Jack woke abruptly...and uncertain as to why he'd awoken. He sat up on the couch and looked around, rubbing groggily at his eyes.
The apartment was dark, the only light coming from the clock on the VCR...and a sliver of ghostly moonlight that seeped through the open balcony door. With a sigh, and a slight shiver at the cool air creeping across the floor, Jack wrapped an afghan around his shoulders and went out onto the balcony.
"Sorry. I didn't mean to wake you," Daniel said without turning around. He was leaning on the railing, staring off into the night.
"S'all right," Jack mumbled, still half asleep. "Whatcha doing out here?"
"Thinking," Daniel said with a shrug.
"Meaning of life stuff," Daniel said.
From behind him, Jack could see just the hint of a wistful smile.
"At two in the morning?" Jack complained.
For Jack, dealing with the 'other' SG-1 had caused more mental stress than physical. Daniel had returned from an arduous dig only to be swept into the craziness of the robots and freeing Chronos' Jaffa and...and it had been a long week for both of them.
They'd both stumbled into Daniel's apartment feeling drained. When Jack had lost any hope of normal motor control after just one beer, Daniel had offered him the couch and the afghan. Jack had been out like a light in seconds. He'd expected they would both sleep long and deep. Daniel obviously had a different idea.
Jack looked hard at the man in front of him. Daniel was wearing only a pair of cotton boxers. Not the plain white kind either.
"Aren't you freezing? And why do you have Winnie the Pooh on your shorts?"
"They were a gift. And I like Pooh," Daniel said defiantly.
"More of an Eeyore man myself," Jack said.
"I can see the attraction," Daniel said.
Jack just gave a disdainful grunt and yawned.
"Go on back to sleep," Daniel urged gently, obviously having no intention of leaving the balcony himself.
"What about you?"
"Can't sleep," Daniel said with another small shrug.
"Meaning of life stuff keeping you up?"
"Something like that."
"Well, now that I'm up, talk to me." Jack adjusted the afghan more snugly around his shoulders.
When Daniel finally looked back, there was something in his expression that worried Jack.
"Come on," Jack cajoled. "You know what an incredibly deep thinker I am. We'll sort this all out and you can go get some sleep. Which, I might add, you are in dire need of."
Daniel seemed to get lost in his own thoughts again for a moment.
"It's cold out here," Daniel said abruptly, turning and walking back into the apartment.
"Well, duh," Jack grumbled as he followed, closing the balcony door behind him.
"Coffee?" Daniel called as he headed straight into the kitchen.
Jack hesitated. Daniel's body was so acclimated to caffeine that he could drink an entire pot of coffee and be fast asleep ten minutes later. Jack did not have a similar tolerance of stimulants. Still.... Jack watched Daniel's back, noting the mix of tension and discouragement. Jack wanted nothing more than to fall back into a deep sleep, but he couldn't leave Daniel in this state. Jack sighed as he called his assent to Daniel.
It was going to be a long night.
"I need to be true to myself."
"You're always true to yourself," Jack said, watching Daniel slowly pace the length of the living room. He would've thought that would be the last thing Daniel would be concerned about. Jack had never known anyone as inherently honest as Daniel.
"No. That was part of Shifu's lesson. I've been following a path laid out by others. I've been compromising," Daniel said, his expression bleak.
"Not on the important stuff," Jack argued. "Besides, life is full of compromises. It...it just is. If you don't bend, you'll break."
"You're right," Daniel said, surprising Jack with his agreement. "You can't be rigid. That's not living, it's stagnation. Ossification. But I've been compromising who I am."
"Did you know I like men?"
"How? As what?" Jack asked, having a pretty damn good idea of 'how' but needing a few seconds to process the information.
Daniel stared at him, both annoyed and disappointed.
"Okay," Jack said, shifting his position on the couch slightly to tuck his cold feet under him. "So you like guys. Isn't it a little late in the game to be exploring your sexuality?"
