Daniel almost missed the smirk on Jack's face as they made their way towards the ladder leading to the surface.
"What?" he asked, dreading the answer. He really wasn't in the mood for Jack's twisted sense of humour. His head was killing him, courtesy of Seth's damned ribbon device, and as used to robes as he'd been on Abydos, it was just too freaking cold outside to walk around in those flimsy cotton outfits.
"You look like a blushing bride," Jack sniggered behind him.
Daniel ground his teeth together. Sometimes Jack O'Neill was *the* most infuriating man on Earth... on several planets actually, come to think of it.
"I can practically hear the wedding bells already."
"Why, Jack?" Daniel lowered his voice, feeling particularly mischievous. The Colonel better be ready to accept as well as give on this one. "Are you asking?"
There was no answer forthcoming from the man behind him as Daniel took the last turn of the tunnel before heading for the ladder. Daniel took a deep breath, deciding to interpret the sudden silence as a small victory.
"Whaddaya mean, Daniel?" Jack's voice was... strange when he finally answered.
Daniel hid his grin, grabbing the ladder preparing to make his way upwards, towards the light.
"Dunno, Daniel," said Jack, regaining some of his smug, unbearable attitude. "I think we should start out slow."
Daniel froze, foot on the first crossbar and asked, "Meaning?"
Jack's voice stayed steady as he delivered his reply: "Wine me, dine me, sweep me off my feet?"
Daniel nearly slipped on the ladder. He clenched his teeth for a moment, before finally relaxing. He was *not* going to let Jack's taunting get to him. No way. Dead set on not letting it show how much Jack was getting to him, Daniel started climbing.
"You really want that... Jack?" Daniel couldn't believe he was asking. And he couldn't believe how conscious he suddenly was that Jack was climbing the ladder right below him, a nice clear view of... Daniel slowed to a halt.
"Hey, Dannyboy, move your ass, will ya? I'd like to get home sometime today, if you don't mind." Jack drawled from below.
Daniel felt his headache grow worse. "You didn't answer my question, Jack," he said pointedly. Daniel stayed where he was, blocking Jack's climb.
"Do you want all that romantic seduction stuff?"
It seemed to take Jack a moment to get his bearings, then the Jack O'Neill wise-ass attitude was back, tenfold. "Weeeell, if you think I'm too much to handle..."
'Smug asshole,' Daniel seethed. He was *so* going to work on getting Jack for that one. Finally he continued the climb, and soon they were heading back towards Cheyenne Mountain, Jack blissfully unaware of his archaeologist plotting the man's... downfall.
Daniel pulled into the driveway. He'd come close to turning the car around many times during the short drive from his apartment to Jack's home, but his need to finally get one over on Jack was just too insistent to ignore.
Daniel knew Jack would be caught up at the Mountain for a few more hours, since they still had to deal with the breach of jurisdiction and the ATF. And since Daniel had Jack's spare keys, he'd decided he'd plan a little surprise for Jack -- just to get back at him.
Daniel grinned as he laid the groceries out onto the counter. He loved Jack's kitchen, he loved cooking, and if it could help him get one over on Jack O'Neill, he was more than happy to take advantage of it. Yep, he'd managed to get all the ingredients for grilled chicken with mushrooms and tortellini in red pepper cream sauce.
If Jack wanted romance, he'd bloody *get* romance. The way to a man's heart was through his stomach, wasn't it? Well, if that was the case, Daniel wasn't going to let his CO get one foot to the ground all evening, that was for sure.
Daniel did all the preliminary work on the food before going through his overnight bag, selecting the clothes he'd chosen. Tight jeans, loose shirt, top three buttons left open... right, and Jack's house was warm enough for Daniel to go barefoot, which he loved, always had, but rarely did as his own apartment was a little too drafty for that.
Daniel set the table and checked on the food again. All was well on the way. Table was decked for two, lights down low, and candles in the middle of the table. Now, all he needed was basically for the Colonel to drop in. While he waited, Daniel walked around the living room, pausing at the pictures above the fireplace.
When he'd first returned back from Abydos and stayed at Jack's place, there'd hardly been anything on that shelf. Now? It was full of pictures of the team, at social gatherings and just fooling around in general.
