Summary: Aside from being unthinkable, unworkable, and--oh, yeah--doomed, it's a great idea
Jack woke up thinking that he was going to have to buy a bigger bed. From the front, he was pushed right up against Carter, which was soft and warm and nice, but he really wanted to stretch. The solid weight behind him would be Daniel. He knew that soft snore. He had missed that snore.
His heart ached with the memory of missing that snore.
Jack scrunched his burning eyes and blinked them open. The panoramic brown expanse just before his nose had to be Teal'c's thigh. He'd wondered where Teal'c had gone. Jack blinked again and managed to move his head enough to look up. Teal'c sat cross-legged against the headboard, still, but not relaxed. It wasn't true kelno'reem, not now. Meditation, maybe. In the cup of his lap rested Carter's head. Teal'c had one strong hand tangled in her short hair. A lump rose in Jack's throat, and he had to blink again.
Teal'c's eyes opened. "Are you well, O'Neill?" he whispered.
"Never better." He'd meant the answer to be flip and a bit ironic. It came out earnest and reverent. Ah, damn.
"This is not a custom of your people."
That was true. "I'm flexible." Overly optimistic, but the best he could do. "This, ah, a custom of your people?"
Teal'c thought for a moment. "I have heard of such things, but the Jaffa of Apophis were forbidden it."
Jack winced. "Squicked him?"
Teal'c's eyes hardened. "Apophis was a jealous god. He did not want us forming stronger bonds to each other than to himself."
"Indeed." He paused. "I believe General Hammond would also object to the nature of our relationship."
"We're not going to discuss it with him. Easier all round." Jack closed his eyes. At least nobody could say he was singling out members of his team for special treatment.
"So. You're ok with this?"
"I think there is no justice in the universe, O'Neill. For most of my life I have been the instrument of great evil. I have brought pain and death and suffering to countless innocents. If there was justice, my penance, my torment would be never-ending. Instead, I am a free man, surrounded by those who are most beloved to me."
Wow. When Teal'c got mushy, he didn't play around. Jack would have touched him, but Carter was lying on one of his arms and Daniel had the other pinned. Jack inched forward and laid his forehead against Teal'c's warm knee. A hand he couldn't see gently cupped the back of his head.
When Jack woke again, he desperately needed to pee. Slowly, he freed his arm from Carter and slid down between the slumbering bodies that penned him in. He crawled off the end of the bed, trying not to disturb anyone else, but when he got back from the bathroom Daniel had rolled over into Jack's spot and had laid his head on Sam's stomach. All of them had their eyes open. A jolt of fear nearly knocked Jack off his feet; any minute now they would want to talk. "So," he said, almost managing not to squeak. "Pizza? Or Chinese?"
They waited for the food lounging on the bed--Teal'c with the sheet pulled over his lap, Daniel and Carter wearing Jack's tee shirts. They didn't talk about work or how Jack felt about having had a more recent model come out or how badly they'd missed Daniel. Teal'c started asking questions about the way a market economy worked and taxes. For once, it was almost a relief to explain the vagaries of the Tau'ri. It took his mind off distracting images of Carter teaching Teal'c to French in the living room right after they'd gotten home.
Unbelievably hot images of Carter and Teal'c, playful and exited--downright exuberant--better than any stag film Jack had ever seen. He ruthlessly brought his mind back to the IRS, but somehow the world turning inside out today seemed more important.
Daniel had hustled Jack and Carter out of the mountain, collecting Teal'c on the way. He'd taken Carter's keys, put Carter in Jack's truck and taken Teal'c in Carter's car. On the trip home, Jack had tried not to imagine what Daniel was saying to Teal'c. He'd sneaked worried looks at Carter until she'd sighed and said, "I'm fine. Really."
"How?" he'd snapped, impatient with the impossibility of it. Furious because it sounded so good and couldn't possibly be real.
"Well, think about it, Sir. If I wanted to get married, this would be a disaster. But I don't. I don't want to get married, and I'm as much a mom as I'm ever going to be, and that part's all ok. Except that I'm...lonely."
Jack had glanced at her and immediately looked away. Lonely didn't cover it. The look in her eyes was hungry and excited and happy.
"Colonel, we could have been killed at any time. Nearly have been, repeatedly." Had been killed, in fact, but she didn't go there. "I don't want to... waste any time... to... bullshit. And I don't want somebody...else."
So Jack listened to Daniel and Carter prattle on about the budget deficit and wondered if he were in some kind of parallel universe.
When the doorbell rang, Jack slipped out to receive the pizza. He balanced the three boxes and a stack of napkins in one hand, a six pack of beer in the other--and nearly dropped them both as he came through the doorway and saw what his team was doing.
Daniel had his head in Carter's lap. His other end was propped up on pillows and Teal'c was slowly entering him. Daniel was talking. Jack recognized the grammar of intimate address used in the Chulac dialect, but not the words. Jack could kind of get by in the formal aspect used by the System Lords, but somehow Daniel's language briefings had never covered pillow talk.
