Through A Glass Darkly IX

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Daniel sighed as he watched the luggage being unloaded from the small hop plane. His eyes burned from the dry, stale air during the flight and the almost sleepless night he had spent in his hotel room. The flight to Edinburgh had left on time, but the connection via the tiny airline to Wick had been delayed by bad weather. They didn’t call them the Highlands for nothing; the flight had been a dizzying hour in buffeting winds beside purple crags. It was only 5.00 pm but already the sun was leaving the sky and the bright floodlights washed the single runway with bluish light.

Dragging his hands across his tired eyes he made his way to the baggage collection area. No slick carousel for this tiny place, just a truck and two very helpful handlers. Quicker than usual he found himself in possession of his luggage and on his way to the entrance. With a groan he realized he had no transport and that the terminal (if you could call the tiny building in the middle of nowhere such a grand name) had no rental counter. He stepped out into the filthy night and turned up his collar against the gusting wind, hoping for at least a taxi rank. After a cursory look around he had almost resigned himself to spending the night in the building behind him when his duffle was taken from his hands.

“Hey…” he yelled, whirling on the spot to identify the thief.

“Dr Jackson?” The man holding his bag was wearing a smart, dark chauffeur’s uniform complete with cap and was smiling pleasantly despite the driving rain.

“Um, yes,” Daniel stammered. He wasn’t really sure what was going on, but was more than a little relieved to see the man motion towards the big, sleek, vintage Rolls Royce parked on the road next to them.

“I’ve to take ye awa’ ta Castle Blair, sir,” the man said courteously, indicating that Daniel should follow him. Daniel felt a little overawed as the driver pulled open the door for him and waited as he slid inside. Dazed, Daniel watched as his bag was deposited in the trunk of the car. The driver settled into his seat and removed his cap, placing it on the passenger seat.

“I’ll have ta ask ye to belt up, sir. Only it’s the law here.”

Daniel was a little nonplussed until he realized the man was telling him to fasten his seat belt and not to shut up as it had first sounded. The whole scene was so surreal. Daniel found himself giving a snort of laughter.

“Erm…Not that I’m complaining or anything, but how did you know I was here?” Daniel asked, puzzled at the miraculous appearance of the luxurious car and liveried driver.

“Mr McGregor knew ye were coming, sir. I was told ta collect ye.” The driver pulled out of the small parking lot with studied ease. “I apologise that ye got wet, but when yer flight was delayed I went into the village for some supplies for Ms Maddy. I was held up on the top road by a tractor and I’m afraid I was wee bit late.” The man sounded contrite without being obsequious and Daniel was enchanted by the soft burr of his accent.

“Well, considering I wasn’t expecting you at all, you’re a very welcome surprise,” Daniel commented wryly.

“We’ll be at the Castle in just about twenty minutes, tractors permitting,” the chauffeur grinned.

Daniel smiled back and looked out of the window. The sun was almost gone from the sky now and the lowering clouds made everything look dark and rather mysterious. He could feel the cold drops of water dripping from his hair making their way down the collar of his shirt and he shivered.

“I’ve turned up the heat, Dr Jackson, but I’m afraid auld Bessie here is not equipped with all yon mod cons so we’ll probably be at the Castle before ye feel tha benefit.”

“What’s your name?” Daniel asked, uncomfortable with addressing the back of the man’s head.

“I’m Tam, sir.” The young man lifted his eyes to the rear view mirror and glanced at his passenger. Daniel was struck by how green the driver’s eyes were and the smile he could see in them.

“Well, Tam,” Daniel sighed, “I’m just glad to be somewhere dry. I thought I was going to have to walk.”

Tam snorted. “Ach, Mr Mac wouldn’t allow that, sir. Not for Master Jonny’s friend.”

Daniel’s stomach turned over in relief. Master Jonny…Jack. That meant Izel had been right and Jack was here, didn’t it? Still unsure he felt he had to ask.

“Jack O’Neill…I mean Master Jonny is at the Castle then?” he asked nervously.

Tam shook his head and Daniel felt his heart stop with disappointment. “Nay, sir. I dinna know. I was just told ta collect ye from Wick and I overheard Mr Mac telling Ms Maddy that I was going to collect Mr Jonny’s friend.” The man looked up again, meeting Daniel’s worried gaze. “I’ve only been at the Castle for just over a year, so I don’t know everyone who visits.”

