Strange Interlude

By

ELG

A Stargate SG-1 Alternate Universe Jack/Daniel slash novel.

Daniel discovers that in other universes not only the uniforms are different … Jack is bad tempered and his and Daniel’s friendship is starting to suffer. But when Daniel is kidnapped by an AU Teal’c very different from our own, Jack gets a timely reminder of how important Daniel is to him. An AU Jack, however, complicates the situation considerably.

Approximately 230,000+ words. Color cover. 277 pages of reduced print in 11 pt columnar format.

 

Strange Interlude on Paper

 

Strange Interlude on CD

Cover art by The Cat’s Meow Creative Arts. Interior artwork by Amy and Corinna.

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Winner – Best Novel

Here are some short excerpts from the novel:

It was like a garment fraying down the seam, another stitch pulling loose every day, the rent a little larger, then a little larger still. Soon there was going to be nothing but an ugly tear, too jagged to ever mend …

“Off-world activation …”

The warning alarm rang throughout the SGC to resound through the office cluttered with archaeological artifacts and piles of books. It sounded urgent and serious; an interruption to peaceful research, but Daniel exhaled in relief. “Saved by the bell,” he murmured.

Having been interrupted mid-lecture, Jack darted him a suspicious glance. “What?”

Daniel looked up at him innocently. “What?”

“Did you take in what I just said to you?”

“Yes.”

“About following orders, not touching things when you don’t know what they do, shutting up when I tell you to shut up, and generally doing as I damn well tell you?”

Daniel moistened his lips. “Jack, you are getting seriously cranky in your old age.”

“And you came this close to being killed!”

“We made a difference. We got through to Ephazion. The people of that world will now …”

Jack grabbed Daniel by the front of the jacket and hauled him to his feet. “Daniel, I swear to God I am so close to hitting you right now.”

Looking into those familiar brown eyes in disbelief, Daniel realized Jack wasn’t exaggerating. The man clearly was very close to taking a swing at him. He was as shocked by it as he was confused. He didn’t know where all this rage was coming from or even if it was truly aimed at him, only that it was starting to eat into their friendship like acid. “But, Jack, it all worked out fine for—”

The grip on Daniel’s jacket tightened in unmistakable warning. “There are only so many times you can go and tap dance your way along a tightrope over a swimming pool of man-eating sharks and make me watch it. Sooner or later I am going to stop caring or I am going to kill you myself. You told me it was death to argue with the—king of that place. You told me that about ten seconds after we got through the gate.”

Jack was like a wall at the moment. A blank façade with nothing behind it. It wasn’t like talking to anyone he knew, more like a stranger, yet one who had inexplicably built up four years worth of hostility towards him. Daniel shifted uncomfortably. “Don’t you want to know who’s visiting?”

The man’s chocolate-colored gaze didn’t so much as flicker. “You told me that because—and I quote—you didn’t want me ‘mouthing off to a tyrant’ and getting myself killed.”

“I heard General Hammond say ‘open the iris’ but there aren’t any teams off-world at the moment so it must be the Tollan or the Tok’ra …” Daniel offered. He was starting to see how his behavior on P74-659 might possibly have been perceived as “reckless” by Jack even though he didn’t actually agree with him. Jack had been getting very strict about what he called “reckless” behavior recently. Actually Jack had been getting strict about everything recently, and he seemed to have had a sense of humor bypass along the way. Daniel was trying not to get into yet another fight with the man because he was exhausted with fighting with him, but when Jack was in this mood it was difficult not to snap back at him. He’d worked hard for his current position in this friendship as an equal and he wasn’t prepared to give it up without a struggle.

Jack, however, seemed determined not to give him an inch. All he was showing to the world was the military guy he used to be; the human being had vanished somewhere and Daniel missed him, and in missing him seriously resented this stranger with his face who was blocking his access to his good-humored, kind-hearted friend. Stranger Jack was still talking and his face was an unreadable mask:

Daniel shrugged. “I think what you do in your own dimension is your own business, Colonel, and has absolutely nothing to do with me.”

The man’s hand shot out so fast, Daniel was taken completely by surprise; fingers closed on the front of his vest and yanked him forward so they were barely an inch apart. The other Jack gazed into Daniel’s eyes, breathing huskily, “You know if you came back to my dimension with me, I’m sure you could teach me to be a better man, Doctor Jackson. And seeing as how your Jack O’Neill is so damned perfect he doesn’t even put the moves on you, I’d say my need was definitely greater than his.”

