He woke knowing that it was 6:12 on a Saturday morning, that he was at Daniel's place, and that something was wonderfully right and horribly, horribly wrong.
The body in his arms was warm and sleep-softened, dense and heavy-boned, smooth, deliciously nude. He knew immediately that it was Daniel. The rich scent of him, beloved and familiar. The nasal sound of his even breathing. The texture of his hair, thicker than it looked, softer than it had looked since he started wearing it short.
His own body was dehydrated, spent, weighted with a sweet lassitude, and wrapped around Daniel's body.
Daniel's bed. Daniel's bedroom. Crazy woo-woo masks on the walls, aboriginal art, tomahawks, a sixteenth-century German arming sword with a bastard-style compound hilt. Last thing he remembered was unlocking his truck under the floodlights in the Cheyenne Mountain lot. Not a booze-related blackout. Hangover would have hit by now. Ordinary day onworld, paperwork, mission prep. Not a lot of opportunities for alien juju in staff meetings and coffee runs. Something in the lot, maybe. Beamed somewhere. Drugged. But he should remember the sensation of dematerialization, or the injector in his neck. Blow to the head was a better explanation for the lost time. But his head felt OK. No nausea. No concussion.
He had no idea how he'd gotten here. Had a pretty good idea what had happened here, though.
Against the sweet round swell of Daniel's ass, his groin was tacky and matted. His ass was sticky and sore. He passed gas, and a leak of fluid slithered down the crease between his butt and his thigh.
So, no rubbers.
Daniel expanded with a deep waking breath, and said, "Augggh."
Then he said, much lower, "Jack."
Then, sharply, he whispered, "Fuck."
Jack said, "I don't remember anything after unlocking my truck to drive home."
Daniel's arm shifted under the drape of Jack's arm, unfolding from its tuck against his chest, forearm dropping away from the curl of Jack's hand around it. His elbow came back as he reached to feel between his legs. He groaned, low and resonant. His heartbeat pounded hard through his back, into Jack's chest.
"Do you know what happened?" Jack asked. He still hadn't moved. His face was still buried in the tousled sweetness of Daniel's hair. His hand and forearm dangled where Daniel's arm had been. Moving would mean ... moving. Rolling over. Opening himself to whatever the truth was going to turn out to be. He knew he should move, but it was easy enough to rationalize taking stock first. He felt safe, up against Daniel's back, the back of his head. No eye contact. No space between them for the disaster this was going to turn out to be.
"Unless somebody had sex with me and then dumped me in this bed with you, I think it's fairly obvious."
Jack twitched to reach for a sidearm he didn't keep in this bedroom. No point; if it was that kind of set-up, the setter-uppers would be long gone, and it wasn't that kind of set-up. This place was completely surveillance-jammed. Couldn't take a photograph in here, couldn't use a dictaphone, a cell phone; the homes of all the top-level SGC personnel were shielded and stealthed to a point where they were lucky the landline and cable TV still worked. Unless blackmailers were using courtroom artists these days, nobody had posed them here to frame them.
He said, "So you don't remember either."
"I clearly remember agreeing that we wouldn't do this."
Daniel wasn't exactly rolling out of his arms, and Daniel's pissy tone was pissing him off. "And I clearly remember wanting to, which makes not remembering the thing in question pretty fucking annoying, on top of the whole we-could-be-compromised-beyond-repair thing."
Daniel sighed. It was soundless, but it felt shaky. He said, "Is there ... evidence that anything happened that you didn't want?"
"No," Jack said. Then, "God, no," repenting of his pissedness, understanding the reason for Daniel's brittle tension. He just managed to suppress an instinct to hug Daniel closer. "I was ... penetrated. But I wanted that. You?"
"The same. So at least we didn't, you know, rape each other. As far as we can tell." Daniel twisted onto his back and pushed up sitting. Jack drew his arm in so that he wouldn't be left touching what he'd be touching if he didn't move it, and sat up too. He winced, shifting from cheek to cheek in fruitless search of a weight distribution that didn't make his ass ache more. He covered it by twisting to snag Daniel's glasses off the spot on the nightstand where he knew they'd be, because Daniel always left them there when he was ready to sleep, and then he wasn't entirely sure how he knew that Daniel did that. Daniel accepted them with a noncommittal brow twitch, put them on, and looked around the room. "Nothing obviously out of place."