Daniel nodded and looked back out of the window. It was now so dark that all he could see was his own pale, sad reflection looking back at him. He felt suddenly so very tired and beaten. If Jack wasn’t here then that would mean he had gone back to the Springs. Daniel gritted his teeth against the sadness he felt. By the time he made it back there, too much time would have passed and no matter how hard he tried he wouldn’t be able to get Jack to see that he had made a mistake of epic proportions.

Sighing he pulled his cell out of his pocket needing to check just once more that there were no messages waiting for him, but there was no signal.

“I’m afraid yon mobile phones don’t work on the Tops here, sir, although it mebbe will once ye get to the house,” Tam informed him. “It’s the Old Man and his Wife. They cause too much interference.”

“The Old Man?” Daniel asked, confused.

“Aye,” Tam explained, motioning through the windscreen. “Yon crags. That’s what they’re known as around here.”

Daniel followed the pointed finger and made out the dark shapes of two mountains silhouetted against the sky on either side of the roadway. “Bodach ar Bean” he murmured.

“You speak the Ghàidhlig?” Tam looked impressed.

Daniel smiled wanly. “I’m a linguist. It’s what I do for a living, amongst other things.”

“There are nay so many native speakers anymore, sir, so it’s a surprise when a visitor like yersel’ can speak it and with such a bonny accent.”

Daniel nodded. “It’s such a shame. It’s a beautiful language.” He was about to say more when the car took a wide arc and the imposing sight of Castle Blair came into view. Its gray stone walls were picked out by floodlighting and the ancient building glistened in the rain. Daniel had seen a lot of buildings in his years as an archaeologist both on and off world, but he found his breath taken by the sheer powerful beauty of the Castle. As the car made the final approach to the house the massive wooden doors were thrown open and a tall, silver haired man with a large umbrella came striding out to meet them.

As soon as the car came to a standstill the door was pulled open and Daniel was staring into pale gray eyes.

“Dr Jackson. Welcome, welcome. I hope young Tam was not too late collecting ye from Wick, ye look a little bedraggled there, laddie.”

Daniel saw Tam wince at the harsh stare that was thrown at the young driver. “No, no,” he reassured the older man. “Tam was right there when I needed him.”

“Och! Well, that’s gud then. Follow me, sir and we’ll get ye in the dry.”

With that Daniel felt a firm hand around his bicep and he was drawn out under the shelter of the umbrella for the ten steps from the car to the hallway of the house. The man pushed the wet cover into a large elephant’s foot umbrella stand in the hall way and then turned, drawing the strap of Daniel’s laptop case over his shoulder.

“Now, let’s get ye in front of yon fire.” He led the way into a grand reception room that had a roaring fire in a massive fireplace. Two large wing armchairs were situated either side along with footstools. A large coat of arms sat above the mantle, the muted tones of the paint telling of its age.

“Triùir a thig gun iarraidh – gaol, eud is eagal.” Daniel read the words from the fancy scrollwork that threaded through the claws of a griffon rampant over green and black chevrons. “Three that come unbidden – love, jealousy and fear.” Daniel felt a little shiver as the translated words chimed with the churning of his stomach. His love for Jack had sent him racing half way around the globe after jealousy on both their parts had driven them apart. Now fear seemed to be his constant companion. The warmth of a large hand on his shoulder made him start a little and he looked around.

“Ye’re a very clever young man,” the old man nodded sagely. “Not many can read and speak the Ghàidhlig and with such a good accent too.”

Daniel blushed a little at the repeat of the compliment he’d first heard from Tam. “I studied Linguistics and Philology at Oxford under Professor McMillan. He was…”

“…The foremost expert in Gaelic history and language in the world. Aye, laddie, and a regular visitor here for many a year before he died. He and his Lordship had a fair few spirited conversations right here at yon settle.”

The old man smiled broadly at Daniel’s surprised expression. “But wheesht, I’ve been remiss. My name is Gordon McGregor and I’m general factotum here at Castle Blair. Anything ye need, I’m the man ta ask.”

“Well, actually, Mr McGregor…”

“Master Jonny calls me Mac and I’m thinking ye should do the same.” Mac smiled fondly at the startled young man.

