
"What do you suppose they wanted?" Daniel worried that he was about to crack, from the interruptions, the rampant tug-of-war on his subconscious. His voice sounded like he was going to laugh, that was a bad sign.
"I don't know. I don't think she needs much of a reason." Jack's face tilted a little into the pillow; studying him. Daniel shut his eyes tightly. "I'll let you rest then, Dr. Jackson."
"Don't go," Daniel said, opening his eyes too quickly.
Jack smiled with the side of his mouth that was mostly buried in the pillow. He sounded so much like him. "Her influence is fading,” Jack said, weary “We won, time for us to sleep. She'll be back to wake you up soon, and we’ll have a full day of deception ahead of us."
"No." Daniel watched Jack's eyes like they were strange to him, felt the adrenaline beat his heart loudly. "Give me this; he'll leave me soon anyway." Time flexed and twisted, dreamlike. Daniel felt too aware of himself, laid open.
"But not die," Jack's smile widened to his whole mouth, his whole face; it was such a good replica, but Daniel had always had a good memory. "I'm not quite dead."
"Not quite, good lying, for whatever it’s worth," Daniel said, feeling the uncomfortable sleeping platform under him, recycled air drifting over his face; he was waking. "But you are quite gone. Or I am."
A glint in Jack's eye should have warned Daniel that he was up to something, but the light kiss to the nose was a surprise and he found himself smiling. Jack looked absolutely delighted. "That's a good look on you," he said, "You look in love."
"Merlin," Daniel said, sliding his arm up and around, pulling an unnaturally pliant Jack into an embrace on his chest and holding tightly, "Jack would never say that."
"Her influence is fading, I can’t tell what he would say," Jack said in a voice skin damped and echoing, "I’ll leave you for the moment; dream quickly."
Daniel closed his eyes and the world took on the red-tinged quality of the back of his eyelids. He tried fiercely to relive the feel of tentative steps and shaking fingers, of questions that had to be asked against skin and through hair, but the feelings slipped and slid and remained distant as ghosts.
The man in his arms breathed with the regularity of sleep, and that was right, that was how the memory went. Daniel drifted light fingers over his face, over the wrinkles and lines and spots of age. Daniel had witnessed those, had caused a few of them; it was grounding to have so much detail under his hands. While he could believe in the safety of it, Daniel let go and followed the old man into sleep.