Silver Linings

Author: Orrymain
Category: Slash, Angst, H/C, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  2 - shortly before The Fifth Race
Spoilers:  None
Size:  53kb
Written:  December 15-18, 2003, January 9-10, 2004  Revised:  January 13,30, April 7, September 19-20,28-29, October 29, 2005
Summary:  Is Jack too old and run-down for his youthful, energetic lover?  That's the question Jack is asking himself, and it's one Daniel needs to answer before it's too late!
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) This fic stands alone, but it does reference my other fic, “Just When You Thought You Knew Jack!”
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  Drdjlover, Sheryl, QuinGem, Sentarla, Claudia, Linda!

Silver Linings
by Orrymain

“Geez, Danny, you are the quintessential energizer bunny,” a happy Jack commented.

“Bunny ... energiz'r ... na'huh,” Daniel sighed, his brain still on a euphoric high, resulting in his vocabulary and speech patterns not yet having returned to normal.

Jack smiled as his hands warmed his lover.

~Mind-blowing sex.  Yup, that's what we just had.  He's incredible~

In addition to having been one of their more forceful unions since becoming a couple a few months earlier, their lovemaking session had also lasted longer than ever before.

~Wasn't sure I was going to be able to keep up with you, Danny.  Made it, but whew, I had to worked at it for a bit.~

Jack's smile turned to a frown.  The fact that he'd had to work at keeping up towards the very end, at going on as long as Daniel had wanted and needed to, bothered him.  He stared up at the ceiling blankly as Daniel happily fell asleep atop his 'Jack Pillow'.

The preoccupied lover ran his fingers through Daniel's shaggy hair.

~Your hair; so long, and it grows so fast.  That's because you're young.  The young always have long hair.  It's a sign of rebellion.  Look at me, Danny.  Can you picture me with locks like yours?  Never in a million years, but you; even with that haircut recently, you have more hair than I've had my entire life.~

Jack's thoughts grew darker as the minutes passed.  There were more than a few years between the two men.  The gap in their ages was not so wide that it made them an odd couple, especially with Jack's youthful behavior and Daniel's always more-mature stature, but still, those extra ten-plus years bore into Jack's mind and soul.

~Do we really have a future?  Am I wrong to want it as much as I do?~

Jack loved Daniel more than he had words to express, and while the age difference didn't seem to matter much now, to the more youthful Daniel, there might come a day when it would.  At least, that's what Jack feared.  He also worried that his own inability to keep pace with his lover's unending energy might end their relationship one day.

Daniel could live on caffeine if he had to, and Jack could never understand that.  No matter how tired Daniel was, he could always tap into some hidden reserve of energy or reservoir of youth to get through days or even weeks of little sleep.

~No matter how hard he works, he looks younger every day.~  Sadly, Jack came to an unpleasant realization.  ~How long before you finally see how wonderful you are, Danny?  How long before you see that this old body of mine isn't exactly in the same league as those you could have, male or female?  Geez, you could be with anyone you wanted.~

Jack looked at his sleeping lover and couldn't help but smile again.  Daniel was sound asleep, but he was smiling.  It was an expression that made Jack feel young, except the feeling faded as he stared up at the ceiling.  He wasn't young; at least, not in his mind.
 
~I'm not sure that I can keep up with you.  Crap, Danny, I love you so friggin' much, but one day, you're going to look at me and wonder what you got into.  The years may not seem like so much now, but what about later?  What's that Beatles song?  'Will you still love me when I'm sixty-four?'  For crying out loud, you're only ...  No, I don't want to think about it.  Numbers.  I friggin' hate numbers.~

Daniel moved a little, but Jack whispered, “Shhh, Love.  Sleep,” and within seconds, the younger man had settled again, his long hair helping to warm Jack's chest.

~I can't lose you, Danny.  I have to do whatever I can to keep you, to stop you from realizing that you've fallen for a run-down old colonel with bad knees who will be on Social Security while you're still out there exploring planets.  Whatever it takes, whatever I have to do to myself, I'll do it, just as long as you stay with me.~

Jack ran his fingers through Daniel's shaggy locks and whispered, “I love you, Danny.”

====

Several days later, Jack was in the exercise room at the Mountain doing battle with the punching bag.

“Keeping in shape there, Jack?” Randy McClain exclaimed, entering with the rest of his SG-7 team.

“That's the idea,” Jack responded without stopping his actions.

“Hey, O'Neill,” Robert Makepeace called out, “how about it?”

The leader of SG-3 held up his boxing gloves, challenging Jack.  The two had a fairly civil rivalry that had gone on since the first days of the SGC.

“Are you sure you're up to it, Makepeace?” Jack smirked confidently.

“Are you?” the Marine dared.

“Bring it on!” Jack smugly challenged.

The two took their positions on one of the large mats and began to box around, each moving strategically.  They took turns taking blows, their bodies ducking and weaving all around to avoid the other's jabs as much as possible.  Each had made brief connections to the other's body, but nothing substantial until Jack saw his chance.

Jack needed only to twist around and deliver a right jab to Makepeace who was open to the blow, but as he turned, his right knee gave out on him.  Jack screamed in pain as he fell to the mat, cursing.

“Jack, you okay?” Makepeace asked as he stared down at him.

“Oh, for crying out loud,” Jack said in lieu of swearing now that the initial jolting stab of pain had passed.  His knee hurt like sin.  ~Just don't let Danny see me like this.~

With the help of Makepeace and McClain, Jack went to the infirmary so Janet could take a look.

====

“You've sprained it, Colonel,” Janet announced as she concluded her examination.  “You should have known better than to make a move like that with your knees.”

“Hold the criticism, Doc.  Just ... give me something for the pain, and I'll be on my way,” Jack ordered.

“Colonel, if you don't take care of that knee, it'll only get worse over time.  It could cost you your command,” the petite physician warned with eyes of intensity.

“Sweet,” Jack said sarcastically.

“Colonel, just be smart, okay?” Janet advised.

Janet knew Jack used sarcasm to hide his real feelings, but sometimes it meant she couldn't be certain how seriously he was taking her advice.  It was times like those when she ended up wanting to throttle him.