Daniel’s mouth dried as he realized who Mac meant. “Jack…I mean Master Jonny…Is he here?” At the old man’s nod Daniel’s knees went weak under him and he sat with a thump on the nearest foot stool. “Oh, thank God,” he whispered, almost fainting with relief.

“Now, now Dr Jackson…”

“Daniel.” The younger man said quietly as he pushed his trembling hands between his knees.

“Daniel,” Mac repeated, giving a squeeze to Daniel’s shoulder. “I think ye’ve had a long journey and, by the look of ye, not much good food in the past few days. How about I ask Maddy ta make ye up a tray and we’ll have it sent ta yer room.”

“No…I mean…” Daniel struggled to his feet. “Thank you that would be lovely, but…”

“You’d like ta see yer man first, am I right?” the old man asked, his expression gentle. At Daniel’s fervent nod Mac began to lead him out of the room and up the wide sweeping staircase onto the first floor.

“He’s in His Lordships room,” Mac explained as he pushed open a heavy wooden door to show the darkened room within. But Daniel didn’t hear him. All he saw, lit by a small reading lamp on the bedside table, was a huge bed containing the unmistakeable shape of Jack O’Neill, spread-eagled on his belly, his face mashed into a pile of pillows. Daniel took a step inside the room as his eyes took their fill of the long lean back and rangy arms. The covers were tucked at the base of his spine just before the swell of his ass and Daniel thought Jack was the most beautiful sight. He felt his heart start beating again and warmth flowing through his veins. He hadn’t realized how cold he was, how frozen he had felt since Jack had got on the boat at La Troza and sailed away from him. The young man took another step inside and was about to call out when his awareness of the room suddenly made its way into his consciousness. Clothes that were not Jack’s were strewn around on the floor and over furniture; two glasses, one still containing what looked like whiskey, sat forgotten on the little table in front of a flickering fireplace. The bedside tables were littered with pill bottles and half used tubes of lube. Daniel stumbled and almost fell to his knees, only the quick reflexes of the old man behind him preventing him from crashing to the floor.

Unsure what had caused the young man’s reaction Mac looked around the room with a puzzled gaze. The reality of what the young lad had seen hit the older man like a body blow. ‘Och. Master Simon. I knew ye were self absorbed but I never thought ye were capable of this kind of underhand trick.’ Thinking back to his employer’s instructions before he left for Edinburgh, Mac realized that this little scene had been arranged for just this eventuality and that he had been the dupe used to set it all up. Mac gritted his jaw, his displeasure at the underhandedness of Lord Simon making him angrier by the second. He was shocked out of his thoughts by Daniel pushing past him blindly. Sighing deeply, he covered Jack with the counterpane and turned to follow his other guest back down the stairs.

By the time Mac reached him Daniel had retrieved his luggage and was making his way toward the large outer doors of the Castle.

“Och, laddie. Where do ye think yer goin’? It’s a filthy night oot there and a long walk ta the village.” As the young man turned to face him, Gordon was shocked to see the look of total despair on Daniel’s face.

“I’m sorry, Mr McGregor. I’ve…I’ve made a big mistake. I’m too late don’t you see…”

Mac placed his warm hands on Daniel’s shoulders. “Now, laddie, ye should be in yon Olympics with all the conclusions yer jumping to.”

“I know what I saw, and I think it’s obvious that I won’t be welcome in this house. I should leave.”

Mac watched as the deep blue eyes filled with tears and the older man knew he couldn’t let Daniel go, not without explaining a few things to him. “Please, Daniel, will ye come with me. I think I have some things ye might need to hear.” Gordon watched as a battle was fought in Daniel’s eyes. He could see the younger man didn’t want to leave, that he wanted nothing more than to slide into the big bed upstairs next to the man he loved. Mac was determined that he would get to the bottom of what was going on with Daniel and Jack and with Lord Simon. He saw the moment when Daniel decided he couldn’t leave, felt the tension go out of his muscles and took advantage of that to turn Daniel and walk him down the corridor.

After several twists and turns in narrow dark corridors Daniel found himself in a small sitting room. Mac pulled the bags from Daniels tense fingers and pushed him down into a comfortable armchair next to a small hearth. Mac left him for a few moments and then returned with two glasses and a large bottle of whiskey. He poured a generous amount into each glass and then pressed one into Daniel’s trembling hand.

