I'M ON YOUR SIDE
I'm outside your house
2 am, it's dark
so many mistakes
come back home from bars
I am on your side.
I just want to tell you off
so many lies are taking hold
it's not your fault
there's many scars
I am on your side
It's taken me a long time
I am on your side
I'm on your side
and I listen,yeah
Can you listen?
Now I'm listening
it's taken me a long time
I'm heading out tonight...
and I listen.
---"On Your Side"
Pete Yorn,off the cd-Music for the Morning After.
It's very late now, but his lights are still on; I stand here in the dark and watch his house, huddled against a neighbor's shadowing tree like some stalker or sick voyeur just waiting for a glimpse of the one he can't stop obsessing about. Damn you, Jack, damn you ten times over. It's my birthday, number thirty-seven, and I've chosen to launch it by standing out here at 2 am, wondering why I've made everything so shitty between Jack and me. Wondering why I can't bring myself to go up to his door, knock, and tell him. . . what? Just what the fuck would I say, now that I've ruined everything valuable, everything irreplaceable, between us?
Why is he still up, anyway? Maybe his knee is bothering him, despite his assertions to Janet earlier in the evening that everything was just fine, all systems go. I know he landed hard on the ramp when we were running for the 'gate on Cedco, trying to beat an angry mob of religious zealots who seemed quite insistent that we all be burned at the stake for heresy and trafficking in demon worship. Sigh. What the hell kind of job is this for a normal person to have; and how can I stand here, thinking back over the events of our last mission and feeling. . . nothing. Nothing much at all, no wonder or residual fear or even any interest in the medieval culture of the race we ran into on Cedco. Just. . . indifference, the same callous disregard that seems to have become my watchword of late.
Maybe there's some sports special on late that he wanted to stay up for, I muse now; some sudden death tournament or play-off he just couldn't miss. Who needs sleep when a crusty colonel can sit up, drinking beers he ISN'T supposed to be chugging--at least not in conjunction with the meds Janet put him on--and watching sweaty men battling for a ball of some sort or whacking each other with pucks and sticks or seeing whose dick is the biggest in some incomprehensible testosterone-charged contest. . .
God, I am really evil, really sarcastic and nasty tonight. It's a good thing for Jack that I AM staying out here under this tree, away from him, just communing with nature and spying like some lovelorn teen on the man who makes me so crazy-mad I could spit nails. The man who belittles me, pokes fun at me and the job I do for this damned country and the interests I have, even how I dress. The man who, despite all those minuses, has one big plus in his favor--he loves me. He truly loves me and cares about me; and as the bond between us has grown over these past few years of working together, of becoming best friends, I've come to realize that I love him, too. The bastard.
How could he do that to me, make me care so much again and lie awake all those endless nights, struggling with feelings of disloyalty and guilt about Shau're, about all we had together and how I could move on in my heart so soon after her death--could ostensibly find peace again with the last damned person you'd think I would ever be attracted to.
Jack O'Neill. Career military man, survivor of torments and traumas and tragedies to rival my own sordid life's story; the man who waits for me day after day, week after week, month after month, his brown eyes so terribly gentle and patient beneath the facade of sardonic curtness he so often employs as a screen. He wants to give me that peace, wants to show me all the ways that I can be whole again, can love again. But he won't push me any further than he already has; he says it has to be MY decision, that I have to REALLY know what I want and be ready to deal with the consequences. And I almost hate him for that; some part of me wants to storm in through his locked front door right now and tell him off for doing this to me, for making me insane enough to stand outside his house at 2 am to begin with.
I want it to all be his fault, want to get right up in his craggy face with its lines of character and suffering and hard experience and tell him what a prize jerk he is, what an arrogant oaf he can be when he puts on that obtuse front of seeming ignorance and incomprehension. The man is sharp, almost scarily so at times; and when he pulls that idiot act just to weasel out of any REAL conversation or interaction with the rest of us mere mortals, I want to knock him on his ass. But he taught me a hard lesson recently concerning my own obtuseness, gave me a close-up look at my own method of opting out and lolling in denial; he showed me he isn't the ONLY one who can play the clueless oaf with his head hidden in the sand.
