Title: Speaking Jack
Word Count: 4587
Spoilers: Mid-season 4
Word Count: 4583
Disclaimer: Stargate's not mine, yadda yadda
Summary: Daniel's picked up a new language.
Language. I love the ebb and flow of words, the give and take of conversation. Some languages flow like wine, each word a thing of beauty, its meaning precise with no chance of misunderstanding. A word for every purpose and a purpose for every word. In others the same word can mean five completely unrelated things depending on its placement in the sentence, or the tone of voice used. For some, meaning and intent depend heavily on body language and emphasis.
I love how translating a new language requires the use of every part of my intellect. Memory for word forms, calculation for structure and patterns, observational skills for shifts in nuance, logic for context, and intuition to fill in the gaps. I can so easily lose myself in shades and tones and cultural distinctions.
I speak 30 plus languages to varying degrees, 13 of them with enough fluency to pass for a native, and I can interpret the written text of 8 more that I have never heard spoken. This seems like a lot, like I should be able to go anywhere and talk to anybody and be understood. It’s not, though, not when you realize that there are 3,000 plus languages spoken on Earth alone, not counting the variants and evolution resulting from seeding people among the stars. And then add the alien languages…
So exploring and cataloguing new languages has become second nature. My methods so habitual, so ingrained, that they can function without conscious thought… apparently.
My “eureka moment” happened during the debriefing for our mission to P24-J3R. I was sitting across the table from Jack and he was giving his portion of the report to General Hammond. He looked for all the world like he was completely focused on his tactical assessment of the circumstances in the village we visited, and the possible strategic implications of their position on the river delta in view of their neighbors upstream. It came to me, however, that while his statements were measured and carefully thought out, his concentration was split between the report and something else. From the tapping of his fingers on the table and the glint in his eye, I gathered he was trying to decide what kind of takeout he wanted to go with our standing “Friday night or thereabouts beer and movie night” that evening. When the pattern of tapping changed and a crease appeared on his forehead, I knew that he had moved on to figuring out what kind of movie he was in the mood for.
I was up next in the debriefing queue, and as I laid out my conclusions about the cultural origins of the village as evidenced by their language and folklore for the General, I kept an eye on Jack to see how his internal debate came out. He prompted me with a quirk of an eyebrow and a shift in his shoulders to mention a series of what had once been standing stones that he’d pointed out to me. As I was winding up my portion of the report, he reminded me of a joke we’d shared about overcompensation and phallic symbols by a shift in his chair and a tightening of his lips. I suppressed a grin and handed off to Sam.
While Sam detailed her selection of mineral samples and chemical field tests and her preliminary analysis of what little technology we found, I saw that Jack had decided on Chinese and a monster movie. I was wondering if I could talk him into Hunan tonight (probably yes) and trying to remember if he had any beer that went well with Chinese (probably no), when it hit me: somewhere along the line I had learned to speak Jack. I had learned to read his face and subtle shifts in his body position, occasionally helped out by Jack’s use of actual words, and catalogued it all as a language I could interpret almost without conscious thought.
Sam passed the brief to Teal’c who explained to the General that he had never heard of a Goa’uld that went by Laios, the local “god”, and that it was possible that some other race had transported the population from Earth.
“I don’t remember a Laios in ‘Erik the Red’,” Jack intoned. He was now doodling on his notebook, and didn’t even look up to see General Hammond, Sam, and Teal’c staring at him.
All three then turned to me. As I explained that Laios was a Greek name and so was most probably not Asgard, I marveled at the way all three had turned to me when they didn’t understand Jack. Apparently my speaking Jack was a common enough occurrence that others relied on me as an interpreter. Even Sam and Teal’c.
General Hammond wrapped up the meeting and left, telling us to have a good weekend. Sam was off like a shot, muttering something about bikes and a run to Denver, and Teal’c lingered only long enough to nod politely before silently making his way down the stairs to the control room to arrange for his transport to the Land of Light.
Jack waited for me to collect my things, and then we made our way into the corridor. “Chinese?” he asked as we approached the elevators.
A shrug. “Lake Placid?”
I knew it was monster movies! “Deep Blue Sea?”
A pause “Both?”
“Sounds good. I’ll pick up beer and movies if you get the food.”
