So here it is! I've edited for comma abuse and semicolon neglect and multiple uses of 'the other man' and the improper use of bold text for emphasis, and broken it into new paragraphs wherever that helped with POV (which is still all over the place, but not in a confusing way, hopefully. I'm not about to undertake a rewrite. *g*)
It's rated R. I don't have a word count. Apparently AO3 doesn't give you one when you save a draft. Apologies for any and all wacky formatting (e.g. huge paragraph breaks.) There's a BDSM scene but no sexual activity. And there's a plot!
Summary: While on an off-world mission, Jack begins to act very strangely, toward Daniel in particular.
Jack was obviously furious, but Daniel wasn't quite sure why. Scratch that. He had no idea why. The meet-and-greet with the Tanvarans had gone off very smoothly, as far as Daniel could see. The people of Tanvar were not at all technologically advanced, so had nothing to offer Earth in the form of military weapons; however, their medicines were like nothing on Earth. Literally, of course. They would probably become trading partners, rather than military allies. Possibly Jack was disappointed? Okay, he undoubtedly was, but that didn't explain the waves of anger Daniel was getting from him.
The Stargate was about a three mile walk from the capital city, mostly through wooded terrain.. SG-1 had covered over half of that distance, but Jack's mood had not perceptibly altered. Unless it had gotten even worse. Daniel's eyes met Sam's as she sent a frowning glance back in his direction. Daniel shrugged his shoulders. At that moment, Jack came to a halt, put down his pack, and turned to face Daniel. "I want a word with you, Daniel. Carter, you and Teal'c go on ahead. We'll meet up at the 'Gate." A muscle twitched along the side of his jaw. Daniel found himself staring at that twitch as a slightly less unpleasant alternative to looking Jack in the eye. One quick look had been more than enough. Something was very, very wrong. Daniel lowered his own pack slowly to the ground.
Sam's "Yes, sir" was less automatic than usual. Her concerned gaze shot back and forth between the two men. But military protocol won out. She didn't understand what problem the Colonel was having, or what Daniel might have done to cause it. But it was not part of a Colonel's job to explain everything he said or did to his 2IC. She felt uneasy, and sorry for Daniel, but that wasn't a legitimate reason for her to question a direct order. She turned back in the direction they had been walking and saw Teal'c, slightly ahead, waiting for her. His face was as stoic as usual, but his eyes darted over her shoulder to where the two men faced each other. With a slight tilt of her head and an exaggerated eye movement, she indicated to him that they needed to leave as ordered, now. Teal'c nodded, and they fell into step as they pushed on into the woods.
Jack watched them go until they disappeared among the trees. Then he turned sharply back to Daniel, and with an obvious effort to keep his voice down, asked forcefully "What the hell was all that back there?"
Daniel's eyes widened. What was he talking about? "Jack, I don't know what you..."
"Don't give me that," Jack bit off angrily. "Don't even try to play the innocent here."
Daniel shook his head in confusion. "Jack, I honestly don't know what you're asking me!"
Jack's face changed and he stepped toward Daniel. His hands came out to grip his shoulders, and Daniel found himself being forcibly shoved back against the nearest tree. "Don't lie to me; don't you dare lie to me," Jack growled.
"Jack!" Daniel cried out in protest. "What are you doing? Let me go!" His hands were on Jack's chest, but he didn't try to push him away. Not yet. The last thing he wanted was a shoving match.
Jack's response to Daniel's words was to press him harder against the tree, leaning his weight into him. The look in Jack's eyes made Daniel catch his breath. What was this? Something more than anger. He began to feel slightly sick to his stomach. "Jack, please, tell me what's wrong. What did I do?"
"You let him practically crawl all over you, touching you. Looking at you. Did you think I wouldn't see?" Jack spat the words out. "The way he looked at you," He clamped his jaw and his breath gusted out through his nose. "The way you let him..."
Daniel was stunned. Where was this coming from? "Jack," he said carefully, "are you talking about Daros?" That was the name of the People's Minister with whom he had spent most of his time. But all they had done was talk, and Daniel absolutely didn't remember anything approaching the sort of behavior of which Jack was accusing them. Yes, Daros had touched him on the arm, he could remember that. He didn't recall getting any funny feeling from that, or the way the Minister had looked at him, either. If he was being fondled and ogled, wouldn't he have been the first one to notice? This was nuts!
"Daros!" Jack snarled. "That son of a bitch! What were you thinking?" Daniel just stared at him, wide eyed. Jack pounded the tree behind Daniel in angry frustration. "Answer me, goddammit!"
Daniel was shaking his head frantically. "Jack, you're wrong; there was nothing like that going on. I don't know what you think you saw, but..."
