- Work in Progress
- Character Bashing
- Explicit Sex
- No Beta
- Violence - Canon-Level
- Alternate Universe
- First Time
- Future Fic
Daniel knew he wasn’t a coward. He’d had too many opportunities to prove his bravery to himself and others over the years to harbour any false modesty about it.
So the reason that he had decided to travel first to DC and then Colorado was merely for expediency, nothing more.
Yeah, and he was also brutally honest with himself too.
He was a fucking coward.
The thought of facing Sam, and her no doubt smug, self-satisfied attitude was more than he could bear. She’d always been competitive, especially with him, although he’d never given her any encouragement. When it came to their individual disciplines there was nothing really to compare. She always sneered at him and his ‘soft sciences’. Funny how more often than not, his ‘soft’ linguistic or historic knowledge and skills had saved their lives, or that of the planet.
Sure, she was an astrophysics genius, and could turn her hand to jury-rigging a DHD under combat conditions. Daniel had been happy to leave that to her, and many other ‘hard science’ tasks besides. But he’d never thrown it in her face, when his knowledge of a specific dialect or custom had got them out of hot water.
Sam however, made sure that everyone knew how hopeless he was when it came to tech, telling many stories over and over again, always with a view to embarrassing him.
Over the years his feelings about this had morphed. At first, he had felt almost pleased – wondering if that was what it would be like to have an older sister, who teased and poked, but always with love. As the years wore on, it became more and more obvious that her competitiveness was mostly aimed at gaining Jack’s approval and attention, and in doing so somehow ‘winning’, and highlighting her position over Daniel. So he just stopped engaging with her when she tried to involve him in her petty power games, and slowly but surely they had drifted from good friends, to colleagues with very little in common, until finally during two years he had lived in DC, they were nothing more than acquaintances.
He sighed quietly and looked out of the window, studying the shape of the clouds below them as they jetted back to Washington.
Cassie hadn’t believed his excuses either. She probably knew him better than Sam these days, so that wasn’t really a surprise. But he had been startled by the tearful way the young woman had made him promise that he wouldn’t leave without coming to see her and the twins. It made his heart warm that she still considered him a member of her family, although he was going to be a long way from her and the others that made up their dysfunctional group. Up until Cassie Major had come into his life, he knew he only had a theoretical understanding of what family actually was – and then a tiny, frightened but brave girl pulled him in, making him take steps into emotional areas that simultaneously terrified and amazed him.
Now as an adult, with children of her own, she still clung onto him and the relationship they had forged with a wonderful tenacity; through the trauma of losing her mother, the trials and tribulations of growing up, the pride in her achievements and the joy of her blooming into womanhood and motherhood.
He was still her DD and he was surprised at the prickle of tears behind his lids as he recalled her fervent promise only a few days earlier.
As soon as you are settled I will pull in every favour I’m owed. Steven Caldwell feels like he owes me since I worked with him after his Goa’uld infestation, and he adores the twins. I’m not against calling that in and asking him to take us up in the Daedalus and beam us to where ever you are, scaring the ever-loving shit outta you, before we hug you till you can’t breathe. You’ll be lucky to get rid of us for a month!
She loved him so fiercely and he loved her right back. Given what he had lost over the last week, Cassie and the twins were the most important people in his life, and he had promised her that he wouldn’t miss a day without making contact in some way.
Paul was another friend he’d miss, although they hadn’t really had chance to connect in a way Daniel would have liked. Through the Colonel’s regular updates from Homeworld, he’d been informed that Jack had already ascertained where he was headed. Somehow, that didn’t frighten him. Once he was settled in the UK and had begun building another life, then Jack O’Neill could do his worst. It was just that right now…If he was being brutally honest with himself, then Daniel knew if he had to face Jack right now, he would be a blubbering mess. And the General didn’t deserve to know the depths of his pain.
Jack O’Neill didn’t deserve any part of him at all.
Daniel wiped at his stinging eyes and wished they were closer to landing, but there were still a couple of hours before they arrived in DC. He glanced down to where his phone was sitting on the tray in front of him and swiped his finger across the screen. Spencer’s last text, received just before he boarded was still displayed.
Can’t wait to see you. Things not looking very hopeful. Want to share a house in Oxford?
A soft smile graced Daniel’s face as he thought of the beautiful young man. Hotchner would be a total idiot if he let him go. Brilliant, gorgeous, funny and so sensual, he was the full package. Although Spencer knew his SSA better than Jackson did, Daniel had a good feeling about the chances for the two men. Spencer Reid was a genius in his field – and several others, but the man admitted that his emotional and interpersonal skills were often lacking. Even in the very short time they had known one another, they had covered many of their deepest and most intimate secrets. Spencer’s difficult childhood, and his mega-intellect, had made him socially awkward to the point where people thought he was on the Autistic Spectrum. Daniel could identify totally with that. His own early life had been fraught with pitfalls, that as a young man had made him spiky and challenging to approach. It was only the influence of his Oxford Professor and mentor, Anastasia Barnard, that had broken through his outer shell and encouraged him to let people in, and before Jack O’Neill busted through all his barriers and demanded to be given full and complete access.
And look where that’s got you, his spitefully acerbic inner voice chimed in. But he forced himself to lower his tense shoulders and settled back in the sinfully comfortable seat. He only had to get through the next two days and he would be back in Oxford.
He couldn’t wait to see Ana again. She gave the best hugs in the world and always knew the right thing to say.
