Ask and Learn
Jack sighed and got up from his chair. Continued ignoring of the incessant knocking on the door would only encourage the unwanted visitor to start peering through the windows, assuming said unwanted visitor was one Daniel Jackson, and wasn’t it always? The young archaeologist was earnest and well-meaning, but when Jack wanted to be alone, he wanted to be alone, a fact Daniel had yet to grasp. He glanced through the peep-hole and confirmed his suspicions. In spite of his annoyance, Jack found himself smiling. He opened the door, catching Daniel in mid-knock.
“Oh, you’re home,” Daniel said, lowering his hand.
“And this surprises you?” Jack queried with a raised eyebrow.
“No, not really. I just didn’t think you’d answer,” Daniel replied with a self-deprecating shrug.
“And yet you continued knocking.”
“Yes, well, patience is one of my virtues,” Daniel smiled.
“Yes, well, it’s not one of mine,” Jack drawled.
“So I’ve noticed.”
“Daniel,” Jack said, an edge to his voice.
“You left the base pretty early,” Daniel said.
“I don’t remember needing your permission.”
“What the hell do you want,” Jack asked, silently counting to ten.
“I thought you might like some company,” Daniel explained.
“You thought wrong. Sorry you wasted your time,” Jack said, closing the door.
“Jack, wait!” Daniel cried, stopping the door with his hand.
“Daniel, I’m not in the mood.”
“I know and it was stupid of me to come. I should’ve called first. Oh, wait, I did.”
“Wait, wait, wait, can I use your bathroom before I leave? Please,” he added, looking desperate.
Jack hesitated then made the mistake of making full eye contact with beseeching blue eyes. Wordlessly, he opened the door wide and waved Daniel in.
“Thanks, I’ll only be a second and then I’ll leave,” Daniel said, rushing by.
Jack watched Daniel’s retreating back.
“Sure you will,” he muttered, closing the door.
Daniel washed his hands and stared at his reflection in the mirror.
Okay, you’re in. Now what? Pretend I’m sick? Twist my ankle on the stairs?
Daniel frowned. There wasn’t anything he could do. He was lucky to have got this far.
Daniel returned to the living-room, disheartened at Jack’s absence.
He must be really pissed, he thought glumly. Torn between taking his chances and staying or leaving, Daniel sighed and went to the front door and grasped the handle. In the movies this is where he would call out and ask me to stay. No call came and Daniel admitted defeat. There was always tomorrow.
“Jack? Sorry for the intrusion. I’ll, uh, see you tomorrow,” he called out.
The ensuing silence didn’t surprise him, but it did sadden him, and he opened the door.
“What’ll you have?” a disembodied voice asked.
“What?” Daniel replied, startled.
Jack came out of the kitchen, a half-consumed bottle of beer dangling from his hand.
“You came all this way. You may as well have a drink.”
“Are you sure?” Daniel asked, stunned that maybe things could happen like in the movies.
“Don’t make me ask you twice,” Jack warned.
“Oh, um, yes, please,” Daniel stammered. “I’ll have one of those.”
“Yes. A beer would be … refreshing,” Daniel smiled, closing the door.
“Right. A beer,” Jack repeated, nodding his head.
“I don’t need a glass,” Daniel said helpfully.
Jack waved Daniel to a seat and retreated to the kitchen.
A beer for nerves, or are you planning on getting so totaled I won’t have the heart to throw you out? Jack mused.
Daniel blew out his cheeks as he sat back on the couch. He scanned the room quickly, noting that everything still looked pretty much the same as when he stayed here after leaving Abydos. The pictures of Charlie and Sara were still prominent. That’s good, right?
“Don’t drink it all at once.”
Daniel jumped and turned.
“Thanks,” he said, taking the proffered bottle.
“Little jumpy?” Jack asked.
“Just lost in thought,” Daniel explained, sniffing the bottle’s contents.
Jack merely nodded and sat in the chair opposite Daniel.
“How’s the arm?” Daniel asked.
“Hurts like a sonofabitch, especially when people remind me of it, otherwise fine,” Jack replied.
Daniel smiled, shifted uncomfortably and stared down at the bottle in his hands. He frowned, gripping the bottle tight.
Jack watched Daniel covertly and hid a smile. Damn kid’s willing to make himself sick for me.
Suddenly, Daniel’s face relaxed and he hoisted his beer.
“Cheers,” Jack replied, tipping back his bottle.