"There are plenty of people far older than I am who are trying to come to terms with their sexual identity. Mostly because they can't reconcile it with society's accepted norms," Daniel said in a slightly pedantic tone. "But I recognized my sexual orientation a long time ago. Even as a kid I knew the feelings I had were different. But I was already an outsider and I didn't need anything else to make me different. So I just learned to keep it hidden. Even in college...and afterwards."
Jack remained silent, letting Daniel work through what he needed to say in his own time. Daniel finally risked a quick look at Jack. Jack shrugged and made a 'go on' gesture.
"I loved Sha're, you know."
"I don't doubt that," Jack said honestly.
"Granted, under normal circumstances I would never have married her," Daniel admitted. "Of course, under normal circumstances, I would never have married anyone I'd just met. But it turned out okay. We got married and then fell in love. Kind of ass backwards, I know."
"Hey, different strokes for different folks," Jack said casually. He winced as Daniel shot a suspicious look at him. "I didn't mean...I'm not talking about the guy thing."
"I tried," Daniel said, his tone turning harsh. "I tried hard. I was afraid I didn't love her enough...that subconsciously I was holding back. So I tried. I worked hard at being a good husband to her."
"Daniel," Jack interrupted. He had a feeling Daniel was trying to convince himself more than Jack. "You did love Sha're. And you were a good husband to her. A lot of people go their entire lives never being loved half as well as she was. You have nothing to feel bad about."
"Then I lost her and came back here," Daniel said, neither acknowledging nor denying Jack's statement.
"And busted your butt looking for her," Jack pointed out.
"I was still married," Daniel said, nodding. "I couldn't pursue any other relationships. Well, not when I was in my right mind anyway. Not to mention the fact that I was suddenly working in a top secret military facility."
"So all this time you've never actually had a real honest to goodness relationship with another guy?" Jack asked. Christthat was damn near....
"Pathetic, isn't it," Daniel said self consciously.
"No. Well...." Jack blew out a frustrated breath. "Are you sure you're, um...?"
"Attracted to men?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah, I'm sure. It's not the kind of thing you can mistake."
"It could happen. Having feelings for someone doesn't necessarily mean anything more than friendship," Jack argued.
He knew all about that. Just ask Carter. Or better yet, Jack thought, don't. It had taken some painful conversations for him and his 2IC to reach an understanding and he'd just as soon let sleeping majors lie.
"True," Daniel agreed. "Affection, even deep affection, doesn't equate with love. Or even lust. But having feelings for a man and wanting him to strip you naked and fuck you 'til you scream is pretty conclusive evidence that what you feel is more than friendship."
Jack gaped at Daniel, his brain staggered by the images Daniel's words conjured up.
"Sorry. That was TMI, wasn't it?"
"It's all right. I'm just not used to you being so...blunt." Or overtly sexual.
"Damn it, Daniel. Stop being sorry. I've been in the military my entire adult life. I can handle a little profanity."
Jack sighed. He was too tired to deal with all of this in any truly helpful manner. Why was it that crises of the soul always seemed to happen in the wee hours of the morning?
"So the upshot of all this is...?"
"It's one of the things I have to start being honest with myself about," Daniel said. "Corny or clichéed as it may sound, I need to follow my heart."
"Yep, figured it was something like that," Jack said, digging his fingertips into his temples.
"You're bothered by this."
"I'm worried," Jack corrected. "About you...and everything. Did I mention I'd like to kick Shifu in the ass? No? Well, I would. Christ!"
Jack got up and started pacing in the opposite direction from Daniel, the afghan sliding to the floor behind him.
"I shouldn't have dumped this on you."
"I already told you to stop being sorry," Jack growled. "And for the record, I don't care who you love. But you're talking about a big change here."
"I'm talking about finally being who I really am," Daniel insisted.
"In a top secret military base," Jack reminded him.
Daniel just stared at Jack, his body language defensive.
"Technically, as a civilian, the USAF doesn't care who you sleep with either. But the reality...."
"I know the reality, Jack," Daniel said. "That's one of the reasons I've hidden it all this time."
Jack's look was eloquentpleading with Daniel not to make life any harder than it already was.
"I can be discreet. I mean, I'm not planning to show up for work wearing pink BDUs."
