"You have the most incredible eyes," Jack remarked, apropos of nothing, as they walked towards the elevator.
"Excuse me?" Daniel looked startled by the non sequitur, a slight flush staining his cheekbones.
"Your eyes. Remarkable. Amazing. Huge pools of cerulean blue," Jack continued dreamily, "swept by the most fantastic eyelashes. Long, beautiful eyelashes. Too beautiful for a man."
Daniel stopped dead and stared at him. "Jack?" he asked tentatively, "Are you feeling okay?"
"Never better, Danny boy. It just suddenly struck me, y'know? I felt I just had to say it. You ever get moments like that?"
Daniel chewed the inside of his lip. "Not recently, no."
"Not at all?"
Daniel paused to consider for a moment or two, before shaking his head decisively. "No, I'm fairly certain I can say with confidence that it's never occurred to me to say anything along those lines about your eyes. Well it wouldn't, would it?" he said, with a nervous laugh. "For a start, they're brown, not blue. Oh, I'm pretty sure I can live with them, you know?" he added hastily, as a hurt look spread over Jack's features, "And you'd certainly find life a bit odd without them. I just don't feel the need to compare them to anything much at all. That much. Or... ever, probably. Sorry."
He attempted to soften this harsh statement with a shrug, a small grimace and a lift of the eyebrows. It didn't altogether work.
"Ah." Jack stuck his hands in his pockets and lowered his chin, glancing at Daniel from under his eyelashes. "Not even to fathomless pools of molten chocolate?" His face fell as he noted Daniel's instinctive and vigorous shake of his head.
"Okay, eyes are off limits. What about skin?"
"Skin. Your skin is...like velvet. Soft, luscious, luxurious velvet. Or honey-coloured silk, stretched taut over fluid muscle." Jack stared hopefully at him, apparently waiting for a reply in a similar vein.
"Uh, Jack, I think skin's probably off limits too, in this context. Actually, there's no 'probably' about it," Daniel said firmly. "It's definitely off limits."
"And what do you suspect that says about our relationship?"
"Uh, that we're guys?"
"'Guys' like - well-- guys. C'mon, Jack - guys don't say stuff like that to other guys. Unless they're sick, or under alien influence, or something." Daniel peered into Jack's face. "Um, you're not, are you? Sick or under alien influence, I mean?"
Jack considered the question carefully. "I don't think I am. I feel quite normal. I just have an urge to say nice things about you. Romantic things. You know."
The way Jack was looking at him was quite unnerving: the goofy grin he could live with on limited occasion, but the puppy eyes didn't suit Jack one bit. Daniel grabbed his arm and urged him towards the lift again.
"What's the hurry, Daniel?" Jack was aggrieved. "I was having a nice little moment there."
"We're heading for the infirmary, Jack. I think Janet needs to check you out."
"I'm telling ya, I'm feeling fine. Never better, in fact." Jack batted at Daniel's arm, but Daniel hung on with grim determination.
"Well, you're not acting fine. Come on, I'd feel happier if you'd just bite the bullet and let Janet check you out again. Do it for me. Please, Jack?" Daniel wheedled.
"For you? Anything," Jack agreed happily as he allowed himself to be towed along.
"Now you're really scaring me," Daniel muttered darkly.
The situation degenerated sharply in the elevator.
"What kind of flowers do you like, Daniel?" Jack draped an amiable arm over Daniel's shoulders.
Daniel was momentarily thrown by the question. "Flowers?" he enquired warily.
The arm tightened and drew Daniel further into Jack's personal space. Daniel tensed, wondering what the hell was coming next, but Jack seemed to have no ulterior motive other than to facilitate whispering in his ear, "Yeah, you know, those sweet little invitations to seduction and reproduction produced by angiosperms?" Jack's tone was husky, intimate, and Daniel was nonplussed. More than that, he was downright perplexed. That Jack would even know the word 'angiosperm' was one thing - to hear it uttered in such a blatantly 'come to bed' voice was another. He wriggled out from under the restraining arm.
"I don't like flowers that much, Jack. Allergies, remember? Flowers make me sneeze."