Daniel checked his watch again, even though he knew it had only been a few minutes since the last time he’d looked. His flight got in very early DC time; purposely so that it was unlikely he would bump into anyone he knew at the airport.
Sadly though, he wouldn’t have a good reason to stop in at Starbucks. Disappointingly, Dean was not going to be in DC, as he was spending a few days packing his things from his family home, in preparation for his move to the UK.
Just hours after he’d landed in LA, Daniel had received a long email from Dean, which had included amongst other things, the rough outline of the first couple of chapters of his thesis. Daniel had been very impressed, both with his research, and his insight. They had written back and forth several times, and based on those conversations Daniel had already put in place the framework to make the young Sheppard the first recipient of the scholarship in Clare Jackson’s name.
When Daniel had made the decision to stop waiting, and to set out on the next stage of his life, he had spent a long time with Paul, trying to strategize the shit out of his departure from the US. Between them they had come up with an exhaustive list that would get Daniel in and out of both DC and the Mountain quickly and in the least stressful manner possible. Paul was being a total hero, taking on all the practical tasks like setting everything in motion for the packing of Daniel’s DC apartment, and the safe shipping of his books to Oxford. There was no reason for Daniel to ever set foot in his apartment building again, and surprisingly, given the times he had treasured there, that was a total relief.
Maybe the fact that all those occasions involved the presence of General O’Neill had something to do with his lack of upset about leaving his home of two years.
When it came to leaving the US, Daniel was more concerned about the risks Paul was running by helping him, than the logistics of the move. But the man seemed to be really relaxed about it, so Daniel tried not to worry on his behalf.
His only reason for taking the risk of coming back to DC at all was to fulfil his promise to Spencer.
Daniel had booked a car and driver from the airport, wanting to keep up the ‘rich, powerful, famous an sexy hero’ persona that had been the role he’d played for Spencer on the Tarmac in LA.
Depending on the outcome of the visit to Quantico, he would either stay one more day in DC and then fly on to the Springs, or spend a few days with Spencer in a cosy but upmarket little B&B in Virginia that was run by two guys Paul had supported through an ‘investigation’. Meanwhile he would continue piling the pressure on Aaron Hotchner to get him to finally admit his attraction to Reid.
Fucking older men were such idiots, even if Hotchner was only a couple of years older than him he was acting like he had Daniel by a decade or more
Back to the plan, unfortunately, he did have to go into the SGC; mainly to box up his personal books and artefacts, and finalise the handing over of his personal projects to other members of the Archaeo/Anthro/Linguistics team. He’d never really left his workspace at the Mountain, maintaining his office there as a remote base of operations and utilising it as secure storage for his more precious and esoteric collections. There was nowhere on Earth safer than 28 floors down, in the fire, earthquake, nuclear, floodproof, and, mostly, alien incursion proof space.
Having resigned, he would be expected to give back his security pass, and sign off the computer system, destroying his passwords and private files; literally writing over his two decades of time at the SGC. He’d spent the most exciting, frightening, sad and joyful times of his life there; met new species and solved age old puzzles. He’d worked alongside some of the best and brightest the Earth had to offer and had even managed to call some of them friends.
He was going to miss it all, he knew that.
Still, the challenge of setting up a whole new area of study, in a prestige environment like Oxford University was exciting enough to mitigate the sadness a little. He was going to be holding the brand new Chair for Xeno-Linguistics, under the auspices of the Faculty for Linguistics, Philology & Phonetics, and working alongside his beloved mentor. His new laptop was already bursting with files of thoughts, ideas and course plans, which had sprung fully formed into his mind, once he’d got his finally got his head out of his ass and stopped drinking and fucking himself into oblivion.
If Luc hadn’t been such a sleazy, wanna-be rapist bastard he might have thanked him for helping him. As it was, the most appropriate thing that could happen to that fucker was a nice long stay in jail somewhere, although Daniel knew that was unlikely to happen. He still hadn’t heard anymore from Ben and Padraigh, but Paul had assured him he could trust them to let him know when they had anything to pass on.
Feeling the tension rising again, he knew he needed to find a way to let it all go. Setting up his iPod to his favourite playlist, he popped in his earbuds and hoped the music would sooth him into sleep. It was going to be a tense few days and he was already exhausted from the stress of the past week. He might as well get some rest while he could.
The FBI Academy, Quantico was a large and imposing set of buildings, built in typical government style. But having spent most of his working life nearly half a mile underground, with the constant threat of incursion from other worlds, Daniel found it hard to be impressed.
He had been recognised immediately by the security team, who had fallen over themselves to deal with his request to speak with Spencer Reid. After a quick call, he was given a visitor’s pass, subjected to a professional but cursory swipe down with an electronic wand, before he was escorted through the arch of a metal detector and onto the elevator.
As the doors of the car slid open, a grinning Spencer was standing at the other side, and it was all Daniel could do not to drag him into his arms and kiss him senseless. The man was wearing understated but well-fitting office appropriate clothes, and his dark brown hair was curling around his beautiful face, pooling onto his shoulders. The whole look was sexy as hell, and the memory of their night together warmed Daniel’s heart and thickened his cock.
He was only human after all. He dragged Spencer towards him with one arm across his shoulders, ready to let go if the other man seemed at all uncomfortable.