“Smart,” Jack echoed, his head just slightly bobbing up and down in mock agreement with the SGC's Chief of Medicine.

“Colonel, I want you to rest your knee for the next forty-eight hours.  Try not to put your weight on it, and don't take this,” Janet motioned at the cold pack that rested on Jack's knee, “off for another ten minutes.  When you get home, I want you to put the ice pack on that knee for twenty minutes every two hours, and you are to do it *on* schedule over the next two days.  Is that clear?”

“I'll be cold,” Jack responded dryly.

“Wear a sweater,” the doctor replied.

Jack nodded, frustrated with himself for having bad knees in the first place.  He felt older than ever, like an ancient tree whose limbs were rotting and slowly breaking away.

“Keep the knee elevated as much as possible,” Janet continued.  “I suggest placing a pillow under it for support.  After a couple of days, we'll take another look to make sure there isn't any further swelling or inflammation.”

“Can I go now?” Jack asked anxiously as he slid off the examination table.

“I'll call Doctor Jackson,” Janet headed for the phone.

“No.  Just ... get an airman,” Jack barked.

Surprised, Janet looked back and stared at Jack for a few moments.  Without exception, Jack and Daniel always looked after each other after an injury or illness, so the colonel's comment had thrown her for a loop.

“Is Daniel off-world?” the physician asked.

“No.  Just get an airman, Doctor Fraiser,” Jack requested sternly.

Though confused and a bit reluctant, Janet did as requested.

====

“Jack?  JACK, where are you?” Daniel called out as he entered Jack's house.  While he was concerned about his lover's abrupt exodus from Cheyenne Mountain, the archaeologist was also feeling decidedly disgruntled that Jack had left work without even saying goodbye.  “Jack?”

Daniel checked the study and the kitchen and then hurried up the stairs.  He had discovered Jack's unexpected departure by accident after having gone to the infirmary for some aspirin.  His own supply had been depleted sometime earlier.  The archaeologist had a miserable headache that hadn't gone away all day, and he certainly wasn't feeling any better now.

“Jack, for crying out loud, why didn't you answer me?” Daniel asked in frustration as he entered the bedroom and saw Jack lying on the bed.

“I didn't feel like yelling,” Jack snapped.  “What are you doing here?”

“What am I doing here?” Daniel asked incredulously as he looked at his injured lover.

“Are you deaf now?” Jack barked.  ~Go home, Danny.~

Jack's tone was bland and his face expressionless.  He was avoiding making eye contact with his lover.

“What happened?” Daniel asked, temporarily ignoring whatever bee Jack seemed to have in his bonnet.

“Nothing,” Jack said, staring over towards the wall.

“Jack, your knee has an ice pack on it.  Obviously, something happened,” Daniel observed.

“You're such a genius, Daniel,” Jack said mockingly.  “I always knew I could count on you to make the logical deduction.”

Daniel sighed, his arms folded.  He stood a few feet away from the bed, about halfway from its corner and the doorway.

“Jack, I'm waiting,” Daniel stated demandingly.

Jack stared at the ceiling, but finally relented, “It gave out, okay?  Happy now?  I might as well retire, move to the cabin, and go fishing.”

Daniel walked slowly to the bed, sat down, and asked, “What happened, Jack?”

The soft tone threatened to dissolve Jack's anger, especially when Daniel's hand rubbed gently against Jack's right arm, but the older man refused to let go of his resolve.  He was old, and right now he felt positively ancient.  Everything about him was changing, and not for the better.  His Daniel was just the opposite, ~young and beautiful,~ Jack had thought as Daniel had first entered the room.

“It doesn't matter,” Jack responded casually.

“Well, you're certainly in a pleasant mood and aren't about to give in, are you?” Daniel challenged.

“No,” Jack bellowed, still looking anywhere but at Daniel because if he did, Jack was afraid he'd cave.  “You get a reprieve.  Why don't you call one of those nurses who can't keep their eyes off of you, and take them to dinner.  Go dancing ...” Jack paused and turned his ahead away as he whispered, “take them home with you.”

“Excuse me?” Daniel said, utterly confused and on the verge of outright anger.  Jack's attitude was making no sense at all to the younger man.  When Jack remained silent, Daniel spoke again.  “You're kidding, right?”

~I wish.~  More than anything, Jack wanted to hold Daniel in his arms.  Second to that, he wanted Daniel to treat him like a king tonight, to pamper him because of his injury, and to do all those sweet, silly, comforting things one mate does for the other when they are felled by a sickness or when an injury happened.  ~That's what I want.~

For a second, Jack considered saying, 'Of course, I'm kidding' and forgetting the whole thing, but he caught himself just in time.  He truly loved Daniel and wanted the best for him.

~I'm not the best for you; not even close,~ Jack cried internally.  His body was screaming, 'Aged! Decrepit!  Ancient!  Can't keep up!  Let him go!  Let him find someone to make him as happy as he deserves to be'.  Thus, Jack kept his bad attitude and responded harshly, saying, “No, go; have fun.  You can start with that exhibit you've been wanting to go to.  They'll just love listening to you explain about ancient love rites.”

~Sometimes, he is so annoying.~  Daniel shook his head, replying, “Jack, I'm not going anywhere except downstairs to make some dinner.”

“You don't have to, Daniel.  Just go hang out with people who can ... people who won't ... people your own age.”

Angered, the younger man echoed, “My own age?  Where'd that come from?”

Daniel hated it whenever Jack acted dumb.  He hated it even more when Jack got into his 'I'm so old' funk, but it had never been this bad before.  Jack had whined, complained, and asked Daniel about it a few times, but he had never tried to split up over it.  Inside, Daniel had a nasty feeling that was what Jack was trying to do right now.

To Daniel, their age difference was something minor, not the least bit of a hindrance.  Daniel had always acted older and lived his life surrounded by those older than he was, and he knew Jack had the heart of a child.~  Somehow, it made them perfect together, meeting on a common ground that was somewhere between adolescence and adulthood.

