Summary: Daniel is a struggling artist and Jack is a struggling diplomat. Together they experience the history-making year of 1968 in Paris
Everyone to the barricades
On New Year's Eve 1967, Charles De Gaulle, the 78-year-old president of France, broadcast his annual message to the nation. "I greet the year 1968 with serenity,' he announced, brimming with self-satisfaction. "It is impossible to see how France today could be paralysed by crisis as she has been in the past."
Little did he know... Six months later, De Gaulle was fighting for his political life and the French capital was paralysed after weeks of student riots followed by a sudden general strike. France's journey from 'serenity' to near revolution in the first few weeks of May is the defining event of '1968', a year in which mass protest erupted across the globe, from Paris to Prague, Mexico City to Madrid, Chicago to London.
Sean O'Hagan – The Observer 20 January 2008
Jack O'Neill strolled along the hallway and blew out a breath of reluctance. Here he was, in his dress uniform and wishing he were in his blue jeans, old cotton shirt and dangling his fishing line from the wooden pier adjacent to his cabin in the Minnesota woods. He was on his way to a function, constrained by his uniform and a tie half choking him instead.
His footfalls went unnoticed by the landscapes and portraits decorating the long wide hallway. The smart red and blue carpet with its muffling pile saw to that. At the end of the hall, Jack could hear the clinking of glasses and occasional loud laughs breaking through the general murmur of voices.
He stopped for a moment at a large gold framed mirror and pulled at his tie. He'd give anything not to have to wear it but this was the American Embassy in Paris and he had standards to maintain.
Jack had been posted to the American Embassy eleven months before and it seemed to him that the Ambassador and his wife spent most of their time throwing parties, hosting receptions and generally having a good time. Jack was senior military air attaché and even now, he was trying to figure out what that meant.
A shriek of female laughter grated at his brain and made him shudder. That was his clarion call to be in attendance. He couldn't put off his appearance at this reception any longer, so straightening his jacket and giving one last resentful tug at his tie, Jack headed to the end of the hallway and a pair of large white double doors flanked by two uniformed and stiffly formal Marines acting as ceremonial guard to the Ambassador's soirée.
"Good evening, Ambassador Kinsey," Jack said and tried to suppress his dislike for the man.
Kinsey smiled except it didn't quite reach his eyes. Patting Jack on the arm, his cigar still between his fingers, Kinsey turned to his nearest guest. "Colonel, this is General Idriss Abdoulaye from the Republic of Chad. Chad was a French colony until a few years ago."
A large black man in an ornate military uniform inclined his head. Jack held out his hand to shake and General Abdoulaye reciprocated.
"A colonel?" the African enquired.
"I'm Colonel Jack O'Neil of the U.S. Air Force, sir. I'm with the Ambassador's Defence Attaché's office."
"Really?" Abdoulaye enquired with interest. "Then you and I have a lot in common," he said in an African-French accent.
"Possibly," Jack replied guardedly, his cynical tone barely disguised. He couldn't see how they would share any common ground at all except in terms of seeing action. Even so, Jack saw a tin pot military dictator in waiting. He wondered why the man was one of Kinsey's guests. It didn't take him long to figure. Kinsey was a tin pot dictator as well.
Jack sighed half-heartedly. Why was he, Jack, such a cynical bastard? He knew why. He'd seen it all before. Most people were on the make and he didn't doubt the African general was one of them. They gravitated to others who were also on the make, or the take, or who had contacts, and there were men who had control of those who did.
Jack looked at Robert Kinsey again. Convinced the man had his fingers in a lot of pies, or were they quiches given he was in France, Jack knew that was why he really didn't like Kinsey.
"Colonel O'Neill," a woman's voice sounded. "I hope you're enjoying this evening."
"Mrs. Kinsey," Jack acknowledged and for once, he was relieved to see her.
"Have you seen the number of artists frequenting the Left Bank, colonel?"
Jack had noticed how she never bothered with logical segue ways, she just seemed to vocalise whatever piece of trivia was bouncing around in her head.
"No, ma'am I haven't," Jack replied and began to wonder if he were in some kind of twilight zone.
"Well there are," she grinned, her strong perfume almost making Jack's eyes water.
Ambassador Kinsey smiled indulgently. "My wife is a keen art collector, General Abdoulaye. She's having a great time in Paris."
Abdoulaye smiled and nodded but as with Kinsey, the smile didn't quite reach his eyes. Jack's gaze moved between the two men. They both looked like sharp political operators and Jack wished he could have nothing to do with them, Kinsey because he was ambitious and insincere and Abdoulaye because Jack sensed he was cooking up something with Kinsey stirring the pot.
"Yes, Bob, and I'm expecting you to take me to that quaint little gallery in the Latin Quarter tomorrow morning," Mrs. Kinsey laughed coquettishly.
"I'm afraid I can't, dear. Duty calls you know but I'm sure our colonel here will do the honours."
Jack was Air Attaché, not tour guide! "Of course, sir," he said through gritted teeth. If a trip to an arty quarter of the city meant he could get out from under then so be it. With any luck, Mrs. Kinsey would drop him off at a bar on the way to a shopping spree afterwards.
For the rest of the evening, Jack did his best to avoid General Abdoulaye from the Republic of Chad as well as Ambassador Kinsey. For a while, Mrs. Kinsey, wanting to discuss the time of her trip to the art gallery, hounded him until he finally agreed the arrangements and then finding a corner of the reception room, had to satisfy himself with a glass of orange juice. Shame he was on duty. He'd much rather have a large glass of whisky.
Jack got to thinking how he'd washed up at the American Embassy in Paris. It was a chain of accidents really. He was based with NORAD in Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado until his child killed himself with Jack's gun. It was an accident but that didn't lighten the load for Jack. Instead, he descended into a quagmire of guilt, regret and loss. He and Sara had stopped communicating. No, that wasn't accurate. He had stopped communicating and as a result, she'd left him.
Jack smiled as he thought. That wasn't an accident. He and Sara were drifting apart before Charlie died and Jack still felt responsible...for everything.
Some commanding officer somewhere decided it would be good for Jack to get away, to start afresh and details of two postings were delivered to him at home. The first was to Washington DC and the Pentagon, the other was Air Attaché in Paris. Jack couldn't decide. At the time, he found it hard to remember his name. With the two letters in one hand, and a bottle of booze in the other, Jack made a decision. It was easy. He just threw the letters up in the air and whichever one landed face up on the carpet would be the one he would choose. As it turned out, the DC posting slid under the sofa and the Paris job settled upwards propped against the wall.
That was eleven months ago. Fifteen months after Sara had left him, and eighteen months after Charlie had died. Jack glanced idly across the room to observe the Ambassador's reception guests. There was a mixture of military types like General Abdoulaye, intellectuals, American businessmen and their wives or girlfriends or nieces or someone. It was like looking at a little slice of America. Jack looked away. Kinsey was working the room, playing politics, making contacts, doing all the things that diplomats did, plus some.
Being a military attaché wasn't as difficult as Jack thought it would be. The hours were short and the money was good though Jack had already decided one thing about his future. This posting was for fifteen months and he'd already done eleven months. After he'd finished his commitment at the end of March 1968 Jack was going to retire to his cabin in the woods and duck out of society all together. Only five months to go. He was counting down.
Of course, there was another way of ducking out of society and he'd already considered that but then he'd got the orders with two choices. He'd put down his gun and opened the letters. It had been a close call.
So here he was, feeling like a fish out of diplomatic water. Jack's job as Air Attaché relied heavily on his diplomatic skills, of which he would readily admit he had few. He didn't like and didn't understand diplomacy double speak. It confused him.
Jack sat in an Embassy limo and tried to ignore Mrs. Kinsey's prattling narrative as they moved away from the junction of Avenue Gabriel and the Place de la Concorde on their way to the Latin Quarter.
They rounded the Place de la Concorde and drove alongside the River Seine, then turned to cross it over the Pont Royal. It was November and cold. The river looked sluggish and grey. Jack knew he would be glad of his long blue overcoat. Mrs. Kinsey was dressed in a very expensive fur coat, a perky blue pillbox hat and large pearl earrings. Jack hoped the journey wouldn't take too long. Her perfume tasted like putrid flowers. The car travelled along the riverside for some way and turned right into Rue Saint Jacques. At some point, they turned off deeper into the Latin Quarter. Jack wasn't sure he could even find the area again. The streets narrowed and after a few turns the driver drew up and parked on the street opposite a large church, the Place Sainte-Geneviève flanked by the church on one side and a row of tall quaint houses on the other.
Mrs. Kinsey gathered her fur around her and stepped neatly out of the limo, taking the hand of her driver for effect. Jack rolled out of the car and stood behind her, wishing he wasn't there.
"Over there," Mrs. Kinsey said pointing a gloved finger to a row of houses at an odd angle to the road and the church.
Jack strolled just off her right shoulder and tried to tune out her chatter about the gallery, its artists and how excited she was to get a view of up and coming young painters.
"I bet," whispered Jack under his breath. He could imagine her sliding off her fur coat for some desperate young artist looking for a sugar mommy.
After a few strides, Jack found himself standing outside the Galerie Émile. Mrs. Kinsey was already looking at the paintings displayed in the window.
Jack's gaze skimmed over the frontage of the gallery. From the outside, it didn't look anything very special. The dark green paint around the large window frames had seen better days and in general, the façade looked grimy. It didn't seem to put off Mrs. Kinsey though. She was almost ecstatic as she stood on the sidewalk studying the paintings in the window.
Jack hoped she would be quick. He wanted to be in a bar and studying a liquid lunch.
"Shall we go in, colonel?" she said and Jack knew her question was merely rhetorical. She would be entering the gallery whatever.
A little bell tinkled as the Ambassador's wife pushed open the door. Jack followed and narrowed his eyes in the gloom. For a place displaying a so-called feast for the eyes, the lighting was terrible.
As Mrs. Kinsey perused the paintings nearest the door, Jack scanned the back of the shop. To him, it was a shop. Back home, art galleries were light and airy, not like this small dingy backstreet version. For Jack, this was a shop selling dark dingy paintings. He couldn't understand why Mrs. Kinsey would want to visit such a place. The only reason he could think of, was that she was hoping for a bargain.
Towards the back, Jack saw an elderly woman in animated conversation with a young man. Jack could see her face but not the man's. He had his back to the gallery entrance. He had several canvases under his arm and the old woman was gesticulating at three others arranged side by side on the floor propped against the wall.
The woman was tiny, like an elderly bird, her sunken eyes decorated with bright blue makeup, her thin wrinkly lips made bigger and more lush by a generous swipe of bright red lipstick. Her nose was curved like a beak, her thinning hair cut short in that way the French had – namely with style.
As small as she was, her personality was huge and the man talking to her, as tall as he was, struggled to assert himself.
Jack watched the exchange with interest. Clearly, the man was trying to interest Madame Galerie Émile in taking his paintings and she seemed to be having none of it. She was looking at the three on the floor and vigorously shaking her tiny head. He, with his free hand, was trying to explain his pictures.
Jack looked at the paintings. They were all of the same subject, a dark haired young woman with pouting lips and an expression of reverie. He stared hard at one of them. The woman draped herself languorously on a chaise longue, one foot on the floor, the other with knee bent and up on the upholstery. Her thighs were splayed and her right hand cupped her pubic mound. Jack could just make out dark curling wisps of pubic hair peeking out around the heel of her hand.
Jack took his time looking at that hand. The fingers were outstretched save the middle one. It was obvious as he studied the pose. She was masturbating. It made him swallow over a dry throat and mouth. He'd never seen anything quite as explicit before, at least not in a portrait in oils. Jack considered in these circumstances, the centrefold in a Playboy magazine didn't count. He looked at the young man, the artist, with new eyes. Whoever he was, Jack thought, he was prepared to show a woman's sexuality up close and personal. As far as Jack was concerned, it was artistic pornography.
Quickly Jack glanced at the others displayed for the elderly bird. They were engaging enough but rather 'commercial' for a gallery like this. The explicit one just made his eyes widen.
Jack looked at some of the other pictures on the walls. They were more abstract, more avant-garde than the paintings of the young woman, though Jack could see why she made such a good model. She was pretty and youthful. Jack wondered what his reaction would be if he'd met her at one of the Ambassador's receptions especially knowing how she'd modelled for that painting.
At last, the young man seemed to be making some progress with the elderly bird and she clucked her approval at one of his paintings. It was the one with the busy hand. With relief on his face, the man nodded, picking up the two rejects.
When the elderly bird spotted Mrs. Kinsey's concentrated interest in a large canvas with what Jack took to be randomly splattered colours of paint, she ignored the young man and tottered over to speak to her new and wealthy looking customer.
Jack continued to watch the man as he shuffled the canvases under his arm. He could see at least one canvas sliding precariously out of the man's grip. Quickly Jack narrowed the distance and helpfully caught the escaping picture before it hit the floor.
"I've got it," he announced holding it up.
"Huh? Oh thanks," the man replied distractedly.
"Aren't artists supposed to have portfolios for their work?" Jack enquired in a tone of friendly sarcasm.
The man stared at him for a moment as though his current train of thought had been interrupted. Jack could see the man's mind slowing down to take in Jack's comment.
"Ah, yeah, I guess so."
"You're an American!" Jack observed with pleasure. It was always good to meet a fellow compatriot who wasn't connected to the Embassy. Not that he'd met many.
The man gave a nervous smile. "Yes, to that as well I guess."
"Jack O'Neill," Jack said holding out his hand.
"Daniel Jackson," said Daniel, his attention on juggling his canvases so that he could free his hand.
Jack grinned. It was good to meet someone who was not on the make, on the take or working a room. This man, Daniel Jackson seemed genuine in a 'what you see is what you get' kind of way. There were no pretensions, no politicking, no disingenuous flattery. Jack prided himself on being a good judge of character. It seemed to him that Daniel Jackson was probably a nice guy.
Jack also took the opportunity for a very fast and surreptitious appraisal of him. He was tall, good looking in a quiet unassuming way and looked like he hadn't had a square meal for some time. Jack noted the threadbare jacket, the thin turtleneck sweater and paint speckles on his worn black shoes.
Struggling artist, Jack concluded.
"Colonel, what do you think?" Mrs. Kinsey was saying, "The blue one or the red one?"
Reluctantly, Jack withdrew his gaze from Daniel and turned away from him to look at whatever it was that Mrs. Kinsey wanted. She was glancing repeatedly between two abstract pictures, one with a blue theme the other in red.
"You're asking me, ma'am?" Jack replied. He was no art connoisseur.
"But I need some help to choose, and this lady doesn't speak English so I can't get any guidance from her," the Ambassador's wife whined.
The doorbell tinkled in time for Jack to see Daniel Jackson exit the gallery. He frowned. He would have liked a little longer to talk to Daniel and thanks to Mrs. Kinsey's insistence, he'd missed his chance.
Pausing for a moment, Jack was inspired. "What about this one?" he asked, pointing to Daniel's portrait of the explicit pretty, young woman. "I understand it's by an up and coming American artist," he added for effect. Jack had no idea if Daniel was up and coming but judging by his poverty-stricken appearance, he could do with the sale. He wondered if Mrs. Kinsey would actually notice the detail in the picture so stepped back and waited.
Mrs. Kinsey's lips parted and her eyes widened. "Really?" she checked, shifting her attention and her purse to Daniel's painting. "Well, if you think so." She smiled and nodded giving it just a cursory glance. "I'll take it."
Jack smiled back with a lopsided grin. Perhaps for a while, Daniel Jackson would be able to struggle a little less. It might make Ambassador Kinsey smile too.
Jack waited patiently for Mrs. Kinsey to conclude her purchase. Having been handed the painting now wrapped in brown paper, Jack carried it as he walked Mrs. Kinsey back to the Embassy limo.
"I have an appointment with Coco Chanel," she announced airily as she settled herself on the back seat. "Coco doesn't see many personal clients any more. I'm lucky she's prepared to give me an exclusive design."
"And I have an appointment with Jack Daniels," Jack replied trying to suppress his relief.
As the limo driver closed Mrs. Kinsey's door, Jack opened the front passenger door and placed Daniel's painting on the seat. The little stars and stripes flag flapped on the front of the hood as the car moved off.
Jack watched it glide away and turned to look at the art gallery once more, wondering how long it would be before Daniel Jackson got the payment for his picture. Jack walked along the street skirting the church and after a few steps, buttoned his coat and turned up the collar. The November wind was cold. How would Daniel Jackson fare against these winter temperatures?
Having left the church behind, Jack was now in search of a bar. It didn't take him long to find one, although the food smells from the diner next door persuaded him that a solid lunch was probably a better option than a liquid one.
Pushing open the door, Jack walked into a busy restaurant and couldn't see an empty table available. What he did see took his attention though. There was Daniel Jackson, his back against the mirrored wall, hunched over a very large coffee cup, and to Jack's relief, he was sitting alone.
"Mind if I join you?" Jack asked pulling out a chair.
Surprised, Daniel looked up. Blinking, he frowned.
"We met. Just now. At the art gallery," Jack explained.
"Oh yes, of course," Daniel nodded. "Please," he said and waved at the seat in which Jack was already sitting.
"So, you're an American," Jack reiterated looking for a conversation opener.
"Yes, you asked me that before," Daniel grinned.
"Yeah, I did," replied Jack with a steady gaze.
He made Daniel blink again.
At that moment, a waitress arrived to take Jack's order. "Deux cafés s'il vous plait," he said carefully.
"You speak French?" Daniel asked with enthusiasm.
"No," Jack said emphatically. "All I can do is order coffee and whisky." His international language skills on the subject of coffee and whisky spanned French, German, Spanish and Italian but that was it. Phrases like 'Can we make peace', 'You don't really wanna do that' and 'Please put down your gun', he left to an interpreter.
"You did want more coffee, right?" Jack checked as the waitress delivered his order to the man behind the counter.
"Well, um," Daniel began feeling in his pocket for change. If he bought a second cup, he would have to forego lunch.
Jack noted Daniel's hesitation. "My treat," he put in quickly. "I always reckon whoever orders pays."
Gratefully, Daniel nodded. He had just finished drinking his second coffee. A third one by midday was indeed a bonus.
Jack stared at Daniel from across the table. He had a defeated look about him. "You know, your paintings aren't bad but maybe you should think about trying other galleries." Jack wasn't convinced the elderly bird woman was all that interested in selling Daniel's work.
Daniel looked up. "I already have," he said quietly.
Daniel quirked his eyebrows in a rueful expression. "You suggest it, I've already tried it," he said wearily.
"And as somebody who knows nothing about this, I should mind my own business, right?"
Daniel rolled his lips inwards and raised his eyebrows again. 'You bet' was the unmistakable silent reply.
"So," Jack went on, trying again. "Which part of the States?"
"All over but I was born in Chicago and spent my vacations at my grandfather's cabin in the wilds of Minnesota."
"Nice," Daniel echoed.
"And what brings you to Paris, Daniel?"
It was like pulling teeth. "That's it? Art?"
"What can I say?" Daniel sighed. "I want to paint and Paris is as good a place as any."
"I wondered if you were a draft dodger."
"You know about the war, right? The one in Vietnam? I was wondering why you hadn't joined up."
"I could ask you the same," Daniel threw back.
"You flatter me, Daniel but I'm too old to be drafted. In any case, I'm already in the military."
"You are?" Daniel asked in surprise.
"Sure. You gotta problem with that?" asked Jack pugnaciously.
"So why aren't you in Vietnam?" Jack pressed.
"I failed the medical," Daniel said quietly.
"Eyesight?" Jack asked indicating Daniel's glasses.
It was Jack's turn to blink. Daniel's response was very emphatic. There must have been some other reason, flat feet, fallen arches something like that. "I'm sorry."
"I'm not," Daniel retorted and made it clear to Jack he didn't want to discuss it by lifting his coffee cup to cover his mouth, and staring pointedly at Jack over the rim.
A few moments passed in awkward silence before Jack spoke again. "Okay, so why not New York?"
Daniel shrugged as though the answer was obvious. "I wanted to be somewhere I could develop my ideas," he said.
"Which are?" prompted Jack.
Daniel frowned. "Why are you asking all these questions?" He sounded tense and suspicious.
Jack waved his hand dismissively. "Just interested, nothing more," he said. "I'll stop askin' if you like."
"Thanks," Daniel replied with a firm nod of his head.
Just then, a short, dark haired young man approached the table, sticking out a hand towards Daniel and then kissing him on both cheeks.
"Bonjour, Daniel, ça va?"
"Bien, merci," Daniel responded.
Jack glanced between the two men. The newcomer looked like a student, all hair and intellectual intensity. Daniel indicated he should sit.
"This is Skaara," he said and turning to Skaara, swept an open palm in Jack's direction. "Skaara, this is Jack, he's a fellow American."
"Ahhh," replied Skaara knowingly. "It is an invasion!"
"Hardly," Jack muttered into his coffee cup. "In any case, you don't sound very French."
Daniel threw him a disapproving look.
Skaara pushed the long dark curls out of his eyes and settled himself on the wooden chair, one foot up on the seat so that he could embrace his bent knee, the other leg dangling to the floor.
"Will you come tonight, Daniel?" Skaara enquired enthusiastically. He was hanging on Daniel's response, as if Daniel's agreement was key to some greater plan.
"Yes, of course," Daniel smiled.
Dropping both feet to the floor, Skaara flicked a guarded glance at Jack before lowering his voice and leaning forward. "The venue is changed, Daniel."
"Not the Sorbonne?" Daniel said in surprise.
"Non. Erec's apartment at Nanterre," Skaara whispered.
"Okay, I'll bring Sha're," Daniel added.
"Did you read his paper?"
"You mean Cohn-Bendit's?"
"Yes. I thought it was...interesting."
Skaara nodded. "Bien, I will see you tonight," and with a brighter more normal tone, grinned, "Au revoir, Daniel!"
Jack waited hopefully for an explanation to that rather odd exchange. Daniel went back to drinking his coffee, offering nothing more. Jack couldn't make Daniel out. He was quite sure there was a lot more to Daniel than he was letting on, and the less Daniel said, the more Jack wanted to know. Daniel intrigued him and he had to find a way to get Daniel to share.
"He seems friendly," observed Jack inclining his head towards Skaara who was, by now, in conversation with a knot of student types on the other side of the restaurant.
Daniel smiled. "Skaara? That's because we are friends."
"He looks...hopeful," began Jack.
Daniel looked up from his coffee. "Hopeful?"
"He looks as though he'd like to be more than just friends," Jack offered quietly.
Daniel choked on his coffee and then laughed. "Skaara? Absolutely not!"
Jack wheedled just a little more. "Not your type?
Now Daniel just looked annoyed. "Skaara is a student at the Sorbonne. He's also my wife's brother. He's my brother-in-law!"
Now it was Jack's turn to choke on his coffee. "You're married?"
"Why the tone of surprise, Jack?" Daniel asked, irritated.
"I just...I didn't think..."
"That I'm the type?" glared Daniel and shook his head. "You don't give up, do you?"
"You don't give up asking questions."
"I was just interested, is all," Jack replied in his best conciliatory voice.
Daniel frowned. Why would Jack be interested in him? He was just an ordinary man with a penchant for painting. He was nobody.
"Who's the girl in your paintings?" Jack asked trying to show some interest in what Daniel did rather than who he was. Jack knew he'd already shown too much curiosity in Daniel the man. He should shift the subject to Daniel the painter.
Daniel rolled his eyes. Jack really didn't give up. "She's my wife, Sha're."
"Is that a French name?" Jack pressed on.
Daniel let out an annoyed and frustrated breathe. "Her family is Egyptian. They've lived in Paris for some years. Now will you stop asking questions?"
Jack nodded. "Sure. After one more."
Daniel couldn't suppress a smile. "Okay. Just one more," he laughed warningly.
"Ever been to an Embassy reception?"
Jack and Daniel spent the next few hours talking, drinking coffee and eating. In fact, Daniel did most of the eating. Jack had eaten his fill but Daniel was still tucking in to the remnants of his coq au vin and mopping up the red wine gravy with slices of warm yeasty bread flavoured with rosemary. When he'd cleaned his plate, he sprinkled the rest of his bread with olive oil and ate that too.
"You haven't eaten in a while, have you, Daniel?" Jack smiled.
"Of course I have, just not anything hot with gravy," Daniel said around his last piece of bread.
"Want more?" Jack asked indulgently.
Daniel stopped mid-chew and thought about it. Shaking his head, he sat back in his seat. "Thanks, but no. Wow, that was good! Thanks, Jack. You've been very generous feeding a complete stranger."
"You're not a complete stranger, Daniel. I know where you went to school, what subjects you liked best and how old you were when you learned to ride a bicycle." Jack took a long look at Daniel. "Hardly a stranger."
Daniel patted his stomach with satisfaction. "Okay, not a stranger," he conceded then glanced at the restaurant's large wooden wall clock. "Hell! I have to go," he blurted getting out of his chair. "I'm sorry, Jack but I really do have to go. I've got to pick up Sha're and then we're going to Nanterre."
"Nan where?" queried Jack squinting at the check.
"The University of Paris at Nanterre. It's across the city and I don't want to be late. Thanks, Jack," Daniel smiled holding out his hand, "I had a good time."
Jack had one hand in his pocket, the other cupping his covered hand trying to pull out his loose change and some ten Franc notes. "Just a minute," he breathed getting frustrated at the intransigent change that wouldn't leave his pocket. His fingers and the coins were all caught up in the frayed lining of his trouser pocket.
"Thanks again, Jack," Daniel called over his shoulder. He was already heading for the door.
Jack watched him, dropping his cash into the saucer with the check. "Daniel! Wait!"
It was too late. Daniel was gone by the time Jack made the sidewalk. It was dark and even colder than earlier in the day. Jack hadn't realised the time. It was nearly six o'clock. He and Daniel had spent six hours together and it had felt like five minutes.
Frowning and annoyed, Jack looked up and down the street. Daniel was nowhere to be seen and he should get back to the Embassy. He was on duty at eight. His glance along the street didn't improve his mood. There wasn't a single cab in sight. Jack pulled his coat closer around him and started walking. He did not intend to trudge all the way back to the Embassy but just far enough to find a main street with a taxi.
It took Jack twenty minutes to get a ride and it was almost seven o'clock by the time he signed in at the Embassy. He was just about to press for the elevator when his commanding officer cornered him in the lobby.
"General Hammond, sir," Jack nodded and smiled. "I was just about to change for my duty shift."
"Good," Hammond grinned. "You've been gone all day. I was beginning to think you'd got lost."
"No, sir. I accompanied Mrs. Kinsey to an art gallery and then I thought I'd do some sightseeing," Jack said feeling sure Hammond was a mind reader and knew he'd spent all afternoon and some of the evening in a diner with a man.
Hammond was the senior Defence Attaché. He was the Ambassador's soldier in chief, the man who oversaw the activities of all the other attachés.
"Very good, colonel," he nodded. "I won't keep you but I'd like a word with you tomorrow morning."
"Yes, sir, of course, sir."
Jack made his way to his room and stripped, pulling at the shower lever as he stuffed his clothes into the hamper in the bathroom. He really had to find an apartment of his own then he could have friends to visit, maybe for a few hands of poker and some decent booze but he didn't know anyone he could invite, except for Daniel.
"I can't call him. I don't even know where he lives," Jack said to himself as he stepped under the shower water.
Soaping himself, he tried to think why it was so important to be able to contact Daniel.
Jack was ready, in his uniform but only half-awake. It was 7am and he was on his way to meet with General Hammond. He really didn't like back to back shifts. He'd finally finished up last night's stint at 4am and here he was, on duty again and doing his best to push the physical lethargy away. He was getting too old for this and the attraction of relaxing at his inherited Minnesota cabin was getting stronger. Maybe he'd get a dog...
"Take a seat, colonel," Hammond said when Jack presented himself.
Sitting, Jack scanned the folders and papers stacked neatly in piles on the general's desk. So, it was true. Desk jockeying meant a job drowning in paperwork.
"You're aware that resistance to the war in Vietnam is gaining momentum," Hammond began, "At home and abroad." This wasn't a question. It was a statement of fact.
"Yes, sir," Jack nodded and his mind flew back to the conversation he'd had with Daniel. It wasn't so much a conversation per se, more of a question met by a brick wall. It had been obvious by Daniel's tone that he didn't approve of the war even though he'd not actually said it outright.
"We have to be vigilant, Colonel O'Neill. There are individuals here in Paris who have a growing reputation for stirring up anti-American sentiments. We have to be on our guard and I've already recommended to the Ambassador that we increase security at the Embassy."
"You think it's as bad as that, sir?" Jack remembered Skaara, the young student type. He didn't look capable of stirring up a good stew let alone some kind of all out war on the U.S. Embassy.
"The C.I.A. has been very busy, colonel. We have to be ready to respond."
"I've got the International Attachés Liaison meeting scheduled for this afternoon, sir. It's our turn to host."
"Good. Find out what you can about how the other embassies see the issue. We need to know what they know," Hammond went on. "I know you're not going to get everything from them but any Intel we can get might prove useful. You have permission to share what we already know. I have your briefing papers here. You may allow the others at least this much information," he said and pushed a folder across his desk towards Jack.
Jack picked it up and glanced at the contents. "Daniel Cohn-Bendit," he said. "I've heard the name."
"He's known to be controversial in his views and extreme in his politics. I'm interested to learn how you know this name, colonel." This was not a question either. It was a clearly stated expectation that Jack would tell the general how he knew.
"I was in conversation with an artist, sir. He's an American from New York. His brother-in-law mentioned the name in connection with a meeting both he and the artist were planning to attend."
Hammond nodded slowly, considering what Jack had said. "Get yourself invited to the meeting, colonel."
"Too late, sir. It was last night."
Hammond pursed his lips. "This artist. Who is he?"
"The name's Daniel Jackson, sir."
"Find him, ingratiate yourself and learn what you can, colonel. I want to know if this Jackson is a threat to national and international security."
"Sir?" Jack was rather surprised at the order. He was in the service of the Embassy, his work was supposed to be of the diplomatic kind, not undercover intelligence gathering.
"You're well qualified for this kind of mission, Jack. You know the score. You've done it before. We need a breadth and depth of intelligence your International Attachés Liaison meeting isn't likely to give us. Find out what you can. It's important we keep this developing situation under surveillance. You understand, colonel?"
"Yes, sir," Jack nodded firmly, "Except...isn't this a job for the C.I.A.?"
Hammond permitted himself a slight smile. "They don't always share the details, colonel. We need to know from our own sources."
"Is this undercover, sir?"
"For the moment, just don't broadcast your military status."
"Might be a bit late for that, General Hammond," Jack replied remembering he'd already told Daniel he was a serving officer.
Hammond thought for a moment. "That could be a problem. You have enough expertise to make your own judgment call on this, Colonel O'Neill. You decide how you want to play it. I am not recommending deep cover, it's not appropriate now. Do the best you can given the circumstances, colonel."
"Yes, sir," Jack replied, his mind already beginning to formulate a plan.
"Good," Hammond said giving a single emphatic nod. "Dismissed."
Jack walked along the hallway, his briefing notes under his arm and thinking hard. Was Daniel connected to this Cohn-Bendit person? If he was, Jack wondered just how involved Daniel might be. Did Daniel know what was going on? Did he realise he could be getting into something he shouldn't, something that could be bad for him? Jack thought Daniel was an intelligent man. Surely, he must know he should leave well alone and not get involved. Maybe Daniel was just a little naïve, a little too ready to trust. Perhaps he was being sucked into something without even realising it.
Jack needed to find out exactly who this Daniel Cohn-Bendit guy was, what he was feeding his followers, just how influential he was. Jack thought he must be connected with either the Sorbonne or Nanterre. Skaara had mentioned both. He knew he had two avenues of inquiry to make, one about Daniel and one about Cohn-Bendit. He just hoped the two didn't converge.
"I've been authorised to share the Intelligence we currently have, gentlemen," Jack announced.
The six other military attachés around the table all looked up in surprise.
"This is a first, Jack," Lieutenant Colonel Mike Wakeham observed, his English accent telegraphing obvious cynicism regarding Jack's offer.
"C'mon, Mike, this is a time to care and share. The American Embassy is willing to tell you what it knows and in return, I'm hoping you'll echo the sentiment."
"This is a departure, indeed," Commandant Pierre Desmarais added, blinking at Jack.
Jack threw a searching glance around the rest of the table. "The rest of you guys feel the same?" he asked. The German and Italian attachés nodded, along with the Spanish and Greek representatives.
"Given your Embassy's past record of Intelligence sharing," Major Baecker the German Army Attaché put in stiffly, "I find this sudden change of direction difficult to understand, Colonel O'Neill."
Jack took a breath. "If there's a risk of significant protests brewing in the pot, major, I think we should share what we know, don'tcha think?" He glanced at the French government's liaison officer when he said it. If anyone would know what was going on, Pierre Desmarais would.
"And what guarantee do we have you will continue to keep us informed, colonel?" Mike Wakeham asked.
"Hey!" Jack exclaimed, "This is me you're talkin' to!"
"And you have your orders too, Jack," Wakeham threw back. "You might be willing as an individual but we all know we have superiors that can move the goal posts when it suits."
"C'mon, Mike, why can't you take my offer as it stands, at least for now," Jack said. "Any of our embassies could come under fire, you know that. I mean I hear there's likely to be a backlash in London over our activities in Vietnam. We'd share if we had anything new, Mike."
"But your country has a 'special' relationship with Great Britain, colonel. We don't all enjoy that kind of liberal attitude when it comes to sensitive intelligence," whined the Greek attaché.
"Look," Jack went on, attempting to keep his tone neutral but friendly. Really he just wanted to bang their heads together. "I'm offering what I've got here," he said picking up his briefing notes and waving them in the air. "What you see is what you get but I need this to be on a fair exchange basis. I'll show you mine if you show me yours. Can't say fairer than that."
"But what you do have will already be censored, colonel. You don't think we're naïve enough to believe you are offering absolutely everything you know," Baecker countered.
Jack threw him a look. Major Baecker was everything he'd expect to find in a German officer. He was stiffly formal and those pale blue eyes and white blond hair just added to the stereotype.
