SLOW BURN PART ONE BY BIBLIO


Slash:
Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: NC-17.
Category: Slash.  Romance.
Season/Spoilers: Season 4.  No Spoilers.
Synopsis: Requisitions.  Homicidal jealousy.  Surveillance.  Interrogation.  Intrigue.  Nausea.  Trees.  Alleged waiters with attitude.  Alarums, excursions and al fresco molestation.  The ‘compensatory’ nature of cars.  How not to manuals.  Typical first date. 
Warnings: Violence.  Language.
Length: 251 Kb. Download a printer-friendly PDF version of the story


“I’m sorry, Dr Jackson.  The requisition hasn’t been completed correctly.”

“Oh.  But I – oh.  Can I correct it now?  I need those books today, and Beth Anne -“

The notorious Beth Anne of Beth Anne’s Books.  A holy terror.  Got a soft spot a mile wide for Daniel.  Like that’s new?

“ - can deliver them today if we can fax this requisition through.”

Who could resist those wide, pleading eyes and tentative little smile?  Sergeant Jennifer Jones, that’s who.  Obviously a supply clerk of the ilk that makes you sweat blood for a goddamn pencil.  Had a clerk like that in Germany.  Used to hand over a used pencil and keep the new one.

“You can’t make an amendment!  It’s against the rules, Doctor.”

“Why?” Daniel asks, radiating puzzlement.

“To prevent fraud.”

“I’m not trying to defraud the Air Force.  You can call Beth Anne, I have her number right here, she’ll confirm the order is ready to be supplied,” Daniel suggests hopefully.  “It’ll be here today.  This morning if Frank can manage it for me.  Frank is the delivery man and – “

And Sergeant Jennifer couldn’t be LESS fucking interested in who Frank is or in helping Danny out.  It’s not like he’s requisitioning a stealth bomber, Sergeant, so cut the kid some slack.

“That’s not possible.”

“Well, could anyone authorise an amendment to THIS form, because I really don’t have time to fill the whole thing out again?  I’ll miss my delivery slot.”

“You’d need the counter-signature of a senior officer,” Jones offers ungraciously.

“Sam?  Um - Major Carter?” Daniel brightens up.

“No.  Senior to the officer signing the order.”

“Oh.  Geo – General Hammond?”

Jones looks outraged.  “You can’t trouble the C.O. for something as trivial as THIS.”

“Oh, he won’t mind,” Daniel says sunnily.  “It isn’t trivial to me, and he’ll be happy to help out.”

Jones looks horrified, as well she might.  The general will happily countersign that requisition for Daniel, and then the general will make sure to have a not so happy word with Jones for making Dr Jackson’s life more difficult than it needs to be.

I must be slipping if this airhead thinks I won’t find out she’s got Supply giving Daniel the run-around.  He has a lot of small, complex orders that drive them nuts.  I know that.  I CHECK and sign those orders.  Carefully.  Like I clean my weapon careful.  He needs specific books and articles, they got editions and shit, and a lot of special equipment.  The stuff is expensive too.  VERY.  Some of those rare first editions cost more than my paycheck. Way more.  Daniel doesn’t need the hassle if things get fucked up, so I make sure they don’t get that way.

I could just put an end to this, but in all the time I’ve known Daniel, I don’t think I’ve actually seen him interacting with my fellow hard-ass military types.  Idle curiosity is granting Jones a temporary stay of execution, at least until they spot me malingering here at the doorway.

I’ve got a feeling Jones doesn’t like this mere civilian cheerfully circumventing the chain of command, that this pettiness is a power game designed to put Daniel in his place.  Or what she perceives to be his place.  Daniel can go straight to the general, no questions asked.  Always.  Sometimes the answer sends Daniel back to me, but he’s always listened to and welcomed.  It doesn’t bother me and it doesn’t bother the general.  We work hand-in-glove where Daniel’s welfare is concerned.  In fact, we like that Daniel SHARES his little problems with us, whichever of us it happens to be.  And let’s be honest, here, it’s not like George wears his heart on his sleeve, but if Daniel doesn’t go to him, he makes sure to go to Daniel.

The pettiness of my fellow airmen never came up that I recall.

“About THIS requisition, Dr Jackson.”  Jones hands him an order.

“It’s dated a week ago.  Is there a problem?  The supplier has always been – “

“We’ve had more important orders to fulfil, Doctor.  I’m sure your colouring-in can wait a TAD longer.”

Daniel’s lips tighten for a moment, and I see the tension in his slender frame as he braces for another pointless explanation-come-justification.

More than enough rope, Jones.  Thanks for hanging yourself so efficiently.  “Stratigraphy,” I snap, making Jones and Daniel jump as I loom up beside them.  “Topography.  Cartography.  Calligraphy.”  Daniel bites his lip and looks down, so I guess that one was a little out, but I’m on a roll.  “Munster soil charts.” I ignore a soft whisper of ‘Munsell’.  Close enough.  Tryin’ to make a point here.  Daniel doesn’t colour-in, he makes painstakingly accurate charts of different coloured dirt for reasons he thinks are important.  And yeah, there are cheaper artists’ pencils, almost all artists’ pencils are in fact cheaper, but Daniel likes these because they’re the ones his parents used, so these are the ones we get.  “And I’ll expect these on Dr Jackson’s desk by this time tomorrow.  Clear?”

“Sir, yes, Sir!”

Good.  Haven’t completely lost my touch.  I turn to Daniel and smile warmly.  I’m a little hurt that his smile is so tentative, like he’s not quite sure what I mean by mine.  “So that’s it?  Walk you home?”  Protocol demands that Jones should bring to my attention any problem with an order that bears my signature.  I’m responsible for it.

“There’s a mistake on this requisition, Jack,” Daniel hands it over to me when Jones doesn’t leap for her in-tray.

I keep smiling at him as I take it and hand it to her.  “No mistake.  I check.  Thoroughly.  Fax it.  Now,” I order briskly, without breaking eye contact with Daniel.  “Ensure the items are delivered to Dr Jackson’s office, ASAP.  Daniel.”  I jerk my head towards the door and Daniel settles companionably at my side as we stroll out, leaving Jones reeling in our wake.

“Thanks, Jack,” he says softly.

“They give you a hard time?”

“No moreso than – um – no,” Daniel realises a little too late that, God forbid, he should actually be giving voice to a complaint here.

“Than what?” I ask lightly, slipping my hands into my pockets and lounging along by his side towards the elevator.  “What, Danny?”  The pet name softens him, like I knew it would.

“Death of a thousand paper cuts,” Daniel says ruefully.

“Won’t happen again,” I tell him calmly.  “Ever.”  Going to enjoy making it clear to them.  “Gotta go check on Carter.  She’s playing with reactors again and the general is nervous.  Then I got Pentagon paper-pushers to deal with.  Later, kid.”

“Later, Jack.”

He’s still smiling a little as the elevator doors close between us.  I’ve done my good deed for the day.  Made the SGC safe for artists’ pencils.


Soft laughter.  Daniel is – he’s blushing.  Why?

I look at Carter.  She’s too busy scarfing down her Jell-o to notice if the Commissary went up in flames around her.  Green Jell-o.  I barely suppress a shudder, and give her a gentle nudge.

“Ow! Sir?” Carter yelps and glares at me as her Jell-o hits the floor with a wet splat.

That crap even sounds green.

“Daniel.”  I nod over to where my archaeologist is being royally entertained by one of the damn pen-pushers.  Not so damned as the rest of them, but still, a political player when all’s said and done.  Someone to be amiably tolerated at best.  Not blushed at.

“Sir?”  Carter looks blank.

I nod significantly toward the floorshow.

Carter smiles.  “Major Davis.”

And?  So?  Why is Daniel blushing?  Spill, and get your eye off my pie, Carter.  Not sharing.  I look at Major Make’ Em Laugh Davis.  No.  Not sharing.  “The two of ‘em friends?” I ask casually.

“Oh, yes.  Daniel and Major Davis spend a lot of time together whenever he’s on base.  They’ve gotten to know one another very well.”

