The Saint Valentine's Day Mystery
It was Friday. Colonel O'Neill had just finished his regular weekly meeting with General Hammond. It was necessary, as 2IC, for him to be fully briefed about the business of the base outside of S.G.-1. Now he was faced with even more paperwork.
He ambled thoughtfully back to his office. There, he put off the evil moment by brewing up some coffee. Procrastinating further, he decided that he ought to clear his e-mail. It had been over a week since the last time and his inbox would be bouncing by now.
Argh! 2,187 e-mails! He'd really have to go 'no-mail' in some of the groups he belonged to - or at least go 'digest'. Almost worse than the paperwork! First, delete all the spam:
Jack! Reduce your level of debt!
- "like I've got time to accrue large debts" - delete.
I'm Jennifer - see me in action on my webcam
- "doing what? polishing your nails?" - delete.
Bored horny housewife wants your company...
- "yadda, yadda" - delete.
Increase your penis size, Jack!
- "my penis is quite big enough thank you, not that it's seen much action in the last several years..." - delete.
Need a loan, Jack?
- "to spend on what?" - delete.
Want a diploma? No testing required...
- "nope, got a Master's degree - got it legit." - delete.
Viagra will boost your stamina
- "like my hand is really demanding?" - delete.
Secret tax loopholes
- "from Harry Maybourne, maybe...?" - delete.
Jack, Dr Approved Breast Enlargements!
- "oh, for crying out loud! what is there about the name 'Jack' that suggests I'd want breast enlargements?!" - delete.
The other person was less distinct, then he spotted the faint outline of spectacles.
"What the fuck?!"
It was Daniel, before he'd had his hair cut.
He was stunned. His first instinct was to hit the delete key immediately, before anyone else saw the offending item, but then, maybe it was all around the S.G.C. by now? His second instinct was to find out who the perpetrator was - and kill him.
A light knock fell on his door and Daniel strolled in without waiting for a response. Jack flicked the cursor - almost guiltily - to the minimize button, then he hesitated.
Daniel looked at the screen, then looked a question.
"Someone appears to have sent me a Valentine," O'Neill responded drily.
"Hm, funny, I have the same... ah... 'work of heart' on my computer at home..."
Daniel looked another question.
"I mean, suppose this gets out, Daniel - if it hasn't already?"
"Suppose what gets out?"
"This. This... 'Valentine'."
"Suppose it does, Jack?"
"Well, people are gonna recognize us..."
"I don't see why. The images are pretty fuzzy. It could be anybody."
"But it isn't, Daniel, it's us, and you know it."
"Well, yes. That's how come we could recognize the images. Doesn't mean anyone else would."
"Oh come on! Don't be naïve, Daniel. It says 'The S.G.C. Valentine'. People are bound to try and work out who it is."
"Suppose they do?"
"They'll think there's something going on between us."
"But there isn't anything going on between us," Daniel pointed out objectively.
"I'm sure. There's so much software around now that a child of six could do it."
"What, patch the two of us together into a... compromising position?"
"Well maybe not a six-year-old, but you see what I mean? Besides, it's not all that compromising."
"Could've added our heads to a clip from a gay movie..." Daniel said with a suggestive grin, then caught his lower lip with his teeth in a way that made O'Neill suddenly feel rather warm.
"Do you wish there was something going on between us, Jack?" he asked.
"Wha? No! I mean... Look don't get me wrong, Daniel. You're my best friend, but..."
"But what? You don't love me?" Daniel asked, feigning melodramatic heartbreak.
"Daniel!" Jack exclaimed in exasperation.
"Well, if there was something going on between us, you would actually have a reason to get into a sweat about it. In the way that a totally straight military guy wouldn't..."
Jack opened his mouth to voice an indignant rebuttal, but closed it as his brain kicked in again. Was he going over the top about this? And if so why...?"
"You seem very calm about the whole thing," he remarked instead.
Was that a wistful tone in his voice?
"Yeah well, in case you'd forgotten, I'm not military, Jack, so of course I don't have anything to worry about."
"You would if you were cornered by a bunch of homophobic grunts," Jack said sombrely.
"Well with Teal'c on my six - figuratively speaking - they'd probably think twice about it. Enough people know about 'the Jaffa revenge thing' to discourage them." Daniel laughed. "I don't think many grunts, however homophobic, would want a vengeful Jaffa on his tail.
