Countdown to Forever

 

“It’s five minutes ‘til midnight.” Vala glided soundlessly across the back deck of Samantha Carter’s home, her hips swaying exaggeratedly in time to the muffled strains of the soulful jazz bleeding through the walls.

His posture instantly rigid, Daniel hunched closer to the wooden rail he leaned upon. He squeezed his eyes shut, his strong jaw bulging with visible tension.

“Thank you for the update,” he grumbled. Sparing her only a passing glance, he quickly returned his attention to the cold, starry night.

Undaunted by his obvious attempt to put her off, Vala whined, “Come on, Daniel. You’ve hardly said a word to anyone all night.”

Daniel straightened, pressing his hip into the rail. “Tell you what,” he said through lips drawn tight with irritation. “Why don’t *you* go talk to anyone else about how to Take. A. Hint.” Turning away from her again, he pulled a long draught from his bottle of Guinness.

Vala’s mouth pushed out in a perturbed pout, but the purpose in her eyes never dulled. “You’ve got to kiss someone at midnight,” she stated with authority.

“Oh, let me guess.” Daniel’s eyes rolled skyward before settling on her again. “You think that someone should be you.”

“Well, everyone else has got a date. Mitchell. Even General Landry. Everyone. Well, except Muscles, but he’s got that whole ‘I’m a Free Jaffa, I don’t need a female to validate my masculinity’ thing going.”

“Sam doesn’t have a date.” Daniel tipped his head back and his bottle up, hoping his quick consumption of the contents would insulate him from her continued presence.

“Sam’s not really my type,” Vala tossed off, though a vague shrug suggested she might reconsider if no other alternatives offered themselves. “Besides, she’s pining after General O’Neill.”

Nearly dropping the bottle in his haste to remove it from his mouth, Daniel coughed harshly. Whirling on her, he swiped the back of his hand over his chin. “Wh-What?” he choked.

“Don’t tell me you haven’t noticed.” Vala’s tone was an odd mixture of exasperation and   surprise. “I’ve only seen them together a few times, but it was obvious to me that she wants him desperately.”

“Well, you’d know all about that, wouldn’t you?” Daniel pinned her with a pointed look. “Desperation.”

Sniffing regally, Vala just as pointedly ignored the snipe. “It’s not an altogether useless tactic, apparently. The last time he was here, I got the impression the general was considering his options.”

“What options?” As inevitably happened, Daniel’s voice reached the strained pitch symptomatic of a too-long conversation with Vala.

“Well, he can’t really have a relationship of that kind while he’s a general, am I right?”

Daniel cleared his throat forcefully. “Relationship?”

“He definitely seemed distracted to me. And restless. I’d bet he wants a new start. Maybe settle down with a certain former team member?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about. Jack’s not really the settling down type.”

“He was married before.”

“Yes, but that doesn’t mean –”

“Well, there you are, then,” Vala declared with finality. “Once a man’s had a taste of domestic life, everything else pales by comparison. Even battles with false gods from another galaxy.”

Taking Daniel’s pursed mouth as a sign of mistrust in her observations, she flashed a self confident grin. “Take my word for it, Daniel. To borrow one of the general’s clichés, ‘I could see this coming a mile away.’”

Daniel reeled in his lips, an obvious effort to hold in his retort.  

Vala smiled sweetly, not in the least put out that her victory in their verbal duel came by default. The background music grew suddenly louder, and she turned her attention to the slowly opening French door.

Sam stepped out onto the deck. “Hey, you guys coming in? It’s almost midnight.”

“Yes, we were just discussing that…” Vala began.

“You were discussing,” Daniel snapped, “I was trying to ignore you.” He swung his pained gaze in Sam’s direction, the look an undisguised plea to be rescued.

“Well, not very successfully,” Vala pointed out, slinking over to wrap her hands around Daniel’s bicep. “Since you were, in fact, participating in the conversation.”

“I was only talking so there’d be less silence for you to fill.” Resisting only momentarily, Daniel gave in and allowed her to escort him to the door.

“Guys,” Sam interjected, holding up both hands, her splayed fingers intended to halt not only their forward progress but also their argument. “Let me make a suggestion. We’re about to celebrate the start of a new year. Maybe this could be a new start for you two, too?” She smiled encouragingly and pulled the door further open.

