default style cream background and navy text

Bonds of Friendship 4


Summary: And the walls come tumbling down. Paul finds out Daniel's problem and Jack has to act. The end of the Bonds of Friendship series.
Many thanks to Gary, Joy and Fabi for the usual support, corrections and electronic tea and sympathy.

Jack woke up horny. There was nothing new in that, it was a common occurrence. But this time, it was different; deeper, more needy... dangerous. He tried to remember what he'd been dreaming about but couldn't. Perhaps that had put him in the state of mind? Perhaps... perhaps not. All he knew was that the usual morning grope and grind wasn't going to cut it. It might take the edge off it though...

"J'ck? Wassup?"

"Me," Jack muttered, burying his face in Daniel's neck and humping against his thigh.

"'Kay." Daniel shut his eyes, prepared to let Jack get on with it. He was too sleepy to respond at that moment. Give him a while to wake up slowly, preferably to the smell and then taste of a good strong roast coffee, and he'd respond in any manner required.


Paul's also sleepy voice announced that he, too was slowly waking up. Unlike Jack, he'd managed to shed his automatic military wake-up abilities over the years. It may have been a conscious effort on his part, he wasn't sure, but he wasn't bothered by it either way. If he needed to be awake, he could be, but if he didn't - like now - he was as bad as Daniel.

"Go sleep," Daniel drawled and hugged Paul closer.

Jack nearly laughed at the sight in front of him. Not even the prospect of sex was going to wake those two properly for a while. Giving up 'attacking' Daniel, he got out of bed and went to the bathroom. On his way there, Daniel muttered, "Do it yourself, Jack," and then fell back to sleep.

Permission granted, he stood in the bathroom and jerked off, taking an age to come or so it seemed. As feared, he wasn't really satisfied by it, either. It was a bit of a mystery and he knew that Daniel would be the only one that could stand a chance of solving it. Unless they'd spiked his last drink of the night with viagra, in which case both guys were going to get fucked hard as punishment. He smiled wickedly to himself at that thought, then took a quick shower.

Under the cascading water, he imagined them both tied up and laid out for him, just as he and Paul often were for Daniel. Washing his hair, he pictured the guys doing things for him the way he and Paul did for their dom...

He stopped suddenly and analysed his thoughts quickly. Was he wanting to switch? To stop being submissive? No, he loved that, loved Daniel taking over for him, pushing him, guiding him... But he was no longer Air Force. Was no longer giving orders. No longer needing the pressures of the job to be taken from him. So a 'part-time' dom? That was possible, distinctly possible. He knew he'd need to discuss that with Daniel, too. Would Daniel let him take over? Maybe he'd welcome it. He couldn't see Daniel subbing for him, that wasn't in question. But would Paul? Would Paul want two doms? Would it be easier on Daniel? Give him a break from it if his dark moods were making it hard for him to continue? Could Jack do the things that Daniel did?

Question after question ran through Jack's brain and he was only alerted to the fact that he'd been in there for ages when he suddenly felt the water start to run cold. He finished up in a hurry, switched the water off and towelled himself down. Mercifully, the guys had gone back to sleep so he pressed the 'quick boost' on the water heater in the airing cupboard and hoped that the tank would be back up to temperature by the time they awoke.

He grabbed at some clothes and silently dressed, then made his way to the kitchen. Needless to say, his first action was to put the pot of coffee on, then he sat at the table, waiting for it to finish and thinking some more.

His eyes were drawn to the cellar door and soon found himself heading down the steps. Curious as to where this was taking him, he entered the playroom and put all of the lights on as bright as they'd go, as if seeing the equipment and toys in a harsh light would change his mind at all. He more or less ignored the furniture, but made his way to the shelves. In moments, the riding crop was in his hand and he was staring at it, wondering if he could use it on Paul in the way that Daniel did. He raised it and brought it down across his hand, wincing at the stinging pain as it shot up his arm. Could he inflict that on Paul willingly? How in hell's name did Daniel? Because of one thing Jack was sure - Daniel had hit himself with this or been hit by someone else, like Eve, before using it on Paul.

His curiosity pushed him further and he picked up toy after toy, trying to imagine himself in Daniel's position with each one.

"Have you come to any conclusions?"

Daniel's quiet voice broke his concentration and Jack turned to the door to look at him. Daniel was leaning against the frame, in that laconic way of his, his arms wrapped around himself but more casually than in comfort. His glasses on, his hair a little longer than he normally allowed it to get these days, Jack had a quick flashback to the early days of SG-1 and couldn't help but smile.

"I'm not sure," he replied.

"Let me know when you do."

"I will," Jack answered with a nod.

Daniel cocked his head in the direction of the stairs and Jack put down the toy that he was holding, then followed him up the stairs and into the kitchen. With coffees poured, they sat across the table from each other.

"I think I miss giving orders... just once in a while," Jack said casually.

"I understand. I was wondering when this would happen with you, to be honest."

Jack didn't reply, he just shrugged. He should have realised that Daniel would have foreseen this.

"Do you want to stop subbing for me?"

Daniel's question shocked Jack and he answered quickly.

"No! Definitely not, Daniel. I'm not leaving you."

"Jack, that's not what I meant."

"No, I know what you meant but I guess I just had to say that, too. No, I love belonging to you, Daniel, in every sense of the word. I love it when you take over, push me, make me open my mind to possibilities I didn't know existed. I was a real adrenaline junkie as a youngster." He grinned and shrugged as he continued, "Well, I guess you know that. Pilot, parachutist, a life spent behind enemy lines... You've given me a new outlet for that side of me. These last few weeks - months even - I've been doing a lot of thinking."

"What have you figured out?"

"That I still need you to take over for me. That if you didn't I'd be more than frustrated. I can't do the things I used to, can't get that adrenaline rush. Sure, I could fly light aircraft, but much as I'd enjoy that, I can't see it being as exciting as parachuting into enemy territory, or making a bombing run under fire. Yes, we could go and explore on Earth, but would it be the same as exploring other planets? I don't think the thrill would be there, the sense of danger would be muted. I know what sort of dangers lurk on Earth, the sorts of unsavoury characters that exist. There's nothing really new here. And if I tried to do things like extreme sports I'd end up in the hospital these days, I'm not as physically capable of it as I was. That should have been a death sentence for me, Daniel. If I wasn't with you - like this - I'm sure it would have been. I'd have hit the bottle again, been as self-destructive as you said you were. I wouldn't have wanted to survive. You've helped me channel my energies elsewhere, making me take risks, pushing me... but all the time giving me the safety net and keeping me safe."

"I'm glad," Daniel said with a smile. "And relieved, to tell you the truth. Sometimes I wonder if I'm pushing you too far."

"You're not. You have my word I'd say 'no' if I really meant it."

Daniel nodded, not answering that verbally as it wasn't needed.

"So, what do you want to do?" he finally asked. "I'm not sure I could sub for you, and that has nothing to do with not trusting you or anything. I trust you both more than I've ever trusted anyone. I just don't think that I have the right mindset to accept it. It's one thing letting go once in a while, but you know I want to be in control even then. I'd be crappy at it, to tell the truth."

Jack laughed softly. "I get that, Daniel. Not everyone can do it, not everyone could dominate, either."

"What about Paul?"

"What about me?"

The others turned and looked as Paul sleepily entered the kitchen.

"Hey," Daniel said, standing up and pouring a coffee for Paul. He kissed Paul's cheek and indicated for him to sit, then topped his coffee and Jack's up before joining them.

Daniel explained what he and Jack had been talking about and then added, "So, if Jack thinks he needs to dominate once in a while and I'd be the world's worst sub, I was wondering if you would want to work with him? You don't have to, babe. We're not going to gang up on you or anything."

Paul thought for a moment, then he shrugged. "I know that. If I felt like I was being forced into something I'd stop it." He looked at the others with a grin and added, "You know I can take either of you if I need to."

He burst out laughing when they both put their hands up in surrender and agreed enthusiastically.

"Forcing you wouldn't even come into it," Jack said. "It's a matter of whether you'd want me to do it, and whether you trust me to take care of you the way that Daniel does."

That was the biggest issue. Paul trusted Jack and Jack trusted Paul. There was no question of that. But could they trust each other to the level that they trusted Daniel? They didn't have the same history with each other and though they loved each other enough to spend the rest of their lives together, they also knew they weren't as in love as they were with Daniel. It was a matter of degrees.

"Would you be offended if I said I'd like to think about it?" Paul asked carefully.

"No. I don't want you to rush into it," Jack replied quickly. "It's not something that I'm going to want to do a lot, Paul. Just from time to time. Daniel would be here with us, watching over me, teaching me." He looked at Daniel in question and Daniel nodded; of course he would. Another thought struck Jack. "It could benefit us all in the long run."

"Oh? How?"

"Well, we all know that your new job may well be very trying for you," Jack said, his voice measured. When he got a slow but deliberate nod from Paul he continued. "That would mean that Daniel will need to work with you a lot. Now, I know that he's happy to do that, and that there's no problem with this," he added a bit more hurriedly, "but what if he needs to take a break from it? Or if he's called to the SGC like he is once in a while? What if you have a really bad day and he's at Cheyenne? I wouldn't be likely to go as far as Daniel can with you, but maybe I could take over for you until he got back?"

There was a logic to that statement and again Paul's deliberate nod told Jack that he was doing okay so far. Jack didn't want to mention that he didn't want Daniel working with Paul when one of his dark moods was starting, that he didn't want to push Daniel into needing to cut himself for relief. So he kept his arguments simple; easily explained and understood.

Paul actually appreciated what Jack was saying. One of the things that he was worried about but that he hadn't spoken of was just that thing, the fact that he'd need Daniel to be there, 24/7, just in case. It was why he was enjoying the security of the chastity devices whilst they were apart - it meant that Daniel was there with him. But he was only on a course, and no matter what he was learning, case histories were easy enough to compartmentalise, almost to pretend that they were not real people but made up examples. He knew that if he had mentioned this to Daniel, Daniel would never have gone away again. If Jack was willing, in fact wanting to take over from Daniel on the odd occasion, it would solve this dilemma for him without him ever having to mention it to Daniel.

"Okay," he said abruptly. "What you say makes perfect sense. Of course I trust you not to hurt me or anything, that's not even an issue. I'd like it. If it's really all right with you, Daniel?"

"Sure," Daniel replied enthusiastically. He was relieved. If Jack really needed this and Paul hadn't been able to give it to him, then they'd have had to have found someone else. Yes, Jack could have had a non-sexual contract with someone, but it wouldn't have been the same, and Daniel knew that he himself was too damned possessive to really want Jack to even do that.

"What brought all this on?" Paul asked after a few minutes' quiet. Daniel had got up to start making breakfast and they were all a bit more relaxed now, ready to 'chat' rather than 'discuss'.

"Oh, I woke up horny," Jack admitted.

"Duh?" Paul teased.

"Worse than normal," came the sighed reply. "You guys were too sleepy, so when Daniel mentioned I should take care of it myself I did, but it wasn't the same."

"Are you still feeling horny?" Daniel asked as he got the butter and things out for the toast that was making.

"Yeah. Can't really explain it, either. It's deep. I guess it's like for you, when you want it again and again, really hard, fast... you know. But I'm not in the mood for rough sex. It's weird."

Daniel said nothing for a moment, then he turned to Jack and asked, "May I try something with you that you've never done?"

"What is it?"

"I'll tell you later," Daniel smiled. "But I think you'll like it. You can say no or stop at any point, Jack, just as you always can. We'll take you deeper, further than you've ever gone before."


