Negotiation of Boundaries (and other obstacles in the dark)

BY: Delilah

Email: delilah_miranda@yahoo.com

Website: http://brothersinarms.tvheaven.com/delilah/sgslash.html

Rating: R

Pairings: Jack/Daniel

Category: Slash, Established Relationship

Warnings: Disability fic - this is one of the 'blind-Jack' stories.

Series/Spoilers: Sequel to "You'd Forgotten Love Could Mean This"

Notes: Thanks to Lyn for the beta! If I've left mistakes, as usual, the fault is totally mine. And thanks to Sideburns for prodding me with her pointy posting-stick. Ouch! That last one made a hole.

Disclaimer: Nobody's mine. I'm just borrowing.

 

NEGOTIATIONS OF BOUNDARIES (AND OTHER OBSTACLES IN THE DARK)

~Daniel~

I don’t like this. I don’t like this. I don’t like this.

The planet’s form of architecture seems to take the idea of stairs as a symbol of progress and double it. Steps are everywhere. Going up. Going down. Plus they’re narrow-treaded, the inhabitants being an apparently slight-footed people. And no railings. Like it would ruin the representation of civilization reaching upward if you, say, need to grab on to something to get there.

I clasp a hand over Jack’s, which nets me a puzzled, "what?"

"These guys sure like stairs."

Jack’s eyebrows lift at my muttering, wrinkling his forehead a little.

"Be careful," I admonish, "I think you might want the cane."

"What are we talking about here?"

Jack is clearly confused at the hissing panic in my voice. So they’re stairs. Stairs. They’re not some cosmic metaphor for all the reasons I think Jack should not now, or ever, go through the ‘gate.

"I mean it, Jack. These guys have some kind of step-philia. They go up. They go down. You practically can’t take two steps in any direction…" My voice trails off. Jokhan is frowning at me, still holding a hand out, pointing the way to the council chambers. I try to sound… cheerful. "We’re coming." I wave a little. "Just give us a second."

"You, uh, okay?" queries Jack, obediently reaching long fingers and snapping the thin white metal into shape.

"Yeah. Yeah." I take a deep breath. Jack’s the one in the dark and I’m having panic attacks.

"So?" A tanned hand waves in the direction of the stairs. "Where’s my descriptive video?"

I sometimes thank the deity of television that one of the few damn shows with SAP just happens to be The Simpsons.

"Steps, Jack. Right in front of you." I watch as he taps the cane against the riser. "They’re high and they’re narrow and there’s a bunch of them."

"’Bunch’ being?"

I hastily double count the blocks of white marble. "Twenty-two."

"Oookay." From the way Jack’s drawing that out I know that, along with Jokhan, Jack now thinks I'm an idiot. But Jack can’t see that there’s no way you’d build anything this dangerous in North America and call it a public building. "Coming, Daniel?" he asks.

I appreciate the restraint he exercises when, instead of just stepping up and letting him follow, I snag an arm around his waist, balancing both of us before I take the first knee-stretching climb.

"Damn," says Jack when we’re both stabilized and ready to take on the next one. He reaches out and lightly bumps the cane until he finds the riser’s height. "Are these guys’ legs made out of rubber?"

~oOo~

I am channeling Jack. The pre-accident version who would not let the most harmless of hosts split up the team for the night without a cross-examination worthy of Clarence Darrow. Only we’re not a team. And I’m usually the one soothing the ruffled feathers of our benefactors.

Who cares if it’s not proper in their society for two men of age to share quarters? I am not leaving Jack to navigate a strange room by himself. Their homophobia is their own problem.

Jack is saying it’ll be fine. All he’s going to do is sleep, anyway. But I’ll be damned if I’m leaving him alone in unfamiliar surroundings. Not when I remember the concussion he gave himself that night we slept on base and, half-awake, he forgot that he wasn’t in our bedroom and nearly decapitated himself on the nightstand, tripping over a rug that wasn’t supposed to be there.

Does the word ‘no’ not mean anything to these people?

"Look, I’ll sleep in the chair, on the floor, I don’t care. But I’m staying with him."

The planet’s version of me is doing his own smoothing over. I can catch some of the whispered native tongue. Enough to hear ‘aliens’ and ‘strange ways’. I can see the minister looking us over, his expression slightly panicky, thinking that we’re probably some of those evil, non-deity-fearing aliens his mother warned him about. I am trying not to look him straight in the eye and say "yes, Jack and I do it like feiring dogs." From what I’ve seen, feiring dogs being this planet’s answer to lust-struck bunnies with immediate betting pools on coupling lengths beginning every time a pair of the ragged-eared canines is spotted. And that’s about every three feet down any major thoroughfare.

But we’re not doing it tonight and we’re certainly not doing it here. All I want is to get Jack safely to bed and then fall into a deep sleep. Preferably without later being awakened to find Jack sprawled on the floor, cussing in Goa’uld.

That Jack finds all this amusing is something I’ll deal with later.

 

~Jack~

Until you lost your sight you never really noticed Daniel’s protective side. Your relationship had been too easily set by your first meeting and Daniel fell as easily into anthro-geek mode as you did into uptight-colonel. Uptight-colonel being much easier to do when you can actually survey the terrain.

So now you have these Freaky Friday moments when both of you switch personalities and find yourself stammering out the wrong side of the argument.

Which is how you end up trying to calm both your normally culturally sensitive archaeologist and your flustered hosts.

One of the problems with your nifty new eyes is that you can’t roll them.

Why Danny thinks you can’t survive eight hours without him is … well, okay, there was that nightstand thing, but if you have to pee you’ll just … hold it. You’re more worried Danny will insert his cultural foot in his mouth and end up spending the night in the dungeon. You’re actually thinking as moldering and damp and stony as this place seems to be there’s got to be a dungeon somewhere.

