the spy who loves me
Summary: Complete and utter AU driven by the thought that Daniel would make a really good spy. And Jack, of course. No Stargate, no SGC, no recognisable characters other than Jack and Daniel. Loads of thanks to Joy, Catspaw and Danvers for the betas, nitpicks and ideas, and to RW for technical assistance and stopping me naming someone after a piece of furniture.
"We think we've found you the perfect partner, Jack."
Agent Jack O'Neill looked askance at his boss, Abraham Fleming and then shook his head in disbelief. No one had ever turned out to be Jack's 'perfect partner'.
"So, Abe, what mug do you have lined up this time?"
"Look." Abe spread out some photographs of a young man. He was slim, tall, with long blond hair, and when Jack picked up the next photo on the pile, his heart damn near stopped. He had the bluest eyes he'd ever seen in his life. His dick got a jump start as he saw him. Hell, this kid wouldn't be his partner, he'd make sure of that. But he'd get him in his bed given half a chance.
"Don't look so hungry, Jack," Abe laughed.
Jack snapped his head up crossly, then he grinned. "That obvious, eh?"
"You are so readable, at least to those of us that know you. He's a bright kid. Not a kid, really. Just got his PhD."
"How old is he?"
"Just turned twenty-one. And before you start thinking of seducing some innocent virgin, he's living with his boyfriend of five years."
"Shit. He's no good then, Abe. You know the rules. No long-term loves left at home. Not a good idea."
"I wouldn't worry about it. His other half is going home in a few days. All you have to do is persuade our young man to stay and not go with him. Assuming that's his plan, of course."
"Egypt. This guy was born there. He had American parents, but he carries a dual passport. Could be a handy man to have around, Jack. Speaks getting on for twenty languages, most of them Middle-Eastern. Admittedly, some of them are ancient languages, but that gives him a cover to work out there anyway. His parents were archaeologists. Seems like the young doctor wants to follow in their footsteps but he's started by doing linguistics. He's an off-the-scale genius."
"He's a scientist Abe! You know what I think about them."
"Currently, he's a linguist. Look, he's smart, and despite the geek look, he's streetsmart. Had to be. His parents were killed in an accident when he was eight. He saw it happening, Jack. He watched them get crushed to death." Fleming's voice quietened, gentling as he spoke of the tragedy.
"Poor kid." Jack's voice trailed off and he was unconsciously running his finger down the side of the man's cheek, as if touching the photo would offer some comfort. Abe smiled to himself as he saw this and carried on.
"His only living relative rejected him, so he was fostered out. Some of his foster parents were great, others left a lot to be desired. When the social services came to call on him when he was ten, they found that he wasn't there. Turned out he'd gone into town a few days before to visit a museum and hadn't come back. The fosterers didn't notice. Guess that was why he hadn't bothered returning. It took them over a week to find him. He never really said how he'd survived, but he seemed okay. They did medical checks and he'd not been touched or anything. Ten years old, Jack. Ten days in New York on his own. No money, no clothes other than what he was standing up in, no food or shelter. But there was nothing wrong when they found him. He was a little hungry, as if he hadn't eaten in a few hours or so, he wasn't even particularly dirty. Said he'd run errands and used a self-serve laundry. Wouldn't say where he'd slept or anything."
"Resourceful." Jack's comment was still not in his normal brash tone.
"Very. He'd be a valuable addition to our little group."
"Left of Democrat. Won't take any crap, Jack. Won't allow politics to get in his way of doing the right thing."
Jack groaned. "A do-gooder."
"No, a man of ethics, Jack. One that follows his heart. Everyone we've talked to about him has spoken highly, Jack. Even the sports jocks, the ones that call him a geek and a queer four-eyed dweeb. They say that, then they say 'he's okay. Good guy. You always know where you stand with him.' Of course, the sort that call him those sort of things are held in his utter contempt. He doesn't care what people think of him."
"Do they beat him up?"
"Tried it once, when he was sixteen and first started at college, apparently."
"He hospitalised the guy. Turns out that his last foster parents, the really good ones he got at the end of his childhood, insisted that he take self-defence classes. He has a couple of black belts, Jack. He may look like a dweeb, may act like one at times, but he's not to be messed with."
"Does he know we're interested in him?"
"No, not yet. We're waiting to see how his relationship plays out. They have a few days to sort themselves out before we need to make a move. Other organisations may pick up on him, Jack. Other, not so tolerant organisations, if you get my drift. Among his languages are Arabic, Ivrit, Russian..."
"I get it. Okay, I want to meet him. Where is he?"
Fighting his growing smugness at changing Jack's mind, Abe said, "Harvard. For now. Do whatever it takes, Jack. We really need him, and whether he knows it or not, he needs us."
"What's his name?"
"Doctor Daniel Jackson."
Daniel Jackson sat drowning his sorrow in a bar near the campus, going over the final conversation with his lover time and time again.
You can't come, Daniel.
Why not? It's my home too, you know.
I know, baby, I know. But you know why I'm doing this. We have to know for sure that we're right for each other. Come on, you've been offered scholarships to five different universities. Take one of them up. If after you've done that masters degree you still want me, you'll know where I am.
I don't care about the scholarships! I can do the masters at Cairo, I can work to pay for it! Please, Fai, don't do this to me. Don't leave me.
He'd seen the pain running over Faisal's face as he'd said that last phrase, but his older lover was unmoved.
No, Daniel. I know you don't understand now, I know you probably will hate me for a while, but one day you'll realise why I'm doing this.
I thought you loved me.
Daniel kicked himself as he heard the memory of his voice trailing off, scolding himself for sounding pathetic and childlike.
I do love you, Daniel. I'll never stop. One day you'll see that.
Daniel wasn't so sure what he saw at that moment. He almost understood Faisal's words, but they'd been together since he was sixteen and now he was lost and alone again. He ran through the offers he'd had to universities, some of the best on the planet, but none of them held his interest anymore. He was just about to order another beer when a man sat on the barstool next to his. Daniel didn't really look at him, just a quick glance to say hello. He noticed the sandy-brown hair and the piercing brown eyes, noticed that he was good-looking... noticed that he was out of beer and was reminded to get another one.
"Hey," said the man. "You look miserable. Let me get you a beer."
Daniel turned and stared at the man for a few seconds. He had the feeling that the guy was going to try to pick him up. Running his options through his quicksilver mind, he came up with 'what the fuck' - the guy could try.
"Sure, thanks." He named his favourite import and the man collared the barman and ordered two.
"So, what's up?" the man asked.
"Nothing. Not really," Daniel sighed.
"Aw, c'mon. You've got a face like a wet mop."
Daniel snorted at that, then, accepting the beer that had been put in front of him, he decided to take a chance. The guy could try to beat him up (if he'd read him wrong), but he'd not get very far.
"I've just broken up with my boyfriend of five years," he said with a straight face, almost daring the stranger to make something of it.
"Shit, that's gotta hurt," came the genuine reply. Daniel was pleasantly surprised.
"Yeah, it does."
"So, what are you going to do now?"
"Excuse me for asking this, but why would you want to know?" Daniel asked.
"Call me a sympathetic kind of guy. I'm Jack, by the way."
"Daniel," Daniel replied.
"Seein' as we're on first name terms, you can talk to me," Jack said with a grin. "Why don't we go and sit somewhere more comfortable?"
Daniel nodded over to a corner table, so they went there, beers in hand.
"So," Jack said as they sat, "you didn't answer my question. What are you going to do now?"
Daniel laughed quietly, amused by his persistence. "I've got options," he said. "I've been offered five scholarships. Not sure which one I'll take."
"The study of man. A noble task. What have you been studying?"
There was something about the man that now had Daniel totally intrigued. His demeanour was one of a 'dumb fuck' but he was obviously seriously more intelligent than he let on.
"Linguistics. I have a doctorate in archaeolinguistics. I want to study anth. and then archaeology."
The question was genuine, not flippant, and Daniel was taken aback.
"Why? Because I'm interested in history," Daniel answered carefully. "I'm convinced that ancient man was more advanced than we give him credit for."
"An interesting theory. Got anything to back that up?"
"Not yet," Daniel answered, his mouth near his beer bottle. He took a swig. "Maybe I'll find something."
"Maybe you'll do something else instead?"
"Who knows?" Jack's eyes were twinkling with laughter, but Daniel detected a more serious note underneath it all.
"What are you trying to say?"
"Maybe I want to offer you a job."
"Maybe I think you've had too much beer. You don't know me."
Jack turned and looked him in the eye. "Not here," he said. "Let's take a walk."
Daniel's defences were up. "If you're trying to pick me up..." he warned.
"No, I told ya, I'm going to make you an offer."
"Will I be able to refuse it?" came the flippant reply.
"Sure," Jack shrugged. "But there's interest in you, Doctor Jackson. Some of the others might not be as flexible in their employment offers."
Daniel nearly choked on his beer. Curious, he stood up and walked out of the bar, Jack following him closely, never losing sight of the fact that he might not be the only one watching him.
They strolled to a patch of green and sat on a bench. The noise of the traffic and hustle of the street to the side made it difficult to have a real conversation, though.
"Look, I don't know who you are..." Daniel started.
"That's not overly important," Jack said, "but my name is Jack O'Neill."
"For real? Or is that some cover name?"
"It's my real name - at least, my real name is Jonathan, but hey, everyone calls me Jack," he answered with a shrug. "Why don't I tell you what I know about you and why I know it?"
Against his better judgement, Daniel nodded. Jack gave him a quick rundown. "Daniel Nicholas Jackson, born Cairo, July 8th 1965." He carried on, talking of Daniel's past and not really missing much. "Which brings me to why I want you. I need a guy like you, Daniel. I'm legit, though I don't work for the government exactly." At Daniel's obvious annoyance, Jack said, "Hear me out, please. I work for a small department, sort of CIA, sort of FBI, sort of NSA, sort of something else. Basically we go deep undercover, Daniel. We need people that can blend in. There are a lot of people out there that want to hurt those that want to live in peace."
Jack laughed and shook his head. "You're not naïve, Jackson. You know the score as well as I do. Sometimes it's religious, sometimes it's political. Sometimes," he added, "it's just plain criminal. They're the ones we deal with. Big time drug runners, the sort of cartels with a yearly turnover that some medium-sized countries would give their eye teeth for. The Eastern Bloc is crumbling, their security at their nuclear bases is laughable. This period of reconstruction that they're going through is going to lead to political instability, maybe the collapse of their economies. If that happens, there's going to be a major wave of international terrorism because they'll be able to get their weapons and stuff there on the cheap. We're in the job of getting deep into the criminal organisations, taking them out from the inside. Sometimes it's simpler stuff, sometimes more complicated. The rise of the personal computer is going to make things more interesting. Ever since IBM came out with their first home PC, the machines have been getting better and better."
"Moore's Law," Daniel put in absently.
Jack grinned. "Yeah. The processing power for the same cost will double every eighteen months. In not so many years, we'll be talking calculators with the power to send man to the moon. It's happening, Jackson. There's a revolution going on out there. Whereas the political freedoms granted are going to be great for some, the political instability that's going to come will make others' lives hell. There'll be a kickback. You'll find more extreme governments taking their places."
"So, what do you do then?"
"Whatever I'm asked."
"Not of political figures, no. It's not what we're there for. That's more the CIA's thing. But if we have to take out individuals to protect the majority, then yeah."
"I'm not sure I could do that."
"If your family were being threatened, I think you could."
"I don't have any family."
Daniel snorted and shook his head. "He didn't give a shit about me."
"If you join us, your team will become family."
"You think I'd kill to protect you?" Daniel asked.
"Yes. I think you would. I think you'll always do the right thing."
"Even if that's against orders?"
"Even then. Don't worry too much about that. The boss can usually be persuaded that plans had to change."
"You've done it yourself?"
"Once or twice."
"I think you're the right man for the job. We need to you be with the brains of the outfit."
"Would I have to go through training?"
"Yes. Physical training, weapons, parachute... lots of stuff."
"Sounds a bit James Bond," came the sniggered reply.
"That guy wouldn't last five minutes with us," Jack answered with a swagger, making Daniel laugh a little louder. Then he stopped suddenly, a glint in his eye.
"I'm a geek," he challenged.
"You're a geek with two black belts. I'm not stupid, Daniel. I know what you are and what you're capable of. I think you're the right man."
"If I don't want to be?"
Jack stood up and pointed at a car parked a little way down the street. "See that brown sedan?"
"He's CIA. Hey Gonzo, you really need to be a bit more cautious, ya know."
"CIA?" Daniel asked as the brown car pulled off.
"Yeah. They're interested in you. So are a few others. The Feds and the NSA. NSA especially. They'd have you tied down and code-breaking."
"I like that."
"Sure ya do. And you'll do that for us. But they'd have you doing it 24/7, we'll give you a bit more of a challenge."
"Is anyone else interested?" he asked out of curiosity, his ego piqued.
"MI6 I'm sure of. I've seen Dec around here."
"Yeah, Declan. He's one of their recruitment guys. There's a pretty good bet that Mossad, maybe the KGB and/or any number of Arab secret services would be interested in you. Your linguistic talents and your intelligence make you a prime target."
"That makes me sound like an assassination target."
"Could be. If they think that you're a danger to them."
Rather than bothering him, Jack's blunt style was impressing Daniel. He felt like the man was telling him the truth, not sugar-coating anything. Treating him like an adult. It made a change.
"So, you reckon that I'm going to end up working for one of those agencies?"
"Nah, you're going to work with me, aren't you?"
Daniel burst out laughing. "You're very sure of yourself."
"Yeah, I am. Look, sure you can take off and study humanity. Maybe the other agencies will get the message that you're a harmless geek, maybe they won't. But I can guarantee that you'll always wonder what it was like to work for us."
"Who are you?"
"I told you."
"No, the agency."
"Ah. Can't tell you that. All I can tell you is that we're the good guys."
"We are." Jack's statement was almost accompanied by some chest thumping and it made Daniel fall about.
"Let me think about it."
"Sure. Let me watch your ass while you do though."
"Safety's sake? Or are you interested in my ass for other reasons?"
"Are you always this blunt?"
"Yes. If you're looking for me to go and hide in the closet, you can forget it."
"Wouldn't do that to you. And in answer to your question, for safety's sake. Sure I'm interested in you for other reasons," he added with a grin, "but if you're going to work with me, that's not going to happen. Don't think I hadn't noticed that you're a walking wet dream though, kid, 'cause I had. Boy had I," he added with a groan. The open mouth he left Daniel with was a picture.
Jack O'Neill walked away with an absent wave for the young man, his back turned to him already; but Daniel knew that he'd be watching him, day-in-day-out till he made up his mind. He also felt safe.
And no longer alone.
"Welcome to our organisation, Doctor Jackson."
Abraham Fleming was an impressive man. A fifty year-old African American, he stood six foot four and about 220 lbs. He had a proud countenance but there was a twinkle in his eye as he greeted the younger man.
"Thank you, Sir. Would you please tell me about the organisation now?"
"Of course, of course. Take a seat, son. May I call you Daniel?"
"Yes, sure, if you want."
"Good, you can call me Abe or Abraham. We don't stand on ceremony here."
"Thanks, er, Abe. I appreciate that."
"Ah, Jack, come on in," Abe called as he saw him standing at the doorway to his office. "I was just about to explain our organisation to young Daniel here. You can help."
With a smile for his boss, Jack came in, pulled a chair away from the desk and as he sat down, ruffled Daniel's hair.
"You okay, kid?" he asked.
"I'm fine, and don't call me kid. I'm a grown man," Daniel growled.
"Sure you are, don't let it get to ya."
Daniel wasn't really sure what to make of Jack. He figured he'd either end up with him in his bed, or he'd kill him. Whatever worked.
Abe cleared his throat and got their attention. Jack slowly turned to look at him, his eyes sparkling with good humour. Daniel looked interested, as if he was concentrating on every word Abe wasn't saying just yet.
"You're wondering who we work for," Abe started, not even looking to Daniel for confirmation. "The answer is, the planet. We're a sort of department for the UN, but as with all the best spy novels, they'll deny it if it comes out." He allowed himself a little chuckle at that. "You must understand something, son. We're not in the business of changing people's politics or influencing their governments. What we do is go after international organisations, mainly criminal, but sometimes terrorist. There's possibly going to be more of that in future. As the barriers between countries are broken down, we'll benefit from the greater friendships and trade, of course, but one of the downsides is that terrorist groups will find it easier to ally. At the moment, we know that a number of European groups are connected; the IRA, ETA, and some of the others on the continent, like the Red Brigade for example. They'll start to trade training and resources with other groups, some in South America, some in the East. We'll need to get into them, infiltrate them, stop them before they pull off any big stunts. We'll not get them all, that's for sure, but we'll do what we can. On top of that, there are the drug cartels, the international trade in slavery and prostitutes..." He stopped as he saw Daniel wince at that last one.
Daniel sighed. "Intellectually I know these things happen," he said sadly, "but the thought that people can and do trade in humans... well it hurts."
"Now you see why we try to stop it," Abe answered him kindly. Daniel nodded and let him continue.
"We are a small band of individuals and teams, depending on what is needed to be done. You'll need to go through a lot of physical and technical training. Some of it is with military organisations, some of it is more our own. There'll be lessons on infiltration techniques provided by both MI6 and the KGB. The CIA will teach you how to listen into conversations - hopefully a little more successfully than the man they sent to observe you," he chuckled. "The SAS will teach you how to do sabotage and other national experts will pass on their techniques for all you'll need to know."
"Forgive me for saying this, Abe, but I'm stunned. Jack said that some of those people may have been interested in me. The KGB for example. Will I be safe with them? And why so many nationalities?"
"As I said, we're connected with the UN. The Security Council to be precise. Only the five permanent member states know that we exist and they do what they can to assist us, on the sly of course. You will be perfectly safe with these people, Daniel. You belong to us now. You'll be given something that will identify you as one of ours. Given that we will know where you are and who you are with at any time, the host organisation will pull out all the stops to ensure your safety. The comeback on them if something were to happen to you would be immense."
Daniel nodded again, not saying anything but starting to get a picture in his mind of just what was going to be going on.
"In fact, even though there are times when during your training you may feel in danger, you're probably never going to be safer in your life," Abraham half-comforted him with those words.
"Will I meet any of the other teams?"
"Sure. There are some in the building now. We're an international group, Daniel, so you'll be meeting people from all five member states. Some never go out on missions; they're analysts, computer experts, code-breakers and so on. You'll be given basic training in everything they do so that you can aid them and report back to them properly during and at the end of missions."
"So, I'm going to be a field agent?"
"We think you're up to it. In fact, we're going to prepare you to go deep undercover in future by sending you back to university. You'll take up that scholarship at Oxford and do your masters degree in anthropology. Get your thesis done as efficiently as you can. Learn as much as you can. Your doctorate and then the slight change in subject will give you academic credentials to get into countries that maybe you wouldn't manage normally."
"What about the other training?"
"That'll be fitted in as and when it's possible. It should take you a year to get your masters, shouldn't it?"
"Good. While you're there, you can do the SAS and MI6 training during the vacation times. Jack will pop over there from time to time to check up on you. MI5 will keep an eye on you to make sure you're safe, but they have been known to go overboard on occasions. Make sure you don't say anything to anyone about your position with us, not even to Jack. They'll likely be listening in."
"Great, so I've got to live like a monk for a whole year?" Daniel squeaked.
"Whatd'ya mean?" Jack put in.
"You really think I'm into exhibitionism?"
Jack and Abe laughed. "Probably not," Jack admitted. "But don't knock it till you try it."
Daniel smacked him with the back of his hand.
"Does this organisation have a name?" he asked out of curiosity.
"Of course. The United Nations Security Council Organised Crime Bureau."
"HUH?" Daniel's eyes opened wide.
"Known as UNASCO for short. You know what the UN's like for acronyms."
"UNASCO?" Daniel groaned. "At least it's not UNCLE," he sniggered.
"Believe me, someone actually suggested that when we were formed," Abe chuckled. "Fortunately, someone else saw sense. It was also nearly UNASCOC, but there were too many giggles from the ambassadors apparently."
Daniel laughed out loud, the other men joining in at the infectious sound. When Jack stopped, he said, "Come on, let's introduce you to the gang and get your nicknaming ceremony out of the way?"
"Yeah. Don't worry about it. It's essentially harmless. Just that no one's known by their real name. Not really for security reasons, but it helps us to get used to being known as someone else, if you see what I mean. Just in case you need another name when you're undercover. Everyone has one."
