Of Dreaming Spires: Chapter 2 – A Sword Among the Pinions

Status:
  • Work in Progress
Content Rating:
  • NC-17
Fandom(s):
Stargate SG-1, Criminal Minds, Stargate Atlantis

Relationship(s):
Daniel Jackson/Spencer Reid, Daniel Jackson/OMC, Daniel Jackson/Jack O'Neill, Jack O'Neill/Samantha Carter, Aaron Hotchner/Spencer Reid, Rodney McKay/John Sheppard

Warning(s):
  • Character Bashing
  • Explicit Sex
  • Homophobia
  • No Beta
  • Violence - Canon-Level
Genre(s):
  • Alternate Universe
  • Future Fic
  • Pre-Relationship
  • Romance
Word Count:
12378

Author's Note:
And we're back with Daniel...

Summary:
Daniel's flight lands in LA. He finds a place to stay and meets some new people. But despite outward appearances, is he still running?


Daniel’s hoped for five hours of sleep had quickly turned into three hours on the phone, first to Laura, his financial advisor, then his bank, and finally a travel agent in LA. This frustration was followed by a wasted 90 minutes watching the in-flight movie, which to his horror was ‘Wormhole Xtreme XIII: Through the Orifice’.

Nearly $2000 dollars for a First Class seat and all they could give him for entertainment was total crap purporting to reflect his life. Even the steward had grimaced painfully when he’d told Daniel what was available.

The rest of the time had been spent fighting the effects of the triple shot Sidamo gifted to him by Dean. He’d managed to nearly polish off the whole traveller box by the time his flight was called, and he was so wired that his hands shook slightly.

So the 45 minutes of sleep he did manage was a doze at best, where his subconscious treated him to a mindscape that consisted of strange, disjointed scenes – too short to even be called dreams. He woke groggy and disorientated with a name on his lips, which he was only prevented from speaking out loud by sheer force of will.

Groaning, he rolled his neck and then rubbed his face, feeling the rough stubble that he had no means to remove. He was about to go to the restroom when the steward informed him they were preparing to land, and he should turn off his phone and fasten his seat belt. With an irritated sigh he complied, and occupied himself watching their descent through the window.

It was the beginning of July and the sun had risen a couple of hours earlier. As they landed, Daniel realised it was going to be hot in LA, so in his head he began listing the clothes he would need for even a short stay. He found he was really looking forward to spending some serious money in the high-end boutiques that he knew were close to his hotel.

In the past Daniel had always liked travel; he knew he had more than a little of the nomad in his blood, inherited from his mom and dad no doubt. He rarely went anywhere new without a thrill of anticipation on arrival. That was what made Gate travel such a difficult thing to give up, even though at times he had been through horrors on the other side of the wormhole. There was always something new to see, something unexpected.

Well, he’d not been back to LA for a long time, so maybe he could rekindle that excitement here too.

Maybe.

*****

The Garden Suite at the Peninsula, Beverly Hills, was everything the travel agent had said it would be. A limo collected Daniel at the airport after a minimal delay at Arrivals; mostly because he didn’t have any hold luggage. The driver was polite and courteous, and didn’t look twice at his passenger’s travel-stained appearance.

There was a slight problem at reception, when the rather overblown, thirty-something ‘beauty’ behind the desk insisted she needed to swipe Daniel’s credit card to cover his room bills. He’d already made arrangements for all monies necessary for his stay to be paid through Laura’s office in Washington.  Her staff had also set up an almost limitless charge account with Neiman Marcus, and Daniel was looking forward to making a very big dent in that. He knew not charging to his Amex was being a little paranoid, but he didn’t want to be fighting off Jack, or anyone else for that matter, until he had his head back on straight.

Finally, with a phone call (and the promise of a generous discount), the general manager of the hotel smoothed everything over and Daniel was shown to a fabulous suite of rooms.  The grand bedroom and marble bathroom sat next to an elegant living/sitting room. Outside a landscaped garden, unique to that one suite, featured a fire-pit surrounded by chaise lounges, an outdoor dining area and a water feature, all enclosed by lush greenery. Even in the center of this busiest of cities, the whole feel was tranquil and calm. Just what Daniel needed to sooth his jangled nerves and frayed composure.

He picked up the phone and dialed room service.

“Hi, I’m in the Garden Suite.”

“Yes, Dr. Jackson. How may I help you?”

“I’d like a carafe of coffee – a dark roast please. Some toast, English marmalade, and a fresh fruit salad, no mango.” Daniel looked down at himself and realized he really needed a shower. He’d been in the same clothes for over 12 hours and was travel stained and creased. “In about an hour?”

“Of course, sir. Anything else?”

“No…Oh, yes…Is there a rapid dry-cleaning and laundry service I can use? I have no luggage and I won’t be going shopping until tomorrow.”

“Of course, sir. There is a laundry bag hanging on the back of your bathroom door. If you give it to the waiter when he delivers your breakfast, I will make sure your clothes are back with you when your breakfast is delivered tomorrow. Is that acceptable?”

“Perfect. Thanks.”

Daniel replaced the phone on its cradle and made the trek across the large suite to the sumptuous bathroom. He set the taps running to a blistering heat and poured in some of the complimentary bath oil. The slightly musky smell relaxed him and, finding the bag exactly where the steward said it would be, he placed his glasses carefully on the marble surround of the double sinks and stripped off his clothes, bundling them up ready to hand over to the waiter. His hand faltered as he reached for the eggplant colored sweater. It hadn’t struck him before but he realised as he stared at it that it wasn’t his – it was actually Jack’s. The General had obviously left it at Daniel’s at some point. They each had all sorts of items at each other’s apartments, sometimes even choosing to wear the other’s clothes; although Daniel’s chest and shoulders had got broader as he’d worked out and Jack’s legs were a couple of inches longer.  Suddenly he realised the comfort he’d got from the garment was not just the softness of it, but from the achingly familiar scent – Jack’s scent. It was a musky warmth, made up of the very expensive cologne Daniel had bought him and that O’Neill would never admit to wearing, and the deep masculine scent of Jack himself.

If he sent it to the laundry, then the scent would be lost. Right now he wasn’t ready to let that happen. Calling himself every kind of fool, he still folded the sweater carefully and placed it to one side, stuffing the rest of his clothing into the laundry bag.

It would take several minutes for the huge bath to fill, so Daniel slipped on the fluffy robe emblazoned with the Peninsula logo, and thumped gracelessly down onto the sofa, surveying his home for the next…well however long he wanted to stay, really.

One of the emails he’d sent from his apartment office in DC was a request for an extended leave of absence, effective immediately. Before yesterday, the decision would have been Jack’s, but now General Howes was his nominal line manager. He didn’t know the new incumbent of Jack’s old seat at HomeWorld, having only been introduced once at the man’s welcome brunch, but Daniel was relieved there would be no need for contact with Lieut. Gen. O’Neill (Rtd).

His chest hurt with the recognition that Jack was no longer a part of his life; a major part. There was nothing that Jack hadn’t touched. Daniel’s work, his home, his leisure, was all tangled up with the older man, and Daniel felt lost as to how he was going to unpick Jack from his life without it unravelling completely.

He sighed and dragged his aching body out of the soft welcome of the couch, padding tiredly back into the bathroom. He was surprised to find the bath not only filled with hot water, but with millions of bubbles, and for the first time in the last 24 hours he laughed in true joy. He lifted the bottle of oil and found it was in fact ‘Sandalwood and Patchouli Foaming Bath Essence’.

