"Are we gay?"
Daniel didn't even bother to lower his book, but by the gentle bobbing motion of the reading material he held in his hand, Jack had no problem imagining either the sigh of exasperation or the expressively raised eyebrows taking place behind the opened volume. "Is this a loaded question? Like when Sam asks if she looks fat in something?"
"No ... I'm just curious." Jack stood and leaned against the deck railing, balancing his can of beer on the ledge.
Daniel was stretched out the length of the lounge chair, his casted right ankle supported by a pillow. The book concealed his face, shielding his eyes from the afternoon sun, and his elbows were bent at awkward right angles to his body as they lightly rested on the chair's wooden arms. Daniel turned a page and then paused. "You shouldn't be drinking beer, I believe 'no alcoholic beverages' was number one on Janet's list of instructions for you."
"And staying off your ankle was your number one instruction," Jack said, swiping the beer off its perch and taking a gulp.
"Okay ... so we're having a contest to see who can piss Janet off the most when she stops by, and by the looks of it, we seem to be having a tie for first place." Daniel used the arms of the lounge for support and began to rock side to side in an effort to bring the back of the chair upright into a sitting position. "Damn, I lost my place," he groused when the book fell off his chest onto his lap, and then landed on the wooden deck with a resounding thud.
Jack swooped down and grabbed the book from Daniel's grasp, dropping both his bruised body and the obscenely heavy book into the chair by Daniel's side.
"Hey, I was reading that."
"Was being the operative word."
"I'll stop reading when you stop drinking the beer."
Jack slid the can and the much-coveted book under the chair where he sat.
"Bastard," Daniel whispered.
"Bastard?" Jack said, rolling the word around on his tongue. "Would you consider me a gay bastard?"
"What? Gay? Bastard? Which of these words seem to be sticking in your craw?" He squirmed, cupping his hands under his knee, battling to maneuver his ankle into a more comfortable position.
"Does it hurt?"
With slow, exaggerated movements, Daniel leaned his back against the chair, rolled and stretched his shoulders before pivoting his head to make eye contact with Jack. "I'm not going to answer that, I'm almost afraid to answer because you seem to be overflowing with strange questions today and honestly, Jack, it's making me slightly nervous. Suspicious, repercussions, ulterior motive ... that sort of thing."
Jack placed his hand over his heart in mock indignation. "I'm insulted that you would harbor such thoughts about me. The 'does it hurt'? requires a simple yes or no answer ... 'am I a bastard'? also just needs a yes or no and the same thing for 'are we gay'? ... Yes? No?"
"Okay ... I mean, you could have given it a little more thought."
"Think about what? Yes, my ankle hurts. Yes, you're a bastard. And I have sex with a man, so by definition that makes me gay and since you're the man I have sex with, I would venture to say the gay personification encompasses you also."
"Gay by association?"
Daniel's laughter was followed by an "ow" and he grabbed his leg to keep it steady.
Jack dropped a hand on Daniel's foot, massaging the exposed toes. "You okay?" Jack's gaze moved from Daniel's toes to Daniel's burgeoning smirk. "What?"
"Gay by association ... should I be insulted?"
Jack didn't answer and as the minutes ticked by, he could feel the tension in Daniel's body, all the way down to the toes.
He gave the toes a parting squeeze before retracting his hands. "I ... you ..." Jack floundered.
"Just say it," Daniel whispered.
"I can't," Jack said.
"It's okay. I understand. When Janet leaves I'll ask her to take me home ... gotta admit I didn't see this one coming. Guess because you're special ops, you know how to catch the enemy unaware."
"Are you finished?"
"The question, Jack, should be ... are we finished. And by a show of hands," Daniel tentatively raised his hand, "I would --"
"I love you," Jack blurted out.
"-- Think that this rela -- you love me?" Daniel asked incredulously.
"Is that a problem?" Jack's hand slipped under the chair, grasped the can of beer and finished it in one gulp as Daniel sat silent.
"Is that a trick question?"
"No!" Jack shouted, embarrassed, palming the empty beer can. "Not a trick question, as a matter of fact it was a statement, not a question," he mumbled. "You made it a question."
Daniel furrowed his brow. "Oh, yeah, I guess I did."
"Yes, you did," Jack replied, not bothering to hide the indignation dripping from his voice.
Daniel picked his hands up and then dropped them into his lap, his glance transfixed by some object in the distance that was invisible to Jack.
