Jack heard the key in the front door and tension flowed over his shoulders. He had made several assumptions about how Daniel would be feeling but had dismissed them all.
How the hell could you guess how he’d be feeling after rescuing his ex-girlfriend from a Goa’uld possession? After eight and half years of Goa’uld knowledge, Jack couldn’t properly imagine how he’d feel if his Sara had been possessed, then rescued. All he knew was that he understood Daniel’s guilt. He understood the desperate need to get the snakehead out of her head. He’d already felt that guilt and desperation where Skaara had been concerned but Skaara was like a son, not a romantic partner.
Jack finished the pan of enchiladas and stuck it in the oven. He set the time just as movement entered his peripheral vision on his right. He straightened and turned, staring at his friend and partner. What he saw made no sense. Daniel looked both angry and stoic. Stone cold as a matter of fact.
“How you doing?” he asked cautiously.
“How do you think?” Daniel replied in a soft tone that warred with his expression and body language. He grabbed a Coke from the fridge and made himself a rather stiff Rum & Coke. After downing a third of it, eyes closed, he finally opened them but stared straight ahead, eyes unfocused.
“Been trying to figure out how you’re doing,” Jack said, watching him. “Failing. Not exactly an easy get, is it?” Daniel said nothing as he finally looked at him. “I imagined it being Sara. All I could come up with was rage. Inability to think. Grief. Guilt. Wanting to inflict suffering and pain.”
“Madness,” Daniel said, almost in a whisper.
“Pretty much,” Jack said.
“Then you nailed it,” Daniel said, and a slight smile cracked the veneer he’d been trying to hold up. “Typical of you.”
Jack stared back and chewed at the corner of his mouth. “I guess. But what I can’t wrap my head around is . . .” He gestured between them. “Sara. Sarah.” He paused, and when Daniel didn’t say anything, he asked the obvious. “How’s she doing?”
Daniel began slowly instead of the rapid speech he’d cultivated because people tended to interrupt. “About how you’d be. Or I’d be. Guilt in tremendous spades. Self-esteem is shot to hell because of powerlessness. And then there’s the horror of coming to terms that you were possessed. She’ll be in intense counseling for a while.”
Jack bit his lip again, hating to ask . . . “You gonna be involved with it? Her, I mean.”
Daniel eyed him and a sarcastic smirk spread over his face. “Do I sense jealousy?”
“No,” Jack said emphatically. “Not jealousy . . . per se. It’s more like selfishness. Not getting you all to myself. Having to share.”
Daniel’s smile grew into a grimace. “Don’t worry, you won’t. But you’re not the only one.”
“Huh?” Jack asked.
It was so like him, Daniel thought. He was aware of the ongoing hero-worship Sam cultivated but there were times . . . like now . . . where he was oblivious. “Pete,” he said.
Jack made a face at the sound of that name. He did not like Pete Shanahan. He didn’t like his look, his clothes, his job, and most importantly, the man’s clear lack of trust. While Jack didn’t have romantic feelings for Carter, he still felt an odd . . . possessiveness. It wasn’t right but Pete’s issues surpassed his own. When he looked at Daniel, he found the same expression on his face that dictated the same feelings.
“Yep,” Daniel nodded.
“I don’t . . .” Jack began.
Then both of them said, “Trust him.”
“I’d ditch him after yesterday,” Daniel said.
Jack chewed at his cheek. “Yep,” he echoed. When Daniel eyed him again, he made a face. “I’m fighting off the really nasty urge to arrange his transfer to Timbuktu.”
“Except he’s a cop, not Air Force.”
“Yeah,” Jack said, sucking air through his teeth. “I’d work something out.”
Daniel spat out a brief guffaw. “You’re horrible.”
“You’d do it, too,” Jack said defensively.
Daniel made several defensive faces before letting out a heavy sigh. “I’m fighting off the desire to tell Sam to ditch him. Any guy who has her investigated because she won’t—”
“Reveal classified information!” Jack said, voice suddenly loud. “No shit! There’s serious controlling behavior there.”
Unknown to each, both men imagined forcing Pete to leave Sam.
“She’d hate us,” Daniel said.
Jack gave him a look. He nodded. “Maybe we can get Teal’c to do it.”
Daniel’s brows went up. “There’s a thought.”
He wanted to ask the other pertinent question, which was one of Jack’s blind spots. But should he? Or more to the point, shouldn’t he? Did Jack harbor feelings for her that he refused to admit to or was there simply nothing there? Asking, it would provoke an argument. So did he want to do that? Daniel examined the advisability and realized that no, the argument wasn’t necessary. He also realized that in fact, it was a means to sidetrack himself from the guilt about Sarah.
He’d handed her off to caring people—her family . . . instead of looking after her himself. He wasn’t trained and they had a bad history. Their breakup had been emotionally scarring for her, not so much for him, and while she might have been able to set it aside, he wouldn’t have been able to do so.
Her family had been informed about the classified nature of her trauma. Lying and keeping secrets while trying to heal from this very damaging psychic attack was to throw fuel on a raging fire. The SGC had a responsibility. One day, the secret about the Stargate would be out and all the xenophobes would make that revelation a horror, which was one reason why it was secret. Apart from the selfishness of the U.S. Pentagon and Air Force in wanting to keep it to themselves.
Daniel’s growling stomach pushed him out of his thoughts and he rubbed at it. He suddenly smelled cumin and other spices along with melting cheese. He peered through the oven window. “Enchiladas?”
“Chicken,” Jack nodded. “Figured I’d give you a treat after the crap you went through. How’s your head?”
Daniel grimaced. It hadn’t been too bad a migraine because Osiris hadn’t used the hand device for more than ten seconds, but he had a lingering headache that wouldn’t go away. Like background noise, it was annoying. Daniel gave him a gentle smile and took Jack’s right hand with his left, squeezing it. “It’s mostly background.” He looked at the oven, then at Jack. “So that’ll be done in about forty-five?”
“Give or take,” Jack said cautiously, an impish grin on his face. “Have something in mind while we wait?”
Daniel bit at his lower lip, knowing it was a turn-on for Jack. “Care for something utterly distracting?”
“Man after my own heart.”
“Not really your heart I was thinking of,” Daniel said and led him to the bedroom. “Only I’m having some pain at the back of my head. Mind if I take the opportunity to lie down?”
Jack grinned as they headed down the hall. “Meaning I have to straddle you?”
“I was thinking about a sixty-nine on our sides?”
“What, no foreplay?”
Daniel snorted as they entered the bedroom. He slid his t-shirt over his head but before he could do anything else, Jack pulled him down on the bed and arranged it so they were facing each other. Daniel raised a brow.
“How about we wait and do this for dessert. In the meantime . . .”
He sat up and took Daniel’s head in his lap. His fingertips began a gentle rolling over his temples and forehead.
“I can do this instead,” Daniel said. “Except for one thing.”
“What’s that?” Jack asked, not stopping.
“Your massages always lead to other things.”
Jack grinned. “Resist. It’ll be fun later. For dessert.”
“Slave driver,” Daniel said and relaxed into Jack’s hands.