"Paul can come and watch you," came the reply. "It wouldn't hurt for me to have someone there, either. That's if you're interested, Paul?"

"Try keeping me away. I like watching him suffer."

Jack's face made Daniel laugh out loud. The toast popped out of the toaster and Daniel put it on a plate on the table.

"No suffering," he promised Jack, leaning close and kissing his nose. "Just relief, I swear."

"Okay. You will tell me what it is before we do it?"

"Nearer the time, Jack. When you've had breakfast, I need you to give yourself an enema. Then I want you to rest on the bed for a while. When I'm ready for you, I'll call you."


As Jack lay on the bed, his gut recovering from the assault on it, he wondered just what Daniel had in mind. A couple of possibilities suggested themselves to him and he found himself being turned on just by the idea of them.

Paul entered the bedroom and told Jack it was time to go down.

"I'm not wearing my collar or anything," Jack pointed out.

"Daniel didn't say if you were to. Let's take your bands and collar down and he can put them on you if he wants it."

A little nervously, Jack made his way down the stairs, unsure of what was to come. He heard soft music playing on the sound system that they'd extended down to that room. Daniel had picked out a selection of CD's in the living room, all designed to calm, and put the volume down low. The lights were dimmed but not dark. The few candles they had on the walls were lit. The temperature was that of body heat, so he wouldn't get sleepy with warmth or shiver with cold.

"You ready?" Daniel asked as they entered the room.

"I guess so," Jack answered slowly. He saw what Daniel had ready and was able to guess what was about to happen. On a small, side table that Daniel had taken down, he saw a bowl containing something that looked like lubricant of some sort. Next to it was a box of latex gloves. He shivered at the implications but didn't say no. "Er, I'm not wearing my stuff..." he muttered a little lamely.

"You don't have to, Jack. This isn't a scene in the traditional sense. I want you to be relaxed. If wearing them would make you feel relaxed, then by all means, put them on. Actually, I get the feeling that securing your hands might make you feel safer. What do you think, Paul?"

He turned to look at Paul and saw that his younger lover couldn't take his eyes off the gloves. A quick glance at Paul's groin told him that he was remembering what he could of his own experience.


"What? Oh, yes. Yes. It's better."

Taking Paul's word for it, Jack handed the wrist bands to Daniel and let him put them on.

"Lie down on the table, Jack, and put your hands over your head. I won't open the top of the table up, just the bottom, I want you to feel comfortable. Are you warm enough? Shall I turn the heating up?"

As Jack sat on the table, ready to lie down, he said, "Weird as this sounds, I want to wear something."

"Okay. Paul, could you pop upstairs and bring down one of Jack's largest T-shirts, please?"

Without a word, Paul scooted off and retrieved a floppy, once-white shirt that Jack often bummed around in. It was one of his 'comfort' clothing items and perfect for this. Jack put it on gratefully, suddenly feeling more relaxed.

"You have no idea just how much sexier you look with that on than with it off," Daniel suddenly said. "I don't know why it should be like that, but the half-dressed look always does more for me than the undressed look. What do you think?"

He continued in that vein, chatting almost nonsensically to take Jack's mind off things as he helped him lay on his back, gently lifting his hands and securing them above his head. Both he and Paul were dressed, so he understood why Jack was feeling more exposed when naked than he normally would. When Jack was secured, he bent over and kissed him, then trailed more kisses over his face and down his neck. Jack felt both Daniel's and Paul's lips on his nipples as they soaked the shirt, allowing the cool air of their breaths to harden him further.

"You know what I'm going to do, don't you?" Daniel asked after a while.


"Do you want this?"

"Yes." The answer came out suddenly and forcefully, surprising all three men.

"What's your safe word?"


"Use it if you need to. Tell me to slow down if you need to. Don't be afraid, Jack. I won't let anything harm you."

"I know. I will."

Daniel was tackling this differently from the way he'd tackled Paul. The ultimate aim, that of relief, was the same, but the reasons were completely different. It was sexual relief rather than mental, so there was no sending Jack out of his mind by winding him up, there was no attempt to make him forget himself, either. After a few minutes' gentle teasing, Daniel let Paul take over the comforting and unlatched the bottom half of the table, spreading Jack's legs just far enough for him to step between them, but not so far as to make Jack uncomfortable.

Paul moved to Jack's head and stroked his hair, then, pulling up a chair that was on one side of the room, he sat right next to him and continued to soothe. He dropped kisses on Jack's face and mouth, ran his fingers through Jack's hair, did many things to reassure Jack that what Daniel was about to do was being done with love and love only.

Daniel appreciated Paul's efforts and decided that for once, this was not a time to give orders. He was sure that Jack had been wondering about more extreme penetration for weeks, it was why he'd taken the chance of increasing the sizes of the plugs and dildos he'd used on him. No matter that Jack didn't want this to escape reality, he suddenly needed it as his equivalent of a parachute jump. It was time for Jack to free-fall.

Silently, Daniel urged Jack to bend his legs up as high as he could comfortably go, then he put a couple of gloves on his right hand and covered it with the lube he used for this occasion. Taking it easy, he inserted just a single finger and pushed as much lube as he could inside him. He felt Jack's ass twitch as Jack realised that it was starting now.

Daniel looked at Paul and nodded, urging him to continue in his quiet distraction. However, with Paul's kisses lovingly placed on his face, and Paul's fingers intertwining with his, Jack suddenly had a weird thought that made him giggle.


Daniel stopped what he was doing and looked in shock at Jack who was currently getting slightly hysterical.

"I'm sorry!" he gasped. "I just..." He took a deep breath and then said, "It reminded me of when Sara was giving birth. I was sitting next to her head end like Paul is now, the doc was down that end... let's just say I shouldn't think like that when I'm in a position like this."

There was stunned silence for a moment, then both his lovers cracked up. For a few minutes, the previously highly-charged atmosphere was completely broken by three helpless men, laughing themselves sick at such an image.

"Jack!" Daniel finally scolded, still laughing as he did. Then he sobered a little. "Do you want to continue? Or is this the end of you ever being able to do this without laughing?"

"Go on, Danny. I'm so sorry..."

"Don't be silly, Jack. We've all had thoughts like that from time to time." A wicked grin passed over his face and he stood up, removed the gloves and threw them in the bin, then he walked around the table, staring at Paul.

"I'll bet that this didn't happen there," he muttered, his voice low and sexy.

Paul swallowed harshly as Daniel stared into his eyes and moved right next to him. The laughter was forgotten in seconds as without another word, Daniel dropped to his knees, undid Paul's jeans and swallowed his cock in one go.

They were right next to Jack's head, and he turned to look at them, seeing them up close as Daniel sucked Paul off. Quickly, harshly... it was a raw, rough, nasty blow job that soon took Jack's mind off anything else in the world. Paul grabbed at Daniel's hair, twisting his fingers in it, pulling it, moving his hips to Daniel's directions, fucking his face and not letting up until he came.

Daniel stood slowly, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand in a casual, thoughtless manner.

"I'm going to fuck you later," he said almost menacingly. "Bend you over and take you - right here." He pointed to the mirror that stood on one wall and Paul shuddered as he pictured it. Then, before that particular image had gone, he returned to what he was doing before.

Taking it as carefully as he could, he still got three fingers inside Jack fairly rapidly, all the while making sure that his re-gloved hand was drenched with the lube and getting as much inside him as he could. He understood what made Jack think the way he did - he'd always had to have a laugh before stepping through the gate or going into battle, it was Jack's mind's way of letting go of any stress that remained, so he wasn't cross with him for thinking it. But now, it was time to step through the gate.

Without informing Jack, he scrunched his four fingers together and carefully pushed inside. Jack seemed to freeze for a moment, then he bore down as if to get passed whatever wall he had put up.

"You've got four," Daniel praised. "You're doing really well. How does it feel?"

"Good," Jack gasped. "It's good. More. Do it," he demanded.

"Just going to, Jack. You really need to relax, baby. Trust me not to hurt you."

Again he soaked his hand and then took a deep breath before tucking his thumb into his palm, making his hand as narrow as he could, and pushing ever so slowly inside.

Jack screwed his eyes shut, preparing himself for pain which didn't seem to come. There was discomfort, but his curiosity and desires outweighed that and before he knew what was happening, Daniel called out, "It's there, Jack. It's all there. All in. How does it feel?"

"Amazing," was the only word that came to Jack's mind. He was proud of himself for getting this far and the last tension in his body went.

Paul watched Daniel intently, noting the level of concentration on his face and knowing that he'd been that focussed when he'd done it before. It astounded him, even though he should have known that Daniel wouldn't have given any less than a hundred percent of himself to it. No wonder Daniel had been so tired after. He turned back to look at Jack and continued to comfort him, wondering if he'd looked so peaceful when he'd been on the receiving end. Given how incredible he'd felt, he was sure he must have.

Daniel was extraordinarily pleased with both himself and Jack. Himself for persuading Jack so easily and Jack for giving in so happily. He watched as his arm partially disappeared inside Jack and for a moment, wondered what it would be like to be there, to have someone do that to him. Maybe he'd get Jack to do it one day. Maybe.

He worked Jack with extreme caution, moving his hand back and forth slowly, watching as the once wilted erection started to build up again.

"Ah crap," Jack suddenly announced.

Daniel froze in place.

"Jack? What's wrong?"

"I need to piss, Daniel. Bad."

"Oh, is that all? Paul, there's a bottle over there, just for this possibility. Could you do the honours? I don't want to move."

"Sure," Paul replied and he got up, picked up the bottle and then placed it where needed.

Jack actually blushed as he felt Paul holding his cock and aiming it into the wide-necked bottle, something that he found incongruous. There he was, laying flat on his back with his lover's hand up his ass and he was embarrassed that his other lover, someone who'd done some pretty amazing things with his cock, was now helping him take a leak. He wasn't sure that he was ever going to let go of his final self-consciousness. Mercifully for him, his bladder wasn't as easily embarrassed and he was soon finished. Matter-of-factly, Paul took it into the next room to dispose of it, and Daniel continued as if nothing had happened. Jack knew one thing for a fact, there was no one else in the whole universe that could have persuaded him into this situation and no one he'd have trusted more, either.

Embarrassment over, Jack let himself feel just what Daniel was doing and concentrate on that and that only. In minutes, he was as hard as nails.

"Do you want to come, Jack?" Daniel whispered, but Jack heard him as clear as a bell.

"Yes. God, please, Daniel, let me come."

"Okay. When you're ready."

This time, Daniel was more prepared and relaxed his own hand before pulling back and brushing against Jack's prostate. When the inevitable contractions came, he wasn't quite so close to having a few bones crushed.

Jack yelled out loud as he came. His legs twitched and he was suddenly grateful for the hand restraints holding him down. His climax was so violent that he would have shot upright if he could and with Daniel's hand still inside of him, that could have been damaging. Daniel let Jack's body dictate his own movements and he stayed perfectly still until Jack calmed. Paul had returned and he was soothing him, rubbing Jack's stomach and arms until he lay still. Then Daniel cautiously pulled his hand out and did his usual minute inspection of both the gloves and the towel he used to wipe Jack up with. Only when he saw that they were clear did he allow himself to relax.

As soon as he could, Daniel undid Jack's wrists, then he surprised both men by gathering Jack up into his arms and lifting him up off the table.

"Paul, could you do me a favour and clean up, please?" he asked.

"Of course, Dan."

"Thanks. Come on up when you're done."

With that he carried Jack out of the room, up the stairs and straight through to the bedroom. Jack wasn't really even aware of what he was doing, only having the vaguest of notions that he was moving.