Jack grunted. He'd already pretty much scoped that out; knew the room well enough for that. He'd already considered forensics teams, cleanup crews, the nightmare that calling this in would be. Who would he report it to, anyway? Himself? He was The Man now. No Hammond to appeal to for help and discretion. He thought he'd made his peace with that, but there was always something. "Except our clothes," he said, gesturing with his chin at the tangled trail of underwear and jeans and khakis and shirts that led out into the hall. The bedroom door was open. A sock -- one of his, he thought, good thick plain white where Daniel still bought those crappy five-and-dime athletic socks with colored stripes across the elastic -- draped the bottom right corner of the bed.
"And us," Daniel said.
Jack felt his direct stare. He kept looking at the sock, then made himself look up and over, meet Daniel's eyes. "No," he said, "we're exactly where we're supposed to be. The question is how we got here, and there's only one way to find out without letting a lot of other people know that it happened."
"Tok'ra memory device," Daniel said. "But how -- "
Jack reached for the phone. "Home delivery," he said, and dialed Teal'c's quarters.
Neither of them showered, in case it turned out that they did have to preserve physical evidence. If it all blew up, the logged call from Daniel's line to Teal'c's, the testimony of whoever Teal'c got to sign the device out, and Teal'c signing out of the facility would paint a trail as obvious as the clothes they picked up off the floor, but the available work-arounds weren't worth the time they'd take. Within three-quarters of an hour the doorbell rang and Daniel went out to take a bag of Krispy Kremes from Teal'c and regretfully decline an offer to go for a morning run to work off the calories in advance. He came back into the bedroom, which Jack hadn't left in case this could still be salvaged somehow, and said, "Sam signed it out for him. She was there all night working on Prometheus stuff. He's going for a drive, says he'll swing back in a couple of hours."
Jack fished the baggied device out from among the doughnuts, then took a bite of doughnut for the hell of it, offered the rest to Daniel. Daniel sat down, took a bite, passed it back. With the device lying on the unmade bed between them, they ate the doughnut, trading bites and drinking from the two cups of coffee Daniel had brewed while they waited. Then Jack said, "OK, me first. Unless you object."
Daniel shrugged. "No screen, so I don't have to see it, so no, no objections."
Jack's gaze dropped briefly to the streaks of confectioner's sugar he was leaving on his pants, wiping doughnut off his hands over and over again. There were perfectly clean paper napkins in the bag. Nerves. If you could see what I see when I look at you, he thought, and then shook it off and waved at the device. "Lay it on me."
Daniel got up, came around in front, and placed it carefully against his temple. He jerked and grimaced -- attached itself like a spike through the head, which it pretty much was. He swayed through a dizzying rush of random associative memory -- Carter reporting to him on Prometheus upgrades a couple of days ago, hiking with Teal'c in Yellowstone last year, the beautiful bend of Daniel's body as he reached to pull an alien artifact from some temple cubby -- then slapped the mattress to either side and gripped hard as he heard the shot ring out in their bedroom upstairs and felt Sara rise out of his arms in horror, knelt down in the East German dirt to hold Michaels dying in his arms, watched the wormhole shut down and take the back of Kawalsky's head with it. Focus, he thought sharply, squinting, bearing down with his whole brain, and it was Daniel against a bulkhead of Klorel's ship with half his chest blown open, Daniel disintegrating inside gauze mummy wrappings in an infirmary bed. Last night, he told himself, and imagined standing in the parking lot, floodlights reflecting off the truck's hood, keying the remote, the thunk of the lock opening, the shape of the door handle as he reached for it ...
It was like the moment in a car wash when the conveyor engaged and started pulling the vehicle through. His will and his internal visualization process no longer controlled what he was experiencing. He opened the truck door and got in and closed the door and turned the ignition, and his cell phone rang and he swore and pulled it out and flipped it open, and he wasn't doing any of it, it wasn't him thinking Goddammit, so close, now what, except it was, because it had been, and he was doing it now, he just couldn't change it and make himself do anything different. It wasn't his aide on the phone calling him back inside for some crisis, it was Daniel, and he should have known that, because this was a memory, but he didn't, because it wasn't a memory he had conscious access to. He hung on to the bed and braced his feet, in voluntary control of his now-body, while his then-body, just as real in his perception, held the phone to his ear and listened to Daniel's voice.
