Beneath the Surface
Daniel sat at his desk, resting his cheek in his hand while he skimmed the keyboard keys of his computer with the fingertips of his free hand. He had no desire to work . . . though there was nothing to do at the moment. He was caught up on everything. Anything he did would be considered make-shift work. Since he was preoccupied, it was just as well.
High-heeled footsteps sounded nearby and stopped at his door. There was only one reason for the sound of high heels. Women in class A or class B uniforms. One of these days, the military would be forced to pull its head out of its ass regarding women soldiers. While Daniel was no fan of conformity, it was necessary for a military. Forcing women to wear separate uniforms wasn’t just insulting, never mind misogynistic, but it put them in second-class roles, never equal to their male counterparts. Daniel had once shared his views about this to Sam and Janet and their shocked and dismissive reactions had told him the brainwashing had been complete. He could only hope that his words had settled in their brains like a revolutionary underground.
“Daniel?” Janet asked as she entered his office-lab, bringing him back to the here and now. He realized she’d said his name a few times.
“Hey, Janet,” he said, not moving his head to look at her.
“Where were you just now?”
Daniel gave her a slight smile. “Somewhere else. What’s up?”
“You’ve been ordered to go home,” she said. “SG-1 needs to be on downtime to recover from that brain stamping.”
“Because we’ve been compromised, I know,” he said. “But I don’t see that a change of scenery will do any good.”
“That’s not the point,” she said. “You need to occupy your attention with non-work. Watching TV or a DVD, reading a book, getting chores done. The usual stuff we all take for granted that’s needed to get your brains back to normal.”
“I get that. Distracting my mind. I tried reading. But I can’t concentrate on the words,” he said. “I keep thinking about Carlin, if that makes any sense.”
“It does,” she said, sitting in the chair beside his desk. “You were forced to live as Carlin for three weeks. Were you thinking of anything in particular?”
“I was . . . forced might be the wrong word . . . coerced maybe? No, that doesn’t feel right either. Maneuvered might be the best word. I was maneuvered into spending time with Kegan, doing what she told me. She wanted sex, too, but I had no interest in her. I kept watching Jonah, but he was involved with Thera. Then feelings turned weird.”
“Like I couldn’t decide who I was.”
“Interesting. You were fighting the stamp, I think.”
“Maybe. But I wonder just how much of those days was Carlin and how much of it was me.”
“Confusing and complicated, I gather?” she asked.
“Just a bit. I was truly Carlin for about twelve out of the twenty-two days. Then my mind rebelled. It was through dreams. Was that truly me, or was it a mix of the worker Carlin and Daniel Jackson?”
“Probably both,” she said. She loosened the tie at her throat by unbuttoning the thing the way a fake tie was removed from a shirt. “I’ve studied some of what Brenna was able to give me. Your conscious self, the brain stamp, was trying to make sense out of the unconscious, your real self. A clash was to be expected. Does that sound like what you experienced?”
“Maybe,” Daniel said as he thought it over.
“Why are you so focused on it?”
Daniel sighed. “Because of Jack. Or rather, Jonah. Brenna said he wasn’t programmed with animosity toward Carlin. It bothers me. It felt personal, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Only when I was in danger did he change his attitude.”
Janet stood up and sighed. “Go talk to him.”
“Because he told me he wanted to be alone for a day or so. Who am I to argue?”
“I’m sorry, Daniel,” she said, putting a hand on his shoulder. She turned for the door. “Have you called Sam?”
“I did,” he said sharply. “She said they’ve talked a few times. By phone.”
“What?” she asked, alarm bells ringing. “So he . . .”
“Lied. It isn’t that he wants to be alone. It’s that he doesn’t want to be alone with me. I can only assume that . . . well, he has other things on his mind.”
“Maybe you shouldn’t assume,” she said, eyeing him. Janet knew about the two of them. “How could you possibly know what he’s thinking?”
“Sam told me. He’s been second-guessing himself and his actions as Jonah.”
“Sounds like you two are on the same page.”