"Here, have a copy of my notes, take your time, read what's there and make your decision," Jack said gruffly sliding the notes across the table. "Here, there's a copy for everyone," he added throwing the rest of the papers into the centre of the table. "I think it's time for a break," he muttered.
"Colonel, it would be better if you didn't push them too hard," a man's voice said quietly in Jack's ear as he poured himself coffee. Jack turned to look at him. It was Major Paul Davis, liaison officer for the Pentagon who had been silently observing the meeting.
"It would be worth speaking to each officer in turn, sir. Establishing a personal rapport helps build trust."
"And my head aches," Jack growled. "If you wanna cosy up to these guys, you do that, major. I just don't understand why they won't give what they've got."
"No one gives up everything straightaway, sir," Davis smiled.
"Yeah, well," muttered Jack.
Jack reconvened the meeting in the vain hope that at least one of the attachés might offer up some useful information. To his utter surprise, the German attaché, Major Baecker cleared his throat.
"Cohn-Bendit is a German national, colonel."
"He is? That's great!" Jack replied with obvious enthusiasm.
Baecker drew himself up and looked down his nose. "You think being German equates to sedition and anarchy, colonel?" His eyes narrowed darkly.
"I'm sure Colonel O'Neill wasn't implying any negative implication by his comment, Major Baecker," Paul Davis put in quickly.
"I was trying to say," said Jack frowning at Davis, "That if Cohn-Bendit causes problems, he can be extradited. Not being French means he can be removed from the country."
There was a ripple of nods around the table.
The meeting went on for another thirty minutes and focused mainly on the reasons that would make extradition possible. Jack gave up trying to direct the agenda. He wasn't going to get anything more and what he'd learned so far the American Embassy already knew. He wasn't going to tell them that, of course, he knew it was one step at a time. If he showed some enthusiastic surprise at whatever was offered up even though he already knew it, maybe next time there might be something worth getting excited about.
As the meeting broke up, Commandant Desmarais placed his empty coffee cup back on the side table.
Jack sidled up to the Frenchman. "So, whaddya think, Pierre?"
"About what, colonel?" Desmarais returned with a slight grin.
Jack took a moment before pushing on. "The French government must know a lot about what's goin' on at Nanterre."
With satisfaction, Jack noted the flicker of recognition in Desmarais' eyes.
Then Desmarais hunched his shoulders, splayed his arms away from his sides with palms up and blew out a long breath between loosely parted lips. The gesture put Jack in mind of Maurice Chevalier in that movie Sara had dragged him to see. What was it? Oh yeah. Gigi. It was a typical French gesture but given by Desmarais it was neither endearing nor funny. It meant something else and Jack was working hard to understand what it was.
Desmarais saw Jack's frown and smiled. "Why don't you come to the Élysée Palace, colonel, for...cocktails."
"Cocktails?" Jack asked in surprise.
"Oui, tonight...cocktails," the Frenchman grinned.
A few hours later, Jack walked to the Élysée Palace, the seat of French government and the official residence of President De Gaulle. It wasn't very far from the American Embassy, just a matter of turning left out of the Embassy along the Rue Boissey d'Anglais to the much larger and busier Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré. Just a few hundreds yards further and Jack faced the Élysée Palace.
He stared up at the very tall but narrow entrance, barred by a pair of black painted ornate wrought iron gates at least twenty feet high situated in the huge beautifully crafted stone edifice of the wall that encircled the whole complex of the palace. A pair of large black metal lamps flanked the gates. A uniformed police officer stood guard and Jack suddenly wondered if he would even be allowed in.
Clearing his throat, he approached the police officer. "Colonel Jack O'Neill to see Commandant Pierre Desmarais." Jack took a breath. That was a mouthful. "He's expecting me," he added with a smile. He really didn't think the officer looking him up and down understood a word he'd said but he remained hopeful.
"Votre identité s'il vous plait, monsieur," the policeman said.
Even though Jack had been in Paris nearly a year, he still didn't speak much French but at least he could make out what the officer was asking and pulled his ID card from his pocket. The officer disappeared into a little booth beside the gate and lifted the phone. A few moments later, he reappeared.
"Entrez, monsieur. The commandant will meet you."
As the gates swung open thanks to a little button in the booth, Jack did as he was bid and entered. He could see an enormous rectangular square in front of him, the classical style buildings of the Élysée Palace on all four sides. The entrance was an integral part of the palace and it meant Jack first had to walk through a short high ceilinged tunnel in the outer wall.
The open space within the palace buildings was huge. There were a few stationary cars at one end. Jack thought it must be the most expensive parking lot in Paris. As he headed for the larger building at the head of the open space, he saw a lone figure descending the wide steps.
"Good evening, Colonel O'Neill," Commandant Desmarais said and held out his hand. Jack took it and after a cursory shake, walked beside the Frenchman into the Élysée Palace.
"Would you like something more pure than a cocktail, colonel?"
"Yeah," Jack breathed gratefully.
Desmarais nodded and reached for a bottle inside a small wooden cabinet.
"This is a very quiet cocktail party, Pierre. There's no one here except you and me."
"I thought you would appreciate some privacy, Jack."
"For what, Pierre?"
"A discussion about Daniel Cohn-Bendit and your friend Daniel Jackson."
Jack's face froze in an expression of impassiveness. It made Desmarais smile. "We know you spent some time with Jackson. You drank coffee and ate coq au vin. Jackson finished up the bread by sprinkling olive oil over it."
Jack relaxed his stance and looked down at his shoes for a moment. When he looked up, he was smiling. "You're good."
"It wasn't difficult information to garner, Jack. The restaurant was busy and we had two agents watching Jackson. You just happened to drop into their surveillance net. How do you know him?"
"I don't. I met him at an art gallery. He was trying to sell his paintings when the Ambassador's wife entered with me in tow."
Desmarais lifted his glass of cognac in salute. "You have been very candid, Jack. Thank you."
"So why were you watching Jackson?" Jack asked.
"He is a member of Cohn-Bendit's group."
"Are you sure? I mean Daniel's just a penniless artist who'd read a paper by him. That doesn't make Daniel a member of anything," Jack reasoned.
"Daniel Jackson does occasional translation work at the Sorbonne. He also frequents the Nanterre campus. He and several others meet regularly with Cohn-Bendit. They are more than passing individuals, Jack."
"So does this make him a threat to your national security, Pierre?"
"Not as yet but we're watching and waiting. I am thinking that perhaps you see him as a threat to your national security."
"Look, Pierre, I gotta tell ya this," Jack began and hoped he could trust the commandant. "I've got a mission of my own to check out Daniel Jackson. Are ya gonna let me do my job or follow me around and misunderstand what I'm doin'?"
Desmarais laughed softly. "Non, mon ami. We have always been honest with each other. I will tell my agents not to record your involvement with Mr. Jackson, though they will continue to watch him, along with the others I must add."
"Does that include his brother-in-law Skaara?"
Desmarais nodded his confirmation.
"Okay, message understood," said Jack draining his Jack Daniel's in one swallow. "Thanks, Pierre."
"You're welcome, Jack." Pierre's smile accentuated a small scar on his cheek.
Jack looked at Pierre and then nodded. He remembered another scar on Pierre's abdomen. Pierre had said those exact words months ago after he and Jack had shared a moment. It had meant nothing, was nothing but at the time, Jack had been grateful for the company when Pierre had offered it.
Desmarais gave Jack a piece of paper containing Daniel's address. "Don't allow yourself to be compromised, Jack."
Jack gave Pierre a meaningful look. "You too, Pierre.
Jack took in a grateful breath. The restaurant was warm and welcoming against the icy cold weather outside. He found an empty table and chose to sit with his back against the mirrored wall. That way he could observe everyone in the diner and those entering and leaving. He would wait for a few hours to see if Daniel showed. He wanted their meeting to look accidental. Calling him or visiting where he lived was too contrived, too deliberate. Jack was aiming for relaxed and unintentional.
While he drank his coffee, Jack's gaze moved unobtrusively from face to face. He was trying to identify Pierre's agents. It was a pointless exercise but it gave Jack something to do while he waited for his constructed 'chance' meeting with Daniel.
After thirty minutes, a young long-haired man entered the restaurant. It was Skaara. Jack watched him greet some people at a table nearby and then he moved on to yet another table, sitting down and speaking with a group of student types who were all eating.
When Skaara looked up, he saw Jack watching him. The young man acknowledged Jack and then got up from his seat and approached him.
"Bonjour, monsieur," Skaara smiled. "You are invading us again." He laughed. His comment was not meant as a criticism but as humorous banter.
Jack smiled in response. "It's only an invasion when there's more than one of us. Now, if Daniel were here, you could call it an invasion."
"Oh, he'll be here soon," said Skaara lightly. "Excusez-moi, my friends are calling." With that, Skaara returned to his seat.
So...Daniel was on his way. Jack sat back in his seat and thought about that. His mission was to gauge just how deep Daniel's involvement was with the Cohn-Bendit crowd. Pierre had already given him the heads up but Jack wanted to find out for himself. He also wanted to see Daniel again because he liked him.
Jack saw Daniel walk through the entrance to the restaurant. He made straight for Skaara and his group of friends. He smiled and nodded, shook hands and laughed.
Wondering if Daniel would notice him, Jack looked at his half-empty coffee cup. He didn't want to appear too eager. It would be better if he didn't draw Daniel's attention. He wanted Daniel to see him, unprompted. When Daniel sat down next to Skaara, Jack's stomach lurched. Daniel hadn't noticed him.
Jack stirred his coffee. He didn't take sugar but it was something to do. Glancing quickly in Daniel's direction, just a snatched glance, nothing more, Jack saw Skaara talking to Daniel but nodding in his direction. Jack held his breath and looked back at his coffee cup again.
"Mind if I join you?"
Jack smiled and then looked up.
"Skaara told me you were here," Daniel said. "Why?"
"Drinking coffee," Jack said holding up his cup. "Want one?"
Daniel sat down at Jack's table. "Thanks. So what brings you to this neck of the woods, Jack? I thought you spent your time near the Champs Élysées."
Jack ordered Daniel's coffee. "I've been shopping," he said.
"Oh? For what?"
"I think we've had this conversation before," Daniel laughed. "So what kind of art did you shop for?"
"A beautiful dark haired young woman, naked and reclining on a couch and enjoying her right hand."
Daniel blinked and flushed a little.
"Ring a bell?" Jack said with a serious expression. Really, he wanted to laugh at Daniel's response. He could hear Daniel's brain working, putting two and two together and realising it made four.
"Mine?" Daniel asked disbelievingly.
"Sure, why not?" Jack said nonchalantly and then drained his coffee cup.
"You bought one of my paintings?" Daniel asked again.
"Not me personally but I did recommend the purchase to somebody else."
"Why?" Daniel didn't understand why Jack would want to recommend someone else to buy one of his paintings. From the little Daniel knew about Jack, being an art connoisseur wasn't something that came to mind.
"I liked it," Jack replied.
Daniel sucked at his lower lip. "You liked it," he frowned. He found that hard to believe.
"Why are you so surprised, Daniel?"
"I just didn't think you'd be interested in an unknown artist with only a modicum of talent."
"A modicum?" Jack asked affronted by Daniel's self-effacing modesty.
"I know what it means, Daniel!"
"Sorry. I just thought..."
"Well don't. You're a good painter, Daniel. You should have more faith in your work."
"My work is very one sided."
"I try and produce what will sell but I paint other stuff that I know won't ever see the light of day," Daniel said and dropped his eyes to look at his coffee.
"You don't wanna know," Daniel said dismissively.
"Oh. There's Skaara just leaving," Daniel smiled and lifted a hand to wave in Skaara's direction.
"Don't change the subject, Daniel," Jack admonished.
"That obvious, huh?"
"Just a tad."
Daniel took a breath and paused for a moment. "What do you think the point of art is, Jack? What do you think its function is?"
Jack raised his eyes to the ceiling, hoping the answer would be posted on the yellowing plaster. "Producing pictures?" he answered lamely.
"And the point of those pictures?"
Jack thought hard. "To record what's out there?"
Jack vented his frustration. "I don't know, Daniel, tell me!"
"Art, as in plays, poetry, paintings, music has always been used for political expression. It's codified but the messages are clear if you look or listen closely enough but even so, only certain kinds of messages are allowed."
Jack frowned trying to understand Daniel's words. "So why are only certain messages allowed, by whom and why?" he asked.
"When was the last time you saw a painting of a naked man reclining on a couch and enjoying his right hand?"
Blinking, Jack's lips parted in surprise. "Err..."
"Exactly," Daniel nodded, his palm dropping onto the surface of the table with a loud slap. "It doesn't mean to say those pictures aren't painted, it just means the subject is too unacceptable to be seen."
"But these paintings are still created right? There's not a ban on painting them just on showing them," Jack surmised.
"Yeah, something like that."
"And you paint those kinds of paintings too?"
"I might," Daniel said carefully. How far could he go? How much could he tell Jack without Jack making a judgment about him? After all, a painting said as much about the painter as it did about the painter's subject.
Jack bit his lip. He wanted to say he'd like to see them but he couldn't. He was on a mission not a date.
"Wanna eat?" Jack said instead. Food was always friendly without an undercurrent.
"I can't, Jack. I must have eaten your last month's salary the last time."
"Don't be a dumbass, Daniel. We all have to eat."
"But man cannot live by bread alone," Daniel countered.
"I don't know why I said that," Daniel winced. "It just came out of nowhere. It doesn't mean anything. It's just a saying, right?" He shook his head as though attempting to clear his mind. The deepest part of him was trying to articulate his desires. Clamping his mouth shut, and for something to do, Daniel looked across at the counter where the waitress was collecting an order.
"C'mon, Daniel, take a look at the menu will ya!" Jack grinned dismissing Daniel's last comment. It was just the artist in him. Artists were always a little obscure in their thinking, a little flaky in their outlook.
Daniel turned his head back and caught Jack's brown eyes looking at him. Blinking he froze. The depth and colour of those eyes made his mouth go dry.
Jack saw Daniel looking and in an odd kind of way. Jack's eyes flicked to the menu and back again to Daniel. Daniel's eyes were so blue, so clear, so intense. He could see nothing else in his line of vision except Daniel's gaze. He was vaguely aware of the movement of other diners in his peripheral vision but they were only blurred figures hardly registering at the edge his conscious mind. The only thing that registered clearly was Daniel's eyes, slightly obscured by the lenses of his glasses but they just made his eyes seem larger, the dark pupils staring straight at him.
Jack cleared his throat and looked away, catching the eye of the waitress.
"Ready to order, Daniel?" Jack asked not daring to make eye contact with him. He made a show of studying the menu instead.
"Un plat du jour, s'il vous plait," Daniel said quickly. "What about you"
"Yeah, like he said," Jack smiled nodding at Daniel and flipping the menu closed. He hadn't got a clue what he'd just ordered.
While they waited, Jack wanted to know more about Daniel's other line of artwork. "Do you use models for the other kinds of paintings you do?"
"Models?" Daniel blinked rapidly and flushed yet again.
"You use your wife right? What about those other pictures. Do you use male models for those?"
"I don't know why you're so interested, Jack but no, I don't."
"Hard to find, I bet," Jack nodded thoughtfully.
"Partly that but it's also the cost."
"Models expect to be paid, Jack," Daniel snorted. "They don't do it for free."
"Unless you have an obliging wife," Jack suggested.
Daniel's eyebrows rose. "Well there is that."
"Perks of marriage, I guess," Jack grinned.
Just then the waitress swept into view carrying two large bowls. Having placed them on the table she hurried off to serve the next table. Jack peered at his food. The bowl was deep and about the size of a side plate. The top had a crust of bread and melted cheese and he wondered what was underneath it.
Jack waited for Daniel to start eating. At least that would give him an idea of how he was supposed to tackle the dish. Daniel picked up his spoon and plunged it into the centre of the bread and cheese crust. It broke up like the debris of a shipwreck to reveal a sea of dark gravy with diced red onions in it. Jack smiled. It was French onion soup.
It tasted delicious and Jack ate with gusto, except when he had to wrestle with the long strings of melted gruyere cheese that topped the toasted bread.
The next course arrived promptly and Jack looked at Daniel for an explanation. "Salted cod wrapped in ham," he said picking up his knife and fork.
The fish dish was good and Jack cleared his plate though he thought his stomach might explode with the final mouthful.
When they'd both finished eating the waitress cleared the table and asked for their choice of dessert. Daniel ordered coffee deciding a rest would be good before eating yet another plateful of food.
"I thought dessert could wait for a while, Jack, hope that's okay. I'm feeling rather full myself."
"Yeah, me too," Jack smiled and patted his stomach gently.
"I expect you get to eat much better food than this, with your Embassy receptions and everything. I'm afraid the Baton Rouge just serves everyday food."
"You're kidding, right? The Embassy serves American food. Nothing like this. I should get Mrs. Kinsey to try some. She might want to make a change to the menu for her next dinner party."
Daniel smiled. It was good that Jack approved of his favourite restaurant. For Daniel, though it was more than just a good restaurant. It was the hub of his social life too. It was where he could meet friends and get involved in heated political discussions. It was also a place for networking information about upcoming events and meetings.
"Do you ever bring your wife here?"
Daniel's train of thought squealed to a halt. "What?"
"Your wife. The woman in your paintings. Do you ever bring her here?"
"Oh, right. No. Well not very often. She works as a waitress in her father's bistro."
"So why don't you eat there?"
"It's on the edge of the Latin Quarter, whereas this is at the centre. This place is more convenient for whatever's going on," Daniel explained.
"Gotcha," Jack smiled.
Daniel sipped at his coffee.
"What's goin' on?"
"You said this place is more convenient for whatever's going on. So what is that exactly?"
"Debates, discussions, that kind of thing."
Jack nodded. "Debates about what?"
"This and that. Meaning of life stuff," Daniel said vaguely.
"Sounds...fascinating," Jack drawled and gave Daniel a lopsided grin.
"You're not being serious are you?"
Daniel rolled his eyes.
"Seems to me you can debate all you want but it doesn't change anything," Jack declared.
"Of course it does, Jack," replied Daniel. "Think about it. If there was a public debate about how society organises itself and whether there are better ways to do that, there might be a bit more equality and fairness going on in the world."
"You mean like being able to display your paintings of men..."
Daniel glanced to the next table and grabbed Jack's arm. "Shhh!"
"What?" Jack asked looking at the next table as well.
"Don't talk about it here. You could get me arrested."
"Yeah, you're right. Sorry."
"If you want to continue this debate why don't you come to a party tomorrow night? There'll be a whole crowd of us. You should come, you'd enjoy it. There's always plenty to talk about."
"What, Jack? Scared of an open debate? Worried someone will challenge your stance on the military?"
"That doesn't worry me," Jack said straightening up. "I've been in the service of my country all my adult life. I don't have a problem defending it."
"Good!" Daniel smiled. "Here," he went on sliding his paper napkin across the table. "Have you got a pen?"
"No," Jack said, "But she does."
The waitress returned to their table to take their order for dessert. When Daniel had decided for both of them, he borrowed her pencil and wrote down the address where the party was taking place.
"Try and make it, Jack. It would be good to see you."
"Thanks," Jack said taking the napkin. "Should I bring anything? Food? Drink?"
"Bring some wine if you like."
Jack grinned. "Okay, I'll do that."
"You might want to dress down a little."
Jack looked down at his black suit, thin black tie and white shirt. "What's wrong with this?"
"It's a bit...formal, Jack. You need to hang loose."
Jack frowned. What the hell was hanging loose and did that mean going commando?
Jack checked his appearance. He'd taken note of Daniel's advice to dress down though he was still trying to work out what hanging loose meant.
For the party, Jack was wearing a yellow Kashmir sweater with a white t-shirt underneath and a pair of black slacks. He looked at his brown sports jacket hanging over the back of a chair and wondered whether brown and black went together. He shook his head. No, they didn't. The trouble was, he only had two jackets and they were both brown.
The brown went with his sweater so maybe he should find a different pair of slacks. He only had black or blue. Sighing, he glanced between the pairs of slacks and then nodded to himself. He'd made a decision.
"I'll go as I am and forget wearing a jacket all together," he concluded aloud. Jack had been used to wearing a uniform most of his adult life. Either that or more recently, a suit. He knew he was behaving like an indecisive teenager, something that was completely out of character but he wanted to make a good impression on Daniel. He knew this wasn't a date, he was on a mission but even so, he should make the effort to look presentable.
Snagging his keys and wallet, and stuffing them into his back pocket, Jack was ready to go. He gripped the door handle and then stopped.
"Crap! Wine," he said and picked up the bottle that he'd left on the chair with his jacket.
As the taxi headed for the Latin Quarter, Jack watched the buildings slide by outside the window. Many were large with that particular look of classical design with columns and fancy façades.
He re-read the piece of paper Daniel had given him with the party address, 22 Rue Monsieur le Prince. Jack had shown the taxi driver in the hope that he knew how to find it. The driver had nodded and set the meter running.
When the taxi stopped in Rue Monsieur le Prince Jack got out, paid the driver and stared up at the building in front of him. It was number 20 and the house next door was number 28. Jack frowned and blinked staring at the two house numbers again. Either numbers 22 through 26 were missing or the houses were so thin he just couldn't see them.
Jack spun around. He was obviously missing something. He stared down the sloping street. It was narrow. He glanced across to the other houses. There were a few small shops with apartments above then he turned to look for number 22 again. There was an alleyway between 20 and 28. It wasn't more than a wide pathway. Looking upwards Jack could see an ornate curved stone archway spanning the alley. The wrought iron gate was open. Peering through the arch Jack spotted some houses whose sides were joined to the back of numbers 20 and 28. It was as if the original architect had wanted to build extra houses in this part of the street but there wasn't enough room to face them onto the Rue Monsieur le Prince, so he'd built the extra houses on the back, with the alley giving access to the additional properties.
Jack passed under the arch and stepped into a quiet courtyard, one house to his left, one to his right and one facing him. He smiled. They were numbered 22, 24 and 26.
Number 22 was on his right, tall and thin, some of its windows shuttered, others open. Standing at the front door, he looked for a bell, knocker or some kind of voice intercom. The only thing on the doorframe was the small metal number plate with a white 22 on a blue background. The door was ajar so Jack pushed it open a little further. He could hear the faint sounds of music and voices emanating from the upper floors.
Convinced this was the place, Jack took a step inside the house and listened again. The music and voices were louder now. He didn't know whether to leave the door wide open or close it properly. He was always security minded. In the end he pushed it almost closed, more or less in the same position he'd found it.
There was a flight of stairs in front of him on the right side of the doorway and to his left a room with an open door. Carefully, Jack peered into the room. It had a collection of beds in it, with bedding awry and unmade. "Bedroom," he observed and moved further into the house. The narrow hallway kinked to the left around the side of the stairs and led to the back of the house.
Jack's eyes narrowed as he moved along the dim hallway. The door in front of him was also open. Jack peeked and concluded it was used as junk storage. There were at least six bicycles leaning one on the other against a wall. On another wall, an empty wardrobe stood at a drunken angle and minus a door. There were piles of newspapers and magazines tied with string, several pairs of shoes and some storage boxes. There was a sink against the back wall.
So far, the house looked untidy and unloved. If he'd spent any time around students, Jack would have known the house was just a typical example of cheap student accommodation. Jack backtracked to the stairs and climbed them, his shoes sounding on the uncarpeted wooden treads. At the top of the first flight, there was a small square landing with another door. It was closed. Jack pressed his ear against the peeling paintwork and listened. He heard a sudden whoosh of water. Nodding, he had learned two things. The toilet worked and there was someone flushing it.
He turned and mounted the next flight of stairs. At the top, the landing stretched out to the front of the house. There were two closed doors. Jack listened at the first – all was quiet. When he stopped at the second his eyebrows rose. He could hear activity in the form of fast breathing. There was the sound of a female voice, high and rhythmic and the lower grunting moans of a man. Jack recognised the sounds for what they were - sex.
Swallowing hard, Jack hesitated where he stood. Should he stay or should he go? He wanted to listen but knew that he shouldn't. It was better that he kept going and found the party.
He followed the last flight of stairs, the music and voices clearly coming from the top floor. There were three doors from which to choose. There was a door at the back directly above the toilet on the floor below. Jack figured it had to be a bathroom, or shower or something like that. As he came closer to the sounds, he passed another door. This was open and there was a pile of coats on the bed.
The last door at the front of the house was open and as he approached it, Jack could see people seated on a mismatch of old armchairs, wooden upright chairs, stools, on the floor. One person was sitting on an inflatable plastic ball, another in a bright red beanbag.
Looking for Daniel, Jack inspected the faces and there he was, comfortably lounging in an armchair with a woman sitting on the floor leaning back between his legs, an arm draped beautifully over his left thigh. She had to be his wife. Jack recognised her from Daniel's paintings.
"Jack!" Daniel called and beckoned him in. "Glad you could make it."
Jack rolled his lips inwards and nodded. He was already wondering if it had been worth the effort. The place looked tatty, the people young and apparently unaware of their scruffy surroundings. The carpet was threadbare and scattered with crumbs of food, peanuts and empty discarded wine bottles. It seemed the party had been going for some time.
"Daniel," Jack said in acknowledgement. "Have I missed anything?" he asked slightly irritated, and as he spoke, he glanced at the crumbs on the carpet, "Like cake?"
Daniel snorted and sipped more wine. "That's a bright sweater you're wearing, Jack. Did you roll in the daffodils before you got here?"
Jack looked down at his yellow sweater and frowned. "You said dress down."
"Yes, I did but not like a vat of custard!"
Jack glared at Daniel and then allowed a whisper of a smile to play his lips. It didn't matter whether Daniel had criticised his choice of sweater or not. What really mattered was that Daniel had noticed him, had bothered to comment, even if it wasn't what Jack was expecting to hear.
He hadn't anticipated spending the evening with a bunch of kids more than twenty years his junior, either. Jack felt like the chaperone at a high school prom. True, he was sure Daniel was a little older than most of the twenty year olds in the room but he was still younger than Jack was.
Jack didn't remember ever being a 'teenager' as such. He just remembered being like his Dad, and now sharply in contrast to the young people littered around the living room. Jack inwardly sighed. He'd probably been old and conservative at the age of twenty-one.
It was obvious there was a generational difference between himself and the rest of the party goers though he couldn't quite figure out what it was. Daniel was a little older than the rest but younger than Jack was. Jack wondered where Daniel located himself, with the young or with the old. It wasn't rocket science. Daniel clearly aligned himself with the young. Chronologically he wasn't that much older than Daniel but culturally Jack felt ancient.
"Take a seat," Daniel smiled waving his wine filled coffee cup.
Jack looked around. He couldn't see a spare chair, stool or cushion anywhere and he certainly had no intention of sitting on the floor. It was undignified and uncomfortable.
A young woman vacated her chair and smiled at him. "Take this one," she said and wandered over to a tall young man wearing small round dark glasses. Snaking her arms around him, they sauntered towards the door. Jack could guess where they were going and what they were intending to do with each other.
Having seated himself, Jack spent a little time studying the others. He'd already concluded they were students and given how close Rue Monsieur le Prince was to the Sorbonne, he guessed they all went to the university there.
"The university needs to modernise," one young man commented with a rather belligerent tone. "Keeping male and female students separate is just ridiculous!"
Jack listened. Did the Sorbonne have single sex classes?
"It's denying students the right to decide for themselves," said another, who wore the most colourful and highly patterned pair of trousers Jack had seen on anyone other than an Amish bed cover.
"Daniel says we should liberate the dormitories," a girl with long dark hair and a fringe that almost covered her eyes, added.
Jack's eyes widened. "Daniel?"
"It wasn't me," Daniel sighed. "I didn't say that. Daniel Cohn-Bendit did. I keep getting attributed for the things he's saying."
"Do you agree with it though?" An earnest looking man with rusty coloured hair threw in the question and waited impatiently for Daniel to respond.
"I guess if the women don't object, then why not?"
The earnest young man smiled and nodded. That was the answer he'd been hoping for.
"You're campaigning for co-ed dorms?" Jack asked in disbelief. He'd been ordered to undertake a mission concerning plumped up pillows and king size sheets. This could hardly be classed as 'un-American activities'.
"It's better than fighting a war on the other side of the world where we don't belong and where the people don't want us."
Jack frowned. "Daniel? Care to share?"
"I just think that in the scheme of things, campaigning for co-ed dorms, as you put it, is not as important as withdrawing from Vietnam."
Jack swiped his tongue over his lower lip to buy him a moment to calm before replying to Daniel's comment.
"We're fighting Communism, Daniel. It's important."
"It's important?" Daniel echoed sitting forward and warming to the topic, "Important to whom, Jack?"
"To the Vietnamese people," Jack replied calmly.
"No, the war has nothing to do with the Vietnamese people and everything to do with American Imperialism."
Jack's eyes narrowed. "What?" he said slowly, affronted by Daniel's callous words. Didn't he realise young men were shipping out to defend freedom and liberty? How could he not understand that someone had to make a stand to stop the growing canker of Communism? America was proud to be the world's policeman. What the hell was wrong with that?
The earnest young man glanced between them. He could see tempers rising.
"The United States is spending its resources and wasting young lives to get a foothold in Asia, Jack."
"You're wrong, Daniel. We're there to preserve democracy."
Daniel laughed ironically. "I find it hard to understand why you believe all that claptrap. Do you really think we're there in some fair fight scenario? Sure, we want to preserve democracy. The trouble is, translated into American; democracy means capitalist imperialism. It's not a just war! It's wrong and our government is wrong to be doing it."
"You're not being very patriotic," Jack threw back.
"I think patriotism is not wanting our people to die needlessly. In fact that goes for both sides!"
Jack flushed with anger. Daniel was throwing hogwash words at him and making it sound as though it made sense. Before he could think of a suitable rejoinder, the earnest young man had stepped between them smiling nervously.
"How about some painting, Daniel? It might help to calm people down," he squeaked.
"And I assume I'm the people who needs calming down," grunted Jack defensively.
"Sometimes the truth hurts, Jack," Daniel added determined to make his point.
Jack just glared.
"Daniel? Some painting?" the earnest young man prompted offering Daniel some paintbrushes.
Daniel looked first at the brushes and then at the top of his wife's head. Laying his hand gently on her hair, he bent and kissed her ear. Having whispered something, Daniel straightened up and smiled. "Sha're has agreed to be my model," he declared.
Jack frowned resentfully. He was still stinging from Daniel's last comment to him, however his mood changed dramatically as he saw Sha're unbutton her blouse and shrug it off her shoulders. His eyes widened and his mouth dropped open. She was not wearing a bra.
She moved gracefully and soundlessly out of the living room and into one of the bedrooms, settling herself against the headboard of the bed. She drew up her knees and then splayed her thighs, her full skirt hitched up. A number of students followed her into the room while Daniel prepared his paints. He was using a new kind of paint known as acrylic. With a coffee cup of water, six small jars of paint, some brushes and a dinner plate, Daniel was ready to get creative.
Jack wandered into the bedroom and leaned against the doorframe, his curiosity piqued. Looking around he couldn't see a blank canvas or an easel and he wondered how Daniel was going to paint his picture.
While Jack taxed his brain trying to figure out the answer, Daniel had loaded his brush with blue paint and blobbed it on the dinner plate. Then having dipped the brush into the water, he proceeded to mix it with the paint. When he was satisfied with the consistency, and holding the brush and plate, he sat facing Sha're, his legs tucked under hers, her legs over and around his hips.
They sat together while Daniel began to paint her breasts. Little by little, he produced filigree stems with leaves and delicate flowers that curved and meandered over her breasts. Two of the students sat and watched. Two others were stripping each other. Jack wasn't sure if they were intent on having sex, or painting one another.
Jack found a chair and sat down. He watched Daniel and his wife, him gentle and concentrating, her patient and still. Jack's eyes were not on Sha're's firm round breasts or her large erect nipples. His gaze was fixed on Daniel, on long fingers cupping his wife's breast, on the way he drew the paintbrush across her flesh. It was his hand on her Jack was watching.
"Can I paint you?"
Jack started at a female voice in his ear. A young woman stood beside him with a paintbrush in her hand and a dish with blobs of different coloured paint on it.
"You should take off your sweater. I wouldn't want to drip paint on it," she said pushing her glasses up her nose and pursing her lips. "I can paint your arms if you like, or your chest, or your..."
"Okay, okay," Jack put in quickly. "You can paint my arm," he said only taking off his sweater as far as it would expose just his right arm and bicep. He wouldn't take it off completely. It made him feel too vulnerable and in a crowd of strangers, where for all he knew, one of Pierre's agents could be watching, Jack was only prepared to participate...a little. It didn't matter to him that Pierre had told him his agents would not identify Jack in their reports. As far as Jack was concerned, he was slowly moving towards a potentially compromising situation and he wanted to make sure it didn't go too far.
The first line of paint on his bicep was cold and it made Jack wince. His eyes strayed from the bright red smear on his skin to what Daniel was doing just a few feet away. His vine of leaves and flowers had grown over both of Sha're's breasts and was stretching up towards her shoulders. By now, she'd planted her feet on Daniel's thighs and her legs were spread, her skirt now pulled up around her hips. Her dark eyes were hooded and her lips apart. Jack knew the signs. She was getting sexually excited.
Jack glanced at Daniel, who had one hand stroking the underside of her thigh while the other still manipulated the brush. Was Daniel getting sexually excited too? Jack wished he knew. He wasn't that interested in Sha're, his attention was fully on Daniel.
As Daniel bent to his task, Jack was drawn back to what the young girl with the mousy hair and glasses was doing to his arm. Peering at her work, all Jack could see were connected blotches of colour, each bleeding into the other. It just looked a mess to him and even though he was looking at it upside down, he was sure it was no great work of art. Not only that, she'd spread the paint so thickly that as it dried, it was drawing his skin, making it feel tight and uncomfortable.
Out of the corner of his eye, Jack noticed the pair that had stripped was now gone. They must have moved out of the bedroom to somewhere else in the house. Now, there was only Daniel and Sha're, the girl slapping paint on his arm like a plasterer intent on achieving a thick smooth finish, and the earnest young man who was still watching Daniel. The room was silent save Sha're's rapid shallow breathing. Even the loud music playing in the living room had stopped.