The younger man had never felt such strong emotion for anyone as he felt for Jack.  The graying man had opened up Daniel's heart and soul to things he had never even dreamed of.  Their sexual relationship was ~out of this world~ in Daniel's opinion, and he loved it, but he also knew he didn't need it to be happy with Jack.

Listening to his partner now made Daniel want to scream, especially since his lover was avoiding the real issue, whatever that was.

~There's more to this, Jack.  Your silly 'old me' feeling might be a factor in your grizzly attitude of the moment, but something else triggered this.~  Daniel realized his personal challenge was to stick it out and not let Jack push his hot buttons, the ones that would send Daniel running.  ~He doesn't mean what he says.  Hold your ground, Jackson.~

Daniel was briefly taken aback when Jack admitted some of his inner feelings.

“I'm old, Danny, and I'm falling apart,” Jack confessed.  “You deserve someone who can keep up with you; someone who won't disappoint you, not some elderly fool who can't stand up.”

~Elderly fool?~  Daniel responded, “Wow, you are really full of yourself tonight.  You know I don't like that old man whine any more than I buy the dumb colonel routine.  It's crap, Jack, and we both know it.  Now, you want to stew, fine ... stew.  I hope you decide to tell me what's got you so wrapped up in this web of self-pity, but until then, I am going to make dinner for us.  So, do you want to tell me what you'd like to eat, or do you want to eat whatever I decide you need to eat tonight?”

Since Jack said nothing, Daniel sighed from frustration, then leaned in and kissed Jack on the cheek.  He looked deeply into his lover's eyes and with tenderness said, “Jack, I don't know what is bothering you so much, but I'm not going anywhere.”

Jack was about to melt, and he couldn't afford to do that.  He'd worked too hard to say the little he had.  This was too important to him to be defeated so quickly.

“GET OUT!  I DON'T WANT YOU HERE!” Jack suddenly shouted, taking a pillow and throwing it at Daniel, shocking the younger man.  “What does it take to get it through that thick skull of yours that we're over?  All you do is whine and sneeze anyway.  Go take your own pity party to ... to Carter or that little red-headed bimbo that tries to look under the sheets whenever you're injured.  Get the heck out of *my* house NOW!”

Flustered and hurt, Daniel tossed the pillow down as he got up.  For a moment, he stood tight-lipped, his eyes staring into Jack's.  At least, they were trying to, but Jack wouldn't even look at him.

~If he won't even look at me, maybe he does mean it.~

As his heart beat rapidly, Daniel felt something inside himself crumble.  He must have missed something.  Maybe Jack had been trying to break up with him for a long time, and he had refused to see the signs.  After all, everyone left Daniel eventually.  Daniel backed away, finally turning.

When he got to the door, without looking back, Daniel whispered, “Goodbye, Jack” and headed out.  He actually got halfway down the stairs before his brain started working again, and he realized he had fallen victim to Jack's game.

~Wait a minute.  What was that?~  Daniel conceded that Jack was trying to get him to leave, but when he processed what Jack had actually said, Daniel realized the truth.  ~He doesn't want us to be over; he just thinks I'd be better off if we were over.~  Daniel's rapid heartbeat began to pound, but it was no longer from rejection and the loss of his forever.  ~He's a freakin' idiot.  I don't deserve better.  For crying out loud, I have better.  No, not better; I have the best, even if he drives me insane.  Gawd, I love him, but right now, I could strangle that colonel of mine.~

With that realization, Daniel got angry, very angry.  Gathering up all his internal strength, he walked into the bedroom and stopped two feet from Jack's side.  He stood motionless, his arms folded across his chest.  His eyes pierced Jack's.

~Why is he back?  Why isn't he saying anything?~  Jack didn't want to look into Daniel's eyes, but he had been surprised by his lover's reappearance.  ~Don't look at me.~  Daniel did look, and he kept looking.  When Jack finally looked at the younger man, he became a prisoner.  Daniel's eyes had locked on to Jack's at last, and now, the older man couldn't move.

Three minutes of silence passed as they communicated only through their eyes.

“Oh, for crying out loud, stop looking at me like I'm a System Lord or something!”

Daniel smiled knowingly and replied, “Nice try, Jack.  You almost got me ... almost!  But, as you can see, I'm still here, and I'm not moving, not one step until you talk to me.”

“Fine,” Jack responded, stubbornly looking away.  Everytime Jack looked at his lover, Daniel simply smiled.  An hour passed, and still, Daniel continued to stand like a statue.  ~The man stands up to System Lords; I'm just a run-down colonel,~ Jack moaned silently.  “I'm hungry, Daniel,” he finally droned.

“What would you like to eat?” Daniel asked, as if no time at all had gone by since his return to the bedroom.

“Stew.  It'll go well with my stewing,” Jack lightly grumbled.

Daniel couldn't help a chuckle.  Jack still hadn't admitted what was wrong, but obviously, he had gotten the message, at least enough to ask for food.

“I'll be back,” Daniel said as he turned and headed downstairs to prepare the meal.

====

The next few hours passed quietly, with mostly one-way conversations.

“Here, Jack, let me help you sit up,” Daniel suggested softly as he put the food tray down on the dresser.

“I can do it,” Jack argued, shoving Daniel away with his right hand.

~Gawd, that hurt,~ Daniel thought as he self-hugged.  ~He doesn't mean it.  He doesn't mean it.  He doesn't mean it.~

As Daniel continued his silent mantra, Jack slowly and stubbornly maneuvered himself into position.  He groaned as he leaned back against the headboard and silently repeated his own mantra of, ~It's for his own good.~

With Jack in position, Daniel retrieved the tray and placed it over his partner's lap.  He sat down on the end of the bed and attempted some lighthearted discussion.

“I talked to Cassie this morning.  She said her Jack still refuses to fetch on command,” Daniel commented about the dog Jack had given the alien girl.  Jack said nothing.  “I, uh, told her it was in the name.  All Jacks were stubborn and pigheaded.”  Though Jack glared at Daniel, he said nothing.  “Fine,” Daniel commented.

