Series: Got Hit By The Cluebus And Kept On Trekkin', part 2
Fandom: Stargate SG-1
Characters: Daniel Jackson, Jack O'Neill, OMC
Pairings: Jack/Daniel pre-slash
Category: some angst, humor
Summary: Jack is mistaken. And patronizing. And a horrible flirt. Daniel can take care of himself, obviously!
A/N: There may eventually be other parts following this story, but if I do my job right, you can stop at the end of each part. No cliffhangers. :)
Part 1: The Dinner
Got Hit By The Cluebus And Kept On Trekkin'
PART 2: The Xenobotanist, wherein Jack has a rival and Daniel still doesn't get it
The next morning found Daniel late for a briefing.
This did not happen as often as Jack and the others liked to wax on about, but nevertheless, a stopped alarm clock was no excuse in front of the general, nor would it make a good impression on the expert on xenoflora whom they were consulting with today. Daniel knew he would be receiving frequent White Rabbit references from his teammates for the foreseeable future.
Luckily, he had no materials he needed to bring. So, notepad in hand and a pen over his ear, he slipped into the dimmed briefing room with a minimum of fuss.
Murmuring an apology to Hammond and to the dark-haired, scholarly looking man at the front of the room, Daniel slid into a seat next to Jack. "What'd I miss?" he whispered.
"Only the obvious," was the unexpected reply. In the flickering light of the slideshow being shown, Jack's face looked exasperated.
Jack waved dismissively, now looking like his usual self. "He was just reviewing what Major Stevens told us."
"Okay, good." Daniel settled himself and tried to concentrate. The xenobotanist, Dr. D'Aubigne, if he remembered correctly, was looking his way, no doubt miffed at Daniel's tardiness and the subsequent whispering. He was here by special request from a different team.
Daniel smiled in the most friendly way he knew how and sent along a placatory half-wave. He certainly didn't want to get off on the wrong foot with a man he would be rubbing shoulders with all day.
Dr. D'Aubigne kept his eyes on Daniel's corner for a long moment more before moving on.
Letting out a breath inwardly, Daniel sneaked a look at Jack to share his relief -- only to find Jack staring fixedly at the front of the room. Daniel tuned in hastily to the doctor's lecture, trying to find any mention of giant space guns or pop culture references, the only things that were known to hold Jack O'Neill rapt during a briefing.
But there was nothing. Just a description of the species and distribution and possible uses of the crop plants around the village that SG-5 had found on P57-TS3, further comparison between the wild flora of the region and a guess at the cultivation of such... Pretty standard stuff.
The only really striking thing, now that Daniel thought about it, was the xenobotanist himself.
He looked to be in his early forties, young for his level of experience. (The CV Daniel had glanced through yesterday placed him in some pretty distinguished institutions.) Jet black hair framed a tanned face with high cheek bones and a small but expressive mouth. He shone with confidence and -- looking Daniel's way again -- Daniel could see that his dark eyes were unusually intense.
Oh god. He had been missing the obvious.
Jack was totally checking out the doctor.
Daniel froze in a sudden panic of realization. Yesterday had been all well and good, a declaration between friends, good food and fuzzy feelings all around. At the time, Daniel hadn't even thought about a very salient point:
Jack worked in a military base. And he was attracted to men.
What if someone found out? What if Jack, in his oh-so-blase manner, tried to pick someone up? Now that Daniel thought back on it, he wasn't sure that Jack had never flirted with anyone male. There was that sweet-faced guy in engineering on level 21, and the grungy blacksmith on P2R-987, and...
But Jack would never do anything to disgrace his uniform. He bent the rules, sure, but he was proud of what he had worked for and almost pig-headedly supportive of his country and his men. Right?
Right. Daniel was being an idiot. Jack had been in the Air Force for twenty years. Of course he knew how to take care of himself. Daniel rolled his eyes. As if Jack needed Daniel to protect him. Just the thought was ridiculous. Daniel ran his hands through his hair, trying to calm himself.
There were a couple of bouncing pings followed by a plop, and Daniel groaned quietly, realizing he had dislodged his forgotten pen from over his ear.
Jack looked away from the xenobotanist for a moment to throw him a questioning look. Daniel waved him away, his prior musings making him feel awkward enough without having to look Jack in the eye.
