When Daniel went to the bar for another round, the guy who'd been eyeing him sidled over and struck up a conversation. Daniel actually looked at little startled at being approached, which made Jack shake his head fondly. Jack's beer sat on the bar, forgotten, as Daniel became engrossed by the stranger's words.
Jack drummed his fingers on the table top, wondering if he should go get his beer...or just go. Jack didn't know what had possessed him to offer to accompany Daniel to the bar. Well, actually he did know. Daniel had possessed him. Had taken possession years ago, even if Daniel didn't know it.
Jack had gone to Daniel's apartment that evening because the idea that Daniel had kick-started his sex life was weighing on Jack's mind. Jack's own interest in Daniel had been hard enough to deal with when Daniel's interest was restricted to women. Now that Jack knew that Daniel was open tohell, asking fora gay relationship, it was taking all of Jack's self control to not beg Daniel for a chance to jump his bones.
Jack watched as Daniel laughed, honest to goodness laughed, at something the other man said. Jack gave a resigned sigh and reminded himself that, as Daniel's friend, he should be supportive. And pleased by any happiness that Daniel might find. After all, he did want Daniel to be happy. Daniel was his best friend. They loved each other...as friends and mutual pains in each other's asses. The fact that Jack was in love with Daniel was just his own tough luck.
Startled out of his own thoughts, Jack looked up to see Daniel watching him with a puzzled look on his face. Jack's breath caught in his throat. The low light in the bar obscured the small lines that had started to accumulate on Daniel's face, and the teal shirt made the blue of his eyes really pop. He looked as drop dead gorgeous as he'd ever looked, and Jack's body responded automatically.
"Yeah?" Jack said, immediately coughing to clear the huskiness from his voice.
"You okay?" Daniel asked, sitting down and sliding Jack's beer toward him.
"Fine. Why do you ask?" Jack said, gripping the bottle, not surprised to find that it was warm.
"You seemed a little...lost there," Daniel said.
"Just thinking." Jack toyed with his bottle for a moment. "So, who is he?"
"Who?" Daniel said a little too quickly. Jack just raised his eyebrow in reproach. "Oh...um, Kevin."
"Kevin?" Jack repeated.
Well, wasn't that the perfect name for Mr. All American? Jack's conscience slapped his inner bitch and told her to shut up.
"And...his name is Kevin," Daniel said, being deliberately obtuse.
Jack's inner bitch had a few choice things to say about Daniel at that point. Jack threatened to cut off her supply of Haagen-Das and she finally backed off, muttering.
"And?" Jack repeated in a very pointed manner.
"Look, Daniel, if you want toyou knowthen go on. You don't have to sit here with me. You don't have to leave with me either."
It made Jack's stomach churn to say those words, but he had to. He couldn't let his own feelings get in Daniel's way. Jack's inner bitch couldn't help but point out that noble self sacrifice was so not Jack's thing. He agreed in principle, but that only made his resolve firmer. Almost as firm as his dick.
"No," Daniel said. "I came here, with you, to hang out. That's what I'm doing."
"You came here to get back into the dating scene."
"I'm, uh...I'm seeing him Thursday night," Daniel finally admitted.
"Good for you," Jack said mildly.
The inner bitch threw her hands up in disgust and hit the bricks. Jack wasn't worried; he knew she'd be back. In the meantime, Daniel was studying him with a strange expression.
"Is it?" Daniel asked, his eyes intent on Jack.
"It's what you want, right?" Jack asked, feeling confused. "To get back in the dating scene?"
"Um...yeah." Daniel glanced anxiously across the room, seeking out Kevin.
"Look, if you're nervous about the...."
"Ah!" Daniel put up a finger to cut Jack off. "I'm nervous about dating, Jack. Not...sex."
"Oh." Jack stared at his hands for a moment. "Well, seeI just thought since you hadn't had any experience...."
"I haven't had any experience with gay relationships," Daniel corrected him. "I have had experience with gay sex. There's a difference."
"Oh," Jack said again. He was unable to come up with anything more profound because his mind was overwhelmed with images of Daniel experiencing gay sex.
"Not that this necessarily means sex," Daniel continued, waving vaguely in Kevin's direction.