"Sh, Jack, just going to let you lie down in comfort, that's all."

"Thought you were going to fuck Paul."

Daniel let out a snort of laughter as he lay Jack on the bed, getting on it next to him and holding Jack close as he did.

"I will. Oh, I will, Jack. But in the meantime, I think we both need to cuddle for a while, don't you?"

Jack didn't answer, he just moved as close as he could and held on tightly.

A few minutes later, Paul entered the room. Jack was asleep, Daniel awake and looking at him.

"Hey, come and join us," he whispered.

Trying not to disturb Jack, Paul lay on the bed on Jack's other side and snuggled up as near as he could.

"Thanks for your help," Daniel said, keeping his voice as quiet as he could. "It made that so much easier for me and, I think, so much better for Jack."

"My pleasure," Paul murmured. "Seriously, it was so amazing watching you do that."

"Did it make you want it again?"

"Yes. But not when I'm stressed out. I just want to enjoy it for its own sake."

"Okay. Whatever you want, pet. Maybe when we're on vacation or something, when there's nothing around us to worry us."

"Sounds great. It's a deal."

Paul let the silence fall for a while, then he asked, "How far do you think Jack's going to go? I mean, I understand why he's doing this now, why it's important for him to go further than he has over the last three years, but I wonder if some of it is because I am wanting more."

"You mean like a pissing contest?" Daniel nearly giggled.

"Something like that. He's competing... not with me, but with himself. If I can do it, why can't he?"

"I see what you're saying. In a way, it is like that. It's not a bad thing, Paul. He needs to be challenged. Just as I do mentally - you know how bored I get if I can't learn something new all the time."

Paul nodded in agreement.

"Same thing. You're challenged at work; new job, new threats to assess, so to speak. My books and my job challenge me. Sometimes Jack's pottery challenges him, working out new ways to fire and so on, but he's a man of physical action, so he needs this."

"You should have been a shrink," Paul teased softly.

"In a way, I am one."

"I guess."

Daniel indicated that they should be quiet for a while and so they lay there, holding Jack tightly and waiting for him to awaken.

Given that the weekend had been good-humoured up till lunchtime on Sunday, Paul and Jack were suddenly struck by the fact that Daniel seemed anxious as they ate. Initially prepared to put it down to Paul's leaving that evening, something told them both that there was more to it than that. Over the meal, they chatted normally, looking for clues in Daniel's conversation to let them in on his worries, but there were none. By the time they'd cleared up, Daniel was literally twanging with tension and they knew that something was coming their way.

"Let me talk to him first," Jack whispered to Paul. "You go pack your stuff. Maybe it's just because you're going. He won't want to upset you or try to stop you. When you're done, I'm sure he'll tell you whatever it is."

A bit annoyed that Jack didn't think that Daniel would talk to them both at the same time, he still followed Jack's instructions as he knew that Jack was sometimes the only one to get something out of Daniel. He'd always put that down to their working relationship, but after so many years away from the SGC, he was getting more and more miffed that Daniel would still turn to Jack first.

"Danny? What's up?" Jack asked gently as they went to sit in the living room.


"Oh come on, Daniel. Both Paul and I know that something's wrong. You're not in one of those moods, are you?"

"No. Of course not," Daniel replied, a little too quickly for Jack's liking. He stayed silent for a while, then said, "I'm going to tell him today."

"Why? I thought you were going to wait till he got back."

"I don't like keeping this from him - not now that you know, Jack. Besides, he might need some time to think about it, work it out. As you said, he doesn't have your background, it's not going to be as easy for him to accept."

Jack got up and paced about a bit, then stopped, staring out of the window and across the vast expanse of unbroken countryside that lay outside their property.

"When? How?"

"Now and I don't know," came the answer, interspersed with a choked, unfunny hysteria.

"I'll be there, Daniel. I'll try to help. Shall I tell him? Would that make it easier?"

"Yes it would, but no, I have to be the one to tell him."

"Okay." He turned back to face Daniel and could see that the darkness was threatening to descend rapidly. "Do you want a drink?"

"I don't know. Maybe. Yes. A big one, please."

Jack poured him a Jack Daniel's and then one for himself and a brandy for Paul - his favourite drink. Then he walked into the bedroom and spoke to Paul.

"He's got something to tell you," he announced softly. "I want you to do something though."

"Oh? What?"

"Hear him out to the end without interrupting him. If you have any questions, leave them until later. You'll get everything answered. And don't judge him."

"Jack? What's going on?"

"You'll see. Come on, it's not so bad."

"Wait. Are we okay?"

"We're fine. All three of us, Paul. Whichever way you look at us, we're okay."

More than nervous, Paul shut the lid of his suitcase and locked it, then he followed Jack back into the living room. Daniel wasn't there, but they heard him moving about, so they waited. Jack handed him the brandy and Paul took a sip, feeling grateful that it was there and waiting for him, but scared that Jack thought he'd need one. He saw a glass of something else, some spirit or other, sitting on the coffee table and Paul guessed it was Daniel's.

A few moments later, Daniel re-entered the living room and offered the men a weak smile. He had his knife in his hand, in its leather sheath, and he kept hold of it, even when he'd picked up his drink and retreated to one of the armchairs. After taking a few sips of his drink, he put the glass down on the floor and then turned the knife in his hands.

"I've got something to tell you, Paul," he started quietly. "I've got to get it out, too, so please... just let me."

A mute nod from Paul was all he got in return.

"Remember I told you that I learned about control during the court case? Well, it was true, but not the whole truth."

He looked up and saw Paul's face as it registered surprise at that news, bent down, picked up his glass and emptied it in one go, then after putting it back down, he stared at the floor whilst recounting the same story that he'd told Jack. This time there was no distraction, no murmurs of understanding coming his way, just icy silence.

When he'd finished, he looked up again and saw that Paul's face was filled with fury.

"Paul?" he croaked.

"Why didn't you tell me before?"


"You told Jack but not me. Again. What - you trust him more than me? With something like this? You think it doesn't affect me?"

"But Paul, it's not like that!" Daniel tried to explain. "I was going to tell you but..."

"But I told him to wait until next week," Jack interrupted. "So that you wouldn't be distracted from your course. He's telling you now because he hated keeping it from you."

"What difference does a week make?" Paul spat. "You've kept it secret for five years. How could you?"

He stood up and stormed to the bedroom, angry beyond words at having been excluded again. The fact of Daniel's cutting wasn't even a factor in his mood. It was a problem of sorts, but he'd learn to deal with it just as he'd learned to deal with his mercurial temper or any other of Daniel's quirks. But the imagined slight suddenly blew up out of all proportion and the fact that Jack had known Daniel for much longer than he had and even he'd only found out a few weeks before failed to appease him.

"Fuck. I knew I shouldn't have told anyone. Knew it knew it knew it," Daniel started, his body language telling Jack that he was rapidly shutting down. With his head on his knees, Daniel wrapped his arms around his legs and started to rock.

"Danny! Stop it!" Jack bent down and grabbed hold of him, trying to snap him out of whatever mood was taking over his mind. "Dammit, Daniel. Look at me!"

Daniel looked up and in his eyes, Jack could see that he was lost and afraid.

"I am going to string him up," Jack cursed.

"No nonononononomyfault. All my fault," Daniel murmured. "Should've told him. Shouldn't have told anyone."

Confused ramblings from Daniel scared Jack rigid and he looked for the knife, but it seemed to have disappeared.

"Okay, okay, I'm not going to hurt him. You stay here, you don't do anything - anything, okay? I'll talk to him. Just... wait."

Jack scrambled back upright and got to the bedroom door in time to see Paul lifting his suitcase and briefcase and heading out.

"Where the fuck do you think you're going?" he snarled.

"I have got to get out of here," Paul barked back. "I need space. Get out of my way, Jack."

"Oh no. You've left Daniel in a fucking mess out there, you're not going anywhere till you help me with him."

"I can't deal with this. How many more times are you going to leave me out of things, Jack?"

"Dammit, Paul, we weren't leaving you out of something. Weren't you listening? I found out only because I followed him downstairs at that moment. If I hadn't been here, I wouldn't know."

"How am I supposed to trust him if he doesn't trust me with something like this?"

"It wasn't that, Paul. He trusted you with the knowledge of the rapes, didn't he? In his eyes, that was the biggest secret, not this. This is just his coping mechanism, that's all. Just as being submissive is ours."

Paul was torn, he could almost see what Jack was saying - wanted to in fact, but he was hurt and badly by this and he needed time.

"I've called a cab," he said. "It will be here in twenty minutes."

"Fuck. Okay, get out there and tell him."

They went back into the living room and saw Daniel staring at his blade.

"Danny, put it down," Jack instructed quietly. "You don't need this."

Daniel didn't move to put it down, but he did look up at Jack. When he saw Paul with the suitcase in his hand he ducked his head back down and stared at the blade again.

"You're leaving?" he asked.

Paul took a deep breath and replied. "Soon. I need time to think this over, Daniel."

Daniel didn't reply but they saw him nod and heard a whispered, "Leavingme, he'sleavingme," as if the whispers were his mind speaking - one part to another, the words for only him to hear and no one else.

"I'm not going for good, Daniel. Just for the week, just as we planned. Just till Friday. I'm coming back."

"Fuckedupagain, Ifuckedupagain," was the only reply.

"No, Daniel. You didn't," Jack insisted. "It's a misunderstanding, that's all. Paul didn't understand why you kept it from us, then from him. He does now."

"My mistake. So sorry, sosorrysosorry."

"No, Daniel," Paul echoed. "We'll be fine. I just need time to work it out."

"Hate me. Willhateme."

"Never, Daniel, I could never hate you. Yes, I'm angry with you and I'm hurt, too. But only that you didn't tell me before. Don't you trust me?"

"More than anyone. You two only."

"Can't you see the way it seems to me? That you don't trust me?"

"Sorry. Sofuckingsorry."

"Shh," Paul dropped to his knees near by him and stroked Daniel's back, noticing that Daniel flinched when he touched him. "We'll work this out, Daniel. I promise. Just give me time, please."

A near silence fell and Jack joined Paul on the floor, holding Daniel, listening to the rambling whispers that told them of his state of mind. After a few minutes of non-stop self-blame, Jack got up and retreated to the bedroom, picked up the phone and dialled.

Paul stayed with Daniel until he heard the cab pull up the drive.

"Damn. I've got to go, Daniel. I'll speak to you soon."

With that, he got up and left, picking up his cases and headed for the door, confused, angry and upset.

Jack got off the phone as he heard the front door close and he cursed. Quickly, he made his way to the living room, but he was too late.

As soon as Daniel had realised that Paul had gone, he'd looked up and sought Jack, but he wasn't there either. Turning to his only other comfort, he'd lifted his blade and scored a mark over his arm, then another and another. Only Jack's hand on his stopped him carving another cut.

"Don't you think that's enough, Daniel?" Jack asked calmly, belying how he really felt.

"He's gone."

"Just to LA. He'll be back. He's confused, Daniel, that's all. Give him time, he'll figure it out. Now, we need to get the cuts covered and soon, they're bleeding badly. Give me the knife."


"Daniel. Please. No more."

Jack's pleading voice cut Daniel's heart deeper than his blade and with a shaking hand, he dropped it into Jack's waiting palm.

"Stay there, I'll be back in a moment. I'm just going to get some band-aids."

Daniel watched him leave the room, then his head turned so that he could watch the blood ooze out of the cuts. Instead of seeing the pain leave him, all he could see was his lovers walking out on him. There was no relief in this blood, there was only more pain.

