Through A Glass Darkly XIII

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The sounds of smashing glass and an expletive laden yell brought Mac to the door of Simon’s study. He entered without knocking to find the Laird leaning against the hearth, his arms braced against the warm yellow stone; head slumped down between his shoulders. The contents of the crystal glass, lying in shards on the floor, was running freely down the wall and a reading lamp was hanging precariously by its wire off the edge of the desk. Mac winced. The crystal was part of an antique set that had been in the house for centuries. Now he would have to set his friend at Christies the task of finding a replacement.

“Was that entirely necessary?” he asked, his tone slightly condescending.

“Yes, it fucking was!” Simon twisted around and scowled at the old man, who, he was irritated to see, was not in the least intimidated. “Tell Maddy it’ll just be me for dinner tomorrow. Our ‘guests’ are leaving in the morning.”

“Och, laddie, what’ve ye done?” Mac walked slowly across the room, righted the lamp and then moved over to begin clearing the shards of glass from the ancient Oriental rug.

“Me? ME? What makes you think it was something I’ve done?” Simon’s face was puce with frustrated rage. “And what makes you think you can speak to me like that,” he ranted, hitting out at the nearest object which once again happened to be the unfortunate lamp. This time instead of hanging it bounced across the dark oak, taking the desk set with it, spilling the contents of the heavy glass ink bottle all over the same carpet that had received the shattered glass.

“Now,” Mac barked loudly, “that’s quite enough.” He rounded on his employer, fists planted firmly on his hips and was pleased to see that the younger man had the decency to look abashed. “You’re a grown man, not a bairn and I won’t let ye behave like one. Now whischt yer blather, sit yersel doon and tell me what’s happened.”

Simon thumped into the armchair gracelessly and scrubbed his hand across his face. “I’ve made a mess of everything, Mac. I thought Jack…”

Mac sighed deeply. He’d been afraid of this; had known that Simon would not let this go without making a mess of it. “Cud ye not see how much he loves his Danny? Yer not blind are ye? Stupid perhaps…”

Simon looked up and Mac was saddened by the look of loss he saw his employer’s eyes. Although he wanted the younger man to move on from his long term infatuation with Jack O’Neill he was a little taken aback at the depth of sorrow he recognized in the storm gray depths; it was the same look Mac saw reflected back in the mirror every morning.

“Jack’s asking Davin to go with them,” Simon said quietly, surprised at how much that stung. The model had been his companion, his boyfriend he supposed, for over a year and that was the longest relationship he’d had since the time with Jack over a quarter of a century before. He’d used Davin, he recognized that. If he was honest he’d treated his lover pretty badly, but there was something about their affair that had smacked of…more. There was an ease he hadn’t found with anyone else. Simon frowned, “I wish he wouldn’t…Go ,that is.”

“Who?” Mac inquired, puzzled, “Master Jonny? I’d’ve thought ye’d finally realised that boat’s sailed.”

“No,” Simon snapped petulantly, “Davin.” He looked down at his hands and picked self-consciously at his impeccably manicured nails. “I don’t want him to go.”

Mac looked carefully at the sad, spoiled man in front of him and began to smile. He’d never been really sure about Mr. Davin Garvin. Mac’s natural inclination with any of the pretty boys Simon hooked up with was to mistrust their motives and in most circumstances he’d been right. But Davin had always managed to stay on the right side of the old man. He didn’t love him the way he loved Master Jonny, but the boy had something about him that made Mac keep taking another look. Now he was beginning to understand why that was. Despite himself Simon was falling for the young man and Mac was getting the idea it was reciprocated. The old man was overjoyed.

“Have ye told him that?” he asked gruffly, not letting on what he had surmised.

“No,” Simon replied, keeping his head down. “There’s no point. Once Jack’s spoken to him he’ll be gone.” Once again the Laird raised his head and looked directly at Mac. The sullen petulance was gone and he looked all of his 50 years; old, tired and defeated. “I’ve fucked up, Mac.”

