"I want you to try something," Jack said. Daniel looked up from the TV as Jack walked past Daniel and into the kitchen carrying a plastic grocery sack. Daniel thought about it for a minute, then shrugged and went back to watching his program. He wasn't bothered by the fact that Jack seemed to consider Daniel's home as part of his territory, but he also wasn't going to jump whenever Jack called.
Daniel listened to rustling noises, then clattering dishes, and began to get curious. Unable to concentrate on the show, he clicked the TV off and wandered into his kitchen. Jack was busy with something over at the counter. Daniel walked up behind Jack, his stocking feet silent. Jack turned with his mouth open to speak and startled when he found Daniel only inches away.
"What are you doing?" Daniel asked.
"Dinner," Jack said. He stepped out of the way and ushered Daniel forward. Daniel looked at the mess on one of his semi-good plates and screwed up his face in disgust.
"I hope you're planning to cook that," Daniel said.
"It's raw meat," Daniel said.
"And liver," Jack said, pointing at the mushy stuff next to the strips of bloody meat.
"That's truly disgusting."
"Just try it."
"I don't think so," Daniel said, incredulous that Jack would even suggest such a thing.
"I had a thought, that maybe your body would tolerate this better than normal food," Jack explained. "Maybe whatever this did to your stomach will be able to process this better. It's unmodified protein and iron and...blood."
"Not human blood," Daniel said, but he reached for a small piece of meat.
"No, and I know this isn't a substitute for that, but it might help," Jack said.
"Why?" Daniel asked. He set the meat back on the plate, not quite ready to accept the necessity. Funny, though, he'd managed to make a kind of peace with his need to drink from Jack on a semi-regular basis.
"I just thought...." Jack ran a hand through his hair, grimacing. "I thought maybe you'd be more comfortable...after last time...."
"Oh." Last time, when Jack's lap had tried to get up close and personal.
"And if it works this could come in handy if I get, you know, detained on a mission," Jack continued quickly.
"Was it just a reflex reaction, or was it me?" Daniel asked, because he wasn't sure. He wasn't sure it made a difference either way, but he wanted to know. Jack looked at him, clearly trying to formulate a response. "No, you don't have to answer that. But if you wanted something from me...."
"Daniel," Jack warned.
"No, you don't.... I won't make you ask," Daniel said. "But if you did...."
Jack reached out and took his hand, which was sweet. Weird, but sweet.
"After all, it's not like I haven't done it before," Daniel concluded. Maybe not the 'it' Jack had in mind, but there'd been days in the past when he'd done pretty much whatever he'd had to do. He was nothing if not adaptable.
"You wouldn't do it to make us even, would you?"
"Even? No, I wouldn't call it even. You're giving me life. I'm merely offering a blow job." Daniel watched as Jack's expression grew grim. "I'm kidding. I think."
"Get back to me when you know," Jack said, still holding Daniel's hand.
"Jack, I've had like no libido since this happened."
"Not even a twitch," Daniel confessed. "Not until...well, let's just say your dick wasn't the only one interested."
"So it's the blood?" Jack asked. His face showed his distaste, but he maintained his hold on Daniel's hand. Daniel understood. No matter how unfreaked Jack appeared to be about the whole blood feast thing, the idea was repulsive. And Jack didn't know the half of it. Didn't know that blood and sex and prions were all twisted together in Ma'chello's little plan.
"No, not that," Daniel said. Not entirely. Part of the warmth he'd felt while feeding had been sexual, but it had only happened with Jack. "At first I thought it was, but I never got interested when I was sharing blood with them. In fact, it was all I could do to not run away screaming. It wasn't until you...."
"This is a bad idea," Jack said, releasing Daniel's hand.
"Whoa, wait," Daniel protested. "You're going to throw out the first interesting proposition I've had in way too long, and then take it back just like that?"
"Have you ever....?"
"Bad idea," Jack repeated.
"Jack, it's like asking me if I want to blow up a sun."
"We did blow up a sun."
"Exactly," Daniel said, which provoked an irritated look from Jack. "We did it even though it was never something I would've thought was even within the realm of possibility."
"So I...me...it'd be like blowing up a sun?" Jack asked, perplexed.
"Yes. Well, no, not exactly."
"This is not the time to get adventurous," Jack said with a note of finality.
"Because," Jack said, throwing out his hand in exasperation. "Because you've got stuff messing with your head."
"I've got stuff eating my brain."
"Exactly." Jack took the plate of raw meat and slid it into the fridge. "I should've kept it in my pants."
"Despite a valiant attempt by your dick, you did keep it in your pants."
"Not now, Daniel."
"Then when, Jack?"
"Sleep on it."
"Lukas's brain was full of prions," Daniel said without looking up from his desk. He didn't need to look; he'd known it was Jack standing in the doorway even before he spoke. "Janet thinks he was in the early stage of dementia at the very least."
"I heard," Jack said.
"Of course, we don't know how long Lukas had been infected," Daniel continued in a conversational tone. He had to keep the tone matter of fact because if he didn't, it was too easy, too frightening, to see himself in Lukas' place. "If he told me the truth, it's been at least a couple of years, because that's how long it's been since Ma'chello died."
"Well, we've got time then."
"Until my behavior becomes so erratic that you have to shoot me down like a rabid dog?" Daniel asked, finally raising his eyes. Jack winced. Daniel shook his head, a wordless apology. "It's not you. I just can't deal with sitting around while this stuff is eating away at my brain."
