"I can be your hero, baby
I can kiss away the pain
I will stand by you forever
You can take my breath away.
Am I in too deep?
Have I lost my mind?
I don't care
You're here, tonight"
Jack ran his fingers around the edges of the long white envelope for the fiftieth time, then looked forlornly around his office. His eyes fell upon the framed photograph on his desk. It was the two of them, he and Daniel, arms around each other's shoulders, smiling broadly, standing in front of one of the great pyramids. Jack remembered that day vividly. Ibrahim had taken it, the man they had met when Daniel had taken him to Egypt. It was the day after they'd made love for the first time. The day they had finally realised how much they meant to each other and decided to do something about it, and to hell with the regulations.
That had been two years ago and the sheer joy of living which had framed their faces in that photograph had continued for all that time. Until last week.
Daniel was gone. Not dead, exactly, but he may as well have died. It was what he wanted. That's what Daniel had said, and God help him, Jack had done what his lover asked. He stopped Jacob and Selmac from healing Daniel's body. The horrific image of the young man swathed in bandages and groaning in pain had haunted Jack's dreams every night since it happened. He had tried to convince himself... every night... as he awoke with a start and dried his tears, that Daniel was better off with Oma Desala and her people, that Selmac hadn't thought she would be able to completely cure him in any case. Better off. And it was what he wanted. What he wanted, damnit!
Well, this was what Jack wanted. Out. Out of the SGC. Away from the Stargate and everything Daniel cared about. He couldn't stand it anymore. Walking around the corridors of the facility alone, sitting for hours on end in Daniel's office, going off world... just the three of them... each feeling as if they'd lost a limb. It was wrong, terribly wrong, but not as wrong as it would be shortly, when General Hammond announced Daniel's replacement.
Daniel's replacement. What a joke. No-one on this world or any other could replace Daniel Jackson, either in SG1 or in Jack's life. Time to go.
Slapping his hands on the desk, Jack rose and strode off towards General Hammond's office.
"Something I can do for you?" the General smiled.
Jack dropped the envelope onto his desk.
Hammond sighed, "I can't let you do that, Colonel. Take some personal time. Think about it for a while. You're not in a fit emotional state to make a decision like this."
Jack smiled grimly. "Oh, I think I am, Sir. And when you read the letter you 'll agree I can't stay in the SGC or in the Air Force anymore."
Hammond rose and gently closed his office door, then picked up the internal phone.
"Hold all my calls. Yes, even if it's the President or one of the Joint Chiefs. I want no interruptions until I tell you, unless we come under Goa' uld attack in the next hour. Is that understood?" he replaced the receiver and sat down. "Now. Sit down, Colonel. D'you wanna tell me what this is really about? I know you miss Dr. Jackson, we all do, but it's not like you haven't lost a team-mate before. We've both been through war and we know how it is. There's something more goin' on."
"It's all in the letter, Sir." Jack replied, his face emotionless.
"Well, I'm asking you to tell me. As a friend. You know how I feel every time you go off-world, SG1 in particular. This is something that you all risk every day, you knew that when you signed on. What is it, Jack?"
Jack slumped back into the chair and sighed. "Daniel and I... we... I cared... We were lovers, General."
Hammond's jaw dropped open and Jack smiled.
"Yeah. It was kind of a surprise to me too."
"Lovers? As in... you mean you and Doctor Jackson... lovers?"
"As in we had a romantic and physical relationship. We were in love with each other, Sir. In just about as deep as a person can be with someone else. I can't go on without him, Sir. None of it means a damn anymore. I feel like I did the first time I went through the 'gate, after Charlie -You weren't here, the SGC was commanded by General West then. I was a basket-case. Didn' t want to live any longer. I wanted a suicide mission and they saddled me with SuperGeek," Jack chuckled softly. "The thing was, it was Daniel who made me see that life could be worth living. Now he's gone and it... Well, it just isn't."
The General ran his hands over his bald pate, then shook his head. "I can't believe it. I had no idea. I knew you two were close friends, but... why didn 't you tell me?"
Jack smiled, "You didn't ask. Don't ask, don't tell, Sir."
"Damnit Jack. This is the SGC and all bets are off. You could have endangered the team."
Jack stood up and leaned on the General's desk. "NEVER! Jesus Christ, George. Do you think I'd put any one of my kids in danger? You know me better than that. Daniel and I decided that if we thought it would fuck up the team, we'd both resign. We told Teal'c and Major Carter about it and they were fine."
"You told Major Carter?"