“Mine in an hour, and don’t dawdle, the guards up top say it’s gonna rain,” and he was gone.
“His” meant I could get DVDs instead of tapes since he had a new DVD player. “His” meant I would be crashing in his spare room if I wasn’t okay to drive, instead of him having to make do with my couch, so I should grab my shaving kit. And “his” meant that if it cleared up later, stargazing might play a role in the evening’s activities, so I should bring my heavy jacket.
* * *
I spent too much time wandering through the liquor store trying to find a beer that would go with Chinese and still fit within Jack’s strict beer definition (i.e., not brown, not chewable, and cold), and as a result I was winding my way to Jack’s in a soft rain that was steadily increasing. As I drove, I pondered my new ‘language’. I was a little smug at having cracked the code, and a touch chagrined at having only just now realized it. How useful it would have been to speak Jack last year when he went undercover to expose the NID’s activities. Looking back, it was all right there in front of me, from the set of his shoulders to the way his eyes kept sliding away from mine.
What else had I missed while I wasn’t paying attention? What else had he tried to tell me? What else had he tried to conceal? Well, I was paying attention now.
By the time I got to Jack’s, the soft rain had become a downpour and the wind whipped crazily forcing the raindrops in what seemed to be every direction at once. Sighing, I parked the car, realizing I’d have to run for it. I tucked the DVDs into the plastic bag from the liquor store, grabbed my shaving kit from the back, took a deep breath, and jumping from the car I sprinted to the porch. It did absolutely no good. I was soaked before I’d taken three steps, and with the wind the porch was no refuge at all.
I was trying to shift everything to one hand in order to knock, when the door opened suddenly and a long arm reached out and yanked me into the house. The door slammed behind me and I peered through rain-streaked glasses at Jack, to find his expression split evenly between ‘you look utterly ridiculous’ and ‘I told you not to dawdle’.
“Don’t move.” He took the bag to the kitchen. Coming back he held out a hand. “Jacket.”
I struggled out of my jacket and gave it to him. “Shoes and socks.” He headed through the kitchen into the laundry with my jacket, and came back with towels just as I was fighting to pull off my last sock without losing my balance. He tossed one to me, saying, “Hair, you’re dripping,” and squatted down with the other to bundle up my soaked shoes and socks and take a swipe at the water on the floor.
Standing up, he gave me an assessing look. My pants were soaked to mid-thigh and the front of my shirt where my coat had been unzipped was stuck to my skin. He gave me a push toward the hallway. “Go. Shower. There’s stuff you can wear in the dresser in the spare room.” He started back toward the laundry with his towel-wrapped bundle, shaking his head a little. “And hurry up, the food’s gonna get cold.”
I hustled down the hall, took a quick shower, and then retrieved some sweats and heavy socks from the spare room. By the time I got out to the living room, Jack had all the Chinese boxes open on the coffee table, and there were two beers, two forks, and a stack of napkins.
I took my place on the floor next to him, leaning back against the couch. “No chopsticks?”
Jack gave me a glare and started the movie. “No chopsticks.” I smothered a grin. The first (and last) time he had ever allowed me to use chopsticks in his house, I had gotten a little carried away with the conversation and had gestured just a little too emphatically with the chopsticks. Unfortunately, the load of sweet and sour chicken carried by said chopsticks had not survived the trip, and the evening had ended with us trying to get sweet and sour sauce out of the carpet. Only somewhat successfully. There was still a little pink spot by the fireplace.
As I watched the movie and munched on this or that, my thoughts wandered back to my new language: Jack. Yeah, still pretty proud of myself for cracking the code, and I felt the familiar giddiness a new language brings. So, what else had I noticed… Well, the sweats I was wearing were my size, not Jack’s, and though they were obviously brand new, they had just as obviously been laundered before being put away. I took a surreptitious sniff. Yep. Laundered with my own hard to find brand of hypoallergenic detergent. And come to think of it, the shampoo and soap in the shower had been my brand as well. Add to all this the fact that Jack had been waiting ready to snatch me inside when I arrived, had given me a quick once over to make sure I was all right, then promptly set about seeing to my return to comfort. And the blatant not-bitching about the beer when I showed up, which to be fair, was a touch too cocoa to truly be considered amber.