Doing his usual thing, Danny attempts to explain his position in the weird kind of consonant-heavy language that you find so many places. What is it with the universe anyway? There was, like, a surplus of k-sounds that had to be used up? Kree. Ka. Now something that sounds scarily like "karaoke" that apparently, if you know Danny (and you do know Danny), means "hell no, I won’t let the blind guy have his own room."

Daniel’s lips brush your ear as he whispers, "I’m going to have a sidebar with the minister, Jack."

"A sidebar? Is Judge Judy here and I just don’t know it?" This far along into your ‘adjustment,’ you can actually feel Daniel’s glares. "Okay, you’re having a… sidebar. Fine."

~oOo~

"It’s okay. I told him you were… injured… down there."

"WHAT?"

"Well, they’ve got a big same sex taboo. So, I told him the accident left you impotent, too, and once it was impossible that you could, uh, get it up he let me stay."

"Wait. You told him I was impotent?"

"Well, yeah."

"And why me?"

"What?"

"Why couldn’t you be impotent?"

"I thought it was easier since they’d already asked about your eyes that—"

"That my dick not work either?"

"Jack, it’s not like he’s going to share the information. He was very… sympathetic."

"Oh, great. Tomorrow it’ll be ‘look, kids, there’s a poor guy not only blind, but impotent’."

"It’s an ‘L’."

There was, last time you looked anyway, no ‘L’ in ‘impotent.’ "Daniel?"

"The room, Jack. It’s an ‘L’."

"Oh."

You really don’t like the having-to-memorize thing. Warm hands move you a few steps backwards.

"Okay, your back’s to the door. The bed’s to the right in the little part of the L. It’s on a platform, four steps. This is the sitting area. Bathroom is straight ahead and…" The hold on your arms tighten as Daniel stands on tiptoes to get a better view. "Down a couple more steps, I think."

More stairs. Just great.

You snap out the cane with a sigh that conveys well your feelings that the whole blindness thing is just one fucking inconvenience after another. Danny rubs your shoulders lightly.

"Think we can take a shower together?" you ask with misplaced hope.

"Nope."

"Damn."

~oOo~

So the staff has been extraordinarily gracious with you this morning, which mean’s Danny’s story has gotten around and the poor, blind-and-impotent guy is being given every consideration. Apparently these people have a real fertility hang-up and are perversely interested in anything that wastes valuable procreation time. Ah well, better this than having them realize you and Danny…

He appears beside you, although ‘appears’ is probably not the right word any more. It’s more that he’s a presence beside you, a tangible warmth in search of coffee – of which there isn’t any. Probably because it decreases fertility or something.

"Sorry, Danny. No java."

The reply is the low, muffled groan of the caffeine-deprived and he decides to taste you instead.

 

~Daniel~

I can’t help but watch Jack as he uncomfortably lets one of the servants – a young, barely-pubescent female, her gender undoubtedly owing to their stringent no-temptations-to-waste-precious-seed taboos – assist him with dressing in his full negotiating regalia. Jack doesn’t accept help well under the best of circumstances, and being wrapped in some kind of proto-toga is definitely not the best of circumstances. Even watching the young woman drape and tuck the cloth around Jack’s chest, I’m having trouble duplicating the actions.

For a man who joined the armed forces, an institution steeped in ritual, he has really no patience at all with this kind of thing.

"Hey!" I look up from my attempt at fabric origami to see Jack forcibly holding a hand away from the most sensitive portion of his anatomy. Besides the fact this could rapidly reveal our little ruse regarding Jack’s inability to care if someone wraps a hand around his dick, I’m sure suddenly being grasped and wrapped in linen was one hell of surprise. "Whadda you think you’re doin’?"

"Ke’tudah! Ke’tudah! Ke’tudah isohm kitda!"

This translates loosely as something like "A thousand-thousand pardons and you can have my beast of burden until the next moonrise."

"Fisophim." Uh… damn. Intransitive verbs. Okay. "Ket victak."

I take a step toward them, waiting ‘til Jack turns ever so slightly, acknowledging that he knows I’m there and wave a hand in front of his unmoving eyes. "Jack can’t see. Jack ket victak. You have to tell him what you’re doing. Uh, aphisem ke keparst." I make wrapping motions with my hands. "Ke… describe… describe… tekeva."

When the girl echoes my gestures, Jack feels the movement of the air and takes a wary half-step back. "Daniel? If she grabs me again I swear I’ll--"

"Uh, okay. Why don’t we see if we can get me dressed first, then maybe we can do you ourselves?"

"Do me?"

"You know what I mean."

The girl is still bobbing, now vowing to give us her family’s flightless fowl for her transgression. I mutter another ‘fisophim’, a form of ‘forgive’ that I hope allows me not to get stuck with this planet’s version of an emu and gesture her over closer to me.

I wonder how the hell the Asgard got involved with these people in the first place. And how they were wily enough to convince these guys that who they really needed to make a treaty with was the Tau’ri – operators of stargates and friends of the Tok’ra.

I hold out my arms like I’ve drawn the random search card at the airline gate and nod encouragingly. "Go on. Aphisem. Wrap me all you want."

Jack sniggers at the earnest tone of my entreaty.

Don’t worry. He’ll get his.

~oOo~

"Whoa! Daniel!"

This whole ceremonial garb thing is rapidly becoming distinctly hilarious, with two arms-length pieces of purple linen not wrapping themselves around Jack’s hips in any manner appropriate to the negotiation of a two-planet treaty.

"Think about Maybourne," I hiss, sotto voice. "Think about… Junior. Think about General Hammond and Sgt. Davis in a passionate embrace."

