Timed out from Pretense, 2005 fanzine. Thanks to Phee and Jill for the betas.
No Greater Love
By: Joana Dey
"Greater love hath no man than
this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John
The word battered his reeling mind as the thunder of falling bricks, wood and plaster reverberated through the ruins of the restaurant; Daniel gasped and coughed, attempting to clear the cloying, bitter dust from his lungs. Moisture leaked from the corners of his eyes, and he blinked, trying to see around the hazy room. A sudden sharp crack drew his attention to the twisted structure. The ominous creaking above his head left no doubt in his mind the two floors above him were soon going to collapse and bury everything left on the ground floor. Daniel winced as an overhead timber snapped. Oh my god. The ceiling was gonna go any second and when it did
He had to find Jack. And he had to find him ASAP!
Earlier that day
Jack stuck his head around the door of Daniels office to find his entire team seated around a worktable, heads bent close together.
"If youre planning a mutiny, forget about it." He grinned as three heads jerked up and three seats of eyes stared at him in various shades of guilt. "However, if youre planning a surprise birthday party, just let me know when to show up and act surprised."
Daniel feigned disgust. "Cant get anything past you, can we?"
"Ive been reading your mind for years, Daniel. Face it, trying to surprise me is a lost cause." He glanced over at Carter just as she made a face. "Thats "roll your eyes," SIR, Carter."
"Yes, Sir, General ONeill, Sir," she snapped out, before grinning at her Commanding Officer.
Jack smiled back. "Tonight feels like a Team Night, and I feel like steak. What do you say? You all up to buying me dinner at the Phantom Canyon Brewing, Co?"
"And we should buy you dinner, because ?" Daniels eyebrows aimed for the top of his head.
"Because you scared the hell out of me by disappearing and making me think Baal had you. Good reason?"
Carter looked down at the table, a slight blush shading her features. "Yes, sir, I think thats an excellent reason."
"Ill meet you there at 1900, then. Im counting on you Tealc, to make sure these two dont work late."
"I will not fail you, ONeill." Tealc looked sternly at first Daniel, then Carter. "We will be on time."
"Good." Flapping his hand in good-bye, Jack left the three of them alone.
Carter got up and shut the door. "We shouldve done that in the first place," she said, sitting back down. "Now. About that no-longer-a-surprise birthday party "
"Think we can get everyone there tonight? They can come in after us, well reserve a few tables, hell never guess," Daniel added.
"As he, himself, planned the dinner tonight, he will be surprised when everyone begins to arrive, " Tealc said.
Jack looked up as Daniel came towards him, weaving through the various tables, chairs and brewery displays. As they made eye contact, Jack felt a rush of warmth race through him when Daniels face simply lit up, a smile stretching from ear to ear. It was a seldom seen smile, and when it did appear it was for Jack only,
"Hey," Daniel said softly.
"Backatcha." Jack pulled out the chair next to him.
"Small table," Daniel commented as he sat down, his knee gently touching Jacks.
"Busy place. Nothing much left." Jack blithely ignored the several, larger tables on the other side of the room.
Daniel just chuckled.
"Youre on time." Jack affected disbelief.
"Im ten minutes early," Daniel corrected.
"Where are "
"Tealc and Sam are on their way. I drove myself." He glanced at the table and helped himself to the beer sitting at Jacks place.
"Hey! Get your own, greedy guts."
Daniel made a face and gave the beer back, grinning. "Piss water. You bet Ill get my own." As he got up and made his way across the room he saw Sam coming in the door and waved her towards the table. She made a drinking motion with her hand and he nodded in acquiesce.
As Daniel stood at the bar, waiting for the drinks, he glanced back at the table and simply watched Jack. Watched as Jack took a drink from his glass; his Adams apple bob as the liquid went down; his tongue dart out to swipe across his lips. Standing there, Daniel could almost feel that tongue as it licked along his own body, tickled his nipples, his navel and slid down to the creases between his hips and his legs and suddenly he was transported and flying backwards, Jack disappearing from his view, a cacophony of sounds intruding into his daydream and thrusting him rudely back into reality.
"JACK." If Daniel couldnt even hear his own voice, how could anyone else? He could barely see through the dust and was that smoke? The table was gone and in its place was a pile of rubble.
His ears were still clanging from the deafening sound of the detonation so he barely heard it at first. Someone frantically calling his name. Help he needed to get help. He had to find someone to help him find Jack. Or was that Jack? He couldnt tell, he could barely hear, or breathe, or God, where was Jack?