With a small sigh Mac sat in the chair opposite and watched as Daniel took a tentative sip of the pale golden liquid. As the warming liquor chased away some of the shock Daniel looked over at Mac and smiled wanly.

“I’m sorry,” he apologized softly. “I’ve made a real fool of myself. If I could stay here tonight…?”

“Well, of course ye’ll be staying here. Master Jonny would never forgive me if I let ye leave before he could see ye,” the old man said kindly.

Daniel shook his head sadly. “I don’t think Ma…Jack is going to be pleased to see me.”

“And why on earth not?” the old man asked with a smile. “Do ye not love him?”

Daniel looked up in surprise. “I…I…” He took another sip of his drink. “Yes, with all my heart,” he whispered into his glass.

Mac stood and lifted a heavy silver photo frame down from the high mantle above the fireplace. He handed the picture to Daniel and then sat back down. Daniel studied the frame first, recognizing it as a piece of Arts and Crafts silver from the early part of the 20th century. Its curving ornamentation was stylish and elegant. Daniel ran a finger along the stylized flowers etched into its surface. Then he was caught by the aged photograph it contained. A handsome young man in uniform smiled out at him. The picture was black and white, but had been colored in, ‘by hand’ Daniel thought, his archivist’s sensibilities coming to the fore. The man wore a RAF uniform and Daniel recognized it as belonging to WWII.

Looking up at the old man Daniel tried to make a connection between the man in the photograph and Mac.

“His name was Gordon, too,” Mac said, his voice tinged with sadness and regret.

“Oh,” Daniel nodded, still thinking furiously. ‘So not a brother, and he’s too old to have been Mac’s son.’ Daniel turned questioning eyes to the older man whose features had gone soft as he gazed at the frame still clutched in Daniel’s hands.

Mac gave a little chuckle. “If I told ye we were known as the Gay Gordons, would that give ye a clue?”

“Oh,” Daniel repeated. “OH!”

“Aye, laddie. He was ma lover.” Mac folded himself gracefully back into the armchair and took an appreciative sip of the liquor in his glass.

“It was a hard time to be queer,” he continued without rancor. “Ye think ye have it hard now, Master Daniel, with yer ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’, but we could have been jailed or worse just for wishing ta be with another man.” Mac sighed deeply. “There were ways of course, clubs ye could go ta but they were mostly in the big cities of the South. We were condemned ta quiet, sordid rendezvous in back rooms.”

Daniel winced in commiseration. He knew how it felt to have to hide, but at least the times had changed enough that there were places where gay and bi men and women could be themselves without fear of the law.

“I was’nae brave enough and I let him go.” Mac‘s hand tightened around his glass and he scowled at the contents. “He went awa’ ta the war and was killed within 10 minutes of his first flight with his squadron.” He turned to Daniel, the tears in his eyes shining in the firelight. “I sent him ta his death without telling him I loved him.”

There was such pain in the old man’s posture that, despite hardly knowing him, Daniel felt a strong pull to console him. Placing his glass on the hearth he slid to his knees in front of Mac and wound his arms around the old man’s shoulders. “He knew, Mac. I’m sure he knew.”

The old man allowed the embrace for a moment or two before drawing back and looking deeply into Daniel’s eyes. Daniel felt as if he was being judged, although not in a harsh blaming way, just that his character was being weighed by this venerable man.

“Aye, Daniel. Perhaps ye’re right,” he sighed sadly. “And if I’m not mistaken yer Jack knows it too.”

Daniel shook his head and leaned back on his heels, absently studying the photo he still held in his hands. “Something happened in Mexico, Mac. I’m not even sure what it was. But I think this could be the end for Jack and me.” Daniel looked up again at the old man and shrugged. “What am I supposed to think? I come all this way only to find him in another man’s bed, surrounded by evidence that he never really loved me like he said he did.” Feeling heartsick and bone tired Daniel slid back up onto the chair and, snagging the glass from the hearth, took a long swig of the smooth, peaty liquor.

Mac smiled and gave a little shrug. “Master Jonny tells me ye’re an archaeologist. Is that right?”

