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Imperfect, Part 5 - Hotitudinosity
fiction by jalabert
jalabert
jalabert
Imperfect, Part 5
Title: Imperfect
Author: Jalabert
Category: Crossover with Stargate SG-1
Rating: R
Warnings: None
Series/Sequel to: Perfect
Pairing: Aiden Ford/Daniel Jackson
Summary: After Aiden's encounter with the Wraith could things ever return to the way they were before?

Daniel walked into the dining hall that evening and saw a group of people surrounding Aiden's table.

"Now what the hell is all that about?" he wondered aloud.

"Oh, I guess word has already gotten around about Ford's new assignment," John said from behind him. Daniel turned to him with a questioning look. "We've been expanding into new areas of the city since the siege. We opened a new level for research labs and we're about done building the new infirmary. Now we're ready to give our personnel a little more breathing room. Ford's been put in charge of identifying new residential quarters and assigning people, so my guess is they're all jockeying for prime locations."

"Cool!" Mandy said from behind the counter. "When we arrived, they promised that our quarters were temporary, but we've been four to a room for two months now. Should I speak to Lieutenant Ford about moving to a single?"

"No," Daniel and John said in unison. They exchanged a glance; Daniel had spoken out of turn and he averted his eyes sheepishly.

"Members of the original expedition will have first dibs on the new quarters," John continued. "When they've been relocated, you can have your pick of the old ones. Now what dessert are you hiding under the counter tonight?"

"None, sir; everyone got brownies."

John and Daniel exchanged another look, this one slightly doubting. But they picked up their trays and, by unspoken agreement, went in search of a place to eat together. John nudged Daniel with his elbow.

"How about over there?" he said. Daniel nodded and followed him to a small table. They sat down and began to eat, both men's eyes straying to Aiden, who sat with Stackhouse and two other marines. They caught each other looking and turned their eyes back to their respective plates. "He looks good," John observed after a moment.

"He does," Daniel said in a non-committal tone, which surprised John.

"I suspect you have a lot to do with that."

"No," Daniel replied. "What you're seeing is all Aiden."

"I'm sure he'd say different."

"Probably, but the truth is that he's done it on his own."

"But surely--." John paused to carefully reconsider his words so as not to say anything impolitic. Just because Daniel never denied being in a relationship with Aiden didn't mean that he was. "Having a close friend around to talk to must've helped." Daniel looked up.

"Aiden's been surrounded by close friends for months, John. I think that was part of the problem."

"Come again?"

"It's not up to me to tell you what's going on in his head, but I can say this: if I had anything to do with Aiden's improvement it was specifically because I'm not as close to him as you and all his other friends here."

"I find that hard to believe," John said. He'd seen Aiden wrapped in Daniel's arms the previous night and the way Daniel had looked at him earlier in the day. The notion that the two men weren't close was ludicrous in John's estimation and he said so. "I've seen you two together. You're closer to Aiden than any of us have ever been."

Daniel smiled mildly.

"You're missing my point," he said. "Aiden looks upon all of you as family. And like any family, you've seen him at his best and at his worst. I think that's made it more difficult for him to cope with all that's happened."

"And he sees you how?"

Daniel ignored the question.

"If Aiden felt comfortable enough to talk to me it was probably because I wasn't here to see what he'd done. And I understand exactly how he feels, perhaps more than anyone else in the galaxy--I've experienced firsthand all the things Aiden has been through," Daniel said. John was shocked by the revelation, but he tried to hide it as he rooted around on his plate for a spear of broccoli.

"He told you everything."

"Everything," Daniel confirmed.

"Do you think he'll make a full recovery?"

"I did," Daniel said reassuringly, "and I wasn't as young and resilient as Aiden when I went through most of it."

"He's a great kid," John said. Daniel smiled and turned to look at his former lover.

"I have trouble thinking of Aiden as a kid, but I agree with the rest of your assessment." He changed the subject and John took the hint. They discussed plans for expanding the city and the latest discoveries made by the research teams. They'd just finished their dinner when Daniel noticed a commotion behind him. He frowned as people suddenly started to rise and leave the dining hall, almost like a cafeteria full of school kids at the end of lunch period. "What's going on?"

"Movie night," John said as he shoved the last of his dinner into his mouth. "Coming?"

"Yeah, I guess," Daniel said distractedly. He'd lost sight of Aiden in the crowd. John carried his tray to the garbage can and dumped everything but his brownie and dinnerware. Daniel followed suit. "What's the movie?"

"Who knows?" John replied. "The idea is to get together with your friends and join the social hour. People go to the movie, or to the gym or the pool... Some of the women started a knitting circle, groups get together to play chess or cards... It's time to have fun."

"I get it," Daniel replied. "How often do they have this social hour?"