"Liar!" Jack pulled Daniel away from the tree and spun him around, shoving him back into the tree face first. Daniel got his hands out just in time to soften the impact. Jack pressed up behind him and the side of Daniel's face scraped against the rough tree trunk. Jack pulled Daniel's arm behind his back and twisted it upwards. Daniel gasped. "Did you think you would get away with it?"
"Jack, you're hurting me!"
"No, I'm not Daniel. But I will. If you ever behave that way again, I will make you regret it," Jack spoke directly into his ear, his hot breath paradoxically causing Daniel to shiver. "I want your promise." Daniel was speechless with shock. He couldn't believe that this was happening. Why was Jack acting this way? Jack gave Daniel's arm another twist. Daniel cried out with pain. "Your promise. Now!"
"Jack, I didn't do anything! Aaagh!" Another twist. "Okay, okay! I promise that I will never behave that way again. I promise!" Daniel closed his eyes, and waited anxiously for Jack's reaction. His arm was released abruptly. Oh, God, that hurt! He tried to get his breathing under control. Jack wasn't backing off; he was still pressing Daniel into the tree with all his weight. Jack's breathing wasn't exactly under control, either. Both men were panting as though they had been running a race. Daniel felt like his mind was definitely racing. In circles.
Jack spoke harshly into Daniel's ear again. "No one else gets to touch you like that. No one else gets to look at you like that. I'm the only one who gets to do those things!" Daniel froze. He couldn't have heard what he thought he just heard. "You're mine, Daniel. Nobody else's. Mine." This was making less and less sense. This was making no sense! "I want to hear you say it," Jack insisted.
Oh, God, this was awful! "I'm yours, Jack. Nobody else's." Daniel's voice was hoarse. He could barely force the words out. He felt as though he were choking. A minute went by, and then Jack stepped back, freeing him. Daniel slowly turned away from the tree. Jack wasn't facing him. Good. He needed another minute here before he would be ready to look Jack in the eye. Who was he kidding? An hour wouldn't be long enough.
p>Jack was walking over to where he had put down his pack. Picking it up and slinging it over his shoulders, he spoke without looking in Daniel's direction. "We'd better get a move on back to the 'Gate before Carter sends out a search party." His voice was casual, ordinary.
Daniel's mouth dropped open. He snapped it closed, and on shaking legs walked over to pick up his pack. Everything felt unreal at the moment. But part of his mind responded to the words 'Gate and Carter. Leaving this place and going towards those words sounded like a very good idea. "I'm ready." Jack headed out, and Daniel followed.
As the two men walked back to the Stargate, Jack's mood elevated significantly. He had been upset about something earlier, but could hardly remember that now. He felt good. Physically, he felt great, like a heavy burden had been lifted from his shoulders. Jack heard Daniel's footsteps a few yards behind him, and turned to look back at him. Daniel looked a little anxious about something. Jack smiled at him cheerfully and paused to let him catch up. Daniel was doing one of his patented frowny-eyebrow things. "Almost there, Daniel. We'll be home in time for supper." Daniel's eyebrows shot up his forehead, causing Jack to grin at him happily. "C'mon." They were walking side-by-side now, and Jack's feeling of contentment increased.
Daniel's confusion grew proportionately.
They reached the large clearing where the Stargate and its DHD stood. Sam and Teal'c watched the two men approach with concerned eyes. Jack smiled broadly. "Ready to go, kids?" Sam's impossibly wide blue eyes got even wider, while Teal'c blinked several times in succession. Daniel almost felt like laughing. "Daniel, want to dial us home?"
Sam tried to meet Daniel's eyes, but he lowered his gaze to the ground as he stepped forward to the DHD and input the symbols for Earth. When the wormhole engaged, Sam walked to his side and used her GDO to sent SG-1's iris deactivation code through to the other side. Daniel would not look at her, but felt his face flushing as she stared at him, obviously noticing the scrapes on his cheek.
Jack made a broad sweeping motion with his arm, and the rest of his team preceded him through the event horizon, emerging a second later on the familiar ramp of the SGC. General Hammond was standing at the foot of the ramp. "Welcome home, SG-1. How did things go, Colonel?"
Jack proceeded down the ramp with a broad smile on his face. "Things went just great, General. Nice people, we all got along great. Wish you coulda been there."
Hammond was a little taken aback at this display of good humor, and surveyed the rest of SG-1 to try to determine the cause. But none of the others looked like they could see any humor in the current situation whatsoever. Hammond's gaze returned thoughtfully to O'Neill's face, which still shone with what appeared to be genuine happiness. A slight frown wrinkled Hammond's brow, but he contented himself with saying, "We'll debrief in one hour, people. Report to the infirmary for your usual post-mission checkups."
