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Category: Missing scene; angst
Season/spoilers: Season 4 - Scorched Earth
Warnings: Gratuitous nudity
Summary: Daniel is anticipating Jack's reaction
Author's Notes: I originally wrote this in the first person, but my wonderful beta readers (smiles sweetly at Jb) suggested third person allowed more scope for… err… descriptive narrative. And as I have had a totally horrible day at work and needed a little distraction, I changed it. Let me know what you think. Other than that - this is my Easter gift to you all - have a great weekend<g>.
Daniel was on edge. And if there was one thing Daniel really hated it was this kind of nervousness - it was far too reminiscent of waiting outside the principle's office. Not that he'd ever done that, but he could imagine. Damnit - if Jack was going to have a go at him, he wished he'd just get it over with. All the covert looks were driving him crazy. He'd never figured Jack was the kind to indulge in psychological torture, but he was fast changing his opinion. From the past few hours it seemed that Jack was, in fact, quite a Svengali.
It had been bad enough during the debriefing although, at first, Jack hadn't looked at him at all. No, the first part of Jack's plan had apparently been to make Daniel wonder if he hadn't somehow become invisible. The colonel has sat stiff-backed in his seat - like that wasn't enough to make Daniel uneasy in itself - and reeled off his version of events in terse sentences heavily laced with sarcastic asides. 'Of course, Danny-boy ended up quite the hero.' Daniel winced at the memory. Ouch! Thanks Jack. A verbal stiletto blade straight to the gut. Jack hadn't even glanced his way as he'd delivered it.
No, the looks came later. Surreptitious glances as Sam described how she turned the naquadah reactor into a bomb. Covert scrutiny when Teal'c related the conversation about following orders. A cold stare while Daniel was reliving the moments Lotan transported the bomb onto the ship, seconds before it detonated.
Daniel swore silently. Why wasn't Jack just coming out with what was on his mind? He'd pissed the colonel off royally in the past but he'd never gotten the silent treatment before. So why now? An unwelcome thought sneaked into his mind. Perhaps this time he'd finally gone too far? What if Jack was so incoherent with rage he couldn't actually bring himself to speak, or didn't trust his actions if he started?
The thought made Daniel's hand shake as he fumbled with the fastenings on his clothes. He was in the locker room - with Jack - the official debriefing over, one of an entirely different nature about to begin. Perhaps if he concentrated on the thought that any minute now he was going to wash the stench of sulphur out of his hair it would help?
Nope - that wasn't going to work. Every nerve ending was geared towards sensing Jack's presence. Not that Daniel didn't know he was there - Jack had virtually followed him into the room. The problem was he'd walked in, looked at Daniel with cold, expressionless eyes, and moved straight to his locker without a word. No greeting. No real acknowledgement of Daniel's presence. And now, while Daniel was aware he was making plenty of noise - the rustle of stiff SGC khaki as a he stripped off his jacket, the snick-snack of his fly as he unzipped his pants - there was nothing but silence from Jack. Heavy, thick silence. Like he was just standing there. Motionless.
Daniel wondered why he didn't just challenge Jack now. All he had to do was turn his head, open his mouth and say 'Hey Jack, what's your problem?' Yet instead, he stepped out of his pants and kicked them under the bench hoping to provoke some comment.
Nope, nothing. Feeling somewhat foolish, he caught hold of the hem of his tee-shirt, revealing well-toned muscles and smooth, lightly tanned skin as he pulled it over his head. Static sizzled and snapped.
Great! Now he could sense Jack's eyes burning into his naked back like two hot rods of barely restrained anger. The weight of the silence seemed to drag on his shoulders as the atmosphere grew ever more oppressive. He really didn't think he could take much more of this. It was as though a stranger had come back through the gate in Jack's place. So why didn't he…?
Right. Yes, he would.
He spun round and caught Jack looking at him just as he'd suspected. He opened his mouth, ready to speak even though his brain hadn't finished formulating whatever challenge it was he was going to throw out. Their eyes met, a sentence formed into coherency. He was going to get this sorted, right here, right now.
Shit! The locker room door opened and McDonald from SG-6 sauntered in. Jack instantly turned away from Daniel and started to undress, leaving his team-mate gaping like a fish. Daniel could hardly believe what he was seeing. Oh right. Nice charade, Jack. Stand and stare at me for God knows how long and then act like everything's normal.
"Colonel O'Neill. Doctor Jackson." McDonald's casual greeting floated into the air.
In response, Jack growled something incomprehensible, while Daniel offered up a quick nod of acknowledgement. McDonald's eyes flickered from Daniel to Jack and back again. Oh no - Daniel could see the man's brain was clearly working overtime, catching the tension, deciphering the mood. Not that good a charade after all, huh, Jack?
