Being Ourselves

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  7 - October 1, 2003
Spoilers:  Cold Lazarus (very minor)
Size:  52kb
Written:  September 6-11, 2003  Revised: October 13, 2003  Revised Again:  January 30, August 2, 2005, March 1, September 10,12-19, December 28, 2006, January 1, February 26, 2007
Summary:  Jack and Daniel spend a day alone together, only they aren't as alone as they think.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
2) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Mama Beast, Drdjlover, Brynn, Linda, Claudia, QuinGem!


Being Ourselves
by Orrymain

It was the perfect day, hump day, Wednesday, and Jack and Daniel had twenty-four hours downtime.  They had planned on catching up on the backlog of chores around their house, but, as often happened, after breakfast that morning, they had had a change of heart.

“Do you want to mow the lawn or trim the hedges, Jack?” Daniel asked, not caring which task he was given charge of completing that day.

“Neither,” Jack responded, standing and walking over to Daniel, surprising the younger man when he kissed him.

“Hmm ...  Didn't we, um, just, you know ... do that?” Daniel laughed, referring back to their early morning lovemaking.

“Wasn't thinking about that, but maybe later,” the older man replied.  “It's a beautiful day out, Love.  Let's go out, you and me, and just be ourselves ...  enjoy the Earth, the sunshine, the fresh air ... being in love,” he added with a smile.

“Sometimes you're such a romantic,” Daniel responded.

“I know a great place for a picnic.  What do you say?” Jack asked with a charming smile on his face.

Daniel nodded, agreeing, “It beats trimming the hedges.”

“You're enthusiasm is underwhelming, Love,” Jack stated dryly.

The younger man gave his lover a quick kiss, then chuckled, “It sounds like fun, but we'd better change clothes first.”

“What's wrong with these?” Jack questioned, looking down at his ratty old pair of jeans and the paint-spattered gray shirt he was wearing.

“Where do you want me to start?” Daniel asked, continuing, “The hole on your butt or the pieces of thread hanging down from your arms?”

“We're going on a picnic, where no one else will be, Danny.  We're not modeling on the catwalk,” Jack countered.

“Thank goodness for small favors,” Daniel chuckled.

“What's that supposed to mean?” Jack queried.

“You, Babe -- on a catwalk ... modeling?” the younger man asked.  “I don't think so.”

“I could model ... if I wanted to,” Jack argued.  “I'm not too fat ... am I?” he asked, looking over his physique.

“Gawd, Jack, will you stop joking about that.  It was old, ancient even, the first time you did it,” Daniel lightly chastised.

Jack shrugged, then repeated, “What's so hard about it?  You just walk, strut, and pose!”

“I can see it now,” Daniel chuckled.  “Jack O'Neill -- the next Fabio.”

“I don't have the hair for it, Danny,” the older man replied.

“Not there, anyway,” Daniel smirked as he headed up the stairs, leaving his lover alone in the living room.

“Not there ...” Jack echoed, trailing off into a mumble.  “Danny!” he called out, running upstairs after him, only once he found his lover, Daniel distracted him with a long kiss, causing the older man to forget what he was going to tease him about.  ~Must not be important.~

====

With their modeling silliness concluded, the couple changed quickly.  Jack opted to wear a pair of brown jeans with his navy blue cotton tee shirt, while Daniel chose his denim jeans and an emerald green tee shirt.

“Danny, wait.  You're not ready yet," Jack stated, walking over to the dresser and pulling out a blue shirt that matched his lover's eyes.  He walked over to the younger man and removed his green tee shirt and replaced it with the blue one.  ~Yeah.~

Daniel was going to protest when Jack started to take his shirt off, but then decided he would humor his soulmate's obsession with seeing him in blue.

“Much better,” Jack expressed happily, tossing the green shirt onto the bed.

The couple also decided to take their leather jackets just in case the weather changed.

Dressed appropriately for their outing, the two separately took care of a few things that had to be done before going out for the day and then met up in the kitchen to pack their picnic feast.

“Hey, Boo Boo!” Jack laughed with a deep, husky voice.

“What?” Daniel chuckled in reply.

“We just made a pic-a-nic lunch that would make Yogi Bear envious,” Jack teased, sounding as much as he could like the famous bear cartoon.  “Ranger Smith will be green with envy.”

Adopting a sympathetic expression Daniel walked to his Love and put his right hand on his chest, patting it a couple of times as he calmly said, “It's all right, Jack.  You've just lost your mind again, but it'll be okay.  I'm sure we'll find it again before the day is out.”

Watching Daniel head into the living room, the older man made a face and quietly spoke to the room, “I haven't lost my mind.  After all, I'm Yogi Bear, and I'm smarter than the average bear!”

“Jack, are we going?” Daniel called out.

Jack hurried into the living room, picnic basket in hand, and responded, “Ready, Boo Boo.”

“Enough with the Yogi and Boo Boo, Babe, or you'll be pic-a-nicing by yourself,” the younger man threatened lightheartedly.

“Sometimes, Angel, you're no fun.”

“Oh, well, then, you go on and I'll just ...”

Jack grabbed his love and planted a huge kiss on him that left the younger man all tingly.

“You were saying?” Jack asked.

“Let's go,” Daniel said with a grin.  The two made it to the entranceway before he stopped their motion.  “Wait, Jack, what about the girls?” he asked, looking over towards the patio door.