"Actually," ponders Jack, "that’s kind of strangely kinky."

 

~Jack~

There is no frustration like the frustration of having Danny’s hands wrapping you in whatever-the-hell he’s wrapping you in and not being able to…

Think about Maybourne. Think about Sister Mary O’Brien and the ruler she used to whap you with. Think about…

Danny’s warm fingers grip particularly tightly around…

Maybourne. Maybourne. Maybourne.

"There," says Danny finally releasing you and stepping away, probably to view his handiwork.

Thank God. You kneel down and feel for the thin, telescoping metal.

"No cane, Jack. Sorry."

Ah… fuck. Not only do you have to tread around in some kind of male sari that swirls around your toes and threatens to trip you, now they’re going to take away the only piece of technology still at your disposal.

"No ADA here, huh?"

Danny takes your hand and latches it onto his arm. "You’ll have to use your seeing-eye archaeologist."

Insecure is not in your nature. Usually. But usually you aren’t in some strange place in even stranger clothes, in underwear that freakin’ ties around your freakin’—

 

~Daniel~

"They’re not going to take you away from me, are they?"

You have to know Jack to know when the jokes aren’t jokes. And I know Jack. And that was no joke.

"Not if I can help it," I whisper back. "Come on."

I start forward only to feel Jack’s hand wrench away from my elbow as he stumbles on the purple edge of his k’dhent.

"Fuck," he murmurs, straightening up and holding out his hand for mine.

They won’t let him wear his dark shades either -- something about the sanctity of tradition. And he’s already ducking his head down, which won’t at all do for the chief treaty negotiator of the Tau’ri.

"Jack. You’re the Tau’ri ambassador. You’re gonna get through this. So …" I tug a handful of linen up to lift the hem to his ankles and wrap his free hand around the wad of cloth. "Hold the cloth up. Stand up straight and go give ‘em hell."

I’ll take that muttering Jack’s doing as a ‘yes, sir’.

~oOo~

This formal communication by special ambassadors stuff is reminiscent of 15th century Europe, where negotiation was by appointed ambassadors. Either that or King A would just write a letter to King B, saying marry my daughter or cede thy castle.

And protocol goes as far back as there have been contacts between states, with evidence of diplomatic protocol being found in the reliefs at Persopolis in ancient Iran.

Jack’s training in diplomacy goes back to last Tuesday when Jacob and Selmac tag-teamed him until he could recite the proper titles by heart. I got to help with body language as Jacob and Selmac couldn’t quite seem to get past the vision-thing and realize you had to place Jack in the proper position since he couldn’t look at you and mimic it.

As Jack says, it was some weird-assed shit.

For example: There are three recognized stances in the palace royal. The first, a simple and rather heroic posture that’s only acceptable in the presence of equals, is feet about a foot-length apart and slightly spread while your hands rest gracefully on your hips.

Jack’s version of a simple and rather heroic posture is both hands stuffed into the pockets of his khakis and a perennial slouch. This is, of course, not true when Jack is in his dress blues, but purple sheets are far from a trimly fit Air Force uniform.

However, position one is much easier to explain than the other two so anytime we’re not in the presence of Her Holy Highness of K’duhr, I’ve made an anthropological decision that Jack is the highest rank person in the room and may stand that way. Everyone else can go take a… pose.

The second stance is, according to Janet who apparently chafed at enduring ballet class as a six-year-old, the third enclosed ballet position -- feet perpendicular to one another with the weight on the rear foot and with the heel of the front foot at the hollow of the rear foot.

This is not easily explainable to vision-handicapped ex-colonels who know how to kick.

The third is to have the enclosed foot open sideways, bearing no weight and with the toes pointed out. The ritual headdress (if there is one) is placed under the arm that is on the same side as the foot that took the weight; the head turned toward the free foot; and the other arm rested easily but low on the hip.

This is, frankly, impossible to explain even to someone who can see.

So, we spent an entire evening in the tutelage of our CMO, all of us getting a little giddy (after Jack brought out a couple bottles of wine) over the term ‘perpendicular’. A giggly, drunk Janet Frasier is something to see. Particularly the next morning when she wakes up on your couch with serious bed-head and no idea how she got there.

 

~Jack~

This is simply screwing with your whole ‘positive outlook’ thing.

You feel buffeted in the crowded halls, even though the hall inhabitants part as soon as they realize you’re dressed to the nines. You’re walking so close to Daniel you’re practically enveloped in him.

You’d like to be enveloped in him.

Geez… even here you’re thinking with your well-wrapped other head.

Get a grip, Jack ole boy. You did the whole Goa’uld conference thing with Thor and there was a hell of a lot more at stake there than there is here. And besides, Daniel’s got you. Daniel will look out for you.

What’s left of the stubborn part of you balks that you’re even thinking that. The part of you that realizes you were never the brightest guy in class and now you’re apt to miss all that relevant information you used to get by looking -- well, that part way overshadows any residual stubbornness.

You, in fact, want to go home.

Want to go somewhere you know where the hell you are and there’s not just this seemingly endless dark space.

Basically, hell, you just want Danny to get you out of here before you make a fool of yourself.

 

~Daniel~

I have lots of tricks for ‘reading Jack’ now that we can no longer exchange meaningful silent messages with our eyes. And every trick I have – from noting how he’s holding his head to the pressure of his grip on my elbow -- is telling me he’s finally joined me on that edge of anxiety I’ve been toeing. Which is not what I need him to do. I need him to be the one who doesn’t panic. If anybody’s going to panic in this family, it’s going to be me, the bookish academic, and not Jack, ex-colonel who crawled his way out of Iraq.

