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October 2009
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Christmas fic

carronlaforce demanded asked nicely for a pre-slash well over a year ago. I've been resisting. I mean, what's the point? I like The Big Payoff! *g* But after much badgering gentle persuasion and talks of 'the slow burn', and 'emotions'. I've managed to produce one. It's an AU, FireChief!Jack and Psychologist!Daniel. PG-13ish

Now I'm off to bed because I have to wake up in less than five hours to catch a flight.

Happy Holidays!



"Mister O'Neill?"

Jack looked up into the friendly eyes of the receptionist. "Yes?"

"Brian is running a little behind. He'll be with you in a few minutes."

"Thank you," Jack said with a smile. He could wait. He was here for a standard debrief, like one of the many he'd been through before. This particular incident hadn't hit him very hard, he wasn't in crisis or stressed, so his tolerance level was high, at least for him. He turned back to the magazine he was reading.

Jack heard the a door open and looked up. A man walked through and over to the receptionist's desk. "Lynne, do you have the file for my next appointment?"

The receptionist smiled warmly at him then searched through a pile of folders on her desk. "I have it right here, Daniel." She chose a file and handed it to him.

"Thanks," he said and turned to go back to his office. Jack got a good look at him. Daniel was tall, around six feet, and very well built. The cloth of his shirt hugged his biceps and the rolled up cuffs revealed well-muscled forearms. The light blue of the shirt, opened at the throat to reveal a smooth column of neck, brought out the color of his eyes. Not that Jack usually noticed such things, but there was something compelling in their depth and warmth. Daniel paused at the door and turned to sweep his gaze over the reception area, caught Jack's eye, smiled in acknowledgment, then walked through the door, giving Jack a good look at his tight backside.

Jack felt his mouth go dry and a tightening in his groin. Christ! "Who was that?" he murmured to no one in particular.

"That," Lynne answered with a smile, "Is Daniel Jackson. He's Brian's new partner."

"Did I say that out loud?" Jack asked with a sheepish grin. Lynne laughed lightly and went back to her work. Jack looked back at his magazine, but no longer focused on the article he'd been reading. Partner? That didn't mean partner, partner, did it? Surely she meant business partner. Besides, Brian was straight, wasn't he? Jack gave a mental shrug. What did it matter? He was too old and worn out to attract a guy like that anyway. He forced his attention back to the article and read for a few minutes until the door opened again.

"Jack!" Brian said, walking out to greet him. "Thanks for waiting. Come on back."

Jack got up and shook hands with his friend and shrink. "How's my crew doing?" He asked as they walked to Brian's office. "I know this one was tough."

"They're coping," Brian said and indicated for Jack to sit in one of the comfortable chairs, taking the other for himself. "Losing someone like that isn't easy."

"I know," Jack agreed. "Especially when you try like hell to save them."

"How are you doing with this one?"

Jack shrugged. "Okay. I'm more worried about my kids."

Brian gave him a penetrating look. "Wasn't one of the victims a small boy?"

Jack nodded.

"About Charlie's age?" The question was gentle.

Jack swallowed, a little surprised at the sharp pain that lanced through his chest. "Yeah, he was," he admitted quietly. He watched Brian watching him. "It's not easy," he continued. "But it's not as hard as it used to be, either."

Brian gave him a warm smile and settled back into his chair. "Why don't you tell me about it?"

Jack walked outside into the warm, late-summer afternoon. Christ. He hated going to these debriefs, but had to admit that they did help, and the empty space in his soul that used to be filled with Charlie's laughter wasn't exactly filled, but was finally, finally, surrounded by a soft cushion of time. He breathed deeply, smelling the warm smells of rich soil, growing trees, blooming flowers. With a start he noticed that birds were singing. How long had it been since he'd taken any pleasure in the little things in life? Far too long, really, and he felt a flash of guilt, because wasn't something like losing a kid something you were never supposed to get over?

He climbed into his truck and headed back to the fire station, driving on autopilot, then looked around in surprise when he realized he wasn't at the fire station after all, but at the cemetery. He put the truck in park and sat there for a moment, taking deep breaths. He only came here twice a year. Once on Charlie's birthday, and once on the anniversary of the accident. Today was neither of those days.