"Just after we got together, Sir."
"Two years?! Christ, Jack.You should have told me."
"And be kicked out of the SGC and the Air Force with a dishonourable discharge? Lose my pension? I wanted to spend my old age driving Daniel crazy. I wanted to spend summers at the cabin in Minnesota, catching fish and sipping cold beer with Daniel by my side, being eaten alive. I wanted to get through all this with him and me in one piece so I could retire when the time came. He was going to take an Earth bound position with the SGC then, and I'd be at home when he finished work, waiting for him. Just being together. He made me happy. You remember how it was -don't you, George?"
Hammond sighed. Yes. He remembered. He missed his wife terribly and probably wouldn't have taken the job at the SGC at all if she'd still been alive. He took great pleasure in his grand-daughters, but it wasn't the same as having someone to come home to and share your day with. George didn't pretend to understand how Jack and Daniel could have found that with each other. He was a tolerant man and knew that homosexual relationships existed within the SGC, but still had to work within the regulations, and came from a generation which didn't usually look upon such unions sympathetically. However, they hadn't flaunted it, it obviously hadn't affected the way they worked together or within the SGC, and God knew they both deserved some happiness after the tragedies they'd both suffered in their lives. Who was he to judge? Besides, it was hard telling someone he cared about, who had saved the entire planet more times than he wanted to remember, that he was fired for choosing to fall in love with another man.
"What am I supposed to do, Jack?"
"Accept my resignation, George, because I'm outta here. I can't do this without Daniel. If I stuck around and went back on active duty I'd be a danger to myself and the rest of SG1. I'm not prepared to do that. If you want some advice, I'd disband SG1 altogether. Teal'c could go back to Chulak and hook up with what Bra'tac is doin' out there and Carter, well, she'd maybe still want to go off-world, but I don't think she much likes being in the team without him either. We go out there and it's like something's missing. Something is missing. Me 'n' Carter, we're just Air Force grunts. Good at our jobs, but grunts all the same. Teal'c is a warrior. He knows exactly what his job is, but Daniel... He was our heart and soul, General. He was the one who reminded us why we did what we did in the first place. He made us see what really matters. Without him we're like a ship without a rudder. Sir."
"All right. Let me read the letter first. Go on home and we'll talk in the morning. I have to try to get my head around this. I hope you haven't put about your relationship with Dr. Jackson in the letter. I don't know how I'd have to handle it if you have."
Jack smiled, "Just read it, Sir."
Hammond nodded. "Dismissed."
Daniel turned to Oma Desala as they watched Jack leave the General's office.
"He's in pain, Oma."
"It is to be expected, Daniel."
"I don't want to hurt him. I love him."
"Love can be shown in many ways."
"Your journey is not yet over."
"I guess not."
"All roads lead to the Great Path eventually, Daniel."
"I know. And I know I can do more for my people this way, but... My existence doesn't mean anything without him, Oma. Can I? Can I go back?"
Jack tossed fitfully in his sleep, the image of Daniel on his bed in the infirmary haunting and tormenting him. The bandages covering his beautiful face, the soft moans of pain even when he was unconscious. Jack dreamed of taking Jonas and shoving him through the window of the lab, then his dream would switch to he and Daniel watching the accident unfold. As Daniel took out his gun, Jack wrestled it from him, pushed him under the console and fired at the glass. It shattered and Jack hurled himself into the laboratory, taking out the weapon and exposing himself to the radiation instead of his lover. The last thing he heard before he awoke was Daniel's voice shouting "NOOOOOOO!!!"
He sat up in bed, sweating, and reached over to the nightstand for the water.
"That would have been no better, would it?"
Daniel's soft voice floated in the air, much as his being did now, lighting up the small room. Jack knew he was still dreaming, so answering wouldn't hurt, would it?
"You didn't have to do that. You don't need to prove anything, Jack. You're my hero. Always have been."
Jack chuckled, "That's rich, coming from you. I'm your hero? You're the hero, Danny. You have balls of steel. Or at least you did. I'm guessing you don't have balls anymore. Truth is, I don't know if I'd have had the courage to do what you did. Not for someone else. You sacrificed yourself to save a planet, the Government of which was happy for you to take the fall. Was it worth it?"
"I resigned, you know."
"Still get around some then, huh?"
"I miss you."
"I need you, Daniel."
"I can't go on without you. As soon as I wake up from this, I'm gonna get my gun and end it. I've had it. My life doesn't mean a damned thing without you in it and since I have no idea where you are, and no idea when or if you'll be back, I'm taking the coward's way out."