“Danny, today is just for us,” Jack spoke, the levity of just a few moments earlier replaced by the seriousness of a man in love, who wanted to spend some special time alone with the love of his life.  “Me and the girls talked earlier, and they agreed that we should go alone.  I promised them we would take them on a picnic on our next day off.”

“Oh,” the archaeologist mused, looking over and smiling at the beagles.  “It's a date,” he called out to them, seeing their tails wagging as he waved good-bye.

The twosome walked to the door, but just as he put his hand on the doorknob, Jack stopped and turned to face his soulmate and requested, “Love, give me your wallet.”

“Why?”

“Humor me,” the older man smirked jovially.

Though somewhat suspicious, Daniel handed his wallet over to Jack, saying, “You know, Jack, you say that a lot, that I should humor you.”

“And you always do.”

Jack grinned, his fingers pulling out the object he had searched for.  He handed the wallet back to Daniel.

“Jack, that's not a good idea,” Daniel spoke, now knowing exactly what his Love had in mind.

“Forever and always, Daniel, I love you,” Jack said as he placed the gold wedding band on Daniel's finger.  “Today, we be ourselves.”

Jack pulled out his wallet, took out his ring, and held it out expectantly.

Smiling, Daniel took the golden circle and placed it on Jack's finger, saying, “Forever and always, Jack, I love you.”

The couple weren't able to wear their rings on a regular basis because it was risky for them to do so, the fear of discovery always on their minds.  Still, they had decided that on a handful of occasions, when the need to be one overruled the threat of being found out, they would take the risk and wear them.

Just the week before, Daniel had purchased the rings in Denver and subsequently proposed a few days later.  One day soon, the twosome would be going to Canada, where they would be officially wed in a proper ceremony.  With each day, their commitment to each other grew stronger, and their wedding bands were one sign of their ongoing devotion to each other.

After a kiss, the soulmates headed out to Jack's truck to begin their day's journey.

====

Jack drove to a secluded spot beyond Cheyenne Mountain in the Pike National Forest, accessible only via a small dirt road with cliffs on one side and drop-offs on the other that even Jack described as “scary.”

“Wow, Jack, you weren't kidding when you said this was an out of the way location,” Daniel mused as they got out of the truck.

“It's worth it, Danny,” Jack claimed.  “This place is fantastic.”  He took his soulmate's hand and walked towards the mountainous area that was filled with Ponderosa Pines.  The area was highly forested, but had a few open meadows to romp in.  ~I'd almost forgotten just how beautiful it is up here.~

Daniel smiled at the contact when Jack had taken his hand.  They were rarely able to hold hands outside their home.  He loved it, the freedom this place gave them.

“Look at this, Danny,” Jack spoke in awe, stretching out his free arm towards the view as they stood at a vista overlooking Denver.  “Isn't it beautiful? And you should see it at night.  It takes your breath away, just like you take mine away.”

“We're gonna get real sappy, Jack, if you keep that up,” Daniel responded, his cheeks turning slightly red from the warmth of his lover's words.

“Love sap where you're concerned, Angel,” Jack replied as he leaned in and placed a peck on Daniel's cheek before leading him off in another direction.

The happy couple spent two hours walking through the secluded wooded area, talking about little, inconsequential things.  They laughed and teased each other, feeling free to be themselves for the first time in a long while.

At one point, Daniel pushed away from Jack, asking, “Think you can catch me, Fly Boy?”

“You're already caught, Dannyboy,” Jack responded in an Irish brogue.

“Dream on, Colonel.  You couldn't catch me on your best day,” the archaeologist claimed.

Daniel evaded Jack's early attempts to grab onto him by running around the open area in circles, or sometimes by sprinting forward just out of reach of Jack's long arms.  To anyone watching, they looked like little boys at play, laughing loudly, chasing each other, until the younger man decided he wanted to be caught, covertly slowing and making a turn to his right that he knew would result in capture.

As anticipated, Jack tackled his soulmate, laughing as he panted, “Told ya I could catch you.”

“I should have known.  You're just too fast for me, Jack,” Daniel laughed as he threw his arms around the older man's neck.

Jack leaned in to kiss his archaeologist.  It was a passionate kiss, full of hunger and thirst to taste his lover, something Daniel wanted as well.  Their tongues met, massaging and licking the other.  The two men rolled along the ground as they kissed, their hands roaming the body of the other, caressing, rubbing, and fondling as their passion flared.

They stopped for a moment when Jack was on the grass, Daniel lying on top of him.  His hands snaked under Daniel's blue tee, rubbing the smooth skin.  They moved again, rolling over so that Daniel was on the grass, their kisses never stopping.

“Geez, what you do to me, Danny,” Jack spoke, a smile highlighting his handsome features as he lay his head on his lover's chest.

Daniel's hands held Jack close to him, his fingers running through the silver-gray strands of his Love's hair.

“This is so great, being here like this,” Daniel opined tenderly.

“I could stay here forever, with you,” Jack responded.  ~I could stay anywhere forever, as long as you were there.~  He lifted his head and moved in for another kiss, before a hunger of another kind took root.  “I'm hungry; let's eat.”

“Like I said, Jack, you're so ... romantic.”

