“Tell me this is the last frickin’ box,” Jack insisted. Wiping the sweat from his forehead, he glanced at the man standing inside the U-haul’s crowded interior. The answer he got was a beguiling grin that promised not only more pain but also a hint of sinful pleasure. It did the trick. “Okay, tell me this is the second to last frickin’ box,” he grumbled.
Jack did nothing to silence the moan of gratitude that rose to his lips when Tony, after jumping to the ground, went immediately to work on kneading the soreness from his shoulders. Heaven, pure heaven.
“You’re gonna miss this, aren’t you?” Tony asked.
Ignoring the question and the reason behind it, Jack eyed the nearly full moving van with a disapproving scowl. “I swear, Tony, not even Jethro and I combined have as much crap as you do. How in the world did you accumulate all this stuff?”
“Aw, come on, Jack,” his youngest lover expertly wheedled. “You can handle a couple more boxes, can’t you?”
Sharp teeth took possession of his left ear lobe and nibbled. Jack surrendered without protest. “Okay, okay,” he muttered before good-naturedly swatting at the mouth sucking on his ear. “Quit slobberin’ all over me, will ya?”
The blinding bright smile that greeted his acquiescent caused the fist of emotion holding his heart hostage to tighten that much more. God, he was going to miss that smile.
“Thanks, babe,” Tony said as they headed back toward his apartment. “I don’t care what Jethro said about you being too old and decrepit now that you’re retired. I knew you could handle the job.”
Grabbing not one but two boxes, Jack glared in the direction of the spare bedroom where Jethro was currently packing the last of Tony’s extensive movie collection. “Too old? I’ll show you too old.” He stomped out the door and strode toward the U-haul like he was carrying nothing heavier than a feather. It wasn’t until he was sure he was out of sight that he let go of the first box with a muted groan of relief.
“Shit, what’s in these? Bricks?” Praying there hadn’t been anything breakable in the box he’d dumped, he hurriedly sidestepped it and carried the remaining one to the waiting trailer. He was on his way back but stopped short when he found his grinning lover standing next to the abandoned box. “If you know what’s good for you, you’ll wipe that grin off your face,” he warned.
Jethro set his noticeably larger carton on the ground next to Jack’s. “And if I don’t?” he countered with another shit-eating grin.
“I’ll wipe it off for you,” Jack answered.
“Bring it on, Space Jockey.”
Disregarding his aching back and knees, Jack tackled Jethro to the ground and expertly carried through on his threat. He was still in the process of reprimanding one pair of impudent lips when a rather loud, disgusted snort interrupted him.
“Come on, guys. You just finished fucking your brains out not one hour ago. Can’t you put a lid on it until we finish?” Tony lightly slapped the back of Jack’s head before clambering over them. “And you complain about me and Teal'c fucking all the time. Jesus Pete.”
Jack threw an arm around Jethro’s shoulders once his man was sitting bedside him on the ground. “I’m beginning to think I won’t miss him as much as I thought I would.” He rubbed a hand up and down a back that was suddenly as rigid as steel. “Sure as hell won’t miss that sassy mouth of his.”
Captured by the sexy sway of Tony’s lean hips, it was several seconds before he realized Jethro hadn’t uttered a word. Tilting his head to the side, he closely examined his silent lover and discovered such a look of inconsolable longing that it nearly broke his heart.
“Jethro,” he whispered, “it’s not like you’re never gonna see him again. We’ll visit often, I promise.” Uninterrupted silence was his only answer, and Jack quickly bestowed an understanding kiss on the tightly clenched jaw digging into his shoulder. “I’m gonna miss him, too, despite all that crap I just spouted.”
Without warning Jethro turned and grabbed him by the arms. Jack grunted in pain when his arthritic back hit the hard dirt. Opening his mouth to complain about the rough handling, he snapped it shut the second he caught sight of Jethro’s eyes. His man was suffering in the worst way, and there was nothing he could do or say that would ease the pain of losing the youngest member of their foursome. Holding his peace, he willingly submitted to the desperate kisses stealing the air from his lungs.
Clearly they weren’t actually losing Tony, but damn, it sure as hell felt like they were. What made it even worse was the fact that Jethro, more so than himself, was having a hard time adjusting to the new dynamics of their relationship. This bothered Jack on a level he wasn’t quite ready to examine, and therefore, he ignored it.