Conclusion? Jack loves me.
We’re friends. Good friends. And team mates. He loves all his “kids”, even the one more than twice his age. Of course he loves me. Just as I love him.
I sat there next to him, crunching my way through an egg roll, basking in the warmth of his feelings for us. Smug.
For about five minutes.
Then something started bothering me. I excused myself and headed to the bathroom. My shampoo. My soap. And a new tube of my kind of toothpaste was in the cabinet. Right next to a brand new toothbrush with the extra soft bristles I like.
But there was no lemon-scented shampoo with special additives to keep blond hair bright that Sam always used. And there was no bubble-gum flavored toothpaste for Teal’c. I went to the spare room. Sweats in my size. The heavy socks I like to wear around the house when I’m cold. But none of the weird fleece footie things that Sam liked. And no candles for Teal’c
I sat heavily on the bed. Huh.
When I returned to the living room, Jack was just coming out of the kitchen from putting the leftovers away, and he quirked a half smile at me as he handed me another beer on his way back to the couch. I sat beside him and took a pull off my beer.
I spend the rest of the movie in a fog. Jack loved us all, I knew this. So, why all of that stuff for me, and nothing for anyone else? Did he think I needed more taking care of? No, I decided. Maybe he had at first, but I was a full member of the team, long since. I was treated a little differently because I was a civilian, but I didn’t need a nursemaid.
I came back to myself abruptly. Jack was tracing a finger down one of the furrows between my eyebrows, his face an odd mixture of serious and amused. And something… else.
Something else entirely.
Then he pulled his hand away and flashed a grin at me. “Thinking too hard for Lake Placid, Daniel.” My eyes followed as he pointed to the TV. “It’s over and you missed most of the good stuff.”
He smiled again. “It’s okay. I’ll just put the other one in.” And with that he levered himself off the couch and went to find the other movie.
I couldn’t move, myself. I was… poleaxed. Jack was attracted to me. Suddenly everything I’d seen made perfect sense. He wanted me. And wasn’t sure exactly what to do about it, by the looks of things.
And then more things fell into place for me. The way our friendship had suddenly become strained earlier this year. After Jack, Sam, and Teal’c had spent that time stranded off-world without me, and then the replicator mess here on Earth, there was a tenseness between us that hadn’t been there before. And that weird flirtation with Sam. And then Jack and Teal’c had been stuck in that time loop thing for months, learning Latin of all things. After that, Jack just seemed to relax again. Looking back, I think what I was seeing was acceptance. Of himself, I suppose.
And now? Now I guessed he was waiting for me to figure it out. Had been waiting for a while.
So? So now I knew. Now what?
Was I attracted to Jack? I looked over at him futzing with the DVDs. His long lean form. The way his every move seemed a study in controlled power. The silver hair that oddly added to his appeal. He finally got the movie to load, and turned to grin triumphantly at me.
Wow. That was just… Wow. My pulse jumped and my underwear was suddenly tighter. Was I attracted to Jack? Yes. I thought emphatically yes. So now what?
Now… I guessed I had some thinking to do.
“Aht, stop it right now.” This from Jack, as he returned to the couch. “Whatever it is, work it out later. We have a movie to watch.” Jack’s eyes twinkled at me, and I found myself suppressing a smile. “Sharks,” he singsonged. “Arrogant scientists. LL Cool J.”
“Don’t forget explosions, and a scantily clad monster maker.”
And I decided to put off the heavy thinking for later. Just then I had a movie, and Jack, to enjoy.
The following Tuesday night found me standing on the porch in front of Jack’s house again. He wasn’t expecting me, but I had something to ask him. Something that couldn’t be handled at work or over the phone.
Over the weekend I’d been catching up on my backlog of translations, so I was able to let things stew for a bit, just knock around in my brain without pushing them. This, however, was followed by two days spent helping Sam gather dirt and water samples which had given me a lot of time to think. Too much, one could argue. As Sam pointed and I dutifully scraped or dipped whatever it was into an appropriate container, I had turned the puzzle of Jack’s attraction to me, and the realization of my own emphatic reciprocity, over and over in my head.
