holiday / serpent’s song / one false step
Daniel followed Jack into the house feeling both awkward and creeped out a little at the sight of seeing himself while wearing Jack’s body. It put a cap on the last frighteningly weird thirty-eight hours. To cap it all off, having his body invaded and used made him feel as he’d been tossed into a garbage truck and left to marinate.
“I need a shower,” he said abruptly and headed that way.
“Don’t use up the hot water!” Jack called after him.
Jack had a decent-sized shower built to accommodate two, but Daniel had no interest in sharing Jack’s shower. Or his bed, which made the situation all the more disgusting. Whenever something or someone interfered with his relationship, it made him want to beat the shit out of whoever or whatever was at hand. Which was not right. But then, neither was getting fucked with. He set to with the scrubbing and even after two full washings, he didn’t feel clean. He started again.
In the kitchen, Jack got down his fifty-five-year-old bottle of brandy and poured himself a heavy snifter. He went to the bedroom and changed as he sipped at it, waiting for Daniel to get done. He completely understood the need for a shower, but he figured he didn’t need it as badly as Daniel did.
When Daniel finished, Jack came in. Nude.
“I didn’t use it up,” Daniel instantly said, turning away from him as he dried his hair.
“Good.” Without another word, Jack got in and fired it up.
Daniel dried the rest of himself quickly and left Jack to it. When he found the brandy bottle on the kitchen counter, he poured himself a snifter and went into the living room. He didn’t want to sit in there in silence so he turned on the TV. It had been left on a sports channel. It was playing, of all things, cricket. He checked the channel. ESPN3. He left it there, asking himself what Jack had been watching on ESPN3. He wasn’t about to ask the man, though. He had other questions on his mind. He put them aside to focus on the game. England and Pakistan. England was ahead. He sipped at the alcohol and sighed happily. Once in a while, Jack had really good taste in alcohol.
Jack came in and sat down in his chair, eyes on the game. Both men sipped at their brandy while the tension in the air ramped up.
Eventually, Daniel dredged up the courage to ask.
“Are you at all in the mood?” Jack glanced at him, and the look said it all. Daniel let out a sigh of relief. “Good, because …” His gaze went to the TV as he wrapped his arms around himself, brandy still in hand, and shuddered.
Jack got up and sat next to him on the sofa. He clinked his glass with Daniel’s and they both took a long sip. Staring at the TV, Jack suddenly said, “If we did, with the memory of what happened fresh, it’d give a whole new meaning to ‘go fuck yourself.’”
They both shuddered and watched the game, then Jack gestured at the chess set on the table. Daniel nodded and they played while the cricket match continued. A half-hour passed before one of them spoke again.
“I was scared,” Daniel said, not looking at Jack. He could feel him giving him a look of surprise.
“Understandable,” Jack said.
“No, I mean, I’ve never truly been scared. Not in all the time we’ve gone out and seen horrible shit. Not when we were on Heliopolis, not with Nem, not even when we were in that prison. I mean, not once was I truly scared.” That earned him a skeptical eye. “I know. I mean, I was scared for other people, just not for myself.”
“Stupid, I know.” Jack gave him another skeptical brow, but he had his ‘listening’ face on. “But this time, I got scared. I kept thinking, what if I died in Machello’s body? I damn near did a few times, you know. But …”
“But?” Jack asked when Daniel looked away.
“I was also angry. I mean, really angry.”
“Because? Other than the obvious?” Jack asked. He thought he knew because he felt it himself.
Jack nodded. “Worthy of anger.”
Daniel leaned back abruptly against the couch and threw up a hand. “For cryin’ out loud, Jack. I’ve been feeling that way too much the last year. I’m getting awfully sick of it.”
Jack’s face darkened. “Which is why I’m not all bothered that he’s dead.”
Daniel didn’t respond to that comment because he couldn’t. “Maybe I need a month’s vacation.”
Jack snorted. “We all do. We’re not getting it until Christmas.”
“Well,” Jack amended. “Two weeks.”
“Close enough.” Daniel paused, then asked, “What did it, uh, feel like? Being in me.” Jack gave him a crooked grin and Daniel rolled his eyes. “You know what I mean.”
Jack moved his bishop, but kept his hand on it, then moved it back and released. “Wrong.” He then moved his bishop in a different direction and claimed a pawn. “Only way to describe it. Just … wrong.”