Jack turned the engine off and climbed out of the truck. He made his way through the rows of graves until he spotted a marker that made his heart seize up. He swallowed hard and walked up to his son's resting place. "Hi, Charlie," he whispered. Memories crashed through him. Memories of Christmas mornings, swimming lessons, Sunday morning breakfasts. "I miss you, son," he said gruffly. "And I swear, I'm not forgetting you. . ."

The sun was warm on his back, soft breezes licked the sweat from his skin, the smells of freshly mown grass assaulted his senses. He heard a scolding noise and looked up to see a wren busily feeding her chicks, all of them jostling for position. Life. The world was filled with life and the living. Maybe it was time for him to join them again. He looked at the grave again. "There is a place in my soul where you are, Charlie," he said softly. "A place that will always be yours . . ." Jack took a deep breath and didn't say anything more. He knew that Charlie understood. He'd been a dad full of life and love. He hadn't been that man in a very long time. He'd turned into a man that his son wouldn't recognize. It was finally time to change that, maybe just a little. Jack crouched down and trailed his fingers over the warmed stone, tracing his son's name. "I love you," he whispered.
~~~

Jack pulled up to the fire station and cut the engine. He reached over and grabbed the grocery sacks filled with candy. It was a tradition. All the neighbor kids stopped by to gawk at the engines and score some chocolate on Halloween. He also reached for the mask he'd bought. Usually, he assigned someone else to pass out the sweets, but this year he'd do it himself. For some reason, he'd really gotten into the spirit of things this year, even going so far as to help put up the spooky decorations.

"Hey, kids!" he sang as he hauled his burdens into the living area. "Are we ready?" He plopped the sacks down in one of the chairs and started ripping open the bags, pouring the candy into a large bowl. The table was laden with platters of sandwiches, meat and cheese trays, casseroles, and coffee urns, regular and decaf, as well as hot cider so the adults could warm up while the kids ooed and awwed over the fire engines.

"Sir," Sam asked cautiously, looking at the mask. "Homer Simpson?"

Jack laughed. "Why not? He's my hero." He grinned impishly as he took it from her.

Sam laughed and relinquished the formed rubber. "You're really getting into the spirit of things this year."

Jack shrugged. "I'm having fun."

"Yes, you are," T commented, eyeing the candy. "The kids are going to go nuts." His hand reached out, oh-so casually, toward a pack of M&Ms.

Jack slapped his hand away. "Hey!" he said indignantly. "Those are for the kids!"

"I am a kid!" T protested, then grabbed a pack and backed away defiantly, ripping the wrapper open and pouring the whole thing into his mouth with an mischievous grin.

Jack glared. "Just for that you get to scrub toilets for the next week."

T shrugged easily and walked by, snagging another treat before heading out to the garage to check the equipment.

"Make that two weeks!" Jack yelled after him, struggling to hide his grin.

T waved an arm over his head and made a garbled reply, the candy in his mouth muffling his response.

So far it had been a quiet night in the rescue department, but a very busy one in the candy-giving area. Halloween might be a dying tradition, but most parents still wanted to give their kids those memories, and the fire department was a safe way to do that.

Jack was having a blast. A knock on the door, a blast of cold when he opened it, and a shouted chorus of, "trick or treat!" had him grinning from ear to ear. He peeked outside after passing out candy to a group of five kids. Nope, the coast was clear for the moment. He pulled his Homer mask off and scrubbed his itchy head, heading to the kitchen for a quick cup of coffee. He'd managed to down a third of it when another knock sounded. He put the mask back on and opened the door to a raucous round of, "trick or treat!"

Christ, there must be twenty kids out there, he thought. He squatted down in front of a young girl, ignoring his complaining knees. "You're a very pretty princess!" She looked at him shyly and hopefully held out her plain paper sack. Jack laughed and tossed a handful of candy inside, then stood up and moved to the others, commenting on their costumes. He finished with the last kid and stood up, finally taking notice of the adult with them.