With a grin Daniel slid off his robe and hung it on the brass hook he’d found it on. Stepping into the bath he found it was much deeper and longer than the one he had back at the Washington apartment, and that he could stretch out his legs fully. He sank into the almost too hot water, allowing the prickle of heat to warm his aching muscles and relax his constricted chest. The emotion of the last few hours lay heavy, causing him to rub repeated at his sternum. His rational mind knew there was nothing physically there, but his unconscious wanted to soothe the aching pressure. Sighing again, he laid his arms on the sides of the tub and sank up to his chin in the satin-soft bubbles.

One of Daniel’s not so well kept secrets was his love of bubble baths. All the girls – Sam, Janet (before they lost her) and Cassie – would compete to find him either the most luxurious or the silliest bubble baths and he had used them all. He thought fondly about the tacky plastic bottle in the shape of a cartoon sailor, that stood proudly on the side of his tub back in DC. It held lurid blue ‘Super Matey: Bath-times Bubble with Fun! TM that Cassie had brought back from her honeymoon in the UK nearly two years earlier. He hadn’t even opened it. Eventually he would have to think about how he was going to get his apartment in DC, and what was left of his stuff in Colorado packed up, and then either shipped or stored to…wherever.

But that was a decision for another day.

He tried to drift away on the rich aroma of the oil and the heat of the water, but his treacherous mind wouldn’t let him leave Jack behind. The last time he’d had a bubble bath had been in the Washington apartment less than a week ago, after a particularly gruelling round with the appropriations committee…

The very loud sounds of a hockey match filtered through the bathroom door as Daniel pressed his heels against the end of the bath and wiggled his toes in bliss. Jack had the volume up full on the 60” flat screen he’d insisted Daniel ‘needed’ to make the den complete. Daniel smiled indulgently as Jack’s voice, berating some player or other, bellowed out above the noise of the crowd. Daniel was pleased the apartment boasted excellent sound-proofing – all part of the security measures put in place by the Pentagon, to protect both him and the information he often brought home. Those security measures were one of the reasons Daniel hadn’t made overtures of any kind to Jack whilst here in DC. It would be so easy to feel safe and then slip, not knowing who would be listening. Often they would go out to sports bars and restaurants if they had anything the least bit personal to discuss, but always the fear of losing Jack to some draconian law made Daniel’s blood run cold.

He gave a little shiver in reaction to the thought, just as Jack came barging into the bathroom.

“Commercial break… Gotta pee.”

Daniel frowned and slid down in the water a little. Jack was going to pee, in front of him, while he was naked in a bath full of bubbles. The idea started a little dark curl of want in his belly.

He cleared his throat and tried not to let his voice shake. “There is another bathroom in this condo you know.”

Jack looked over his shoulder as he stood at the toilet. “Too far, Danny, I‘ve only got three minutes.” He gave his friend a cheeky grin, before turning back to unzip.

Each opening tooth of the fastener seemed to echo in the tiled room as Daniel watched Jack’s broad back.

Watching Jack relieve himself was not a new thing. SG-1 had been in too many prison cells and out of the way places to be shy about pissing in front of someone else.

 But that was work.

Here in his own home he was naked and wet and surrounded by sensual bubbles, while the man he wanted more than anything in the Universe was standing just a couple of feet away, pulling his penis into his hand.

Daniel knew what Jack’s cock looked like. Long and thick with a slight curve, nestling in a trimmed thatch of silver hair, heavy balls hanging beneath. Glimpses of him half hard, crawling out of a tent first thing in the morning or in the showers at the SGC; the press of a full erection against Jack’s BDU’s when the adrenalin of a fire-fight made him hard. Just those visuals alone had been enough to fuel his fantasies and get Daniel off more times than he could count.

The sound of Jack’s urine streaming into the pan made Daniel shiver once again. A little bit of him was surprised that at 44 he had some new kinks to uncover. Or maybe it was just the intimacy of the moment that was so stimulating. This is what couples did; able to invade even the most taboo spaces because of their closeness. Daniel longed for that with Jack.

His cock did too and it was making itself known in a very blatant way. Daniel was hard and his own not inconsiderable length was attempting to show itself above the bubbles. Daniel couldn’t drag his eyes off Jack’s back as muscles in his arms and shoulders flexed as he shook his dick and began to stuff it back into his pants.

Daniel closed his eyes without knowing it and imagined, rather than zipping up and leaving, Jack would turn, still holding his softened cock, and walk over to the edge of the bath. He would stand close to Daniel’s head and feed the gradually hardening length between Daniel’s willing lips. Daniel would suckle, revelling as the heavy hot weight of it filled his mouth, as Jack’s cock grew to full length. He would taste so good.

A groan forced its way between his lips and Daniel’s eyes sprang open. His heart was beating too fast and he could only pray Jack had already left the room.

But of course he was never that lucky. Jack turned in surprise from the sink where he was washing his hands.

“Now, now Dr. Jackson, none of that while I’m in the room.”

“Don’t be an ass, Jack,” Daniel snarked, waving both hands which were firmly on the sides of the bath, where they had been all along. “I’m just enjoying the hot water on my abused muscles. Where do appropriations get those god awful chairs from anyway?” At that moment he was prouder of his ability to deflect than of any of his other achievements to date. It had certainly been a close one.

“Fucked if I know!”  Jack’s head turned quickly as the swelling sounds of a crowd in a frenzy filtered in from the other room. “Dammit, now I missed something,” he groused. “Don’t be long,” Jack admonished as he left the room, “Takeout will be here in about 20 minutes. We’re having Thai.”

And with that he was gone.

Daniel wasted no time taking his cock into his hand and curling his fingers in a brutal grip…

…In a mirror to his memory, Daniel found himself gripping his cock, pulling on it less than gently as the fantasy of Jack standing beside the bath fully clothed, feeding his long cock into Danny’s mouth made Daniel’s balls heavy with want. He could smell Jack; see the press of his long, denim covered legs against the side of the tub as Daniel worked his cock with lips and tongue and just the slightest rasp of teeth. Jack would be vocal, telling Daniel how good, how hot his mouth was. Daniel would reach out of the water and take Jack’s balls into a hot soapy hand and press a finger back onto Jack’s perineum.  Then with a shout of completion, Jack would unload his come into Daniel’s waiting mouth.

With a moan and one last stroke of his thumb across the sensitive head of his cock, Daniel was coming hard, water slopping over the edge of the tub as he shook a little with the intensity. He lay for a moment, his head resting on the edge of the tub, as the aftershocks began to settle. But it seemed the emotion of his release had broken down the barriers he’d been so careful to build up. Suddenly the enormity of events caught up with him and he found himself shaking, this time with unsuppressed keening. Fighting for breath, trying hard to gulp back the sobs which were gathering like living things behind his tightly pressed lips, he sat up in the bath, pressing his forehead to his knees.

But it was too late to stop them.

Drowning in sadness and grief for his lost friendship and any hopes for love, he let the tears flow. The sound of his ragged breathing and hiccupping sobs bounced around the tiled room. He began to recognise words amongst the incoherence, almost as if they were coming from someone else.

“Shit, Jack. Why didn’t you just tell me, you stupid bastard. You knew…you fucking knew what it would do to me and you let me hope. I love you so much…so much…”

The storm of emotion raged through him and he had no idea how long he sat there, rocking slightly in a vain attempt at comfort.  Eventually he opened sore, bleary eyes and swiped his hand across his runny nose. The skin on his fingertips was pruned and he quickly realised that the water was cool and the bubbles nothing more than scum on the surface.