"Good. They're so fucking hard to accessorize," Jack sniped.
Daniel smiled and Jack found himself answering it with one of his own.
"Son of a bitch, Daniel. You sure know how to make life hard for yourself."
"Good morning, people."
The four members of SG-1 greeted General Hammond and turned to their mission briefs. Jack slumped back in his chair slightly. For being career military, he had crappy posture. It didn't help his arthritis any, but it did give him the opportunity to covertly observe Daniel, seated next to him.
"Looks like you're scheduled for P4X-223 at 0600 hours tomorrow," Hammond began.
"Excuse me, no."
"Doctor?" Hammond said, his expression benign despite the fact that he obviously hadn't expected the interruption.
"223 is occupied by a pre-industrial people. Obviously, they were put there by the Goa'uld, but there's no sign the Goa'uld have been there in a very, very long time. There's no evidence of any technology or information that would be of any interest to us." Daniel glanced quickly around the table. "There's no point in SG-1 going."
"Excuse me?" Jack interrupted. "No point?"
"Not for us. The SGC has other teams who can travel to 223 and do the anthropological studies."
"Well, we do have preliminary data on another planet I was considering for SG-1." Hammond pulled a folder from the stack that sat in front of him. "M2Q-743 is currently uninhabited but MALP and UAV recordings have documented the ruins of what appears to be a highly advanced civilization."
"Send SG-1 there then," Daniel said.
"Daniel?" Sam peered at Daniel as if trying to see straight through his skull and read his mind. Or find it. Daniel met her gaze with a bland expression that gave her nothing to work with.
Sam immediately glanced at Jack, her message unmistakable. She expected Jack to handle Daniel.
"Could we go back to the 'no point' thing?" Jack asked.
"What about it?" Daniel asked.
"No point?" Jack said sarcastically.
"There's a point," Jack said, exasperated. He looked around at his fellow officers and Teal'c, all of whom appeared to be quite happy to let Jack handle the situation.
"What would that point be, Jack?"
"There are people there. People who are descended from...from...." Jack tried to surreptitiously shuffle the pages of his report to find the information.
"The Aztec," Teal'c offered from across the table.
"Yes, the Aztec," Jack said a tad too loudly as he turned back to Daniel. And in the back of his mind he wondered why he was arguing in favor of 223. The Aztec had sports that made hockey look downright civilized.
"And?" Daniel asked.
"And," Jack said, starting to get downright pissed at Daniel's stubborn refusal to follow Jack's lead. Not that this was anything new. "And you love that stuff."
Jack sat back in his chair, arms crossed, feeling rather satisfied at having found the point.
"That's really not the issue, though, is it?" Daniel said, meeting Jack's gaze head on while pulling the point out from under his feet.
"Did I run into one of those wacky mirrors?" Jack asked, looking around the room, even peeking under the table, in disbelief. "Maybe fall into another reality or something?"
"What are you trying to say, Dr. Jackson?" Hammond asked, stepping in before Jack completely lost his cool.
"What I'm saying is 223 doesn't have anything that the SGC is interested in," Daniel said bluntly. "I hope that a team will be sent to study their origins and cultural evolution, but it doesn't have to be SG-1. M2Q...um...."
"743," Hammond prompted.
"M2Q-743 may have useful technology. And since I'm assuming that any records won't be in English...?" Daniel said, looking at the general.
Hammond slid the folder across the polished surface of the table. Daniel leafed through it as his teammates continued to stare at each other in bewilderment.
"Interesting," Daniel said, pausing to study a photo. "Phoenician. Thanks to our little adventure recently in the Tobin minefield, we know Phoenician is the language the Tobin used. It's possible that this planet was part of their empire. If so, it's definitely worth checking out. And even if it isn't, the fact is you'll need me for the translation."
"It would be a logical assignment for SG-1," Hammond said. "There's nothing urgent about 223. I could add it to SG-13's schedule, and free up SG-1 for M2Q.
"So let's do it," Daniel said, setting his folded hands on the table and looking for all the world as if usurping Hammond's leadership was the most natural course of events.