Daniel stood up and noticed something on the nightstand that turned out to be Janet's instructions.

“Why didn't you tell me about this?”  Realizing Jack wasn't going to answer, Daniel said, “Right” dryly and then set about to follow the instructions, beginning with applying the ice pack.

====

“Daniel, I can do it,” Jack groused, swatting his lover away.

“Well, at least I know you can still speak,” Daniel said.  He had already removed the food tray and was now placing the pack on Jack's knee.  “I'm watching the clock, Jack.  You don't touch this until I come in to take it off.  Understand?”

“I am not a child!” Jack argued.

“You're not?  You're sure acting like one,” Daniel said, his eyes daring Jack to deny it.

The scene played on over and over for hours, Jack arguing and Daniel ignoring the complaints.  He kept reminding himself that his lover was trying to get him to go away.

~Stubborn geek,~ Jack thought.

The older man still hadn't told Daniel about the boxing match, either.  Of course, Jack wasn't saying anything to Daniel that wasn't a snarky retort or statement designed to get the younger man to leave.

Time continued to pass, but like a bump on a log, Jack hadn't moved from the bed, except to hobble into the bathroom while Daniel had taken the food tray downstairs earlier.

As evening settled into nighttime, the game was still in place.  Daniel stood at the foot of the bed, arms wrapped around himself, with Jack leaning against the headboard, a new ice pack on his knee.

~I can't stand this anymore,~ Jack acknowledged.  Mustering up all the anxiety and anger he could, he barked, “I want you to go, Daniel.  I want to be alone.”

“Sure you do, Jack,” Daniel stated.

“Are you deaf or something?  Get the ...”

Jack let out a few obscenities in his quest to get Daniel to leave, but Daniel stood his ground.

~A last-ditch effort to get rid of me tonight?~  Inwardly, Daniel was pleased at the way Jack's words washed over him.  ~It's easier, knowing what you're up to.  Your words, Jack -- they're just words; they've ... they've lost their power to hurt me.  Go on.  Swear away, but me?  I'm staying right here.  In fact, I'm tired.  Let's go to bed.~

As a clueless Jack continued to swear, Daniel yawned.  He slowly took off his clothes, one piece at a time, until he stood naked.

~Oh, I've got his attention.  Yeah, Jack.  You want me to go.  Try again.~

Feeling Jack's eyes on him, Daniel kept his back to his lover, never really looking at him as he continued his pre-bed routine.

~Right, Jack, you really want me to go,~ Daniel thought again, chuckling slightly.  Purposely, he put on his blue flannel pajama bottoms, opting not to wear a top.  He went to his side of the bed, got under the covers, and scooted over next to Jack.  “Excuse me,” Daniel said, physically pulling Jack into a supine position.

“Hey, that hurts!” Jack griped.  ~This is *so* not fair.  I'm only human.~

“You're tough.  You can handle it,” Daniel said, his internal smile increasing.  ~If you did want me to go, there's no way you'd let me do this.  My Jack -- all grizzly all the time, at least today.~

“I could sue, you know,” Jack said, his words lacking their earlier bite.

“I'm tired, Jack,” Daniel said informatively.  “I'm going to sleep now, and I WANT ... MY ... PILLOW!”

Jack just stared at the forcefulness of his soulmate's tone.  Daniel however, just smiled as the their eyes stared into the other's briefly.

Checking to be sure Jack was exactly where he wanted him, Daniel snuggled close, placing his head on Jack's chest, hooking his left leg between Jack's while being careful not to jar the injured knee, and wrapping his left arm over his lover's chest possessively.

~This is *so* not fair,~ Jack repeated to himself numerous times.

~I love my Jack pillow,~ Daniel sighed contently.  ~He doesn't want me to go.  He doesn't.  No way!~

Five minutes passed before Daniel heard a sigh from his human pillow.  Then, he felt Jack's fingers barely touching his back until finally he could feel the touch of Jack's palm, moving gently up and down his spine.  Another minute passed, and Jack brought his right hand over to wrap around Daniel, something he often did as if to keep Daniel from moving away from him.  

~Yes, Jack.  I love you so much.  Don't shut me out.  I'm here, and I ... I need you.~

Daniel's hopes came true, and his smile grew once he felt Jack's lips press against the top of his head.

With a sigh, Jack said softly, “I love you, Danny,” his fingers now running through the younger man's long brown hair.

“I love you, too, Jack,” Daniel replied quietly.  “Go to sleep.  Everything will be better tomorrow.”

~I hope so, Danny, but how can it be?  I'm trying to do this for you, but crap, you're not fighting fair.~

Jack sighed again and, knowing his lover wasn't budging tonight, gave in, letting his struggle go.  For one more night, he'd hold his lover and treasure Daniel's scent as they slept together.

~Argue, Jack.  I know that's what you're doing, but things will be better in the light of the day.  We'll get through whatever this is.  Gawd, I hope we will.~  Daniel wanted to believe; Jack had been telling him that they were forever, and Daniel wanted that.  He just had bad luck.  ~No, stop thinking like that.  He's just ... sick.  Everything will be better in the morning.  It will be better in the morning.  It will be better in the morning.~

Finally, both men succumbed to sleep, each happy to be in the other's arms.

====

It seemed that Daniel had been right as by the next morning, Jack's attitude had improved somewhat.

“Jack, please tell me what's really going on,” Daniel pleaded as Jack ate his breakfast.

“Nothing, Daniel.  Thanks for the omelet.  I like how you cook them,” Jack spoke appreciatively.

“You're welcome,” Daniel said.  ~I guess we'll let it go, for a while anyway.~

====

Days passed.  Jack's knee improved, but it still ached, a fact he kept to himself.  The physical state of his knee hadn't been helped, though, by the two grueling missions SG-1 had just completed.  However, Jack had been able to con the general that his physical condition wouldn't be a liability, something Janet had reluctantly gone along with.

“Colonel, I'll go along, but the moment you stop following my orders or began skipping the rehabilitation I've scheduled, I'll pull the plug on your active status before you can say, 'For crying out loud',” Janet had told him sternly upon his return to duty.