"It's happening," Daniel said. "Right now. I'm aware of it but I'm still here." Once Daniel said it, he could feel it too, the surreal dissociation setting in, the sensation of walking into a dream. On top of the memory playback he was aware of in realtime, it was almost too much. His now-body fought a sick vertigo, shook its head when here-Daniel touched his shoulder and asked was he OK should he remove the device. His then-body said, "Crap, yeah, I feel it. I remember ... some effect, something I'm supposed to ... "
"Drive to my place," there-Daniel said, and his then-body filled with a painful mixture of confusion and dread and anticipation and guilt and resistance and yearning.
He didn't have access to his suppressed memory's memories. He didn't know what his then-self knew or didn't know. He had no idea what it was reacting to. He knew that that was a clue, but he couldn't make any sense of it. Knowing what probably lay in store, a night of penetrative sex with Daniel in Daniel's bed, filled here-and-now-him with almost the same conflicted feelings. Suddenly it didn't feel like letting this play out was getting back twelve hours of his life he was entitled to. It felt like he'd be invading there-and-then-him's privacy. Voyeuristically getting off on some other him's intimate experience.
"Maybe I should take it off you," here-Daniel said, crouching down in front of him, frowning.
"Maybe that's not such a good idea," there-him said into the phone.
"It's important," there-Daniel said into his ear. "You have to be here. I know that much. I know I'll remember more in the next few minutes. Just get over here."
"On my way," then-him said, thinking that this crazy-ass effect was like being present and conscious while you were driving through a drunken blackout, weird and fucking terrifying, and he'd do whatever he had to do to make it stop, even break his own heart, even if he didn't know -- yet -- how he knew in his bones that that was what he was driving to Daniel's to do.
He closed the phone and dropped it in his pocket and put the truck in gear, and said "Leave it" to here-Daniel, and "I'm OK" and "Only way to find out," difficulty enunciating, slurred but apparently comprehensible because Daniel sat back on his haunches, unhappy, worried, but not removing the device -- and then he was at Daniel's door, the door down that hallway and past the living room, coming in from the other side of the threshold and the other side of last night, then-him thinking that he didn't know which was worse, this working or this not working, while now-him thought Lucky there's forward-seek on this thing, take all day to replay in real time.
Daniel closed the front door behind him and turned to face him. "Remember now?"
He nodded, but now-him hadn't been there for the remembering part, and he thought, Come on, Daniel, explain it to me anyway.
"Explain it to me anyway," he said last night, "in case only one of us can play this back and it's me."
"There might not be time," Daniel said, walking past him and down the hall towards the bedroom. "We should do it first and if the explanation gets cut off and the memory doesn't encode we'll just have to live with not knowing. At least we'll live."
He followed, saying, "Without the explanation we'll tank both our careers by calling in a crew to figure it out."
In the bedroom doorway, Daniel turned on him and said, "You're delaying because you're terrified of getting what you want. Get over your martyr complex and suck it up."
"I'm not doing this unless I'm sure we're leaving a translation with the note. Can you type faster than you talk?"
Both of him gasped as Daniel stepped forward, grabbed his shirt, and pulled him in for a hard, hot kiss. "Arguing always was foreplay for us, wasn't it," he said against Jack's mouth, starting on the buttons of Jack's shirt, and Jack turned him and pushed him back stumbling against the hallway wall and said, "Talk, Daniel. You can talk and strip at the same time."
"What's happening," Daniel said, a flat, tense singsong.
"Dunno yet," Jack said, while Daniel unbuttoned his shirt and he toed out of his shoes and popped Daniel's fly. "You're ... about to ... explain." He was going painfully hard, his now-dick rising inside the khakis then-Daniel was about to tear open, except he hadn't torn them because they zipped and buttoned just fine an hour ago, and now-Daniel was raising a brow at the bulge in his pants as if to say, 'Explaining,' is that what we're calling it? Jack was just able to blurt "Hall, foreplay, talking" before he had to be quiet so that he could hear what then-Daniel was saying, and the doubled sexual arousal was so intense that he couldn't get any more words out anyway, then-boner and now-boner combining into a gestalt boner that made it hard to breathe.
