Jack rapped once on Daniel's door as he barged in.
The office was empty. Was Daniel deep in some fathomless discussion with Carter, or was he just taking a leak? Jack was weighing up whether to try again later or stick around when he noticed the new arrival on Daniel's desk.
A greetings card. Now who would be sending Daniel one of those? On Saint Valentine's Day...?
Jack looked out into the corridor. No sign of Daniel. He grabbed the card - big glossy card. On the front, a seductively handsome guy like a young James Bond, was shooting craps. Two red dice were bouncing up off the table towards the viewer, showing a five and a six.
'Care to take a gamble on me?' said the legend at the bottom.
"You didn't read it, did you?" Daniel asked suspiciously, taking the card and laying it face down.
"Me?" Jack said feigning injured innocence. "Of course not."
Daniel seemed to accept his denial. "So, did you want something, Jack?"
"Yes, I mean yes," Jack floundered, mind suddenly a blank. "I was - ah - I was just wondering if you fancied... coming over tonight? Pizza? Hockey? Bee - er, wine?"
He had to know if Daniel planned to keep that - well, he supposed he'd have to call it a... date...
"Enticing as the prospect is, I'm afraid I'll have to take a rain check tonight."
"Oh? Busy?" Jack asked with studied insouciance.
"And that would be your business because...?"
"Oh, no reason. Just thought you might like a break is all."
"Well, that's very considerate of you, Jack. Thank you."
"Don't mention it."
"So why now?" Daniel asked, knocking his C.O. off balance again." I mean, it must be oh, six - no, eight months since the last time."
Jack gasped. "Eight months? No. Surely not."
"Eight months and three days, actually."
Jack left Daniel's office with a welter of unwelcome thoughts rattling round his brain. He couldn't believe so much time had elapsed since the last time he'd invited Daniel round... Daniel, his friend - or so he'd thought - who had very few close friends on Earth - or so he'd thought. Now he thought about it, he hardly knew Daniel at all. Certainly had no inkling that Daniel might be gay. Or even bi.
And Justin? Who the hell was Justin? He remembered that the date had been expressed in military time. It had to be someone here on the base then, didn't it? He mentally reviewed all the S.G. teams Daniel had worked with but came up empty. No Justins there. Wait a minute, there was a new marine in S.G.-5. His name was... was... Joachim. Not him then.
Thinking on, Jack couldn't see Daniel being attracted to a marine. Or vice versa. The military type didn't generally fall for geeks. Okay, so he had. Whoa. Where had that come from? They were just friends, right? And not terribly close ones at that, it seemed. So whence this disturbing feeling of jealousy?
Jack cursed all the fucking regs. If it hadn't been for them, he might've made this discovery sooner. Like before it was too late. So who was this Justin? He had to know. Wanted to make sure that if he couldn't have Daniel, at least he'd make sure Daniel didn't get hurt. He headed for his office, his original purpose in seeking out Daniel long forgotten.
He called up all the relevant base records on his computer, starting with the dweeb squad. Not a single Justin among them. Jack felt he was running out of options. Well, he'd just have to see for himself. The Deck of Cards... That was that cool new - and very expensive - restaurant in Denver, wasn't it? He called up its website, took down the number and rang to book a table.
"You're fully booked?" Shoulda seen that coming. New eaterie. On Valentine's Day... "You have a separate bar area? Oh... Okay. Thanks."
He replaced the handset, already debating what to wear. He'd arrive at 20.15 so that Daniel and that that Justin - would be too absorbed in eating, or... or, dammit, in each other, to notice him. He'd sneak in, buy a beer, take a surreptitious look and see if he thought the guy looked worthy of Daniel. And then go cruising. Not something he'd done in a long while. About eight months now he thought about it.
He'd gotten into the habit after Daniel had been over. For pizza, hockey and beer... He couldn't have Daniel so he'd head for Denver, find someone and fantasize about what could never be. The last time had been last July. Hm, strange that. Daniel knew to the day the last time Jack had invited him over. Oh, god! Don't say Daniel had had the hots for him too? And now he'd gotten over it? Jack felt like someone had wrapped claw-like fingers round his heart and was squeezing it. Very tightly.
Jack drove over to Denver in sleeting rain. He hoped Jus Daniel's date - was worth it. He parked up, waited a few minutes until the time he'd arranged with himself, then went in. The guy on the door asked him if he had a reservation. No, he'd just come for a beer with a business colleague, he lied.
The place was heaving with customers which was useful. He could blend in, circulate, keep tabs on Daniel without being conspicuous... He looked into the restaurant half of the building. For the 'Valentine Special', each table was set out with red dinner napkins, red candles and a specimen vase holding a single red rose. They had nasty long prickly thorns. The management probably wanted to discourage the clientele from walking off with them, Jack thought snarkily.
Then he spotted Daniel. He was alone. The bastard must have stood him up. Jack's heart went out to his friend. Hm. He had an idea, he'd call Daniel on his cell phone, as if from home, and ask him if he'd changed his mind about coming over... Or something. He pulled out his phone and speed-dialled Daniel's number.
"The number you have dialled has not been recognized..."
Damn! Now he remembered Daniel saying his cell 'phone was on the fritz last week. Wasn't that just typical of Daniel not to have bothered to get a new one! Or maybe he had, and had forgotten to pass on the new number. Well, nothing for it now. He wasn't going to let Daniel spend Valentine's Day on his own.
He went into the restaurant and headed for Daniel's table.
"Daniel!" Jack exclaimed as though surprised to see him.
"Hi Jack," Daniel smiled as though not in the least surprised to see him. He indicated the other chair. "Sit down."
Jack did so, a little chagrined that Daniel realized he'd lied about not reading the card. Still, he didn't seem put out about it. Probably regarded his behaviour as entirely predictable. He sighed.
"Your date let you down?"
Daniel flashed him a sweet smile that went straight to Jack's groin.
"Actually no. You're just in time. I already ordered starters."
"Hng? What? So where is this... Justin, then?"
Jack looked hastily round.
Then the penny dropped as Daniel's words sank in.
"Justin Time, huh? You bastard! You reeled me in like"
"That ever elusive crappie?" Daniel grinned. "You mad?"
"I think I must be. But at you? No. Never."
Daniel raised his eyebrows at that one.
"Well, hardly ever." The eyebrows rose yet higher. Jack scowled. Then he remembered the inscription in the card.
"Daniel... 'All my love'?"
"Oh yeah." Again the sweet smile.
"So, what say we blow this place and find somewhere a little more private," Jack suggested.
Daniel looked incredulous.
"What?" Jack asked, both miffed and mystified.
"Not before the chocolate pudding!"
Added 11 FEB 2005
Amended 10 AUG 2009