Dare to Quiz

Author: Orrymain and special guest co-author, Claudia!
Category:  Slash, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  7 - February 16, 2004
Spoilers:  Crystal Skull, The Fifth Race
Size:  56kb
Written:  April 29-30, May 1-2,7,16, 2004  Revised: March 5,15-21,23,29, April 6, 2008 Revised Again: December 26-27, 2009
Summary:  Jack and Daniel's three-month anniversary results in a special surprise for the archaeologist.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) The Marriage Quiz and others can be found at the website for The Gottman Institute at http://gottman.com/
2) To find out more about Tintin and his adventures, check out the official website at http://www.tintin.be
3) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically.  Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
4) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
5) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic(s), “The Colonel and the Scientist”
6) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  QuinGem, Drdjlover, Laryssa, Jo, Irina, Melissa, Tonya, Keri, Mama Bear, Caro!

Dare to Quiz
by Orrymain and Claudia

Jack cautiously opened the front door, peeking his head inside to see if Daniel was around.

~Good.  Safe.~

Quietly, the general walked stealthily inside the house, carefully closing the door so as not to make any noise.  He moved towards the kitchen with his goods.  Turning to the dining table, he quickly prepared it to his liking, nervous that Daniel might hear him.  Then, he glanced through the window, looking out into the backyard.

~The girls must be with Danny. Upstairs, I'll bet. Good. I was afraid they might woof an eager 'hello'.~

When everything was in place, the silver-haired man climbed the stairs to the second floor of the country-style home.

~Okay, not in the bedroom.  Let's try the den.~

Standing in the doorway, Jack smiled at the sight of his lover as he relaxed in his comfortable recliner, the chair leaning back and the footrest up.

~Geez, what he does to me,~ Jack sighed happily.  ~Look at him.  Sexy and gorgeous even when he's wearing one of those old, yucky plaid shirts.  Memo to self: donate this one to Goodwill when Daniel isn't looking.~  He nodded at Bijou and Katie, too, who had looked up from their beanbag they shared in the den, smiling as the two yawned and returned to their sleep.  Chuckling to himself inwardly, he decided it was time to announce his presence and greeted, “Hey, Beautiful.”

Jack's Love lit up like a Christmas tree, extending his arms out to his husband.  Without hesitation, the older man pounced, practically jumping into the recliner, causing both men to chuckle for a few seconds before beginning a tender and yet passionate kissing session that lasted for several minutes.

“Get all your errands done?” Daniel finally asked, his thumb running down the other man's cheek.

“Sure did.  I missed you,” Jack said, leaning in for yet another loving kiss.

“Missed you, too,” the younger man replied as the lovers' lips brushed together briefly.

“So, what's so fascinating?” Jack inquired, shifting his body to a more comfortable position beside his husband.  ~I can't believe how easy this has become,~ he thought, amazed at the way they'd learned to snuggle next to each other and yet be totally at ease in the recliner.  Neither man was exactly little, and it had been a challenge at first, but now they made the transition to their 'normal' chair positions within seconds.  ~Two jigsaw pieces making a whole.  Yep, that's My Danny and me.~

“A marriage quiz.”

“A marriage quiz?” Jack echoed, looking up from the magazine and staring with surprise at his lover. “That's not Archaeology Today.”

Daniel laughed, “It's nice to know you don't need glasses.”

“I don't know,” the older man responded nonchalantly. “I think certain men are very sexy when they wear glasses.”

“*Certain* men?” Daniel challenged.

“Certain very sexy and ... beautiful geeks,” Jack clarified tenderly as he leaned over for a tasty kiss. “Love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“So ... what are doing with a copy of,” Jack looked at the bottom of the page and queried dubiously, “Woman's Day?”

“I got it from Sam.”

“Carter?” Jack asked in complete and utter disbelief. “Guns & Ammo, I can understand, but Woman's Day?”

“Jack, Sam *is* a woman.”

Jack stared at his Love, deciding to drop the issue of Sam's womanhood and what his husband was doing with a female-oriented magazine in favor of finding out what the questionnaire was all about.

“So, this marriage quiz -- geez, Danny, what the heck for?”

“Well, it doesn't hurt to make sure we know each other as well as we think.”

“Okay, now that's crazy.  We don't need a quiz to know we're perfect for each other.”  Jack grinned and then waved one hand at their two bodies as he pointed out, “See, we fit!”

Daniel chuckled, but quickly replied, “Jack, this is a scientifically composed set of questions.”  With a smile, he suggested, “You can take it with me.”

~Not a good idea,~ Jack thought, grimacing inside.  “Daniel, Sara used to do these things.  All they did was start trouble.”

Seeing his husband's stare, Jack gulped.  He recalled a time in his past when his ex-wife, Sara, had looked at him with that same expression right after he'd complained about how ridiculous the test she had been taking was.  In fact, he'd refused to participate.  Vividly, he recollected having spent that night on the couch, not to mention his self-made bologna sandwich for dinner.

Not wanting history to repeat itself, Jack smiled and agreed, “Of course, I'll take the quiz with you, Love.”

~He's just going along,~ Daniel opined.  ~But he's going, so let's just see how far we get.~  “Okay.  Number one is, 'I can name my partner's best friends'.”  He looked at his Love and grinned.  “Me, me, and me!”

Jack laughed, “Of course.”

“No, we have to be serious.  I'm your best friend, but ...”

“Danny, you are my best friend.  No one has ever been the friend to me that you are.”

“Kawalsky,” Daniel put forth seriously, referring to the major who had died during the first days of the Stargate Program's existence.

