Daniel had learned a long time ago there was neither rhyme nor reason to times like this. No anniversary. No birthday. No full moon. The activities of certain downtimes didn't coincide with a mission gone bad or one that was good. There was no trigger. It was pure instinct.
As he wandered up and down the aisles in the liquor store, Daniel smiled, thinking Jack would liken this need of his to salmon spawning upstream, and he would have been one hundred percent correct. Over the past years, it had become an intrinsic part of his life and his ability to survive, so maybe Jack wouldn't be that much off the mark.
Today, Daniel's choice was a bottle of fairly expensive Pinot Noir. He smiled at the store owner's gushing comments over his purchase, trying not to be rude, nodding in all the appropriate places. His choices over the years had changed. The activities he chose for himself varied. Sometimes movies, at home or in one of Colorado's multiplex theatres. Plays. Museums. Bookstores. Malls. Then there were the times it was only him, the four walls of wherever he called home, a bottle of liquor and whatever food he could have delivered by phone.
With his package tucked safely under his arm, Daniel stepped into the nasty, miserable Colorado air. It was bone deep dampness, a complete one eighty from the desert-like planet SG-1 had been guests of for the past week. One handed, he pulled his collar up and sunk down below its protection. Thankfully, his only plans for today consisted of food, soaking in a hot tub and sleeping. The last mission had been exhausting, but the adrenaline rush had kept him going until just about—Daniel yawned—now.
He stopped by this particular liquor store not because of the selection, but because of one of the other stores in the strip mall. Pushing open the door of The New York Deli, Daniel was bombarded with a barrage of odors and he breathed as deeply as stuffed sinuses would allow. The array of foods was enough to convince Daniel there wouldn't be any need to step foot out of his apartment for the next seventy two hours.
The balding, portly man stepped from behind the counter to the area by the cash register, offering his hand to Daniel to shake. "Haven't seen you around in a while."
One horrific mission, followed by a week in the infirmary then two back to back missions would make it about –
"It's been what, like a month?"
"A month," Daniel agreed with a slight nod.
"You work too hard."
"Not tonight." He walked up and down the display cases, salivating. Daniel had stumbled upon this place during a drive and the first time he'd entered into the store he'd thought he'd died and gone to heaven, bad analogy for him, but who the hell cared. When his parents had died, the state had deposited him with an elderly Jewish couple who had opened their hearts to him. He'd spent a year's worth of Sunday afternoons holding tightly to Mr. Weiss' hand as they took the train to Forest Hills to buy kosher deli for his wife.
"How about some chicken soup? Fresh."
"Sure. I'll take a quart."
"I'll throw in some extra matzo balls, okay?"
"Who am I to argue?" Daniel said, pointing to the knishes. "One potato. One kasha… and what's that?" Daniel bent down for further inspection.
"My wife's idea. Vegetable knishes." Benny shrugged. "I haven't the heart to tell her it's really not a popular item."
"I'll take two."
"Oy, you're a glutton for punishment."
"No…" Daniel eyed his purchases. "Just a glutton."
"Wait," Benny objected, "You can't possibly be done."
"Of course not. I'll take a half pound of pastrami. A pound of cole slaw and a half pound of the fresh turkey."
"I'm going to throw in a rye bread," Benny pointed to Daniel, "with seeds, I remembered, 'cause what are you going to eat this on? White bread?"
* * *
He shifted positions as he drove. As long as he'd been moving, the bruises littering his back were forgettable, but sitting was putting pressure right where the largest bruise seemed to be. The drive to the liquor store and the deli had been uncomfortable, but now, discomfort was speeding right along to downright painful.
By the time he arrived home and managed to coax his back into bending so he could get the bags out of the car, he ended up shuffling like an old man. He put the bags down during the elevator's ride to his floor and pressed his back up against the flat wall, trying to avoid the bruises, yet at the same time, stretch out his tight muscles. He bent slowly at the stop before his floor and by the time the elevator doors opened, Daniel was standing, ready and waiting, a bag in each hand to balance him out.