Daniel closed his eyes and took three rapid swallows. The faster I do this, the quicker I can … what? Get sick? Pass out? Oh, that will endear me to Jack. This was a stupid idea.
“Good stuff?” Jack inquired.
“It’s, uh, great,” Daniel replied, trying desperately to ignore the bitter taste in his mouth and the fire in his gut. God, I should’ve eaten something first. Stupid, stupid.
“You hate it,” Jack said.
“No, no, it’s just, um, stronger than the last … one,” Daniel said, his voice trailing off as he realized Jack wasn’t buying any of it.
“Throw up on my carpet and I won’t be a happy camper,” Jack warned, but his tone was light, and his eyes gentle. “Here, give me that,” he said, standing up and reaching for the bottle.
“No, really, Jack, it’s not that bad,” Daniel said, clasping the bottle tight and taking a large gulp.
“Damn it, Daniel, let go,” Jack said, grasping the bottle and tugging.
“I’m not kicking you out,” Jack said.
“I’m not, now give me the damn bottle. I’ll finish it and put on some coffee for you.”
“Oh, thank God,” Daniel said, releasing the bottle.
“Put your head down before you pass out,” Jack chastised, pushing Daniel’s head down gently but firmly. “What have you eaten today?”
“Eaten?” Daniel mumbled. “Um, well,” he frowned, sitting up.
“Down,” Jack ordered, pushing his head down again. “You haven’t, have you?”
“Does coffee count?” Daniel asked quietly.
“Figured as much,” Jack muttered.
“I was going to make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. Want one?”
“That would be great. Thank you.”
“Sit up, you look like an idiot,” Jack murmured as he turned and headed for the kitchen.
Daniel smiled and sat up. Truth be told, he did feel a bit queasy, but he was still here and that was the important thing.
Jack busied himself in the kitchen, making coffee and preparing the sandwiches. In spite of his shoulder wound, it felt good to be doing something with his hands. More importantly, it felt good to do something for someone else. He missed cooking for Sara and Charlie. He missed their laughter and conversation. He missed them.
Grilled cheese sandwiches were Charlie’s favorite, and now he was making them for someone else. He wasn’t sure how he felt about that.
“What?” Jack snapped, turning at the intrusion.
“I think the, uh, sandwiches are burning,” Daniel said, pointing to the smoking frying pan.
“Ah, crap,” Jack growled, grabbing the pan from the stove.
“Here, let me look,” Daniel said. “I don’t mind a little burnt toast or cheese.”
“Don’t touch it, it’s hot,” Jack warned.
“In fact, I like it a little burnt,” Daniel continued, grabbing the handle. “Ow,’ he hissed, snatching his hand back and sucking his fingers.
“Charlie, I said it was hot!” Jack snapped.
Daniel stared wide-eyed at Jack, his burnt fingers still in his mouth.
Jack, mortified at his outburst, snatched the pan and tossed it into the sink with a loud clatter.
“Jack, it’s –”
“I said, get out, damn it!” Jack reiterated, his dark eyes flashing.
“I’m sorry,” Daniel said helplessly and began to slowly back away.
Jack turned and leaned heavily on the sink, white-knuckling the counter.
Daniel stopped and stared at the tormented figure of his friend. He knew Jack was hurting and struggling with his emotions; struggling to regain the control, which was so much a part of him.
You’re allowed to feel, Jack. You’re allowed to be angry. Let me help you.
“Jack,” Daniel whispered.
Jack’s body tensed even more and Daniel tried to mentally prepare himself for a verbal onslaught. It never came.
“Just … just give me a minute,” Jack said quietly.
Daniel’s tension eased somewhat at the quiet request, and he silently retreated to the living-room.
Jack closed his eyes and berated himself silently. He shouldn’t have let himself get caught up in the past. He shouldn’t have blown up at Daniel like that. He was weak. He was an Air Force colonel, damn it. He used to be Black Ops and damn good at it. He was the leader of SG-1. ‘Big whoop’ some people would say. A military astrophysicist, a civilian archaeologist, and an ex-slave of some alien freak. Pretty scary group, O’Neill. But Jack had to smile. They were scary, especially when Daniel didn’t get his morning coffee. Jack sighed. If he had to lose control in front of anyone, he would choose Daniel. Daniel understood him in ways no one else could.
Jack straightened and rubbed the back of his neck. He frowned at the ruined sandwiches in the sink. Daniel was right. They weren’t that bad, but they could be better. A lot better.