Daniel smiled warmly. As much as he was doing this to get one over the Colonel, he had to admit life would be pretty dull without the man. He was about to turn to pace the floor again when the final picture caught his attention. It was a team shot, the four of them together. It had been taken at one of the barbecues at Jack's house. Those had become almost an annual event. Every summer the key personnel from the Mountain, would get together at Jack's place and have fun. Fairly often it had also been cause to celebrate having prevented one disaster or another.
They had had to squeeze together to fit into the shot. Jack was sitting on a chair, Teal'c sitting cross-legged in front of him with Sam at his side and Daniel himself standing behind Jack. He remembered the shot being taken, he'd had to hunch down to make sure they got all of them on one picture. He'd actually never seen the result. He was leaning down over Jack, arms resting on the older man's shoulders, hands hanging loosely down over the chest. Three things caught his attention. He, himself, looked... happy, a wide smile on his face. Second thing... Jack looked more at ease than he'd done in a long time. The third thing had almost escaped his attention. Jack's hands were slightly raised, looking for all in the world as if he was about to take hold of Daniel's.
As if on cue, Daniel heard a car pull up outside. Feeling a little flutter in his stomach, he steeled himself and went to stand in front of the dinner table, leaning back a little, hands braced on the edge of it, faking a perfectly relaxed state.
Jack walked inside, hanging up his jacket. He had seen Daniel's car outside of course, but still, he stopped dead as he stepped into the living room, staring open-mouthed at Daniel.
Daniel was caught somewhere between feeling like pumping his fist in the air, going 'YES!' and running and hiding.
How the hell could a man look at him like that? Daniel saw surprise flicker across the other man's features, then something else that Daniel wasn't entirely sure what was, to finally settle on a curious smile, albeit slightly marred by the suspicious glare he was giving Daniel.
"Eh, Daniel..." Jack finally found his voice. "What are you doing here?" he asked.
"Making sure you're getting what you asked for." Daniel swallowed hard. This was in no way going to be easy.
Both Jack's eyebrows climbed upwards. "What exactly did I ask for, Daniel?"
"Why Jack, forgotten already?" Daniel asked as he pushed away from the table, bringing a glass of wine with him which he handed over to Jack. "Wine you..." he pointed to the table, ushering Jack to sit. "Dine you..." He leaned down over his friend's shoulder when Jack sat down, looking a little stunned. "Sweep you off your feet?"
Daniel retreated to the kitchen to catch his bearings, his breath and get dinner, which thankfully was finished and still nice and warm. Inhaling deeply, Daniel picked up the tray with the food and headed back to the living room. It took all he had to ignore the stray thought of how nice Jack had smelled when Daniel had leaned in to whisper in his ear.
Setting the dishes down in front of Jack, he'd expected the other man to start bitching about the ensemble, since it most obviously wasn't steak and potatoes. Jack surprised him by sniffing a little, a delightful grin spreading on his face as he obviously liked what he was being served.
"Smell's good, Daniel, didn't know you could cook like this."
Daniel almost lost his resolve when Jack tilted his face up and gave the younger man a bright, warm smile, sweeping like a burst of light through all Daniel's dark places, leaving him quite stunned himself.
Daniel found his composure again and sat down, slowly, across from Jack, keeping eye contact all the while. He had to keep this up, or Jack would eventually turn the tables on him and Daniel was dead-set on not letting that happen.
They ate in companionable silence, only occasionally broken as Jack praised the food. Never once a rude or snarky remark, unsettling to Daniel, who was pretty much looking for it.
Not once. Not once did Jack's easy demeanour change. It was unnerving how his brown eyes were focused attention on Daniel, not once wavering, not once losing interest. Not even when Daniel felt the sting of vengeance, though weakened, and he set about lecturing a little more on Seth. Jack took it like a man, all right, as he didn't at any point interrupt Daniel.
Daniel shifted a little in his chair. This wasn't going the way he'd planned. Jack was supposed to... Well, for a moment Daniel wondered what the hell he'd been thinking. 'Jackson, be a man about it, enjoy the evening and just admit you'll never fully get the upper hand with the Colonel.'
"Something wrong, Daniel?" Jack's voice broke low and warm through the silence.