Satisfy hunger. Take a warm bath. Down a muscle relaxant. Not necessarily in that order, but definitely his top three priorities for the evening. His nose twitched as he did a slow walk to put the food away. Pastrami and turkey - fridge. Cole slaw - fridge. Knishes - fridge. He put the container of soup to the table and left the rye bread on the counter, sneaking the end out of the bag then shoved it in his mouth, crinkling the wax bag closed as if he'd been caught with his hand in the cookie jar. Laughing, he shook his head at the two half sour pickles Benny had snuck into his bag, well wrapped or not, their pungent odor caused Daniel to salivate.
* * *
People might think this strange, but in the scheme of Daniel's life, there was nothing at all strange about soaking in a hot bath enjoying a mug of Benny's chicken soup. The muted sounds of the stereo drifted in through the partially opened bathroom door, the patter of rain hitting the window, the warmth of the bath, the loosening of bruised muscles and a mug of hot soup. Perfection. Funny, as he got older, and life got tougher, Earth's battles became harder, it was the little things in life that made him happy.
Daniel finished his soup with a slurp, then scraped the mug's bottom with his spoon, disappointed when it came up empty. Sighing, he put the mug on the ledge, closed his eyes and sunk lower until the water lapped up to meet his chin.
* * *
"Aren't you cold?"
Daniel jerked awake, sitting up so suddenly that a tidal wave of water washed over the side of the tub, and his back twinged in sympathy. Shocked, he gazed towards Jack, who was sitting on the closed toilet lid, flipping through an Archeological Journal.
Jack raised the magazine once he realized he had Daniel's attention. "You really need to get better bathroom reading material."
Daniel blinked at Jack, then leaned over the side of the tub to grab the now soaking wet towel off the floor. "Never mind the magazine selection, I think I need to change the lock on my door." Myopically, Daniel pointed to another towel folded on the rack. "Do you think you could—?"
"Towel? Sure." Jack leaned over, handed Daniel the towel, then sat back down.
"Could you, ummm—" Daniel cocked his head towards the door.
"Really," Daniel agreed with a nod of his head. "The water's cold—"
"Told you," Jack answered smugly.
"I know you did." He flashed him a smile and pointed towards the door with a dripping finger. "And I'm grateful, because I'm sure I wouldn't have been able to figure that out by myself."
"Are you being sarcastic?"
* * *
Daniel broke the land speed record for drying off and he moved his shoulders, the sweats sticking uncomfortably to his still damp body. Angrily, he flung the wet towel over the hook on the back of the bathroom door, grumbling over Jack's appearance. Best friend or not, the next seventy two hours were Daniel's time and he wasn't in the mood to share.
He worried fingers through his hair, trying to figure out how to politely kick Jack's ass to the curb without arousing the man's suspicion. "Jack?" Daniel stopped at the kitchen's entrance, rolling his eyes at the only visible part of his friend's anatomy, his butt, while the rest of him was buried in the fridge.
"Whoa, Daniel." Jack backed out of the fridge, his arm overloaded with Daniel's recent purchases. "Expecting company?"
Jack dropped everything on the counter and began unwrapping all the foodstuffs, sniffing each one. "Good turkey," he commented as he jammed a slice into his mouth. He sniffed the pastrami. "Wow." Jack dropped the white opened package onto the counter, reached into the cabinet, withdrew a frying pan and dropped it on a burner.
"You're making yourself some pastrami?" Daniel sidled past Jack and tried to think of a way that he could reach for a muscle relaxant without drawing attention to himself.
"Yeah, you got some rye bread?"
Daniel pushed the bag at Jack. "You forgot the mustard, pickles and there's cole slaw and—"
"I'm not in the mood for knishes."
Jack looked up from placing the strips of pastrami into the frying pan and seemed to really look at Daniel for the first time. "Are you okay? I'm not intruding or anything?"
Now was the time to be honest. Tell Jack the truth. "No, not intruding."
"Glad to hear it." Jack opened the drawer, pulled out a fork and began to turn and move the pastrami along the pan.
Daniel opened his mouth to interrupt, point him towards the rubber spatula but thought better of it and just pasted a smile on his face. He did open his mouth to squeak out a warning when Jack used his free hand to pick up Daniel's bottle of wine.
"Is this stuff any good?"
"There's beer in the fridge." Daniel moved to Jack's side and gently removed the bottle from his loose fingered grasp and slid it to the back of the counter. Opening the fridge door, he bent slowly and got the bottle of beer for Jack.