“Really,” I take a chunk outta my pie and observe the good major.  HOW well?  Obviously well enough to make Daniel laugh a little and blush a lot.

“Oh, yes.  Major Davis has been VERY supportive of Daniel.  They’re getting to be quite close.”

‘Quite’ close?  If they were any goddamn closer, they’d be holding hands.

“I have to get back to my lab, Sir,” Carter says easily.  “With your permission?”

Whatever.  The woman is not good at subtext.  I know that look on Daniel’s face, I know that stance.  I’ve been on the receiving end of them often enough.  Daniel is confiding.  In Major Davis.  He’d rather talk to Davis than me?  How fucked is that?  What could he possibly have to confide in Davis that he couldn’t confide in me, his best friend and team leader?  Or in Carter, Teal’c, Fraiser or the general?

Something – about me?

So, maybe I need to freshen up this coffee.  Over there.  Sheer coincidence it's close to where Daniel is sitting and blushing so – so - blushing.

Yeah.  I need coffee.  'Cause this pie is choking me.  They're comfortably in earshot as I stroll up behind them and make myself part of the scenery.

“The Juniper Valley Ranch is good.  It's owned and run by four generations of the same family working and living together," Daniel's awed voice tells me that's a damned fine thing in his eyes.  "The chicken is amazing, they’ve been serving the same menu there for forty-five years.”

“Sounds good, Daniel, but it’s a little off the beaten track from here,” Davis says softly.  Smiling.  “Kinda late to be driving back on unfamiliar mountain roads in an unfamiliar car.”

I pour my coffee slowly and just check out the lay of the land.  Just a coupla guys. Food.  No biggie.

Daniel blushes and looks down at the tabletop. “You can – um - stay with me,” he offers shyly, meeting Davis’s eyes.  “Stay the night.  If you don’t want to risk driving.  I’ll bring you back here tomorrow.”

“If you’re sure, Daniel,” Davis beams.

Coupla guys going on a frigging DATE.  Spending the night with Daniel?  I DON’T think so.  Not if I have to tail you to that fucking restaurant and drive you back myself.  Daniel means on the couch, Davis, and I think you hope he’s offering you his bed.  Himself.  Think?  I KNOW.

Nice guy, Davis.  Helped out.  Helpful.  Likes to help.  Like to help yourself to Daniel.  No way.  No fucking way.  Nice, but a GUY.  No way you get to mess with Daniel's mind, get to take advantage just because he's lonely.  Because it's been a while.  Because he's vulnerable and not thinking clear, and he likes you and he hates to hurt people.

So lose the nice smile and the warm eyes and the interest.  They leave me cold, son, and it's me you need to worry about.  You want Daniel?  You want him enough to come through me?  You think you got enough to take me on?  You DON'T.  No way I stand idly by and let Daniel give it up to a guy.  Not to any guy, and most certainly not to you.

No.  Not you.  Even though he likes you and he ain't beatin’ you off with a stick, here.  Not when it means Daniel gets hurt and I gotta pick up the pieces when your nice smile and warm eyes are living it up in our nation's capital.

Must be my day to loom.  Right by their table.  Davis smiles the moment I make eye contact.  The fucker is actually pleased to see me.

“Colonel O’Neill, Sir.  Good to see you.”

“Major,” I acknowledge curtly.  “You’re expected back in the briefing room at thirteen hundred hours, Davis.  Better show some hustle.”

Davis looks taken aback at my brusque order, but all he can do is obey.  “Daniel.”  He smiles warmly.

“I’ll see you at seven,” Daniel says gently.

“I’ll pack my jamm –“ Davis catches my eye and freezes to absolute correctness before marching out the door.

No.  No, you won’t.

“What was all that about, Jack?  Why were you so harsh?” Daniel asks quietly as I slip into the seat opposite and nurse my coffee.

Daniel's lips have that tight look I noticed earlier, which I guess means he's facing another situation that is exhausting even the limits of HIS patience.

I stare into suddenly cool blue eyes and push his limits a little further.  "I need your help, Danny," I ask gravely.

Daniel thaws visibly, eyes warming and lips softening back to their normal pout.

"Of course, Jack.  Anything I can, you know that." His sweet smile lights his earnest face for a moment.

Daniel's eyes and Daniel's lips feature heavily in the dreams of most of the SGC, me included.  Not in any kind of 'Davis' context, obviously, but still, Daniel's obvious desire to help his best bud out, no questions asked, should soften my heart.

Hardens it.  Dammit, he needs protection.  I'm not gonna let Daniel tumble into bed with Davis just because it's easier for him to lie back and think of the SGC than it is to say no and hurt the guy's feelings.   Hell, he'd sleep with ME if I  - I - it's for his own good, his own peace of mind. "Personal matter."

Daniel leans forward, anxious now, hands reaching out involuntarily towards mine.  "What is it, Jack?  What's troubling you?" he asks gently.

The thought of you getting backed into a corner and letting that guy fuck you because you've never yet worked out you have the right to put yourself first.

"Not here, Daniel," I say awkwardly.  God, I am such a bastard.  A contemptible, cowardly bastard playing on his best friend's affection and support.  "My place.  Tonight."

"Tonight?" Daniel says blankly.

"If you got plans - " I shrug it off, make a move to stand up, all 'brave little colonel' stoicism.

Daniel fights it for just a moment, then another glance at my faithless face convinces him.  "No.  No plans, Jack.  I'll see you at your place, at seven."

"I'll pick you up here at eighteen hundred, bring you back in the morning," I say flatly, cranking Daniel's anxiety level up towards panic.  He'll fret himself to pieces all day over what could possibly be so bad I want us to pull an all-nighter.

Just the thought of Daniel pulling an all-nighter with Davis is bad enough for me.

"Thanks, Daniel.  Means a lot."  I lay my hand on his shoulder for a moment, totally fail to reassure his searching eyes and suffer the gentle touch of his hand over mine.  Gonna have to get Daniel drunk and between the sheets ASAP.  God forbid I should actually have to talk.  A fate worse than Davis.

What if Daniel really likes Davis?  What if this is what Daniel wants?  Tough shit.  It isn't what I want for Daniel.

I'm a fucking unconscionable bastard.

Like this is news?


Teal'c is Kel’No’Reem ing, Carter is reactoring, Daniel is flirting and I'm brooding.  Last seen, Davis was embroiled in a budget briefing.  So I asked a few innocent little questions.  So the briefing turned into a bloodbath.  So what?  So it bought me a few more hours where Davis couldn't be coming on to Daniel.

So I thought.

How the hell did Davis get here before me?  Why the hell didn't Daniel tell me this little self-defence programme was a weekly torture session? He can't talk to me now?  Can't say to me:  Jack, Sergeant Todd is a relentless sadist and it's your goddamn fault he's making my life a living hell?  What am I? A fucking unconscionable bastard?

So-o, I gotta find out the hard way this asshole knocks Daniel on his butt every chance he gets.  Gotta actually ask Todd what the FUCK he's doing to my archaeologist.  Gotta have Todd announce right in front of my archaeologist he's toughening him up on MY orders.  Daniel is plenty tough.  I never knew he could bounce if you threw him down hard enough.  And of course, Major Darling Davis the pencil pusher has a frigging black belt in jujitsu or something and is making Daniel's year by knocking Todd on his ass even harder.  Just demonstrating a few moves.  We all know WHICH moves.  Oh, yeah, they both find that very funny, very cute.  Totally hearts and flowers sympatico here, my best friend Danny and his new friend Paul.

Paul already.

Young.  Smart.  Young.  Cute, if you're that way inclined.  Young.  Sympathetic.  Young.  Bastard.  Fighting every instinct I got here, which is to march over there and knock his perfect young teeth down his perfect young throat and show Daniel how we old guys do it in Special Ops.

So-o.  I gotta find out the hard way I got a problem with Daniel showing an interest in a young, smart, cute guy not because he's a guy, but because he's not me?

This is news.