"You're hot. He's hot. Sex is a distinct possibility," Jack pointed out.
"Would I sound really desperate if I said I hope so?" Daniel asked. He paused, his eyebrows drawing together in concentration. "You think I'm hot?"
"Oh, heylook at that," Jack said, checking his watch. "Time for little colonels to be in bed."
And Jack's little colonel definitely needed to be put to bed. Soon. Before it could push Jack into saying or doing something aimed at confirming Daniel's hotness.
"Okay," Daniel said. He stood up and started to put on his jacket.
"Daniel, are you sure you don't want to stay?" Jack asked as he slowly drew on his own coat.
"I'm sure." Daniel's eyes were clear as he looked at Jack.
"Last piece of business, folks," Hammond said with a smile.
Jack gave a silent 'woohoo' and settled back in his chair. He watched as Teal'c did the same. Daniel and Carter, on the other hand, pulled out new folders. Yeah, some days it was good to be a non-genius.
"Major Carter, any updates on the device you brought back from M2Q?" Hammond asked.
"Afraid not, sir. This technology is so different from anything we've encountered before that we're having a hard time getting anywhere with it," Sam said with genuine regret. "I thoughthopedthat our experience with the Tobin mine would put us ahead of the game. It didn't."
"Hey, at least you already had that zero thing figured out," Jack said helpfully.
"Yes, sir," Sam said politely. She turned back to the general. "I'm convinced, though, that it'll be well worth our efforts if we can figure it out. This is highly sophisticated technology. We're bound to learn something valuable."
"Any guesses as to how long this might take?"
"No, sir. I've got a team working on it every available minute but, even with Daniel's translations, it's slow going."
"Keep me apprised," Hammond ordered. "Dr. Jackson, have you been able to glean any useful information from the documents you recovered?"
"Ah...not really," Daniel admitted.
Jack risked a sidelong glance at Daniel. He'd been the one to claim this mission for SG-1, and Jack wondered if failure would knock Daniel off his feet just when he was struggling so hard to find his way.
"The records I found all deal with the proceedings of some kind of council," Daniel explained.
"Tobin council?" Hammond asked.
"Er...I don't know," Daniel said with a sigh. "The language is the same but...."
"The Tokra might be able to tell us," Sam suggested.
"Oh, do we have to?" Jack asked. Dealing with the Tokra usually involved surprises. Jack hated surprises.
"I doubt it would be much help," Daniel said. "Based on their inability to translate the manual or reprogram the mine, my guess is that the Tokra don't have any significant knowledge of the Tobins or their technology."
"We'll hold that as a last resort then," Hammond decided.
"Do the documents contain any information about the enemies or allies of these people?" Teal'c asked.
"Unfortunately, no. It's essentially just the minutes of a few council meetings. Routine business: ordinances, petitions, etc. Petty details and not much of that. They don't even give me any true insight into their culture, let alone their technology," Daniel said with an apologetic nod to Sam.
"Well, if we can just get one of their computers to work, I think Daniel will have plenty of translating to do," Sam said, nodding back to Daniel.
Jack smiled. He liked it when his kids got along.
"So I have to know," Jack said around a mouthful of enchilada. He leaned over, trying to contain the spillage to Daniel's table. "What's with the no point thing anyway?"
"What's to know?" Daniel asked, setting down a forkful of beans and rice.
"Well, I can't quite see how it fits into the 'new path'," Jack said.
And it was bugging him intensely. Not as intensely as the more personal side of Daniel's new path, but a thorn in his side all the same.
"Oh," Daniel said thoughtfully. "Well, if we'd gone to 223, we'd have had barely enough time to say hello and then we'd have to leave because the SGC doesn't consider it important. The upshot is that I would've been frustrated. Again. And quite frankly, I'm not so sure we're doing some of these cultures any favor by visiting them.
"M2Q, on the other hand, had things that needed translating. I'm a linguist. I like doing translations. And I was more likely to have the time I needed because the SGC considered it a viable objective." Daniel shrugged. "I picked the one that give me the best chance for a pay off."
"That's it?" Jack asked. "That's it," Daniel confirmed.
"That simple?" Jack scoffed. Nothing with Daniel was ever that simple.