Blue eyes.

It hit him like a punch to the stomach. Jack was grateful he was wearing a mask, because he wasn't sure what his face looked like, but was absolutely sure he didn't want anyone to see it. Christ. Kind blue eyes, filled with good humor looked at him. His heart stuttered and he fought to keep his body from swaying closer. The attraction was immediate and powerful. Jack gave himself a mental shake and dragged his attention back to the kids. "Wanna come see the fire engines?" Shouts of 'yes', and 'please', and 'can we?' answered him. He opened the door wider and indicated the way. "Right through there." A tussling stampede of costumed kids raced for the engines, his team standing ready to show them around.

Jack took a deep breath, schooled his features, and pulled his mask off. "Hi," he said, reaching out his hand, hoping the coolness of the night was keeping it from being sweaty. "I'm Jack. Welcome to the madhouse." Warm, rich laughter reverberated around him, seeming to settle right in his balls.

"I'm Daniel." Daniel reached out and shook Jack's hand.

Oh Christ. Was that a jolt of electricity? What was he, fourteen? Jack covered his disquiet with a rakish grin. "Why don't you come in and warm up? We've got stuff for grown-ups, too."

"Thanks," Daniel said, rubbing his hands together. "It's getting cold out here."

They moved to the table and stopped for a moment to watch T lift the little girl up so she could get a better look at the drivers seat. Jack looked over at Daniel. Short dark blonde hair, beautiful features, almost as tall as he was, well built. He remembered that from Brian's office. Hell, it had been creeping into his thoughts more and more lately. And now here he was in the flesh. The man moved with an unconscious grace, comfortable in his skin. "So, Daniel," Jack said. "How did you end up with so many kids?"

Daniel laughed. "I volunteer at the orphanage. I thought it would be nice for the kids to come here."

Jack smiled. "I'm glad you brought them. Ummmmm, I wouldn't," he finished in a conspiratorial whisper when Daniel got a plate and reached for one of the casseroles.

Daniel's hand stopped in mid-air. "No?"

Jack shook his head. "Not unless you've got a handy Geiger counter. Sam made that." He jerked his head, indicating the woman.

Daniel grinned and jerked his hand away. "That bad?"

"Even worse," Jack promised. "Here, try this one instead."

They got some food and sat down to watch the kids. Jack felt a little disoriented. Daniel smelled good, crisp and clean with an underlying hint to soap and something earthy. And were those actually butterflies in his stomach? He cleared his throat. "Any of these yours?" he asked, indicating the children.

Daniel swallowed his bite of sandwich, and Jack absolutely wasn't watching the way his throat worked. "No. None are mine."

Thank god there was a burst of laughter and squealing, so Jack could look away. "It was very nice of you to do this for them."

Daniel shrugged easily. "I grew up in an orphanage. I like giving back." He leaned back and took a sip of cider. "Do you have any kids?"

The question cut through Jack. "No. Yes. I did . . ."

Daniel looked at him intently. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely. "I didn't mean to hit a nerve."

Jack smiled. "You work with Brian, don't you? I saw you there."

"Yeah. I moved out here a few months ago."

"From where?"

"Back east."

Jack turned to look at him again, puzzled. "You don't sound like you're from back east."


Daniel smiled. "No, I grew up in the mid-west. I was teaching out there. Brian and I were in school together. He knew I was looking for a change, so offered me a job here."

"You're a Psychiatrist?"

"Psychologist," Daniel corrected easily. "I liked studying people, and it was either that or anthropology, and I like to eat." He patted his stomach with a smirk.

A loud knock resounded through the station. "Back to the old salt mine," Jack said ruefully, standing up.

"Yeah, I've got to get the kids back," Daniel stood up as well. He put out his hand. "It was nice talking to you, Jack."

Jack shook his hand. Nice firm grasp, warm palm, and that definitely wasn't a jolt he felt again. "Listen," he said, pulling his mask on to cover his expression. "I cater a Thanksgiving dinner for the guys who work that day. Stop by if you don't have plans."

Daniel's smile lit the room. "Thanks! I'll do that."
~~~