"You think Ma'chello screwed up the programming?" Jack asked. "Did he think it would take longer for the bugs to make a person nuts?"
"No, I don't think so. I suspect Ma'chello intended for the prions to eventually cause death. Once those people had served their purpose, they'd be eliminated. It's all very neat and tidy," Daniel said. "What he didn't plan on was dying."
"That does tend to put a crimp in one's plans," Jack agreed. "So Ma'chello started this little plot and got terminally interrupted before he could put it in play."
"Lukas and the others, I suppose they waited for a while. When they realized that Ma'chello wasn't coming back they had to handle the project themselves. But none of them were technologically or politically savvy enough to pull off this kind of coup."
"The good news is they weren't savvy enough to do anything with Ma'chello's bugs, either. That should make it easier for the scientist types to figure out how to reverse them." Jack had probably been more relieved than Daniel when they'd finally identified the prion samples in Ma'chello's lab. Despite his natural skepticism when it came to scientists, Jack was certain that a solution could and would be found in time.
"Nothing with Ma'chello was ever easy, Jack. Don't kid yourself." Daniel sure didn't. He couldn't afford to relax. Every minute they didn't know how to remove the prions was another minute his brain was vulnerable.
"Fine." Daniel was on his hands and knees on Jack's bed. It was instinctive, the urge to pull away from the large dick currently invading his ass, but it wasn't painful. Uncomfortable, yes, it was a little uncomfortable. And very definitely weird.
Daniel had slept on Jack's proposition. More like laid awake all night on it, more than one night, and never could find a good reason to not blow up this particular sun. Lots of reasons Jack shouldn't, but none for himself. The decision to add physical intimacy to their relationship had been surprisingly easy for Daniel.
"You're not hard." Jack had reached around to fondle Daniel and, not surprisingly, he hadn't gotten any reaction.
Daniel shifted his weight to one hand so that he could push Jack's hand away from his dick. "I told you my libido's been a little lacking."
"Yeah, but we're talking nothing. Nada."
"I told you," Daniel said again. Behind him, Jack pulled away carefully. The emptiness he left behind was as weird as the fullness had been just seconds before. "Where're you going?"
"Got an idea."
Puzzled and frustrated, Daniel flopped over onto his back. A few minutes later Jack walked back into the bedroom. Daniel gave himself a moment to study Jack's body, focusing on his cock. It was long and dark and it had been inside Daniel's body. A shiver of desire shook his gut, but his dick remained resolute in its indifference.
Jack flopped down on the bed, raising an eyebrow at Daniel.
"What?" Daniel asked. Jack held out a small paring knife. Daniel accepted it, frowning.
"We both know your body isn't fully functional without feeding," Jack said.
"But I did, just three days ago."
"Four, and we both know that's not enough."
"It has to be enough."
"An occasional extra isn't going to hurt." Jack spread out on his back, tucking his hands behind his head.
"Um...?" Daniel held up the knife.
"Wherever you want," Jack offered.
"Oh." Daniel ran his free hand down Jack's chest. Jack usually did the cutting, choosing the spots with which he was most comfortable. Daniel was slightly unsettled by the transfer of this responsibility.
"Not my dick," Jack added.
"Hadn't occurred to me," Daniel said. He moved down Jack's body, acutely aware of an incredible new freedom. Freedom not to feed, but to explore.
"Can I ask you something?"
"Hmmm?" Daniel said, almost too focused on Jack's body to pay attention to his words.
"Why don't you have fangs?"
Daniel looked up at Jack in disbelief. "I'm not a vampire."
"No, but you've got the blood sucking thing going, and it seems like you should have fangs. I mean who ever heard of a vampire who had to carry a pocket knife?"
"Guess Ma'chello wasn't up on that version of the story."
Daniel paused, intending to cut just along the crease of Jack's groin. It occurred to him that might be uncomfortable when Jack had to do things like wear clothes and walk and sit. So at the last moment he placed the blade an inch higher, just above the hip bone. Jack's lips thinned slightly as Daniel cut, but he didn't protest so Daniel didn't stop.
Daniel reached to place the knife on the bedside table, then lowered his head to drink. Not much, he didn't need much to get by, and Jack's supply was limited. If it hadn't been, though, if Jack's blood flowed as endless as a river, Daniel would've gorged himself. He would've drunk until his belly was full, until his flesh glowed with the vigor of Jack's blood.
Daniel groaned as his dick finally returned to the land of the living. He turned his head slightly so that he could stare at Jack's dick as he took long, lazy licks at the oozing cut. It still fascinated him, more so now that it was up close. His fingers began to explore. Jack had discarded the condom from earlier, but his cock was still streaked with lube. Daniel brushed his fingers along its length. Jack groaned then, and Daniel started to explore more closely, using his tongue to blaze a trail.
"Didn't anyone ever teach you it's not polite to play with your food?" Jack asked.
Daniel buried his face against Jack's belly and let out a soft snort of laughter. "Done eating."
"Did it help?" Jack asked. His fingers brushed through Daniel's hair. Daniel rested his chin on Jack's hip and looked back at him.
"Oh, yes," Daniel said. He grimaced. "Is that...does that...?"
"If I thought it was purely a mental thing, that psychologically you needed blood to get hard.... Yeah, I'd probably be a little weirded out," Jack admitted. He grasped Daniel by the arms and pulled him up to lay against him, face to face. "But it's physical. It's like needing Viagra or something."
"Less expensive than Viagra, but the side effects are a bitch," Daniel said.