On this particular night, Jack and Daniel were going to a party that one of the Air Force personnel were giving.  It was to be a big affair hosted by a visiting dignitary.  Of course, Jack and Daniel wouldn't officially be going together, but they had agreed on when to show up and when to leave, coincidentally within ten minutes of each other.

From his position near the bar, Jack watched several of the nurses in attendance flocking around Daniel.  He also saw John Carpenter, a new civilian recruit, eyeing his lover.

~I could kill him here and now.  Stop eyeing my lover!~  Jack wasn't happy and made a mental note to keep an eye on the man.  ~Transfer.  I'll get him stationed in Russia.~  Carpenter's eyes were positively lusting after Daniel, and Jack's blood began to boil.  ~I'll ... wait.  Carpenter is close to Danny's age.  Maybe it's for the best.~

The colonel watched Carpenter approach Daniel and start up a conversation, which went on for quite a while.  With venom running through his veins, Jack saw Carpenter's hand land on Daniel's back a few times during their discussion.  Daniel wasn't encouraging the man at all, but for Jack, that didn't matter much.  Jack's jealousy streak was a mile long and twice as wide, to say the least.

~Okay, that's enough!~  For a minute, Jack had contemplated interrupting the two, but again, the youthfulness of the younger men stopped him.  ~You can't stop it, O'Neill.  Let Carpenter make some ground.  I love Daniel, enough to let him go.  It's best if he moves on and finds someone his own age.~

Jack took a drink ... and then another ... and then one more ... before imbibing yet again.  Soon, the leader of SG-1 was three sheets to the wind.  He was never a security risk when drunk, his military training so deeply ingrained within him that even at his worst, he could control his actions in that respect.  But Jack tended to be a mean drunk:  nasty, harsh, often lashing out at those who loved him most.

“All things considered, this isn't a bad party, Sir,” Sam said, stopping to talk with Jack near the bar.

“And what makes you an expert on parties, Carter?” Jack asked snarkily.

Taken aback, Sam looked more closely at her CO before carefully replying, “Um, well, nothing, Sir, just thought that considering who the host ...”

“The host is a blithering idiot, and you know it,” Jack snapped.

“Yes, Sir, but ...”

“But what?  That lousy moron thinks he's nature's gift to mankind.  The only thing he is,” Jack took several gulps of his whiskey sour, “is a pain in the butt!”

“Um, Sir, that ... pain in the butt is headed towards the bar, so you might want to ... um, well ...”

“Carter, if you have something to say, then say it!” Jack said angrily.

Sam sighed, and quietly warned, “No, I only meant that you might want to change the subject.”

“The subject is ...”  Jack shook his head, turned to the bartender and requested, “Give me another, Ted.”

Jack pushed his empty glass towards the bartender who had been hired to manage the bar for the party.

~This is not good.~  Sam nervously looked around at the other guests.  “So, Sir, how about we go ...”

“Carter, how about *you* go away?” Jack retorted harshly.  “I didn't ask for your company.  What's more, I don't want your company.  Go play with your doohickeys or something.”

Undaunted, Sam suggested, “I really think you should come with me, or maybe I should find Daniel.”

“Daniel?  Daniel,” Jack sighed.  “Daniel should go play with your doohickeys, too, Carter.”  Jack finished off his latest drink wondering if he should switch to something stronger.  “Take him home, Carter.  You two are kinda cute together.  You like Danny, don't ya, Carter?” Jack asked, his upper body weaving about slightly.

“Um, well, of course I do,” the blonde answered.  ~Who doesn't?  Everyone likes Daniel.~

“See.  He needs someone like you.  Yes,” Jack resolved in his inebriated mind.  “Daniel doesn't need some broken down, battled-scarred artifact.”

~Boy, is he out of it.~  Sam leaned a little closer and quietly said, “Colonel, let me drive you home.”

Sam gently touched Jack's arm, but he pushed her away as if repelling an attacking guard dog.
 
“Get lost, Carter,” Jack stated, his arm flailing to his side.  “I'm busy.”

“Busy?” Sam asked.  “Busy doing what?”  ~Besides getting drunk, that is.~

“Planning my funeral.  Now GET YOUR smiling face out of my sight!  NOW!”

Sam looked around nervously.  At Jack's raised voice, a few people had turned around, but fortunately, their interest quickly waned in whatever was happening at the bar.  Sam wasn't sure what she could do to get Jack out of there and contemplated her options for a minute or two as she stood.

Except for asking about her interest in Daniel, Jack hadn't looked at his 2IC.  In fact, he had only looked at his drinks, frequently swishing them around for a second before downing the contents quickly.  Sam watched her CO swallow yet another alcoholic beverage.  That made four since she had begun the conversation a few minutes before.

Jack didn't get caught drinking outside his home often, but on the couple of occasions he had, his teammates had been there to reel him in.  Thus, Sam could recognize the signs her CO's increasing intoxication -- the repetitive drinks, Jack's extra-harsh sharpness in tone, his lack of focus on anything except for his glass.

Sam nodded to herself and walked away, searching for Daniel.  She had only recently admitted to the couple that she knew about their relationship.  She was also aware that over the last couple of weeks things had been a little strained with her CO, though she didn't know why.  He had been terse and short with most everyone, including Daniel.

~Someone has to stop him; that means Daniel.  He's the only one who can get the colonel out of here without making a scene.~  Seeking out Daniel, Sam found him talking with several of the other civilian SGC staff.  “Um, Daniel, can I talk to you for a minute ... privately?”

“Sure, Sam,” Daniel quickly agreed.  Oblivious to the jealous looks Sam was receiving from a few of the women and John Carpenter, Daniel went to a corner with Sam for a secluded conversation.  “What is it, Sam?”

“The colonel; he's drunk,” Sam informed Daniel.

Daniel stared at her speechless for a moment; then shook his head in denial, saying, “Drunk?  I don't think so.  He's probably just playing a game with you.  You know how he gets when ...”

“No, Daniel, he's plastered.  Are you sure everything's okay with ... you know?” Sam quietly queried.