So it was to his great surprise that Spencer pulled him into a full-on hug, the agent’s arms tightening around his waist, lips brushing Daniel’s in a soft brush of sensation, that set his nerves tingling.
“God, am I glad to see you,” Spencer murmured only loud enough for Daniel to hear. “It’s been a crappy week.”
Daniel pulled back a little and stared at Spencer, seeing the truth in the tired lines of stress around his eyes. In his peripheral vision, he saw movement coming their way. He squeezed Spencer gently and gave him a small, surreptitious wink.
“Fuck, baby,” he breathed, loud enough for their audience to hear. “You smell so good.”
“It’s the cologne you bought me last Christmas,” Spencer replied warmly and without missing a beat. “Clive Christian, Number 1.”
Daniel was impressed. Spencer had thought on his feet, run with Daniel’s lead, and quoted the most expensive men’s cologne in the world. A cologne that Daniel had told Spencer he had bought for himself only a few days ago at Neiman-Marcus, knowing the information would be interesting to his fellow geek. For someone who purported to be hopeless in situations where he had to improvise, Spencer had just done a great undercover job. Although when they’d talked during their night together, Spencer had commented that he did his ‘best work under extreme terror’. Daniel just hoped that didn’t mean Spencer found him terrifying.
Strangely enough, the bottle of that exact cologne was gift wrapped for Spencer in the leather messenger bag Daniel was carrying over his shoulder, so anyone looking in Reid’s bathroom cabinet that night would find exactly what they were looking for. Daniel made a mental note to make sure he passed it to Reid when no one else was around.
“I can’t believe you’re here already. I thought you’d be in LA for longer.” Spencer was babbling breathlessly, and although it was partly an act, Daniel could see that Spencer meant it. It gratified Daniel that someone could be this excited to see him. It seemed like a long time since he had been wanted, even if only as a friend.
“It wasn’t that much fun without you,” he replied honestly, although very aware as they wandered into the BAU bullpen, that their conversation was being closely monitored by Spencer’s team.
“How long are you staying?” Reid asked, his hand lingering on Daniel’s shoulder.
Spencer knew exactly how long he was staying, and was playing it for the onlookers. Daniel had to control the twitch of his lips that threatened to turn into a smirk and give the game away. He couldn’t afford to let his guard down even slightly, here amongst the crème de la crème of profilers in the US. They would see and interpret every little flicker, and read every single nuance.
The intimacy they had shared gave them the edge however, and he knew all those watching would be able to see the ease with which they interacted. It was surprising, but strangely comforting, that he and Spencer had connected so easily, and a little part of Daniel wished they were both free. But he knew Spencer was still holding out for Aaron, and Daniel had already decided that he wasn’t ever again going to open himself to the chance of falling for someone who was in love with someone else.
No, he’d enjoy the game they were playing with Hotchner for as long as it lasted, and then move on to the UK. Burying himself in his work sounded like a really good idea.
Shrugging off his completive mood and, with very little effort, he turned on ‘sexy Dr Jackson’, who in the past had got him laid without fail.
“How long do you want me to stay, sweetheart?” he purred quietly, combing proprietary fingers through Spencer’s beautiful curls.
Although he was aware they were playing to their audience, Daniel felt a thrill of excitement as he watched Spencer’s pupils dilate. He was getting to the other man. If Hotchner didn’t get his head out his ass, they would undoubtedly end up in bed together again. Daniel knew that as long as they were both honest in their intentions, he wouldn’t mind that at all.
Still, he had a job to do here, and out of the corner of his eye, he noticed the SSA come out of his office, Aaron’s heavy, dark eyebrows furrowed deeply. Obviously, Spencer hadn’t told anyone he was visiting. Time to start turning the screws.
“Did you look at the information I sent you about the new courses? I’m going to be picking your big, beautiful brain for ideas for the Psych Electives. Oxford are giving me free rein in hiring and curriculum so there’s a fuckton to do. I’ve already got my eye on a beautiful thatched cottage right next to the river. It has three living rooms, two huge studies and a fabulous master bedroom and bath.”
All true, except the cottage was already his. Daniel had been so taken with the historic building with its thatched roof, mediaeval timbers and riverside setting, that he’d bought it outright despite the ridiculous price. And he really had sent the relevant paperwork to Spencer. There was no reason not to be prepared for the worst, although Daniel was pretty sure Spencer wasn’t really ready to leave Aaron, his post and his team quite yet.
Spencer had his back to his team, and Daniel almost flinched at the sadness he saw in the younger man’s eyes as he talked on about the opportunities available in Oxford. Things must really be looking bad.
Jackson’s heart went out to the other man. He knew what it was to love someone so deeply and for there to be seemingly no hope.
Well if that was the case, Hotchner didn’t deserve the brilliant man in front of him. Daniel decided regardless of Spencer’s decision about the future, he was going to give Spencer the best few days of his life, so that if he decided to remain in the US, at least he would have something good to look back on.
They both would.
“I have reservations at a new fine dining restaurant about 15 miles from here. I thought maybe you could get an extended lunch break –or perhaps the whole afternoon off? We could make it a two and a half day weekend?”
Daniel was gratified to see some of the sadness leave Spencer’s eyes at the thought of a great meal and some good company. But the younger man didn’t get a chance to reply.