Daniel switched to English. "Yeah, Sam, could you just... yeah, that's better." He reached his thumb behind his head, between Carter's legs.
Oh, God, what were they doing? This couldn't possibly work. There would be jealousy and possessiveness. Somebody would always be feeling left out or minor disagreements would pull in everyone or--
Things had been fine before. They had had everything. But they were messing it up. This had to be the beginning of the end. And it was Jack's fault--it was his team, he'd let them do this.
Carter leaned down to kiss Daniel and then looked up. She grinned at Jack like she was presiding over a cache of refined naquadah and held out her free hand. Jack put down the pizza and beer and climbed onto the bed beside them. Daniel opened his eyes briefly, and smiled.
Over, Jack thought. Daniel, this is as bad as missing you. And this time, when everything went to hell, Carter wouldn't be moving heaven and earth to save him.
Daniel came with a torrent of gibberish that had an Abydonian accent. Teal'c climaxed right after, so quickly that it had to be deliberate. Sam leaned down and nuzzled Daniel's shoulder. Teal'c and Daniel were panting and all three of them were gleaming with sweat. Teal'c withdrew and dropped bonelessly beside Daniel, nearly falling off the narrow space that was left. For however long this lasted, they would need a bigger bed.
Carter knotted the hand she was holding with hers and leaned over to whisper, "You had the same look when Teal'c and I beamed up to the Belisknor."
"Yeah. Well. End of the world," he muttered.
Daniel turned over and weakly nuzzled Jack's hip. "That's our Jack. Man can bring down an orgy." Daniel's hand fumbled around Jack's waist and squeezed tightly. "Most people would be happy to be in bed with three people who loved him."
Jack's mouth opened and he tasted air. He couldn't think of anything to say. There had to be--dozens of answers to that, but not one of them floated up.
Daniel's eyes refocused, the last stunned fuzziness of sex leaving them finally. "Jack. It's ok. You know that, right?"
Ok? "Sure, everything's fine. Great."
Daniel's eyes narrowed and he sat up, untangling himself from Carter. "So. The sex is good for you then."
"Damn it, Daniel!"
Daniel touched his chest, gently. Jack fled backwards, stumbling into Sam, who caught him and braced him, but did not attempt to hold him still.
"Jack. It's ok. Really." Daniel reached out to touch him again, gentle fingers on his face.
Jack wanted--really wanted that to be true. He wanted forever with Daniel and Teal'c and Carter. It really pissed him off that there wasn't a chance of it. "'Ok?' Can you possibly be stupid enough to believe that? Have you somehow not noticed that we are totally screwed?"
"O'Neill?" Teal'c had the nerve to actually sound surprised.
"We're going to be slaughtered! Wiped out. Erased off the face of the universe. We're no closer to beating the Goa'uld than we were six or seven years ago! Baal is expanding. Anubis is a fucking ascended. Most of our allies are living in mud huts at our Alpha site, and the Asgard can't even police their own people." He looked at each of them, having to twist around to see Carter. "Don't you get it? The only thing left is--" The only thing left was to watch his team die. Jack choked, trying to pull away, but they were all around him. "Isn't it bad enough? Hasn't it been bad enough? Oh, God, God, Danny, I can't do this again."
Flight and fight kicked in at once. Jack hated them. And loved them. He wanted to run, but there was nowhere to go--he was barely dressed and this was his bedroom--Jack sagged. It was already too late, wasn't it? No way to run. If they ended it, it would ruin everything. They couldn't work together now, couldn't be friends after this. If they didn't break this off today, they would just have to wait until everything was ruined. Till they had the nasty break-up to end all nasty break-ups or until they were killed. Whichever came first.
None of them could see that. He fled, turning sideways, hiding his face in Carter's shoulder. He'd spent a lot of long nights like this last year, desperately trying to cling to the reality, the warmth of her arms because when he was alone in his head, there was Daniel, melting in that bed, his body held together by bandages.
Apparently, Carter recognized the gesture too, because she stroked his hair and whispered, "Jack, Jack, Daniel's right here."
"Yup. Damn right. Will be until he's not."
There was silence at that. A frightened, uncertain silence that told him he'd gone too far, laid more in their laps than they could handle. Then Daniel said--so calmly, "I'm sorry, Jack. That was my fault. I was wrong, and I'm sorry."
"No, Daniel. It wasn't your fault." Not that, never that. He was suddenly angry. Daniel had left them, yes, but it wasn't his fault. "They killed you! Kelowna--"
"I gave up, Jack. Because I was tired and scared and I'd lost so much."