He brought it all home to me when he came to my office that day two weeks ago and delivered up his surprise ultimatum; even absent the snarky tone and lazy glance he usually effects when he's delivering one of his personal edicts from on high, I still felt angry and defensive. Here was this middle-aged, graying man--the commander of our exploration team and my unofficial best friend--standing in my office and calmly telling me I needed to get my head on straight, needed to really LOOK at myself and my feelings and stop bitching and carping at him like an old fishwife all because I wouldn't face the truth.
Yeah, like you know any truths for my life, Jack, I'd retorted hotly, glaring across my desk at him as he just continued to stand there, patiently eyeing me as if we were having the most civil conversation in the world. Why do you suddenly feel the need to interfere in my business, I yelled, to probe into my private thoughts and feelings and act as though you understand one iota of even the first thing about any of it?! I ranted on and on, arms flailing and ugly rage building and building while some disconnected part of me stood watching, bewildered by it all. Why was I so upset--why had I more and more been pushing him away, treating him with increasing scorn and antipathy and downright disrespect? He had done nothing to deserve it, hadn't behaved any differently than usual of late in the course of our work and our friendship. So why was I suddenly so furious with him all the time, so dissatisfied with my work and so restless in my leisure hours; so averse to being alone, to having too much off-time to think, yet so unwilling to be with anyone else, to put forth the effort of making conversation and pretending interest in anyone else's daily life?
You know what you want, what you really feel inside, Jack had said to me that day, his voice strangely soft and low for him, his eyes as still and quiet as I've ever seen them. He didn't say one single word about love or sex or relationships; but as his gaze held steady on mine, I knew what he meant. Knew what he referred to and, suddenly, why; knew, as though struck from the heavens by a bolt of sizzling lightning, just what had pushed me into behaving the way I'd been where Jack was concerned.
I'm sure I looked ridiculous, my eyes starting out of my head with stupid shock as I gaped at him, my chest heaving with the rampant surge of vehement denial that tried to rise up within me. I was shaking, literally shaking, when I ordered him to get the hell out of my office, to stay the hell away from me at work as much as possible, to never open his lying, delusional mouth to me again. . . He just stood there, silent, nothing arrogant or smug or lascivious in his demeanor; he just looked at me, so calm and steady and unutterably sad. And then he just nodded once, his eyes going dark and weary, and he walked out.
That was two weeks ago; and it's been hell in the interim, trying to carry on as usual in front of Sam and Teal'c and behave as though things between Jack and me are just the same as always. I know they both suspect something--we've all become too close in our time together as a team for the tension between one close-mouthed colonel and one positively mute archaeologist to go unnoticed. Several times I've seen Sam poised on the knife's edge of inquisition, her naturally compassionate and giving nature urging her to pry just a little for the purpose of fixing whatever it is that's obviously gone wrong with us, with the easy friendship Jack and I once shared; but she always pulls herself back from the abyss, sees something in my eyes that warns her to hold her peace. I know it isn't fair, not to her and not to Teal'c; it isn't right that my emotional hang-ups and this latest identity crisis should impact the team as a whole. But I don't know what to do. I'm thirty-seven years old today, a widower with a lifetime of hurt and bad karma behind me; and I am stupid in love with my best friend and can't deal with it. . . don't WANT to deal with it. So much easier just to lie awake night after night, yearning for things I can't--won't--have, falling asleep only to dream the feel of his hands on me, imagine the taste of his kisses, the look that must come into his eyes in the middle of lovemaking, when he would be at his most unguarded, his most open and vulnerable. . .
Shit, what am I doing; how many drinks did I have at that bar before my errant feet found their way here, here to this wonderful, friendly tree sleeping in the quiet darkness across from Jack's house? Why are these tears coming so hot and salty and copious from my eyes, why does it hurt so much somewhere in my chest, a fremitus of anguished emptiness trembling around my heart? I need to get away from here, need to walk the miles and miles back to my car that I left parked alongside some deserted street when I realized I was a little too messed up to drive; I need to go home, home alone as always, and just go to bed. No girlfriend, no one-night stand, no warm body there for even a night or two to bring me release and forgetfulness and the simple physical succor of touch, of connecting to another body, if not to the soul inside it. . .
It's my birthday, I think morosely now; I could go out right this minute and find some lady willing to celebrate it with me in the darkness of my empty bedroom, or even in a motel somewhere; and then, once the sun rises and a new day begins, I could go out and REALLY meet someone, really try to start again and rebuild a meaningful hetero relationship in my life. God, I'm not getting any younger; but if I were to get busy I could still have a wife again, maybe some kids, still have the all-American dream and know that Shau're would forgive and bless me, that she would understand. . .