"Im here!" Daniel croaked as he launched himself toward the sound. He reeled drunkenly through the rubble of what had once been the Phantom Canyon Brewing Co., and had only taken a couple of steps before he slammed his shin against something sharp. He tried to shove whatever it was out of his way, cursing at his heaviness, before simply falling over it and continuing to stumble toward a light he desperately hoped was a way out.
A hand grabbed hold of his arm and yanked him out.
"Daniel! Are you all right?" It was Sam, white-faced with shock, tears making dusty tracks down her face. Throwing her arms around him, she hugged him tightly in relief.
"J," Daniel attempted to clear his parched throat, suck in air and try again. "Jack? Wheres Jack?" His eyes darted around frantically.
"The Col General was here already? He was inside? He was early? Daniel? Was JACK INSIDE?" Carter screamed at him, trying to get his attention.
"Hes not out here? Jacks not out here?"
Sam's eyes darted to the door. "Jacks still in there? Daniel?" She started crying, shaking Daniel by the shoulders and screaming into his ear. "Wheres Jack? Is he in there? Is he hurt? Oh my god, I need to get him out "
It finally penetrated Daniels still dazed mind that Jack was NOT outside and therefore must still be inside the restaurant. Carter was still clinging to him and shouting at him, her face read and blotched with tears. He glanced around, saw Ferretti, and shoved the armful of sobbing female at him.
"Jacks still inside!"
"So is Tealc," Ferretti shouted back. "Let the fireman Daniel, let the fireman "
Ferrettis words hung suspended in empty space as Daniel spun around and darted back inside. Desperately dodging the wreckage that continued to rain down on him, he tripped, slamming into the floor with a bone-jarring thud. Winded, he dragged himself along the floor, and in a strange moment of quiet, he heard a soft moan. He drew a shaky breath and headed in its direction. Through the soot and dust he could make out a mound trying to lift itself off the ground.
"Jack! Jack?" Daniel dove through the wreckage; heedlessly tossing aside the chunks of debris almost burying the body he prayed was Jacks. His hope was dashed as he grabbed hold of the mans jacket, realizing whoever he was, this man was too large and solid to be Jack. He turned the body over and looked into Tealcs dazed, pain-filled eyes.
Tealc? Oh god, it was Tealc.
Daniel was still staring dumbly down at his semi-conscious friend when Jacks voicecalling to himpenetrated his still blunted senses. Jack! Jack was behind him.
He turned, still holding on to Tealc. Jack was perhaps twelve feet away, in what had been the other side of the room. Jack was alive! He was conscious but Daniel felt a chill, shivered, as the reality of Jacks present predicament filled him with renewed terror. This place was going to come down around them any second. And Jackgod, it looked like most of the building was piled up on his legs. Jack was trapped.
Daniel glanced down at the half-conscious man in front of him, and then over to the man he'd been in love with for the past two years. He took in the beams above Jack, pieces of wood that were still held in place by mere splinters, splinters that looked willing to let go at any time.
Splinters that did not look willing to give him the time he needed to rescue the man he held in his arms and the man he loved more than his own life.
There was no choice, and they both knew it.
There was only one choice, and they both knew it.
Jack stared back, grimacing, before smiling gently at him.
There was only the right choice.
Taking a deep breath, Daniel began lugging Tealcs limp body towards the front door. Something hit the back of his neck, sharp, hot pain erupting. He fell again, dropping his burden as he brushed at the burning wood on his back. Gasping, agony throbbing through his head and shoulders, he grabbed hold of a foot and started dragging the other man behind him, blindly hoping nothing else would land on them.
Almost there. Almost there. Get Tealc out and go back for Jack. He didn't realize he'd made it to the door until Tealc was taken from him and a pair of arms wrapped themselves around his shoulders. Flinching at the touch, he opened his eyes to find Ferretti in front of him again.
"Jack." Daniel said dumbly, lurching back towards the apocalypse behind him. Ferretti's arms tightened, holding him back.
"It's too late, Daniel. The generals gone. Everything's coming down. You can't go back in there!"
Ferrettis face was red from shouting, but Daniel ignored him. He vaguely noted there were other people in the area; Sam, sitting still on the asphalt and staring blindly at the burning building, her lips moving soundlessly; others lying on stretchers, fireman and paramedics everywhere. He jerked free and stumbled back into the building, tripping over the walls that had fallen in the few minutes it had taken him to get Tealc out.