In response to Hammond's questioning look, Jack just put up his hands in surrender. If Hammond wasn't going to get all bent out of shape, far be it from Jack to make a fuss.
"I agree. I'll have the reports distributed along with a time for the new briefing," Hammond said, closing his folder. "You're dismissed."
Teal'c's face hovered upside down over Jack as he spotted Jack in the weight room. Jack slowly lowered the barbell, having finished his reps, and looked up at Teal'c.
"So...what did you think of the briefing today?" Jack asked.
"I thought it was extremely brief," Teal'c answered.
Jack sighed. Ask a stupid question....
"What did you think of Daniel?" Jack persisted, sitting up and turning on the bench so that he could see Teal'c right side up. He found it made it easier to read the Jaffa's expressions. Both of them.
"Daniel Jackson suggested the most practical and efficacious use of SGC resources."
"It was very uncharacteristic," Teal'c added.
"Congratulations, Teal'c. You've just won the understatement of the month contest," Jack said. "For the 30th month running."
The only reason Teal'c hadn't won every month since his arrival was that, in the beginning, Teal'c had taken 'understatement' to a whole new level by saying nothing at all.
"You are disturbed by Daniel Jackson's behavior."
"Yes, I am." Jack suspected that Daniel's odd behavior in the briefing was related to his 'new path', although, Jack wasn't quite sure how it was related.
"What is it exactly that concerns you?" Teal'c asked.
Jack grimaced. Daniel had spoken to him as a friend. He'd trusted Jack with some deeply personal thoughts and feelings, not to mention one humdinger of a revelation. Jack felt that he owed Teal'c more than a simple brush off but he certainly didn't have the right to out Daniel.
"Remember Shifu's visit? His 'lesson'?" he said, deciding that he could at least bring Teal'c up to speed on the bigger picture.
"Of course," Teal'c answered. "You believe Daniel Jackson has been affected by this lesson?"
"It's got him thinking," Jack said vaguely.
"And you fear where Daniel Jackson's thoughts may lead him?" Teal'c asked.
"Well, you know. Daniel. Thinking. It's bound to mean trouble," Jack said.
"Is there nothing we can do to assist him?"
"I don't think so, Teal'c," Jack said with genuine regret. "I think this is something Daniel has to figure out for himself."
"Daniel, take a break," Sam called across the room.
Daniel looked up from the table/desk thing he was hunched over and gave a distracted wave. Sam frowned as Daniel dove back into the documents he was trying to translate.
"Leave him be," Jack said, pausing to take a long pull at his canteen. He wiped his mouth and nodded toward Daniel. "When his blood sugar drops so low that he starts to pass out he'll take a break."
Sam sighed. Jack looked around at what looked to him like a computer lab. It was an alien computer lab, granted, but Carter was certain the machines sitting on row after row of desks were computers. Even Jack recognized that. Unfortunately, the 'alien' part of the picture was making it difficult for her to figure out how to operate them.
To make matters worse, the long vanished inhabitants had kept almost no written records. Sam assumed, and Daniel had agreed, that the missing documents were probably contained on the computers. Trouble was, whatever energy had once powered the machines had long ago gone kaput. Sam had been carefully disassembling one of the computers to see what made it tick in the hope of being able to find an appropriate alternate energy source.
In the meantime, Daniel had found a small cache of paper records. He was doing a quick, off the cuff translation, hoping to find something that would help Sam understand the technology.
"Don't ask me," Jack said, anticipating Carter's question.
"I don't know what's going on with Daniel," Jack said.
"But something is going on?"
"I believe Daniel Jackson is trying to find his new path," Teal'c offered.
"He told you about that?" Jack asked, looking at Teal'c with mild surprise.
"New path?" Sam asked.
"Yeah, it has to do with that lesson the kid gave Daniel," Jack said with a scowl. He still wanted to kick the kid's ass. "The teaching dream."
"But I thought that had to do with convincing Daniel to not pursue the Goa'uld knowledge," Sam said, frowning.
"It was far more than that," Teal'c said. "Daniel Jackson was forced to reflect on the course his life is taking."
"Yeah, supposedly Daniel hasn't been 'true' to himself," Jack added, still skeptical about that little insight.