“Different.  We've talked about that.  Charlie didn't even know about Charlie,” Jack rationalized, thinking about his son who had been named after his friend.  “Way different, just like with Lou.  I have people I think of as family, good friends, but not best friends.  There's only one of those, and he's right here,” he said, gently rubbing Daniel's arm.

“That's so sweet.”

“And it had better be mutual,” Jack threatened lightheartedly.

Daniel chuckled, “You know it is.  Babe, I barely had friends at all until Catherine invited me to work for her.  Sam and I hit it off right away, but I think you're right.”

“Family,” Jack acknowledged.  “Like me and the Big Guy, and like you and the Big Guy,” he chuckled, thinking about their relationships with Teal'c.

“Yeah,” Daniel agreed.  “SG-1 is a family,” he asserted before sharing another kiss with his husband.  “Number two is, 'I know what stresses my partner is currently facing'.”

The two stared at each other and laughed at the same time.

“Piece of cake,” Jack joked.

“Goa'uld, inept politicians, and me when I don't get my morning coffee,” Daniel mused.

“You got that right,” Jack agreed, chuckling.  Growing serious, he asked, “Are we doing this for real?”

Daniel nodded as he responded, “We have to, or what's the point?”

“Danny, there isn't anything wrong, is there?” Jack questioned in earnest.  ~I haven't missed something, have I?~

“No, of course not,” the younger man assured, smiling at the man who owned his heart.  ~It's so cute; he's still insecure after all this time.~  “I just think it's a good idea to make sure we're focusing on the right things.”

“No monsters snapping at our butts?” Jack responded.

“Nothing,” Daniel replied.  “I promise.”

“Good, and trust me, Love.  I'm focused.  I'm so focused,” Jack's said, his voice softening with each syllable as he leaned forward to steal another kiss.

“Hmmm, Jack, the quiz,” Daniel moaned, trying to remain focused himself.

“Right.  Okay, well, if we're being serious, then I guess you'd have to add ...”

“Being worried about me all the time?  Just like I worry about you ... getting sick, being injured, or maybe even ...”  Daniel didn't want to finish the sentence.

“Wanting out,” Jack said softly, completing his lover's thought on what both knew was Daniel's worst fear.  “We have the same stresses, Danny.  What's next?”

“What do Private Lawman, Kinsey, Paul Davis, and the Chiefs of Staff have in common?” Daniel asked as he grinned mischievously at his lover.

The giveaway was Private Lawman, a new recruit to the SGC who was suffering from a bad case of Jack hero worship.  At first, the colonel had been flattered by the attention, but the young man had taken to following him around the halls of the SGC, continually asking him questions and generally getting under his feet.  It was also making it hard to sneak into Daniel's office for some illicit cuddling, fondling, and other assorted lustful-type activities, which did nothing to endear the young man to either Jack or Daniel.

Jack looked into Daniel's amused eyes and grinned in response, “They're all irritating S.O.B.'s.  Is that the question?”

“Yep,” Daniel confirmed and then read the question.  “'I know the names of some of the people who have been irritating my partner lately'.”

“Yours are easy.  Doctor Singleton.”  Jack grinned at the memory of Daniel fuming over translations that the recently arrived archaeologist had completed using Budge.  “And, of course, the ever irritating Wallis Budge.”

The two kissed and then moved on to the next question.

“Okay, next is, 'I can tell you some of my partner's life dreams',” Daniel said as he smiled knowingly.  “Me, retirement, fishing, and our children -- our future.”

As his lover laughed, Daniel was reminded of how charming and sexy his husband was.  He let himself get lost in the smile and the cocky laugh, and it filled his soul with goodness.

“That was a no-brainer,” Jack challenged.

“Wooooooof!”

“Oops,” Jack said, reacting to the sound of Bijou and Katie's 'hey, what about us?' barks.  “I think you're in trouble, Danny.”  Looking down at the dogs, he accused, “He said it, not me!”

“Grrrrrrr.”

“I'm sorry, Girls,” Daniel apologized to the two beagles who had awakened from their slumber.  “You're our children, our present and our future.  We love you both lots and lots.”

Daniel wiggled his body a little as he extended his arm out to give the girls a few quick but loving pats. His response was two wagging tails and kisses to his fingers. The lovers laughed and then watched with smiles as the beagles pranced happily back to their beanbag to go back to sleep.

“Almost got myself in some hot water there.”

“Great negotiating, as always,” Jack praised proudly.

“Thank you, Love,” Daniel responded, rewarding himself by kissing his husband, which was one of the best prizes he could ever receive for his negotiating skills.  “Your turn to answer the question.”

“Easy -- same, no-brainer, I hope, with the exception of the fishing,” Jack acknowledged, knowing that was his passion, not the other man's.  “Maybe a return trip to Egypt for a dig, and finding the Lost City.”

Happy with the response, Daniel rewarded his lover with yet another kiss and then stated, “Just to be, uh, clear, Babe, I hope you know that finding the Lost City is way down on that list of dreams.”

“I do, Angel, but it's still nice to hear it.”

Jack caressed his lover's cheek as they kissed again, the quiz turning into a wonderful catalyst for foreplay.

As his soulmate nibbled a bit on his earlobe, Daniel moved on to the next question, saying, “Okay, so now we come to ... 'I can tell you about my partner's basic philosophy of life'.”  He leaned into his husband as he stated, “Well, there's the philosophy that you project to the world -- kill first, and ask questions later, and then there's the real philosophy that guides you -- protect those you love.”