"I would have gotten it myself." He raised the bottle in salute. "But thanks."
* * *
Jack would eat and then go. There was nothing to hold him—
"Horrible storm outside," Jack said around a mouthful of sandwich. "My satellite went out. No hockey game."
"Storm, yeah. No hockey." Bad friend. How could he think of sending Jack back out into the cold, damp rainy night with no hockey? He sighed and shifted uncomfortably in the chair.
Jack glared at him over the raised bottle of beer. "Either have a glass of wine or take a Tylenol or something, okay?"
"Fine, yeah right. There's a million of those tee shirts hanging in your closet." Jack put down the beer, licked some mustard off his fingers and stood. "Wine or pill? Pick your poison."
If he drank the wine, Jack would watch him like a hawk, mentally measuring each glass. If he took the muscle relaxant, he'd pass out, wake up, the sun would be shining, Jack would be gone and Daniel would be able to continue on his merry way, enjoying the wine and the food from Benny's without company. It was a no brainer. "Muscle relaxant."
* * *
One muscle relaxant took the edge off. Nothing else. Didn't make him sleepy or even give him the urge to yawn. Great. So he was stuck sitting on the couch, albeit very comfortably, staring at the hockey game. Maybe the muscle relaxants had expired, he needed to check.
Daniel got up and started towards the kitchen.
"You've blocking my view."
"Oh." He didn't remember stopping. "Sorry."
"Why don't you tell me what you want and I'll get it… you look sorta…" Jack bobbled his head back and forth. "Loopy."
Daniel began to shake his head, stopping suddenly when the room spun. "Just going to heat up a knish."
Jack gently pushed him back towards the couch. "You watch the game, tell me if those guys score and I'll heat the knish up."
"I want the vegetable one."
Jack made a face as if he'd sucked on a lemon. "Vegetable knish? That's just so wrong."
"Benny said the same thing."
"The deli guy."
"The deli guy?"
"You know, the pastrami. Turkey. Rye bread and knish guy."
"Didn't know before. Know now." Jack shoved a pillow into Daniel's midsection. "Pay attention to the game. One veggie knish coming up…"
"Oven. I want it in the oven. Three fifty. Makes the outside crispy and the inside—"
"Got it. Veggie. Oven. Crispy. You. TV. Pay attention. Score."
* * *
"You should have called me," Jack whined, rushing in from the kitchen.
"You said to call you if they scored. No score."
"They're fighting. Gloves on the ice, shirts over their heads, fighting. That's as good as scoring a goal." Jack sank onto the chair and pointed at the TV. "Damn it, look, there's even blood."
"You said if they scored," Daniel said lamely, wondering why he felt so incredibly stupid.
"By now you should *know* what I mean."
Daniel felt his eyebrows quirk in response to Jack's statement. "Really. I should *know* what you mean?"
"Never mind." Jack waved his hand through the air as if dismissing his statement.
Daniel sighed, closed his eyes and rested his head against the back of the couch. Usually he would take Jack's 'never mind' and up the ante with his own comment, but it wasn't worth the effort. "Knish. Is it done?"
"No, Daniel, it's not done," Jack mimicked. "You wanted crispy outside, remember—"
"Three fifty, right?" Daniel opened one eye and stared at Jack. "You didn't put it under the broiler, did you?"
"No. I didn't put it under the broiler. See, *I* understand unspoken statements. Even without you *saying* anything I knew not to put it under the broiler."
"So, we're back to the hockey game—"
"Hey, if the ice skate fits, wear it."
* * *
Jack had cut the knish in two, and Daniel picked up half and inhaled deeply. "Yeah, it does." He pointed to the other half with the piece he held in his hands. "Want the other half?"
"Don't mind if I do." Jack disappeared into the kitchen, came back in with a bottle of beer, a bottle of water and a knife.
"I get the beer, right?" Daniel quipped, putting out his hand.
"Ha. Ha." He handed Daniel the water bottle, then bent down and cut the half of the knish in half. Suspiciously, Jack eyed the pieces of visible vegetables. "Is that carrot?"
"Carrot, mushrooms, broccoli."
Jack took a tentative bite, his eyes widening as he chewed. "This isn't half bad."
"Have I ever steered you wrong?"