Jack ran his hand down Daniel's side and around to stroke his ass. "Since we don't know how long the effects last, maybe I should take care of you first."
"I can suck you off and...."
"That's exactly what you can't do," Daniel said. He pushed Jack to his back and got up to straddle him. "You can't have that kind of contact with my...with any of my bodily fluids. In fact, I'm wondering if I shouldn't wear a condom. It wasn't an issue when I couldn't get hard, but now...."
"Huh?" Jack looked up at him, slightly open-mouthed with confusion.
"We know the prions are in my nervous system. We know they're in my blood," Daniel explained.
"Semen?" Jack was aghast, having finally caught up with Daniel's train of thought. "You mean it's in your...?"
"I don't know. It's not something Janet's ever tested," Daniel said. Somehow, as understanding as Janet was, he didn't think analyzing his semen would be considered a high priority. But given that Ma'chello's plan for disseminating the infection had included sexual encounters, Daniel was willing to bet that if Janet did the analysis she'd find the prions swimming around with his sperm. "I'm not willing to take the chance. You don't want to live like this."
"Okay, so we'll use rubbers."
"I can suck you. You can fuck me with a condom. That's it."
"Daniel, if you wear a rubber...."
"No," Daniel said. He grabbed Jack by the upper arms, his fingers digging in too tight. "I don't want you to live like this, which means you don't get anywhere near my dick."
"Hate to break it to you, Daniel, but it's going to be hard for you to get anywhere near my dick without me getting somewhere in the vicinity of yours." As if to demonstrate, Jack nudged Daniel up on his knees. Jack made a quick job of applying a new rubber, grabbed the base of his dick, and guided Daniel back.
"I'm just not that big," Jack concluded as Daniel sank down on him.
"Idiot." Daniel leaned back a little more and groaned. Everything felt so much better now that his own body could respond to the more pleasant sensations. "Don't be so literal."
"I got it: safe sex." Jack raised his knees behind Daniel, and Daniel braced his hands against them, rocking himself on Jack's dick.
"I thought you were new to this," Jack said. He had a bemused expression, but there was tension in his voice and a dark flush spreading from his chest and neck.
"I oh, shit...." Daniel shifted his knees wider. Well, this wasn't rocket science after all. You found something that felt good, you did it some more. You did it harder, and faster. You did it until your body literally couldn't do it anymore. "Jack...."
"Don't wait for me."
Daniel jerked upright when something made painful contact with his head. Sam had already thumped him hard that morning. The second blow on nearly the same spot stung twice as much. He looked up from his research, rubbing his head.
"Did you think Carter wouldn't tell me?" Jack said. Daniel sagged back in his chair. Ah, well, at least the accumulating brain damage could be attributed to the same cause. "Of all the harebrained...."
"I am what I am because we wanted a way to destroy the Goa'uld. Seems like now that we've got it, we might as well use it," Daniel said, still rubbing his sore scalp. The words had just sort of slipped out when he'd spoken to Sam. He hadn't been serious. Not entirely.
"You can't even be sure that it works," Jack said, pacing.
"I think it probably does. They may have tricked me, but they never lied."
"They might not have known that it works," Jack said.
"Well, at least we'd know for sure if I tried."
"I've had it with this fucking death wish of yours," Jack said, his voice low and deeply angry.
"I don't have a death wish," Daniel protested. He loved living. Even in his darkest moments he'd never wished for death, simply rued the pain of living. "But what good am I to anyone like this?"
"Your brain is still working," Jack said, leaning over the desk to thump Daniel again.
"Not for much longer if you keep doing that," Daniel said with a reproving look.
"No god damn snakes," Jack said, banging his forefinger against the desk with each syllable.
"They're not trying to cure me," Daniel said, referring to the 'best in the field' Janet had brought to the base. "They're trying to use me."
"What kind of question is that? Of course I'm sure."
"I just wanted to clarify. You know how you get."
"No, Jack, how do I get?" Daniel snapped. "Angry? Indignant? Outraged? Because my own government wants to sacrifice what's left of my life?"
"Daniel," Jack said, his voice a sigh.
"Not that I don't understand their viewpoint, because I do. It's just that I prefer to be allowed to make my own choice about when, how and why my life will be sacrificed."
"Promise me you're not going to let one of those snakes in your head," Jack said.
"Since I'm not allowed to go off-world, I don't exactly have the opportunity," Daniel said. He didn't know if he'd try it even if he had the opportunity. He wanted to keep his options open. But if it came to the point that this disease was going to kill him, why not take a Goa'uld with him?
Daniel wondered, too, what Jack's reaction would be if he found out Daniel could spread the infection without taking a symbiote into his own body. He guessed it wouldn't be pretty. Probably a good thing Daniel had no intention of whoring himself, not even for a worthy cause like wiping out the Goa'uld.
"How's the translation coming?" Jack asked. His tone said the previous subject was closed. Daniel didn't necessarily agree, but he realized the issue didn't need to be resolved now.
"You'll get it."
"What makes you think I'll get it now when I haven't in all the years since we first met Ma'chello?"
"Because you're the best damn linguist on the planet."
"With a point of reference...yes, I think I could do it."
"You'll get it," Jack said.
"Normally, I'd be pleasedand surprisedby such confidence, but I'm afraid it's misplaced in this instance."
"You'll get it. Know why?"
"Because you're like Ma'chello."