The couple retrieved their picnic basket and ate a leisurely lunch, turkey sandwiches being the main course with a side of barbecue chips for Jack and Tortilla chips for Daniel.  The beverages of choice were Barq's root beer for the older man and the usual Pepsi for Daniel.  They topped it off with Jack's favorite dessert, apple pie.

“Can't beat home-cooked apple pie,” Jack stated as he put a fork-full of the pie into his mouth.

“Um ... it's not home-cooked, Babe,” Daniel responded.

“Daniel, you didn't have to tell me that,” the older man responded, almost spitting out the piece he was eating.

The younger man chuckled, “Jack, you were there when I took it out of the Mrs. Smith's box.”

“I was trying to pretend,” Jack whined.

“Well ... if you don't want it ...” Daniel began, leaning in and sharing the remnants of the latest bite Jack had taken.  Both men were salivating, not for the pie, but for each other.  Playfully, with seductive undertones, Daniel fed another bite of the pie to his lover.  “How's that?”

“Apple pie has never tasted better, Love,” Jack said, taking the opportunity to feed the next bite to Daniel.

The back and forth feeding became a ritual as they kissed, nibbled, and jointly ate their pies in an erotic interlude that lasted a good fifteen minutes.

“I'm not sure I've ever eaten a pie like that before,” the archaeologist stated when their slices of pie had been completely devoured.

“Not sure?  Geez, Daniel, I'd think you'd remember.  It was ... unusual, to say the least.”

“Wanna do it again?” Daniel asked eagerly with a lighthearted edge to his voice as he smiled and raised his eyebrows.  He batted his eyelashes as he grabbed another piece, placing as much of it as he could on the end of his tongue.

Jack scooped the bite out with his tongue, and then devoured Daniel's mouth and the apple pie.  Afterwards, both laughed at themselves.

“That was crazy, Danny.”

“Crazy and ...?” Daniel prompted in a tone of delight.

“Crazy and erotic, and we'll definitely do that again; I love how your brain works,” Jack stated, leaning in for yet another kiss.

“Just my brain?”

“And, ah, well ...”

The lovers broke into another round of laughter.  When they'd settled down again, they picked up their picnic belongings and placed them near an overlook they would pass by whenever they decided to leave.

====

Jack and Daniel were strolling around the secluded area where they'd picnicked earlier.  Their arms were wrapped around each other’s waists, keeping themselves as close as they could to each other while they walked.  Their conversation was as lighthearted as it had been in the morning, talking briefly about honeymoon spots, what to do with their beagles, Bijou and Katie, while they were gone, and should they or shouldn't they buy wedding presents for each other.  Mostly, though, they teased and cajoled each other as they enjoyed the beauty of their surroundings.

“This ... is my favorite spot here,” Jack said as he looked out at the view.  

The day had been serene, but one more thing would make it perfect in Jack's opinion.  He took his soulmate to see another view of the mountains from a different vista.  It was the early twilight part of the evening, the sun slowly sinking below the horizon as they looked out over the vista.

“Jack, you've been here before, and ... more than just once,” Daniel spoke, his question more of a statement.

“A few times, but not in years,” Jack confirmed.  “I wanted to show this place to you; it's like being in the middle of nature, and you never see anyone else.  Aside from the cabin, it's the only place close to the Springs that gives this view of nature without people.  It's a private paradise.”

The lovers found a spot they liked on the grassy meadow and sat talking for a while.  Eventually, Daniel situated himself in front of Jack, whose arms encircled the younger's man waist, just under Daniel's tee, caressing his abdomen.  Daniel's head lay against Jack's shoulder.  They both felt freer than ever.

“This is the perfect place,” Daniel sighed contently.  “It's hard to believe it's such a ... private paradise, like you say.”

“In all the years I've come here, I've never seen another soul who I hadn't brought with me.  It's nice not to have to look over our shoulders all the time,” the older man expressed appreciatively.

Reaching one hand up to caress and turn Daniel's face towards him, Jack drew his soulmate close.  The two kissed, their lips meeting while their tongues danced together stroking and caressing in a deep, lingering embrace that spoke of desire and lust.  Desperate to feel more of his lover, Jack's hand had drifted down to Daniel's jeans, undoing the snap.

“Maybe you should look over your shoulder, Jack.”

The two men instantly sprang apart, like a pair of guilty teenagers who had just been caught by their parents.  Daniel immediately opened his eyes and sat up straight.  Spotting the attractive woman staring at them, he got up and backed away as quickly as he could.

“Sara,” Jack gasped in surprise, also standing up quickly as he spotted the woman standing by some bushes at the edge of the meadow.

“Sara?” Daniel asked in a whisper as his hands nervously snapped his jeans closed.

====

Jack watched with wonder and dismay as his ex-wife crossed the meadow from where she'd been standing.  She looked as beautiful as ever to him, and a part of him was drawn to her and the memories of their deceased child.  Yet, even as he looked at her, he knew that if he was offered a choice between having Sara back or being with Daniel, the archeologist would win hands down.

The colonel looked at Daniel, who was staring at him with a mixture of shock, fear, and concern, which caused Jack's heart to ache with pain at the knowledge that it was his past causing his lover this stress.  He wanted nothing more than to sweep the younger man into his arms.  He shook his head in very short, quick movements, not knowing what to say.

Seeing Sara here, now, was the most stunning thing that had happened to the Air Force colonel since Daniel had fallen in love with him.

“Hello, Sara,” Jack managed to say when the blonde came forward to stand within a few feet of them.