When the girl painting Jack's arm drew back to consider her efforts, Jack couldn't have been more relieved. "Very nice," he commented with very little conviction. She smiled and pushed her glasses up her nose again.
"I'm going back to my apartment now," she announced hopefully. "It's not very far away, just down the street really."
Jack nodded. He had a feeling she was making him an offer that he definitely didn't want to accept.
She hesitated. "Well, I'm going now." It was hint. She was still hopeful.
"See ya," Jack replied brightly and got out of his chair to move away from her. She frowned and then turned to leave. "Bye," Jack whispered watching her go, "Don't call me and I won't call you," he muttered under his breath.
Jack waited a few moments in case the girl was hovering in the hallway and then left the bedroom in search of a bathroom to wash off the mess on his arm. He walked the length of the hallway to the door at the end. He hoped with the toilet being on the floor below, that this room held running water and the means to get rid of the paint explosion covering his bicep and elbow.
Pushing the door open, it creaked stiffly. Jack peered inside. He'd been right. The light from the hallway was shining on a white porcelain basin with two silver coloured taps. He groped for a light switch. When the light clicked on he could see a shower cubicle in the corner with a filthy tray, chipped white tiles and mould growing up the lower third of the shower curtain. The basin was stained and the taps encrusted with something Jack didn't even want to try and name.
He turned on a tap and cupped his hand under the flow, throwing the water against his skin to moisten the now thick layer of dry and cracked paint. The water ran down his arm, turning a muddy colour as the paint shifted. Jack looked for soap, found a small already-used tablet, damp, and stuck to the porcelain of the basin. The underneath was slimy with strings of semi-dissolved soap. It looked and felt disgusting.
Ignoring the damp side of the tablet, Jack swiped the hard dry side over his arm and rubbed his hand against it quickly. The paint disappeared and left his skin clean, at least it was without the paint. Jack wasn't sure if his skin was actually clean.
Then he looked around for a towel to dry himself. All Jack could find was a damp and smelly square of towelling. He crinkled his nose in revulsion. He gave his skin a superficial stroke with the towel and threw it on the floor. He would have to take a shower as soon as he got back to the Embassy. The smell of the towel would stay on his skin all the way back.
Now that he was properly dressed again, with his sweater acting as a barrier to the odour of the towelled skin, Jack decided he'd had enough and was going to leave. He looked into the living room to see the stripped couple painting each other. They were so intent on what they were doing they were unaware of Jack glancing in and then moving away.
Jack felt he should at least say goodbye to Daniel, let him know he was leaving. They hadn't really spoken since the tense exchange about Vietnam and American Imperialism. Jack felt disappointed. He'd been looking forward to an interesting conversation with Daniel, a way of finding out just how un-American Daniel was likely to be but apart from his support for the idea of invading the female dorms at Nanterre University, Daniel hadn't said anything to make Jack believe he was a security threat. Daniel's view of the war in Vietnam did not amount to threatening the American Embassy in Paris.
When Jack strolled back into the bedroom, the sight that greeted him had him rooted to the spot.
Daniel and Sha're were now naked and the paints and brushes abandoned on the floor. Daniel was in full flow, planted deep inside Sha're's body and moving rhythmically. That in itself was not such a surprise to Jack. He'd guessed their painting session would eventually turn to sex. What shocked Jack was the presence of the earnest young man, also naked and positioned behind Daniel.
Jack's mouth went dry as it dropped open.
The earnest young man was slowly pushing his cock into Daniel's ass. At that moment, Daniel let out a long appreciative moan.
Jack's eyes widened to saucer dimensions.
Daniel began to swing his hips, pushing into Sha're and then pulling back and by doing so, pushing himself onto the earnest young man's cock. Daniel was using his movements to dictate the pace and depth of penetration, thrusting back and forth to gain maximum pleasure for himself and each of his partners.
Jack gasped, his excitement rocketing. It wasn't what Daniel was doing to his wife. That was a given. It was the fact that he had a man filling his ass at the same time. Did this mean Daniel liked both men and women? Was it that he was a generous partner and allowed the earnest young man to indulge in his own pleasure preference or was it that Daniel actually preferred a man but was servicing his wife's needs at the same time?
Jack suddenly became aware of his own shallow breathing and the growing ache in his cock and balls. His hand drifted over his groin. He was as hard as hell and wanting to join in. For a moment, he considered tapping the earnest young man on the shoulder in an 'excuse me' move. Jack wanted to be in his position, close behind Daniel and locked into a pleasurable tingling embrace.
He couldn't do it, knew he shouldn't do it. Reluctantly Jack pulled away and out of the bedroom. He'd spent his entire military career carefully disciplining himself not to be tempted by such opportunities, thus protecting himself against a court martial. He was not ready to throw away his liberty and his pension just yet.
Outside in the cold night air, Jack took a deep breath. The image of Daniel moving between his two partners was burned into Jack's retinas. When he closed his eyes, all he could see was Daniel and a man thrusting inside his ass.
Jack needed to get back to his room at the Embassy. His right hand twitched. He had to satisfy his unexpected desire.
As soon as Jack got back to the Embassy, he flew into his bedroom and yanked open the door to his bathroom. Flipping the shower lever, he let the water heat up as he pulled off his clothes, leaving them in heap on the floor.
Jack stepped under the water and grabbed the soap, running it over his body and paying particular attention to his right arm and shoulder. He wanted the stink of that bathroom off his skin. Once he'd soaped and scrubbed the washcloth over his body, Jack relaxed and turned his mind to Daniel coupling with two others and being at the centre of it. That was one hell of a sight.
Jack's brain tracked through his most recent memories...Daniel, with the earnest young man in his ass. The thought made Jack gasp again, his cock filling and hardening rapidly.
He jerked off under the shower, his body shuddering through his climax. Later, he woke in the middle of the night and made himself come again. The next morning, he showered before work, pulling on his cock to entice yet another orgasm. That day he was distracted by his suddenly over-active libido. He hadn't gone through anything like this since he'd been a teenager.
It was three weeks before Jack decided to go back to the Baton Rouge restaurant in search of Daniel. He thought he would be able to work through his desire for the man but instead, he just wanted Daniel even more.
He'd abandoned his mission to check out Daniel as an un-American sympathiser. Jack had reported to Hammond and recommended that Daniel was nothing more than a struggling artist with views on the Vietnam war that were no different from many in the United States. The only issue was his support for the liberation of the women's dormitories from the tight management of the Nanterre authorities.
Jack had another meeting with the International Attachés Liaison group. He knew Commandant Pierre Desmarais would be attending and toyed with the idea of approaching him for a favour. Pierre liked what Jack liked. Maybe a few hours with Pierre would satisfy Jack's need for a session of hard sex. Jack wondered if that would stop his increasingly obsessive fantasies about Daniel.
As Jack walked along the corridor towards the meeting room, he spotted Mrs. Kinsey making a beeline for him.
"Ma'am," Jack said nodding an acknowledgement. Quickly he strode on not wanting to be caught by the Ambassador's wife.
"Oh, colonel," she began in a singsong voice.
Slowly, Jack turned to face her.
"I wonder if you could do me a favour, colonel," she said fluttering her eyelashes.
Jack just wanted to slap her.
"I managed to have a fraught telephone conversation with that art gallery woman, you know, at Gallerie Émile. I had to use an interpreter. She told me she has a couple more of those paintings by that American artist, Daniel Jackson. I want to go and look at them tomorrow afternoon, so I was hoping you would accompany me. I'd like a nice Christmas gift for the Ambassador. Are you available, Colonel O'Neill?"
Jack had the feeling Mrs. Kinsey's request was already a fait accompli but the trip would suit him nevertheless. He might see Daniel again.
"Ah, well, ma'am," Jack began but she raised a hand to stop him speaking.
"I've already cleared it with General Hammond, colonel. Shall we say two o'clock?"
Though she was smiling, her eyes were clearly not expecting a negative response from Jack.
Jack breathed out slowly. "Of course, ma'am," he replied. He'd been boxed, wrapped, stamped and mailed.
He watched Mrs. Kinsey continue along the corridor, her hips swaying her fingers flexing out to the side. Jack could imagine her face had a broad excited smile.
"Good afternoon, gentlemen," Jack said as he settled himself in his seat at the large conference table.
The meeting was lengthy and boring and his mind wasn't really on the agenda at all. During the break, Jack stood next to Pierre Desmarais at the table with the refreshments. As soon as Colonel Mike Wakeham had helped himself to coffee and moved away, Jack leaned close to Pierre, reaching across in front of him to snag a cup. "I need a favour, Pierre," he whispered, his eyes checking there was no one too close.
Desmarais gave a small nod. "Cocktails, Jack?"
Jack straightened up and taking a jug of coffee, poured some into his cup. He reached for the sugar bowl and lowering his voice again, asked, "When?"
"My office, tonight."
Jack allowed himself a smile. "Done."
"Of course, Jack," Pierre grinned and took the sugar from him.
Jack sniffed the air and wondered if it was likely to snow. Walking towards the Élysée Palace, Jack had just one thing on his mind. He was thankful that Pierre Desmarais never looked for anything more from him than a satisfactory conclusion. Pierre had never made a single emotional demand on him and that suited Jack just fine. This wasn't about relationships, this was about sex.
When Jack presented himself at the gate and gave his name, the police guard checked his list and nodded. The gate clicked open and Jack stepped through. That's what Jack liked about Pierre, he was always well organised.
As before, Pierre was standing on the steps of the main palace building, waiting for Jack to reach him.
"Bon soir, mon ami," Pierre smiled, his eyes glittering in the lamplight.
Jack nodded and walked into the building alongside Pierre. Once they'd made Pierre's office, Jack tried to relax but couldn't. What they were going to do was very risky.
"We gonna use your office, Pierre?" Jack enquired confused and frowning.
"Of course not," Pierre smiled. "I have somewhere special."
Jack returned the smile. "Of course you do."
Pierre unlocked a door in his office beckoning Jack through. Pierre flipped on a light switch and closed the door behind them, locking it. Jack looked around. It was a cramped storage room with filing cabinets and a wall of shelves containing box files.
Pierre moved forward and pulled out one of the box files. Behind it was a small handle. He pulled on it and the shelves swung inwards like a door.
"Nothing in the files?" Jack queried.
"No. Full files would make the door harder to move," Pierre explained.
Pierre switched off the light and Jack stood in the pitch-dark waiting for Pierre to make the next move. "Just walk forward, Jack."
Jack did, very carefully. He heard the door with the box files close. With a click, Pierre switched on the light in the next room. It was small, with just a very generously sized single bed, a side table and very little else. There were no windows and just the door leading back into the file room.
"This is interesting," Jack commented. "How did you manage this?"
"There are plenty of windowless storage rooms in the palace, Jack. It just happened this one was next to my office. I arranged for the file room to be divided into two smaller rooms. I said the inner room was to store secure information."
Jack grinned appreciatively. "Nice."
He took a little time for a closer look. The head of the bed wasn't right up to the wall, or the regular thumps might give the game away. Jack smiled. Pierre was such a considerate host. There was just enough space for a nightstand on one side. The other side was clear.
The small table against the wall at the side held a jug of water and a bowl. There was also a tray covered by a white fluffy towel, a washcloth and beside it, a tablet of soap still in its wrapper. Jack gave a lopsided grin. Pierre was fastidious about his arrangements, not like that awful bathroom in Rue Monsieur le Prince.
"So, mon ami, what do you want?" Pierre asked taking off his jacket, which he put on a clothes hanger, set it on a hook on the wall and unbuttoned his shirt.
Jack thought for a moment. What did he want? He wanted sex - that was easy. Pierre's question was more about the how rather than the what.
"Hard and rough," Jack replied thickly.
Pierre nodded. "You must take off your clothes, I think."
It was then that Jack realised he would have to play catch up. Pierre was already undressed.
Taking the other clothes hanger, Jack arranged his clothes neatly, hung them over Pierre's on the hook and then turned to look at him. The Frenchman was shorter but stockier. He had plenty more dark hair on his chest than Jack had. Pierre had thick strong thighs and Jack knew what that meant.
"Stand with your back against the wall, Jack," Pierre said pointing to the space next to the bed, "And we'll begin."
Jack swallowed. The last time he'd been with Pierre, which was the first time, they'd used a car from the Embassy's pool. It had been a fast risky episode, during which Pierre had sucked Jack to completion. This was going to be a very different experience. They were secure and time wasn't an issue.
With his back flattened against the wall, Jack took a breath. He trusted Pierre. Pierre was a good man and Jack had always found him honourable in his dealings with the American Embassy. Discovering Pierre's sexual preferences had been accidental. Jack had the car, was giving Pierre a ride back to the palace from a reception at the British Embassy. Pierre had gambled on Jack not being too judgmental when he'd placed his hand on Jack's thigh as they drove. Jack hadn't rejected the move and as a consequence Pierre had suggested an out of the way spot to park.
Right now, Pierre was advancing on Jack, his expression one of serious contemplation. Jack guessed Pierre was thinking through his moves. The first was pain lancing through his nipples. Pierre was pinching hard and Jack gasped.
"Too much?" Pierre checked.
Jack shook his head. After the pain, there was always the pleasure. It made his cock twitch.
Pierre bent to lick and suck Jack's nipples. There was the pleasure. Next, he drew his tongue over Jack's abdomen, closely followed by his fingers, touching and caressing, his index finger pressing into Jack's navel.
Jack was finding it hard to remain still in his position against the wall. He wanted to touch himself and to touch Pierre but Pierre was taking the lead, as Jack had invited him to. He would just have to exercise his considerable self-discipline not to fling Pierre on the bed and take him.
Looking up, Pierre smiled before taking Jack's cock into his mouth. Jack moaned. Pierre was really good at this.
Pierre sucked hard and Jack's hips moved involuntarily. When Pierre cupped Jack's balls and pulled, Jack's eyes rolled back in his head.
"Too much?" Pierre checked again.
"Noooo," Jack choked quietly. "Do it again," he rasped.
Pierre grinned. Slowly, he stretched out his index finger and thumb, slid his grip around the skin above Jack's balls and closed. He directed pressure downwards and Jack gasped audibly. Pierre repeated the movement and Jack's knees began to give way, the tension in his thighs making them quiver.
"Fuck!" The pleasure pain effect shot through Jack's balls to his already hardened cock.
"Turn around, Jack," Pierre said quietly. "This is what I want," he breathed his eyes travelling over Jack's buttocks.
"Help yourself," Jack whispered hoarsely.
"When was the last time?" Pierre asked, his hands stroking over Jack's butt.
"A long while."
"Then I must prepare you," Pierre said pulling away the towel to reveal a small jar of lubricant.
"Okay," Jack nodded reluctantly, "But not too much, Pierre. You know what I'm sayin' right?"
"Oh yes, Jack. I know." Pierre parted Jack's buttocks and drew his fingertip over Jack's ass.
Jack's forehead dropped against the wall. This was what he liked – anonymous sex. He liked not viewing Pierre's face but revelling in the sensation of being touched by someone he couldn't see. It was anonymity at its best. All further thoughts of intellectualising what it was about sex in this situation that Jack enjoyed melted away. All he could do was focus on the basics of pleasure-pain and orgasm.
The sensation of Pierre's finger in his ass made Jack moan loudly. It was like his body had been electrified, the heat and stimulus overriding everything else in his brain.
"Bend you knees a little," Pierre breathed.
Suddenly, Jack could feel Pierre's cock pressing against his asshole. As he pushed in, Jack's eyes watered. The burn of penetration lasted only a few seconds before the pleasure radiated through Jack's body. Pierre began to move, thrusting his hips hard and each stroke fired Jack with need.
Jack raised his arms and leaned his forehead against them, canting his own hips to resist Pierre's momentum, the better to feel the force of Pierre's driving movements. Jack's mind blurred, his only awareness the force of Pierre's hips and thighs working his ass.
Then unbidden but certainly not unwelcome, Jack saw the image of Daniel and the earnest young man. This additional stimulus stepped up Jack's enjoyment. He hadn't meant to think about Daniel, that wasn't the reason for being with Pierre but somehow it suddenly became the only reason. Jack was using Pierre to channel his attraction to Daniel. It was good, so good. Pierre's thrusting hips, his gasping breath and grunting voice pushed Jack to intensify his fantasy of Daniel doing this to him. He was so close to coming, too close.
Just then, Pierre's rhythm began to falter. Jack knew he was close to orgasm. Within moments, Pierre had flopped against Jack's back, breathing hard and shuddering through the aftershock of coming.
Wasting no time, Jack nudged Pierre back and spun around, grabbing Pierre's wrist and towing him to the bed. "On your hands and knees," Jack growled urgently.
Slightly wobbly, Pierre did what Jack wanted, placing himself in the centre of the bed and spreading his knees, his butt upwards and outwards. Jack's shaking hands pulled on a condom as Pierre had done previously, covered it with lubricant and concentrated on Pierre's asshole.
Jack barked an exclamation of surprise. "Pierre?"
"Just do it, Jack," Pierre choked. "You know this is what you want."
With narrowed eyes, Jack reached out and with two fingers, gently pulled at the butt plug in Pierre's ass. He'd had the forethought to prepare himself for Jack. Jack had no need to spend any time getting Pierre ready. The man had done it for him. Pierre was organised as always.
Jack dropped the plug on the mattress, moved close behind Pierre and pushed his hips forward, gliding in to Pierre's ass easily. Now balls deep, Jack began to thrust hard and fast. He'd been so close to the edge for a while now. With an altered image of himself up against Daniel in place of the earnest young man, it wouldn't take him long to take off and fly.
The next morning, Jack woke in his own bed feeling relaxed and comfortable. His time with Pierre had done him the world of good. He'd got rid of the tension and frustration of those images of Daniel though Jack was acutely aware he'd used fantasies of Daniel when he was with Pierre. The initial feeling of emotional well-being and physical satisfaction dissipated. Was he obsessing about Daniel? Was Jack in the throes of an inappropriate and misplaced investment in him? He sighed and rolled over for a moment, blinking as the sunlight made his otherwise dark maroon curtains glow a vivid bluish red.
After he'd finished breakfast in the Embassy's commissary, Jack thought he'd better look in to his office when he was cornered by Mrs. Kinsey. The after-taste of her perfume reminded him he was supposed to accompany her to the art gallery again.
"Ah, colonel. I've found you. Are you ready? I want to get to the gallery early. I have a number of shopping appointments today."
Jack frowned for a moment. She'd told him two o'clock and it was only ten thirty. There was no point in even raising the issue. "Yes, ma'am," Jack nodded. "I just need to get my coat."
"Don't take too long, colonel or I'll have to...punish you." Mrs. Kinsey's finely pencilled eyebrows rose in a worryingly suggestive way. It was enough to make Jack walk very briskly to his office to fetch his coat. He even thought about picking up his 9ml.
Jack met Mrs. Kinsey by the Embassy limo and once inside the car, sat jammed against the door as far away from her as he could physically get.
"This has to be a surprise for my husband, colonel," she was saying, "So you mustn't give away any hints of where we've been or what we've been doing," she smiled.
"No, ma'am. We haven't been anywhere and we haven't done anything," he muttered. If ever the secret service questioned him about anything, Jack swore those would be his dying words. There was no way Jack would allow his reputation to be confused by any kind of link to Mrs. 'Way too much perfume' Kinsey.
The limo glided soundlessly to a halt near the Galerie Émile. Once parked opposite the large church, Jack and Mrs. Kinsey got out. She headed straight to the gallery, Jack a few steps behind her.
Once inside, Mrs. Kinsey and the elderly bird nodded and smiled at each other. Mrs. Kinsey had no French, the old woman no English but there were two words they both understood.
"Daniel Jackson?" Mrs. Kinsey asked and waved her gloved hand around the gallery. "I want another Daniel Jackson painting," she added for good measure, though the elderly bird had already understood her request. Showing Mrs. Kinsey to a canvas mounted on an easel, she folded her small bony arms and waited.
Jack glanced at the painting. It was yet another study of Sha're. It didn't interest him much. Something in his gut told him Daniel was a better painter than this. He just needed the right subject.
Bored with the way Mrs. Kinsey was studying Sha're's portrait, her phoney art knowledge narrative grating against his thoughts, Jack turned away and idly flipped through a big stack of paintings one behind the other, on the floor. About halfway through, he noticed a much smaller canvas. If Jack hadn't been leaning the stack so far forward in his hand, he wouldn't have seen the little one. It was only about twelve inches square and probably two thirds the size of the all the others. It wasn't even framed.
The picture was of a nude reclining man. "That's different," Jack thought aloud in a low voice as he looked at it. The man in the painting was lying on a red chaise longue, one knee bent, his foot planted firmly on the upholstery, the other leg flopped to the side and dangling over the edge of the couch. The man's foot and toes were curved upwards. Jack could see the tension in the tendons. They were clearly visible through the skin.
Then Jack blinked. The man in the painting was holding his erect penis. The expression on his face was one of utter reverie. Quickly, Jack looked sideways at Mrs. Kinsey. She was still looking at Sha're.
Jack returned his attention to the masturbating man. It was Daniel! The painting was a self-portrait. Daniel had found a way of avoiding the expensive cost of a model. He'd used himself.
"Shall I get this one, colonel?" Mrs. Kinsey asked, to Jack's ears, her voice suddenly strident in his silent thoughts.
Jack let go of the stack of paintings immediately and swung around to face Mrs. Kinsey. He stepped forward and pretended to take a close look at Sha're's portrait hoping that the Ambassador's wife hadn't noticed his interest in that picture of Daniel.
"Yeah, very nice," Jack nodded.
"Good," Mrs. Kinsey smiled. She pointed to it and said very slowly and very loudly to the elderly bird, "I'll take it."
Jack wanted the transaction to be over as soon as possible. He watched impatiently as the elderly bird carefully wrapped Daniel's painting in brown paper. At last, when Mrs. Kinsey was holding her purchase, Jack swung open the gallery door and stood back for her to pass through. As she did, Mrs. Kinsey shoved her parcel into Jack's arms and strolled out of the gallery. The gesture made Jack frown. He felt like a bellhop.
As Mrs. Kinsey stepped into the limo, she flapped her hand at Jack and said, "I'm going to Saint Honoré now, colonel. Are you coming?"
"No, ma'am," Jack replied, placing the painting on the front seat, "I've got some Christmas shopping of my own to do if you don't mind."
"Of course," Mrs. Kinsey said and paid no further attention to Jack. "Rue Saint Honoré, driver," she ordered and the limo swept away.
As soon as it was out of sight, Jack doubled back to the Galerie Émile. He wanted that painting of Daniel, as much to keep it away from Mrs. Kinsey's eyes as the need to possess it himself.
The elderly bird grinned in a knowing way when Jack handed over the cash. She seemed to know that his interest was personal. It wasn't, Jack told himself. It was just to stop the Ambassador's wife from seeing it, however unlikely that was. Daniel could find himself being interrogated by the secret service. After all, when Mrs. Kinsey had asked the elderly bird to see Daniel's work, the old woman hadn't shown her the self-portrait but that wasn't the point Jack thought. So what if he liked the painting and wanted it for himself. What was wrong with that?
With the painting safely wrapped and under his arm, Jack left the gallery. He stood for a moment, wondering where to go next. He didn't have any shopping to do. He had no one to buy a Christmas gift for. It was still only late morning so he should return to the Embassy but he didn't want to. He wanted to drink coffee in the Baton Rouge restaurant with Daniel.
As he walked along the street, Jack didn't even know if Daniel would be there but it didn't matter. Even if Daniel wasn't there, Jack could still drink the coffee.
With his patience reducing, Jack sat in the Baton Rouge restaurant for two hours. There was no sign of Daniel. Looking around, Jack wondered if any of the restaurant's customers were Pierre Desmarais' agents. The place was fairly busy, mostly peopled by Christmas shoppers. Jack's gaze flitted between several pairs of young women who were intent on showing each other what they'd bought, three elderly men ensconced in a corner smoking Gaulloises cigarettes and drinking espressos, and a small group of student types inhabiting at least a dozen chairs grouped around two tables they'd pushed together. As far as Jack could make out, the restaurant was a reflection of its usual mix of clientele.
The only thing missing was the presence of Daniel Jackson.
After a further hour of fruitless waiting, Jack paid the tab and picking up his parcel, left the restaurant. He couldn't help feeling disappointed. Frowning at his shoes as he walked he turned a corner and ran smack into another person. With a garbled apology, Jack picked up his painting and looked at the man he'd almost bowled over.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel smiled. "Where's the fire?"
"Huh? Oh, I wasn't paying attention. Sorry."
"S'okay, Jack. You obviously had something on your mind."
Jack nodded. "Yeah, you."
Daniel's eyebrows rose above the top rim of his glasses. "Me?"
"So whaddya want?" Jack asked seeing the Baton Rouge waitress approaching their table.
"Espresso I think."
"A short black, huh? Didja have a hard night last night?"
Daniel blinked. "What?"
"Nuthin'," Jack smiled and ordered their drinks. "So, Daniel, whatcha been up to?"
"Oh, the usual. I've been painting," Daniel said brightly.
"Yeah, I know. I liked your self-portrait by the way."
"The one of the nude you. Doin' the reclining thing. The painting of your very erect..." Daniel's mouth dropped open and made Jack smile. "Y'know, that one."
Daniel flushed pink and looked away. After a moment, he fixed his gaze on Jack. "I did what you suggested. I painted what I wanted to paint. You got a problem with that?" Daniel's tone was defensive.
"I don't have a problem with it, no," Jack returned. "Like I said, I liked it."
Daniel nodded his acknowledgment. "Good."
"Didja know two of your paintings were sold this morning? That makes three I know about so far."
"Really?" Daniel frowned. "That old lady owes me," he muttered resentfully.
"Yeah," Jack smiled thinking it was actually him that Daniel owed. Without his intervention, Jack was sure Daniel's pictures would still be languishing hidden among all those other paintings at the Galerie Émile.
"I should go see her. It would be really useful to collect my payment before Christmas. I can pay the rent I owe."
"How did you do the self-portrait?" Jack asked abruptly. "Didja use a mirror, paint it from memory or from life there and then?"
Daniel gave Jack a sly smile and raised his eyebrows suggestively.
"Ah," Jack nodded. "Interesting."
Looking away, Daniel wanted to laugh. He liked the way Jack was showing an interest in his work, especially the self-portrait. Just then, he spotted Skaara and waved.
"Are ya gonna paint anymore like that one?" Jack asked and Daniel turned back to look at him directly.
"Why do you want to know?"
Jack shrugged. "No reason," he said keeping eye contact with Daniel.
The next hour was spent with Daniel being visited by Skaara, the earnest young man Jack had seen at the Rue Monsieur le Prince party, and some other students that Jack didn't recognise. Jack was most interested in the exchange between Daniel and the earnest young man. He watched with curiosity as the young man approached Daniel, an intense frown etched on his face.
"Bonjour, Daniel. Avez-vous un moment?"
"Oui, Gaston. Qu'est-ce que c'est?"
Gaston's eyes slid nervously to Jack. "Vous vous rappelez Jack, Gaston? Il est bien, Jack est un ami. Quelle est la matière, Gaston?" Daniel prompted.
"Il est au sujet de Sha're."
"Oui, Daniel. Elle est allée."
"Oubliez où, pensez juste qui," Gaston replied his eyebrows rising.
Daniel sighed and then rolled his eyes. "Avec qui, Gaston?"
Daniel nodded resignedly.
Jack tried to follow the exchange but got more clues from the facial expressions and tone of the conversation between Daniel and Gaston than from any translation he could manage. Something was wrong and it had everything to do with Sha're.
"Merci de me dire, Gaston mais j'ai déjà su."
"Vous avez fait?"
"Oui mais merci de la pensée à moi, Gaston."
Gaston nodded his expression sad. He touched Daniel's shoulder then left.
"What was all that about?" Jack asked carefully.
"That was Gaston. You might remember him from the party."
The image of Gaston with his cock up inside Daniel's ass flashed through Jack's brain and he cleared his throat awkwardly. "Oh yeah, I do," he said.
"He just came to tell me that Sha're is gone."
"Gone? As in...?"
"She's left me for someone else," Daniel said quietly. "I already knew but it was useful that Gaston confirmed who I thought it was."
"I'm sorry," Jack replied.
Daniel sighed. "It was inevitable I think."
"Yes. We had an open marriage but maybe it was a little too open for her."
"An open marriage?" Jack asked leaning forward. "What's that?"
"We chose to have other sexual partners besides each other."
Jack wasn't that surprised, after all, he'd witnessed Daniel, Sha're and Gaston together but as Daniel didn't know that, Jack thought he'd better sound surprised. "You did?"
"Sure, though we never had them in our bed at the same time."
"So what about that party? You did then," Jack said, challenging Daniel's initial statement and immediately regretting what he'd said.
Daniel narrowed his eyes and glared at Jack. "How could you know that?"
"I saw you," Jack said nonchalantly.
"Hey, the bedroom door wasn't exactly closed, Daniel. It was ajar. I was looking for you to tell you I was leaving when I saw you and Sha're and...Gaston."
"You got a problem with that?"
"No. Look, I'll tell ya this for nuthin', Daniel, it'll save you from asking the same question over and over. I don't have a problem with you. Got it?"
Daniel stared at Jack. What was he trying to say? Was there a subtext that Daniel was supposed to translate?
"I have to know, Daniel. You and Sha're had different sexual partners while you were still married to each other. So what happened to make her leave you?"
"I guess she was less into the openness than I was," Daniel said quietly. "I don't think I was what she wanted in a man. I knew if she was going to go with anyone, it would probably be Apophis Badawi."
"He's Egyptian, like Sha're," Daniel explained.
Ignoring the information, there was something that interested Jack much more than the man's nationality. "How 'open' were you?" Jack asked crooking his fingers to emphasise imaginary speech marks.
"You're doing it again," Daniel said rolling his eyes.
"Sorry," Jack muttered and stared at the wall to his left.
They sat in silence for a while, Jack burning to know more about Daniel's sex life and Daniel not willing to say anything about it. After a few minutes, Jack asked another question.
"Have you liberated the women's dorm yet?"
Daniel snorted. "No, Jack. Not yet. Has the United States won in Vietnam yet?"
Frowning, Jack glared at Daniel. "No, Daniel. Not yet."
The tension crackled between them as they glared at each other.
"The President is just trying to do his best, Daniel. It's a matter of principle as well as an issue of practical support. We need to win hearts and minds."
Daniel barked out a humourless laugh. "Hearts and minds? That's just a meaningless phrase. What it really means is 'pacification', Jack. It's about us flexing our military muscles in an arena we have no right to be in."
"We're keeping Communism at bay. That's an important thing to be doing no matter where it is," Jack said forcibly.
"The United States is just paranoid, Jack. People with paranoia are usually locked away where they can't harm themselves or anyone else. They're not let loose on a neighbourhood miles away from their own, to wreck havoc just because they can."
"Are you saying America is sick?" Jack's voice rose in anger.
Daniel thought for a moment and then nodded. "Yes, I am!"
"And you call yourself a patriot," Jack countered disdainfully.
"I call myself a right thinking person, Jack and that means I have the right to think my thoughts and voice my opinions. Just because they don't match with yours, doesn't mean they're wrong."
Jack blew out a frustrated breath and continued to glare at Daniel. Daniel had that stubborn look. Would they ever agree on this? He thought not. Jack looked away and glanced at his watch. "Damn! I'm on duty in less than an hour. I gotta go!"
Throwing some Franc notes on the table, Jack was on his feet and heading for the door before Daniel could say anything. Confused, he watched Jack fly out of the restaurant with a small package under his arm.
Pacing his office, Jack swigged back the last of his coffee and frowned at the very small pile of files on his desk. It was 1.30 in the morning and he was feeling bored and tired. Instead of spending part of the day at the Baton Rouge with Daniel, he should have been in bed...asleep. He smiled. A nap ought to have been his preferred option but he'd wanted to be with Daniel and now he was paying for it.
Jack yawned and strolled from his office along the corridor to the operations room. There was an equally bored looking technician wearing a set of headphones. Jack suspected he was probably listening to a U.S. Forces radio station. The technician was supposed to be monitoring radio transmissions from the U.S.S.R.
Jack glanced at the line of clocks on the wall, one showing Paris time, another DC time and yet another ticking its way through Cairo time. He had no idea why one of the clocks would be running on Cairo time. He made a mental note not to bother asking why.
Sighing, Jack shuffled the small pile of papers from a tray next to the technician. This was going to be a long night. Jack didn't mind the military analysis part of his job though he'd rather be in the field either gathering the intelligence or acting on it. However, the desk jockey nature of his job worked for him too. He only had a few months to go before he would take early retirement. He was nowhere near the maximum age but what the heck. He was feeling tired and bored.
Jack thought about all the young men fighting in Vietnam. Maybe it was better to be shuffling bits of paper in Paris than hiking through a hot steamy jungle somewhere along the Ho Chi Minh trail.
Jack pursed his lips. Out in the field or behind a desk? His eyes slid to the line of clocks on the wall. Field versus Desk. Jack cleared his throat. Desk versus Field. His thoughts swung between the two, with the same regularity as the ticking of the clocks. Field Desk, Desk Field.
Commanding a group of men to remove a Vietcong encampment or reading bits of paper and filing them? Watching those men get blown apart or using his experience to get a picture of what America's friends, allies and enemies were up to in Europe thus keeping his country secure? Of course, there was a third option, which involved just walking away. It was a tough call...and it was still going to be a very long night.
Christmas came and went. Jack couldn't help thinking about Daniel, where he was, what he might be doing and every time he thought about it, the image of Gaston up behind Daniel, and fucking him made Jack's stomach flip and his heart race. This was not the best way to spend the holidays. Jack was constantly semi-hard. When he got the opportunity, his right hand would alleviate his immediate cravings but it didn't give him lasting satisfaction.
For a moment, Jack considered calling Pierre Desmarais but thought better of it. He didn't want to appear needy. He also didn't want Desmarais to think there was an emotional investment in their contact either.