“Unfortunately, I can’t give you a half day, Reid.” The voice was like dark chocolate, and Daniel could understand the attraction, although Hotchner seemed a little too buttoned up for his taste. He liked his men intelligent but with a good sense of humour. Daniel schooled his face into his best ‘making nice with the alien’s expression’, and turned to fully meet the SSA. Hotchner was giving nothing away, and Daniel didn’t have enough experience to catch any tells.
“But we haven’t got anything scheduled, and I thought we were off live cases for a few days because…” Spencer looked genuinely upset that his lunch date and early weekend with Daniel wasn’t going to happen. Daniel opened his mouth to reassure him that they could reschedule, but Hotchner was already speaking.
“Strauss has asked me to do an overview of the Caccini case. Apparently, the DA has some particular concerns about our geographical evidence.”
Peripherally, Daniel saw Spencer’s metaphorical hackles go up, obviously angered that someone was questioning his expertise. But what struck Daniel was that despite his lack of knowledge of the man, he knew without question that Aaron Hotchner was lying. His hopes for Spencer blossomed once more. Maybe turning up like this was exactly the kind of wake-up call Hotchner needed.
Daniel decided he needed to give him one more tiny push. “Agent Hotchner, it’s good to finally meet you.” He held out his hand and was met with a brief, strong, but not too macho handshake.
“Well if the rest of the day is out of the question, can I possibly steal Spencer for a couple of hours?”
The SSA gave a curt polite nod, but his eyes were almost boring through Daniel’s skull. Oh, he was more than a little pissed at Daniel’s intrusion in his domain. Danny turned to his friend, not wanting Hotchner to see the triumph in his eyes.
“Why don’t we eat locally for lunch, then I can pick you up in the limo after you’ve finished your ‘review’ and we can spend all the time we want together. I’m sure if I drop my name I should be able to move the reservation to this evening. It’s Saturday tomorrow and we can make a weekend of it. I’m staying in a gay-friendly B&B out in Virginia and it sounds like just what we like. Quiet, discrete and off the beaten track.”
Daniel could see Derek Morgan getting more and more irate as he unashamedly listened in to their conversation. Spencer had told Daniel that the man constantly underestimated him, and that his biggest and most irritating failing was his inability to cope with any change in his world view.
Sure enough, it seemed that Morgan had reached Jackson overload. He took a step forward and almost dragged Spencer out of Daniel’s hold, one hand encircling Spencer’s slender bicep in a grip that was just too rough for Daniel’s taste.
“Hey, pretty boy. How come you didn’t tell us your…friend was visiting. And what’s all this bullshit about him sending you stuff about working with him in England? There’s no way you’d leave the BAU, no matter what ‘incentives’ this guy is giving you. What the fuck would you do there anyway? You’re a profiler not a teacher. You don’t even like being around other people, let alone undergrads.”
The rough handling and the lewd insinuation made Daniel furious. Even though he knew Spencer was capable of handling the man, he didn’t see why he should have to. After his own early experiences in the Mountain, any kind of inter-team bullying made him mad as hell. It seemed that no one else on his team was going to step in and that made him angrier still.
“Excuse me, Agent Morgan, is it?” he asked quietly but with steel in his tone. “I’m sure Spencer is more than capable of making his own decisions without the input of his colleagues and also very able to tell you that himself, probably in words you’d have to look up in a dictionary. What I cannot stay quiet for is your insinuation that he can be bought for the price of a few gifts and the opportunity to sleep with me. While I do have money to burn which I am happy to spend on Spencer, and I’ve often been assured I’m very good in bed, that is in no way concerned with the role I have offered Spencer in the new program I am instigating in England. Spencer Reid is a brilliant, well-rounded man, with many skills, talents and knowledge to share. He has excellent communication skills, and the future prospects of any student privileged to be taught by him would be infinitely improved by the opportunity.”
Daniel glanced over at Spencer, wondering if he’d overstepped the mark in speaking up. What he saw made him angrier still. Spencer’s face was painted with a faint blush along his cheekbones, and his eyes were shining. His expression made it clear he was not used to having someone stick up for him against his colleague, especially on the subject of his interpersonal skills.
“I don’t know who the fuck you think you are, but I have worked with Reid for…” Morgan, it seemed, was like a dog with a bone. He continued on, repeating the same refrain that Spencer had reported back after their little scene on the tarmac in LA, including the strange and unsubstantiated idea that Spencer was one step away from some kind of idiot savant.
He knew it wasn’t his fight really, but Daniel had never been willing to let a bully get the upper hand, even around people he knew could stick up for themselves – reference the times when he had launched into some Goa’uld baiting in defence of Marines with big guns. He took a breath to fire the next volley, but finally it seemed he wasn’t Spencer’s only advocate.
Everyone around them stilled. It was obvious that SSA Hotchner raising his voice was not a usual occurrence.
The barked command was given with a steely glare that rivalled that of a System Lord. For a moment, it looked like Morgan was going to resist, and Daniel had a crazy impulse to stand in front of Spencer, which, thank god he didn’t have to give in to, as the agent threw him a look that bordered on disdain, before turning away with bad grace. He strode angrily up the ramp towards Hotchner’s office, glowering viciously at everyone he encountered on the way, including a brightly dressed young woman with huge pompom earrings, who fitted Spencer’s description of Penelope Garcia. Daniel felt a little upset on her behalf as her big blue eyes filled with tears, but a pretty blond woman had an arm around her shoulders in comfort a moment later, so he turned his attention back to Spencer.