McDonald turned away, but not before Daniel caught sight of the smirk playing over his face. Great! He knew what that look meant. While Jack might be forever teasing him about having his head in a dusty book ninety percent of the time, Daniel was still aware enough to hear the rumours that floated the halls of the SGC. Hell, sometimes people even came right out and asked him stuff - well, about Jack and Sam, anyway. Or, if they were feeling particularly brave, about him and Sam. No one had actually asked him to his face if he was doing it with Jack, but he knew they speculated. Worse, Daniel knew McDonald was one of those who liked nothing better than stirring the pot.
Oh God! He caught Jack stealing another look at him. McDonald obviously saw it too from the way his smirk was now virtually ear to ear. What the hell was Jack playing at? It occurred to Daniel that while being hit by an angry Jack O'Neill rated pretty high on his list of things to avoid, right now he'd trade being knocked out by a right hook to this bizarre behaviour. Everything he'd ever learnt about handling Jack O'Neill had gone flying out the window. There was only one option left.
Towel. Soap. Shampoo. Make an escape run. The door of Daniel's locker slammed unnecessarily loud, and then he was moving. Four strides to the archway between the communal area and the showers. Three strides to the nearest cubicle. One stride in. Safety.
A powerful jet of ice-cold water exploded from the showerhead making him gasp with shock and dive for cover in the far corner of the cubicle. Stupid, Jackson! Real, stupid. He fumbled with the temperature control with his right hand, held his left under the flow and silently cursed the maintenance department. So much for their reassurance that the shower problems would be fixed while SG-1 was off-world helping the Enkarans. Daniel gritted his teeth and forced himself to be patient as his fingers turned an interesting shade of blue and he began to lose all sense of feeling in his toes. Just when frostbite was beginning to be a serious concern, he felt the first vestige of heat begin to filter through. As the temperature slowly crawled from tepid to warm to gloriously hot, Daniel blew out a relieved breath and immersed his shivering body under the powerful jet of water.
God, that felt good. He hadn't realised just how tense he'd become waiting for Jack to let loose his temper. The pounding water drilled into the stiff muscles of his neck and back as he rolled his head and shoulders, leisurely stretching each sinew. The warm water slowly massaged away the cold as it followed the curves and dips of his broad shoulders, pooling in glistening droplets in the hollows of his collarbone.
With a sigh that was probably more reminiscent of ecstasy than Daniel might have cared for had he known it was audible beyond the cubicle, he decided it was time to help the return of warmth to his body with more proactive behaviour. A generous portion of shower gel curled like golden syrup into the palm of his hand, filling the air with the clean scent of citrus and a rich undertone of rosemary. Without even thinking, Daniel began to trace a well-rehearsed path across his body, the heel of his hand massaging tired muscles as the gel spread its golden glow across his skin. Shoulders first, then firm strokes downwards from upper arms to forearms. A brief loss of contact as one hand jerked upward before sweeping leisurely across his chest from right to left, his skin smooth and soft to the touch, the small buds of nipples and the gentle arc of pectoral muscles creating contrasting contours. The gliding action reversed as he reached his waist and his hand danced in small circles from left to right across the taut muscles of his abdomen, a fine line of golden body hair catching tiny dew drops of scented, rainbow-filled soap bubbles. Then ever downwards to hips and buttocks…
The familiar routine calmed Daniel's strung-out nerves, but as he rinsed the gel from his glowing skin and started to work up a rich lather of shampoo, he heard the shower in the next cubicle burst into life.
Jack. He sighed as his problems came rushing back. Sooner or later he was going to be on the receiving end of a spectacular Jack O'Neill tongue lashing. At least, bizarre as it now seemed, he hoped he was. Anything had to be better than this silent reproach. It was like sitting on the rim of volcano, knowing it could erupt any time, but not knowing when. Jack's voice sounded in his head - memories of other times Daniel had been taken to task.
'You follow orders, Daniel, you don't interpret them.'
'For a bright guy you sure have a lot of trouble with simple concepts - like chain of command!'
'Excuse me, Doctor Jackson, but wasn't I the one with colonel on my uniform when we stepped through the gate?'
His thoughts make him flinch inwardly. Daniel couldn't really blame Jack for some of the things said in the past. The military mindset sometimes seemed as alien to him as those of the cultures SG-1 came across. And Daniel had to admit, if he didn't see a reason to do something, he didn't take kindly to being told it was his duty and he should damn well just get on with it, and no, he shouldn't ask questions. Sam's face floated into his mind, her expression troubled as she described making the naquadah bomb to General Hammond.
'Colonel O'Neill ordered me to do it, Sir.'