This is low.  Really low.  All time Jack O'Neill ‘lowest of the low’ type low.  Spying on my best friend Danny and his new friend Paul.  Got the perfect oblique angle.  I can see them all snuggled up and intimate in Daniel's office, but they can’t see me unless they look for me.  They ain’t looking.  They SO ain’t looking.

Davis is sidling a little closer to where Daniel is leaning, desperately casual, against his workbench.  I swear I see the pulse hammering in Daniel's throat from here.

"I'm sorry, Paul.  I'll have to take a rain check on tonight," Daniel says regretfully.  "Jack needs to talk and I - you know how it is between us." He flushes and looks down.

HOW?  How is it between us?  How good?  How bad?  How HOT?  How?  Gimme something to work with, here!

"It's not your fault, Daniel.  Friends.  I understand," Davis is all sympathy.  "The colonel is - well - you know - " He hesitates, pulling a face, and Daniel chuckles, a little guilty, a lot naughty.

Davis knows.  Daniel knows.  Speak UP, guys.  The colonel DOESN'T know.  The colonel NEEDS to know.  The roof of the colonel's mouth is dry as dust, and all he’s seeing is his best friend Danny, so it must be Danny who's responsible for the raging hard-on currently destruct testing the colonel’s resolutely heterosexual libido.

Based on the results in so far, the colonel’s libido is caving without a whimper.

"So I guess we don't get to have that talk, huh?" Davis asks softly.  "Have you made your decision?"

"Yes.  I have.  I was hoping to tell you tonight, but I can't, not here," Daniel tells him nervously.

Davis takes that as an invitation and gets a lot closer to Daniel.  He’s WAY inside that exclusion zone, the zone that only I’M supposed to have access to.  My nails are driving into my palms.  This is the most blatant fucking pass I’ve ever seen in my LIFE.

"Daniel,"  Davis is all soft voice and soft eyes.  Daniel is rocking back against the workbench, swallowing hard, transfixed as Davis closes in on him.  Daniel, trying out that sweet, tentative little smile.

If Davis was any closer he’d be in Daniel’s fatigues WITH him and why the FUCK isn’t Daniel telling him to get the fuck away, he’s TOO close?  WHY is Daniel smiling and standing there letting Davis lean in, lean closer, close enough to – to -  Got his HANDS on Daniel.  At his waist.  Looking to Daniel.  Asking permission.  Jesus.  JESUS.  Getting it?  Daniel flinching a little as Davis stops a breath away from his lips, and whispering Davis’s name, soft, uncertain.

Drowning in there.  Cornered.  Needs me.  Gotta get him outta this mess.  Daniel’s never done this before.  Never kissed a man.  Obvious.  NOT doing it now.  NOT kissing Davis.  Not when Daniel can kiss ME.  Solid offer on the table here.  Just gimme a chance to work up to it.  Ease into it.  Get used to it.  The whole idea of – y’know – with Daniel.  With a guy.

Jesus.  Looking at Daniel right now, kinda sweet and expectant - okay, okay, O’Neill.  Admit it.  Totally drop-dead gorgeous and smokin’ HOT.  Forget easing into it.  Just colour me fucking unstoppable sex fiend.

“DANIEL?  You decent?” I holler cheerfully, barging into the office.  Davis coolly steps away and smiles warmly at both of us.

"Good to see you AGAIN, Sir," Davis says humorously.

"And you, Major.  Seems like every place I need to be, there YOU are," I say coolly, looking him up and down.  Smile not so warm now.  Eyes not so soft.

Kissing MY Daniel?  NO.  You do NOT get to have him.  Daniel is no trophy fuck for some pen-pushing pseudo warrior, however good you look together or however much you have in common or however much he likes you, and yes, I see how much he likes you in the way he’s scowling at me for shutting you down.  I see it all.

Look your fill, Davis.  And kiss him goodbye.  Metaphorically speaking.  He’s spoken for.  Belongs to ME.  With me. I’m his family.  If he’s lonely, well, he's got me.  As often as he wants me.  He can have me the whole damn time. And if Daniel wants to be kissed, I'M here for him.    If he would just glance down he could see how HERE for him I am.  Couldn’t miss it.  I can't remember the last time I was this HERE for anyone.

"Dismissed," I order curtly.

Davis looks like he wants to make something of it.  Daniel looks like he wants to make something of it.  My heart is just bleeding sympathy all over the floor.  "It isn't customary for a ranking officer to have to repeat an order before it's obeyed," I say calmly.

"Sir, yes, Sir!"  Davis snaps it out, has the barefaced fucking nerve to smile at Daniel right in front of me and removes himself toot nowhere near fucking sweet enough to suit me.

I buy a little time closing the doors.  I need it.  Got enough on my plate trying to absorb the fact I fully intend to be the only kisser in Daniel's future without rushing to face the lucky kissee.  Fortunately for me, the kissee is Daniel, the poster boy for empathy.  The kid is crazy about me, thank God.  He'll understand, he’ll make this easy for me.

"Are you homophobic, Jack?"

"What?  Me?"  CRAP.  "No!"  Yeah.  No.  Kinda.  No.  Just – traditional.  Except with YOU, obviously.  The SOLE exception to an otherwise TOTALLY non-negotiable rule.

"So what, exactly, is your objection to Paul and me?" Daniel asks softly.

Shit.  The bigot question was the EASY question?

"Davis and you what?" I say blankly. There IS no ‘Paul and you’.  Just you and ME.  Me and you.  Me in you.  You in – okay, gettin’ WAY too graphic here.  Need SOME blood left for thinking with.  The couple of corpuscles I got left fightin’ a rearguard action in the old noggin are SO not cutting the conversational mustard with Daniel, mostly ‘cause they’re whining bitterly about being left out of the stampede straight down.

"Kissing," Daniel says crisply.  "What's wrong, Jack?  Not enough action for you?"

"Whaa?" I wheeze.

"I saw you salivating at the doorway!"

"Whaa?"

"How long have you been getting off on watching men kissing?" Daniel challenges.

“Wha - weren’t.  Wasn’t.”

“What?”

Hey, that’s MY line!  Give it back!  It’s the only one I got right now.

“So you’re not a homophobe and you don’t object to me seeing Paul?”

“Yes!  No!  I mean – “ I don’t know what the hell I mean.  “Yes.”

Daniel scowls at me.  “What right do you have to judge me, Jack?”

“If your own good sense doesn’t tell you – “ I snap.  He wants Davis.  He actually seems to want Davis.  Not just making do ‘cause he’s never had a better offer.   Christ.  What the hell do I do now?  I can’t hand Daniel over without a whimper, but what the hell do I know about chasing a guy?  Especially a guy like Daniel.  If Daniel was a woman he wouldn’t LOOK at me.  He’s a guy and he’s right in front of me and he won’t look at me anyway.

“What right?” Daniel interjects, voice as stern as I’ve ever heard it, eyes sparking fire.

None whatsoever.  I could mention ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ but I think God would strike me dead for a whopper like that one, given I’m standing here trying to work out the best way to get Daniel naked and into MY sweaty clutches in bed and NOT in Davis’s.

“Have dinner with me!”  I hear a strangled, insistent voice blurt.  Dear God.  Daniel’s lips aren’t moving.  They’re doing that thinning thing again.  Must have been – was me.   “If you must – if you want - well – I’m here - do it with me,”  I stammer, my ears unable to believe they’re hearing the crap dropping outta my big mouth an incidentally, completely embarrassed to have share a body.

Daniel takes a step back and gapes at me incredulously.

I smile weakly.  I CANNOT believe I said that.  Dumb fuck.  Supposed to be thinking of the best way, not the worst.  Whoa, boy.  Couldn’t have come up with a worse strategy if I’d sat down for a WEEK and thought about ways to screw this up.  Looking at Daniel, I can see I’m in the majority on this one.

“You’re taking PITY on me?” Daniel snaps.  “You’re TOO kind.  However, I think I can live without your HEROIC sacrifice, AND without your judgemental, dog in the manger, I don’t want him but no one ELSE can have him – “

A good soldier knows when to retreat.  I sidle over to the door, away from Daniel’s anger.  Disappointment.  Hurt feelings.