"Oh, pretty much every night after 1900 hours. If you aren't on duty or working for some reason or another, you're expected to go out and play. Of course," John added impishly, "we sometimes have to go around and pry the geeks out of their labs with a crowbar." They reached the lounge just in time to see Teyla claim Aiden as her movie companion.

"You will have to explain everything to me later," she said to him as he sat down beside her.

"Don't I always?" Aiden chuckled. Teyla didn't reply; she simply smiled at him.

"What?" Aiden demanded.

"Your smile is like an old friend I have not seen in a while," she said gently.

"I'm glad you can still recognize it," Aiden replied shyly.

John stole a glance at Daniel, who smiled at the exchange. They found seats on another couch and made themselves comfortable. Although he would rather have been catching up on his work, Daniel stayed for the movie. He had to concede that the "social hour," as John called it, was a good idea. He imagined that being stationed at an outpost thousands of light years from home must be very stressful. But he found that for the most part, people seemed to be well adjusted to life in Atlantis and the social hour probably contributed to their well-being.

"What are gladiators?" Teyla asked as they waited for the movie to start.

"They're a--," Aiden paused and looked over at Daniel. "Help me out here, doc."

"A gladiator was more or less a professional fighter," Daniel said. "They were the strongest, the bravest and the best trained fighters, collected from Europe and Africa to fight in the Roman Coliseum for entertainment." He continued his thorough description as Aiden leaned over to whisper in Teyla's ear.

"I'll explain his explanation later."

Before the movie began, a few of the personnel shared some of the pictures and videos sent from home. Each provided a narrative, introducing friends and family, and even a few pets. The last video was from the new head of the SGC, General Landry, who introduced the president of the United States and the prime ministers of several countries represented among the inhabitants of Atlantis. By the time all the videos were done, more than a few tears had been shed among the assembly. Daniel peered across the room at Aiden, who sat stony-faced as he stared at the screen. He wanted to go over and hold him, if not drag him from the room entirely. He stayed put, however, and within minutes of the movie's start, Aiden had regained his composure.

When the movie was over, Aiden left the lounge with Teyla, Stackhouse and one of the Italian scientists engaged in a lively discussion about Roman military history. Daniel watched them go with a wistful sigh. He'd wanted a chance to spend a little time with Aiden. He decided instead to take a walk. Daniel wandered around for a while before he stopped into another lounge, where he found Sam involved in a game of chess with Rodney. He sat with them a while until Rodney hinted that his company was distracting. Daniel left them and went over to speak with Elizabeth. She was curled up with John's copy of War and Peace.

"I would have thought you'd be otherwise engaged this evening," she said when she looked up at Daniel's approach.

"The night's still young," Daniel answered cryptically. Elizabeth gestured for him to sit and reached behind the pillow next to her. Bringing her hand forward, she offered him a can.

"My secret stash," she said conspiratorially. Daniel opened the can and smiled when he saw that it was filled with chocolate covered espresso beans. He and Elizabeth had bonded over them back at the SGC more than a year earlier. He helped himself to a handful.

"You sent for these?"

"They were a gift from General Landry--five pounds," Elizabeth replied. "So how's your research going?"

Daniel sat back and got her caught up on his work. The pair fell into conversation, first about the Ancients and then about the social hour and other aspects of life in Atlantis. About twenty minutes after Daniel sat down, Aiden entered the lounge with Teyla and Stackhouse. He didn't appear to see Daniel; he stopped to speak with a couple of marines and then left again. Daniel's eyes were on him the whole time.

"I think that's your signal to leave," Elizabeth said with a sly smile. Daniel returned the smile and rose.

"Thanks for the coffee," he said with a wink. "Good night."

Daniel took off after Aiden, but he was unsuccessful in his effort to catch up with him. Coming to a stop in an intersection and having no idea which way to turn, Daniel made a snap decision and headed for the balcony where they'd met the previous night. To his great disappointment, Aiden wasn't there. He sighed and turned to leave.

"Daniel?" Aiden was standing in the doorway. "I thought that was you. What are you doing out here?"

"Thought I might check out my constellation," Daniel said puckishly.

"It's easier to see from the other balcony."

"I can't find the other balcony."

"I'll show you from here, if you really want to see it."

"Sure," Daniel said. Aiden turned and headed for the far end of the long balcony. Daniel followed, curious to know what Aiden was thinking; but he didn't speak till they reached the far end. "Nice night," he said as they looked out over the lower deck. "It doesn't rain much here, does it?"

"It rains a lot, actually, but mostly during the spring and fall," Aiden replied absently. His eyes were on the sky. Daniel leaned on the railing and stared at his face. "There," Aiden declared. Daniel's gaze didn't waver.

"What are we looking at?"