“I don’t think so,” Daniel said. He got up and grabbed his keys. “Think I’ll go home to sleep.”
“Good idea.” When they went out to the hallway and Daniel shut and locked his door, Janet touched his arm. “Do monotonous work tomorrow. Household chores. It sometimes works to clear the mind.”
He bobbed his head. “Have to do them anyway.”
The next day, Daniel put in ear buds to listen to one of his audiobooks while he vacuumed, dusted, mopped, wiped, sorted, and disposed of. He’d purposely put his phone on do not disturb, then forgot all about it by the time he’d finished redoing his fridge’s shelves. Next came repotting his household plants—though the audiobook had to be put on hold while he made a mad dash at the local Home Depot for new pots. And while there, decided to get two rectangular planters, herb starters, and strawberry plants for his balcony.
After five hours, he was finished. It was now time for make-shift work at home, which he hated. So he pulled one of two Lego sets out of his hallway closet and set it up on the dining room table. It was Hogwarts Castle. The other was the Millennium Falcon and he figured that one would be saved for whenever he took leave. He set aside his ear buds to recharge and became immersed in the building of the fictional castle.
Daniel was finishing The Great Hall, technically a Keep, when there was a knock on the apartment door. It startled him a bit but he was more confused and suspicious by it because it was 9:48 p.m. He hadn’t meant to work on the puzzle that long. When he went to the door, he made a mental note to install a security camera so he could see who it was without letting the caller know he was home. He also didn’t need to ask who it was; he already knew. Only one person would be calling on him.
When he placed his hand on the door knob, he noted to himself that he was wearing cut-off shorts and a ratty black tee shirt. His cleaning clothes. He’d just left them on because they were comfortable. After all, company wasn’t coming.
He opened the door and found Jack standing there . . . in a suit and tie. It damn near qualified as a tux. It was black with a grey silk shirt and dark silver tie.
He blinked several times. “Been to the opera?” he quipped.
Jack liked the music; Daniel didn’t. He preferred classical and rock with a little John Denver thrown in. Like his archaeological studies, his taste in music was eclectic. Jack chose one form and stuck with it. And he must’ve been in Denver. He wasn’t all that fond of the opera house in Colorado Springs; he had layout preferences.
It then occurred to Daniel that he was woolgathering facts about Jack while the man stood there waiting. He was stalling. He didn’t really want to hear Jack break up with him because he was certain that was coming. Why else would he shut him out?
“Yep,” Jack said. “One way to focus your mind.”
“Right. C’mon in,” Daniel said, walking away from the door to return to the dining table. He picked up his bottle of hard lemonade and took a swig. He held it up. “Want one? I have two left.”
“No, thanks,” Jack said, looking him over and smirking.
“No, thanks,” Jack said.
“Okay.” Daniel felt acutely uncomfortable. He set his bottle down and wiped his hands on his hips. “What’s up then?” He waved at Jack’s clothes. “You came here straight from the opera?”
“Oh, then . . .” He crossed the living room and headed for the balcony doors. “Where’s Sam? I take it she went with?”
“A, I don’t know. Probably at home. B, no. She’s not a fan of opera music.”
Daniel grimaced to himself because he knew that about Sam. Hadn’t Janet told him not to make assumptions? He stepped down into the living room and slowly crossed to the dining room where Jack stood. He was now examining what Daniel had begun assembling on the table.
“What’s this?” Jack asked.
“What it looks like,” Daniel said, gesturing at the box cover. He realized that Jack was distracted by the Legos. “Didn’t know they came in all kinds of shapes now?”
“I heard but it’s one thing to hear about it and another to see it? When did you get this?”
“Last year. Never had the chance to start this up. It’s a decent means of focus, which is what Janet said is imperative so we’re not dwelling on our programmed personalities.”
Jack nodded. “She told me that, too, but I ignored the advice.” He took in a breath and let it out slowly. “Which brings me to why I’m here.”
Daniel swallowed and resisted the urge to sit. He needed to be on his feet.
“I needed to get some things straightened out with Carter,” Jack said.
