"Jaaack, I know you know how; Mom told me a long long time ago how you danced with her at that wedding."
"Dr. Warner's daughter's wedding," Sam supplied, suppressing a grin, leaning in from her table. The general was so toast.
Cassie was standing there, indomitable, right in front of Jack, the heels of her slides hanging on the edge of the dance floor, her hands on her hips. She was wearing purple satin capri pants. Her nails were dark red.
"Yeah, Macy Warner's wedding. Mom told me you knew how to swing dance, fox trot, and whole lot of other stuff, and I had the DJ put this on just for us and I'm graduating from college, and you're dancing with me. Now." She grinned.
O'Neill looked at the outstretched hand, then up at Cassie's insistent stare, and glanced over at Daniel, who was maintaining his poker face, but Sam could see the incipient smile. O'Neill breathed, long and deep, once. Sam watched his shoulders move with the inhale. He wasn't smiling, but he looked like he might at any minute. Then he grabbed Cassie's hand, almost slapping it, like you'd shake the hand of a guy you hadn't seen in years. At the same time, he slid off his tall chair and then he stood beside her, holding their hands out between them.
"Shall we?" he said, smiling, and extended his other hand to the crowded floor. Cassie positively beamed.
Well, there's something you don't see every day, Sam thought. A general in the U.S. Air Force, dancing with a young woman who is not really his niece except in a way we can't ever explain to anyone, bumping elbows with a bunch of girls, in a lesbian club in Denver. On graduation night. To a bunch of old, very badly remixed swing.
She glanced at Teal'c, who was smiling slightly as he watched O'Neill and Cassie, his head a little to one side. Like Daniel, he'd loosened his tie and hung his suit jacket over the back of his chair. She glanced at Cassie's girlfriend, Angela, who was seated at Teal'c's left. Angela was hooting and clapping her hands, holding them up high over her head. Sam shook her head, still smiling. Then she glanced at Daniel. His poker face was gone, and he looked absolutely shocked. His eyebrows were up and his hands were flat on the table. He felt her gaze, and looked over at her.
"How come I didn't know he knew how to dance?" Sam shrugged and smiled. Daniel shook his head and leaned on his elbows and took a sip of his cocktail.
Out on the floor, after some preliminary whispering, O'Neill and Cassie had settled into a straightforward six-step, and that had gone on for a while. Then, O'Neill had slowly escalated the complexity of the steps, apparently seeing how much Cassie knew, how far she could follow.
He was smiling at her fondly. Sam, while no expert on swing dancing, could see that he was assessing how Cassie was doing, how they were doing together, and she could tell when he stopped trying out new stuff and started repeating moves that he could tell Cassie was having fun with. He was graceful, and careful, and strangely gentle, in that way she'd always seen him pull out, as if from a magician's hat, with young people, with children, with strays.
The swing mix went on, a rather annoying, abruptly changing mashup -- a couple of bars of "In the Mood", a couple of bars of "String of Pearls," "I Got Rhythm," lots of songs Sam knew from her dad's record collection -- stuff she hadn't listened to in years. Cassie was loving it; and O'Neill was relaxed and smiling and happy. And, wow. O'Neill could really dance. O'Neill was good.
All he knew was, the What the hell was echoing in his mind, and it propelled him to where Daniel was standing there, grinning, stranded on a corner of the scratched maple floor by Angela, after Cassie had cut in and swept her girlfriend away. The music now was a Buddy Holly-era rock'n'roll mix, very doable if a little too fast for Jack's taste, doable as long as you ignored the obscene way the remix had sucked all the life and spontaneity out of the songs. These particular songs were old familiar territory to Jack, well-worn, like childhood toys. When the big-band swing mix had ended, and the fifties mix had begun, he and Cassie had kept dancing. Until Cassie saw Angela dancing with Daniel, and had decided to go for the cut-in. It actually made Jack wonder if he'd been set up, but that was a little to convoluted to think of Cassie. Anyway, hey. It was Cassie's night. So what the hell.
When Daniel turned at the touch on his arm, he clearly wasn't expecting Jack to be there, and he flinched. Maybe he'd expected Sam, or a stranger, if he'd expected anyone. But the flinch wasn't a bad flinch, just a surprised one, so Jack left his hand there, pressing in, taking Daniel's elbow and inviting him to turn back to the floor.