Daniel felt the man’s breath against his mouth, smelled the familiar comforting scent of Jack’s sweat and aftershave, felt the warmth of those strong fingers tracing an encouraging tattoo against his arms, and realized why people experimented sometimes. He realized too that he had been given the scenario here he had rather envied Jack over that time loop business: no consequences. He could do anything he wanted with this Jack O’Neill. He could even do things he didn’t think he wanted but might like, and it would have no impact whatsoever on his relationship with the Jack O’Neill back home.

Except it would, of course. Even leaving aside the fact they were pretty much in the middle of a suicide mission here and this was definitely neither the time nor the place, he couldn’t let a man who was to all intents and purposes his best friend take what Daniel was inclined to think of as a fairly major liberty with him, then go back and act exactly the same with a Jack O’Neill who had no idea aforesaid liberty had ever been taken. If Daniel didn’t like what this Jack was clearly very eager to do to him, it was going to be weird being around Jack, and if he did like it, it was going to be even weirder.

He dropped his gaze, trying not to look at the man’s mouth or eyes, or to inhale the scent of him any more than he could help. “I can’t.” After a pause he added, “Not while there’s a chance I might be able to go home.”

O’Neill slowly released him. “But …?”

Daniel shrugged and raked up a smile from somewhere. “Well, let’s just say that if we both wind up in the same different dimension, I give you permission to buy me dinner.”

There was a pause before O’Neill gave him a slow-burning smile, which Daniel had to admit, did leave him feeling a little breathless. “I’ll hold you to that.”

Daniel collected himself. “We need explosives.”

“Right.” O’Neill continued to gaze at him.

“We have to destroy the mirror, Colonel, or Apophis is going to take over the whole damned universe.”

“Right.” O’Neill was still looking at him like he was hypnotized.

Daniel could feel a strange warmth creeping through him as those brown eyes seemed to gaze straight into his soul. He had never been so aware of the sound of another human being’s heartbeat, the warmth of another man’s body heat only a breath away from his own.

“We have to do it now.”

That seemed to get through and O’Neill put a hand up to his head. “Right. Do you know what C4 looks like?”

Daniel bristled in indignation. “Yes.”

“Okay, then you look down there and I’ll look up here and we’ll just have to hope that some of these poor bastards were on their way to blow up something when they got caught.”

Daniel giggled. There was no other word for it. Looking so sweet and so young and so endearingly silly that ONeill found himself looking at him with a kind of wonder, smiling because he looked so happy, but with a kind of catch in his heart, too. He said gently, I do love you, you know.

Daniels mouth gave an embarrassed little twitch that was almost but not quite a smile. Hed looked like that when ONeill told him that he believed in him; after Shares death when Daniel had been so wounded and difficult and in need of affirmation; then when the affirmation had come hed looked as if he thought there must be a catch somewhere and, as he realized there wasnt, had been so extraordinarily touched by it. I know.

ONeill studied him for a moment. Do you?

Yes. Daniel looked up at him quickly, trying to appear positive. But he was discomfited by the change of mood, happier wading in the shallows of their erogenous zones.

ONeill bent and brushed his lips gently with his. You really truly deeply madly know I love you?

Yes.

For now and always and ever and ever?

Jack … Daniel flashed him a quick look of protest.

What, Im not allowed to get mushy now?

Daniel looked up at him from under his eyelashes. Youll just wish you hadnt said it later.

Because Im such an unevolved troglodyte?

No. Just because youre … you.

ONeill kissed him again. Youre a very strange man, Doctor Jackson. Youll let me do all kinds of illicit and possibly illegal things to your naked body but if I start trying to tell you how I feel about you, you get all hot and bothered and embarrassed.

Youre the one who said life isnt a chick flick.

I was having an unevolved moment. ONeill gazed into Daniels eyes. Do you love me?

Yes! It came out exasperated and almost resentful. Then as ONeill continued to gaze at him, the irritation vanished from Daniels eyes to leave only the helpless longing. Yes. That one was soft and wistful. You know I do. When have you ever not known?

Too many times to count when Daniel was pissed with him or yelling at him or going off with strange women or other men with his face. But he didnt say any of that now. Not least because none of that mattered now. ONeill thought of all the times theyd fought and all the times theyd felt their hearts turn over as they thought the other one was hurt or lost or dead. All the times theyd been there for one another. You know for a smart guy youre pretty dumb sometimes, he observed conversationally. How could you ever not have known I love you? Look at all the crap Ive taken from you over the years. Look at all the really idiotic things youve dragged me into because I couldnt say no to you. Look at all the times you gave me gray hairs—”

Try not to bleed on anything you dont want eaten. Daniel shoved Jack behind him purposefully and tightened his grip on the oar. Of course, if their last intact oar was eaten by sharks, they were just going to drift aimlessly across the open sea, but he still felt that was preferable to them being eaten and their bloody remains being left to drift across the open sea. As the next shark came up at them, he hit it hard and purposefully on the nose. It slid back into the sea, but as the next one came up it had its mouth open wide so there was no chance of hitting it on anything except the teeth. As the raft tipped and did its best to spill them into the waiting jaws, Daniel tried to hold onto Jack, the mast, and the oar, only to find that Jack was hanging onto him and the mast. Damn it, Jack, he breathed. You only have one good hand.