In the privacy of his room, Jack opened the door of his closet and pulled down a suitcase. Flipping the lid, he folded back three old shirts and a towel. Underneath he found was he was looking for. It was Daniel's self-portrait. Jack stared at the image of Daniel stretched out on the couch, his hand working his erection.
Jack wanted to see that pose in real life. At that moment, he wasn't thinking about any sexual contact with Daniel, just the possibility of seeing him, of watching him naked and rampant but the more he thought about it, the more Jack really did want involvement. He wanted to hold Daniel, feel his body and gain that very special thrill that came with sexual engagement.
Then Jack's mind got to calculating how he could make it happen assuming Daniel would give him a positive response. Jack didn't know for sure but Daniel had given Gaston the go ahead so hopefully he'd do the same for Jack. Jack's first thought was one of opportunity. So far, he'd learned very little about Daniel's life. He knew Daniel was willing to experiment. He'd witnessed that threesome at the house in the Rue Monsieur le Prince.
If Jack had his own place, he could invite Daniel on the pretext of having dinner or playing a few hands of poker. Two Americans in a foreign country would have plenty to talk about, plenty of reminisces to share. It would be a natural reason to meet.
Jack hid the painting away under his shirts and the towel and put the suitcase back on the top shelf of his closet. There was no point in thinking about how he could get together with Daniel if he had nowhere to invite him. Jack couldn't possibly ask Daniel to spend the night with him at the Embassy but maybe he could wangle Daniel an invitation to an Embassy reception. Mrs. Kinsey liked to be the hostess with the mostess. She often held parties for the rich and famous. Only last month Brigitte Bardot, Rudolf Nureyev and singer songwriter and TV star Sacha Distel were all guests at one of Mrs. Kinsey's soirées. She was convinced Daniel was an up and coming artist Jack thought, so getting him an invite wouldn't be difficult.
All of that still didn't answer Jack's problem with opportunity. Where could he and Daniel be alone without the risk of being disturbed and discovered?
Picking up the phone, Jack dialled Pierre Desmarais' number.
"Hi, Pierre, it's Jack O'Neill. I need a favour."
"Bonjour, Jack. Are you in need of more cocktails?"
Jack could hear the smile in Pierre's voice. "Thanks, but no. I need to find an apartment and I need to find it now."
"An apartment? For...cocktails?"
"Pierre!" Jack growled in frustration.
"Alright, my friend, calm down." Pierre's voice still had that smile.
"The Embassy feels too crowded. I'd like a place I can use to get away, somewhere...private. You've got contacts, Pierre, can you find me something?"
"I have a place I use for...cocktails, Jack. Would that do or are you thinking of renting an apartment to live in?"
"Somewhere for err...cocktails sounds fine but I have to say, Pierre, I might want to have cocktails with someone else."
"That's okay, Jack. I understand. Changing your choice of cocktail now and again keeps the palette...fresh, n'est-ce pas?"
"Somethin' like that," Jack laughed.
"Alright, my friend, I will send over the keys with the address. Use it for as long as you like."
"Thanks, Pierre I appreciate it."
"Yes, Jack, I know you do. Perhaps you can show me just how much you appreciate it when you're not busy with your cocktail." Pierre's voice had lost its smile. There was a tone of wistfulness instead.
Jack took a deep breath. He was using Pierre and he felt guilty although Pierre knew exactly what Jack was doing and had still agreed to help him. Pierre Desmarais was a good friend.
Jack was sorting through his mail. It was all official. He didn't get personal mail. Underneath two folders sent to him by Colonel Mike Wakeham from the British Embassy, Jack found a small envelope marked private and confidential. Jack felt the weight and the small bulge in one corner. Flipping it over he saw who it was from. In smart looping letters was the name of the sender – Commandant Pierre Desmarais.
Slitting open the envelope Jack tipped it up and spreading his palm, caught two small silver coloured keys and a folded note.
There were just two words written on the slim sheet of paper – As promised. Smiling, Jack looked at the keys, attached to one was a fob with an address written on it, 8b Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont.
Immediately Jack pulled open his desk drawer and searched for his street map of Paris. Having found Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont he barked out a laugh of surprise. One end of the street opened out onto the Rue Descartes, the other end led to the Place Sainte-Geneviève. This was the location of the large church opposite the Gallerie Émile. It wasn't too far away from the Baton Rouge either. How could Pierre have known his apartment was right where Jack would have chosen it to be?
Shaking his head, he couldn't suppress a grin. Pierre's place was just in the right place to invite Daniel for a visit. Jack couldn't believe his luck. Checking his watch, he had another hour of his duty left before he could go and take a look at the apartment.
The Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont was not what Jack was expecting. Somehow he'd imagined a wide boulevard flanked by large blocks of apartments all showing those typical Parisian classical façades. Instead, Jack found a narrow street paved in stones shaped like bricks. The houses in the street were terraced and showed a hotchpotch of styles. None of them looked smart or impressive. They just seemed like ordinary houses with little or no architectural merit.
Jack identified number 8, about halfway along the street and trying the key without the fob, opened the front door. It was dark inside and Jack had to push the door wide to let the daylight in. There was a short hallway leading to a set of narrow stairs. Thoughts of the house in the Rue Monsieur le Prince came to Jack's mind and he was already wondering if Pierre had lost his sense of style in acquiring this place. Along the hallway was a door, which Jack took to be apartment 8a. Jack reluctantly climbed the stairs.
At the top, he found another door with a shiny metal number 8b on it. The other key fitted the lock, so he let himself in. He was pleasantly surprised at what he found.
There was a neat clean bedroom with a double bed and the usual bedroom furniture. Next to it, was another bedroom, smaller with a single bed, but tidy and fresh. At the back was a tiny kitchen with absolutely no room for a dining table but it did have an oven, fridge and storage. The bathroom contained a clean bath with a shower over. Peering into the closet Jack found freshly laundered towels, washcloths and toiletries. The toiletries were brand new and unused, the soaps, shampoo, toothpaste and toothbrushes all still in their packaging. There were also packaged condoms and lubricant.
At the front of the apartment was a large square lounge, with a sofa, armchairs and against the window, a small table and two chairs. It would be possible to eat in the room comfortably.
This would be a good place to bring Daniel and a convenient bolt-hole for Jack. If he weren't at the Embassy for some of his off duty time, maybe Mrs. Kinsey would stop expecting him to be her shopping escort.
With hands on hips, Jack took another look around. He should come to some arrangement with Pierre and actually rent the place full time.
Jack spent his first night in the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont three days later. It was quiet and comfortable and he really liked it. Having shopped for supplies he called in at the Baton Rouge in the hope of seeing Daniel.
He didn't have to wait long. Daniel appeared just thirty minutes after Jack had settled himself at a table, his supplies piled onto a spare chair beside him.
"What have you been up to, Daniel?" Jack asked conversationally over a fresh coffee cup.
"Trying to get Skaara out of jail."
Jack nearly choked on his coffee. "What?"
"Skaara got involved in a small protest at Nanterre."
Jack stared at Daniel in disbelief. "What happened?"
"The authorities were a little pissed so they called in the riot police. There was a bit of a set to, and Skaara and a few other students were arrested."
"Were you there too?" Jack asked concerned.
Jack let out a breath of relief. "Phew," he smiled. He showed a humorous expression but underneath it he wondered if Daniel might have been arrested too if he'd been there.
"No one should have been arrested, Jack. It was an unacceptable response to little more than a few students protesting against the lack of facilities on campus."
"You mean they were complaining about the armchairs not being plump enough or wanting more juke boxes."
"Jack! It's an issue of basic facilities. The Sorbonne has more on offer than Nanterre. Nanterre is a bleak urban campus, grim and unyielding. What would you say if there were soldiers in the field without the basics, like a water canteen or only half a uniform? They'd soon complain if they couldn't receive their mail, or didn't have a warm sleeping bag to use. Why should students be treated like they don't matter, as if they're demanding too much when they're only asking for an improvement in the basics."
Jack grunted. As far as he was concerned, students were privileged and wealthy enough to swan around a university and only read a book once in a blue moon. They were over indulged and had never done a hard day's work in their lives.
"So," Jack began carefully in the hope of leading Daniel away from student protests, "what else have you been doin'?"
"The same old, same old I guess," Daniel smiled. "I've been painting and I've done some free lance translation work so all in all, I've been busy, and you? Have you won the war in Vietnam yet?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Don't start, Daniel. I'm in too good a mood to get into another argument."
"Why am I in a good mood or why don't I want to get into another argument?"
"I'll take the latter as read so how about the former? Why the good mood?"
"I've got myself an apartment not far from here," Jack explained.
"Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont."
"Ooooh, nice!" Daniel grinned. "Are you going to have a house warming?"
"I dunno, hadn't thought about it."
"Sure. It's a great chance to meet your neighbours."
"I think I'd rather just meet you, Daniel. Whaddya say? Come for dinner."
He frowned. Dinner was good but why did Daniel think Jack had something else on his menu?
"What's up?" Jack asked seeing Daniel's pensive look.
Daniel shook his head. "Nothing. What made you choose a place in the Latin Quarter? It's a bit of a trip from the Embassy isn't it?"
"I wanted to get well away from work, you know? In any case, I like this area, so I thought, why not."
"So are you going to live permanently in the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont?"
It was Jack's turn to shake his head. "Nah, my duty shifts keep me at the Embassy but when I'm not there, this other place will be my bolt-hole."
Daniel nodded. Jack had the best of both worlds. He had a well-paid job and the option to live where he worked as well as being able to afford an apartment in the Latin Quarter. Daniel was almost tempted to accept that being in the military had its benefits.
"What about you, Daniel? What will you do now that Sha're's gone?"
"Carry on as usual, I guess," Daniel replied, grimacing a smile. "I'll have to find somewhere else to live though. The apartment we had together is above my father-in-law's bistro and now that she's not there, he's gonna want it back."
"I'm sorry, Daniel, seems you've been dealt a bad hand."
Daniel shrugged. "It happens," he said in resignation. "I might move in with Gaston for a while."
Jack's carefully schooled impassive expression covered his jealousy very well. He didn't want to think of Daniel sharing his living space with the earnest young man, Gaston. He could imagine what would happen and if anything was going to happen, Jack wanted it to happen with him, not with Gaston.
"I've got a guestroom, Daniel. You could use that," Jack said smoothly. He knew he was being predatory and making the offer was as much about satisfying his own fantasies of having Daniel in his bed, as it was about offering him somewhere else to live.
"Thanks, Jack. I'll bear that in mind," Daniel smiled.
When the doorbell went, Jack headed for the front door two stairs at a time. Flinging it open he grinned at Daniel who stood at the threshold of Jack's Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont apartment holding a bottle of wine, two baguettes and something wrapped in a paper bag that Daniel was balancing on his upturned hand.
From the doorway to the tiny kitchen, Daniel watched Jack finish cooking the dinner. There wasn't really enough room for both of them to be in it at the same time, though Daniel did help by carrying the food to the table in the living room.
"This is nice," Daniel smiled looking out of the window to the house opposite. There wasn't a lot to see, the windows across the street were shuttered against the cold January weather. It didn't matter to him though. It was good to get away from the tiny garret that he and Sha're had once shared together and that currently, his father-in-law was pressuring him to vacate. He also felt awkward about being there. It was time to move out.
Jack and Daniel ate, drank wine, chatted and enjoyed each other's company. When they'd finished, Daniel carried the dishes back to the kitchen while Jack cleared the debris of their meal from the table, including brushing up a lot of crumbs from the baguettes.
"Leave the dishes in the sink, Daniel," Jack called from the living room. "I can do them later."
Daniel frowned. The least he could do was wash them. Jack had been kind enough to feed him, yet again, so he should clean up where he could. Running the hot water, Daniel piled the plates and dishes into the sink and began to wash them. Could he see himself sharing this space with Jack? The apartment was in an ideal location for him, there was no doubt about that but if he were ever going to produce the quality and quantity of paintings he wanted to, he really needed studio space. Though Jack's apartment was comfortable, Daniel couldn't really believe that he would allow Daniel to shove all the living room furniture against the walls and turn the room into a painter's haven. Nice as the thought was, Daniel couldn't share this apartment with Jack. It just wouldn't work.
"Daniel? Whaddya doin'?"
Jack's voice behind him made Daniel start and he ended up splashing suds over himself and the floor.
"Jack! Do you make a habit of creeping up on people?"
"Only occasionally," Jack grinned. "I toldja not to bother with the washing up, Daniel and here you are, up to your armpits in dishwater."
"I just wanted to return the favour, Jack. You provided the food, so I'm helping to clean up. It's no big deal," Daniel said wiping a dribble of suds from his glasses.
"Well, I appreciate your efforts so while you're doing that, I'll make coffee," Jack announced squeezing next to Daniel and reaching up to the shelf for the equipment. Daniel was forced to turn sideways to give Jack enough room. When Jack had the cafetière in his hand, he turned to find he was chest to chest with Daniel. Daniel tried to breathe in and step back but his attempts to make more space didn't really work.
"Sorry," Daniel said his hands out of the sink and dripping water.
"S'okay," Jack replied and Daniel blinked.
Their bodies were in close proximity and Daniel was looking straight into Jack's deep-set brown eyes. Those eyes showed compassion, love, secrets, hurt, cynicism and passion. The revelation made Daniel swallow. There was an incredible quality to Jack's eyes, and as an artist, Daniel wanted to capture it.
Jack saw the way Daniel was looking at him and mistook it as a sign of attraction and lust. Leaning in, Jack kissed Daniel full on the lips and then pulled back immediately in response to Daniel's muffled protest.
"I thought you wanted..." Jack said quickly, shocked and embarrassed by what he'd done.
"I didn't expect..." Daniel interrupted.
Jack stepped away, well away. In fact, he stepped into the hall, holding his hands up in a defensive apologetic way.
Daniel tried again. "Jack, I..."
"I'm sorry, Daniel. I made a mistake so if you wanna leave, its okay," Jack said thickly sweeping his hands downwards and sideways towards the door in a dismissive gesture.
Daniel frowned. Did Jack mean he'd made a mistake with the kiss or made a mistake in kissing Daniel?
Hesitating, Daniel didn't know whether he should stay or go. Though Jack had given him the choice, he had the feeling Jack would rather he left. In fact, Jack had walked along the hall and was currently in the living room.
"I'll...err...I'll go then," Daniel said tentatively.
Jack remained stiffly upright and continued to stare out of the window.
Grimacing, Daniel took his jacket and left, the door clicking closed almost apologetically.
Jack was angry. He was angry that he'd misinterpreted the situation, that he'd embarrassed Daniel and himself. He glanced over his shoulder at the empty apartment, and sighing heavily searched out the bottle of Jack Daniels. Emotions sucked....
Frowning, Daniel walked deep in thought. Jack had deliberately kissed him. That part wasn't an accident. "People don't accidentally kiss," he muttered aloud. "I mean lips don't make contact of their own free will."
So it was true then. Jack had meant to kiss him. That was clear but was it a mistake? Was Daniel the mistake? "No!" he declared to the cold night air. Jack had meant to kiss him. After all, Daniel was the only other person there, in Jack's apartment. It wasn't like Jack had meant to kiss someone else. There was no one else to kiss.
Then Daniel halted abruptly, a sudden thought occurring. Jack had taken Daniel's utterance of surprise as a rejection! Turning, Daniel looked back along the street to where the Rue Saint-Etienne joined it. He should go back, tell Jack that he wasn't being rejected, that Daniel wanted to be more involved with him, on an intimate level.
When he got back to the house, Daniel couldn't see any lights. The place was in darkness but he pressed the doorbell just the same. Jack couldn't have left, Daniel would have seen him unless he'd gone in the opposite direction but that didn't make sense. In order to find a cab, Jack would have to walk to the top end of the Rue Descartes.
Convinced that Jack was just ignoring him, Daniel rang the bell again, and again, and again. In fact, he decided he would not leave until Jack answered him, even if he had to lean on the bell all night.
Jack sat in the dark and listened to the doorbell buzzing, over and over, and over again. He knew it was Daniel but he couldn't bring himself to respond. He wasn't sure he wanted to face his own embarrassment yet again.
Now the doorbell was sounding constantly.
Rolling his eyes and putting down his glass of Jack Daniels, Jack descended the stairs quickly and flung open the door. By now, his downstairs neighbour probably hated him.
"Daniel," Jack said sternly.
"Jack," Daniel replied eyebrows raised and a slightly belligerent look on his face.
"What do you want?"
"Let me in, Jack" Daniel said quietly.
"And what if I don't?"
"I'll keep ringing your doorbell until half the Latin Quarter wakes up and blames you!"
"Well, if you put it like that," Jack muttered acquiescently.
Once inside the door of Jack's apartment, both men stood silently glaring at each other.
"Whaddya want, Daniel?" Jack grunted eventually.
"You kissed me," Daniel returned.
"You didn't want it!" Jack protested.
"I was surprised," answered Daniel reasonably.
"So was I," Jack quipped with bravado his bad mood dissipating and a glimmer of hope lightening his heart.
"You mean you weren't expecting to be rejected?"
"Well, no," Jack said simply.
"I wasn't rejecting you."
"Seemed like it."
"No, I didn't mean it to be a rejection."
Jack kept his searching frown on Daniel. "So what did you mean?"
"I was just surprised," Daniel repeated.
"Oh," said Jack confused.
They fell quiet again and the silence stretched uncomfortably as they continued to stand in the hallway.
Daniel broke the impasse. "Well?"
"Well what?" Jack muttered.
"Do you want me, or not?"
This time Jack's eyebrows rose at Daniel's very direct enquiry and suddenly a whole gamut of thoughts raced through Jack's brain. The definitions of 'want' were many and varied. Jack thought about them. Did Daniel mean 'want' as in friendship? How about 'want' in terms of time and attention? There was 'want' as in wanting an emotional commitment, the investment in another that only sharing and intimacy could generate. Then there was the other kind of want. The want that was the basic animal type, the kind that stirred up the drive and passion for...
"Listen, Jack I'll make it easy for you," Daniel was saying and Jack guessed Daniel might be able to read the way his mind was going through a collection of options, the combinations clearly etched on his face.
Daniel folded his arms across his chest, a small smile playing on his lips. "Do you want to fuck me?" he asked and fluttered his eyelashes.
Jack's stomach flipped. Daniel had gone right to the heart of the issue.
Expectantly, Daniel waited. He knew Jack wanted him. He just needed to be patient until Jack made it so.
Jack reached out to Daniel's hand, still on the door handle and moved it away. Pressing himself against Daniel's body, Jack manoeuvred him against the wall of the hallway and kissed him again. It was a hard needy kiss, the kind that telegraphed Jack's desires. Daniel gasped.
Jack wasted no more time. With shaking fumbling hands, he pulled off Daniel's coat and let it drop to the floor. Next he rubbed the back of his hand over Daniel's groin, and with narrowed eyes and a knowing smile, worked Daniel's fast growing cock through the cloth.
"Want you good and hard," rasped Jack, "Because when I've fucked you, you're gonna fuck me."
"It will be my pleasure," Daniel answered, his mouth on Jack's and attempting to speak around fast hungry kisses.
The snap and slap of a leather belt being unfastened and a pulled zipper echoed in the hall, quickly followed by Daniel's soft gust of pleasure as Jack hurried to release Daniel's now hard cock from his trousers.
Daniel's flesh was hot in Jack's hand, hot and very hard. He moaned as he began to stroke Daniel's cock. They were still fully clothed except Daniel's trousers had dropped to his hips. Still gripping Daniel, Jack unzipped his own trousers with his free hand, pulled out his cock and pulled Daniel's hand onto it.
The sounds of rough panting breaths filled the otherwise silent hallway as Jack and Daniel worked each other. Jack's head was spinning as Daniel's hand moved firmly over him until his stroking increased.
"No!" Jack grunted and pushed Daniel away from him. "Gonna come if you keep doing that."
"Thought that was the whole idea," Daniel grinned.
"Except I wanna come inside you," Jack stated and grabbing Daniel's wrist, hauled him off to the bedroom.
Stumbling, Daniel hitched up his trousers that had by then, dropped to his knees and allowed himself to be pulled along in Jack's wake.
It took no time at all for them to strip their clothing, leaving garments scattered across the floor like an explosion in a laundry Once settled on the bed, Daniel tried to pick up where he'd left off, stroking Jack's cock but Jack wouldn't let him. Instead, he insisted Daniel position himself on all fours.
"Wanna be in ya. Wanna fill you and fuck you," breathed Jack.
Daniel's eyes rolled in his head. A man who liked rampant sex and plenty of it was what he needed right now. He'd become sick of the bed hopping and partner swapping. He'd made a big show of enjoying that sort of thing but in reality, Daniel wanted stability and commitment. He wasn't sure if Jack wanted the same thing but he was strongly attracted to Jack and for the time being, he was happy to share only Jack's bed.
Jack reached into the nightstand beside the bed and selected his supplies, lubrication and a couple of condoms. He closed the drawer on a large dildo, butt plug and a pair of handcuffs. Those could wait for another time. He didn't want to scare Daniel off before they'd got going.
Daniel groaned as Jack pushed in his lubricated fingers, twisting and pumping to stretch Daniel's opening. When Jack brushed against his prostate, Daniel yelped with pleasure and his shoulders collapsed onto the pillows. He spread his knees and dipped his spine. Jack was making him tremble with delight.
Jack wasn't surprised at how easily and quickly Daniel's body responded. Daniel was used to anal penetration he assumed. Quickly shuffling up behind him, Jack rested the head of his cock against Daniel's asshole and grunted, "Okay?"
"Yeah," Daniel nodded enthusiastically over his shoulder.
Jack rocked his hips forward and pushed, sliding into Daniel in one smooth glide.
Jack moved, the heat enveloping his cock stimulating his senses and driving his lust. He hadn't appreciated the strength of attraction he felt for Daniel until now, though he wasn't sure if the attraction was animal or something more. Whichever it was, right at that moment his brain couldn't function above a basic and instinctual level.
Jack pounded Daniel's ass. He needed to feel everything, to let the sensations of sex swallow him up and take him entirely. He'd always had a strong sex drive, but nothing like this. Daniel had ignited something deep down and Jack could only work every muscle, every fibre of his body to achieve the promise that Daniel offered.
The sweat slick sound of Jack driving into Daniel's body drove him on, his face a tense grimace in his goal to complete. His lungs burned and his muscles ached but his balls were full and heavy and he had to empty them, had to climax, had to come.
Jack threw back his head and roared as he came hard, his body twitching through the final vestiges of his orgasm. His panting, gasping throat felt raw and dry. Rolling off Daniel, Jack flopped onto the bed his chest dragging in much needed air.
Daniel collapsed slowly and carefully down on the mattress, his ass throbbing with Jack's efforts. He had been so close to coming himself, and it took all his concentration not to do that. He understood quite clearly that Jack wanted the same treatment from him. Daniel wasn't sure he could last long enough to satisfy him.
"You okay?" he whispered listening to Jack's ragged breathing.
"Yeah," Jack croaked as he stretched his body to ease the knots and aches.
"How do you want it?" Daniel enquired sliding on a condom and coating it with extra lubricant. Sure, the condom had its own lubrication but Daniel suspected Jack didn't want too much preparation.
"Just where I am," Jack grinned and spread his legs.
Daniel shoved a pillow under Jack's hips and lifted Jack's legs up onto his shoulders. "Comfortable?"
"Yeah," Jack nodded. "Just don't spend too much time with the prep. I like it..."
Daniel cut across him. "Hard?"
Jack sucked at his lower lip trying to bite back the animal in him. "Yeah, hard."
With slick fingers, Daniel set about a perfunctory preparation of Jack's ass. Jack lifted his hips in a movement of impatience but Daniel wouldn't be rushed. He had to make sure Jack was ready. He would not hurt him.
Jack screwed up his eyes and began to pant. Daniel seemed to be teasing him, building his desire again.
"Do it!" he yelled. He wasn't ready to be made love to. He didn't want that, not at that moment. He just wanted to be fucked. He couldn't cope with all those emotions.
"Okay," Daniel growled through gritted teeth and yanked the pillow roughly away from under Jack. "You want it? Okay, you got it!"
Daniel leaned forward, stretching Jack's hamstrings as he pressed against Jack, using him like a fulcrum. Holding his cock, Daniel pushed hard and Jack's eyes flew open in shock. The burning pain soon subsided and Daniel got into his rhythm, fast, hard and unyielding. If Jack wanted it hard, that's what he was going to get.
Daniel drove balls deep into Jack's body, again and again, shunting him up to the end of the bed until the top of his head hit the board.
Jack's eyes rolled in his head and stars exploded behind them. Daniel was now gripping the bed head, his knees wide and his hips in fluid motion now grunting with each forward thrust. He looked down at Jack, into his slightly glazed dark brown eyes. As Jack's eyes hooded, Daniel groaned loudly and came.
When Jack woke in the early hours, he turned to see Daniel asleep beside him. He smiled then it faded. Jack had only three months before his tour of duty at the Embassy would be over. The idea of him and Daniel sharing this living space seemed a stupid thought, one he knew was just plain dumb. Daniel was hardly a permanent resident. Even so, would Daniel move back to the States with him? Would Daniel want to be with him? Was there any point in telling Daniel he was going to take early retirement and, on the basis of that, invite him to live in a cabin in Minnesota with a pond that probably didn't even have fish in it.
Daniel had a different view of how to conduct a relationship and Jack wondered if he could accept Daniel's 'free love' approach. In any case, Jack wasn't sure himself about his feelings for Daniel. Maybe he should just enjoy Daniel's presence when they were together and not allow himself to fall too deeply. Yeah, that made sense. They should just enjoy each other when it suited and forget all the emotional baggage that went alongside it.
Jack thought he knew Daniel. After all they'd spent a lot of time together at the Baton Rouge but it was only now that Jack realised he knew very little about the man who had recently blown his mind and body with incredible sex.
He should make the effort to know Daniel better just so long as it didn't involve all that baggage...
Jack checked the pile of reports on his desk and wondered if there was anything new. A single sheet of paper caught his eye.
'Alexander Dubček has been elected leader of the Communist Party in Czechoslovakia. He has a reputation for being a liberal reformist. The Kremlin has approved his new position.'
Jack looked up and stared at his new calendar pinned to the wall across from his desk. It was a gift from Daniel and showed the sights of Paris. January featured the Eiffel Tower.
Wondering if Dubček was likely to survive, Jack glanced at the Eiffel Tower again. It was tall, erect and very phallic. He smiled. Everything reminded him of Daniel.
Daniel yawned and turned over in bed. Jack's side was empty. He had spent the night on duty at the Embassy. Daniel missed him. Switching on the little radio on the nightstand, Daniel listened to the news.
'American Secretary of State Dean Rusk made a speech yesterday about the goals of American foreign policy. Dean Rusk's hawkish stance on seeking victory in Vietnam sparked riots, and as students later reported, generated a violent response by police.'
Daniel thought about what he'd heard. Jack was a hawk too. He was a strong supporter of the Vietnam War and he just couldn't see that most of America was against it. Daniel wondered what he could say or do to change Jack's mind on this or at least to make him see he should think more about it.
Jack sighed. Something was going on in the world that he didn't understand. He had just read a report about student protests in Spain, at the University of Barcelona. The students appeared to be protesting about a number of things, all to do with a lack of democracy in general and against General Franco in particular. What with that and the San Francisco University student riots, things were getting weird.
With more than a little irritation, Jack heard about hostility to the arrival of the American aircraft carrier Enterprise in the southern Japanese port of Sasebo. Apparently, demonstrators didn't like the fact that the Enterprise had recently sailed the seas close to Vietnam and they objected to the ship coming into port in Japan. Things were getting weirder.
Daniel listened to the radio while he waited for Jack to make coffee. The report made him sit up and take notice.
'Last night, Warsaw Poland saw the final performance of what is considered to be an anti-Russian play entitled Forefather's Eve penned by Adam Mickiewicz. It is suspected that the play was banned by the Polish Communist Party on the orders of the Soviet Ambassador. The play is beloved by generations of Poles as an accurate account of their own suffering and humiliation under war, foreign domination and domestic tyrannies. It is devastating about Russians, about police states and about censorship. Warsaw citizens and students have been protesting, claiming it to be state censorship. In response, police action has been swift and brutal with baton charges, arrests and bloodshed.'
Daniel frowned. Could his own country be trying to censor information about Vietnam? He could ask Jack of course but he really wasn't in the mood for another argument. He wanted his coffee and he wanted Jack, he just wasn't sure in which order.
It was Thursday morning and breakfast time. Jack sat at the table in the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont apartment eating toast. He was planning to take Daniel back to bed as soon as Daniel got back from fetching the morning paper. Daniel was so receptive, so enthusiastic that Jack thought he had already died and gone to heaven. His sex life had never been so active.
Hearing the door open and close, Jack smiled. He'd give Daniel ten minutes to scan the newspaper and then he'd make his move. He didn't have to be at the Embassy until two that afternoon, so they'd have time for some slow lazy sex.
Daniel strolled into the living room with a cup of coffee in one hand and the newspaper in the other. Jack sat back in his chair and waited indulgently for Daniel to get his fill of the daily news.
"Oh my God, Jack. Did you know about this?" Daniel spun the paper around and pushed it towards him. "Look!"
Jack glanced at the headlines. They meant nothing to him – they were in French. He looked up slowly and raised his eyebrows expectantly.
"Oh give it here," Daniel growled irritably and grabbed the paper back again.
"What does it say, Daniel?"
"It says 'Tet Offensive. Yesterday, the Viet Cong launched a series of surprise attacks on strategic targets across South Vietnam.' Our Embassy in Saigon has been hit, Jack!"
"Yeah, I know. I picked up the report at work last night. Now maybe you can understand why this war is so important, Daniel. This kind of attack is unacceptable."
Daniel took a deep breathe as he tried to choose his words. "Isn't any U.S. Embassy in a war zone a legitimate target?"
"What!" Jack threw back incredulously. "The footprint of any Embassy building plus its surrounding grounds is part of the country it represents. The U.S. Embassy in Saigon was on American soil, Daniel. Attacking an Embassy is like attacking the country, like attacking us directly. It's a way of declaring war."
"We've already done that, Jack and I can't believe you would bring up the 'on American soil' crap. It's Vietnamese soil and it's stained with the blood of Vietnamese people!"
"Right now, Daniel it's stained with American blood from American casualties!"
They glared at each other in seething silence until Jack pushed his chair back and stood up. He stalked from the room and all Daniel heard was his voice from the hallway. "I'm going to work!"
"No chance of sex then," Daniel muttered as, through the window, he watched Jack stride away.
Jack hunched against the cold driving rain as he stood on the sidewalk paying off the cab driver. He'd come straight from the Embassy to meet Daniel in the Baton Rouge. He hoped they would be able to patch up their disagreement of the day before over breakfast.
The heat of the Baton Rouge hit Jack like a wall as he dived out of the rain and into the restaurant. He scanned the tables and saw Daniel sitting with Skaara, Gaston and a couple of other students. They were all huddled over the table, their heads together and almost touching. There were looks of shock and disgust on their faces.
"Hey," Jack said announcing himself quietly.
Daniel snapped a glance at him and turned back to whatever it was that was he and the others were studying in the centre of the table.
Frowning, Jack surveyed the small knot of students, all of them staring at the spread out newspaper in stunned silence.
"What's goin' on?" Jack asked.
In a fast angry movement, Daniel grabbed up the front page and brandished it in Jack's face. "This!" he snarled.
Staring at Daniel, Jack took the crumpled paper and shook out the creases then reluctantly drew his gaze away from Daniel's searing expression and looked at a large half page photograph.
The picture showed three men in the foreground with a wide, open street running into the distance behind them. There was a row of stores on the right hand side and much further, back on the left, two people were crossing the road. The background showed ordinary daily life except for the three men.
One man was in military battledress, his helmet fitting well down on his head. Although his body faced the left hand edge of the picture, his head craned around to look at what the other two men were doing. The soldier was grimacing and Jack found it hard to read the expression. Was it horror, enthusiastic agreement or just plain bloodlust? Jack couldn't tell.
The solder stood just off from a man with his back to the camera. This man held a small gun in his hand and was in the act of shooting the third man in the head. Jack noted the attitude of the man with the gun. His body was relaxed, his left arm hanging comfortably at his side, his face without emotion. His right arm was out straight, his grip on the silver coloured revolver firm, practised and focused. It was the archetypal execution style pose.
He looked like all he was doing was pointing to a store across the street.
The third man faced the camera. His hands were bound behind his back and his eyes were hooded in response to the oncoming bullet. Blood trickled from the corner of his mouth.
The headlines above the photograph screamed, 'South Vietnamese police chief executes Viet Cong army officer'. The future Pulitzer Prize winning photograph taken by Eddie Adams was reproduced across the world and would sway U.S. public opinion against the war.
"Is this what we're doing? What we're encouraging others to do, Jack? Does this make it a just war after all?" Daniel was all but yelling now, his tone barely controlled.
Jack looked at Daniel for a few moments in silence and then left the Baton Rouge. It was hard to defend the act of street level execution on either side.
"Why did you walk away?" Daniel asked, as he stood at the kitchen door soaking wet and shivering. He'd run after Jack soon after Jack had left the Baton Rouge but couldn't catch him. Jack's long legs had out-distanced him.
Jack was leaning over the sink waiting for the coffee to infuse in the press. He had his back to Daniel and didn't acknowledge him or answer his enquiry.
Daniel reached out and touched him, his voice gentle and concerned. "Jack?"
Jack turned around and looked Daniel up and down. It made Daniel feel like he'd brought in something nasty off the street.
"You're blaming me for Vietnam and it's not my fault. I believe the President is right in what's he trying to do. Our boys are out there getting shot at, bombed and picked off by snipers in the jungle. They're just kids, Daniel no older than those kids sat around the table in the Baton Rouge. They deserve our support and our help. They don't deserve to be criticised and made to seem like they don't care."
"I'm not blaming you or them, Jack and I never said they don't care. It's our government that's at fault and I won't change my mind about that. The President should be the bigger man and negotiate an end to the war. That's the only way the killing will stop. That photograph will alienate the country from its leaders, Jack. Pandora's Box has been opened with that picture and the real war will soon be next to the toast and jam on everyone's breakfast table. The newspapers can't be censored. They will show the reality whether you or the government likes it or not. Why can't you see that?"