After pressing ineffectually on his aching chest he surged up out of the water and groped around with blurred vision for the robe, which he dragged over his wet skin and tied tightly around his waist. He slid on his glasses and caught sight of himself in the large floor to ceiling mirror.

“Fuck, Jackson. You are pathetic,” he croaked.

Daniel’s thought processes felt slowed to snail-like speeds and he found himself just staring at his forlorn reflection. He knew he should get in the shower and wash properly but he just couldn’t find the impetus to do it. He ran the cold tap and splashed his face clean of the snot and tear tracks.

A knock at the suite door didn’t filter through immediately. A second more urgent rap against the door galvanised him into action, albeit slowly. With a last glance to make sure he didn’t look too much like an emo-girl, he made his way to the door and the smiling face of the room service waiter.

“Your order, sir.” The young man looked about 20 years old and had the stereotypical California tan and flashing white teeth.

“Yes, thanks,” Daniel croaked, clearing his throat to try to get rid of the lump that seemed permanently lodged there.

“Sounds like a bad cold, sir,” the waiter commented, as he efficiently set the smaller round table near the French doors leading to the garden. Silverware and plates were laid in an elegant place setting alongside a toast rack filled with crisp, brown triangles, and small covered pots of marmalade and butter. They were soon joined by a large French press of coffee, a cup and saucer, cream, and rich brown crystal sugar.

“Yeah…” Daniel didn’t disabuse him. It was better the kid thought he was ill than that he’d been bawling his eyes out only minutes before.

As the waiter finished the arrangement of Daniel’s meal to his satisfaction, Daniel wandered back into the bathroom and grabbed the laundry bag. On his way back he diverted to the end table and slid a $50 bill out of his wallet. He might as well get a reputation for good tipping; he knew from his own experiences in student jobs, that the service would be better and the staff more likely to help him out if he needed it.

“This is for urgent laundering,” Daniel explained as he handed over the stuffed cotton laundry bag.

“Ah, yes. Mr Cartwright said to expect this. So, do you want them back for a particular time in the morning?” The young man’s too bright smile was starting to get on Daniel’s nerves.

“I’ll order breakfast when I wake up. If it could come up then that would be great.” Daniel replied, wanting to get the guy out of his room as quickly as possible. The smell of the coffee was calling him and he had to admit, although his stomach felt lead lined, the toast looked like a good idea too.

The waiter nodded and grinned as Daniel placed the folded bill in his hand. Daniel followed him to the door and was about to close it on the retreating boy when he had a thought.

“Hey, can I get a coffee maker for the room?”

“Of course, sir, what would you prefer, a drip or espresso machine.”

Daniel smiled to himself. It seemed like it was true; money could get you anything, and in a high-end luxury hotel like this you only had to ask.

“Drip please.” Daniel didn’t want to have to mess about for every cup of coffee. He wanted a jug there, ready made, whenever he needed it. “A twelve cup machine?”

“Coffee brand?”

“Ah…yeah…Jamaica Blue Mountain.” He requested, hopefully.

“No problem. When would you like that?”

“As soon as possible,” Daniel was really getting into this.

“I’ll be back up in a few minutes then, sir.” And with that the waiter was gone.

Daniel slumped down into the dining chair the boy had helpfully left pulled out for him and pushed down gently on the lid of the press, exhaling a little as the aroma of coffee started to fill the air. He poured the dark liquid into the cup and sipped it immediately. Coffee this good was meant to be drunk unadulterated. Jack was the one who doctored every cup with lashings of sugar and cream.

Daniel gripped hard at his coffee cup and gritted his teeth on the ceramic edge.

“Do you think you can go more than thirty seconds without thinking about him?” he said out loud and then sighed heavily. “And now I’m talking to myself too…Thanks a bunch, Jack. If I wasn’t flaky before, I definitely am now. Where’s Mac the Quack when I really need him.”

A sharp rap at the door pulled him out of his self flagellation and once again he opened the door to find the young waiter, this time with a brand new, drip style coffee machine under one arm and a small wrapped box in the other.

“Where would you like it set up?” he asked.

Daniel had no idea. He looked around the room properly for the first time and noticed several console tables, and a rather luxurious desk. Perfect.

“On the desk, I think. I’ll be spending a lot of time there.”

The boy simply nodded and then proceeded to unpack and set up the maker. The mystery of the other box was solved when he pulled out a canister of coffee and a basket filled with creamer and sugar packets. There was a small cupboard near the desk and he flicked open the door and placed several of the cardboard cups typically used for takeout, along with lids, on the shelf.

“I thought you might like the option for coffee on the go.” The boy explained. “It’s already been flushed through so there’s no need to do that before you set it up. There’s some bottles of still water in the fridge unit under here.” The waiter pointed to what looked like an identical cupboard on the other side of the desk. He swung open the door to reveal a fully stocked cooler, complete with both still and fizzy mineral water, sodas and, to Daniel’s great joy, several large bars of expensive chocolate, from rich white to the darkest of dark. Once again Daniel was amazed at the attention to detail.  Taking his coffee cup with him he made his way back to his wallet, thinking this kid was not so annoying after all.

“Not that I don’t appreciate it, Dr. Jackson, but this one’s on me,” the waiter explained.  “I’ll make sure it’s Blue Mountain in the press in the morning,” he carried on as he collected up the packaging and after enquiring if Daniel needed anything else, made his way quickly out of the room.

Daniel pushed a finger behind his glasses and scrubbed at one, very sore, eye. God he was tired but somehow he knew sleep was going to be hard to find.

Quickly buttering three slices of toast and placing them on a plate, he refilled his coffee cup and took the whole caboodle back over to the couch. Folding one triangle of bread over and stuffing it into his mouth, he chewed morosely. His gaze landed on his phones sitting side by side on the coffee table. With a sigh, and a rub of his greasy fingers against his robe, he decided he might as well do something useful with his time. Turning both units on he purposely turned over the white phone so he couldn’t see the huge number of missed calls from the contact he knew so well.

The black phone powered up and he realised the display was showing the time in Washington. He changed the time zone in the settings so the phone would show local time. It was already 1.30pm. DC was three hours ahead, so it was still very possible Jack would try to call. Daniel set his chin and shook his head. If his old cell rang he wasn’t going to answer.

He started to set up his contacts list manually. He was sure there was an easier way of doing it, involving syncing and SIM cards, but he was desperate for something mindless to do, and this fitted the bill perfectly.

For the next hour he worked his way through the contacts on his old cell, making decisions as to whether they needed to be on his new one and then transferring them. There were very few who would get to know the new number – in fact he could count them on one hand. The rest would get emails as usual and wouldn’t even realise there had been a change. There were a few he knew by heart and all except one he faithfully copied over.

There was no entry for ‘General Jack, Savior of Earth’.

*****

The contacts were all transferred, the coffee pot empty and the toast just a few crumbs and a couple of crusts. Daniel felt heavy eyed and heavy hearted. Surely sleep couldn’t be far away – he hoped not. Maybe he’d get a little respite from way time was seeming to drag.

Despite the sun blazing though the windows and the soaring outside temperatures, Daniel felt chilled. Looking down he realised he’d be either sleeping in the nude or in this damp robe and he was craving a little comfort. Even thought the hotel bragged about the seclusion of the gardens attached to his room, Daniel didn’t fancy parading around outside in just his robe. Anyway, it would be just his luck to fall asleep and end up with a horrible sunburn to add to all his other woes.

So Daniel cranked up the a/c and then turned the controls on the gas hearth opposite the couch. The room was soon filled with the pleasant golden warmth only real flames could bring.  Stretching out on the long comfortable couch he watched the flames as they flickered, his eyes growing heavy as his mind gradually began to shut down….