Opening his eyes briefly, he glanced at Jethro. As predicted, his lover had been beyond pissed when informed of the President’s decision to deny Teal'c’s request to relocate. Deciding it would be best to present the news in person, he’d grabbed a seat on a military transport loaded with a contingent of Marines headed for Iraq. He’d reached D.C. during the wee hours of the morning and was somewhat hurt, not to mention surprised, when Jethro left his weary ass standing in the kitchen with an ice cold beer in one hand and a hot Philly cheese sandwich in the other. By the time he got rid of his early breakfast and made it to the back door, all that remained to be seen of Jethro’s SUV were its red tail lights fading into the darkness. Two hours had passed when the distinctive sounds of destruction coming from Jethro’s workshop alerted him to his man’s return. He’d raced across the yard and stood in the shop’s doorway, his mouth hanging open in utter disbelief.
Jethro was destroying his beloved boat.
Wisely, he did nothing to halt the destruction. He’d taken a seat on a nearby bench and silently watched as blow after blow of a never before seen sledgehammer slammed into the boat’s defenseless hull. Once the vessel was beyond demolished, he carefully pried the sledgehammer free and held Jethro in his arms until the man’s anger gave way to exhaustion. It had been one of the longest nights of his life.
Returning his thoughts to the matter at hand, he ripped his mouth free and sucked in a breath of much needed air. “We’re gonna get through this. I promise.”
Jethro’s answer was to roll off him, leaving Jack staring at the cloudless sky above. It had only been a week since the official start of his retirement and already he was wondering how he and Jethro were going to survive each other without Tony as their personal buffer. Jethro wasn’t the most talkative person on a good day. With Tony moving to Colorado, his lover had shut down, closed off in a major way. So much so that it was seriously beginning to worry him.
Jack heaved a heavy sigh. Obviously his mind was ready to face the problem even if his heart wasn’t.
Okay, he loved Jethro, that went without saying. Another undisputable fact was that Jethro loved Tony. Now, he was pretty sure that love didn’t exceed the love Jethro had for him, but it was a close second, a damn close second. In fact, he fully believed Jethro would have no problem moving on with Tony if for some reason he was eliminated from the picture. That particular truth didn’t exactly sit well with him, but what could he do? Jethro loved Tony, plain and simple.
And *that* was the entire crux of the problem. Tony was leaving them, leaving Jethro. Moving to Colorado to be with Teal'c, not them, not Jethro. It had to hurt. Hell, he knew it hurt. Hurt like being hit in the heart by a fucking staff weapon. How did someone recover from that?
Jack shifted his gaze to Jethro. “Hey, tell you what,” he offered impulsively. “Tonight I’ll get on the horn with Hammond and see if there are any military flights to Colorado scheduled for next weekend. We can postpone that fishing trip I had planned for the two of us and instead, go see our boys. Is that soon enough?” Taking the hand extended to him, he allowed Jethro to pull him to his feet. A quick nod of the head and squeeze of his fingers told him his proposal had been duly noted and accepted. “Okay, then. That’s settled. Gratuitous sex instead of smelly fish. Sounds like a perfect trade, if you ask me.”
Hiding his own disappointment -- that of saying good-bye to both Tony *and* the fishing trip to end all fishing trips, he leaned over to collect the box he’d dropped earlier. Before his hands could connect with it, he was spun around and thoroughly kissed.
“I know what you’re doing and . . . .” Staring straight at him, Jethro smiled then lowered his voice to a husky whisper. “I love you, Jack O'Neill.”
“Yeah, well . . . .” Jack acknowledged the sentiment by briefly touching his forehead to that of Jethro’s. “Same here, Devil Dog.”
“I swear if you guys don’t stop sucking face, I’m gonna call Teal'c and have him read you the riot act.” Tony shoved Jethro’s box at him. “There’s still several in the living room. Once we get those loaded, we can head over to the storage unit I’ve been renting and collect the rest of my stuff.”
“Did he say, the ‘rest of his stuff?’” Groaning at the thought of more back-breaking work, Jack turned to his lover, and, as it had been for the last couple of days, found Jethro staring after Tony as if it were for the very last time.
“Hey.” He tapped his man on the arm. “Why don’t you go grab us some water while I start hauling those boxes outside. Tony looks like he could do with something wet and cold.”
Frowning with concern, he watched as Jethro literally tore his gaze from Tony’s retreating form. He understood the pain his man was feeling. It was the same pain clawing at his own heart. “I know it won’t change things but . . . .” Instead of heading inside as promised, he slipped around to the back of the apartment complex and pulled out his cellphone. He dialed a number known only to himself and three others.
“This is Teal'c. State your business.”
Jack grinned. “Can’t you say hello like everybody else,” he questioned his dark-skinned lover.
“You have interrupted my hour of meditation, O'Neill. Do you have a matter of importance to discuss or are you calling to once again protest the excessive amount of physical labor my mate is forcing you to endure?”