Mac walked over to him and placed a warm hand on his shoulder. “If yon man cares about ye then he’ll want ta talk ta ye, not get it second hand. I think he deserves that at least.” Mac shook Simon gently. “I think ye need ta spend an hour or two thinking aboot what ye want from that boy and then do him the courtesy of telling him how ye really feel. He’ll listen but din’nae leave it too long, otherwise he’ll be awa and it’ll be too late.”

Simon saw the pain of experience in Mac’s eyes and felt a surge of love for this crusty old man who had been there for him through so much and had put up with his bad behavior for so long. He wasn’t sure what he could say to Davin that would persuade him to stay. He was sure that Jack’s argument would be compelling. After all, Simon had given him all the ammunition he needed. But the sharp stab of regret that accompanied the thought of Davin leaving Castle Blair gave him pause. What if the model meant more to him than he thought; what then?

Nodding to himself Mac left the room to find cleaning equipment, leaving a strangely still and silent Simon to his introspection. The old man had high hopes for what would come of his ponderings, but he thought he might try to find the other men and have a quiet word, just in case.

*****

The pale afternoon sun was struggling to make a difference to the underlying gloom of the overcast, wet day. Fallen leaves littered the ground under the mixed planting of bare deciduous trees and tall, brooding evergreens. The skeletal husks of fist sized pinecones bounced along the path, helped on their way by the toe of Jack’s boot. Dressed in a long waxed coat, Hunter Wellington’s and a flat tweed cap Jack looked every inch the Laird of the Manor, his borrowed clothes fitting him as well as his BDUs. Daniel looked at him in undisguised admiration. Although the outfit looked vaguely ridiculous, Jack owned whatever he wore and made it look effortless and right; even down to the hilarious plus fours he insisted were de rigueur for the golf course. Daniel envied him his comfort in his own skin. Despite evidence to the contrary – in the form of the handful of Polaroid snaps that Jack had confiscated from Davin (for his personal study of course) – Daniel always felt self-conscious dressed in anything other than jeans and a t shirt. Even his formal suit felt stuffy and over blown. He snorted quietly as he reviewed what he was wearing for a walk in the woods. The sheepskin-lined leather flying jacket, gray silk tee and stone washed jeans were all the new season from some high end designer. The ensemble, Davin had gleefully told him, would set him back over £5000 at retail prices. Daniel shook his head. That was nearly $10,000 on one outfit. The calf length black motorcycle boots were bespoke, made by a cobbler in London for Davin’s long, slender feet and they just happened to fit Daniel perfectly. He didn’t ask how much they’d cost but the model had mentioned that a pair of brogues from the same maker had set him back over £1000 so Daniel had a good idea that his entire outfit was bordering on $15,000. He was almost scared to breathe in these clothes and he’d had to be pried out of the Castle by Jack whilst being waved off by a laughing Davin, who insisted that clothes were meant to be worn and that they had been ‘freebies’ so therefore had no intrinsic value.

The squeeze of Jack’s warm hand against his brought Daniel back to his immediate surroundings. “Hey,” Jack said gently, “you okay?”

Daniel smiled back at his lover and nodded. “Yeah, just freaking about getting these boots wet.”

Jack snorted inelegantly. “They’re just boots, Danny, and you’re the one who wanted to walk.”

The younger man hummed in agreement although he hadn’t so much wanted to walk as to get out of the Castle for a while. He needed to get Jack on his own so that they could perhaps begin to unravel the mystery that had begun in La Troza. “Tell me about the kids you saw at the beach house,” he asked casually, loosing Jack’s hand and sliding his arm around his lover’s waist, drawing him closer. He felt Jack stiffen for a moment and then relax against him.

Jack had known this talk was coming, but hadn’t really prepared for it to be right now. He sighed and leaned into Daniel’s touch gratefully. This was going to be difficult. He had an hunch that both kids were linked to Daniel in some way; that they were, in fact, Daniel. How that was possible he had no idea, but the memory of the teen and his bound wrists made Jack shiver and he decided he would begin with the easier of the two first.

“The first one was a little kid no more than seven, I’d say. He had a real mop of blond hair and bright blue eyes. He said…”

Daniel jerked back in surprise. “He spoke to you?”