*****

The opening bars of the Indiana Jones theme tune rang out clearly and Daniel groped around, barely opening bleary eyes, as he jabbed the screen and pulled it as near to his ear as he could get with his face mashed against the pillows.

“Jackson,” he croaked.

“DD? What?  Did you fall asleep at the office again? No…we’re only an hour ahead of you. It’s 18.30 there. Why are you sleeping? Are you sick? DD stop snoozing and turn on SGCTV!”

Daniel sat up in shock. He’d forgotten to turn off his old white phone and in his barely awake state he’d answered a call. This could’ve been Jack ringing…Thank god it was only….

“Cassie?”

“Well, duh. Who else calls you DD?”

Daniel huffed out a little chuckle. He’d been DD to her for a long time. Just days after they’d rescued her and she began living with Janet, Jack had read her ‘The Three Bears’. Not being an Earth child she had obviously never heard it before, and she’d decided then and there that Jack was Papa Bear, Janet was Mama Bear and Sam was Baby Bear. Teal’c was dubbed Murray Bear and Cassie of course was Goldilocks.

When Jack had pointed out she had no nickname for Daniel, out of nowhere she’d christened him Daddy Daniel. It had stuck and gradually, as she got older and more headstrong it had morphed from that to Daddy D to DD. It gave him a warm glow every time she used it.

“Have you turned on the TV…They’re showing it every five minutes so you won’t have to wait long.” Her tone was exasperated.

“Cass, you know I don’t watch that garbage.” Daniel moaned. The 24/7 SGC channel had gone from an information portal to a gossip and lies outlet in a very short time. Daniel feared for the Tau’ri if they thought whether he wore boxers or briefs was an Earth shattering topic of conversation.

“DD stop being difficult and turn it on.” Cassie cajoled.

Daniel cast around and found the remote control for the state of the art flat screen on a nearby side table. The set on the wall looked more like a modern art installation than a TV, but eventually he got it to turn on and found the right channel.

There in full HD were Jack and Sam, walking on the White House lawn, hand in hand. Thankfully the sound was muted, but the marquee running under the pictures proclaimed…

… A Modern Day Fairytale Romance…The SGC’s answer to Princess Di finally gets her handsome hero… Love through the Wormhole… ‘I’ve always cared for her more than I should’ says Gen. Jack O’Neill… Savior of Earth and his blonde beauty leave The White House after a reception to celebrate their engagement, which was announced immediately after the Generals retirement. ‘Duty won over personal needs for this consummate soldier,’ a source at the Pentagon advised. ‘Only after his retirement could Jack and his beautiful genius make their dreams a reality’…

Daniel’s heart beat painfully in his chest as he watched Sam flash the diamond ring on her finger and look lovingly at Jack. In his turn, Jack was smiling brightly as he looked out at the sea of flashing cameras.

“DD..DD…Daniel…DANIEL!” Cassie screamed to get his attention, her voice increasingly strident. “Tell me this is just a PR stunt… ‘Cause I’ll be honest with you I’m hearing the Twilight Zone theme tune here. I see this crap on the TV and then Sam’s calling me asking if I’ll be Maid of Honor and what colour she should wear and how she wants the twins to be ring bearers.  So either it’s all a scam that even Sam’s not in on, or Papa Bear has completely flipped his lid and needs me to update his psych profile. Has he been off world lately without me knowing? Perhaps it’s some kind of incursion…”

Daniel had to swallow hard to find his voice. With trembling fingers he keyed off the TV and collapsed back on the couch.

“It’s real, Cass,” he murmured quietly and winced as he heard the sharp intake of breath and the hissed ‘What the fuck…’ on the other end of the line. Everything was quiet for a couple of seconds and then Cassandra was in full flow once again.

“Daniel, how could you let him do this? You know it’s a pile…God, they’ll kill each other in a few months and anyway, he doesn’t love her…he loves yo…”

“No, Cass, he doesn’t.” Daniel interrupted, quickly, decisively. “And I couldn’t stop him because I didn’t know.”

There must have been something in his voice because Cassie went from screaming to comforting in a heartbeat.  “Daniel, where are you?” The concern was palpable and reeked of empathy. Now a fully trained psychologist based at the SGC, Cassie was good at her job… great in fact.  Even down the line Daniel could feel the care.

“I had to get away from Washington,” he started. “Cass…I don’t want to tell you where I am because…”

“Daniel, I won’t tell Jack, I promise. I just want to know where you are. If he didn’t tell you about this it must have been a real shock for you. And …”

Suddenly, Daniel realised she was worried he might harm himself. It seemed funny after all this time, trying so hard to hide how he felt about Jack, that it really hadn’t been that hidden from those people closest to him – the ones who really loved him.

“Cass, it’s alright, I’m fine.”

Cassandra snorted, “Yes and I’m not married with twins.”

“How are the twins,” Daniel tried to deflect. Janet Jacqueline and Jacob Daniel had been born nearly eighteen months ago, just six months after Cassie’s wedding to Simon Major, the CO of SG- 5. He was a good man, a fine soldier and a great dad. Jack really liked him and had managed to get him a promotion and a team of his own just before the kids were born. Daniel was convinced Jack had only done it for the joy it brought him every time he introduced Cassie’s husband as ‘Major Major’.

“Stop deflecting, DD,” Cassie scolded.

“OK, I’m not fine,” Daniel agreed with a sigh. “Not even a galaxy close to fine. But there’s nothing I can do, Cass.”

“You could’ve told him, DD. You know how clueless he can be. And it’s obvious to anyone who knows you two…who’s seen the two of you together outside work…Christ, Daniel, you’re meant to be together.”

Daniel wanted to cry again. His throat was thick with emotion as Cassie said all the things he’d wanted Jack to realise. “Come on, Cass. You never fell for that ‘Clueless Colonel’ schtick he does. That man doesn’t miss a thing. He knows, sweetie.”

“What do you mean? When did you tell him, at the party? It was too late when he’d already given her the goddamn ring. It’s gonna take him a while to work it out…”

“No, Cass, he’s known for a long time… two years… maybe even longer.”

There was a little strangled scream down the line. “Why the stupid, stubborn, fucked up bastard.  Wait till I speak to him. I waited to talk to you first because I thought I might get more sense out of you. You know how he loves to tease me.”

Daniel did know. Poor Cass’d had no end of ribbing throughout her childhood and even into young womanhood. Jack had teased and joked and kidded his way through all the joys and pain of her life, and she’d loved him for it.

“Don’t blame him, Cass. He’s made his choice and you should be pleased for him and Sam. They’re obviously happy.”

“Yeah, well he won’t be happy when I’m finished with him. Sam either. She knows better.”

“I don’t think she does.” Daniel pulled off his glasses and scrubbed at the tears filling his eyes. “She’s loved him for a long time.”

“No DD, that’s not true. She loves the idea of him. But the reality…you’re the only one who really knows him and still loves him despite all his faults. Shit, Daniel, why won’t you tell me where you are, don’t you trust me?”

“If you know he’ll make you tell him, Cass, you know he will. He’ll wheedle and pick, and maybe even be a bastard to you. If you don’t know then you can’t tell him. And right now I need some distance from him. At least you’ll be seeing a lot more of him now he’s coming to the Springs. The babies will love it.”

“He’s not going to be setting foot in my house till he’s sorted this total FUBAR out. I don’t want him contaminating my kids with his moron cooties. He’s such an idiot and he’s treated you so badly. Shit, Danny, I’m so sorry. You’ve waited so long for him…”

Fourteen years, Daniel thought bitterly. But he knew he couldn’t let Cassie alienate Jack. The twins were his pride and joy. He doted on them, spending hours each week searching out little things to send or take to Colorado; toys and music boxes, board books and DVD’s – anything to make those babies smile.