"What I see is our country sending it's finest to defend the free world."
"But you said it yourself, they're not the finest. They're just kids."
"They might be just kids but they're the finest because they're in Vietnam, not in Paris."
Daniel blinked. "Jack?"
"You never explained to me how you dodged the draft, Daniel seeing it was extended to include graduate students last October. How come you were rejected by the draft board?"
"I didn't dodge the draft, Jack," Daniel choked. "It was because I'm a homosexual. Does that do it for ya, Jack?" There was vehemence in Daniel's voice. It shook with emotion, anger and humiliation.
"I suppose you told 'em. You're the type aren't you, Daniel, to be honest with everyone." Jack had felt that honesty bite at him. Sometimes it was hard to live with.
Daniel gasped. "Why are you doing this? Why are you being so...so cruel?"
"I'm not, Daniel. I just want the truth. Tell me why the draft board didn't want you. How would they know unless you told them?"
"I didn't tell them, at least not with words." Daniel's voice trembled as he remembered what had happened.
Jack said nothing but waited. He would get the truth out of Daniel one way or another. He wanted to know how Daniel had done it. At least that way he'd know how it was done, how draftees were avoiding or evading their duty. Jack didn't know why it was so important to know and maybe it wasn't about the benefit of the inside track. Perhaps it was because he wanted to know everything about Daniel because it mattered to him. He mattered a great deal.
Daniel's hands were shaking as he peeled off his soaking wet coat. Leaving the living room, he went into the bathroom and hung it up on the back of the door. It could drip there.
"You'd better take everything off," Jack said from the doorway. "I'll get you a robe." He was back in a flash with his own, which he handed to Daniel. "Coffee?"
Back in the living room, Daniel sat on the edge of his seat, his hands cupped around the coffee mug for warmth and for comfort.
Jack waited a moment and when Daniel didn't go on with his explanation about the draft board rejection, he prompted, "Well? You were saying? About the draft?"
Daniel sighed. "I turned up for the medical. There were a lot of us, all lined up shoulder to shoulder in just our underwear. Some guy, I don't know who, a sergeant or someone, walked up and down in front of us, inspecting us. It was weird. It was like he was trying to make us confess to something we hadn't done and most of us were tempted to admit to anything just to stop him from looking at us. He was intimidating. It was not a pleasant experience."
"Well, recruitment sergeants do like to throw their weight around. The idea is to give newbies a taste of their future careers. It sorts the men from the boys," Jack said lightly but when Daniel threw him a 'daggers' look the smile faded immediately.
"Don't make excuses, Jack. The man was a bully. Having strolled up and down the line a few times, he stopped in front of me and stared. He just stared. He didn't do anything or say anything except look at me. Then in a very loud voice he said, 'I think you need a further examination, boy.' I was twenty six years old, Jack!"
Jack could understand how the sergeant could have mistaken Daniel for being younger than he was. He had a youthful look to him. Not exactly a baby face though there was something gentle and fresh about Daniel's appearance. At first glance people would not notice that Daniel was actually taller than he appeared and older than his years suggested. Inwardly Jack smiled. He daren't show a smile to Daniel at the moment. He didn't think it would go down too well. The chances were the sergeant just liked intimidating people. He probably hadn't mistaken Daniel's appearance and age at all. The man was most likely just an S.O.B.
"What happened?" Jack asked quietly.
"I was taken to a small room. It was dark. There was no window and no electric light. I was made to strip completely and stand while some guy in a white coat strapped a loop of wire around my dick."
"What?" Jack said aghast. "They didn't..."
"Torture me? Abuse me? Not in the literal sense no," Daniel went on, "But I was told to stand there and not to touch either the wire or myself. I was instructed to watch a small screen. They closed and locked the door on me. I was left alone with no explanation as to what was going to happen. I was terrified. For all I knew they were gonna send a million volts to my dick through that wire."
At this point Daniel dragged in an uneven breathe and sipped at his coffee.
"Then a series of pictures appeared on the screen. First, there were a few of naked women then naked men and women fucking and a couple of pictures of women making out together. The last few were of naked men, some on their own, masturbating. There were other images with two or more men all involved in sexual acts, some of which I knew and some that were a complete surprise to me. Most were of penetrative anal sex."
Jack was frowning at what Daniel was telling him. This was a military recruiting technique he'd never heard of before.
"When the pictures were finished someone came into the room, switched on the light and removed the wire loop from my penis. I was told to put on my underpants and get back in the line up. We waited for a while until the sergeant reappeared with a sheet of paper in his hand and a very smug smile on his face. He called out my name and made me step forward then he announced to the whole room that I would not be accepted into the Marines, or Navy or what the hell else it was because I was a fag. He waved the piece of paper at me and told me he had scientific proof. I was not allowed to be in the company of other men because I was dangerous and undesirable."
At this, Daniel shuddered and finished his coffee in one long swallow.
"He told me I was a homosexual after he'd given me the once over because I looked the type. He said my dick had given me away. Can you imagine how I felt, Jack? The humiliation was unbearable though I kept my mouth shut at the time. I couldn't get dressed and out of that place fast enough."
"I don't blame you," Jack replied. "I'm sorry you had to go through that. I didn't know the military would do such a thing. I'm not proud of it, Daniel."
"So you shouldn't be," Daniel flung back, his anguish rising at the retelling of such an awful experience. "Everyone in that room knew! Just because my dick twitched at the wrong time. Fuck!" He shook his head as if trying to get rid of the memory. "That's when I took off and came to Paris. I couldn't bear to be in my own country because of the way my government had treated me. I'm ashamed of it and of myself. I'm not sure I'll ever get over it."
Tentatively, Jack held out his arms and embraced Daniel, a supportive humanitarian gesture that moved Daniel to release his emotional trauma. He wept into Jack's shoulder and when Jack tried to let him go, Daniel clung on.
After a few minutes, Daniel decided to step away from Jack. "I'm sorry," he sniffed. "I didn't mean to do that."
"It's okay, Daniel," Jack said gently, "It's okay. Wanna drink?"
"I've just had one," Daniel replied nodding at the empty coffee cup.
"No, I meant a real drink."
"Ah, right. Okay."
They sat in silence, each sipping their drinks while deep in contemplation. Jack was thinking about the unsavoury nature of the U.S. military and Daniel was thinking about Jack. Daniel's revelation must have shaken Jack's confidence in the organisation that he had shown a commitment to for all of his adult life, twenty years he'd said. His disappointment must have been profound and now Daniel began to feel guilty about it.
Jack must have sensed Daniel's mood. "Don't feel guilty," he said kindly. "It's not your fault. The whole thing is the fault of the military. I've known men who were brave soldiers, who fought like tigers. Some were officers and good leaders of men. They liked sex with men too. If they'd had to go through the same ordeal you did, they would never have been the assets they were. I can't believe the way things are right now."
"I'm sorry too, Jack. I'm sure those men you described were good at what they did and none of them would deserve the dishonour they might experience now."
"C'mon," Jack whispered, "Let me take you to bed."
Daniel looked at him in surprise.
"I don't mean for sex, Daniel. That wouldn't be right. I just meant let's get warm and relax. I might even take a nap."
Daniel flashed a tight but grateful smile.
When Daniel woke hours later, it was dark outside. They'd gone to bed in the early afternoon and Daniel wasn't surprised that Jack had fallen asleep so quickly. He'd been at the Embassy for twenty four hours and had arrived in the Baton Rouge sometime during the late morning.
Daniel yawned and stretched. He was relaxed and comfortable with the weight of Jack's arm across his chest and Jack's leg over his thigh. Daniel drew his hand slowly down Jack's shoulder and arm to his fingers. He used his index finger and thumb to map each of Jack's fingers noting how long they were and how expressive they could be when he spoke. Daniel smiled. He was close to being in love with Jack and wondered if Jack felt the same for him. It was hard to know for sure. When they were at ease with each other it seemed to Daniel there could be nothing better but when they argued it was not so good. Would those fundamental differences fuel their relationship or destroy it?
Daniel got up slowly and carefully so as not to disturb Jack and went to the bathroom. After that, he made coffee. He didn't know whether to wake Jack or just leave him to sleep. The trouble with doing that was Jack might not thank Daniel for letting him sleep on until the early hours then he would wake and not be able to sleep again.
Daniel carried two cups of coffee back into the bedroom and placed one on the nightstand nearest Jack. He put his on the floor but instead of waking Jack as he'd intended, Daniel went into the guest bedroom where he kept his painting tools and sketchbooks.
Jack had insisted that Daniel keep all his belongings in the other bedroom reasoning that if ever he had a visit or worse, an investigation as to his living habits, he could show any interested party that Daniel was indeed a roommate and nothing more. "After all," Jack had said grinning, "They can't prove that you never slept in that bed, Daniel."
All of Daniel's painting equipment as well as his paints and canvases were stored there but he had very little space in which to do much painting. He still needed a studio but couldn't afford to rent anywhere suitable. He had to satisfy himself with making drawings and sketches for the time being. He'd only sold one painting since Christmas even though the Galerie Émile had at least six of his pictures in stock. Daniel sighed. He should remind the Sorbonne that he was still available to do translation work.
Grabbing his sketchbook, Daniel tiptoed back into their bedroom and began to draw Jack, who was still asleep. After about twenty minutes, Daniel switched on the little electric fire and pulled back the covers to reveal Jack's naked body. He wanted to draw Jack without him having any inhibitions about posing. This way, Daniel could record Jack's stillness, his gentleness.
Daniel worked for over an hour until he'd used up the last few pages in his book. He put it quietly on the floor and then slid back into bed, pulling up the blankets to cover himself and Jack. Daniel fell asleep again until much later when he woke to the sensation of a hand on his stomach.
"Jack?" he muttered, his voice sleep thick and slightly gravelly.
"Hey," Jack replied against Daniel's neck. "You feel good."
Daniel turned over on his side and Jack spooned up against him. He moaned softly at Jack's touch. "You're poking me in the back," Daniel breathed.
"Yeah, and I'm hoping to poke you somewhere else too."
Daniel snorted into his pillow and then took a breath as Jack's hand travelled over his body.
Jack loved to touch Daniel's skin, smooth and warm as it was. He also loved the firm curving shape of Daniel's hips and buttocks and showing his appreciation, kneaded and massaged them. Pressing hard against Daniel, Jack ran his hand around to Daniel's groin to search out his cock, still soft though he hoped not for long.
Jack and Daniel lay together quietly, Jack touching and caressing Daniel's body, changing his attention from Daniel's buttocks to his cock and back again. Jack spent many minutes slowly and gently building Daniel's responses. When Daniel was good and hard, Jack slid the small container of lubricant from under his pillow that was there in anticipation and dipped his fingers into the oily substance.
Jack's goal was the small tight ring of muscle between Daniel's buttocks and when his fingertip ghosted over the puckered rim, Daniel shuddered and moaned some more. Jack worked Daniel's asshole, teasing him, pushing him to groan loudly. Daniel moved his arm backwards over his hip and pulled at his buttock, revealing his ass to Jack as a hint for him to slide in his finger.
Jack did just that, moving slowly and firmly and encouraging Daniel to roll onto his front. Lifting his hips slightly, Daniel sighed into his forearm, his head resting on it. Jack straddled Daniel's hips and waist, angled his cock and pushed.
Daniel let out a satisfied groan as Jack began to move inside him.
Jack grunted, feeling Daniel's tightness around him. Shifting his position, Jack settled his knees between Daniel's legs and pulled Daniel's hips back. Now he could really concentrate on the rocking thrusting movements he enjoyed so much. They sent waves of pleasure through his body and he knew they pleasured Daniel too.
On Jack thrust, inwards, back and inwards again. His rhythm was constant and controlled, his hips driving each and every stroke of his cock. When his knees began to ache, he stopped for a moment getting Daniel to turn onto his back. Jack swivelled Daniel's body by ninety degrees to the length of the bed, rolled off the mattress and stood with his knees leaning against it. He lifted Daniel's legs to rest over his shoulders and then filled his ass again. In this position, Jack could get the purchase he needed.
With his hands gripping Daniel's thighs, Jack soon found his tempo again. He watched as Daniel stroked his own cock, watched Daniel's hand move, the head of his cock appear and disappear within his grip. Jack could see that pearl of fluid form and spread beneath Daniel's caress and his jaw slackened as he continued to pump into Daniel's body.
Lifting his gaze, Jack saw Daniel's blue eyes looking at him. When Daniel's eyelids fluttered and hooded, Jack felt himself coming. That expression told him Daniel was about to come too. Jack was learning Daniel's signals and knew what they meant.
Suddenly the rush of orgasm overtook Jack's conscious efforts and he held Daniel tight to him as he came. Daniel made two more strokes of his cock and emptied over his hand and abdomen.
Daniel was reading the newspaper and working his way through it, stopped and blinked at a small report towards the back of the paper. 'Student protest in Rome.' He looked up and thought about the small headline. Students seemed to rising up and protesting all over the place. Curiosity got the better of him and he grabbed his coat to walk to the Baton Rouge. He needed to find out if the others could see a pattern emerging.
Skaara finished up his Baton Rouge cup of coffee and cleared his throat. He read aloud from the newspaper to the rapt attention of Daniel, Gaston and a collection of students.
The culmination of years of student political activity saw the fall of the Belgian government yesterday. What started as an argument between minority Flemish students and the French speaking Catholic University of Leuven based on class politics, ended with a deep schism within Belgian society and a profound change in the way the state of Belgium sees itself.
Daniel was quiet and thoughtful. The world was going crazy and the status quo was looking decidedly shaky. He smiled.
Jack was walking along the corridor towards the office of General Hammond for his weekly meeting. This was Jack's chance to raise any issues, impart any interesting information and ask the general how his granddaughters were doing. It was also an opportunity for Hammond to quiz Jack on the minutiae of Embassy attaché gossip. Between them, they put the pieces together to see what kind of jigsaw they could produce.
"I've just heard over the wire that the Socialist German Students Union has organised an International Vietnam Conference in Berlin, Jack. Apparently several thousand people from various countries have made it very international."
"Do we know if Cohn-Bendit was in attendance, sir?" Jack had more than a professional interest in the comings and goings of Cohn-Bendit. He wanted to know if Daniel might be involved in some way. True, Daniel had not travelled to Germany but that didn't mean he wasn't interested in what was going on.
"We don't know, which is not to say he isn't there, just that we can't prove it either way. The fact is, over ten thousand students and others have rallied against the war. They're led by a student named Rudi Dutschke. Our Embassy in West Berlin is on full alert."
Jack nodded. He could imagine the kind of pressure his equivalent in Germany was under. He just hoped it wouldn't happen in Paris.
Daniel stared open mouthed at the T.V. He was at Gaston's place while Jack was at the Embassy. "Can you believe this?" he asked in awe.
Gaston smiled and shook his head with incredulity. "Pas, je ne le crois pas non plus mais là il est."
Daniel nodded. He agreed with Gaston. He didn't believe it either but there it was, the Swedish minister of Education Olof Palme, the economist Gunnar Myrdal and the North Vietnamese Ambassador to Moscow walking together at the head of a six thousand strong anti war rally in Stockholm. When Olof Palme made his speech, criticising the United States, Gaston and Daniel enthusiastically shook hands and whooped with excitement. It seemed that the Swedish Prime Minister as well as the Foreign Minister had approved Palme's speech before the demonstration.
"This just proves Europe is against the war, Gaston."
"It is just one government, Daniel."
"But there'll be more, you wait and see."
By the time Daniel got back to Jack's apartment in the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont it was late. The apartment was dark and empty, which just frustrated Daniel. He wanted to tell Jack about the Swedish demonstration, the fact that at least one government had stood out against the Vietnam War. He was excited and wanted to talk but Jack wasn't there. Daniel rolled his eyes. He and Jack wouldn't talk about the latest news, they'd argue about it.
Daniel sighed. Jack drove him crazy when they were together. Not all the time it was true. When they were in bed, they were definitely on the same page but in their politics and outlook, they had very different views. The reality was when Jack wasn't around, Daniel missed him like hell.
Reluctantly, Daniel got into bed. It was cold and it made him shiver for a second. The bed was always cold whether Jack was there or not it was just that when he was there, Daniel and the bed warmed up quicker. Jack was especially good at warming up Daniel.
Frowning, Jack looked at the large pile of reports in his in-tray. Life at the Embassy had stopped being quiet and easy. Now it seemed like politics in Europe was erupting into demonstrations, protest marches, arrests and violence.
Rudi Dutschke, the student who had organised the International Vietnam Conference in Berlin was now touring. His latest performance was in Uppsala, Sweden and the United States had withdrawn its Ambassador from the country. It felt like America would soon be under siege from the rest of the world because of the Vietnam War. Jack found the situation unsettling. He'd always been confident in his country's actions but now he began to wonder if it was right to continue in Vietnam. On the other hand, the United States was strong in its opposition to the spread of Communism. "It's the right thing to do," muttered Jack as he worked through the reports.
But that conclusion didn't help when there were other disturbances going on that appeared to have nothing to do with Vietnam. In Warsaw there were wide spread protests at the arrests of two university students who were still fighting against the Polish authorities. "See, I can support that," Jack continued, "They're resisting Communism."
His conclusion made him blink and look up. He frowned at Daniel's calendar. "How can I be in support of a load of long-haired layabout students who are just intent on causing trouble? Maybe I need to talk this over with Daniel."
Daniel was sitting with Gaston and Skaara in the Baton Rouge. They were in passionate discussion about class politics, the Vietnam War and the uprising of student protests right across Europe.
Hot at the top of the agenda was the demonstration held in Grosvenor Square in London. Twenty thousand people had marched on the U.S. Embassy. Student leader Tariq Ali, along with well known actress Vanessa Redgrave had shown their rejection of American values. This was a major blow to Anglo-American relations.
"Do you think anti war demonstrators might do the same in Paris?" Gaston asked in awe. "Could your Embassy here be attacked, Daniel?"
"I don't know, Gaston. Student feeling seems to be more in favour of changing the attitudes of the Sorbonne authorities. Don't you agree, Skaara?"
Skaara cocked his head and looked pensive. "I think that's very possible. According to Daniel," and he smiled at Daniel, "Cohn-Bendit that is, the issue is about class and making university places available to working class students instead of always admitting the rich and middle class but I think the Vietnam war is connected."
Daniel nodded enthusiastically. "You're right. All the while university students in the States were exempt from the draft, the only people who were being called up were the poor and less well educated. That in itself is a class-based issue. It's also a Race issue too. Most of the young men being recruited in that category are Black."
"So what does all that mean for Paris?" Gaston asked intently.
"I'm not sure," answered Daniel.
Just then, Jack came swinging through the Baton Rouge doors to head straight for Daniel. "Hey," he said a little breathlessly.
"Jack!" Daniel said greeting him with a blinding smile. "Take a seat. We're just having a discussion about..."
"I need to speak with you, Daniel," Jack said glancing at Skaara and Gaston, "In private."
Daniel frowned. "In private?"
Skaara and Gaston looked at each other. "I have to go," Skaara said and left immediately while Gaston hesitated. Jack glared at him until he stood.
Put out, Gaston lift his chin loftily. "À bientôt," he said stiffly to Daniel. He ignored Jack.
Now alone at the table, Jack sat down. He looked grim.
"What is it, Jack?" Daniel asked quietly. Daniel could see a look in Jack's eyes he'd never witnessed before. It was of anguish and confusion.
Jack didn't answer immediately. He just cleared his throat as though trying to buy some time before he said what he needed to say. In a low voice, he began. "A report passed my desk this morning. I shouldn't be telling you this but I think you should know."
"Jack? Are you breaking regulations? Are you going to share something top secret? Perhaps it would be better if you didn't say anything."
"It would be better if I didn't say anything, especially here," Jack went on glancing furtively around the restaurant. "Maybe we should go back to the apartment," he whispered and got up from his seat.
"Well, okay. If you want but I was planning to meet some friends here later."
"You need to hear what I've got to say first," Jack breathed. His expression was set. He wasn't prepared to negotiate the issue.
They walked quickly to the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont in silence. It was five thirty in the evening and the streets were busy with homeward Parisians.
Once back in the apartment, Jack slumped into an armchair in the living room. Daniel stood with his hands in his pockets and waited.
Jack blew out a breath and scrubbed his fingers through his hair. Daniel watched with concern. Whatever it was that Jack had to say, it was difficult for him. Daniel's stomach flipped. What if Jack wanted to end their relationship? He hadn't reckoned on that. What if it was true and Jack had grown tired of him, or felt he should take this decision to avoid any trouble with the military.
Daniel held his breath.
"Daniel, what you've been saying about the Vietnam War...about the way the U.S. military has been conducting the campaign...about the rights and wrongs of it."
This was hard for Jack. He was about to pass on a state secret, something he could be court-martialled and jailed for.
"I saw a report this morning, about somethin' that happened two days ago in a small Vietnamese village called My Lai. Hundreds of villagers including women, children and old people were killed by our troops. From the little detail coming out of Vietnam, it looks like a massacre."
Daniel looked shocked. "Hundreds?"
Jack chewed on his lower lip and nodded.
"God, Jack," Daniel said. "That's awful. What happened? Why would they do that?"
"I can't give you any answers, Daniel, because I don't have them. I'm beginning to think I don't know anything anymore. The information is sketchy and you can be sure it won't hit the headlines, not this time. That's why I'm telling you this because you won't find out any other way. The military is turning into some kind of rampaging killing machine with no thought to the impact of what it's doing. I know individual soldiers can get a little out of control now and again. It happens," he said, "But this is different. It was sanctioned, Daniel." The controlled tone of Jack's voice vanished and was replaced by growling anger and disillusionment.
Daniel took a step forward and laid a gentle hand on Jack's shoulder. "I'm sorry."
"I've been defending our stance in Vietnam all this while, saying that the reasons were justified for us to be there but now?" Jack closed his eyes and rubbed them with thumb and index finger, squeezing the bridge of his nose in frustration. "I don't understand. The whole world is going to hell in a hand basket."
Daniel sank to his knees and held Jack's face in his hands. "I'm so sorry, Jack. Everything you believed in, everything you thought was right has turned around and kicked you hard. I don't know what to say."
Jack gave a cynical humourless smile. "It doesn't matter. I've only got a few weeks to go and I'm outta here."
"What?" What was Jack saying? Daniel hadn't got a clue what he was talking about.
"My duty at the Embassy will be up soon, in fact the end of March and I'm gonna go back to the States and retire. I'm gonna spend a month or so doing nothing, spending some quality Paris time then I was thinking I might settle in my cabin in Minnesota, maybe get a dog."
"You're leaving? You're going away?"
"Yeah," Jack nodded, "But you're coming with, right?"
"I...I can't think right now, Jack."
"Sure, I understand. I've dropped a pretty big bombshell in your lap. My Lai is a real shock. You need time to digest it. I get that. I'm gonna make dinner," he announced and pulled himself out of the chair.
Daniel watched Jack walk along the hallway to the kitchen, numbed by his news. The massacre was bad enough but being told that Jack would soon be leaving Paris to move five thousand miles away was too big a piece of news to take in.
"Not hungry?" Jack asked mopping up the rest of his mushroom and cream sauce with a piece of bread. He hadn't realised just how hungry he was and he'd eaten his dinner with gusto but Daniel hadn't. Jack couldn't fail to notice the glum expression, deeply etched frown and still full plate.
"No, sorry, Jack. I don't seem to have much appetite."
"Why's that? Oh, don't tell me, it's My Lai isn't it? Understandable. I'm just glad I'll be leaving the military soon then I won't have to think about any of this ever again."
Daniel noticed Jack's cheery attitude and it irritated him. Jack had chosen to tell Daniel he was leaving when they were part way through March already.
"Why didn't you tell me before now?" Daniel asked quietly.
"I only read the report this morning," Jack answered and looked longingly at Daniel's plate. "You gonna finish that?"
Dispiritedly Daniel shoved his plate at Jack. He wasn't making any headway with Jack at all at the moment. Maybe he just wouldn't bother trying. If Jack thought this announcement wouldn't throw Daniel, that he assumed Daniel would just up sticks and move back to America with him, if Jack was going to take him for granted... This collection of thoughts kept swirling around in his mind, each voiced with more resentment than the one before.
"I'm going out," Daniel said abruptly.
"What?" Jack responded in surprise. "I thought we could have a quiet evening in, y'know in bed. You don't have to be quiet of course, you never are, Daniel but that's what I like about you!"
"I told you I was meeting friends. I'll see you later."
Jack pursed his lips. News of the My Lai massacre had obviously affected Daniel. That explained his frosty mood, reasoned Jack. What else could it be?
Daniel could have chosen to stay with Jack instead of leaving to meet Skaara but now it didn't matter if he'd had no one to meet, Daniel needed to get away and think. With his hands deep in his coat pockets, Daniel bent his head against the keen March wind and kept walking.
Jack had sprung the news of his early retirement and plans to leave Paris without any warning. He'd just said it with no consideration about Daniel's feelings on the subject. It was like Jack had assumed Daniel would move with him, as though there was no need for discussion about it because Daniel would just fall into step with whatever Jack had planned. Hadn't Jack ever heard of consultation?
Daniel cleared his throat and it sounded like a strangled choke. Shaking his head, Daniel concluded that it was his own fault. He shouldn't have put so much store by his own feelings, he should have kept his distance. After all, Jack was his own man, had his own plans so why would Daniel expect Jack to have any consideration for his plans, for his hopes. No, Daniel had to distance himself from Jack. Right now, otherwise he was convinced he wouldn't survive.
As Daniel attacked his croissant, generating a pile of pastry crumbs to sprinkle on the crusty bread on his plate, Jack stared at him.
"What is it with all the," Jack began waving his hand in irritation, "bread?"
"Bread?" queried Daniel spreading butter and jam on the now misshapen and collapsed croissant on his plate.
"Yeah, this whole French thing about bread," continued Jack still waving his hand. "What ever happened to eggs, ham, toast and waffles?"
"Well," Daniel said mid-chew, "The French like bread."
"It's like sitting down to eat a bakery," Jack muttered.
"Is there something wrong?" Daniel watched Jack shove his plate with a half-eaten croissant away.
"No," Jack replied tersely.
Daniel pursed his lips and thought for a moment. "Is it because I'm not staying here permanently?"
Since their first night together in the Rue Saint-Etienne apartment, Jack had tried to persuade Daniel to move in but Daniel had resisted arguing that he had his own life, own friends and own way of doing things. He was happy that they had great sex but reminded Jack that he would soon be leaving to go back to the States. There was no point in getting too involved with each other.
Jack could see the value of Daniel's words but somehow they did not sit in his mind very comfortably. Jack knew his feelings for Daniel were developing faster than he could manage. He knew he should hold back, keep his emotional distance but he couldn't. Jack was attracted to Daniel and it wasn't just about sex, it was much more and for the first time in his life, Jack was in love with a man.
"Look," Daniel said in a conciliatory tone, "I'm going to Nanterre later. There's something I have to do first then I'm going to hear Cohn-Bendit. He's organising a meeting. Can we talk about this later?"
"Are you gonna be back tonight?" Jack asked through gritted teeth.
"Probably not. I'll stay over and see you tomorrow. Why don't we meet in the Baton Rouge for dinner, Jack? We can talk then."
Jack sighed. "I'm on duty tomorrow tonight. How about we meet the day after?"
"Of course, Jack. I look forward to it," Daniel said gently and reached out to touch Jack's hand with his own. Jack turned his hand over and clasped Daniel's, squeezing it as he stood.
"I gotta go. The Embassy expects."
"Okay, I'll see you the day after tomorrow then," smiled Daniel sucking the sticky jam from his middle finger.
"Oh God," Jack moaned.
"What?" Daniel asked quickly.
"You...with your finger in your mouth...sucking it," Jack breathed.
Daniel chuckled. "Sorry, Jack."
Jack's eyes darkened with want. "Don't be sorry, Daniel. Just be ready the day after tomorrow, okay?"
Jack walked along the street, his half-hard cock reminding him of his desire for Daniel. Now he wished he could have bent Daniel over the breakfast table to fuck him before having to leave for work. Still, it would make their coupling the day after tomorrow all the more sensuous and exciting. Anticipation of the act was as enticing as the act itself.
Jack wasn't looking forward to a twelve hour stint at the Embassy. He wanted to be with Daniel. Instead, he was stuck in his office working his way through a pile of papers left for him from the previous evening. Not only that, he'd be on duty at the Embassy until the day after tomorrow, and if not on duty, then on call.
He had a back-to-back duty to work through and all he could think about was Daniel, what he would do when they met again and more importantly, what they would talk about.
Jack started. He hadn't heard General Hammond enter his office but he didn't fail to catch an edge to Hammond's voice that signalled trouble.
"Can you confirm once and for all, that Daniel Jackson is not involved in un-American activities, colonel?"
Jack frowned. They'd already had this conversation a while back. In fact, Jack had written a report on the subject, though judiciously censoring some of Daniel's 'other' activities including the body-painting-three-in-a-bed-party episode.
"Sir? What's this about?" Jack asked warily.
"The agency grapevines are humming, Jack. It seems our lead protagonists are up to something."
"Cohn-Bendit? Jack asked. His stomach did a little back flip as he thought about the conversation he and Daniel had earlier that day. Daniel said he was going to Nanterre for a meeting. Was it with the Cohn-Bendit group? A small knot of concern settled itself in his disquieted stomach. Was Daniel into something he didn't want to tell Jack about or maybe he was being sucked into a bad situation without even realising it. Jack fervently hoped it was the latter. He refused to even consider that Daniel knew exactly what he was doing and didn't feel it important enough to tell Jack.
"Use your contacts, Jack," Hammond was saying. "Find out what's going on, on the ground."
"Yes, sir," Jack replied crisply and as Hammond left his office, Jack was already reaching for the phone.
"What can I do for you, my friend?" Pierre Desmarais asked indicating Jack should take the seat across from his desk.
Jack thought for a moment. He didn't want to say anything about Daniel but he still wanted to know what, if anything, Pierre knew about him.
"What's goin' on, Pierre?" he asked. There was no point in beating around the diplomatic bush.
"Going on with what?" Pierre responded hedging his bets.
Jack sighed and rolled his eyes. He was crap at diplomacy and had resorted to gestures in the hope of gleaning useful information.
"Ah, I see," grinned Pierre. "You mean what is going on with who?
"With whom," Jack corrected irritably, "And yeah."
Pierre nodded and sat back in his chair grasping the ends of his pen between his thumbs and index fingers. "Is your enquiry a personal one, Jack?"
"No." Jack sat forward to emphasise his answer. "I'm under orders to find out if there are any developing situations I should know about, Pierre. Apparently our grapevines are humming."
A little smile played on the commandant's lips. "Humming?" he grinned. "I can assure you the only thing French grapevines do, is produce excellent wine."
"Pierre!" Jack growled in exasperation. "Somethin's about to go down and I need to know what it is."
"Perhaps you should be making your enquiries to your C.I.A."
"We like our information clear of fingerprints, Pierre. That's why I'm here. I want it from the horse's mouth."
Pierre's grin broadened and there was a wicked glint in his eyes.
Jack shook his head. "Okay, okay," he said, "Just forget the double entendre for minute, will ya?"
Pierre couldn't suppress his laughter a moment longer. He waved his pen. "Alright, my friend, I apologise but seeing you here brings back very...interesting memories."
"Yeah, well," said Jack slowly. Pierre was right. Their previous encounter in Pierre's office had certainly injected this subsequent meeting with an additional element but right now Jack had more pressing matters to tackle. "Tell me what you know about Cohn-Bendit, Pierre."
Desmarais rocked forward in his chair and put down his pen. "You're right. He's planning something and very soon. We think he is going to mount an assault on the women's dormitories at Nanterre."
Jack paused in his response for effect. "You're telling me this so-called political agitator is planning a co-ed slumber party?" Jack couldn't keep the disdain from his tone.
Pierre fell serious. "It is no laughing matter, Jack. Your slumber party idea is a ruse to undermine the university authorities, which in turn, will be seen as a blow to the Establishment in general. Superficially, it is nothing but we are watching and waiting just the same. Cohn-Bendit is a self-confessed anarchist. We do not need imported revolution, Jack. We're still trying to get over the first one."
"First one?" questioned Jack a little confused.
Pierre drew his forefinger across his throat. "Madame Guillotine," he said darkly.
"Ah," Jack nodded. He understood. The co-ed slumber party was just the tip of a very sharp knife-edge. "So what do you think will happen, Pierre?"
"I suspect the university will take any challenge as an affront to its authority. I think it might go badly. At the moment there is an anti Vietnam War demonstration being mounted in central Paris. It could go either way."
Jack nodded sagely although he still couldn't see that a slumber party would upset the university that much then he frowned, registering Pierre's veiled hint. "Either way?"
"It depends on how volatile the student response will be. I understand President De Gaulle has already ordered riot police to monitor the demonstration. I'm waiting for news from my agent. He has infiltrated Cohn-Bendit's inner circle."
Jack's eyebrows rose and then he worried at his lower lip. "Your agent wouldn't be Daniel Jackson would it?"
Pierre threw back his head and laughed aloud. "Really, Jack, I would have thought you'd know what's in your cocktail!"
"Cute," Jack commented sourly. He didn't like Pierre's inference that he, Jack didn't know Daniel. The trouble was, and Jack knew it, Pierre was probably right. How could he share his bed with Daniel and do very intimate things to him and yet, not know him?
Jack blamed himself. He'd never really spent much time getting to know Daniel. All those hours they'd been together in the Baton Rouge and he'd missed the opportunity to uncover the 'real' Daniel Jackson.
"When do you expect your agent to call, Pierre?" Jack asked. He wanted to keep to the subject. He was not prepared to show his feelings.
Pierre shrugged. "It's hard to know, mon ami. You have two choices. You are welcome to stay here and wait though you could still be here until this time tomorrow or go back to your Embassy and I'll call you when I have any news." Then Desmarais leaned forward, almost conspiratorially. "If you choose to remain, Jack I'm sure we could find something to do while we wait." He smiled that familiar twinkle in his eyes.