Jack coughed. "Remember, on PX7R365 when you told me that the green dish with the potatoes tasted like chicken?"
"Sure, it did. I tasted chicken for the next three days in the infirmary every time I vomited."
* * *
"Go to bed."
"Go. To. Bed. Which word don't you understand?"
"You're still watching the hockey game."
"Yes, I am, but that doesn't explain why you won't go to bed."
"Daniel, you've been snoring really loudly for the past ten minutes, which in the rule book of rudeness, is ruder than you leaving me watching TV so you can go haul your ass off to bed."
Daniel flipped Jack the bird and laid down on the couch, forcing his eyes to stay open and watch the action on the TV. He squinted at the screen. "Ummm… did they change uniforms mid game?"
Jack snorted. "I'm watching another game, Daniel. See what happens when you sleep. You miss all the action."
* * *
Daniel was sitting in the darkness nursing his third glass of wine, Jack's snoring, carrying all the way to where he was, made him smile. The snoring hadn't woken him, the ache from bruises and stiff muscles had. The burning when he had tried to shift positions on the couch had dragged him to groggy coherency. He yawned, holding the glass up to cover his mouth.
A flash of lightning lit up the kitchen and Daniel counted to twenty before a rumble of thunder followed on its heels. In response, Jack's snoring sputtered then came to a stop. There was grumbling, groaning and Daniel counted to twelve before Jack showed up in the kitchen.
He bypassed Daniel without a word and went to the second cabinet on the left, withdrawing Daniel's hidden stash of Double Stuffed Oreos. "Milk?" Jack asked as he reached for a glass.
"In the fridge."
"I know that, Daniel. Is the milk fresh?"
"You're in luck, yes it is."
Daniel waited until Jack sat and twisted open his first Oreo. "Don't take this the wrong way, Jack, but do you have food in your house?"
Jack licked away all the white creme before answering. "You got better stuff than I do and *way* better stuff than Carter."
"Thank you." Daniel paused. "I think."
Jack dunked a naked Oreo into the milk, pouting when the whole thing folded into itself and fell into the milk. "Damn."
"Guess you're out of practice," Daniel commiserated. He swallowed another mouthful of wine.
"Want one?" Jack offered him a cookie.
"No, they don't do well being dipped in wine." Daniel held up his glass, then finished it.
Jack shrugged. "Your loss."
* * *
The fourth glass of wine was giving him a nice buzz and was accomplishing the same thing as a muscle relaxant would. He gazed with interest at the impressive tower of creme stripped Oreos that Jack had built. "Aren't you going to eat them?"
"Eventually," Jack said.
Daniel finished the glass in his hand and reached for the wine, voicing his annoyance when Jack moved the bottle out of his reach then stuck the cork back in it. "Hey! What are you doing? I'm an adult. I'm not driving. This is my home."
"Why do you disappear every few weeks?"
Daniel bristled. "I don't disappear." He raised his glass, forgetting that he'd already finished it. "I'm always available by cell phone."
"You disappear. Don't let the door hit you on the ass type of disappear when we're on downtime every few months."
"Do you check up on Sam?"
"Actually, Carter was the first person to notice it. You don't leave with your briefcase or work, or your laptop."
"So Sam was concerned because I left the base—"
"Empty handed." Jack shrugged. "Sounds pretty stupid now that I'm here repeating it to you."
"It is pretty stupid."
"Except she had this list… a few years' worth of—"
"A list? Sam has a list?" Daniel slumped down in the chair.
"Two pages of dates. Front and back."
Daniel narrowed his eyes and glared at Jack. "Did the two of you make a stupid bet over this?"
"No... Teal'c threatened me. Told me if I—"
"Teal'c knows about this?"
"It's not a conspiracy, Daniel. Just wanted to make sure nothing's wrong." Jack dunked an Oreo in the milk. "Or that nothing's been wrong."
"See," Jack said, cupping his hand under his chin to catch the dripping milk. "That's what I told Carter. And Teal'c. You're pretty lucky, Carter wanted to come here and pry the answer out of you." Jack dunked another cookie in the milk. "But you got me instead."
"So why don't we think of something to satisfy her, otherwise, between her and Teal'c," Jack whispered, "they'll haunt you until they find out the answer."