“POSSESSIVENESS and - “

“I’ll pick you up at eighteen hundred hours, don’t make me come find you!” I cut in ruthlessly, and make a sharp exit before he flings more than harsh words.  A good tactician never loses sight of his main objective.  Daniel can be as hurt and mad at me all he likes just so long as he is hurt and mad at me at my place, where I can keep an eye and both hands on him.

“WHAT!”  Daniel rages helplessly as I put a safe - for me - distance between us with more haste than dignity.

“Dr J?”

“What!  Oh!  Sergeant!  S-sorry.  Um –“

Hmm.  Daniel has company back there.

“Sorry ‘bout that, Dr J.  Looks like the colonel is still on a tear!” a jovial voice teases.

A voice belonging to Sergeant Todd the Sadist.  I manage to duck around the corner before Daniel spots me, wait for him to close the door, and sneak cautiously back along.

“Just came to see if you were okay, Dr J?  Put you down hard there a coupla times.  Favour or no favour, that was going too far.”

“I’m fine, Sergeant, really.  I – um – this is – um - just to say thanks.”

“I helped out ‘cause YOU asked me to,” Todd says coldly.

“I know,” Daniel says shyly.  “This isn’t for you.  It’s for Peggy and the girls.  You’ll just have to, well, suffer and go along with them.  Moral support for Peggy.  The girls are a handful.”

I’m 2IC for my sins round here and I don’t know Sergeant Todd has a Peggy or girls at home.

“They are at that, Dr J,” Todd’s voice softens noticeably.  “Wow!  Family fun night at Gunther Toody’s.  I can’t – “

But he wants to.  Wavering.

“It’ll be BAD, Sergeant.  They’ve got a clown booked.  Apparently, he does tricks with balloons,” Daniel announces in a voice of doom.  “Face painting.  Games.  He’s even got a monkey.  See?”

“You win your bet with Major Carter, Dr J?” Todd asks, teasing again.  The monkey was too much for him, I guess.

“Yes,” Daniel says sadly.  “I think I did.”

Bet?  Who?  What?  Why?

“Okay, then.  Glad I could help.  See you next week, Dr J, and tell Major Davis from me he’s telegraphing that reverse kick!  My Sophie coulda taken him on that one.”  Todd chuckles.

“I will, and thanks again.”

Yeah.  Thanks, Todd.  Very enlightening.  Ver-ry.  I now know Daniel makes friends wherever he goes and he’s got some bet with Carter.  He thinks he lost the bet and he’s miserable as all hell about it.  I don’t know why.  Davis was all over him so far as I could see and put a stop to.

I’ve already pissed Daniel off more than he’s ever been, so what would it hurt to go back in there and find out what the hell is going on?   Of course, that would mean actually going back in there, WITH him, after the most agonisingly unsuccessful  pass in the history of incoherently bad passes.  A man of honour would suck it up.  Face the music.  Take it on the chin.

I’m gonna lean on Carter.


“Daniel!  At last!  We were starting to worry,” Sam jumps up from her workbench and rushes to my side, drawing me over to sit down on the stool between her and Paul.

“How’d it go?”

I shudder.

Sam’s face tightens.

“Damn,” Paul says.  “I almost made the supreme sacrifice for nothing?”

“Thanks!” I say crisply.  “It was your idea to kiss me!”

“It was Sam’s stupid idea!”

Sam scowls at Paul.  “Hey!  Less of that.  I only suggested it because I thought I would be the one who got to do the kissing.”  She leers at me dreadfully, eyes sparkling.

“So how come I got sucked into this vortex of evil the two of you whipped up?” Paul asks dryly.

“We did a trial run,” I supply as Sam scowls at me.

“Not entirely successful?” Paul chuckles at Sam’s sour expression.

“No,” I say emphatically.

“Charming,” Sam sniffs.

“How bad?”

“Bad, Paul.  Bad.  Sam gave me no warning, she just – SAM!”

“I SEE,” Paul marvels after a short, crowded pause.  “Sam yanked you across her lap, dropped her head and kissed you.  You yelped and Sam dissolved into helpless giggles because you looked absolutely terrified,” Paul hoots.  “You wanna put him down now, Sam?  I don’t think his nerves can take it!”

Sam grudgingly releases me and I sit up again, considerably ruffled.  “I was so glad when you came, Paul,” I confide.  “Sam kept insisting all we needed was practice.”

Sam nods vigorously.  “I’m right too.  Lots and lots and lots of practice.  Sooner or later, Daniel would have stopped screaming when I jumped him.”

She and Paul look at me and snigger meanly.

“You can dream, Sam,” Paul grins.  “I’M right.  You’re the wrong gender to make the colonel sit up, take note and start hurting people.  I’ve already accepted I’m not long for this Earth.”

“You think Jack will kill you?” I ask, curious.

“Can I have your stereo when - ” Sam asks brightly, doing a little throat-cut mime.

“No, Daniel, I think he’ll try."  Paul ostentatiously ignores Sam.  "I’m pretty sure I can outrun him and I’m gating the hell out of here before I gotta find out I can’t.”

“Wuss,” Sam curls her lip.  “ So?  Can I have your stereo?” she insists.

“I’m so glad that news of my imminent demise at the colonel’s hands, feet, teeth, ball point pen or whatever the hell else it takes, fills you with such regret and remorse,” Paul tells Sam crisply.

Sam smiles apologetically and opens her mouth.

“No.  You can’t have my stereo,” Paul snaps.

Sam closes her mouth.  “I could call the colonel right now and tell him you’ve got your tongue in Daniel’s ear,” she taunts.

“Threats?” Paul asks softly.  “I could call him and tell him I caught YOU with your tongue down – “

“It doesn’t matter,” I say flatly.  “I won the bet.”

“Daniel!” Sam turns to me at once, sneaking an arm around my shoulders.  “No.  I don’t believe it.  If anyone knows how the colonel really feels it’s – it’s me.  I realised I was a substitute, it just took me a while to figure out who I was substitute for,” she says steadily.

I sigh and return her hug.  “This was a dumb idea, Sam, and I’ve only myself to blame it blew up in my face.”

Sam gives me a startled look.  “That bad, Daniel?” she murmurs sympathetically, tightening her grip as I nod.

“I was harsh with Jack,” I confess sadly.

“Harsh?” Sam asks dubiously.

“Harsh?” Paul is bordering on the incredulous.

I look from Sam to Paul.  “I can be harsh!” I insist, a little indignant.

“Sure you can,” Sam soothes.

“He can?”

“Shut up, Paul!  That’s not helping!” Sam snaps.

“I asked Jack if he was homophobic!”

“Y-you did?” Sam gulps.  “What did he say?”

“He just sputtered.”

“I’m not surprised!” Paul yelps, “The whole reason you two turned on the big-blue-eyed charm and suckered me into the sting from hell was to make the colonel’s mind boldly go where his mind had never gone before.  His outlook on life has always struck me as fairly ‘traditional’,” he says carefully.

“It went there alright,” I say bitterly.  “Straight down.  Express service.  According to Jack, if my own good judgement isn’t enough, if I’m SO desperate I have to have sex with Paul, well – “

“Thanks!” Paul snaps ungratefully.

“Shut up,” Sam snaps back, scowling at Paul.

“Well given those circumstances, Jack is ready to overlook his moral objections to my lifestyle choices, take pity and ‘do it’ with me to spare me the degradation of having to do it with Paul,” I sigh.

“Big of him,” Paul drawls witheringly.

“Oh?” Sam sits up straighter.

“I asked him flat out what right he had to object to me seeing Paul and he couldn’t come up with a single reason.  He couldn’t object, so he settled for being objectionable,” I say flatly.  “And incoherent.”

“Re-ally?”

“Yes, Sam, really.  And after all that, he actually had the nerve to insist on taking me home tonight.  Threatened to come and GET me if I wasn’t waiting by his jeep like a good little Dannyboy at six o’clock sharp.”

“Wow!”