Jack shrugged. “Yeah, they both did. Not much and nothing that made any sense to me at the time.” He looked over at Daniel who nodded back at him supportively. “He just said, ’Is it time to go, Daddy’.” Jack looked over at Daniel, but didn’t really see him, just the picture of the little boy overlaid on his lover’s face. “I should have known he was you, but when he called me ‘Daddy’ all I could think was Charlie.” Jack bit his lip distractedly. “You looked a lot like him, if that was really you…then…if you see what I mean.” Jack kicked at another pine cone and watched it careen down the path with a certain satisfaction. All this stuff was making his head ache and now he had to talk about it, too.

“I’m pretty sure it was me,” Daniel agreed. “After all, with the experience of the 21 year old me, I think it’s a pretty good bet that everything that’s happened is linked to me.”

Jack could see Daniel’s mind racing ahead and although he wanted answers as much as the younger man, he wanted to get through the inevitable discussion first. “Where were you living at seven?” he queried.

“Erm…Well, still in Egypt,” Daniel replied distractedly. “I’m just trying to remember where the dig site was so that I can place…” A sudden look of recognition passed over Daniel’s face and he stopped in his tracks. “Oh my God!” he exclaimed. “I was seven the first time Dad allowed me to have my own corner in the excavation of the tomb.”

Jack gazed at his lover with worried eyes. “That tomb?” he asked carefully.

“Yeah,” Daniel smiled back sadly, “that tomb.”

Jack slid his arm around Daniel’s waist and pulled him to a gentle kiss. “We don’t have to do this, Daniel. Not right now.”

Daniel reciprocated the kiss and then walked over to the short thick trunk of a fallen tree lying on the ground. It had been protected from the damp weather by the canopy of pine needles above it. With only a passing moment of worry for his borrowed designer jeans he sat on the pitted surface pulling Jack down to join him.

“It’s okay, Jack. That was such an exciting time for me. I was just beginning to understand how important my parents’ work was and my own enthusiasm and excitement about archeology was just taking root. Dad had been promising I could have my own little corner to scrape in and I remember being so excited that I was up before morning prayer, dressed and sitting next to their cot when they woke up.” Daniel giggled at the memory. “You know what you called my ‘plant boy dance’?”

Jack rolled his eyes and then snorted a laugh. “Yeah?”

“Well, I was so excited I couldn’t sit still. As soon as my Dad opened his eyes I was there, bobbing up and down asking him if it was time.” Daniel’s expression grew soft with remembered affection. “He laughed so hard and said I should be part of one of the dancing troupes that performed in the town square. Oh, Jack, he was so proud of me. He told me that over and over. He presented me with my own trowel and brushes from his personal equipment and I felt so very grown up.”

Jack was captivated by the excitement the memory was conjuring for Daniel. His handsome face was alight with joy and suddenly Jack was overcome with relief that this particular remembrance was a good one. He’d been afraid that the visions he’d been shown of Daniel were all going to dredge up some awful periods in his lover’s life; that there would be nothing but pain to be had from the mysterious happenings affecting them both.

“I worked all day on my little section, trying to remember everything I’d been taught. Dad was off supervising the lifting of the cover stone…”

Jack watched as the dark shadow of that fateful artifact dulled Daniel’s sparkling eyes for a moment before it was chased away by the continuing joy of the story he was telling. Once again Jack was humbled by Daniel’s ability to push through the pain that had scarred his young life. Deep down Jack had an inkling the story attached to the teen was not going to be so easy to deal with and he decided they would save that discussion until they were safely back on their paradise island.

Daniel hadn’t noticed Jack’s moment of introspection, nor had he recognized his own foray into the pain that had been his companion for most of his life. He was too caught up in the recollection of that joyous time. “I was left to my own devices,” he continued. “The other diggers were too busy in their own sections to bother with mine.” The shine was back in his eyes again and Jack couldn’t help but grin back at the smile that beamed his way. “When Dad got back to me he checked what I’d done and I was so excited because I’d found some shards and a tiny bead. He hugged me so hard, Jack, and carried me on his shoulders through the dig like I’d discovered a burial hoard.” Daniel’s muscles were singing with energy, as if that love and excitement had been stored there for all those years just waiting for this chance to burst out of him. He flung his arms around Jack and squeezed him, kissing him with a passionate intensity that left Jack’s nerve endings sizzling with erotic heat.