"Er...yes, I guess so," Daniel said, trying to slide the guacamole closer to himself, and out of Jack's reach.
Jack pointedly licked a corn chip and stuck it in the salsa in retaliation.
"You're disgusting," Daniel said.
He pulled the chip out, added a little guacamole and ate it anyway.
"Thank you, I try," Jack said. "Anyway, is this 'no point' stuff part of the whole 'new path'?"
"To be honest, I don't really know," Daniel chuckled. "I'm not entirely certain I've got a handle on that. In this case, I spoke up for the option that was best for me. Or at least the least frustrating."
"It all confuses the crap out of me," Jack said.
He held up his empty beer bottle in a blatant request.
"Well, you're not alone in that," Daniel admitted as he got up and went to the kitchen, headed for the fridge. "Turns out it's a whole lot easier to talk about finding a new path than it is to actually find it."
"Let me ask you this," Jack said, raising his voice slightly so that it would carry into the kitchen. "Isn't doing what Oma, or the kid, told you to do the same thing?"
"Um...no, not really. I mean, Oma wasn't telling me what to do. She was telling what not to do."
"Is that really so different?" Jack asked. "You're still doing what someone else told you to do."
"Not exactly." Daniel sighed. He handed Jack his beer and wandered back to his seat. "I know that she's right. I know that I was going wrong somewhere."
"How do you know that?"
"Because I wasn't happy."
Jack finished his enchilada, wiped his hands and mouth, and pushed away his plate as he considered that revelation. It wasn't exactly a surprise. Daniel had, within fairly recent memory, lost his wife's child, an ex-girlfriend, and one of his good friends. Not to mention the odd alien abduction here and there. So nothat fact that Daniel had been less than happy wasn't a surprise.
The fact that Daniel had admitted it, on the other hand, was a little unusual.
"Daniel," Jack said slowly, trying to choose his words carefully. "Given everything that's happened in the last year or so, don't you think it's probably normal to feel a little down? That doesn't necessarily mean that what you're doing is wrong."
"But maybe it does. Maybe those things wouldn't have happened if I'd been doing what I should be doing."
"Do you really think it was wrong to try to get Sha're back?"
"No," Daniel said sharply. He squeezed his eyes tightly closed against the memories. "But maybe I went about it the wrong way. Actually, there's no maybe about it. Obviously I went about it the wrong way because I failed."
"You didn't fail."
"She's dead, Jack. How is that not a failure?" Daniel said tersely, shoving his half full plate aside.
"She's dead," Jack agreed, leaning forward, willing Daniel to hear him. "But that's not your fault. You aren't responsible."
"Well, I feel responsible."
"Daniel, you can't be everything."
"I feel like I have to be everything. That's part of the problem."
"For example, I spend more time being a soldier than an archaeologist," Daniel pointed out.
"Well, now that's one of those compromises you have to make sometimes," Jack said. "You could do the archaeology stuff exclusively, but then you couldn't be on SG-1. When there are only four people on a team everyone has to play more than one role. Look at me. I'm a soldier and I spend half my time playing diplomat...or water boy. You don't hear me complaining, do you?"
"Actually, yesI do. Quite frequently in fact," Daniel said with an amused twitch of his lips.
"Yeah? Fuck you, Jackson," Jack said in an amiable tone.
Daniel smiled to himself.
"What do you want to do? Do you want to leave SG-1?"
"I don't know. I don't think so. I know I don't want to, but I may have to." Daniel grimaced in frustration. "But until I know where I'm going I don't have any way of knowing where I should be."
"Just...promise me you'll think about ithardbefore making a decision like that," Jack said, feeling a sense of loss at the idea of Daniel leaving the SGC...leaving him.
"I will," Daniel promised. "Like I said, I'm just kind of feeling my way through this right now."
"Shit shit shit."
Jack could hear the muttered obscenities well before he rounded the row of lockers. By the time Jack could actually see Daniel, the archaeologist had worked himself into a full blown snit.
"I know, Jack. I'm late. I know. I'm sorry," Daniel said, his words staccato as he struggled to change clothes. Unfortunately, the faster he tried to move, the clumsier his fingers became.
"Oversleep, did we?" Jack asked.