"I beg your pardon?" Daniel didn't think he'd ever been so insulted by Jack in all the years he'd known him. And there'd been some pretty creative insults along the way, on both sides.
"I thought you were one of the most single-minded bastards I'd ever met, until I met Ma'chello," Jack explained. If he'd intended to lessen the sting of the insult with that comment, he'd missed by a mile.
"I've never sacrificed an entire planet to save myself," Daniel said. He stopped to think over past missions, especially all those times he'd not been exactly operating under his own control. "I haven't, have I?"
"No." Jack gave a small, amused shake of his head. "No, you haven't lost your ability to carealthough frankly there have been times I wish you had. But you're as determined and intelligent as Ma'chello. You can beat him."
"Nice pep talk, Jack." Daniel couldn't fight him, or didn't want to. Jack could be pretty damn single-minded, too, when he wanted.
"Did it work?"
Daniel looked at the papers scattered over his desk. "It...didn't hurt."
"Don't listen to Fraiser; it's no biggie," Jack called over his shoulder as he walked straight into Daniel's kitchen. Daniel emptied his pockets onto the table and walked numbly to the couch.
"Hey! Did you hear me?"
Daniel ignored Jack. He could feel his stomach shriveling up again, could feel his skin shrinking taut over his hollow bones. He dropped his head onto his knees because he really, truly didn't think he could endure the hunger again. And what would be the point? He couldn't continue to put Jack at risk but without Jack, Daniel would lose the one thing that kept him going.
"This doesn't change anything," Jack insisted, plopping onto the couch next to Daniel. He raised the bottle of beer and Daniel ripped it from his grasp, slamming it angrily onto the coffee table.
"Okay, you're feeling a little sensitive right now. I get that," Jack said, his entire demeanor wary.
"You're not supposed to mix alcohol with your prescription. It's bad enough that I infected you. Don't make it worse." Not infected with that, thank whatever little misanthropic demon was calling himself Daniel's guardian angel these days. But infected because of Daniel's need to feed from Jack.
"You didn't infect me with anything," Jack said, absently rubbing his shirt over his collarbone. The bandage underneath made a slight scratchy noise. "It's infected because I got it dirty on maneuvers and didn't take care of it. My fault, not yours."
"But you wouldn't have had the cut to begin with if it weren't for me."
"My choice." Jack stared longingly at the beer bottle.
"It's a bad one," Daniel said. He stared longingly at the beer bottle, too, and he didn't even like beer. He simply wanted to taste something other than blood.
"I disagree." Jack's expression as he faced Daniel was utterly serious. "I know all the pros and cons. I know what I'm doing, and why I'm doing it."
"You don't have to let me cut you to get sex."
"Okay, now you're starting to piss me off," Jack said, his tone carefully controlled. "If you think all I care about is the sex.... If you're sleeping with me only as payment...."
"No, I like it. I...want it." Daniel forced himself up, allowed his feet to pace randomly. Jack had the right to risk his own life for that of another. It was no more than Daniel would've expected from him. What bothered Daniel was the fact that this had all gotten mixed up with something more intimate simply sharing blood, if that were even possible. "But don't you see how fucked up this all is? The cutting and the blood and the sex: it's all so twisted together, and just plain twisted."
"Of course it's fucked up." Jack sighed as he grabbed the bottle and took it into the kitchen. He poured the beer down the sink where it could no longer tempt him. Daniel trailed behind him, making sure all the beer went down the sink. "Did you really expect anything that involves us to not be fucked up?"
"I can hope, can't I?"
"That's the difference between us." Jack grabbed Daniel by the front of his shirt and pulled him close. "I expect the worst. You also expect the worst, but you always hold out hope for something better."
Daniel wrapped his arms around Jack's waist and leaned in until his mouth was at Jack's ear. "Fuck me. Without the blood first."
"Nope. Blame it on my easily threatened male ego, but I will not have sex with someone who can't enjoy the experience."
"I can enjoy it. I can't get hard, but I can still enjoy it." Daniel could feel the negative shake of Jack's head under his lips. He pulled their hips tight together, because he'd learned that Jack craved physical contact. If Daniel could get the balls rolling, lust might carry them through.
"Daniel," Jack mumbled. He pulled Daniel's shirt off and started sucking along Daniel's own unblemished collarbone.
"Jack, the antibiotics? They're going to be a problem," Daniel said. He would've preferred to avoid telling Jack that the drugs circulating in his bloodstream made his blood unpalatable. He would've preferred to convince Jack, to persuade him, seduce him, without it being about the blood.
Jack jerked back like he'd been zatted. He stared at Daniel, stunned. "Shit."
"I have to take the antibiotics for seven days," Jack said.
"I know." Daniel shrugged as if it were no problem. He wouldn't be feeling particularly well by the end, but he knew what to expect. He'd manage.
"Jesus." Jack ran his hand through his hair in frustration. "I can't believe I was so careless."
"Don't make me go without sex, too," Daniel warned. He had no qualms about pushing Jack's buttons. Why should he? He was only trying to give them what they both wanted. "You're not the only one here who wants it."
"You're a manipulative bastard." But Jack didn't object when Daniel unbuckled his belt.
Daniel threw the report against the wall. It fell to the floor with the merest flap of pages. So he picked up his empty mug and threw that against the wall...because the sound of shattered porcelain was much more satisfying.
"Bad news?" Jack appeared in his kitchen door, watching Daniel, assessing him.