“Hello, Jack,” Sara responded curtly.  “Doctor Jackson, isn't it?” she asked, looking at the archaeologist.

“Um, yes ... Daniel,” the younger man replied, after which he folded his arms and began to fidget while unable to stop himself from looking back and forth nervously at Jack and Sara.  ~Stop it!~ he warned himself as he shifted his uneasy gaze to the trees.

“How are you, Sara?” Jack asked, still feeling guilty about the way he'd treated her when Charlie had died.  ~I hope you're doing as good as you look.~

“Good.  You didn't come to the wedding,” Sara stated about her second marriage to Mark Wilson.

“I was off ... out of the country,” Jack explained.  “Besides, you didn't really want me there,” he stated, certain he was right, until he saw something in the woman's eyes that made him question the assumption he had made a few years earlier upon receiving the wedding invitation in the mail.

Sara ignored the statement, choosing, instead, to look at Daniel, who desperately wanted to disappear into the ground.

“I'm ... I'm going to go ... ” Daniel began as he flung an arm over to his left and walked away, leaving Jack and Sara alone.

Jack watched his lover as he walked away.  Daniel was staring at the ground, self-hugging.  Jack's heart pounded, wanting to run after him, but he knew he had to face Sara.  She'd seen plenty, and he had to deal with it.

“He's a grown man, Jack.  I think he can handle being away from you for a few minutes,” Sara spoke a little condescendingly.

Jack's head jerked back to look at Sara, annoyed at her patronizing tone.  Before he could say anything though, she continued.

With a wistfulness in her tone, Sara asked, “Did you ever look at me like that?  I'm not sure anymore.”

Jack couldn't help it, his head automatically turned to look at Daniel again, who was now standing several yards away, his foot kicking a rock gently along the ground.

“Jack?” Sara spoke in an attempt to get the man's attention.

“I'm sorry, Sara, it's just ... you don't understand,” Jack hesitantly responded.

“Oh, I think I do, Jack,” Sara replied, the sound of accusation in her voice.  “You were ... kissing him and about to do more than that had I not interrupted.”

~This is not happening,~ Jack thought, twisting his body as he turned back to Sara, rubbing one hand through his hair.  He really didn't know what to say to his ex-wife.  “Sara, what do you want me to say?”

“I honestly don't know,” Sara answered, taking an audible breath.  “I've been ... following you, Jack.  I guess you really weren't looking over your shoulder today.”

The military man in Jack came out as he questioned harshly, “Following me?  Why?  How long?”

Jack's voice had been raised, an automatic response to the idea of being caught off guard by anyone, let alone by his ex-wife.

The heightened voice level caused Daniel to turn and look at the once-married couple for a moment, concern rising within him.  He sighed when Jack shook his head, signaling him not to come over and that everything was under control.  The archaeologist returned to viewing the fascinating green blades of the grass.

“Don't get your hackles up, Jack,” Sara quickly retorted.  “I'm not some ... spy from who knows where.  I'm your ...”  She stopped, taking a calming breath.  For a moment, she looked down, mentally regrouping.  Raising her head back up, she explained, “It was just today.  I came here and saw you walking with him, holding his hand.  I ... was curious.  It was the last thing I ever expected from you.  Maybe it was a morbid curiosity, but I couldn't stop, so I followed you.  I saw you kiss him, share that piece of apple pie, and just now.  I don't get it, Jack.  Have you always ...?”

“No, this was ... is the first and ... only time for both of us,” Jack stammered cautiously.  ~Geez, why is this so hard?~

“I thought Doctor Jackson was married.”

“She died,” the colonel sighed as his attention again shifted to his soulmate, his thoughts of Sha're and the sadness of that loss drawing him to his lover like a magnet.

Annoyed at her inability to hold the man's attention, Sara challenged, “Jack, is he really going to fall apart if we talk for five minutes?”

Angered, Jack glared at the woman he'd once loved so much.  He was about to lash out at her, but then he realized it wasn't her fault they were in this situation.  He never should have relaxed so much and let down his guard so completely.

“No, but you don't understand,” Jack responded.

Sharply, Sara replied, “Then tell me why you can't keep your eyes off of him; why you're so worried about his reaction to us talking.”

“He's special, Sara.  Danny ... he carries everyone's burdens and problems on his shoulders, blaming himself for things that he has no control over.  He never protects himself or gives himself a break.  That would be too easy.  No,” Jack sighed, shaking his head.  Giving a slight nod towards his lover, he continued, “Do you know what he's thinking about right now?  I'll tell you.  He's over there worrying about you, wondering if we've upset you or made you angry.  He's wondering if you're thinking I cheated on you, or wondering if I would have tried to get you back if he and I weren't together.

“He's concerned you're angry with me, that you'll hate me now because you know about us, that he's ruined our relationship and our memories of each other.  Sara, he's standing over there thinking about Charlie, and, knowing how much I love our son, he's concerned that, by loving me, he's costing me the potential for another.”  Jack let out a tiny snort, adding, “He's wondering if he should walk away and make some ridiculous sacrifice so I could have another child.  He's not thinking about himself, not at all.”

“But you are, aren't you, Jack?  You're thinking about him, worrying about him?” Sara questioned a bit sharply.  She didn't intend for her question to sound accusing, but it had come out that way.  ~I didn't mean it to be so ... harsh sounding.~

Jack waited before he answered.  He seemed to know that Sara's question hadn't quite come out the way she had intended it to.