"I'm usually just called 'geek'," Daniel said with a wry smile.
"Don'tcha worry about that one, Daniel. Some of the gang are way worse than you in the geek stakes."
"Good. And I'm killing the first person that so much as suggests 'Danny Boy'." The venom in his voice as he said that surprised Jack. "Someone that hated me used to call me it," he explained.
Jack stopped short and put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, turning the younger man to face him. "Look, Daniel, we're all in this for the same reason," he said quietly. "We really do want to stop the hurts out there. And that means that no one here wants to hurt any of us. If one of us gets injured or killed, we all hurt. It seriously gets to us, ya know? We're more like SEAL teams than the Army."
Daniel looked at him in confusion, so Jack explained.
"During times of war, the Army expects to lose some of its people. Casualties of war and all that. They even budget for it when they send in the troops. But units like the SEALs work in small, elite groups. Each operation is planned so that they don't lose anyone. If they do lose someone, they take it personally, look at the planning, see who's to blame for what they view as an operational cock-up. It hurts them to lose anyone. We're the same."
He took a breath then grinned, "So, don't worry about teasing or anything. Nothing other than affection is meant by it, nothing at all. If you ever get picked on, you come to me. I know you can deal with it, but that's not the point. We travel all over the world, have to fit in with all sorts of people. Intolerance of any sort cannot be tolerated. If someone here doesn't like someone else, maybe because of a clash of personality, they have to keep it to themselves. At the very least, we need professional respect between each other or we can't trust each other to back us up."
"I understand," Daniel said. "But I come from a not very happy background, which, when coupled with the bitchiness that's in academia, let's just say it puts me on my guard when meeting new people."
"Nothing wrong with that, Daniel, nothing at all. It may keep you safe in future. But don't block us out. I know it's not going to be easy, but you're going to have to learn to trust us very quickly."
Daniel looked into Jack's eyes, staring deeply for a moment, then he nodded sharply. "Yeah. I know. You'll have to trust me too."
Jack answered the nod with his own, feeling like something had passed between them, but he wasn't sure what.
They entered another room and were greeted by some smiling and curious faces.
"Hey guys," Jack called out. "Just bringing in the latest sucker, er, recruit."
Jack was personally greeted, then the others came to say 'hi' to Daniel. "This is Doctor Daniel Jackson. He's a linguistics expert. We're going to have him trained up in anthropology too," he added. Daniel thought that he sounded almost proud as he said it.
"This is Grigori Kasimirov, commonly known as Grisha," he pointed to a stocky fair-haired guy sitting on a table close by. "He's a comms man."
Daniel greeted him in Russian, earning himself a huge smile from the bear of a man.
Jack introduced the rest of them; Joséphine Ferriere (Fifi) and Ou-Yang Yu-Lin (Jade) were computer experts, Zhou Guo-Hao (Sparks) and Elizabeth Ramsey (Lilly) were 'gadget people', and Jean-Paul Thierry (JP) and Ifan Lloyd (Dai) were decoders. Jack explained that there were many more from every country 'in the know' but that they were either out on assignment, on leave or at college.
At Daniel's raised eyebrow he elaborated. "It doesn't do us any good to be behind in anything, Daniel. We have to keep up with what's new in our fields. So, we attend 'refresher' courses in-between missions. Sometimes they're physical training, other times academic. One's as important as the other."
Daniel beamed at that, pleased to know that this was a 'cerebral' organisation and not one where the loudest bang made the biggest impression.
Meanwhile the others had got together and conferred. "You have a choice," Jade informed him. "You can either be DJ, or you can be.."
"Aht!" Daniel put his hand up. "DJ will do, I was called it at college. I'm not sure I want to know the option," he added with a grin. "It's usually something like dweeb."
"More like babe," Lilly sniggered.
Daniel rolled his eyes at that and looked at Jack, who shrugged. "You're wastin' your time, Lilly," he said with a smug grin. Then he looked at Daniel, "At least I assume so?"
"Ye-ah," Daniel drawled. He was pleased when it was met with friendly laughs from the men and groans of frustration from the women. Somehow, he already felt at home. Maybe he'd finally found somewhere that he belonged.
That summer was long and hard. Before the term started in Oxford, he'd had to go through some serious physical and other training. Jack had accompanied him to Oxford and got him settled in. Then he'd insisted that Daniel set up and rigorously follow an exercise regime so that come the winter break, he'd be in a position to head off to Hereford and to the SAS camp. He'd worked hard and played hard, kept fit and was making great progress on his chosen thesis. He'd had to get a larger size of clothes in the couple of months he'd been working out.
Jack was due at any time. He was going to accompany him to the SAS training camp, as much to keep an eye on Daniel as anything, but he didn't let on that that was his reason. He just said it would be good for him to do it too. Daniel had told Jack to meet him at a nightclub that he had frequented with a couple of people from his department and quite enjoyed. To hide his improved physique and to enhance his 'geek' image (and therefore to look essentially harmless) he'd let his already below shoulder-length hair grow and wore glasses rather than the contact lenses that he'd been issued with for when he was in training. He also wore clothes that were too big for him. So he was waiting near the bar in baggy T-shirt and jeans, glasses on, hair tied back into a ponytail and generally looking like a nerd. But though his eyes were myopic, they were razor sharp and he didn't miss much, even though he habitually looked clueless. He noticed his shadow across the dance floor and surreptitiously raised his bottle of beer at him, getting a wry grin in return. To be fair, his shadow had been just that. Unnoticeable to most people, but always watching over him and keeping him safe.
His beer gone, Daniel swung himself around on his barstool and waited to catch the attention of the barman. He felt the presence of a couple of guys before he saw them.
"Hey, geek," came the predictable voice.
Daniel turned and looked at him over the top of his glasses.
"Hi jerk," he replied, then turned back to the bar.
"So, where's your boyfriend then?" came the taunt. Daniel hadn't been with anyone since Faisal though, having been cut deeper by the break up than he'd let on. But because he hadn't looked at a woman, the usual (in this case correct) implications were drawn.
Daniel was about to tell them where to go when he heard a familiar drawl.
Jack was standing behind the loudmouth and looking down on him in a very dangerous manner. Daniel's face lit up as he saw him standing there and he noticed that his shadow had come closer to make sure that he was okay.
"Jack, you made it."
At those words, the shadow nodded at Daniel and then left the club, knowing that his charge would now be fine.
"Said I would. You gettin' any trouble?"
"From these two? Puh-lease," Daniel answered with a grin.
Jack pushed them out of the way and moved closer to Daniel. Daniel decided to have a little fun and put his hand out to Jack, then pulled him close and landed a kiss on his lips, which to keep in character, Jack accepted and returned with interest.
"You want to stay here or do we blow this joint?" he asked, his eyes twinkling.
"Whatd'ya say we find somewhere that smells better?" Jack said as he scowled at the jerks that were still standing nearby.
Daniel got off the stool and rather enjoyed himself when Jack slid his arm around his back, settling at his waist. He slid his own arm around Jack's back and walked off, head held high to the strains of the latest Iggy Pop song, Real Wild Child.
Outside, they found a low wall to sit on, shivering in the cold December air. Jack said nothing, but put his arm around Daniel's shoulder and hugged him tight. Then he asked, "Have you been getting any hassle?"
"Nah, first time. I'm usually in there with the gang from the anth. department, but they've all gone home for the holiday."
"Ah, good. Will you get any when you come back?"
"I'd like to see them try it," Daniel said defiantly. "Look, Jack, I've had to put up with crap all my adult life and a fair bit of my childhood. I knew I was gay when I was fourteen. My foster mom made me do the martial arts classes to keep me safe when I told her. She figured I'd get harassed. I deal with it quickly and it's over. I'm not usually picked on after that. Basically, I just want people to leave me alone."
"Yeah, I know. I'm not leaving you alone though," he added with a grin.
"Good. I can take you any day I want," Daniel teased.
"Ooh, I'm scared."
The banter went back and forth, till Daniel really started to feel the cold. Then he took Jack's hand, gratified when he didn't let go. He led him the short distance to his digs.
"Can you tell if this place is bugged?" he asked as they went up the winding staircase as he'd not covered that in his training yet.
"Sure. Give me a minute when I get in there."
Daniel unlocked the door to his rooms and let them both in, switching the light on as he entered. He shut the door behind them, then watched as Jack took Daniel's cassette recorder and microphone from his coffee table and pressed record, then slowly waved the microphone about. Daniel was confused, until he heard a quiet whine. Jack stopped, unscrewed the light bulb from the lamp, removed a small device, then put the bulb back. He carried on until he was convinced that the room was clear. He did the same for the bedroom, found another one in the plant pot, took them both and flushed them down the toilet with a grin.
"There, I think that's it," he said.
"Good. Thank you." Daniel was very impressed with Jack's work and decided to show him just how impressed he was.
He took Jack by the hand and led him back to the bedroom.
"Shh. Please. Let me?"
He kicked off his shoes and moved closer to Jack, then he snaked his hand around the back of Jack's head and pulled him close.
"DJ, you really don't want to do this," Jack said.
"Hmm, I think I do." Daniel's voice had dropped, becoming low and husky. The effect went straight to Jack's groin.
"No, it's not a good idea. We have to work together."
"D j..." The second sound was muffled by Daniel's mouth as he closed it over Jack's. Jack wanted to put up a fight, at least a bit of him did.
"Daniel, we can't," he gasped when they came up for air.
"You want to," Daniel said, running his hand over Jack's hardened dick.
"Yes, but we can't. For so many reasons."
"I need to, Jack. I really need to. You do too, don't you? How long has it been?"
"Don't ask," Jack growled.
Daniel stepped back and ripped his T-shirt off, eliciting a gasp from Jack as he saw just how the skinny geek had blossomed. Daniel didn't allow him time to think. He grabbed Jack's jacket and pulled it off, hauled Jack's own shirt off and then allowed their bare skin to touch for the first time. The effect was electric.
The mood changed. Daniel was no longer in charge of the seduction, Jack had lost it. Before either man knew where they were, they were naked and on Daniel's single, iron-framed bed. Jack lay on top of him, plundering Daniel's mouth with his tongue. Not that Daniel was taking it passively. He fought back, his hands touching, his legs wrapped around Jack's waist as he urged him to move. When Jack finally started to move, it was quite literally sensational. Their senses were on edge, touch especially. They felt every movement, every jerk and thrust as if they were magnified, the springs underneath the soft mattress squeaking with the movement. Not stopping their kisses, they let their hands roam to feel every available inch of the other's body. Jack's hips pumped against Daniel, Daniel's thrusting up to meet him. Time and again they moved, finding a rhythm that suited them both. Jack needed to come, so he squeezed his groin against Daniel's, revelling in the mirrored action from below. Faster and harder, they built it up until the inevitable happened. Jack started first, but Daniel was close behind him, both spilling out over Daniel's stomach, the liquid rubbing itself into Jack's as he moved.
Finally it was over and Jack lay on top of Daniel, gasping for breath, while Daniel lay under him fighting for his own.
"Jack, off, you're heavy," he moaned.
Jack rolled off him, leaving an arm wrapped around Daniel's waist as he lay by his side.
"You should come with a health warning," he gasped, causing Daniel to smile.
"I needed that," Daniel said, "so did you. Don't deny it."
"No, I won't deny it. It shouldn't have happened."
"But it did and I'm not sorry," Daniel stated.
"No, I don't supposed I am either." He moved in closer and this time kissed Daniel slowly, getting confused when Daniel pulled back.
"You're right," Daniel said sadly, "we can't do this again, can we?"
"Not for an hour or so at least," Jack agreed, nodding eagerly at the thought that he would do it again in an hour or so.
"Look, the cat's out of the bag, so to speak," Jack said. "I'm attracted to you. Actually, I'm extremely attracted to you. I'm guessing it's the same for you?"
Daniel thought that the unsure tone in Jack's voice at his last statement was cute. "Given the fact that I came on to you faster than a runaway train, I think you can safely assume that," he agreed in a matter-of-fact manner, making Jack laugh.
"Well then. You're right, we can't have a relationship, but there's no reason we can't have some fun once in a while. We're not due at Hereford till the day after tomorrow. It's not a long drive from here anyway. We have time to kill, Daniel. Let's get this out of our systems."
"And in future?"
"When we get desperate, we'll know who to turn to. Relationships are a no-no in this business, Daniel, but we do need, just like anyone else. At least you'll know that you're safe with me and vice versa. Do you think you can do that?"
"Yeah, I think so. I don't want a relationship, Jack. I got hurt too badly. I'm not sure when I'll feel secure enough to settle with anyone I don't know well. So, no questions asked, no embarrassment or recriminations. So, what, fuck buddies?"
"I hate that term. No, not that. That implies a lack of feeling. Don't you ever assume that between us. I'm not in love with you, any more than you are with me. But I care about you... Danny," he tested out the new nickname and waited to be bawled out.
"Danny?" He got no more than a couple of raised eyebrows.
"Between us? Please?"
"Are you a romantic, Jack?"
"Yeah, but if you tell anyone, I'll have to show you just how efficient I am at body disposal. Ooh no, you won't see it, seein' as you'll be dead and all."
Daniel snorted gently, then kissed Jack's nose.
"Come on, shower. We need it."
"And heat? Is there no central heating here?"
"You are kidding, right? These are student digs, Jack. Besides, it's not popular over here."
"Why not? Surely it's cold enough?"
"And damp, Jack. Damp plus central heating tends to equal mould."
Daniel led him to the shower, which they shared because there wasn't that much hot water, then they got dried and into bed as quickly as they could. Daniel decided that he liked this feeling, and with his head on Jack's chest, he shut his eyes and drifted off to sleep.
"Welcome home, DJ." Abe's voice rang out as Daniel entered the large, open-plan office space. A number of people greeted him; some he knew, some he didn't, so he was introduced to them. As before, they were from all the member states and covered various disciplines. Daniel wasn't sure that he'd remember all the nicknames, but he'd try.
"Thanks, Abe," he finally got out when he was taken into the older man's office for a chat.
"I heard you got a first with your degree. Congratulations."
Daniel shrugged as if it was nothing but thanked him anyway.
"We have an assignment for you," came the sudden announcement. "How's your Spanish?"
"Fine, I speak it fluently."
"Good, good. A little trip to Central America has come up. Jack will accompany you, seeing as it's your first mission and all. If you two find you can work together, you'll likely be partnered up permanently. We try not to send people into situations alone, unless it's absolutely necessary. It's not a good idea, because if something happens to a lone agent, it can take too long for us to find out about it and we may fail to launch a rescue attempt in time. All that James Bond crap is just that."
Daniel nodded with a grin and in understanding of Abe's stance, silently grateful too that he'd have the companionship and the back-up of the much more experienced agent.
"I haven't finished my training, Abe," he pointed out though, a little worried by the thought of going in already.
"I know, I know. But then neither has anyone here. As you were told, we like to keep you all up-to-date with everything we can. But you have your survival training, you have firearms certificates, you have sabotage training... it's all you'll need for this."
"What's the job, Sir?" Daniel shook himself and decided that if they had faith in him, he could have it in himself.
Abe smiled at his sudden change from student to professional, but hid his pleasure as he explained.
"There is a controller of a drug cartel, hiding out in the mountains in Central America. We think we have a lead on him."
"This man is difficult to track down," Abe explained with a nod. "The last time we'd heard about him he was in Columbia. Now, it seems, he's in Nicaragua."
This time Abe laughed out loud. The Iran/Contra affair had been big news over the previous few months and the findings of the Congressional hearings were due out at any time. It was a touchy subject.
"This doesn't have anything to do with that, at least we don't think so."
"What do you want me to do, Abe?" Daniel asked with a sigh.
"First of all, you need to find him. Then, we need evidence. We want to send him to jail, Daniel, as a message to other drug lords that they'll not get away with it. It may mean that we'll have to smuggle him out to another country, one where he'll get a hard sentence. If all else fails, you are authorised to use lethal force."
Daniel fingered the little ring that he wore on his left hand's pinky. It was the symbol, the one that told the secret organisations of the member states to leave him alone. It was a signet ring, gold with a black onyx insert, and on that, a tiny design. Two hands. One in gold, the other in silver, to signify the different races of the group. They were joined together in friendship. That put a smile on his face. However, Abe's words of authorisation drew his eye to the image of the dagger that ran behind the hands.
He snapped his head up and nodded.
"Where's Jack? And how will I get weapons into the country?"
The voice that rang out behind him put a smile on his face.
"Right here and it's going to be fun, in that order."
Daniel turned in his chair and offered a warm smile to the man who was rapidly becoming his best friend. Jack had stayed with him for the training sessions with the SAS as promised, then returned for the ones with MI6. Each meeting had allowed the men to find out more and more about each other and they were learning new things to appreciate about each other too. Like the fact that they had an almost identical sense of humour.
"Hey," Daniel's voice was friendly, getting an equal response and the customary ruffle of his hair. Daniel was getting used to it by now and limited himself to a teasing scowl instead of the more normal "Jack." Then he looked hard at him. "Are you always going to do that?"
"Turn up just when I'm thinking of you?"
"Yeah. Nick of time kinda guy that I am," Jack joked, getting a snigger back from Daniel. Jack's mood softened slightly as he looked into Daniel's eyes. He'd missed him for reasons that he couldn't totally explain to himself. To cover for it, he returned to his normal self.
"Congrats," Jack said as he sat. "Knew you were a smartass."
Daniel snorted and shook his head in amusement.
"So, you settled into a place back here yet?" Jack asked.
"Um, no. My stuff is still being shipped back. Er, Abe," he turned back to the boss, "I was expecting to be here to get it. It's not much, just clothes, books and a few things."
"We'll take care of your things, DJ. But you haven't found anywhere to live yet?" Abe asked, most concerned that this hadn't been taken care of already for his latest charge. There would be words with the personnel section.
"No, haven't had the time. Just flew in, in fact."
"Send the stuff to my place, Abe. I'll help him find somewhere when we get back," Jack intervened. "I've got a spare room," he added for Daniel's benefit. "You can stay there till you find somewhere you like. Would be a good idea to find somewhere in the apartment block that I'm in anyway," he shrugged.
"'Cause then I can keep an eye on you," Jack teased, then he shook his head. "Look, if you and I are to be partners, it makes sense that we're on hand for each other. If we get called onto an emergency job, it saves both of us crossing the city. New York is a busy place, no matter what time of day it is. And others from the office live there too, it's close by. Got a nice view," he added in a teasing tone.
Daniel laughed out loud, then he thanked Jack and agreed. At least it was one worry less for him. But he still wasn't sure how he was going to pull this off. He felt like a fraud and that he didn't know nearly enough to go into this life.
"DJ, it's going to be fine," Jack reassured, guessing at Daniel's thoughts. "I'll teach you what I can, I'll watch your back, I promise. One thing we don't do here is let people go into situations that we don't think they're capable of dealing with. If something went wrong, it could expose the organisation, and that would be a disaster. Not just for us, but for the planet. The reason the whole world hasn't imploded is because of organisations like ours. We're keeping the lid on the pressure cooker, Daniel. Sometimes that means taking out some of the bad guys. It causes chaos in the ranks, allows the world time to recover from a disaster it didn't know was going to happen. I know you don't like the thought of killing, and that's good. Never feel that that is a bad ideal, it's not. It's to be admired. But there will come a time when you'll have to do it. It's either kill them, or they kill you. And if they were to kill you, it would be a tragedy for the planet, because you're there to protect it. You're not an assassin, neither am I, but if it's necessary, do it and don't regret it. You'll have saved many more lives as a direct result."
Again, Daniel had nothing to say about this. He knew that Jack was right, but it didn't make it any easier to accept.
Abe wanted to speak to Jack alone, so he asked that Daniel leave them.
"I need to debrief Jack on his last mission," he added by way of explanation.
"Of course. I'll see you out there?" Daniel turned to Jack and nodded towards the main office.
"Sure. Won't be long. Go and play nicely with the other geeks."
Daniel smacked him around the back of the head as he laughed and walked out of the room. When the door shut, Jack raised an eyebrow at Abe.
"Okay, I wanted to talk in private," Abe admitted. "You seem to like the kid," he continued thoughtfully.
"Yeah, I do, so sue me," Jack snorted. "He's a good kid, Abe."
"He is, I agree. Are you sure it's nothing else?"
"No. Sure I could go for him, big time. But he doesn't want a relationship, neither do I. We talked it out, Abe. Yes, I said I wouldn't want him as a partner, but I saw him going through that training last summer, then with the Brits. He's determined, Abe. He's smart, but as you said, he's streetsmart too. He's principled, but I don't think he'll let that get in the way of him doing a job. I can't really put my finger on in, pal, but I want to trust him."