While they stripped their way into the bedroom and over to the bed, then-Daniel explained what was going on and why they were using sex to break free of it. Targeted, calculated, planned, fast sex, no slow buildup, no luxury of handjobs, blowjobs, getting to know each other's bodies -- just intercourse, switching off so that they'd both be penetrated, coming into each other one after the other. He finished the briefing while he was lubing Jack's ass, while Jack's now-hand was groping under the pillow to see if there was a bottle, and all the air went out of Jack's lungs, both sets, as then-Daniel's heavy, muscular, beautiful, beloved body mounted him.
Then-him spread his legs and dragged in breath and said, "Now you know. Do us both a favor. Lose the device." Daniel thrust into the crack of his ass, saying "Are you talking to me or you?" in an unbearably husky voice right against his ear, and he said, "Probably me, because I know you explained it to yourself before I got here so if it's you we won't need to play back this much," and Daniel said, "You know you'll replay the whole thing for thrills, you dirty old bastard, and then I'll have to do it too so you're not the only one who was here," and he said, "Daniel, shut up and fuck me. O'Neill, this isn't for you, objective secured, take off the fucking device."
"Off," Jack said, "take it off," and Daniel pulled the device from his temple and he wrenched back and swung his legs up and rolled down onto his side and curled around himself in the bed, both palms pressed to his groin, not sure if he was trying to hold the orgasm in or make it happen.
Daniel's fingertips splayed on his back, light, hesitant. "You OK?"
"I'm so fucking turned on I can't think," he said. "Gimme a sec."
The fingertips slid away. Jack felt the pressure of Daniel's hands on the edge of the mattress as he pushed up, then felt his weight settle into the springs as he sat, down around where Jack's thighs would be if he hadn't gone fetal with overload. His temple throbbed. There'd be a mark, another breadcrumb to add to the trail of glaring obviousness. Maybe he could come down with the flu for a couple of days. Hadn't called in sick in a decade. "It was a dimensional thing," he managed as soon as he could, aware that it was killing Daniel to wait. "Slipstream. Two places at once, here and some other place. Kinda like sticking that thing in your head, actually. We were trying to keep from jumping to the other place again." He groaned and rolled onto his back. He wasn't making much sense and he knew it. The temple throb was escalating into a blinding headache. At least the pain killed the wood. "Couple aspirin?"
Daniel rummaged in the bedside drawer and came back with Excedrin Migraine. "I'm guessing we couldn't leave ourselves a note."
"Sore asses were the note. Semen was the note. Sex kept us from jumping, but we thought there might still be missing time, so we set this up to make us do exactly what we just did: play it back with a Tok'ra device." He elbowed up and washed the pills down with coffee. Hopefully the caffeine-and-analgesics cocktail would keep his head from exploding from the combined effects of the memory gizmo and the dimensional shift. "OK. From the beginning. Last month, the thing on 474."
"The induction ceremony? The thing where they insisted on nobody but the Tau'ri leader and a translator ... "
Jack nodded, and made a mental note not to move his head again until the painkiller kicked in. "That obelisk apparently did more than teleport those folks to the dais. It opened an oscillating gateway and attuned us to it somehow. That dreamtime they worship? It's a real dimension, and after that we kept getting pulled into it at random intervals. Sometimes there'd be some of them there, sometimes not. When they were there, they could answer questions, so little by little we filled the pieces in. But anything we learned there, anything that happened, we only remembered when we were there. That part of our consciousness was only accessible in the dimension where the memories ... how did you say it ... encoded. Only about a second passed here for every day there, so every jump passed in the blink of an eye and we never knew it was happening. They told us it was a malfunction. The field the obelisk emitted shouldn't have affected us, the usual story. Something went wrong. We were jumping too often. Aging a day for every second we spent there. The intervals were decreasing. It would kill us within another month."
"They never contacted us in this dimension," Daniel said. "Couldn't they remember? It's their dreamtime."
"What happens in the dreamtime stays in the dreamtime," Jack said. "Anyway, all the excess jumping was ... accelerating our elevation. The dreamtime is their happily-ever-after. They thought it was a blessing."