He pushed back his chair and got down on his hands and knees. He had to squint and feel around, finally spotting a glint of black plastic behind Jack's foot.
"Hey," he whispered, "Could you...?" tapping the inside of Jack's ankle to illustrate.
He heard an intake of breath, and Jack drew his leg aside so quickly that he almost kneed Daniel in the nose. "Hey!" he said, indignant -- and perhaps a little too loud. He heard the xenobotanist falter in his description of the Athyrium something-or-other.
Daniel snatched up his wayward Bic and reattained his seat. "Ah, sorry, Dr. D'Aubigne," he apologized, face burning. "Please continue."
He turned to Jack, intending to vent his discomfort in a glare at his friend. But Jack was already staring at him, with an uncharacteristically wide-eyed expression.
"What?" Daniel hissed.
Jack's eyebrows ticked upwards. He glanced down between his open legs where the pen had been, then back at Daniel. His face was carefully schooled, but the corners of his eyes were laughing.
Jack was obviously taking entirely too much glee at Daniel's making a fool of himself this morning.
Part of Daniel was irritated at Jack. The bit of him that continued to worry for his friend, however, relaxed at the fact that Jack was no longer watching the doctor so obviously. "Oh, don't rub it in," he mock-grumbled.
For some reason, Jack made a choking noise.
Daniel wiped the sweat from his neck and looked up at the inflected voice. "Dr. D'Aubigne, how are those specimens looking?"
He frowned when he received no immediate reply. "Dr. D'Aubigne?" The xenobotanist was staring at him. Daniel hoped he wasn't still offended by the interruption to his presentation this morning. Some scientists didn't take well to even minor affronts.
"Ah, sorry!" The dark-haired researcher dropped his gaze down to his clipboard, looking abashed. Daniel quickly revised his opinion, from over-stuffed elitist, to socially awkward academic. "I just-- I have never met an American who pronounced my name accurately before."
Daniel fidgeted, always shy at having his skills pointed out so baldly. He'd grown used to touting himself because that was the only way to get anywhere in the community, but he'd never quite gotten over the expectation of being teased for it.
"My father spoke fluent French, and he taught me when I was little. I'm glad I've kept the accent."
"Oh, yes. Perfectly."
Daniel blinked, trying not to be distracted by the slight roll in the xenobotanist's accent. It was almost like a purr. Had he been talking this way during the briefing? No wonder Jack was all over him. "Um, well. About the corn-like plant that your team found last time... I'd like to get an idea of the growth and planting cycle."
"Of course. Let me show you." He directed Daniel with a light touch between the shoulderblades. Just like Jack sometimes did, it occurred to Daniel. He'd always thought it was a military escort thing, but maybe it was more of an older gentleman thing.
"Your Colonel O'Neill..." the xenobotanist commented, "He has been watching me. He is being protective?"
Daniel stiffened. Had Jack been that obvious? Aloud, he rushed to assure Dr. D'Aubigne, "Oh, no! Don't worry about him. He's always like that. It's nothing about you, personally. You know those military types. They're always looking after the civilians."
As he followed Dr. D'Aubigne, he saw Jack taking up his guard position, settling on a crate with his weapon cradled in one arm. His eyes were practically burning holes in the back of the xenobotanist's head. Daniel scowled at the ground.
What the hell was wrong with Jack? Just because he'd told Daniel he was gay -- or bi? whatever -- didn't mean that he could go panting after the first good-looking stranger that came along, willy nilly. Daniel wouldn't be around to cover for him all the time.
"Interesting. This cistern has an African design, but all the carvings that I've found have Latin roots."
"That is strange." Rene, who had turned out to be supremely friendly in addition to being a highly regarded, ground-breaking scientist, stepped over the remains of the irrigation well and stooped close with his magnifying glass. "I see. Some of the words have not changed at all. This looks like a label, perhaps. And this might be a name." He pointed.
Daniel chuckled. "Yes, exactly. I keep forgetting that you read Latin."
"I spoke Latin for a while," cut in a familiar voice. "Actually, it was Ancient, which is apparently Latin-based. Isn't that right, Daniel?"