It was Cassie's night, it was Cassie's usual bar, it was dark and crowded and it was Denver, and there was a mirrored spinning ball over the floor, for god's sake. And it was ninety percent girls out there, girls in pairs, girls in groups, but there were a few guys, too. Guys dancing together. Touching, laughing, just having fun. If he did this, no one would care. No one would even notice.
Jack leaned in, his breath brushing Daniel's ear. The music and the crowd noise was deafening. "Angela bailed out on you; no fair!"
Daniel drew breath, letting himself be escorted, and Jack eased them to a clear spot a little further into the mob of dancers. Daniel looked down at Jack's hand on his arm and then up at Jack's face. Thoughts chased themselves, and Jack could read each fleeting one in Daniel's expression -- intense surprise, interest, shuttering of the interest, pure receptivity, then happiness.
"Oh, crap," Daniel said. "Who's gonna lead?"
"You're joking, right?" Jack said, and let the grin happen, the real one. He sighed, then, and tried to think only about getting started with dancing, because his impetuous idea had, surprise, just lit Daniel right up, and he knew the delight was real -- some kind of buried vein of happiness that he only occasionally saw from his old friend. He couldn't blame it on alcohol, because Jack knew damn good and well that neither of them had finished even one drink before Cassie had dragged Jack onto the floor in the first place.
He took Daniel's right hand in his left, facing him, and decided he'd better at least try to suppress the grin. It wouldn't do to seem to extremely pleased. It was just very nice to know that this was making Daniel so happy. And he wouldn't let himself think that this was in any way about confirming a suspicion ( because the years had only reinforced the permanence and staying power of their subtext ), or taking a risk (a college party? at a girls' bar? surrounded by what amounted to family? and it was just dancing! just having fun! ), or giving in to something ( don't even go there -- that had been Jack's mantra for a decade now. No news, nothing to see, move right along ).
It was just about being here, being happy, and getting to act on his newfound knowledge that Daniel was, actually, a hell of a dancer. Who knew.
While Jack was dancing with Cassie, Angela had pulled Daniel out on the floor, and Jack had immediately taken note. Angela was a much more experienced dancer than Cassie, and Daniel had pulled some stuff with her with the six-step swing that Jack himself didn't know how to do. Angela was short and wiry, like a cheerleader, and Daniel had thrown her around like a willing rag doll. It was ... amazing, seeing that. Yeah, that was definitely the word. That would do.
So. Dancing. Just dancing here. With... Daniel. No problem.
"West Coast Swing?" Jack said, keeping their hands at waist level, and starting to move as he said the words. Daniel got a distant, remembering look on his face, and then, miraculous, he settled in ... to follow. Jack was really going to have to do a better job of suppressing his smile.
Okay, the basic pattern first, nothing fancy, let Daniel figure out how to dance the girl's part (unless he maybe already knew perfectly well how to follow because he'd done it before -- and there was a train of thought Jack had suppressed many times; part of the longing "what ifs" and "if onlys" that he never really let himself give into, except sometimes, some rare times when alone at the Minnesota house, in front of a dying fire, his only company an empty glass of scotch).
So, first, let Daniel get into the groove, which took, maybe, four bars, and then those blue eyes were meeting his own and not looking distant any more, not looking like he was remembering anything, but looking eager, present, like he was here, right here with Jack, feeling his hand in Jack's, all of him right here.
At the next up-beat, Jack raised his hand, taking Daniel's with it, and Daniel spun, and Jack put his palm just above Daniel's belt, just there on the small of his back, where the dress shirt was damp from Daniel's dancing with Angela, and Jack brought him in and around.
And maybe Jack should have thought this through a little better before getting himself into this... because it was so sweet, so good to feel that solid muscle under his hands, and to move and turn like this. Daniel's grip was strong and dry and firm. He knew how big Daniel's hands were, but his touch was intense, not ignorable. And here was a jolting and delicious surprise -- the pendulum pull of the extra weight and height and muscle at the end of his arm -- very different than dancing with women. It was kind of like the best part of dancing AND hand-to-hand practice. Except there was music. And you could drink beer. And you had no fear of a split lip.
And it was Daniel.