With a small smile on his face, Jack answered, “Daniel protects the world, and I protect Daniel.”

“I see,” the woman acknowledged, folding her arms across her chest.  ~Why is this so hard?~

Jack could see how his ex-wife had tensed.  Just that fast, he realized that the current confrontation was as hard on her as it was on him.

His voice more tender than before, Jack spoke, “Sara, I never intended for you to find out like this.  I guess ... I don't know if I ever thought ... Sara, I'm not good at this word stuff, you know that, but I would never hurt you, not intentionally, not if I could help it.”

~He's still charming,~ Sara thought.  ~Look at his eyes.  He means it.  Darn, darn, darn that man!~ she silently lambasted, wanting to hate him, but not being able to.  “I know that, Jack.”

“Do you?” Jack asked.  He moved two steps closer to the blonde and said, “Look, I know we didn't end well, and I also know I only confused matters a few years ago when that ... other me showed up, and I realize you still have questions about that, questions I still can't answer.  I loved you, Sara, but I think we both knew that once Charlie ...”  He paused, glancing over at Daniel as if to draw strength from him merely by looking.  It was just a quick moment before he returned his eyes towards Sara.  “When Charlie died, I fell apart, and I don't think there was anything you or anyone else could have done to put me back together again except for ...”

Jack paused again, yet again looking over at his soulmate.

Seeing this, Sara also turned towards the archaeologist and inquired, “When the Air Force came for you that day, was Doctor Jackson involved?”

Sara was referring to the day when representatives from the Air Force arrived at their home, asking for Jack, who had been withdrawn and distant from her since their son's death.  She had grown tired of trying to reach her husband and constantly being rejected by him.  She had given up, and, yet, at the same time had inwardly wondered if the visitors might somehow help Jack to move forward with his life.

“Not at that point, exactly, but in the course of what followed over the next period of time, yes,” Jack answered, suddenly unable to hold back a laugh as he remembered meeting Daniel.

“How is that funny, Jack?”

“Sara, the man's a genius.  In a few measly minutes, he did what a bunch of experts had been trying to do for two years.  I mean he literally walked in the door, looked at a board of mumbo jumbo, and made sense out of it as everyone else just sat there and gaped, including me.  I'll never forget that.  It was apple pie to him,” Jack mused.

~I'm so unsure of how to feel,~ an anxious and confused Sara thought.  No matter how their conversation had turned, Jack ended up smiling or having some glint in his eye that she couldn't ignore.  ~Is that ... man making you so ... happy?  You are happy; I can't ignore that.~  Nervously, she once again looked over at the younger man that was the center of the current conversation.  Returning her attention to her ex-husband, she asked, “Are you still in the Air Force?”  Once Jack nodded, she questioned, “Then, doesn't *that* cause a problem?”

Sara was pointing to Jack's wedding ring, feeling conflicted over seeing him wearing a band that wasn't the one she had once placed on his finger years before.

“We don't normally wear them.  We, uh, we're going to have a ceremony soon, privately, but sometimes I just ...” Jack trailed off, glancing at Daniel and then letting out a huge sigh.

“What?” Sara asked.

Jack faced Sara again and was surprised by what he sensed.  For the first time, her tone had been soft and genuine, and her eyes were less condemning.

“What Daniel and I have is intense, Sara.  You know that whole Special Ops business?  It's kindergarten compared with what we deal with every week, and that may be difficult for you to understand, but it's the truth.”

“The other you ... he said some things.  I don't doubt what you're saying, Jack, even if I haven't a clue about what the truth is,” Sara responded.

“Daniel's been through a lot; he's gotten hurt.  You've been following us around today.  Well, then, you've seen him laugh quite a bit, a loud and hearty laugh, or maybe just a quiet, peaceful chuckle.  Did you hear him?” Jack asked.

“Yes, Jack, I heard, but ...”

Cutting off his ex-spouse's reply, Jack explained, “He never used to laugh much at all, Sara.  He didn't have a lot to laugh about, but his laugh is beautiful and infectious.  I intend to make sure that Daniel laughs more often, like he did today, because no one deserves it more than he does.”

Jack's tone had been gentle, his voice soft, his eyes sparkling, and his face peaceful as he talked about the man he loved.  Sara had thought maybe this thing with Daniel was a passing phase, an experiment, or maybe even some kind of rebellious fling or mid-life crisis, but, now, she knew different.

“You really do ... love him?” Sara questioned, a tone of surprise in her voice.

The shock of Jack being involved with a man had worn off earlier in the day, but the idea that he would actually love another man, maybe even more than he had loved her, was something Sara hadn't contemplated.  She hadn't even considered the possibility that Jack would ever fall in love again.

Jack nodded, answering with a steady-sounding, “Yes.”

“How long, Jack?” the woman asked curiously.

“Since we've been together?” Jack respond.  “Five years plus change.”

“I see,” Sara acknowledged.  “And, um, how long have you loved him?”