Jack placed a hand on Daniel's elbow and was surprised when it was angrily shrugged off. "We can be gay, but I can't love you?"
"I never said that!"
"No, you never said anything, but touching you seems out of the question."
Daniel stammered, stuttered and then settled on speechlessness.
"I silenced the linguist?"
"No," Daniel replied in a voice so soft that Jack had to rest his elbows on his knees and lean forward to catch his next statement. "You surprised the linguist, that's all."
Jack cackled evilly. "That's a good thing, right? Surprising you?"
"It depends ... some surprises in my life have been ..."
"Not so nice," Jack said, filling in the pregnant pause.
Daniel ducked his head. "Not so nice, that's one way of putting it. And other surprises have been ..." Daniel held up his hand when Jack went to answer the remainder of his sentence. "I can do this. Other surprises have been downright breathtaking and amazing."
"Which category does my telling you 'I love you' fall into?"
"Somewhere in between."
Jack was powerless to control the rising pitch in his voice. "In between heaven and hell ... like purgatory?" Jack slammed his hands onto his knees and pushed his body upright. "Forget it, okay?" he yelled. "Fraiser was obviously right." Jack tossed the can into the open trash can, cursing when the shot went wide and the can clattered to the deck. "I can't mix beer with these pain killers. Forget I said anything."
"Are you sure?"
"Sure about forgetting, sure I'm sure about forgetting. We can go back to being just two --"
"Not about forgetting, you bastard, about loving me. You would be taking an incredible risk."
"A risk? What the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you fucking someone --"
"Forget bastard, Jack, you're moving at breakneck speed towards prick."
"So you're --"
"Only you, Jack. Never did this with anyone ... any man before you," Daniel admitted.
"You're blushing. Do you know how cute you are when you blush?"
"Jack," Daniel warned, "my ankle may be broken but I still can take you down with my crutches."
Jack waved a finger in Daniel's direction. "No you won't, 'cause you wouldn't want to explain either my bodily damage or the bloody crutch to Fraiser. You're chicken."
"No, I'm not."
Jack tucked his hands under his armpits and began to flap his arms, making chicken noises. Jack stopped his scratching and pecking pantomimes and reclaimed his seat on the chair. "So, Daniel, share. I'm curious as to why you think my loving you is risky. Obviously you don't believe my fucking you is taking a risk, but loving you is?"
"You don't die when you fuck me."
"That's a matter of opinion ... I can remember an occasion or two when I thought I had died and gone to --"
"Jack!" Daniel shot Jack a look, the all too familiar and patented "we're how old?" glare before continuing. "I don't have a great track record." Daniel began to count, using the fingers of his right hand. "My parents," Daniel folded the thumb and the forefinger inward, bending two more fingers towards his palm with the mention of Sarah's and Sha're's names.
Jack grabbed Daniel's pinky. "You still got one more," he said, holding fast when Daniel tried to pull away. "There's a difference between not loving me and being afraid to love me because of the past."
"People in my past have died, or they were snaked."
"So your track record sucks, but I carry a P 90," Jack said proudly, releasing Daniel's finger and patting an imaginary weapon at his side. "Do you honestly believe my loving you is going to increase my odds of dying?"
"I'm going to die whether or not you love me, though your loving me might have me meeting my maker with a smile on my face."
"I do love you."
"You do?" Stupidly, Jack could feel his face light up like the day his parents gave him that new bicycle for Christmas.
"I do ... oh God, not like 'I do' in marriage vows, just like ... I do love you, but ..."
"Uh oh, there's a but? Buts are known to be the harbingers of bad news."
"Don't expect me to tell you I love you all the time, I don't want to tempt fate or evoke the wrath of any god because I love you."
"That's the but?"
Daniel shrugged, "Yup, that's it."
"You won't tell me you love me ... but you'll show me, because in my book, the wrath of evil gods don't get evoked by actions. Okay, I can live with that. And you do know actions speak louder than words."
"I do know Jack. I've been showing you."
"And I've missed it?"
"Not totally," Daniel said. He grimaced and puffed out a short grunt as he awkwardly leaned over to grab Jack's hand. "You eventually picked up enough clues to tell me you loved me."
Jack chuckled. "I'm a little slow on the uptake."
"Nah, just took you a little longer to reach purgatory, that's all."
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