Daniel sat hunched over on the couch, hands clasped loosely between his knees. He had come over with the intention of convincing Jack to talk about Reetu Charlie, but his friend’s disturbing flashback in the kitchen had thrown him for a loop. Did Jack, on some deep level, think of him as Charlie? Someone who needed looking after? Someone who was helpless? He trained hard and still trained hard to fit into the military. Physically, his strength and endurance were steadily increasing. He was a good marksman, and now that they had zats he could even shoot first and ask questions later. But did Jack trust him like he trusted Sam and Teal’c?
“Easy, you’ll burst a blood vessel.”
Jack’s quiet voice jolted Daniel from his ruminations, and he looked up with a start.
“Here,” Jack said, holding out a steaming cup of coffee.
“Thank you,” Daniel said, accepting the coffee gratefully.
“Sandwiches will be ready in a few minutes,” Jack added then returned to the kitchen.
Daniel sipped his coffee, his eyes closed in appreciation of the flavor. He also turned his thoughts away from himself. If Jack still thought of him as ‘wet-behind-the-ears’, he’d just have to deal with that another time; he was here to help Jack.
Jack removed the cheddar cheese from the fridge and started again. Charlie had always liked the processed cheese version, but if it was just him and Sara, it was the real thing with a bit of chopped onion. Jack left out the onion in the first attempt, something he was about to rectify. Daniel was a spice-lover so he diced some onion for both their sandwiches. Jack also liked a bit of garlic salt and he suspected Daniel would too. He smiled and reached for the condiment, adding dashes to both sandwiches and then plopping his creations into the frying pan.
“How’s your coffee?” Jack called out.
“It’s um, it’s great,” came the response, just a bit too tentative.
Jack grinned and grabbed the pot.
“You’re empty, aren’t you?” he asked, coming into the living-room.
“It was good,” Daniel shrugged.
Jack picked up Daniel’s mug and refilled it.
“You didn’t have to come out. I could’ve—”
“What, and see my secret recipe?” Jack said aghast.
“It’s a grilled cheese sandwich,” Daniel said to Jack’s back.
“Ah, you say that now,” Jack replied over his shoulder.
Daniel smiled, but his gut tingled. The way Jack was acting it was as if nothing had ever happened, and Daniel didn’t know if that was a good thing or a bad thing. Was Jack afraid he’d rat on him to Janet, or was he actually feeling good about his visit? Yes, and Teal’c’s a wimp, Daniel thought idly, sipping his coffee.
Dark golden brown and just shy of burnt: the perfect grilled cheese sandwich. Jack scooped them out and onto plates.
“Eat while it’s hot,” Jack ordered, handing Daniel his plate and a paper towel.
“Thank you,” Daniel said, taking the plate and settling it on his lap. “It smells good,” he said before taking a tentative bite. “Wow, this is good,” he enthused, speaking around a mouthful.
“You sound surprised,” Jack said, pleased to see his friend’s reaction.
“I was expecting something more, um, well, you know,” Daniel said, his voice trailing off.
“White bread and Kraft slices?” Jack guessed.
“Certainly not onion and garlic,” Daniel said, taking another bite. “Charlie liked it this way?”
The words were out before Daniel could stop them. He opened his mouth to apologize, but Jack replied, not missing a beat.
“No, Charlie was the Wonder Bread, Kraft slice kid. Sara and I would make it this way for ourselves although she didn’t like the garlic.”
“I like the garlic,” Daniel said. “It gives it that—”
“Je ne sais quoi?” Jack interjected, smiling broadly because he really was pleased.
“Exactly,” Daniel grinned, biting into his second piece.
“Do you want another one?”
Daniel’s face brightened and then faltered. “Would you like another one?”
“Daniel, it doesn’t matter if I want another one. Do you want another one?”
“If you don’t mind,” Daniel said.
“All right, two more JD specials coming up,” Jack said, jumping up and taking Daniel’s plate.
Daniel smiled, tickled with the sandwich nomenclature, but the smile faded once Jack left the room. Jack was ‘too up’ which meant he was hiding his pain, something both men knew too much about.
“Don’t burn yourself,” Jack warned. “I sliced the cheese a little too thick. It’s still pretty hot.”
Daniel stopped mid-bite and looked at Jack. “I’m not Charlie,” he said softly.
Jack froze, but regained his composure quickly.
“Believe me, I’m well aware of that,” he replied. “Now, if you’d done the eye-roll thing, I’d have to wonder.”
Daniel sighed and they finished their sandwiches in silence.
“Just as good as the first,” Daniel said, setting his plate aside.