Jack looked at Daniel yet again and then chuckled softly as he looked down at the ground, shaking his head as he began answering by saying, “Maybe forever; maybe from the first time I saw him.  You should have seen him, Sara.  Long hair, skinny, tripped over everything, sneezing all the time, a real geek -- that's what Daniel was when I first met him, but he loves to explore, to discover the mysteries of ... everything.”  Jack paused, smiling as he contemplated his Love.  “His eyes sparkle, and his whole face lights up when he makes a connection between some theory and some artifact, and, Sara, he is so compassionate, so giving, and so understanding.  He'd give his life for a stranger.  He's ... perfect; and he makes me feel young and alive.  I love him, but I honestly don't know what the heck he sees in me.”

All of a sudden, Jack cocked his head back, marveling at what he'd just said.  He grew embarrassed.  He'd found himself talking intimately about Daniel to his ex-wife.  He had never expected this scenario to occur.

Sara acknowledged, “I knew there was something different -- the hair.  I remember.  He was ... cute.”  She smiled slightly, witnessing the man across from her begin to blush.  ~Jack blushing?~  Her curiosity got the better of her, and she inquired, “What are you thinking?”

“He's beautiful, Sara, inside and out.”

~I can't believe this.  He's so open.~  Sara seemed surprised at Jack's candor.  She saw a love and concern in his eyes, on his face, and in his entire demeanor as he spoke about Daniel Jackson.  She remembered back to their happiest moments and still couldn't decide for certain if she'd ever seen him exhibit this same tenderness towards her.  “Are you happy, Jack?”

Jack lit up like a Christmas tree, chirping, “Oh, yeah, happier than I've ever ...” He paused, feeling guilty at ranting about his happiness which derived from being in love with another man, in front of his ex-wife.  The last thing he wanted to do was to make Sara feel bad or to demean their marriage.  He had loved Sara.  Things were just different now.  “I'm sorry, Sara.  You and I, we were ... I was happy with you.  It's just, Daniel and I, it's ... I'm sorry.”

Sara wiped a tear from her eye.  She had loved Jack and always regretted that they hadn't been able to save their marriage; yet, she had a new love herself and had to admit she was pretty happy with her life now.  She especially didn't miss the demands of being the wife of an officer in the United States Air Force.  Still, a part of her would always love Jack O'Neill.

“I'm glad, Jack.  Is he ... happy?” the blonde inquired, genuinely wanting to know.

“I hope so.  He says he is,” Jack responded, his own insecurities showing through a bit in his answer.

“You don't believe him?”

Jack laughed, then clarified, “I believe him; it's just he could do better, lots better.”

Sara nodded, then started to walk towards Daniel, surprising her ex-husband a bit.

“Sara?” Jack called out, waiting for Sara to turn and face him again.  He saw the question on her face.  Softly, yet sternly, too, he requested, “Please don't hurt him.”

Sara hesitated, seeing both a plea and a warning on Jack's face, and then headed for the younger man, Jack following a few feet behind.

“Doctor Jackson?”

Daniel turned, looking shy and wishing he could be anywhere but where he now stood.

“Daniel,” Jack said softly in reassurance.

Sara spoke, “I just wanted to say I'm sorry for sneaking up on you and Jack the way I did.  It was rude of me, and I do apologize.”

“It's ... okay,” Daniel replied, not knowing what else to say.  Surely, there was a rock he could hide under somewhere.  ~This has been so embarrassing.~

“I came here today to say goodbye ... again ... to Charlie.”

Both Jack and Daniel looked at Sara in surprise.

“Did you tell him, Jack?”

Jack shook his head, as Daniel blinked several times, wondering what the woman was talking about.

“We used to come here, with Charlie,” Sara continued.  “It was our special getaway place to escape whatever life's headaches were at the time.”  She looked around, nodding and smiling as she recalled happier times.  “Charlie loved it here.  Actually, Charlie just liked being here with his dad.”  She smiled at Jack and added, “You were a good father, Jack.  We had a lot of good times here.”

Jack nodded, but couldn't say anything, his eyes misting at the recollections of times spent in this private paradise with his son.

“Mark and I are ... expecting,” Sara suddenly revealed.  “I want to be able to bring our child here, too, and share this place with him or her.  It's a healthy place, full of spirit and life, but before I could do that, I had to make sure I was .. at peace with it; that Charlie was, too.  Do you understand?”

“Yeah,” Jack managed to affirm.

“I haven't been here in years, but it called out to me today,” Sara intoned with a bit of a sigh.  Looking at her ex-husband, she stated, “Memories don't have to be painful, Jack.  We had too many wonderful days to let the bad ones win out.”

“You're right, Sara,” Jack agreed.  “I guess that's why I ...” He hesitated, not sure he should continue.

Smiling with a new awareness, Sara completed Jack's thought, saying, “It's why you brought Daniel here.  New beginnings?”

Jack looked at Daniel and smiled as he answered, “Something like that.”

Taking a deep breath and feeling more at ease than she had all day, Sara asked, “When's the ... ceremony?”

Daniel looked surprised that Jack had apparently told Sara about their upcoming wedding.

“We're working on that,” the colonel answered.

“Well, I should be going.  Daniel, I hope you don't mind ...”  Sara moved forward and hugged Daniel, her arms wrapping around him with warmth as she smiled.  She whispered in his ear, “Take care of him, even when he's a grouch.  He loves you very much.”

Daniel was taken aback.  He felt nervous and awkward as he briefly held Jack's ex-wife in his arms.  He wasn't a very touchy feely person with anyone other than his soulmate, so it felt almost surreal to him.  Yet, he was also relieved that Sara was being so understanding and good-natured about what she'd learned.  He was sure it was difficult for her, but with her embrace, he felt a wave of guilt roll off his back.