Because if Jack panics (and, okay, there have been a couple times – blindness being one damn scary thing) then I’m not quite sure I’m not going to grab him in my arms and run screaming through the ‘gate. And that is not a good plan because I have never gotten the trick of that whole leverage-your-own-weight-over-your-shoulder-thing and

Teal’c isn’t here to do it for me like he did when our rescue from Merseger finally came.

And that really isn’t something I need to be thinking about now – that the last time Jack was on another planet, he came back burned and broken, cradled in Teal’c’s arms with me steadying his head against the big Jaffa’s shoulder.

The huge chamber doors are smoothly opened by two ornately attired ceremonial guards.

Jack leans even closer and I almost stumble. But he only wants to mutter in my ear. "Curtsey while you're thinking what to say...open your mouth a little wider when you speak, and always say 'your Majesty.'"

I close my eyes in gratitude – for Jack’s strange penchant for quotes from children’s literature, for his being able to pull both of us back from that line we’re toeing, for just the general whole irreverence that is Jack faced with seemingly pointless ritual.

 

~Jack~

You were worried about making a fool of yourself; right up to the time you got that Danny had already far surpassed you in the nerves department.

You hadn’t really thought much about the fact that your last ‘gate trip turned disastrous. It’s not like you blame the ‘gate. There were times you could have gotten shot by irate aliens in the gateroom without even breaching the big, round doughnut. But the whole resonance thing is clearly wearing on Danny.

There’s no time to think about that now, because Danny’s whispering in your ear that it’s time to bow and then take a seat on the floor so no petitioner’s head will be higher than Her Royal Highness’.

Have you mentioned to him lately how much you HATE this stuff? If not, you’ll be sure to include it after the festivities are over. And sitting down in a… dress? You should have asked Carter for pointers.

 

~Daniel~

Getting Jack gracefully down to the floor turns out to be easier than I expected which is good considering every nose in the place is pointed in our direction. Thor did his usual and made Jack out to be some kind of miraculous superman so now everyone’s trying to reconcile a very human and obviously blind Jack with Thor’s O’Neill-hero-of-the-Tau’ri.

"Danny?"

The query is a very gentle prod in my direction for more descriptive video and usually means "Gimme recon". If ignored it will be replaced with a disgruntled "Damn it, Danny" which means "Gimme the fucking recon NOW."

"Oh, just us and about a hundred guests, all awaiting the royal arrival. She’ll be right in front of you on a dais, on a pile of pillows. You can straighten all the way up and it’ll be okay, just don’t get up until I tell you." I try to smile amid the curious looks all being directed at Jack when what I really want to do is throw myself in front of him and hide him from prying eyes. "They’ve got some kind of buglers, probably to announce the royal entrance."

I spy Jokhan standing near a single door -- undoubtedly where Her Highness will emerge. "You got your speech down?"

Jack sucks in a deep breath. "I better." He pats a clumsy hand on my knee. "You got your translation?"

"I think I can handle it."

He leans in confidentially, his silver hair brushing my own. "Just say lots of k-things. They’ll never know the difference."

 

~Jack~

You’re just betting Danny is peeking at her royalness in that way you loved, blue eyes glancing shyly beneath those lashes Carter is jealous of. It’s a good thing Danny is a truly, truly good person because he would have made a hell of a con artist. You could see him bilking old widows, no problem.

And for once the pressure really is off you because these folks don’t know a stinkin’ word of English except for "Ambassador" and "Translator" which they say in a kind of starched, stilted way like they do in those horrendously boring English miniseries Carter likes to watch. As long as you don’t move, anything you say, no matter how diplomatically damaging, will be fixed before it is ever uttered out of Danny’s mouth.

It’s not that you forget how you love the guy, but you do forget there are so many reasons to love him.

And the boy’s clearly done good. Whatever’s going on, it sounds successful. Cheerful. Happy.

The bugles resound when you’re not expecting it and you wince slightly at the blare. This is followed by a hushed silence then, just as unexpectedly, there’s a strange hand parked on your shoulder and it takes all you can do not to shake it off.

"Danny?"

Danny clears his throat. "This is… uh… this is her Royal Highness, Jack. And, frankly, everyone’s shocked that she’s down here and I’m not quite sure what we’re supposed to do."

 

~Daniel~

The whole time the queen has only had eyes for Jack.

Oh, she’s listened and nodded and agreed that communications channels should be established, protocols determined, goods exchanged, everything we came here for approved with a wave of a slender hand holding the royal orbed scepter. The one I’m sure Jack, if he could see it, would refer to as ‘the bowling ball on a stick’. Personally, I’m wondering how she could possibly even lift it at all, never mind, one-handed.

But even with all that waving, she hardly took her eyes off him.

It’s… curiosity, I suppose. People stare. I’ve gotten somewhat used to it. And she is staring. Or was staring. Now that she’s decided to come down into the masses, all the K’duhrens have gone face down on the tile. I make an abbreviated gesture of putting forehead to flooring but I’m not going to make Jack do the same.

I admire his self-control when she grasps his shoulder. I should have warned him but I was too surprised at the apparent breach in protocol to do it in time.

"Danny?"

This time Jack’s very subdued ‘Danny’ masks what he’d really like to say, which is "Gimme the FUCKING recon right this FUCKING second, you FUCKING hear me?" Jack can load a lot into a single word.

Maybe, maybe, she just wants to say hello to the hero-of-the-Tau’ri.

"Ma’am," says Jack politely after I explain what’s going on, lowering his head in what may be submission to her rank but what is more than likely just an attempt to hide his eyes.

"My queen," I translate … loosely.

"His sight was lost in battle with the enemy?"

Ah… so that’s what it is. Wounded war hero. I just hope that stupid story I made up to ensure we could share a room hasn’t made its way to royal ears.

