General Landry dropped his pawn into position. So far, the game was going his way but from past experience with this particular opponent, victory was never certain. He had never actually caught O'Neill cheating but it was remarkable how often a moment of distraction could result in a miraculously saved queen. "You might be interested to hear I've discovered Lieutenant Colonel Mitchell's kryptonite."
O'Neill made no show of hiding his curiosity. Landry had been keeping an eye on SG-1's new team leader and both he and O'Neill were aware that O'Neill himself was taking a particular interest in developments. While they both had confidence in Mitchell's abilities, O'Neill's fondness for his old team led to higher than normal expectations of the new team leader. If he could not be there himself then at the very least Jack expected a Superman and every Superman had to have a kryptonite. Mitchell's was a doozy.
"So what's his weakness?"
Landry gave a slanted smile, his eyes narrowing as they watched O'Neill, gleaming with humor. "It's your Doctor Jackson."
"Daniel?" There was no surprise in O'Neill's voice or on his face. He was either fully aware and blithely accepting of Daniel Jackson's attractions or he was one heck of a poker player. He licked at his lower lip, apparently mulling over possible consequences - or plotting Mitchell's demise, it was hard to read the man. "That could be a problem."
Landry bobbed his head in agreement. "If Mitchell can get Jackson and Teal'c to come back on the team, maybe get Lieutenant Colonel Carter to reconsider her position at Area 51, I think SG-1 under his leadership could be a good thing for the SGC. But I can't have him distracted. And our Doctor Jackson seems to be one big distraction."
O'Neill considered his next move while Landry kept an eye on the chess board pieces. "You want me to talk to him? Explain things unofficially?"
"I can't do it, Jack. I don't have a problem with Mitchell's personal preferences - or anyone else's. You know how I feel about certain asinine policies. But I can't have him going through the stargate with his mind on anything other than the mission."
Jack slid his knight into position. "I'll talk to him."
"Thanks again for the ride, sir. It felt good to fly. I hadn't realized how much I missed it." Mitchell sounded sincere but he looked a little self-conscious, arms resting on the table, sat square on the stuffed seat of the booth he was sharing with O'Neill. There was a faint frown on his face, as if he was trying to puzzle out why General Jack O'Neill had asked him to join him for a drink and whether it was a good thing.
O'Neill briefly thought about drawing out the discussion waiting to be started but decided a quick strike might be less painful all round. "That's not why I'm here. I know about your dilemma."
"Sir?" The look Mitchell gave him was wary. Rightly so. Good instincts - they would serve him well if he could get past this current problem.
"The dilemma that could mean your hopes of SG-1 being brought back together under your leadership were dashed."
Mitchell's face possibly went pale, it was hard to tell in the bar's dim light; certainly his mouth tightened and he looked like he was about to throw up. "You can't ask that…"
O'Neill's voice was soothing. "And you can't tell. I know. That's not the problem. But it's Daniel, right? It's okay. Off the record. I swear this won't have any repercussions. That's why we're not in uniform and why my legendary memory is going to be suffering some serious holes in about twenty minutes. Maybe ten minutes if we can cut o the chase." He took a pull on his beer, savoring the chill of it trickling down his throat. The bottle made a squelchy thud as it was placed back on the table, slap into a pool of condensation. "So. Your problem is Daniel."
Hearing that hollow-voiced reply, O'Neill took pity on Mitchell. If he had not already been feeling some sympathy for the man's plight, seeing the fear and resignation on his face would have done the trick. It wasn't the guy's fault Daniel was so irresistible. "Look, at ease, Mitchell. You're not on duty and I've already given you my word - which, by the way, means a hell of a lot and is highly regarded currency throughout the galaxy. Just ask Thor next time he's stops by. Let's talk about Daniel. You think he's amazing, he's fascinating and passionate and a real looker. You think he has a great ass, a mouth made for...well, we both know what thoughts that mouth provokes. Right?" O'Neill's smirk invited an answering smile which Mitchell gave, albeit one somewhat on the wobbly side.