Jack's face was impassive. At another time, in the past, Pierre's offer would have had Jack tearing off his clothes in anticipation but not now. "Thanks, Pierre but I'm still enjoying my cocktail," he said quietly.
Pierre nodded and shrugged. "C'est la vie."
Then the phone on Pierre's desk buzzed. "Ah," he said with narrowed eyes and picked up the receiver.
"Desmarais," he said a very formal edge to his tone. "Oui. Je comprends. Séjour dans le contact si vous pouvez et faites attention."
Pierre put down the receiver in its cradle and looked at Jack. "The move has been made. Four students have been arrested at the anti-Vietnam War rally and at least five hundred students have split off from the demonstration and stormed Nanterre. The university has already responded by requesting a heavy police presence with the aim of removing the students. So far, the students have barricaded themselves inside."
"So give them an hour or so and the whole thing will be resolved," Jack commented.
"Don't be too sure, my friend. I think this could just be the beginning of something much more serious. At the moment, we can only wait and see."
Jack walked back to the American Embassy. At least he knew what was going on just a little sooner than his other attachés colleagues but he still had no real detail of the action at Nanterre. Jack was unconvinced about Pierre's dark prediction of things turning nasty. As far as Jack was concerned, it was just a group of students having a little spat at the authorities.
Jack spent the night until the early hours monitoring any and all references to the trouble at Nanterre. He had to call an interpreter for the French police radio chatter. Daniel Cohn-Bendit was named as the leader of the students. When Jack heard the first part of his name, his heart nearly stopped when he thought it might be Daniel, his Daniel. Radio reporters had already nicknamed Cohn-Bendit, Danny the Red.
At about 4.30 in the morning, Jack took to his bed. He would allow himself three hours rest and then he would be back in the operations room to see what had developed during the intervening time.
Just at the point between waking and sleep, Jack saw Daniel's face looking at him out of a crowd of other people. They were all men and appeared to be protecting Daniel by standing close to him, in front as well as behind him. Jack couldn't see the other faces except for Gaston's who was standing behind Daniel and moving like his hips were pumping.
Jack's eyes flew open for a second and then he sighed, turned over and fell into an uneasy sleep.
"What do we have, colonel?" Hammond asked over Jack's shoulder as he was studying the reports that had come in during his very unsatisfying few hours sleep.
"Students have barricaded themselves into one area of the University of Paris at the Nanterre campus, sir. It appears the authorities have reacted badly and sent in a crowd of armed police officers to winkle them out. It's not working."
"Are there any American citizens involved?"
"Not as far as we know, sir."
"Good," grunted Hammond. "Keep me apprised."
"Yes, sir," Jack replied to an empty room. Hammond was obviously in full command mode and had already gone to inform Ambassador Kinsey of the situation so far.
The day dragged on with only sporadic snippets of news seeping through to the operations room. Jack whiled away the time thinking about Daniel and what he didn't know about him.
Jack knew Daniel painted and knew about his preferred subject. Jack also knew Daniel came from New York, was married and now likely to be divorced. Daniel had friends, Gaston and Skaara came to mind. He also spent a lot of his time at Nanterre. Nanterre!
Jack sat upright in his chair. Daniel was going to Nanterre last night. Jack slapped his palm on his forehead. Daniel might be at Nanterre still and mixed up with this protest thing. Damn, why hadn't he thought about it before now?
"Hang on," Jack said aloud. "Daniel could be anywhere in Paris right now. He isn't necessarily at Nanterre at all. He might be in the Baton Rouge, at the apartment, at the Galerie Émile, just about anywhere else."
Jack took a deep breath. Who was he kidding? Daniel had expressly said he was going to a Cohn-Bendit meeting. Daniel was behind the barricade!
"Yes, sir, I know I said there weren't any Americans involved but now I suspect there is at least one."
Hammond stared at Jack. "And who might that be as if I didn't know, colonel?"
"Sir?" Jack replied as innocently as he could.
"It's Daniel Jackson isn't it?"
"Possibly," Jack said carefully.
"Possibly? That's not good enough, Jack. Find out for sure. If we get confirmation then your assessment of him was completely inaccurate. If this Jackson is involved in un-American activities, you're going to embarrass yourself, me and the Ambassador! Get me some real information, colonel otherwise your future career might include cleaning out toilets at Elmendorf!"
Alaska, thought Jack with a shudder. Great, just great!
Jack had spent several hours wrestling with his conscience. First he didn't want to believe Daniel was involved with this protest but second, he was beginning to realise he knew more about Daniel than he'd thought. Of course Daniel was involved, he'd never hidden his political views so why wouldn't he be? If Jack had never had an intimate relationship with Daniel, he wouldn't have hesitated to report Daniel's involvement at Nanterre but now, with every thought, every feeling focused on him, Jack had held back from saying anything to Hammond for a while.
Jack's situation hit him full on. Where did his first duty, his primary loyalty lay? Was it with Daniel or with his country? His passion or his patriotism? His lover or his job?
Perhaps getting involved with Daniel had been a big mistake. Jack knew he was making a risky move when he recognised his attraction to Daniel but he'd underestimated his feelings. Jack had risked everything to start this affair. First, there was always the chance of being discovered as a homosexual. That would mean a long and very uncomfortable stint in Leavenworth. Second, being associated with an un-American American would mean a long and very uncomfortable stint in Leavenworth. He was on a hiding to nothing. Overall, Jack had opened himself up to a long and very uncomfortable life and death in Leavenworth.
Jack had to extricate himself from his relationship with Daniel, as soon as possible though it could all be too late for that now. His career and his pension was dependant on Pierre Desmarais keeping his mouth shut.
"What have you got, Pierre?" Jack asked switching the phone from one ear to the other.
"There is an estimated one hundred and fifty students barricaded in the Nanterre administration building."
"Not a slumber party then?" Jack said sourly.
"Non, mon ami," Pierre replied glumly. "They have already published a statement," he went on. "It has to do with class discrimination in French society along with the political bureaucracy that controls the school's funding."
Jack mentally dismissed this piece of 'local' politicking. "Anything about the United States or the Vietnam War?" Jack asked.
"Not specifically though that may change."
Jack breathed out slowly. At least the students' statement didn't appear to reflect Daniel's issues but he needed to know more. "Do you know if Daniel Jackson's involved? If he's behind the barricade?"
"I can't be sure, my friend. I have not had any communication from my agent since last night. I'm sure the situation will soon be resolved, Jack. The police have moved in and surrounded the administration building. It won't be long before the status quo returns."
"You seem pretty confident about that," Jack observed.
"Between you and I," Pierre whispered, "I'm not that sure but I have to remain hopeful. It's my job."
Jack continued to monitor agency chatter as well as listening to radio and TV broadcasts for any updates on the situation at Nanterre. By the end of the day, the students had withdrawn from the administration building.
Jack began to relax a little. He'd give anything to be back at the apartment in the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont to see Daniel but he was stuck at the Embassy. He had another duty shift to complete before he could get back to the Latin Quarter. It was frustration beyond frustration.
Then Jack's phone went.
"Daniel! Where the hell are you?"
"Were you at Nanterre?"
Jack felt the sweep of red-hot anger flush his cheeks. "I can't talk now. I'll be off duty tomorrow morning at seven."
Jack slammed down the phone and battled to get his temper under control. He was relieved Daniel was okay but angry that he was mixed up with the students. Jack was frustrated that he hadn't been able to do anything to protect Daniel and still angrier that Daniel hadn't told him the extent to which he was involved with Cohn-Bendit. Worse still, Jack was in pain at the thought of having to give Daniel up, to end their relationship before it had really got going.
Every minute of every hour that Jack's duty lasted was like a lifetime for each click of the hands showing on the Cairo, DC and London clocks. He tried hard to concentrate on finishing up a few reports and rearranging the pile of papers on his desk. He didn't want to read them. Suddenly they weren't as important as the immediate issue of Daniel Jackson who was probably asleep in Jack's bed totally unaware of what was to come.
Jack sighed. Emotions still sucked.
"I don't understand why you're so angry, Jack," Daniel said glaring at him.
"What? Did you see just how armed those police officers were? You could've been hurt!"
"Well I wasn't and I don't believe that's what's upsetting you."
Jack breathed in hard and rolled his eyes. "It's dangerous enough that I'm having an affair with a man and worse still when that man is mixed up with anarchists and political agitators."
Daniel snorted. "Anarchists? Political agitators? Where did you get those words, Jack? Graham Greene? How about John Buchan?"
"Daniel!" Jack yelled. He had to yell to stop Daniel winding up to a sarcastic diatribe on spy novelists. "Can't you see? You're known. You're known by the French authorities as well as our own and because you're known, there's a good chance I'll be known too and for all the wrong reasons."
Daniel opened his mouth to retort but then shut it again. He needed time to think. "Are you saying I've been followed? Spied on?"
"Possibly," Jack answered reluctantly, "But that's not the point. The point is I could be court marshalled at any minute because of our association, because you chose to get mixed up in some two bit student demo. Daniel, you have to be careful, more discriminating about what you do and who you do it with."
Daniel could only stare at Jack as he tried to process Jack's messages, for messages they were. Jack was saying he was scared for his own position in the military because of his 'association' with Daniel and Daniel was being tracked. Quickly, Daniel selected the message that was the most important to him.
Lifting his chin in either an act of defiance or self-preservation, Daniel fixed Jack with an accusatory stare. "Do you want to end this, Jack?"
"No, of course I don't but..."
"There!" Daniel cut across Jack pointing a finger at him. "You don't want us split up but there's a But. But what Jack?"
Jack shook his head, his emotions rendering him speechless for a moment. "I'm risking my job and my pension to be with you, Daniel. You know what the alternative is if we're found out? Fucking Elmendorf in Alaska is what! And if that's not bad enough, I could end up in Leavenworth, which is a whole lot worse."
"You knew what you were risking when you decided you wanted me. Why the sudden one hundred and eighty, Jack? What's happened to make you change your mind?"
Jack sucked in a shuddering breathe. "Nanterre is what's happened!"
"So as long as I keep quiet, cut loose from my beliefs, everything will be all right?
"Yes. Well...no, I mean..."
"You've made yourself very clear, Jack. Unless I stay at home like some cute little wife I'm out, is that it?"
Jack took a step back. He could see Daniel was angry and upset. He understood why. He was angry and upset too and worst of all, Daniel was right. Jack knew what he'd got himself into, knew he was risking just about everything that he cared about and yet, when it came to it, he was being a coward. Daniel hadn't said the word but the inference was there and Jack knew it.
Daniel waited for one last denial from Jack but it didn't come. "I'm going to the Baton Rouge for an hour. Don't be here when I come back. I want to get my stuff and be gone without you hovering over me. I couldn't bear it."
With that, Daniel grabbed his coat and left the apartment, leaving Jack standing alone and bereft. He'd done what he knew he had to but it was the wrong thing and there was nothing he could do about it.
He'd been stupid and dumb. He should have thought it through before blasting Daniel with his own insecurities. He didn't have to finish their relationship. He could have moved back to the Embassy. He could have continued to see Daniel secretly. This was crazy! He should go to the Baton Rouge and find Daniel, explain that he'd made a bad decision and talk Daniel into not leaving him.
With renewed heart, Jack headed out of the apartment towards Daniel and his hope for their partnership.
"You can stay with me," Gaston smiled as Daniel stared into his Baton Rouge coffee cup.
"Thanks, Gaston. It won't be for long. I've been meaning to try and find a studio and now I've got a strong motivation to do just that." Daniel almost spat the words. He'd tried to distance himself emotionally from Jack for while now. The thought of Jack leaving to go back to the States had forced him to protect himself but he hadn't been ready for what had happened in the apartment.
Now, he had to move on and concentrate on his painting. His relationship with Jack hadn't really lasted all that long, they'd only been together three months. It wasn't exactly the passion of a lifetime he told himself. He just needed to give himself time. He'd get over Jack eventually. He was pretty sure Jack was already over him.
"There's a big loft area above my apartment, Daniel. I could talk to the landlord. He might let you have it."
Daniel turned to look at the earnest young man. "Really?"
"Mais oui! Come with me now and see for yourself."
Nodding, Daniel drank back the last of his coffee and left the Baton Rouge with Gaston.
Five minutes later, Jack arrived at the restaurant, breathless and flushed, his only goal to find Daniel and get him back.
Jack took a seat, ordered coffee and looked around. The Baton Rouge was as busy as usual but it didn't take him long to survey the faces. Daniel wasn't there. Jack swiped his tongue over his lips and frowned. Maybe Daniel was back at the apartment clearing out his things and somehow Jack had missed him en route.
"Bonjour, Jack." It was Skaara.
"Hey," Jack replied and made the enquiry that burned on his lips. "Have you seen Daniel? Do you know where he is?"
Skaara shrugged. "He was just here," Skaara said and looked over at the table where Daniel had been sitting with Gaston, "But he's not here now."
"Where did he go?"
"Je ne sais pas," Skaara replied with yet another shrug.
Jack concluded the shrug was just another French noun, or was it a verb? Maybe it was really an adjective. In any case, the gesture gave no clue as to Daniel's whereabouts.
"But he left with Gaston," Skaara smiled.
The news was like a fist to the stomach. Jack blinked. Daniel had gone off with Gaston! Soooo, Jack's suspicion was correct. "He's probably sharing Gaston's bed," Jack muttered aloud and Skaara looked at him askance. Jealousy flared. If it was true, Daniel could just take a hike. Jack wasn't going to beg him to return. He had his pride after all.
Jack walked the streets for a while until he found himself outside the Galerie Émile. This was the place where it has all begun, where he'd first seen Daniel, had first spoken to him and now it signalled the end. He wouldn't see Daniel again. He'd return the apartment keys to Pierre and move back to the Embassy. He'd steer clear of the Baton Rouge and probably never step foot in the Latin Quarter ever again. The break had to be clean, though right now it still felt like a dirty, ragged, mortal wound.
His eyes roved the gallery window and widened when he saw a familiar subject displayed on an easel. It was a picture of Sha're. It was Daniel's picture of his ex-wife. The elderly bird must have at last recognised Daniel's talent and the commercial value of this kind of subject. It was a study of romance, vulnerability and female sexuality.
Sha're was in a reclining position, her eyes closed and her lips parted while a man, on his knees, kissed her cheek. The man had his back to the viewer and was anonymous but his hand cupped her naked breast, his thumb rubbing at her hardened nipple.
Jack gasped. He recognised the hand, the long slim fingers and the slight telltale curve of the index finger. It was Daniel's hand, he'd know it anywhere. Why wouldn't he? He'd seen and felt that hand caress his body, stimulate his senses and play his responses. He knew that hand intimately.
Jack also remembered seeing that index finger held up at him to emphasise a point Daniel was making usually when they were arguing. The very slight curve of that digit always wrested Jack's attention and his senses would fall back on recalling the physical sensation of Daniel's touch. Jack could feel it now.
Without thinking, Jack pushed open the gallery door and strode inside nodding to the elderly bird. She nodded back, recognition in her bright beady eyes. She remembered him with the well-dressed, well-heeled American woman. She also remembered him buying the small Jackson painting of the man pleasuring himself.
Jack pointed to the Sha're painting displayed in the window and reached to an inside pocket for his wallet. He would buy the picture because of Daniel's hand, not the model. He was sure the elderly bird had inflated the price. It seemed an expensive way of trying to preserve some memory of Daniel but he didn't care. He wanted it and he would have it. He might have his pride but he also had his feelings. Emotions more than sucked, they hurt like hell.
Jack left the gallery with Daniel's painting wrapped in brown paper under his arm. He went straight to the Embassy and signed out a pool car, driving back to the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont.
Mounting the stairs two at a time, Jack flung open the door of the apartment and marched into the kitchen, emptied everything from the fridge into some trash bags and moved on to the bathroom. There he stripped every item and bundled the towels and robes into a travel bag. He'd get them laundered along with the bed linen and return them to Pierre later.
He went into the guest bedroom and stopped dead. The room was completely empty save the bed and some other bedroom furniture. It was evident Daniel had returned and shifted all his painting equipment. There was nothing left, not even a paintbrush.
Jack's heart squeezed painfully in his chest. He was just getting used to Daniel's presence in his life and now he was gone.
Jack closed the door and moved on to the last room in the apartment, the main bedroom, his and Daniel's bedroom, the one they had shared so intimately. Swallowing hard, Jack walked in and began stripping the bed. He packed his clothes away in a suitcase and checked the drawers and closet.
Unable to concentrate and suddenly feeling very tired, Jack sat on the bed and hung his head. Life wasn't supposed to be this difficult, he thought. After a few minutes, he forced himself to stand and check the room one last time. Picking up his suitcase from where he had put it on the mattress and turning to leave, his foot nudged something on the floor.
He looked down to see the corner of something large poking out from under the bed. He retrieved it to find it was one of Daniel's sketchbooks. Jack sat down again and leafed through it. There were pencil drawings of the façade of the house which accommodated Pierre's apartment.
There were studies of the patrons of the Baton Rouge, with a group of girls smoking and drinking coffee and of the three old men, heads together over the racing page of a newspaper. Jack smiled. Daniel had captured the people and their environment perfectly. There were even a few compositions of Skaara, Gaston and the other students deep in animated discussion.
Jack worked his way through the book and towards the back saw a single portrait of a sleeping man. He knew it was himself. Daniel must have drawn the picture when Jack was completely unaware. There were several other sketches of Jack, all incomplete, unfinished.
Jack stared at the pages, one after the other and back again. Why hadn't Daniel actually completed the pictures? Why had he left them without finishing them off? Jack noticed that none of the pictures of him had eyes. Well they all had outlines of his eyes but they were just pencilled circles. Where Daniel had made an attempt to draw Jack's eyes, the marks were over drawn or were scribbled out, like Daniel had tried to draw his eyes but couldn't get them the way he wanted.
Jack didn't understand. Daniel was a very good portrait artist, a skilled draftsman. Having met Sha're in the flesh, Jack knew that Daniel's paintings of her were accurate. His ability to paint the fine details of her eyes, her mouth, lips and hands were an absolute replica of her likeness and yet, Daniel had failed to reproduce Jack's eyes. Jack didn't know why. He wasn't an artist. He didn't understand the painter's process when it came to making a picture. All he'd ever seen of Daniel's work were the finished articles.
Unfastening his suitcase, Jack carefully placed Daniel's sketchbook on top of his clothes and closed it up again. Would he return the book to Daniel even if he had an address for him? Probably not. He wanted to keep the book because it was Daniel's. Emotions in this situation sucked like hell.
Jack handed the apartment keys to Pierre who frowned. "Are you sure you want to do this, my friend?"
"Yeah, I'm sure," muttered Jack.
"My cocktail went sour," Jack growled.
"I'm sorry to hear it but there are other combinations in the bottle, mon ami. Perhaps you should keep the apartment after all."
"No. I'll be leaving in a few weeks but thanks for the offer, Pierre and for the use of it."
"If you're sure," Pierre nodded. "You know where I am if you need a more...consistent and palatable cocktail."
Jack quirked a humourless smile. It was more of a grimace really. His life was a mess and all he wanted to do was to get out of Paris as soon as his tour of duty was over.
Jack's final weeks at the Embassy were marked by a blur of protests, demonstrations, police brutality and student arrests all over Europe. Many dissident scholars were dismissed from their positions at the University of Warsaw. Three thousand students attempted to storm police barricades barring them from entry to the University of Milan in Italy. Sixty students were arrested, and as many injured, as a result. On the last day of March 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson announced his withdrawal from the election campaign in particular and from political life in general.
"Take a seat, colonel," General Hammond said to Jack as he entered Hammond's office. "You're due to retire and return to civilian life tomorrow, am I right?"
"Yes, sir," Jack said suspiciously. Was Hammond about to spring a very unwelcome surprise on him?
"Well, I'm going to ask a very big favour," the general went on. "I want to extend your service for another couple of months."
Jack straightened up. "Sir?"
"You might have noticed there are flashpoints happening throughout Europe, locations where civil disturbances are breaking out on a daily basis."
"They're hard to miss, sir."
"Yes," Hammond nodded. "There has been trouble in London, Rome, Milan, Warsaw, Madrid, Barcelona, Japan and various universities back home. Can you see the odd man out so far, colonel?"
Jack thought for a moment. "You didn't mention Paris, sir. You forgot the Nanterre incident."
"No, I haven't forgotten Nanterre. That was a blip on the radar, Jack. It wasn't the real deal. I'm asking you to stay on for a while longer because I have a strong feeling that Paris has yet to show its true colours. We have intelligence that confirms the Cohn-Bendit faction is continuing to recruit support from students and others. I think it's only a matter of time before something big happens in Paris, Jack, and I want your help and expertise to keep on top of what appears to be fast changing attitudes in the student population. We could be in for trouble, colonel."
Jack nodded thoughtfully. Was Daniel involved in making those fast changing attitudes happen?
"I'm sorry to extend your service when I know you've already earned your retirement."
What the heck, Jack thought, a few more months didn't really matter. Deep down the chance to see Daniel again was a real temptation, even if he couldn't bring himself to admit it. "Yes, sir," Jack said. "Thank you, General Hammond. I'm here for as long as you need me."
Walking back to his office, Jack struggled with his feelings. He had been ready to leave his military career but he'd been ordered to stay. The hard knot in Jack's stomach that had Daniel's name written all over it suddenly became larger and harder. He was in the same damned city as Daniel but he couldn't find him. He'd tried.
Jack had no way of tracking down Daniel. Even the elderly bird at the Galerie Émile had been unable to tell him where Daniel was. She didn't know. Her business with him had always been on a cash only basis. She had no address for him.
The world was falling apart. Tens of thousands of workers and students protested in Brazil against the military dictatorship of General Arturo da Costa.
Two bombs exploded in department stores in Frankfurt, West Germany, set off by Andreas Baader and Ulrike Meinhoff of the Red Army Faction.
Daniel lifted a blank canvas and propped it on to his easel. Gaston's landlord had offered the loft to Daniel for a knock down rent and now he was living there surrounded with his paints. He had a rickety camp bed, his clothes in a box and his books in a pile on the floor. He also had a little two-ring gas stove. It wasn't much but he got by. The one real problem was the fact that he could only access the loft via a steep wooden ladder from Gaston's bedroom.
The night before, when Daniel had finished late, his eyes too tired to continue working, he'd trodden silently down the ladder to use the bathroom passing by, as he thought, a sleeping Gaston. When Daniel made his way back, he'd felt Gaston's hand on his leg as he'd lifted his foot to the first step.
"What is it, Gaston?"
"My bed is more comfortable than yours. You can share it if you'd like to."
Daniel blinked in the darkness. Gaston had shared Daniel's body more than once when he was still with Sha're but that was before Jack. Daniel couldn't imagine giving his body to anyone anymore – not unless it was to Jack. Daniel found it hard to admit Gaston had been a convenience, had enhanced the experience of sex but not now, not when Daniel had known Jack. No one would ever excite him in the same way Jack did, not even Gaston.
"Thank you, Gaston but no. I don't want anything to distract me from my work and believe me, my friend, you would." It wasn't strictly the truth but Daniel felt he should feed Gaston some flattering reason for rejecting him. Daniel had been more or less honest. A little sugar coating couldn't hurt.
There was a pause before Gaston responded. "Je suis désolé," he whispered. "Peut-être une autre heure?"
"Peut-être, mon ami, peut-être," Daniel said kindly. It would never happen.
With not a little trepidation, Daniel entered the Baton Rouge. He'd been avoiding it since he last saw Jack. He didn't want to come face to face with Jack because Daniel knew he, Daniel would want things back the way they were. Taking a breath, he swept his gaze across the gathered clientele. There was no Jack.
It was only thirty minutes after the restaurant had opened and the place was quiet. Seeing Skaara, Gaston and a few of the others, Daniel smiled and waved at them. Skaara patted an empty chair next to him and beckoned Daniel to join the group. He dropped his small package of new oil paints on the table and looked at the pale faces around the table.
"What's the matter?" Daniel asked immediately. He could see the look of shock and disbelief on their faces.
"It's Martin Luther King," Skaara said quietly. "Il a été tiré et tué. Il est mort."
"Il a été assassin."
"Assassinated? Oh my God," breathed Daniel. "When?"
"Last night," Gaston said.
Daniel sat in silence with the others for a few moments. This was appalling news. The Civil Rights Movement in America had taken a terrible blow. It was a broadside to the heart and soul of those who wanted to see equality, not just in America but also around the world. King Junior had been a larger than life symbol of what could be achieved and now he was dead. Daniel's mind whirled through the effects King's assassination could generate. He saw the possibility of protests, violence, suspicion and rage wrack his country. It was a catastrophe about to happen.
Jack stared at the report. He didn't know much about Martin Luther King or what he stood for, except that his message had made sense to millions of people. This was bad news indeed. He grabbed the piece of paper with the description of King's assassination and went straight to Hammond's office.
"Do you think I should return to the States, sir? I can be in DC in less than twenty four hours."
"No, colonel," Hammond replied emphatically. "I want you here. Your Paris contacts and your knowledge will prove more useful to the Embassy here."
Jack walked slowly back to his office wondering how Daniel was taking the news. Jack could imagine him angry, flush-faced and distraught. His highly developed sensitivity would make him want to do something, anything to make things better. Jack permitted himself a small smile and then it faded quickly. God, he missed Daniel's humanity.
Jack frowned at the slip of paper in his fingers. The infamous Rudi Dutschke had been gravely wounded in an attempt on his life in Berlin. Someone had shot him in the head. It was touch and go as to whether he would survive.
Jack shook his head. He might not agree with the man's politics but the incident reminded Jack of just how fragile life could be. What had happened to Rudi Dutschke was a bad twist of fate that shouldn't happen to anyone but life was unpredictable. No one knew just how long they had or how little they had. Things left unsaid and undone could only haunt the lazy and emotional pygmies in the world.
Jack needed to see Daniel. He was not going to be a lazy emotional pygmy.
Having promised himself that he would never return to the Latin Quarter, Jack found his path leading him to the Place Sainte Geneviève and the old church. He wanted to take a look at the latest offerings in the Galerie Émile. Daniel might have produced something new. Was he hoping to see Daniel? Of course.
As he walked, Jack noticed a large, sleek black limousine parked further up the street. It had the Stars and Stripes hanging limply from the hood. Jack frowned. There could only be one person shopping in this area. Jack's progress faltered for a moment. He really didn't want to run into the Ambassador's wife.
Jack dodged into a doorway and peered around the edge of the wall to look at the car again. It was empty so that was a good sign. He sniffed the air. There was no odour of acrid scent so Mrs. Kinsey was not out in the open nearby. He studied the street. There were a few people going about their business but no over-dressed Mrs. Kinsey and an entourage of Embassy staff or one overloaded limo driver in tow to carry her purchases.
The Embassy limo was parked outside a small hotel. That didn't mean anything by itself, one parking space was as good as another but Jack knew Mrs. Kinsey didn't like to walk if she could be driven and parked close to her intended location.
Jack shook his head. Odd...
Then to his complete surprise, he saw Mrs. Kinsey step into the street from the small hotel. Behind her followed the limo driver. As the driver helped Mrs. Kinsey into the car, his hand rested gently in the small of her back. That was not the gesture of an Embassy employee and an Ambassador's wife. It was something much more personal.
Quickly Jack turned away and stared into a shop window, his back turned against the departing Mrs. Kinsey. He just hoped she wouldn't spot him. He watched the car slide past him in the reflection of the window and relaxed. That had been a close call but with interesting Intel. Mrs. Kinsey was having an affair and as Jack gave a rueful smile, he made the link. Her affair would never receive the kind of harsh judgment that Jack's affair with Daniel would.
Before he turned to carry on walking, Jack actually glanced through the window into the shop. He hadn't bothered before. He was intent on watching the progress of the Embassy limo. Then his eyes widened. Inside he saw...Daniel!
Jack froze, rooted to the spot. Staring hard into the interior, he could see Daniel rummaging through a box of paintbrushes and, leaning back, he looked up at the sign above the shop. It was an art supplier.
A sudden flare of excitement gripped him. Should he go into the shop, speak to Daniel, and risk physical injury or walk away unrequited? The opportunity to make contact with Daniel was too good to ignore.
Daniel spun around at the familiar voice. "Jack," he breathed, "What are you doing here?"
"Hiding," Jack smiled enigmatically.
Daniel blinked in confusion. Jack always liked that look. It made Jack want to kiss him. He smiled. Anything Daniel did made Jack want to kiss him.
After a slight hesitation, Daniel spoke again. "So what are you doing here?"
Daniel's frustration began to build. Jack seemed to be annoyingly vague. If he were here just to taunt and tease then Daniel would go and leave him to it. His feelings were still very vulnerable. He'd considered Jack's rejection of him as Jack's fault, mixed with his own feelings of guilt at thinking it was Jack's fault to begin with. The wounds had not even begun to heal yet.
Turning his attention back to the paintbrushes, Daniel picked up one at random and plunged his hand into his pocket for money. Then with as much dignity as he could muster, Daniel headed for the door.
"Where're ya goin'?" Jack asked, surprised that Daniel had treated their meeting like that of two acquaintances with passing recognition of each other but with no reason to spend more than a polite two minutes together.
"I've got a picture to paint," Daniel said his hand already on the door handle.
"Well, couldn't we at least share coffee before you go?"
"Are you sure you can afford to be seen with me? I mean won't your principles be compromised?"
Jack grimaced. Trust Daniel to get straight to the point so what else could he do but answer in the same vein. "No."
Daniel's eyebrows rose in silent question.
"It's just coffee, Daniel, nothing more," Jack said trying to reassure Daniel he was genuine.
Daniel glared at him. "I know not to expect anything more, Jack. I wouldn't want to contaminate your uniform."
Daniel stared at Jack, making an appraisal. If he pushed it too far, Jack would walk and he would have lost him for sure. Daniel could only afford to gamble a small stake, put forward too much and he would lose the game. "Oh come on then," Daniel muttered and led the way out of the shop.
"Want somethin' to eat, Daniel?" Jack asked picking up the menu.
"No thanks. Been there, done that. I enjoyed the food but couldn't stomach the aftermath, Jack."
Jack bit back his rising retort. Daniel had every reason to be angry with him. He had made a mess of their relationship, and knew Daniel was punishing him for it. He deserved any tongue-lashing Daniel wanted to give him.
"Daniel, I'm sorry. The things we said...well I'm sorry," Jack began.
"The things we said? Don't you mean the things you said?" Daniel's voice was tight and strained.
"Alright, alright," Jack said waving his hand dismissively, "You got me...and I'm still sorry."
They sat in silence. Jack tried again, very carefully. "So...how have you been?"
"You really wanna know?"
"Like crap, Jack."
"Really." It was a statement not a question and laced with cynicism to boot.
"Yes, Daniel. Really."
"And I'm supposed to be...what? Sorry?"
"No. I deserve everything you're thinking and feeling."
Jack's words crashed against Daniel's consciousness. He hadn't been expecting this kind of conversation with Jack. Marshalling his thoughts and responses, Daniel blinked at him.
"So what are you suggesting, Jack?"
"I don't know. But I do know I missed you and want you."
"That's just your dick talking."
"Hey! That's not fair and you know it. That was below the belt!"
"Yeah," Daniel said a smile growing on his lips, "That's exactly what I meant."
Daniel raised that familiar index finger to silence him. "I feel the same, Jack. I've missed you too."
Jack nodded slowly. He'd hoped Daniel might be feeling the same but he never thought Daniel would admit it so soon.
"How're you getting along with Gaston?" Jack asked and before he could stop his stupid mouth from vocalising what his stupid brain was thinking, it was too late.
Daniel shot him a look. "What? How do you know I'm staying with Gaston? And why do you care?"
"I know you're staying with Gaston because it's my job to know and I care because...I care."
"You've been spying on me?"
By now Daniel's voice had that 'two inches away from exploding' tone. It reminded Jack of their last encounter, which if he could get his stupid brain to stop being stupid, he'd know was a dangerous place to go.
"Not spying," he said in an injured tone. "It's my job because I care, okay? You could say it's because I care, that I made it my job to know what you're doing and where you're staying...except I only know that you're with Gaston. I have no idea where he lives and therefore have no idea where you live either and I don't know what you're doing because...I don't. Satisfied?"
Daniel grinned. "You really do care, don't you?"
"Didn't I just say that?"
"I just wanted to be sure, Jack."
"And are you?"
Daniel dipped his head. "Maybe."
Jack grinned. "So...wanna eat?"
They spent three hours over lunch. Neither wanted to rush it.
Daniel sipped his coffee and stared at Jack over the rim of the cup.
"What?" Jack asked.
"You're not supposed to be here."
Jack made an act of looking around at the restaurant customers. "Oh? Well strange as it may seem, here I am."
"Yeah," Daniel sighed with distracted satisfaction. "What I mean is, I thought you'd be in the States by now."
"My tour of duty was extended."
"So you didn't ask to extend it?"
Jack swiped a guilty tongue over his lower lip. "No. I was ordered to stay on for a while."
Daniel nodded. For a split second, he'd hoped Jack had made a conscious decision to stay. He should have known better. Jack's military training and loyalty to his country would always dictate his decisions. Nothing else could. Daniel now realised he would have to take second place to that fact. The question was could he do it?
"That's a gain for me then," Daniel said with a quick nervous smile. He was committing himself to Jack all over again. He knew but couldn't stop himself. Being without Jack was worse than being with him even with all the fighting and arguments, disagreements and irritation.
"No, the gain's mine," Jack remarked quietly.
"So what do we do?" asked Daniel, his eyes darkening, his lips moist and slightly parted.
Jack swallowed. He could feel the heat rise in his body but he shrugged. "I dunno. Whaddya wanna do?"
Daniel didn't have to think about his response. He knew exactly what he wanted to do but... Daniel had always thought about consequences, even now when the answer was obvious he still had to think about them. If only life could offer actions without consequences. What would he do if there was a chance of doing exactly what he wanted and the consequences didn't matter because he could go back to the beginning, do it all again and change the outcome without having to deal with the aftermath. Some kind of time loop would be great but he didn't have that luxury, time loops didn't exist...at least as far as he knew.