Daniel nodded, wondering when Jack had spoken to Mac about him.

Mac seemed to pick up on his confusion. “Och, Master Jonny and I have written letters, real letters not that blasted email stuff, ta each other for the last twenty five years. I probably know more about ye than I do about Lord Simon and I’ve known him since he was born.” Mac snorted at Daniel’s look of shocked surprise. “But we digress,” he continued. “When ye first get ta a dig site what do ye do? Do ye get straight in there and dig holes?”

Daniel’s eyebrows rose in shock. “NO!” he retorted sharply before realizing how rude he was being. “Um, sorry Mac. I’m a little jet lagged and that makes me cranky,” he apologized with a smile.

Mac was captivated by the shy beauty of the man in front of him. The passion for his subject had been obvious in that one short interjection and his blue eyes had blazed. Mac had seen that look before in the eyes of both his lover and of Jack and Simon when they spoke about flying and their love of the skies. “So…” he encouraged Daniel to continue.

“So…I would survey the site first. Look for any clues as to where we should dig, any surface indicators…anything to give me an idea about the story the site has to tell.” Daniel, as usual, was enthused by his subject, but more than a little confused about what all this had to do with Jack having slept with Simon.

“Ahh,” Mac nodded. “So imagine yon bedroom upstairs. What did you see there? What story did it tell?”

Daniel’s teeth clenched in jealous anger. What did this old man want? He knew what a fool he’d been to come here and now all his worst fears were reality.

“Mac, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what you want from me,” Daniel spat out in frustration.

“Nay, laddie. There’ll be none of yon histrionics if ye please,” Mac said firmly. “Humor this old man and tell me,” he encouraged.

Daniel sighed and looked into the fire, not seeing the flames but the picture of Jack in another man’s bed that was seared into his retinas like an indelible tattoo.

“Jack, naked in bed,” he ground out, holding on to his glass of whiskey like a lifeline. “Clothes that weren’t Jack’s. L…Lu…Lube on the nightstand,” he choked out not wanting to believe what his eyes had told him. “Whiskey glass on the table.” He shot a look at the old man in front of him. “Two glasses,” he corrected, his heart breaking at the implication of the evidence. ‘Perhaps he wants me to realize that I’ve lost,’ he thought to himself. “I don’t know how this is supposed to be helping,” he muttered churlishly.

“Och, boy. Fer a clever man ye’r being a proper eedjit.” Mac reached over and shook Daniel’s shoulder gently. “I’ll admit there’s a deal of circumstantial evidence but ye’ve missed one vital detail.” Mac raised his bushy gray eyebrows and Daniel could see a twinkle in them that warmed him and gave him hope. “Unless ye think Master Jonny went ta bed with me – which, I must say forty years ago wud’nae been outside the realms of possibility, as he’s a very handsome man – then where is this lover ye think yer man has had?” Gordon spread a large hand out in front of him and waited.

Daniel couldn’t make his heart stop palpitating. He had given up hope when he had surveyed the scene in Simon’s bedroom and now Mac was giving him that hope back. “Simon could be here somewhere. It’s a big castle,” Daniel replied, hoping against hope that he was wrong.

“Aye, that it is, Master Daniel, but believe me when I tell ye that his Lordship left for Edinburgh before yer man got here. Mr Davin, however,” the old man gave a grimace of disgust, “that young man got oot of yon bed just a couple o’ hours before Master Jonny arrived. There was no time ta change the bed and the poor bairn was so sick when he arrived, I dinna have the heart ta make him wait.”

The look of relief on Daniel’s face made Mac smile broadly. Daniel sank back into the armchair, letting out a long breath. “I thought…”

“Aye, I know what ye thought,” Mac agreed. “It was what ye were meant ta think.” Mac scowled at the implication. “I think Lord Simon knew if Jack was awa’ here then ye wud not be far behind. That little scene was set up ta have just the effect it did and I was used ta make it happen.” Mac emptied his glass, his anger at his employer’s duplicity obvious in the hard twist of his mouth. “Now, I don’t like being used, especially not ta hurt Master Jonny and I get the impression that, no matter what has happened between ye, anything that hurts ye hurts him deeply. So I ask ye again, Daniel Jackson, do ye love that man upstairs?”