Jack was back in a few moments, with cream and plasters, tending to his arm as gently as he could. Part of him wanted to go after Paul and beat the crap out of him for driving Daniel to this, but he couldn't because he understood. Paul had been away for too long, had been left out of so many things. When they were at the SGC, even before Jack had joined them, Daniel had spent more time with Jack than with Paul, had shared more as a result. Jack had the feeling that despite the fact that the CDs they'd made for Paul had been to keep him included in what they'd been doing, it had possibly served to emphasise the fact that Paul wasn't there, making him feel excluded. He could so easily see both sides.

Daniel wasn't with him, Jack knew. He was obviously elsewhere - maybe another place, probably another time - in his mind. Nothing Jack said got through to him. He sighed with relief when he heard another car drawing up on the drive. Not wanting to leave Daniel but having to, he rushed to the front door and opened it, just in time to see Doctor Vincent walk up to it.

"Mark - thanks for coming."

"No problem. Where is he?"

"In the living room."

Jack ushered him quickly indoors and led him to Daniel. They saw him muttering to himself and staring at the plasters on his arm.

The doctor called out, "Daniel?" but got no answer.

"What happened?"

"Big fight with Paul," Jack hedged. He didn't want to call the doctor but he'd been left with no choice.

"Jack, I can see that there's more to it than that."

"I know, I know, it's just I promised not to tell. You have to understand that I can't, I won't break his confidence."

"You're putting me in an awkward position, Jack. What do you want me to do?"

"Can you sedate him?"

"You make him sound like a dangerous animal."

"You have no idea," Jack muttered. "Please, Mark. Knock him out. Let him sleep this off and when he wakes up I'll stand a better chance of helping him. I'll tell you what I can if you do."

"Would he be better off in the hospital?" Mark asked as he knelt besides Daniel, opening his bag and preparing a sedative.

"No. That would make things worse, I can promise you that."

Jack's tone of voice told Mark that there was a lot more to his statement than at first appeared. Sighing, he injected the drug into Daniel and they watched as he drifted off to sleep. As Daniel slept, the doctor checked on the cuts, relieved to see that they didn't need stitches, then he re-covered them and let him be.

Getting Mark to help him, Jack moved Daniel from the chair to the sofa and lay him down, then he fetched a blanket and covered him with it before getting a coffee for himself and the doctor.

"So, Jack," Mark spoke quietly, "talk to me. I promise that anything you say will stay in confidence and off the record."

"I know. It's just that something happened to Daniel when he was younger and he's not comfortable about others knowing about it. He told Paul and me and made us promise to keep it to ourselves. We swore, Mark."

"Okay. I think I can make a reasonable guess. Don't worry, I won't mention it to him." He looked at the now peaceful Daniel and added, "He's cutting himself deliberately, isn't he?"

Swallowing harshly, Jack nodded. Daniel hadn't asked him to not say anything about that but then he hadn't given him permission either. By not saying it, he didn't feel as if he was betraying Daniel.

"Has he been doing it a long time?"

'Damn', thought Jack. 'Now I have to answer.'

"Yes. And it's under control and yes, he's had help. I can't go into specifics. He doesn't do it much now. A few weeks ago was the first time since we moved out here."

"Not bad. That's a good amount of control. What brought it on today?"

"Huge fight," Jack reiterated. "Paul found out, took umbrage that I'd found out first - er, it often happens that I hear stuff first, just a coincidence but because of stuff in all our pasts, it blew up, smacked Paul about a bit, then Paul fought back. He went off to LA earlier than he would have normally and Daniel lost it."

"He thinks that Paul won't come back?"

Jack nodded. "He'll think more clearly when he's had a sleep. It's why I called you over. It was either that or I was going to have to knock him out. In all the years I've known him, I've deliberately hit him once and then I wasn't in my right mind. We've nearly come to blows on many occasions." Jack actually smiled as he said that. "We were friends for enough years before we got together, Mark, and in a dangerous enough job that sometimes tempers got the better of us. In case you're worried, I can promise you that there's no domestic violence here. I know it happens, more than people will admit to, but never here. We lived a violent life - something that Daniel, an inbuilt pacifist hated. But even he coped with it - better than most."

"By cutting himself?"

"Sometimes. He and I have talked since I found out and it was only after the really bad missions - when we were forced to leave things undone, for example. And when his wife was kidnapped and later killed... that was bad for him too."

"I'll bet it was. He's always astounded me by how cool he is."

"Yeah, well, now you know. He's not always cool. He can be hotter-headed than me, just never against us."

Jack chuckled to himself and told Mark about the club and Daniel's alpha mood.

"He didn't hurt that guy, did he?"

"No. Scared the crap out of him, though. But one word from me and he stopped. There have been many times when one word from him stops me, so I guess it evens out."

"What about the hospital? You said it would make things worse. Why?"

"Ah, I can't tell you much about that, it's classified. Suffice it to say that Daniel got sick and it was a... virus, I guess. Anyway, it affected his mind and in the end, he got locked up in a padded room."

"Because he was sick?"

"The doctors couldn't tell that it was a virus, not at that point. Funnily enough, it was Daniel that figured it out when he'd gotten over it, but they wouldn't believe him. Thought he was schizophrenic and treated him for that."

"Shit. How did he get out?"

"He convinced me he wasn't nuts," Jack shrugged. "I can't tell you the details, but his actions saved others' lives, mine included. Because he told us how he'd got rid of it, we were able to get rid of it when we were infected. It was touch and go - we nearly lost another friend that day. Anyway, since then he's been shit scared of shrinks and mental health hospitals. Even if he really was schizophrenic, putting him inside one would drive him to suicide."

"I'll bear that in mind," Mark answered dryly. "I hope that whatever that virus was, it's not going to affect the general population?"

"No. It's all gone."

"That's a relief. I knew you guys worked classified missions together, but I get the feeling that it's much more than I could imagine."

"You guess right. It was a good time, too, you know. We went to a lot of amazing places, met some incredible people. Made friends, made enemies, fought the bad guys... all I can say is that what we did, we did for the benefit of all the countries on this planet, not just the US. Daniel couldn't and wouldn't work in a more partisan environment."

"Tell me more about him, Jack. There's very little in his medical records, in fact, there are huge gaps in it. It will help me in the long run if I at least know a bit about him."

"Okay, but you have to understand that I can only tell you some stuff, maybe a bit more generally than you'd like, but hopefully it will give you a clue."


So Jack sat back and talked about Daniel, letting their doctor know what he could, saying nothing that he couldn't but dropping enough hints for the savvy man to work out what he'd need to know to help in future. Mark was absolutely fascinated by the story, stunned by what little he heard - that in itself was more than a lifetime's adventures for most people. By the time Jack had finished, Mark had a much better picture in his mind.

"Wow. He's one hell of a guy," he said in awe. Then he grinned. "What about Jack O'Neill? What doesn't your medical record say? There are gaps in that too, you know."

Jack laughed. "For a reason, Mark." But he filled in a few of the gaps anyway, and Mark's understanding grew. Without prompting, Jack told him what he could about Paul and by the time the storytelling was over, Mark's mental picture was much greater.

"Whenever you need my help," he said, nodding at Daniel as he did, "you call. I understand the need to keep this off the record and, quite frankly, out of Daniel's mind, and I will endeavour to do that. If that means that I have to doctor one or two records of my own for future doctors, I will. As far as today's little episode is concerned, he hasn't been sleeping well because of his brilliant mind working overtime at nights and he was ready to drop but unable to sleep."

"Thanks, Mark. That's so not off the mark on many occasions it's not funny."

"Yeah, I guessed that. Do you want me to stay until he's woken?"

"Nah, I think he'll be out for hours. I'll call you if he freaks when he wakes up, but going on past events, I think that I'll be able to keep him calm. This was the equivalent of slapping a hysterical woman like you'd see in one of those old films. Now he's no longer muttering to himself, he'll listen to me. I'm sure that when Paul calls, he'll be fine - they will be fine."

"And you? Will you be fine?"

"Sure I will. This has been a long-time coming, my friend. We were under pressure for so long that he had to blow. He's not going to get better overnight, but now we've gotten to the stage that we can start to rebuild. We've had a lot of changes in our lives recently, so it's just a case of starting all over again."

Paul had managed to shut his mind off for the entire trip to LA. He'd got an earlier flight, booked into the same hotel as he usually did, poured himself a couple of mini bottles of brandy into one glass and then sat on the bed, miserably. Out of habit, he got out the cellphone to call home to say he'd arrived safely, but as he went to press the speed dial button, he hesitated. Would he make things worse if he called?

Jack's words rattled through his mind and Paul started to feel more and more confused. In his hotel room, he felt isolated again; lonely, excluded and homesick. But as he thought of the two of them, he also felt it. He knew that Jack and Daniel had a special relationship and he understood that. Brothers-in-arms, so to speak. They'd died together. How special a relationship could two people have?

But then he remembered Daniel helping him, caring for him, watching out for his every need... how selfish was he?

He pressed the button and heard the phone ring and ring, till eventually he heard Jack's annoyed voice.


"Thank fuck for that. Where are you? In the hotel?"

"Yeah. What's wrong?"

Jack snorted. "You know damned well what's wrong. Daniel cut himself up when you left."

"Oh shit. God, I'm so sorry, Jack, I just got so confused that I didn't know what to do. Where is he? Is he okay?"

"He's sleeping. I was calling the doc when you left him alone."

"Fuck, I thought you'd gone to the bathroom. I didn't want to leave him alone."

"But you did." Paul heard Jack taking a deep breath as if he was counting to twenty, then he heard, "Look, forget that, okay? It's over and done with. What I want to know right now is, have you got your head out of your ass yet?"


"Have you stopped with the self-pity thing? Because if you haven't, next time I see you I'm going to kick said ass."


"You are not being excluded. Daniel, especially, has been working fucking hard to make sure you didn't feel lonely or left out of things. Like I said, the only reason you weren't told this before was because we were thinking of you. We know how important this course and this job is, we both support you in it. What more do you want?"

"Oh. I'm sorry, Jack. I guess it's just that I've been so fucking miserable away from you that it compounded it. I overreacted and I'm truly sorry. When Daniel wakes up, call me - anytime - and I'll apologise to him."

"He won't wake up for a while. The doc sedated him but good. He could do with the sleep, so don't worry about it. I will explain it to him when he wakes up and offer up your apology. You can talk to him tomorrow and apologise again. And if you ever run out on him again I will hunt you down and tear you to pieces, capiche?"

Paul smiled as he heard that and nodded as he spoke. "Understood. Tell me about the cutting, Jack. I need to know. How do we cope?"

This time Jack smiled as he spoke. "Cope? We kiss it better and stick band-aids on it, Paul. We don't judge, we don't make a fuss, we don't make him hide. And we reward him for not cutting himself."

"Oh? Reward him? What do you mean?"

Jack told him about what his foster parents had done and Paul laughed softly back at him.

"Okay. We reward him. Tell him I love him, please."

"I will. Go to bed, Paul. Have a long, good sleep. Tomorrow things will look better, I promise. And when you come home on Friday, we'll celebrate again."


Paul lay on his bed a bit later, feeling slightly drunk but a bit more relaxed. He hadn't shaken the guilt from running from Daniel and probably wouldn't for quite some time. All he could do was vow to never run again.


Jack remained in the living room, curled up on the sofa with Daniel's head in his lap. He didn't want to leave him alone, so he stayed, watching over him, running his fingers through Daniel's hair. He wondered who was gaining the comfort from that - the sleeping Daniel or himself? He was still angry with Paul. No matter how much he understood him, he was still angry. But then again, he was angry with himself for the same thing. How many times had he left Daniel when he needed him most? And yet Daniel had forgiven him time and time again, so he was sure that he would forgive Paul without hesitation. Considering Jack knew that Daniel could hold a grudge for decades, his capacity for forgiveness was even more astounding.