"You don't trust anyone. Not easily and never totally."
"True. 'Part from you, of course," he replied with a chuckle, then he got more serious. "Daniel's not just 'anyone', Abe. He'll tell me where to get off if he thinks I need it. He's not afraid, but I don't think he'll be reckless either."
"Cool under fire?"
"Convinced of it. You didn't see him last year at the CIA's training camp. Bullets were going off all around him and he casually strolled through them till he got to his objective. I'm not saying he didn't keep his head down, he did. But he was so focussed on his objective that he didn't get nervous."
"Or he's better at hiding it?"
"Maybe. Whatever works," Jack shrugged. "There were others there, CIA agents in training. It was like he wanted to be better than any of them."
"Ruthlessly so. Not that that's a bad thing. Fritz Waller told me that if he didn't cut it with UNASCO, he'd take him like a shot. No questions asked. He outscored all the other candidates in every field, Abe."
"I know. Fritz called me up at the end of it and told me what he'd told you. The other candidates had been picking on him because of his long hair on that first day. Some of them wore buzz cuts, others were just short-haired. He wasn't wearing his glasses, was he?"
"When he walked into that first classroom? Yeah. It was only out on the ranges that he swapped them for his contacts."
Abe burst out laughing. "It led the others to underestimate him," he observed.
"Hmm. Maybe I'll try doing that at some point. Ya know, pretending," Jack sniggered.
Abe laughed again, then gave him the mission briefing folder and told him to get his backside out after his partner. Agent Jonathan O'Neill, PhD, MSc Eng. and part-time 'dumb fuck' strolled out of the room with a grin on his face.
As Daniel made his way through the crowd at the busy airport in Managua, he dropped his nondescript-looking rucksack off his back, rubbing his shoulders as if they were aching badly, then dragged it around distractedly. He'd got through customs and was looking for his contact. Jack was around somewhere, Daniel feeling the older man's eyes on him in a way that he couldn't have explained if a gun had been held to his head. He felt a tug in his hand and flicked his eyes to one side, but continuing to look ahead with his face. A moment later, and a different, identical rucksack was in his hands. He didn't acknowledge the holder of his original sack, but knew that he was disappearing into the crowd or making his way towards customs himself. Daniel wasn't sure what was in his new sack, but figured that Jack would have planned everything. It sure was heavy. With a sigh, and looking like a bone tired traveller, he hauled it back onto his shoulders, making sure that his face didn't give away the increase in weight of the sack.
His new body measurements had been taken before they'd left, so the clothes that he had packed would hopefully have been replaced. He'd had all the vaccinations he'd need for malaria and other exotic diseases over the last year back in Oxford. His reasoning had been that he never knew when he'd be called out to remote parts of the world in conjunction with his job as an anthropologist. The doctor, glad that he was being sensible and prepared, didn't question his reasoning, he just gave him the jabs. Assuming that there was everything that he'd need for the job in his rucksack, Daniel mentally shrugged that he was as ready as he'd ever be.
He found a taxi waiting outside the airport, rattled off the name of the pre-booked hotel on the outskirts of town to the driver in accentless Spanish, then settled back and let the journey appear to wash over him. The cab filled with the pungent smoke of the driver's hand rolled cigarette and Daniel blinked away the moisture that formed in his eyes. He looked out of the window and saw a small statue in the centre of a not-working fountain, the edges of the pool cracked and filled with a creeping weed. Elegantly dressed women vied for pavement space with barely clothed children outside the long row of shops. Buildings spoke of a better time, a more magnificent past. The cab crawled through the densely trafficked shopping street and turned off to the smaller more winding lanes. The further they went, the sadder the areas looked. Daniel's mind picked up on building styles and likely ages, every so often noting a more modern and better kept shop or office.
To the driver, Daniel looked half-asleep. In reality, his mind was racing and he was taking every street corner and landmark in. Just in case. He had no idea if he'd ever need to know these things, but that was kind of the idea. Nobody could know what they'd need to know, even some years down the line.
The taxi pulled up at the hotel and Daniel thanked him, paid him, retrieved his rucksack before the driver could lift it for him, then entered the hotel. He signed in, tactfully ignored the offer of a bellhop to take his bag, trying to look like a poor academic instead of an incredibly well-paid agent. He got the key and walked up the staircase to the second, and top, floor. He hadn't liked the look of the cage-framed lift.
The room was clean. That was something that he was grateful for. It was basic, but at least it had an en suite toilet, basin and shower. The linen was spotless, bright-white and very inviting. Daniel was still working on Oxford time, six hours ahead. In his mind, it was now 01:00 and he wanted to sleep.
He opened his rucksack (after making sure that his curtains were shut and the door was locked) and looked inside. There were some clothes, then a large case, longer than a briefcase. Daniel noticed that the inside compartments of the rucksack had been opened to accommodate it. He was about to open the case when there was a knock on the door. He slipped it back inside the sack, then dropped the sack on the floor. He went to the door, quietly padding in his now bare feet. Swallowing hard, he opened it a little way, unsure of who would be on the other side. It was Jack. With a relieved sigh, he opened the door wider, then following protocol, he checked the corridor before allowing Jack in. Jack grinned, pleased that Daniel had seemed to settle into his job.
"You okay?" he asked as he strolled in.
"Yeah. Tired," he groaned.
"I know. Get ready for bed. I'll check out the kit."
With a grateful smile, Daniel tipped everything out of his sack and grunted when he found some boxers. They'd have to do.
"Damn, they didn't put enough clothes in for me," he complained. He'd put most of his own wardrobe into his original rucksack.
"Ah, don't worry about it. There's some in my bag. We wouldn't make you go around in a pair of boxers and little else," Jack sniggered, though he added, "even if it is a good look on you."
Daniel slapped Jack's ass with his dirty shirt, then grabbed the towel that was in his bag and headed for the bathroom.
Jack checked out the guns that they'd been sent. A couple of handguns and rifles with sights. Daniel had passed the tests for both with flying colours, but Jack was a little worried. There was a world of difference between a cardboard target and a man's head. Jack knew that the likelihood of arresting the guy they were going for was slim. There were other boxes too, things they may or may not need. He hoped the latter, but he wasn't convinced.
He heard the water of the shower turn off, so he quickly put the guns away and out of sight. Daniel could worry about them later. He'd need to let the younger man sleep first so that he could deal with it in a more compos mentis manner.
Jack got onto the phone and called room service, ordered some food to be delivered to Daniel's room as neither of them had eaten in hours, then waited for Daniel to come back into the bedroom.
He did, towel low slung on his hips.
"That's better," he said as his head emerged from another towel that he'd found in the bathroom. "I think I can stay awake a little longer now. Don't want to go to bed too early local time, I'll be getting up in the middle of the night otherwise."
"I've ordered some food to be sent up," Jack agreed. "For both of us. Um, it might be subtle if you were to at least sling some pants on before it gets here."
"Why, don't you like me like this?" Daniel replied in a flirty manner. He didn't mean anything by it, he was too damned tired, but he never failed to make the most of any opportunity to tease Jack.
"Daniel," came the warning growl.
"Jack," came the almost breathless reply. At Jack's furious face, Daniel fell about laughing. "You are so damned easy, O'Neill," he snorted.
"If I was easy, you'd be face down on that bed with my dick up your ass."
"Oh yeah?" Daniel was across the room in seconds, taking up Jack's almost-challenge. He grabbed him and kissed him fiercely. "Who says it wouldn't be you face down?"
"I'd like to see you try it."
"Now?" Daniel's eyes had blackened and his cock had hardened. Jack felt it and then shut his eyes and swallowed hard.
"Dammit, Daniel, not now," he hissed. But he kissed him back before slapping his ass and sending him off to get dressed.
Daniel retreated. He and Jack hadn't gone that far, just jerked each other off and rubbed against each other that first weekend. Nothing had happened during the Easter break, and that kiss a moment ago had been the first touch he'd had since then. He'd wanted to go off and find a guy during those barren months, but he hadn't. He turned his back to Jack, knowing that the older man was looking at him, and dropped his towel. He heard Jack's breath hitch and he had to smother a smile as he bent over to pick up the 'accidentally' dropped shorts.
"Daniel," Jack growled again.
"Jack?" All of a sudden, Daniel's face looked clueless, but Jack could see that he was still half-hard as he turned to face him.
"Don't fucking tempt me. Not on duty."
With an air of hauteur, he retreated to the bathroom. Jack was sure he could hear the sound of hand and dick, accompanied by low, muffled moans.
"I'm going to fucking kill him," Jack muttered to himself.
They took a small, private plane out of Managua to a distant, almost unmarked landing strip. Jack flew the plane and Daniel was intrigued.
"You're a pilot?"
"Sure. You will be too. We'll teach you."
"Do I have to?"
Jack laughed out loud at the childish tone of voice, then he looked at Daniel and saw his eyes twinkling and he realised that Daniel was teasing him again.
"It would be a good idea, DJ," he said eventually. "You never know when it will come in handy."
Daniel snorted in reply, understanding what Jack meant. "So, can you just fly light planes, or do you have other pilot's licenses?"
"Small jets, helicopters and gliders," Jack rattled off. "But if you want to learn how to fly anything else, just say. We'll arrange it for you. Anything from a fighter to a commercial jet."
Companionable silence settled for a while, both men concentrating on what they'd be doing. Daniel's cover was research for a PhD in anthropology. Jack was his 'assistant', ready to help out with surveying and so on. They'd picked up some more equipment before they'd arrived at the airport; a theodolite, video camera and tapes and so on. They wanted to make it look as genuine as possible. The anthropologist bit down on his natural excitement. He privately hoped that the stretch of rainforest that they were going into would surrender some ancient secret, though how he'd manage both a survey of something like that and the job in hand he didn't know. But it didn't stop him hoping.
"You do know how to use a theodolite, don't you?"
"Sure. Don't you worry, Daniel. When we're out there, I'll defer to you on matters scientific, but you must listen to me when it comes to the action, so to speak."
"Of course. Have guides been arranged?"
"Yeah. Abe has sorted all of that. As far as they know, they're taking this crazy guy into the forest to check out a hunch. You're not to explain what that hunch is all about, it's a secret. But you can drop hints if you like, something to keep them on track."
"That'll do nicely."
"Sure. Not a problem," Daniel drawled.
Jack was surprised by his reaction, then he remembered about Daniel's grandfather. He let loose an internal sigh. Daniel was afraid of being known as a crazy man, just like Nick Ballard. And looking for lost temples in the Central American rainforest wasn't going to help his reputation.
"Shit," he muttered.
"Nick?" came the question. Daniel shrugged. He understood what Jack was getting at.
"Don't you worry about that. Maybe one day we will make a discovery, eh? You never know in this business. In the meantime, we'll keep your name out of the papers and so on. It won't get back to the academics that you're on some wild-goose chase. If necessary," he said carefully, "evidence will be found."
"You'd fabricate it?" Daniel was shocked.
"If we had to. Daniel, you must understand something. Your reputation as an anthropologist will come to mean something - not just to you and the academic world, but UNASCO too. It will open doors if it's good, slam them in our faces if it's bad. We need those doors open, because that way leads to successful infiltration, and in the long run, a smaller body count."
Daniel hated this understanding he had of Jack and his position. He wanted to rail against the idea, but he knew that Jack was right.
"Okay, how about we're just looking for evidence of inhabitation?" he offered as a compromise.
"If you think that's academically safer, then yes. When it comes to those matters, you're in charge."
"Thanks." He gave Jack a warm smile, truly grateful that the older man actually trusted his abilities.
Eventually, the plane landed on the grass strip. A truck met them and Daniel started talking to the local driver. He found out that the guides were in a small native village and that they'd start out the next day. The intelligence that Abe had given them suggested that the drug baron lived in a villa near the top of a hill. The chances were that it was heavily guarded. The villa belonged to a tobacco producer and known cousin of the target. Daniel had studied the pictures of the site and the target back in New York and had all of the information stored in his mind. Having an eidetic memory was very helpful.
Vicente Portillo was a difficult man to get a handle on. He was rarely seen in public, and then only with heavily-armed bodyguards. His children had been taught at home to protect them from kidnapping threats and he was apparently devoted to his wife, Gracia, (who wasn't as long-suffering as Daniel would have thought). She wasn't even the young bimbo that Daniel would have stereotypically associated with a rich and powerful man. There wasn't anything truly remarkable about her in any way. A nice enough face and body on her, but in no way stunning; averagely intelligent, she had gone to college and got an average degree in an arts' subject. She painted - averagely. That was all that could be said about her. Something went off in Daniel's mind, a warning bell. Portillo was a smart man, good-looking, very intelligent, good at whatever he turned his hand to. Maybe he was genuinely in love with his wife - perhaps she was extremely good in bed. They'd had two children, a boy and a girl. Enough to ensure the Portillo dynasty, but not enough to make her an 'Earth Mother' type. There had to be something about her that stopped Portillo from straying as it wasn't in his character to stay true to someone without a good enough reason. One of the informants that had provided them with the initial intelligence had been the brother of a man betrayed by Portillo to the Columbian police. That man had been Portillo's business partner for fifteen years.
"Daniel?" Jack saw the frown appear on his partner's face and was concerned by it.
"Um, not now," Daniel replied. Jack gave him a 'you will tell me later' look and nodded.
The people in the village were very friendly. They were supplying a few of their men as guides and as such were being well paid to host the two Americanos. Daniel and Jack were treated like kings and given a place of their own. They met their guides, Daniel being the one to speak to them. Fortunately, they were fluent in Spanish, so they had a language in common. Daniel explained where they wanted to go.
//But that is near Señor Iñiguez' house.//
//Who?// Daniel played dumb.
//He owns all the tobacco plantations around here.//
//Oh, don't worry about it. We shan't want to disturb him or his plants// Daniel said in a placating tone. //We're only interested in getting to this area here.// He pointed out a rocky outcrop on a neighbouring hill on the map.
//But why? It is only rocks.//
//Who knows what it really is?// Daniel's eyes lit up with good-humoured excitement. //That's the fun of discovery.//
Throughout the exchange, Jack had looked on dumbly, appearing to not understand a word. At his last phrase though, Daniel had been sure that he'd detected the vaguest flicker of amusement running across Jack's face. It wouldn't have been overly noticeable to anyone else, but Daniel was coming to know him well. He shelved the thought for later.
//Is it safe for my, er, companion and myself to take a little, um, walk into the forest? Just a short way, we'll stay in hearing distance of the village.//
One guide looked at another, said something in their own language and they both sniggered. Daniel was pleased that the men had got the right, or wrong idea. Daniel didn't, in fact, have any intention of seducing Jack in among the trees.
//Do not go far// the elder guide instructed. //Stay within a short distance of the clearing. It is all too easy to become lost in the forest.//
//Thank you. I am much more suited to the desert,// Daniel said with a grin. //Give me mile upon mile of sand any day.//
//How do you survive in the desert?// The younger guide was stunned and ran his fingers over Daniel's fair-skinned arm.
//I was born there, on the edge of the Sahara. I'm used to it. And as to 'survive'? We all have our ways, don't we? You survive here in the humidity and dense forest. I prefer the dry air and open space. When you know how to look for water, and where to look, it's all you need to survive.// He gave a shrug as he said it. The guides then had a greater respect for him, believing that the desert was more or less a place of nothing, especially when you came from a place of plenty.
"Come on, Jack," Daniel said and led him away from the village.
"You want to talk, don't you? I'm not sure that none of the villagers speak English. They think we're coming here to make out, by the way." Daniel's tone was hushed as he spoke, causing Jack to lean in.
"I thought I said not on duty, Daniel," Jack warned.
"Not even as part of a role? Look Jack. I don't want to make out, okay? It wasn't the reason for me dragging you out of the village. But as covers go, it's a good one for us."
"I see what you're getting at Daniel, but..."
Daniel stopped him with a raised hand and motioned for him to sit on a bare patch of ground, about fifty feet into the forest. He moved in close to be able to speak quietly.
"Jack, listen to me. I'm accepting the 'not on duty' rule. I don't want to have a relationship with you - or anyone - at the moment. But you have to agree. The majority of people in the majority of places are tolerant about homosexual relationships as long as they're kept behind closed doors, so to speak."
"Agreed," Jack answered calmly.
"So, if you and I are to work together, faking a relationship will give us the excuse we need to be on our own once in a while. That way we'll get a chance to talk. I'm not saying we should make out at any given opportunity, but to pretend that that is what we're going to do."
"I get it. All of my previous partners have been straight, so it's not been something that I've thought of before."
"Fair enough. Now. How much of the conversation with the guides did you understand?"
Jack burst out laughing. "All of it. I don't speak Spanish, but I can understand it."
"How many other languages can you understand?"
"A few. Not many, it's not my area of expertise. And I'm not fluent enough to have a conversation with anyone in any language - except English, of course," he added to head off any teasing. "How did you know?"
"Your face. You were amused."
"Don't worry, nobody else noticed, I'm sure. It was only there for the briefest of moments."
Jack relaxed a little, then he stiffened. "We're being watched."
Daniel didn't question it, just accepted his word. He leaned into Jack and kissed him gently on the lips, loving it when Jack returned the kiss. They heard a quiet feminine giggle and then a rustle of leaves as their observer retreated back to the village.
"See?" Daniel said as they broke apart. "Now they'll think that all they've got is a couple of queer scientists on their hands."
Jack beamed at him. "You're getting good at this 'role play' thing."
"Oh, I'm very good at role play," Daniel said. His voice was husky, but his face stayed almost innocent, and Jack was pleasantly surprised by Daniel's ability to cover his real feelings.
"I'll bet you are."
They stayed for a few minutes and discussed the plan for the next day and Daniel told him about his thoughts about Gracia Portillo, then, hand-in-hand, they made their way back to the village, making sure that they were seen before they let go.
The party had been battling through the dense undergrowth for hours when they came to a place to stop and rest. They were still about a day from their target destination. Daniel was wondering just how they'd get rid of the guides when the time came for them to do their proper work. All through the journey, he'd been marking certain trees surreptitiously so that they would find their way back on their own if the situation demanded it.
"How long until we get to the spot, Daniel?" Jack asked, his voice clear. He and Daniel checked the faces of the guides as he spoke and saw a flicker of recognition on one face. It was one of the men from the village, but he hadn't been there at the discussions the previous day.
Daniel repeated the question to the guides and they told him. A couple more hours' journey that day, then they should be there midday the following day after camping out. Jack seemed satisfied with the translated answer, never allowing the tiniest look that he hadn't needed it to cross his face.
They sat to eat and drink. The humidity of the rainforest was every bit as draining as the dry of the desert when it came to body fluids. Jack and Daniel were both soaking wet with perspiration as they drank down their water and took the salt tablets to stop the cramps.
Jack looked into Daniel's eyes, disguising the fact that he wanted to communicate with him in a loving gaze. Daniel smiled almost shyly back at him in acknowledgement. A quick flick of Jack's eyes towards the new guide told Daniel that Jack wanted to keep an eye on him. A blink from Daniel accepted it. Both men were privately stunned though. They just knew what the other one was talking about, even if all the talking was done with the briefest of eye movements.
A few more hours' travel had them at another spot large enough to set up camp. A mountain stream was nearby, allowing them fresh water to refill their bottles. Jack collected some and put it on to boil to make it safe. The water would still be warm in the morning, but at least it would be clean. The younger native, a boy barely in his teens, questioned Jack's actions, so Daniel explained.
//There may be diseases in the water. Boiling it will make it safe.//
//But we drink with no ill effects,// the younger man protested.
//True. And in our country, it is safe for us to eat and drink things that may make you sick. Childhood diseases that we get with few consequences can kill those that have not been in contact with them. It's happened. When the first European explorers arrived here, in Africa, Australia and so on, they inadvertently caused a lot of deaths to the native peoples through what were simple illnesses to them. They didn't mean to do it, but they didn't understand about the diseases then. They weren't too ill, so they were surprised when the natives got very sick and died. It's called adapting to your environment. You develop a natural immunity to some bugs that would make you ill and over the generations, your people are born with a certain amount of it. Not to the major diseases, but the ones you are constantly exposed to.//
Jack smothered a smile at Daniel's slight lecturing tone, wondering if he would have wanted to have been a teacher instead of an agent. He also appreciated how he'd treated the young man as a highly-intelligent person, not some 'dumb' native kid as some people may have done. The young man seemed to appreciate it too, nodding at Daniel's words and hanging on to them tightly. Yes, Jack thought, Daniel would have made one of the best teachers.