“Don’t take him away from JJ and JD, they won’t understand.” Daniel sniffed as he realised if his plans came to fruition, by the time he saw the twins again he wouldn’t recognise them. “They are going to need their Pop-Pop if I can’t be around so much. I don’t know when it’ll be but I promise as soon as I’m settled I’ll let you know where I am. Maybe you could come and visit.”

“Settled…DD, where are you going…?”

“Cass, please.” Daniel pleaded. He hated the sadness and concern in her voice and knew if she carried on much longer he’d end up telling her. System Lords and Priors he could outface for days if necessary, but Cassie Major could pick him apart in minutes.

“You’re leaving the SGC,” Cassie stated quietly, her tone telling him that she’d suddenly realised. “But you love your work, DD. What will you do?” Her voice was thick with tears. “Does Jack know?”

“Not that it really matters but…yeah, I would think by now he knows. It was time Cassie. I was planning to leave once Jack had retired. I’d planned… Well, my plans really don’t matter now. I’ve done everything I can for the Mission; for Jack. I always said I would follow him anywhere, but I can’t go with him when he marries Sam.  I know Jack always said I have no instinct for self-preservation, but hell, Cass, I’m not a masochist. It’s time for me to make my own way again, to move outside the SGC. There are lots of new linguists and anthro’s coming along to take over where I leave off. I have something which looks exciting and still connected to the work I’ve been doing all these years. And now the Stargate is public knowledge I’m not ‘That Crazy Dr. Jackson’ anymore. So I have lots of options.”

He tried to put some lightness in his voice but knew he was failing. “Anyhow, I have enough coming in from the books to live on very comfortably, and if I run short I could always write an insider expose of SG-1.”

Cassie was crying audibly now. “As long as you make sure everyone knows what a son of a bitch O’Neill is,” she sniffed.

“It’s not his fault, Cass. You can’t fall in love with someone just because they want you to.”

“That’s just it, DD. Papa Bear does love you, and he’s just behaving like an ass.”

“Well nothing new there then,” Daniel chuckled sadly. “But if he loved me like you say then he wouldn’t have left me in the dark; he wouldn’t have gone off once a month to be with Sam – sleep with Sam probably – and then ask her to marry him, while he spent the rest of the time with me, touching and talking and seeming to care.”

His bitterness showed in his tone and the anger that he’d been tamping down was slowly making its way to the surface.

“He’s treated me like less than a friend. I’ve just been useful, Cass. A placeholder while he was waiting to retire and be with Sam full time. And all the while I’ve been hanging on to his coat tails like a stupid love-blind idiot; chasing around after him, letting him run my life – choose my apartment, my furniture, my car, my FUCKING FOOD and…and…”

He sputtered to a stop, his temper robbing him of his usual facility with words.

“I can hear that you are angry and you have every right to be…” Cassie began.

“NO, Cass. Don’t DO that. This is NOT a session. I don’t need you to be my therapist. I need…I need…”

Daniel clenched his hand so hard around the phone he could hear the plastic casing creaking under the strain. He willed himself to relax, only realising how much tension he’d been holding on to when he felt a steady ache in the joints of his fingers.

“OK…OK, DD, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to fall into psych mode. What do you need me to be?”

“My family,” Daniel managed to grit out. “My friend; my best girl.  Apart from you and Teal’c, who lives off world, I don’t have anyone outside the job I can safely talk to about this. There are a couple of people who know about how I feel…felt…Damn it, feel about Jack, and I’ve already been in touch with them.” He sighed deeply. “In fact one of them is going to help me make a new start.”

Cassie sniffed hard and Daniel could imagine her in Colorado, sitting in the country-style kitchen of Janet’s old house, surrounded by the paraphernalia involved in caring for twin toddlers and wiping away tears with a determined look on her face. “OK, I’m not going to ask what that is again, because you’ve promised to let me know as soon as you can. Is Paul the one who’s going to help you?”

Daniel gave a little chuckle to himself. “God, you’re just like your mom. Nothing got past her either. Yeah, Paul Davis. He’s making sure everything goes through smoothly and trying to keep the details away from Jack for as long as possible. He’s going to watch my six for a while. I have no doubt Jack’ll find out sooner rather than later, but I just need…”

“Some breathing space.” Cassie finished for him.

“Yeah,” Daniel sighed. “When Jack came to the apartment – after the retirement bash…”

“He did what? Well I always knew he had balls of steel, but Jesus fuck, Daniel. What did he think he was going to achieve?”

“You kiss your husband with that mouth,” Daniel teased. Life around soldiers and her very forthright mother had equipped Cassie with a penchant for cursing like a Marine.

“Sorry,” she replied automatically, although it was obvious she was not sorry at all. “So? What did he want?” She pushed.

“To ask me to be his best man.” Daniel held his breath, waiting for the inevitable explosion. He didn’t have to wait long.

“Why that slimy, stupid, son of a snakehead. Of all the fuck-brained…I’ve changed my mind. He’s not an ass; he’s scum sucking ooze from the bottom of a primta tank.”

Daniel began to laugh. It started as a sort of a chuckle and then turned into deep belly laughs that left him gasping and exhausted. “Oh, sweetie, thanks. I needed that.”

“I’m sorry but, come on. Even he has more sense than that surely?”

“Obviously not,” Daniel shook his head. “But the point I was trying to make was… he walked into the apartment and filled up that space with his…Jack-ness, and it was so hard not to just give in; not to just say, ‘OK, any way I can have you is just fine. Go ahead, marry Sam and I’ll stand next to you and pretend I’m happy for you.’  I was so angry, Cass and hurt, and that was the only thing that stopped me letting him walk all over me again. And I hate myself for being that man. I should have learned my lesson. Maybe life is…maybe it is my path to walk on my own.”

Cassie gave a little sob. “No, not alone. Never alone. You’ve got us; Simon and JJ and JD and me. WE love you and we’ll never let you be alone. The babies love their Grampy D, and as soon as you’re settled I’m gonna call in my favours for the next thirty years if I have to, and get me and the kids beamed to wherever you are, so we don’t have to waste a minute of the time we’re with you.”

Tears were gathering again in Daniel’s eyes and he bit his lip in frustration. He wanted to get his equilibrium back, wanted to feel in control again.

Somehow Cassandra seemed able to divine what he needed, even from a thousand miles away – it was no wonder she was sought out by many of the teams at the SGC, she was great at her job. “So,” she said decisively. “What are you going to do right now?”

“Right now? I’m really tired and I think I might actually sleep,” Daniel answered truthfully. “And then tomorrow I’m going shopping, to spend some of my fabulous wealth.”

He heard Cassie snort on the other end of the line and it made him smile. “I left Washington without even a clean pair of underpants. So a full wardrobe and a huge charge account at Neiman Marcus.”

He thought he might get the personal shopper he was planning to engage to take him into the kid’s section while he was there. Jack wasn’t the only one who liked to buy stuff for the babies.

“After that… I’ve no idea. It’ll be a couple of weeks before I know about my other plans, so I may just travel a little.”

There was the sound of crying in the background and a disgruntled huff from Cassie. “That’s JD. He’s teething – back molars, and they are making him really cranky.”

“OK, hon. You need to go and see to the poor little guy. Give him a hug from his Grampy D, and one for JJ too.”