“Oh God, yes.” Daniel felt his stomach clench at the depth of love he felt for Jack. “I’ve come half way around the world to tell him that I love him.”

“And will ye fight for him?” Mac asked fiercely, although he could see from Daniel’s face that it was a moot question. “For I think ye may have ta. Lord Simon is a stubborn, spoiled man, used ta getting his own way,” Mac shook his head in disappointment, “using ways that are beneath him it seems.”

Daniel looked confused. “Mac, I don’t understand. What have I done to Simon…Erm His Lordship? I’ve never even met him.”

“Ye took his man, laddie,” Gordon explained. “For the nine or ten months he was with Master Jonny he was as happy as I’ve ever seen him and we all fell in love with Master Jonny, too.” Mac’s eyes crinkled at the corners as he smiled broadly. “Jack only came here twice, but yer man makes an impression.”

Daniel had to smile. Oh yes that was his Jack.

“E’er since then Master Simon has never settled for anyone. His fayther realized there was never going ta be another Lord Granville from his line and so he let the young master have a very loose leash. Since the auld man died there has been a procession of young men…Some very young,” Mac explained disapprovingly, “But nothing lasting. As soon as they get close he shows them the door.”

Daniel felt sadness for Simon’s lost chance, but there was an ember of anger burning in his gut that said no matter how sorry he felt for Simon, the man had no right to have Jack back at his expense.

“I’ll fight…Simon is nothing compared to some of the sna…people I’ve met since I’ve worked with Jack.” Daniel set his jaw, his expression determined. “They all underestimate me, Mr McGregor, and that’s their downfall. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do to get Jack back.”

The beaming smile Mac turned on him made Daniel feel ten feet tall.

“Gud,” the old man said loudly, slapping his hands on his knees and standing. “Let’s get ye oot o’ ye wet clathes and find ye some food.” He hooked a hand under Daniel’s arm and hoisted him to his feet. “Then we’ll see about slaying some dragons and saving yon damsel in distress.”

Daniel laughed out loud at the vision of Jack in a gauzy dress and pointed hat leaning out of the castle window. The laughter felt good and for the first time in three days Daniel felt hopeful about the future. He turned to Mac and looked into the pale, gray, knowing eyes. The lined face was still handsome and Daniel could imagine what the poor young pilot had seen in this kind, strong man.

“Thank you, Mac,” he said sincerely. “You don’t know me, but you’ve been so kind.”

“Och, laddie…Yon man upstairs has told me so much about ye that I feel I do know ye.” Mac looked a little sad and shook Daniel’s shoulder gently. “I was ye once, Daniel. But I didn’t fight; I let him walk away and lost the most wonderful thing. I’ve been alone for the last fifty five years and regretted my decision every single day.” Mac sighed heavily. “I wud’nae wish that on my enemies let alone my friends and those I hope will be friends.”

Daniel was touched deeply by the old man’s words and he impulsively threw his arms around Mac’s shoulders. His embrace was returned warmly and the contact made Daniel feel stronger. He shivered with surprise. The only other person who ever made him feel that way was Jack. Moving back away from Mac the young man realized that although he didn’t know him that well, Daniel could recognize some of Jack’s traits in the man standing in front of him: Strength, loyalty, integrity. All the things Jack had in spades; this old man had them, too. Daniel ached that this man had spent so long alone without feeling the kind of love he and Jack had had… ‘Will have again,’ Daniel thought fiercely. ‘I won’t lose him…I can’t.’

*****

Mac showed him to the Blue Room which was tastefully decorated in china blue with antique painted Chinese wallpaper. Blue silk drapes adorned the windows and the four poster bed. He gratefully showered in the surprisingly modern bathroom and changed into the only other clean clothes he had with him; butter soft jeans with a rip in the knee and a plain white cotton shirt. He wore nothing on his feet, his only pair of socks were the ones Mac took away with his wet things to be laundered.

Mac returned with impeccable timing just as Daniel finished dressing and he saw the old man give him an appreciative glance as he placed a tray of sandwiches on a low table. There was also a carafe of coffee and several tiny cakes on a tiered platter.

“Wow, Mac. This is great,” Daniel enthused, “But you shouldn’t have gone to all this trouble.”