Fact: I loved Jack. Fact: I was attracted to Jack. And those two things might have had me leaping headfirst into bed with him, except for one other Fact: Our friendship was the most important relationship in my life. Not something I would trade for what might turn out to be just a little rough and tumble.
So here I was, ready to try something else. I told myself sternly that I was absolutely not in over my head, took a deep breath, and knocked on the door. The warmth in his eyes and a quirk of an eyebrow when he answered it told me he was pleased to see me, but a little puzzled as well, and his fingers fiddling briefly with the hem of his shirt equaled a quick flash of uncertainty, hoping he hadn’t forgotten something.
“Hi Jack. I need to ask you something.” I was determined to be quick about this, speak my piece and be gone. He opened the door wider and I came in.
“No, thanks. This won’t take that long.”
“Oookay, spill.” He had his arms folded across his chest as he leaned back against the wall. An attempt to pull off ‘casual’ while holding a classic defensive posture. Jack isn’t big on surprises.
“I want you to come with me to a movie and dinner tomorrow night.”
“That’s what this is about?” Jack’s tone was equal parts relief and exasperation and he started to push off of the wall. “Geez, Daniel, I…”
“Let me finish, okay?”
Jack nodded slowly and settled back.
“I can’t figure out a way to ease into this, so I’m just going to say it. Tomorrow night is a date. I’m asking you out on a date.”
Jack’s mouth worked, but no sound came out.
“If you don’t want to go out on a date with me, just let me know tomorrow sometime. Otherwise, I’ll be here to pick you up at 6:30 tomorrow night.” I turned to leave and actually had my hand on the doorknob before Jack’s hand came down on my shoulder.
“Whoa, wait a minute. You don’t get to drop a bomb like that and then just take off before I have a chance to catch up. Give me a second here.”
“You want to go out on a date.”
“Not just a guys’ night out.”
He thought for a moment. “Where’re we going?” The twinkle was back in his eyes.
“I’d rather not say, but I promise you’ll like it.”
“Okay then, it’s a date.” He smiled and I found myself grinning back stupidly. The silence spun out between us.
“Good. Great. I’ll see you then.” I didn’t move, feet suddenly rooted to the floor.
“See ya.” Jack’s smile grew.
“I’m gonna…” I gestured vaguely at the door.
“Okay.” His eyes positively danced. He reached past me and pulled open the door.
I wrenched my eyes from him and was finally able to turn and walk out the door to my car. After I’d gotten in, I chanced a quick glance back at the door. He was still standing at the door watching me. Involuntarily I raised a hand to wave. Jack’s hand shot up in response and his head snapped around to look at it. He brought it down in front of him and studied it with a puzzled scowl as if it was some brand new appendage, apparently with a mind of its own. Finally, he looked up at me, rolled his eyes, and went back inside.
In over my head. Definitely. But at least I wasn’t the only one.
As I drove Jack home at the end of the following evening, I couldn’t help but think the night had been an unqualified success. After spending a disturbing amount of time deciding what to wear, I still managed to arrive on time to pick up Jack. He looked like he’d made something of an effort as well, the clothes he was wearing were just that bit tighter than normal.
Jack was rolling his eyes and groaning about the little ‘art house’ theater I took him to, right up until he saw the marquee. Army of Darkness. Jack and I had laughed ourselves sick over that movie a few times over the years. The great thing about that theater was that the front three rows were not regular theater seats, but were actually cushy loveseats. It didn’t take long before we were pressed hip to hip with Jack’s long arm slung across the back of the chairs, whispering snickered comments into each other’s ears.
For dinner I had chosen an out of the way Italian place where the food was excellent and privacy paramount in the design. Conversation over dinner was lively, with topics ranging from Bruce Campbell’s chin to reminiscences of weird greeting rituals, dipping now and then into funny anecdotes about college professors, and punctuated with exclamations over the food. In short, we had a fantastic time.
We arrived at Jack’s place and I followed him inside, bickering over the merits of various iterations of James Bond on the way up the walk but faltering once the door was closed behind us. I was suddenly unaccountably nervous. Jack seemed at a loss as well, fiddling with the zipper on his jacket.
I licked my lips. “So I guess this is the awkward part.” Jack looked up and flashed me a sheepish grin. It had apparently been a long time since he had the first date jitters as well.