Daniel’s queen took the bishop, making Jack wish he’d not second-guessed the move. “Agreed.”
Time passed in silence.
They played to a draw.
“Been an hour or so,” Jack said as he reset the board. “Feeling anything?” Daniel made a face. “Yeah, me neither.” They both sighed.
Daniel shouted expletives to the tile wall as water from the showerhead blinded him. He leaned on the wall, fists holding him steady. Apophis had died. And then his host had died. And then he’d found out that Sokar would revive the snake bastard. He’d seethed and held it in until now. But he couldn’t hold it in any longer. “I quit! This is the very last straw! I’m done! That’s it!”
Jack leaned against the door frame of Daniel’s bathroom, arms crossed, watching him. “I’m reminded of a Daffy Duck cartoon where Bugs is the animator.”
Without turning, Daniel lowered his voice considerably. “Jack, I swear to god …”
“Sorry,” Jack replied in the same calm voice, holding up a hand Daniel didn’t see. “Sorry. I’ll behave. Keep going.”
“Dammit!” Daniel screamed, and punched the wall. He’d pulled it, so it only hurt a little as he bruised and tore the skin from the first three knuckles. “Shit,” he said under his breath, and shook his hand.
“Daniel,” Jack said, warning in his tone as he pushed off the wall. Even so, he couldn’t help the smile. “Way to go, dummy.”
Daniel’s anger deflated as the pain in his hand increased and he turned around, wincing only slightly as his back hit the cold tile. He brought the palms of his hands to his eyes, not wanting to look at the man who stood calmly by while he indulged his fury. “I want him dead. By my hand, not that half-assed Satan wannabe.”
“Yeah, it sucks to high heaven. But Daniel?”
“I know.” A spit of fury tried to take hold at the comment but Daniel pushed it back down. He didn’t lower his hands. “So if you won’t bother to say something useful, go away.”
Jack wanted to go to him but he also didn’t want to get wet. He hated that he felt that way. “You know we’ll probably get the chance for you to get your revenge. One way or another. It’s how our luck rolls.”
“Yeah, but our luck has sadistic tendencies.”
“Don’t it just.”
Daniel’s remaining anger ebbed and he finally dropped his hands. He wiped at his eyes so he could see Jack more clearly. Well, to see his shape anyway. The water was hot and had been running for a while. The shower walls were half-fogged and littered with thin runnels of water.
Jack pushed off the doorway and grabbed a towel. “C’mon. I’m making dinner.”
“I don’t have anything in the kitchen for that.”
“Which is why you’re getting dressed. We’re leaving.”
“Because you live in a loft with walls connecting to businesses and other lofts. The walls here have ears. You can continue to vent your hostility at my house…” He paused. “As long as you do it in the bedroom. Enough with the anger. Let it go. It’s not healthy. And yeah, that’s me saying that.”
Daniel groaned and looked away. “I hate you.”
Jack grinned and held out the towel. “I love you too.”
Daniel snatched it from him and began to dry off. Embarrassment hit him, then shame. He hated losing control like that, directed at the one person who didn’t deserve it. He paused in the middle of drying his nether regions and slapped the towel on the counter, then bundled it into a ball and squeezed it a few times. He looked over at Jack, who was looking directly at his ass. Daniel’s remaining irritation fled and he tried to look indignant. “Stop looking at my ass.”
“We haven’t had time to get any. I can’t help myself.”
Daniel grinned, but it faded. “You know, I never used to lose control like that. It took dealing with aliens like the Goa’uld.”
Jack raised a brow. “Guess you’re gonna have to refocus, choose how to deal with this now.”
Daniel took in a breath. “How come I don’t see you losing it?”
“I have twelve years on you, babe.”
Daniel’s mouth dropped open in shock. Jack’s lips twitched. “I can’t believe you just called me that.” He grabbed another towel to dry his hair. When Jack grinned at the mess he made of it, he couldn’t help but grin back. Leave it to Jack to make that happen, he thought. Not that he’d ever say that out loud. Then there’d be no living with him. “So fine. Let’s go to dinner,” he said, leaving the bathroom.
“You need to comb your hair and put on clothes first.”
“If you insist.” He looked over his shoulder. “Babe.”