As she backed away, Daniel gave Sara a small smile and nod, and said, “I will, and I ... know.”

“You will, and you know what?” Jack asked with suspicion.

“Now, Jack, there always has to be some mystery in a relationship,” Sara chuckled as she walked towards him.

Jack opened his arms and held the blonde tightly for a few moments before finally saying, “I'm sorry, Sara.  I hope you're happy now, with ... Mark, and the new baby.”

“Jack O'Neill, it's a little late to be jealous, even in jest,” Sara mused about Jack's delay in saying her husband's name.  After he nodded and shrugged with a lop sided grin, she chuckled, “You just can't  help yourself.”  She sighed contently and affirmed, “I am happy, Jack, truly I am, and I'm also glad I saw you today.  I won't lie and say it wasn't a surprise, a shock even, but I *am* happy for you, for both of you. Invite me to the wedding; I may surprise you and show up.”

Jack laughed, “You would, too.”

“It's ... going to be in Canada.  We can't ... I mean, it's not ... legal here,” Daniel stammered.  ~Gawd, when will this be over?~

Sara smiled as Daniel looked again like he wished he could hide or disappear from the face of the planet.

~I can't believe I just said that.~  Inwardly, the archaeologist was waging a war with himself, wondering why he had said that last comment out loud.  ~What if she tells someone.~

“Laws can change,” Sara responded.  “I believe they should change.”  She smiled, then continued, “Invite me, anyway, and I may still surprise you, unless, of course, I'd make you feel uncomfortable.  I would never want to do that on such a special occasion.”

~I think she's sincere,~ Daniel thought.  He immediately replied, “No, I mean ...”  He stopped, shaking his head, not sure what he meant and well aware that both Jack and Sara were laughing.  He looked at the blonde and gave her a little shrug, while silently deciding, ~I understand why Jack loves her.~

“You're right, Jack.  Hold on to him.  He's a winner,” Sara opined, smiling more upon seeing the archaeologist blush.  “Goodbye.”

“Goodbye, Sara,” Jack responded tenderly.

Sara turned and walked several feet.  She paused, though, turning around and smiling as she took one last look at the couple.  Jack had his hands in his pockets, and Daniel was still fidgeting and self-hugging.

Sara called out, “Go on, Jack.  It's okay.”

Jack locked eyes with Sara and felt grateful.  He saw acceptance, understanding, and even support.  He had never known how she might react if she knew about his new life, and he felt relieved that it had gone so well.  He looked at Daniel and reached out for his hand, almost having to pry it loose from his forearm.  He held it for a moment as he walked closer to his lover.  Gently, Jack put his arm around Daniel's waist, pulling him in as close as possible.

“Jack,” Daniel whispered, though he didn't resist the embrace.

The Air Force colonel looked out towards Sara and mouthed silently, “Thank you.”  He watched as she smiled, then turned and disappeared from their sight.  ~She's one fine woman.~  He sighed and gazed into his partner's eyes.  “You okay?”

“Me?  How about you, Jack?” Daniel asked, astounded by the question.

“Actually, doing good.  She's an amazing woman, Daniel; I'd forgotten how strong she is,” Jack said as he maneuvered them into an embrace.  “I'm not sorry we came.  I'm glad she knows, Danny.”  Grinning, he pointed out, “She likes you.”

“Geez, Jack, you make it sound like I ... met your ...”

“My ex-wife, and she likes you,” Jack repeated boastfully.

“I've never been so embarrassed in my life,” Daniel confided, finally relaxing a bit in Jack's arms.

“Yeah, me, too.  She has great timing.”  Jack roared with laughter for a moment and teased, “Reminds me of Carter, who has the absolute worst timing in the history of ... of ...”

“Of interrupting,” Daniel spoke.

“Yeah.”  Jack looked deep into the cerulean blue eyes that he loved so much and declared, “Danny, I love you, only you, and I don't regret bringing you here today one bit.  In fact, I'm glad we came.”

“Why didn't you tell me you used to come here with Sara and Charlie?”

Jack sighed, “If I had, you wouldn't have wanted to come because of the memories.  Danny, Sara's right.  This is a beautiful place, full of memories, but they're good ones.  Today will be a good memory, too.”

“Jack, I like it, too, but ... isn't our coming here like mixing two worlds?” Daniel asked a bit hesitantly.

~Ah, he's worried I'll be thinking about Sara,~ Jack thought.  He shook his head, refuting, “No.  My world now is you.  This place fills me with peace.  It's not a conflict for me.  Does it make you uncomfortable, knowing Sara and I brought Charlie here?”

“No.”

“Danny ...”

“Jack, it doesn't.  I ... thought about that for a minute, but I believe in treasuring our memories; it's what you've taught me, and what I've wanted for you,” Daniel explained.  Still in his lover's arms, he looked around at the expanse of meadow and then the grove of trees that surrounded it, taking the scene inside his soul.  “No, it's not hard to be here.”

As Daniel's hand brushed the edge of his lover's chin tenderly, the older man spoke, “I want to come back here with you and make some more of our own memories; maybe finish what we almost started earlier.”

“I'd like that; I mean, coming here ... and finishing ... that!” the shy-when-it-came-to-talking-about-sex archaeologist intoned.