Daniel's muscled forearm, Daniel's firm grip, Daniel floating there before him, all coiled strength and banked power. Daniel.
Jack laughed internally at himself, at his babbling, at his futile attempt at avoidance. God help him if Daniel ever figured out how much this turned him on. He'd have jerk-off fantasies for months, based on this. He made himself take a full breath.
Daniel, catching the end of Jack's smile as he turned his head and came in and around to face him again, smiled back, and their eyes met and caught. And that was it for Jack -- the room went away, the crowd didn't exist, and it was just the back beat, and the patterns, and Daniel under his hands, in his arms, Daniel's strength and momentum -- alive, warm, vital and real, moving with him, so close, so smoothly, so well.
"Would you assume this is the first time that O'Neill and Daniel Jackson have danced together?"
"I think that's a safe assumption, yeah."
Cassie was standing under the mirror ball, and was beckoning enthusiastically to Sam, and to Teal'c. More of a full-arm wave, really. The fifties mix had ended and the DJ had gone back to the house mix, very hip, very techno, and Sam met Teal'c's eyes and shrugged and slid off her stool. She made her way through the crowd to join Cassie and Angela and a sloppy mass of their friends new and old. Daniel, she noticed, had stayed on the floor, as well, after the fifties mix and his dance with O'Neill had ended, and he edged up next to Angela and Sam and threw himself into the patternless kind of informal rock dancing that was all Sam really knew how to do. Despite various people's efforts, through the years. She squashed that train of thought, because this was a happy night, a night to stay in the present.
Daniel was gonna dance some more, but the general had made his way back to the table to sit with Teal'c. Sam caught a glimpse of him, downing a gulp of beer from his bottle, and turning up his cuffs. Yeah, that set with Daniel had probably made him sweat. They had been going after it. That had been another sight you didn't see every day. Sam shook her head. The stuff Cassie had dragged them all into over the years. Too much.
They all danced, her and Daniel and the girls. Jumping, twisting stuff that should have looked stupid and managed to be sexy, somehow, instead. It felt fun. It felt right. Cassie was so happy. It made Sam happy to see her -- happy and little achy, too. She was all grown up now; out on her own. Sam wished, a familiar pain, that Janet was here to enjoy this with them.
Daniel was really good at this kind of dancing, too, Sam noticed. As he danced, he rolled up his sleeves, like O'Neill had, and then he opened one more button of his white dress shirt. She chuckled and let herself get drawn into a sporadic hips bumping thing with Angela, until the techno mix was over.
The next song was some blues-based ballad, a much slower number, and so Sam marched over to the table and dragged Teal'c out. Because they all were dancing, and dancing was what the night was for. Teal'c should dance, too, dammit. Teal'c was dignified, careful, clueless. But it was fun. The song must have been a romantic hit for the college crowd, because it made every couple in the room smash onto the floor, and there was a lot of impassioned eye contact and even some singing along. Sam thought about romance, and then tried not to think about romance, and settled into the slow dance and enjoyed the feel of Teal'c's shoulders under her hands.
Daniel, she could see, had gone back to the tables, and he picked up the nearest glass and drained it. She shook her head and laughed silently, because it was her beer. Then he downed Teal'c's Pepsi. O'Neill was ribbing him about it, and before the music and the crowd spun her slowly away, like stately orbiting planets, taking her and Teal'c out of range, she saw Daniel lean toward the general, their heads close so that they could talk through the din. The song was nice and slow and soothing, and so she just put her head down on Teal'c's shoulder and followed whatever he wanted to do.
One song, she knew, was plenty for Teal'c, and so when the ballad ended she straightened, and smiled at him and linked her arm with his and they wandered back to the tables. Angela and Cassie and their friends had never left the floor since Cassie had managed to get O'Neill to dance with her. They were still out there, an ever changing cast of energetic girls, with Cassie always at the center. Sam smiled.
The next song was coming along, now, because the segues never ended. Another new emo-pop kind of song that Sam didn't recognize at first. She glanced over at her team, and at O'Neill. Teal'c was ordering another round for them from the waitress, and O'Neill and Daniel seemed to be involved in some kind of spat. O'Neill was standing in front of Daniel, his fists on his hips leaning in, and Daniel was looking puzzled, then incredulous, then delighted, then evil. Then Daniel got to his feet.
