I have no one to blame but myself. The question wasn't tortured out of me because there was neither Goa'uld nor Tok'ra within sight. I wasn't under undue duress and no matter how hard I try, I can't pin this one on alien drink, food or device.
There's no pleading the Fifth Amendment, hiding behind lack of sleep or too much alcohol. I can't even say that we were injured and under the influence of one of Fraiser's cocktails. Nope, there is no disputing the fact that while Daniel's answer put us where we are right now, it was my question that gave him the key to open up the Pandora's box.
Daniel had come over to help me replace some boards on my deck. Nothing major-I just needed an extra pair of hands, which he was more than willing to lend. The work was completed and we were sitting on the deck by the table, hot, sweaty, and enjoying a cold beer.
"Tell me something about yourself that I don't know," I stupidly challenged.
I remember Daniel had given me a look akin to pity over the neck of the bottle before raising it to his lips, shaking his head. "Do you stay awake nights thinking of these things?" Daniel questioned before taking a slug.
"No. We know each other almost ..."
"A long time."
"Yup, a long time," I agreed. "So we pretty much know almost ... okay," I said. "I'll start it off."
"Go right ahead." Daniel tilted his bottle in my direction.
"I hate snakes," I answered proudly.
"No good. I knew that."
"No, Jack. You told me something I already knew, doesn't count."
"Okay, I wet the bed once or twice."
"Recently?" Daniel tried and failed to hide his smirk behind his bottle of beer.
"Ha ha ... not recently. I was young -- younger." I hastened to add, "Much younger, pre-pubic."
"I lost a library book once."
"Hey," he replied indignantly, "it was one of those reference ones that you aren't even supposed to remove from the library."
"Woopee." I made a circular motion with my finger.
"I got beaten for it when my foster parents got the bill from the library, my foster father took off his belt and --" Daniel cut himself off and then finished his beer in two more gulps, and stood. "I'm getting another, want one?"
See, looking back on this scenario, I should have stopped it right there after the first beer. But I didn't, sort of like those proverbial train wrecks. I guess after Daniel had shared his experience about the library fees, maybe I felt I owed him something a bit more than bed wetting.
Daniel and I had gone head to head. Talk about sordid, dark pasts. Beer for beer, we went at it, experience for experience, dredging up things that obviously had never been properly buried, until we sat staring somewhat drunkenly at each other.
Daniel just shrugged.
"Come on." I tapped my temple. "Nothing left in there you want to share?"
Daniel hiccupped and blinked at me. "You go," he'd slurred.
"Nope," I insisted, quite angrily if I recall. "I went, it's your turn."
He shook his head, but I refused to let it go. I hounded him, even got up and got us more beers, and continued to egg him on. Taunting him until he finally caved.
Daniel slammed the bottle of beer on the table, and I watched as a few of our empties jumped in response. "I love you."
"I love you, too, Daniel."
"No, Jack," and for some reason, some very odd, strange reason, Daniel was no longer slurring words, his posture was no longer listing, and his bleary eyes were clear and sad when they met mine. "You wanted to know something about me that you didn't know before? This is it. I love you."
"Love," I squeaked. "Like, you're gay?"
He shrugged. "I love you."
"I'm a guy."
"Then I guess I'm gay."
And that was it. I'd dropped my eyes, embarrassed as Daniel waited for the response I was unable to give. Palms down on the table, he stood, fidgeting, until my silence was met with an exasperated, down-from-your-toes sigh. I heard the clinking of empty bottles as Daniel began to gather them up. He made two trips to the side of the house to dump them in the recyclable container. I could picture the lifting of the lid, the dropping of the bottles, glass against glass, the shattering.
All too soon Daniel was on the deck with me.
"I'm going to --"
"Go?" I asked hopefully, but who am I kidding, I couldn't let Daniel leave in this condition, but I had to make it seem like it was his idea, I certainly didn't want to give him the wrong impression after the secret he'd just shared with me.
"Yeah, okay, if that's what you want. It's just that I --" his hand swept over the now empty table.
"You're right. Cheap date. I forgot." I propped my feet up on the railing. "Why don't you shower, then we'll order some pizza to absorb the beer." I checked my watch.