“Want another one?” Jack asked.
“You’re kidding, right?” Daniel asked, holding his stomach.
“Yeah, I’ve run out of bread,” Jack smiled.
“It’s not your fault, for crying out loud. I do have coffee though. I’ll make another pot,” Jack said, standing up.
“No, no, I’m fine. Sit,” Daniel said.
“You don’t want any more coffee?” Jack asked incredulously.
Daniel steeled himself and said, “No, I’ve had enough.”
“Daniel, if you’re going to lie, at least make it a plausible lie,” Jack said, taking Daniel’s empty mug and plate.
Daniel sat back and sighed. Would he ever be able to pull one over on Jack?
Daniel sensed Jack watching him and it took all of his self-control not to squirm. He stared into his mug of coffee, looking for inspiration in the dark depths.
“Spit it out, Daniel,” Jack said, his voice gruff but not unkind.
Daniel put his mug down, wrapped his arms around himself and sat back.
“I was worried about you,” he said, glancing briefly at Jack.
“Am,” Daniel clarified, looking back and holding Jack’s gaze.
“I’m okay. You don’t have to worry about me.”
“You’re not okay, Jack,” Daniel insisted. “What happened in the kitchen showed that.”
“I don’t need Psych 101,” Jack said, an edge to his voice.
“Damn it, Jack,” Daniel said, jumping to his feet. “I was there!”
“You’ve been a lot of places,” Jack replied dryly.
Daniel bit his tongue and lowered his head. Jack was being deliberately obtuse, and he had learned that’s how Jack coped when it came to feelings. Getting angry would only egg him on further and quite possibly shut him down completely.
“Reetu Charlie adored you,” Daniel said quietly. “He wanted to stay with you.”
“Staying with me would’ve been his death sentence,” Jack said dismissively. “With the Tok’ra he has a chance.”
“You let him be called Charlie.”
Jack’s mouth tightened, but he didn’t take the bait.
“He wanted to be your son,” Daniel said, pressing the issue.
“What do you want me to do, Daniel?” Jack asked, his voice rising. “Wail and gnash my teeth? He’s not even human. His mother looked like a spider for crying out loud.”
“So that means you don’t care?” Daniel challenged, regretting the words instantly.
Jack’s body visibly tensed, but he took a couple of deep breaths before responding.
“The only reason you’re not flat on your back right now is because I know you’re trying to help,” he said evenly. “What it means, Daniel, is that Reetu Charlie brought back all those paternal feelings I thought I buried. And memories, like making grilled cheese sandwiches on Saturday afternoons. It also brought back the pain. It’s never far away, but I can usually keep a lid on it. But when Janet told me Reetu Charlie was dying, it all came rushing back. Another kid looking to me for protection. Another kid I couldn’t save. He’s better off without me and he’ll realize that one day. Jacob and Selmak can help him and that’s the thought I’m holding onto.”
“The Reetu did that to him, Jack, not you,” Daniel whispered.
“Doesn’t make it any easier,” Jack said.
“I’m sorry,” Daniel whispered.
“I know you are, and I appreciate your concern, Daniel, but I’ll be fine. Besides, you won’t let me be any other way. You’re such a nag.”
“Tenacious,” Daniel corrected.
“Pain in the ass,” Jack countered.
“That too,” Daniel conceded, smiling and ducking his head.
“You’re a good friend,” Jack said sincerely.
Daniel looked up to see somber dark eyes.
”Never forget that, Daniel. Sometimes I do, and I’m sorry.”
Daniel nodded, afraid words would spoil the moment.
“And being the friend you are,” Jack said, sitting down with a grunt, “you were right. Talking helps.”
“Really?” Daniel asked in surprise.
“I think so,” Jack said, looking equally surprised. “Maybe Sara was right after all,” he added wistfully.
“Um, can I get you a beer or something?” Daniel asked, unsure how to handle this ‘new’ Jack.
“Daniel, you’re the guest,” Jack chided lightly.
“But while you’re at it,” Jack said, sitting back and crossing his arms behind his head, “you can also bring out the cake that’s in the fridge.”
“You’re not taking advantage of this friendship thing, are you?” Daniel asked, his eyes narrowing.
Jack turned wide, brown, innocent eyes to Daniel. “Moi?”
Daniel stood up and headed for the kitchen. “The things I do for you,” he muttered, more pleased than he could imagine.
“There’s something else bothering you,” Jack said, idly twirling his beer.
