J/D pre-relationship | G | 970 words | Post-Gamekeeper
Summary: A moment in time.
Daniel stood in front of his locker, his nerves still frayed after watching his foster parents die over and over again. He held a pair of socks in hand, but his gaze was unfocused. Noises passed around him without notice, including Sam and Teal’c talking to him before they let him be.
Daniel finally heard his name. Jack’s voice. It sounded edgy, as if he’d spoken it a few times. He blinked several times and looked to his right. Jack was sitting on the bench, tying his Nikes. He turned his head slightly to see Daniel’s attention was finally on him.
“There you are. Where’ve you been?” he asked.
Daniel looked away and sat down to put on his socks. “New York. Metropolitan Museum of Art.” What that goddamn gamekeeper hadn’t shown was all the blood, but it was now clear in Daniel’s mind as if he’d lived it over again. In a sense, he had. And it wasn’t right. He was angry at having his long-dormant grief refreshed. And when he grew angry over something long dead and gone, he went quiet. Nothing to do about it. No use tilting at windmills. He briefly wondered about the origin of that phrase.
He looked at Jack and found him studying his shoelaces. Something occurred to him. “You too? Reliving grief, I mean.”
Jack made a face as he got to his feet. “Pretty much. I didn’t want to let that caretaker live, you know. If you can call that being alive. But I let it go.”
“Mind if I ask why?” Daniel asked, pulling on his own sneakers. Old ones. Converse.
“Charlie.” A long silence.
“I’d’ve lost it if he’d chosen that bad memory.”
“I would’ve too.” He happened to see Jack’s expression peripherally. “I mean, if it had been me,” he expanded. Then in a low voice, he said, “And it was.”
Jack picked up his summer jacket but didn’t leave. Instead, he leaned a shoulder against his now-closed locker. “How old were you?”
“Eight.” Daniel looked over in time to see Jack make another face. He swallowed hard. And it had nothing to do with his grief. Not the grief of losing his parents anyway. Jack was talking to him. It had been over a year since Abydos and returning to the SGC and ever since then, Jack had kept him at arms’ length. He hadn’t asked why because he didn’t want to hear the answer. It would sound like a relationship question, which in a sense it was.
“Why don’t you come over. We can watch something on TV while we play a game of chess. Been a while since the last one.”
Jack sounded so nonchalant. As if it was no big deal to ignore a teammate off duty. Maybe it was.
“Sure,” Daniel said automatically because he had a hard time saying no to the aggravating man. When he was finished, he grabbed his own jacket and closed the locker. When they exited the locker room, he said, “Wanna pick something up on the way home?”
Jack made a little hungry groan. “Chinese American or Italian-American?”
“Chinese,” Daniel said instantly, suddenly craving chow mein. “Pizza next time.” If there would ever be a next time. He didn’t look at Jack as they got into the elevator and pressed the button for sublevel 1. Nor did they look at each other as they got topside and headed for their cars. All the while, Daniel expected Jack to say, “Never mind,” and he too was feeling the urge to back out.
“Let’s take my truck,” Jack said as they reached their cars, parked next to each other.
Daniel finally looked at him, frowning. “What for?”
“Because I’m having alcohol and I’m insisting you have some too. So, no driving after you come over. Agreed?”
Daniel blinked again, several times. “You want me to stay on the couch instead of in my own bed? ‘Cause I could call a cab.”
“Why not? My couch is comfortable to sleep on, if quite a bit narrow.”
Daniel didn’t know what to think, so he stopped thinking. Overthinking. Jack was reaching out. The least he could do was not to be a wussy about it. The right side of his mouth stretched to half a smile. “Okay.”
“Yeah?” Jack asked, surprised. “Cool.” They got into Jack’s truck.
On the way out of the mountain, Daniel said, “Thanks. I, uh, I mean, um . . . just . . . it’s been a while. I sort of started to think you didn’t like me anymore. I mean, as friends. Of course, as friends. I didn’t mean to make that sound—”
“Daniel, stop,” Jack interrupted. “You’re welcome. And I know. And I get it. And yeah, it’s been strained. My fault, I think. I don’t wanna get into it, so let’s leave it be and move on. Deal?”
Daniel blinked several times again. “Deal. And thanks.”
Again, Daniel blinked.
“You do that a lot when you’re nervous.”
“Bat your eyelashes.”
Daniel’s mouth fell open. “I do not bat my eyelashes.”
“Oh, okay,” Jack said disbelievingly. “You blink a lot. In succession. What would you call it?”
“Or flirting,” Jack said under his breath.
Daniel’s mouth fell open again. This time, he was speechless. Then he shut his mouth and stared out the window. After a while, he said, mostly under his breath, “It’s not on purpose.” But much louder added, “I’ll watch for it, okay?”
“I didn’t say it bothered me. But okay.”
Daniel watched Jack’s mouth twitch into that slow smirk that was annoyingly sexy. He made a face at his own reaction. But didn’t say another word.