A Hundred Days / Shades of Gray
(twice the Microfic size, but it required it)
Jack took a deep breath before making the call. He was telling himself that he had no right to be angry. Several times. But just as he began to touch the numbers that quick-dialed Daniel, he realized that the anger he felt was also directed at himself. When he did things like that, he had a horrible tendency to lash out, as if others could see the pain written on his face. At some point, he had to put a stop to inflicting that pain on others.
Of course, they couldn’t see that pain. He had to suck it up, man up, and accept responsibility . . . a responsibility he had been forced into accepting. Couldn’t Daniel—
“Hey,” Daniel answered.
Jack had tapped the number before he’d consciously accepted to do it. What the hell was wrong with him?
“Jack?” Daniel asked.
“Hey,” Jack replied. A few beats of silence. Jack cleared his throat. “Um . . . dinner?”
“Is it digestible?”
Code. Will there be a calm talk or will Nasty Jack come out to play?
“I think so,” Jack said.
“Okay,” Daniel drawled. “When?”
It was six-thirty p.m. They’d only just finished the arduous mission debrief. They had a grand-spankin’ eight days off. Jack had requested thirty. Eight had been Hammond’s compromise. It would take two days to get back to normal, more or less, then under a week to regroup, push away all negative shit, and then go back to work as if nothing frickin’ happened.
Daniel’s voice was getting an edge to it.
“Now?” Jack asked. It was a question, not a demand, and he made damn sure his tone sounded that way.
“Out or in?”
“Would it piss you off if I asked you to choose?”
“No,” Daniel said, drawing out the word. To Jack’s ears, the tone sounded like he was confused. “Look, no offense, but since when do I ever get to choose?”
“Since now?” Jack offered. “We have stuff to iron out and I’m leaving the ball in your court whether you’d rather it be private or public.”
“Okay,” Daniel drawled again. “Compromise time. Private. So . . . where?”
The tricky part. “Here?”
The scene of the crime.
“Oh . . . ‘kay.”
“I have steaks,” Jack said in an apologetic tone. “You could grab some steak fries from that fish and chips joint?”
Silence for a few heartbeats.
“Deal,” Daniel said on a sigh. “Thirty?”
They hung up at the same time.
Now he was committed. “You should be committed,” Jack snarled at himself.
Daniel pulled into Jack’s driveway and shut off the car. He stared at the front window, his heart thudding in his chest like a pile driver, inching toward his throat to stop any attempt at using his voice.
It had never happened to him before. But Jack tended to do that to him. Create emotional reactions that, on a normal person, would necessitate a visit to a shrink, never mind a seventy-two-hour hospital stay.
But he was committed. “Or should be committed,” he growled at himself. Grabbing the bag, he got out and headed to the front door. Before he could knock, Jack opened it.
“Hey,” the man said.
He looked . . . nervous. “Well, Jesus Christ, Jack,” Daniel thought. “Join the effing club.”
He held up the bag that smelled of starchy goodness.
“Nice,” Jack smiled, taking the bag. “Did you remember to—”
“Get the tartar sauce, yes, I remembered. It’s in the bag.”
Jack turned to head for the kitchen. Daniel stepped inside and shut the door. His hand paused on the doorknob. He was suddenly hit with the desire to flee. Or fight. Or f—
“Daniel?” Jack called from the kitchen.
Gritting his teeth, Daniel left the doorknob alone and turned toward the kitchen. His feet felt leaden, hot. He wondered why he’d put on his boots instead of his sneakers. He’d hurried into a pine green t-shirt and torn jeans, never thinking twice. Jack was in his I-don’t-care-how-I-look khakis with his button-down, short-sleeved, green-patterned shirt. Was this Twin Day or something?
“Was wondering how to cook the steaks,” Jack said, pulling Daniel out of his thoughts.
“You and your anti-pan-fry,” Daniel sighed. “Steaks don’t need to be grilled to be good. Let me do it.”
Jack held up his hands in surrender. “Okay fine.” He turned to the oven. “375, right?”
“Yep,” Daniel nodded as he went to look at the steaks on the counter. He touched one. Cold. “Need to be at room temp. Fries will dry out if we put them in the oven at that high temp, so . . .” Daniel turned the oven down to 160 and Jack handed him the bag, which went in after the cups of tartar sauce were removed.
“Who did you learn this from again?” Jack asked, opening the fridge.
“Old girlfriend,” Daniel said and didn’t elaborate. He wasn’t going to talk about her.
Jack heard the hint in his voice and nodded. “Okey-dokey.” He held out a beer bottle and Daniel frowned at him. “What?”
Daniel allowed an overly dramatic sigh. “When will you get it through your thick skull that I don’t like beer?”
Jack winced and put the bottle back in the fridge. He stared inside, thoughts running around his head like a hamster on a wheel. He pulled out the bottle of merlot. “This do?”
Daniel nodded. “Thank you.”
Jack poured him a glass of wine and held it out. Daniel took it. He then promptly turned and headed into the living room. Jack raised a brow at his back. Heading right into the lion’s den, like his namesake. Jack twisted off the cap of his beer and followed. When he entered the living room, he did not sit in his favorite chair. Instead, he sat at the other end of the couch to Daniel’s right.
“So,” he began.
“So,” Daniel echoed.
They both drank.
Daniel cleared his throat twice. “Um . . . first things first. Laira.”
Jack winced. “Look, I was . . . it was . . . she was . . .”
Daniel held up a hand. “It’s fine.”
“Uh . . . what?” Jack asked, astonished.
“I get it. You thought you were stuck there. Time to settle in. Stress needs an outlet or it gets bad. So.”
“So,” Jack said, relaxing slightly. “Yeah.”