"Right. I mean, it's not just that." Mitchell shifted, clearly uncomfortable at discussing the famous Daniel Jackson in such a blatantly sexual way, and with a two-star general and Daniel's best friend of all people. "It's his mind, not just the way he…he looks. He's brilliant. But it's not a problem, sir. It's strong…admiration."
"Yeah, but it gets worse. You're going to fall in love with him."
"Sir, I won't..." Mitchell began to protest but stopped abruptly when O'Neill waved a hand to silence him, not unkindly.
"It's Jack or O'Neill, not 'sir'. You will fall in love. And the hell of it is, and here's where you need to listen up, Mitchell. The hell of it is, despite whatever signals he might put out, no matter if he looks at you like you're his hero and you could solve the problems of the universe, no matter how it looks - Daniel is not gay."
"I'm not in love with him. I've never met anybody like him. I admire him. A lot." Mitchell was trying to project certainty for all he was worth but O'Neill was an expert on reading people. Good thing Landry had picked up on his weakness because Mitchell was about two smiles and a pout away from offering to carry Daniel's books.
"You're not listening, Mitchell. That's how it starts. It'll happen eventually, after he's died and come back a couple times. When you do you'll have to make a choice - leave the team or ask him to leave it."
Mitchell narrowed his eyes and stared at O'Neill with sudden insight. "Is that what you did?"
O'Neill shrugged, looking pained. "Do as I say not as I did."
O'Neill could practically read the thoughts going through Mitchell's mind at that moment, knew Mitchell was considering his options, the information, the fact General Jack O'Neill was closer to Daniel than any other guy on the planet. He hated letting his own vulnerability show but it seemed to be having an effect.
"Do you want to lead SG-1?"
"Yes." For the first time that evening Mitchell sounded one hundred percent certain of himself.
"Then your best bet is to get it into your head right now that there's no hope in hell that anything is ever going to happen between you and Daniel. You have to accept now that there's never going to be anything more than friendship from Daniel and you have to move on from that. Because if you don't…" O'Neill paused, waiting until he was absolutely sure Mitchell was not only looking him straight in the eyes but was listening. "If you don't, there's a good chance you'll end up taking Daniel down with you when you crash and burn, and if you hurt Daniel it won't just be Landry you'll have to worry about."
Mitchell may have let go of his fantasies without the Special Ops O'Neill glare but a little threat couldn't hurt.
Jack closed the front door with care not to wake the neighbors. As a result of his extra care with the door he missed the object lying in his path. He cursed as he stumbled over the bag he hadn't got around to unpacking, weighing up the pros of turning on a light so he could see where he was walking with the cons of having light stabbing his eyes and worsening his headache. His brief chat with Mitchell had turned into a three hour drowning of sorrows followed by pouring Mitchell into his bed at his new apartment.
"Jack, where the hell have you been?"
O'Neill winced at the abrupt flood of light and Daniel Jackson's sharp voice. Oh boy. Daniel sounded pissed.
"You're only here for three days and you waste an entire evening… You've been drinking." Daniel folded his arms and waited for an explanation.
"With Mitchell," O'Neill admitted.
"What's going on?"
O'Neill offered up a placating smile. Sometimes it worked.
Daniel wasn't about to be fobbed off and stared at him with suspicion. "What have you been doing? You have that look on your face."
"What look?" O'Neill blinked innocently.
"The one that says you've done something I'd probably not like."
O'Neill shrugged. "Landry asked me to deal with a little problem. The problem's solved. Before it became a bigger problem."
Daniel stepped closer and examined Jack's face for the truth. Whatever he read there made him relax.
O'Neill's expression turned heated as he took in mussed hair and bare feet and all the delicious naked goodies in between. Jack might have had to let go of SG-1 but there were compensations and he had got to keep the good stuff. He stepped closer, the throbbing in his temples easing off and transferring to a familiar throbbing in a whole new and more welcome area. Tomorrow he might tell Daniel what had been discussed with Mitchell but not now. He'd wasted enough time on Mitchell. "Stop pouting and kiss me," he ordered, voice husky.
For once, Daniel obeyed.