Jack was feeling lenient this morning. He could afford to be. They weren't scheduled for a mission and the team meeting had been delayed as a result of Carter's...incident.
She'd been all in a tizzy about a particle something or other and had gone running down the hall...and smack into Siler. Or rather, into Siler's ladder. He'd been changing a light bulb. The scenario delighted Jack beyond words. His brain was already busy chugging down the 'how many Siler's does it take...' track.
"Fuck!" Daniel said vehemently when his anxious fingers couldn't get the buttons to work.
He suddenly fell silent. Jack could see the flush creeping up the back of Daniel's neck.
"Really?" Jack asked.
Today was Friday. Which meant last night had been Thursday...as in Thursday night date with Kevin night. Fuck?
"Do tell," Jack continued, against his better judgment.
Hearing about Daniel's date was not likely to put Jack anywhere near a happy place. Daniel risked a quick, red-faced glance at Jack and then turned away again without speaking.
"Or are you not the kiss and tell type?" Jack teased.
"Jack, please," Daniel begged, sounding distraught.
"You okay?" Jack asked, his protective instincts immediately on alert.
He couldn't help it. Daniel brought out the protector in him. Well, okay, all his kids brought out the protector in him; Daniel was the only one who let him get away with it. Sometimes. Daniel sat down on the bench and started to tie his boot laces, refusing to answer. Jack sat down next to Daniel, straddling the bench.
"I'm fine, Jack."
Yeah, right, Jack had heard that before.
"Jack!" Daniel said sharply. "I'm fine. He's fine. The date was fine. It was just very nerve wracking and then I overslept and I'm just a little off balance at the moment. Okay?"
Jack stared at his boots, unwilling to totally let the subject drop. Jack also had a bad habit of picking at his scabs.
"So you had a good time?"
Daniel sat up and looked at Jack, his eyes warning Jack not to push the matter.
"I'm not asking for details. I just want to know if it went okay. I know you were nervous."
Daniel looked away and blew out a long breath.
"Yes, Jack, it was okay."
Jack couldn't help himself and Daniel turned on him with a pissed off look. Daniel had his own inner bitch and she could give Jack's a run for the money any day. Jack threw up his hands to ward off Daniel's temper.
"I was nervous. I've forgotten how to do the dating thing," Daniel reminded him. "But Kevin was very understanding. We had a nice time. I just don't think it was my finest hour."
"So...going to see him again?"
"Jack!" Daniel looked at him with complete exasperation.
Jack mouthed 'sorry' and offered a half assed smile.
"Yes. I'm going to see him again. Any more questions?"
Top or bottom was the first one that came to Jack's mind but he bit his tongue and shook his head.
"Good. Now, give me a minute and I'll be ready for the meeting."
"Oh, yeah. About that. I postponed the meeting a couple of hours. Carter got knocked up. I mean down. Carter got knocked down."
"Is she okay?" Daniel asked with concern.
"She's fine. Bruised her dignity more than anything else."
"Siler, light bulbs...," Jack said with a grin. "I'll explain later."
Jack felt a knot loosen somewhere inside him the minute he stepped inside the bar. There were only a few patrons, and none that he knew. He let out a slow, grateful breath and walked over to a stool at the far end.
"Well, well, welltwice. In one month. Either I've suddenly become irresistible or you've gotten careless," Ted said.
Jack just scowled at him.
"What do you need?"
"A vacation," Jack said sourly. "A very long, very quiet vacation. But I'll settle for a beer."
"Rough mission?" Ted asked.
"No." Jack knew that Ted knew better than to ask for details. "Personal crap, you know?"
"Hey, your friend's been around a few times," Ted said casually.
And just like thatthe knot was back. Times like this Jack really hated being Daniel's friend. Hated being the one Daniel trusted and relied on. Jack wasn't even sure he could trust himself. He was trying very hard to be the friend Daniel needed, but the effort was wearing.
"Or shouldn't I have mentioned that?" Ted asked, noticing Jack's reaction.
"It's okay," Jack said with a sharp shake of the head.
"You sure about that?"
"Daniel's just getting back into dating after a long dry spell," Jack explained. "I came with him the first time purely for moral support. He's just a friend."
"A good friend?"
"A friend you'd like to fuck."