"It'll never be anything but bad news," Daniel said. He wanted to find something else to throw. Something that would break apart, loud and messy...unlike his life which was falling apart in near silence. Jack must've understood because he walked toward Daniel, alert but calm. Daniel threw up a hand, warning Jack off.
"Daniel," Jack said in that annoying, patronizing tone he had.
"Don't. Just don't."
"They'll figure it out."
"No, they won't," Daniel snapped. He paced in front of the fireplace, still considering the option of throwing things. The fact that they were Jack's things was the only thing holding him back. "They'll never figure it out. Ma'chello never meant for it to be figured out."
"No, Jack, that's just it. He didn't. Ma'chello never considered stopping or reversing the prions."
"Because he didn't give a fuck about anything but beating the Goa'uld." Daniel held his voice just under shouting level by sheer will. Jack was supposed to be the pessimist here. Why did he insist on believing in a happy ending? "You know that. He tried to steal my life once and now he's finally succeeded."
"Only if you let him win," Jack said.
"Don't patronize me with pop psych bull."
"Then quit acting like a pathetic, whiney little shit," Jack said.
"Thanks, Jack. Your support means the world to me," Daniel said in the rudest, most sarcastic tone he could manage. Which, if he did say so himself, was extremely rude and sarcastic.
"You knowI'm going to go do something constructive," Jack said, jerking his thumb toward the front door. "Why don't you call me when you're done feeling sorry for yourself?"
"What do you want from me?" Daniel said. He edged over, putting himself between Jack and the door. Because he needed Jack, and not just for the blood.
"I want you to fight, Daniel." Jack grasped Daniel's head between his hands, holding him with his gaze. "You fight even when every other person, sane or not, has given up. Don't start giving up now."
"I hate this," Daniel said. It wasn't in his nature to give up. He couldn't give up, but he was so tired of existing rather than living. He was frustrated by his inability to solve the problem. And he resented the possibility that his relationship with Jack could become nothing more than a product of physical necessity, when in the past it had always been a free and voluntary choice.
"We'll figure it out," Jack said, pulling Daniel to him.
"Won't," Daniel said, waving a hand at the fallen report. One hundred pages which distilled into 'sorry, no can dobetter luck next time.' Daniel couldn't even take out his frustration on the scientists because he'd done no better. He still couldn't decipher Ma'chello's code and didn't think he ever would.
"Jack, can you...?"
"What? What do you need?"
"Promise me you won't let me get.... I don't want to lose my mind."
"It won't come to that."
"But if it does...." Daniel needed to know that if he waited, if he fought as long as he could, when the time came that he could no longer make a rational decision for himself, Jack would. He needed that safety net.
"Will it make you feel better if I promise?" Jack asked.
"Yes," Daniel said with a sharp nod. Jack stared at him a moment longer, then reluctantly returned the nod.
"I can't believe I was so stupid," Janet said as she dropped Daniel's thick file on the end of the gurney. Daniel simply sat at the other end of the gurney, waiting for an explanation. "It was right there in front of me the whole time."
Daniel sighed at the sound of Jack's voice. He wasn't surprised that Jack had shown up. Jack had always had an uncanny ability to show up whenever one of his team was in trouble, injured, or doing something Jack found entertaining. And ever since he'd begun feeding Daniel he seemed to show up even more frequently.
"The prions are in the C.S.F.," Janet said, attempting to ignore Jack. "That makes sense. The Goa'uld attach themselves to the brainstem. They're bathed in the C.S.F."
"Makes perfect sense," Daniel agreed.
"But why the changes to the digestive system?"
"I give up," Jack said, speaking for both of them. "Why?"
"Because this prion needs something from the blood in order to continue its own lifecycle. Ma'chello made sure that the digestive system changed first so that the prions could ensure their own survival." Janet paused, looking at them triumphantly.
"Er...what am I missing?" Jack asked, again speaking for Daniel as well.
"We starve it," Janet said.
"I've kind of done that already, albeit unintentionally," Daniel pointed out. "Nearly starved myself in the process."
"This time it'll be under controlled conditions," Janet said. "And I'm going to start you on C.V.N."
"I.V. feedings?" Daniel said.
"Bypasses the digestive system completely," Janet said with a nod. "We'll be able to keep you nourished at the same time we're starving the prions of the blood they need."
"Sounds logical," Jack said. He frowned at Janet. "What's the catch?"
"The only catch is that we don't know how the prions will react to being deprived of nutrients," Janet said. "Judging by what happened before Daniel started using your blood, I don't think there will be any adverse effects, but I can't be certain."
Daniel stared at Fraiser for a moment, then glanced sideways at Jack. Jack's expression was unreadable.
"Oh, please," Janet sighed. "Did you really think I wouldn't figure it out? You had to be getting blood from somewhere and I knew it wasn't coming from the infirmary."
Daniel slowly turned his gaze back to Jack. Jack's expression wasn't blank because he good at hiding his surprise; Jack's expression was blank because he wasn't surprised. "You knew? And you didn't tell me?"
"Do you tell me everything?"
"Everything you need to know," Daniel said, which was the absolute truth. The trick was in how he chose to define "need" to know.
"You had enough on your plate without worrying about this," Jack said with a shrug. "Doc and I agreed that as long as you were getting what you needed and it wasn't hurting me, there was no reason to tell you."
"You're sure it didn't hurt Jack?" Daniel asked. He reminded himself that Fraiser only knew about the blood. She didn'tcouldn'tknow about the sex.
"I'm sure," Fraiser said. "I've been doing blood tests on the colonel on a weekly basis, and all of them have been within normal."
