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The Dinner

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"Wow."

"I picked up takeout at Tony's."

"It looks great!" Daniel's stomach rumbled as if to emphasize the point. Both of them chuckled.

"Don't expect this every night," Jack cautioned, nevertheless pulling out Daniel's seat for him in an added flourish. Daniel was only half-listening as he leaned over and took in a lungful of lasagna and alfredo penne.

"When you said Italian, I was expecting macaroni and cheese."

Jack made a show of looking affronted. "Would I do that?"

"Absolutely."

"Shut up and eat, rock-boy."

Steam poured into the air as they tucked into their meal. A comfortable period of silence followed, broken only by the clinking of flatware, grunts of contentment, and the occasional much-smirked-about slurp. They were more than half-way done before coherant words made a reappearance:

"Daniel."

"Hm?" Daniel looked up, mouth full.

"We've been friends a long time."

Sensing something different in Jack's tone, Daniel swallowed and sat up straight. "Um, that's true."

"We don't talk much about ourselves. Not as much as we ought to." Jack frowned down at his own plate, swirling the sauces together. "It's not really something that I do well. Towards the end, Sara admitted that she felt like she was living with a stranger. There's a lot of truth to that."

Daniel froze, not knowing what to say. He was the last person to talk to about marital issues, he'd screwed up his own so badly. But luckily, Jack seemed not to need any response from him.

"I was thinking that it was about time that you knew..." In a decisive gesture, Jack put down his fork, looked Daniel in the eye, and said, "Daniel, I'm attracted to... men."

The slight fumble hardly lessened the impact of his words. Daniel felt his eyebrows race toward his hairline. "What?" He recovered himself. "Really?" Mostly. "But...!" More or less. Jack's tense expression was melting into amusement.

"Are you going to keep that up?"

"You never... I mean, of course you didn't. But I would never have guessed!" Daniel sputtered, quite unnecessarily.

"Yeah... I gathered. That was sort of the point." Jack sobered again with frightening alacrity. "Daniel, you're the only person I've told this to."

"Ah, okay."

Jack lifted an eyebrow, so reminiscent of Teal'c that Daniel choked on his hastily sipped water.

"I, ah, don't worry. I won't tell anyone," he stammered.

Jack glanced briefly at the ceiling, then back. "Thanks. But what I meant was, can't you think of any reason why?"

"Oh!" Daniel flushed, revelation coming to him in a wave of bashful pleasure. "I-- That's really nice to hear, Jack. Really." He winced inwardly. He so wasn't good at this sentimental stuff.

Jack sat back. "Nice," he repeated, face falling slightly. Daniel scrambled for something more eloquent.

"Yes! Of course! I mean, I-- Obviously, I feel the same way."

That seemed to be the right thing to say. Jack's face brightened a bit. "You do?"

"Sure! We've been through so much together. And, and, we've seen the best and the worst of each other. I think," he gulped, realizing the truth of this, "you're the person who knows me best. I think you're the person I trust the most."

Jack smiled, a familiar, teasing grin. "Dr. Jackson, I didn't think you were the romantic type." He reached across the table and took Daniel's hand in a manner that was entirely too familiar.

Daniel jerked his hand back. "C'mon, Jack. I was trying to be serious here."

Jack's eyebrows looked puzzled now. "So was I."

"Why can't you just--" Daniel looked down at his food, frustrated and strangely flustered. Why did Jack always have to ruin everything with a stupid joke? "I was trying to tell you that you're my best friend, and I've never, not since-- I can't even-- Jack, you're one of the most important--"

A warm grip on his shoulder saved him from embarrassing himself further. He looked up, and Jack was right next to him. He knelt down and took Daniel's hand again.

"I get it, Daniel. It's the same for me, I promise. This isn't just... It's permanent. Life-long."

Now that Jack was actually being serious, as Daniel had demanded, Daniel found it difficult to respond. The ridiculous urge to cry made him panic, and to cover his emotion, he blurted the first thing that came to mind: "I always thought it was Teal'c."

"Teal'c?" Jack sounded so horribly surprised that Daniel felt a bit offended on their Jaffa friend's behalf.

"Well, you two have a lot more in common, don't you? I was pretty sure that if you were going to confide in anyone about something this, ah, this major, it would be him. Or, um, Sam. Since she's a woman." Damn it, Jack's expression was freezing up, shutting him out.

Daniel grasped Jack's hand, trusting body language to say what he was failing miserably to articulate with words. "What I meant was, I'm really glad that you trust me so much. That's what friendship is really about."

"Yeah. Friendship." Jack's voice sounded a bit stiff, but his public face melted away into the one Daniel knew. Finally, Jack drew away. He clapped Daniel hard on the back and proclaimed, "You're right! That is what's most important." He scooped up his glass. "To best friends."

Daniel returned the toast, feeling oddly shy. The rare, open smile that Jack turned on him touched Daniel somewhere secret and warm.


END.