“Wow?  Where’s the wow factor in that, Sam?” Paul demands.  “Sounds like the colonel behaved like an asshole.”

Sam turns to us, eyes glowing. “He’s got it BAD.  This is better – so much better than we’d dared to imagine.  He was DROWNING in there.  When has the colonel EVER been at a loss for words?  He made a pass at you, Daniel, you just didn’t see it.”

“You weren’t there, Sam.  He was just being possessive.  Dog in the manger, in fact.  I was – he – “

“You’re in love with him, Daniel, and you aren’t objective where he’s concerned.  You’ve been so convinced he’d never feel the same way about you – “

“Or be brought to realise and accept he DOES feel the same way about you,” Paul interrupts Sam.

“You took what the colonel said and did at face value.  Talk about a go to guy!  He’d already decided what to do, he just got lost in the how, and maybe, in the why,” Sam suggests softly.

I’d love to believe her, really I would.  There’s a world of difference between Jack having a stunning revelation, seeing me in a whole new light and – um – getting blatantly horny, and Jack falling in love with me.  I must have blinked and missed the latter.

“Are you going over there tonight, Daniel?” Sam asks gently.

“I don’t know, Sam.  I need to think about this.  Jack may have stuttered out his willingness to sleep with me, he may even be able to sleep with me, though I doubt it, but I’m not willing to sleep with him.  Not unless he – he – “

“He does,” Paul says firmly.  “Even I can see he does.  I wouldn’t be laying my life on the line, otherwise.”

“Perhaps so, but I think it would kill him to admit it,” I sigh.

“Or me,” Paul grumbles, nimbly dodging a punch thrown by Sam.

“Jack’s attitude, what he suggested?  He hurt me.  He didn’t even say he cared for me as a friend, and I’ve seen little enough of that recently to – Oh, Sam, no, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean  - damn.  Don’t – “ My unruly tongue!

“I’m not,” Sam says strongly.  “I’m getting good and mad.  The colonel is hopeless at this stuff.  Would it kill him for once to just come out and say what he means?”

“I think he’s gonna manage ‘Davis! Eat shit and die!’ just fine.”

“Ah, quit your whining, Paul,” Sam snarls.

“Daniel, if I do gotta die, YOU can have my stereo,” Paul tells me pointedly, eyeing Sam with dislike.

“Weasel.”


They say eavesdroppers never hear good of themselves, and it’s certainly true in my case.  Good news, bad news, worst news.  Good news is Daniel has taken leave of his senses and fallen in love with me.  Bad news is those three kids tried to play me and, me being me, I fucked up royally by apparently suggesting to Daniel I’d be happy to fuck him at our earliest mutual convenience. Maybe happy is overstating the case.  Tolerate, perhaps?  Out of pity.  Worst news is Daniel isn’t even sure I’m his friend any more, I’ve hurt him, and he won’t entertain for a second the preposterous notion I might just possibly love him back.

I’m abso-friggin-lutely positive I love him back or I wouldn’t be climbing UP this goddamn tree because HE won’t climb down it.  Why the hell did I stop the jeep in the first place?  Bad enough I had some dumb-ass notion of apologising for anything I’d said which might have misled him about my intentions.  He was so stunned to hear the ‘s’ word from me, he almost didn’t pick up on the fact the only reason I knew I had something to apologise FOR was ‘cause I must have heard him say so.  So what?  Say I did, maybe?  I almost got it past him.  Almost.  Then he went white, almost fainted and gave the upholstery – and me - a fright.

Cool date so far.  I upset him, shocked him so bad he almost threw up, and hit the brakes out here in the middle of nowheresville.  Then I stupidly tried to explain myself, resulting in some unwelcome revelations about the whole me being a complete bastard thing, which subsequently sent him bolting for safety up a particularly leafy tree.  With hindsight, I gotta admit that threatening to carry him back to the jeep if he was going to be so damn childish was not the way to go when he expressed understandable reluctance to share the planet with me, let alone the jeep, and as for a bed, I could damn well whistle for it.

I just had to whistle.

Also, maybe that wasn’t the best time to notice for the first time what a great ass he has.  Or comment on my pleasure at this very welcome discovery.  Daniel just wasn’t in a ‘perky’ place right then.

He’s in a leafy place right now.  Given our last attempt at reconciliation went along the lines of me hollering up, ‘Daniel, don’t be stupid! How long ya planning to stay up there?’ and Daniel yelling down, ‘How long ya got?’, I figured I’d better get my ass up here and fetch him down.

Down.

Long way down.

LONG.

Isn’t he supposed to be scared of heights?

I’m not.

Not scared of heights.

Pilot.

Fine with heights.

Just a long way down.

LONG.

“Nice tree,” I wheeze brightly, hauling myself painfully onto Daniel’s branch and making myself as at home as Daniel’s glowering presence and the fear of imminent, plummeting death allows to me to be.

I stare into Daniel’s stormy eyes and try to keep my mind off crashing, falling, diving, plummeting, plunging, slipping, toppling, tumbling.

“Jack, I’ll be right there, just hang on.”

Yeah?  That’s nice.  Kinda redundant, though, advice-wise.  SO not letting go.

So-o.

Flying ain’t the problem.

It’s hitting the ground.

“Jeez!”  I yelp as Daniel swings confidently around behind me thanks to an overhanging branch, and then gentle hands and gentler, hypnotic voice urge me along the branch to the point where I can turn and settle my back against the trunk, facing Daniel.  “You weren’t in the last tree,” I say flatly.  I’d kinda forgotten I was in the last tree myself.  Another joyous incursion into the Eastern Bloc.  Daniel’s eyes soften even more and he hitches a little closer towards me.

“Want to tell me about it?” he invites.

No.  No way, no how.  The team, and Daniel in particular are as clean and clear from my crap as I can keep them.  He doesn’t need to hear how I waited out a target, waited out my target for three days, waited out my target in a big, inviting tree, just like this one, and when she showed her pretty face I gave her that third eye, right in the middle of her pretty forehead.

“I’m scared of heights,” I say defiantly.  So I’m pushing the truth envelope.  The more scared I look the closer he gets.

“You’re an Air Force colonel.  A pilot,” Daniel points out the obvious.

“Flying is aiming for the ground and missing.  This isn’t.  This is plummeting to the ground screaming and not missing.”

Daniel hitches a little closer.  I think my fearless emotional dishonesty is lulling him into a false sense of security.  As soon as he gets close enough to grab, I’m grabbing.

“This is an entire summer in a cast instead of on my bike, or in the sandlot over on York Street, or on my skates buzzing the neighbourhood cats.  I’ve still got the scars,” I say fondly.  Come nice and close, Danny; be a good boy and come here to the bad man.

“I’ve never been on skates in my life,” Daniel confesses, making a hitch too far.

GOTCHA!

“Jack!”

Glad to see I haven’t lost my touch.  In fact, getting in touch with my feelings has gotten me in touch with a pleasantly squirming, protesting armful and – just gimme a sec to work out the logistics, here – lapful of slightly bewildered and blushing Daniel.

“Jack and Daniel sitting in a tree,” I murmur into Daniel’s ear.  What was that Carter was threatening to call me about?  Oh, yeah.  Ears.  Daniel has delicate ears.  Pink.  I lick experimentally.  Ni-ice.  Daniel gasps as I set to exploring with a will, a lucky swipe of the tongue on a spot just behind his ear revealing an erogenous zone, if the softly whimpered ‘Jack’ is any indicator. “K-I-S-S-I-N-G,” I roll it over my tongue with relish.

“No,” Daniel protests.

“Why not?” I ask reasonably.  “We’re not kissing because we want to?”

“No!  Yes!  I mean – “

“You mean you want to but you won’t because I’m an asshole?” I suggest lightly.

“Yes,” Daniel says gratefully.  “No!”