Daniel wanted sex with Jack. He also wanted a solid emotional commitment but that didn't exist either. If he threw himself into yet another round of physical pleasure, the intellectual torture resulting from their political arguments and the consequences of his emotions unravelling, he'd be a wreck when the time came for Jack to leave.
True, they'd never really talked about Jack leaving Paris and what would happen after that. They'd never got that far, the pleasure, torture and unravelling had snowballed and broken over their relationship like a tidal wave before they could step back and take shelter.
If Daniel offered his availability, it would happen all over again, except this time around, his eyes would be fully open and he'd be prepared. Daniel had enjoyed sex with Jack, there was no doubt about that so what if he chose to embark on phase two of their relationship with only sex in mind rather than seeking some deeper heartfelt commitment. It would mean very good sex and no entanglement, no torture and no unravelling but there would still be consequences...there were always consequences.
Daniel thought about Jack's question again and he repeated it, as much for his own benefit as for Jack's. "What do I want to do?"
"Yeah," Jack nodded.
Jack's eyebrows flew up to his hairline. "You do?"
"Sure. Don't you?"
"Well duh but I don't know how."
Daniel snorted with laughter. "Trust me, Jack, you do!"
"Okay, I mean where?"
"I don't know. I live in a small loft above Gaston's bedroom. I assume you're no longer at Saint-Etienne du Mont?"
"No, I gave the keys back."
They fell silent, both thinking of how they were going to find some privacy.
"Hotel?" asked Jack, remembering Mrs. Kinsey and the Embassy driver emerging from the little hotel earlier that day.
"Well I..." Daniel began. He didn't have very much money and certainly not enough to pay or even part pay for a hotel room.
"I think I know where, I just need to check it out," Jack said already on his feet. "Stay here."
Daniel watched him go, his mouth dry and his body aching for Jack's touch. Clearing his throat, Daniel glanced around nervously. He hoped no one had overheard their conversation. Two men plotting to share a hotel room was a risky ploy for Jack.
Daniel didn't have to wait very long before Jack returned. He was looking flushed and a little breathless.
"It's all fixed."
Daniel frowned. "You found somewhere?"
"How did you know where to look?"
"By recommendation," Jack explained.
Daniel frowned some more. "By whose recommendation?"
Jack grinned. "The Ambassador's wife.
They hurried along the street. "Where are we going, Jack?"
"Hotel Maison de Singe," Jack said proudly. At last, his French was beginning to make sense.
"Monkey House? That's a strange name for a hotel."
Jack grinned. It sounded very apt to him.
When they got to the entrance of the hotel Daniel read the correct name from the brass plaque on the wall and laughed. "It's the Hotel Maison d'Exchange!"
"Like my version better," Jack smiled.
The hotel was clean, quiet and discreet. Jack and Daniel disappeared behind their bedroom door and didn't resurface for the rest of the night.
The immediate result of their sex together that night was sex and more sex. Daniel pushed away the emotional consequences. He didn't know that he'd have to deal with them at another time and in another place, alone and desolate....
Jack nodded. "Are you sure?"
"Yes, sir," the radio operator replied.
"Damn," Jack muttered and stalked back to his office. Nanterre was going through another student occupation and the Ministry of Education had shut down the university. The French government had made this decision, not the university. Suddenly the activity at Nanterre was becoming a point of national interest. Not only that, Cohn-Bendit had been ordered to attend a disciplinary board at the Sorbonne on May 6. There was going to be trouble, Jack could feel it in his gut.
He wasn't sure, but somehow he knew Daniel would be involved in this. Jack hadn't seen him now for six days. The last time was at the Monkey House, as he'd come to call it. Daniel hadn't called him at the Embassy, Jack having made it quite clear that he was not to do so. They had no way of communicating except by leaving messages with Skaara at the Baton Rouge. Jack had only been to the restaurant twice. The first time, he and Daniel had almost run to the hotel, so desperate were they to fling themselves into each other's arms. The second time things were already heating up at the Embassy and everyone was on full alert. So much so, that Jack found it difficult to get away. He went to the Baton Rouge in the hope of catching Daniel but it had proved a waste of time. Daniel wasn't there. He was at Nanterre.
Jack was all too jealous of Nanterre, the place felt like the third point of a love triangle. Jack could no longer avoid the obvious conclusion. Daniel was having an affair with Nanterre. For all Jack knew, Daniel was having an affair with Gaston as well. He hadn't failed to notice Daniel's emotional distance. When they were together Daniel was there all right, certainly in body but somehow not quite in mind. When Jack wanted to question him about it Daniel always derailed his intention by a sensuously placed hand or a searing kiss.
Getting up from his seat, Jack stared out of the small basement window of his office to a large yard at the back of the Embassy. The lights from the offices above reflected down on the cobbled yard as the rain fell. The image reminded Jack of the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont. He missed Daniel...badly.
The Sorbonne authorities upped the ante by closing the university. Anticipating confrontation, it was determined to quash any student confrontation. Students gathered at the Sorbonne to protest against the closure and the threatened expulsion of several students at Nanterre including Daniel Cohn-Bendit. The stakes were increasing by the minute and little did the Sorbonne realise that its move would send Paris into flames within a few days. No one else anticipated it either, not even Jack.
The Vietnam War was the first to have saturation press coverage. The activities and effects of aerial carpet-bombing, the terrified faces of young men in American military uniforms and the screaming fear of the Vietnamese people running to find shelter hit the TV screens of America and the rest of the world almost as it happened. Jack watched from the operations room, listened to radio reports in his office and overheard the whispered conversations of Embassy staff. Even he began to question whether his country was doing the right thing. Daniel's words resounded in his head as he tried to make sense of everything that was going on.
Paris braced itself as the world's press descended on the city to cover the start of peace talks between the United States and North Vietnam. Like a pack of hungry bloodhounds during the news-less slow times of which there were many, reporters soaked up every available detail of the rumbling, on-going protests by dissident students. TV cameras, radio microphones and reporters' notebooks recorded the issues, arguments and politics of the ever-deepening situation.
Jack paced his office snatching up every piece of paper presented to him from the operations room. He carefully read each word of each sentence to check the pulse of the city's student young. He was also combing every report for Daniel's name...just in case.
The French government had banned all demonstrations on 6 May, now anticipating trouble from the students who supported Cohn-Bendit. There was no way information about the German's disciplinary hearing could be stopped from leaking.
The Student Union and the Union of University Teachers called a march to protest against the police invasion of the Sorbonne. More than 20,000 students, teachers and supporters marched towards the Sorbonne, still sealed off by the police, who charged, wielding their batons, as soon as the marchers approached. While the crowd dispersed, some began to create barricades out of whatever was at hand. Others threw paving stones, forcing the police to retreat for a time. The police then responded with tear gas and charged the crowd again. Hundreds more students were arrested.
The cameras followed in their wake.
As a result, it wasn't long before Jack learned what was happening. In the Rue Saint-Jacques, just a few yards from the Rue Monsieur le Prince, the location of that three in a bed party, the tension broke. Police charged the chanting students, swinging batons and leaving several of them unconscious on the cobbled street.
Jack bit his lower lip. What if Daniel was one of the injured people? What if he was left spread-eagled on the street, bleeding and in pain? Jack glanced at his office door. He calculated how long it would take him to get to the Latin Quarter, whether he could slip through the cordon and into the heart of the action. Would he find Daniel in the mêlée of the street battle? Jack's duty was to the American Embassy and the security and safety of its many inhabitants. He couldn't desert his post in search of his male lover. How would it look if the truth surfaced?
He slumped into his chair and let out a low growl of frustration. The only information he was receiving was a mix of radio and television news. There were plenty of overall reports about the situation but no real first hand detail. The injured and unconscious students hadn't been named. There wasn't even any information about how many of those students were male, and how many were female.
Jack hesitated again. He needed to be on the spot, to see what was happening and where. He needed to be reassured that Daniel was okay if he was there, if he was involved but Hammond was expecting him to do his job, particularly in times of crisis. Damn!
Daniel coughed into his handkerchief his eyes streaming as yet another cloud of tear gas billowed across the street towards him. There were shouts and screams, chanting, booing and whistles of derision coming from the growing crowd of students. The sound of police batons beating on shields was deafening.
All at once, there was a shout. "Retreat! We have to regroup." Daniel turned to see a group of students in the act of overturning several parked cars. Fleetingly, it reminded him of the cowboy movies where the wagon train either formed a circle against hostile forces or were tipped over to serve as cover for a makeshift shooting gallery.
Quickly, Daniel ran to join the students, rocking his weight against the side of a sleek black Citroën DS until it fell onto its side, the car still rocking and its wheels spinning as the students moved on to the next vehicle. Daniel was swept along with them, only having a second to glance over his shoulder at the hapless Citroën. Someone had hacked at the fuel tank and set fire to the puddle of inflammable liquid running along the gutter. He shook his head. He wasn't all that interested in cars as an art form or as a piece of clever engineering. As long as a car made it from A to B, that was all he was interested in, and yet seeing the car that he'd just help to destroy burning through an ignominious final journey, Daniel couldn't help feeling guilty.
Other students were levering up the cobblestones and piling them in the street to make barricades to shelter behind and to halt the oncoming riot police. Some of the stones were used as missiles, smashing shop windows, denting cars and injuring police officers.
The police charged the students again and again, violently assaulting any stray students who had allowed themselves to be separated from the rest behind the barriers. The police were picking them off, taking out their rage and surprise at the unexpected resistance shown to them.
Acrid smoke now mixed with the clouds of tear gas. Daniel, gasping for breath, ducked into a narrow alley to find Skaara with a cobblestone in his hand and about to throw it.
"Hey!" Daniel choked out. "It's me."
"Oh chié ! Je suis désolé, Daniel."
Grabbing the stone, Daniel threw it down and frowned at his brother-in-law. "You okay?"
Skaara nodded erratically. The gesture was enough for Daniel to disbelieve him. "Now tell me the truth, Skaara," Daniel insisted.
"It's nothing, Daniel."
Reluctantly, Skaara turned his back on Daniel and raised his shirt. Daniel took a sharp intake of breath. He could see a gash running from Skaara's spine to his hip. His shirt was soaked with blood.
"Oh my God, Skaara. You need to get to a hospital."
"It can wait. There are more important things to do," Skaara grinned and flinching, bent down to pick up the cobblestone.
"Have you heard? More students are joining us, Daniel, from all over the city. They won't stop us now," Skaara declared breathlessly.
Daniel frowned. "Who's organising this? Who's in charge?"
Skaara crept towards the street, peering out from the alley. "No one. Well, maybe Daniel Cohn-Bendit but I think people just seem to know what to do."
Daniel didn't believe that. The barricades that were growing in number and size showed a pattern. They were located where there were street junctions or where a whole street could be cordoned off against the police. All the barricades were strategically placed where they would cause maximum disruption to the police onslaught. Daniel smiled. Jack would be proud.
The battle between the police and the students continued unabated for the next few hours. Daniel fell into the role of medic, flitting between barricades to offer help where he could. He had no supplies but some of the latecomers had brought their own, sharing out the contents of home first aid kits. There were plenty of students who showed the evidence of an over zealous police force, though most just shrugged off their injuries in favour of digging up more cobblestones, manning barricades, directing newcomers or just jeering at the riot police.
As darkness fell, petrol bombs lit the streets. The shouts of students were punctuated by explosions and the crackling and spitting of fires. Everything was uproar and confusion.
During one of the rare lulls in the battle, Daniel propped himself against the wheel of an upturned baker's van. Its contents were long gone having been distributed to the protesters. He hadn't eaten since breakfast time though he was grateful for the half a cup of cold coffee he'd found left on a window sill.
He wondered what Jack would be thinking right now. Daniel knew the images of the on-going battle would be beamed across Paris, and indeed across the world. Jack was bound to see them. Daniel had witnessed TV crews roaming the streets and filming the action.
The battle had been raging for hours now and Daniel was exhausted. He thought about the Vietnam War and those young men who had been sent to do America's dirty work. Daniel wondered if he'd been in Vietnam right now, which side he would be on. Were the French Riot Police the North Vietnamese or the American military? Whichever they might have been, Daniel would still be on the opposite side. The only difficulty was that this situation made identifying which was the right side harder to elicit.
The next morning, in the full light of day, Daniel could see the level of devastation. Many of the cobblestone barricades had been breached during the night and the stones were scattered everywhere. The carcases of burnt out cars littered the streets, blocking any flow of traffic throughout the Latin Quarter.
Even with the wrecked barricades, the police had still failed to break up the protest and now students were regrouping. Daniel stood next to someone with a transistor radio and listened along with a group of a dozen or so others.
"It is estimated that nearly six hundred rioters were injured. The police suffered at least three hundred casualties," the radio announcer said.
Several students cheered at the news of police injuries while others hissed at the numbers of students who had been hurt.
Eventually Daniel slipped away, taking a circuitous but relatively safe route to Gaston's building. After climbing four floors, Daniel reached Gaston's tiny apartment. He wasn't there. Daniel was relieved. He was too tired to talk about the previous night's events. His thighs ached as he took the ladder from Gaston's bedroom to his loft, where he flopped down on the bed and fell asleep, still fully clothed, still with the grime of the street battle on his face and hands.
Jack had had a hard night and as dawn broke, he was ready to scream. He'd heard about the street battle, the injuries on both sides and the tense lull in hostilities rather than the concord of settlement. Jack was desperate for news of Daniel but had received none. He still wanted to go to the Latin Quarter to find Daniel but his duty was to the Embassy. He could still use the phone though.
"What the hell is goin' on, Pierre?"
"The government is confounded and television coverage is making it worse. What can I say, my friend?"
"Something useful?" Jack asked trying to fight down his rising frustration.
"My beloved city is facing another revolution, I think. Only time will show us which way it will end. If you want news of Daniel Jackson then I must disappoint you. I have nothing to give you."
Jack slumped lower in his seat. He hadn't really expected Pierre to give him details of Daniel's situation and he knew he was grasping at straws but he'd had to ask.
"Thanks, Pierre," Jack muttered quietly and put down the phone. With his head in his hands, he had to make a choice, to stay at his post or try to find Daniel.
Daniel woke late. It took him a while to gather his thoughts and his recollections. Yes, he'd been involved in a bloody chaotic battle against a well resourced, well equipped police force and yes, he was a foreigner involved in the national politics of the country in which he was currently a guest.
He sat up and blinked against the bright shaft of sunshine coming through the window in the roof. What should he do? Go to the Baton Rouge in the hope of seeing Jack, go back to the Rue Saint-Jacques to find out if there had been an end to the protest or at least a truce, or just go back to sleep?
Daniel felt better for a shower. Now, dried and dressed, he left his loft via Gaston's apartment. The sunny afternoon raised his spirits a little but the debris from the day and night before, still heavily evident, depressed him. Paris was a beautiful city now suffering from self-inflicted wounds. He just hoped it could be cured without leaving scars.
What really surprised Daniel were the crowds filling the streets, gathered around the cobblestone barricades or standing in small impromptu groups debating the protest, discussing wider issues such as the Vietnam War or engaging in fast moving conversations about the remote and old fashioned attitude of the Gaullist government.
No one seemed to be bothered about the blocked streets and mess on the sidewalks, in fact many had found chairs or stools and tables and were sitting together sharing food and sipping coffee. People from different backgrounds had come out to support the students. Groups of animated Parisians were gathering to organise and agitate.
Daniel couldn't fail to notice the change in atmosphere. There was a sense of community, the community being wider than just that of students. All sorts of people were meeting together, talking to each other, smiling and laughing. Intense discussions attracted knots of interested and fascinated observers to join in or nod enthusiastically about the points being exchanged. Daniel stopped several times to listen. He smiled as he recognised some of the thoughts and ideas he had shared with Skaara, Gaston and the rest of the Baton Rouge students. Now they were aired on the street. He felt a pleasant sense of vindication. If only Jack were there to witness what was being said.
The thought of Jack prompted Daniel to hurry along to the Baton Rouge. He was hopeful that Jack might be waiting for him, though Daniel really didn't expect him to be there.
When Daniel arrived at the restaurant, his eyes widened. The place was heaving with people, sitting at tables and standing around them. The Baton Rouge was so busy people were spilling out on to the street. The doorway was jammed and he had to alternately push, and apologise for pushing, to get inside. On tiptoe, Daniel craned his neck to survey the throng in the hope of spotting Jack. His eyes watered in the thick haze of cigarette smoke, food smells and the body heat of the many people all crammed into the restaurant.
Daniel scoured the faces for a second and a third time but he couldn't see Jack. Dispirited he turned to leave the restaurant, having to move crabwise to thread his way through the crowd. Head down, Daniel staggered through the doorway and took a sharp left, trying to find a space on the sidewalk, when he ran headlong into someone else who was obviously making his way into the Baton Rouge.
"Sorry," he muttered not even bothering to apologise in French. Right then he really didn't care but checked his manners nevertheless. He should apologise properly. It was wrong to take out his disappointment at not finding Jack on a complete stranger. "Désolé, je fais des excuses." Daniel said the words but didn't look at the other person. He was just going through the motions.
"Boy, your French sounds sexy."
Daniel looked up, froze and then blinked. "Jack!" He stared as those dark brown eyes were at first playful and then growing serious.
"Hey," Jack breathed softly. "You okay?"
Daniel smiled broadly. "I am now."
"C'mon, I could do with a drink," growled Jack with a grin.
"What? Where? This place is way too crowded," Daniel tried to explain pointing to the Baton Rouge as Jack grabbed his arm and dragged him away along the sidewalk.
"Yeah, I noticed. There's a place in the Rue Monsieur le Prince, the Mayflower. It's a bar-tabac and it might be a little quieter."
Daniel smiled. Their time together had taught Jack to be a little less American and a little more French. He'd even managed to remember street names, certain establishments and appeared to know where to find them.
"Jack, do you know how to get there?"
"Sure. We're in the Rue Saint-Jacques, right?"
"So we walk down here to the Rue Cujas and take a left into the Place du Panthéon. We go part way along Rue Clovis then left into the Rue Descartes. See? It's easy."
Daniel laughed. "Right."
They strolled side by side where the street debris, barricades, burned out cars and crowds of people allowed.
It was hard to talk with any intimacy. Most of the time during their walk along the Rue Saint-Jacques they had to raise their voices to be heard over the news reports emanating from transistor radios, bursts of laughter and passionate voices clashing in friendly argument.
When they turned onto the Rue Cujas, they saw that the crowds had thinned a little. They could walk shoulder touching shoulder, their voices at a low level while still able to hear each other without difficulty.
Jack lifted his head to gesture at a small pile of cobblestones then his eyes shifted to look straight ahead. "Were you involved?" he asked simply. He didn't look at Daniel.
"With the protest?"
Jack said nothing and still didn't look at him.
Suddenly Jack halted. Daniel had taken a couple more steps before he realised. Spinning around he glared at Jack. "What?"
"Why? Because it was important."
"Why?" Jack asked again.
"It's about the small man against the establishment, Jack."
"I'd hardly call Cohn-Bendit a small man. He's been on every TV screen, every radio station and front page in the country. His face has been showing up all around the world, Daniel. He is not a small man."
"It's not about him per se. He's just the symbol. You've seen all the people on the streets. They're supporting each other and challenging the dominant discourse. They all think they're the small man. This whole thing is bigger than Cohn-Bendit."
Jack thought for a moment and then continued to walk. "When's it gonna end, Daniel? So far, all there's been is a truce. There's been no peace talks, no white flags, no surrender."
Daniel rounded on Jack and the two stopped walking again. "Surrender? So you're assuming that it's the students who have to give in, have to surrender for this to be settled!"
"I didn't say who should surrender, Daniel, but you can be sure whoever it is, there'll be tears before bedtime."
"That's your answer to everything, isn't it? As long as someone gives in, in this case the students, and the status quo wins, that'll do and don't say anything about the 'natural order'. It's not good enough any more, Jack. People want more. I think after yesterday, there won't be any going back. You've got a choice, Jack. Go with it or get left behind."
"So if I don't agree with you, I lose you?"
Daniel thought for a moment. "I'm really sorry, Jack but I'm not sure you ever had me." It nearly killed Daniel to say it but there was no gain in either of them trying to fool each other or themselves.
Jack took a deep breath. Daniel's words hurt but he was being truthful. They'd never really had each other because neither of them was prepared to compromise. It would take one of them to surrender before there was any real hope for them and that in itself was never going to happen.
Jack starting walking again. "C'mon, I really need that drink."
They continued on and for a few moments, neither spoke. The issue of surrender was filling their minds and rendering them unable to say anything. Both were afraid that their bickering would turn into full-scale hostilities and no matter how strongly each felt about his own stance and that of the other, neither was prepared to sever this recently made, rare contact.
At last, Daniel spoke. He hoped to steer their conversation away from the tense particular to something more general and therefore, neutral.
"So," Daniel began tentatively, "How've you been?"
"Busy," grunted Jack and threw Daniel a look.
Up until now, Daniel hadn't thought about the impact of the street fighting on Jack's job. Of course, all Embassy staff would be on full alert. Expecting a siege or invasion would have galvanised the Embassy into gathering information and from it, predicting likely difficulties. Jack would have been at the centre of it. Daniel took a closer look at the dark circles under his eyes. He looked tired.
They fell silent again. Jack knew Daniel had offered an olive branch and Jack had snapped it. It wasn't fair. Jack just wanted to spend a few, non-argumentative hours with Daniel, to enjoy his company and see him smile. Jack blew out a cleansing breath. He would offer his own olive branch and hope it would be accepted.
"So...have you managed to produce any paintings lately?" he asked carefully.
Daniel's face lit up with a smile. "Ah, yes actually. Mainly portraits but I've tried water colours too. I've spent quite a few hours sat beside the Seine doing landscapes, well cityscapes really."
"Great," Jack said returning Daniel's very welcome smile. "Have you done any pictures of Gaston?" The moment the question had left Jack's mouth he grimaced. That was a dumb thing to ask. If the answer were yes, he'd regret hearing it. If the answer was no, he'd probably whoop out loud and embarrass himself.
"Yeah, one or two. Nothing very substantial though. Gaston is not a good subject. He can't sit still long enough."
Jack didn't know whether Gaston's habit of fidgeting was a good thing or a bad thing. It all depended on why the man was fidgeting, he figured. He could imagine.
"I'm sorry we haven't had a chance to see each other, Jack. I really have missed you."
Jack nodded. "Yeah, I missed you too," he said biting back his resentment concerning the street battle and his jealousy about Gaston. What he really wanted to do was embrace Daniel and kiss him but they were in a public place.
They continued walking along the Place du Panthéon until they reached a left turn in the road. Jack stopped, grinning at Daniel.
"What?" Daniel asked frowning.
"Don'tcha know where we are?"
Daniel looked to his left. "Sure, the Rue de la Montagne Sainte Geneviève."
"Yeah, that's right," Jack grinned and proceeded to take the turning.
"Wait a minute. We're turning too soon. We should carry on along the Place du Panthéon a bit further. The Rue Clovis is next and that leads into the Rue Descartes."
"Yeah I know," Jack said enigmatically. "I think this is a better choice though," he smiled.
They walked a little further and Jack stopped again at the entrance to a narrow cobblestone street.
"Oh my God, Jack!"
Jack just grinned.
They were at the Rue Saint-Etienne du Mont. Daniel glanced between Jack and the street where he'd shared Jack's apartment. Daniel had been happy there, though the arrangement wasn't exactly ideal. He'd loved being with Jack, had enjoyed all the domestic moments like the washing up and shopping for food. He'd been ecstatic about the sex but there was just one fly in the otherwise perfect ointment. That was to do with his inability to paint. It wasn't that he'd lacked ideas or inspiration. He just didn't have enough space to work.
Now, with his current arrangement of living in the loft above Gaston's tiny apartment, he could paint to his heart's content but Gaston was a poor substitute for Jack. Gaston had offered sex more than once. In fact, it seemed to Daniel that Gaston was offering it on a daily basis but he'd not once considered taking up Gaston's offer. He knew why. It was because he wanted Jack, and only Jack.
Daniel smiled at Jack. It was clear he had chosen this route as a sort of journey of nostalgia.
"We had some good times here," Jack commented as they walked slowly along the uneven cobblestones.
Daniel nodded. "We did."
When they got to the door of the house, they stopped. There was no one in sight. The street was empty and quiet.
"I've got a suggestion," Jack said. He plunged his hand into his pocket, pulled out a small gold coloured key, and held it up to Daniel. "It's your choice, Daniel. You can take it or leave it. If you take it, we get to spend some quality time together. If you leave it I'll understand that you want to move on."
Daniel's eyes flicked between Jack and the key. Did he want to move on? Leave Jack once and for all, never to see him again? That's what he liked about Jack. It was all or nothing. Jack's show of being a reasonable man who had the capacity to compromise was just that, a show. Jack knew his own mind and knew what the consequences were. Whether Jack would admit it or not, he was a gambler, a risk taker and he was gambling his emotions on Daniel feeling the same.
"I've only got a few hours," Jack said over his shoulder as he and Daniel mounted the stairs to the apartment. "Well, until oh six hundred tomorrow morning," he added.
Daniel's lips tightened. He was hoping they could pick up where they left off but, of course, Jack's priority was to be at the Embassy. Daniel had forgotten there was also the issue of when Jack would retire from the Air Force and leave France to go back to the States. He'd got used to Jack turning up at the Baton Rouge at regular intervals. Daniel liked seeing Jack's face, his brown eyes and his smile.
However, they only had a few hours, less than sixteen in fact. What would happen after that was anyone's guess. Neither of them were thinking about that now. They just wanted each other in every way possible and they wanted it now.
"I'd thought you'd given this place up, Jack," Daniel said slipping off his jacket.
"I had but I've got a good contact and that's how come we're here now," Jack replied loosening his tie and lifting the loop over his head.
Daniel began to unbutton his shirt and then stopped. "Supplies!"
Jack grinned. "Don't worry. I've got everything we'll need in here." He picked up his small knapsack off the chair and waving it at Daniel, turned it upside down and emptied the contents onto the bed.
Daniel pulled off his now unfastened shirt, unzipped and shucked out of his trousers. He was in a hurry to inspect what Jack had brought, stretching out one hand to spread the contents while using the other to pull down and wriggle out of his underpants and socks.
Jack laughed. Daniel always managed to do at least two things at once.
While Jack finished undressing, Daniel stared at the items Jack had dropped onto the bed. There was a tube of lubrication, several packs of condoms, a PVC coated dildo, a pair of handcuffs and some slim silk belts like the kind used to fasten a dressing gown.
Daniel gave Jack a mischievous grin. "Jack?"
"I...I didn't know what you'd like so I brought most of my own stuff. It's all clean and sterilised," Jack said quickly. "I'm careful about things like that."
"I'm sure you are," Daniel smiled picking up the dildo and drawing his closed fist slowly up and down its length.
Jack's eyes hooded and he groaned as he watched Daniel's obvious sexual gesture but his eyes suddenly widened as he felt the dildo stroke his chest and rub delicately over his nipples. He closed his eyes and let Daniel trace his body with the phallus.
Jack smiled when he felt Daniel's lips on his and Daniel's arms snaking around him to pull him into a close embrace. Their groins touched, the hardness of their cocks pressing against each other. The contact ignited their passion and they wrestled one another to the bed, scattering the items that Jack had emptied there.
Daniel was on his back, Jack on top of him as they continued to kiss until Daniel pushed against Jack's shoulders and rolled him off.
"What?" Jack asked breathlessly.
"I've got your dildo poking me in the back."
"Oh yeah?" Jack smiled and waggled his eyebrows suggestively.
"Yeah," Daniel laughed and pushed himself up on one hand to clear the objects from the bed. Turning, he piled all the bits and pieces onto the nightstand stretching on his knees to make sure everything stayed where he put it.
Jack stared at Daniel's body, at his back and ass as he arranged Jack's things into a neat mound. Unable to resist, Jack shuffled closer and stroked his fingers over Daniel's buttocks, slipping his hand between Daniel's thighs and cupping his balls to massage them gently.
"Oh God, Jack," Daniel moaned and pushed his hips back into Jack's touch.
With his hand still around Daniel's balls Jack stroked his thumb against Daniel's asshole. He felt Daniel shiver with pleasure. Jack leaned in and ran the tip of his tongue over the tight ring of puckered flesh, satisfied when he heard Daniel groan. Now Jack bent to his enjoyable task by placing his hands on Daniel's buttocks and spreading them to give him better access to his goal.
Lapping against Daniel's skin, Jack thrilled at the vocal appreciation Daniel uttered and spurred on, stiffened his tongue and dipped in and out of Daniel's asshole.
"Oh God, oh God," Daniel chanted as the sensation of Jack's butterfly-like movements sparked pleasure and excitement through his nerves. He grabbed the lubrication and pushing himself up on his knees liberally coated the dildo and leaned his free hand on the top of the nightstand.
He reached behind him and slowly, deliberately worked the dildo into his ass.
"Fuck, Daniel!" Jack's eyes rolled back in his head and he groaned loudly.
"You do it," Daniel breathed and let go of the dildo.
Jack shuffled closer to Daniel and took the phallus. He'd let go of Daniel's balls in the excitement of the dildo and was reminded of that fact when Daniel complained loudly. Jack chewed his lower lip in concentration. Moving the dildo and massaging Daniel's balls was the equivalent of rubbing circles on the top of his head while rubbing circles on his stomach. It was difficult because Jack didn't know which tempting part of Daniel to focus on.
Then there was the problem of having both his hands full. Jack wanted to touch himself, stroke his cock but he couldn't without giving up at least one of his two currently most favourite activities.
Instead, Jack shifted his attention fully on to Daniel's pleasure and continued to move the dildo as though it were his cock, stroking slowly and changing the angle to stimulate Daniel's prostate, making him hiss and shiver with delight.
"Don't you dare come," Jack growled when he saw Daniel handling his cock and stroking hard. "I want you inside me and fucking me, so try and save it!"
"Sorry," Daniel gasped sucking in his lower lip and reluctantly letting go of his cock.
He gasped again when Jack withdrew the dildo. "I think it's my turn now," he grunted. "Gimme the lube will ya."
Daniel's ass contracted in anticipation of Jack filling it. He didn't have to wait long. Jack pressed against him and slid inside his body easily. The dildo had seen to that.
Now Jack set up a pounding rhythm, pushing balls deep into Daniel and fucking him hard. Jack didn't hold back. He didn't want to and Daniel didn't want him to either. Daniel created a chant of encouragement, muttering expletives and sexually explicit words and phrases in every language he knew. Jack didn't need to know what they meant he just knew by Daniel's volume and tone of voice that it was good and dirty. It catapulted him to orgasm.
Jack hardly had chance to draw breath before Daniel had shifted him into position. Jack's head was still spinning with after glow as Daniel was on him. Impatient fingers stretched Jack's entrance just enough for Daniel penetrate him safely. On his back, with his knees bent and his feet hovering somewhere around Daniel's shoulders, Jack grunted as Daniel entered him.
"It's gonna be fast," Daniel gasped pumping his hips. He'd been so close to coming for a while and now he was inside Jack there was no reason to hold back. Each stroke sent a blitz of sensation through his cock and balls. Jack was just tight enough to make Daniel growl loudly. "Oh God, Jack," was all he could say.
When Jack reached up and rubbed at Daniel's nipples, Daniel howled his appreciation and came hard.
While Jack showered, Daniel listened to the radio and made coffee. He was partway through pouring the coffee into two cups when he stopped to listen more closely.
"Police are battling with students to break up yet another night of street protests. The Latin Quarter is impassable to motor vehicles.
High school students have joined the university students, teachers and increasing numbers of young workers. Earlier today, they gathered at the Arc de Triomphe to demand that all criminal charges against arrested students be dropped. They are also asking the police to leave the university, and that the authorities reopen Nanterre and the Sorbonne.
It is reported that negotiations have broken down after students returned to their campuses. There have been false reports that the government has agreed to reopen them, only for students to discover the police are still occupying the schools. It is feared students are close to revolution."
Daniel reacted immediately. "Jack!" When he didn't hear Jack respond he stood at the bathroom door and called again. "Jack! Hurry up and finish. We need to leave. Now!"
"What?" Jack's muffled voice sounded from inside a towel as he rubbed his hair dry. He came out of the steamy bathroom dressed and confused. "What did you say?"
"We should leave. Now," Daniel replied swigging down his coffee. "The police are out on the streets and it seems like the protests have started up again. If you want to get back to the Embassy without having to walk all the way we should go now. If we walk down the Rue Vaugirard away from the direction of the Sorbonne you might be able to get a cab."
"Hey! Are you tryin' to get rid of me?" Jack frowned.
"God no, Jack but if you wait you might not get back to the Embassy at all. How are you going to explain where you were, and who you were with if you get stuck here?"
"Good point," Jack nodded sipping his coffee. He frowned some more as he watched Daniel put on his jacket. "You don't have to go. You might as well stay the night."
"No. I need to get to where the action is. I can help."
"You mean you want to get to where the action is because you want to fight."
"Jack, please. Last night I acted as a first aider, that's all. I can do the same tonight. I'm not interested in fighting. Why would you think that?"
"It's hard to know what to think, Daniel."
Daniel stared intently at Jack. "Am I that bad?"
"You're not bad, Daniel, just naïve. People are gonna get killed out there and for what? Huh?"
"A matter of principle," Daniel replied defiantly. How could Jack think him naïve? Was that all Jack saw in him?
"Principle? Daniel, nothing will change. They're up against their own government."
"People against their own government are already beginning to make a change, Jack. Anti-Vietnam war demonstrations are happening all over the world. Even students in the States are protesting. Change is going to happen, whether you like it or not."
"But what's goin' on out there," Jack continued waving vaguely at the window, "Is just senseless violence. It won't achieve anything!"
"That's what I keep telling you," Daniel countered.
"The Vietnam War is senseless violence and it definitely won't achieve anything except thousands of dead Americans and even more dead Vietnamese. Don't you get it? People want change, Jack. They're sick of inequality, sick of senseless wars and sick of governments that don't listen! They're saying so in the only way they can."
"And you support it?" Jack snarled.
Daniel knew they were heading for a brick wall again only this time it would be for good. Right now, he had to choose his answer carefully. It would either keep them together or drive them apart.