"It's 'The Geek.' I thought you wanted to see it."

"I lied. I was actually looking for you," Daniel confessed.

"Why did you let me drag you all the way over here?" Aiden cried. Daniel just shrugged, a tiny smile playing at his lips.

"Sorry?"

"The hell you are," Aiden said, trying to suppress a smile of his own. "You just like watching my ass."

"Guilty as charged," Daniel said, shrugging again. Aiden shook his head.

"You aren't even going to try to deny it, are you?"

"Why argue with perfection?" Daniel teased.

"Oh, brother!" Aiden laughed. "You're so full of yourself."

"I was talking about you, Aiden." Daniel reached out and ran a finger over his cheek.

"I was never perfect, doc," Aiden said, turning away from him. "And I've never been less perfect than I am now."

"You're right," Daniel replied. "You were never perfect, in the sense that you're thinking. But I'm a linguist; I've spent my life studying the meanings of words. Trust me to know what I'm talking about." He leaned on the rail and regarded Aiden's profile. As he expected, Aiden turned back around.

"All right, I'll bite. What the hell are you talking about?"

"Perfection doesn't only mean that something is flawless or faultless, Aiden; it also means 'a perfect embodiment of a concept.' It means that something is correct and complete, wanting nothing."

"And I'm none of those things," Aiden said.

"You've always been all of those things to me. You've just never believed it of yourself." Daniel let Aiden absorb his words and was surprised to see a tiny smile form on Aiden's lips.

"So what's this concept?" Aiden asked. Daniel returned the smile and leaned in to kiss him. Aiden stopped him with a hand to his chest. "I still don't think that's a good idea."

"You seemed to think so this afternoon," Daniel said, gently pushing forward. Aiden turned his head, but Daniel was content to lean in and nuzzle his throat. Daniel rested his palm on Aiden's heart and let its heat permeate his skin. "I love you, Aiden; always have, always will," Daniel whispered. "That's the concept."

Daniel knew he'd won the battle when he felt a subtle change in the rhythm of Aiden's heart. He raised his hand to Aiden's cheek and turned his face. He stared into Aiden's eyes for a moment before once more leaning in to kiss him. This time, Aiden didn't resist.

Daniel's kiss took Aiden's breath away, and it took a few seconds for him to regain his composure when Daniel let him go. He immediately grabbed Daniel and pulled him into another kiss. Again, Daniel was the one to end the kiss. Aiden was shaken to the core. Daniel held the trembling man close to his heart and repeated his declaration of love. Aiden looked up and tried to speak, but Daniel stopped him with a finger to his lips.

"You don't have to say anything right now. I didn't tell you how I felt in order to coerce an affirmation out of you," Daniel said lightly as the tips of his fingers danced over Aiden's cheek. "And I certainly don't mean to rush you into anything. I just wanted to put you on notice."

"On notice?"

"I'm waiting for you, Aiden. Whenever you're ready, I'm here. Whenever you want me, wherever you want me, however you want me..."

Aiden rolled his eyes in frustration.

"I want you now!" he said fiercely, leaning in to search for that special spot on Daniel's throat. He found it and bit hard, causing a shiver of pleasure to thrum though Daniel's body. He groaned as Aiden began to suck on the pulse point. Daniel wanted to slow him down but he couldn't for the life of him resist Aiden's touch. It had been too long. He'd wanted Aiden so much--Daniel had no idea how much till that moment--and to have him in his arms again, to have Aiden wanting him, holding him, kissing him... It was too much to ask. Daniel surrendered completely, grabbing Aiden's face and bringing their mouths together in a heated, passionate kiss.

He finally relented when Aiden squirmed uncomfortably. Recognizing that his lover's back was pressed against the hard railing, Daniel pulled Aiden away and held him, panting into his shoulder. Aiden clung to his shirt, weak-kneed and equally breathless.

"I want you now," he repeated hoarsely. Daniel nodded. "Not here," he added as he found his footing and began to shuffle toward the wall. Reaching it, he leaned against it and gulped air.

"Are you all right?" Daniel asked worriedly.

"My cardiovascular endurance isn't quite what it should be," Aiden admitted.

"Damn," Daniel chuckled, resting his head against the wall. "And here I thought it was me."

"Oh, it's you," Aiden assured him. "It's all you, doc." He straightened up and adjusted his clothes. "That's you, too," he said looking down. "Let's move." He leaned against the wall again. "...In another minute or two." Daniel grabbed his shoulder.

"Are you sure about this? We've waited this long; we can wait another day."

"I can't," Aiden answered simply. Daniel smiled and kissed him briefly.

"I can't either," he confessed, "but I would if I had to--."

"Let's...just give me a minute."