“That first one never fooled you, did it?  Even on that first mission to Abydos, you never bought the dumb colonel act.”

“Not for a second,” Daniel confirmed with a grin.  “I still can't believe how many people fall for that ridiculously dense, thick-headed, overbearing ... just dumb ... junk.  How can people fail to see who you really are?”

Suddenly, Daniel was getting a bit frustrated, which sometimes happened when he thought about the game his husband often played.  In fact, there were times when Daniel wanted to strangle Jack for acting so dumb.

The silver-haired man understood much more than he had ever let on to the outside world. No one could have learned Latin so quickly if they were as dumb as he pretended to be. This fact was just one of dozens of events from over the years that Daniel used as evidence, proving his Heart's intelligence was not as he exhibited to the average person.

“People see what they want to see, Danny.  I put on a facade, and they buy it.  They don't see anything else because they don't want to, just like they don't want to see us for who we are together,” Jack opined as he ran his fingers down Daniel's arm.  He heard his Love's sigh, an acknowledgement of those who don't and may never understand the tender, all-consuming love that the two men shared.  “Sometimes those with sight are more clueless than the blind.”

“You're right, Jack, but you don't have to push it so much.  Sometimes I think you just want to see how dumb you can act before someone calls you on it.”

Jack laughed, “Too much, huh?”

“Way too much.”

“Yeah, well ...”  Jack decided to discontinue the discussion of his dumbness and move back to the quiz.  “Your basic philosophy is a piece of cake -- tolerance, understanding, and acceptance, which some fools misinterpret as being passive, usually to their chagrin later on; and you still don't see how special that makes you.”

Much to Jack's delight, Daniel blushed at the praise from his lover, which led to a new round of kissing and tender touches.  The foreplay was definitely picking up.

“I like this quiz, Angel,” Jack said when they came up for air.

“No, you just like kissing me.”

“Got me there,” Jack chuckled with sparkling eyes.

“I will,” Daniel promised, a lustful glint in his eye.  “This next one is a throwaway.”

“Why?”

“I can list the relatives my partner likes the least.”

“Yeah, we're both a little short in that department, Nick for you, and no one for me.  Next?”

“Nick,” Daniel sighed.

“Not worth it, Love,” Jack stated, hoping to prevent his Love from going to a dark place, one created by Nick's failure to be a proper grandparent.

Daniel nodded and then continued, “Another easy one to agree or disagree with -- 'I feel that my partner knows me pretty well'.”

“Yes,” both men said at the same time.  They chuckled and then spoke in unison again, saying, “Next.”

The archaeologist read, “'When we are apart, I often think fondly of my partner'.”  Quickly and firmly, he answered, “Yes.”

“No,” Jack replied equally quickly and firmly.

“What?” Daniel questioned, sitting forward in surprise.

“Fondly, Daniel?  *Fondly*?  I may fondle, but when I think of you I think heart and soul, and passion.  I think forever and lust.  When we're apart, my body aches, physically.  I do *not* think of you fondly.  I think of you as my everything, and I need to get home to you just as soon as I can.”

“Gawd.”  Daniel tossed the quiz on the floor and began to ravish his lover.  “Wait ... the girls.  Put them out, and meet me in the bedroom.”

Jack smiled.  His lover had gone into instant burn mode, which was a-okay with him.

====

Returning to the bedroom after putting the beagles out, Jack was happily surprised by an already undressed Daniel, who quickly pounced on his husband. The two made love until their inner fires were satiated for the moment.

“We need to do these quizzes more often,” Jack commented in the aftermath, while they calmed in each other's arms.

“It's just ... what you said ... it was ... perfect.”

“It's just how I feel.”

“You make it all seem so simple,” the younger man remarked.

“It is, or it should be.  People complicate things too much,” Jack opined.  Then he smiled and added, “I love you, Angel.”

“I love you, too.”

====

A while later, Daniel retrieved the quiz he had tossed to the floor in the den so he and his husband could continue their test.  Sitting up against the headboard of the bed with Jack's arm around his waist, he read the next question.

“Next is, let's see  -- 'I often touch or kiss my partner affectionately'.”  Looking at Jack, he laughed, “I know ... 'affectionately' is a horrible choice, considering all the words they could have used, but you know what it means.”

Joining his lover in laughing, Jack agreed, “Yes, for both of us, as we just proved.”

“And we will again -- very soon.”

“Soon,” Jack echoed, leaning over to kiss Daniel's temple.

The younger man continued, “The next question or statement is 'My partner really respects me'.”

“Now that one may seem tough for some people,” Jack said.  “Our backgrounds are so different, but there's no one in this world I admire and respect more than you, Danny.  I know I've apologized for this, but I didn't always show that in the beginning.  Seems like I could make a list of bad calls when I sold you short or didn't want to listen.”

“Jack ...”

“No, Danny.  I was one helluva idiot for a long time.  I made a jackass out of myself on Euronda, but before that, I never really wanted to give your ideas credence.  When we met Tuplo, it just drove me insane that you wanted to turn our mission into some museum exhibit,” Jack sighed.

“Babe, you can stop pretending,” Daniel said with a smile that indicated he was on to some truth about his lover.

“Pretending?  Danny, I didn't even want you talking to Hammond about your ideas about the Miniputian culture.”

Daniel chuckled, “Minoan, and I'm not buying your act.  I didn't then, and I'm definitely not now.”

“Daniel, what are you talking about?”

With the magazine settled on his lap, Daniel caressed his lover's right cheek as he gazed into his eyes.  He loved Jack so much.  In fact, he loved him as much for his insistence on this 'act' as anything else.