The two men shared a tent that night. They shunned sleeping bags and just used cotton sleeping bag sheets instead, and those to keep the bugs off them rather than for heat.
They tried to communicate in whispers but got very frustrated when some words wouldn't come out very well. It was too dark to write things down and even a small light would have attracted lots of insects.
"When we get back, we're going to learn the deaf/blind sign language," Daniel whispered in frustration.
Jack understood why. They'd be able to communicate in a noise blackout and in total darkness. He nodded in agreement, then touched Daniel's body. A gentle stroke told Daniel to calm down, that they'd sort it all out in the morning. A touch at the back of Daniel's head told him to lie down, and Jack's arm sliding around his neck pulled him onto Jack's chest. It told him that he was going to sleep well. They didn't really need the sign language. They already had one.
They'd arrived at the rocky outcrop and were now getting close stares from the guide they were watching. Both men had played their roles, getting out the scientific equipment that Daniel had brought. Jack used the theodolite to, ostensibly, survey the land. But when he could, he turned the scope to the villa and looked at it. Daniel's thoughts that they should be left alone were ringing in his mind and he was wondering how they'd manage it. Daniel seemed to be happy though, immersing himself in the area, looking for the world as if he was searching for a hidden settlement.
The guides made camp and prepared a meal. Again, they'd 'parked' near a stream, so Jack and Daniel went to wash up before they ate.
"How are we going to do this?" Daniel whispered.
They heard an almost silent snap of a twig, so Jack stood up from the side of the stream and put his hand out to Daniel. He led him to a tree away from the camp and then put him to lie against it. To the outside world it looked as if they were having a good kissing session. Mouths roamed up and down the sides of each other's face, hiding that they were, in fact, talking. They were none the wiser at the end of the 'conversation' than at the beginning. The people were sensible and matter-of-fact; stupid B-movies not withstanding, they were not going to run away at the first threat of a 'ghost'. The only thing the guys got out of the chat were hard-ons.
Jack was just about to step away from the darkened-eyed Daniel when he heard a loud bang. Gun fire.
He shot around and saw the suspicious guide with a shotgun in his hands, pointing it in their general direction. The guide moved it and showed what he'd shot. A snake. A very, very large snake. And given its current (and final) position in a branch just above them, it may well have been heading their way.
"Thank you," Jack acknowledged, nodding at the same time. Daniel, when he saw the snake, thanked him in Spanish.
Now they were really confused by the man.
Jack woke. He pressed the light on his watch and saw that the time was 03:00. The hour of the wolf. He was certain that a wolf hadn't woken him though. He checked his boots for bugs and then crept silently out of the tent, careful not to disturb the sleeping Daniel. He saw shadowy movement to the side of the camp, the full moon lighting the sky in a dappled manner through the dense foliage. As quietly as he could, he drew his knife and made his way towards the movement, checking his breathing and trying to make sure that he was as silent as was humanly possible. The forest was mainly quiet, only the calls of some of the night animals and birds were in the air.
He arrived near the rocky outcrop and saw the guide. He had something in his hand. Jack hid in the shadows and watched as a light flashed. He saw it flashing in a pattern and realised that the man was using Morse code. Despite his professed inability to speak Spanish, Jack could read it, and he was an expert in the code. He saw that the man was talking to someone in the villa.
//Who are they?//
//As I can be.//
//Will they interfere?//
//Do not think so.//
//Watch them. If they get too close, kill them.//
There were no more flashes from the other side, so Jack made his way back to the tent as quickly and as quietly as he could. He heard the soft movements of the guide as he hurriedly pulled off his boots and got back into the bag. A low moan from Daniel as he turned in his sleep sent cold water down Jack's veins. He hoped that the guide wouldn't hear it. Muffled footsteps came closer, so Jack lay on his back and pulled Daniel over him, putting the younger man's head to rest on his chest. He felt rather than saw Daniel smile as he unconsciously realised where he was. Jack feigned sleep as the tent flap opened. His grip on his knife never wavered though, even if his hand was underneath himself, hiding the blade from their potential assassin.
He relaxed slightly when the flap closed and the guide retreated, apparently satisfied that the two men were sleeping.
"We need to get to the villa and soon," Jack informed Daniel as they climbed over some rocks, Daniel with trowel in hand as he scraped away some of the moss. His voice was low, and he was covering his words by placing his lips close to Daniel's ear and smiling, looking for the world as if he were trying to persuade his lover to do something not work related.
Daniel turned and sat on the rock with a sigh, looking cross with Jack for disturbing him. As Jack's fingers trailed down his sweaty body, Daniel gave in and smiled, then pulled Jack close.
"Last night, the guide talked to someone there using Morse." He kissed Daniel's nose and then returned to his ear. "They told him to kill us if he thinks we're a threat to them."
"Sounds promising," Daniel drawled.
"Yeah. So, got any ideas?"
"Yes, actually, I have."
Before Daniel could explain his idea, the young guide came and called them to eat. Daniel decided that he'd eat before putting his plan into action, he just hoped that Jack would like the idea.
Over dinner, they chatted with the guides, Daniel continuing his role as interpreter. They really liked the original guides, who were fun and friendly, not to mention brilliant at survival in a rainforest. Daniel swapped survival techniques with them, telling them how to live in a desert, and they passed on tips on jungle living. The young man asked Daniel why he was interested in the forest.
//We need to find out more about the peoples that were here first, your ancestors.//
Daniel beamed at the young man, thoroughly enjoying the fact that he seemed to be genuinely interested.
//Because I am convinced that ancient man was a lot cleverer than some people think. We know the Mayan people were smart. I just want to show how smart they were. Seeing that their descendants, especially the children, are so clever, it stands to reason.//
That was met with kind laughter from the two older guides and a whoop of delight from the younger man. Daniel translated what he'd said to Jack for appearances' sake and got a grin and a raised water bottle in salute. He really was the teacher.
In a light-hearted mood, the five stood up after their meal. Daniel headed back towards the survey site alone, Jack not too far behind him, quite enjoying the view in front of him as Daniel's sweat stained pants highlighted the younger man's ass quite nicely.
His reverie was broken when Daniel suddenly collapsed and yelled out in pain. All four men ran to him. He was sitting on the floor, his hands wrapped around his ankle.
"DAMN!" he spat as they got to him. "I think it's broken."
Jack looked into Daniel's eyes and twigged what he was doing straight away.
"Hell. No, don't take your boot off," he insisted. "It's strapping it. We have to get him to help. How far is that villa?"
Daniel gritted his teeth as if in great pain and translated for him.
"About five hours' walk, downhill and then up," he repeated back to Jack. Then added, "But I can't walk, Jack."
"Do you think they'll have somewhere for a helicopter to land?"
Again, Daniel asked and gave the answer. "They think so. But they're not sure that the people will want us there."
"Tough. It will only be until we can organise a medevac chopper. Our insurance covers it," he added. Daniel translated that back to the men. The friendly guides agreed that it made more sense than carrying Daniel back for what would end up as over two days' travel with an injured man.
Jack gave orders to pack up the camp. The other guide wasn't happy, but his hands were tied. It made sense to all of them that taking Daniel to the villa was the right way to go.
Hearing his muttering, Jack called out, "What's the matter with you? You'll get your payment for acting as guide. It's all at the village, ya know!"
Again Daniel translated, even if they already knew that the man would understand them.
//It is not that. Señor Iñiguez does not like strangers. He will be displeased with us.//
//We'll tell him that it was not your fault,// Daniel said in a conciliatory tone. //It's all my fault. I'm always doing silly things like this.//
Jack got out the medicine pack and picked out a couple of painkillers. He gave them to Daniel with a bottle of water, slightly surprised when Daniel took them eagerly. He'd thought that Daniel was kidding about that ankle.
Daniel wasn't kidding. For authenticity's sake, he'd put his foot under a fallen log and wrenched it deliberately. If anyone at the villa looked at it, they'd see one very swollen ankle. It would help keep Jack safe. He was pretty sure that it was only twisted though, so that was a private relief.
It took longer than the predicted five hours to reach the villa, but eventually they got there. However, as predicted, the household were not pleased to see them. It took some serious pleading and eyelash fluttering on Daniel's part with the lady of the house before they were accepted in.
The guides were thanked and left, but Jack noticed that a glare was sent the English speaking guide's way. He guessed that the man would soon leave the village and go elsewhere for his own safety.
Jack carried their rucksacks and kit, helped a little by one of the male servants. They were put into a room and more or less ordered to clean up before the lady of the house would see them again. Señora Iñiguez was not someone to eagerly accept dirty and smelly explorers in her beautiful, clean house.
The men were grateful, however. There was a bath and a shower in the room's en suite bathroom. Jack helped Daniel into the bathroom, then made him sit on the toilet while he removed the boot. It wasn't pretty. As Daniel had predicted, it was swollen and now fairly purple.
"I thought you were joking," Jack hissed when he saw the state on his friend.
"I couldn't. Look, Jack, when they see this, they'll know I'm genuine. It will leave you to explore a bit more freely, don't you think? If they saw two fully functional ankles, they'd know we were onto them."
Jack sighed and nodded. "Next time," he insisted, "talk to me first."
"I would have, but time's running out."
Jack nodded again, then helped Daniel to stand up. They both got undressed and Jack accompanied him into the shower, as assistance so that he could get cleaned up without falling over and doing himself more damage. He kept his hands firmly on Daniel's waist as the younger man washed his hair and then soaped his body. When he was rinsed off, Daniel held onto Jack as Jack got himself clean. Then they made their way out, wrapped in robes that the maid had put for them as they'd entered the room.
Daniel sat on the bed, rubbing his long hair with a towel. His ankle hurt like hell, but he just grinned and bore it.
"Let me strap that up for you, Danny," Jack sighed as he sat next to him.
"Not yet. Let someone else see it first, huh? Don't want my planning to go to hell."
With a breathy snort, Jack put his arm around Daniel's shoulder and then pulled him close, kissing his head. "You're crazy, you know that?"
"Oh yes," came the sad sounding reply. "I mean, look at what I do for a living - and how I got the job. I'd have to be insane to want to do that. Look at my partner!"
"It's like that, is it Doctor Jackson?"
"It certainly is, Doctor O'Neill."
"You know, huh?"
"I guessed, then asked. Saw your passport too."
"Damn. So much for my dumb image."
"Oh I wouldn't worry about that," Daniel said a little too enthusiastically for Jack's liking. "You've got that well covered. It's so good, no one would ever guess."
In response to that, Jack tickled him, making Daniel nearly squeal. They almost didn't hear the knock at the door.
As Jack had, by now, got dressed, he opened the door. It was Señora Iñiguez.
"Mr. O'Neill," she said in a haughty tone, but in English, "how is your... companion?"
"Ah, Señora Iñiguez, Doctor Jackson is in pain. Come in. He's in a bathrobe, but covered up."
"Doctor?" she said in surprise. She walked into the room and saw Daniel tightly wrapped in the bathrobe, still trying to dry his hair. He looked up, a mask of pain on his face.
In Spanish, he greeted her and thanked her for her help and hospitality. She saw the colour on his ankle and took pity on him. Now that he was clean and smelling much nicer, he seemed to be a nice young man.
"You are welcome," she said in English. "Are you a doctor of medicine?"
"No, linguistics. I'm going to be working on my next PhD in anthropology though. That's why I'm here. My studies have led me to believe that the ancient peoples were more advanced than we think. I saw that outcrop on a map and thought that it looked odd to be a natural formation," he explained. "It's why we came. We wanted to see if it was a settlement."
"And was it?" Her tone had now changed to that of someone fascinated by him. Jack noticed that her face looked the same as the young guide's had. He wondered if he'd be seeing a lot of that in future.
"I'm afraid I didn't come up with anything conclusive," Daniel replied sadly, his shoulders dropped. "I don't think so, but I'd need to do so much more work there. Of course, then being the klutz that I am, I did this." He waved his hand at his ankle and glared at it, as if it would make it better.
"Can I get you anything for it?" she asked kindly.
"We will need to call our medical insurers. They can helicopter me out of here," Daniel answered, blushing. "Jack has packed plenty of medical equipment." He sounded really embarrassed by that.
"Daniel, how many times do I have to tell you, it's not that you're clumsy, you're just distracted. Your mind is elsewhere. Don't worry about it. We've got very good insurance, you know that."
"You insist on it!" Daniel sounded plaintive, as if this was a long running and one-sided 'discussion' between them.
"Just to be safe, babe. You know that."
Daniel dropped his head, muttering apologies to both Jack and Señora Iñiguez for being such a pain. Señora Iñiguez felt sorry for him and said that it was okay. If he was to hurry to get dressed, he and Mr. O'Neill could join them all for dinner that night.
Daniel looked up and smiled at her, his blue eyes looking truly grateful. She smiled at him and patted his shoulder, before nodding at Jack and leaving. As she left, she said that there was a telephone in the room and that they could use it to call.
Vicente Portillo listened in to the telephone conversation, picking up the extension just after Jack dialled. Jack heard the familiar click and smiled to himself. This was working beautifully.
He dialled a specific number which was answered within a couple of rings.
International Medical Rescue. How may I help you?
"Hello, this is Jack O'Neill, insurance policy number, er, um, I have it here, ah, it's A59A113M25. We have a problem."
And what is that, Sir?
"Doctor Jackson, who's named on the policy, has hurt himself. It's nothing too serious in itself, but he has severely twisted his ankle. It's the location that's the problem." Jack looked on the map that they had and gave the address of the villa and the map co-ordinates. "We're in the middle of the rainforest," he said with a sigh, "and it will take at least two days to get out, even without Doctor Jackson's injury. He's in no fit state to hobble through the undergrowth. We'll need a helicopter. Señora Iñiguez is being very kind, but we don't want to impose on her any longer than is strictly necessary."
I see, Sir. Not a problem. Though it will have to be tomorrow when the chopper arrives, I'm afraid. We'll see to all the arrangements, so don't you worry about it. If you have any questions, your reference number is AM0830D01.
"Thank you." Jack said his goodbyes and hung up, then sat back on the bed next to Daniel who was getting dressed.
"Not now. Just trust me."
"I can do that."
Jack beamed at him and then offered to help him with his foot. He'd already bound it but he was wondering if he should try to get Daniel's boot back on it.
"I think it's better if you leave it, Jack. I'm not sure I could take having it put back on, just yet," he added with a wry grin. "I'm sorry, maybe there would have been a better way..."
"Aht. It's done. And I know why. C'mere." Jack gave him a hug. "It's going to be okay, Danny, I promise. Now, get a move on, we've got dinner to attend."
"I just hope that Señora Iñiguez will be okay about me being there so crumpled."
"I'm sure she'll understand," came the placating reply.
They had unworn clothes in their packs, but they'd got creased during their travels. At least they were clean and smelled okay. With a sigh, both men headed for the door, Daniel with his arm over Jack's shoulders as he hopped out of the room.
They saw a maid as they made their way carefully downstairs, and she led them to the dining room. It was brightly decorated, with white walls and covered in paintings of the forest and the coast in the traditional colours of Central America. Daniel smiled broadly as he saw them. Señora Iñiguez greeted them as they entered.
"Señora Iñiguez, you have a beautiful house," Daniel said as they were shown a seat at the large mahogany dining table. "The art work is exquisite."
Daniel was overdoing the description, but he felt he should be nice.
"My cousin's work," she said. "Gracia Portillo. You'll meet her soon. She and her husband are staying here with us at the moment."
"Good," he said enthusiastically, "I'd like to congratulate her in person."
There was a noise at the door and both men turned to look. Carlos Iñiguez was there, accompanied by Vicente and Gracia Portillo. Jack stood, but put his hand on Daniel's shoulder to keep him sitting. They were introduced, Daniel apologised for not getting up and was forgiven readily by Gracia when he complimented her on the paintings.
Dinner was formal, but friendly. They chatted about the tobacco industry, Portillo insisting that he was a part of it, and Daniel kept them entertained with stories of Egypt and his childhood there, and discussions on the Mayan people and their heritage. All of it went a long way to backing up their cover story. However, both men were watching Daniel closely, but sending surreptitious glances Jack's way. Jack was on edge.
Eventually, after good food and some wine, Daniel could be seen fighting off a yawn. Instead of standing on ceremony, Señora Iñiguez insisted that he go to bed, understanding that he must be very tired.
"I am," he sighed. "And the painkillers are knocking me out. Thank you so much for the meal and hospitality," he said again, "I'm not sure how I'd have faced a walk back through the forest."
They excused themselves and Jack took Daniel back up to the bedroom. The room they'd been placed in had two single beds near each other. As they got ready for bed, Jack pulled Daniel into a hug.
"Really tired, Jack, that's all. I wasn't kidding."
"Don't worry, it'll be all over this time tomorrow."
Daniel understood the double meaning. They'd be out of the villa - and the mission would be done. Just before they went to sleep, Jack moved close to him as if to kiss him. He whispered some instructions and informed him of what he had planned.
Jack's watch alarm went off at 03:30. He dressed but stayed barefoot, put some things in his pockets, strapped a small torch to his wrist, then woke Daniel quietly and told him that he'd be looking around. He got his handgun out of the sack and made sure that it was loaded and that the safety was on. Daniel sat up, trying to stay awake but finding it hard. As Jack moved out of the room, Daniel slung on a pair of trousers and stationed himself by the door, his own handgun at the ready. Just in case. Then he waited.
Jack, meanwhile, had moved stealthily down the stairs. He was sure that whatever he was going to find would be in the office which he guessed was located off the grand hall. He tiptoed across the floor, went behind the stairs and to the door he'd seen when they'd entered the house earlier that day. Carlos Iñiguez had been seen coming out of it to see what the fuss was all about when they arrived.
It was locked, as expected, so Jack pulled out his lock-picking kit from his back pocket. As quietly as he could, he tried the various keys until he heard a click. Gun in hand, he slowly pushed down on the handle. He switched on the torch and looked around. There were filing cabinets there and, trying not to disturb anything, he opened them one at a time, looking for evidence against Portillo. There had been no suggestion so far that Iñiguez was involved in the drugs directly, but Jack was sure that he would know and maybe was allowing his home to be used as a base until it was safe for Portillo to return to Columbia.
After a few minutes, Jack was getting frustrated. He had found nothing to implicate Portillo at all. He continued his search, desperately trying to keep as quiet as possible.
Daniel held his breath as he heard footsteps in the corridor outside his room. He hobbled back to bed and got in, holding his gun tightly. He was facing Jack's bed and saw that the man had used his rucksack to make it look as if someone were in there. He kept his fingers crossed that it would work.
The door opened slowly and a man's head entered. He looked around, saw the beds, then shut it again. Daniel's heart sank when he heard a click. He left it a few minutes, then when he was sure that the footsteps had gone, he tried the door. It was locked.
Feeling that the game was up, Daniel packed their bags as quickly as he could. He had an inkling that he knew how this was going to go down and he didn't like it one bit. The first thing he had to do was hide - not an easy thing to do when you couldn't walk.
He looked out of the bedroom window and saw why they'd decided he was safely locked away in there. The villa was about two thirds of the way up a hill, and on its edge, naturally. There was a long, long drop under his window.
He sat on the window ledge, held onto the frame tightly and looked up. There was sufficient moonlight to illuminate the outside of the whitewashed building and he saw a trellis to one side. There was also a large brick sticking out like a turret just at the side of the roof. The whole villa had been built as if it was a complex of separate buildings, so that inside there were many corridors and stairs, and outside, the roof went up and down, some of it flat, other bits sloped. Daniel surveyed his situation and pulled out a couple of ropes from Jack's kitbag. To the end of one, he tied all the rucksacks and kits. He tied the other end of that around his waist, then went back to the window ledge. Sitting on it, he threw the one end of the other rope up to the turret and missed, it was being pushed away by the breeze before it got high enough. He needed a weight on it. He looked inside the room and spotted his boots. He returned to the room, put one boot on, saw Jack's boots and figured he'd need them at some point so he tied them to a kitbag, then tied his spare boot to the rope end. Then he lifted all the kit onto the wide window ledge.
He threw and missed again, but the weight wasn't the problem. Cursing under his breath, he tried again, praying that the boot wouldn't make too much noise when it hit the side of the building.
Success. Daniel allowed himself a little smile, then fed the rope easily, the weight of the boot allowing the end to drop, and soon it was in his hands. He tied the other end of the rope loosely around his waist, trapping the end with the boot in it and pulled on the rope. Sending out another prayer that the turret would take his weight, he hauled himself out of the room.