“Whoa, Danny.” Jack’s lips tingled and he was leaning in for more when Daniel went very still next to him. At the sight of two tears rolling down Daniel’s face Jack thought his hopes for this memory had been too optimistic , but then he noticed the warm, happy smile that Daniel wore to go with them.

“I’d forgotten all about that day,” he explained as Jack tenderly stroked the wetness from his cheeks. “I think I’m beginning to understand what this is all about, Jack.” He turned to look into his lover’s face. “For whatever reason and by whatever agent I’m being given a chance to reclaim lost memories.” Daniel began to gesture wildly as he warmed to his theme and Jack just sat back and enjoyed the view.

“I think I needed to remember Russ; I needed to realize that what I have with you is the first relationship since then that I have truly given myself, trusted all that I am to another man. I didn’t recognize I’d done that with you, Jack.” Daniel held out his hands and Jack took them in his warm grasp, rubbing his calloused thumbs across the knuckles of his archeologist’s hands.

“Thank you,” Jack said quietly, his voice rough with emotion. “Thank you for trusting me with your heart. I’ll try not to betray that trust again.” Jack felt a stab of remorse for the way he’d behaved and his lack of belief in Daniel’s fidelity.

The younger man lifted their joined fists and, turning Jack’s large hands over, kissed his palms with dry, warm lips. “Aww, Jack. Knowing what we know now I think you can let yourself off the hook. There’s something going on here, something outside the norm and I wonder if we’ll ever know exactly what it is.” He pursed his lips and a little V appeared between his brows. “Do you think we should go back to the mountain? Perhaps we are being irresponsible. What if there’s some alien influence?”

Jack nodded distractedly. He’d been thinking about that since they first realised there was more to this than met the eye. His ‘colonel head’ said they should book back to the SGC as quickly as possible and get Janet and Carter involved in investigating what was going on. But his heart told him there was no danger. His sense of self-preservation had saved his life many times and there was nothing setting off his proximity alerts. It might be a mistake, but he was willing to take the chance that whatever was happening was only going to affect the two of them. He drew Daniel into the circle of his arms and kissed him passionately; pouring all the love and need he had for Daniel onto his lovers lips. Jack felt the younger man shiver and realised that his cheek was icy where it lay against Jack’s face.

“Let’s go visit with Maddy,” Jack murmured against Daniel’s ear. “I think she said something about chocolate cake when I was in the kitchen earlier.”

Jack laughed out loud at the bright spark that lit Daniel’s eyes. In short order the chocoholic Dr Jackson was dragging him up off the log and pulling him along the pathway around the loch and back towards the Castle.

*****

Coffee and cake with Maddy had been a happy affair with Daniel learning all kinds of titbits about Jack’s early life in the Air Force, but the warmth of the kitchen and a surfeit of chocolate cake combined with the emotional drain of Daniel’s outpouring of memories had made the young man lethargic and drowsy. Jack had gently propelled him through the paneled corridors of the Castle to their room, stripped off his jeans and t-shirt and tumbled him into the bed. Within minutes Daniel had fallen into a deep dreamless sleep. Two hours later Jack had kissed him awake and reminded him that they were expected for dinner in less than an hour. Daniel had made the appropriate noises, but drifted off again into a comfortable drowse.

The sound of the dinner gong reverberating through the door pulled Daniel from his slumbers and for a moment he was disorientated. After a few moments the significance of the gong made him leap up from the bed and look around him with annoyance.

“Damn it, Jack. Why didn’t you come and wake me,” he groused to the empty room.

Finding his glasses on the bedside table he placed them on his nose and then remembered with a groan that his lover had been in and done exactly what he was complaining about. He couldn’t blame Jack for his inability to wake up. Not wanting to keep anyone waiting Daniel quickly washed his face and scrubbed a little gel through his hair to make his bed-head look intentional. With a smile he noticed the blue satin shirt hanging on the door of the wardrobe. ‘Very subtle, Davin,’ he thought wryly, ‘NOT.’