"And he told both of you about this?" Sam asked.
Jack and Teal'c both nodded. Sam's shoulders slumped in discouragement.
"Is it because I'm a woman? Is that why I'm always left out of the loop on this stuff?"
"Come on, Carter, when has Daniel ever treated you like a woman?" Jack asked. Sam glared at him. "You know what I mean. And besides, I'd bet a month's salary that there's things you tell Doc Fraiser that you never tell any of us."
"Just...girl talk," Sam said with a self conscious grimace.
"Exactly. The point is, Daniel probably told Teal'c because the Jaffa are kind of into that Oma-esque spiritual crap," Jack said.
Teal'c favored him with a disdainfully raised eyebrow. Jack just shrugged in apology.
"And he probably told me because.... Well, just because."
"Because you're his best friend," Sam said.
Jack nodded, hesitant to accept the title. Not because he didn't like it. He did. He liked being Daniel's best friend. He just wasn't so sure that some days he lived up to all that implied.
"Okay, but I still don't understand how that leads to Daniel turning down 223 and coming here. Obviously, there's translation work here, and Daniel is the linguist at the SGC. But we're looking for technology, maybe even weapons," Sam said. "That's definitely not Daniel's thing. People are."
"I don't know, Carter," Jack said with a deep sigh. "I don't understand that Zen shit on a good day. And I've never known how Daniel's mind works. I meaneven when I know where Daniel's going, I don't know how he gets there."
"So what do we do?" Sam asked. She looked over at Daniel who had his nose up against a reference book, squinting at the text and oblivious to the world around him.
"I do not believe we can do anything but stand ready to help Daniel Jackson in any way he might need us," Teal'c said.
"As long as it doesn't interfere with his ability to function on the team, we don't have any right to interfere with his...stuff," Jack added.
"Meaning of life crap," Jack confirmed.
Jack bounced his keys restlessly in his hand as the elevator rose to the eighth floor. He'd been thinking about Daniel's new path as it pertained to his sexuality. He'd been thinking about it a lot.
True to his word, Daniel hadn't shown up on base in pink BDUs, but then, Jack hadn't expected him to. Not really. Daniel wouldn't be that obvious. But there was definitely a difference in Daniel, as observed at the extremely brief briefing. Jack couldn't help but wonder if Daniel had begun exploring his path in other ways.
Jack sauntered down the hall and knocked on Daniel's door. He thought that maybe at home, away from the sometimes oppressive military atmosphere of the base, he'd be able to see the change. Maybe Daniel would be more relaxed, more revealing....
Jack blinked hard. He hadn't expected Daniel to be quite so revealing.
Daniel stood in the doorway dressed in straight legged jeans and a silky teal shirt that hung open revealing a wall of sleek muscle...and an inviting shadow in the V of the unfastened jeans.
"Jack?" Daniel repeated.
"Hey, Daniel," Jack said abruptly. He gestured at Daniel's half covered body. "Am I interrupting?"
"Oh, no. Not really," Daniel mumbled as he wandered back into the apartment. He turned back to face Jack, holding his hands out at his sides. "I'm just.... Does this look okay?"
Jack blinked again.
"Why am I asking you?" Daniel said absently.
He continued mumbling to himself as he wandered off to his bedroom. Jack turned slowly to close the front door behind him, gave his himself a good, hard shake, and followed.
"Got a date?" Jack asked in a decidedly casual manner as he entered the bedroom.
"Uh...no," Daniel said.
He went to the dresser, pulled out a pair of socks and tossed them on the bed.
"I was just going to go...hang out."
"The pants, Daniel. Zip up," Jack explained.
Startled, Daniel complied without an argument.
"And you look fine."
"Really?" Daniel asked nervously as he started to button his shirt.
"Really. So...hang out?"
"God. This is...."
"Embarrassing. Ridiculous. Hopeless."
Daniel sagged down on the bed as if all his energy had suddenly left him.
"I'm 35, Jack. I haven't really dated much in the last few...years. I'm used to meeting people through school or work but that's not really an option anymore. The world has changed and I feel completely and utterly clueless."