Unconsciously, Jack straightened his back and puffed out his chest. “I’ll have you know I’ve carried more than my share of boxes. So there.”
“And why have you carried more than your share? Is your mate not also assisting?”
He rubbed a hand over his face. “Well, you see, that’s why I’m calling. Jethro’s having a bit of a problem concentrating on the task at hand.”
“And why is that?” Teal'c inquired.
“Teal'c, you know I wouldn’t ask this, but,” Jack spared a second to sneak a peek around the corner of the building. “Look, Jethro’s all tied up in knots over Tony leaving and . . . .” Bracing his back against the sun-baked brick wall, he took a moment to gather his thoughts. His idea was somewhat asinine, but what the hell. If it made Jethro happy, that’s all that mattered.
“Look, I know Tony’s your mate and Jethro’s mine, but do you think . . . .” He took a deep breath before rushing out his next words. “Woulditbeokayforthefourofustogetmarried?”
Crossing his fingers, he waited out the silence that followed his insane request. It extended way beyond the limits of his patience, leading him to actually check his phone to make sure Teal'c hadn’t broken the connection.
“Yo, Teal'c? You still there?” Jack again glanced around the corner of the building. He jerked his head back when he saw Tony looking in his direction. “Come on, buddy. Time’s a wastin.’ Yay or nay. Can Jethro marry Tony? Me marry you and vice versa?”
“Please, Teal'c,” he unashamedly begged. “My man’s hurting big time. Hurtin’ ‘cause he thinks he’s losing Tony for good. I know that’s not the case but try explaining that to one stubborn Marine.” He glanced down at the commitment band Jethro had placed on his left wrist months ago. “We care for each other big time, right? Let’s make it official.” A rueful smile slipped out. “Well, as official as official can be considering there’s not a single state in the Union that recognizes four guys tying the knot.”
Another quick peek revealed a now angry-looking Tony standing in the same spot as earlier. “Whaddaya say, Teal'c?” he asked again. “It’ll mean the world to Jethro. You know how much he loves Tony. And you, too, of course,” he hurriedly added. “Say it’s okay, please? I don’t like seeing him this way. It hurts, man, really hurts.”
Jack snapped his mouth shut before confessing exactly why Jethro’s tormented fixation on Tony leaving hurt him so much. This wasn’t about him. It was about his lover.
“Jack? What in God’s name are you doing back there?”
Tony’s voice had him racing toward the other side of the building, and he narrowly missed colliding with the meter man rounding the corner at the same time he was. Hidden from sight again, he tucked the phone beneath his ear then leaned over and balanced his hands on his knees. “Come on, Teal'c,” he urged between sucking in several deep breaths. “I really need an answer.”
“Who are you talking to?”
Jack glanced over his shoulder and discovered Tony standing directly behind him. “Just checking the forecast,” he lied. “If it’s going to start raining soon, we need to---”Before he could finish his statement Tony had snatched the cellphone from his hand. “Hey, give that back!” he demanded.
Tony, of course, disobeyed the direct order. Holding the phone to his mouth, he loudly stated, “I don’t care who this is, but Jack is a busy boy right now and cannot come out to play. If you have a prob--- Teal'c? Lovebuns, is that you?”
Moving a few steps away, Tony cradled the phone against his ear and softly crooned, “Miss you, Big Guy. Miss you so much, the second I get my hands on that delectable body of yours I’m gonna---huh?” Tony glanced sideways, his expressive eyes going wide. “Excuse me? Did I hear you right? You want us to---what?”
Blatantly eavesdropping, Jack moved closer. Tony caught him in the act and turned his back on him.
“Yes, Teal'c,” he continued, “you know I love him. I love ‘em both.” Tony nodded his head. “Uh huh. It would prove that, without a doubt. But, Sweetness, is this something you want to do or did Jack talk you into it?”
Tony turned, allowing Jack to finally see the anguish clouding his beautiful eyes.
“I know Jethro’s hurting,” he gruffly confessed to both his lovers. “I’m hurting, too. In fact, to be honest, I don’t know how I’m gonna handle not seeing Jethro at work every day.”
Sensing Tony was about to give into the emotions threatening his control, Jack pulled him into his arms and squeezed the back of his neck while soothing his forehead with a gentle kiss. “We’re gonna get through this,” he murmured to him, repeating the words he’d spoken earlier to Jethro.
Tony acknowledged his promise with a nod. He then returned the kiss offered to him before resuming his conversation with Teal'c. “Yeah, Jack is still here. Yeah, that’s him you hear kissing me.”