"But you said we were here. In the hallway. Talking." Daniel smoothed a hand over the rumpled bedding. "We had sex here."
"They said the only way to stop jumping to the dreamtime is to want something so much that you'd give up everything for it. An experience intense enough to override whatever pulls you across. Abort one jump and you break your link to the dreamtime permanently. To them it's a mortal sin."
"Rejecting immortality usually is. Kind of by definition."
"And that makes what for you now, twice?"
"They probably mythologized that dimension. I doubt there's any afterlife involved. Wasn't just ... I don't know, wanting to live enough? Wanting to go on doing our jobs without interruption, read books, watch hockey? I doubt that dimension gets ESPN, either."
"You said we tried other things, but you didn't say what. There wasn't a lot of time. One way or another, I guess we ... "
When he didn't go on, Daniel finished for him. "Found out that the only thing we wanted enough, aside from things outside our control like universal peace and dead loved ones restored to us, was each other."
The headache was ebbing, but Jack wasn't ready to risk a nod yet. "Yeah."
"I still don't get how we were here. How you had time to get here."
"We psyched up for it there. Meditated, focused, chanted 'Get laid get laid' over and over again, whatever, I don't know. They said with rigorous mental preparation, we'd have one shot at delaying the next transition long enough to connect with our dreamtime stream-of-consciousness and remember while we were still here. Remember enough to know how to keep it from happening. If we had that all-consuming experience in time, we'd stay here for good. So a jump started to come on while I was in the parking lot, and you called my cell and reminded me that there was something we had to do here, and I guess the prep worked. We hung on to this world long enough to remember. And do something about it."
"Something intense enough to override the jump effect."
Jack didn't remember what happened last night any more now than he had when he woke up. He remembered the excerpt he'd vicariously experienced through the device, but remembering that felt like remembering a movie he'd seen or a book he'd read. The only real memory he had was body memory. "I kicked myself out before the main event. Made you explain everything so I'd hear it when I used the device, then told me to get lost."
"Guess you didn't want an audience."
Jack thought it was more than that. If it were him -- and it had been him -- he'd want to keep the experience for himself, keep Daniel for himself, not share it all with some future version of himself, but he'd also want to spare himself a too rough, too fast first time. He'd know that in a few hours he'd be that other guy. He'd want the other guy to have his chance to do it right. Take it slow, savor it. Make love with Daniel instead of rushing into bed in a desperate bid to save their lives. Do us both a favor, he'd said. "I think I was telling myself to save it for the real thing."
Daniel glanced up sharply. "Or advising yourself not to torture yourself with something you can't ever have again."
"Hey, we gave up immortality. It wasn't for a goddamned one-night stand."
"It wasn't immortality, it was an early grave, and assuming it worked, sex served its purpose."
"Yeah? Then why didn't I meditate on some other earthly delight? Why didn't we just chant 'Whack off, whack off' and save ourselves the sore asses? I could have driven into a ditch or not made it over here in time. Borrowing that device could get Teal'c and Carter in deep shit. Why the hell would we have risked this if it wasn't more than sex?"
"I'm not saying it wasn't more than sex. You're my fucking heart's desire, Jack -- I know how powerful that is. It doesn't change anything. We solved the problem. I hope we enjoyed it." He got up and headed for the bathroom. "I'm hitting the shower. Let Teal'c in if he gets back. Figure out something sociable-looking we can all go do for cover." He closed the door behind him. The shower ran. Jack sat up, grunted in discomfort, and thought, Yeah how's a trail ride strike you. He cast a sour glance at the Tok'ra device. A memory buried in his head that he couldn't access without an alien gizmo, and wouldn't now even though he could. Some souvenir.
Then he blinked, and said, "Wait a minute."
He picked up the device, hesitated, then lay back in the middle of the bed, stuffed some tissues down his shorts just in case, and pressed the disc back onto his temple.