Jack kissed Daniel's neck before sharing a tender kiss of their lips.

“Seems like we were, um, about to ...” Jack began.

“I ... don't think so, Babe.”

“Danny.”

“Mood killer, you know,” Daniel commented, glancing over towards the area where Sara had disappeared from their sight.

“Ex-wives.”

“Maybe next time.”

“Maybe at home,” Jack suggested with a twinkle in his eye.

“No maybes about that,” Daniel agreed, his hands running low along the bottom of Jack's back, sometimes reaching down and rubbing his buttocks.

“Of course, you need to catch me first,” Jack teased, knowing it wouldn't be much of contest, for two reasons -- Point A) he didn't intend to win and Point B) Daniel was a faster runner than he, which made Point A a shoe-in, anyway.

“Easy,” Daniel promised confidently.

“Oh, you think so?” Jack challenged in a mocking tone.

Daniel chuckled, but then his smile grew serious as he intoned, “I love you, Jack. Today was a wonderful day.”

“Yeah, it was.”

====

Jack and Daniel were almost back to the place where they'd parked the truck.  They'd spent just a few more minutes at the vista, taking in the view before deciding to head home.  They'd picked up their picnic accessories and had walked hand-in-hand the entire way back.

“Pizza,” Jack stated.

Daniel let out a snort, responding emphatically, “Chinese.”

“Pepperoni,” the older man suggested with a grin.

“No.”

“Daniel, extra cheese,” Jack cajoled, licking his lips, knowing his lover adored an abundance of cheese on his pizzas.  “Four kinds, even.”

“No.”

“Ah, c'mon, Danny, supreme, all the fixins,” Jack begged, not really being in the mood for foreign food of any kind.

“Chinese,” the younger man insisted as they reached the Ford vehicle.

After putting the picnic fixings into the back of the truck, Jack scooped Daniel into his arms and kissed him again.  Their arms wrapped around each other in a comforting caress.

~Who can resist that look?~  Looking in his Love's eyes, the older man lost all of his fight.  “Chinese it is, but I get to read the fortune cookies,” he demanded lovingly.

“You're such a toughie, Jack.”

After another kiss, the lovers parted and climbed into the truck.  Daniel looked at his lover, waiting and anticipating, but nothing happened.

“You know, Jack, you have to start the truck if you want it to go anywhere,” the younger man pointed out.

Jack reached over and took hold of Daniel's hand, tracing the man's ring with his thumb while he remarked, “I don't want to take them off, Danny.  I know we have to, but I just want you to know that I love you with all that I am.”

Daniel leaned over, his right hand caressing Jack's neck as they kissed, after which he vowed, “Someday soon, Jack, I promise.  I won't make us wait forever -- a year, maybe two, and then just us.  Okay?”

“Okay, Angel.  I'd do anything for you, Danny, even wait.”

Daniel smiled as he replied, “We don't have to wait to get married, though.  We need to set a date for that.”

“Haven't I been saying that for several days now?” Jack chastised lightheartedly.

“I know,” the younger man replied.  “There's always something to think about.”

Jack surmised, “You're thinking about the girls.”

“Silly?”

“Nope,” Jack replied vehemently.

“But, Jack, if Cass and Sam are with us, who will look after them?  We can't stick Bijou and Katie in a kennel.  I couldn't do that.”

“Neither could I, Love, but we'll think of something,” Jack promised.  Suddenly, his eyes brightened as he spoke, “Oh, I almost forgot.  I have something to tide you over on the ride home.”

Jack twisted to turn to the cab of the truck and reached inside the picnic basket, pulling out a Godiva chocolate truffle.  He handed it to his smiling soulmate.

“When did you get this?  We've been together all day,” Daniel wondered curiously.

“I have my secrets.  Can't deprive you of chocolate for long if I want to keep you happy, and that's something I always want to do.  Love you, Danny.”

“Love this truffle, mmm,” Daniel replied with a muffled, blissful voice, his teeth sinking into the truffle.  Seeing Jack's scoff, he mumbled, “Oh, I love you, too, Jack.”

Jack just laughed, leaned over, and planted a quick kiss on Daniel's lips, smacking his own lips at the dab of chocolate he tasted there.  Then he finally started the vehicle and drove off.

At the edge of the wooded area, Sara watched, a sad smile on her face as she quietly stated, “We were good, Jack, but you never looked at me like that.”

Sara wrapped her shawl around her shoulders, having finally answered the question she'd been pondering all afternoon.  She'd gone from surprise to shock to anger to disgust and then to tolerance and understanding.  By the time she had finished talking with Jack and Daniel, she was genuinely happy for them and pleased that Jack was finally at peace.

What the blonde had witnessed over the last few hours was a Jack O'Neill she had never known.  Sara smiled, reflecting on thoughts of his charm, sex appeal, bad jokes, warm hands, unending stories, and a smile that always made her heart sing.  She looked up at the stars beginning to fill the skies and sent a silent thank you to Charlie, whom she was sure had somehow arranged this day.

The expectant mother smiled happily as she rubbed her abdomen, thinking of the new life she carried inside her.  She was happy, and now she knew Jack was, too.  Somehow, that was more important than she ever could have imagined.

As she came to a final peace and resolution, Sara spoke confidently to the winds, “I know exactly what Daniel sees in you.  Goodbye, Jack.”

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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