"Yes, I support it."
Daniel caught the flash of anger in Jack's eyes and knew they were finished. Daniel could no more change his ideas than Jack could. They were doomed. They always had been.
Jack shifted, straightened himself up and went back to the bathroom. It took him only a minute to collect his wash gear and stuff it into his knapsack along with the sex toys. He snorted. "Some evening this turned out to be," he muttered grabbing his coat as he made for the front door. "Well, Daniel. It looks like this is it."
Daniel could see and feel the tension in Jack's voice and body. "Jack, I..."
"Look, we're both grown ups. We knew the score when we got involved. Like you said, I never really had you. You go tend the wounded in the streets. I'm going back to my job at the Embassy. Y'know, the job that makes sure the Embassy and its residents are safe and secure being that little part of our homeland."
Daniel flinched at Jack's tone. It was hard edged and pointed enough for Daniel to get the message. Jack disagreed wholeheartedly with Daniel's politics. He always would.
"I don't want this to happen," Daniel said the frown now deeply etched in his forehead. "I love you."
Jack tipped his head up. "I love you too but we're too different. It was good while it lasted, Daniel but this is the parting of the ways. You go yours. I go mine. Hope your painting succeeds. Maybe one day I'll see a portrait or two hanging in the Met."
Daniel barked out a laugh that turned into a strangled sob. "I don't want this to happen, Jack. Please."
"You already said that and I get it but we're never gonna see eye to eye so let's make a clean break of it." Jack had already accepted the inevitable. No matter how much he felt for Daniel it would never work because they were too different. Jack was old guard, Daniel the new. The fact that they were so good together when they weren't arguing over politics was the hardest thing to let go of but Jack would manage. He had to. It was either that, or throw himself off the top of the Eiffel Tower.
As Jack reached for the door handle, Daniel made to follow him. "Don't come with me. I don't want that. I just wanna leave and have done with it," Jack said over his shoulder. "Have a good life, Daniel," and with that he was gone.
Daniel ran to the living room to catch a last glimpse of Jack walking down the dark street and away from him. "Have a good life too, Jack."
Daniel went to open the door and noticed Jack had left the key in the lock. Daniel smiled. Maybe Jack hadn't really gone. Maybe he would come back. Daniel waited for nearly an hour but there was no sound of footsteps on the stairs or a knock at the door. Jack really had left. Now Daniel had to decide what to do about the key. He could leave it he supposed, perhaps on the table in the living room but what if there was only one? He'd have to mail it to the Embassy. He didn't know what else to do with it.
Slowly, dejectedly, Daniel walked back to the Rue Saint-Jacques. Throughout his route he could smell acrid, eye-watering tear gas in the air, could hear the shouts of battle and the noise of breaking glass, tossed cobblestones and the loud drumming of batons on riot shields.
He had to skirt the police lines to get to the relative safety of the protesters, who by now at nearly ten in the evening were tearing up yet more cobblestones to repair the barricades. Daniel did what he'd done the previous night, moving among the injured to help with bandages and hot drinks. Cafés and bistros were providing food and coffee and people with apartments in the area were offering a refuge for those exhausted by the fighting.
By the next morning, a pall of smoke hung over the Latin Quarter and the area looked even more like a battlefield.
Jack had to walk a long way from where he'd left Daniel to get a taxi. His driver looked relieved and grateful when asked for the Avenue Gabriel. At least the location was across the river and well away from the current troubles.
It was late when Jack eventually reached the Embassy and he went straight to his room. He wasn't on duty until early the next morning so he could relax and sleep, except he did neither.
Every time he closed his eyes, all Jack could see was Daniel's distraught face as he left him. The sex had been great, had been mind-blowing, but the aftermath was just crap. Why did they always argue over politics? Jack turned over in his bed and made a frustrated growl. Why couldn't they just enjoy the sex and the meals at the Baton Rouge and not get into areas that always caused them to fight? Jack knew why. If they were just sex partners it wouldn't matter but they were more than that, which meant they were going to share everything about themselves – including politics.
But they weren't together. They never really had been and now they were done, finished, destroyed. It had been as much Jack's fault as it was Daniel's. Jack knew that. They were as bad as each other, but they'd also been good for each other too.
It didn't matter anymore. It was too late to make things any different. Daniel had chosen his side of the barricade and now Jack had no choice but to dig in on his side.
The situation on the streets of Paris was going to turn into a war of attrition, just like his relationship with Daniel.
Jack was on standby. He'd heard that a huge crowd of angry students was massing on the Left Bank and trying to cross the Seine to move into the rest of Paris. He had no evidence that pointed to an assault on the American Embassy but he had to be ready.
Jack had spent the last two days going over every inch of the Embassy buildings, for there was more than one strung out along the Rue Gabriel. He was no longer a diplomat but a practical soldier examining the perimeter security of the Embassy and closing off any weak points like insisting a basement door be fixed with two sliding bolts, a Yale lock and a burglar alarm. One old and loose bolt and a floor mop propped against the door just wasn't good enough for Jack. He was anticipating trouble at least on the scale of a medieval siege.
Jack's normal routine of sleep, work and then sleep had been disrupted. All he'd done was work. He grabbed the occasional nap but most of the time he was awake. Even when he wasn't working he was awake. A gnawing resentment was growing in his gut. Jack was tired and irritable and blamed Daniel for the current mayhem in the city even though he knew, deep down, it was neither fair nor rational. According to him it was Daniel's fault that Jack and the Embassy were on crisis alert and that Jack hadn't slept in over thirty hours.
Lying on his bed, Jack switched on the radio. He hoped the sound would block out his own droning inner voice, the one that kept telling him walking away from Daniel was the dumbest thing he'd ever done. He listened to the news broadcast and felt his heart rate increase and his blood pressure rise.
"Another huge crowd congregated on the Left Bank today. Riot police moved to block them from crossing the river but the crowd again threw up barricades.
The police mounted a counter offensive at 2:15 this morning after negotiations once again floundered. The confrontation has already produced hundreds of arrests and injuries but looks likely to continue throughout the rest of the night."
Jack sighed and sat up. His head throbbed and he was bone achingly tired but his brain just wouldn't shut down long enough for him to sleep. How could he? Daniel was out there somewhere facing a well-equipped and determined police force. Anything could happen and Daniel was in the middle of it.
Reaching over to the nightstand, Jack pulled open the drawer and took out a glass and a bottle of whisky. He poured himself a generous measure and hoped the alcohol would induce sleep. It took a lot of generous measures but eventually the world spun and Jack's head hit the pillow.
During the night of May 10, police fired over five thousand tear gas cylinders. By 5 a.m., the police had succeeded in reoccupying the Latin Quarter. The early morning light illuminated the devastation of the battle. Fire-fighters were engaged in putting out dozens of conflagrations and dealing with flooded buildings attacked by the police using water cannon.
Daniel Cohn-Bendit appealed to students to withdraw from the Latin Quarter rather than face the violence of the police. One thousand demonstrators were injured, fifty of them seriously. This wasn't a defeat so much as a temporary retreat.
State controlled television reports were heavily censored but people were gaining news and information via independent radio stations.
"Want some breakfast?"
"Yes coffee, Gaston."
"You should eat something. Want a croissant?"
"No thanks, just the coffee."
"I don't want anything to eat, Gaston. I had toast at 5 a.m."
"Okay. Vous ressemblez à la merde, Daniel."
"Thanks, Gaston. It's nice to know I look like crap, which is not at all surprising seeing as I've been out on the barricades for the last two days."
Gaston stood up from the small kitchen table and pinned Daniel with an intensely lustful look. "Why don't you let me make you feel better? We could go to bed for a few hours. You could just lay there and I'll do the work. I could make you feel so good, Daniel."
Daniel sighed. He'd heard this so often now and rejected Gaston's offer equally as often that he didn't understand why Gaston kept repeating himself.
"Look, Gaston," Daniel began in his best, most patient tone. "It's not that I don't like you, it's just that...well, I'm not looking for another relationship right now."
"Another relationship? What do you mean? Are you seeing someone?"
"Gaston, you know I am." Daniel checked himself. "I was I should say."
"You're talking about that Jack O'Neill, aren't you?" Gaston asked sniffily.
"Yes but it doesn't matter. He and I...we're not seeing each other any more."
"So you are available!" Gaston grinned.
"No! I keep telling you. I'm not interested in another relationship. When all this is over I want to concentrate on my painting."
"I can help you mend your broken heart, Daniel. I won't expect anything from you. I know you're upset so you should consider me...convenient."
"Gaston," Daniel said wearily. "Please listen to me. I don't want anyone. Not you, not Jack, not anyone."
"There was a time when you wanted me, Daniel."
Daniel frowned. "What?"
"You were happy to let me fuck you when you were with Sha're. You liked me up behind you, pushing into you, making you moan. Then Jack O'Neill appeared on the scene and you forget all about your friend Gaston."
Daniel thought for a moment. He really didn't want Gaston's attention in this way. His days of being available to anyone who wanted to plant themselves inside him were gone. Jack had seen to that. Right now, if Daniel couldn't have Jack he didn't want anyone, especially Gaston who was always so needy and demanding.
"He hurt you," Gaston stated.
Daniel said nothing.
"I can see it in your eyes. He hurt you and he should not have done that," Gaston said. "Vous ne le méritez pas."
Daniel gave Gaston a weak smile and then chewed at his lower lip. No, he didn't deserve it, not to lose Jack but he, Daniel, had made it happen. This situation wasn't really Jack's fault, it was his. "It's not important, Gaston, now how about that croissant?"
Jack ventured out of the American Embassy to try to get a feel for what was actually going on at street level. He had no intention of going all the way to the Latin Quarter. He might see Daniel and then he'd cave. He didn't want to do that. It would mean he was agreeing with Daniel's stance on the chaos gradually overwhelming Paris and creeping closer to the Embassy.
Jack walked slowly around the western edge of the Place de la Concorde to the Voie Georges Pompidou. He stopped to watch the Seine flow by. This was the Right Bank, the northern side of the city. He glanced to his right. The Voie Georges Pompidou joined the Avenue New York. He smiled. It was a reminder of home except he'd never lived in New York. Then he felt the knot in his stomach contract. Daniel had lived in New York.
Jack thought about his likely return to the States. He didn't have a date. He'd have to wait for General Hammond to give him the green light. The way things were going in Paris right now, Jack couldn't see him leaving for a while yet. He couldn't bring himself to walk along the Avenue New York so instead turned left along the Seine towards the Boulevard Sébastopol. It was then that he saw thousands of people moving slowly along the boulevard and crossing the Seine via the Pont au Change.
"So, they listened to that call for a twenty four strike. Typical," Jack groused aloud. There was no point in trying to walk further along the Right Bank. He would never be able to negotiate his way through all those people.
He felt like a lone dissenter watching so many who shared a common view and purpose. He wondered if Daniel was somewhere in the vast crowd, wondered if Daniel would spot him as he stood to watch the spectacle. Would Daniel think Jack had changed his political mind and joined the fray? What kind of irony would it be, given the reasons for their split, for his ex-lover to believe Jack had swapped sides? He growled under his breath. Jack had come to a conclusion as he looked at the faces in the crowd. They were fresh and young, hopeful and passionate. It was the young and impatient against the old and unbending. Jack knew why his and Daniel's relationship had broken down. Daniel was on the side of the young and impatient, and he, Jack was old and unbending.
With his senses on full alert, Jack looked around for a police presence. He couldn't see any officers in plain sight. They were either monitoring the crowds from a distance or mixing with the people in plain clothes. Jack wondered if the authorities were going to let the crowds surge around the centre of Paris unmolested, or if they would plan to use aggressive tactics to disperse the people when their tolerance was tested or challenged.
When Jack finally got back to his room at the Embassy, he was tired and depressed, and lay down on his bed idly flicking through the evening paper. That's when he learned just how big the crowd in the Boulevard Sébastopol had been and that there had been a thwarted attempt by demonstrators to march on the Élysée Palace. Jack was galvanised into action, ignoring the fact he wasn't on duty, to go straight to the operations room. This attempt had been stopped but there were still another nine hours until dawn and daylight. Anything could happen during that time.
In the face of such enormous numbers, the government released the arrested students and reopened the Sorbonne. It had the effect of enraging public opinion. The tide of anti-Gaullist feeling was growing rather than diminishing as a result.
Daniel was out. He wanted to get away from Gaston who had spent the time it had taken for Daniel to eat his croissant and jam, berating Jack and the effect Jack was having on Daniel. Even though Daniel denied Gaston's words, Gaston wasn't listening and eventually Daniel had just left the apartment to escape.
He'd intended to walk from the Rue Saint-Jacques along the Rue Gay-Lussac to the Jardin du Luxembourg. The park was large and generally quiet. Daniel was planning to sit by the little lake and paint. He always smiled at the name of the street and wondered how gay Lussac might have been.
Daniel settled on the lakeside bank and organised his materials. There wasn't much. He'd learned to travel light when it came to using watercolours. He just carried a couple of paintbrushes, some sheets of paper pre-cut to the size he wanted, a small wood sheet, a few bulldog clips to clamp the paper to the wood base, a small tin of watercolour paints and a screw top jar with water. He also carried a soft pencil in his shirt pocket next to the brushes.
He was just sketching his first picture when Skaara came running up, breathless and flushed.
"Daniel! Daniel! I've been looking for you everywhere. There's a big demonstration at the Place de la Republique. It's the start of the twenty four strike. We should be there."
Skaara nodded enthusiastically. "People from all over Paris are gathering. The radio broadcast estimates hundreds of thousands of people. We should go, show our support, Daniel. The plan is to march from the Place de la Republique, cross the Seine and move into the Latin Quarter."
"Well I..." Daniel looked at his half-finished sketch. He really wanted to spend a few hours painting in peace and quiet but supporting a big demonstration was also important. "Okay," he smiled packing his things away into his backpack. "Can we get a bus, do you think?"
"Mais oui, mon ami. There are several cars and a bus already waiting at the Baton Rouge but we must hurry, they are due to leave very soon!"
Daniel and Skaara joined the throng moving slowly towards the Place de la Republique. They were on the Right Bank along with their fellow travellers from the Baton Rouge. The vehicles were parked some distance away. The crowds were multiplying fast. It wasn't long though, before they split up, separated by the mass of people shifting towards their target.
Daniel just moved with everyone else. He observed the crowds, listened to the chanting, whistle blowing and general hubbub. Idly for a moment, he wondered if Jack might be in the crowd. It was a silly idea. There was no way Jack would join this kind of protest but the thought didn't stop Daniel's eyes from roving over the faces just in case.
A solid phalanx of young people walked up the Boulevard de Sébastopol, towards the Gare de l'Est. There wasn't a bus or car in sight. The streets belonged to the demonstrators. Thousands of them were already in the square in front of the station, thousands more were moving in from every direction.
As far as Daniel could surmise by asking questions of those around him, the plan was for different groups of people, namely members of various trades unions, students and so on to keep to their groups and then converge on the Place de la Republique at a specified time. From there the whole crowd would move to cross the Seine to the Left Bank and meet at the Place Denfert-Rochereau. They would pass through the Boulevard Saint Michel, which ran parallel to the Rue Saint-Jacques. Daniel smiled. The march should end not far from the Baton Rouge!
People were already packed like sardines for as far as the eye could see. The sun was shining and it was hot. The girls were in summer dresses, the young men in shirtsleeves. A red flag was flying over the railway station. There were many red flags in the crowd and several black ones too.
A man suddenly appeared carrying a suitcase full of duplicated leaflets. He opened the case and distributed perhaps a dozen or so but he didn't have to continue alone. There was an unquenchable thirst for information, ideas, literature, argument, polemic. The man just stood there as people surrounded him and pressed forward to get the leaflets. Dozens of demonstrators, without even reading handouts, helped him to distribute them. Six thousand copies were issued in a few minutes. Everyone who got a leaflet and those standing nearby shared it, all reading assiduously. People argued, laughed and joked. The atmosphere was more like a Sunday outing than a political rally.
Eventually as that part of the crowd assembled at the railway station, people climbed onto walls, onto the roofs of bus stops, onto the railings in front of the station. Some of the students used loud hailers to address the crowd with short speeches, political in content and nature.
Daniel looked over the heads of the demonstrators. He could see banners from many educational establishments now occupied by those who worked there. Large groups of lycéens (high school kids) mingled with the students, as did many thousands of teachers. At about 2pm, Daniel's crowd, the student section, set off, singing the 'Internationale'. They marched twenty to thirty people abreast, arms linked. There was a row of red flags in the front line, then a banner fifty feet wide carrying four simple words: 'Étudiants, Enseignants, Travailleurs, Solidaires'. It meant Students, Teachers, Workers, Interdependent. It was an impressive sight.
The whole Boulevard de Magenta became a solid seething mass of humanity. The crowd that Daniel was with couldn't enter the Place de la République. It was already packed full of demonstrators. It wasn't possible to move along the pavements or through adjacent streets. There was nothing but people, as far as the eye could see.
As the crowd proceeded slowly down the Boulevard de Magenta, Daniel noticed on a third floor balcony, high on his right, the S.F.I.O. (Socialist Party) headquarters. The balcony was bedecked with a few decrepit-looking red flags and a banner proclaiming 'Solidarity with the students'. A few elderly characters waved at the throng, somewhat self-consciously.
Someone in the crowd to Daniel's left started chanting ''Opp-or-tu-nistes". The slogan was taken up, rhythmically roared by thousands, to the discomfiture of those on the balcony who beat a hasty retreat.
"What's going on?" Daniel asked a man next to him. "Why is everyone against the Socialists? Don't we want the support of the Socialists?"
The man sniffed disdainfully. "My father was one of the striking miners in 1958. He cannot ever forget the way the so-called socialist Minister of the Interior sent in the riot police to stamp out the strike. These old socialists are just jumping on the bandwagon. We've done the work, faced the police, built the barricades. Where were the socialists then? They're nothing but opportunists." With that, the man joined in with the chanting mass. Daniel could see the passion in the man's face. He was chanting on behalf of his father too.
At about 3pm, the crowd reached the Place de la République. This was where the converged march would depart for the Left Bank. The crowd was so dense that several people fainted and were carried into neighbouring cafes in which people were packed almost as tightly as in the street but could at least avoid being injured.
The window of one café gave way under the pressure of the crowd outside. There was a genuine fear, in several parts of the crowd, of being crushed to death. Fortunately, the first union contingents began to leave the square. There wasn't a police officer in sight.
The main student contingent proceeded as a compact body. Now that the crowd was clear of the bottleneck of the Place de la République, the pace was quite rapid. The student group nevertheless took at least half an hour to pass a given point. There were many thousands of people in front of Daniel's crowd and many thousands more behind.
The slogans on the students' banners contrasted strikingly with those of the C.G.T. - Confédération Générale du Travail, or General Confederation of Labour. The students shouted, ''Le Pouvoir aux Ouvriers'' - All Power to the Workers. They also chanted, ''Le Pouvoir est dans la rue'' - Power lies in the street and "Libérez nos camarades".
The union members proclaimed, ''Pompidou, démission'' - Pompidou, resign and ''Défense du pouvoir d'achat'' - Defend our purchasing power. Some of the time, the chants answered each other, at other times they clashed in an inharmonious din.
It was obvious to Daniel that there were deep political differences behind the differences of emphasis. Everyone took up some kind of slogan including, ''Adieu, de Gaulle". People waved their handkerchiefs to the great merriment of the bystanders. As the main student contingent crossed the Pont St Michel to enter the Latin Quarter, it suddenly stopped, in silent tribute to its wounded.
All thoughts were, for a moment, switched to those lying in hospital, their sight in danger through too much tear gas or their skulls or ribs fractured by the truncheons of the riot police. The sudden, angry silence of this noisiest part of the demonstration conveyed a deep impression of strength and resolution. Daniel could sense there were accounts yet to be settled.
At the top of the Boulevard St Michel, Daniel dropped out of the march and climbed onto a parapet lining the Luxembourg Gardens to watch. He was feeling tired. It was one thing being part of a large crowd with a specific purpose but he was already beginning to learn that there wasn't just one reason for people turning out. He'd heard groups talking about the Vietnam War. That much Daniel expected but others were discussing the brittle conservative stance of the government while others exchanged views concerning workers' unions and the likelihood of them ever seeing the point of view of the students.
Daniel remained at his vantage point for about two hours as row after row of demonstrators marched past, a human tidal wave of fantastic, inconceivable size. The first of the demonstrators reached the final dispersal point hours before the last ranks had left the Place de la République, at 7pm. There were banners of every kind: union banners, student banners, political banners, non-political banners, revolutionary banners, banners of the 'Mouvement contra Armement Atomique', banners of various Conseils de Parents d'Élèves, banners of every conceivable size and shape, proclaiming a common abhorrence at what had happened, and a common will to struggle on.
Daniel took a real interest in some of the banners that employed vivid symbolism, such as the gruesome one carried by a group of artists, depicting human hands, heads and eyes, each with its price tag, on display from the hooks and in the trays of a butcher's shop.
Endlessly they filed past. There were whole sections of hospital personnel, in white coats, some carrying posters saying, "Où sent les disparus des hôpitaux?" - Where are the missing injured?
Daniel rejoined the protestors and at various intersections, he and the rest of the march passed traffic lights, which by some strange inertia, still seemed to be working. Red and green alternated, at fixed intervals and yet there was no traffic to control. The enormous crowds of people ignored the lights. They were not going to be controlled by anything except their collective will to make their feelings known through the demonstration.
Daniel noticed lots of people standing along the route to watch the mass of people pass by. Glancing up where the bystanders were three or four deep Daniel thought he spotted Jack. It wasn't possible, of course. Jack wouldn't be supporting this kind of demonstration. Nevertheless, as the relentless pace of the marchers swept him onwards, Daniel tried to look over his shoulder at where he'd seen the tall man with silvering hair but he was gone.
Eventually the march reached its dispersal point at the Place Denfert-Rochereau. The rally had moved off at 2pm that afternoon and the last of the demonstrators arrived at the Place Denfert-Rochereau just after 8pm.
Daniel had heard a rumour that the marchers were talking about turning around and going back over the Seine to the Right Bank and then on to the Élysée Palace. Daniel thought about that. The Élysée Palace was only a short walk from the American Embassy on the Avenue Gabriel. How easy it would be just to stand outside and hope to see Jack. On the other hand, knowing Jack, Daniel figured that the demonstrators would not get anywhere near the Palace or the American Embassy. He was right to think that. Later that night thousands of riot police gathered by the river crossings and kept the demonstrators from entering the other parts of the city. That in itself sparked yet another riot, with the usual tactics of cobblestones being ripped up, vehicles used as flaming barricades and the police responding with tear gas and the threat of weapons.
Daniel wasn't involved in this part of the trouble. He'd decided to go back to Gaston's at this point.
By the time Daniel got back to Gaston's apartment, he was tired and his feet were sore.
Now resting on his bed, Daniel couldn't help but think about the man he'd seen in the crowd. Was it Jack? Daniel snorted. "Of course not," he said aloud. "Jack wouldn't voluntarily be involved in something like that. Well not unless he'd changed his opinions and I doubt that."
Daniel sat up. "Maybe he did! What if Jack has come around to my way of thinking?" He grinned for a moment then his expression changed. "And pigs and the aviation industry come to mind."
Daniel sat in the Baton Rouge with Skaara and Gaston. They were drinking coffee and enjoying bread, croissants and slices of cake. They'd all put their money together to afford a shared breakfast. They even managed to find enough cash for some slices of cold ham and cheese to go with it. There were rumours of food beginning to run out in the city but rather than save it, Daniel, Skaara and Gaston decided to tuck in.
While the others talked animatedly about the previous day's protest and the experience of being part of a one million-strong crowd of people, Daniel was intent on reading the newspaper.
"Hey," he said looking up. "Did you know workers at the Sud Aviation plant locked managers in their offices and there's another strike going on at the Renault factory in Boulogne-Billancourt?"
Skaara looked up from spreading jam on his second croissant. "So, even workers in Paris have taken up the cause. That's good, don't you think?"
Later that evening in Gaston's tiny living room, he and Daniel listened to Gaston's transistor radio.
"That's incredible," Daniel commented on the news broadcast.
"That people have taken over the National Theatre to make it into a permanent assembly for mass debate?"
"Yes," Daniel nodded.
"You're right, Daniel. The people are establishing their own kind of democracy."
Daniel smiled and wondered what Jack would make of it. It had been a non-violent seizure of the National Theatre. No one had been hurt. Surely, Jack wouldn't condemn the attempt to make it possible for people to debate the issues.
"It's interesting that De Gaulle has left France to visit Romania," Gaston commented.
"Yes, you'd think he'd stay in Paris and deal with the situation on his doorstep, not go off to a communist country and pay court to a dictator," Daniel muttered.
Again, he wondered what Jack's reaction would be. He could guess. Anything that included the term 'communism' would have him reaching for his weapon and pointing it at the first vulnerable spot he could find. Daniel smiled.
"And what else are they gonna take, sir? This is crazy. The city's close to anarchy," Jack complained.
General Hammond nodded and held up his hand to block Jack's increasing frustration. "Look, colonel. It's true the city is going through an upheaval at the moment but I have assurances from the French government that it has everything under control."
"Yeah, right," Jack said sarcastically, "I think Custer said that too, sir."
Hammond threw Jack a look and Jack cleared his throat. "I didn't mean, I'm not suggesting you're like Custer, sir. I'm just saying the..."
"Never mind, colonel. I understand. All we can do is gather intelligence and keep our options open."
"Yes, sir," Jack replied stiffly. "Sir? We had an attempted break in last night. I don't know what possessed them to think they could breach our defences."
Hammond's eyes narrowed. "Was it serious?"
"No, sir. It was just a couple of long-haired hippie types thinking they could get us to withdraw from Vietnam. They were interrogated, fingerprinted and sent on their way."
"Very good, colonel. Keep me apprised on any further developments."
Jack went back to his office and flopped down in his chair. The natural order of things was breaking down. He shook his head. He could hear Daniel's voice in his mind.
"Natural order, Jack? There's nothing natural about it? Any order is developed and maintained by the most dominant sector of society. They have the power so it's in their own interests. According to you, the natural order is older white men being in charge. The military helps to maintain that. It doesn't really matter if it's a democracy or not, it's still the same dominant discourse whatever the political structure."
Jack sighed. He missed Daniel but what was more surprising was the possibility that Jack was beginning to think like him. He shook his head. Daniel was becoming part of his internal dialogue and it made for uncomfortable listening. Jack was white, older and a member of the military. Was that why he was so against this upsurge of protests and debates? Was he part of the dominant discourse that argued to keep things just as they were?
Jack stood up and stared down at the pile of reports on his desk. "Maybe you should just stick to what you know, Jack O'Neill. Politics were never your strong suit."
Skaara banged on Gaston's door and then flung it open. "Have you heard? At least fifty factories are closed. The workers are on strike!"
Daniel nodded. "Yes, we've just heard it on the radio. This whole thing is getting bigger by the day."
"And we're part of it," Skaara smiled proudly. "At last there will be some fairness, some equality. That was why France had a revolution in the first place, no? Liberté, egalité, fraternité!"
Fraternity. Daniel considered it for a moment. It had worked for the French Revolution but it couldn't work for the American military. Fraternisation seemed to mean something completely different.
"Vous aimez le café, Skaara?" Gaston asked as he reached for the coffee press.
"Merci," Skaara said and sat down next to Daniel. He noticed how quiet Daniel seemed, as though his thoughts were elsewhere. "Qu'avez vous, Daniel?"
"Hmmm? Oh nothing. Nothing's the matter. Really," Daniel replied and drank what was left of his coffee. "I'm going out," he announced abruptly.
"Qu'est-ce que c'est?" Gaston asked as he handed a coffee cup to Skaara.
"Nothing," Daniel said grabbing his backpack. "I'm going out to paint."
As the apartment door closed, Skaara and Gaston looked at each other and shrugged. They both knew something was bothering Daniel. Skaara wondered if he was missing Sha're. Gaston knew Daniel's mood was Jack O'Neill's fault and Gaston would have to do something about it.
Over the next few days, hundreds of thousands of French workers downed tools and went out on strike. By Saturday 18 May, two million were refusing to work and by Monday 20 May, the crisis had deepened as an estimated ten million people had stopped working. That was roughly two-thirds of the French workforce.
By now, Paris had almost ceased to function. There were no buses and the taxis were about to stop running. The airports were closed, as was the Metro. The postal service had stopped operating and there was no mail at all. Theatres, cinemas and banks were also closed. Where possible, food shops continued to open for business, while basic materials were still available. Therefore, bakers, butchers, charcuteries and patisseries were still selling their wares so long as supplies of meat, flour and sugar could be found. Gasoline was running out though.
The smell of tear gas still pervaded the air and burned out vehicles continued to litter the streets where small, localised running battles were still taking place.
Daniel was intent on going to the Jardin du Luxembourg to paint but instead of concentrating on landscapes like he'd planned, he found himself sketching portraits of Jack. After an hour, he stopped and flipped through the pages he'd used trying to recreate Jack's likeness. None of the pictures really captured Jack's essence and Daniel just felt annoyed and frustrated.
Looking out over the lake, Daniel could see couples strolling around its edge in the warm sunshine. What Daniel wouldn't give to be strolling around the lake with Jack but that was never going to happen now. For all Daniel knew, Jack had already left France and was in his cabin in Minnesota, probably fishing and drinking beer.
Slowly Daniel packed up his painting things. Perhaps it was time for him to move on too...?
By now, France was at a standstill. Four thousand students previously occupying the Sorbonne moved to the Renault factory to show their support for striking workers. Ten thousand police officers were called in to challenge the combined student/worker protest. The Communist Party tried to get their members to abort the revolt, to stop the students and workers from demonstrating.
Clearly, the strikes were not led by the union movement. The Communist Party failed to contain this spontaneous outbreak of militancy. Workers were no longer allowing themselves to be manipulated by their unions, which they saw as in league with the Gaullist government. Demands for higher wages and better working conditions surfaced as some of the main claims of the workers.
Jack was relieved that the bulk of the Embassy workforce was American. If it had been French, the Embassy would have great difficulty functioning.
Chaos continued to reign. With no public transport, taxis or private cars being able to run because of a lack of fuel, people walked everywhere. The whole of the city's population was out on the streets, meeting, talking and debating. Ordinary life had taken on a new set of customs, such as communal discussions, people helping each other by sharing food, coffee, sugar and whatever else was in short supply.
"The government is trying to starve us into submission," Skaara complained bitterly.
"It's probably a common tactic used elsewhere in the world," Daniel replied. "It's a lot easier to cow a population when they don't have fuel to move around or food to sustain them."
It was the kind of comment Jack would make. Daniel was beginning to think like him. God, Daniel missed Jack.
Day by day, uncollected rubbish piled up in the streets. With no public transport and no fuel for private cars, people walked or cycled. Those who did have fuel gave free rides to others who needed to get about. There was a run on the banks, as people withdrew their savings. Supplies of staple foods such as flour, pasta and rice were running out and shops were forced to close. At those stores that still had something to sell, long queues formed to obtain whatever was available.
Cohn-Bendit, who had left Paris to take a short trip to Germany, found his return blocked. As a result, tens of thousands of students gathered to protest.
People came together in the streets to listen to a radio broadcast made by General De Gaulle. All over Paris, the president's voice echoed as thousands of radios tuned in to hear what he had to say.
"Everyone can comprehend obviously the importance of recent events both in the universities and our society. We have all had the signs for a need for social change. In June, you will be able to decide by means of a vote. In the event you vote No, it goes without saying that I shall resign my functions."
In the May sunshine and in the street outside the Baton Rouge, now closed, Daniel and Skaara glanced at each other. Gaston shrugged his shoulders. Suddenly the people all around erupted into a familiar chant. Skaara laughed and joined in. "Adieu, De Gaulle, adieu De Gaulle, adieu!"
Later that night, street battles started again as demonstrators fanned out across the city to be met by thousands of riot police ready with their batons, tear gas and water cannon. The French people didn't want to wait for a 'vote in June'. They thought they'd already made their intentions clear. They'd been doing it for nearly twenty days but still De Gaulle seemed deaf and blind to their demands.
"What is it, Walter?" Jack grunted as he slapped yet another report of mayhem and dissent on top of all the others.
"It's the Paris Stock Exchange, sir. It's been set on fire by protesters."
Jack rounded on Walter. "What the hell for?"
"It's a symbol of Capitalism," Daniel explained to a rapt Skaara. "It was inevitable it would be a target, still it's a shame though, it had some interesting architecture."
"When Paris comes to rebuild herself, we'll have something just as good in its place but it won't be the Stock Exchange!" Skaara grinned.
The pitched battled raged in the streets but was mostly contained within the Latin Quarter. Daniel and Skaara watched the fires, attacks and counter attacks unfold as the night went on. Gaston had gone out, saying he wanted a closer look but Daniel and Skaara decided to stay where they were.
By dawn, the worst was over. Daniel and Skaara ventured out onto the streets, dumbstruck by the devastation. Daniel helped three people, bloodied and injured into ambulances, Skaara by his side. Their anger grew as the daylight grew. The violence of the riot police was now legendary.
"If only Jack could see the reality of this struggle," Daniel muttered to himself, "Then he'd understand."
Jack watched the TV news reports in shocked silence, his toast long cold in his fingers. He was shocked by the violence shown on both sides but more so as he saw riot police wielding their batons with such intent. He winced as a policeman laid into a prone student, using his boots as well as his weapon to beat the crap out the young man. What if that had been Daniel? Jack switched off the TV and shook his head. The more he saw the less he understood and as he wrestled with the facts, seemingly different depending on who was reporting them, public opinion was beginning to shift.
The riot leading to the attack on the Stock Exchange had turned the tide. Parisians had supported the rioting, joined in the chanting and had put up with rotting rubbish in the streets, no means of public transport and no postal service. They'd gone on strike, put up with no theatres, cinemas, restaurants or cafes but now it seemed the assault on the one last bastion of Capitalism was an assault too far. The tolerance of the people was close to breaking.
The strikes continued for another two weeks though.
Next: Part 2