"So you were planning to get dressed up, hit a club and...?"
"Find someone to put me out of my misery," Daniel said with a rueful smile before bending over to pull on his socks and shoes.
Jack sat down on the bed next to Daniel.
"Where are you going?" Jack asked.
"Not a lot of action there," Jack said.
"That's what I've heard. I figure I should start off easy. Go somewhere I can just get a feel for.... What did you say?"
"You said Hooligans didn't have a lot of action," Daniel said, giving Jack a perplexed look.
"Well, it doesn't, does it?"
"No, but how would you know? Hooligan's is a gay bar."
Daniel stared hard at Jack's profile for a moment longer. Then his eyes widened.
"You're bi." "I've been known to switch hit on occasion," Jack admitted.
He got up and wandered across the room, stopping to poke at the odds and ends that littered the top of the dresser.
"I should've known," Daniel said. His eyes followed Jack's movements, but he wasn't really seeing him.
"How?" Jack asked sharply, turning back to Daniel. He'd been careful, very careful, to never let his sexuality become a topic of conversation.
"A big, long wick?" Daniel said, his eyes once again focusing on Jack.
"Too much?" Jack asked.
"It was a little out there," Daniel said. "But hell, I thought you were just having one of your blonde moments." Daniel propped his elbows on his thighs and dropped his head into his hands with a groan. "I'm never going to get laid again, am I?"
"Oh, I don't think that's going to be a problem."
"Jack, you have said some of the campiest things I've ever heard and I never clued in."
"You weren't supposed to, Daniel," Jack said. "I have a history of saying outrageous things. Occasionally I can get by with slipping in an entendre that's not only double, it's bent. Even if someone picks up on it, it's always something that can be explained away."
"And no one's going to question an Air Force colonel's sexuality," Daniel said, nodding his understanding. "Especially not one who's been married and had a child."
"Exactly. Now come on, fix your hair and let's go."
"Go where?" Daniel frowned. "What's wrong with my hair?"
"Hooligans," Jack said, grasping Daniel by the shoulders and steering him toward the bathroom. "Look, you want to go and just hang out. I'll go with you. We'll hang out and you can...get back into the swing of things."
"Is there somewhere else you'd rather go?" Daniel asked.
"It's too risky for me to go anywhere in the Springs. At least, not very often."
"So where do you go?"
"I hit Denver periodically. When I need to."
"How often do you need to?"
"Periodically," Jack repeated, leaning against the bathroom door.
Jack wasn't about to tell Daniel that his need had grown in the last couple of years. Daniel was liable to get ideas. Daniel did that a lot and quite frankly it unnerved Jack.
"You don't have to come with me," Daniel said, staring into the mirror and running his fingers through his hair.
With an exasperated grunt, Jack moved into the room, knocked Daniel's hand away and grabbed a wide toothed comb. A couple of quick passes and Jack nodded in approval.
"That's better?" Daniel asked doubtfully, staring at his reflection as if he didn't recognize the image in the mirror.
"I like it the other way."
"For the record, so do I. But...."
Jack cringed inwardly. Daniel was bound to attract all sorts of attention. But that ruffled, distracted look had the potential to attract the wrong kind of interest. The kind of interest Jack definitely didn't want Daniel attracting...any more than he already did.
"Trust me on this."
"Okay," Daniel said with an easy shrug.
"And I know I don't have to go with you. But I want to," Jack said.
He most certainly did. He wanted to watch Daniel in this get up. The man did not wear tight jeans nearly often enough. And he wanted to a chance to keep an eye on any 'interest' coming Daniel's way. For as long as he could get away with it. Which would be just until Daniel realized that Jack was keeping an eye on him.
"I know how it is. Do you think it was easy for me to start dating again after being married for more than a decade?"
"No, I don't suppose it was," Daniel said.
"Damn straight it wasn't."
"Absolutely the wrong word but you get my drift."
"Hi, Jack. Good to see you," the bartender called out.
"Ted," Jack said with a nod. "How's business?"
"Fair to middling," Ted answered. "Grab yourselves a booth and I'll be over in a sec."