He pulled on the snug designer jeans, teamed with the shirt (which even Daniel had to admit made his eyes look very blue) and zipped up the bespoke boots. With a last look in the mirror he strode quickly out of the room towards the staircase.

Turning the corner at the end of the hallway Daniel collided bodily with Simon and he noted that the older man looked sad and weary. Daniel knew he’d held out hope for a renewed relationship with Jack and despite the Lord’s rudeness the younger man couldn’t help feeling sorry for him.

“Dr. Jackson,” Simon said warily, unsure of his reception. de’Vere had spent a long time during the afternoon thinking on Mac’s words, trying to unravel the knot of feeling in his gut with regard to Davin and the chance that he might leave the next day.

“Please, call me Daniel.”

Simon was surprised at the friendliness of the young man in front of him. After his abrupt treatment of Jack’s lover he was expecting the same back. But Daniel was smiling at him with such openness in his brilliant blue eyes that the older man found himself temporarily dumbstruck. Now he came to look at him – really look – he was captivated. Whilst Davin was devastatingly good looking there was something luminous about Daniel that made him…The only word Simon could find was,

“Beautiful.”

“I’m sorry?”

Simon looked into Daniel’s puzzled eyes and then realized he’d said his thought out loud. His mind scrabbled for a moment for some glib, cutting comment, but he found himself simply telling the truth.

“You…It’s no wonder Jack loves you…You’re beautiful.”

Daniel’s face turned red with embarrassment. He shook his head and turned to walk away. Simon’s hand on his upper arm stopped him and he looked back over his shoulder.

“Please, Daniel. I know we haven’t got off on the best foot, but I just want to say I’m…I’m sorry. I was a right arsehole.”

Daniel’s guileless eyes burned back at him. “Yes, you were,” he replied. With a sigh and a tip of his head Daniel turned to face Simon and placed a warm hand on his shoulder.

“I can understand wanting to be with Jack,” he started softly. “The man is a force to be reckoned with. Irritating, opinionated, full of Alpha male bullshit and attitude, and the hottest, most tender lover I have ever had.” Daniel’s fingers squeezed their support as Simon’s chin dropped, sadness filling him for the man he knew he’d lost. “I envy you the time you had with him,” Daniel continued. “I’m jealous of the freedom you have right now, in the RAF, to have a gay relationship. You don’t realize how lucky you are to be able to have a man like Davin as your lover and not be worried every moment whether the whole fucking lot is going to come crashing around your ears because some bastard from the NID wants Jack’s head on a plate, or some disgruntled Marine wants to out the fag colonel or bash his geek.”

Simon was shocked at the mixture of anger and sadness that imbued Daniel’s words. The older man was well aware the regulations in the US were far less permissive than those he worked under and Jack would face dishonorable discharge or worse just for loving this man if they were ever found out.

“Fucking antediluvian regs,” he commented. His heart sped up at the brilliant smile that comment earned him and he was once again reminded of how special Jack’s lover was.

“I’m probably talking out of turn here,” Daniel smiled, “but that’s never stopped me before.” His eyes twinkled as he carried on. “Davin loves you, Simon, and I think you know that. You’ve been hiding behind this obsession with Jack for long enough.” Daniel gazed earnestly into Simon’s gray eyes. “You’ve treated him like crap and he’s still here. Doesn’t that tell you something?” Daniel cocked his head, waiting for Simon to respond.

The Laird scrubbed his hand through his thick black hair in a movement scarily reminiscent of Jack. Daniel dropped his hand to his side and watched as a war was fought across Simon’s expressive face. Flittering shadows of fear and hope and recognition all made their way across his mobile features until he finally straightened up and looked at the man waiting patiently in front of him.

“I love him, too,” he finally admitted. “But I think I’ve left it too late. Jack was going to tell him…”

“Jack’s said nothing,” Daniel reassured him. “He wanted to – that boy brings out all his protective instincts I can tell you. If I wasn’t so sure of him, Simon, I’d be jealous.”