“You’ll call me in a couple of days, OK?” It was obvious from her tone it wasn’t a request but an order.

“Yes, I promise…” Daniel thought for a moment and then picked up his new phone, scrolling through the screens until he found the reminder of the new number he’d still not memorised. “Have you got a pen and paper handy?”

He could hear Cass scrabbling around. “Wait…OK.”

“This is my new number. I won’t have this old cell switched on after this conversation. Make sure you don’t write my name next to it and don’t put it in your cell directory.”

“Jeeeeze, Daniel… paranoid much?”

“Hey it’s not paranoid; this is Jack O’Neill. You know he wouldn’t stop from snooping on your phone or in your desk if he wanted to find something.”

“Yeah, OK,” Cassie sighed in defeat. “Fire away.”

He gave the number and she recited it back. The sounds of crying in the background became much more insistent. JD’s bawling had obviously woken his sister and they were giving poor Cassie an all out duet.

“I have to go,” Cassie said reluctantly.

“I know. I’m keeping my email the same for now, so you can always reach me there if I don’t have my cell on. I love you, Goldilocks.”

“Love you too, Daddy Daniel.”

Daniel turned off the phone as soon as she hung up and then placed it on the table. He was so bone deep tired, both physically and emotionally, he could hardly think.  He looked longingly over at the coffee maker, but of course he hadn’t had time to set it up. He stood wearily and walked, stiff as an old man, over to the desk. He was pleased to see the machine was top of the line and equipped with a timer. He could make sure there was coffee first thing in the morning at least and wouldn’t have to wait for room service. No matter how efficient they were they would never be able to fulfil Daniel’s need for coffee ‘RIGHT NOW’ when he woke. He let himself get lost in the familiar motions of pouring grounds into the gold-plated filter and filling the reservoir with a couple of bottles of water from the fridge, being aware enough to make sure they weren’t the fizzy kind.

He checked the time and saw it was almost 8.00 pm. He sighed. He hadn’t been in bed this early for a couple of years at least. Most evenings he and Jack would sit for hours over chess games or watching a movie, sipping fine wine or an old brandy and talking the night away. Daniel felt the familiar press of an old feeling – loneliness.  It had been a long time but he could still remember the years when it was his constant companion. ‘Well’, he thought, ‘you managed then, you can do it again.’

He set the timer on the machine for ten hours. He wasn’t sure he would get that much sleep but at least he would have coffee at a decent time in the morning, and he wanted to get the new day started as quickly as possible; it was strange how elastic time felt to him. Only 48 hours before he’d been standing in an elevator excited about what was ahead for him and feeling like all his dreams were about to come true. Now he could only hope fate had no more staff blasts to send in his direction.

He wandered around the living area, turning off the hearth and picking up his wallet and phone, then made his weary way to the bedroom. With barely a thought, he stripped off the still slightly damp robe and hung it over the bedroom door, placed his carefully folded glasses, wallet and cell on the nightstand, and slid between the cool, soft sheets.

Curled on his side, with one hand under his cheek, he settled into the luxurious pillows and, between one breath and the next, fell sound asleep.

*****

Morning arrived ten hours later after a deep and surprisingly restful night. The smell of freshly brewing coffee roused him and he’d wandered out into the living area and poured a cup before he remembered where he was and why he was totally nude.

The first cup went down quickly; a little too hot for comfort but oh so very good. As the caffeine hit his bloodstream he poured another and wondered just how long the twelve cup jug would last him at this rate of consumption. Clutching his fresh cup between both hands he padded back into the bedroom, only managing to bark his shin once on an unfamiliar piece of furniture. He sat heavily on the side of the bed and rubbed at the stinging mark until the pain disappeared.

Slipping on his glasses he took his first proper look around the room.  It was large and luxurious and totally dominated by the California King bed, which had ivory linens and a lush red brocade comforter. The room was internal to the suite, so had no windows and Daniel wondered if that was why he’d slept so very well.  The opulence was overt but not overdone, and everywhere he looked there were touches of luxury and signs that nothing had been overlooked for the comfort of the guest. Daniel sighed deeply. It was the perfect setting for a romantic getaway. But it was hard to have romance when you were on your own, unless you whispered sweet nothings to your right hand. Daniel snorted at his sleep addled thought processes.

Picking up his phone he logged on to his email account and checked the received mail folder. One from Cassie contained a picture of JD’s new tooth and he grinned at the drooly grin on the little guy’s face. The next mail put a bigger smile on his face and he felt a sense of relief as he finished reading.

He was about to respond when the blaring of a terminally annoying Marimba ring tone made him jump a little. The jarring, unfamiliar tune just reminded him that his Indiana Jones theme had been put on his old cell by none other than General O’Neill; another place where Jack had waded in and changed things just because he could…and Daniel had let him. That thought irritated Daniel even more and he answered the phone with a snarled “What?!”

“Oooo-kkay,” the voice on the other end drawled. “Did I wake you? I know it’s early there but it’s earlier here and I’m not snapping like an under-caffeinated archaeologist.”

“Paul?” Daniel couldn’t help the smile at the sound of his friend’s voice. “Shit, sorry, man. Feeling a little…”

“Grumpy?”

Daniel could hear the humour in the other man’s voice and it soothed his ragged nerves. “Well…yeah, I guess. I do have good reason.”

“Yeah, there is that,” Davis commiserated.  “Listen, I don’t have long. I have good news and unsurprising news. Which do you want first?”

Daniel groaned. “Well at least there is no bad news.” He settled back onto the bed, slipping slightly chilled feet under the rumpled covers. “Hit me with it, Paul.”

“OK, well the good news is I’ve reviewed the copy of the contract you emailed me and you are right, there is nothing in there they can use to keep you. You’ve more than fulfilled your terms of employment and your out-clause is solid. Also, they can’t stop you from taking your intellectual property wherever you want.”

“Well that’s a relief. I thought it would be OK but I’m glad you were able to look it over.”

“All that legal training had to be useful for something.” Paul sounded seriously pissed off.

“Shit, I forgot the big case was this week…is it as bad as you thought?” Daniel winced as he remembered when he had seen Paul in person less than a week before. Colonel Davis had been drafted in by the Pentagon to investigate cases of alleged misconduct on the part of several members of the SGC who had been accused of being involved in ‘immorality and conduct unbecoming’, which was the administrations way of describing anyone they thought might be gay. Paul had been ready to throw in the towel and resign, when Daniel had reminded him that by being on the inside he might be able to do some good.

“I was able to completely vindicate two guys – the case was just hearsay and there was a history of insubordination from the accuser. But…” Paul sighed heavily, “…there are two other guys – members of SG-11 – who just stepped too far over the line. I thought perhaps Carter might ante up and support them, but…”

Daniel bit his lip on the retort that wanted to leap out of his mouth. It didn’t matter how secure the line was, he didn’t want to put his friend in the firing line for his feelings about his ex-team mate.

“Anyway, I’m running out of time here…  I’m about to go into a meeting with ‘The General’, ‘The New Guy’, and I wouldn’t be surprised if ‘The Old Man’ is on speakerphone too.”

Daniel winced.  He and Paul had a sort of shorthand for the main protagonists at the Pentagon, which helped them to keep in touch with what was going on without putting them both in the firing line with their superiors. ‘The General’ was Jack, Howes was ‘The New Guy’ and ‘The Old Man’ was none other than the President himself.

“Well, ‘New Guy’ already gave me the OK and, as far as I can tell, ‘The General’ doesn’t give a shit, so I suppose I only have ‘The Old Man’ to worry about.”