"Between the two of you, it's a wonder I wasn't sucked dry," Jack said. He frowned slightly when Daniel and Fraiser both turned on him, eyebrows raised and mouths gaping. "Geez, tough room."
"So this starvation thing," Daniel said in an effort to pretend Jack hadn't used the work suck in relation to...pretty much anything. "How will you know when or if it's worked?"
"I'll need to do a series of lumbar punctures until we know the CSF is clean." Janet paused and gave Daniel an apologetic look. Daniel could be forgiving now, but after she'd turned his spine into a pincushion he might not be so magnanimous. "I can't promise this will work, but I think it will."
"I don't have much choice, do I?"
Daniel sat in the chair across from Janet's desk. His fingers were tapping a rapid rhythm against his thighs as he waited. One week ago his tests had come back clean for the first time. Janet being Janet, and therefore extremely cautious, had wanted to wait a week and repeat the exam to be absolutely sure that the prions were gone.
He was grateful to be alone. Jack, along with Sam and Teal'c and SG-11, was off world, and Daniel wondered if Janet had planned it this way. If his tests weren't still clean he was going to be devastated. He'd get over it and go on, somehow, but he would have at least a few rough days before he got to that point. No need for Jack or anyone else to put up with that.
Daniel almost jumped out of the chair as Janet entered the office. He watched her anxiously as she took a seat at her desk. She looked straight at him, and smiled.
"Yes?" Daniel asked.
"The C.S.F. is completely clean," Janet said, her smile widening into a grin. Daniel sagged back in his chair in relief. "I'll take out the central line as soon as I'm sure you're getting enough to eat."
"I can eat though, right?"
"Let's find out." Janet set a small cup of cherry jello on her desk. Daniel almost laughed. Janet wagged a finger at him, then held out a spoon. "Don't laugh at my jello."
Daniel shook his head as he reached for the cup. "Absolutely not." He hesitated, then spooned a small amount into his mouth. He rolled it around on his tongue, testing. It was cool, slick, and completely tasteless.
"Daniel?" Janet asked, her expression growing more concerned the longer Daniel was silent. He shook his head and Janet let out a disappointed sigh. "Well, maybe your taste buds just need a little time to wake up."
"It's not that important," Daniel said with a faint smile. "I'm alive, I'm clean, and I'll be fine. Living without a sense of taste is not such a big deal compared to everything else."
"You have any idea how long I've been waiting to do this?"
"No? Whoa!" Daniel's head dropped back on the pillow as Jack went down on him. He grabbed Jack's shoulders and tried hard to not pump violently into Jack's mouth. He didn't want to hurt Jack, and besides there was always the potential problem of explaining to General Hammond exactly how Jack had suffocated while naked in bed with Daniel.
"Long time," Jack assured him when he came up for air. He ran his hand lightly up and down Daniel's cock while he dropped kisses across his lower belly. "I never wanted...I never liked the...."
"Jack, from the very first, I got into bed with you because I wanted to, not because I 'owed' you."
"I know, but I'm glad that's not hanging over our heads any more." Jack looked up at him with a sly grin. "And I'm really glad we can lose the rubbers."
"Slut," Daniel accused. Thank god for that. They both faced deprivation and even loss every day, with every mission. Daniel firmly believed they were entitled to a little private self indulgence.
"Purist," Jack said with mock dignity. "No artificial additives."
"Not any more." Daniel could live with the lack of taste. He missed it. He missed the pure pleasure of eating, but he could live with a restrictive diet if that's what it took to avoid the lingering digestive problems. As long as he could work and travel off-world and yes, watch Jack suck him off without fear of artificial additives, he was content.
"Now...," Daniel said as he tried to focus Jack on the task at hand without appearing too eager. "Wasn't there some rule about not playing with your food?"
"Not playing," Jack insisted. He affected a French accent. Badly, because that was the only way Jack ever did an accent. "Ze true epicure never rushes ze dining experience. Each mouthful should be savored...slowly."
For all his willingness to try new and 'interesting' cuisine, Daniel had never been much of a true epicure. He proved it by climaxing almost as soon as his cock hit the back of Jack's throat.
Jack coughed as he raised his head and squinted at Daniel. "So I'm guessing you're more the fast food type?"
"Ass," Daniel gasped, his balls still throbbing as if they hadn't yet realized it was all over. Jack merely grinned and slid up the bed until his shoulders were even with Daniel's.
"You, um...you've got some...." Daniel pointed at the corner of Jack's mouth. Jack ran his finger over the spot, then rubbed it against Daniel's lips. Daniel licked it off.
"Nothing?" Jack asked. Daniel shook his head. There was no taste, just warmth and wetness. Jack gave an envious shake of his head. "Lucky guy. That stuff tastes nasty."
"Then why do you swallow?"
"It's impolite to spit," Jack said in a chastising tone. Daniel laughed. Maybe this absence of taste wasn't a total loss. He had no trouble swallowing every drop of Jack. Something he proceeded to prove once more, just in case there was any doubt.
Sam plopped down in the chair next to Daniel as the team, plus Janet, gathered around Jack's dining room table. She had two generous slices of Janet's homemade pizza on her plate. Jack and Daniel both stared at her. Teal'c eyed both of them, then shook his head slowly.
"What?" Sam asked, challenging them to comment.
"Hey, I like a woman with a healthy appetite," Jack said, raising his hands in a placating gesture.
"I envy a woman with a healthy appetite," Daniel said. Sam gave him a sympathetic look.