Since they were surrounded by people, Sam tried to ask subtly about Jack's and Daniel's relationship.

“Yes, I am sure,” Daniel answered.  “I'll take care of it.  Thanks.”

Daniel made his way through the crowd, chatting politely with people as he did so, but only for a minute or two each.  He was sure Sam must have been overreacting.  Jack was probably just in another of his bad moods.

~There have been far too many of them lately, Jack.  Something's been bugging you for the last couple of weeks, and I want to know what.~

When he reached Jack, Daniel could immediately tell Sam was right.  Jack was making snappy remarks at anyone who had dared say anything to him, and Daniel could smell the aroma of the liquor as he moved closer to his lover.  If he had any doubts about his lover's sobriety, it ended as soon as he began to talk with Jack.

“Jack, let's go home,” Daniel quietly suggested.

“Go play with the kiddies,” Jack sarcastically responded.

~The kiddies?~  Daniel sighed, forcefully responding, “Don't argue with me, Jack.  You're drunk.  It's time to go.”

Jack snorted, “I do not need a child's help to be put to bed.”

~A child?  That's it; we're out of here.~  Daniel grabbed Jack's right arm lightly, whispering again, “We have to go now.”

“Past your bedtime, Daniel?” Jack said snarkily as he pushed his lover away and downed another vodka.

Daniel had almost fallen down when Jack shoved him; he glanced around to see if anyone had noticed, feeling relieved when only Sam seemed to be looking.  He knew, though, that in this state Jack was capable of getting physical with guests, and if that happened, things could get out of hand quickly.  Daniel resolved to do whatever he had to in order to get Jack to go home with him now.

“Listen to me, Jack,” Daniel spoke in a low but forceful tone.  “Either you come with me now, or I'll be forced to make you look like the drunk you are in front of the Marines.  Think about it, Jack.  The geek is going to take down the Special Ops colonel.  You're drunk, Jack, and you know it.”  He paused, just for a few seconds, long enough to let his words sink in.  “So, *Colonel*, what's it going to be?”

Jack said nothing, pushing Daniel out of the way, but then he rose from the barstool and swaggered his way out of the large room.  Daniel sighed, exchanged a look with Sam who had watched it all, and then followed Jack out.  The older man had managed to reach his truck but was fumbling to get his key into the door.  He raised his eyebrows as he tried to focus on the keys.  Suddenly, Daniel reached out and took the keys.

“Hey!  Those are mine!” Jack complained.

“You can have them back tomorrow,” Daniel told him.  Daniel unlocked the passenger side of the truck and called to his lover.  “Get in, Jack.”

Jack bellowed the entire drive to his house, ranting and complaining about everything from the bad booze to Daniel's driving.

~So help me, Jack, sometimes I wonder why, except I know why.  What's going on with you?  I'm going to get to the bottom of this, my ... drunken colonel, and when I do, well, you'd better have one heck of an excuse for all of this!~

====

When they arrived at the house twenty-five minutes later, Jack was as belligerent as he had been at the beginning of the drive.  He resisted every attempt Daniel had made to help him, falling twice before making it up the front porch steps.  Once inside, Jack made his way to the kitchen, took out a six-pack of beer, and carried them to his favorite chair.  Daniel simply watched in disbelief as Jack opened a bottle and began to drink from it.

“Hey, Scout ... have one, why dontcha'?”

“Scout?” Daniel asked curiously as he stood by the stairs.

“Aren't you a boy scout?  You sure look like one, especially with that hair.  A bit scrawny maybe, but you'd be great to gather the firewood,” a drunken Jack intoned.

Daniel sighed.  It was going to be a long night.

====

The following day Jack had awakened with a nasty hangover.  He couldn't remember much of what he had said or done, and Daniel didn't tell him.

~We really need to talk about it; whatever 'it' is,~ Daniel had lamented many times.  ~Maybe he is tired of me; maybe he wants someone else.  A child?  I'm not a child, but maybe he thinks I am.  Maybe I'm not what he wants or needs.  Gawd, stop thinking about this.~

In the end, neither man was ready to press the issue separating them, so as the next few days passed, each chose instead to focus on the demands of the current day.

Today, Jack was going through his routine annual physical.  It wasn't a big deal, and he hadn't been worried.  As a member of an SG team, he was thoroughly checked out several times a month, if not weekly.

“Your cholesterol level is a little high, Colonel.  I'm going to prescribe a modified diet for the next few weeks.”

“Great,” Jack said, ignoring anything else Janet said after.  ~Might as well hand me a walking cane while you're at it.~

All Jack knew was that every few days some other sign of his age seemed to be thrown in his face.  Even his hangover was a sign.  Usually, his hangovers didn't affect him physically, but after the party, he had been sluggish and had even stayed hidden in his office at the SGC most of the day in an effort to conceal his predicament.

====

Daniel dropped by the house in search of Jack.  Once again, Jack had disappeared from the SGC without saying anything to him.  It just wasn't normal, so Daniel was concerned.  Though Jack's truck wasn't in the driveway, Daniel decided to check out the house anyway.

Entering the study, he noticed some pamphlets on the desk.  Taking a closer look, he was surprised to see that the subject of the brochures was knee reconstruction.  Daniel skimmed the thin pages and then left the house.

====

Jack fidgeted.  He looked up and down to see if anyone was watching.  He ran his right hand through his hair, which made him even more aware of where he was and what he was considering.  He took several deep breaths, and then tried as nonchalantly as he could to grab the item and put it in the small red basket he held in his left hand.

The basket held only a few items -- deodorant, after-shave, toothpaste, napkins, and a bag of Doritos -- and the just-deposited box Jack had nervously decided to buy.

Jack hurried to the counter, eager to get out of the drug store as quickly as possible.  He paid cash, not waiting for his change, the clerk pocketing a three-dollar and thirty-six cent tip.  In the safety of his Ford truck, Jack removed the box and stared at it, carefully reading the instructions.  He leaned his head back against the seat and sighed.

“Crap, I feel old.”