"Yes."

Even if I’d realized she was going to touch him, I really wouldn’t have had time to let him know she was about to take his chin in hand so she could get a better look. I can see his jaw muscles jump but he holds himself steady with remarkable forbearance. I grasp his hand when I see her other hand move toward the silvery scars. A warning. An apology. A promise I’ll get him the hell out of here as soon as I can.

The hand in mine trembles but nothing else outwardly betrays his discomfort. When she finishes, she lays her hand atop his head and says ‘K’icosn’, which in its basic form simply means ‘blessing.’

It is in all likelihood an honor in their culture to be examined by the queen.

I squeeze the hand in mine tighter.

 

~Jack~

"Another day?"

Your inner child is working overtime on fit-pitching but years of self-enforced subservience to higher ranked officers makes it hard to be too whiney to George Hammond.

"Sir…I’d really like to get out of here."

"I know you would, Jack." There’s sympathy in Hammond’s voice. "But they want to throw a shindig to celebrate the treaty with you and Dr. Jackson as the guests of honor."

"Chips and beer?" you ask in sincere hope that Danny is quick to quash.

"They’re going to sacrifice a fatted ok’adu. I think it’s some kind of giant goat."

Whining may be off limits, but you are not above begging. "General—"

"Twenty-four hours, Jack. I know you can make it."

Of all the times to have confidence in you.

 

~Daniel~

"Jack, I can do this."

The thing about being gone more than 72 hours is, because of the nature of the staff burns, your eyes -- while a hell of a lot better than they were – are still not to the point you can keep the prosthetics in very long without cleansing the surrounding tissue.

Janet can explain it – all you know is that every two or three days you have to report to her and have your eyes sucked out.

"Tell ‘em to call Janet. The woman can make a house call if it’s all that important."

Crap. Daniel’s knelt and put both hands on your knees.

"Jack, I brought the kit."

"Damnit!" You bounce off the kneeling body and careen hands-out into the middle of the room. "I don’t want you doing it, don’t you understand that?"

This whole thing is turning into some horrible family vacation from your youth where you end up frustrated and yelling at the only people you truly care about.

"I don’t want you seeing—"

You try to step back to ward off Danny’s approach and land a heel against the risers leading up to the sleeping platform. The subsequent gymnastics land you butt-hard on the floor with an aching ankle and Janet makes a house call anyway.

 

~Daniel~

Among the perks of Jack remaining a consultant to the SGC is that Janet remains his primary care physician. And how many doctors these days actually make planet calls?

Sometimes I think we don’t think enough about how we wouldn’t have made it without Janet. Not just Jack and me. All the SG teams. We all know Warner is a competent doctor but there’s not one of us who wouldn’t want Janet Fraiser instead. Janet is a bundle of barely-5-feet steel that supports us all.

She’s my respite Jack-care giver. The one who saves me when it all gets to me at the same time it’s all gotten to Jack. Like now. The only other person who can handle him. Sam’s got the height and the martial arts training, but Janet’s got the balls.

"Colonel?" She’s looking past me to the grouchy lump on the bed. The lump with one swollen ankle cushioned on a stack of K’duhrean pillows.

The no-longer-quite-applicable rank gets his attention the way nothing else would. He waves a subdued hand in her direction and assumes an innocent look.

Piercing brown eyes peer up at me and I gesture toward the other end of the ‘L’ – the furthest away I’m going to be able to get from Jack’s attentive hearing.

"What happened?" she whispers, moving into covert physician mode.

"He didn’t want me seeing…" It’s been a while since I couldn’t bring myself to say it, but I just gesture toward my own blue eyes and Janet gets the picture easily enough. "He was backing away from me. Yelling. And he tripped. I think it’s just a sprain."

Janet pats my arm. "Take a walk, Daniel."

I don’t know what goes on between the two of them in these moments where I’m either dismissed or given my freedom, depending on my point of view at the time. But I’ve learned, with Jack’s help (he’ll even sing the mangled Paul Simon lyrics to me, off-key), that I’m not a rock. I’m not an island. I need to let people… assist. I need to let Jack rant. It’s just this is one topic I’m too close to and I need to let Jack rant to someone else.

When the door closes behind me I just stand for a while in the corridor, not sure where to go. Then Jokhan sees me and I’m captured. I might as well get something out of the night. Jokhan says he’ll answer any questions I have. And as the partner of a ‘differently-abled’ ex-colonel, I do have one.

"So, Jokhan, exactly what’s with all the stairs?"

 

~Jack~

Sure fingers knead your ankle. Not at all like Danny’s gentle touch as he was lifting your leg onto the pillow-pile. The pain makes you feel perversely better.

"Yow!" you gasp when she hits a particularly sensitive spot.

"Sprain," determines Janet, patting your shin. "Let me wrap it."

"So I don’t get to go home?" You know it’s a long shot but at this point you’ll try most anything.

"Afraid not." Janet pushes your pants leg up and begins her binding. "So… you going to tell me how you did this?"

You make a dismissive gesture. "Clumsy."

This will not work and you know it. Janet says you have the best proprioception she’s ever seen, which turns out to just be that you know where all your various parts are and what they’re doing. Apparently you’re far less klutzy than your average blind-guy. Though you couldn’t tell it from the number of times you end up stumbling against Danny or, worse, someone else who doesn’t share Danny’s lack of embarrassment at coming up with a handful of bumbling ex-colonel-now-civilian-consultant.

"As long as you’re here…" You find your hands are picking nervously at your BDUs.

A small hand covers your uneasy ones. "Sure, Jack."

Janet’s competent touch is the only one you can bear doing this. Not the nurses’. Not the ophthalmologist’s. And definitely not Daniel’s. That one day you may not have access to the mountain and Janet is something you refuse to think about.