“Why aren’t you?” Simon really wanted to know how Daniel could be so very sure.

“Because I trust him with my life and my heart,” Daniel shook his head wryly, “even when he’s a stupid bastard and makes me chase half way across the world to find him.” Daniel grasped the taller man by the biceps and shook him gently. “Relationships aren’t easy; God, love isn’t easy. There are no guarantee’s Simon. Everyone I’ve ever loved has died or been taken from me and the hardest thing I’ve ever done is let Jack into my heart. Every time we go on a mission I face the possibility that one or other of us might not come back. You and Dav don’t have that pressure either.”

Simon nodded, realizing that if Jack and Daniel could manage a relationship under those difficult circumstances then he owed it to himself and Davin to at least try.

“All I know, Simon, is that if you let Davin go there will be a hundred guys desperate to step into your shoes.”

A jolt of jealous anger rushed through Simon at the thought of another man with Davin, making him scowl stormily. Daniel gave a satisfied nod. “My work here is done,” he said quietly.

With a sigh Simon finally accepted the truth. He was in love – possibly for only the second time in his life. Now he had to put right the hurts he had inflicted on his lover and hope that was enough to keep them together.

“Thank you, Daniel,” the older man said as he drew a surprised Daniel into a big bear-hug.

“Everything alright here?”

Jack’s voice was tinged with wariness as he stood in the hallway to the left of them.

“Yes, Jonny, everything’s fine. Better than fine actually,” Simon said happily. “At least it will be if I can persuade a certain international model that his pigheaded shit of a boyfriend deserves another chance.”

With a big grin Simon took Daniel’s face in his hands and kissed him full on the lips much to the archeologist’s surprise.

“Si, what the fu…mmmmph.” Jack’s cry of anger was silenced by a repeat performance on his lips before Simon swung away from the two nonplussed men and barreled down the stairs taking them two at a time.

Jack looked in total bemusement at his lover. “Daniel?”

“Jack?”

“Danny?” Jack’s voice had a warning tone that made Daniel snort with amusement.

“I think Davin will be staying,” the younger man explained.

“Ahhh,” Jack exclaimed, the brewing storm abating as he realized that Simon wasn’t putting the moves on his lover but was in fact thanking him.

“I think we should get to dinner, Jack. Unless you want to miss seeing Simon pulling his head out his ass and Davin getting what he wants.” Not waiting for a reply Daniel grasped his lover by the hand and dragged him down the stairs and into the dining room. They arrived in time to see Simon pulling his surprised young lover out of his seat at the dining table and into the hottest most passionate kiss the two other men had ever witnessed.

“So looks like we won’t be taking Dav back to the States with us.” Jack commented, a happy grin splitting his face.

“Do you think we look as hot as that,” Daniel asked, his eyes shining with mischief.

“God damn, I hope so,” Jack replied, his voice getting a little husky with arousal as he gazed into Daniel’s eyes. Their lips met before they’d even realized and their kiss was deep and sensual.

A polite cough brought them all back to the room to find Mac, Maddy and Tam standing at the head of the table, their hands filled with steaming serving dishes.

“Shall we be serving dinner, gentlemen or will ye be wanting ta be awa ta yer beds?” Mac’s tone was severe, but his eyes twinkled with humor. Beside him Maddy was beaming, her round cheeks pink with pleasure. The young chauffeur was trembling with the effort of keeping in the laughter that was bursting to get out.

“Bed?” Jack asked hopefully only to be rewarded by a thump on the chest by a blushing and slightly mortified Daniel.

“Jack!” he admonished in a stage whisper. “Behave yourself.”

“Do I have to?” Jack whined

That was all too much for Tam who began to giggle uncontrollably, his good humor soon finding its way infectiously to the others until the whole room was filled with laughter.

It took several minutes for everyone to calm down enough for dinner to be served. Steaming bowls of tomato and basil soup were set in front of them all and the staff returned to the kitchen to prepare the main course. Jack and Daniel smiled knowingly across at each other as they observed the interaction between Davin and Simon. The younger man looked by turns overwhelmed and ecstatic and Simon’s face was relaxed in a way they hadn’t seen the whole time they had been at the castle. The Laird turned to look over at Jack.