"Yessir," Jack replied. Carter and Teal'c were already heading for the corridor. Daniel hung back indecisively. "You coming, Daniel?"
"Ah, actually Jack, if General Hammond can spare me a minute or two," Daniel looked Hammond in the eye in a way that he hoped was meaningful, "I'll catch up with you guys later?" Daniel tried to read Jack's face. "If that's okay?" Jack's expression was puzzled and none too happy. Daniel shot a pleading glance at the General.
Hammond rose to the occasion nicely, and said "I can let you have five minutes before my next meeting, Dr. Jackson. Report to the infirmary, Colonel."
"On my way, sir." Jack hesitated a second longer. "See you in a few, Daniel." Daniel nodded as casually as he could manage, and Jack turned and left the room.
Daniel let out a relieved sigh and turned to Hammond, who was looking at him questioningly. "Can we go to your office, please, sir?" The General nodded his head, and began to lead the way.
Sam and Teal'c were seated on adjacent tables in the infirmary, waiting for their examinations. Sam kept an eye on the door, as she quietly asked Teal'c, "What do you think happened between the Colonel and Daniel?"
"I am uncertain," Teal'c replied. "O'Neill's behavior does not make sense to me."
"I know!" Sam said, "He was so angry before. But when they got to the Stargate he was practically beaming." She hesitated, and then asked, "Did you notice the marks on Daniel's face?" Her anxious eyes left the doorway long enough to look at Teal'c.
Teal'c's lips tightened. "I did indeed. I believe O'Neill is responsible."
"You think the Colonel struck Daniel?"
Teal'c opened his mouth to reply, and then closed it again. Sam turned her head and saw Jack walking into the room. He spotted his teammates and walked over to join them. He stood in front of them, hands thrust into his pockets, and asked curtly, "What's the holdup?"
"SG-7 just returned less than half an hour ago, sir. They're just finishing up with them before they can get to us," Sam answered. What had happened now? The Colonel's mood had changed again. He seemed irritated, jittery. And where was Daniel?
Jack nodded, and said, "I'll go give them a nudge. They shouldn't keep us sitting around like this." He headed across the room, apparently planning to give hell to the first doctor he encountered. Sam shook her head and turned back to Teal'c "Where's Daniel?" she mouthed. Teal'c stared at her for a moment and then transferred his gaze to O'Neill. He did not take his eyes off him again.
Daniel was just leaving General Hammond's office, after one of the most difficult conversations of his life. He felt like he had just walked through a minefield. He had needed to tell as much of the truth as necessary to convince the General that something was seriously wrong with Jack, but at the same time he had wanted desperately to avoid saying anything that could jeopardize Jack's career. He had refused to repeat most of the things that Jack had said to him, sticking instead to Jack's mood swings and, reluctantly, Jack's physical treatment of him. He grimaced now, as he walked rapidly towards the infirmary. He could only hope that he had made it clear that all of Jack's actions were completely different from his normal behavior.
Daniel had done what he had to do - all he could do. But his anxiety remained at the same high level. Something was wrong with his friend, and now it would be up to the medical personnel to find out what that was and how to treat it. His mind was full of ugly possibilities. And he was helpless. No, not helpless. He could stand by Jack and support him through whatever was to come. But who's going to support me?
General Hammond put down the telephone and left his office to head for the infirmary. He had just alerted Doctor Fraiser that there was a problem with Colonel O'Neill. His face was grim as he stood waiting for the elevator. He was worried about his 2IC, and also he couldn't help wondering about what Dr. Jackson had left out of his report. He would recommend that Fraiser do a very complete examination of Daniel as well as O'Neill. He wanted to be certain that the scratches on Daniel's face were his only physical injuries. Daniel's reluctance to discuss what O'Neill had said to him raised all kinds of red flags in Hammond's mind.
Jack had thrown his weight around until he got one doctor and one nurse to come and start in on SG-1's checkups. He told them to start with Carter and Teal'c, and began pacing the floor with a scowl on his face. Where the hell was Daniel? Well, here was Fraiser at any rate. She had disappeared into her office earlier, which had pissed him off. She was supposed to be CMO, well, let her do her job for cryin' out loud!
Janet walked up to Jack with an orderly and a male nurse in tow. "Please sit down over here, Colonel, and let's get started."
"Finally!" Jack snapped.
"I'm sorry you had to wait, Colonel. Let's start with his blood pressure," she instructed the nurse, and pulled out her penlight. When she raised it to shine in Jack's eyes, he struck her arm away and the penlight went flying.