“Wheesht! Shut yer blather, laddie. Maddy loves ta feed boys. It’s her mission in life. Ye ask Master Jonny when he wakes up.” Mac poured the coffee and then stepped back, tilting his head and looking at Daniel expectantly.

The smell of the coffee made Daniel close his eyes and give a little moan of appreciation for the rich aroma. He opened them again when he heard Mac chuckle. “It’s El Injerto – Huehuetenango. His Lordship got a taste for it when he was stationed in Guatemala for a while. Some secret…”

“…Covert op that if he told you about he would have to shoot you,” Daniel and Mac laughed together, very aware of the undercover operations both Jack and Simon had been involved in over the years.

“Aye.” Mac looked over at the handsome young man sitting in front of him and felt an ache in his belly for lost chances. It was obvious this beautiful boy was deeply in love with Jack, and Mac resolved to do all in his power to make sure that when the men left Castle Blair it was once again as a couple.

“Now, less talk more eating.” Mac commanded.

“You’re not an Air Force Colonel by any chance?” Daniel asked cheekily.

“Nay, laddie. But I do command this household and I’m an old hand at dealing with wee boys who don’t eat their meals.” Mac’s gruff words were couched in humor. “And…” he continued, “before ye say it; I am old enough ta be yer grandfather, so yes, ta me ye are but a wee boy.” He lifted his eyebrows and pointed at the food in front of Daniel who began to tuck in with a smile.

Two hours later Daniel was sitting on a battered leather armchair in Lord Simon’s room.

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Mac had assured him that there would be no one else home until the following day at least. Daniel was determined to be there when Jack woke; to be the first person he saw. He had been worried that the sickness that had dogged his lover in Mexico was still with him and he felt seriously concerned that Jack had been sleeping for nearly a full day. Mac had reassured him that Jack’s fever was only slight and that he had been woken for juice only an hour or two before Daniel had arrived. The local doctor was only a few miles away and Mac promised he would call if Daniel felt it was necessary.

Daniel let his thoughts drift as he watched his lover sleeping peacefully in another man’s bed. Having looked around with more analytical eyes he could see that the room had been arranged like a theatre set. Everything was carefully placed to point Daniel to exactly conclusion he had jumped to. Only the timely intervention of Mac had prevented him from running across the Glen and out of Jack’s life forever. Daniel mulled over his plan of action, unsure how the next few days would go. If he had his way he would have both him and Jack back on a plane to Mexico before Simon returned from Edinburgh, but he recognized that was wishful thinking. Both he and Jack had said hurtful things and there was also the issue of the ‘spirit’ version of Daniel’s younger self that Izel had seen, along, she had insisted, with Jack. Although Daniel wanted to be skeptical he had no explanation for Jack knowing the name of his first love. Daniel knew there was more going on than he had realized and that if their relationship was going to survive they had to work through the mystery. Adding Simon, the jealous ex-lover into the mix did not help at all, but Daniel realized he may just have to cross that bridge…

“Oh, Jack,” he muttered quietly, “One of your favorite clichés. You’d be so proud.”

The figure draped across the bed seemed to respond to the gentle sound of Daniel’s voice in the quiet room. Jack twisted in the covers and looked blearily around the room, his eyes finally landing on the armchair and its occupant.

“Hi,” Daniel said quietly, his heart thumping loudly and painfully in his chest. He watched as recognition, disbelief and then joy skittered across Jack’s face.

“Danny?”

Daniel was about to stand and walk over to the bed, wanting nothing more than to kiss every inch of that beloved body; to bury himself deeply inside his lover’s skin and never come out. Then he saw the shutters fall and an expression of cold anger freeze onto Jack’s face. Stealing himself for the battle he knew he had to fight Daniel waited, hoping Jack would give him a chance to make his case. However, Jack’s next words dashed those hopes into tiny pieces.

“Daniel, I don’t know why the fuck you’re here…”

Daniel moved to the side of the bed, wanting to sit near his love, but sure that wouldn’t be welcomed. “We need to talk, Jack.”

Scooting over to the center of the bed Jack angrily tugged the covers up to his waist and glared at Daniel. The younger man shivered at the icy stare.

“We have nothing to talk about, Daniel,” Jack spat out. “You have nothing I want to hear. So leave, Daniel. Get the FUCK outta here… GO. HOME.”

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