“Jack, I know you talked to General Hammond before we ever went to The Land of Light.”

“I always talked to Hammond,” Jack answered a tad unsteadily.

“I heard you, Babe, that day when the general told us about the President's directive.  He asked you why you'd argued so much during the briefing since you'd made the same request a week earlier.”

“Crap,” Jack responded, letting out a sigh as he turned away for a moment.  Looking back at his spouse, he asked, “You've known all along?”

“Yeah.  Like I said, I don't buy the act.  Now, that's not to say you've always been as ... open to things as I would have liked.  I mean, uh, Euronda wasn't your best day,” Daniel acknowledged.

“I spent a lot of time fighting myself,” Jack replied.

“Transformation takes a while, Jack.  You were hearing me, even if you weren't always listening.”  Daniel smiled and placed a quick kiss on his lover's lips.  Still so close that they could easily kiss again, he whispered, “You were changing.  I understood that.”

Amused by the concept of his change, Jack chuckled, “The Evolution of Jack O'Neill?  Sounds like a bad movie.”

“You know what I mean.  We all learn and grow, and you're no exception.  Your foundation was the military.  It took a while to break out of that, so that you could see some of what I see.  Besides, at least at the end of the bad movie, you get to be Jack Jackson-O'Neill,” Daniel teased as he smiled.  “You've changed a lot in how you look at things, or maybe it's just in how you respond to what you see.”

“Maybe, but that doesn't take away or excuse the hurt I caused you.”

“Jack ...”

“I've said it before, and I'll say it again now.  I may not have always believed those ideas of yours, but I've always believed in you, and even at your most insane, I've never felt more respect for anyone.  I genuinely admire you, as a person, Danny.  The things you've overcome, the way you've lived your life, and the endless well of compassion you have for everyone.  You're amazing, Love.”

Daniel was blushing again and decided to take the attention from himself by responding, “I think people don't understand how good you are inside -- your soul.  It's easy to criticize, especially when we approach things differently, but we both have jobs to do.  The truth is, I couldn't do your job, Jack.  It takes a lot of bravery, courage, skill, and cunning.”

“Danny, you have all of those traits, too,” Jack interjected quickly.

The archaeologist waved off the reply, continuing, “It's the decisions, Jack.  Sometimes being who you are means making some very difficult choices, but you face that responsibility head on.  Right or wrong, you do your job, as best you know how.  There aren't many people who could do all that you have, and not one as well as you.  On a personal level, as my husband, gawd, how you treat me.  I hope you know that I believe you are so honorable and full of integrity that I couldn't help but be proud of you.  I couldn't help but respect you, Jack, for being who you are and doing what you do.”

“So we both know?”

“I think sometimes we forget, though, because we end up battling over something silly, and then we lose sight of ... well, of us,” Daniel replied.

“We need to make sure that doesn't happen.  We've come too far to forget the basics, and respect is a basic,” Jack asserted.

“I agree.”

“Right or wrong?” Jack teased about what his lover had said about his decisions.

“You don't really want to get into specifics, do you?” Daniel mused with a cute smile.

Staring thoughtfully at his soulmate, Jack shook his head and asked, “Okay, what marvelous question is next on the ole quiz?”

“'There is fire and passion in this relationship',” Daniel read, after which he and Jack grinned at each other.

“Couldn't have more fire and passion,” Jack spoke confidently.

“Is that a challenge, Babe?” Daniel's asked with eyes that gleamed of mischief.

“Think you're up for it, Angel?”

Daniel's response was to kiss his lover, deeply, passionately, and completely, after which he declared, “Definitely up for it.”  He turned slightly; then rubbed himself suggestively against his Love, letting Jack know just how 'up' he was.  Just as Jack's hand started to creep below the bedcovers, Daniel rolled away slightly.  “Na-uh.  There are more questions for you to answer first.”

“Danny!”

Daniel grinned wickedly as he pronounced, “Quiz first.  Reward second.”

“Reward, as in more of that fire and passion, except I'm ready *now*.  Lots of fire burning through me, and I'm *loaded* with passion.”

“Down, boy.”  As Jack groaned, Daniel laughed while refocusing on the publication with the quiz.  “Next -- 'Romance is definitely still part of our relationship'.  That's a given.  You have got to be the most romantic person I've ever known, Jack.  I love that side of you.”

~Wait until we get downstairs,~ Jack thought silently.  “You bring it out in me, Babe.  I swear, I've never been so romantic before, but with you, I can't help myself.  I just love you so much,” he said and then placed another kiss on his husband's temple as they snuggled together on their bed.

“I love you, too, my very own Silver Fox.”

“You're just as romantic, Angel.  You're just more subtle,” Jack asserted.

Daniel had his doubts about his lover's reply.  While he didn't think he could ever match Jack in tender and loving gestures, he was glad that Jack found him romantic enough.  Still, when it came time to score himself, Daniel felt he was a definite 'needs improvement'.

“Next question.  'My partner appreciates the things I do in this relationship'.” Daniel looked at Jack and stated, “You do.  You definitely do.”

“Just like you always appreciate the things I do.”

Daniel went to the next question, stating, “The next one is, 'My partner generally likes my personality'.”

“Danny, I don't just like your personality, I love your personality.  Funny, passionate, intelligent, easy going ...”

“I'm not sure I give off that impression; well, intelligent maybe, but ...”

“No buts.  I know you, and who you are.  You're all of those things, and so much more, like I said when we got married,” Jack reminded energetically.

“Now, you could stand some improvement.”

“Daniel!” Jack barked in surprise.