"Daniel!" Jack greeted him with a large grin, one he hoped wasn't too sappy. "I'm glad you could make it!" Jack did a mental happy dance. He'd been wondering if Daniel was married, but since he'd shown up alone it seemed that he wasn't.

Daniel smiled back and held up two bottles of sparkling cider. "Non-alcoholic. Still festive, though."

"You didn't have to bring anything," Jack scolded. "But I'm sure they'll be appreciated. Come on in, grab some food, and I'll introduce you to everyone."

The fire station was packed with laughing families and friends, the air jovial and happy, despite the fact that some of the fire fighters were actually on duty. Kids darted around, getting under foot, adults sat or stood in small groups, readily mingling. Thanksgiving decorations added to the holiday air.

"Wow," Daniel said. "I didn't expect to see so many people here."

"It's sort of a tradition," Jack explained. "We like to take care of our own, and if we can make a working holiday better, we do, so we all get together."

Daniel smiled and walked over to the loaded table, positively groaning with food. All the traditional Thanksgiving fare was represented. Turkey with rich giblet gravy, mashed potatoes, corn, casseroles, rolls, different kinds of salads, several kinds of pie. He pointed to the green bean casserole and whispered, "Did Sam make that?"


Jack choked on his drink, fighting to keep from spraying it all over Daniel. "No," he snorted a laugh.

"Oh good," Daniel said with a grin. "I like that stuff."

"Go grab a plate and dig in," Jack encouraged.

Daniel loaded his plate and sat.

Jack sat next to him and tried not to stare.

When was the last time he'd been this attracted to another human being? Had he ever felt this way about Sara? He must have, or at least close to it, but a part of him thought that this was completely new, this feeling of intense connection. He and Sara had married after they found out she was pregnant with Charlie. Their son had been the glue holding him together, and it had worked, very well in fact. But when Charlie died they'd unraveled, just crumbled away from each other like loose building stones that had lost their mortar.

"Jack?"

Jack startled out of his reverie. "Sorry," he said with a sheepish grin. "Gathering wool."

Daniel smiled and stood up, his plate empty. "Why don't you show me around before I hit the desserts?"

Jack grinned and stood up. "Sounds like a good idea." He fought the urge to guide Daniel with a hand to the small of the back and started circulating around the room. They were chatting with a small cluster of people near the stations control center when Daniel sneezed. Jack looked at him inquiringly. "Catching a cold?"

Daniel smiled ruefully and pointed to the chalkboard. "Allergies," he explained. "Chalk dust makes me sneeze."

Okay, probably no flowers then.

Jack groaned inside his head. Flowers? Christ. He had it bad. You didn't send a guy flowers, did you? His experience with men was limited to a two intense, short-lived affairs and numerous anonymous encounters. The affairs had been a life time ago.

The more time Jack spent with Daniel the harder he fell. The man was brilliant, warm, funny, and had a knack for putting people at ease. He could talk to anyone about pretty much anything, on their level. He got into an in-depth discussion with Chris' teenager about a video game, talked plot-points of the latest Harry Potter novel with Mike's ten year old, talked excitedly with Sam about the latest computer technology . . .It went on and on.


Jack was in awe.

Crap. This guy was way too smart for him.

The party wound down. Jack realized with a start that he hadn't left Daniel's side the whole time and felt a little funny about that, then gave himself a mental shrug. He'd had a good time. A really good time. Daniel was putting his coat on, getting ready to leave when he gave Jack a dazzling smile. "I'm glad you invited me. I had a fun."

"Better than sitting home alone," Jack grinned back. "You were the hit of the party." Aw shit, was that a blush? Jack felt his cock give an interested twitch.

Daniel made a study of putting his gloves on. "Listen. I won two tickets to the next Avalanche game . . ." His voice trailed off uncertainly.

It was the first time Jack had seen him anything like off-balanced and his cock twitched again. Down boy. "Should be a really good game," Jack said encouragingly.

"You like hockey?" Daniel looked into his eyes, searching.

"Oh yeah," Jack grinned. "I almost turned pro."

Daniel smiled again, shyly, and Jack had to tighten his groin and prayed fervently that no one would notice that his pants were getting a bit tighter. "Would you like to go?"

"Sure," Jack said with as much casualness as he could muster, then laughed. "Actually, I'd love to go. I tried to get tickets but they were sold out."

"It's a date, then," Daniel said with a warm smile.