Even knowing the man for the short time he had, Daniel was well aware that being the centre of a such a scene would mortify the young man. But even as he was considering going to Spencer, Aaron Hotchner was already standing beside him, a hand place reassuringly on Reid’s shoulder.
“You go to lunch, Spencer. Let me deal with Morgan.”
“But…” Spencer’s gaze flicked miserably towards Hotchner’s office, but he was quickly redirected by a little shake. Daniel watched as their eyes met. It was obvious, as the blush deepened on Spencer’s cheeks, that Reid found their close proximity discomforting.
‘Come on, Aaron’, Daniel thought. ‘He’s right there…You’ve only got to look to see what he’s willing to give you.’
“Go to lunch with Dr. Jackson. Be in my office for 3.30 for a pre-meeting briefing.” His voice was warm and comforting and it was obvious by the relaxing of Spencer’s shoulders, that the words had the desired effect. With a little shove, Spencer stepped the short distance between them and Daniel couldn’t help but hold out his hand. He was gratified when Spencer took it readily, but he was even more heartened at the brief flash of pain that passed across Aaron’s face before it was quickly, and efficiently hidden.
Right now Spencer needed a friend’s ear, but later, if things worked as he felt they would, then Spencer would be comforted by a lover before the day was over. He battened down the pain of loss that threatened to slice through him, and berated himself; He should be happy for Spencer, not dwelling on things that couldn’t be changed for himself.
“Come on, you can show me the best place to get a good burger. And something sinful and chocolate for dessert.”
Hotchner turned on his heel and walked swiftly towards his office. Although he couldn’t see his face, the set of his shoulders told Daniel that Agent Morgan was not going to have it easy in the next few minutes.
And that, and the thought of chocolate, made Daniel very happy indeed.
The diner was warm and clean, and the smell of surprisingly good coffee, and freshly cooked food, reminded Daniel that the last time he’d eaten had been 5am LA time.
“The burgers here are amazing. They have chilli cheese fries, and their pie is the best I’ve ever tasted…”
Daniel couldn’t help the flinch, and of course, expert profiler that he was, Spencer couldn’t help but notice.
He carried on walking to a booth and slid into it with a sigh. Would everything always remind him of Jack. The fucking bastard had even highjacked some of the best diner food that Daniel loved.
“I take it this has something to do with the General?”
“Yeah.” Daniel fiddled with the napkin dispenser and then moved the salt shaker from one hand to the other. “When we were off world, we’d carry MRE’s in our packs…Meals Reluctant to Exit, Jack used to call them. We had this longstanding joke about how they all tasted like chicken – except for those supposedly made from chicken.”
Spencer snorted, and the grin that brightened his face made Daniel’s spirits lift a little too.
“Anyhow, wherever we were, Jack would always speculate on what kind of pie they were serving in the mess…sometimes for fucking hours, until all I wanted was goddamned pie.”
His sadness at the memory must have shown on his face, as a gentle hand covered his and Spencer made his way around the table to sit next to Daniel. The warm press of another body was the kind of comfort Daniel knew nothing else could replicate, and he allowed himself to lean in to it.
“Danny, I wish there was something I could do. You’ve tried so hard for me. Perhaps when we get to Oxford…”
For a moment, Daniel just stared at Spencer in disbelief, but then he realised the other man was completely unaware of the subtext Daniel had observed in the bullpen.
“You do know he’s going to talk to you this afternoon, Spence. That meeting is nothing but a bullshit excuse to stop me from taking you away for the weekend.”
Seeing a glimmer of hope in Spencer’s eyes made Daniel pray that he wasn’t making a mistake, but actually foreseeing the future, because he knew how painful it was to have that particular rug pulled out from under him.
“Are you sure?” Spencer murmured. “It could just be…Strauss is always pulling out old cases for us to review. It’s really fucking annoying.”
Before Daniel could reassure him, the teenage waiter ambled up to their booth. He placed two huge menus on the table along with a glass of water each, before looking up, no doubt to give them a rendition of the special. However, as he realised who he had sitting at one of his tables, the apathetic demeanour was quickly replaced with ill-concealed amazement.
“Ohmygod. OH.MY.GOD! Omigod, omigod, omigod. My brother is going to come in his pants when I tell him you were in here today. And that I served you. He tricked me into taking his shift today so he could go out with his girl. He’s always going on about how he’s going to get through school and apply to the Stargate program. He’s really smart.” The boy’s eyes were nearly bugging out of his head with excitement, even as he told of his brother’s intellectual prowess with pride.
Daniel knew he needed to get on top of the situation, otherwise lunch would be impossible. LA had been a relief for him; a town filled with celebrities made being one almost like being an average Joe. He’d forgotten just how invasive the public could be – even when they liked you.
He glanced at the boy’s name tag and turned on the charm. “Hey, Todd. I would really appreciate it if you could keep my being here on the downlow. My friend here tells me you have the best burgers in Quantico. I’m really hungry, and we don’t have a lot of time. If you can get us something good to eat, that would be great. Then maybe we could take a photo on your phone or something – prove to your brother I was actually here, huh? Otherwise…you know what brothers are like…”
The kid nodded sagely, his eyes bright with excitement. “No problemo, I hear ya. Brothers are the pits, man. So, yeah, a picture on my cell would be awesome. I’ll go grab you the special – 8oz burger on a brioche bun, chilli cheese fries, all the coffee you can drink, and pie a la mode, or an ice cream sundae.”