I stepped into his space, hands coming up to fall softly against his waist, hesitated, and then kissed him. Just a chaste kiss, a simple pressing of lips that warmed appreciably as Jack responded. Breaking the kiss, I pulled back a bare few inches to gauge Jack’s reaction. Warm brown eyes twinkled back at me and fingers at the nape of my neck drew me back. Noses nudging, little persuading nibbles, and then we opened to each other for our first real kiss. Tongues tangling, sliding, gently at first and then with heat flaring, surprising us both.
When the kiss ended I eased back. Jack tried to follow but I stopped him with a gentle hand to his chest. The obvious chemistry between us had put paid to any lingering doubts I might have been harboring. It was time to make my case.
“I’ve been doing some thinking,” I started, and when Jack gave me the expected quirk of his eyebrow to tell me this was not news I shushed him and continued. “You know our friendship is important to me.” His eyes agreed but a quirk of his lips let me know that he would love it if I could hurry it up so we could get back to the kissing part. “And I don’t want to risk it for sex.” Confusion blossomed in Jack’s eyes and he started to pull away, hurt at what he saw as a rejection written in the line of his mouth.
I pulled him back to me quickly. “Jack.” His eyes avoided mine. I gentled my voice further. “Jack, look at me.” When he finally did, I pulled his hips firmly against my own and said, “It’s not that I don’t want you. I do.”
Jack’s eyebrows shot up. “From a little kiss?” he asked, his voice probably more breathy than he was comfortable with.
I smiled. “Yeah, from a little kiss. I just… You’re just too important to me. The only thing I would be willing to trade our friendship for is the real thing. A real relationship with an eye toward permanency.” Jack’s eyes widened at that, but I pushed on. “Anything else wouldn’t be worth it. So I don’t want us to jump into bed. I want us to date, take our time. I want us to go out, or stay in, or just do things together.”
Jack tilted his head, one side of his mouth quirking up.
“I know we already do that kind of thing, but even doing the same old thing is different when you’re dating.” The line of Jack’s shoulders said he was mulling it over but was nowhere near done.
“Look, I don’t want an answer now. I just want you to think about it. You know I’m going off-world with SG-5 in the morning.” Jack’s eyes reflected the familiar irritation they did whenever one of his ‘kids’ went off without him. “I’ll be back next Friday, we can talk then. Or we can forget about it and just watch movies, no harm no foul. Just… think about it.”
Jack held my eyes for a long moment. “Okay.”
I smiled and eased back from the embrace, turning for the door, but Jack pulled me back into a kiss that first curled my toes and then gentled into soft, nibbling kisses. He pulled back and smiled at me. “I’ll think about it,” he promised, and this time let me open the door and make my way to my car.
When I got back the following Friday, Jack showed up for the debriefing. My 9 days digging in the dirt with SG-5 had been hot and exhausting, but ultimately useful. The civilization that had once lived there had incised the locations of several mines on a wall, all of them labeled with the type of ore produced. Two of them read, “god stone.” I figured that the SGC would forgive an archaeologist occasionally wanting actually do some archaeology if I could locate a naquadah mine or two when I did.
After the initial excitement over the naquadah died down, the debriefing was pretty much like any other, and my mind began to wander. While off-world I had resolutely refused to dwell on Jack’s impending decision, preferring to focus on the minutiae of my work during the day and making notes until I fell into an exhausted sleep at night. Now that I was back…
I looked across the table at Jack. The line of his shoulders and one slightly raised eyebrow told me he was thinking about the meal he had the ingredients for at home. The way he was fiddling with his pencil said it was something sautéed, not grilled, with vegetables. A flick of his eyebrows and a shift in his chair spoke of wine and candles instead of beer. The pencil being abandoned in favor of an in depth study of the callus on his trigger finger revealed that the movie he’d rented was one he considered a “compromise movie” which I knew meant there would at least be decent writing along with the action sequences. I puzzled over these clues as the meeting wound down, wondering if I dared get my hopes up.
And then Jack’s eyes met mine over the table, and I didn’t need to gather any more evidence or make any more suppositions. The warmth in his gaze and the barest hint of a smile on his lips made a statement that was unequivocal.
Jack had thought it over, and the answer was yes.