Jack couldn't breathe and just watched, hoping he didn't look as dumbfounded as he felt while Daniel walked out the door.
~~~

"You said you'd almost turned pro," Daniel said, the bleak Colorado landscape whipping past them on the way up I-25. He was driving competently, weaving in and out of the traffic climbing up Monument Hill.

Jack nodded absently, going through Daniel's CD collection. "I got an injury, then Sara got pregnant, so thought I should choose a safer way to make a living."

"And you went into firefighting?" Daniel laughed out loud. "Yeah, that's lots safer," he teased.

Jack grinned. "I guess I'm an adrenalin junkie." He looked at one of the CDs with surprise. "You like opera?"

"Yeah," Daniel admitted.

"Me too."

"Well, put it in!"

Jack loaded the CD and the opening bars of La Boheme wafted through the air. They listened for a few moments then Daniel asked, "Sara. Is that your wife's name?"

"My ex-wife," Jack corrected. "We kind of fell apart after . . ." He cleared his throat. "After our son died."

Daniel glanced over at him. "I'm sorry, Jack."

Jack nodded in acknowledgment, swallowing the lump in his throat. "He . . .it was a car wreck. He didn't stand a chance."

Daniel reached over and squeezed his knee. Jack felt grateful for the expression of sympathy. "How long ago?" Daniel asked.

"Five years, one month, thirteen days." Jack stated.

"There is nothing worse than losing a child."

"Well," Jack said. "You lost your parents. How old were you?" Then he groaned inside his head. "You don't have to tell me if you don't want to."

"No, it's okay," Daniel said. "I was eight. They died in a train wreck in Egypt."

"Egypt?"

"Yeah, they were archeologists. We were living there so they could do their work."

"Christ. You weren't on the train, were you?"

"Yes, I was. It's a miracle I didn't die, too."

"That must have really sucked."

"It wasn't fun," Daniel admitted. "I don't remember the wreck, though, so that's a blessing."

"You must hate Egypt now."


"No, actually I love it there. I met my wife there."

Jack felt his heart plummet. Wife? "You're married?" Shit damn fuck. The guy was straight.

"Was," Daniel admitted. "She developed a brain tumor. We came back to the States for treatment. That's why I took a teaching job back east. It was bad. Like . . . like something had taken over her mind. She died three years ago."

Jack swallowed hard. "So I guess we've both lost something precious to us."

"Yes," Daniel acknowledged. "But the trick is to find joy in life again."

"Are you getting psychological on me, Doctor Jackson?" Jack teased, trying to lighten the mood.

Daniel laughed. "Can't help it, I guess."

Jack grinned, ignoring the empty feeling in the pit of his stomach. If nothing else, they could be friends. He could settle for that.

The adrenalin rush of the game pushed all the sad feelings back. They cheered and shouted and heckled the players, thoroughly enjoying the spirit of the game, the ice-cold beer, and the shared camaraderie of fellow Avalanche fans. A spectacular, heart pumping play won the game and they, along with all the other fans, leapt to their feet and roared their approval. Both were floating on the high from the game all the way home. Shared sadness not forgotten but pushed back, not as important at this moment as the euphoria.

Daniel pulled up Jack's driveway and put the car in park, but didn't turn it off. He turned in his seat to face Jack. "I'm glad you went with me," He said warmly.

"Me too," Jack said with a smile, his eyes on Daniel's face, then their eyes locked and the atmosphere changed. Jack couldn't breathe. Daniel's eyes darted to his lips, then back to his eyes. All Jack had to do was take a chance, lean in. Daniel wanted to kiss him. Or did he? Confusion crashed through Jack. He could feel his heart hammering against his ribs. He hesitate a moment too long and the moment passed. Daniel leaned back, just a fraction. "We should do this again sometime."

Jack drew in a breath. "Absolutely!" he said as enthusiastically as he could manage. "It's nice having someone to pal around with." He groaned silently. God this was awkward.

Daniel gave him an odd smile. "Let me know if you want to watch a game or something."

"Okay," Jack said feebly, reaching for the door handle. "Be careful driving home."

"I will. Good night, Jack."


"'Night," Jack managed and got out of the car. He fumbled his keys in the lock and let himself into his cold, empty house. He was a wreck, he realized as he got a beer from the fridge. He didn't know what to think here. Was Daniel straight or not? He was getting mixed signals, or was he really? Maybe Daniel was like him, bi? He sat down on the couch with a tired sigh. The only thing to do was wait and see how it all played out. God, he sucked at dating.
~~~

Jack picked up the phone and dialed. Five seven six . . . he hung up, again. Shit, this was getting stupid. He took a deep breath and picked up the phone for the fifth time, quickly punching the buttons, and held the receiver to his ear, holding his breath.

"Hello?"

"Hi, Daniel. It's Jack."

"Jack!" A rush of relief enveloped Jack at the warmth in Daniel's voice. "How ya doin?"

"I'm good," Jack said. "Trying to get everything ready for the holidays."

Daniel laughed. "Me too. I'm mostly done now, though."

Good, an opening. Jack struggled not the clear his throat nervously. "Listen. The Philharmonic is performing 'Messiah' Friday and I've got tickets. Would you like to go?"