He also knew that he'd understand Paul, just the same way he understood Jack.

Jack sent up the first, heartfelt prayer from his lips in many years as he gave thanks for Daniel's life. When it was sent, he shut his eyes and slept, his fingers still entwined in Daniel's hair.

Paul woke up with a start, let out a loud groan when he realised that he'd overslept and hurriedly got dressed. Running to his class, he hit the speed dial on the phone, desperate to touch base with the guys at least. A groggy voice greeted him and he spoke quickly into it.

"Haven't got much time. Overslept, I'm running to class. Just needed to say 'hi'."


Daniel's sleepy reply made Paul smile and he reduced his speed to a jog as the centre where the class was being held came into view.

"I'm sorry," Paul said. "I'll talk to you more tonight, babe, but I'm so fucking sorry for running out on you."


"God, I have got to go. I'll call tonight, okay?"


Paul entered the building and signed off, hoping that Daniel had actually heard him. He was notorious for not understanding people on the phone before he'd woken properly. At least he'd spoken to him. A few minutes late, he apologised as he entered the class and sat at one of the tables at the back. He had the feeling it would be a long day.

Daniel had woken to the noise of the phone and was surprised to find himself on the sofa with Jack. He fell off the sofa and crawled to the phone in the living room, barely realising who was on the other end and hardly hearing him. When he put down the phone, he was confused.


Jack's own sleepy voice got his attention and he turned. "Who was that?"

"Uh, Paul I think. Or a heavy breather. Could have been either. God, what happened? Did we drink a couple of bottles of JD? I've got a headache the size of Everest."

"Let's go get a coffee. Don't try to remember anything, Daniel, let me explain it. It'll make more sense that way."

"And aspirin. Coffee and aspirin. Lots of both."

"You got it. Come on, help an old man out of the chair, will ya?"

Daniel stood up and moved back to the sofa, put out both of his arms to lift Jack and froze when he saw the plasters running down his arm.

"Oh God, tell me I didn't..."

"Daniel! Remember what I said? Let me explain. Come on, help me up. It's not as bad as it seems."

Jack managed to persuade Daniel to help him with the coffee and some toast, giving him some aspirin and juice while breakfast made and then sitting him down at the table. When Daniel was safely sitting, he told him carefully about the events of the night before.

"Paul? Oh GOD!"

"Daniel! Calm down! I told you, he's sorry, he's really upset by what he did. He asked me to tell you that and that he would call you today to apologise in person. He said to say he loves you, too."

"He called."

"Yes, I know."

"But I didn't say anything. He'll think I'm angry with him."

Jack surprised him by bursting out laughing.

"Jack? This is serious!"

"I know, I know. But stop your worryin'. Paul would have been more weirded out if you had spoken to him in the morning. He knows you, remember? Now, you listen to me. Everything is going to work out. You now know that we both know. Unfortunately - or fortunately - Doc Vincent knows too. Only about the cutting, I didn't tell him why, okay?"

"Why did you call him?" Daniel asked, his voice measured and suspicious.

"Because you'd been reduced to a gibbering wreck, Daniel. I didn't want to hit you and I thought a long, proper sleep would do you more good than a few minutes' unconsciousness."

Daniel considered his words and then nodded.

"It won't hurt for him to know, Daniel. He's not putting it on your record."

"Good. You have no idea the trouble I went to, to lose bits of my past."

"How did you do it?"

Daniel looked him in the eye and grinned. "There are some things that even you are better off not knowing, Jack."

Jack laughed out loud, then he asked softly, "Why are you so bothered about people knowing what happened to you? It's no shame, you've done nothing wrong."

"I know. I'm not ashamed, Jack. It's just nobody's business but mine. I was prepared to go to court to put him in jail because I knew that if I didn't, he might do that to another innocent. He's dead now - as far as I'm concerned, so is what happened. If others find out, they'll bring the subject up or treat me differently... I don't need coddling, Jack."

"No, no you don't. I understand, by the way. But if you feel you need to share it, the doc's okay. He won't freak out, I'm sure of it."

"Did you tell him about Iraq?" Daniel asked slyly.

"Touché," Jack answered, raising his mug in a toast. But at Daniel's grin, he continued, "I told him some of it."


"Yeah. Not the full details, a lot of that is classified. I shouldn't have even told you guys, but... well, I know you will keep your mouths shut."

Daniel shrugged, that wasn't even an issue.

They ate their breakfast in companionable silence, then as they cleared up, Daniel asked, "Are you sure that Paul's okay about this?"

"Sure, why do you ask?"

"Oh, I don't know," he answered, his voice trying to sound unconcerned but failing.

"Daniel, he'll be fine. He's going to need to understand more, will probably need to ask you questions, but he's only going to be concerned for you. Now, tell me, how are you really feeling this morning - and no bullshit."

Daniel grinned. "I'm a bit more awake," he offered. At Jack's withering gaze, he admitted, "I'm still shaken up. I don't think I'll be relaxed until I see him with my own eyes."

"Yeah, well, not long now. Only a few days. Then he'll be home for good."

Daniel let Jack hold him as he agreed. Now, all he had to do would be to hold out for those few days.

Jack decided to soak in the bath after breakfast, his backside hurt from the previous day's 'activities' and from sitting up all night. Of course, as soon as Daniel realised that Jack was hurting, he went on yet another guilt trip about not taking care of him. Jack had to forcefully remind Daniel that he was a grown man and could make his own mind up about what he did and did not want to do.

It wasn't that Daniel was overbearing all of the time, it was just that sometimes he could blame himself for the increase in the price of bread if he wanted. Jack wished that he could change his attitude to himself, but he knew that it wouldn't likely happen. All he could do would be refute the arguments and be as stubborn as Daniel.

At lunchtime, Daniel tried ringing Paul's mobile, but he'd switched it off and forgotten to switch it back on. By the time Paul was back in his hotel room, Daniel was virtually bouncing off the walls in desperation to speak to him. When the phone finally rang, he pounced on it, Jack knowing that it was Paul purely from the fact that Daniel's shoulders reflected the release of some of the tension he was feeling.

"Paul, I'm so sorry," Daniel started, but he soon stopped.

"Daniel, please, listen to me. Don't be sorry, it's me that needs to apologise. I was thoughtless and cowardly and I'm so sorry for running out on you. I hope you can forgive me."

"Nothing to forgive, Paul, just don't hate me, please. I didn't want to hide it, I just didn't know how to tell you."

"I know. I understand. I couldn't hate you, never could hate you. Love you so much, you have to know that."

On and on the call went, each one seeking the reassurance that only a hug really could offer. In the end, Jack picked up the extension and spoke.

"Er, guys? Listen up. Paul, you misunderstood and fucked up and you're sorry, right?"

He got a drawled 'right' in answer.

"And Daniel, you feel you should have told Paul before and you're sorry, right?"

Again the same answer, this time from Daniel.

"And to cap it all, you miss each other like crazy and can't wait till Friday, right?"

This time, the answers were laughed back at him.

"So stop your worrying, will ya? It's over, it's okay. Now, you may return to your regularly scheduled puke-inducing talk. I'm off to watch ESPN."

He put the phone down and switched on the TV, feeling pretty proud when Daniel's laughter broke over the commentary.

His pep talk had helped, but it wasn't enough. By Wednesday, Daniel was driving him loopy. It wasn't that he minded Daniel coming into the workshop to give him coffee, but he'd had so much by lunchtime that he was now bouncing off the ceiling. So, as he sat in the kitchen eating the lunch lovingly prepared by Daniel, he came up with a plan.

"What are you doing this afternoon, Daniel?" he asked casually.

"Oh, well, I want to get on with the dictionary, but the SGC have sent me a translation via email that they need doing. It'll be done soon, I guess. But..."

"You can't really settle to concentrate on it?"

Daniel ducked his head and shook it.

"Okay, I understand," Jack replied.

He said nothing more, just finished his lunch, helped Daniel clear up, then took him by the hand into the living room where he sat on the sofa, taking Daniel with him.

"Jack? What do you have in mind?"

"How about we just sit for a while, Daniel?" he suggested. Then he picked up the remote control and flicked onto the History Channel.

"What, no sports?" Daniel teased.

"Nah, I could do with a snooze. You see if there's a documentary or something you want to watch and watch it. I'll just stay here with you and shut my eyes for a bit."

Not letting Daniel move, he shifted himself until he lay on the sofa, his head on Daniel's lap and shut his eyes. He knew that Daniel wouldn't move until he opened them again for fear of disturbing him. With a quiet sigh, Daniel checked the various science channels until he came up with a documentary on the Mayans that he hadn't seen before, and he settled back to watch it.

Daniel knew that Jack was manipulating him, but he didn't care. He was too damned tense to concentrate on work, too anxious to see Paul to make sure with his own eyes that things really were okay between them again. He actually remembered the bust-up, not that he'd admitted that to Jack. He hadn't remembered anything the morning after, but it came to him in dribs and drabs during that day. He wasn't afraid of many things, had seen too much and died too often to be afraid, but the one thing that truly scared him was losing either of his lovers. He'd lost every other lover he'd had, often none-too prettily. Fai had ended the relationship and then died soon after, blowing any chance of them ever getting back together. Gareth and he hadn't had the chance to stay together, both of them being dreadfully upset over the break up. Steven and he had fought over Steven's jealousy of Daniel's relationship - in a platonic sense - with Professor Jordan, and he and Sarah had split because she'd thought he was a fool. That particular fight hadn't been pretty. Then of course, Shau're. The one lover that he'd believed would stay with him till old age claimed them.

He knew that outsiders believed he loved her, but he doubted that they would even guess at just how much he did. Still did. Jack and Paul understood, really did understand, and neither of them were jealous or impatient when he spoke of her. They knew that they weren't second best to her, either, that what they had was just as important to him, just as passionate and vital to him. He also knew that if he lost them, he really wouldn't look at anyone else again.

He tried to put his feelings for the men into words, but found that in all the languages he spoke, there were no words that could convey the depth of his emotions. What scared him was the need in him; the need to have them around him, the need to be loved by them. It was why he'd gone over-the-top when Paul had got angry with him. He and Paul never fought. They'd never got really angry with each other, they'd barely ever raised their voices at each other. He and Jack often fought, but these days, it was over as soon as it had begun and never meant anything. They wouldn't fight over something this serious, either. So when Paul had overreacted and freaked, the last remaining true fear in Daniel's mind jumped up and bit him hard.

He could remember looking up and seeing neither man in the room. He could remember hearing the front door shut and the car pull off. For that brief moment, he felt totally and utterly alone. So he'd turned to the one other constant in his life, the knife.

In a matter of seconds, he'd cut himself those three times but for once he hadn't really known what he was doing. That scared him. Almost every other time he'd done it, it had been a deliberate, careful, even planned act, designed to alleviate the darkness. This had been a reaction. An overreaction, sure, but it was purely in response to Paul leaving.

Would he do it again if they fought again? He couldn't be sure one way or the other, and that really worried him.

So caught up was he in his thoughts that he didn't notice the fact that the programme had stopped and was now a documentary on modern jet fighters. Not really something that he was interested in. Only a disbelieving snort from Jack caught his attention.


"Did you hear what he just said? There is no way that that is the best jet out there," he said disapprovingly. "I've flown way better planes than that."

"Sorry, I must have missed that," Daniel replied.