"What if we call Sam and Teal'c to share in the beer?"
I snapped my fingers "An even better idea, have them bring the pizza." I pointed to the sliding glass door. "Go call them before you shower." I heard the door sliding open and shouted over my shoulder. "Make sure they bring one with pepperoni and mushrooms."
I buried that day deep in my subconscious, hoping that the clarity I saw in his eyes was a result of my own drunkenness and nothing more. We never spoke of it again, Daniel and I. Ever. I was good at pretending; hell, I'm the master at sweeping things under the rug, as good as Daniel. Or so I thought I was.
I changed. Daniel changed. Our friendship changed. Slowly, so slowly that I never truly noticed, until now. Taking steps backwards until we were so far apart we could no longer even see the other person.
So over a period of days, weeks, months, until finally as spring rolls around yet again, and I'm busy painting the deck, I realize that I'm alone. And lonely.
And have been for quite awhile. I fling the paintbrush across the deck in a fit of anger and watch as it skitters across the unpainted boards. "Bullshit," I shout to the flora and fauna.
I get up, collect all the painting paraphernalia, clean up the mess, shower, call Ferretti and go out to a bar with him and a couple of other guys. I have a few laughs, a beer, and I come home, fall into bed, then stare at the ceiling for the next few hours. Something is missing, something so tangible that I could feel it, but I can't put my finger on it.
After tossing and turning the whole night, I get up, mow the lawn, and decide to invite Teal'c over to help me. Okay, fine, it's just an excuse so I'm not stuck conversing with my shadow. Even if he doesn't say much, he's still company and a slave driver at that, so we accomplish the majority of the chores just in time for dinner.
"There's a new steak house in town, T, interested? My treat," I add when he looks indecisive. "How about we call Carter and Pete to see if they want to join us?"
Teal'c studies me as I speak to Carter and he waits until I hang up before saying something.
"Are we not going to invite Daniel Jackson as well?"
So as an afterthought I dial Daniel's cell number and home phone, leave messages, then call the restaurant and make reservations for five just in case Daniel does show up. Dinner is nice, the company pleasant, until Carter mentions Daniel's absence with a sad smile, so I call once more to leave another message on his cell phone.
There's even a pool table here, so Carter demonstrates her hidden pool shark qualities to Pete and we exchange knowing smiles, the three of us, remembering O'Malley's, and the pleasant evening stretches until the early morning hours.
I should be exhausted between the yard work and the lateness of the hour but instead, zero three hundred hours finds me staring at the ceiling and wondering when calling Daniel has become an afterthought.
"Wanna do lunch?"
Daniel stares at me as I stand in front of him, nervously palming an artifact. He blinks, once, twice before he removes his glasses, then rubs his eyes as if I were an apparition. He sticks his glasses back on, pushing them up with his forefinger. "No."
He taps his watch. "Lunch is over." Daniel smiles at me, then glances at the door, inviting me to exit, but too polite to say it.
I smile right back at him, and nod in the direction of the door. "See ya later."
But his head is already bent over the paperwork on the table and he waves goodbye distractedly with the pencil in his hand.
I never ended up eating lunch, and dinner gets interrupted when SG1 is deployed to assist with a Search and Rescue, which lasts a little over twelve hours. We return to Earth cranky, just as the sun is rising, which simply increases our grumpiness at having our days and nights screwed with. Factor in the infirmary, debriefing, and reports, it truly is mid-morning when we finish. We're too spent to eat breakfast, and I warn both Daniel and Carter, like the good commanding officer I am, they are to sleep in their beds, not bent over their desks finishing up research. They both acknowledge my command with a curt nod of their heads, and we go our separate ways.
I roll down the driver's side window on the ride home and crank up the volume on the radio, trying to stay awake, but I wish someone could explain to me, why the moment I stretch out on my bed in broad daylight, I'm once again staring at the ceiling, and not sleeping.
Eventually I must have slept because when I wake up, the room is no longer bright, the furniture is bathed in shadows, the day is over, the sun has almost set, and ruefully, I realize, I won't be able to sleep tonight.