“You mean you want to but you won’t because I made the worst pass in recorded history, and not in the toe curlingly erotic sense, just in the plain old crappy sense, and forgot all the touchy-feely stuff ‘cause all I was thinking about was the touching and feeling stuff?”  Hard to believe I’m looking at a man and thinking this, but I have to admit Daniel is adorable when he’s all confused. “Even I knew I was totally incoherent, there.  My IQ was in my pants, and I was slightly annoyed that you were letting Davis drool all over you.” Despite my best efforts, my voice tightens up along with my grip.  Davis may have been putting on an act to help Daniel out, but I know sparkage when I see it, though it’s nothing like what there is between Daniel and me, which is thrumming somewhere in the gigawatt range.  Slightly embarrassing I had to have that drawn to my attention, but I still think I adjusted pretty damn impressively given the time frame and the fact my entire concept of sexuality got knocked wheezing on its ass.  Carter and Davis will be paying for that, creatively, at my earliest convenience.  Daniel is exempt from payback.  I love him, and he’s pretty much stuck with me.  That’s more than enough suffering in my book.

“Slightly annoyed?” Daniel enunciates incredulously.

“Cut me some slack, Daniel,” I try out the big, pleading puppy eyes.  Daniel swallows painfully and moistens his lips nervously.  I’d lick his lips for him, but I want to stay in this tree a while longer without exploring the plummeting option.  I suppose it’s remotely possible that if Daniel is in love with me, he might be attracted to me too.  I look at him and I look at me, and I gotta say, I wouldn’t be attracted to me if I were him, but he’s a really nice boy and there’s no accounting for the things he takes a fancy to.  He likes old stuff, which should help. “The important thing was me asking you to have dinner with me.”

“Ordering,” Daniel contradicts.  “Just to keep me away from Paul.”

“Trying and failing miserably to ask you out on a date.  I’ve never asked a man out on a date in my life, Daniel,” I say softly.  “Believe it or not, I was nervous.”  And jealous.  And horny, which didn’t help.  That hasn’t changed, but I’m getting more used to feeling it around Daniel.

“Oh.  Why?”

“In case you said no!  I gotta spell it out for you?”

“Yes.  P-particularly the quote ‘touchy-feely’ stuff, please,” Daniel asks earnestly, desperately trying to stay cool, but betrayed by the naked anxiety blazing in his eyes.

“You have amazing eyes.  Stunning.”

SHIT!  Which SAP said that?

“J-Jack,” Daniel blushes and drops his head, peeking up at me shyly through his lashes.  Then he goes very still.  “I – I think your IQ is – um – falling again.”

Damn straight.  You’re sittin’ on most of it, kid.  Which is the only possible explanation for all the lovey-dovey stuff I’m embarrassing myself with.

“You actually want me to say it?” I grouch.

Daniel nods very gently, his eyes getting wider and wider.  I think he’s afraid to move, mostly because his IQ is slipping a little, too.

“Okay, if you insist.  I love you, you know, and for some bizarre reason beyond my ken, you love me too, even if I am too stupid to live, and can we get to the kissing part before one of us explodes?”

“You love me?”  Daniel whispers.

“No kissing?” I ask pathetically.

Daniel takes pity, carefully cupping my face in his hands – beautiful, trembling hands – and leans in as I lean out and only our noses kiss.  Crunch.  Whatever.

“Ow.”

“Ditto.  Let’s take it from the top.”  I hold HIS face and lean in to him, managing to land in the general vicinity of some very stiff lips.  More around than on.  “Nothing fits.”

Wow.  We’re not exactly setting the world alight, here.  I feel like I’m twelve years old, and the only thing I’d kissed was the back of my hand.  First time I actually kissed a girl – well, truth be told, first time a girl kissed me - I didn’t know what to do with my lips.  Neither of us seems to know now, and worse, Daniel didn’t actually whimper, but I think he came close.

Daniel heroically returns the compliment and this time we do actually manage to connect fully – if briefly - at the lips.  Then we both sit back.

“We suck,” Daniel sighs.

I wish.


“We need practice,” Jack says heartily as we pull in to the parking lot.  “It was the tree.  The whole plummeting to our deaths thing.  Cramped our style.   We’ll get better.”

We could hardly get worse.  I always thought men would be better with men precisely because they are men and they know what works for men.  Apparently, I thought wrong when it came to Jack and me, even though we are both indubitably men.  And here we are, two men on our first official date, which isn’t so much romantic, as it is defensive.  Jack is being very sweet and supportive, offering pancakes at La Crêperie just to take my mind off how bad we are at kissing.  Bad.  Really, truly bad.  Awful.  Three attempts just to briefly brush lips.  I shudder away from the thought of going to bed with Jack, which, unfortunately, is what he’s hoping and wanting to happen when we get back to his place.  The very minute we get back, I suspect.

We’re doing a little better with the feelings, though I’m slightly alarmed by some odd changes I’ve detected in Jack’s behaviour.  Already.  Put a gun in his hands and he’ll mother-hen us with the best of them.  I’ve put up with that for years.  This is different, a sweet, quaint, protective courtesy.  Like opening the restaurant door for me.  I’m beginning to suspect Jack wants to ‘look after’ me, and he’s enjoying himself so much I think he’ll be hurt if I put a stop to it.

“You like it here,” Jack says cheerfully as he strolls in.  “You’ve been here with Carter, for her birthday.”  He reels back in shock.  “Whoa!  Pink.”

“Peach.”

“O’Malley’s isn’t pink.”

That’s unanswerable, and also irrelevant.  We’re banned from O’Malley’s, until hell freezes over according to the owner.

“Not exactly rushed off their feet here, are they?” Jack says critically as all three waiters close in, smiling widely.  There is a brief skirmish over removing our jackets, which Jack wins emphatically, apparently judging the young, blonde-haired, green-eyed ‘student if ever I saw one’ waiter is possibly showing a tad too much interest in my person.  I’m thirty-five, for Pete’s sake.  This boy is all sculpted pectorals and hormones.  Can’t be more than about twenty.  He’s not the slightest bit interested in making anything except his rent money, so Jack can just wipe that forbidding look off his face.

“Hi,” the blonde haired Adonis says brightly, making the other two wince.  “Oh, yeah,” he says apologetically.  “I’m Connor, I’ll be your waiter.  Allegedly.”

A nice boy.  I cheer up a little and smile at Connor, our alleged waiter.

“I’m studying Anthropology, what the hell do I know about being a waiter?” Connor confides cheerfully as he steers us to a corner table, well away from the kitchen doors, and from the other two couples the waiters are currently waiting on hand and foot.

The other couples?  Oh, boy.

“I’m an archaeologist,” I supply tentatively.

Connor stops in his tracks.  “Hot damn!  I’m doing ANTH 220, archaeology and pre-history.  Drowning.  You a grad student?  Haven’t seen you on campus?”

“DOCTOR Jackson has doctorates in archaeology and linguistics, and his area of expertise is ancient cultures, languages and literature, specifically writing systems,” Colonel O’Neill snaps.

I’m actually quite touched he’s so certain about it all he can fire it out at the unsuspecting at a moment’s notice.  I smile at Jack, and his face softens as he smiles right back.

“Your jammies must’ve still had feet in ‘em when you got your B.A,” Connor grins.  “So you’re on the Faculty, huh?  New?  Must be.  News like you spreads fast.  They’d need security on the door if YOU were lecturing.  Damn, even I’d be feeling no pain and ANTH 220 runs on a Monday, nine am, and Friday, six pm.”

“Dr Jackson isn’t associated in any way with the University,” the colonel snarls.

“Jack!” I protest at his tone.

“Cool!,” Connor gloats.  “Those fraternisation rules are a drag.  I was gonna ask you to tutor me, but hell, who cares?  You’re drop-dead gorgeous.  Wanna go out with me?  Or more accurately, wanna stay in with me?”

I falter to a dead stop, totally at a loss as Connor looks me up and down appreciatively and goes ‘Mmm’.  The colonel is alarmingly rigid by my side, and I suspect La Crêperie is about to be forcefully deprived of the services of one alleged waiter.

“Daniel!” the colonel snaps, and when I don’t move fast enough, he yanks me away, Connor picking up the pace and staying doggedly by my side.