====

“Daniel,” Jack called, entering his lover's office the next day, “you still have that meeting tonight?”

“Yes, wish I didn't though.  It's liable to be a long night, Jack,” Daniel answered as he looked at his current project, scattered along his worktable.

“It happens.”  Jack picked up a small statue, holding it at all angles as he talked.  “So you won't be home until late then?”

“Yeah, could even be midnight,” Daniel admitted.  Quietly, he added, “It might be better if I just went to the apartment.”

~Perfect!~  Jack nonchalantly replied, “You have to go there some time.  Whatever you decide is fine.”

“I'd rather ... never mind,” a frustrated Daniel replied.

“If you want to come home, that's okay, but, you know, take your time.  No rush.  Enjoy your rocks or whatever,” Jack stated, putting put down the statue and heading for the exit as he left the SGC for the day.

“Yeah, right.  My rocks or whatever,” Daniel echoed.

The archaeologist put aside Jack's apparent lack of concern for where Daniel spent the night and set about to do some work.  Afterwards, he went to his scheduled meeting.  It was more of a meeting of the minds of some local archaeologists and researchers.  Daniel was still considered an outcast in the scientific community, but at Jack's urging, he had unburied his head from the sand and begun to emerge, at least in the local area.  While he couldn't vindicate himself, he could make a contribution based on legitimate findings he'd discovered in research that wasn't classified.

====

Two hours into the meeting, Daniel was listening to a debate about different archeological dating techniques when his mind suddenly replayed a part of his conversation with Jack.  A couple of phrases kept repeating in his mind:

“You have to go there some time.”
“Take your time.”

Daniel panicked.  He realized the statements were uncharacteristic of his lover even given Jack's recent grumpiness.  Daniel had let his self-doubts and insecurity control his earlier reaction to Jack's words.  Now, though, he felt the words were deceptive.  Jack had been more grizzly bear than anything in recent weeks.

~Okay, Jack, what are you up to?~

Archaeology forgotten, Daniel rose from his seat and left the meeting early.

====

Jack stood on the roof deck, the wind blowing his hair slightly.  His hands gripped the rail as his mind raced with emotional thoughts.

~I love you, Danny, and I know I can't live without you, so I have to do whatever I can to keep you.  Why do you love me?  Look at me.  I'm falling apart, inside and out.  I can't let you see.  You might realize the truth and leave.  I need you.~

Jack tapped the rail with his hands, his decision made, and went to the bathroom.  He removed the box he'd bought at the drug store from its hiding place at the back of the cabinet and read the instructions several times.

~Stop reading, and just do it!~  Jack removed a bottle from the box and shook it well.  Taking a breath, he put a small amount of the liquid on his fingers and stared into the mirror.  ~I don't have a choice,~ he told himself.

Jack closed his eyes for a second as he raised his moistened fingers to his head, not wanting to see the actual moment of contact between his fingers and his hair.

“JACK ... STOP!  WHAT THE HECK DO YOU THINK YOU'RE YOU DOING?”

Daniel rushed forward, pushing his lover's hands down, turning on the water, and holding Jack's hands under the water to completely wash off the dark liquid.  He then began examining Jack's hair, making sure that none of the liquid had touched those precious silver hairs that he loved and cherished so much.

“Danny, what are you doing here?” Jack asked, stunned.

“Stopping you from doing ... this,” Daniel held out his hands, waving at Jack and the materials nearby, “... apparently.  What is going on with you lately?”

“Nothing,” Jack replied, exiting the bathroom in a huff.

The older man took a seat at the foot of the bed while in the bathroom, Daniel looked at the bottle, his eyes widening in horror as he realized fully what Jack's intention had been.

“Geez, Jack,” Daniel said, picking up the box of men's hair color and holding it up.  “Grecian Formula?  You were going to dye your hair?  Why?”

“I'm old, that's why,” the older man answered flatly, feeling completely deflated.

“Jack, you are *not* old,” Daniel argued strongly.

“Older than you,” Jack refuted.  “I can't keep up with you.  I try, but I just can't.”

Daniel rolled his eyes in disbelief and exclaimed, “Babe, you are out of your freakin' mind, and I say that from the bottom of my heart!”

“Nice to know you care,” Jack responded sarcastically.  He stood, unable to sit still, and began to pace.  ~Why didn't I let you go?  Because I love you, but I can't keep you.~

Daniel watched for a moment, and then it all clicked.  Everything suddenly became crystal clear.  All the snarky comments, Jack's drinking, the odd looks -- it all made sense now.

“Oh, gawd, that's what all of this is about, isn't it?” Daniel asked, knowing the answer.

Jack evaded Daniel's look as he weakly answered, “I have gray hair.”

“Gawd, Jack.”  Daniel moved to his lover quickly, his arms open as he slid them around Jack's neck.  “You crazy loon, I love your silver hair.”  Daniel's fingers began to play with the small graying areas at Jack's temples.  His voice became low, soft, full of want.  “You're so sexy.  Your silver hair makes you look so suave and dashing.  Gawd, I could just eat you.”

Daniel leaned over and actually nibbled a piece of the gray hair and then kissed Jack at the side of his neck.

“But it's gray,” Jack rebutted, still feeling old and remaining totally oblivious to the obvious desires and wants of his soulmate.

“Silver,” Daniel said softly, his lust taking control.

“Gray!” Jack scoffed.

“Silver!” Daniel insisted with a seductive smile.

“It's gray, for crying out loud.”

“It's silver, my Silver Fox,” Daniel said lightheartedly.  “I love it, Jack.  I can't wait until it's all silver.”

“But it's gray, Danny,” Jack said dejectedly, still believing that gray equated to being old and rickety.

Daniel smiled and suggested, “I'll compromise.  Silver-gray, and it's gorgeous.  You don't get it, do you, Jack?  You drive me crazy when I think about your silver hair.  It's like you in your dress blues, and you know that makes my skin feel like it's on fire.  Oh ... GAWD JACK ... dress blues and silver hair.  I want you ...”