"Are you going to get all psycho-babble on me?" Jack asked irritably. "Because I'm telling yaFreud didn't know shit. A cigar is just a cigar."
"I'm more of a Jung man actually," Ted said with a teasing smile. "But that doesn't mean that a cigar can't be a dick."
"Bite me," Jack said mildly.
"Hey, I'm a bartender. Bartenders are supposed to be amateur shrinks. We're good listeners."
"You're not listening. You're talking," Jack pointed out.
"Tell me something and I'll listen."
Ted watched as Jack just shook his head.
"You do want him, don't you?"
"I wouldn't say no."
"Are you afraid he would?" Ted asked.
"I'm more afraid he'd say yes...but for the wrong reasons." Jack stared into his beer. "Daniel's a little messed up right now. He's had a lot of bad shit happen to him and he's trying to get back on his feet. I don't really trust him to make the right decision right now."
"But you're not afraid of him making the wrong decision with someone else?" Ted asked.
"Well, yeah," Jack admitted. "But not in the same way. Daniel just needs to socialize a little. Hell, he needs to get laid. As long as he doesn't pick up some psycho axe murdererthat's cool."
"Why not with you?"
"Because I don't want to be just a fuck to him."
"So you're letting him sow his wild oats?"
"I'm letting him figure out what he wants." Jack shrugged. "Eventually, he might even decide that what he wants is me."
"I think I figured it out," Daniel said, his eyes bright with excitement as he stood at Jack's front door.
Jack threw up his hands and limped back to his living room, leaving Daniel to close the door and follow. Or not. Knowing Daniel, though, he would follow.
"Ah...are you okay?" Daniel asked, his brow creased with concern.
Jack eased himself back onto the sofa and draped the ice bag across his knee.
"No, Daniel, I'm not." Jack winced as he shifted slightly, trying to get comfortable. "The knee's fucked, you know?"
"It didn't seem to be bothering you at the base."
"I didn't want the mini-Mengele getting any ideas."
Jack wasn't at his best when he hurt. And he wasn't at his best with Fraiser. That's why he'd gritted his teeth until he could get away from the mountain and come home to wallow in the misery. Alone. Daniel, as usual, had a different idea.
"Is there anything I can do?"
"Why? Did the kid teach you some mystical spell that will rejuvenate my chi or realign my karma or something?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of getting you some pain pills," Daniel said patiently.
"I don't like taking that stuff. It makes me dopey."
Jack watched as Daniel ducked his head, fighting back a smile.
"Don't say it."
"Say what?" Daniel said, looking up at Jack with an expression of utter innocence.
Jack just growled at him.
"Besides, I'm not supposed to take it on an emp...."
Jack wanted to kick himself for the slip.
"You haven't eaten yet?" Daniel said, exasperation plain in his voice. "Okay, then let me get you something to eat."
"Because I want to."
"Why?" Jack persisted. He didn't need anyone taking care of him.
"Because...it makes me feel good."
"Really?" Jack asked, touched...but suspicious. After all, Daniel was the kind of guy who'd sacrifice his life for a bunch of freeze dried aliens. Feeding Jack was barely a blip on the martyr radar.
"Yes, really," Daniel said, looking Jack straight in the eye so that he could see the sincerity there. "Besides, I haven't eaten yet either."
"Ah, so the truth comes out," Jack said. He relaxed back against the sofa cushion again, far more comfortable with the idea of Daniel getting than with Daniel giving. "Your fridge is empty, isn't it?"
"Yeah, that's it," Daniel said, amused. "So how about I find us both something to eat?"
"Yeah, sure, knock yourself out," Jack said graciously. "Hey, there's some casseroles and stuff in the freezer."
"What are you hungry for?" Daniel called from the kitchen.
"See if there's some turkey and wild rice casserole in there," Jack suggested. "Just toss it in the microwave. And some French bread. Hack off a chunk of that."
"'Hack' off?" Daniel said, peeking out of the kitchen. "You're obviously not familiar with the term cordon bleu."
Jack just grinned at Daniel's exasperated look. Daniel shook his head and withdrew into the kitchen again. Jack listened to Daniel moving around in the kitchen and enjoyed the normalcy of the sounds and smells of a meal being prepared. In fact, except for the knee, he felt content. It was good, he and Daniel hanging together. Times like this even Daniel seemed content.