Jack gave him a doubtful smile.
"I'd rather not put that theory to the test."
"So you do still love me?" Daniel grinned.
"You're a little fey this morning," Jack frowned in response. "Try to take this a little more seriously. Help yourself to coffee, by the way. It might help to 'ground' you..."
"I am taking it seriously, Jack," he replied, dropping the grin and filling a spare mug. "Look, that thing - that Valentine - was on my computer before I left home. Which was over an hour ago, and I went to the commissary before I came here. So, if it was for general circulation, don't you think I would've had some reaction from someone by now?"
Jack considered it as he topped up his own mug with the remains of the coffee.
"It's a fair point," he conceded. "So who would go to all that trouble to doctor a photo of us - just for us - and why?"
"Maybe someone thinks we'd be good together and is trying to give us a clue?"
"Obviously someone who doesn't know us very well then," Jack observed drily.
"Or someone who knows you better than you know yourself?"
"Maybe someone who can read body language. Or something..."
"Well you're always very protective of me, even though it's a long time since I've actually needed it."
"Oh, come on, Daniel! You're a disaster waiting to happen most of the time. And sometimes it does... Do you know what that does to me?"
"No. Care to tell?"
"Why the heat, Jack?" Daniel asked with a significant look.
"Look, I care about all my team members, Daniel."
"I know you do. So do I, but it's usually my six you're watching."
Jack, taking a mouthful of coffee, choked.
"Ah, sorry Jack, should I rephrase that?"
"'S all right," he wheezed, " I just swallowed the wrong way. No need to read anything into it..."
"No?" Daniel asked, his face wearing an enigmatic expression.
"So whoever sent the Valentine got it all wrong?" he asked.
Was there a hint of disappointment in his voice.
"Yes," Jack said curtly.
He met Daniel's inscrutable gaze and temporized. "Well, mostly... I think."
"You know, Jack, this isn't the best place to discuss this. Why don't you come over this evening? I could fix us something to eat, and... you could... bring a video or something."
"If you must," Daniel sighed.
"Okay, it's a Um, will 1930 do?"
Daniel really wanted to make the meal a bit special for Jack - a little more elaborate than the usual pizza or take-away. It was quite a long time since he'd done any 'entertaining' as such. Even longer since Jack had been round. More often, he went to Jack's. And not all that often these days, he thought, a little sadly.
He was quite pleased with the display he'd managed - clean white cloth on the table, red paper dinner napkins - he'd tried doing folding the first ones into fancy shapes, but gave up and settled for stuffing two fresh ones into the wine glasses instead - and a candelabrum holding two fat red candles. Hm, maybe that was a bit over the top. Didn't want Jack to run away screaming. Reluctantly, he put them back in the box and returned the candelabrum to the window ledge. Maybe next time...
Jack arrived promptly at 1930. Daniel went through to the kitchen to collect the starters while Jack hung his coat away.
"That all we're having, Daniel?"
His guest eyed the small dishes of pasta shells and marinara sauce with obvious misgiving.
"Ja-ack, this is just the appetizer. You want to have room for the steak, don't you?"
"Steak?" Jack asked, brightening.
"Oh, yeah. Big steaks, Jack, and I'll cook 'em just the way you like 'em."
His guest cracked a broad grin.
"We must do this more often."
Daniel smiled to himself as he returned to the kitchen for the bottle of white wine currently chilling in the fridge.
"Wine, Daniel?" Jack protested, looking at the bottle with disfavour.
Jack tried a tentative sip of the wine.
"It's a pinot bianco from the Alto-Adige valley in north Italy," Daniel informed him.
"Hm, not bad," he replied, sounding surprised.
He knocked the glass back in one and held it out for a refill. Daniel rolled his eyes to the heavens and tried not to cringe.
"Why...?" he murmured cryptically.
"'Cause you're right. It's not bad," Jack replied, failing to follow the drift of the question.
"You're not supposed to gulp it down like beer," Daniel explained, refilling the glass.
"I knew that."
There was no conversation during the steak course, which took all Jack's attention. The Burgundy slipped down equally smoothly and with no further complaints about being obliged to drink wine with the meal.
Well, we seem to be making some progress, Daniel thought.