"I can't believe I'm going to say this, but maybe we shouldn't do this tonight, Aiden. I know you want me. Believe me, I want you, too. But that doesn't mean we should rush into something you're not really up for."

Aiden abruptly turned and pressed his body against Daniel's slim form.

"What do you think this is?" Aiden said huskily. Daniel gently but firmly pushed him back.

"I'm not talking about desire, Aiden. I don't want to set back your recovery by physically debilitating you or confusing your emotional--."

"You practically jumped my bones the first time we were alone for more than two minutes. I've been fighting my attraction to you ever since. And when I finally get my head straight about what I need and open up to you, you're going to tell me to wait a few days till I'm sure? Daniel if you don't fuck me tonight I'm going to--."

Daniel silenced him with a kiss. It was brief, but intense. When Aiden tried for another one, Daniel held him off.

"Bastard!" Aiden said, but there was no heat behind it. In fact, he was smiling so sweetly that Daniel relented and kissed him again.

"Save your strength. You're going to need it."

Aiden closed his eyes and rested against the cool metallic surface.

"Beautiful," Daniel murmured. Aiden opened his eyes and looked at him.

"Will you knock it off?"

"I was talking about the stars; honest," Daniel lied through his smile. He turned his gaze to the night sky. "So where's my constellation?"

"Over there," Aiden pointed to the left. "See the bright star that looks kind of pinkish? Dr. Garibaldi said that it's actually a planet. Colonel Sheppard decided that's the bandaid on the center of the frame. And if you look to either side of that star you'll see two almost symmetrical rectangles. See it?"

"Yeah," Daniel said, fascinated at the display. Aiden shot him a glance.

"So did you ever tape up your frames like that?"

"As a fashion statement, no," Daniel replied. "I acquired my geek status the hard way--with my brain." Aiden chuckled at the remark and pointed out a few other constellations.

"If you look straight up, you can see the 'Even Bigger Dipper.' And no, I didn't name that one."

"Which of you named the 'Jar of Hellman's'?"

"That one was me," Aiden confessed.

"And where's the 'Tarantula'?"

"You should have asked me about that one when we were on the other end of the city. It's much easier to see from there."

"Another time, then," Daniel said. "And speaking of time..."

"Yeah." Aiden pushed off the wall. "Let's go."

"Wait; this isn't the way we came, is it?"

"Nope. We're not going back to our quarters. I have a better idea."

"And that is..."

"Colonel Sheppard gave me maps to a new area of the city today and I've already staked out a place for my base of operations. It's a fully equipped suite with an office and a bedroom--all the comforts of home."

"All the comforts?" Daniel asked. Aiden stepped into a transporter and Daniel followed.

"What do you mean?"

"We'll need some sort of lubrication...unless you have some on you."

"Don't worry; the Ancients have that covered," Aiden said with an impish gleam in his eye. He strode down the corridor and turned left at the first intersection. He went about twenty feet before stopping at a panel and entering a security code. The doors whooshed open and they entered the suite.

"It's a bit stuffy," Daniel said as he looked around at the nicely appointed interior.

"That'll happen when a place is unoccupied for a few thousand years," Aiden said as he opened the windows by touching a panel near the door. The cool evening breeze wafted into the room as Daniel walked over to the wall to examine a decorative sculpture. "And we didn't come here to look at the décor," Aiden added. Daniel continued to scan the Ancient artwork left behind by the room's previous inhabitant.

"Huh?"

He suddenly turned around to find that he was alone. He saw a light come on in the next room and took a step in that direction, but paused again when he saw another Ancient artifact on a shelf. He bent to examine it when a grey shirt hit him squarely in the chest. Daniel watched it fall to the floor and looked up. Sidestepping the garment, he made his way to the bedroom, stumbling over a discarded boot. Another boot lay in his path as he entered the sleeping quarters. He kicked it out of the way and followed the trail indicated by the pants, socks and black boxers on the floor.

Daniel entered the bathroom in time to see Aiden step into a spacious shower stall. As with all the showers in Atlantis, the water came on as soon as he set foot on the tile. Water heated to the ideal temperature pelted his body from four shower heads and for a moment Daniel was mesmerized by the sight of droplets of water trickling down the sinuous curves of Aiden's sculpted physique. Aiden turned around and stared back, running his hands through his hair and then slowly over his chest and arms in a seductive display. Daniel took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. Aiden smiled.

"Gorgeous."

Daniel was too absorbed the sight of Aiden to hear his reply, but based on his smirk it was obviously impertinent. Daniel didn't waste time thinking about it; he stripped off his clothes and stepped into the shower reaching out for Aiden, who smiled amusedly.

"Glasses, doc."