Finding himself dangling outside a drug lord's cousin's villa in the middle of the Nicaraguan rainforest, was not something that he'd ever thought would happen when he'd signed on for the doctoral programme at Harvard, but Daniel was nothing if not adaptable. He pulled on the rope and raised himself. He stuck his good foot against the trellis, but didn't dare put too much weight on it as he had no idea how strong it was. The rope tied to the kits was getting tighter, and he hoped that he'd be up and on his foot before he had to pull them. He didn't want to add to the weight on the one rope.
He got closer to the turret, fought back the urge to grab it and then with a final hard tug, got himself up to the top. Leaving the rope in place, he reached out with one hand to the carved stone gutter, muttering gratefully that the people hadn't gone plastic yet, then taking his life, quite literally, into his one hand, he let go of the rope and quickly grabbed the gutter with his other. Slowly and carefully, he inched his way to the right and to a slightly lower flat roof. He allowed himself to round the corner before letting go and dropping the few feet to the roof making sure he landed squarely on his booted foot. He untied the rope and flicked it off the turret. Then, after bracing himself, he pulled on the other rope. As he'd thought, it was extremely heavy, and he had a nervous moment as it pulled him forward and close to the edge, but he made it. The bang that the kit made when it hit the side of the building scared him and he tugged quickly till it was all up. Then he undid it all, and walking very gingerly, he carried it bit by bit to a shadowy corner. Then he sat and shook nervously till he was sure that no one was wandering about and looking for him.
He knew they'd start to look at some point though, so he needed to find the right spot. Leaving the kit behind, he crawled over the roof, searching for the right hiding place. When he came to a flat spot that had good vision over the driveway, he returned for the kit. Finally, he settled in his spot and got out a few things. One of which was a rifle. He put the sight on it, loaded it with bullets and generally got it ready. A few other, more explosive bits and pieces were placed in front of him. Last of all, he got out a sweater and put it on, the chill of the night air was making him shiver as the nervous sweat on him dried off. He looked at his watch. 04:30, the sun was rising. It was time to wait again.
Jack hadn't found much, just a few hints of apparently legitimate dealings between Columbia and the US. It was likely that these dealings were covers. He took out a small camera and took images of the documents, especially the names and addresses of the companies involved.
He put the files away and tried to make it look as if he hadn't been in there. Then he crept to the door and switched off the torch. His heart beating wildly, he put his hand on the handle and felt it twitch. There was someone there. He snatched his hand back and stood stock still, hardly daring to breathe.
He waited for about twenty minutes before trying again. He'd heard nothing in all that time and scolded himself for having too vivid an imagination. He put his hand back on the handle and felt nothing. Slowly, he lowered it. Still nothing. He pulled the door back, his head getting close to the door so that he could look around the edge.
The door suddenly slammed backwards, hit his head and Jack's world went black.
The sun was rising further, the temperature getting a little higher. Daniel was impatient, but he still waited on the roof. Part of him wanted to go back into the house, but he knew that if he didn't see Jack outside, he'd not be in a position to rescue him. He'd need to wait for the helicopter. Looking at his watch, he saw that it was 07:30. It wouldn't be long.
"So, O'Neill, you are finally with us."
Portillo was standing in front of Jack as he opened his eyes, still groggy from the smack to the head. He looked around, noticed that the world was a little blurry and shut his eyes again. His hands were tied behind his back and he was on a chair, his ankles tied to the legs. He felt that rather than looked for it, experience telling him that he was in it up to his neck. One thing he realised was that he could only hear two people breathing. Himself and Portillo. So Daniel wasn't there. Where was he?
"Wake up!" The order rang through the room, echoing in Jack's sore head.
"Wake up. We don't have time for this. Now, tell me, who are you?"
"Jack O'Neill. You know that."
"What were you doing in Carlos' office? You were looking for something?"
"Don't play dumb. I know you are more awake than you are pretending. Tell me or I will kill you."
"You're going to do that anyway, aren't you?"
"Maybe, maybe not. Now speak."
"Go to hell."
"Who are you working for?"
Jack stayed silent, but cursed under his breath as the back of Portillo's hand smacked across his face.
"How about we ask your friend? You wouldn't want something to happen to him, now, would you?"
"Go to hell," Jack repeated.
"You and he are lovers, no? He has a pretty face. It would be a shame to cut it up, wouldn't it?"
Jack said nothing. Inside he was screaming at Portillo, but his face gave nothing away. Jack wasn't afraid for himself, but he was terrified for Daniel's sake. Where was he? Did they have him?
Portillo was obviously getting fed up of Jack's 'strong but silent' routine, so he opened the door. A man stood outside and Jack heard him ordering him to get Daniel. Again Jack played dumb, pretending that he couldn't understand him. Portillo said nothing as he waited for Daniel to be brought to him. And waited. And waited. Jack was vaguely amused at the impatience that he was showing. Daniel was obviously giving the guy trouble.
After a long wait, the man came down the stairs alone. He nervously approached Portillo and spoke.
//He's not there.//
//What do you mean 'he's not there'?// Portillo all but screamed back.
//We opened the door and he had gone. His window was open. He might have climbed down, but if he did, he won't get far. It's a big drop.//
//Send some of the locals after him! He cannot be allowed to get away. He may bring the authorities.//
Grateful to be given something to do that would get him away from his furious boss, the man made his escape.
Muttering under his breath, Portillo cursed his luck, saying that he was surrounded by idiots. He yelled at a maid and told her to get his wife. Then he turned to Jack.
"Your friend would seem to have fallen to his death. There is no other way from his room. You can only go down."
Jack spat at him, allowing himself that one show of emotion. Something told him though that Daniel was still around.
Gracia Portillo appeared and Jack heard Vicente ordering her to get everything ready. Carlos came running out of his office with papers in his hands.
//Burn these!// he cried out to a passing servant. The man took the papers and headed to the kitchen.
Soon, Gracia was there with suitcases ready. Vicente called for a car and Carlos said, "You will take him! There can be no sign that he was here. If the police come..."
With a scowl, Vicente agreed. "The forest will kill him," he said spitefully.
A gun pointed at Jack's head as Carlos cut his bonds. Slowly, he rubbed his wrists and shoulders, then flexed his legs. With 'encouragement' from Vicente, he got up and strolled casually out of the room and into the hallway.
"Out!" Carlos ordered, panicking completely now as servants ran helter-skelter around the place.
In complete contrast, Jack put his hands in his pockets and whistled as he sauntered out of the house.
Daniel heard the whistling. "Danny Boy". Grinning and grimacing at the same time, he readied himself. He looked at his watch, 08:25. Not long now.
He picked up a couple of grenades that he'd got out of the bag the night before and waited for the right moment. The quiet 'thudthudthud' of a chopper's blades started to break through the noise of panic below and he knew it was time.
Removing the pin, he threw the first grenade as far as he could get it. It landed near a wall, well away from the car and the people. If they were panicking before, they were frantic now. Some men ran towards the explosion, others away from it. Daniel sent another grenade hurtling in the opposite direction, taking out a couple of men (undoubtedly Portillo's henchmen from the way that they had been behaving.)
Portillo and Iñiguez hit the deck, Jack stayed upright. The chopper got closer and closer, a rope ladder hanging underneath it. Jack jumped onto the boot and then the roof of the car as Daniel threw a few more grenades to keep the confusion going. As the ladder neared Jack though, Daniel saw Portillo move. In his hand was a gun. Daniel retrieved his rifle.
Portillo was standing up, his legs uncurling as he straightened. His hand raised, gun pointed towards Jack. Just as Jack grabbed the bottom of the ladder, Portillo started to squeeze the trigger.
His head exploded before he finished the job.
Jack snapped around and looked up, seeing Daniel, now sitting on the roof, bracing himself from the recoil of the rifle. Quickly, he scrambled up the ladder as the chopper moved towards his partner. By the time they'd arrived, Daniel had grabbed the kit. The chopper pilot lowered the craft as much as he could, allowing Daniel to throw the kit into it before he grabbed the ladder himself.
As he was climbing up, a number of bullets whizzed past him, narrowly missing him.
Daniel looked down at the ground and saw Gracia Portillo, gun in hand and aiming it at him. Her cartridge was spent and she looked furiously at it. Then she looked at Daniel and nodded slowly. He understood. Next time, she'd get him.
They'd hardly spoken on the way back. Both were exhausted and Daniel was upset, not that he'd let on. The helicopter took them to a small airstrip where the local agent removed their guns and so on before the customs agent got to them. Then they officially left the country in a small, chartered private jet. A UNASCO doctor met them as they landed and took them to the private clinic they had on site. It was the small hours of the morning before they finally arrived at Jack's apartment, Daniel on crutches and appearing dead to the world.
When the door shut behind them, he changed.
Dropping the crutches, he grabbed Jack and kissed him furiously, relentlessly, needing to touch and to be touched. Jack understood all too well.
He took him to his bedroom, their lips still touching, clothes disappearing as they made their way. By the time they hit the bed they were naked.
"Fuck me, Jack," Daniel moaned.
"Fucking do it!"
Jack yanked open his bedside table drawer and pulled out some lube and a condom. He didn't ask if Daniel was sure, he didn't think he'd survive the tirade.
Supplies ready, he returned to the task in hand.
"Jack, just fuck me," Daniel moaned.
"I will. Just let me do something I want, please."
"Whatever." Daniel didn't sound too enthusiastic. But when Jack slid down his body and engulfed his dick with his mouth, Daniel changed his mind.
Jack had never heard his name sound like a meditation chant before, but there it was, as if it was the single most important sound in Daniel's life at that moment. He looked up and saw Daniel's head thrashing about as the words came out, 'Jack, Jack, Jack," quietly and continuously. He'd have drawn it out but he knew how much Daniel needed to come, so he concentrated on giving him what he wanted.
He worked him, sucking and licking, letting his hands roam all over Daniel's body. He'd sucked off many guys, but he'd never known anyone so responsive, never got so much pleasure back from it. He mouthed Daniel's balls, loving it when the younger man seemed to shoot off the bed. Daniel's calling of his name was now interspersed with pleas to finish him, so Jack took pity on him. He knew he was seriously tired. Jack put all of his effort into making Daniel come, lubing a finger and inserting it in him, he homed in on Daniel's prostate, wondering if it did as much for his part-time lover as it did for himself. It did. Combined with Jack taking him whole, it was too much. He came, pouring down Jack's throat and calling his name in loud moans.
Not letting Daniel change his mind, Jack quickly put the condom on and lubed it, then helped the shuddering man to turn over. He pushed Daniel's legs apart and positioned himself, then finding Daniel relaxed for him, he pushed in slowly, stopping every so often until he was allowed all the way in.
"Okay?" he whispered as he lay along Daniel's back.
"Yeah. Move it."
Fighting back an inappropriate snigger, he did as he was told. It felt good, they fit together nicely. Jack thought that the heat would cook his brain and Daniel groaned appreciatively as he felt Jack's cock brush against his gland time and again.
"Good?" Jack gasped as his own body started to betray him, urging him on to go faster. As he sped up, Daniel answered,
"All the way."
Jack let loose, just using Daniel's body to get off, thinking a little guiltily that he was being selfish, but the noises that came back to him told him that Daniel was actually wanting it like this. He pushed harder, slamming as fast as he could till he could give no more. Daniel's hips started to move as if he was fucking the bed underneath him and Jack realised that the young man had recovered already. He pulled back and urged Daniel onto his knees, then continued his assault, but combined it with jerking Daniel off at the same time. Daniel rested his weight on his forearms, his head bowed, panting for breath while he exhorted Jack to move.
Jack started to come, grunting as he did. Daniel joined him, his balls giving all they had left after such a tremendous orgasm earlier.
They flopped onto the bed, Jack having just enough brain cells to pull out of Daniel gently and clean up. He went to move Daniel to get him ready for bed, but he was out cold. Jack sniggered. Daniel was asleep on the wet spot. Ah well, they'd deal with it in the morning.
Sitting across the table from each other the next morning, coffees in hand, there was a barrier between them. Daniel needed to talk, but for once he couldn't find the right words. Jack needed Daniel to talk, but the master interrogator had run out of questions. He sighed to himself, then went back to his bedroom and changed the sheets. When he finished, he saw Daniel in the doorway, his arms wrapped around himself as he watched Jack's movements.
"Hey," Jack said with a smile.
Daniel returned the look and word. Then Jack put his hand out and beckoned him close. When Daniel came in range, Jack pulled him gently to sit, then lay on the bed. They lay together, Daniel wrapped in Jack's arms.
"Much, thanks. Um, thanks for last night."
"Welcome," Jack said with a little chuckle. "You needed it, didn't you?"
Again the silence, then Jack turned Daniel onto his back, leaned over and kissed him. Gently at first, the passion grew until they were breathless. Then he stopped.
"You saved my life, Danny," Jack started. Daniel was about to say something when Jack put his finger to Daniel's lips. "Please, let me say this. You followed protocol, you did an incredibly brave thing by climbing out of that window, you kept the agency a secret by removing all of our kit, and then you did the ultimate thing. You killed. And I, for one, will never forget that. Other people have saved my life in the past. Abe for one. He was my first partner and the only other one I've ever felt like this about before. I want you to be my permanent partner, Daniel. I trust you. You did, you will continue to do, whatever is necessary. Thank you. Not only for saving my life, but for trusting me, for trusting in me and for doing the right thing."
Daniel gave him a weak smile and then kissed him gently on the lips. He said nothing though.
"Daniel? What's wrong?"
"A year ago, just over, when Fai and I split, he said that when I got my masters I should go back to him if I still wanted him."
Jack flopped onto his back.
"Oh? Do you?"
"Shit. So, you're leaving?"
In confusion, Jack sat upright and then turned to face him.
"Faisal was killed in a car crash a few months back. Just before the MI6 training."
"Aw crap. I'm so sorry." Jack's voice was totally genuine and got a sad smile in response. "Why didn't you say anything?"
"I got the letter the day you arrived," he said with a shrug. "I didn't have the time to wallow in grief."
"Too busy with the thesis."
"It's just hit you, hasn't it?"
"Yeah." Daniel's voice finally cracked with that last word, prompting Jack to pull him into his arms. "Do yourself a favour, Jack," he whispered in-between choking back the sobs, "never fall for me, okay? Don't you ever love me."
Jack didn't answer that, he just held Daniel tightly, rocking him gently back and forth as the younger man finally let go. It was too late anyway. Jack already loved him, but now he knew that he could never tell him that.
"So, as you see, the UN has started up commissions looking into every aspect of our remit." Abe strolled around the main office and imparted the news that there were now official commissions dealing with terrorism, drug trafficking and the trafficking of humans for slavery and prostitution.
"How's this going to affect us, Abe?" Daniel asked. He was still in plaster, a broken wrist gained during his last mission with Jack in which they had taken out a couple of big time slave ring heads. He looked wryly at his wrist and grinned. It was a small price to pay. Jack had got off lighter, but with some severe bruising from a beating he'd had to take. He was currently sitting at another desk; close, but not too close to the space-loving Daniel.
"It won't, not as such. But should the existence of UNASCO ever emerge, we'll at least have a legitimate backing. Anyway, the report of the council is over there. Read it and inwardly digest, people."
All the members present groaned. UNSC briefings were rarely an exciting read.
Office life returned to normal, the massive phone bank to one side of the room ringing almost constantly. The operators would answer according to the colour of the light on the switchboard. Daniel's eyes wandered and caught the board. A red light was flashing. The operator answered. "International Medical Rescue." Quietly, Daniel snorted to himself as he had used that one on more than one occasion. It had been used on their first ever mission, four years before and a year after he had joined the organisation, he mused. He heard the operator speaking, repeating the information given. Policy number A96A73M51. Agents 96 and 73 were in trouble. An M51 rescue meant that one of them was sick. Anything with an M code meant a genuine medical problem. Daniel's twisted ankle had been a 25 - unable to walk. 24 would have been a broken ankle, 23 two broken ankles, 22 broken leg and so on. 51 meant that whichever one it was, was very sick, possibly with something like malaria - which, while they were inoculated against it, was a disease that sometimes would be contracted anyway. The operator gave them the information they'd need. Daniel saw on her chart that they were in Indonesia, so he wasn't surprised to hear her say AM0700D15. The pick-up time would be 07:00 local time - one hour from the present as it was 17:00 New York time. One thing Daniel knew was that the operators had all of the world's time zones in their minds, even knowing when it was Daylight Savings Time in any given area. D15 meant that they'd be flown out to destination 15. Darwin. 01 was New York.
It surprised Daniel to know just how much he'd absorbed over the years. Codes, destinations, phone numbers, even styles of talking. Sure, he'd learned a lot of them off by heart early on, but they'd become second nature to him now, like one of his many languages. He no longer had to think about which code number he wanted, he just knew it. He'd been there too long, he thought with an inward chuckle. Shaking his head, he returned to his work.
Jack got up and sat next to Daniel as Abe retreated to his office, and decided that a little teasing wouldn't go amiss. Daniel had taken the last mission a bit more to heart than he let on and he was looking a little down at that moment. Anything where the trade in humans was involved always hurt him. They'd had the customary post mission sex, Jack biting down on words of love as they made love. He'd never told Daniel that he loved him. He hoped that Daniel would know it though by his actions. Jack was convinced, no, he wanted to believe that Daniel loved him too. God only knew they'd moved heaven and earth to save each other, time and time again.
One thing Jack had never regretted for one moment was having Daniel as his partner. The office sweepstake on the length of their partnership had maxed out on five missions. They'd surpassed that by more than twenty missions. Those that thought they knew Jack the best had never believed it. He had no time for scientists - even though he was one himself. What he meant by that though to those that really knew him, like Daniel and Abe, was that he had no time for laboratory scientists and theorists. He was more a man of action. The guys in the office had been stunned when Jack had been every bit as pleased with Daniel's anthropology PhD as Daniel had been. Another reason was that despite being prepared to kill, Daniel was an innate pacifist whereas Jack wasn't. And Daniel was still a long-haired geek, even if he had cut his hair back to shoulder-length, where Jack's hair was militarily short and neat, and he was in no way a geek.
Some new guys in the office saw the gentle teasing and bickering between the two of them and, knowing that they were both gay, did some teasing of their own. They didn't mean anything nasty by it, not by a long shot, it really was friendly and taken as such. Daniel had never once had to teach a loudmouth a lesson in his five years at UNASCO. But this time, the teasing was starting to get on Daniel's nerves, especially as Jack was joining in. Comments about them being like an 'old married couple' led to questions about 'when they were getting married' and so on.
Daniel wasn't hurt by this, but he decided to get his own back.
"Jack, stand up," he ordered.
"Just do it, O'Neill."
With a confused grin, Jack stood up. "What?" he asked. Then he found out.
Daniel grabbed him and pulled him into a deep, long kiss. When Jack tried to pull back, Daniel slid his right leg in-between Jack's legs and trapped Jack's thigh with his own. Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack and intensified an already passionate kiss. He only broke away when the cheers and claps from his 'audience' brought Abe out.
"WHAT IS GOING ON?" the deep bass voice boomed.
Daniel pulled back. "Don't fucking wind me up again, O'Neill," he warned.
Jack put both of his hands up in surrender and laughing out loud, he backed off. The others in the office were still applauding, so Daniel took a bow before he sat back down at his desk. He sniggered quietly to himself when Jack was hauled into Abe's office to 'explain' what had gone on.
As he walked past, Jack bent down and whispered, "You are a dead man, Jackson."
"Ooh, I'm scared," Daniel replied, harking back to his time at Oxford and bringing up what had become an old joke between them.
Jack snorted, then ruffled Daniel's hair as moved on, getting the by now customary, "Fuck off, O'Neill," in reply.
In Abe's office Jack sat with a smirk.
"So, you going to tell me what that was all about?"
"Just a bit of fun, Abe. DJ has been a bit tense since the last mission. You know how he gets when we deal with slave rings. Some of the guys were winding him up, just friendly teasing - I joined in, he got his own back."
"Are you having an affair?"
Jack answered so quickly that Abe was startled. "Jack, talk."
"We are not having an affair." He spat that last word out as if it was something despicable.
"You love him," came the challenge.
Jack stared into Abe's eyes and shrugged. "Sure."
"You're in love with him."
Jack got up and paced around the room. "Say nothing, Abe, I'm warning you."
"DJ has lost everyone that's ever loved him. Everyone. His parents, foster parents, his lover. He's scared to be loved, okay?"