"Try this." Janet slid a plate in front of Daniel as she rounded the table. "The colonel held the toppings on part of the pizza. It's just cheese, sauce, and crust."
"Boring," Jack said as he loaded his plate with a slice that looked like it had every topping known to man. "But possibly edible."
"Yeah," Daniel said doubtfully. He took a small bite of the pizza, well aware of everyone's eyes upon him. Swallowing hard, Daniel gave a so-so gesture which seemed to satisfy their interest. Truth was his stomach wasn't putting up any No Trespassing signs, but the pizza tasted like soggy cardboard. Or what he imagined soggy cardboard would taste like.
"So, Doc, when's Daniel going to be cleared for duty?" Jack asked.
"I'd like him to gain another ten pounds or so," Janet said. Daniel sighed and forced down another bite of pizza. "At the very least I want to make sure he's maintaining his weight now that he's off the I.V. feedings."
"So...when?" Jack said.
"A week, Colonel."
"Don't worry about it, Daniel," Sam said. Daniel couldn't help but worry. SG-1 could, and had, gone on missions without him, but it was always a bother to add a temporary fourth. Instead, quite often Daniel's teammates were left to amuse themselves on base. That wasn't much of a problem for Sam or even Teal'c, but Jack....
"The colonel's just mad because he's got no excuse for not doing his paperwork," Sam continued.
"Which is not to say that he does not attempt to create excuses," Teal'c added. Daniel grinned and Jack pretended he hadn't heard.
For a while there was no sound but the clinking of ice in their glasses, the soft slap of pizza slices being transferred from pan to plate, and a discreet burp from Jack. Daniel tried to concentrate on his meal, but something had been niggling at the back of his mind ever since Janet had come up with a plan to rid him of the prions.
"Janet, what about the samples?" Daniel asked.
"What samples?" Jack asked.
"The samples we brought back from Lukas' planet," Daniel said.
"What samples?" Jack repeated. Daniel tilted his head as he stared at Jack. He wasn't sure why, except that maybe he'd understand Jack's thought processes better if he were off balance himself. He knew there had to be some kind of thought process going on in Jack's brain, because Jack simply wasn't that dumb.
"There was quite an unfortunate accident," Janet said. "I was preparing the remaining prion samples for transport to Area 51 and Sam accidentally set off a burst of gamma radiation in the biohazard lab and . Well, what could I do?"
"These things happen," Jack reassured her.
"You destroyed the samples?" Daniel asked.
"Accidentally," Teal'c said.
"Gamma radiation kills the prions?" Daniel wanted to be perfectly clear on the sample situation.
"Who knew?" Jack said, sounding happier about accidental radiation than Daniel had ever heard him. Although it had clearly been no accident. Sam and Janet didn't look nearly repentant enough for that.
Jack stared at Daniel, pizza slice poised just in front of his mouth. "How come you don't look too happy about that?"
"No, I am." Daniel pushed his plate away with a sigh. "It's just that maybe we...I shouldn't have been in such a hurry to eliminate a possible means to defeat the Goa'uld."
"Was it not you who said that this infection was not a feasible method?" Teal'c asked.
"I did," Daniel agreed. "But that was before I had all the facts."
"You don't really think a small group of conspirators could take out all the Goa'uld with the prions?" Sam said.
"Not in one military style attack, no," Daniel said. "But as a slower process of infiltration and conversion.... Yes, I think they could've done some serious damage. Maybe even enough to bring the Goa'uld to the brink of extinction."
"Oh, for crying out loud." Jack slapped his slice of pizza down on his plate and stared at Daniel, incredulous. "You're the one who said that we'd only end up trading one group of snake-infested false gods for another."
"That's true, but also the part where I didn't have all the facts at first," Daniel said. Jack let out an exasperated sigh and made a sharp 'give me' wave of his hand. "I didn't realize that everyone infested with the prions was going to die."
That was the core of Daniel's dilemma. The prions might be an effective weapon, but a whole lot of innocent people would die. The conspirators, of course. They were all volunteers, except for Daniel, but had any of them known that plan meant certain death? And then there were the Goa'uld hosts, thousands of them. They would die of the infection, too, and none of them was guilty of anything. However, Daniel was fairly certain that any host, given the choice between death and continued control by a Goa'uld, would likely choose death.
It was a difficult situation, and Daniel had to wonder if his own desire to live, and live normally, hadn't muddied his mental waters enough that he hadn't been able to assess that situation objectively.
"They wouldn't have died fast enough," Jack said flatly.
"Excuse me?" Daniel said.
"We know Lukas lived at least a couple years after being infected," Janet said. "Do you have any idea how many people he and the others could've spread the prions to in that time?"
"Lots," Jack answered. "And not all of them would've been deserving targets like the Goa'uld."
"The weapon was too imprecise, too indiscriminate," Sam said.
"But if we could've found a way to make the prions more precise...," Daniel began.
"Ha," Janet said disdainfully. "We weren't anywhere close to understanding how those things worked, let alone being able to change them."
"Stop worrying about it, Daniel. We did our best. It wasn't good enough, but that's hardly a new feeling." Jack shoved Daniel's plate back toward him. "Stop thinking, stop talking, eat your pizza."
After a moment, Daniel shrugged and reached for his plate.
"Oh, god." Daniel moaned as he tried to get out of bed. He yanked at the sheets, desperate to escape their clutches before his stomach completed its rebellion. He managed to get his feet out and promptly collapsed to the floor on his hands and knees. His head was pounding, his stomach was churning; he hadn't felt this bad since . He dropped his head to the floor. "No."