His eyes were glued on Jack as he floundered about in the debris, dodging falling masonry and timber as best he could. Twisting his way through the maze, he dropped to his knees, coughing in the smoke. Jack's mouth was moving; but if he was saying anything Daniel couldn't hear it in all the noise around him.
Brown eyes were staring past his shoulder, wide and frightened. Daniel glanced up over his shoulder.
Oh god, they were out of time
He flung himself over Jack's body, wrapping his arms around him and hiding his face in Jacks dirty, sweaty neck. He briefly felt Jack's arms clutch him, one hand gripping his short hair before the entire building imploded, its shattered bulk burying them alive.
Oh shit...hurts. Not dead, then.
Daniel tried to move, stopping quickly as every nerve ending in his body immediately screamed for attention. What the hell was going on? The last thing he remembered was the world crashing down on him and
A warm body beneath him, his partner, the man he loved more than life itself, Colonel, no, General, Jack ONeill. Now unmoving underneath him, inert fingers still clutching Daniel's matted hair; alive, please god, alive.
"Jack?" Please. Answer me.
His arms were still wrapped firmly around Jack's upper torso. He gave an experimental jerk, and one arm came free. A gentle tug on the left was unsuccessful, and he gave up after a moment.
In the darkness of their prison, all he had were his other senses; the cracking of broken bricks, creaking of splintering wood, the smell of dust and the exhilarating feel of a slow and steady pulse beneath his trembling fingers.
The heavy lump in his chest worked its way up to become tears of relief. For now, both he and Jack were alive. By some miracleor just his natural luck, as Jack would claim the debris around them had fallen to form a small pocket of safety sheltering them from the crushing debris of the buildings demise. Inside this enclosure they at least had air to breathe; hopefully enough to last till rescue arrived.
Rescue. Ferretti and Carter knew they were, but did they realize they were still alive? Daniel had no idea how badly anyone else in the restaurant had been injured or still needed rescuing; that had been the last thing on his mind as he dragged Tealc from the rapidly deteriorating building and returned for Jack.
Daniel had no answers. He only knew that of all the places in the world right now, this was where he wanted to be. Held tightly in his lover's arms, even though they were buried under God-knew-how-much rubble; at least they were together.
"Jack, answer me, Jack, answer me please."
If he stayed quite still, and stopped breathing himself, for that brief moment Daniel could feel the great vein in Jack's neck pulsing against his cheek as the blood journeyed through the unconscious body. As he concentrated on the steady thrumming, other, stronger sensations came into play: the burning on the back of his neck, the stabbing pain in his right shin, the lack of feeling in his left foot, the hair on his head pulling against his scalp.
"Jack!" Daniel tried to turn his head.
Another yank on his hair, stronger this time, as Jack cleared his throat. Daniel smiled as he felt the rumble against his cheek.
"You ever," Jack cleared his throat again. "You ever do that again, and I'll kill you myself!"
"Jack?" Daniel was confused and a little hurt.
"Why the hell did you come back in here? You were out. You were fucking safe! Then you came back in!"
Jack was panting heavily, and it suddenly occurred to Daniel he was sprawled right across Jack's chest, probably making it difficult for him to breathe.
"Jack? Im squashing you." Daniel started to lever himself up.
A sharp gasp was followed by an aborted moan from Jack, and Daniel stilled.
"Just chill, Daniel. Stay still. Theres nowhere for you to go." Jack patted Daniel on the head. "Only thing between your head and the shit on top of us is my hand and about two inches that's counting those short...hairs of yours."
"Oh. I thought I hurt you, the way you were carrying on," Daniel sniffed.
Jack was silent.
"I did, didnt I? Hurt you. Jack?"
"Its nothing Sliced the back of my hand on whatever's on top of us dont sweat it." Jack pushed down as Daniel automatically tried to look. "Stay still. Shit. You want a hair cut?"
"Jack? What's up there?"
There was no answer for a second, and Daniel opened his mouth to ask again, when Jack finally spoke.
"How in hell am I supposed to know? In case you hadn't noticed, it's blacker than a moonless night in here."
"What does it feel like?"
"What ? Sharp! Its sharp, okay? Satisfied?"
"Jack?" Daniel finally ventured.
"Thats my name dont wear it out." He knew he sounded irritable. Daniel should not have come back for him, but damn if he wasnt glad Daniel had come back. Although it would have been better if Daniel had come back beside him rather than on top of his lungs. A deep breath was a thing of the past.