My god, Sam thought. They're really going to go out there together, again.
Daniel was leading the way onto the floor, O'Neill's hand in his, and O'Neill was letting himself be led, a pained expression on his handsome face. Then Sam realized -- the song was a waltz. A fast, swooping waltz, the insistent beat carried by the piano, with lots of acoustic guitar and schmaltzy strings and a girl singer with a voice like blue velvet. Sam had heard it on the radio, come to think of it, but hadn't paid much attention at the time. But it was definitely a waltz.
Daniel was taking the general around the waist, looking insistent, and they both got this intent look. Their faces were sweaty, their cuffs were rolled up, like they were stripped for action, and then they'd apparently agreed, under some kind of serious duress, that Daniel was gonna lead, because they stepped out there, O'Neill moving backward, and they were off. They were ... waltzing. People got out of their way.
Sam wouldn't have believed it, if she hadn't seen it with her own eyes. The music swooped and soared, and it looked like figure skating. It looked like sex. It was muscular and athletic and a lot more like Gene Kelly than Fred Astaire.
A simple waltz step, but with lots of turning and lots of stuff with their arms, lots of swirling and changing from forward motion to backward. Sam couldn't look away.
They danced together the same way they did everything -- like it was an argument, a challenge. Like it was really important, but all the importance concealed behind sophisticated banter. Like it was something they would never discuss with outsiders, and like neither one would ever once concede or back down or give up.
The song went on longer than the radio version; Sam thought it must be, like all the stuff they'd played tonight, some kind of extended club mix. As they passed in front of the tables, Daniel had turned O'Neill so that their arms were interlinked, and O'Neill's back was to his front, and Daniel was saying something into his ear; she saw O'Neill stretch to hear it. Her eyes lingered on the clean line of his neck, crossed by the stark geometric of his white collar. She couldn't help but notice the way his shirt was stuck to his chest with sweat.
And then Daniel raised his arm and O'Neill turned under it, and they changed leads, right there -- a surge of contained strength, graceful as racehorses. And O'Neill took over. He pushed Daniel backward, and Daniel gave, and gave, and turned, and the waltz took them away, around the corner of the floor. Sam shook her head and drank some beer.
Finally, when the insistent piano chords, and the girl's voice, urging them all to "breathe, just breathe," was fading into the next segue, Sam was amazed that the whole room didn't erupt into applause. These girls in the room didn't know what they'd just seen, but she did. She didn't dare meet Teal'c's eyes. She just leaned on her fist, and mentally shook her head, and watched O'Neill and Daniel as they came closer, around the far edge of the floor.
As the waltz ended, O'Neill made Daniel spin -- one, twice, three times, and O'Neill let go of his hand and Daniel spun once more on his right foot and came to a stop at the same time as the last notes of the background singers were fading away, replaced by the intro to the next song. Old rock and roll, something Sam recognized, Bad Company, it sounded like, in the same key as the waltz, so that was a good call by the DJ.
Daniel stood there like a statue, facing away from O'Neill, and then he drew a deep breath and wiped his forehead and turned around. Sam couldn't watch. She saw O'Neill start to close the distance, and she looked down for the new drink Teal'c had bought for her.
They were in public. She knew they wouldn't forget that. But she knew, no question, what she'd just seen. She didn't know whether to hope it was new or old, or to hope they knew it or hope they were oblivious. But after tonight, she didn't see how they couldn't already know, too. It might as well be written in neon.
"Hey. Put your coat on. Come outside. Oh, and wear those old English boots of yours -- the ones that are broken in the best. With the low heels. You know the ones."
"And why am I doing this?"
"Because I'm waiting in your driveway in my car."
"And I'm not coming in because I'm taking you to Denver to this place I know about."
"Is this what I think it is, you mad impetuous fool?"
"No, Jack. This is me, taking you dancing."
"Dancing. Dancing? ... All the way to Denver?"
"Well, I thought the gay club in the Springs might be a little too obvious."
"Come on Jack. Don't forget the boots."
"....Are you nuts?"
"This is a rhetorical question, right?"
".... .... All right. Give me a minute to change my shirt."
And Daniel hung up, and put his cell phone in the glove box and closed it with a snap. This was going to be ... interesting.