Daniel whipped off his glasses and recklessly tossed them into the sink. He pulled Aiden into his arms and kissed him deeply, allowing his hands to wander over Aiden's torso and reintroducing himself to the body that was so familiar and desirable. Remembering Aiden's earlier bout of breathlessness, he abandoned his mouth and laid a trail of kisses along Aiden's throat and shoulder. He paused to smooth his hand over the warm, golden skin, admiring its beauty and kissing it again before sending his hands along Aiden's pectoral muscles. He continued his journey, following each caress with kisses. Aiden opened his eyes and his momentary look of bliss turned to one of growing horror.

"Don't," he said, abruptly pulling away.

"What?"

"Don't, Daniel. Don't look at me."

"Aiden," Daniel said gently, grabbing for the hands of the obviously distraught younger man. "What are you --?" He realized what was wrong and carefully pulled Aiden back into his arms. "I'm sorry, baby. I'm sorry. I wasn't trying to do that, I promise. I wasn't--."

Aiden sobbed and clung to Daniel for a moment. After a while it became clear that he was saying something and Daniel strained to make out the words. Aiden was apologizing, saying "sorry, sorry" over and over again. Daniel held him tighter till he quieted and then lifted his face to wipe away the tears. A part of him wanted to take Aiden to bed and try to get him to sleep for a while, but he knew that if he rejected Aiden at that moment he would lose everything he'd just found again. Aiden was so emotionally fragile that Daniel was afraid to say or do the wrong thing. So instead he kissed him, trying to silently communicate what he didn't dare try to put into words.

Aiden responded to the kiss as though Daniel had thrown him a lifeline. He pushed Daniel to the wall and practically devoured him. When Daniel finally forced him to break the kiss, Aiden was undeterred. As Daniel had done earlier, Aiden took it as a sign that it was time to explore. He kissed and licked and bit his way down Daniel's neck and shoulder to his chest, showing no indication of his earlier lethargy. Daniel wondered at it, but all thought ceased when Aiden fell to his knees and began to nuzzle his groin. Daniel closed his eyes and swallowed hard.

Daniel's mind was traveled back to the first night he and Aiden spent together; the first time he felt Aiden's mouth on him he was overwhelmed by the sensation. This time the feeling was equally intense and he fought hard to maintain control when Aiden took him into his mouth. After a few seconds, he gave up and tried to push Aiden away. His lover's response was to suck harder and to grasp hold of Daniel's hips with surprising strength.

"Aiden, I can't... I...," He pushed again, this time succeeding in getting Aiden to glance up, even as the relentless assault continued. "Bed," Daniel managed to say, "I need you in bed." And just like that, Aiden released him from the exquisite torture and Daniel's knees gave way. Aiden caught him in his arms and laughed.

"You okay, doc?"

"I didn't think it was possible for you to make my bones go through such a small opening," Daniel panted as he tried to right himself. Aiden rose to his feet, still holding him.

"I forgot how old you were," Aiden teased as he pressed Daniel to the wall with his torso, leaving his hands free to wander over whatever they could reach. He nibbled at Daniel's throat till Daniel growled and pushed him off.

"Bed!" he commanded. "And where's that lube?" Aiden smiled at him and reached for the soap dispenser, which was actually a tap in the wall.

"Have you tried this stuff? It's amazing," he said as he worked a bit of it into his hands and began to soap up Daniel's chest. "It's so indispensable around here--pardon the expression--that it's piped in just like the water."

"And what has that got to do with--."

Aiden stuck two soapy fingers into Daniel's mouth.

"It's tasteless, odorless, mildly antibacterial, and the Ancients used it for everything from shower gel, to shampoo, to body lotion," Aiden said as he withdrew his fingers and began to lather himself, focusing his attention on his groin and anus. "Dr. B's people tested it when we first got here. It leaves no residue if you don't wash it off. The Ancients' doctors used it to clean wounds and to scrub up. The infirmary uses it now, too, but a lot of the others around here don't care for it," Aiden said with a mischievous smile.

"Why's that?" Daniel asked, intrigued. He had reached out to play with the lather on his chest as Aiden spoke, but now the younger man drew Daniel's hand over to the dispenser and squirted a little more of the liquid into his palm.

"It's extremely slippery," Aiden said with a wink. "As you might imagine, it's the perfect lube."

"For free," Daniel said as he rubbed a little between his fingers. Aiden placed his palms on the wall and spread his legs. Daniel quickly got with the program and began to prepare him. "Bed," he repeated a short while later. "I want you horizontal."

"You've got me any way you want me," Aiden drawled as Daniel tugged him by the hand and led him out of the shower. The water shut off and warm heated air began to blow in the bathroom. Aiden stopped and Daniel frowned before he realized why.

"I wondered what this was for," he admitted as he spread his arms to facilitate the drying process. "I thought it was just to warm the room."

"It does that, too," Aiden replied. "This is just more sanitary."