“I’m sorry, Jonny. I was a stupid bastard,” he said apologetically.

“Yes, you were,” Jack agreed, only to be frowned at by Daniel. He shrugged and continued, “I suppose it takes one to know one.”

It was Jack’s turn to frown as Daniel nodded knowingly at Davin, but his ire was softened by the look of sweet adoration his lover gave him immediately afterwards.

“Looks like I won’t be coming to the States until the Armani shoot later in the year, guys,” Davin said with a hopeful look at Simon.

“We’ll both come,” Simon said decisively.

“Colorado is beautiful in the fall,” Daniel commented.

“You could stay with us…well, at my house.” Jack felt his envy grow as he realized how much easier it would be for Davin and Simon than it was for him and Daniel. They would be able to live together openly, even have a civil partnership if that’s what they wanted. He tried to tamp down the underlying sadness and frustration at their own situation so he could feel pleased for his ex lover and his new friend. “If you let us know as early as possible when you’ll be arriving we can try to get some leave time together.”

Daniel reached across the table and squeezed Jack’s hand. He could guess the older man’s feelings; they were there for him too. The secrecy they were forced to live under was a constant pressure and not being able to live together and be open about their relationship was one of the areas they both regretted regularly.

“Jack’s house is home for both of us,” he stated as he drew his fingers gently over Jack’s knuckles.

Jack smiled back gratefully, nodded and continued, “We get down time together on the whole, but we try not to have leave at the same time too often, otherwise it would be just too obvious.”

Davin looked surprised. “So your relationship is a major problem then?”

“Not to us,” Daniel smiled, “but to the Air Force our relationship is enough to get Jack a court- martial and a dishonorable discharge with no pension. He could even be jailed,” he explained to an increasingly concerned Davin.

“Why do you stay in? Being in a relationship is hard enough. How do you cope with all that extra pressure; all the worry it must bring you.”

Jack bit his lip, uncertain how to answer the young man without giving him any classified information. “What we do is very important,” he began. He looked over at Daniel who nodded in agreement. “It’s highly classified so please don’t ask what it is, but I believe that Daniel is the only man on the planet who is capable of doing what he does and I’m there to make sure he is able to do it. I watch his six, keep him safe.”

“He’s underselling himself as usual,” Daniel interrupted, earning himself a snort from Jack. “Jack’s ability as a CO, his strategic excellence and his skepticism has kept me alive many, many times in the field.”

“So,” Jack continued, looking more than a little pleased at the compliments he’d been paid, “we choose to stay, knowing the dangers and the problems. Either one of us could be killed on the next mission, so we hold on to every minute we can have together.”

Jack glanced over at Daniel, whose eyes looked suspiciously bright. A chill clutch of presentiment closed over his heart and he impulsively reached over and pulled his lover into a tender kiss. They rarely talked about the dangers they faced; the reality was too stark to consider closely, but they were both very aware that every mission could be their last.

Simon pushed his chair away from the table and rang the bell for the next course. “Let’s think of happier things, shall we,” he insisted. “Do you have to leave tomorrow? I was wondering about showing Daniel the burial mound…”

“Burial Mound!!” Daniel’s eyes lit up like flares.

“Oh you just had to, didn’t you, you bastard,” Jack exploded as he watched the look of intense excitement spread across Daniel’s face. “Now I’ll be lucky to get him back to Mexico before the end of our leave.”

Soon the room was filled with the sounds of Daniel’s rapid fire questions and Simon’s attempts at answers while Davin and Jack grinned at each other across the table, both greatly amused at the passion of Jack’s significant other for his chosen profession.

Jack sighed as he watched Daniel’s excited, enthusiastic gestures and brilliant smile. He had a feeling deep down that there were some dark paths to tread when they got back to La Troza and he wasn’t afraid to admit that he was in no hurry to walk them beside Daniel.

‘Yeah,’ he mused, ‘I guess we can stay another day.’

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