It shouldn’t be like this. Ocular prosthetics are supposed to be cleaned once a month max, but with staff weapons fire it seems all bets are off. What remains of the tissue in your eyes has never fully healed after the enucleation, although the pain is gone. Janet just worries – a lot – about infection, so every few days you’re yanked on and sucked out and filled back up with antibiotic wash. The ironic thing being that your eyes still feel dry and scraping the sensitive part of your eyelids over your nifty composite eyes can be torture if you go too long without drops, while behind your baby browns, enough stuff is building up to produce mutterings from Janet.

This is the little part of your blind life you’ve managed to keep away from Danny.

"Jack." You try to hold still as Janet does her thing. "You know that you don’t look that bad, don’t you?"

Yeah. No eyes is no biggie, right?

"When the prostheses are out, your lids tend to close over the implants."

You know why she’s doing this -- because Danny told her how you went stumbling backwards and ended up on your ass just to keep him from doing the very task she’s currently completing.

"I don’t want him doing this."

"Okay," agrees Janet. "But I think you ought to stop worrying about Daniel seeing you like this."

"I have to uphold my reputation."

The wash is cool and you wince causing Janet to steady your head.

"And that would be damaged if Daniel had to do this for you?"

"I could do it for myself."

"Not to my satisfaction," she demurs. "You need to be able to see if there’s inflammation."

The news that you’re not trusted to look after your own eyes is not encouraging.

"You said it might… stop."

"Jack." The doctor takes her optimism bashing seriously. After all she was the only one brave enough to tell you you’d seen Danny for the last time. "There’s been no improvement. I think this is your situation and you’re just going to have to adjust to it. You need to let Daniel help you with this."

"No."

Danny counts up to ten in Arabic and then back down in Sumerian if he’s really pissed. You suspect Janet counts in Latin.

"Okay. Okay." The brief rush of air you feel, you know, is Janet raising her hands in defeat. She finishes up in silence.

"You need to stay off that ankle," she orders when she’s finally done with the sucking thing and you’re back to having something that at least resembles eyes.

"Yes, ma’am," you acquiesce, feeling thoroughly chewed over even though your own personal Napoleon hasn’t raised her voice.

"I’ll get them to get you a cane or a staff or whatever they have here but I want to you stay off your feet as much as possible." The hand pats your leg again. Janet is a toucher, a firm believer in the hands-on approach to medicine. More so now that you need touch to know where everyone else is. Where you are. "Be back. I’m just going to see what they have around here you can lean on."

She means, of course, besides Danny who you lean on all the time.

 

~Daniel~

"Janet?" he asks, turning an ear toward the door.

"No, it’s me, Jack."

"Ah," he replies like I’ve just told him Denver is in the playoffs and the satellite dish is down. The silence hangs between us for a moment then he gestures off in the direction of the bathroom. "She’s gone to find me something to lean on."

"Ah," I reply in kind.

"Look, Danny—"

Jack isn’t good with words but he’ll try… for me. Because he knows I am… that language is my only true… language.

"I… I shouldn’t have yelled." He shifts his legs a little and winces. "Or backed into the damn stairs and ended up on my butt."

"It’s okay." I tell him. Even though a few moments ago it wasn’t.

He lifts his head like he’s searching for me in the blackness we both know can’t be breached. After a minute he closes his eyes. He doesn’t know how disconcerted I was to find, after the surgery, that his eyes no longer close fully in sleep. That his lids slide only partway down leaving a crescent of white and brown that makes him looks restless and hurt even when he’s deeply unconscious, dreaming about catching the old bass that lives at the bottom of the pond by the cabin. Those are the good dreams. The bad ones all seem to be about me being captured and Jack being lost in the dark, hearing me call out for him from some place he can never reach.

I cross the floor and sink on the padded bed, my hand catching one of his. This is our glance now. A touch on the hand or the shoulder. Occasionally a foot nudging an ankle underneath the table. Our visual cues all turned clumsily tactile.

When the door opens I lift my hand from his, not knowing who might be about to intrude, but it’s only Janet, a carved staff that’s nearly as tall as she is in her hand. As she brings it closer I can see it is familiarly crooked.

"What?" asks Jack.

"The K’duhrens loaned me a staff," provides Janet, handing it over as I’ve already reached for it, wanting to see the piece better. "Now you’re only to use it for tomorrow’s official functions. Otherwise I want you sitting with that foot up."

I look up briefly to take in Janet waving a finger Jack can’t see menacingly. "I mean it."

The staff reasserts its considerable pull on my attention -- gold-plating on top of what looks like ivory, equidistantly banded by rings of blue copper. I am deep in communion with this unexpected piece of Egypt, light years from my birthplace, and barely hear my name being called. "Hmm?"

"Earth to Daniel Jackson."

"In a minute, Jack. This looks just like a Heqa scepter."

I’m vaguely aware of Janet moving closer and rubbing a hand over Jack’s bicep. "I’m going, sir. Try to stay out of trouble."

"The Heqa scepter symbolized the very concept of ‘rule’ in ancient Egypt. Its shape was even employed as the hieroglyph for ‘ruler.’" My mutterings are more to myself than to Jack or Janet. I talk to myself all the time. Much to Jack’s glee …

"Goodbye, Daniel."

Huh? Oh.

 

~Jack~

"Bye, Janet." Danny barely catches a breath before moving on. "You know, the earliest example comes from a tomb in Abydos. Not my Abydos. Abydos in Egypt. Actually it was Abdjou but the Greeks mis-transcribed it. There was one in tomb U-547, dated to the late Naqada II period. Not our Naquadah. It was a culture at the early start of the pre-dynastic era. The earliest representation of a king carrying the crook is a small statue of Ninetjer from the 2nd Dynasty. Later on, the king held the crook across his chest together with the flail, like King Tut."