Daniel’s eyes flicked up and met Jack’s gaze, but he found the dark eyes too intense, too expectant, and he quickly looked away.
The younger man sighed. He knew that tone only too well, and he knew Jack would not be satisfied until he had an answer; an honest answer. He looked back at Jack and held his gaze with his own intense blue eyes.
“I’m never going to be military,” he said quietly.
“I’m not asking you to,” Jack replied.
“Because you know I can’t be or because you don’t want me to be?”
Jack took a sip of his beer, mulling over Daniel’s query.
“Both and neither,” he answered cryptically.
“Jack,” Daniel sighed in exasperation.
Jack smiled and took pity on his friend’s frustration. “Because you don’t want to be.”
“What?” Daniel frowned, confused by the unexpected answer.
“I’ll make this simple,” Jack said, sitting forward, his beer dangling from his fingertips. “You are on my team because of who you are. Not because of who I think you should be or what anyone else things you should be. But, and this is a biggie, Daniel, if you start doubting yourself, or try to be someone you’re not, then you won’t be any good to me or to yourself. Capiche?”
Daniel nodded, but he was biting his lip and Jack knew there was more.
“Out with it,” Jack said.
Daniel licked his lips then looked Jack full in the eye. “You called me Charlie.”
Jack’s jaw twitched, but he didn’t waver from Daniel’s gaze.
“You caught me at a bad moment,” he quietly explained. “It wasn’t you I was calling out to; it was a memory.”
Daniel found Jack’s dark steady gaze unsettling and the ‘drop it’ tone even more so. He looked down at his hands.
“I know I don’t always follow the rules,” Daniel said, “or you,” he added, smiling slightly.
“I kinda figured that one out on my own,” Jack drawled.
“There’s no easy way to say this,” Daniel said, looking up at Jack.
“Then don’t say it.”
Sound advice, Daniel thought. Just forget it. So what if it eats away at me for the rest of my life?
Daniel stared at Jack and a slow smile spread across his face. If he didn’t say anything, he was as good as doubting himself, and if he doubted himself, well, Jack had made that option perfectly clear.
“You’re good,” Daniel said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jack said, taking a swig of beer to hide the slight upward twitch of his lips.
“The … kitchen thing,” Daniel said, taking the plunge. “Was that more than just catching you at a bad time? What I mean is: do you sometimes, you know, think of me as your son?”
Daniel winced after he finally asked the burning question. Now that he actually said it, it sounded absurd and, worse, pretentious.
To Jack’s credit, and Daniel’s relief, he didn’t laugh in his face or tell him he was nuts. In fact, to Daniel’s utter surprise, Jack said, “Yeah, I guess sometimes I do, and I’m sorry.”
“No, no, no, don’t—”
“You asked, let me finish,” Jack interrupted. “You, Carter, and Teal’c, you’re all my ‘kids’, and yes, I know Teal’c’s way older than me, but that doesn’t stop me from being protective. Sometimes I go a little overboard with you. As you say, you’re not military, and as you know, we get into some pretty heavy military situations. I’ve seen you hurt too many damn times, Daniel, and I hate it. If I can prevent it, I’ll do what I can. But if you think that means I don’t trust you, or I don’t think you can handle the job, you’re way off base.”
Jack’s words pierced Daniel’s heart in a very good way. Sometimes he didn’t know where he stood with Jack, but now he had a pretty good idea and it made him very happy. He had gotten ‘in’ in a way very few ever did. That felt damn good.
Daniel scrunched up his face and said, “That’s a baseball term, isn’t it?”
“Definitely not Charlie,” Jack groused, snagging Daniel’s empty mug.
Daniel snickered and ducked his head as Jack gave him a friendly swat.
Jack was pleasantly surprised at how easily Charlie’s name had come to his lips. He had shut out thoughts of his son for far too long; an injustice to Charlie and to himself. Trust Daniel to fix that.
“So, are we done with the touchy-feely stuff?” Jack asked.
“For now,” Daniel smiled.
“Oy,” Jack muttered as he left the room.
Daniel wondered if maybe that was his signal to leave and hesitantly stood up.
“Coffee still okay or do you want something stronger?”
The shouted query from the kitchen infused Daniel with a warm glow.
“Coffee’s good … for now,” he replied, smiling and settling back onto the couch.
|Genres:||Angst, Friendship, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Smarm|
|Summary:||Daniel thinks Jack needs help.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
This story is a tag for Show and Tell. This story first appeared in Ancients Gate VIII-Legends. Thank you, Jmas!