The young man laughed, “I'm just kidding .. I think.”

Jack leaned over, putting his hands around his lover's neck, pretending to strangle him.

Daniel let out a big laugh as he squirmed in his lover's hold, laughing too hard to pretend to be choking.

Finally, the couple sat back up to move on to the next question, only after reading it, they decided they needed verification.

“Our sex life is mostly satisfying,” Daniel said with a smile.

“I think this requires proof,” Jack replied hopefully.

“Proof is good,” Daniel agreed, tossing the magazine to the floor in favor of his preferred publication -- the book of Jack Jackson-O'Neill.

====

When the lovers returned to the quiz, it was over two hours later.  They agreed that at the end of the day they were always glad to see each other, that they were each other's best friends, that they loved talking to each other, and that they do a lot of give and take in their discussions.

“I think we covered that on the first mission to Abydos,” Jack laughed.

“It proved you could listen, even when you didn't really want to.”

The couple also concurred that they listen respectfully to each other even when they disagree, though there was just a slight hesitation on the archaeologist's part.

“I think we need to work more on that one, Babe.  We're a lot better now, but you know how we get when we argue,” Daniel stated.

“I don't suppose you'd buy that it works both ways,” Jack suggested hopefully.

“Well, I agree that any argument doesn't exactly bring out our best sides, but ...”

“But I'm the one who usually blows it up out of proportion.”

“I didn't say that,” Daniel said, smiling coyly.

“I said it for you.”

“I do like that blowing it up part, though,” Daniel smirked, raising his eyebrows.

“A man after my own heart,” Jack agreed, the lovers kissing again.

Next on the quiz, the happy twosome agreed that each was a great help as a problem solver.

“You're my personal Mr. Fix-it, Jack,” Daniel said as he beamed with confidence at his husband.

“And you can talk just about anyone into anything,” Jack pointed out with a jovial smile.

“I'm glad you approve of my negotiating skills,” Daniel replied.

“They're the tops!” Jack praised.

Lastly, the soulmates agreed that they mesh well together on values and goals.

“Tally time, Jack.”

“I think we aced it, Danny.”

“Well, there were twenty-two questions in this test.  To be honest, I think we got twenty of the twenty-two,” Daniel stated.

Jack looked suspiciously at his husband, who responded a bit shyly, eyes down, his voice timid.

Daniel explained, “I could be more romantic, and that's something I'm going to work on, Babe; I promise, and I think when we argue, we still sometimes forget. I mean, we remember eventually, but we can get pretty nasty sometimes.  Uh, and I *am* including myself in that.  Once we get going, I lose sight of rationality, too.”

Jack had to agree.  He had a nasty temper, especially when his Mr. Jealousy made occasional appearances.  Though the two always got through their fights, somehow able to realize that words on the surface were not always the actual truth, they had had some horrible, harsh arguments since they'd met.

“You're right, Love.  We do forget sometimes.  I'll try and do better,” Jack promised.

“Me, too.”

“Okay, twenty, which means ...?”

Smiling, Daniel answered, “Top group, of course.  It says, 'You have a lot of strength in your relationship.  Congratulations!'”

Jack laughed, “Congratulations, Danny.”

“You, too.”  Daniel caressed Jack's cheek and then spoke softly, “Happy three-month anniversary, Love.”

“Happy Anniversary, Angel,” Jack responded.  The lovers kissed, a deep, tender joining of their lips and tongues.  “I can't believe you're mine.  Three months. Three wonderful months we've been married.”

The couple kissed once again, and then Daniel reached over the side of the bed to grab something he had under the bedframe.  Jack gazed at the expanse of bare skin this action showed off and felt his libido starting to wake up again.

~Geez, I will never get enough of you, Danny.~

**Same here, my Silver Fox.**

Jack laughed, **We're hearing silent thoughts more and more.  Have you noticed that?  And ... I Love you, Danny.**

Facing his husband, Daniel responded verbally, saying, “I love you, too.  Jack, I think it's intense emotion of any kind that allows us to be so ... so, uh, in tune, but I really don't want to analyze it.”

“Yeah,” Jack acknowledged, knowing the two men had rarely talked about their non-verbal communication skills or their growing ability to sometimes hear the other's silent thoughts.  ~Don't want to jinx it.~

“This,” Daniel took a breath, doubting what he was about to do, until he gazed into his Love's chocolate brown eyes and saw all of his doubts vanish, “Jack, this is for you.”

Daniel handed Jack a brightly wrapped box, roughly six inches by eight inches in size, and barely one-inch thick.

Jack grinned as he spoke, “We really are hopeless, Danny.  I have yours downstairs.”

The younger man laughed knowingly.  No matter how much the couple might occasionally hide behind their macho man exteriors, the truth was that with each other, they were pure saps.  They'd realized that early on when both had agreed to minimal gifting for their first anniversary and subsequently regretted it.  Ever since, they'd always gone a little overboard, but neither man would have it any other way.

“We keep saying that we want to ... I mean ... Gawd, I hate it when I forget how to talk,” Daniel groaned, shaking his head as he bowed it.

“How about I just open it?”

“Jack ...”  There was a slight hesitancy in Daniel's voice, one that acknowledged their sometimes indulgent tendencies with each other.  “I tried not to go overboard since it's only a three-month anniversary so I ... I only have this one gift, but it's ... it's from my heart, and I hope you like it.”

“If it's from you, Angel, I already love it.”

Jack gave his husband a deep kiss before unwrapping his parcel.  He smiled as he pulled out the gift.  Opening it, he stared at the item, feeling overwhelmed.  He looked at Daniel, full of questions and surprise.