You know he only calls him ‘Tut’ for your benefit – the one Egyptian ruler you can actually name.

"The crook may have come from depictions of the ancient shepherd deity, Andjeti."

"When your ship reaches orbit, Dr. Jackson, could you radio me?"

The reply is pleasantly annoyed. "No."

"No?" You repeat, acting… injured.

"This is just fascinating, Jack. I thought the K’duhrens were probably taken from Mesopotamia because their ancient writings are cuneiform- based, but this is a near-perfect replica of a Heqa. Look." He commandeers your hand to run sensitive fingertips over his discovery. "

"Danny--"

"Yeah, Jack?"

You want him to know you are sorry – truly sorry that there’s this part of your life you have to keep hidden. To keep your pride. To keep… going. But you’re no good with words.

"I love you, Dr. Jackson."

"I love you too, Jack."

A warm glowing feeling lights your face with a smile that Danny doesn’t notice ‘cause he’s too busy grabbing your hand again and running it over god-knows-what that’s got him excited, all prior hurt vanished for this moment.

"Jack, look at this. That is a cuneiform inscription on a dynastic Heqa."

It may feel like nothing more than a bunch of dents in a metal pole, but Danny is giving you a gift, sharing the little carvings because they make him happy and he wants you to be happy. You imagine that countless times as a child Danny found his gifts rebuffed by the majority of people who don’t give a shit about the things Danny loves and never will. Actually you don’t give a shit about Egyptian staffs with cuneiform inscriptions either, but you love Danny and want him to be happy and so you willingly take the gift for what it is – that Danny is giving you his best, his all, everything he is and cares about. A gift so precious that you are unnervingly aware of being the swine Danny casts his pearls before.

 

~Daniel~

At least for the night of the banquet Jack is, in the eyes of the K’duhrens, everything Thor claims. I’ll deal with his ego later, but right now I’m happy as hell to see everyone bowing and scraping to the Hero-of-the-Tau’ri while Jack looks gracefully bemused and tries to not undo everything we’ve accomplished by being Jack O’Neill instead.

I’m trying to translate, so for the sake of accuracy I’m not touching any of the fermented-honey-and-nectar concoction they keep plying on us. Two small cups of it has already gotten Jack a little too relaxed for his comfort and I can see him struggling not to slump and settle into a little heap of hero with a big smile on his face.

As for me, I’m busy wishing I’d brought the video recorder.

Cultures are… amazing. Even in what we consider authoritarian Earth societies there is generally some laxing of rules under certain conditions. The Amish have Rumspringa. The Puritans had bundling. And the K’duhrens apparently have Vek’na, celebrated maybe once or twice in any one lifetime when major history is being made.

As far as I can tell it involves potent ancient mead and the return to pre-reform times when seed was spilled with unwise abandon. It’s kind of like an orgy of masturbation with pre-determined gender rules thrown out the window. Male-and-female and male-and-male seem to both be acceptable pairings. Female-and-female is apparently still taboo but even Jokhan has taken a… hand in the proceedings with one of the officers of the palace guard.

Jack has maintained a semi-regal pose but even in his inebriated condition the onset of moaning is hard to ignore.

"Uh… Danneee, iz tha’--?" His tongue is thick but I still get the question in the question.

"Oh yes, the K’duhrens continue to surprise."

Jack frowns. "Danneee?"

This is the gimme-fucking-recon version of ‘Danny’ well lubricated by honeywine.

I lean closer to him even though our guests are otherwise occupied. "Well, they appear to be celebrating our treaty with mutual masturbation."

"They’re milkin’ each other’s weazel? Charmin’ each other’s cobra?"

Oh no, there’s no way a drunk Jack O’Neil is going to outdo me in the synonym department.

"Well, some of them are spearing the bearded clam."

His face screws up in intense concentration. "Lookin’ for the girly gusher? I though’ that was a no-no."

"It appears the procreation taboo’s been put on hold for the—" an intensely coupled male/female pair stumble over us in reciprocal panting, "—duration."

I draw Jack closer to me, out of the possible path of any other clumsy couple.

 

~Jack~

You’re not quite sure you’re actually engaged in a competition with Danny about who knows the stupidest term for draining the lizard. Because you are drunk. Knee-crawling, tomorrow-morning-you’ll-be-commode-hugging drunk.

A condition that, years ago, should have taken fair quantities of Jose Cuervo straight-up to accomplish. Only as far as you remember you have been nowhere near a lemon chaser since 1989.

But somewhere in the pleasant haze that clouds your mind, there’s the seeping of a pleasanter warmth that is Danny’s arms wrapped around you and you lean back into the blessed heat. That’s right before your brain rattles into second gear and you remember touching Danny is a major violation of something-or-other, punishable by something-or-other… else.

"Danneee." You push with the grace of a wounded octopus at the steady grip that surrounds you. "The ta… tab… the spilly seed thing."

"Oh, don’t think we need to worry about that right now," says Danny in a bemused voice, his words ruffle your hair as he tucks your head under his chin.

 

~Daniel~

"Don’? Then you’re saying we can—"

Well, we could – if my partner wasn’t a pliable, warm heap lolling against me.

"Think we better save that, Jack." I watch the dance of the almost-orgy revolve around us and take advantage of their distraction to press a soft kiss to Jack’s forehead.

"Mmmm," he replies, burrowing sleepily against me.

Just my luck. I’m invited to a planet’s orgy of the century and I spend it with Jack napping against me. I observe Jokham’s clumsy handling of his partner’s purpling flesh and compare it to the exquisite pleasure that is Jack’s long fingers. That will be my exquisite pleasure just as soon as I get him back through that damn ‘gate.