Daniel grit his teeth. "Yes, Jack, that's correct. In fact, could you come over to the stile with me and tell me a bit more about that?"
Jack looked askance at him but complied, first pausing to give Rene a warning not to wander.
"Jack," Daniel hissed, as soon as they were out of earshot. "You have to stop that."
"You know what. That's got to be the fifth time you've butted in to our conversation for no reason at all."
Jack crossed his arms and canted his head. "What can I say? Ancient greenhouses are just so fascinating."
"Oh, for-- Jack, I realize that civilians aren't subject to the military regulations, but you are."
Jack's smug look cracked for the first time all day. "What are you talking about?"
"You can quit the innocent act. Really. Bringing us drinks? Going on about your infested hyacinth bushes? Giving unnecessary 'safety tips' to show off how tough you are? I'm not stupid, Jack. I know flirting when I see it."
Jack made a derisive noise and muttered something under his breath that sounded insultingly like, "You wanna bet?"
"Give me some credit. I figured out what you were doing at least half an hour ago."
"Half an hour ago, you say? How... observant of you." Jack looked... was it pleased?
Daniel lowered his voice to a bare hiss. "Jack, this is not a joke. There are a lot of people who want to get rid of you, and playing the 'gay' card would be a perfect, by-the-book excuse to get you dishonorably discharged and thrown out of the SGC. You just can't make yourself vulnerable like this while on duty."
Jack was bringing his full concentration to bear on Daniel. Daniel could feel it. He wished Jack would take off those damned sunglasses so he could read his eyes. "What you're saying is, it would be all right if it were off duty?"
Daniel waved his hands. "I guess so. As long as nobody finds out. I don't know. Anything's a risk, isn't it? Trust me. I spent almost a decade in academia, so I know politics. People will use any excuse."
"So you're just worried about my career."
"Yes!" Hadn't he been saying that for the last five minutes? "I'm sure you know a lot better than I do how it would work, but you have to be careful."
"Some things are worth it," Jack said, getting closer as he lowered his voice.
"I can't believe you!" Daniel hissed, thoroughly disgusted that all it took for Jack to lose his cool was a pretty face and a French accent. Sure, Rene was a fine man, but this was Jack's life they were talking about here. "What happened to your hating geeks?" he asked, feeling petulant.
"I find they kind of grow on you," was the flippant response.
Daniel decided to go for an entirely different tack. "How do you know Rene's, um, receptive, anyway?" he demanded.
"You don't even know his first name?" Daniel was shocked. He'd always suspected Jack of being not particularly... restrained when it came to relationships, but he hadn't expected him to be quite this casual.
"Whose first name?"
"Dr. D'Aubigne! The handsome, smart Frenchman you've been flirting with the whole day?"
They stared at each other for a moment, Daniel glaring at his own reflection in Jack's tinted Raybans.
Finally, Jack drew back and put a fist to his own forehead. "I'm not flirting with him, Daniel. And for the record, Dr. Dauby-whatever is totally receptive."
"How can you possibly know that?" Rene hadn't shown any signs of being gay, as far as Daniel could see. "Wait." Daniel backtracked what Jack had said. "You weren't?"
"You think he's handsome?" Jack shot back.
Daniel fought the urge to bounce in frustration. "Jack, you're missing the point entirely."
"I think something's being missed, yeah."
Daniel glared. "So you weren't flirting?"
"But the whole day, you've been..." Daniel waved a hand. "You aren't attracted to Rene at all?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "It wouldn't matter if I were, because he wouldn't be interested."
"Are you kidding?" Daniel said, indignant. "You're one of the finest men I know. Why wouldn't he be?" He faltered at Jack's glowing look that could be pleasure, but could also easily be amusement at Daniel's expense. "I mean, if he were, you know, inclined that way."
Jack quirked a brow. "Thanks." He smiled a little more warmly. "And by the way, the reason old 'Rene' might be oblivious to my general studliness is, he's too busy mooning after someone else."
"What are you talking about?"
"For cryin' out loud, Daniel. You've been leading the poor guy on all day."
"What?" Daniel eyed Jack suspiciously. "That's ridiculous. We've been working together all day." Daniel paused, feeling himself flail mentally at Jack's cocked eyebrow. "Not working together, I mean working together. Together, but only in the context of our work. Look, wouldn't I notice if someone were flirting with me?"