“Danny.”

Jack ran his fingers over the ink of the first page.  It was precious and it felt sacred to him.

“I want you to read it, Jack.  Every word,” Daniel spoke steadily.

“Angel, this is your journal.  It's ... Daniel, you don't have to let me read this,” Jack stated.  ~There's nothing more personal to him than his journals.~

“I know, but I want you to.  It's the journal from Abydos, the first time.  It's all about me ... you.  Read it, and you'll see.”

“Danny,” Jack whispered as he eyed the journal.

The silver-haired man didn't know what to say.  He held the book as if it were fragile, believing it to be one of the most treasured and cherished things he'd ever held in his hands.  Daniel had shared parts of his journals with him over the years, but never an entire volume, and never like this, presented as a gift that was essentially a gift from his soul.

“It's for you,” Daniel reiterated, his smile was sweet and genuine.

“You really want me to read this?” Jack asked, his eyes boring into his Heart's for the truth that was in the man's soul.

Daniel nodded, elaborating, “It's your copy, Jack.  You know Brian Caulfield?”

“Yeah, we met him at Ferretti's party last year.”

“Right.  He owns a copy shop, so he let me come in and make a copy, and he showed me how to do this binding.  There's an inscription.”

Seeing his lover's nod, Jack flipped the page and stared.

“I hope you don't mind.  I know we don't usually, but ...” Daniel began while his lover read the signing.

“Oh, Angel,” Jack sighed in amazement, feeling himself losing his composure as he read the short but poignant writing:

For my husband, Jack, who is my heart and soul.  As you read this, you'll see just how much you have always been my soulmate.  I love you with all my heart. Your husband, forever and always, Daniel.

“Geez, Danny, I don't know what to say.  I love you.”

“That was the perfect thing to say,” Daniel responded with a smile as he snuggled closer to his husband, soaking in his lover's enjoyment.

Making Jack happy always made Daniel happy, and somehow, sharing his inner thoughts with his lover just wasn't that difficult anymore.  They were too much a part of each other.  He had to admit he wasn't quite ready to let Jack read everything, but the Abydos journal was the best place to start.  Maybe someday, he'd gift Jack with another volume.

Jack put the journal in the nightstand on his side of the bed, saying, “Maybe I can read a little as you write tonight.”

“I'd like that.”

“Me, too.”  After a few minutes of intense cuddling, Jack suggested, “Time for your surprise, Love.”

“All I need is you,” Daniel professed as he got up and began to put on his sweatsuit.

Jack grinned wider than ever before, wondering just what he'd done to be so lucky as to have Daniel as his husband.

“Stay here,” Jack suddenly instructed after having put on his sweats.  “Don't move!”  He sprinted out of the room, but returned within a couple of minutes. “Had to make a few preparations.”

“Always be prepared,” Daniel teased as the two headed, arm-in-arm, downstairs.

====

“You did it again, Babe,” Daniel remarked, feeling tremendous warmth inside.  “Gawd, you're so romantic.”

“These are for you,” Jack said, having retrieved one dozen long stem red roses.  “A little thorny and pure of heart -- just like you.”

“Jack,” Daniel spoke as he sniffed the luscious-looking flowers.  “They're beautiful. Thank you.”  The two kissed, the flowers a delicate buffer between their bodies.  “But are you saying I'm ... thorny?”

“I love your thorns,” Jack declared seductively.  “They make you unique.  Danny. You don't sit back and accept.  You live.  It hasn't always been easy, but even when you've stabbed yourself, or put up bumps in the path of those wanting to help, you've never lost your faith in people.  I think that's incredible, especially when it's the opposite of what I did.”

“Jack ...”

“Daniel, it's the truth,” Jack asserted emphatically.  “You took all those thorns, the ones you erected and the ones tossed at you, and put them to good use.  Me? I was ready to kill innocent people on Abydos by setting off that bomb just to bury my own homegrown thorn.  You have no idea how much I respect your ability to learn how to turn a thorn into a rose.”

The lovers kissed, something they planned to do a lot more of during the night, and then Daniel took in more of the ambiance surrounding him.

“Candlelight and incense.  Gawd, I love you,” Daniel spoke tenderly, holding the flowers in his right hand as he moved in for a stronger, more passionate kiss, the roses against Jack's back.

“I thought we'd order Chinese, eat in the candlelight, put on some music ...”

“Dance?” Daniel asked hopefully.

“Dance,” Jack confirmed.  The lovers enjoyed dancing, and they fit together amazingly well, considering both were tall and well built.  “Enjoy some wine on the roof under the stars,” he concluded.

“Mmm ... sounds wonderful.”

“Or ... stay here.”  Jack walked into the kitchen and pulled out a covered plate from the refrigerator, taking it with him as he joined his husband by the fireplace.  “Or, if you prefer, Love, we can munch on these.”

“Wow,” Daniel said, taking in the plate.  “When did you have a chance to do that?”

Jack smiled. He had timed it perfectly, sneaking downstairs when Daniel was sound asleep, making the goodies, and arriving back in the bed just in time to get back in place before his Love had next awakened.

“Earlier today.  Motivation.”

Daniel looked at the tray of sexy finger foods and garnishing, some shaped in suggestive shapes or letters, and praised happily, “You're full of surprises, Babe.”  He leaned over to sample one of the mini-sandwiches.  “Mmmm, that's good.  Let's eat these.”

“You sure?”

“Yeah, I'm sure.”

“There's an angel food cake for desert, too,” Jack informed his soulmate.