Abe sighed, as much in sympathy as in frustration.
"Does the fact that you're in love with him hinder your operations?"
"Abe, I fell in love with him practically the moment I set eyes on him. Ah - maybe it wasn't that soon, but definitely on the first mission."
A grunt from his boss told Jack that Abe wasn't necessarily too happy with that information.
"So? Are you together?"
"Jack, what's the story?"
"It's private, Abe."
"Jack, this is me. This isn't prurient interest, I need to know that the two of you are okay to work together."
Jack got angry and stormed to the door. Opening it, he yelled, "DJ! Come here!"
Frowning in confusion, Daniel made his way to the office.
What's up, guys?" he asked as he strolled in.
Jack shut the door and with a face like thunder, he told him. "Because of the teasing out there, Abe wants to know if we're okay to work together. He thinks we're having an affair."
Daniel grimaced, then he looked seriously at Abe. "Would it be a problem?"
"Only if it affects your work," Abe said with a conciliatory shrug. He wasn't really sure what Jack's problem was. Then he noticed Daniel looking at Jack and getting a small nod back. Something had passed between them and he didn't know what.
"We have sex... sometimes," Daniel admitted casually. "We're not having a relationship." He emphasised the last word and suddenly Abe got what had annoyed Jack. The word 'affair' implied casual, and Jack wouldn't do casual with Daniel. But he didn't understand Daniel's other remark in that context.
"So?" he asked, looking for clarification.
"After missions, Abe," Jack sighed. "It de-stresses us. We care about each other, ya know? Neither of us wants a relationship, we can't go looking for relief from anyone else. We're the only gay guys in the office, Abe. We're partners and we understand each other. There's no embarrassment or recrimination between us, no morning-after blushes. If it happens, it happens. Not after every mission, but after some."
Abe nodded now, beginning to understand them better. Then he decided to test the younger man.
"DJ. Does this affect how you work with Jack?"
"What? No, of course not."
"Would you put him before the success of a mission?"
Daniel was stunned. "What do you mean?"
"If the choice was to save Jack's life or to complete the mission. What would you do?"
Furious at being asked such a thing, Daniel stood up, hands on Abe's desk he glared angrily at his boss. "Jack. First and foremost. Every-fuckin'-time, Abe. When I joined up, Jack told me that if one of us were killed it would be a tragedy for the planet because we wouldn't be around to protect it and I happen to agree with that. He's my best friend, the best friend I have ever had in my life. I couldn't and wouldn't go out there without him. And if you want to fire me for that response then do it. I have no regrets about saying it."
"Jack? What about you?" Abe turned to his long-time friend, ex-partner and one of his most experienced agents. "Would you save Daniel over the success of a mission."
"Without a second thought, Abe." Jack's voice was quiet. He wasn't looking at his boss, but staring softly at the man he loved.
Daniel turned and smiled back at him, and Jack was sure that he saw love in Daniel's eyes. He knew just what Daniel was prepared to give up by protecting him. A family. Somewhere he belonged. The first place he'd truly belonged in a long time. If that wasn't love, nothing was. He never needed to hear it from him now, he knew.
They turned to look at Abe and waited for his pronouncement. They were both surprised to see him smiling.
"You are right," he said. "You are more important than a mission. The only time I'd say that wasn't true would be if it were a choice between one of you and something like a nuclear bomb going off. But I'm also sure that you would weigh that sort of consideration up first."
"Of course," both men answered at the same time. They knew what Abe meant. No point in saving one life if millions would lose theirs, and quite possibly the two agents at the same time. But under more normal circumstances, when it was them against the traffickers and drug barons, then they came first.
"If you'd said the mission, I'd have fired you both. To have done that would have meant you couldn't work together, couldn't be honest about your feelings for each other. Humanity is important in this job. It may not seem it from time to time, especially when you have to kill to succeed in your missions. But if you lose that, lose your need to protect, then you're no good to us."
Abe had sent them home after that chat, wanting them to get away from the office for reasons they weren't too clear about. Daniel was still living with Jack, they'd never got around to finding him somewhere else to go. It worked, for the most part.
"Daniel, how many times do I have to tell you about dumping coffee grounds in the sink?"
Daniel wandered into the kitchen and shrugged. "Sorry, I was in a hurry this morning. Um, Jack, we need to talk."
"Yeah. Something people do now and then. You know, open mouth..."
"Insert foot?" Jack sniggered.
"Well, you're the expert on that," Daniel answered with a lopsided grin. "But we do need to. Talk, that is."
Jack put down the sink plunger he'd been wielding and then moved towards his friend.
"Come on, in the living room."
They sat on the armchairs and faced each other, Daniel picking at the wrist edge of his plaster cast.
"So, what do you want to talk about?" Jack prompted carefully.
"Us. I mean, you're right, I still agree, no relationships. Not a good idea. But I'm twenty-six years old, Jack. I need, you know?"
"Yeah, I know."
"I want to have something. Sure, I go clubbing, but it's not as if I can bring anyone back here, is it?"
"Sure you can!" Jack insisted, but even as he said it, he knew that it wasn't really on the cards that Daniel would. His shoulders dropped. "What are you saying?"
"I'm not saying anything, Jack. But you haven't brought anyone back here since I've been here. You must need too. I'm cramping your style, aren't I? I guess I'm asking if you want me to leave, to find somewhere else. I won't be offended if you do, it's your place and I get on your nerves, I know, and I don't want to affect our partnership at work and if you get fed up of me here then you'll hate me there and..." he added hurriedly.
"Sh, Daniel," Jack calmed. "I don't want you to go, honestly. There's lots of reasons I want you to stay. I can live with intermittent celibacy. What we have, what we do, it's enough for me."
"Jack? What aren't you saying?" Daniel asked carefully.
"Nothing, honest. I'm happy, okay? If you're not, then do what you want to do." Jack's face started to shut down as if he was waiting for bad news. Daniel's stomach knotted.
"No, Jack. It's not what I want. I just don't want to become a nuisance to you. And I'm fed up of sleeping alone," he said sadly.
"I know, me too. Aw crap, Danny, this is hard. I don't want anyone else. I know you, I'm happy with you, I want more from you."
"It's been five years, Danny. Five fucking years. Or rather five intermittently fucking years."
Daniel laughed quietly. "I know. But I'm scared, Jack. Our job, it's so dangerous. If you were to love me..."
"Danny, that's not going to happen just because I love you, is it? How many times have we come close to it since we've known each other?"
"Precisely. If it's going to happen, it will happen."
"Yeah, I know this academically, but I'm still too nervous. I'll be waiting around for you to want to leave me too. I can't do that, not with you."
Jack got up and walked around the room, finally settling on looking out of the big picture window that looked out on the city. He was running Daniel's words through his head and he eventually realised why Daniel was so nervous - and why it was happening now. Five years. He and Faisal had been together five years. Poor Daniel must be waiting for the same thing from Jack.
Without letting on that he understood, Jack wandered over to Daniel and took his hand, pulling him to stand upright.
"Partners," he said. "Me and you. Partners, Danny. It means something to me."
"Me too," came the whispered response as Jack pulled him close for a hug.
"You're not ready for more, are you?"
"No. I'm sorry."
"Don't be. Let me know when you are."
Jack felt Daniel smile against his neck. "Wouldn't be ready for anyone else," he assured Jack.
"Don't you fucking dare die on me, O'Neill!"
Daniel was hauling his lover away from the building that was going to blow, any moment now.
They were in the desert, having tracked down a bunch of terrorists and their training camp. They'd had to cross over an unfriendly border while they searched for a very dangerous man.
Amir Al-Ra'd was the leader of the group. Purportedly religious extremists, they wanted to destabilise the politically fragile Near East. Daniel's beloved Egypt was in danger, as it had a secular government and not the fundamentalist religious one they seemed to want. Though why they'd want a fundamentalist government, Daniel didn't know. One thing he and Jack had found out was that these people were criminal, not religious as they made out. Perhaps they wanted to put people that they had in their pockets into power, the cover of fundamentalism giving them greater control over the people and bureaucracies. All Jack and Daniel knew was that if they succeeded, there would be arms, drugs and slave/child prostitute rings springing up like never before.
Four days before...
"We've got the scum sucking bastards, Danny, look!"
Jack passed a highly-detailed military satellite photo to Daniel who was sitting at his desk, studying all the evidence and intelligence that they had on the 'Light of the World' terrorist group. They'd assassinated a couple of government ministers in a number of the more liberal Arab countries, sending a message that they were going to pick on anyone that wasn't part of a religious movement. A - fortunately - failed attempt on the life of the Egyptian president had underlined that fact. Daniel sighed. The country of his birth had always tried to tread that fine line between appeasing the religious extremists and allowing the freedoms demanded by the majority of her people. It wasn't a perfect system that they had there, but it wasn't bad and at least they were trying.
He looked at the photo and saw just what Jack meant. Just over the border from Kuwait and in Iraq, was what could only be a terrorist training camp. PT equipment in the desert was strange, especially as it was nowhere near any settlement or army camp. A large bunker-like building was right next to it, and objects that looked like human targets lined one edge of the 'field'. Battered old cars littered the boundaries of the complex, some looking like they'd been smashed up, others as if they'd been subject to explosive devices. Even if this wasn't the 'home' of Al-Ra'd, this was certainly somewhere worth investigating.
Daniel nodded in agreement and then the two men went to see Abe. He was only a few years short of retirement now and his hair had turned almost white. He blamed his favourite partnership for all the worry they inflicted on him. They blamed the fact that he was sixty.
"We think we've got him, Abe," Daniel said, his head still in his papers as he walked into the boss' office.
"Show me what you've got," came the reply.
They put down the evidence and sat quietly, waiting for Abraham's decision. He read all the written evidence, looked at the photographs and considered what was before him. After about ten minutes of silence, he looked up, removed his reading glasses and sighed.
"You have a go, gentlemen," he said quietly. "Be very careful. The whole area is unstable at the moment. Do not rely on any official help. We'll have back-ups in Kuwait for you, of course. At least they're on our side. Saudi maybe, but it would all depend on the allegiances of the local prince. Most will help, but this group are gaining a lot of grass-roots support out there."
"If they only knew the real reason for the group," Daniel spat. "It is so against their religion, Abe." His voice became almost pleading as he wished he could just tell the world and supply the evidence. "He's got young men on suicide missions, thinking that they're doing this for religious reasons. They genuinely believe this. But in the end, if he gets into power, things that are real sins to them will be promoted."
"I know, son, I know. It's wrong. So, it's up to you two to stop it. I'll have all the equipment you need ready for when you get there. Fly commercial into Kuwait City and there will be a rental car waiting for you. Have you a cover story?"
"Sure. Daniel's going to be looking for remains of a Mesopotamian settlement near the border, in the rocky expanse there. It's an exploration rather than an expedition, you know, just a 'let's see' trip. If, by some miracle, he finds anything, he'll contact the Oriental Institute and they can arrange a proper dig."
Jack added that last bit because a couple of Daniel's previous missions had in fact turned up a few places that would be worth digging. He was getting a reputation as an explorer. To keep up his cover, he'd written a couple of books on the theory of ancient technical development and cross-cultural pollination and attended proper expeditions with bona fide organisations. He was thought of as being on the fringe of his subjects, but he managed to provide enough evidence to keep the academic bodies interested in him. Some had tried to headhunt him, but he cried off, professing to prefer to work on his own.
They went home, ready to fly out early the next morning. Within a short while they had their bags packed with suitable desert clothing. Light-coloured cotton pants and shirts, a wide-brimmed hat to keep the sun off them as it was high summer. Plenty of industrial-strength sunblock too. Daniel packed his archaeological tools (in the intervening years he'd done it, got his archaeology degrees and was now a triple PhD, making him the most highly-qualified man at the bureau, irrespective of department) and various notebooks for authenticity's sake. They knew that they'd pick up weaponry when they arrived in the country. Jack had given Abe a comprehensive list of ordnance that he might need before they'd left for home.
"Coming to bed, Danny?" Jack called as he cleared up after their hastily prepared and eaten meal.
"Yeah, be with you in a minute."
Daniel's voice was vague and he sounded like his head was in a book.
"Ah ah ah ah! Bad Daniel. Read that on the plane, please." Jack snatched the book of historical information on their target area out of Daniel's hand and hauled the man off to the bedroom. It hadn't really been that long since they'd finally got together. It had taken Daniel another couple of years after their 'realisation' before he'd finally trusted his own feelings for Jack. Over that time, they'd spent more frequent nights together, Jack patiently letting Daniel take his time, quietly encouraging him to come to bed instead of just saying 'night!' and leaving him in the living room with a book.
Then, one otherwise unremarkable day, it had happened. No longer totally unsure about his place in Jack's life - and Jack's place in his - and more confident that Jack wasn't going to get fed up of him and leave or send him away, Daniel went to bed with Jack without being asked.
He'd been a bit nervous, but had bitten down on that, just got ready for bed - Jack's bed - before Jack had even mentioned it. They hadn't even made love that night. Jack had treasured that night ever since. He'd got in, sensing that Daniel was waiting for him to kick him out, so he'd put his arms around his lover and held him close. He'd physically felt Daniel's barriers go down with his relaxing body. The next day, Daniel had moved the contents of his drawers into Jack's room without comment. They'd been totally inseparable ever since. Neither man had yet admitted to the other that he loved him, but under the circumstances, Jack was prepared to let that ride. He knew. If Daniel hadn't loved him, he'd not have got into bed with him that night. He still wasn't sure that Daniel knew just how much Jack loved him, but he held to his private vow not to say anything - just yet anyway.
With a groan, Daniel got ready for bed, nearly jumping in and onto Jack.
"So, are we going to go without making out?" Daniel questioned as Jack settled under the cover.
"I dunno, Danny. I'm getting old ya know. We made out this morning. Forty-one now, I'm not a youngster anymore," Jack teased, getting the customary 'pfft' from Daniel in return.
"Oh? So you won't want me doing this then, will you?"
Daniel kissed Jack hard, gentling his touch till their lips barely connected.
"Definitely not," Jack admitted with a grin.
Daniel had noticed that Jack hadn't worn a thing to bed (as if he would, he thought), so he made the most of it. He trailed his lips over Jack's unshaven chin, rasping his day-old beard with his tongue and teeth. Then he gently suckled on Jack's Adam's apple, licking and kissing his way down to Jack's chest.
"Nope, not that," Jack moaned.
"This?" Daniel's teeth found one nipple and then the other. He decided to do what Jack loved and softly nibbled on them, sucking them to hardness.
"No, that's not going to do it for me either," Jack gasped.
"Oh dear. Perhaps I should try this?" He trailed his tongue down Jack's abdomen, playing with his navel for a few minutes before going lower, stopping at the top of Jack's groin, Jack's very erect and hard dick jabbing him in the face as he did.
"No," came the panted reply. "It's not going to get me going."
Trying not to laugh, Daniel stopped messing about and took Jack's dick in his mouth. Even though he knew what would be coming, Jack nearly shot off the bed. Nothing on the planet compared to a Daniel Jackson blow job. He'd seen the most beautiful sights, heard the most exquisite music, eaten the best food. He'd trade it all for being sucked off just once by his lover. He did consider that he didn't have to trade it, so it made him the luckiest man on the planet.
Daniel wasn't being idle. He'd left Jack's cock and was now lapping at his balls, letting his fingertips gently roam, teasing Jack's perineum, dick and ass. Jack knew what was coming when Daniel pushed his legs apart and up. No matter how many times Daniel did this, he was never tired of it.
Daniel's hot, wet tongue teased Jack's opening, pushing in slightly, then pulling back and encircling it. Time after time, Daniel teased and probed, sending Jack out of his mind as he did. He continued till he heard the inevitable sounds that warned him of Jack's predicament. Sometimes, he carried on, making Jack come by rimming him alone. Other times, he'd do what he was going to do that night, and he pulled back, then swallowed Jack whole.
One thing that Jack understood was that just before a mission, Daniel needed to possess Jack totally, so he let him, glad of being owned. When they got back, the tables were turned. Jack glad to have Daniel still in his life, Daniel needing to be fucked, to hurt - to feel after being numbed by the trauma of the mission. It was a system that worked for them.
Jack allowed himself to enjoy the moment, giving himself totally to his lover as he did. He came, pouring down Daniel's throat, pumping more fluid than he'd thought he had. He cried out, calling his lover's name.
A few minutes later, when Daniel had his breath back and Jack was more with it, he found himself on his hands and knees, ass in the air as Daniel entered him. He let out a low groan, thoroughly enjoying being possessed.
"God, Jack, need you so much, babe," Daniel gasped. "Want you so bad."
"You got me," Jack howled as Daniel hit the hot spot yet again.
By the time Daniel was coming, Jack was moaning with both pleasure and pain. He wasn't up for a 'second coming' that night, but his gland had been well and truly thumped. He gasped when Daniel pulled out slowly, causing concern in his lover.
"Jack, did I hurt you?"
"No, babe, you didn't. Just tenderised me," he added with a chuckle. "C'mere." He rolled back onto his back, as Daniel cleaned them both up, put his arms out and hugged his lover close when he'd finished.
"Seriously Jack, I never want to hurt you."
"Same here, DJ. Not going to hurt you, okay? I'm fine. Tingling, but in a good way."
Daniel snorted and then got into his favourite position as Jack turned out the light. Head on Jack's chest, he settled down for the night.
The hire car was indeed waiting for them at the airport. A four-wheel drive Toyota suitable for desert driving. Jack didn't check out the equipment in public, preferring to leave it until they were on their own. He allowed himself a small internal chuckle at the thought that despite Daniel's training and expertise with armaments, he always left those arrangements to Jack. He could organise it all, he just chose not to, as if it were too close a reminder of the more dangerous aspects of their lives. Daniel also knew that even if he did do the checking, Jack would double-check because he'd want to know what was there, so he didn't bother, trusting Jack to make sure that everything was in order for them.
The drive out to the desert was long. They needed to get over the border to Iraq without anyone knowing where they were going. The training camp was just inside the border, about ten miles away in the rocky region. Daniel studied the map as Jack took his turn at driving, reading all of the details that were available.
"The camp is virtually sitting on an oil pipe," Daniel said casually as they bumped over yet another dune.
"Yeah, I noticed that. Could be interesting."
Daniel sniggered at Jack's words, getting exactly what Jack meant by it.
They navigated using the US Military Global Positioning System, avoiding the roads and police checkpoints as they went. If they were found, Daniel had his reasoning for being there ready and waiting to be used. Satellite pictures of a particular rocky area showed the existence of a sabkha, or salt flat, a kind of wadi. Places like that could be filled with water during heavy rainfall, and historically, there would have been a greater chance of water being there on a more regular basis. Where there was water, there might have been a settlement. It wasn't a brilliant reason, but it was logical and may work. He had his archaeology tools and his reputation for finding obscure dig sites to back him up if the worst came to the worst.
Even though the point at which they wanted to cross the border was only about sixty miles from the airport, it took them a good few hours to get there. By the time they found the dirt track in the rocky hills that they wanted, they were exhausted. It was a good time to stop and take stock.
Daniel pulled out the burner and their food supplies, putting the water on for the coffee before anything else. Jack hauled out their more professional equipment. C4 and detonators; two AK-47s, Daniel's favoured NATO Luger and Jack's preferred Beretta, among others. He found the cartridges and magazines and loaded them all, ready for quick action and put them under the front seats of the Toyota.
"Hope you've got the safeties on, Jack," Daniel teased as he watched him while doing the cooking. "We don't want to go 'bang' while we're bumping through the rocks."
"Oops!" retorted Jack with a snort. "Must've forgotten that. Your turn to drive next, DJ, better be careful."
More seriously, they sat silently together, drinking the coffee and then starting on the food which finally got cooked.
"So, how are we going to play this, Jack?" Daniel asked quietly after topping up his mug.
"By ear, DJ. Look. We don't know for sure that Al-Ra'd will be there, but we can only hope. Whoever it is that's there is obviously up to no good. We take out that camp no matter what, agreed?"
"So, as you said, there's an oil pipe line running underneath the camp."
"Yeah, but I don't know how deep it is."
"Given that the whole place is rocky, I'm guessing it's not too deep. What we'll do - if we can, of course - is place downward charges either side of the camp. If we set them on timers, we can get them to go off at the same time. At the very least, if the explosion is big enough, we'll rupture the pipes and cause fires. Also, given that it's a pipe and not connected closely to a well, the initial explosion is the only thing that's going to cause major damage. As soon as the station in Saudi realises that the pressure's dropped, they'll turn the flow off. It's not going to be like a well fire."