Jack knew that. He hadn't been sleeping but had listened to the television. When the programmes had changed over and Daniel hadn't changed channel, Jack had opened his eyes and seen Daniel staring into space.

"Daniel, come down here," he said quietly, indicating that Daniel should lie with him.

Unquestioningly, Daniel did as he was told and soon found himself wrapped in Jack's arms.

"Do you want to talk?"

"Not really, no," Daniel shrugged. "I guess I was just trying to work some stuff out."

"Figured it out?"

"No. Maybe. It's okay, Jack."

"Don't worry about it, whatever it is," Jack soothed. "I know that there are times when things will seem like they're the only thing going on, but by the weekend, you'll see things differently. I know how easy it is to think of one thing only, to get caught up in it. It's how simple it is to get depressed, you know."

"Yeah, I know. The trouble is, it's the only thing I can think of."

"Hmm. Maybe I should give you something else to think of?"

"Oh? Do you have any ideas?"

"Gimme a moment," Jack replied with a grin. "I'm sure that I can think of something."

He reached up and removed Daniel's glasses, dropping them on the floor, then he pulled Daniel close and kissed him. He kept it slow, deliberately so, intentionally making Daniel concentrate purely on him; on his lips, his hands, his legs as they entwined with Daniel's. Never stopping as their lips literally danced together, their fingers roamed independently, undoing buttons, tracing indeterminate patterns on each other's bodies, finding skin. For ages, they continued in this vein, reluctant to move on until it became too much for them to hold back.

Smoothly they stepped up a gear, rolling until Daniel was on his back and Jack was laying over him. Their trousers were undone, pushed halfway down their thighs, their shirts riding up their chests. The kisses were less co-ordinated, more hit and miss as their breathing intensified. Daniel felt Jack's hot breath on his neck when Jack dipped his head as he ground his hips against Daniel's. Pushing up to meet Jack halfway, Daniel's head tipped backwards, baring his throat to his lover. Jack attacked, biting and sucking on his neck, unable to stay in the same place for long as his hips moved faster and faster.

"God, Jack," Daniel gasped, needing to come but not quite getting there. "Please."

The only reply from Jack was an increase in pressure and speed, his own need pushing him to take it to the end as soon as he could.

If Jack could have thought coherently at that moment, he would have been pleased that his intentions when starting this were being fulfilled. There was literally nothing in Daniel's mind except the desperation to come. But there was nothing in his own mind except the same desperation and it happened, Daniel starting with Jack following soon after.

Flailing his arm in the general direction of the tissue box on the coffee table, Daniel managed to indicate to Jack that they should clean up before the sofa got stained. Again. So, Jack grabbed the tissues and hauled himself up reluctantly.

"Feeling better now?" he asked as he handed some tissues to Daniel.

Daniel laughed quietly. "Yeah. Thanks Jack."

"My absolute pleasure. Anytime. In fact, give me an hour or two and we'll do it again if you like."

On Thursday morning, Jack woke with a plan. A devious, sneaky plan worth the while of an ex-special ops colonel. He completed his morning ablutions quickly and made some coffee, then woke Daniel up using his weapon of choice. A large mug of double-strength dark roast Arabic. Even the linguist in the bed had been known to fall at the feet of that particular blend.

Having got Daniel at least awake, if not totally aware, Jack retraced his steps to the kitchen and started breakfast. As soon as he heard the water of the shower switch on, he picked up the phone book, found the number he wanted, got his credit card out and dialled.


Still bleary-eyed, Daniel entered the kitchen, a touch damp and only half-dressed. He offered Jack a warped smile as Jack took his empty mug and refilled it, then put a plate of hot, buttered toast in front of him.

"Sit, eat," came the 'order'. Jack knew that Daniel wouldn't want more to eat than that. He never did after a broken night's sleep, just as he'd had the night before. And the one before that. And the one before that. Without Paul there, Daniel wasn't settling and it was showing.

"Thanks, Jack," came the hoarse reply. Daniel sounded like he'd been talking all night and Jack had to fight back a sigh of sadness and near desperation.

"Can we go out today?" Jack asked as he sat opposite Daniel.

"Um, yeah?" Daniel answered with a question as he wasn't sure if it was the answer Jack really wanted.


"Got anywhere in mind?"


"Going to tell me?"

"Sure. Eat your breakfast."

Jack tucked into his own food, not answering Daniel but taking advantage of his sleepiness. As soon as he had finished, he cleared his things up and scooted into the bedroom, quickly getting dressed and then completing stage one of his plan. Daniel appeared in the bedroom a few minutes later and took the shirt Jack offered him and put it on. When, in his exhaustion, he missed the first buttonhole, Jack took over from him, pushing him to sit on the bed and then matter-of-factly doing the buttons up.

"Dammit, Daniel, you are fucked. I wish you'd talk to the doc about getting some sleeping pills or something."

"It's okay," came the yawned reply. "I'll be fine. You know I get runs of bad days from time to time."

"I know, I know, but I hate seeing you so damned tired."

Daniel offered him a weak smile and thanked him for helping him out.

"Come on, Daniel. Maybe a trip out will help you wake up. Get some shoes and socks on." When he was sure that Daniel wasn't looking, Jack picked up the bag he'd got ready earlier and headed out of the door.

Too tired to argue, Daniel followed his instructions, unsuspecting of what was to come. As soon as he was ready, he stumbled out of the bedroom and grabbed his jacket, securing enough wits to remember to check that he had his wallet with all of his cards and ID on him.

"I'll drive, Daniel," Jack announced, not wanting to let Daniel argue, but he did anyway.

"What about your legs, Jack?"

"My legs are fine today, Daniel. Haven't felt this good in ages to tell the truth. Besides, I'd rather fight off a bit of an ache later on than peel us from a telephone pole after you fell asleep at the wheel."

Daniel tried to look annoyed by that statement but in the end, he settled for a yawn.

"Okay, you drive. Just don't moan later when you hurt."

"That's it, take away my one pleasure..."

Daniel's scowl ended any further teasing.

As Jack pulled out of the drive, he suggested, "Why don't you shut your eyes for a while, Daniel? I'll tell you when we get there."

"Where're we goin'?" Daniel drawled.

"You'll see. Go on, rest."

Jack's voice was soothing in its tone and Daniel felt powerless to resist. By the time they'd gone half a mile, he was out cold. Jack grinned, pleased that he'd managed to get one over on his lover for once. Now he had to complete stage two and then prepare himself for stage three.

Paul shifted about uncomfortably on his seat as the latest lecturer droned on and on about a legal procedure that he knew like the back of his hand. He was afraid of falling asleep as he'd not been sleeping well since arriving in LA. Oh, he and Daniel were talking every night before bed, and that helped. Jack would sometimes interrupt and tease the two of them and there were times that Paul particularly appreciated that. After all, he missed Jack, too. What was making him uncomfortable, however, wasn't the hard seat, the numb ass that he was getting or the tiredness. When he'd stormed out of the house on the Sunday, he hadn't taken any of the usual chastity devices that Daniel insisted on putting on him. He'd grown so accustomed to wearing them that the entire week had seen him on edge. He felt as if he was no longer owned, no longer restrained or secure, and it worried him.

He'd always known that Daniel had a huge hold over him, in a manner that no one else ever had, but now that he was 'free', it indicated just how much he relied on that hold to make him feel safe. He wanted to be with Daniel, wanted to hear his strong voice as it ordered him to do something... anything. He wondered if there really was anything he wouldn't do for Daniel. Yes, there were things that he'd insisted at the beginning he wouldn't do, and Daniel had agreed and they'd never been mentioned since. Paul thought that Daniel didn't like them either, so that helped. But... what if Daniel asked him to do them this weekend? Would he... could he say no?

He fought back a sigh when he realised that there wasn't even a view out of the window for him to look at. All he could see was the concrete of the next building across the alleyway. Reminding himself that he only had to face a test that afternoon and another the following morning and he'd be free to go home, he shook himself and tried hard to concentrate on the monotone voice from the front of the class. It had been a very long week.

"Wake up, Daniel. We're here."

Reluctantly, Daniel opened his eyes and was surprised to see himself in the short-stay car park at the airport.

"Jack? What is it?"

"It's an airport."

"I know that," he growled. "Why are we here?"

Jack reached down and undid Daniel's seat belt, indicating that he should leave the car and sometime in the next minute or else Jack wouldn't be pleased. Then he left the car himself, locking it, then moving around the back and opening the boot and retrieving Daniel's rucksack.

"Jack! Tell me."

"Come on, Daniel. Trust me."

"I do trust you, I just need to know what's going on."

"I'm making things better, Daniel. That's all."

He handed Daniel his rucksack and grinned a little when he saw him put it on automatically, then he walked off directly to the terminal. Bewildered, Daniel followed him.

They turned up at the desk of the airline that Paul used and Daniel's heart started to beat faster.


"You're going to LA," he admitted. "I called this morning, your ticket is booked and paid for and you take off in one hour."


"But nothing, Daniel. Go. See him. And tonight? Tonight you will sleep. I can't take watching you so miserable, not even for one more day."

"His course..."

"The day finishes about four thirty, Daniel. That will give you the chance to go spend some time together and talk. He doesn't need me around for this."

"But Jack, you know we need you around."

"Danny, please. Trust me on this. He needs you today. Tomorrow, you guys come home and we're us again. If you don't do this, the whole us thing will become strained again. Now, please, pick up your ticket, get on that plane and go see him. Call me when you get there, I'll have the cellphone with me, but if you can't get through, leave a message. I'll get right back to you."

"Where are you going?"

"I have a few things to do. Errands to run and that sort of thing. Go on, I'll see you tomorrow. Let me know what time your plane gets in and I'll come and get you."

"Thank you, Jack, I'll make it up to you when we get back, I promise."

Daniel put his hands out and the men hugged each other tightly. When Daniel heard a disapproving 'tut' from a person in the next line along, he twisted his head and kissed Jack on the lips.

"Love you," he whispered.

"Love you too. Now, go before you miss your plane."

Jack retreated as quickly as he could, then, when he was at a point that he could see without being seen, he turned to watch Daniel as he picked up his ticket before going to the check-in desk. He'd heard the tutting from the next line and was mildly surprised that Daniel hadn't done the full French kiss in response. He smiled as he saw Daniel wait his turn, his body language speaking volumes to those around him. That man could be snooty and arrogant when he wanted to be, and, Jack guessed, he wanted to be right now. After only two coffees and little sleep for a few days, Jack wouldn't have expected any different.

When Daniel had collected his ticket and disappeared from view, Jack left the airport and headed into town. He had a bit more work to do.


Paul turned around and looked at the owner of the voice that had called him. The lecturer had left and his classmates were filing out of the room, ready to go for lunch. He was so far into his own thoughts that he'd missed all of the activity around him.

"Hey," he answered, smiling at the small African American woman that was standing next to him. "Sorry, Sharelle, I was miles away."

"Honey, you've been miles away all week. You're worse today. What's up?"

"Oh, homesick I guess."

A couple of the other students gathered around them, wanting to offer support to the miserable Paul.

"Come on, let's go to lunch," Sharelle said, trying to get him to stand up and go with her. "Then you can tell us all about her."

"Excuse me?"

"Whoever she is that you're missing so much."

Paul burst out laughing, surprising the hell out of his companions.

"Okay, come on then," he agreed. "I'll tell all when we get there."

As he left the room and turned to walk down the corridor, however, he had one heck of a surprise of his own. Standing in front of him, leaning against a wall, a rucksack at his feet, was Daniel.