Daniel smiled from embarrassment, the best kind of embarrassment.  He was Jack's angel, and Jack sometimes baked an angel food cake to symbolize that fact.  He was prepared to get lost in the loving emotion he was feeling, until he glanced over at the patio door and saw Bijou and Katie standing there eagerly.

“Uh, Jack ...”

Jack turned to see what his lover was looking at.  He smiled, well prepared for this moment.  If he hadn't been, the two beagles would definitely be allowed back inside the house, and that would restrict any hanky panky that might unfold as the couple's anniversary celebration continued.

“Girls, how about a treat?” Jack asked, rubbing his hands together as he smiled and walked over to the counter.  He picked up a bag he'd placed there earlier while preparing his surprise.  Opening the door, he handed each of the dogs two new beef bones.  “A treat for our ladies.  Enjoy!” he exclaimed, watching the two girls trot off in different directions to either chew on or bury their new bones.

As his grinning husband walked towards him, Daniel smiled and said, “You think of everything.”

“Didn't we cover that in the 'always be prepared' part of the quiz?” Jack chuckled.

“Uh, yes,” a very pleased Daniel affirmed.

The two men snuggled in front of the fire and began enjoying the various foods, in between their fondling and kissing, of course.

====

The lovers had been enjoying their fireside feast and fondling for quite a while when Jack suddenly stood up, pulling Daniel up with him.

“What?” the archaeologist asked in surprise.

“Come here,” the older man ordered, leading his Love to the table where a large wicker gift basket set.

“What's this?” Daniel inquired.  He'd noticed it earlier, but hadn't had a chance to think much about it with his sexy silver fox being such a loving distraction each passing minute.  ~It's not one of his famous fruit baskets.~

“Your present.”

“More like ... presents,” Daniel observed pleasantly at the number of wrapped gifts.  “Look at all this stuff.”

“I like to spoil you.”

“Jaaaack, we agreed.”

“Did we?” Jack questioned, raising his eyebrows skeptically.

Daniel rolled his eyes.  Putting aside their sappy natures and inability to not celebrate the special days in their relationship, he and Jack had agreed they'd save funds for their future family.  They weren't going to go 'too crazy' anymore with gifts; at least, that was the plan.

~So we're saps,~ Daniel sighed, seeing Jack's smirk.  ~I'm just glad he didn't ask how much it cost to get that binding done, or the engraving for the lettering, or the top quality paper, or ...~  He smiled inside.  ~We're saps.  Sue us.~

Daniel picked up the first item in the basket -- a small square box.  Opening it, he found a rock.  It appeared to be just a normal, everyday rock, but attached to it was a note that read:

You are my rock and my foundation.

“Foundation,” Daniel said softly.  “That's so sweet, Jack.”

“And true, Danny.  Ah, why don't we take this to the sofa so we can be comfortable while you open the rest of this stuff,” Jack suggested.

Once situated on the sofa, Daniel picked up the next gift.  It was in a long, thin box.  He was sure it was a tie.  Unwrapping it, he saw a long piece of string -- plain, white string.  The attached note read:

I don't need this string to remember that I am the luckiest man alive, because I have you in my life, but I hope you'll keep this string so you'll remember that no matter where we are or what we're doing, I love you.

“Who knew a string could make a man cry?” Daniel spoke emotionally, ignoring the tear that had just escaped down his cheek.

“I love you, Angel,” Jack responded tenderly, leaning over for a quick kiss and gently wiping away the tear at the same time.  “Open the next one.”

With a nod, the younger man lifted out the next item, a small bag.  Opening it, he pulled out a three-prong plug commonly found in most homes, including their own.  The words handwritten on the attached note made him smile.

You are what grounds me to this world.  You are my reality, protecting me from whatever threatens to surge through us, just as I always protect you.

Quietly, after wiping away another tear from his eye, Daniel opened the next item that was in a round tube.  He smiled immediately, seeing the color lithograph of a traditional red heart.  Beneath the heart, in calligraphy, were the words:

You are my heart, pumping away vibrantly, making the blood flow through me and giving strength to my lungs so I can breathe.  In every way, you give me life.

Jack's left hand caressed his spouse's back and, hearing a tiny sniffle, he tugged Daniel close, placing a kiss on his temple as he tenderly declared, “You're my everything, Danny -- everything. I love you more than I could ever say.”

“I love you, too,” Daniel replied.

After a moment, the archaeologist reached for the next item.  Pulling it out of its box, he smiled once again.  The gift was a key chain that had a yellow ball with a smiley face on it.  Written on the note were the words:

You are my smile, my laugh, and my joy.  Without you, Homer Simpson would be stale, and jokes would be sour.”

“Leave it to you, Babe, to bring a cartoon character into our romantic evening,” Daniel mused lightly.

“Homer means squat without you,” Jack responded, his eyes declaring his love and devotion once again.  “Check out the next one.”

Taken from a larger box, the next item was the DVD of the film classic, “Man of La Mancha.” Taped to the case was a longer note which read:

You are my song and my symphony.  Together, we are a mighty chorus, in perfect harmony.  You're caring and compassionate.  These lyrics could have been written for you --

To dream the impossible dream ...
To fight the unbeatable foe ...
To bear with unbearable sorrow ...
To run where the brave dare not go ...
To right the unrightable wrong ...
To try when your arms are too weary ...
To reach the unreachable star ...

This is my quest, to follow that star ...
No matter how hopeless, no matter how far ...
To fight for the right, without question or pause ...
To be willing to march into Hell, for a Heavenly cause ...