Tony brushed his fingers along the curve of Jack’s cheek, smiling crookedly when one finger was captured and playfully nipped. “Okay, tell me again. Tell me you’re good with this. Tell me this won’t change what we have. If there’s a chance, even a remote chance, then I say, thanks but no thanks. I love you, Big Guy, and there’s no way in hell I’d jeopardize our relationship. Not even for Jethro, believe it or not.”
Jack was caught by surprise when Tony leaned forward and licked at the sweat beading in the hollow at the base of his throat. The unexpected caress was repeated, and he couldn’t help but moan in response. Damn, he was gonna miss moments like this.
Of course, there were a whole lot more he was going to miss -- like Tony cuddling with him and Jethro on the couch eating popcorn and watching some old black and white movie. Or Tony bumping butts with the two of them in the kitchen as they tried, unsuccessfully, to duplicate one of Rachel Ray’s ‘30 minutes or less’ meals. Or better yet -- Jack grinned -- Tony blowing both him and Jethro as they soaked in the new jacuzzi after a hard day’s work on the new boat.
Oh yeah. He was definitely going to miss moments like that.
“Say it again, Big Guy. I didn’t hear you.”
The evil smile taking shape on Tony’s face halted all wandering thoughts. Jack recognized that smile. It meant trouble, trouble for him and him only. “What?” he worriedly asked. “What’s Teal'c saying?”
Tony pulled free and walked in a circle, critically eyeing him up and down. “Yeah, I agree. But not white. Jack is definitely not virgin material.”
Jack grabbed his phone back and yelled at his soon-to-be ex-friend and ex-lover. “I am NOT wearing a wedding gown! Put that thought right out of your head this instant, you hear?” He eyed the smirking man next to him. Tony was pretending to be a bride walking down the aisle. “Ya think? Seriously, if you want my opinion, Tony’s got the better figure of the two. Jethro’s all bone and muscle. Tony’s got curves. He’d look much better in a gown. In fact, I’d go as far to say he’d . . . Quit that!”
Jack put Tony in a headlock to keep him from snatching the phone out of his hand a second time. “Well, that’s something you and he will have to decide,” he answered Teal'c. “Me and Jethro will either wear our dress uniforms or tuxes. I’ll have to check with him and see what he says.” His smile slipped into a frown. “No, I don’t think it will cause a fashion faux pas if we’re not all dressed in robes. Yes, it would be more comfortable, but . . . huh?” He swallowed the lump of lust that suddenly threatened to choke him. “Yeah, I’m listening, and yeah, I agree it would be sexy as hell knowing Jethro was butt-naked under his robe, but, Teal'c, it ain’t happening. Listen to my voice, Big Guy. IT AIN’T HAPPENIN.’ Ya hear me? Everybody’s wearing clothes and that means underwear. Are we clear on this? No dicks waving in the wind. Not yours, not Tony’s. Nobody’s. Okay? Well, that’s just tough. Take it up with Jethro. He’ll say the same thing.”
Rolling his eyes, Jack let go of Tony so that he could make the ‘blah, blah, talk-all-you-want, ‘cause I ain’t listening’ sign with his hand. Teal'c wanted them to all wear desert robes for the ceremony. No way in hell was he standing before God and friends in a scratchy old robe wearing absolutely nothing underneath. Be his luck some rogue wind would appear, snatch up their robes and expose their Johnson’s to everyone.
“Teal'c! Would you quit with the robes? Me and Jethro are wearing suits. End of discussion.”
He handed his phone to Tony. “See if you can talk some sense into that thick skull of his, will ya?”
Tony stared at him with a strange look on his face. “Teal'c wants us to wear robes? Wear robes and nothing else?” He glanced down at the phone he held in his hand. “You know, Jack, I had this dream and in that dream me and Teal'c were wear---”
Jack didn’t wait around to hear the rest of the story. He wasn’t doing it. No way, no how. “Comedians,” he muttered. “I’m surrounded by fucking comedians.”
Catching sight of his impatiently waiting lover, Jack hustled forward. He figured if they hurried there’d be just enough time left for him to rustle up a romantic dinner for three. There were steaks in the fridge, not to mention he was sure he’d seen a bottle of red wine lurking somewhere in the depths of Jethro’s pantry.
He rubbed his hands together. That was the ticket. He’d wine and dine Jethro and Tony, then officially propose. Hell, he’d even go as far as getting Teal'c on the speakerphone so that he could make it an honest-to-God proposal to all.
Kneeling down for another box, he grabbed at his aching knees and wondered if his lovers would hold it against him if he proposed standing up.
Of course not.
He was Jack O'Neill, the man of
~ Introductions, the end ~