Daniel nodded and turned slightly away, picking up a Lego part. “And?” He heard the ruffle of clothing and discovered Jack was taking off his jacket and removing his tie.
“C’mere,” Jack said, heading for the sofa.
Daniel sighed. Face to face then. Jack was never big on subtleties. He sat down a few feet away, turning his body slightly with one arm resting on the top. He rested his head in his hand. “Okay.”
“Carter and I developed a relationship on the planet.”
“I know,” Daniel said.
“But it wasn’t real, Daniel.”
Daniel blinked. “What do you mean?”
“It was Jonah and Thera, not Jack and Sam. I needed to discuss it with her, to make sure we were on the same page. While we were happy with each other as Jonah and Thera, those feelings were still there when we began to remember our real lives. It needed a full day, and it needs a bit more to be honest, to . . . get rid of that programming. That’s why I needed to stay away from you.”
Daniel blinked a few more times. He still didn’t get it so he merely said, “Oh.”
Jack stared back, narrowing his eyes. “You mean . . . oh for cryin’ out loud, Daniel. Did you think we were done? That those feelings of Jonah’s transferred to me? They were false feelings, Daniel. Carter spoke with Brenna. Hetero feelings were encouraged while same sex feelings were repressed. My animosity toward you was probably due to that repression. My subconscious was aware of us, but the stamp misinterpreted and forced me to feel hostility.”
“Right,” Daniel drawled, thinking it through. “I . . . really can’t understand why.”
“Because of its construction. Brenna told Carter that the society up top is homophobic so the brain stamp programmers made homosexual feelings an internal revulsion. Mine came out as hostility.”
Daniel stared back and sighed. “Apparently the programming wasn’t flawless,” he said slowly.
“Because I didn’t feel that when I saw you or thought of you. I was drawn to you for reasons I couldn’t understand. None of them were sexual, so the programming worked there, but I felt confused, unhappy, lost, until I was near you. Hostility is only one aspect of how it represses same sex attraction.” He gestured at his bottom lip, which was still scabbed over.
Jack grimaced and reached out, touching the side of his mouth. “Yeah, ow. Sorry.”
Daniel nodded. “Thanks. So we really are okay then? Did you work all this out while watching opera?”
“Sort of,” Jack said. “I actually grew bored because I wasn’t watching or listening after half an hour, so I left. I stopped off at The River, a nightclub, and got a drink. Then was hit on for the next hour by five people. Two guys, three women. And by the time the last one, a guy, hit on me, the stamp’s effects were purged. I think it was the guilt that did it.”
Daniel half-smiled. “Guilt?”
Jack matched the grin. “Being there by myself and not immediately telling the flirtatious that I was taken.”
“Ah,” Daniel said, and smiled. It was quickly turned into a wince when the smile split the scab. “Ow.” He tongued his mouth on the backside of the scab, nursing it like one does a bruise. “It’s nice to get hit on. Assuming they were attractive.”
Jack grinned and stood up, jacket and tie in hand. “Yeah. I’m gonna go home and change. And then I’ll come back and help you put that Lego set together.”
Daniel followed Jack to the door. “It’s a little late. Time for bed. Wanna come over tomorrow?”
Jack smiled at him. “You mean, you wanna sleep alone?”
“Well,” Daniel said, coyness in his tone. “I didn’t want to presume. And . . .” He tongued his lip again. “Ow.”
“Stop worrying it,” Jack said, and leaned over to kiss him lightly on one side of his mouth as he unlocked the door and turned the knob. “I’ll be back.”
Daniel snorted. “Okay, Arnold. Just leave the machine guns.”
“I only have the one,” Jack said, jogging his brows meaningfully.
Daniel bit his lips together. “I’m shutting up now. Go change.”
Jack abruptly wrapped his arms around him and hugged him.
“On the other hand . . .” Daniel said.
“On the other hand . . .” Jack echoed. “Nothing wrong with changing clothes tomorrow.”
Daniel sighed against him as their foreheads touched. “I thought we were over. I think I have some self-esteem issues to work out.”
“I’ll help,” Jack said, and relocked the door behind him.