“Do you have chocolate ice cream?” Spencer asked, and Daniel could’ve kissed him, while in the back of his mind, a little voice said that this was just the kind of place Jack would have loved. In days gone by Daniel would have taken great delight in bringing him out here. The General would be moaning and complaining about having to schlep out to Quantico, but on the way home there would be plans made for the next time…
Spencer chose that moment to prove Morgan wrong – he really was brilliant at reading situations and people, and then putting his observations into practice, this time for Daniel’s benefit. As the boy bustled away to get their order, Spencer began to giggle, the infectious sound very effectively pulling Daniel away from his maudlin thoughts.
“Can you imagine – I bet his brother is not the only teenage boy on Earth coming in his pants at the very thought of the sexy Dr Daniel Jackson, PhD PhD PhD. When you get to Oxford, your classroom will be filled with kids who can’t even say hello in their own language, let alone an alien one, because all their blood has gone from their brains to their pricks.” Spencer’s eyes were bright with merriment, as he unashamedly laughed at Daniel’s expense.
Funnily enough that worrying thought had crossed Daniel’s mind more than once. The idea of being mooned over by undergrads was not his idea of a fun time.
“Spence, fucking stop it, right now. I feel like a pervy old man just hearing about his brother saying it, let alone thinking about him doing it.”
Finally, the absurdity of the whole conversation hit his funny bone and he began to laugh. Maybe it was slightly hysterical, but it had the desired effect. By the time their food arrived, all maudlin thoughts had fled his mind, chased by probably the best chilli cheese fries he had ever tasted.
They only just made it back to the BAU offices on time, partly because they were arguing in the limo for almost ten minutes about Daniel going back upstairs to get an apology from Derek Morgan.
“I don’t care what he thinks, Spence, after all, I probably won’t even meet him again. I just couldn’t stand to see him bully you.”
Spencer shook his head slightly. “It’s not like that Danny. Morgan is just … It’s not bullying…not really…”
Jackson felt the burn of anger in his chest as he recognised intimately the kind of denial Spencer was practicing.
“It’s not bullying? When your team mate all but calls you a whore and accuses you of sucking up to me for what you can get? I know how that goes. First, it’s subtle digs – he calls you a geek, picks holes in your range scores and your physical fitness. Then later along the line, he sneers openly at you when you suggest a course of action based on your skills and knowledge, but that conflicts directly with what he has been trained to do. Before too long, you find yourself on the outside of every decision that’s made in the team – the odd one out again. Tell me that doesn’t feel like high school.
The paleness of Spencer’s skin showed Daniel that he’d hit a raw nerve, and he immediately felt guilty for loading his argument with his own angsty hang-ups.
Daniel reached across the table and ran his fingers over Spencer’s prominent knuckles. “It really doesn’t matter what he thinks of me, Spence, after all, I probably won’t even meet him again after today.”
He felt guilty at the sadness on Spencer’s face. Apart from his assertion that Morgan was a bully, he was aware that Reid’s upset was more because the analyst had convinced himself that he would be leaving his team – and more importantly, Aaron – for the UK, imminently. Daniel was equally as sure that that wasn’t going to be the case.
He knew he would be alone in Oxford, and he was going to miss his friend. There was something special about his connection with Spencer Reid, something more than just the serendipity of being compatible in bed, although he wouldn’t have been at all averse to the chance of repeating their night together. There was so much about their life experiences that meshed, but at the same time they both had differing skills and knowledge that made them a dream team as far as high-class education institutions like Oxford were concerned, or even government bodies like the SGC or the FBI.
It also meant that they never ran out of conversation, whether it was on the phone or by email. The past week they had probably spent more time talking that Daniel had with some of the people who would no doubt consider him a close friend.
“Well. I’ll feel better if I hear him apologise to you.”
Daniel knew when to give in and readily allowed Spencer to take his hand and lead him back through the security measures, although this time the check was cursory.
As they disembarked the elevator, aware that they were pushing the time limit, a harried Spencer almost collided with a tall and elegantly dressed woman coming the other way.
“Director Strauss. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there.” Spencer bent to pick up a file that had slid from her hands onto the floor, but thankfully not spilled its contents. “I’m going to meet with Hotch now, and I’ll have the geographical data on Caccini reviewed before our…”
“Dr Reid, I am late for a meeting at the Hoover Building so I can’t speak with you now. Make an appointment with my secretary.” The woman snapped as she jabbed irritably at the button for her. The doors closed in his face before Spencer could get out another word.
It seemed to Daniel that treating Spencer badly was the norm in that place, and it made him wish he could take the younger man to the UK with him, despite what that would mean for his emotional health.
“Maybe that means the meeting has been cancelled,” Spencer said hopefully.
Daniel just stared at him in shock. Was he really that oblivious?
He didn’t get a chance to ask, as Spencer pressed him down into the office chair at the profilers own desk.
“I’m going to ask Hotch. Maybe I can get that half day after all.” And with that he strode away up the ramp towards the SSA’s office.
Daniel swivelled the chair to watch the scene unfold inside the glass walled office, his chest feeling a little constricted with the tension. He had a feeling this would be make or break for Spencer.
Moments later his thoughts were proven. There was a moment of stillness, and then the sound of raised voices, although the words were muffled somewhat. Spencer was letting fly, his hands moving at a tremendous pace. Peripherally, Daniel could see that a dark-haired woman was also avidly watching the scene unfold, and he had an idea from Spencer’s description, that this was Emily Prentiss. She was the only other team member in the bullpen, Derek Morgan being nowhere to be seen.