"Compliments to the chef, by the way," Jack said as he finished eating, and gave a belch that rattled windows throughout the block. "Um, sorry."
"So who do you think was responsible?" Daniel asked, changing the subject.
"W-What?" Jack asked, clearing his throat and trying to focus on what Daniel was saying.
"I said who do you think was responsible?"
Jack thought for a while.
"Um... Sam, maybe?" he suggested eventually.
After the affair-that-wasn't, courtesy of Anise's zatarc machine, he thought maybe she would want to divert attention from the heat that that event had generated.
"Daniel, do you know something I don't?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"What? No," Daniel protested, a little awkwardly.
"So what, then?"
"Erm... suppose it was Cassie...?"
"Good God! You don't think"
"Um, probably not. Care for a whisky chaser?"
Jack thought about it. "Ah, better not," he said. "Wouldn't be in a stit fate to dri What?!"
This time Daniel did fall off his chair. He rolled on the floor, gasping for breath and was clutching his stomach as if in pain.
"Daniel?!" Jack exclaimed in alarm, rising to unsteady feet.
He went round the table and fell to his knees beside the stricken archaeologist. Daniel was doubled up with tears streaming down his face, giggling repeatedly, "not in a stit fate... not in a stit fate..."
"Don't do that to me, Danny! 'S not funny," Jack complained once he realized his team mate hadn't had a seizure.
"'Tis, 'tis, 'tis. Don't think you've been in a 'stit fate' for a while Ow, ow, ow!"
Relieved and giving in to the moment, Jack sat down beside his howling host and waited for him to recover.
"Think you'll be staying over," Daniel said, once he'd regained the power of more lucid speech.
"Oh well, might as well have that whisky chaser then. Maybe it'll numb the discomfort of sleeping on your couch..."
"Um, you don't have to sleep on the couch," Daniel said, sitting up and suddenly serious.
"Oh I'm not suggesting you should give up your bed, Daniel," Jack replied, touched at the gesture.
"Erm, I wasn't thinking of giving it up. It's... ah, it's plenty big enough for two..."
"Daniel?" Jack muttered, his befuddled head trying to come to grips with the suggestion.
"I'm just saying... the offer's there. Do you have a problem with it?"
"Um... er... I don't know. It's been a long time since..."
"Since...?" Daniel asked, holding his breath.
"Actually, right now, no I don't have a problem with it, 'cos I don't think I'm in a stit fate" he chuckled, "to do anything but sleep. Which is probably just as well 'cause I am so out of practice. And I'd want you to respect me in the morning..."
"Wha'd'you mean, always. You never show me any respect!"
"Just because I don't always show it, doesn't mean it isn't there - like sunshine on a cloudy day."
"Up above the clouds, it's always sunny. Thought you knew that, Jack."
Daniel struggled to his feet and wandered over to the drinks cabinet. As it happened, there wasn't much whisky left in the bottle - just enough for a nightcap. Jack had moved over to the recently maligned couch by the time the drinks were poured. Daniel handed him a glass and sat down beside him.
"Do you mind if I... if I... ah... kiss you?" he asked diffidently after a while.
Jack thought about it, as much as his impaired brain function would allow. And it wasn't just the alcohol that was responsible for the malfunction he realized...
"J-Jack!" Daniel exclaimed breathlessly when they came up for air, "I thought you said you were out of practice?"
"'S like a bicycle, isn't it? You never forget..."
"So you've... um...?"
"Long time ago, before I met Sara, yes."
Daniel smiled. This was going to work. After they'd talked for a while and exchanged a few more kisses - some softly sensual, some deeply passionate - it really was time for bed. They'd decided not to take things too fast. It was something precious that they'd discovered and they didn't want to spoil it by beginning with a drunken fumble.
"Ya know, I think whoever sent us that Valentine did us a favour after all," Jack said with gentle smile. "Wonder who it was. I'd kinda like to thank him... or her."
"Guess we'll never know. Now you go use the bathroom while I put the dishes in to soak," Daniel said, giving his soon-to-be-lover a proprietary pat on the rump.
"Hey!" Jack protested with a minatory glare. "And that reminds me, we never got around to watching my hockey vi Okay, I'm going, I'm going..."
Once the bathroom door was shut, Daniel slipped quietly into his study. There, he removed the photograph from the scanner and replaced it in the album with a very self-satisfied smile...