A crushing load of helplessness washed over Daniel, and he held his breath a moment, trying to control it. He hated it when Jack was angry with him, especially when it was over something Daniel had no control over. Jack would have done the same thing, too, so why should he be pissed when Daniel did it? Didnt make sense, but there it was.
"Sorry," Daniel muttered miserably. "I just wanted to hearthat isI mean "
"Scared?" Jack asked softly, all testiness gone from his voice.
"Um, yeah. A bit."
"Me, too." Jack sighed, patting his head. "Well, Ollie, heres another fine mess youve gotten yourself into. Completely unnecessarily I might add. Not that I mind the company but why the hell did you come back into this hell hole?"
Daniel didn't answer. What could he say? That hed been trying to save him, but if he couldnt he couldn't bear the thought of living without Jack? That if Jack was about to die, he wanted to go with him?
"If it'd been me lying here, trapped, with you rescuing Tealc, what would you've done?" Daniel asked almost in one breath.
"Doesn't matter "
"The hell it doesn't!" Daniel started to lift his head, only to have it rammed back into the crook of Jack's neck. "I only want to turn my head to the other side," he protested. "Something's digging into my face, and it isn't part of you!"
Slowly Daniel raised his head a fraction; turning so his face was pressed to the skin of Jack's collarbone, nose against a raspy chin. He gave a big sigh.
"Better?" Jack asked.
"Yes, thank you," Daniel answered politely. Then, a moment later, "what would you have done?"
"Got any snacks?" Jack asked hopefully.
"No. And stop trying to change the subject. What would you have done if it'd been me stuck in here?" Daniel desperately wanted an answer to his question.
"Same thing, all right?" Jack growled, and then lightly chuckled. "Were both idiots," he admitted, fondly ruffling Daniels hair.
"Yeah, we make it work." Daniel snuggled closer and sighed.
Jack hugged him tighter and for a time they simply lay there in each others arms. They both knew they wouldve each done what Daniel had, and each would be angry that the other had put their own life on the line at the same time. It was simply a given; neither wanted the other to die and neither wanted to be left alone. Jack had experienced enough of that to last several lifetimes in the very long year Daniel spent ascended. And while Daniel couldnt remember that year, he had no doubt hed felt the same.
"Daniel?" Daniel felt Jack's chin move, heard the smile in the one word.
"Youre hurt, arent you? And were not talking about the hand."
"snacks?" Jack finished weakly. "Im fine, nothing a few band-aids cant fix."
"Why dont I believe you?"
"No clue, Daniel. Besides, its not like you have any band-aids in your pocket to help right now."
"How bad is it? Tell me the truth."
Jack sighed. "Pretty sure my leg is broken. My gut doesnt hurt and Im okay breathing except for this great weight on my chest, so I dont think I have any internal injuries. Feels like world war three inside my head, though. You?"
"Think my ankle's broken, can't feel my foot. Sliced my shin, head hurts. Burnt the back of my neck. My other arm's stuck under you."
"Good thing we're already lying down, then, isnt it? Wed both fall flat on our faces otherwise."
They were quiet after that, pressed together in the dark, listening to each other breathe, their body positions a parody of lovemaking. Daniel was, if not happy, at least content to be here. If this was the end, and they were to die here before help came, at least they were together.
In the darkness before death, secrets could be told. "I'd do it again, you know. Live with you. Die with you."
"Don't start, Daniel, we're not going to die."
"I know. I love you, too."
It amazed Daniel how Jack always seemed to know exactly what he meant.
"When I saw you with Tealc leaving me behind I thought that was it itd never I was glad you were going to be safe but I wasnt "
"Its okay, Jack."
"No, I gotta say this. I know I tore a strip off you before, for coming back for me but the truth Daniel, Im glad youre here. I dont want to die alone."
"You wont. We we wont," Daniel promised.
"And you know this how?"
"You told me we werent gonna die, Jack."
"Right. Whatever happens now, its okay. Its you and me, kid."
"Yeah, thats right," Daniels voice soothed. "You and me. All the way." He suddenly wanted desperately to see Jack's face. Raising his one mobile arm, he walked his fingers around Jack's head until he reached his face.
"I'm here, Daniel."
"Mmm." Gently his fingers stroked a path down a long nose, played with the scarred eyebrows. On one cheek, they slowed, drawing a design in the tears dampening the dust coating Jacks skin. Jack's arms tightened their hold.
"Scared?" Daniel asked quietly.
"For you? Always."