Forgetting his friends, Paul rushed forward and found himself in Daniel's arms in moments. Daniel held him tightly, not wanting to let him go again.

"I'm sorry," he whispered to Paul.

"Don't be. I am sorry."

"I know. It's over. I'm here now."

A giggle interrupted them and Daniel reluctantly let go.

"Man, I see why you were homesick," Sharelle teased. "Are you going to introduce us?"

With a broad smile, Paul introduced Daniel to his new friends and they soon found themselves being ushered to the nearest café for lunch, surrounded by constant chatter and answering many questions. Daniel couldn't stop smiling. The relief he felt at being with Paul at last outweighing his need to get him alone. He'd manage that in the evening.

Jack walked out of the shop he'd visited with a smile plastered across his face. The boxes of equipment he'd just spent a not-so-small fortune on had been loaded into his car and he was now going to go home and set it all up. He couldn't wait to see Daniel's face the next day, he just knew that Daniel would like it.

As he drove home, he felt pleased with himself. He'd managed to help Daniel over his freak-out, even if he wasn't completely past it. The sleepless nights were proof of that. But Daniel, being Daniel, was hiding what ailed him yet again and Jack knew that all he could do was work around him, smoothing his path so to speak, so that the troubles weren't quite as troubling. It was a moment of inspiration, he thought, sending Daniel to LA like that. He just hoped that the guys would be so pleased to see each other that all of their worries would just literally melt away.

Daniel lay on the bed in Paul's hotel room and waited. Paul had rushed back with him during his lunch break and helped book Daniel into the room for an overnight stay, then he'd had to run back to his classroom for a test. As he lay, he wondered if he should try to sleep, God only knew that he could do with a nap. But he couldn't sleep, as yet again his mind worked overtime. At least he'd spoken to Jack. Whatever Jack was up to, it was making him happy. He'd sounded like he was in a shop when Daniel had phoned on landing in LA and all Daniel could think of at the time was that when he got home, Jack was going to have some explaining to do.

He wondered about Jack and his new-found desire to dominate. It wasn't surprising to him, in fact he was surprised that it had taken so long to happen. After all, Jack's career had been spent in taking charge, making decisions and giving orders. He was trained to do it, was conditioned to do it even, and it was only natural that from time to time, Jack would want to return to that status. Daniel was pleased that Paul had seemed to accept it, too.

Then he wondered about Paul. Would he ever want to dominate? He'd given enough orders, made enough decisions in his time. Somehow, Daniel couldn't see it. Even though Paul could be bossy, stubborn and a pain in the ass, he wasn't domineering or dominating. At least his new job would mean that he'd want to stop thinking and not want to take over.

A shudder ran through his body as he continued to think of Paul. Working with Paul wasn't going to cause him to cut himself again, of that he was sure. In fact, he was positive that being in control had held the darkness at bay for so long. He wasn't sure how Paul was going to cope with this, either. Jack had grown up learning to accept more unusual behaviour patterns, and though on the surface he would appear to have taken after his father - the provider, the protector, the law enforcer - Daniel was sure that he was his mother's son through and through. Despite his brash manner, Jack had always been quick to understand other people, no matter that he tried to hide his ability. He'd read Teal'c's actions and been prepared to trust him in a matter of minutes. Hell, he'd read Daniel pretty quickly in a way. At first reluctant to allow a civilian to have any position on his team, he'd soon realised that Daniel had more to offer than had been apparent at the start. Jack was the one that saw through his façade and he'd done it quickly. Jack was likely to take in a waif or stray - the fact that he'd taken Daniel into his home on his return from Abydos was proof of that. Jack was likely to understand or try to understand.

Paul, for all of his naturally gentle nature, found it much more difficult to empathise with others, though he did try. Daniel knew that educating Paul was the best way to go, but given that there was little written by those that cut themselves, as opposed to those that thought they knew what to do with those that did it, he knew he'd have to explain himself. Besides, even if he found ten books written by self-injurers, he'd get ten different reasons, ten different life stories, ten different conditions under which they did it. Maybe one would be similar to his own, but more likely than not, there would be sufficient differences to make it awkward if Paul said that 'well the book said this...' and it didn't apply to him.

He was so wrapped up in just how he'd bring the subject up again that he nearly missed the fact that the door had opened.


He looked up and saw Paul walking towards him, a tentative smile in place.

"Hi. How did the test go?"

"I think it went okay," Paul answered with a shrug, sitting on the edge of the bed. "One more tomorrow and that's it. I know I've passed the others that I took earlier in the week, so it's just a matter of getting through these and it's all over."

"Great. I know you've done well," Daniel encouraged, then he put his hand out to urge Paul to lie down.

"Give me a minute, Dan," Paul said, "I need to take a leak. Move over, you're taking over the bed as usual. I'll be with you in a minute and I could do with some room."

Heart beating wildly, Paul beat a hasty retreat to the bathroom, suddenly nervous for a reason he couldn't fathom. He took a leak then washed, running a few thoughts through his mind. The only thing that struck him which could explain how he was feeling now, was the idea of facing up to what had caused the row in the first place. He didn't want to face it, never wanted to face it ever again. Cursing himself for a coward, he returned to the bedroom.

"Paul? What's wrong, pet?"

As soon as Paul had entered the bedroom, Daniel had seen that something was wrong.

Paul kicked off his shoes with a sigh and then lay on the bed next to Daniel.

"I'm confused," he answered. "Please, don't take this the wrong way, Daniel, but I don't understand why you hurt yourself. I feel useless, almost impotent. Jack says that all we can do is be there for you, kiss it better so to speak, but I don't want you to do it in the first place. Why do you need to do it? Isn't what we have enough for you?"

Daniel lay on his side facing Paul and he raised his hand and stroked Paul's face and hair.

"What we have is more than I have ever dreamed of having, Paul," he spoke softly. "I obviously didn't explain it very well on Sunday, eh?"

"Maybe I was just too shocked to hear it all," Paul admitted. "I'm not going to run out on you again, Daniel. I'm not going to get mad. Please, make me understand."

"I'll try." Daniel rolled onto his back and stared up at the ceiling, then he spoke. "There's no point in going over the history, so to speak. You got that, didn't you?"

"Yes. In a way, I get why you did what you did when you were a child." The emphasis spoke volumes to Daniel and he got where Paul was coming from.

"Okay. I developed a coping mechanism as a teenager. It helped me deal with first the court case, then any fears that turned up, any shit that happened and so on. As some of the stresses in my life dissipated, so did my need to cut myself. But, life throws up many different challenges, many different stresses. You've learned to deal with your stress by forgetting, by giving up control to me. Before that you were miserable - you told me you'd lock yourself up in your apartment and drink when you thought you could get away with it."

Paul didn't answer, but Daniel felt him move to lie on his own back and then his hand catching his own. He smiled at Paul's actions, appreciating them.

"You managed to channel your energies into subbing for me and losing it has become your coping mechanism. I developed my method of coping at a much earlier age. It's natural for me to revert to it whenever things get too much. I don't want to do it - at least when I'm not depressed I look at what I've done and think... well, you don't want to know what I think, suffice it to say I'm not very pleased with myself. However, when things are bad, when I feel like I'm losing control, it's the only thing I have to turn to. Sometimes talking isn't enough. Sometimes dominating isn't enough. There are times, just once in a while, that cutting myself is the only thing that works."

"Did you feel like that on Sunday?"

There was a silence before Daniel replied. "Sunday was different. The only time I've ever reacted like that was when Fai freaked out. It's been over twenty years since I cut myself indiscriminately, Paul, it's not something I do much, I promise."

"Why did you do it?"

"Fear. I was afraid of losing you, Jack wasn't in the room, all of a sudden I was alone and I got scared, Paul."

"Can I see your cuts?"

"Are you sure?"


Daniel sat up and undid his shirt, removing it and throwing it to the foot of the bed. Not looking at Paul, he held his arm out.


Slowly, Paul also sat up and he saw the three, deep and long gashes on Daniel's arm. There was nothing covering them save the scabs that had formed and they looked red and angry. Paul physically shuddered when he saw them, then he held Daniel by the hand and lowered his head, placing a kiss on each cut. In moments, the men were holding each other tightly, a few tears falling but unacknowledged.

When the moment had passed, they lay back down and Paul asked, "Was it something I did? The reason you started again, I mean."

"No. I know you might think that, given what's been happening, but I promise you, Paul, it's not that. I was angry at what had happened to those sailors, but I'd have been just as angry if I'd just heard it on the news. However, all that was, was a catalyst. If it hadn't been that, it would have been something else. And more to the point, if I hadn't been working with you over the last few years, I'd probably have done it a lot more. You give me the chance to focus my control, to help me feel in control. So it's nothing that you can do anything about and you're not causing it, but you are helping me."

"Good. I was afraid that I'd done something. Not to start it in the first place, of course, but because it's been so long since you did it..."

"I know, I understand."

A silence fell as Paul thought some more, then he said, "I won't judge you for doing this, Daniel, and I won't run from it again, but I can't watch you do it."

"I don't expect you to."

"I think that Jack might. He's prepared to be there as you do it. I... I can't. I can't watch you hurt yourself, Daniel, I'm sorry, but I can't. I won't."

"It's okay, Paul, honestly. I rather be alone anyway, it's just that Jack is scared I'll fuck up and slit my wrists by accident or something. That's not going to happen. When I do it, I have to get under control so I really do know what I'm doing. If I wasn't under that level of control, I wouldn't get the... benefit, I guess."

"You weren't under control on Sunday."

"No, I wasn't, and it didn't help, either. I use the blood as a mental metaphor, if you like. It's as if it contains all of my worries and watching it go is like watching the worries go. I need control to project that image. So, if I do it without planning it, so to speak, I can't project the image and I don't feel better." He thought for a moment and then grinned, "I guess it's the equivalent of having a fright and calming yourself down with a stiff drink - not enough to get drunk, but enough to help you just settle a bit. Sunday was my equivalent of a binge complete with an 'Oh God, please take me now' hangover."

Paul let out a small laugh at the imagery, then he turned to get closer to Daniel.

"I think I understand a bit better now. I'm not sure I'll ever really understand it, but I will try."

"That's all I ask, Paul. And please, never think that I tell Jack things I won't tell you, that couldn't be further from the truth. I know I should have told you this back at the beginning, but I just didn't know how to."

"It's okay, I get that, I really do. No more secrets, though, please?"

"I promise. There's nothing else."

Not letting Paul answer, Daniel captured his lips with his own and gently tipped him onto his back. For a few minutes they spent time just kissing and getting to know each other all over again, as if they were starting from scratch. Paul's shirt joined Daniel's, their trousers soon following suit. Needing to prove to Daniel that he wasn't going anywhere, Paul was torn between surrendering to him and taking over. Daniel noticed his hesitation and pulled back, giving Paul the opportunity to turn him over. In minutes, Daniel felt his final clothing being removed and then Paul started to kiss what seemed like every inch of his body.

Lying on the bed, he could have felt out of control with Paul doing all of the work, but he didn't. Paul's actions were done with such reverence, it was almost as if he was being worshipped with Paul's mouth and hands. Soft licks and nips made him shudder, kisses and sucks brought out pleasured groans. When Paul moved down his body and swallowed his cock whole, he let out a happy moan followed by a loud sigh. No sound that came out of his mouth resembled a word and he let himself go. Loving the heat that surrounded him, needing the touches on his balls from Paul's fingers, he fought to keep himself from grabbing Paul's head and thrusting into him. There was no need, he warned himself, he'd get there in the end without that.

Paul took him to the edge and let him back down time and time again, drawing out the pleasure and making it last as long as he could. Only when Daniel started whispering his first coherent word since they started - "Please, please, please..." - did he take it to the end.