Daniel's dick filled his ass, felt like it filled his whole body, a stunning shock, zero to seven inches in the blink of an eye. The sweetness was mind-blowing. The pressure was more than he could stand. The sensation wasn't something he should ever experience this way. He moaned pitifully, closed his eyes, slapped a hand onto his forehead. Forward, he thought, forward forward forward, trying to run it ahead again. It resisted, or he was too weak with pleasure; Daniel was gasping in his ear, hoarse and wet, "Oh god Jack I'm coming, I'm coming ... " He flinched away from it -- wrong, wrong, his memory but not for him, not something this intensely intimate, this private, words he'd dreamed of Daniel crying in his ear cried into someone else's, later later later -- and he was lying on Daniel, lying facedown on Daniel's back while he lay faceup on Daniel's bed. Nausea sloshed through him at the change of orientation, at the physical impossibility of his soft dick inside Daniel's body, brain couldn't process what it couldn't remember being hard and pushing in there, brain couldn't deal with one dick coming up while the other was going down. He twisted the bedding in his fist and hung on through afterglow that wasn't his, the clash of chemicals, arousal warring with repletion, brain trying to make sense of both at the same time. He tried to flop over onto his face to reduce the vertigo, but he didn't have the strength. He counted, slowly, while the shower ran and postorgasmic high eased off and the fresh soreness in his ass overlaid the faded ache. At thirty-two, he said, "OK if I pull out?," and Daniel said "Yeah" as if he'd shouted himself hoarse when he came, then grunted, low into the pillow, as he withdrew.
"Think that did the trick?" he asked, while he lay there inside himself and outside himself waiting to find out whether it had or not.
Daniel was just starting to say something like I hope so when the surreal dissociation started to creep in around the edges, the sense of stepping into a dream without moving, one reality dissolving into another.
Fuck, Jack thought, in perfect synch with himself. Fuck, fuck, fuck.
It was happening in the memory, not in realtime. He tried to reach up and unplug the device, but the out-of-body condition it amplified and projected back into his brain had swept him away from his real body. He tried to call for Daniel, but couldn't tell whether he got a sound out -- he couldn't hear the shower anymore, couldn't hear anything. He sensed his own sentience around him and Daniel's sentience beside it, but there was a level of awareness that the memory device couldn't duplicate, and if they were communicating on that level he had no access to it. He counted off again to hear his own mind's voice, to give himself some sensory input, one ... two ... three -- and then there were shapes, and tastes, and scents, and sounds, too many and too mixed to resolve. He thought Out, eject, off, abort, stop as hard as he could, but the kaleidoscopic cacophony kept whirling and jabbering around him. Odors and flavors bloomed and faded, vanilla and clay and turpentine and licorice and gunpowder. A spill of silkiness trickle-brushed across his skin on one side, something cold and rough like concrete sidewalk on the other. He only had sense organs here when things stimulated them; in between he was nothing. His brain couldn't handle this. It wasn't worth whatever extra information he might squeeze out of this crazy passive self-surveillance. He tried to bang against the tangibles, knock himself out of the memory -- but it was a car wash. The conveyor gripped his wheels. He couldn't shift out of neutral. He wasn't even sure now whether it was now-him banging against whatever walls he could feel, or then-him.
Talk to them, Daniel. His own voice, clear as a bell inside the external noise. Find out what we did wrong.
I know what we did wrong, Daniel said. I know what I did wrong.
We delayed the jump. We did that much. We'll get it right next time.
I didn't believe it could be any more than that. Daniel's mind-voice was bleak, bitter. As brittle as his real voice was just after he woke up, when all this was a bad dream he didn't remember. I still don't.
What are you talking about?
I thought it might be enough. I hoped it would be enough. To have each other that one time. To get my heart's desire, one time, one memory to last the rest of my life if I lucked out and it stuck, one transcendent act of lovemaking to break this dimension's hold on us. That's all I expected. It wasn't enough.
Then expect more next time, you pigheaded defeatist son of a bitch. Expect forever. And use more lube.
We can't, Jack. We agreed. Four years ago. Nothing's changed.
Four years ago we made a mistake. New agreement. This time we go for it.
If I agree just to keep us from getting yanked back here, I'll be lying.
Then don't lie! Say it and mean it. Believe it. The rest of our lives. We'll make it work.
We'd be risking everything.
So what else is new? Can the martyrdom. Suck it up. The rest of our lives, Daniel. Beats the hell out of death.