"I'm not interested in 'sanitary' at the moment," Daniel said, wrapping his arms around his lover. "I'm interested in getting hot and sweaty." He drew Aiden into the bedroom and carefully laid him out on the bed. He sat on the edge and looked at his lover hungrily. But Aiden wasn't about to allow Daniel to play the observer. He pulled him down onto the bed and rolled the pair of them over so that he was on top.

Daniel felt a flutter of doubt in his stomach but it was short-lived. He told himself that Aiden wanted this--needed this; and he needed it, too. Aiden began to move against Daniel's body and he responded in kind. They wrestled a bit, rolling across the bed as they struggled to get inside each other's skin before Daniel subdued Aiden and pushed his legs upward and apart. He entered Aiden without ceremony, sinking into the moist heat of his lover with a groan.

Daniel didn't toy with Aiden. There would be time for games later. This was a reunion and a reaffirmation; this was a testament to Aiden's survival and resurrection. This was about life, about the joy of sharing that most intimate part of one's self with the man he loved. It was not the best sex they'd ever had, but it was by far the most important. It was about loving and being loved, trusting and surrendering and sharing one's soul. Daniel wasn't surprised that Aiden was crying when he came. His own tears intermingled with his lover's and they held each other for a long time afterwards. The lights in the room slowly faded out after all sound and movement in the room ceased--a bit of Ancient technology Daniel loved. He pulled the covers over Aiden and let him sleep.

Daniel fell asleep long after; he spent a long time listening to the sound of Aiden breathing. He stroked the dark curls of his head and felt the steady rhythm of his heart beating against his own. He fought sleep for as long as possible, succumbing reluctantly and spooning up against Aiden's back when he rolled over. An hour later, the nightmares began.

Aiden began to toss and turn, mumbling in his sleep. Daniel woke up and tried to calm him. At first Aiden tried to struggle out of his grasp, but Daniel's gentle voice and soothing words soon had their effect and Aiden began to relax. Daniel held him in his arms and rocked him till Aiden began to giggle.

"What's so funny?" Daniel asked in his ear.

"My grandmother used to do this. When I had a nightmare or was awakened by thunder, she'd come and hold me in her arms and rock me."

"Am I making you homesick?" Daniel asked lightly, bending to kiss Aiden's hair.

"Not really; you don't feel anything like my grandmother," Aiden replied, resting his head on Daniel's shoulder. "What was I saying?" he asked after a few minutes.

"I couldn't really make it out," Daniel said. "You sounded as though you were trapped..."

"The water dream," Aiden said, nodding. "That one always comes back. All the others have stopped except that one."

"There were several?"

"At first they came every night," Aiden said softly, nodding again. "I'd dream about becoming a Wraith. I had dreams about Atlantis, too. About becoming a Wraith and returning to Atlantis and killing my friends. Sucking the life force out of every one of them, feeding on them to stay like this--like that," he corrected himself. "Then I had these other wild, vivid nightmares that were caused by the drugs in my system. They didn't make any sense, just a lot of jumbled colors and noises and images that were very disturbing."

"And those dreams are gone," Daniel said reassuringly.

"Yeah, thank God. I only have the water dream now."

"Can you tell me about it?"

"I already have," Aiden said, shifting in Daniel's arms and leaning against his chest. "This nightmare is the scariest of all because it was real. It's me falling into the water and floating there with a Wraith attached to my chest. Only this time, I'm not pulled from the water; I just float there indefinitely, dead yet aware as my body rots and swells and is fed upon by the fish..."

Daniel tightened his hold on Aiden and wove their fingers together.

"Nothing's really changed, has it?" Aiden said plaintively sometime later.

"Hmm?" Daniel murmured absently.

"Twenty-four hours ago I was lying in your arms like this wondering if I'd ever get my life back."

"Nothing? This time you had mind-blowing sex with your favorite archaeologist!" Daniel said teasingly. Aiden smiled but only briefly.

"I'm still the same person I was yesterday."

"And wasn't that the point? Aiden you've always been you. You'll always be you. Yes, you've made progress--far more than I would have believed in one day. But you're right; nothing has changed. You opened yourself to me, allowed me in. But this was only a step. You've still got far to go." Daniel paused to nuzzle Aiden's ear. "But now you know, Aiden. Now you believe. You are you. You have no idea how important that is, do you?"

Aiden shrugged and Daniel nuzzled his neck for a few seconds as he toyed with his long, graceful fingers.

"So are you going to tell me?" Aiden finally asked, letting his head fall back just a little so Daniel could get at his throat.

"I love you, Aiden. But just as importantly, there are people here in Atlantis who love you, too."

"I'm a one-man at a time kind of guy," Aiden quipped.