"Sounds dodgy," Daniel countered. "There must be a better way."
"Sure, but the more we can do remotely, the safer we'll be."
"Granted," Daniel sighed. Then suggested what he hated to do. "We'll have to make sure that we take out Al-Ra'd. He's got to be an assassination target. Taking him prisoner will just fuel his support. Maybe we'll martyr him, but hopefully, we'll have stopped his following before it grows to a point at which his personality becomes a cult."
They talked long into the evening, watching the sun set together and then huddling against the chill of the desert air. Eventually, they retreated to the back seat of the Toyota, snuggling up under a couple of blankets. They kept to their 'not on duty' rules and just slept, but each took comfort in the presence of the other.
Lying on his stomach on a rock, high in the Arabian desert, was not one of Jack's favourite things to do. However, staring down the sight of his Barret M82 sniper rifle mitigated it somewhat. One thing he'd found out was that the target was there. Instead of taking him out though, Jack felt that taking out the camp and as many of the followers would be a 'good thing' too.
Careful not to allow the sun to reflect off any part of him or his equipment, Jack crawled back over the edge of the rock and to Daniel.
"Good. How many others?"
"About twenty that I saw."
"What's his transport?"
"Ya didn't see it?"
"I wasn't looking."
"Oh. Helicopter. It's sitting out on the side of the camp."
"Shit. Do you think he's going to use it soon?"
"He can try. Fix up the grenade launcher just in case."
"What happens if he does decide to go before we're ready?" Daniel asked as he strolled back to the Toyota to pull the various pieces of the launcher and ready them.
"We shoot him out of the sky and get the fuck out of here."
"Sounds like a plan," Daniel sniggered. "And if he stays?"
"Back to plan A."
They spent the rest of the day readying everything they had, especially the explosives and timers. Then they waited till the sun set before putting the plan into action.
It was a moonless night, so darkness aided their cover. Using night-vision goggles, they watched the 'green' world around them as they crept silently to their targets. A small, shaped charge was placed near the fuel tank on the helicopter, a timer set for five hours six minutes later and a remote device inserted too, just in case they had to change their timing plans. If all went to plan, all hell would break loose at 04:40. The helicopter's device wouldn't go off till a few minutes later in case Al-Ra'd made a run for it.
Using Daniel's digging tools, they scraped down towards the oil pipe twice, once on each side of the camp. There, inside a bag packed with small, hard rocks, they set large explosive devices, pointing downwards and towards the pipes. Incendiary devices would ignite the oil if the explosion hadn't already.
Two hours to go and they started to set the final devices. A car, obviously not used as target practise, became another 'host' to an explosive. Then the largest one of all was to be placed inside what looked like an armoury.
Daniel thought that he could hear his heart beating loudly as he and Jack hid from the guards that were doing their rounds. Two men, heads wrapped in long cotton scarves, machine guns in hand and wearing belts of ammunition walked around the camp looking bored.
Daniel overheard them talking.
//Hey, Malik. It's cold tonight, isn't it?//
//It is, Asim, it is. Colder than the boss's heart.//
//Hush, he'll hear you!//
//He's snoring his head off. Besides, I speak only the truth. You saw what he did to young Hamid.//
Daniel wondered what poor Hamid had done - and what Al-Ra'd had done to him in return. He didn't find out as the men walked off.
He nudged Jack and they crawled out of their hiding place, thinking that the underneath of a burnt out car wasn't the most comfortable place to be. Keeping low and in the shadows, they made their way to the building that they were going to be targeting.
Daniel kept watch as Jack picked the lock and as quietly as he could (and after oiling the hinges with a small can of 3 in 1 that he purposely carried with him for just this job), he opened the door inch by inch. Using a dull light (so as not to attract any outside attention), he looked inside. What he saw inside frightened the shit out of him. It wasn't weapons. It was chemicals.
Each barrel had the name of the chemical on it - in Arabic and in English. Individually, these substances weren't too much of a problem, but put together... items like hydrogen peroxide were there in abundance. As were fertilisers.
He realised that some of the chemicals there weren't necessarily for explosions, either, but could be used to poison water supplies and so on. They had to get rid of them. He saw a few of the necessary ingredients for a particularly large explosion and grinned. If he was exceedingly careful, this would take out the whole camp.
"DJ," he whispered, and summoned his partner into the building. Showing him what he'd found, he used the deaf/blind sign language to explain just what he had in mind. They had learned that as soon as they'd returned from the first mission, just as Daniel had suggested and had used it time and time again when they wanted to have silent conversations.
Looking at the time on his watch, Jack noticed that they had only one hour left. They had to get a move on.
They found some gloves and masks hanging up on the wall and put them on, then they started to very carefully open some of the containers. Jack chose some chemicals that needed a catalyst to make the bomb. While Daniel followed Jack's instructions, combining the powders in an empty container that Jack insisted be put in the centre of the building, Jack was preparing his catalyst. A third chemical, another powder, which he wrapped tightly in a paper sack that he found was placed in the centre of the combination. Then he ran a long fuse. The plan was that when the fuse burned, the paper would catch, the bag would open and 'ka-fuckin'-boom' as Daniel's SAS sabotage trainer had put it.
They had ten minutes to get the hell out of there. Daniel attracted Jack's attention and pointed to his watch, getting a nod in reply. If this lot didn't go up, they'd have to get the UN forces in the region to launch an air-raid.
For the sheer hell of it, Jack planted his final explosive under a stack of fertiliser packs, just in case.
At eight minutes before the first explosion was due, they left the building.
At T minus 6, they were creeping past the guards.
At T minus 5, they were caught.
Both men froze in their tracks as they heard the voice, accompanied by the sounds of two machine guns being readied. Slowly, they turned around, their hands in the air.
//Who are you? Why are you here?//
Jack looked at Daniel and shrugged.
//Um, I'm Doctor Daniel Jackson. And, er, um, I'm lost. We're lost. We're on an expedition and got side-tracked. We're looking for our vehicle.//
Daniel had his hands out in front of him in submission and started to walk slowly towards the guard.
//Stand still! Keep your hands up!// the one guard yelled as the other ran off to call for help.
At T minus 2, Al-Ra'd appeared, his bodyguards and other people surrounding him. He moved towards them, but stopped about thirty feet away. Daniel and Jack took a few surreptitious steps back, inching towards their vehicle and away from the explosions that were about to hit them. Jack had staggered the explosions, but only by minutes. They knew that they wouldn't have much in the way of warning.
T minus 90 seconds. Al-Ra'd called out the same question that the guard had asked and Daniel answered in the same way.
T minus 60. Daniel's heart was pounding, as was Jack's. Al-Ra'd didn't believe Daniel and was studying him. The night goggles that were now around Daniel's neck weren't helping his case.
T minus 30. Al-Ra'd made his mind up and issued some orders.
//Take them!// he yelled at the guards. //Lock them up until I decide what to do with them. Maybe they will be good target practise.//
//Um, why?// Daniel stalled, stopping the guards in their tracks.
Al-Ra'd's mouth opened wide. He hadn't been expecting that. The seconds ticked off and Jack sent out a prayer. 10 - Al-Ra'd got his voice back and started to hurl a stream of invectives at the two westerners - 5 - Daniel and Jack were on their toes and ready to run. 3 - The guards started towards them - 2...1...
The first explosions happened - the oil pipes. All bar the two agents hit the deck, Daniel and Jack deciding to run for it instead. They turned on their heels and started to sprint for the rocky ridge as burning oil shot up into the air and started to fall like a Biblical storm. The screams of those caught in the oil fall rent the air as gun fire started to add to the noise and confusion.
Another explosion, the car, lighting the sky and demolishing the side of the brick bunker that Al-Ra'd had been in a few minutes before. Not turning to look back, they heard the leader yelling orders and more cries of injured and dying men. A huge pack of C4 placed on the other side of the building went off and bricks flew through the air.
One of them hit Jack on the head.
Daniel saw him fall and stopped dead. He looked down and saw his partner, his lover on the floor. Without thinking, he bent down and picked him up, slinging him over his shoulder.
"Don't you fucking dare die on me, O'Neill!" he yelled as he realised he couldn't feel Jack breathing. Al-Ra'd was still yelling at his men to get the intruders, but they were dealing with their own injured. He strode across the compound and to his helicopter with the air of a man that knew he'd survive the attack.
Then came the massive explosion that Jack had planned. Thirty seconds later than it should have, the catalyst finally did its work and set off the chemicals in the other brick building. Some canisters broke and their chemicals either burnt or exploded, according to type. Any survivors on the ground near the buildings were now dead. Only Al-Ra'd, who was on the opposite side of the camp lived. Daniel scrambled up the rocks, Jack still on his shoulder, not looking back but just knowing that his target was still alive.
He dropped Jack off his shoulder when they reached the top and tucked him under a ledge, putting his hand over Jack's mouth to check that he was still alive. Daniel breathed himself when he felt the shallow breath hit his hand.
He watched the helicopter as started up, saw the rotors as they slowly sped up, whizzing around until they got up to take-off speed. It lifted gracefully off the ground, away from the chaos below. Daniel watched it as he lifted the grenade launcher to his shoulder. He'd give the explosive another few seconds to work. He counted them down. 5, 4, 3, he squeezed the trigger, 2, 1 - he fired. The grenade shot out of the pipe and flew in a collision course with the helicopter. Daniel followed its progress, then allowed himself a smile.
The timer had gone off at the precise moment the grenade hit. Al-Ra'd was no more. His helicopter was in many parts and falling back down onto the burning chemical store. Even if by some miracle he'd survived the explosion, the chances of him surviving the fall and the subsequent fire would be nil. The final pack of C4 under the fertilisers went up as he hit the ground, not making a huge impression on the devastation, but adding insult to injury.
Jack was still out cold so Daniel carried him down the other side of the ridge and to the Toyota, lying him carefully on the back seat. He got out the medical kit and cleaned up his wound, then called in the emergency to headquarters. They'd have a chopper inside Kuwait's border waiting for him.
He threw all the kit into the car and drove like a madman for the border, praying that no officials on the Iraqi side had seen the explosions and weren't in the area just yet if they had.
Jack woke up in a bright room, his eyes hurting so he squinted against the light. To his side, a familiar sight. An unshaven, unkempt Daniel, fast asleep in a chair by the side of his bed. Jack looked around, carefully moving his head as it hurt like buggery and realised that he was in hospital.
"DJ?" he called out quietly, his voice croaky from all the dust and smoke that he'd inhaled the night before.
Daniel opened his eyes slowly and woozily looked at Jack.
"Hey you. Did it work?"
Daniel grinned. "Ka-fuckin'-boom."
Jack lay back and shut his eyes with a huge smile on his face.
"Daniel, will you please stop fussing. You look gorgeous, but if anyone comes after you, I'm gonna take 'em out. You know I'll do it."
Jack looked at Daniel with a smile as his partner stared at himself in the mirror, running his fingers through his very unfamiliar short hair.
"Jack, we're going to the party as a couple."
"No, you miss the point." Daniel turned and looked at his lover, grinning to himself as he saw the greying hair which seemed to be highlighting Jack's head as he was wearing a black suit.
"DJ? What's up?"
Daniel took him by the hand and led him to sit at the table in the kitchen. Then, holding Jack's hands in his, he tried to explain.
"I'm sure that everyone knows we're together, Jack," he started, putting his finger up to his lips when Jack started to interrupt. "However, Jack, we've never told anyone. Not even Abe. I mean, I know they know that we're both gay. I know they know we live together. But hell, we lived together for seven years before we became a proper couple. Maybe some of them think we're still like that."
"Are you ashamed...?" Jack started.
Daniel's head shot up, his eyes wide and his mouth opened in shock. "NO! Never. Neither do I regret being with you for one single microsecond, Jack, and don't you even begin to think that I would. It's not that."
"Then what is it?" Jack sighed, more confused than ever.
"It's Abe's sixty-fifth birthday, Jack. He's about to retire. You're the most experienced agent there."
"And the oldest?"
"No, Sparks is. But he's a technogeek," Daniel added with a grin. "You know as well as I do - and he does - that a field agent has to be in charge. Just as Abe was."
"So, you're thinking that it will affect how people see me?"
"Not the old hands, Jack, but maybe the new intake. They don't know you like the rest of us do. You've been with UNASCO for twenty-five years. I've been there fifteen for crying out loud. I know you - the others for the most part know you. The new guys only know your reputation."
"The one as a hard man?" Jack sniggered. "You think that if they know for certain that I happen to like takin' it up the ass they'll think I'm soft?"
"Who knows?" Daniel shrugged. "You know how dumb people are."
"Danny? Are you getting any hassle?" Jack was suddenly suspicious about Daniel's real reasons for worrying.
"No, nothing, honestly," came the reply.
"Then what's really bothering you?"
Daniel dropped his head into his hands. He wasn't overly sure what was bothering him about that evening. They'd been to parties together before, but this time Jack had decided to push the issue. Whereas in the past they'd gone in at the same time, even spent the best part of the evening together, they'd always held back from the physical overtness of being a couple. They'd not held hands, they'd taken separate gifts even. This time it was one gift. This time, Jack was insisting that they were going together. Daniel had no problem with people knowing that they were together. As he said, he wasn't ashamed of his relationship - rather, he was proud of it. He had a gorgeous partner, a good man, someone that cared deeply for him...
And then it struck him and he let out a moan.
"Danny?" Jack was around the table in moments, crouching down and holding him tightly. "What's wrong?"
Daniel gave a sad and slightly hysterical giggle.
"You love me," he whispered.
The light dawned on Jack and he kissed Daniel's head as he rocked him gently.
"You know I do. I tried not to, Danny, but I think I fell in love with you when I saw you on that roof, back on the first mission. I've held back from telling you as you wanted me to. But I love you so fucking much."
"I know." Daniel's voice was breaking as he said it. "I know. I love you too. Always did, Jack. Love you so much."
Tears filled both men's eyes as they held each other tightly, but they both blinked them back, unwilling to shed them. Jack had lived for that moment, wanting to hear those words from Daniel's lips for so long. Daniel was now scared stiff, having lived in fear of them.
"Promise me something," Daniel finally said, his voice quiet but firm.
"If you're offered Abe's job, you'll take it. You'll keep safe. If anything were to happen to you..."
The whole scenario in Daniel's head now revealed itself to Jack. The reason Daniel had never said anything about their relationship to anyone else wasn't because he was afraid of people knowing, but because he'd been afraid of people saying something... something like 'you two must love each other very much'. Whereas they'd both known it, Daniel had lost everyone else that he'd ever loved and losing Jack would be too much for him.
"I'll take it," Jack said suddenly. "If I'm offered it, I'll take it. But know this, Daniel. I've loved you for so long. If you were as accursed as you think, I'd have died a long time ago. Without you on the first mission, I'd never have got into the villa. If I'd got into it, I'd have been killed when they took me away. You're my lucky charm, Daniel Jackson and don't you forget it."
That earned Jack a weak, but nonetheless heartfelt smile.
"I love you," Daniel said again. "I love you so much it hurts. I've loved you for a long time, Jack. I'm sorry I was such a coward, I should have told you before."
"I knew, baby, I knew all along," Jack comforted. "I'm glad to hear it, but I never needed to. I knew."
Lips found lips and they sealed their revelations with a deep kiss. Then Jack broke away and stood up. "My knees aren't up to this crouching down, ya know," he said as he creaked to a standing position. Then with a teasing glance, he said, "Maybe you'll want someone younger soon?"
Daniel stood up next to him and scowled. Then he smacked him hard. "Don't you even fucking joke about that, O'Neill."
"I'm sorry," Jack tried to look contrite but failed miserably. "Come on, we'll be late." He suddenly snapped into a more businesslike manner and made sure they were ready to go out. Abe's present in hand, they left their apartment.
The party was at Abe's house. Unlike most of the agents, he was married, having fallen in love with his secretary the minute she'd walked into his life. He'd just taken over the role that he'd been playing since then, acting as a father figure to all the agents, after ten years in the field. He'd been forty, she was twenty-six when they'd met. After twenty-five years they were still together, twenty-three of them married. They'd defied her parents who were convinced that their multiracial marriage would never work. Eventually, her parents had come round (Abe's had already died when he'd met Effie) and had accepted him, finally deciding that their precious daughter had found the right man.
Even race and age gap apart, they were nothing alike. He was a big, strong man, she a small and delicate woman. He was a man of action, a civil engineer by training. She was a linguist (needing to speak a few languages was required in secretarial roles at UNASCO). He loved jazz, she loved classical music, specifically opera. But if anyone had tried to come between them, they'd have had one hell of a time. At work, he was the boss. At home, she ruled the roost. He'd lie down in a puddle for her to walk over, and she would kill anyone with her bare hands if they hurt him. Inseparable didn't even begin to describe them. They'd not been blessed with children though, their one sadness and regret; until a small child had been rescued after they'd been married for about six years.
This child, a girl, had been found in a hut in the middle of an African village, devastated in an attack by a group of modern-day slavers. She was only a baby, about fourteen months old. Her family were either dead or taken, and she too would have died if agents Shang Zhi and Mercedes Estabrook (Eagle and Speedy) hadn't found her and smuggled her home with them. Alicia Fleming was now a tall, elegant and beautiful eighteen year-old, bound for university the coming September, ready to study languages as had her mother.
Daniel grinned as Jack slipped his hand into Daniel's own, giving it a squeeze as Effie Fleming opened the door.
"DJ! Jack! So glad you could make it," she said with obvious pleasure. They both gave her a gentle hug and kiss as she hustled them inside the house.
"Hiya Eff," Jack said as the door shut. "How's things? Enjoying your retirement?"
"It's wonderful," she announced. "Though how I ever found time to work, I don't know." She'd decided to take early retirement just before her husband on the grounds that she wanted to 'prepare' for having him home. The truth was, she wasn't sure that she'd want to stay in work without him, but also that she wanted to see what life would be like without seeing him daily. So while he was at work, she busied herself around the house, attending classes and the like. And she missed him dreadfully.
"It's not the same without you," Daniel sighed. "Abe's new secretary, Michael, he's very good, and very nice... but he's not you, sweetheart. You understood me."
"You mean he can't read your handwriting?" she teased.
"That too," Daniel shrugged with a grin. "But you always knew what I meant."
With a little chuckle, she slid her arm through Daniel's. "Give him time," she encouraged as she ushered them into the living room. "He'll get used to you."
"He's attracted to him," Jack put in with a snigger.
"I'm not!" Daniel snapped.
"No, Micky's attracted to you."
"Oh yes he is. I've seen the way he looks at you."
Effie shook her head at the bickering. They'd always been like that.
"So, Jack, are you jealous?" she asked, her face trying to look innocent as she did.
"Not a hope," Jack growled. "The kid doesn't stand a chance."
Daniel laughed out loud, attracting some attention from the crowd that were already there. They greeted the men and they had to nearly fight their way to father and daughter who were holding court in the middle of the room.
"Jack, Daniel, glad you could make it," Abe announced as they got closer. He cast a sly glance at his daughter who looked miserable.
"Ali? What's up, honey?" Jack asked as they arrived.
"Ali is having man trouble," Effie said.
"Man trouble? Who's hurt you?" Daniel's 'big brother' instinct was coming to the fore.
"Oh, it's no one," she spat. "No one worth worrying about. DJ, answer me something."
"How on earth do you ever trust a boyfriend?"
"You know. Men. You're so damned fickle."
Effie and Abraham's mouths dropped open and the noise level in the room dropped. Jack looked at Daniel, getting the same look back, then they burst out laughing.
"Oh, I'm sorry Ali," Daniel finally gasped. "Don't tar all men with the same brush. I was with my first boyfriend for five years, from the time I was sixteen. And since then, there's only been one."
"Sure. And we've been together for the last eight years."
You could have heard a pin drop at that announcement. Jack was standing behind Daniel and he wrapped his arms around his waist, then rested his head on Daniel's shoulder, dropping a quick kiss on his ear as he got into position.
"Neither of us has looked at another guy since we met, honey," Jack said. "That's been fifteen years. Look at your parents too. They've been together since the Jurassic age," he teased, getting a smack on the arm from Effie and an aggrieved 'oy' from Abe.
"Give it time, Ali," Daniel added. "Just give it time. One day you'll meet a guy who will realise just how lucky he is to have you."
Ali's parents shot warm and friendly 'thank you' looks to their friends. The teen had been in a foul mood for days, but now she was smiling fit to burst.