“That shy thing, it’s cute, Daniel.  Really plays.  Take a load off while I grab the menus.  You gotta eat dessert, man.  Crepe Suisse.  Swiss chocolate and whipped cream.  You, me, chocolate, whipped cream.  Think about it,” he beams at me and trots away.

Quite stupefied, I allow the colonel to assist me into the nearest chair.  Jack sits opposite me and takes a deep, calming breath.

“Oh, forgot to ask.  You want wine?  The Cabernet Sauvignon is drinkable, or the Chablis,” Connor calls, bobbing up behind Jack.  I nod weakly. “You work up at the mountain?” Connor asks Jack as he passes out menus.  “Military type?”

“Colonel,” Jack says icily.

“I can tell.”

Jack bridles, but can’t get a word in edgeways as Connor beams down at the old folk and takes pity.  “Ah.  Forget the menus.  I’ll pick.  At first glance you look to me like a St.Malo, a beef man all the way, “ he says lightly to Jack, completely impervious to the hostility Jack is projecting. “That’s just surface crust, though.  Pure mush underneath, especially for the Doc here, am I right?  Gonna give you the Douarnenez, Alaskan crab and shrimp in white wine.  Daniel gets the Daoulas, poached breast of chicken, mushrooms, hollandaise.  Yeah.  That’ll do it.  You can think about the whipped cream while you eat, Daniel.”  Connor looks from me to Jack.  “By the way, you got a great ass, Colonel Jack.”  Then he trots off towards the kitchen bellowing orders.

Colonel Jack appears to have lost the power of speech.  This has NEVER happened at O’Malleys.  Not even to Sam.

“When was the last time you dated?” I ask valiantly.

“I was married,” Jack says as if that explains everything.

“Has this ever – “

“No.  You?”

“I don’t get out much,” I say weakly, blushing.

“Every damn time, huh?”  Jack says, almost sympathetically.  “Great ass?” he asks, hopefully.

I smile involuntarily.

“Cool!” Jack enthuses, visibly pleased.  I breathe a sigh of relief.  There’s still a chance Connor might live through this date.

"So, Daniel," Connor grins as he arrives back at our table yanking the cork vigorously out of the Chablis, "You wanna go to a club after this?  They got a new band playing at Industrial Nation tonight."

"Industrial Nation?" I'm almost afraid to ask.

"Club over on Platte.  I can get off any time after the Daniel Crème Suisse Experience."

"Aren't you working?" Jack demands.

"I got a Ferrari parked out back," Connor winks.  "I tell the old man I quit this dive for extra tuition from a bona fide Doctor of Archaeology," Connor leers at me appreciatively, "he'll cough up the cash regardless.  Life experience?  Get a grip, Dad."

"My glass is dirty," I say desperately as Jack's fist clenches along with his teeth.

"Crap!  Goddamn kitchen staff, slacking off again. Think life is just one permanent break.  Be right back."  Connor grabs my glass and hauls ass with impressive speed.  Jack sits in pensive silence for a while.  I think Connor could outrun me, and I can run rings around Jack.

"Do I look like I belong in a place called 'Industrial Nation'?" I ask.

"Nope," Connor's voice makes me jump.  "You look like you belong at the Met, but even refined types like yourself gotta cut loose every once in a while."

"I'm going to kill him," Jack confides to me, conversationally.  "Gonna drag him out back and kill him."

Connor laughs out loud.  "You can try, man.  Golden Gloves AND black belt, Tai Kwon Do.  And if it looks hairy, hell, I can outrun you, swing by the table, grab Daniel and head for that hot tub in the hills."

I start to laugh helplessly at the sheer thwarted outrage on Jack's face.

"Admit it," Connor demands.

"No," Jack snarls.

"He likes me," Connor grins saucily at me.  "He REALLY likes me.  Back with food, ASAP."

"I don't!"

"Colonel Jack, don't tell me I'm not you, thirty years ago," Connor smirks at Jack, "only smarter and WAY better looking," he chuckles at the look on Jack's face and saunters off towards the kitchen again.

"THIRTY years ago?” Jack rages, “I hate that kid.  I really hate that kid!”

"Hmm.  Well, there won't ever be a good time to say this, but - I'm wavering, Jack, I have to tell you," I say innocently.  "Connor will keep me in a manner to which I could become ENTIRELY accustomed."

"Grr."

"I'm sorry?  Didn't quite catch that?"

"Crap.  He's coming back. The kid is like a chimp on speed."

"So you coming to that club, Daniel?"  Connor asks cheerfully as he places my plate before me with a flourish.  "We got green stuff.  Sorry 'bout this.  The soup is worse, trust me on that."

We have a crisp green salad, homemade vinaigrette, French bread and butter.  Plus a huge, steaming crêpe, oozing chicken and hollandaise sauce.  I look up, smiling.  "It looks wonderful, Connor, thank you."

"Damn," Connor breathes, gazing deep into my eyes.  "We're talking actual cerulean blue here."

"For God's sake, Daniel, don't encourage the little shit!" Jack snarls.

The little shit kind of frisbee's Jack's plate across the table at him, apparently unable to tear his eyes from my quote 'actual cerulean blue' ones.

"Hey, give it a little wrist action, there, maybe I could catch it in my teeth!"

"You still got teeth?" Connor marvels, eyeing Jack's greying hair dubiously.

There's a certain tautening suggesting the colonel is very much with us again, and is about to swat the little shit clean into next Tuesday.

The little shit sniggers.  "Mr and Mrs Tudberry are celebrating their forty-seventh wedding anniversary.  Right over there.  Bless.   You go apeshit, you ruin their special evening.  Suck it up, big guy, suck it up."

I'm betrayed into a laughing fit by Jack's speechless, apoplectic fury as a gloating Connor swaggers away.  Jack 'looks' at me.  I quite regret letting Jack kiss me, since it means I'm obligated not to be unkind.

I lean in.  Jack leans in.  We meet up over the lemon daisies in the centrepiece.  "I think your hair is - it's - um - well - "

"What?" Jack snaps tersely.

"S-sexy," I say flatly, hideously embarrassed.

Jack snaps bolt upright and shoots me a hard, suspicious look.  "Sexy?" he queries, disbelieving.

I feel that more is required of me.  "Distinguished?" I suggest tentatively.

"Oh."  Jack eyes me uncertainly.  "O-oh.  Yours too," he relaxes, apparently a little mollified.

I take the chance to slice into my crêpe and tease out some chicken.  Wow.  This is even better than the last time, with Sam.  The golden pancake is light, crisp and melting all at the same time.

"Cute," Jack says obscurely.

"Cute?"  I delve into my vinaigrette.  Sharp and rich, balsamic vinegar lingering on my tongue.  Mmm.

Jack waves a forkful of shrimp at me.  "Your hair.  Cute."  He looks at my hair.  "Short, but - "

"'Cute'?" I challenge.

Jack's eyes narrow over a heroic mouthful of Alaskan crab and green stuff.  "Adorable, even.  Much like the rest of you."

"Adorable?" My voice rises.

"Sweet."  Jack's goes up a decibel.

"Hot," our friendly alleged waiter calls as he hops up onto the table next to ours, blithely ignoring the scandalised hissing of his compatriots.  "Jeez, you're drowning here.  You don't tell a guy like Daniel he's sweet."

"Why not?" Jack asks, curiosity overcoming his homicidal impulses for a moment.

"Because he's sweet," Connor says placidly.

"Grr."

"You say something, Daniel?"

"Grr."

"Yep, that's what I thought you said."  Jack spears another shrimp and chews thoughtfully.  "Are you gay?" he asks Connor suddenly.

"Wow!  What gave me away?"  Connor asks, dripping sarcastic pseudo-awe.

"You're - um - out?" I ask gently.

"Never been in."  Connor takes a long swig from his coke.  "It just so happens that all the people I've been attracted to so far have been guys.  I don't dislike women, I've just never met one yet who did anything for me.  One look at Daniel, here, and I'm figuring how quick I can get him home, get him naked and get him screaming."

Screaming?

"Screaming?" Jack scowls.

I've never - um - not ever.