"You're a regular comedian today, aren't you?" Daniel said, happy to see Aiden's humor return. "You know what I mean. John, Teyla, Rodney, Elizabeth--you have a very loyal bunch of friends who love you and who've been willing to move heaven and hell to get you back. You're important to all of us, Aiden. All we've ever wanted was for you to be you."

"I'm beginning to understand," Aiden admitted. He turned his head to kiss Daniel and brief, tender kisses soon turned into ones that were heated, passionate and promising something more. Aiden turned over and pressed his heated body to Daniel's.

Daniel hesitated for a few seconds before giving himself over to the delightful friction. Somewhere in the back of his mind he told himself that Aiden needed to take things more slowly, but his own instincts and need betrayed him. His memory told him that Aiden's behavior was absolutely normal; he was young and energetic and he enjoyed sex with an enthusiasm that Daniel sometimes had difficulty matching. He distantly recalled how it had been for Jack when the two of them were involved and smiled.

"When did I get to be the old guy?" he murmured aloud.

"You don't feel very old to me," Aiden answered huskily between kisses and nibbles to Daniel's shoulder. Daniel laughed delightedly and pulled his face to his own.

**

Light streamed into the bedroom and shone on Daniel's eyes, waking him out of a lovely dream. He blinked and grumpily sat up. The smell of coffee forced him to crack one eye open, warily. Aiden held out a mug.

"It won't kill you," he said as he handed Daniel the steaming cup.

"Says you," Daniel replied, inhaling the aroma before hazarding a sip. He opened his other eye as he did so and noticed that Aiden was fully dressed.

"If I leave you here will you be able to get back to the main concourse of the city?"

"If you leave me a map and maybe a few days' rations..." Daniel replied. Aiden sat on the edge of the bed and leaned in to kiss him. "Morning."

"Morning; I have to get back or the colonel will have my head," Aiden explained. "It's already past 0700 and he gets pissy if I miss breakfast. The transporter is at the end of the corridor. If you go back the way we came you can't miss it. Just walk about twenty feet and turn right. When you get to the transporter--." Daniel silenced him with a kiss.

"Go," he said. Aiden smiled and started to rise, but Daniel grabbed his jacket with his free hand. He gave Aiden a second kiss and then a third. "Go, before I strip you and ravish you again."

Aiden laughed and stole a last kiss before he rose and headed for the door.

"I'll see you in the mess. Daniel," he said, shyly, turning back. "Last night--."

"You'd better get out of here before you say something sappy. You know what that does to me," Daniel said as he climbed out of bed. Aiden laughed and backed out of the room. Daniel watched him go, a wry smile on his lips. "Not a bad night's work," he said before downing the last of his coffee.

He set down the cup and stretched. Yawning, he walked over to the window and looked out over the vast ocean before him. But he turned away abruptly when an image of Aiden floating in the water flashed before his eyes. He quickly retreated to the bathroom for a shower before heading back to the city.

**

"Where were you last night?" Sam asked when Daniel joined her at breakfast. She was sitting with Carson and Rodney, which effectively prevented Daniel from answering her truthfully even if he wanted to.

"Were you looking for me?" he asked instead as his eyes sought and found Aiden sitting with John, Teyla and someone he didn't know.

"Yes," Rodney said. "After defeating me soundly at chess she was eager for a new conquest." Sam stuck out her tongue at him.

"Actually, Sam's never beaten me at chess," Daniel said matter-of-factly.

"Then I'm doubly sorry she couldn't find you," Rodney said rising. "Dr. Carter, I'll see you in the lab." He nodded curtly at the others and walked away.

"Sore loser if there ever was one," Carson said with a wink. "See you later," he said, moving to catch up with his departing friend. Daniel watched them go before his eyes strayed back to Aiden, who was laughing at something someone said.

"So where were you?" Sam persisted. "I went looking for you in the other lounges; I went to your room, to the observation deck, the command center..."

"I took a walk."

"...With him?"

Daniel's head abruptly turned back to Sam's piercing eyes.

"You two know each other, don't you? I recall seeing you talking together when he was assigned to the SGC."

"Yeah; we were friendly." Daniel squirmed inwardly when Sam's smile widened.

"He's pretty hot."

"He's a little young for you, Sam."

"I could say the same thing about you." She let Daniel's mouth fall open before she spoke again. "I'm just saying..." Daniel frowned.

"What are you driving at?" he asked uncomfortably.

"The fact that you haven't stopped staring at him since you sat down," she replied.

"I could be staring at Teyla," Daniel said defensively.

"She's not your type."

"And he is?" Daniel asked too quickly. His voice betrayed him, but Sam smiled reassuringly. She reached out and took his hand.