~oOo~

"Good job, Jack."

I’m sure I just imagined hearing the slightest hesitation in the general’s voice and that he didn’t almost say "Good job, SG-1." But it’s nice to know that even in Hammond’s eyes SG-1 hasn’t really been SG-1 without Jack.

Jack responds with a cocky smile that will take me days to wipe off his face. Thank god.

"Hero-of-the-Tau’ri, sir." He does a little regal demi-bow. "I’m practically a legend—"

"—in his own mind," I put in, grinning just as fiercely. Hell, practically ecstatic to be on the ramp leading down from the Stargate, deep in Cheyenne where Jack knows his way around and you have to go looking behind heavy steel doors for the stairs.

Hammond purses his lips at the stage-show that SG-1’s been sorely lacking. Rinehart is a good commander but she’s no Jack O’Neill. Which is – actually – a good thing. I have my hands full with just one of him.

"How was the party?"

Hammond blinks as the question freezes both of us on the ramp. Jack suddenly, unfamiliarly, speechlessly gaping.

"Party, sir?" he recovers.

"Yes. The one you didn’t want to attend," prods the General.

"Uh… yeah. Well, Danny here can explain all about it." He points at his still swollen ankle and limps like he’s playing Laura Wingfield. "I promised the doc I’d let her check it."

The general’s curiosity has turned suspicious.

"I really should help him to the infirmary," I apologize, pointing in the direction of my rapidly retreating partner who obviously knows the way to the door without me.

"Dr. Jackson."

I run a hand around the back of my neck.

"Um… well, the K’duhrens turned out to be this odd combination of ancient Mesopotamian and Egyptian influence if you’re talking about their writing and symbols, but if you’re considering social customs they’re actually more a combination of what we would identify as ancient Chinese and Roman societal mores. The Chou dynasty operated under an early Taoist doctrine dividing women and men into the yin and the yang, with the male’s yang being limited. So it was forbidden for men to use up their yang essence without acquiring plenty of yin in exchange. While the Romans were well known for celebrating events –"

The general’s eyes glass over somewhere around the word ‘Taoist’ and I’m being waved off before I have to come up with a euphemism for ‘orgy of masturbation’.

 

~Jack~

There are things you still see. Will always see. Danny’s face when he’s engrossed in his work. Teal’c’s raised eyebrow. Carter that time she slipped in the path of the flow on that mud-volcano planet. The house that’s become yours and Daniel’s.

Every step has an intimate history, brings with it a mental picture of your home as it was before Danny came bearing untold tomes and a collection of aboriginal spears. Here you are not afraid of the yawning maw of blackness.

There are also things you will never see. That had no chance to be seen.

Which is why when you drop everything on the hall tile and press the warm, six-foot of archeologist against the nearest wall, you bring your hands to the sides of his face, trailing fingers down his features before bringing your lips to his.

Daniel is strength and living warmth. His mouth is moist, tropical heat. His skin, a smooth expanse that causes your cock to stand at attention.

You follow a strong arm out to Danny’s callused hand then cup it over your groin. "Impotent, huh? I’ll show you impotent."

Danny only says ‘show me’ in a voice so urgent and low you think you’ll never make it the 37 steps to the bedroom.

But you do, walking backwards in a showcase of agility and balance that you only seem to manage when you have Danny in your arms, his silken skin occupying your lips. Which has, you’ll admit, technically nothing to do with walking but, hey, if it works who are you to change it?

All the while you’re also being methodically stripped of your shirt.

The back of your legs hit the bed and you follow, landing with an ‘oof’ as you’re rapidly smothered by solid archeologist crawling over you to pull off his pants, proceedings which you’re very interested in. Questing fingers are rewarded with hard knees that become very lightly furred thighs and then morph wonderfully into your goal.

"Jack?"

Not that he’s complaining, but you can hear the questioning in Danny’s voice.

"You had to watch," you explain.

Your thumb brushes across the slit in the glans, and becomes slick with pre-cum, eliciting a little moan from Danny.

"Not as good," he sighs.

"This isn’t as good?"

"Noooo… oh god, Jack."

You nestle your head in his groin, mouth taking over from hands. Danny will figure out whatever he’s trying to say in a moment. He tastes of musk and salt and a swipe of your tongue causes muttering in some kind of Mediterranean dialect. His hands card your hair the whole time, then suddenly grip convulsively.

He comes in a beautiful spurt of scent and heat.

"Love you, Jack. Love you," he pants, English language skills back on board.

The warmth enfolds you as he bends forward, his legs shifting, to plant a kiss on your mussed hair.

You mumble into his tight stomach, "Not as good, huh?"

"Perfect. Perfeito. Täydellinen. Perfekta." His lap hiccups as he laughs. "You should have seen ‘em, Jack. It was like a bunch of horny kids just figuring out they could jack off. Jokhan grabbed his partner like it was a door handle. One of the guys got off before his female co-- …manipulator and tried to take his leave and she expressed her displeasure with a platter of those jellied fish-things."

You love Danny when he laughs – something that still doesn’t happen enough.

"I’m sure you had the corrections all scoped out in the lesson plan."

"I did, Jack. I did."

You wrap your arms around his waist. "I can see the flyers now. Dr. Jackson presents ‘Everything an Alien needs to Know about Paddlin’ the Pickle’."

You are carefully disentangled and rearranged on hypoallergenic pillows where Danny proceeds to impart his in-depth knowledge on the subject of prestidigitation.

You will never see Danny in the throes of passion but you know his heat and his touch and the naked scent of him.

It is more than you would have ever hoped to have.

~end~

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