“Yeah,” Daniel echoed. He felt himself relax just a little. One subject down, one to go. The relaxation fled and knives settled in his belly.
There was another spate of silence and drinking.
“You guys really drew straws,” Jack finally said, shaking his head.
Daniel cleared his throat, lifted his chin, and said, “Actually . . . no. I made that up.” Then he betrayed his confidence with blushed cheeks and hated himself.
“But . . .” Jack began, but the conjunction faded. “They just acted like . . .” They meaning Carter and Teal’c. Payback, Jack’s mind supplied. “Oh-kay,” he drawled, squeezing his eyes shut and shaking his head. “Guess that was due, but . . .” Grab the bull by the horns, coward. “It wasn’t my fault, dammit. I had to.”
Daniel gave him a piercing look that screamed, “Oh really, you had to?” “The entire mess, yes. Taking a butcher knife to our friendship, no.”
Jack’s anger reared up and was about to come spitting out of his mouth like a sword but Daniel held up an index finger. Jack stared at it, brows rising. Daniel had nailed The Finger.
“Be glad this isn’t the middle finger,” Daniel said.
Jack pressed his tongue against his cheek. “Yeah, that would kill this entire evening, wouldn’t it?”
“Yeah. But I’m here to fix this . . . this . . .”
“Crap? Shit? Clusterfu—”
“Mess,” Daniel said, cutting him off. “You didn’t have to do it that way.”
Jack stared at him. Daniel stared back, dropping his hand. They sipped at their drinks.
Jack ran his tongue over his compressed lips. “Shoe on the other foot, Daniel. Knowing that your apartment was bugged, what exactly would you have done to ensure that I backed off and left you alone? Because in that scenario, how it played out, you were the uncertain factor. You knew me. Something had to be done. So reverse the situation.”
Daniel mimicked Jack’s licking of his lips. “I know you. And you know me. You know exactly what would have happened.” He leaned forward slightly. “You know.”
Jack closed his eyes again. Yes, he knew. Daniel would have handed him a note that said, “Play along. I’m about to stage a very nasty fight. I’m under orders. I’ll explain later. Just go with it.”
“Do you think for one second that Maybourne would’ve fallen for that?” Jack asked.
“No,” Daniel told him. “Which is why . . .” He took a deep breath. “It would never in a million years been me. You’re the leader, not a subordinate that had no power. And you’re a much better actor than I am.”
“I don’t think any of that is a compliment,” Jack growled.
“No, because it isn’t. They cornered you. You made sure I backed off because I fucking knew something was off.” Daniel swallowed, hard. “And it worked.” He paused, then said, “So, here we are.”
Suddenly he relaxed into the sofa. Jack eyed him and tilted his head. “And?”
Daniel closed his eyes this time. “It’ll take a while. My getting over it.” He opened his eyes. “But I will. Logic tells me that this situation wasn’t of you’re doing. When you’re handed an undercover assignment, you throw yourself into it, and to hell with the cost.”
“Costs,” Jack said, letting out a heavy sigh. He gave Daniel a long look. “But you know me. I am sorry.”
Daniel suddenly gave him a tiny—but there—smile. “I know.”
“So . . .” Jack’s eyes widened slightly. “We’re . . .”
“Good,” Daniel nodded.
Both of them let out sighs and drank their respective beverages for long silent minutes.
Then Jack said, “I saw you guys with him. On P3X-299. You were carrying a naquadah generator for some reason.”
Daniel didn’t need to ask who him was. Makepeace. He did something he rarely did. Daniel’s lip lifted in a curl of disgust. “Yeah. Speaking of acting jobs.”
Jack had opened his mouth to say something but he paused, startled. “What?”
“You weren’t the only one acting. Makepeace made my skin crawl. But I made him think that I preferred him to you.”
“Uh . . .”
“He hated Teal’c, you know,” Daniel said as if that were reason enough to hate him.
“He . . .” Jack began but cut himself off because he’d been about to pointlessly repeat the statement.
Daniel leaned his head back on the top of the sofa and closed his eyes. “He tried to take your place. As if doing it gave him carte blanche.” He opened his eyes and turned his head without lifting it from the back of the sofa. “I almost shot him on our last mission.”
Instead of outrage, Jack’s mouth formed an evil grin. “That so?” Daniel returned the grin but there was something odd about it; there was a warning edge to it. “That so?” he repeated.
Daniel nodded. He chewed at his lip. “That . . . moron . . . had the mistaken idea that he was in charge of me.” He gave Jack a hard look. “If you know what I mean?”
Jack’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “That so?” he asked for the third time.
Daniel suddenly adopted a Cheshire Cat smile. “Learned otherwise.”
“Do tell?” Jack asked, leaning forward until he was merely a foot away from Daniel’s face. He stared into his blue eyes. He felt it once again: they were eyes he could drown in.
Daniel turned his body to face Jack’s. He lowered his voice. “He insinuated that he’d be visiting me that night and that I had no choice but to comply.” Daniel formed a gun with his hand and pressed the tip of the barrel against the underside of Jack’s chin. “He received this in reply. I purposely did it in front of Sam and Teal’c, and I said, ‘If you think you can blackmail me, you’ll get this instead. So back off and the three of us won’t have to explain to Hammond why we’re suddenly missing a member of the team.’”
Jack stared at him, his shocked expression transforming into his own Cheshire Cat smile. “They went along with that?” he asked, then answered himself immediately. “Yeah, ‘course they did.” He stared into those eyes whose color could sometimes turn icy. They weren’t that now. They were as blue as a Mediterranean sea. Jack felt himself drowning in them and gladly succumbed. “I love you.”
Daniel stared into those deep brown eyes that made him feel . . . for the first time in weeks . . . secure. “Right backatcha.”