"If you say nothing's wrong, who am I to disbelieve you? So, you're the linguist, got any good ideas we can feed Carter and Teal'c?"
"Me, have ideas? What about you?"
"I told her you were having a torrid affair with a sexy Hollywood model."
"And Sam didn't believe you?"
"No, strangely enough, she didn't."
"What about Teal'c?" Daniel took a cookie, licked out the center then added his two naked chocolate circles to Jack's pile.
"Teal'c's even less gullible. I got the eyebrow raise thing. So I went for the next best scenario, told them you were a secret agent."
"A secret agent?"
"Yeah, you know, like 007?"
"Carter laughed and then I had to watch a James Bond marathon with Teal'c so he'd understand the reference."
"And?" Daniel couldn't help but smile at this.
"He got it after like six movies, but nope, he didn't fall for it either. Then I tried the Indiana Jones scenario. Mild mannered archeologist for his day job—"
"You know what I mean. Boring—"
Jack ignored him and just kept going. "Boring. Mild mannered for your regular job. Whip cracking, boonie wearing archeological wild man during your off hours."
"Pray tell, what was their reaction to that?"
"Do you know how strange a Jaffa looks when he laughs?" Jack shuddered. "Carter threw me out of her office and told me never to come back unless I had the right answer."
"So that's why you're here?"
Jack threw up his hands. "Hell, I'm all out of ideas so I thought I'd go to the source."
"If I tell you, will you leave me alone?"
"Can I have a knish for the road?"
"No, but you can take all your half eaten Oreos with you."
"You know, you aren't as generous as people believe."
* * *
Daniel sat in silence, watching Jack work his way through the Oreos. The only noises Jack made were appreciative humming sounds. "I've been independent the majority of my life."
Jack nodded, distracted, trying to use his pointer finger to scoop out a large chunk of cookie.
"I've been on SG-1 a long time."
"Long time," Jack echoed, before drinking some milk.
"When people are together that long that can't help but rely on each other. They become like—" Daniel faltered.
"Family," Jack said. "I think the word you're looking for is family."
"Right. Family. And family members are dependent on one another. And I'm not used to dependency." He sat back with a satisfied sigh. "So you think Sam and Teal'c will buy that?"
"Buy what? What the hell did you say?"
"What do you mean, what did I say?"
"What did you say? You mentioned family and independence. And dependence, but I can't go back with that. Carter will crucify me and she'll be at your door with Teal'c in tow the minute I finish talking." Jack snorted. "That's almost as good as my Indiana Jones scenario."
"I said that I've been independent my whole life except for now. *Now* I'm dependent on my family. On you. Sam. Teal'c. And that scares me. Last time I was dependent on someone, they died. So every few months—"
"Weeks, according to Carter's list."
"Weeks. I just need to be independent for a little while. Regain my autonomy. My independence."
"Drink a bottle of wine? Eat some pastrami."
"Read a book. See a movie. Remember what it's like to be alone, yet not lonely."
Jack sat back and crossed his arms. "So this is, what, like a defense mechanism?"
"Survival mechanism. I guess you could tell Sam and Teal'c I'm reconnecting with my roots."
Jack shrugged, then waved his finger at Daniel. "You know, *this* idea might work."
"Ya think? Really, I liked the Indiana Jones angle. Pity no one else could picture me as a maniacal, whip cracking archaeologist."
"Hammond would have gone that route, but I don't think he could picture you with—"
"Please," Daniel begged. "Please tell me you're kidding."
"Kidding." Jack downed the rest of his milk, then grabbed Daniel's wine glass and his empty milk glass. "Honest, Daniel. I'm kidding. Hammond was not privy to the Indiana Jones theme." He brought both empties to the sink, rinsed them, loading them into the dishwasher. "Rain stopped."
Daniel cocked his head, listening. "Yeah. Rain stopped."
"Guess I'm gonna be going."
"It's late, you can—"
"Thanks for the offer, but my bed's calling my name."
"Are you sure?"
"Positive. Thanks for the food and the hockey games." Jack patted the pockets, checking for his keys. "Barbeque at my house tomorrow, Teal'c, Carter, you—my treat considering I made a dent in your fridge."
"Don't think so."