The orderly reached out to grab Jack's arm. Jack raised outraged eyes and snarled at him, "Get your fucking hands off me!"
"It's all right!" Janet said quickly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Teal'c on his feet and headed towards them. "It's all right, everyone. I should have warned you I was about to use the light, Colonel, I know you don't like it. My fault."
Jack stared at her with narrowed eyes, then looked quickly towards the door as he saw Daniel enter the room. "Finally! What the hell took you so long?"
Daniel came towards him, briefly meeting Janet's eyes. "Sorry, Jack. The General had to take a phone call while I was in his office. Held me up a little longer than I'd planned." Jack frowned at him, his face still red with anger from the incident of a few moments ago. Daniel offered a small smile. "I really am sorry, Jack."
"Well, at least you're here now," Jack grumbled.
The orderly retrieved Janet's penlight and handed it to her. She nodded her thanks, and said to the nurse, "You can take that blood pressure reading now." She smiled at Jack. "I think I'll start with taking your temperature. How does that sound?"
"Fine," Jack replied, sounding surprised that she would ask. He raised his eyebrows comically at Daniel, as Janet inserted the thermometer into his ear. She made a notation on his chart, and reached for his wrist to take his pulse. Jack smiled and held his hand in place for her, turning his gaze back to Daniel, who stood watching with a frown. "Hey, Daniel, I'm sure they'll have somebody free to check you out in a minute or two, right Doc?"
Daniel blinked at him. "Oh, that's all right, I'm in no hurry."
"Really? Because it looked like you had somewhere else to be." Jack sounded stern.
"Oh, no. I'm not going anywhere," Daniel assured him, cringing inwardly.
Jack smiled happily. "That's good."
Janet met her nurse's eyes as he handed her the chart with the blood pressure reading noted on it. She gave a tiny shrug and read the BP, which made her frown. "We'll take another reading in ten minutes," she told the nurse quietly.
She turned back to Jack, saying, "I really do need to examine your pupils now, Colonel."
Jack spread his hands. "So what's stopping you?"
Daniel watched the faces around him in some confusion. Obviously something had happened before he got to the infirmary. Janet looked somewhat confused herself. Jack submitted quietly to the brief examination with the penlight, and Janet made more notations on his chart. "The nurse is going to draw some blood, now, and..." She broke off as General Hammond came into the room, and walked over to join the crowd around Jack's bed. She nodded to the nurse to proceed.
"Sir," Jack said
"Colonel, how are you feeling?" Hammond asked.
"Well, I'm about to be stuck with a needle....aaah! Otherwise, fine, sir."
Sam and Teal'c, their examinations finished, joined the others surrounding Jack.
"Doctor?" Hammond said.
"All of his readings are slightly off, General. We're going to re-take his BP, and hope that it has come down in the last few minutes. And we'll get the lab started on his blood work ASAP."
"Whoa!" Jack said loudly. "What's goin' on here? Somebody want to fill me in?"
Hammond replied, "There have been some concerns raised about your behavior, Colonel. I've ordered Dr. Fraiser to check you out thoroughly to determine what may be causing these problems."
"What problems?" Jack sounded bewildered. "What behavior?"
Daniel bit his lip. "You've been having mood swings, Jack. You're angry one minute and on top of the world the next."
"Okay, wait just a minute!" Jack stared at Daniel in disbelief. "It was you, wasn't it? You started all this! What have you been telling these people?" His voice was rising.
"Colonel O'Neill," Hammond said loudly, "Dr. Jackson quite rightly reported to me his concerns..."
Jack swung his legs over the side of the bed and headed for Daniel, fast. But the nurse and the orderly were faster, and Teal'c put his bulk in front of Daniel as a further roadblock. Hammond wore a look of shock, and Sam's face was pale. The look on Jack's face was ugly. Daniel's eyes were full of pain, which got worse when Jack began to shout at him.
"Let's get him into restraints!" Janet ordered. The nurse and the orderly wrestled Jack down onto the bed, and Teal'c stepped forward to hold Jack's legs down. Other personnel came forward with the restraints, which were put in place on the bed, and then Jack was strapped down. Meanwhile, Janet prepared a sedative, which she administered as soon as she could safely do so. Jack had stopped struggling and shouting even before she sedated him. He was trembling with anger.
Daniel took a deep breath and stepped forward to where Jack could see him.
Jack's eyes were cold. "You betrayed me, Daniel. Don't think I'm going to forget this."
Daniel thought he was seeing a pattern to Jack's behavior. If he was right, Jack's mood was going to swing upwards quickly. "I would never betray you, Jack. I only want to do what's best for you. You're very important to me. Please don't be angry with me."
