“And the same to you,” Jack says.
Anise raises her eyebrows and looks at Daniel. Daniel shakes his head at her, an almost imperceptible gesture, and she mercifully rejoins Jacob and General Hammond at the conference table.
“What did she say?” Jack says. “Daniel?”
Daniel knows how to answer this question. He’s been answering some version of this question for years now. The first few times someone made an erroneous assumption about his relationship with Jack, Daniel was offended. He was a married man. He was relentlessly searching the galaxy for the wife he loved dearly. What the hell kind of vibes was he giving off that made the elders of six out of ten villages assume that he and Jack were a couple? As time has passed, Daniel has come to feel more amused by the mistake than anything else, but he doesn’t think Jack would see the humor in the situation.
“She said the Tok’ra are glad I’m not dead anymore.”
“No,” Jack says. “That’s what she meant. I want to know what she said.”
Now, this part is different. Jack always takes Daniel’s explanations at face value. He has never asked for a literal translation before. Daniel decides he may as well tell Jack the truth; after waking up naked in the dirt a stranger to himself, fearing Jack’s reaction—-whatever it may be—-seems a bit silly. “She said the Tok’ra are pleased that your beloved has been returned to you,” he says.
Daniel waits for Jack to frown or glance furtively over his shoulder to see if General Hammond has overheard. Part of Daniel has always thought that in this situation Jack would just completely ignore what’s been said, pretend he doesn’t understand or change the subject. But Jack doesn’t do any of these things. “Oh, good,” Jack says instead. “She got the message. I thought she might be hitting on me again.”
Daniel can feel his jaw start to drop. He opens his mouth to say something, he’s not sure what exactly, but General Hammond calls the meeting to order before he can get even a word out. Daniel spends the next half hour more flustered than he’s been in a very long time, but Jack looks cool and collected, like he didn’t just make the most absurd implication Daniel’s ever heard. Eventually, Daniel takes a deep breath and decides that Jack has a broader sense of humor than Daniel had given him credit for and tries his best to keep his attention where it belongs. He mostly succeeds.
When the meeting is over, though, and Daniel is alone in his office, he can’t stop thinking about what Jack said, what he might have meant. Daniel knows Jack doesn’t love him, not like Anise suggested anyway, but once Daniel lets himself entertain the possibility, however farfetched, he can’t help wondering what being with Jack might be like. And once he’s given himself permission to wonder, Daniel doesn’t hold anything back. He’s in the middle of a fantasy about ripping off Jack’s tac vest and kissing him, Jack’s dog tags trapped between their bodies, when Jack wanders into his office and leans against Daniel’s desk.
Daniel thinks, In for a penny, in for a pound. He says, “I’ve been thinking about what you said before the meeting.”
“Oh, that,” Jack says.
“Yes,” Daniel says. “That.”
Jack fiddles with a stack of papers on Daniel’s desk for awhile and then arranges a handful of pens in a pile on top. Daniel waits. Jack finally says, “What about it?”
“Care to elaborate?”
“Yes,” Jack says. It sounds like a question. “Come by tonight after work. I’ll throw something on the grill.”
By the time Daniel parks his car in Jack’s drive, he’s posed and discarded so many theories about Jack’s behavior that he’s starting to confuse himself. Daniel’s not confused, however, about his own feelings. He’s considered Jack family for a long time now. He’s been willing to die for Jack almost since he met him. In every way except the physical, Daniel has loved Jack for years, and that afternoon’s marathon fantasy session proves that he definitely finds Jack sexually attractive. If Jack is serious, if he truly means what he said, then Daniel is interested in giving a relationship a try.
Daniel smells smoke, so he heads out back. Jack is brandishing a set of tongs at a gargantuan slab of beef with one hand and drinking a beer with the other.
He says, “Hello, Daniel,” and hands him a beer.
They drink in companionable silence for a few moments, and then Daniel says, “Beloved, huh?”
Jack takes a long swallow. “Yeah.”
“For how long?”
“Hard to say,” Jack says. “Long enough that I should have told you before you ascended or whatever.”
“Why are you telling me now?”
“Because I didn’t before, and I should have.” Jack finishes the rest of his beer and tosses the empty into the recycling bin. “Can we stop talking about this now?” he says.
Daniel says, “One more question. What do you want to do about it?”
“The ball’s in your court,” Jack says.
Daniel says, “Alrighty then,” and steps into Jack’s space, close enough that he can smell Jack’s Old Spice deodorant and feel the warmth of his body radiating through his clothes. He reaches up to cup Jack’s jaw, thumbs at the five o’clock shadow starting along Jack’s jaw line, and leans in to kiss him. This kiss is nothing like the lust and hurry of Daniel’s fantasies. It’s tender and sweet, and it lights a fire deep in Daniel’s belly. Jack makes a little sound in the back of his throat, the most perfect greedy noise, and Daniel pushes him back against the wall of the house and grinds his hips into Jack’s.
They pull away from each other, panting. “See how much better not talking is,” Jack says and grins.
After that, they don’t talk for a long time. The steak burns into an inedible char, the beer gets warm in the open cooler out on the deck, and Daniel loses a shoe somewhere between the living room and the bedroom. Still, every time Jack touches him, Daniel knows exactly what Jack is saying.