Daniel paused for a heartbeat. Did he hear an intake of breath? Jack frowned, a cold sweat breaking out under his armpits. Maybe he'd completely misread things? "If you've got plans, I understand, " giving Daniel an easy out.

"No, no plans," Daniel said, his voice still warm. "I'd love to go."

"Okay, great! The performance starts at eight o'clock. It's black tie. Is that okay?"

Daniel chuckled. "I'll try not to embarrass you."

Embarrass? If anything, it was the other way around. "No! That's not what I . . ."

Daniel cut him off. "Jack, I was teasing. Black tie is fine. It'll give me a chance to give my monkey suit an airing out."

Jack grinned. "How about I pick you up around seven thirty."

"Sounds good." There was a brief pause. "Thanks for inviting me, Jack."

Okay, so maybe he didn't suck at this dating thing after all. "My pleasure," he said sincerely.


"See you then."
~~~

Jack picked up the bottle of mousse and reread the directions. His hair was short enough he really didn't need to use anything on it, but this stuff was supposed to make it shinier. He smiled ruefully as he puffed an egg sized amount in his hand and scrubbed it through his hair. Shiny hair? Then he shrugged away his self-consciousness. He'd take all the help he could get, and he wanted to look good tonight. He carefully brushed his hair into place and studied himself in the mirror. Well, maybe it did look a little shinier, the silver seeming to sparkle in the light. He made his way to his bedroom and gave his tuxedo one last inspection, looking for stray lint or threads. It was in pristine shape, so he carefully dressed. One last look in the mirror and he was on his way.

Daniel opened his door at the first knock. Jack felt the air rush out of his lungs in a whoosh. Christ. Daniel was gorgeous. His tuxedo fit him like a glove, accenting his broad shoulders and lean hips. The blues in his cummerbund picked up the blue of his eyes. Jack felt his jaw drop, then noticed that Daniel was looking at him in much the same way. Jack recovered first. "Thank you," he said with a rakish grin. "You clean up nice, too."

Daniel smiled. "Sorry. You just look really good."

Jack flushed with pleasure. "Let's hit the road."

The first half of the performance was magical. Jack let the strains of the orchestra flow over him., losing himself in the beauty of the music. The fact that Daniel was by his side made it better. They went to the lobby during intermission, intent on getting a glass of wine.

"Jack!" Jack thought he recognized the voice, and he certainly recognized the woman sweeping toward him. "Hello, Lydia," he said warmly, accepting her air-kisses to each cheek. "It's been a while."

"You haven't been to one of these events in ages!" she scolded.

"I know," Jack said ruefully. "Not since Sara and I split." He noticed that she was looking at Daniel curiously. "Lydia, I'd like to introduce you to Daniel Jackson."

Daniel stepped forward and held out his hand. "It's nice to meet you, Lydia."

Lydia clasped his hand warmly. "It's always nice to have new blood at these events, Daniel." She leaned forward conspiratorially. "Most of the people who come to these are stuffy old codgers."

Daniel laughed easily. "It seems to go that way."

Lydia turned back to Jack. "Did you know that Sara was here?"

Jack looked at her with surprise. "No, I didn't. Where is she?"


"Last I saw she was over there somewhere," Lydia waved vaguely. "You should go say hello."

Jack smiled. "I will. It's nice seeing you again."

"Don't be such a stranger," Lydia said, and melted back into the crowd.

Jack's eyes searched the room. He wanted to point Sara out to Daniel, and if they had enough time, say hello. He caught sight of her through the crowd. Yes, she was here with her new husband, looking alive and glowing, her face fuller and happy, gazing up adoringly at the handsome man.

Then his eyes drifted down.

It was like he'd been hit in the gut with a sledgehammer. His vision blurred and his knees went weak. He drew in a gasping, choking breath.

"Jack?" Daniel asked, concerned.

Jack turned around dizzily. Christ. He hadn't known she was pregnant. "I've . . . I've got to go," he choked, his voice raw.

Daniel frowned. "All right. Let's get out of here."

"No!" Jack said, his head still reeling. "Stay and enjoy the performance."

"I don't want . . ."

"Here," Jack reached into his pocket and grabbed the twenty he had stashed there, thrusting it into Daniel's hands. "Take a cab home."

"Jack," Daniel's voice held real worry now. "Are you okay?"

"I've just got to go." And he lurched away through the crowd.

The bitter-cold air outside made his eyes water, but did help clear his head. His gait steadied as he strode to his truck. Fuck. He'd forgotten his keys inside. He gritted his teeth and whirled around to go back and get them when he saw Daniel walking toward him, holding both their coats. Daniel silently searched the pockets, found the keys, then handed him his coat before shrugging into his own. He unlocked the drivers side door and climbed in, then sat silently, waiting for Jack to get into the passengers seat. Jack stepped over to the empty seat and climbed in. Daniel started the engine and pulled out of the parking lot.