“New start, hmm? That’s got a familiar ring.” Vala loosened her hold and slid her hands down Daniel’s arm, pushing her fingers through his. Preceding him into the house, she tugged gently, encouraging him to follow.

Daniel snatched his hand away. “Don’t even think –”  

“Jack!”

General Landry’s hail drew his attention, and Daniel nearly collided with Vala, who had come to a startled halt. His gaze following the current base leader as he moved towards the front door, Daniel’s eyes riveted to the tall, silver-haired figure in blue just entering. The din of the party faded to hushed amazement at the appearance of the SGC’s former commander.

Jack clasped the hand Landry thrust at him, a bright smile lighting his face.

Cameron Mitchell came close on Landry’s heels. “General O’Neill. Good to see you, sir.”

“Mitchell. It’s good to be here. But that’s General O’Neill, retired.”

“Retired!?”

Landry’s exclamation reverberated in whispered reiteration, traveling in a wave, ebbing and swelling its way to the small group just coming in from the cold.

Pulling the door closed behind her as she stepped inside, Sam took up the crowd’s murmur, repeating the word sotto voce, “Retired?”

“Retired,” Vala echoed smugly, directing her satisfied smirk towards Daniel.

“Twenty seconds to midnight!” A disembodied voice announced.

“Don’t let me interrupt the celebration.” Jack waved his hand in an ‘as you were’ gesture. “I just came by to ring in the New Year with someone whose importance to me has too long been denied public acknowledgment.”

As the general’s eyes honed in on the trio standing in the doorway opposite, Vala’s face split with a knowing grin. Glancing askance at Sam, she nodded at the expectant gleam in the colonel’s eye and the barely-noticeable lift of her blush-pinked mouth.

Whirling on Daniel, Vala lifted an ‘I told you so’ brow in his direction. Slightly bemused by his openly stunned gape, she turned to watch, transfixed, as General Jack O’Neill, retired, marched in their direction, his rhythmic gait perfectly timed to the accompaniment of the New Year’s countdown.

When he was within a few paces, Vala took a step to the side, clearing the path to the general’s target, calling in harmony with the other partygoers, “Four…three…two…”

Jostled roughly aside, she gasped involuntarily when the general’s mouth latched onto the full, luscious lips she had hoped to taste herself at this juncture in the evening’s festivities.

The general’s arms wound completely around Daniel’s waist, pulling the younger man tightly against him. Daniel’s hands came up and pressed comfortably against the notch between Jack’s shoulder blades, looking very much at home there. The pair swayed slightly in a kind of private dance, one they’d obviously done before.

Their own midnight kisses completely forgotten, their friends and extended family enjoyed the traditional buss vicariously, the passion and fervor with which the men executed their kiss, more than enough to satisfy all.

All except two women, one dark, one light, whose expressions ran the gamut between devastation and concession during the time it took the men to complete their observance of the New Year’s Eve custom.

Reluctantly ending the kiss, Jack gently caressed Daniel’s bottom lip with his own then pulled back to gaze into glazed blue eyes.

“So, I’ve been thinking. New Year, new life. With the IOA taking over funding of the SGC you don’t need my support in Washington anymore. I came back here to start over. I want to spend the rest of forever with you.”

“Jack,” Daniel breathed, the name sounding very much like the answer to a prayer.

“Come on.” Jack stepped neatly to Daniel’s side, one arm still hugging his lover to him, and guided him through the parting crowd, absently accepting their congratulations. He let go his hold just long enough to usher Daniel through the front door, his hand sliding briefly to the small of the younger man’s back before encircling the broad shoulders once they had passed over the threshold.

Watching them exit, Vala tilted her head to the side, her mouth skewing in the same direction. “Well, I didn’t see that coming. Still, they do fit rather well together, don’t they?”

Glancing sidelong at Sam, she took in the decidedly unmilitary-like slump of her shoulders and offered a small smile of commiseration. Turning her gaze back on the large wooden door that had closed between her and the reunited lovers, Vala conjured in her mind the continuation of the ‘dance’ the men had begun in Sam’s living room. “Wonder if they’d consider a threesome,” she said to no one in particular.

 

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