And I know if I'll only be true, to this glorious quest,
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm,
when I'm laid to my rest ...
And the world will be better for this:
That one man, scorned and covered with scars,
Still strove, with his last ounce of courage,
To reach the unreachable star ...

This is you, my Angel, my star.  You make the impossible happen because you care and are willing to do what it takes.  I am, and have always been, so very proud of you, of who you are.

“I love you, Jack.”  Daniel fingered the note and then leaned over to kiss his husband.  “I never dreamed I could be this happy.”

Jack caressed Daniel's cheek as he spoke, “Neither did I.  Love you, Angel.”

After another tender touching of their lips, Jack passed over another box.  This one looked like it was a thin book.  He watched as his lover opened the gift.  He still couldn't believe that he'd actually found it.  He'd been looking for this special item for over two years, and the previous week he'd received an email from a bookshop in London.  He'd had it sent over by special courier, and it had arrived the previous day.

“Open it, Danny.”

From the way that Daniel was caressing the cover of the book, Jack suspected that he knew what he'd find written inside.
 
Overwhelmed, Daniel gazed down at the book in his lap. It was a French edition of Tintin - 'Cigars of the Pharaoh'. Precious memories swelled in his mind of his parents reading this book to him at bedtime. He had loved hearing of the boy reporter's adventures with his faithful sidekick, Snowy. His parents had given him this particular volume for his seventh birthday. If this were the same book, there would be an inscription inside that read:

To our little Pharaoh.

With shaking fingers, Daniel opened the book.  He licked his lips as his heart pounded in anticipation.  He blinked as he stared at the familiar writing, the handwritten script of his mother, Claire.  Tears fell unabashedly down his cheeks as he traced the loving words with his fingers.

Daniel's voice barely a whisper, he asked, “How did you find it?”  He looked up at his husband in disbelief.  “I thought it was lost; that I'd never see it again.”

“After that nightmare with the Skull, you mentioned how Nick had thrown away most of your books, including this one.  He didn't think they were important.”

Even now Jack found it hard to believe Daniel's grandfather had been so unfeeling as to discard so many of the possessions that had been sent to him for safekeeping after Daniel's parents died.  It was obvious that 'sentimental' was not a word in the man's vocabulary.

“I've been looking for it ever since; got Carter to help me email every single bookshop we could find,” Jack elaborated.

“All this time,” Daniel whispered.  Placing the book carefully on the coffee table, he hugged his husband as tightly as he could.  No one was like His Jack; no one else would go so far just to find a book from his childhood.  “Love you so freakin' much.  Gawd, what I feel is so strong; the words, they ... they just don't say enough.  I'd be nothing without you,” he choked out as he squeezed his lover to him.

~This feels awesome,~ a pleased Jack sighed contentedly.  The little boy Danny hadn't had much of his parents to hang on to, so when he could occasionally do something to remind that young innocent boy of his parents love, it lit up his heart.  ~This is what I live for -- to make him smile like this.~  With a smile of his own, Jack spoke again.  “Danny?”

“Yes.”

“Read me the story.”

Daniel smiled joyfully as he replied, “Gawd, Jack.  You always know the perfect thing to say.”

“Because I love you.”

Daniel's left hand went to Jack's face, gently caressing.  His eyes locked on to Jack.

“So much, Jack,” Daniel spoke simply.  The lovers kissed again, and then he suggested, “Jack, let's read it on the roof.”

====

A few minutes later, the happy couple had relocated to the roof deck, which was a place of special solace and comfort to both of them.  Jack sat on the floor of the deck, his back against the wall, while Daniel sat in front of him, his head against his Love's shoulder.  Since it was night now, they brought out a lantern to light the deck sufficiently for them to read the book.  Jack's arms embraced his Heart, his hands caressing Daniel's abdomen.

Daniel held the tome gently, just staring at it for several minutes as he felt his soulmate's touches and kisses.

“Do you want me to read it?” Jack asked softly and tenderly, thinking maybe his husband was too emotional to get through it.

“Uh, it's in French,” Daniel replied.  Suddenly, a thought occurred to him.  He twisted around slightly to ask, “Jack, do you speak French?”  Seeing the older man's smile and noncommittal shrug, he assumed Jack was just teasing.  ~I think he's teasing, anyway.~  Turning back around, he said, “Thanks, anyway, but I want to,” after which he opened the book.

The two men saw the picture of the cruise ship and the young boy looking over the end of the protective railing, his dog sitting on the ledge of the rail.

“This is the life, Snowy,” Daniel began to read, translating the French into English.  “A really quiet holiday for a change ...”

Jack chuckled, getting Daniel's attention.

“What?” the archaeologist asked curiously.

“Sounds like us,” Jack remarked.  “We always think life will be calm, and then everything goes crazy.  Quiet holiday.  Poor Tintin.  He hasn't a clue what's ahead.”

“But he'll get through it, like he always does.”

“Just like we do, Angel.”  Jack kissed Daniel's temple and then encouraged, “Go on.”

As Daniel read the pages, the lovers would occasionally stop and talk about the story, or Daniel would remember something his parents had done or said while reading it to him years earlier.  Mostly though, Jack listened, taking in the gift of his lover.  He reveled in Daniel's smile, and the joy his lover was feeling.  He listened to Snowy's search for Tintin after they had been separated and smiled when the two were reunited.

~Just like Snowy, I'd search the world and the universe for you, Danny -- for you, for anything that makes you smile, and anything that keeps you happy.  Who needs some marriage quiz to prove what we already know?  I live for this, for that smile and that heartiness in your voice.  Love you, Danny.~

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