Jack settled back, still struggling to breath.


After several silent minutes Daniel said, "You gonna tell me what happened?"

Jack started out the window.

Several more minutes passed, then Daniel said, "That blonde woman. That was Sara, wasn't it?"

"Yes," Jack snapped, fighting back tears.

More silence, then Daniel stated, "You still love her."

Jack gave a short snort. "Yes. No. Not like that."

Daniel turned down another street. "The opposite of love isn't hate, it's indifference. That wasn't indifference back there."

"I don't need a shrink, Daniel," Jack snarled.

Daniel pulled into an empty parking lot and threw the truck into park. He turned toward Jack. "How about a friend, then?"

Jack deflated, his tense muscles relaxing. He scrubbed his hands over his face. "I'm sorry," he said in a muffled voice. "It's just that you don't get it." Daniel waited expectantly. Jack looked up at him, seeing the concerned lines of his face in the glow of the street lamps. "I'm glad Sara found someone else," Jack explained. "Someone that she can be happy with. He's a good guy, takes care of her."

"But?" Daniel prompted gently.

"She's pregnant."

Daniel sat back in his seat. "Oh," he said softly, understanding.

"Oh," Jack agreed, then continued. "I'm glad she's moved on, has a new life and a fresh start. It was just a shock, that's all."

Daniel put the truck in gear and pulled out, continuing on toward Jack's house. "I can imagine."

They drove in silence for a while.

"I guess I'm jealous," Jack admitted finally. "She's started over and I . . ."

"Haven't?" Daniel finished for him. Jack nodded bleakly so he continued. "I don't think that's true, Jack."

Jack looked at him enquiringly.



"Think about it," Daniel said gently. "I've watched you. Watched you with the kids at Halloween. Watched you have a blast at the hockey game. Watched you get carried away by the music tonight. You've managed to find some joy in life. It may not be the same as Sara's, and it may not have been as fast as she did it, but it's there all the same. We all heal at different paces, Jack, and I don't think you're giving yourself enough credit."

"I thought I was doing pretty good," Jack admitted. "But then tonight. . ."

Daniel shrugged. "I think you're doing pretty good."

Jack snorted.

"Shocks happen," Daniel said philosophically. "It's part of life." He turned into Jack's driveway. "Here we are, home safe."

Jack suddenly felt like a heel. "God, Daniel. I'm sorry I was going to leave you there like that."

Daniel turned off the truck and climbed out. "But you didn't."

Jack got out too and slammed the door. "Only because I forgot my keys," he bantered, feeling better despite himself.

"Well, there is that," Daniel laughed. "I'll let you make it up to me by letting me wait inside for the cab."

Jack felt like a real shit now. "I'm okay now. Let me drive you home."

"Nope," Daniel said. "You've had enough fun for one day. It's not a problem."

They walked up to the front door and Jack let them in. "The phone is over there, the phonebook in the drawer. Want a beer while you wait?"

"Sure," Daniel said, looking around. "This is a great house." He took in the comfortable furniture, the large moss-rock fireplace, the airy feel of the place. He also noticed that Jack hadn't put up any Christmas decorations. The only sign of the holidays was a pile of wrapped presents in the corner. He made the phone call and accepted the beer Jack held out to him. "You don't decorate?"

"No." Jack said softly. "Not since Charlie."

Daniel nodded in understanding. Going from a Christmas filled with little-boy squeals and laughter to one without would be hard. "I don't either," he admitted. "I never really got into the habit. We didn't have much in the orphanage, so it's not something I miss."


"That's actually sad," Jack said.

Daniel shrugged. "Not really. It was just never part of my life. I do like the shiny lights, though. And Shau're, my wife, liked to decorate."

Jack laughed. "Sara used to go nuts. I'd gripe and groan, but secretly really liked it."

They smiled at each other. The atmosphere changed again, becoming electric. Jack held his breath, his eyes locked with Daniel's. They looked, searching. Daniel seemed to find what he was looking for, because he swayed toward Jack. Jack was reaching for him when a horn honked outside.

They both gave a start, the magic broken.

"Well," Daniel said awkwardly. "I'd better not keep him waiting."

Jack walked him to the door. "Thank you for tonight, Daniel," he said, his voice husky.

"What are friends for?" Daniel smiled.

Jack opened the door for him. "Listen. Would you like to come over for Christmas? We can stuff ourselves silly and watch the game or something."

Daniel gave him a dazzling smile. "I'd like that."

"Good! Come over around noon?"

Jack closed the door and leaned against it, his mind working furiously, planning.
~~~