"I'm ninety percent hormones," Connor admits, grinning like a fiend.  "So I see somebody I like, I just ask.  Anybody gives me any crap, well, I've got the Golden Gloves and the black belt to fall back on."

"How often do you fall back on them?" I ask.

Connor glances at Jack, eyes sparkling.  "Just about to make a start from the look of things.  Colonel Jack, here, isn't what I'd call a people-person."

"Some of my best friends are people," Jack drawls. The penny drops.  "Are you seriously trying to tell me not one single guy has ever said no to you?" he asks incredulously, torn between annoyance and out-and-out admiration.

It’s a guy thing, even if this guy has a thing for guys.  I haven’t drunk enough Chablis for that to make sense.

"A couple started out saying no and wound up screaming 'yes, please', does that count?"

"No.  You get within five feet of Daniel again, I'm shooting you dead," Jack snarls with total conviction.

"Mad, bad and dangerous to know," Connor quotes softly, grinning impertinently at a darkly brooding and slightly smug Jack, who’s sniffed out a possible compliment in there somewhere.

He’s easily pleased.

The door chime heralds the arrival of a party of giggling women, probably housewives on a tear.  The other two waiters scowl so ferociously even Connor gets the message and gets off his ass, taking a last defiant swig of his coke and a longing look at me.

“For God’s sake,” he groans, eyeing the gaggle of gigglers cynically.  “My butt will be black and blue.”

They certainly seem to be taking a prurient interest in our corner of the restaurant, but the objectification of man as sex object seems to be aimed straight at –

“Now THIS, I’m used to,” Jack acknowledges smugly, toasting the women with his glass.

“Connor?”

He turns to me, grinning.

“Hot tub?” I query gently.

“Hot damn!” Connor gloats.

“Hot – “ Jack glowers sullenly and unfortunately for him, silently.

“Dog?” I ask.

“Stuff?” Connor asks.

“Lead,” Jack snarls.  “To know you is to want to kill you slowly with a really big gun.  BOTH of you.”

“Is this a good time to talk about my tip?” Connor asks brightly.

Jack bares his teeth.  “Run.”


“Romantic assignation for two,” Jack grouches, eyeing our surroundings and me without enthusiasm.

“They have flowers on aisle eleven, we could meet up there,” I snap.

“Did you have to do this NOW?”

“Mrs Lewicki is seventy years old, Jack.  I’m not having her wandering the streets in search of cat food at this hour,” I say coldly.  “It isn’t safe.”

“Lemme guess.  ‘Fluffy’?” Jack sneers.

Nothing about Mrs Lewicki’s cat is fluffy.  Nothing.  It eats fluffy cats for breakfast.  Jack leans against the shelves looking ‘patient’ as I carefully select the most expensive brand and the most exclusive flavours.  I sidle around Jack and head for the dairy aisle, Jack right behind me, being offensive without saying a word.  “Yoo Hoo,” I mutter defensively.  “And Ho-Hos.”

“For the cat?”

“She’s old,” I excuse.  Mrs Lewicki, I mean.  Not the cat.

“Sucker,” Jack snorts derisively.  “If you need me, I’ll be over in the produce aisle suggestively cupping kumquats,” he leers, “Practice run for later.”

Laugh it up, Fly Boy.  Those are the ONLY balls you’ll be squeezing tonight.


“Dr Daniel Jackson?”

I’m juggling keys, several phone numbers, only one of which is Connor’s and for me, the doggie bottle of Chablis and two straining bags of groceries.  Jack had a snack attack of epic proportions which sparked some panic buying on aisle three, and he’ll be bringing up the rear with the whipped cream and the Swiss chocolate, just as soon as he’s got his precious Explorer parked to his satisfaction.  He wants the Daniel Crème Suisse Experience - without the crêpe and Connor - the minute we get through the door.  I’m about to become dessert for the first time in my life, and I’m hoping like hell my first reaction isn’t to desert.  I admit to feeling slightly nervous.  The kiss was terrible and Jack’s conviction we’ll just pick this stuff up as we go along is not one I share.  I’m not even touching suck it and see.

“Yessh,” I mutter around the keys.  A large hand the size and texture of a Virginia ham looms in front of my face and plucks the keys painfully from between my teeth.  The large hand belongs to a large man, approximately as broad as he is long, and his face looks not unlike his fist.

“Would you come with us, Doctor?”

I think about this for a moment.  Us?  Ah.  I take a surreptitious peek.  As Jack would say, I got movement.  From the size of them, it’s probably tectonic shift rather than locomotion.  “No.”

“I’m afraid refusal isn’t an option, Doctor.”

“Oh.”  I think about THAT for a moment.  Then I drop the groceries and smack the speaker smartly over the head with the doggie bottle, making a break for it before either of the two goons looming up behind me have loomed sufficiently close to hit me back.  My feet hightail my willing ass straight around the corner to Jack, the goons lost somewhere in my slipstream.

“JACK!” I holler, fumbling at my jacket pocket for my cell phone.

Jack takes one look behind me, drops his grocery bag and tears up the street towards me, most definitely about to happen to the goons, probably terminally if the look on his face is anything to go by.

I really want to help him, especially when the thuds and the screaming starts, but I’ve learned the hard way about priorities in combat.  It doesn’t help either of us if I go back there and we both get our asses kicked and nobody has a clue what happened to us.  I have to get help FIRST, or my ass will get kicked and Jack will be the one doing the kicking.  Fortunately we have an SGC number on speed dial for dire emergencies like forgotten reference books and – well - kidnapping.  I hit the button, turn on my heel and back up behind the Explorer.  Jack is briskly kicking one feebly struggling heap on the ground but the other goon is closing in rapidly on me.  I can’t believe this.  He’s actually going to chase me around the car.  It’s bad enough being kidnapped, but do you HAVE to be kidnapped by STUPID people?

“Dr Daniel Jackson,” I hiss into the phone.  I dodge left as the goon dodges right, and we dance from foot to foot warily.

“Verify your ID, Doctor.”

“Budge is a clueless bastard,” I sing song rapidly.  All the Air Force types have boring numbers for security purposes but where’s the fun in that, even if Jack’s is the exact longitude and latitude of the place he lost his virginity.  Jack’s folks really took their eyes off the balls in Key West.  Let the boy out of their sight, and he swaggered back a man.  I’d rather have visited the Hemingway House myself, but that’s just me.

“How can we help, Dr Jackson?”

“I’m reporting a kidnapping outside my home.”  I fake left again and when the goon follows, dart right a couple of steps, then back.  Like dodge ball with – oh dear, with guns.  I pick up the pace and hit the deck hard as the goon lunges over the hood of the Explorer toward me.

“Who was the victim?”

“ME!” I yelp and send the phone skittering under Jack’s car so the SGC can hear every word of what’s happening as the goon slithers all the way over and looms up at me.  He’s waving the gun.  Amateur.  He should be pointing it.  I lie braced on my hands, seemingly huddled against the car, looking pathetic, until he’s standing right on top of me.  Really, this guy is stupid.  The looming is annoying me too.  It is the work of but a moment to kick him the balls so hard he screams and falls down.  I jump nimbly to my feet, stamp firmly on his gun hand and kick him neatly under the jaw for good measure.  Then I pick up the gun and race back to help Jack.

I can only assume the goon I christened with the Chablis is particularly resistant to chokeholds, because Jack has his thighs locked around the guy’s thick neck and is squeezing hard, grunting with effort as the goon bucks and heaves.  It looks like some strange, sadistically combative sexual position which, believe me, he is not going to be trying on me ANY time soon.

“Okay?” Jack gasps.  “Gimme.”

I trot around in a wide circle, coming safely up behind Jack to drop the gun into his imperatively outstretched hand.  A heartbeat later he has it pressed to the goon’s temple.  And a heartbeat after that I have a different gun pressed to mine.

On to Part Two

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Biblio, PhoenixE, babs, Brionhet, Darcy, Devra, Fabrisse, JoaG, Kalimyre, Marcia, Rowan and Sideburns, 2001-2008.
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