"Have to make my story believable. Doesn't work if we do a team dinner, Sam and Teal'c will think you made it up."
Jack smiled. "Can't have that."
"No. Not that."
"You'll be okay for the next few days."
"I'll be fine." Daniel smiled at Jack's raised eyebrows. "Referring to mental state. Not physical state. I still have a few bruises to contend with."
"If we need you we can always call you on your cell?"
"I always answer."
" 'Cause Teal'c or Carter may just want to check—"
"They can check away. My bruises and I will be sitting here with a bottle of good wine, pastrami, cole claw, pickles and a knish."
"You won't starve."
"No. And I won't be lonely either. Hold on." Daniel went into the kitchen, took out a knish, a pickle and the last sleeve of Oreos. "Here." He handed Jack the doggy bag.
Jack opened the bag and peeked inside. "Nice. Thanks. No pastrami?"
"No, saving that for next down time."
Jack wrinkled his nose. "It'll keep?"
"New pastrami. Fresh rye bread. Mustard. Potato pancakes. My treat. I'll introduce you to Benny. He'll get a kick out of Teal'c. He'll love Sam."
"His wife will adore you. She's always after me to meet my family."
Jack opened his mouth. Shut it, then smiled broadly. "Not so hard to say the word, huh?"
"Not at all, though that could be due to the four glasses of wine and muscle relaxant."
"Enjoy the rest of your down time, Daniel." Jack opened the door. "I didn't mean to interrupt."
"You didn't." Daniel thought about being disrupted in the bath. Dinner. Enjoying another glass of wine. "Okay, you did interrupt, but you were watching my six."
"I understand, you know. This need to—"
Daniel leaned on the door. "I know you do."
"Carter and Teal'c, they'll understand, too."
"Jack? Why is it... I'm sensing a but…"
"I think Fraiser will be a bit disappointed. You should have seen how her eyes lit up when I mentioned you and a whip in one sentence."
"I thought you said you were kidding about that."
Jack whistled innocently.
"Goodnight, Jack," Daniel said, walking the door closed, getting it three quarters of the way when a familiar shoe stopped the motion. "Yes?" Daniel opened the door to Jack's smiling face.
"Just so I can tell Carter and Teal'c. Next time you decide to do—" Jack's hand skimmed the air. "Decide to be independent, can we have advance warning? We can work out a code or something. Sorta like we have for when Carter's PMSing."
"It's a deal. Next time I decide to do something independently, you guys will be the first to know."
"I bet you say that to all your families."
"No," Daniel said softly. "Only the one that watches my six, even if it's not right in front of them."
Jack paused. "I need to say something profound."
"Try 'goodnight, Daniel'." He yawned for emphasis. "That's profound enough for me at that the moment."
"Goodnight, Daniel." Jack got as far as the elevator. "Are you sure you can't share some of that pastrami?"
"Not this time, Jack."
"Just checking." Jack winked at Daniel. "Just going to take my knish and pickle and head on home."
"Thank you, Jack," Daniel whispered, suddenly realizing most of his neighbors were probably still sleeping.
* * *
Daniel shifted uncomfortably. He'd thought he'd been tired enough to fool his back into just going to sleep, but the second he was horizontal, what had started out as slight twinges as he had gotten ready for bed had become painful the second his head hit the pillow.
He growled in frustration when the phone rang. "What?"
"Nice way to answer the phone. Was this before or *after* you checked your caller ID."
"I'm not wearing my glasses, Jack, I had no idea who the heck was calling me."
"So you're always this rude to people?"
"Yes, if they call me—at ungodly hours." Daniel put his hand down on the mattress and tried to shift to the side. "Why are you calling me? Everything okay? You just—"
"You drank too much wine to take another pill."
"That's what you're calling me about?" How the hell did Jack know he'd had two more glasses after he'd left?
"No, I'm calling to tell you—okay, I guess that's why I'm calling."
"Thank you, Jack."
"Try a cold compress."
"As soon as I hang up the phone, I will."
"In that case, goodnight, Daniel."
Daniel held the receiver to his chest even after Jack hung up, thinking that as much as he was fiercely protectively of his independence, sometimes family that cared actually meant more to him than anything else.
|Genres:||Character Study, Friendship|
|Summary:||Daniel disappears from time to time and Jack wants to know why|