Is that what this is, I think now, suddenly; am I. . . afraid. . . to face my true feelings for Jack, afraid to really examine what I want all because I fear Shau're wouldn't approve? That maybe she'd feel. . . scandalized. . . by the notion that her loving husband had switched sides, that her 'Danyel' would suddenly crave the touch of another MAN, would find himself longing to be with someone who has to shave his chin stubble twice a day and dresses to the left? Oh, God, what do I do, my love, you who left me all too soon? How do I react to this, how do I face Jack O'Neill each day and act as though he's less than nothing to me, when inside I ache with love for him, with the need of him?
I've just done it, I realize now in dawning amazement, the proverbial light bulb clicking on inside my head as I stand huddled under this damned tree. I've answered my own tortured plea for enlightenment--I feel now deep in my soul Shau're's response to the question I've been too cowardly to face, and I know what I must do, what I really, really want. Quickly, before I can second-guess myself or harbor doubts as to Jack's feelings regarding this whole thing, I make my way across the deserted street, my footsteps quiet but nonetheless sounding too loud to me in the silence of deep night.
I'm thirty-seven today, I think with a vague sense of disquiet, even as part of me nurses a burgeoning sense of hope and tremulous anticipation; I'm thirty-seven resounds in my head as I move to face my future. I'm going to be forty in just three years, and how do I want my life to be then? Who do I want to be with, both now and in three years' time--whose face do I hold dear in my soul and seek for at the start of each new day? Simple, so simple--the face that appears in the open doorway before me now, the face that registers brief surprise and a touch of quickly masked concern as the door is flung open at my unexpected pummeling on its unyielding surface.
"Daniel. " Jack's voice is quiet, a tad wary, as he steps out onto his porch directly in front of me; idly I note that he's dressed in comfortable, faded blue jeans and an old t-shirt and that his feet are bare, and suddenly just the sight of him--his close proximity to me--has my heart pounding in my chest. His gaze is wide-awake, alert, and I can faintly hear the roar of hysterical sports fans screaming over the tv in his den somewhere in the depths of the house behind us.
"It's my birthday, " I say abruptly, stupidly, standing before him with my hands tucked under my armpits and my teeth chewing nervously, worriedly, at my lower lip. "I mean, I know it's the middle of the night still and everything, but technically it already IS my birthday, or will be at seven-fifteen am, because that's the precise hour of my birth--"
"How much have you had to drink, Daniel?" Jack murmurs, his eyes quietly sardonic on my face; a brief smile flits across his mouth, and I find my eyes drawn almost hypnotically to its contours, to the strong, thin line of his top lip and the fuller, achingly erotic pout of the lower. . .
"Never mind, " those lips say now, speaking to me, curving up just the slightest bit as I lean in myopically to study them, to unlock the secret language I know must be hiding somewhere within their tantalizing outline. "Where the hell's your car? You didn't try to drive here--"
"Left it, " I hear myself say dumbly, slowly. "Back. . . there. Somewhere. Took the keys, though. Safe, parked it safely. . . Somewhere. " Jack nods, relief warring with amusement in his eyes, and for a moment I am sober again, am sane enough again to want to argue.
"I'm not an idiot, Jack; I'm thirty-seven fucking years old today, you know. I think I have the sense not to drive when I'm drunk, I walked and it wasn't far, so I know I parked somewhere pretty close by. And I don't need YOU standing there with that snarky, shit-eating leer lurking on your face as you PRETEND to be all superior and composed and--"
"Are you sure, Daniel?" Jack's voice comes to me, cuts right through my senseless diatribe and into the center of my heart, my soul; everything else falls away, becomes extraneous and unimportant as those brown eyes pierce through me with agonizing gentleness, with uncompromising expectation. "Are you sure you don't need me standing here. . . sure you don't need me, period? What, Daniel; tell me what it is you DO want from me, what you need. Tell me why you're standing on my porch at two o'clock in the morning. "
I can only look at him then, can only stand there mute and foolish and vaguely aware that hot tears are gathering in the corners of my eyes; I can't speak, can't move, can only squeeze my hands so tight against the upper curve of my rib cage that I imagine I'll have bruises there tomorrow, faint crescent shapes of my own fingers marking the pale flesh beneath my shirt. I try to open my mouth, try to curse or beseech him or groan out some epiphanous incantation of love and need; but I am frozen, immobilized. And in an instant his gaze goes from stern insistence to something so tender, so needy and desperate and fierce, that I can't believe I really saw it true.