Jack looked confused. "Why did you do it?"
"I'm worried about you, Jack. I'm afraid that you may be sick. I need you to be well." Daniel was watching Jack's face intently.
Jack's eyelids were growing heavy. His voice was starting to slur as he told Daniel, "Stay with me."
Daniel immediately pulled up a chair and sat down close to the bed. Jack smiled contentedly, and murmured, "Mine," before closing his eyes. Daniel bit his lip and hoped no one else had understood that. He started when Janet touched him on the shoulder.
"Let's all talk in my office," she said quietly.
"I'm going to wait here a couple of minutes to make sure he doesn't wake up," Daniel whispered.
The doctor nodded and escorted the others to her office.
Daniel sat staring at Jack's peaceful face. He had been right. Jack was acting like a possessive alpha male, and he was instantly satisfied when Daniel became submissive. He had become furious when he had to watch Daniel talking with Daros, paying attention to Daros, not Jack. And he had become positively euphoric when he got Daniel to say that he belonged to Jack, and Jack alone.
What could possibly be causing this? Were these Jack's secret thoughts and desires being brought out in the open somehow? Would their relationship be irrevocably altered by what had been revealed?
Daniel rose slowly. It was time to go to Janet's office and try to get some answers.
Daniel was back at Jack's bedside, watching the other man sleep. The meeting in Janet's office had been fairly unproductive, in his opinion. There were still aspects of Jack's behavior that he was keeping to himself, although he was torn about that. What if he was holding something back from Janet that would actually help her? Jack's vital signs were improving, however. Nearly back to normal. So he would wait and say nothing. He would protect Jack as long as he could.
General Hammond had vetoed the idea of returning to Tanvar in search of an explanation for Jack's condition. Whatever had affected Jack might harm whoever else went through the Stargate to the planet. Just because the rest of SG-1 hadn't been affected the first time didn't mean they were immune. They may just not have been exposed to whatever it was. Or perhaps Jack had been deliberately infected in some way, although that seemed unlikely given the overall friendliness of the Tanvaran people.
Daniel looked up as Janet approached the bed, male nurse in tow. "I'm afraid you're going have to leave for a while, Daniel," she told him, pulling the privacy curtain closed.
"What's happening?" Daniel asked anxiously.
"We're going to examine the Colonel from head to toe, looking for any marks on his skin that could be an insect bite or a needle mark. Anything like that"
"You've found something in his blood work," Daniel guessed.
"Yes," Janet frowned, "there is something there that I can't identify. We're also going to draw more blood and run another test, to see if the foreign substance is still present in the same quantity." She looked at Daniel's worried face and promised, "I'll let you know what we learn. Don't worry too much, Daniel. We're going to take excellent care of the Colonel."
Daniel made a feeble attempt at a smile and gave Jack one last look before turning to go, pulling the curtain closed behind him.
Daniel was back in the infirmary, back at Jack's bedside. Janet had called to tell him that they had found no marks of any kind on Jack's body, and that his vital signs were all back to normal. She was still waiting for the latest lab results to come back. When she told him that Jack was beginning to regain consciousness, Daniel was off like a shot.
Jack was still in restraints, but his head was moving around on the pillow, and his hands and feet twitched occasionally. Daniel wanted Jack to wake up, but dreaded the possibility that the man who opened his eyes might be the same one who had tried to attack him earlier. He wanted his Jack back.
Unfocused brown eyes fluttered open. Jack blinked several times and zeroed in finally on Daniel's face. "Hey, Jack," Daniel said anxiously.
"Hey," Jack replied, looking around in confusion. He tried to move and became aware of the restraints. He looked frightened. "What did I do?"
"Nothing, Jack; nobody was hurt. It's okay, those were just a precaution," Daniel tried to reassure him.
Jack stared at him, then saw the marks on Daniel's cheek. His eyes widened in horror. "Oh, God! It's not a dream, is it?"
Daniel put one of his hands over Jack's. "You remember?"
Jack closed his eyes and turned his head away. He nodded.
Daniel patted his hand. "It's okay, Jack. You've been sick, but you're getting better now." Jack's hand twisted in its restraint, grasping Daniel's hand. Daniel just sat there quietly, letting Jack process the situation.
After a couple of minutes Jack turned his head back towards Daniel, opened his eyes, and whispered, "I'm sorry."
Daniel smiled at him, relief flooding through him. These were the eyes of the man he knew. Jack was back. "Everything's going to be all right now," he promised. Jack clung to his hand tightly.