Paul snorted. “Oh don’t be so sure. I had ‘The General’ on the phone for two solid hours yesterday, trying to find out what was going on with you. I managed to keep the full extent of your emails from him, but you know how he is.”

“Oh yes, I know how he is.”

“Have you heard from the UK?”

“Yes, just this morning actually. I was about to answer the email when you rang. They’ve accepted my proposal and want me there ASAP.”

“Well, that’s great news, Danny. I know it’s not what you’d hoped for but getting away from the US might not be such a bad thing.  My biggest worry is that ‘The Old Man’ might put a spanner in the works about you going overseas.”

Daniel just snorted. “How?”

“Come on, Daniel. He only has to whisper in the right ears for you to be refused a visa. National Security and all that.”

“Well he could try, but as I hold a British Passport…”

“Since when?”

Daniel could almost hear Paul’s jaw drop.

“Oh a long time now. It was after…well after something that even ‘The General’ doesn’t have the clearance for. In fact, I’m not sure ‘The Old Man’ knows about it. So let’s say, that’s not a concern.”

There was silence on the other end of the line for several seconds as Davis digested that little nugget of information. “Right,” he said finally. “OK, I know better than to ask…”

“Yes, you do.” Daniel agreed.

“Well I have five minutes left so why don’t we get out of this minefield. How is LA?”

“Warm, sunny. I have a gorgeous suite, and in a couple of hours I’m going to spend obscene amounts of money on a whole new wardrobe at Neiman Marcus.”

Paul snorted inelegantly at the reference. “So, which one are you, Richard Gere or Julia Roberts?”

“Oh Julia of course,” Daniel chuckled. “I’m going to get to ride in the limo and everything. There just won’t be some grey haired hunk waiting back here to have his wicked way with me over the piano.” He couldn’t help the little hint of sadness that crept in to his joking.

“You should go out. There are lots of great clubs in LA. Have some fun, get laid. God knows you’ve been celibate long enough.”

Paul’s anger at Jack was obvious in his tone. Daniel knew he would have been saying more if he wasn’t in the dragons den.

“Yeah and what happens when someone spots me, or I come on to some celebrity groupie who decides to tweet how the great Dr. Jackson seduced him in Rage last night.”

“Danny…” Paul sounded sad and defeated on his behalf, and Daniel wasn’t about to let his friend go into the coming meeting with Daniel’s defeatist attitude ringing in his ears.

“It’s OK, Paul, really it is. I’ll find somewhere to have a nice meal and a very expensive bottle of wine.”

Paul sighed audibly. “OK, sorry, I’m being paged. I have to go. I hope you appreciate me facing ‘The General’s’ wrath on your behalf.”

Daniel smiled at Paul’s disgruntled tone. He knew it was faked and Paul was looking forward to seeing how incandescent with rage he could make Jack and his bigoted idiot of a CiC.

“I’ll ring you later and let you know how it all went down. And then you can send me photos of your sexy new clubwear.”

“I’m telling you there won’t be any clubwear,” Daniel shouted, good-naturedly. “Now go and do some work instead of chatting away on the phone.”

“OK, later, Danny.”

“Yeah, later.”

Daniel ended the call and slid down onto his back, enjoying the softness of the comforter and high thread count sheets, and considered his friendship with the Air Force lawyer. There had been a time when he’d thought there might be a little sparkage between them, but it never went anywhere. Paul seemed to step back from it and Daniel had been too wrapped up in Jack to really want to take it any further. There was a sadness in Paul that Daniel could never really get a handle on. Then he had introduced Paul to Adelaide Arnes, a researcher in his department and they had hit it off immediately. They’d been dating for about six months now, and although Paul hadn’t said anything, it looked like they might be getting serious. Daniel was pleased for the younger man. Paul had been there as his support for a long time now, having guessed about Daniel’s love for Jack very early on – around the time of the Replicators and the Russian sub. He had been a true friend ever since. More so than Jack O’Neill it seemed, although up until a couple of days ago Daniel would have thought that wasn’t possible.

Daniel lay back for a few moments, undecided whether to get up and call for breakfast or go back to sleep. He was terminally tired; had been tired for months it seemed, but he could hear the coffee calling from the living area and he remembered the waiters promise to have the same blend in his press for breakfast. So he decided to start his day as he meant to go on – with conspicuous consumption, starting with a huge breakfast. He hadn’t expected to feel hungry this morning, but the email from Oxford and the conversation with Paul had put a slightly brighter hue to the coming day.

Slipping on his now thankfully dry robe, he padded into the living room and poured his third cup of the day. Sipping at the fragrant brew he called in his order for breakfast and requested his laundered clothes be delivered at the same time. The room service clerk told him his meal would be with him in twenty minutes. Just enough time for a quick shower and shave.

*****

His shower was refreshing, his pancakes and sausage delicious and his clothes clean and pressed. So, by the time he made his way down to the reception area to meet the limo, Daniel was in quite a mellow mood. As he slid into the back seat of the sleek black car he snorted at the image of himself as Vivien in ‘Pretty Woman’. He was sure he wasn’t going to have any problem spending his money though. His travel stained clothes of the night before had been miraculously transformed into quite the natty ensemble. He hadn’t bothered with Jack’s sweater as the weather was set to be hot later in the day, but he had put on his tie and light jacket, wanting to give the impression of a man of means. His clothes were expensive. ‘Only the best for Jack’, he thought darkly and then shook off the memory. He was determined to enjoy himself this morning.

He’d called ahead to engage a personal shopper for the duration of his shopping orgy and was soon being shepherded into a large, airy room by a pleasant young girl, who had met him at the limo.

“Andrea will be with you in a moment, Dr. Jackson. Please, help yourself.”

She gestured over to a table laden with plates of covered snack foods, bowls of candy, and cans of soda, a carafe of coffee and bottled water. It was too soon after his truly excellent breakfast for any more food and Daniel thought he might combust if he drank any more coffee, so he snagged a bottle of mineral water and settled down on the overstuffed couch which dominated one end of the room. A bank of mirrors covered the wall opposite him and there was a large, empty clothes rail in front of it. The walls were painted a pale cream and the floor was covered in thick blue carpet. There were no windows and the room was warm and well lit. Daniel guessed he would be spending quite a while within the four walls and quite a lot of money too. He stood as the door swung open and he was faced with…well not exactly what he had imagined a personal shopper would be.

Andrea stood about 5’3” and was very voluptuous. Her dress was beautifully tailored and made the most of her ample assets. Her hair was close cropped and dyed a vibrant red, setting off the green hazel of her eyes which twinkled with good humour. Her makeup was flawless, she wore tiny little jewelled ‘Day of the Dead’ skull studs in her ears, and tottered in on the most flamboyant shoes Daniel had ever seen – bright pink, with a flower design etched in the leather, they had 3 inch spike heels and a peep toe. Daniel thought she must be in her 50’s but there was a cheeky childishness to her smile that made him want to beam right back at her. He knew immediately they were going to get on like a house on fire.

“Dr. Jackson. I’m Andrea Sullivan. It’s so wonderful to meet you in person.”

Daniel was mortified as he felt himself beginning to blush. He hated all the celebrity garbage that had followed on the coattails of declassification. He often thought back on the days where he had longed for the recognition of his peers; now he’d give anything to walk along a street anonymously. Andrea squeezed his hand gently and he saw she had been genuinely pleased to meet him and it wasn’t just a by-product of his ‘fame’.

“My daughter is studying Archaeology at Berkley and you are a hero of hers. I think she will flip when she realises I’ve had you all to myself this morning.”

“Berkley is a good course; Dr Zelwig is the leader in palaeoarchaelogical research in the US.”