Daniel lay staring at the ceiling, sightless. He was still holding onto the sheets, his knuckles white as they held firm. Paul crawled up his body and kissed him, then moved his lips to Daniel's ears. "I want you," he whispered. "Please, Daniel."


On the grounds that he wasn't going to get any other response, Paul looked on the side table and saw that there was no lube, then he looked around the room in panic. Daniel's rucksack was on the floor, not unpacked, so he leaned over the edge of the bed and grabbed it, reasoning that if Jack had sent Daniel down there, he'd have sent him prepared. He wasn't disappointed.

Hands shaking with tension, he covered his fingers and settled between Daniel's legs, pushing his fingers inside him directly. The only response was Daniel bearing down on him. Knowing that Daniel was probably as relaxed as he was ever going to be, he lifted Daniel's legs over his shoulders, coated his cock with lube and pushed in.

Jack was now inordinately pleased with himself. After many hours of work, his equipment was set up and working. Sitting on the foot of the bed, he looked at the bank of small screens that nestled inside a tall cupboard. All of the instructions had been followed and he knew that Daniel could have a lot of fun with the finishing touches, so to speak. Thinking of what was to come made him shiver with anticipation and he felt himself getting hard. He lay back and undid his jeans, his hand automatically going to his groin, but then he stopped. Twisting himself, he got up, walked around the bed, stripped off and then lay down. Picking up the phone, he called the hotel where the guys were staying and asked to be put through to their room.

Having recovered from their mind-blowing orgasms, Paul and Daniel had lain together for a while, snuggling up and generally enjoying reassuring each other with kisses and touches. After a while, they'd got dressed, had dinner sent up, and over their meal, they talked.

"Uh, Dan?"


"I was wondering..." Paul started, suddenly unsure how to phrase his thoughts.

"Go on."

"Well, you know you used those rings and things on me?"

"Yes. You didn't look too pleased to begin with," Daniel answered with a grin.

"I know, I was horrified to start with," Paul agreed. "But, you did the right thing. I needed them, grew to depend on them. I've really noticed since I haven't been wearing them that I've felt... lost, I guess. It's uncomfortable not having them."

Daniel nodded as he ate, waving his fork in a 'carry on' manner.

"So, I was wondering, would it be okay for me to wear it to work? It would be like you were there with me, maybe it would make me feel more secure when I'm dealing with some of the more traumatic cases."

"I get that. Sure. Not a problem. In fact, I get really horny at the thought of you wearing that all day. You look so fucking sexy," he added with a wicked smile. "And the best part is that only you, Jack and I know what's on your body. Though I do have a hankering to make you walk through Kelly's in only your gear," he said, his voice dropping seductively.

Paul burst out laughing. "Jack's the exhibitionist," he said. "I love the idea of the three of us sharing images, like you did with the filming, but parading around? Nah, I don't think it's me."

"Shame," Daniel teased. "I love showing you off."


After dinner, they'd decided on an early night and got ready, slipping under the covers naked and making the most of the contact. Daniel tipped Paul onto his back, thinking of repaying Paul's earlier acts. Before he could move, though, the phone rang. With a groan, he rolled back and picked it up, Paul looking happy when he heard Daniel greeting Jack.

"Jack! Hey, how are you?"

"I'm fine, Daniel," Jack replied, "but I do have a little problem you can help me out with."

"Oh? What's wrong, babe?"

Paul nudged Daniel and indicated that he should put the phone so they could both hear it.

"Hang on, Jack," Daniel said quickly, "I just need to move the phone."

He placed the receiver on the pillow in-between himself and Paul and they both lay with their heads right next to it.

"Okay, go on, tell me what's wrong."

"Nothing's wrong, Daniel, but something hard's come up, so to speak. I was wondering if you could talk me through it? Explain how I get the solution?"

A light went on in Daniel's mind and he knew precisely what Jack was talking about.

"Ah, I see. Well, you'll need to follow my instructions carefully. First, make sure you have the right equipment to hand. You'll need something to smooth the way."

He placed the lube in-between himself and Paul and waited for confirmation from Jack that he was ready.

"Got it. Go on, Daniel."

"Right. Take hold of your problem with your right hand and, starting slowly, you need to stroke it firmly."

Paul had got hard as soon as he'd realised that phone sex was on the agenda. He'd so enjoyed the previous weeks watching the CDs, talking to the guys, and this time, Daniel would be there doing the talking and all he'd have to do would be to listen and enjoy.

Daniel issued instruction after instruction, jerking off as he spoke to give him inspiration. They heard Jack's tinny groan as it came down the phone line when Daniel instructed them to use the lube and to start fucking themselves with their fingers.

All three men lay on the beds, fingers working inside them, their other hands moving faster and faster.

"I can't hear you," Daniel gasped. "Jack, I need to hear you. Talk to me."

Daniel and Paul tried to remain quiet as they heard, "Oh fuck, it feels so good. Want you in me tomorrow, Daniel. You get home, you fuck me. No question. Can feel you now, can smell you next to me."

"Tell me what you want to imagine, Jack. I need your fantasy, tell me it."

"Oh fuck."

Daniel smiled as he heard that but he didn't let up.

"Come on, Jack. Tell me."

Paul listened intently, trying to slow his own movements down.

"At home," Jack said, surprising Daniel. "Some of the guys from the club are there. Simon, Andy, Mo..."

"Go on," Daniel encouraged as he heard Jack's voice trailing off.

"It's a party, you put one of the CDs on and they watch. They can't take their eyes off it. They see you spanking Paul - he's kneeling over the paddling bench, naked, his hands tied behind his back, his eyes blindfold. They start to jerk off, but you tell them to stop. They all stop. You direct them, tell one to fuck another, tell them to take it slow. They see you moving Paul and taking him to the table, tying him down, opening it so they see him ready for you, a huge plug inside him."

Paul grabbed his balls to stop himself going off. He wondered where this sudden exhibitionism was coming from, but decided that he could think about that later.

"Then they see me," Jack gasped, sounding like he was jerking harder and faster. "I'm in the manacles, my cock is sticking out, it's hard, it's dripping. You're wearing leather, Daniel, I'm naked except for my bands and jewellery. You lean against me and rub your body over me."

It was Daniel's turn to try to hold off the inevitable at those words. He could so easily see that image in his mind, could feel the leather against his skin.

"You stalk around the living room, Daniel, telling the guys what to do, ordering one to lie on his back, then like at the club, we use him, jerk off over him. He loves it, loves the idea of us standing over him, but he still watches the screen. They see you, on the TV, getting the cloth flogger out and you start using it on me, slapping my cock and my balls until I come. Some of them can't hold off, but we do. They come, we don't. We keep on watching the screen and they see you taking me from the wall and helping me to climb over Paul. I get on the table and sit on his cock."

"Oh fuck," Paul gasped, picturing himself blindfolded, tied down and exposed and with Jack riding him.

"You get in-between his legs, Daniel," Jack continued, rushing his words to make sure the fantasy ended before he did. "You stick a finger, then another one inside me, opening me further. I'm riding Paul hard but you stop me, then I feel it. You. Your cock going inside me alongside Paul's. I'm doing it, taking both of you."

They got no further with the fantasy, that final image did for them all. The hotel room was filled with the noise of two guys grunting as they came, the bedroom back home ringing to Jack's voice.

They kept the phone connection open as they came down off their highs, muttering to each other as they would do when they were all together. After wishing Jack goodnight, however, they hung up and settled back down.

"You don't think that Jack really wants to do that, do you?"

"What, the party or..."

"Any of it."

Daniel shrugged and pulled Paul into his arms. "The party? I don't think so. It's just his kink playing into a fantasy, that's all. We all have fantasies at some time that take something we love and run with it. It's harmless, no one gets hurt and you get off but good," he replied with a laugh.

"What about the scene in the playroom?"

"Now, that is a different story. I think he'd enjoy all of it. The reason he's open to the idea about the two of us fucking him is probably the fact that he's been fisted. He's gone further than he could imagine, he's let go of another barrier - brought down a wall between him and his curiosity. Maybe one day he'll want to act it out properly. Would you..."

"Help? Hell yes," Paul giggled. "Try keeping me away."

"I wouldn't dream of it," Daniel replied seriously, hugging him tighter. "It's not going to happen."

Jack waited impatiently for the guys to collect their baggage. He was really excited about getting them home at last, hoping that they'd be able to settle down again and maybe return to 'normal', whatever that was. Besides, he had something to show them that he knew that Daniel was going to get a real kick out of.


He turned to see the guys making their way excitedly towards them and, with a casual swagger, he walked towards them. In moments he found himself swept into a three-way hug.

"Danny, anyone would think you hadn't seen me for a month, not just a day," he pretended to complain.

"A day's long enough," Daniel moaned. "Don't know what's happening to us, Jack," he laughed. "We must be going soft in our old age."

"Speak for yourselves, guys," Paul teased. "Some of us are barely middle-aged."

Jack reached up and ruffled Paul's hair in response, causing him to duck and crash into a passing man. He apologised immediately and profusely, trying to place the blame on Jack and getting really annoyed when Jack and Daniel fell about laughing at his predicament. As the three made their way out of the airport, Jack knew that things were okay again, that they were just as they had been. One adult and two overgrown kids - with the youngest of them being the most grown up. Yup, back to normal.

"So, what do you think?" Jack asked as he opened the new cupboard in the bedroom.

"Explain it, Jack," Paul demanded as he saw all of the technical equipment.

Mini TV screens, a whole load of wires and some boxes seemed to fill the tall, but otherwise innocent-looking cupboard.

"Ah, well, remember I said I'd arrange something for recording our... er, activities in the playroom?"

He got two mute nods as the men were still staring at the items in the cupboard.

"Well, I did it. I've installed cameras in the playroom, uh, twelve of them."

That got their attention and they turned to look at him.

"They're all small, discreet, and placed all around the room, so no matter where we are, we can be watched closely. They're high quality cameras, too, so the pictures are really clear."

Jack saw Daniel's eyes start to blacken as he imagined just what Jack was describing. Jack continued.

"Inside the boxes are hard drives. After a couple of hours, if you haven't downloaded the images onto disc, it automatically records over what you've got. There's a USB port so you can connect straight to a computer. If you use a film editing computer program, you can swap from one camera's images to another. By the time you've finished, you've got your very own porno film," he finished with a grin. Then he winked. "Of course, if you let someone else use the playroom, you can just watch them up here. You don't have to record it, but you can watch while they don't know you're watching. There are no little lights on the cameras to say whether they're working or not."

"There aren't?" Daniel asked.

"Nuh huh," he replied, shaking his head. "I figured you'd like being the only one that knew whether the cameras were on or not."


The whispered curse from Paul drew their attention.

"Paul? I know you're not as keen on this as we are," Daniel started, then he looked at Paul's groin and saw that he was hardening. "Perhaps you are," he continued. "Want to play?"

Daniel stood up and took Paul by the hand, pulling him to stand awkwardly.

"Jack? Coming?"

"Uh, yeah," Jack answered. "Definitely."

"Good. Where's the 'on' switch?"

"There," came the croaked reply.

"Thanks. Go downstairs, guys," he ordered. "I have to decide whether to use the switch or not. Oh, and talking of switches, Jack."


"Maybe it's time for you to learn your first lesson as a dom?"

"Oh yeah. If that's okay with you, Paul?"

Paul turned to look at his lovers and swallowed harshly.

"It's okay. It's definitely okay."

"What are you waiting for then?" Daniel asked. "Get moving."