"Daniel?" Jack's hands on his back felt icy against his skin. "Daniel, what the...? Come on, let me help you to the bathroom."
"Just shoot me," Daniel moaned into the carpet.
"Such a drama queen." Jack's voice was gentle as he pulled at Daniel's shoulders.
"It's back," Daniel whispered. He turned his head, trying to make out Jack's features in the dim light. "The blood sucking...the brain eating.... It's back."
"Can't be." Jack had gone white under his tan. "Fraiser said it was gone."
Daniel wanted to chastise Jack for his blind faith in those scientist types, but a sharp cramp took his breath away so completely he couldn't even give voice to his misery.
"Daniel, come on." Jack tried to pull him up, but succeed only in getting Daniel on his knees, aching and shaking and dear god, they shot animals this sick. Why was he still suffering?
Jack reached behind them and yanked the top sheet from the bed. He wrapped first the sheet, then himself around Daniel. "It's going to be okay. It's just.... You just overdid it at supper. You're not used to regular food and you ate too much. That's all it is."
Daniel had neither the desire nor the ability to formulate coherent sentences with which to argue. He allowed himself to collapse into Jack's arms and thought that never waking up again might not be such a bad thing.
"Hey, 'bout time you woke up."
Daniel blinked a couple of times to clear his vision. Jack was standing to one side of his infirmary bed, wearing that annoying little secretive smile he sometimes got. Daniel rolled his head on the pillow. Sam and Teal'c were on the other side. Sam looked conflicted and Teal'c had that sort of Teal'c-ish look to him.
Daniel rolled his head back toward Jack. "I thought I told you to shoot me."
"I'm not real good at following orders," Jack said. Before Daniel could complete the thought that this was not news, Janet elbowed Jack out of the way.
"You're not infected, Daniel."
"Believe me, nothing feels like that stuff taking over," Daniel said. "I know what it was."
"Nevertheless, I've tested you twice since the colonel brought you in," Janet said. Jack stood just behind Janet, making faces at the back of her head and all but daring Daniel to argue with everyone's favorite drug dealing dictator. "Everything's perfectly normal. You're clean."
"Then...what the hell was that?"
"We have a theory." Sam's expression still showed her uncertainty, which didn't give Daniel a whole lot of confidence. Janet simply held out a small plastic container.
"And your theory is...there's always room for jello?" Daniel asked. Behind Fraiser, Jack grinned, then quickly wiped the amusement from his face when she looked over her shoulder at him.
"Always works for me," Sam said. Janet gave her an exasperated stare.
"Janet, if I even think about eating that, there's going to be a huge mess," Daniel warned. Janet simply thrust the cup into his hand and then offered a plastic spoon.
"Just try it," Janet said.
"Fine, it's your infirmary." Daniel spooned a small section of the jello into his mouth. It was smooth and cool and.... "Hey, this isn't half bad.... Wait."
Janet and Sam shared satisfied smiles and Jack simply nodded. Teal'c still had that Teal'c-ish look, but it was a warmer Teal'c-ish look.
"I...I can taste this." Daniel quickly scooped out a full spoonful and slid it into his mouth. "God, this is great. And I don't particularly like jello."
"You could share," Sam suggested.
"No way." Daniel hugged the cup to his chest and looked at Janet. "What happened?"
"The first physical symptoms of the prion infection was that 'flu' you had. It was the prions making the changes to your digestive system," Janet said. "When we couldn't find any evidence of a recurrent infection this time, I suspected that this 'flu' was final part of the recovery. It was the reversal of the changes to your digestive system."
"So it really is gone?" Daniel was almost afraid to give into the relief, the joy, of finally being normal again. Of just being plain old Daniel with bad eyes and a weakness for sweets and languages and, apparently, mischievous Air Force colonels. "I'm totally clean?"
"Aren't you glad I didn't shoot you now?" Jack asked. "Yes, thank you for ignoring my wishes once again," Daniel said with complete sincerity. Jack merely rolled his eyes in response.
"I'm going to keep you here today, make sure you're eating and drinking okay," Janet said. "But as long as the acute illness has passed, you can go home this evening."
"Now, everyone out and let Daniel rest." Janet winked at Daniel. "I'll order a tray from the kitchen."
Jack lingered behind. He never thought Janet's orders applied to him unless backed with the threat of physical violence.
"This...this is amazing," Daniel told Jack, still in a state of disbelief. He'd thought he was cured, then he'd thought he wasn't cured. Then it turned out he really was cured. It was all a little overwhelming, not to mention confusing and just plain exhausting.
"I don't know if you'll be up to itafter what your stomach's gone through the last few daysbut I can whip us up a big ol' steak dinner with all the trimmings tonight," Jack said. He rubbed his hands together in anticipation. "And I do mean all the trimmings."
"That sounds great. But I'm not sure I'm quite ready to handle the works," Daniel said, rueful. He wanted nothing more than to eat everything he could get his hands on. Everything. He wanted to taste, savor, relish...he just might become an epicure after all.
"It can wait," Jack said easily. "Along with the other thing."
"You may want to revisit the spit versus swallow question." Jack smiled. "Just a thought."
Daniel stared at his now empty jello cup with a sadness he'd never felt over a processed food product before. Then he peered up at Jack. "Trust me, Jack, I'm not about to let anything go to waste now."