"I thought you said you didn't come here very often," Daniel said, giving Jack a dirty look as they crossed the room.
"Right, but you're on a first name basis with the bartender?"
"Former military," Jack said.
"No kidding?" Daniel asked, glancing back at the bartender as if he might suddenly be able to perceive some sign of the man's military background.
"Spent fifteen years in the Air Force," Jack explained as he slid into a booth. Daniel slid in on the opposite side, his attention focused on Jack. "Then he met Dave. Dave was more important to Ted than the Air Force so he resigned, bought the bar, and lived happily ever after."
"That's nice," Daniel said. He smiled self consciously. "I like happy endings."
"Nothing wrong with happy endings," Jack said with an answering smile.
"So what can I get you gentlemen?" Ted stood at the end of Jack's seat, looking curiously at Daniel.
"I'll have a draw," Jack said. Daniel nodded at Ted to make it two. "Well, this is service."
"Only until the crowd picks up in an hour or so," Ted said. "Then you're on your own."
"Knew it was too good to be true," Jack teased. He'd noticed Ted's interest in Daniel and decided to put him out of his misery. "Ted, this is Daniel. He's a colleague at the base," Jack said. "DanielTed."
"Greatanother piece of brass. You trying to turn this place into a military gay bar?" Ted accused Jack as he leaned across the table to shake Daniel's hand.
"Oh, I'm not military," Daniel interjected.
"Civilian consultant?" Ted asked.
"Well, welcome to Hooligan's, civilian Daniel. And just so we're clearHooligans is just our name. Not our philosophy."
"Really?" Daniel said, looking up at Ted with an expression as innocent as a child's. "Then what's Jack doing here?"
"You obviously know Jack well," Ted teased, patting a very pleased with himself Daniel on the shoulder.
"Don't you have something important to do?" Jack scowled for appearance's sake, but he knew he wasn't fooling anyone. "Like getting us our beer?"
"On its way," Ted said, giving Jack a light slap on the shoulder. "Enjoy, you two."
An hour later, just as Ted had predicted, the bar had a nice mellow crowd gathered. Hooligan's had always been a comfortable, neighborhood type bar. That's why Jack liked it. He liked it a lot. It was a bar. It had booze. It had munchies. It had a jukebox that featured classic rock. He just wished he could risk stopping by more than once in a blue moon.
However, despite the fact that Hooligans wasn't a 'meat market' kind of place, that didn't mean some people weren't looking...and finding. And a good looking guy like Daniel had understandably caught a few eyes already. Jack noted one man in particular whose attention kept coming back to Daniel. And Jack. It didn't take a genius to figure out that the man was trying to decide if Daniel was with Jack or available. Which was a good thing, seeing as Jack wasn't a genius even on a good day.
"Bogey at two o'clock," Jack said into his beer.
What the hellthe guy was good looking...in a young, square-jawed, buff way. If you went for that sort of thing. Jack didn't but maybe Daniel did.
"What?" Daniel looked up, then turned to look to the side.
He saw the man watching him. The man lifted his glass and nodded at Daniel. Daniel nodded back and turned to Jack, a slow flush coloring his cheeks.
"God," Daniel groaned. "I'm so bad at this."
"What? Flirting?" Jack asked with a chuckle.
"Yes," Daniel admitted. His finger slowly traced the condensation that had formed on his glass. "You know, there's something to be said for the way they do things on Abydos."
Jack laughed, genuinely amused by the fact that Daniel would prefer to be thrown into an arranged marriage than do a little innocent flirting.
"I'm serious, Jack," Daniel said with mildly reproving look. He flicked the water from his fingertips at Jack when Jack continued to grin.
"I'm not good at 'games.' Well, you know how I feel about political games...and dating isn't all that different. I'd really prefer it if everyone just said, right up front, what they were looking for."
"Daniel," Jack said, shaking his head. "You can't look at it that way. Yeah, I knowdating can be as dangerous as a negotiating a Mid East peace treaty. But it's also a sort of...exploration."
"Exploration?" Daniel asked.
"Yeah. And you like exploring."