"Only eight years, huh?" Jade teased, Grisha on her arm as they came up close and bringing a drink for each man.
"Yes," Jack drawled.
"Damn. Oy, Tolkein!" Grisha called out to a short man with a beard, "who won the jackpot?"
'Tolkein' got a small notebook from his pocket and thumbed through it.
A groan went up around the room. Jean-Paul always seemed to win the office sweeps.
It was Monday morning and the men were back at work. Daniel was happily working at the computer, Dai and Frankie by his side as they tried yet again to crack a hard code. Jack was going through some intelligence that had been gathered by their 'man' in Central America.
"DJ? Look at this," he called out distractedly. "Seems there's a drug baron just popped up in Managua."
"Oh?" Daniel span around on his chair and faced his partner who was coming across the room to him.
"Yeah. Seems whoever it is behind this is selling drugs and then using the money to supply arms to one of the rebel groups on the continent. Sound familiar?"
"Is the US government involved in this?" Daniel asked with a smirk.
Jack sniggered and shook his head. "Um, not as far as we can tell. You up for a trip back there?"
"It would be appropriate," Daniel said carefully. "First and last missions and all."
Jack had been offered Abe's job as they had predicted, but he wouldn't be taking over for a few weeks, so he was still on the active list. When Jack finally hung up his gun, Daniel would join him, working only in the office from then on. He had thought - briefly - about continuing in the field, but being out there without Jack just wasn't on.
With a shared wry grin, the men went in to present a case to Abe for the last time.
Daniel got off the plane in Managua, a sense of 'déja vu all over again' pervading his mind. Jack had travelled separately, needing, for some reason, to not appear with Daniel this time. The first time he'd been near him, watching over him to see how he'd cope with being in the field. But this time, he felt the need to stay in the background for other reasons. Reasons he wasn't totally sure about.
He watched as Daniel strolled through the airport, not needing to switch suitcases this time as Jack had already done that when he'd arrived. It all depended on the country as to how they received their equipment. In some, it would be waiting for them in their hotels. In others, it would be hidden in cases such as now. A lot depended on how much help they had on the ground in a country, and how much they could trust the hotel staff.
For old time's sake, Daniel had been booked into the same hotel as before. He flagged down a taxi and got in, thinking that the driver looked vaguely familiar.
He settled back into his seat and watched the world go by. The cracked fountain was still there, this time pockmarked with bullet holes, talking of a gun battle in the intervening years. More weed grew, making the fountain's base look almost green.
Daniel watched the people on the streets, looking happier than they had before, but still there were the signs of everyday struggle. He waited for the cab to get to the point at which the turning would come, thinking that it was taking longer than he remembered. Well, the traffic was busier than the last time he'd been there.
After about five minutes, he called out, //Hey, this isn't the way to the hotel.//
The cab driver looked into the mirror and shrugged, //There's a detour. An accident down the road. It's quicker this way.//
Daniel's guard was up. Something was wrong, but he didn't know what. After another five minutes of battling through traffic, he called out to the driver to stop the cab.
That was the point at which Daniel knew for certain that the mission was going all to hell. A central glass barrier rose up quickly between himself and the driver and all the locks on the car door slammed downwards. He grabbed at one, even knowing that it was a lost cause. He thought of two things as he smelt a gas as it started to pervade the enclosed space. One, that this was way too much like a Bond film; and two, all he could do was hope that Jack was on his tail. With the name of his lover on his lips, Daniel blacked out.
Jack had arrived earlier and hired a car. His years of experience in the field were telling him that something wasn't right. He had nothing concrete to make him think this, just a gut feeling, and his gut was churning nervously. He watched the taxi in front of him as it didn't go the way it should have, just knowing that something big was going down. He stayed back, keeping the taxi in sight but never letting its driver see him.
He continued to follow them until they reached an industrial area on the edge of town. Jack saw the cab with Daniel in it pulling into a warehouse and he parked up around the corner. He opened the boot of the car, and making sure that no one was watching him, he retrieved some items from the case. Then, keeping to the shadows, he made his way silently to the warehouse.
Daniel woke and found his hands and body tied firmly to a chair inside an office. It had the feeling of being abandoned. A lone filing cabinet had a drawer open, revealing its lack of contents. A battered desk was to one side and plastic chairs lined the edges. A few pieces of paper littered the floor. He was not alone though; a man, the cab driver, stood nearby, watching over him. Without opening his eyes enough to let the man know he was awake, Daniel did his best to assess his situation. It wasn't good. His jacket was on a chair near the man, so his knife (really a pen case which contained a stiletto-type blade) wasn't to hand. Any weaponry he had been due to pick up would have been in the suitcase that Jack had retrieved.
All Daniel could do was wait, so wait he did. For two things. One, to see who it was that had ordered him taken, and two, for Jack, because he knew that his partner would come. Jack had told him before they left that he didn't feel right about this mission, that something was bugging him. It was why his lover had taken an earlier flight. Daniel had known that Jack was there in the airport, though. He'd felt his presence. He'd always done that, ever since the beginning. It was one of the reasons that they'd accepted each other as partners so easily. They always knew.
The door to the office opened. Daniel kept his eyes almost shut as he looked at the people that had come in. Two large men and a woman. Daniel couldn't see their faces without tilting his head, so he had to rely on hearing. At first, the conversation was been predictable. // "Has he woken?" "Not yet." "How much of the gas did you give him?" "Just what you ordered!" //
Then he heard, //Are you sure that it's him? He looks different.//
//Absolutely. He was the one that twisted his ankle. If he hadn't done that I'd have kept him away from you.//
//You should have killed him and his companion.//
//But my brother and his son were there. I could not do it then.//
//You should have killed them too. You were paid enough!//
Daniel was stunned. He knew just who was behind this now. The man; he'd been the English-speaking guide that they'd had all those years ago. And the woman...
Daniel knew why he was there now. She was going to kill him.
Jack reached the warehouse and found the doors locked. He'd expected that. But rather than pick the locks just yet, he wanted to know what was on the other side of the door. Creeping around the back of the building, his rifle slung over his shoulder, he stuck his Beretta in his pocket, patted the bag that contained his other bits and pieces, and in the gloomy twilight, he started to climb up the side of the old brick building. There was no stairwell, no fire escape. It would appear that the office to the warehouse, if there was one, would be on the ground.
Fortunately, this warehouse was old, probably abandoned for the best part of a decade or two. It had bricks missing all over the place, the double skin of the construction allowing anyone inside it to shelter from wind and rain so they hadn't done anything about repairing it. The engineer in Jack tutted, while the agent thanked God for lazy landlords. Jack used the broken and missing brick spaces as hand and footholds as he climbed up to the roof.
Inch by inch, he worked his way up, cursing when his fingers slipped, and wanting to yell at the heavens when it started to rain, making an already difficult job nigh on impossible. He'd got up about twenty feet, only about ten from his goal, when one of the bricks underneath his right foot toes crumbled, making him fall. Only his fingertips held him as he scrambled to get another toehold. It seemed to take him forever, but finally he got it. He held tightly with his right hand as his left hand got a better purchase, then swapped to make the right hand better. It took him a couple of minutes before his heart rate and breathing returned to normal.
Daniel figured it was about time to wake up, especially when Gracia was muttering about beating him back to consciousness. He gave an experimental moan, pretending to be more asleep than he really was.
"Ah, Daniel Jackson, it's about time you returned to us," she sneered.
"Huh?" Daniel looked like he was battling to open his eyes.
"Do not play dumb, Jackson. I know who you are and why you are here. How do you think we got you here, eh? We have been waiting for you to take the bait."
Daniel blinked heavily, still pretending to be groggy, but in reality he was looking at his opponents.
"Who are you?" he finally croaked.
"You know who I am," she sneered. "You know very well."
"Um, I'm sorry," he blinked again, trying to look innocent. "Please enlighten me."
She got angry and slapped his face hard.
"DO NOT try my patience."
"I wasn't aware that I was," he answered her coolly. "I have no idea who you are."
Furious now, she slapped him again, then ordered the men to 'loosen the information in his brain'. He knew what was coming, but he also knew that she wanted him to know who she was before she killed him. This wasn't killing for killing's sake. It was revenge. And how could she get true revenge if her target wasn't aware of her reasons?
The large men that had accompanied her into the room now took her place. Daniel felt like his head was being used as a tennis ball as they punched it from one side and then the other, then having a go at his stomach and then his ribs. He felt one crack and figured that a nice bit of unconsciousness wouldn't go amiss, right... about... now.
The heavens opened and the rain really came down. 'Oh, the joys of the tropics,' Jack thought to himself. He was soaked through to his skin, but grinned anyway. His rifle wouldn't be much use if it got too wet, but his handgun should still be okay - and his pack was waterproof and he had a few goodies in there. The rain was going to be his friend as it rattled noisily on the corrugated iron roof, covering his footsteps as he inched towards the skylight.
Finally arriving at it, he looked in and saw nothing but darkness. A crack of lightning illuminated the building briefly and Jack breathed a sigh of relief when he saw that it was empty. He retrieved a long rope from his pack and tied one end to a grappling hook on the apex of the roof and then put on some gloves.
He waited for the next flash of lightning and then used the cover of the close, long and loud clap of thunder to smash at the skylight with the butt end of his rifle. It cracked. Another wait, another clap, another smash. Another crack. Third time lucky, he hoped. This time he sent a small amount of glass falling to the floor of the warehouse. He sat back and waited to see if there was any movement below. He waited through two more cracks of thunder before he realised that the storm was getting very close. It wouldn't be a good idea to be where he was, on an iron roof, when the lightning came. Frantically, he pulled the remaining glass out of the skylight, making sure that no more fell to the floor inside the warehouse.
A flash of light made him jump. The almost simultaneous crack of thunder told him it was time to go now. Taking a chance, he threw his rope inside the building and slid through the gap, snagging his jacket on the edge of a protruding piece of glass. His pocket tore. His gun fell out.
Daniel woke up to his second feeling of déja vu in the space of a couple of hours. The thugs were standing in front of him, fists clenched. Gracia was standing behind them, her arms folded and her foot tapping.
The guide/cab driver was near the door, looking as if he wanted to escape. He was trying to make like a fluid and just pour himself out of the door.
"Jackson! Jackson! Wake up!" Portillo barked.
Daniel's eyes were a bit crossed but he managed to focus on the woman's face.
"Now do you know who I am?" she snapped.
"Ugh," he groaned. 'Here I go again.' "No, I have no idea," he insisted. *SMACK* Again his face took a hit.
She was just about to yell again when the ricochet noise of something metal falling and hitting the ground outside in the main part of the empty warehouse rang through the air. She yelled at the cab driver to find out what was going on. Thug one pulled out some knuckle-dusters from his pocket and slipped them on.
//Let me see what damage I can make to his pretty face,// he grunted at Portillo.
//Not yet, fool! See who is out there first!//
Thug two slipped a knife out of his pocket, a flick knife. In front of Daniel's face, he pressed the catch and the blade popped out. Daniel did his best not to flinch at the overt display.
Jack had heard his gun drop. He had two options. Either get down the rope, or go back up it and hope that no one looked up. Or... he had an idea.
The cab driver left the comparative sanctuary of the office and looked around. It was dark in there now, so he went first to his car and retrieved a torch. In long sweeps, he moved the light from side to side, looking at the barren broken concrete ground. About fifteen feet from the office he saw the gun.
He bent over and picked it up, looking at it in his hand for a moment as if he was wondering how it had got there. Then he sent the beam of the torch around the warehouse but saw nothing.
Jack watched through the night scope of his rifle as the driver suddenly, but slowly, started to look up. The beam moved till it found the rope. In vague amusement, Jack observed the light creeping up the rope and towards him. He sent out a prayer to anyone that was listening that his rifle hadn't become too waterlogged.
The driver saw him. Jack was holding onto the rope in a precarious manner. His legs were knotted together, the rope firmly ensconced between his calves and his thighs. Then it continued up until it was tucked under one arm. The man moved the beam to Jack's right and then saw why the rope wasn't being held with Jack's hands. It was the last thing he saw.
The silencer muffled the worst of the noise, but Jack couldn't take any chances. Before the man had even hit the deck, blood pouring from the gaping wound between his eyes, Jack had re-slung the rifle over his shoulder and was sliding down the rope, cursing the fact that he'd had to take off his right-hand glove to fire the gun. Nursing a rope burn on the palm of his hand, he approached the corpse and retrieved his hand gun.
Daniel was sure that Jack was out in the warehouse, it was as if he could feel it. The knowledge that he was there put a small smile on his face, annoying the hell out of his captor.
"WHAT IS IT?" she screamed.
"What is what?"
"What is making you smile?" She couldn't believe this man, he was really, really getting on her nerves. Her resolve to get him to say her husband's name before she killed him was wavering. Killing him without it wouldn't be quite as satisfying, but she'd take what she could get.
"Oh, just something that I heard on the radio this morning, that's all."
She stood in front of him, her mouth opening and closing soundlessly.
"You are insane," she growled eventually.
"Quite possibly. My therapist thinks so."
"Why am I not surprised. And your lover? What does he think?"
"Your lover," she said through gritted teeth.
"Um, you've got me there. Give me a clue."
"I am going to kill you!" she announced to the room at large.
"Yeah, well, I already figured that one out," Daniel said as calmly as he could. "Though it would be nice to know why. I mean, I'm just an anthropologist. And, um, a linguist. Oh! And an archaeologist. Mustn't forget that, must we? God only knows it took me long enough to get that PhD. It was a fascinating subject though. Did you know that the Pharaohs might date back further than we thought? And that the.."
She ran her hands though her hair, nearly pulling at it, pacing up and down the small room as she did. Her nerves were on edge and she sent thug number one out to see just what was taking the driver so long to find out what had caused the noise.
"You have one last chance," she said.
"To do what, exactly?"
She stopped pacing and smiled a very, very dangerous smile.
"To find out why you are to die."
Jack finished his preparation. He was ready to rescue Daniel now. His distraction was ready. All he had to do was get past the giant that had just come out of the office and discovered him. He could use his handgun. Unfortunately, the damn thing had got itself slightly misshapen at the barrel end during its fall (or rather its smack on the ground) and whereas he was sure that the tiny dent wouldn't make any difference to the general direction in which the bullet would go, the silencer was now not fitting. However, the noise that his distraction was about to make would mitigate that.
He looked at the big man, felt the gun in his hand and then continued with his mental count down. He kept his gun pointed at the man, circled till his back was nearly towards the office. He crept crablike to his destination, thinking that maybe he'd get there and that this would work out. Thirty seconds to go. Closer and closer. 20 seconds to go. Nearly there. 10 seconds.
The thug shouted out a warning. Jack fired and he went down. Spinning on his heel, Jack felt the knife of the second henchman at his throat. Just as the cab exploded.
Shrapnel flew through the air. Jack hit the deck, his opponent slicing Jack's throat as a large chunk of metal whizzed over Jack's now lowered head and decapitated the bigger man.
Blood poured down Jack's chest and he fought back an urge to retch as he saw the headless body in front of him. He stumbled up the three steps into the office... in time to see Gracia Portillo pointing a gun at Daniel and pulling the trigger.
Jack lurched forward and knocked the woman off balance. The gun fired and Jack saw the rosette of blood appear on Daniel, below his right-hand shoulder and low enough to go through his ribs and his lung.
Time slowed for Jack. He saw Daniel tied to the chair, blood pouring from a close range chest wound, unable to do anything. Portillo was on the floor, screaming at him. He drew his own gun and pulled the trigger, executing her without compunction.
He found his own knife and quickly cut Daniel's bonds. Before he could do a thing, Daniel lurched out of the chair, barely conscious but determined. Ripping his shirt he wound it around Jack's throat, cursing as his one good arm wasn't doing the job.
"Jack," he gasped. "Hold the fucking thing."
"Too late, Danny," Jack mouthed.
"NO. Don't you dare. Not unless you want me to die too."
Jack held the binding and Daniel tucked it in tight. He crawled to his jacket, the smoke of the fire from the car starting to choke him, breath becoming difficult. Hitting the speed dial on his satellite phone, he called HQ.
"I've seen far too many hospitals since I've known you, Jack," Daniel whispered, lying in the bed next to his lover. He just got a smile back. It had been close. Too fucking close. A few pints of blood each, lots of stitches and a week later, they were back in the States, but in the UNASCO clinic. Awkward questions from the local police had been dealt with when the information about the drug dealing and gun running had been passed their way, so they'd been allowed to leave the country on the understanding that they never went back. That was okay by them.
A noise at the door told them that Abe was there.
"Hi guys, and how are you this fine morning?" he asked jovially as he wandered in.
"Great," Daniel croaked. Jack just put his thumb up. He wasn't talking, wasn't allowed to talk yet.
"The diplomatic mess has been cleared up, you'll be happy to know," he informed them a little more gently, getting smiles from them both. "Seems that neither of you will be in a fit state for a while, so I'm staying at work until you can take over for me, Jack. God only knows that someone has to keep an eye on things."
Jack reached out and took Abe's hand, giving it a squeeze in gratitude. Daniel's bright-blue eyes gave his own thanks.
"It was a close one," Abe whispered. "You scared me on this one guys."
"Scared us too," Daniel admitted. "I wasn't expecting to get out of that one alive."
"Yeah, well," Abe coughed, a little embarrassed by the level of emotion that was building. "You had something to come back for, didn't you?"
Daniel looked at Jack and grinned. Jack reached over and took Daniel's left hand, squeezing it tightly.
Yeah, they'd had something to come home for.
"Daniel, are you ever going to get out of bed?"
"Jack, we have the day off. It's our tenth anniversary. The sun's not even up yet. What could possibly make me want to get out of bed?"
Jack smiled. No matter how many years Daniel had been an agent, his 'student' tendency was still to stay up late and sleep in as long as possible. Okay, Daniel had a point, but Jack wanted him up early for a reason that day.
"Please? For me?"
With a sigh, Daniel put his hand out and allowed Jack to pull him out of bed. He was naked, as it was both their habits to sleep like that at home. It wasn't as if anyone would see them on the tenth floor of the same apartment block they'd always lived in. Certainly not at stupid o'clock in the morning, that was for sure.
Jack allowed Daniel to go into the bathroom and take a leak and brush his teeth, or else he'd be in a real grouch for the rest of the day. Finally, and just in time, he came out.
"What do you want me to see, hun?" Daniel asked, just knowing that Jack had something in mind.
"Here, look," Jack said, putting his hand out and pulling him close.
He pointed out of the east-facing window and then stood behind Daniel, wrapping him in his arms, loving it when Daniel sighed and rested his head back against him.
The sun started to rise and they watched it in silence for a few minutes. Then Jack spoke.
"How often," he whispered, "do we ever stop to watch the sun rise?"
"We don't," came the admission. "Thank you."
Jack knew that the thanks weren't just for getting him up to see the sunrise, but for everything they had and everything they were.
"You're very welcome."
'I love you too.' The words as unspoken but as understood.
Daniel twisted in Jack's arms and started to kiss him. Jack tried to return the kisses, but Daniel stopped him. "Let me, please."
With a smile, Jack surrendered.
Daniel trailed his lips over Jack's face, nibbled gently on his jaw line, then captured his mouth fiercely. His actions said more words than the linguist even knew. Moving down, Daniel paid particular attention to the huge scar across Jack's throat, giving thanks that the wound hadn't been as deep as they'd feared at first, that his lover had survived that horrific cut. More kisses, all over Jack's shoulders and chest. Daniel dropped to his knees, running his tongue down Jack's chest and stomach, up and over the head of his dick, down his legs till he got to Jack's feet. Reverently, he kissed them.
"Danny, please," Jack begged, putting his hand out and pulling him up. "Bed?"
"Here?" A wicked smile crossed Daniel's features and made Jack laugh.
"Put your hands on the window, spread your legs and wait for me, babe," came the filthy-toned reply. Daniel shuddered with excitement as Jack ran off to get the lube.
Moments later, he felt Jack standing behind him, ready to enter him as Daniel wanted, just as he had done the night before.
"Do it, Jack," he moaned sensually. "I'm ready. Fuck me."
"Uh huh," Jack trailed kisses down Daniel's shoulders as he pushed slowly inside his already wet and open lover. "I'm going to make love to you," he informed him, in-between more kisses. "I love you, so I make love to you."
"Please," Daniel hissed. "Love you, Jack. Always did. Always will. Love you so much."
As Jack moved his hips, slowly thrusting in the age-old rhythm, he whispered in Daniel's ear. "I always knew that Danny. I love you too."