Jack opened the door to find Daniel, looking devastatingly good in a cream colored sweater and snug jeans, holding a bottle of wine. "This time I brought something that has a bit of a kick," Daniel said with a grin.

Jack swung the door open wide. "Come on in."

Daniel stepped through the door and stopped short. The house looked completely different. A large tree was set up in the corner complete with, twinkling lights, shimmering tinsel, colorful ornaments, and a star on top. Garlands were strung all around. Candles flickered here and there, giving off a warm glow. "Jack?"

Jack grinned delightedly at Daniel's stunned expression. "I thought you deserved a real Christmas."

Daniel walked down into the living room, taking it all in, touched beyond belief. He looked at Jack, overwhelmed. "This is beautiful." He sniffed deeply. "Do I smell turkey?"


"Yeah," Jack preened. "Complete with all the trimmings."

Daniel looked around again, his mouth hanging open. "I thought we were gonna get pizza or something."

Jack gave a delighted laugh. "Glad I could surprise you. Here, let me open that," reaching for the wine.

Daniel relinquished the bottle and started wandering around, taking everything in. "You really outdid yourself."

Jack shrugged. "Thought it was time to start a few new traditions."

Daniel was standing in the doorway. Jack glanced up at the arch mischievously and cocked his head. "You trying to tell me something?"

Daniel looked up. He was standing under a sprig of mistletoe. He looked steadily into Jack's eyes.

Jack swallowed, hard. All teasing gone. He leaned forward just as Daniel's hand reached up and cupped his skull, his fingers running through Jack's hair. They paused, their lips a hair's breath apart, then kissed, a slow, gentle, deep kiss.

Jack gathered Daniel in his arms while Daniel's arms curled around his back. They kissed again, a sweet dance of tongues.

Jack pulled back and touched his forehead to Daniel's. "I'm glad you're here," he breathed, drawing in Daniel's scent and breath.

"Me too," Daniel whispered back, and pulled him into another kiss.

"When is that turkey going to be done?" Daniel asked when they pulled apart again.

A timer dinged in the kitchen. "About now," Jack smirked. "Are you ready?"

"Yes," Daniel said, his voice laced with double meaning. "Yes I am. Are you?"

"Yeah," Jack said, pulling him into a firm hug. "I think I finally am."

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Comments

Honey that was just perfect. I love this universe, did a couple of fics here myself. It's sort of Canon AU and I love what can be done with Teal'c in it! You did a beautiful job with it babes! Also your are a very clever cookie...

"Was," Daniel admitted. "She developed a brain tumor. We came back to the States for treatment. That's why I took a teaching job back east. It was bad. Like . . . like something had taken over her mind. She died three years ago."

Nice link back to the real universe as it describes Goa'uld infestation perfectly too!

::blushes:: Thank you, Nicci! I loved how T in the ep was much more like Chris Judge than Teal'c. Getting to meet Chris in person helped with his brief appearance in the fic. *g* I really like this universe, too. So much going on!

And yeah, I liked the brain tumor thing. It just seemed like the perfect way to explain Shau're. :-) I think I actually did a verbal, "OOOOOOOO!" when that popped into my head. LOL

You know what - this really makes me want to write more in this Universe! Maybe as a project over the holidays...! LOL

::bounces:: That would be great! I'm glad I could inspire you! :-D

Yeah, I was demanding - I admit it. And lookie what I got for it in return. HA! Takes a genius to know how to intimidate properly, eh Feather?

ROFLMAO!!!

I wubs ya and I WUBS THIS FICCIE!!!!! Ya know I do!

Yes, the slow, easy intimidation crept up on me. I didn't even see it coming! *g*

I'm glad you liked the fic. ::beams and snuggles you::

Wuvs you back!