"What?" Daniel asked, walking into the living room, wiping his hands on a dish towel.
"What did you figure out?" Jack asked, remembering Daniel's excitement when he'd arrived.
"Oh." Daniel smiled. "I think I figured out some of this 'path' stuff."
"No kidding? So...spill."
Daniel opened his mouth and the microwave dinged.
"Hold that thought."
"So," Jack prompted, twenty minutes, two helpings and a couple of Percocet later.
"So," Daniel said.
He tossed his napkin on his plate and pushed the plate to the far side of the coffee table.
"I've been thinking."
"Thinking about everything I've done in my life," Daniel continued, ignoring Jack's commentary. "About everything I've been."
"Daniel, if you tell me you'd like to go back do things differently, I'm gonna smack ya," Jack said, leaning back and wondering if it would just too rude to undo the button of his jeans. Just until the meal settled a little. "Everyone would like to have a second chance at something."
"I know that. And I know that's not possible. But it made me wonder about what I could've done differently in the first place."
Daniel paused, getting his thoughts in order.
"I realized that it's not what I've been doing. It's why I've been doing it."
"What difference does the reason...." Jack shook his head. This was Daniel, for chrissakes. Of course the reason mattered. "Forget I said that."
"I'm not saying that's the whole solution. Or even that it's going to make a huge difference, but I think that if I understand my own motivations better, I'll make better choices."
"The thing I don't get.... Well, one of the things I don't get," Jack admitted. "You're always thinking about the whys and wherefores. How's that going to change?"
"I think sometimes I've gotten too caught up in a particular agenda. In being right. In my own...arrogance."
Jack had, more than once, seen what he'd considered arrogance in Daniel, but he was curious to hear what Daniel saw as arrogance.
"You know what I mean."
"You can be a little pigheaded when you're sure you're right," Jack agreed.
"Ruthless," Daniel said, wincing at the thought. "That was part of the lesson, too. You know what I did in that dream."
"Ah!" Jack interrupted. "That doesn't count. The kid made you all Goa'uldy and evil."
Jack suppressed the shiver he always got when he thought about what Daniel had revealed of his 'dream.' Jack had never made the mistake of thinking Daniel was beyond the reach of darkness. But the thought of a Daniel who could destroy an entire city without batting an eye made Jack profoundly uneasy.
"It wasn't you," Jack insisted. "It was the snakey crap the kid put in your head."
"No, not all of it," Daniel said soberly. "I'm not sure how much of it was me...and I'm not sure I really want to know, but my single-minded arrogance was ultimately what led to the deaths of millions of people. I thought...I believed I was doing the right thing and in the beginning I was. And then I went too far."
"The ends justified the means," Jack said.
"So I thought at the time," Daniel agreed. "I was wrong."
"Some people might disagree. I might...."
"You wouldn't. You tried to stop me."
"The dream me did. The real me might not be so noble," Jack said dryly. "Or smart."
"The only mistake you made was believing in me. You trusted me too long," Daniel said.
"Oh, for crying out...." Jack snapped. "Daniel, this may come as a huge shock but I do not trust everything you do. In fact, I'm often deeply suspicious of the things you do."
"I know you are. That's not the point," Daniel argued. "The point is that I need to be suspicious of the things I do. I need to think about what I'm doing and why I'm doing it every step of the way."
"All that'll get you is a padded cell. You'll just drive yourself nuts."
"You think I've got this all wrong?" Daniel asked, looking more bewildered than angry.
"I think you're expecting too much of yourself," Jack said gently.
Daniel's choices had lost him his wife. Jack's choices had lost him his son. No one knew better than Jack about hindsight and missed opportunities.
"I think you're expecting the impossible from yourself."
"Take Sha're for example. Maybe you could've made some different choices. But for God's sake, Daniel, look at it rationally. Try to ignore the actual cost of your choices for a second. The fact is that you made, at worst, a mistake. You're human, Daniel. Mistakes happen."
"I have to try. Failure is inevitableas you say, I'm only human. But I have to try."