I only have one good archaeologist, too, the man retorted.

Daniel tried to swing the oar but the shark was faster than he was, twisting with incredible grace and power, to snap down on the wooden spar. He hit out at it with the piece of oar he had left and it twisted again, snapping at him venomously. Kicking out, he hit it on the nose more by luck than judgment and it slipped back into the water. Exchanging a look with Jack, he realized that the sun was coming up, the man more than a ghostly glimmer now; the sea had a red and golden haze to what they thought of as the east. It occurred to him that it might not rise in the east on this world; they had just decided that it did to make themselves feel less homesick. He also realized he was so tired he was worrying about compass points because that was easier than getting to grips with the reality of sharks closing in to eat them who were not going to just get bored and go away.

The raft was rocking from the force of the sea. A thump underneath it lifted it out of the water before it fell down again with another awkward splash. He moved close to Jack as they watched the fins circling them again, the dark bodies of the sharks now clearly visible in the water. He could see Jacks face—the furring of his jaw from the new stubble: coarse silvery hair he wanted to rub his cheek against. Another jolt from underneath the raft; another sickening pause as their craft was lifted out of the water then allowed to drop. Another wave washing over the timbers. Then the largest of the sharks reared out of the water, twisting its glistening muscular body up onto the raft, jaws open, eyes black pools of nothingness. Daniel yelled and banged the broken oar down on the raft but it didnt blink; perhaps they couldnt blink or perhaps it just didnt care. It was using its tail to push itself further onto the raft, tilting them dramatically. Even clinging on tight to the mast, they couldnt stop gravity pulling their feet nearer to that advancing mouth. Daniel tried to get some purchase on the slippery deck but the waves were washing over them, the other sharks gathering where their fellow was advancing, also trying to get purchase to wriggle their way up the slippery timbers. They snapped at one another as they tried to push themselves up higher, the swell helping them as the waves seemed to urge them on their way, each one that washed over the raft lifting the sharks a little higher. Daniel saw the red trickle of Jacks blood in the water from the gash on his hand, the smell no doubt maddening to hungry sharks bewildered by the disappearance of their usual food source. He yanked his foot just out of the way of a snapping pair of jaws and saw Jack whisk his boot away from a threshing shark just in time. Daniel hit out with the spar, but the shark opened its jaws wide, protecting its nose and giving him only a yawning gullet and those terrifying teeth to strike at. When the jaws snapped close on air he swore he felt every hair on his body stand on end. Looking to Jack, he saw the same desperation in the mans eyes that he felt himself.

The raft was tilting at a more and more acute angle now, more like a ski slope than a means to float on the surface of the sea. They were both clinging to the rope around the mast, but Daniel could see the blood running down Jacks arm where the man was stubbornly persisting in holding on with his injured hand and clinging to Daniel with his undamaged left hand.

Hold on properly! Daniel demanded.

Jack gave him his most stubborn look and Daniel had opened his mouth to tell him what he thought of him when another wave helped the threshing sharks another foot up the tilting raft. The vessel gave another awkward lurch and Daniel barely whipped his foot out of the way of a pair of hungry jaws. As the other shark lunged at him he swiped at it desperately with the broken oar and it bit down hard on the snapped end then jerked its head to the side so savagely he was pulled with the oar. For a sickening second he thought he was about to be hurled into the sea and then he was yanked back by Jacks fingers in his t-shirt and slammed into the man, groping blindly for something to hang onto as the next wave washed over them. He grabbed for the rope around the mast just as the next shark lunged at them and now they had nothing with which to fend it off except their feet. Daniel kicked out hard and connected with something softer than teeth, but the shark only slithered back a foot at the most. Thank you, he breathed quickly to Jack, horribly aware that it might be the last thing he ever got the chance to say to him. He dug his fingers into the mans t-shirt, all twisted up with his need to keep a grip on both mast and man. His heart was beating too fast and when he looked across at Jack he saw the man was also breathing quickly. Out of the corner of his eye, Daniel saw a shark swim purposefully past. Two advancing. One circling. Wonderful.

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