Andrea gifted him with a beaming smile. “Yes, he’s Kitty’s professor.” Andrea let go of his hand and sat down on the large couch patting the seat cushion next to her. “So what are you looking for today?” she twinkled.

“Everything,” Daniel said with a matching grin. “I arrived at LAX with the clothes you see right here. Not even a toothbrush.”

A concerned look fleetingly passed across her face. Daniel couldn’t help thinking she knew something traumatic had happened to him, but she didn’t question him and for that he was very grateful.

“So are we shopping for a short stay; a vacation?”

“No, I want a complete new wardrobe, from the bottom up.” Daniel explained, not really hearing what he’d said. He watched as the older woman bit her bottom lip in an attempt to stop the giggles threatening to burst from her.

“ANDREA!” Daniel chided, his accompanying grin belying the implied rebuke. “You know exactly what I meant.”

The shopper nodded and let the laughter come and Daniel found himself joining in.

This was going to be fun.

*****

Four hours later, exhausted but happy, and his charge account battered to the total of over $238,000, Daniel flopped back into the comfy couch and yawned widely.  Andrea had gone to take the rail of clothes he had selected to be rung up and packed. He had chosen from a wide range of designers; from Paul Smith tailoring to Dolce and Gabbana slacks and shirts. He’d bought shoes for every outfit and had spoiled himself with the most expensive underwear. His purchases included cologne and bath products, a beautiful robe, swim trunks, shorts…The list was endless. He’d given in immediately to Andrea’s suggestion that he’d need suitcases and carry-on bags and had bought a full set in deep tan Italian leather. He’d also bought some clothes he wasn’t sure he would ever wear but loved the look and feel of.

When Andrea got back they were going to wander over to the children’s department so that Daniel could indulge his grandfatherly impulses and further punish his charge account. He was going to spoil those babies (and their mommy) as it would probably be quite a while before he would have a chance to see them again.  The thought made him sad and, just like that the great mood of the last few hours was almost gone.

A gentle tap on the door had him clearing a lump from his throat before he called, “Come in.”

The door opened to admit a tall, slender young man who was everyone’s stereotypical idea of a personal shopper. He was immaculately dressed; stylish and creative without being overly flamboyant. Daniel’s gaydar pinged immediately as he was gifted with a brilliant smile which flashed white straight teeth. His thick black hair curled around his ears and his beautiful green eyes were fringed with dark, thick lashes. His pale slightly freckled skin telegraphed his obvious Celtic origins.

“Dr. Jackson, I’m sorry to bother you. I won’t take up any of your time. I just wanted to give you this.”

He handed over a black, heavily embossed card, about the size of a postcard. An elaborate heart in gold with a central letter P was etched on it along with the words ‘La Douleur Exquise’. Daniel felt his chest tighten as he recognised the phrase. It was French and translated as Exquisite Pain. But he also knew it as a phrase which could be interpreted to mean ‘The heart wrenching pain of wanting someone you can’t have’. He looked over at the handsome young man in front of him with more than a little mistrust.

“What is this, Mr…?”

“Padraigh O’Callahan. A mutual acquaintance thought you might like an invitation to a private club.”

Daniel’s concern grew. A mutual acquaintance? The whole thing felt very sinister, yet the young man in front of him seemed to be open and, in Daniel’s opinion, not hiding anything.

“Who?” he asked, his brows drawing together.

“Paul Davis.”

The relief almost knocked Daniel over. His mind had been going a million miles an hour and his imagination had concocted all kinds of scenarios, including one where Jack had found where he was. He was too involved in the conversation with the young Irishman to realise he actually had wanted that one to be true.

“Well thanks for the offer, but I already told Paul I can’t go out to clubs. Whether I like it or not my face is too well known, and I can just see the headlines in the tabloids tomorrow. ‘Man who opened Stargate in Gay Sex Club Shocker’. I have too many friends that could be impacted by that kind of gutter journalism.”

“Douleur is an invitation only club with very tight confidentiality rules. If you were outted or impacted by a story coming out of the club there would be a very intense investigation of the reasons and who was involved.” Padraigh smiled winningly. “We have everyone from cardinals to actors, and all our members and guests have as much to lose by being recognised as everyone else. I promise you it is as discrete and private as we can possibly make it. Only members can give out invitations and they are closely monitored.” The younger man tapped on the edge of the card in Daniel’s hand. “The club has a BDSM slant but nothing too heavy, and there is no pressure to be in the scene. Actually, tonight is an exclusively gay night. It’s usually quite quiet being early in the week.”

Daniel turned over the card to find a cell number written on the back. “Your number?” he asked, flirting a little now his heart had stopped thundering in his chest.

“Yes, but not for the reason you might think. I’m not saying I wouldn’t jump at the chance, but my SO would be a little put out.”

Daniel nodded a little sheepishly. “Sorry.”

The other man smiled reassuringly and shook his head. “No need. I just thought you’d like a little insurance in case you got concerned.” Padraigh turned towards the door. “Anyway, I’d better go. Andrea may look like a little old lady but she’s a tiger if she thinks anyone is after her commission.”

Daniel nodded but then just before he disappeared he called the younger man back. “How do you know Paul anyway?”

A sad smile flitted across Padraigh’s face. “You’d have to ask him about that,” he murmured as he slipped out and shut the door quietly behind him.

Daniel flipped the card over and over a few times before pulling out his wallet and slipping it inside. Bloody interfering Colonel’s. He wasn’t ready to go out there and look for…well for anything. Yes he was lonely; yes he wanted to be held and cherished, but there was only one person he wanted to do that and he was well aware there was no chance in Hell of that happening now.

Sighing he slid back down into the soft enveloping couch and leaned his head back. He pulled off his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. He felt suddenly tired again and looked over at the table longingly. But the coffee would be cold by now. He knew he only had to pick up the phone on the wall and more would arrive but he didn’t have the energy to get up right away. He decided to just rest his eyes while he was waiting for Andrea and then go batter this depression into submission with some more spending.  He’d seen some really cute outfits for the twins and a massive Gucci bag he knew Cassie would drool over.

Andrea popped her head around the door and grinned at him, and just like that all Daniel’s enthusiasm for shopping returned. No wonder the woman was the stores top commission earner. Being around her was like popping a massive pep pill.

In one graceful move he was off the couch and had his glasses firmly situated.

“OK, let’s go spend some more money!”

Bindingdiva

A middle-aged teenager, with delusions of creative genius.

12 Comments:

  1. Jack deserves everything that Cassie throws at him.

  2. What a shopping trip, I’m tired from reading about it.

  3. This just keeps getting better. And I love the comparison to the shopping trip in Pretty Woman (which is the best scene of the movie!).

  4. I am really loving this story, thank you!

  5. This makes me want to give Daniel a big hug and smack Jack upside the head repeatedly.

  6. I’m really enjoying this story. Thank you

  7. I’m loving this story!
    Poor Daniel. Jack is such an ass! Love that Cassie is so thoroughly in Daniel’s corner.
    Also, I love the world building you’re doing in this. Thank you so much for posting it!

  8. Fantastic part, though my heart continues to hurt for Daniel. Still, I love that he’s moving forward.

    Thanks so much!!

  9. Great update

  10. Great comparing and contrasting of details that add to the richness of the story. Lovely!

  11. I am sorry I did not tell you earlier how AWESOME this story is…I am loving every word. Thanks for all the hard work and sharing. Glad to see you writing.

  12. Love the world building you are doing with this story. Just wanna go smack some sense into Jack’s head. Thank you for sharing.

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