After getting seated at the restaurant, O’Malley’s, Daniel and Jack kept glancing at each other as they studied a menu they had long-since memorized thanks to it being the go-to place for members of the SGC. After five minutes, Daniel set his aside, sipped at his iced water, and sighed.
“I think we have some issues to iron out.”
The tantrum he’d thrown off-planet had been more than humiliating. It had brought to the surface all the irritations and slights that he had dismissed for years as irrelevant and not worth his time. Long before Jack had added himself to the list of dismissive people who didn’t understand the science of anthropology and archaeology. Worse than that, the ones who actively sought to undermine his work. It was different with Jack. He was his team leader. Someone who should have respected his work, not belittle it as frivolous.
Before this mission, Daniel had told himself over and over that Jack was just being Jack. That his slights didn’t really mean anything because the man didn’t mean to be … mean. Dismissive. Condescending. But there were times when he did. Times where it seemed as if he didn’t understand the need for someone with Daniel’s abilities and outlook. Daniel had told himself that it was just because Jack was impatient in the extreme. That’s all it was.
So Daniel looked at him across the table, and in a calm, low tone, he said as much. Laid it all out. With all the caveats and excuses.
Jack nodded a few times as he spoke. Then took his time answering when the waitress came by with their drinks. While Jack took his time, savoring his beer, Daniel sipped at his white wine. It wasn’t going to go with the steak he was planning to eat, but he liked white wine more than red. And truth be told, he liked champagne more than white wine, but ordering it when you weren’t celebrating something seemed to be a social taboo, which was stupid. But then, Daniel had never been one to follow social order.
Or orders. Like Jack’s.
Inwardly, he cringed. And he knew just what Jack’s laundry list was going to be about.
“You’re right,” he said when Jack still hadn’t said anything. Who was the impatient one now?
“How I never follow orders. I never …”
“Back my play.”
Daniel blinked. “I do.”
“No,” Jack said, a sad smile forming. “You don’t. You hare off and do your … thing.”
“When we’re … not in the middle of a firefight,” Daniel said, the last words trailing to a dawning realization and a sound of defeat. He kept forgetting that they were a military unit, not a civilian one, and mainly because Jack let him get away with murder. And because they weren’t exactly a typical military unit. Aliens and all that. “I’m sorry.”
Jack studied him, a look of slight surprise on his face. “That’s not what you were gonna say, was it?”
“No,” Daniel sighed. “I started to say, when you give us orders to go somewhere, do something, get something done, I do follow your play. When you want to do something negative, on the other hand, I always fight you.”
Daniel winced. “I meant … when you would rather use guns than words. Or order people about instead of ask. And by people, I don’t mean me. I mean aliens. I mean regular people on other planets, not Jaffa or—”
“I know what you mean.”
They were silent again. Then the waitress came by and took their order. Jack turned his glass in place, staring into it. “So what do you want to do?”
“Promise to change? Or at least be more mindful of stepping on each other’s toes?”
“The latter sounds better.”
“More tactful?” Daniel asked, trying a small grin.
Jack returned it. “That.”
They each still felt the tension that had built up between them, but it had lessened somewhat. All they needed was time to get over the shouting match and hurt feelings. And Daniel knew that also included never having another discussion about it. If there was one thing Jack hated, it was beating a dead horse. Which was an awful, hideous idiom.
When dinner arrived, they fell to on the steaks and Daniel decided that it was long past time to change the subject. “So what movie do you wanna see next?”
Jack smiled at him around the lip of his glass.
It was the Damn I’m sexy and I’m using it on you smile.
“Yep. Same as you. Maybe that’s why we’re … together.”
It was the first time Jack had used that phrase. Or even came close to recognizing their relationship. It was one thing to say I Love You. It was quite another to admit a relationship with someone you’d otherwise avoid in other circumstances. Because Daniel knew, they would. Screw it.
“Mind if I jump your bones the moment we get home?” he asked.
“Two desserts?” Jack asked.
“One here, one …”
“Ah. Yes. Well, let’s skip the first one. If you want, we can always take it to go.”
“The one with chocolate sauce and whipped cream?” Jack suggested as he forced blandness into his tone. It didn’t match the deep heat in his eyes.
Daniel didn’t say anything. He just ate a piece of steak and grinned.