"Ah, no, everything's okay, Jack." Not that it was, not with Daniel way in over his head. He realised part of what it was. He wanted more of this. Wanted more of this... intimacy with his friend. No biting remarks, no crude comments on Daniel's expense. Just a nice dinner, good company... wasn't he forgetting something. Right! He was angr... Daniel made the mistake of looking up into Jack's eyes. Now, had there been a smug grin, a smirk, anything like that, Daniel would have had fuel for his anger. As it was, the heat and companionship in the brown eyes defused it all. Let out the righteous anger and filled him with... what? Contentment? Warmth? Feeling of friendship? Daniel blinked in surprise for a moment. Belonging. Like something had clicked for a moment. It was still there, somewhere in the periphery. Like when you could see something from the corner of your eye, but every time you turned to look at it, it wasn't there.
Maybe Daniel should stop the little game right at that moment. Get up, excuse himself and then leave before this turned into an something worthy of the Twilight Zone. Another quick look told him that Jack was still watching him, a small smile making his lips curl slightly upwards.
Daniel checked his watch. "I... eh...." his voice trailed off when he saw Jack's face fall. The man had picked up on Daniel's gesture and knew what it meant.
"Stay a little longer?" Jack's voice was still low and pleasant, luring like the song of the sirens.
Daniel tried to look away without much luck. "I... I have to get up early tomorrow."
"It's Saturday tomorrow, Daniel..." Jack leaned back in his chair.
"I... I know, I just need to..." What? Need to go out and find a how-to manual on Jack O'Neill?
"Get up early," Jack finished for him. "Sorry, it's none of my business."
"But if you're free tomorrow afternoon..." Daniel almost bit his tongue. What the hell was he doing? He was beginning to see that thing at the corner of his eye a little clearer, but he still couldn't find the words for it.
"Sure," Jack agreed readily. "Anything specific you wanna do?"
Daniel shook his head. "Not really." Daniel was beginning to find Jack's wide smile a little unsettling.
"I'm sure we'll think of something..." Jack stood as Daniel did. "Have time for a cup of coffee?"
Daniel felt the urge to say yes, but quickly squashed it. He needed to get out, catch his breath, find his brains again. It was obviously impossible with Jack around. And he was beginning to think that the corner of the eye thing? Well, it might not be something new and it might not be something wise, but he had a feeling it might be something... nice.
"Sorry, Jack, I really should get going." He retreated to the hallway, shoes back on, put on his coat and grabbed his bag. When he turned, he found Jack standing right behind him, a soft smile on his lips.
Daniel leaned back against the door for a moment, trying to clear his mind. Somehow the next thing he knew, Jack was right in front of him, miles into his personal space, looming over Daniel.
"Thanks for a nice surprise, Daniel." Jack's breath was warm against Daniel's face. "You kept your word. You wined me, you dined me."
Daniel wasn't sure how he found his voice, but he managed to answer. "Two out of three ain't bad?"
"Who says it's not three out of three?" Jack whispered, his smile changing to one of hesitant joy.
Daniel couldn't answer, could hardly breathe when Jack's lips closed over his, spreading heat and tingling feelings through his body. Every fibre of his body seemed to be vibrating like a tight cord. Daniel dropped his bag and his fingers twisted in Jack's shirt. Was this it? The thing at the corner of his eyes?
Jack's arms lightly encircled him, spreading the warmth in his chest and Daniel was beginning to think that it might just be. Especially when the close mouthed kiss turned into a deep mutual battle of tongues. When they finally pulled back, both men were panting and looking slightly stunned.
"Wow..." was all Daniel could think of saying.
"Yeah, I'll go with you on that one, Daniel." Jack let reluctantly go of him. "So, I'll see you tomorrow afternoon?" he asked, the light smile of his lips softened his face and showed the laugh lines.
Daniel tried to find his voice and finally managed. "I... yeah... I'd... I'd like that."
Jack held open the door for him, leaning against the door frame as Daniel took a step towards his car.
"Sweet dreams, Daniel." Jack folded his arms across his chest, looking... happy.
"You... you too, Jack, you too." As by impulse Daniel put his bag down and stepped back up to Jack, placing his hands on either side of Jack's face, drawing him into a slow, sweet kiss. Oh yeah, he could definitely get used to this.
"See you tomorrow," Daniel said with a smile as he stepped back, touching his own lips, thinking he really liked the stunned look on Jack's face. Taking his bag, he went to his car, taking a last look back, giving Jack a warm smile, the man still where Daniel had left him.
"Yeah, see you tomorrow, Daniel."
As Daniel took a last look in the rear view mirror before turning from the street, he saw Jack in the same place still. With a grin he wondered what the hell he was getting himself into.
The End of part 1 of 2