Daniel was briefly glad for the dark. " Do you think theres anything after? When you die, I mean?"
"Couldnt tell you. I have...no intention of dying so its not gonna be an issue."
"Thats realistic," Daniel snorted.
"You want realism? How about getting your bony elbow out of my kidneys?"
"Its not my elbow, Jack. Its not that either," he added quickly as his mind processed what hed said.
"Ooookay. Speaking of kidneys " Jack hinted.
"Yup. You havent seen a John nearby, have you?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Trust me, Jack, its not nearly long enough to reach," Daniel commented dryly.
"Houston, we have a problem."
"You mean you have a problem, Jack."
"In case you hadnt noticed youre lying on top of me with nowhere to go pardon the expression."
"Son of a bitch, Jack," Daniel gasped, banging his forehead against Jack. "I dont believe you! Were going to make quite a pretty picture when they finally unearth our corpses. Cheek to cheek, soaked with piss and these smiles on our faces nobody will understand." He started to giggle, then chuckle; before long he was shaking uncontrollably with huge gulping laughs.
"Daniel? Stop it. What the hell's going on?" Jack's voice was tight and anxious. "Daniel, don't bounce on me...your head's...shit, my hand...Daniel...oh, fuck."
A warm, pungent dampness spread itself between them. An embarrassed silence filled the small enclosure. Daniel coughed. "There isn't anyone I'd rather play latrine for, Jack. Don't give it another thought. 'Specially since I'll probably return the favor now that you've prepared the area and all."
"Idiot." Jack sniffled wetly.
"Are you crying?" Daniel asked incredulously.
"Certainly not," Jack answered, in an offended tone. "It's dusty in here; its playing hell with my sinuses."
Daniel grunted. "Jack? Im the one with the allergies. I wonder who blew the place up. Any why?"
"Yeah. Wouldnt mind ruining their day. They sure as hell ruined ours. Uh, Daniel? Quit moving around. I know things have gotten a bit uncomfortable but the wiggling isnt helping." Jack was beginning to sound slightly exasperated.
"Sorry," Daniel said. Silence again. Then, "How long do you think the airs going to last?"
Warm breath gusted across the bridge of Daniel's nose as Jack sighed. "Long enough for me to strangle you if you don't stop this worrying. Hell, you'd worry the hair off a dog.
"You love me anyway, though," Daniel replied smugly.
"That was a weak moment, kid. If I'd been paying attention, you never would have gotten under my skin."
For a quick second, old insecurities arose and Daniel was afraid he was serious. "Sorry," he murmured. "I didnt mean to bother you."
"Aw crap, Daniel, I didnt mean listen, crazy as it sounds if we werent pinned down like this Id be totally up for a whole lot of bothering. If I could move, I'd kiss you. If we had room I'd turn you over, onto your back and start licking. I'd start at the top of your head and work my way down. And I do mean down."
"What else would you do to me?" Daniel asked huskily.
"Where to start? I love your mouth you know. It fascinates me I dream about it. I want to take your bottom lip and suck it right off. You kiss like nobody I know; Daniel your tongue drives me wild. I could spend forever nibbling on your neck and sucking your nipples. I love your chest, and those hands! Your cock, your ass that perfect set of cheeks your legs. I even love your skinny feet.
Daniel was glad the darkness hid the furious blush he was sure was bottoming out across the soles of those very feet. That same darkness that was making Jack so unexpectedly, touching eloquent, inspiring his lover to utter these rare but precious words, unexpected but welcome gifts in what might very well be their last moments together.
"If we die here," Jack had to clear his throat again. "If we die here, I dont regret one single second I spent with you, Dr. Jackson. Swear to god."
Very, very carefully Daniel moved his head back until his mouth was touching the soft underside of Jack's chin. Very, very quietly he said, "I love you, too," and very, very gently he began to suck at the tender skin, tasting the dust and grime and the scent that was Jack. His tongue darted out periodically to rasp against the stubble that had begun to appear.
He felt Jack's strong hand cradle his head, one thumb stretching to rub away the tears Daniel hadn't been aware were falling. They stayed like that, waiting, silent, together.
Everything they needed to say had been said.
And still they waited, ignoring their hungry stomachs, their thirsty mouths, the small space that seemed to become smaller with every passing hour. Taking turns to sleep, as though they were out on a mission, one of them awake to watch over the other.
It was on Jack's watch the pounding and shouting began above them.
"About damn time," Jack griped, as he woke Daniel.
Together, they hollered back.