Daniel had seen Jack wince at the accusation in her voice. From the way Sam had shot out of the briefing room like a bat out of hell, Daniel was pretty sure she was avoiding Jack. Come to think of it, Sam hadn't looked him in the eyes since they'd returned either. And when she had looked in his direction, she'd worn an expression that was… guilty? God, did she think he blamed her for doing her job? Good question. Did he…
Arrggghh! A pained yelp escaped his lips; the shower water had suddenly plummeted to a temperature Daniel was convinced was way below freezing.
Hands slippery with shampoo, he wrestled with the temperature control, swearing colourfully as icy needles stabbed his skin, raising gooseflesh while other parts of his anatomy engaged in a dramatic shrinking exercise. Ouch. Ouch. Damn it! Desperate to escape he wedged himself back into the corner, trying to keep as much of his bare flesh out of the glacial torrent as possible. Shit! The control was totally jammed. With one last colourful exclamation, he ducked his head, kicked open the cubicle door and burst through the deluge, gasping as the cold exploded over his skin and drove the air from his lungs.
"Owww! Shit!" He doubled-over, gasping for breath and convinced he was one step away from being a popsicle.
Uh-oh. He suddenly realised there was an extra pair of feet in his circle of vision. Cautiously he straightened up, his arms wrapped protectively around his shivering body.
Daniel shot the colonel an embarrassed look as he took in the fact Jack was wearing a towel around his hips, clearly on his way to the shower rather than being in the cubicle next door.
"Daniel." Jack's voice held that long-suffering tone which usually indicated he was seriously debating whether Daniel's mental age reached double figures.
Before Daniel could comment further the soap suds in his hair finally succeeded in completing their slide down his forehead. Screwing up his eyes in a vain attempt to lessen the painful stinging, Daniel swiped one hand across his face, and fumbled blindly in the direction of the cubicle. The sensation of soft cotton against the back of his hand was his clue that Jack had come to his rescue and snagged his towel off the top of the cubicle door.
"Thanks." Daniel pressed the towel to his face for a long moment before cautiously opening his eyes and blinking rapidly. When he finally decided the pain was bearable, he quickly towelled his hair before the rest of the shampoo could wreak havoc.
Seconds later, the other cubicle door opened and McDonald walked out. Hurriedly wrapping his towel around his hips Daniel shot him a sour look. Judging from the warm glow of McDonald's skin the man obviously hadn't suffered the near-fatal temperature fluctuations Daniel had just been tortured with. Too late, Daniel realised his actions were the wrong thing to do. From the way McDonald's smirk bounced back onto his face the marine had without doubt taken the look to be displeasure at being interrupted, and as for the hasty cover up… Damn - McDonald was probably really looking forward to telling the rest of the SGC Daniel was parading around stark naked for Jack's benefit.
"My shower went cold," Daniel aimed the words at Jack, but his voice was deliberately loud for McDonald's benefit. "And then I couldn't get it to shut off."
Jack nodded distractedly. "I kind of figured that, Daniel. You'd better let maintenance know."
To Daniel's surprise, Jack turned away. What?! No 'are you okay?'. No sarcastic comment about his inability to shower without winding up in the infirmary suffering from hypothermia? In fact, no interaction beyond what was absolutely necessary? For a long moment Daniel stared after him. And then something snapped.
"Jack!" Daniel stormed after Jack, catching his arm and forcing him to meet his gaze. "I know you're mad as hell at me but all this…"
Daniel stopped, painfully aware that McDonald was staring at them. The marine had his mouth wide open, one leg in his pants, and an expression on his face that said he'd just died and gone to heaven.
"Don't you have somewhere else to go?" Daniel snarled.
McDonald came to with a flush of embarrassment, finished tugging on his pants and quickly pulled a sweatshirt over his head. The rest of his belongings were crammed hurriedly into his holdall and he all but fell over trying to stuff his feet into his shoes before rushing for the door. Daniel groaned inwardly at the thought of the rumours that were about to start spreading, but quickly decided he had more important things to worry out. Like the fact he still had his hand on Jack O'Neill's arm and was being stared at as though he was totally nuts.
He let go of Jack as though scalded. "As I was saying…"
"Daniel, I'm not mad at you."
Daniel frowned. "What?"
Jack held his gaze, his voice unbelievably calm as he repeated himself. "I'm not mad at you."
"You're not?" Daniel sounded uncertain.
Jack shook his head, looking somewhat bemused.
"Oh." Daniel stared at him, feeling more than a bit foolish. "So…" he began, trying to make sense of the past few hours and failing totally. "So why have you been looking at me the way you have been?"
"Looking at you?"
"Yes!" Daniel couldn't believe Jack was going to try and deny. "Dark looks in the briefing room. Glaring at my back while I was changing."
Jack coloured slightly and peered down at the floor. "Ahhh… those looks."