"That wasn't your f-fault, Daniel. I knew you were having a hard time. I wasn't listening. If I'd--"
"I was tired of being angry. I was tired of hurting. It wasn't a good enough reason to give up, Jack. It was a stupid reason to give up. Look what it did to all of you. It was wrong--"
"I'm sorry. I'm sorry. I know things are bad now, and I don't know what we're going to do long term about--everything. But don't give up. Trust me, it won't help." He leaned closer, stroked Jack's cheek with a single finger. "It doesn't take this away from us, Jack. What we have for each other--we get to keep that, no matter what. Even if the whole planet goes tomorrow, we still have this."
"What--no--Daniel, when you lose, you lose--everything."
"Yeah. Yeah. That's the way things tend to work out for you, isn't it, Jack. But not this time. Not us, Jack."
Something wet on his shoulder. Sam was crying.
"Trust us, Jack. Have a little faith."
Jack closed his eyes, willing himself not to say anything. "You. Left. You left and I let you."
"I gave up, Jack. I was wrong. I'm... sorry."
"I can't do this again, Daniel, I can't."
"We're alive. Right now, Jack. We're alive and we're together and that's a wonderful thing."
"They're all dead, Daniel. Bolaa. Tobay. Sk-Skaara."
"You're alive. Right now."
"Danny! Our kids!"
He closed his eyes, and Jack hoped he had finally chased him off, ended this horrible discussion. But nothing stopped Daniel. Ever. "You freed them from the Goa'uld, Jack. And they know you did your best to save them. They know you lied for them and protected them--"
"That's not enough."
"Well, no. But that's the Goa'uld. Jack, you can't--"
"There is no justice in the universe, O'Neill," Teal'c whispered. "There is only this moment." He put his arms around Carter and O'Neill drawing them both in.
"I can't do it again."
"Ok, Jack. Ok." Daniel brushed Jack's cheek with the back of his hands. They were on all sides of him, now. Sam was stroking his hair. The tee shirt was slightly damp from both of them crying.
"Our kids, Danny. Those boys."
"It wasn't our fault, Jack," Carter murmured.
"You were outmatched. You didn't have a chance."
"Damn right, we didn't! We didn't, we didn't." He shoved, connecting with something so solid it had to be Teal'c. He was surrounded and flailing, but they didn't fight back. Jack was trying to yell, but nobody was yelling at him, and despite himself--despite how desperately he wanted to hang on to that fury--the fight was going out of him. A hand cradled him against Sam's soft chest.
"Jack," Daniel asked sadly, "Was I wrong before?"
"On Abydos the first time, was I wrong, Jack?"
Wrong? "No." Jack had to laugh at that, because Daniel was never wrong. That was the kicker, always. He never gave up. He was never wrong. That's why he was here, after all. Because his people were always righter than he was. He closed his eyes. He was, he realized, holding on to Sam.
They sat with him, not talking. Teal'c retrieved the blanket from the floor and put it around Carter and Jack both. Daniel put a pillow between Carter and the footboard, so that she could sit more securely. Jack didn't fight them. As frightened as he was, he didn't want to run away.
And, in any case, there was no safety in the universe other than here.
After a while, someone offered him pizza. Jack ate mechanically, sitting up, but not breaking contact with Carter and Teal'c. Every once in a while, Daniel gently rubbed his knee.
When the pizza was gone, Daniel took Jack's hand and gently licked the pads of his fingers. It was an old gesture, from a lifetime ago. Or maybe two. From before the Tollan had betrayed them and Anubis had begun consuming star systems like popcorn and Jack had destroyed the artificial life form Daniel had been trying to turn from the dark side.
Daniel's tongue was soft and strong. It felt just the same--not that there had ever been much of this. There had never been enough privacy or safety or time. Never enough of that warm mouth, those slick teeth. "Love you, Jack." Never enough of that, either. Daniel looked eagerly in his eyes. Jack didn't know what Daniel saw there, but he said to Teal'c, "Give me a hand here."
Teal'c shifted Jack, and he found his head cradled in Sam's lap. He was close enough to smell her, and he knew this smell, too. Teal'c and Daniel leaned down over him, and suddenly, there was too much to process... too many hands to count... too many gentle teeth to let him think properly. His hands fluttered. He wanted to touch, but he couldn't reach anyone. Daniel leaned over him to kiss Carter, and suddenly a tight, dark nipple was passing just above Jack's eyes. He leaned up just a little and caught it, hungry, needing, and suddenly too, too far away from everyone.
The lassitude hadn't quite cleared when Carter slid out from under him and replaced the thigh he'd had his head on with a pillow. Teal'c whispered something to Daniel, who laughed and climbed on top of him. Outside the blinds it was dark. Jack sighed.
The toilet flushed. Carter came back and lay beside him. Jack found he was grateful for the warmth and groped around for the blanket. "I must be old," he muttered, "I need another nap."
Carter patted his stomach and smiled. "You're not old. You're just a guy." Then she belied that by falling asleep with her head in the crook of his arm. Jack stayed awake and watched Daniel and Teal'c compare cross-cultural foreplay customs at the other end of the bed. They were heartbreakingly beautiful.
Next: Friendly Space