"You've been staring at Lieutenant Ford since we got here. In fact, I recall Janet noticing the same thing back at the SGC one day. We concluded that anyone with eyes would want to stare at him, male or female," Sam said with a shrug. "But yes; I do think he's your type." She glanced up at Daniel's shocked expression and laughed. "Look Daniel, I'm not stupid. I know you're gay; you told me yourself. I also know that you and General O'Neill were involved the whole time we were a team--."

"Not the whole time, actually," Daniel corrected. He sat back with a sigh. "I didn't realize you knew," he said apologetically.

"It took me a while to figure out. How long?"

"After Shau're died, for about a year. Then things got difficult."

"Euronda."

"It was a lot of things. The Euronda incident was the straw that finally broke the camel's back. I didn't like having to keep things a secret from you and Teal'c," Daniel confessed. "But Jack--." Sam's outburst of laughter cut him off.

"Teal'c had it figured out long before I even had a clue! I admit I was hurt at first, especially since you knew about--."

"Your crush on Jack, yes," Daniel said with another sigh. He glanced up over at Aiden before continuing. "When Jack and I began to have problems in our personal life, things got bad for us at the SGC as well. I came close to asking for a transfer out of SG-1 more times than I can count."

"Did that... Is that why you decided to ascend?" Sam asked as the painful memory of that awful day came back to her in a moment of clarity. "Dad was ready to heal you, but General O'Neill said--." Daniel nodded.

"I was so tired. I couldn't fight anymore. I'm sorry, Sam," Daniel said regretfully. "I know that hurt you, too. I couldn't seem to do anything without hurting anyone anymore, myself included." Sam gave his hand a reassuring squeeze.

"You came back," she said with a sweet smile. Daniel returned it.

"Yes, I came back."

"And you and--."

"No, Jack and I never got back together," Daniel said evenly. Sam looked over at Aiden and then back at Daniel.

"So you started looking elsewhere?"

"Not really; I was content to be alone, to tell you the truth. When I came back I wanted a clean slate. I kept my distance from Jack and things were fine."

"...Till you met the lieutenant," Sam prompted. Daniel withdrew his hand and sat back. "Come on, Daniel, throw me a bone here!"

"What do you want to know?"

"Everything," Sam said gleefully. Daniel rolled his eyes.

"All right; yes, Aiden and I were involved. Are you happy?"

"Back at the SGC?"

"Back at the SGC," Daniel sighed indulgently. "Briefly; he was shipped off to Antarctica before things got too serious."

"I'm sorry," Sam said sincerely. "Is that why you wanted to go to Atlantis?"

"You know better than anyone why I wanted to be part of the expedition, Sam. Being able to be here with Aiden was only part of it. But Jack wouldn't let me go," Daniel said petulantly.

"Did he know about you and the lieutenant?"

"No; I didn't tell him about Aiden till some time later," Daniel said. He weighed the risks for a moment and then decided to tell her everything. Sam was one of Daniel's closest friends, and aside from his relationships with Jack and Aiden, he'd never kept a secret from her. Daniel told Sam about Aiden and how things ended when the lieutenant decided to volunteer for the Atlantis expedition. Sam listened carefully, her face growing pale as realization dawned.

"I'm so sorry, Daniel. First to lose him that way and then..." She swallowed hard. "I read the reports about how he was infused with those Wraith enzymes and became addicted." Daniel nodded.

"Jack called me into his office and told me about it. By then, I'd told him about Aiden and he thought I would want to know." Daniel ran his hands over his face and then stole a glance at his lover. "I thought he was lost forever. Then Jack got word that he'd been found. Bless his heart, he let me read every progress report they sent back. I was relieved to hear that they'd been able to cure him, though he's still got a ways to go."

"So you were with him last night," Sam prodded again. "Is he doing better?"

"Yeah, I think he's going to be all right," Daniel said with a crooked smile for the man across the room. Aiden happened to look up just then and he returned the smile.

"He's such a little hottie," Sam said mischievously.

"Yes he is," Daniel replied as Aiden quickly averted his eyes. Daniel looked at Sam and saw that their exchange had been witnessed. "Do you mind?"

"Not at all." Sam smiled, undaunted by Daniel's glare. But it quickly faded. "What happens when you return to the SGC?"

"I don't know. I'm not sure Aiden should leave Atlantis, even though every fiber of my being wants me to drag him back to Earth."

"I'm surprised he'd want to stay on here after all he'd been through," Sam said with another glance across the room.

"You Air Force types don't understand the mindset of a Marine," Daniel teased.

"And you do... Enlighten me."

"What was the old saying: 'These colors don't run.' That's very much how Aiden's mind works. "

"So he won't run away from his demons," Sam concluded.

"The trouble is he's got demons both here and at home," Daniel said thoughtfully. "Maybe he does need to go back, at least for a visit."


On to Part 6

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