Jack seemed to consider this, his face slackening in that silent derogatory disbelief thing he did. "How many kids does the good doctor have?" he asked.
"Huh? He's never been married, why?"
"He told you that, eh? Because him being single was important in 'the context of your work'?"
Daniel groaned, figuring out where this was going. "We were just making small talk. You know, impersonal random facts about ourselves that nobody actually cares about."
"Sounds pretty personal to me."
"I don't have time for this. I'm getting back to work."
"I'll bet he was real interested in asking if you were single, too."
"I'm leaving!" Daniel said, waving backwards as he suited action to word.
"Sure. Go!" Jack made a shooing gesture. "Say hi to your 'special' French friend for me."
Daniel stomped back to the site, seething with embarrassment and irritation. He'd been trying to help, and what did it get him?
Rene was not hitting on him. Daniel himself would be the first to know if someone were hitting on him, obviously! Jack didn't know what he was talking about.
So of course an hour later, as they were finishing packing up for return, Rene took Daniel's hand in both his own. He rubbed one thumb over Daniel's knuckles in a decidedly unplatonic way and asked, with only the barest hesitation, "This might be sudden, but would you like to have dinner with me tonight, Daniel?"
Daniel groaned inwardly, not because he had anything against the man, but because he was already imagining how smug Jack was going to be.
"Okay, so you were right."
Jack didn't even bother to look up from his newspaper page. It looked like he was concentrating on a crossword puzzle. "Did he invite you home, or is he saving himself for marriage?"
Daniel flopped down across from Jack's desk, an archaeology journal in hand. He tried to muster some resentment that Jack assumed he knew what Daniel was talking about. Mostly, Daniel just felt stupid. "Not that it's any of your business, but he only asked me for dinner. And I turned him down." He heard Jack snort. "You can stop holding in the I-told-you-so."
Jack glanced up, the slightest trace of a grin around the corners of his mouth. "I. Told. You. So." He scribbled in a few letters, with much more smugness than a seven-letter 15-Down deserved. "Did you let him down easy?"
"Yeah. I mean, he's a good guy. He doesn't deserve a crash-and-burn."
Jack still didn't look up, but his eyebrows jumped a fraction. "So. Why?"
"Why'd you turn him down? He's handsome, smart, foreign. Right along your alley."
Daniel stared. "I'm not--" He stopped before he could put his foot in his mouth. Jack's confession the night before had been a huge show of trust. Daniel didn't want to offend him with a protestation of 'straightness'. "He wasn't my type," he finished, lamely.
Jack looked up through slightly narrowed eyes, clearly not insulted, but... questioning. He jiggled his pen between two fingers. Daniel kept his eyes resolutely on his journal, but he could see the pen flashing in the corner of his vision. "Because he's a man," Jack not-quite-asked.
"Well." It was the obvious answer, of course, the first disqualifier that Daniel had thought of. But hell, he was a liberal guy. He was also thirty-seven years old and single. Maybe doubling his options wasn't such a bad idea. In theory. And it wasn't as if he had anything against men. He just didn't exactly have anything for them either. "I don't know."
"You don't know?" Jack repeated.
"No, I mean..." He tried to picture being with Dr. Rene D'Aubigne, in a romantic setting. He couldn't quite manage. "It would have felt strange. I mean, I don't even know the guy." There flashed a momentary image of himself and Jack together instead. "Whoa."
"Hm?" Jack tilted his head, inquiring. Daniel could feel a blush blooming. He tried to wash that image from his mind. Great. On top of seeing flirting where there wasn't, and missing flirting where there was, now he was objectifying his best friend as the Stock Gay Guy?
"Maybe," he fumbled to reply. "If it was the right man. Maybe. I don't know."
Daniel didn't dare look up. He'd been embarrassed enough today.
"To fall in love with," Jack said abruptly.
Daniel jumped. "Huh?"
"Latin, five letters. There's an 'a' in the middle."
"Cool." Jack penciled it in. A smile twitched across his lips, but he didn't look up again or say anymore about the matter.
It seemed that, just like always, that was the end of it.
Daniel went back to his journal, a bit rueful, but content.