"I'm out of options."
"No, you're not."
"Just knowing you're around isn't enough. I want to touch you. I want to hold you. I want all the things we had when you were still here. I can't watch hockey with a fluffy cloud of light. I can't make love to an energy being, for cryin' out loud. I want my flesh and blood Daniel back. When you left, you took everything I am away with you, you sonovabitch, and there's no way I can get it back. All I have left inside is a hollow space which is filling up with pain. I can't live that way anymore. I'm tired, Daniel. None of it means anything. I want out."
"We can get it back."
"You're full of it. Stop tormenting me and let me wake up, so I can do this thing."
"You are awake, Jack."
"Yeah, right. Dreams always say that."
Daniel floated across the room to where Jack was sitting on the bed. For the first time Jack actually saw Daniel's face, and he began to cry. Scalding, hot tears coursed down his grizzled cheeks and he put his face in his hands, sobbing.
"No more. No more, Daniel. Please. I can't stand it."
The next thing he felt was warmth, seeping into his tired, aching body. He opened his eyes and was surrounded by light and overwhelmed by a sense of love, trust, well-being, happiness, he would have been hard pressed to describe it. All at once, he felt completely at one with Daniel. Not in the same way as when they made love, but deeper, stronger. He felt everything that Daniel felt in an instant. The pain of loss, all the losses. His parents, Sha're, and Jack. The confusion of his new consciousness, the love he felt for all the important people in his life. Jack was enveloped by Daniel's love, cradled inside him, and Jack never wanted it to end.
Inevitably it did, though and Jack felt the pain of its loss as keenly as he 'd felt Daniel's loss the first time... and the time after that... and the time after that. He fell forwards, collapsing onto the floor.
When he awoke, he was confused and sore. Falling out of bed during one of these dreams was a new development. He knelt up and shook his head, trying to make sense of the images which were still floating around. He felt a sense of calm, and an inner peace, and somehow felt closer to Daniel than he had ever done.
He looked up and there was Daniel, sitting in the corner, smiling.
"Aw God. This is getting ridiculous. Where's my fucking gun? I have to end this now. Daniel, get the fuck out of my dream. Let me wake up. I told you I can't stand this anymore. Let me go, Danny."
"I told you. You're not asleep and you're not dreaming."
Daniel stood up and walked over to him, hands of flesh and blood gently picking Jack up off the floor. Daniel's arms wound around him and held him close.
"You're not dreaming," Daniel whispered, hot breath playing over the outer edge of Jack's ear. "I'm back. Oma told me I could do it, but only once. She realised I couldn't leave you even before I did, I think. I'm here. I really am."
Jack stood in stunned silence, "But it's not... how did you... is it really you? Back for good? You're not gonna disappear on me again, are you?"
"Wild horses, Jack. Kiss me, see how real I am."
Jack cradled his lover's face and brought his lips down to close over Daniel 's. He moaned as he realised that they were real and slid his tongue inside as Daniel's lips parted. They drank each other in for what seemed like minutes, until Jack finally broke away to take a breath.
Daniel shrugged, "I don't know. I don't care. I know it's possible for Oma's race to become corporeal, remember Shifu and Orlin?"
Jack nodded, "Well, yeah, but they had to go back, didn't they?"
"Shifu did. He only came to teach me a lesson. Orlin did because he wanted to and because he needed to redeem himself. Oma said that for me, this was a one shot deal. I'm back for good, Jack. I can't become one of them again. Next time I die, it's for real," he smiled.
Jack chuckled, "Next time. Next time, Doctor Jackson, you'll be ninety years old and living in a retirement home for ancient archaeologists in Florida. And I'll be right there at the Pearly Gates waiting for you. But that's a long time away. Right now, I need you, Danny."
Daniel shed his clothes and joined a now naked Jack in the bed that they had shared for almost two years. Jack wrapped himself around the younger man, holding him as tight as he could. They kissed and caressed, each renewing old acquaintances with the contours of the other's body. Their hips began to rock in rhythm, cocks hard and weeping pre-cum, banging and sliding against each other. It didn't take long for either of them, Daniel first, burying his face into Jack's neck and groaning his name, Jack mere seconds later, crying out his release.
Jack held him tenderly, never wanting to let him go, stroking his hair as they both sobbed softly.
"I missed you, Jack," Daniel sniffed.
"Me too, Daniel. Me too. Don't ever fuckin' do it again."