"For God's sake, Daniel, do you plan on driving me COMPLETELY insane; haven't you tortured me--punished me--enough?" Jack's words are low and hoarse, their tone furious and filled with a longing that settles all my doubts, all my selfish misgivings, once and for all. Before he can react, before another growling syllable can leave his mouth, I step into the hard warmth of his chest and feel my arms go up to circle his neck, feel my right hand cup the smooth nape just below his hairline as I forcefully---almost angrily--pull his head to mine. My mouth finds his, warmth melding to warmth with clumsy intensity. I think I am moaning aloud a bit, trying without success to unload the words, the feelings, inside of me into the moist cavern of his stunned mouth. Oh, God, if I'm wrong, if he knocks me on my ass. . .
"Daniel. . . DANIEL!" Jack's pushing me away, oh Jesus, he's rejecting me, I've waited too late, misinterpreted. . .
"Daniel. Please, just-wait-a-goddamned-minute. . . " Jack's hands are carefully pulling my arms from around his neck, his hips cautiously thrusting forward and pushing mine away from him, forcing my body back a step on his quiet porch. As I try to complete the separation on my own, try to turn and leave and stumble in shock away from the unbearable humiliation, he reaches out and grasps my shoulder, his eyes amber pools of unfathomable emotion in the dim glow from the light sconce next to his front door.
"Are you really you, Daniel?" he asks somberly, hesitantly, his expression intense as he holds me captive, his focused gaze not allowing me to escape. "Or is this a fifth of whiskey talking, a sort of birthday blow-up?" As my frown roams uncomprehending across his shadowed face, Jack lays a hand very gently against my cheek and murmurs,
"Tell me what you'll feel when it's eight am and the sun comes up and your mouth tastes like the inside of a garbage can and your head is stuffed full of cotton wool; how will you feel then, Daniel, when you look at me?" I want to turn my face into his warm hand, want to trace the callused outline of his thumb with my mouth and lose myself in the solid, protective strength of his fingers touching me, stroking me, cradling me. . .
"I love you, Jack, " I rasp instead, my eyes going slowly, reluctantly, to his. "I. . . just. . . " His eyes are infinite, are devouring my face, eating up the shape and substance of my words and filling, inexpressibly, with a mute need so intense I can only gasp out a strangled cry of answering need and mutter, "Please. . . please. . . "
And then his arms are around me, his hands splayed across my back with infinite care, the muscles of his arms trembling as he holds himself back from crushing me to him, from taking violently what his soul has so desperately needed from mine. He's trying to be gentle, to let me dictate what comes next; but I don't want gentleness, don't want tentative contact. I reach for him in return, wrap my arms around his torso and squeeze as though my life depends on it; and as a groan of helpless desire shudders up from his chest, I whisper again against his mouth: "Please. "
His kiss is everything, his mouth fierce and slow and tender on mine; his lips are sweet with hungry wonder, full and aching and beautiful in their relentless need. A heavy langor of love-drunken euphoria falls over me, a deep, throbbing pulse beginning in the secret center of my heart and radiating outward to every starved, longing cell of my body. My muscles are liquid warmth, my nerves crying out for his touch, for his mouth on every part of me, my soul craving his eyes upon me, loving me, even as his hands claim my willing flesh.
"Come inside, Daniel, " Jack whispers against my neck now, the husky rasp of his voice sending shivers down my spine. I feel his arms around me, drawing me to and through the open doorway behind us; and as I allow him to move me, as we both step willingly through his familiar portal into a completely new existence, I hear the words that my soul has needed, the words it knows to be true and right and perfect.
"I love you, Daniel; oh, God, how I love you. Happy birthday, with many more to come. "
"Show me, Jack, " I hear my voice respond, my hands clinging with love and lust and greedy need to the solid warmth of his body pressed so tightly against my own. "Show me how much you love me. "
And as he kisses--strokes--glides his way with me up the stairs toward his room, the incandescent glow in his eyes and his broken endearments let me know that I am where I belong, where I need to be. He told me once, years ago, "I'm on your side, Danny; if and when you need me, I'll always be here for you." And now I know it's time to return the favor, time to stand by his side and spend this birthday and all the ones ahead listening and loving and sharing everything of joy and life and spirit together.