Daniel's lips became a suction cup with Jack's, their tongues mingling together in pleasure.  The young man was on fire, his heart rate increasing as his length hardened.  He pushed Jack gently onto the bed, eager for their bodies to join together as one.

“Sexy!  Sexy silver hair ... my Silver Fox.  All mine,” Daniel whispered urgently into Jack's mouth.

Jack was responding, his love for Daniel all-consuming, but then his fear and insecurity took hold, and he moved out of Daniel's touch to sit on the foot of the bed once again.  Daniel shifted, his body on the bed, his chest leaning into Jack's back as his hands wrapped around Jack's body.

Daniel's hands roamed Jack's face, neck and chest freely, eager to feel and to comfort.  He was desperate for Jack, but he also knew they had to take care of this little problem that seemed to be tormenting his partner.

“Jack, sometimes, you get the craziest ideas into your head,” Daniel stated.

Jack sighed, “I'm older than you, Danny, and no matter what you say, you can't change that.”

Daniel squeezed Jack very tightly and said, “Sometimes, Love, I could straaaaaangle you.  Listen to me.”  Daniel eased up on his hold, but continued to touch, his hands caressing and gliding inside Jack's shirt.  “This ... knee thing.  Let's start with that.  Don't you dare mess with your lovely body for me.  I love your wobbly old knees.  Love them to pieces.  Now, if you really want to do that reconstruction, then I'll be totally supportive, but Jack, if you do it for me, I'll be very angry with you.”

“It was just a thought,” Jack responded.

Daniel kissed Jack's nape and said, “Hmmm, love how you taste.”  He paused a moment to remember he had to put his desire on hold.  “Next.  This not keeping up with me garbage, and I know exactly what you are talking about. Jack, do you remember what was going on the week before we had that little ... session?”

“Yes,” Jack answered quickly.

“Do you?” Daniel challenged.  “I mean, really?”

“Yes, I already said I did.”

“Okay, let's review,” Daniel said.  “We'd been off-world for two days, two days during which we had little rest.  When we got back, you were called to go with SG-3 on that rescue mission, remember?”

“I said I remember,” an aggravated Jack acknowledged.

“Good, then you'll remember that during that three day rescue mission in which you were captured and ... gawd, they bruised your beautiful body, those monsters,” Daniel crooned, getting lost in his lover again before snapping back into the reality of the moment.  “And you didn't sleep much then, either, did you?”

Jack reluctantly admitted he hadn't, saying, “No, I guess I didn't.”

“And do you remember what I was doing while you were on that rescue mission?” the younger man asked, a smile on his face.

“You ... um ... Danny, what did you do?” Jack asked with a lighthearted tone as he faced his soulmate.

“Exactly,” Daniel said.  ~Gotcha!~  “We never talked about that.  As it happened, Jack, I was exhausted, especially without my comfy Jack pillow.”

Daniel's hands were roaming Jack's body.  He was forcing himself not to do more, just yet, but he couldn't not touch the body he longed to have.

“Comfy,” Jack said softly with a smile.

“Yes, comfy,” Daniel said, smiling for a moment and then continuing his explanation.  “Janet secretly slipped me one of her happy pills and more or less kept me sedated for three days.  I was so tired, and she knew it, so she kept me in the infirmary until the day you came home.  Don't you see, Love?  You were already pushed to your limit while I was ... well, ready to go, so to speak?”

“I ... I don't know,” Jack whispered.  ~Geez, I want to believe that.~

“Come on, Jack.  We've never had problems that way, and you know it.  You're just being sensitive because of your sexy silver hair and beautiful wobbly knees.”

“I am older,” Jack said truthfully.  “I ... Daniel, I should tell you that ...”

Unaware he was about to cut off a confession of sorts from his lover, Daniel shook his head adamantly, arguing, “You're not that much older than me, and you know that it doesn't make any difference between us.”

“It may not matter as much now, but what about when I'm ... eighty-four?” Jack asked.

Without hesitation, Daniel answered, “I'll be seventy-four.  Give me a break ... not much difference.”

“Sixty to fifty,” Jack said, his mind adding, ~Oh, geez, Danny, what if you knew the real truth?~  He shook his head, trying to forget the reality that he was even older than his lover knew.  He had never intended to lie to Daniel; it had just happened.  A moment ago, he had almost told him the truth, but now, Jack was way too scared to admit their age difference was more than the ten years Daniel believed it to be.  He continued, “I might not be able to walk.  I'll ... you'll want to be the energizer bunny, and I'll probably be flying in bottles of Viagra!”

Daniel laughed and then grew serious as he responded, “Jack, I love how we are.  I love what we do together, and every time, we learn more about each other, and our bodies.  It's still so new to me, but gawd, how you make me feel.  My body, it just ... hungers for you, but Jack, you have to listen to me.  We're more than that ... aren't we?”

Jack faced his lover, their eyes locking.

“Jack, even if we could never make love again, I'd want you because I ... I need you.  I ... you know how I am when you're near me.  What we do doesn't matter as much as how we feel and what we are together.”

“Geez, Danny, what you do to me.  I love you so friggin' much.  I just ... I felt so old all of a sudden.  The hair, the boxing match, and everything.”

“Boxing match?”

“I'm sorry, Danny.  I never told you,” Jack confessed.  “I'll tell you the details later; it's how I injured my knee that day.”

Daniel smiled and said assuredly, “I love you, my Silver Fox.”

“Silver Fox, eh?” Jack asked with a grin, finally realizing that maybe getting older wasn't a sin, especially not with the way his lover was looking at him, eyes black with lust and lips thirsting to taste him.  ~I like that, being his Silver Fox.~

“Mmm-mmm.  Mine.  Alllll mine,” Daniel stated positively.  ~Enough talk.  I want -- and I want now!~

His focus set, Daniel scooted around so he could kiss his lover, and one kiss naturally led to another.  Their passion flamed until Daniel and his Silver Fox were one.

Their life back on track, the lovers were ready for the challenges of yet another new day, the subject of age no longer an issue.  Their cup was once again full.  United, they reveled in their love and continued to forge the universe that was their nation of two.

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