The lab results had come back. Jack's blood was clean. All his vital signs remained normal. He remembered everything that had happened, but had no idea why it had happened. Janet decided to hold him for twenty-four hours observation and transferred him into a private room. Eighteen hours later, she was alone in the room with him, berating him for not finishing the food trays that had been brought to him.
"Doc, honest, I feel fine. I'm just not all that hungry. Give me some pizza and beer and you might see an improvement in my appetite, but until then..."
Janet fixed him with a no-nonsense stare. "I see from your chart that you asked for a sleeping pill last night."
"Put me in my own bed, and you'll see an improvement there, too," Jack quipped.
"What aren't you telling me, Colonel?"
Jack examined his nails briefly, then looked her in the eye and said, "I've got some fences to mend, and I'm not looking forward to it."
Janet smiled at her patient. "Jack, you were ill. No one is going to hold anything that you said or did against you."
Jack reached out and took her hand. "I apologize for hitting you. You can shine your stupid little light in my eyes any time you want."
Janet laughed and said, "See how easy it is? There's one fence mended already."
The door to the room opened and Daniel stepped in. "Oh, I'm sorry. Am I interrupting? Because I can..." he jerked his thumb in the direction of the hallway.
"No, Daniel. I'm all done here. If you'll keep the Colonel company for a while, I have sick people that need me." She exchanged smiles with Jack and left the room, shutting the door behind her.
Daniel pulled a chair close to Jack's bed and sat down. He scrutinized Jack's face closely. His eyes were clear this morning; no more drug-induced haziness. "You slept for a long time," he commented. Jack shrugged. "You look good. Rested." Jack was twisting his fingers in the bed sheets. "Maybe a little nervous, but good."
Jack flushed and dropped the sheets. Daniel smiled gently. "So, we should probably have a little talk."
Daniel frowned. "You already apologized yesterday, remember?"
Jack looked him straight in the eye and said, "I remember everything. That's the problem."
"You were sick, Jack. Stop apologizing," Daniel said lightly. He squeezed Jack's arm, and then sat back in his chair. "But there is one thing that you said that's on my mind, and I think the sooner we talk about it the better."
"I said a lot of things," Jack replied unhappily.
"This was the part where you said I belonged to you. That no one else got to look at me or touch me, only you." Daniel was watching Jack carefully. "And then you made me repeat it. You remember?"
"I remember," Jack said hoarsely.
"And do you remember a time when I said those things to you?" Daniel asked slowly. "And I made you repeat them?"
"Of course I remember," Jack said, "and you didn't make me do anything. I wanted to say those words; I loved saying those words to you."
"And I needed to hear them. Our relationship was still new, and I needed to hear you say things like that to me." Daniel looked for any signs of evasiveness in his lover's eyes, but Jack's gaze was direct and open. "And now I need to hear the truth from you, Jack. It was quite a shock to hear you saying my words. I need to know..." His voice broke off.
"What exactly are you asking me?" Jack asked in confusion.
"Are you satisfied with the way things are in our relationship? Or do you need something more?"
"Daniel," Jack said with a note of panic in his voice, "I don't want anything to change. I love what we have together."
"You don't have some deep down, secret need to dominate?" Daniel asked anxiously.
"If I do, Danny, it's so deep down that it's a secret even from me," Jack said honestly. He reached out for Daniel's hand. "You know I love submitting to you," he said softly. "I don't want anything to change. Ever."
Daniel could see the sincerity in his lover's eyes. "Okay, Jack, I had to ask. I had to be sure." He smiled and felt a knot of tension leave his neck and shoulders. He stood and stretched. "I have to go; I've got a meeting in ten minutes. You have a way to get home? You're not driving, are you?"
"No, an airman's going to drive me, it's all arranged." Jack told him.
Something in Jack's face or his voice caught Daniel's attention. "Something wrong?" he asked.
Jack shook his head, but Daniel knew him better than that. "Tell me," he demanded.
Jack looked up at him, and said, "You're still my Master, aren't you?"
It was a word that they seldom used. Daniel had no need to hear it, and Jack felt no real need to say it. Yet he loved to say it. They had easily worked out a compromise. Jack only called Daniel 'Master' in extraordinary circumstances. And when Daniel heard that word, he listened very carefully to what Jack was trying to tell him, because the real message was often beneath the surface.
Thank you, Master never simply meant 'gee, that was a great orgasm'. It meant that Daniel had taken Jack somewhere he hadn't even realized he needed to go. And please, Master meant that what he was asking was truly important to Jack. Please, Daniel could be ignored. Daniel was in charge and Jack had no say. But please, Master almost always meant that Jack got what he wanted.
Daniel was almost certain that he knew what Jack's underlying message was this time.