"You're putting too much pressure on yourself, Daniel," Jack said with real concern. "Maybe big glowing light beings can do that, but you can't. It'll break you."
"It will, Daniel. Trust me on this. I know about breaking points."
Jack was deadly serious. Jack had been that route; he knew what it was like. And he knew Daniel had already come damn close himself.
Daniel stood abruptly, reaching for the remains of their dinner. Jack watched as Daniel brusquely cleared away the dishes and carried them into the kitchen. When he heard the water running, Jack got up from the couch, easing himself onto the sore knee, and went into the kitchen. He leaned against the fridge, watching Daniel fill the sink with soapy water.
"You do know I have a dishwasher?" Jack said.
"What's your point?" Daniel snapped.
Jack hesitated. As well as he knew Daniel, he didn't always know which way Daniel's temper would go. Sometimes you needed to talk him through his anger, sometimes you needed to find the nearest bomb shelter and wait it out.
"Every time I think I'm getting a handle on it, I end up more confused than ever," Daniel said, throwing the dishrag into the water with a scowl.
"I'm not up on this cosmic Zen crap but it seems to me it's not something you're supposed to figure out in a day. Or a year. Is it?"
"No," Daniel admitted.
"And heycoming out wasn't easy. That's a big step right there."
"Was it? The only person I've come out to is you."
"And was it easy?"
"No," Daniel said, pulling the dishrag out of the water again. "It wasn't exactly easy."
"Maybe you haven't told people, but you're dating and...everything."
"I'm testing the waters. Because quite honestly, I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do about that either. I know I can't deny that part of myself anymore but beyond thatwhat do I do?"
"You said you needed to follow your heart," Jack reminded him.
"What if my heart tells me wrong?"
"I don't think it can, Daniel. Not too far wrong anyway."
"Wow." Daniel glanced over at Jack, stunned.
"Yeah," Jack agreed. "That was damn near a compliment, wasn't it?"
"It's the drugs talking," Jack decided.
He grabbed a towel and started drying the dishes Daniel had just washed.
"And that would make it a backhanded compliment," Daniel said with a knowing smile.
"And it's back to Oz," Jack said dryly as he stepped out of the gate.
"Sorry, sir," Sam said as patiently as she had the first time she'd explained the need to return to M2Q. "But I really think a follow up mission is warranted. I need to study some more of their 'machinery' and Daniel can look for more written records. And General Hammond did agree."
"I wasn't complaining," Jack said to Sam's back as she set off ahead of him.
"Sounded like complaining to me," Daniel said, falling into step next to Jack.
"No," Jack protested. "It was an observation. Not a complaint."
"It sounded like a complaint to me, also, O'Neill," Teal'c said.
"Who asked ya?"
Teal'c smiled smugly and fell back, covering their rears.
"Do you really expect to find anything new?" Jack asked Daniel.
"Me? Probably not," Daniel admitted. "But studying some of the other technology may help Sam to figure out that 'computer' thing."
"And speaking of new...how's Kevin?" Jack hoped his tone was inviting and friendly...rather than jealous to the point of homicidal.
"Why?" Daniel asked, sounding suspicious.
"Just making conversation." Jack shrugged as if the information had no real interest to him. "You mentioned you were going to see him again."
"You asked if I was going to see him again," Daniel pointed out.
"Same diff," Jack said. "Sodid you?"
"Jack," Daniel complained. "Why do you want to know?"
"Because...I worry," Jack admitted reluctantly.
Daniel's expression lost its exasperated edge and he smiled at Jack.
"I know you do," Daniel said. "And it's very...sweet."
"Sweet?" Jack asked, cringing.
"No, it's nice to know that you care," Daniel reassured him. "But you don't need to worry. I may be out of practice but I can take care of myself."
"Sure, I know that," Jack said. "But just in caseif you ever need someone set straight, so to speak, Teal'c and I are so there."
Jack watched Daniel's face go slack with disbelief, grateful his own eyes were hidden behind his sunglasses. "No, reallywe're there."
"Okay, great," Daniel said, obviously amused. "I'll keep that in mind if I ever need a couple of sarcastic, psychotic hit men."
"You know where to find us. Any time. Day or night."
Daniel just turned forward again, marching along ahead of Jack and grinning.