"Yes, Jack. Those looks." Despite himself, Daniel looked down to see what was so fascinating. Apparently nothing but twenty bare toes, ten of them - not his - wriggling to some silent tune. "Jack?"
Daniel was shocked by the indescribable emotion on Jack's face as the older man looked up. Suddenly he wished he hadn't asked. Jack was obviously struggling with something intensely personal, and Daniel felt he'd just blundered in wearing size nine boots and wielding a mallet.
Jack's expression abruptly morphed to one Daniel did recognise - embarrassment. At least he thought he recognised it, not exactly being familiar with it on this particular face. Jack O'Neill was embarrassed?
Daniel's surprise was curtailed by Jack pulling in a deep breath and launching a staccato volley of words.
"I wasn't glaring at you. I guess…I guess I was just checking you're really alive."
The surprise was back. "Checking I'm really…. what?"
Now Jack has started talking, it seemed he couldn't stop. "God, Daniel. I triggered that bomb. And then I had to stand there, knowing you were on that ship while Carter was counting down… three, two, one… I thought… I'd killed you." His eyes held Daniel's, an unnatural brightness enhancing their rich chocolate warmth. "And then… boom! There's this huge fire-cracker exploding in the sky and hey - here's Daniel. Hero of the Enkarans. Alive and well." He shook his head. "I'm getting too old for this, Daniel. You can't keep pulling these Lazarus acts on me. I'm not sure my nerves can take it any more."
"Jack, I'm sorry."
Realisation of just what he'd put Jack through hit home. Daniel shivered as memory of another mission flooded back. 'Just give the order, Daniel'. The soul-chilling numbness of believing Jack was dying on a submarine he'd somehow become responsible for destroying was suddenly as fresh as the day it happened.
Almost instantly came the second memory - the total shock of discovering Jack had survived, that somehow, some miracle had taken place. Oh yes, Daniel knew how easy it was to believe someone you cared for was dead, and how difficult it was to trust they were still alive even when you can see them, touch them.
Oh God. Jack had been in shock just like he'd been right after Thor had whisked Jack and Teal'c to safety. Daniel shook his head, suddenly able to imagine only to clearly how Jack had thought himself responsible for his death only to find out moments later that, not only was Daniel alive and well, he was rushing about on an adrenaline high organising the Enkarans' return to their home world.
"I'm so sorry," Daniel repeated.
"Don't be." Jack gave a crooked smile. "You did what I asked. Found a different option." He ran a hand through his hair and the smile turned rueful. "What's a few more grey hairs compared to two civilisations re-established and happy, huh?" Cautiously he reached out and tapped Daniel on the forearm, his expression questioning. "Feels real."
Daniel shot him a quick smile. "It is real. I'm real, Jack"
There was no disguising the flicker of relief that lit up Jack's eyes as he nodded. Then suddenly he was the Jack O'Neill Daniel knew again. He glanced over Daniel's shoulder in the direction of the showers. "So… given that you've broken the showers guess I'll have to wait until I get home to get clean."
"Hey, they were already broken and at least you haven't got shampoo in your hair," Daniel retorted as he ran his fingers through the sticky mess. "You could always try the one McDonald was using."
Jack pulled a face. "I think I'll pass." His gaze moved to Daniel's hair. "You might want to consider risking it, though. Unless of course the hedgehog look is in."
Behind Jack's back, Daniel could see his reflection in the locker-room mirror. Sure enough his hair was sticking up in hard shampoo-glued spikes.
Jack turned towards his locker. "Of course you could always dye it blue. Change your name to Sonic. Could go down well next time we visit the Nox."
"Very funny," Daniel replied sourly.
He headed back to the shower and hurriedly rinsed the shampoo out of his hair, relieved to find the water was now the perfect temperature. When he returned to the lockers, Jack was already dressed and tossing the last of his stuff into his holdall.
"So…" Jack glanced at Daniel. "My office, 8am sharp."
"What?" Daniel was peering into his locker, wondering where his clean tee-shirt had gone.
"My office, 8am sharp," Jack repeated slowly, smoothing down a shirt that looked ever so slightly too small for him.
"We have a meeting?" Daniel wrinkled his forehead trying to remember what day of the week it was.
Jack nodded as he zipped up his holdall and closed his locker. He covered the short distance to the door in two athletic strides. "I've scheduled a seminar, just for the two of us, called Orders: Interpretation Versus Compliance. Snazzy title, huh?" He shot Daniel a look of clear malicious delight as he opened the doorway and stepped into the corridor. "And Daniel… don't be late."
"Jack…" He was gone before Daniel could even start his protest. Defeated, Daniel sank onto the nearest bench. So much for thinking he'd escaped the tongue-lashing, and now he had all night to contemplate it. Jack O'Neill really could be a regular Svengali when he set his mind to it.
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