Compromising Positions | Into the Black | Contact

Step Apart

Notes: Thanks to my betas: dirty_diana, without whom there would be far fewer commas and far less sense, and skripka for reading stuff in a fandom she’s not quite into (yet!).

Sequel to Step Aside

Series: Steps






Overcome by a sudden sense of claustrophobia, Jack relocates to the commissary. Feeling like an idiot, he gets a piece of pie, even though he’s not hungry. He’s pushing the pie around on his plate when Sam plops herself down in the seat across from him.

“What’s going on, Sir? What did you do to Daniel?”

Jack schools his features into what he hopes is a look of utter confusion and says, “What do you mean? I didn’t do anything to Daniel.”

“Sir, ever since we got back from 975 you’ve both been acting…weird, and then Daniel asks for time off. Daniel NEVER takes time off. So what gives?” Sam asks, her face full of concern.

Jack marvels at the speed of the SGC grapevine. Daniel saw Hammond less than half an hour ago, and the news has already spread that he’d taken some time off. Suppressing a sigh, Jack figures that if the fight excuse worked on Hammond, it would work on Carter, so he says, “It’s no big deal, Carter. Daniel and I just had another argument.”

“Doesn’t sound like no big deal to me, Sir. It must have been one hell of an argument to get Daniel to request personal time. What did you do this time?” Sam asks.

“Same thing I always do, Carter. I called the stupid little symbols on the wall ‘stupid little symbols on the wall’. It pissed Daniel off, it was sort of downhill from there,” Jack lies deftly.

“But that’s just the point, Sir. You always insult Daniel’s work. It’s a given. Why did it get to him so much this time? It’s not like him. I’m really worried. I know he hasn’t exactly been happy lately, having to hand all the really interesting archaeological work over to other teams, but…” Sam trails off and fiddles with a napkin. She looks up, and her eyes are wide and full of worry. “You don’t think he’ll leave, do you?”

“What?” Jack exclaims. He doesn't have to fake the shocked expression on his face. “Of course not! Don’t be ridiculous, Carter.” He forces himself to smile, and pats her arm. “You’ll see, he’ll be back in a couple of days, call me a stupid ass, I’ll call him a geek, and then everything will be back to normal.”

Sam looks skeptical. “You really think so, Sir?”

“I do,” Jack answers, and takes a bite of pie.

“If you say so,” Sam says, and they sit for a moment in silence, as Jack forces himself to take another forkful of pie. “Well, Sir. I’d better get back to my lab, those soil samples won’t test themselves. See you later.”

Jack nods goodbye to Sam as she stands, and gives up the pretense of eating when she leaves the room. He drops the fork onto the plate with a clatter, the sweet pie tasting like ashes in his mouth as he considers the possibility that Daniel might leave the SGC – something he hadn’t even considered before Carter had mentioned it. He shoves himself away from the table and heads back to his office and the mountain of paperwork on his desk.

The thought plagues him for the rest of a non-productive day – the SGC, the team, *he* could lose Daniel over this. Playing devil’s advocate with himself as he gets into his truck to drive home, he asks himself if that would necessarily be a bad thing. With Daniel gone, problem solved, and he’d no longer have to think about it. He could bury it in the back of his brain along with several dozen highly classified missions and just forget about it. This line of thought is comforting for about 10 seconds before he considers what it would be like to go through that gate without Daniel by his side. And he absolutely hates the idea. And then he thinks about what it would be like to not have Daniel as his friend and he hates that idea even more.

Jack can’t let the incident tear them apart. The only problem is, he has no idea how to prevent it. The ball is in Daniel’s court. All Jack can do is wait and hope.

He walks up the pathway to his house, the drive home not much more than a blur. He opens the door, walks in, drops his keys on the table and spots the phone. Instinctively, he reaches for it.

*****

Daniel sits on his couch, a glass of wine – his fourth – between his hands. He’s been home for the better part of the day now and he’s accomplished a big fat zero. He took the images of the glyphs and a bunch of reference texts home with him, hoping that he could crack the language, knowing that it somehow held the secret of what had happened in that cavern, but after banging his head against it for the better part of the day, he had nothing. Not one word that made any sense at all. It didn't help that he was distracted by his own wandering thoughts. So he gave up, and got a bottle of red wine out of the cupboard.

He stares at the far wall, his eyes vaguely unfocussed as he tries to process the events of the last twenty-four hours. He knows the wine isn’t helping, but he also knows it’s the only thing keeping him from screaming in frustration.

He must have looked like hell when he’d gone to see the General, because Hammond got that paternal look in his eye and had told him to take all the time he needed. He had even added the “son” and the shoulder pat. Daniel snorts indelicately at the thought of the look on dear old George’s face if he had told him *why* he needed the time.

“Well, General, you see, your 2IC apparently fucked me through the floor of a cave. Problem is? Neither of us really remembers what happened. And you want to know the real kick in the teeth? You’ll love this…I’m apparently more upset by the fact that I can’t fucking remember what happened than by the idea that I had sex with another man.”

Daniel laughs bitterly at himself and downs the dregs of wine in his glass, and pours another. He drinks half the contents in one gulp. He’s reached that calm, mellow stage of drunkenness – *time for some home truths,* he thinks. Of course it doesn’t bother him that he’d had sex with Jack – he’s been attracted to the man for so long he can no longer pinpoint exactly when it happened. But he had been dealing with it. He was content with just being friends with Jack – he knows Jack can’t give him more. He had resigned himself to it, goddamnit! But now, every time he’s near Jack all he can think about is waking up in his arms. He would give almost anything for it to happen again. Anything but Jack’s friendship.

And there’s the problem in a nutshell. Daniel suddenly wants more than Jack could ever give him, and being around Jack makes it that much worse, because whenever he’s with Jack, he’s overwhelmed by an sudden, intense sense of need and it takes all the will that he has not to tell Jack how he feels and what he wants, even though he knows that it would be the end of their friendship. So, instead of facing that risk, he ran away.

He just needs time to regain his balance, to dull the sense memory, to get over being angry that he’s been denied even the memory of what happened, he tells himself over and over. Otherwise, he’s got to face the reality that he might just have to leave the SGC – leave Jack – and he’s not sure if he’s capable of making that great a personal sacrifice.

The phone rings, startling him into spilling some wine on his shirt. He rubs futilely at the red stain as the answering machine switches on. His hand stops when he hears Jack’s voice.

“Uh, hey, Daniel. Guess you’re not answering the phone.” There’s a long pause. “I just wanted to uh let you know if you need to talk, you can, uh call me. Um. Yeah. Well. Guess that’s all. See you in a couple of days. Night.”

Daniel frowns and empties his glass. Jack. Jack’s reaction is puzzling him. He expected disgust or anger to set in once Jack had fully processed what had happened, and yet, he has remained relatively calm – there’s been no freak out of any sort. All of Jack’s concern seems to be focused on him and how he’s dealing with it, for which he’s grateful, because Daniel knows he couldn’t handle the added pressure of being around an angry, confused Jack right now.

He sighs and pours himself the last of the wine – no sense in it going to waste. Besides, he’s pretty sure he’s got another in the cupboard. Finishing the glass quickly, Daniel decides to call it a night. He gets unsteadily to his feet and heads towards the kitchen. He approaches the answering machine and pauses, his hand hovering over the delete button. He gives the machine what could be considered a caress, and then continues on his way.

“Night, Jack,” he murmurs.