"Yes, Jack, I'm your Master for as long as you want me to be."
When Daniel entered his home that evening he wasn't surprised to find Jack waiting for him in the hallway. Jack knelt sideways to the door, his eyes cast downward. He was naked except for the black leather collar around his neck. No, Daniel wasn't surprised at all. He had been expecting this and hoped he was prepared to handle it. He walked slowly forward until he stood close to the other man. "Jack?"
Jack continued to look at the floor. "I need to be punished."
Daniel clenched his fist. "No, Jack, you don't. What happened was outside of your control. You don't deserve punishment for what you couldn't help."
Jack raised pain-filled eyes to Daniel. "I hurt you, I threatened you. I treated you disrespectfully. I need to be punished."
Daniel squatted down next to Jack but didn't touch him. "I'm not going to punish you, Jack. I won't do that."
"Danny, I need...I can't," Jack fought the quiver in his voice and said more strongly, "Please, Daniel."
Daniel struggled for control. "I understand, Jack, I really do. You need to get past this. And you need my help to do that." He put a warm hand on his lover's shoulder. "It would be wrong for me to punish you, Jack." A tear rolled
down Jack's cheek as he stared at Daniel despairingly. "But I can chastise you." Jack blinked several times and Daniel's mouth quirked at one corner. "And if you're wondering what the difference is, a chastisement is more of a scolding than it is a punishment." He examined his lover's face and saw signs of hope stirring. "A very severe scolding, that won't soon be forgotten." A few more tears fell from Jack's eyes, but these were tears of relief. Daniel stood up and ordered Jack to go to the bedroom and wait for him. Jack rose thankfully and disappeared down the hallway.
Daniel took a moment to gather his thoughts. This was not a punishment, neither was it foreplay. Jack needed him, and he had to try to get this exactly right. His heart was going out to Jack, but he had to resist the urge to be tender. That would come later, if all went well. He had to be firm now; he had to control his emotions. He slowly walked down the hallway, and into the bedroom. Jack stood silently in the center of the room, waiting for him. Daniel stopped in his tracks. Jack was holding the bamboo cane that usually stood gathering dust in a corner of the closet.
Daniel began shaking his head, "No." Jack held the cane up in his two hands, offering it to Daniel, his eyes pleading. "No!" Daniel said more loudly, "put that back where you found it." Jack lowered his eyes and stepped around Daniel to return the cane to the closet. When he came back Daniel reached out and took him by the arm. "You can have the cane tomorrow if you ask for it," he promised. Some of the tension left Jack's face with those words. "Go sit on the bed," Daniel ordered. As Jack complied, Daniel went to the closet to get the items he had decided to use tonight. A thick leather strap, a pair of handcuffs, and one of the blindfolds that Jack hated so much and only wore to please Daniel. He would be grateful to wear it tonight, would accept it as a punishment. For the frame of mind he was in, it was the perfect thing.
Daniel walked over to the bed and ordered Jack onto his hands and knees, facing the headboard. When he was in place, Daniel put a cuff around one of his wrists and fastened it tightly. The cuffs were padded and would do no damage to the skin, but would be extremely uncomfortable. He looped the remaining cuff through the rail of the headboard and fastened it to Jack's other wrist. "Hold onto the rail, Jack. You're not to let go until I tell you." This position of his hands would force the cuffs to pull cruelly at his wrists.
Jack was staring down at his cuffed hands. "Turn your head and look at me," Daniel said, and showed Jack the blindfold. Jack's head involuntarily jerked back slightly. "Hold still," Daniel instructed sharply. He stretched the blindfold over Jack's head and settled it snugly into place over his eyes. Jack's knuckles showed white as he clenched his hands on the rail. His chest was rising and falling rapidly. Daniel stood for a few moments and watched his lover silently. He wanted to get this over with quickly, and ironically one of the best ways to do that was to postpone starting. The more worked up Jack got, the less time it would take to get him to the point where he could accept what had happened, and accept Daniel's forgiveness. He had to feel that he had paid the price for what he had done. However, Daniel had no intention of actually exacting that price from his innocent partner. Jack's imagination would need to do half the work for him.
Daniel picked up the strap and draped it across Jack's back, at the very top of his buttocks. Jack quivered and gasped at the unexpected touch. Daniel slowly slid the strap up and down as he spoke, "You insulted me, Jack. You made unfounded accusations. You assaulted me." He removed the strap from Jack's skin. "You twisted my arm. You threatened me." Jack whimpered. "I need to be sure that you're never going to do those things again. I need to be sure that you understand the proper way to treat me, to talk to me. I'm going to make sure, Jack, and then we're going to put this in the past, where it belongs. Say 'yes', Jack."