He watched as Spencer shook his head and turned to the door.
Come on, Aaron, he encouraged. Don’t you get that this is your last chance?
It seemed he did. With a hand to Spencer’s arm, Hotchner turned him around and placed a gentle palm to his cheek. If that hadn’t said it all, the soft, almost chaste kiss to his lips definitely did.
Suddenly, the world seemed to narrow in on Daniel. He had to get out of there, away from the sweet sincerity of it. The tenderness with which Aaron was treating Spencer was like a knife to Daniel’s heart, knowing as he did that something like that could never happen for him. He stood in a rush, and turned to the female agent, who was staring at the office with something akin to disbelief written across her face.
Daniel picked up a pen and a scrap piece of paper and jotted a few lines, before folding it and placing it on Emily’s desk.
“Could you make sure Spencer gets that, please.”
He tapped it to get her attention and to make sure she had heard him. She looked up at him with wide chocolate brown eyes.
“Yeah, sure. But aren’t you… I mean…”
Daniel forced a smile to his lips. “I got what I came here for.”
Emily’s expression would have amused him usually, as her mouth dropped open and shock morphed into understanding.
Daniel didn’t wait for any further conversation. He had to get out of there. In his present state of mind, the last thing he needed was another confrontation with Derek Morgan. Hauling off and decking an FBI agent without due cause was not conducive to an easy move over to the UK.
The trip down to Security was thankfully without incident. He gave back his visitor’s badge, only to see the guard palm it and drop it into his pocket. Normally he would have found something like that humorous, but his emotions were in flux and he couldn’t work out where the panic was coming from.
He strode across the parking lot, fighting the urge to run to the sanctuary of the limo. The driver obviously saw him coming, as the long sleek car quickly and quietly drew up beside him. Just as the chauffeur came around the front of the vehicle to open the door, as voice called his name, the tone panicked and concerned.
“Danny, Danny wait…wait please.”
Despite the urge to just jump into the back seat and tell the driver to leave immediately, Daniel swallowed the emotion that was desperate to escape his throat, and took a deep breath before turning.
Spencer was almost level with him, while Aaron Hotchner was standing as still as a statue halfway between them and the entrance to the building. His dark eyes were on them both, missing nothing.
“Spence, what are you doing chasing me across a parking lot. Go back and talk to Hotch. You two have a lot of things to catch up on.” Daniel did his best to smile, but knew he’d failed by the look of sadness that flashed across Spencer’s expressive eyes.
“We have…spoken that is. And I told him…Danny, I can’t just abandon you. Aaron understands how it is between us, and he’s agreed that I should come with you to the B & B for the weekend…Its…he’s OK with it…if we…”
He couldn’t help the slightly hysterical laugh that burst from him. He lifted his hand in a direct copy of the move Aaron had made only minutes earlier, cupping the warm, slightly stubbled cheek. He couldn’t hide the pain, so he didn’t try. “Oh sweetheart, he’s not OK with it at all. And neither am I. Go back inside – better yet, talk him into taking that long weekend with you. You know it’s what you’ve been hoping for. Don’t waste the opportunity on me, I’ll be fine. I have to get to the Springs anyway, so the sooner I do, the sooner I can be on my way to England. My room is only booked for tonight, with the option for more if you needed it. I can get an early flight to Colorado and be there for lunch, Colorado time.”
Daniel found himself enveloped in an almost painfully tight hug. “It’s not fucking fair,” Spencer whispered in his ear. “You deserve better than this. I don’t want you to go. I’m worried about you.”
“Hey, I’m going to be OK. I’ve left the details of my new address with Emily, so if you need me, you know where to find me.”
The sound of footsteps across the lot made them lift their heads, to see Hotchner making his way towards them.
“I thought I should come in person to assure you that I understand Spence wanting to spend time with you before you leave, and I’m fine with him…”
Daniel snorted. “No, you’re really not, and neither should you be.” He ran his hands through Spencer’s hair one last time, and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “You have a really special man here, Aaron. I’m not going to give you some macho bullshit warning, like your friend Morgan would. But I will say this. I died rather than see the man I love hurt…several times in fact. Spencer deserves nothing less than that from you. If you can’t give him that, then you should tell him now and let him go. I think you know that a lot of what we’ve said has been misdirection, but the stuff about England – that was all true. I would take him from here to work for me like a shot if I thought he would go. So be sure.”
To his credit, Hotchner didn’t immediately fall into promises. He simply nodded his head and took a step back to let them make their goodbyes.
“He loves you, Spencer. Now you’ve got to let him. If you believe you can trust him with your heart, then that’s good enough for me. But don’t take any bullshit from Morgan, or anyone else. I will always be at the end of the phone, or email. And the house is really gorgeous, so I’ll expect you for a visit soon…both of you.”
Tears were rolling freely down Spencer’s cheeks, but Daniel couldn’t give in to the emotion he was feeling. Damn it, he didn’t even truly know what it was he was feeling, except that it was too big, too dangerous to allow free rein here. He needed a safe house, somewhere quiet and private, and he needed it soon. Daniel pushed him away and lifted an eyebrow at Hotchner.