"Jack ... crap, what the fuck, Jack -- "
He felt the mattress jounce right before he felt the icepick withdrawal of the device torn off his head -- Daniel had seen him lying there in whatever state he was in and launched himself across the bed to disconnect him. Reality snapped back into existence around him, Daniel's outraged face right over his face, Daniel's naked body on all fours over his body, skin shower-moist and warm, package dangling. Then he felt the dreamtime creeping up the edges of the universe, the encroaching dissolve engulfing the walls, the floor, closing in around them. Oh yeah. Perfect timing.
"Daniel." His hands shot up and cupped Daniel's face. Daniel's head jerked in startlement but he gripped it hard. Stroked thumbs gently over cheekbones in tactile apology, but didn't let go. "Sex didn't work because we thought it was a one-night stand. We have to commit to the rest of our lives, in this dimension, or we'll keep getting jerked back to that one. It's all-or-nothing here."
Gradually he saw comprehension come into Daniel's eyes, as the real memories started coming back to him too, borne on the otherdimensional tide lapping around the bed. He saw anguish creep into the blue, defeat in the face of an impossible choice. He didn't need telepathy or dimensional transference or alien gizmos to know Daniel's thoughts.
"It's a no-brainer," he said. Softly, gently, as if they had all the time in the world. "We hook up, for real, for good, and the wrong people find out, some shit hits the fan. We don't, and we die. Wouldn't you rather deal with scandal and busting me out of Leavenworth and setting up some offworld base where we can keep fighting Anubis and learning and exploring? Either way the Program takes a hit and either way the Program keeps on going. Choose happiness for a change. Whaddya say."
"'Get over your martyr complex and suck it up'? Seriously, I said that?"
Jack laughed. It felt glorious. "Hypocrite," he said, fondly, adoringly. "Ballbuster."
Daniel's eyes lost their looking-at-a-memory distance and focused on Jack's face with warm affection. "But I'm your hypocritical ballbuster."
"Yeah," Jack said, because that was Daniel's promise, that was Daniel's 'I do,' Daniel's 'I'm yours,' Daniel's commitment to as close to forever as they could get. "You are."
He could see Daniel integrating the dreamtime knowledge. He had to compile it in his head, too, align the full, real memories with the thirdhand Memorex excerpts. He stroked Daniel's hair while he waited for it to settle into him. He wondered if this was a little bit how Daniel felt when his buried memories came back.
Slowly, body going lax with relief, Daniel lowered himself onto Jack, straightened his legs, tucked his face in close. Jack shifted his arms down under Daniel's arms and closed them around Daniel's back, hands spread across his skin, holding him.
"It feels like it'll stay, this time," Daniel said. "I feel like I'll remember it when this is over."
It was already starting to be over. The surreality was receding. They'd rejected the damn dreamtime. Taken back what it kept from them and told it to get lost. Just them in the bed now, breathing, resting. No sex required this time. Just this. Just them.
Daniel smiled against his cheek. "It really was phenomenally good sex, given how ridiculously rushed it was."
Jack remembered. The experience belonged to him again. "I still want a do-over. And I wasn't kidding about the lube."
"Sorry," Daniel said, in that way he had of being genuinely contrite and also kind of not. "Where'd the bottle go, anyway? It wasn't in the drawer."
"No idea," Jack said. It hadn't been under the pillow he checked. "Floor, maybe. We'll find it." He turned his face a little more against Daniel's, and smiled. "Plenty of time."
The doorbell rang. Daniel lifted himself with a groan, dropped a soft kiss on Jack's mouth, smiled into his eyes, and got up to go let Teal'c in.
Jack wiped the memory device on the sheets, found the baggie and put it back in, and set it on the nightstand with a mental note not to forget the damn thing when they headed out. He made the bed up with quick efficiency, then gave the room a once-over before hitting the shower. Crazy woo-woo masks on the walls, aboriginal art, tomahawks, a sixteenth-century German arming sword with a bastard-style compound hilt; piles of books and papers on bureau and writing desk and chair, a box of old floppies and Zip disks he probably didn't have drives that could read anymore, candleholders within cringing distance of the books and papers, knickknacks that were probably priceless artifacts. Daniel's real bedroom, in the real world where they belonged. Stealthed to surveillance, shielded from beaming. Safe enough, and as much home, now, as his own place was.
Being in it, belonging in it, was a dream come true. Might as well get used to it, though. He'd be waking up here a lot from now on.