Jack croaked out something that might have been a 'yes', and Daniel raised his arm and lashed out with the strap. A stripe formed, angling from shoulder blade to hip.
Jack yelled. He hadn't expected his back to be Daniel's target. A second blow landed from the small of the back to the top of one cheek. The third fell across the underside of Jack's buttocks, and the fourth ran straight down the center of his back. There was no pattern, no way for Jack to prepare himself. He was shocked at the number of lashes falling across his back. They had experimented early on in their relationship, and had decided that both of them much preferred to concentrate on the wonderfully tender areas below the waist, because they found this to be much more arousing. But tonight wasn't about arousal, and Daniel was striking any available inch of skin. Now the strap kissed Jack's calves and he cried out in agony. His head was spinning. I'm sorry, I'm sorry.
Daniel's face was set grimly as he continued to work Jack over with the strap. He wanted this over! He was trying to cause the maximum amount of perceived pain with the minimum number of actual blows. Striking in what appeared to be a random manner, varying the speed, pausing unexpectedly. Confusing Jack; hopefully driving him closer and closer to the edge. He could just stand here and blister Jack's ass red, but Jack could deal with that. With any luck, this approach would mercifully shorten the entire ordeal. For both men. He lashed at the back of Jack's thighs twice. Jack rocked back and forth on his knees, pressing his forehead against his bound hands. Daniel took a step back and hit out at a different angle.
The strap wrapped around Jack's leg and left its telltale mark on the front of his thigh. Daniel repeated his action higher up, and Jack's stomach felt the sting now. Switching tactics, Daniel struck Jack across the calves once more. Jack howled. Danny, I'm sorry.
Suddenly, it was like a dam burst inside of Jack. He was sobbing Daniel's name, tears were soaking the blindfold and dripping down his face. Relieved, Daniel dropped the strap, and hurried to comfort his lover. "I'm here, Jack, everything's okay now. It's over; you're forgiven, Jack. It's okay, it's okay." His hands trembled as he removed the blindfold, planting kisses on Jack's wet face.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," Jack choked out.
"I know, I know, sweetheart. I know. It's all right; it's all over," Daniel crooned. He reached over to the nightstand and got the key to the handcuffs. "Hold still, Jack; let me get these things off you. Let me get these off so I can hold you."
Jack was still crying quietly as Daniel removed the cuffs from his wrists. The instant Jack was freed, Daniel took him into a tight embrace, continuing to speak softly and lovingly. Jack's arms crept around Daniel and he buried his face into his lover's neck, trembling. Daniel rocked Jack back and forth in his arms, stroking his hair gently, until he grew quiet. "Do you still love me, Jack?"
There was a long enough pause that Daniel thought his question hadn't been heard, then Jack's head jerked up and his red eyes stared at Daniel. "You know I do," Jack whispered.
"I'm feeling a little vulnerable at the moment," Daniel admitted. "I need to hear you say it."
Jack struggled to get the words out. "Love you. So much."
"And you trust me?"
Jack nodded wordlessly, sniffing.
"Then you'll believe what I'm going to tell you," Daniel said, staring intently into Jack's eyes. "I love you with all my heart, and I trust you, too." Jack's eyes dropped from Daniel's, and his hand gripped the other man's bicep tightly. "I trust you with my life, and my heart..." Daniel's voice broke off, as Jack's eyes met his once again. Eyes that shone with gratitude and love. He threw his arms around Daniel's neck and kissed him fiercely. Daniel's relief was so intense that he felt lightheaded for a moment or two.
Jack broke away from the kiss and leaned his forehead against Daniel's, his arms tight around his shoulders. "I don't deserve you, Danny," he said. Daniel could hear the contentment in his voice.
"No, no you really don't," Daniel answered, smiling. "But we're stuck with each other, because who else would put up with us?"
Jack slowly pulled out of Daniel's embrace, and waving a hand vaguely at his face said, "Umm, I've gotta..."
"Yeah, you go wash up. I'll be right here waiting."
Jack disappeared into the bathroom. Daniel removed his clothing, then stretched out on the bed with a heartfelt sigh. All was right with Jack's world again. Daniel had been able to guide them both through this crisis safely. Daniel arranged the covers over himself. Jack was healthy, and things could now get back to normal between the two lovers. In fact, Daniel had some plans for accomplishing just that. The door to the bathroom opened and the light inside switched off. But those plans were for the morning. Jack came back into the room and walked toward the bed where Daniel lay waiting, as promised. For tonight...
Daniel turned back the covers and opened his arms wide, and Jack crawled into the bed and into his lover's embrace.