“One thing, Agent Hotchner. I think it would be prudent to have Agent Morgan go through a psych eval asap. I think his unresolved, internalised homophobia needs at the very least addressing, before it causes problems in the field.” He flicked a glance at Spencer and back again, and saw the other man draw his shoulders back before giving him a curt nod of acceptance. Assured that his message had been received he turned back to Spencer.
“Now, go on, get back to your man. Do all the things you’ve been dreaming of doing. Live your life, Spence. You deserve it.”
Spencer’s lips on his were almost too much for him to bear, but he was ambivalent when it ended whether it was too soon, or not soon enough. Unable to form another word, he turned and quickly slid into the back seat of the limo. As the driver started the engine and drew away across the lot, Daniel couldn’t help a final look through the window, but quickly turned away as he saw Aaron reach for Spencer.
Watching that twice in one day was just too much for him to bear.
The journey to the Bed and Breakfast was a blur of urban sprawl which rapidly turned to suburban beauty. Daniel felt like he was holding his breath, desperate for oxygen, but afraid to open his mouth to take it in.
Too much was waiting to pour out.
The house was a pretty little Victorian on a leafy street, with well-tended gardens, and a bright blue front door. The driveway was rather small, so the limo drew up in front of the wooden gate. By the time the driver had opened Daniel’s door, and then opened the trunk for his minimal amount of hand luggage, the door had been flung open, and two broad shouldered, and surprisingly familiar figures, were striding out to meet him.
“Hey, Doc. Fancy meeting you here.”
Francis Jones and Don Sanders were Marines who had worked closely with Daniel on SG-13, and they were the very last people he had expected to see as custodians of a B&B. Yes, he knew Paul had been involved in the owner’s case, and that they were servicemen, but ever the true professional, Paul hadn’t mentioned any names. Maybe he thought Daniel might not agree to use the place if he knew and Daniel had to wonder if he’d have been right.
They’d been part of a team that Daniel had helped to rescue after they were captured by an alien race who were transplanted from a Mesopotamian culture of Akkadian descent by a System Lord. They practiced human sacrifice to a minor sun god and had captured the team to appease Shamash after a particularly poor harvest.
He had offered himself in return for their release, and because of his very blue eyes had been accepted as a worthy exchange. Luckily, Jack had got there before he had been skinned and then put to death in a ritual fire. He had been quite badly beaten however, and for the next three weeks, whenever Jack couldn’t be at his bedside, either Francis or Donny had taken his place. Francis had immediately pinged Daniel’s Gaydar, but the fact that Don was his partner had completely passed him by.
That they knew him so well was both a blessing and a curse. Yes, he needed somewhere safe but somewhere anonymous would have been even better. The idea that he’d have to hold on to…whatever the fuck this was for the duration of his stay, was too much. Daniel wasn’t sure whether he shouldn’t just turn around and get back in the car, find a motel and just lock himself in his room.
That was Francis, his distinctive, gravelly voice both warm and compassionate.
“Get his bags, baby. The Doc needs his room, some peace and quiet and a nice cup of my camomile with plenty of honey, ASAP.” He put a gentle arm around Daniel’s shoulders and drew him towards the house. That a huge Marine, with muscles on his muscles, could sound so compassionate and caring was a mystery for the ages, but as they walked into entryway, it became a step too far.
The place was cosy without being chinzy and smelled like Daniel always imagined home should, but it was the bookshelf opposite the door that took down the last of Daniel’s defences with the efficiency of a Jaffa wielding a staff weapon.
On the centre shelf in pride of place, sat a photograph of Daniel, dressed in BDUs and standing very close to Jack O’Neill, both of them grinning fit to bust, Jack’s arm slung proprietorially around Daniel’s shoulders.
His legs just wouldn’t hold him any longer, and it was only the strength of his host that kept him upright.
“It’s OK, Daniel. We both got eyes and see how it really is over the last few days. We thought it was a done deal for you and the General, and now it’s obvious to us both that so did you. I don’t know what that mother fucker thinks he’s doing, but you don’t deserve the way he’s treated you. You came for us so many times. Because of that, we’re proud to be here for you, right now. Whatever you need you can have. We owe you nothing less. Donny ‘n me have your six. You’re safe here.”
As Daniel slid to the floor, Francis went with him, holding him in a firm but unrestrictive hug. He could feel the tears pouring down his cheeks, and somewhere in a small dark corner of his mind he thought he should be embarrassed to lose control like this in front of these men. There was a sound – a painful, gut-wrenching sound, like the cry of a wounded animal – but when Daniel realised it was coming from him, he also realised that he had no idea how to make it stop.
“You don’t have to stop, Doc,” Donny’s voice came from beside them, quiet despite its intensity as he replied to words Daniel didn’t even realise he’d verbalised.
“You let it out. Let it all out, and when you’re ready, and only then, we’ll get you sorted to your room. We didn’t book anyone else in on purpose, just ’cause we thought you’d like the peace and quiet. The whole place is yours, so you have all the time you need. I have the watch, Doc. You don’t gotta worry. Nothing is getting past me till you’re ready to move out.”
“Yeah,” Francis agreed. “Like I told you, we’ve got your six.”
Just like he would in the field, he allowed himself to depend on those two men; those strong, yet gentle men, who had fought alongside him as a brother-in-arms, and who knew him for who he really was. Somehow, he knew they understood just what he was going through, even if he wasn’t really sure himself.
He let himself relax into Francis’ hold, put his trust in both of them to watch his back…
…And simply let go.