I get up, shower and wander through the house. Too hungry to ignore my cravings for food and too lazy to go out, I make two phone calls, one for pizza delivery and the second to Daniel.
"Did I wake you?"
"I hate sleeping during the day, screws up sleeping at night, then I'm cranky the next day," I admit, getting out some paper plates, napkins, forks.
"I would definitely have to agree with that."
"You're just as bad when you don't sleep."
His yawn makes me smile. "Never said I wasn't."
"Actually, I was just looking for something to eat."
I can hear the fridge door in his house open and close, then the cabinet doors. "I ordered pizza," I say quickly before Daniel finds something to fill his hunger. "Want to help me eat the pies?"
I lie, tell him I also invited Carter and Teal'c but they couldn't come, and suddenly I want to kick myself as Daniel pauses, hems and haws, and I realize he's gonna think he was a sloppy second. "I'll see you in fifteen minutes," I make it an order, then hang up.
I grab the phone when it rings seconds later. "I'm not taking no for answer."
"Beer, Jack." Daniel releases a long suffering sigh. "I just wanted to know if you want me to bring some."
While I set the table, I confess to the forks and napkins that my sleep wasn't restful. My dreams consisted of an emptiness and loneliness that has nothing to do with Sara and Charlie, and everything to do with, I realize with shock as I fold the napkins, Daniel.
Daniel leans back on the kitchen chair, opens the top button of his pants, then burps.
"In many cultures, Jack, burping is a sign of a good meal." He burps once more, obviously to make his point
I point at his open button with my beer bottle. "And that? What's that a sign of?"
He blushes and pats his stomach. "One slice too many."
I look at the empty boxes on the table. "More than one too many, I would think."
"Don't remind me," he groans.
"It's my turn."
"What? Are you going to burp now?"
"No. You shared two things with me about yourself -- I never finished."
"What the heck are you --" Daniel's eyes widen in panic. "I was drunk."
"You're not drunk now, and neither am I." I anticipate his next move and grab his elbow when he makes a move to get up. "It's even up for debate how drunk you were when you --"
"Made a fool of myself?"
"I was the fool," I admit to the person whose confession has kept me staring at the ceiling more nights than not. "I miss you."
Daniel pats my hand, the one still around his elbow. "I've been right here."
"I know, but I haven't."
"Honestly, I don't know. I'm confused about you ... about me and you."
The hint of hopefulness that Daniel allows to peek through slides from his face, and he releases my hand. "Then what, pray tell, do you feel the need to share with me?"
"I'm terrified, Daniel."
"That's your admission?"
"No." I bite back the urge to yell. "Shut up and listen. When I met Sara, I knew. Punch in the gut, positively knew that she was the person for me. That's what I always believed love would be like. But you ... changed all that. You came in under my radar. Saved me when I didn't want to be saved. You became my friend when I didn't want one or need one and you stayed, and stayed ... and I let you."
"Until I opened my big mouth." Daniel massacres the remaining pizza crust on his plate.
"No. Until you were honest, and I got scared." I grab the hand playing with the crust, wipe away the crumbs, and hold it in mine. "I need you, Daniel, and I'm not too sure where the line of friendship ends and --"
"I understand." His fingers dance within my grip and I smile at the touch, but it's not enough, and he knows it. "Maybe someday." So bless Daniel's heart, he leans over and kisses me.
I let him leave. He has to. We cleaned up the mess, made comfortable small talk, watched some television. I could have offered him the spare bedroom, but I didn't and he never expected me to.
But Daniel's leaving feels different this time. There's hope in the soft snick of the front door closing, I don't hear finality when the latch clicks into place. We need to put our friendship back into perspective before anything else. I need to catch up to him, and a kiss, as much as it wakes up parts of me that I didn't know had been sleeping, as of yet, just isn't enough.
But it has set off a longing for someone to share my pillow, to drool on my neck, to snore in my ear. And as much as I've tried to push aside my longings over all these months, I can't imagine anyone else sharing my space.
So tonight, when I contemplate my ceiling tiles yet again, I'm positive, the line of friendship will blur, dissipate, and hopefully I'll be brave enough to cross it when the time comes.
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