"Ah, yes. Allergies. The nemesis of the terminally romantic. 'Roses are red, violets are blue, but not for our Daniel, they make him achoo!' Daniel, Daniel, Daniel," Jack chuckled, shaking his head, "what are we going to do with you, eh?"
"Uh, I don't really know, Jack. Why don't we defer any decision until we see what Janet's got to say?"
"It's really very sad." Jack's expression was suitably mournful and Daniel saw with horror that he was on the verge of tears.
"You said something's very sad. What?"
"The allergy thing."
Daniel hurried to put Jack's mind at rest. "No, not sad, per se - inconvenient, maybe, at their worst. Mildly irritating, if you have to stick a label on the condition. Definitely not sad."
"Oh yeah, sad. You'll never have rose petals strewn lovingly across the bed." Jack sighed hugely and followed it with a penetrating sniff. "That's really very sad."
A horrible suspicion reared its ugly head in Daniel's mind. "Jack, have you been drinking?"
"I'm still on duty!" Jack was scandalised, but he couldn't keep it up for long. He gazed at Daniel and his expression lapsed into a reprise of his previous goofy grin, this time underpinned with a very slight tinge of lasciviousness. He couldn't keep that up for long either, and the lasciviousness soon (worryingly soon in Daniel's opinion) segued into tenderness. "I've only sipped at the heady wine of Aphrodite, Daniel. I'm drunk with luuuuurve."
"Don't worry," said Daniel soothingly. "There has to be a rational explanation for this. Janet will come up with something." 'I sincerely hope,' he added in the privacy of his own mind. "We'll just keep on heading for the infirmary."
"If you think that's best."
"Oh, I do, Jack. I most certainly do."
"You look adorable when you do that."
"What?" The question was startled out of Daniel by Jack's sudden change of tack: as soon as the word was out of his mouth, he realised he'd made a grave error.
"Adorable. You. When you do that. That little pouty thing that you do with your bottom lip when you're determined about something." Jack's head tilted in a deplorably winsome manner as he repeated himself and Daniel hastily rearranged his expression. Too late: Jack reached out his forefinger and tapped him gently on the nose. "That's so cute, it makes me want to --"
"Please, Jack, don't say it, you'll only regret it later," Daniel said in desperation. He had the sinking feeling that if he actually heard what Jack was about to put into words, he'd either be physically sick or worse, he'd never get a hard on again.
"I know," Daniel replied grimly. "C'mon, Jack. Get a grip. We're nearly there - look, we're at Level 23 already."
As a diversionary tactic, it was a non-starter. Daniel acknowledged that to himself as his back hit the elevator wall and Jack's hands landed with a solid thump, one either side of his head, and he waited in some trepidation to see what was going to happen next. He was willing to bet that the outcome wouldn't be the usual one.
"Adonis," Jack breathed, gazing deeply into Daniel's eyes.
Daniel thought rapidly and tried not to wriggle, on the principle that Jack really needed no encouragement whatsoever. And then he had a brainwave: maybe innuendo would do the trick. He dredged up a leer and plastered it onto his face. "Ah... Adonis was gored to death by a raging boar, Jack."
He waited expectantly: some mention of the size and configuration of his dick (or Jack's: he was starting to get desperate enough that he couldn't afford to be fussy) would have been an encouraging sign at this juncture, or even a waggling of the O'Neill eyebrows, but his hopes were fated to be dashed. No such comment, actual or implied, was forthcoming.
"Beautiful and smart," Jack sighed gustily. "I love that. What did I ever do to deserve you, huh?"
"I have no idea."
Daniel silently willed the elevator to 'move, damn it!' as he ducked under Jack's arm and out of his clutches.
It seemed to take forever for them to negotiate their trail to the infirmary doors, although in reality it took no longer than usual - less time than usual, actually, bearing in mind that this time, neither was actually carrying the other. Their conversation, or rather Jack's conversational tangents, had taken some increasingly bizarre swoops during the trip. They'd covered, in no sort of order, candlelight, Valentine's, the deep, dark symbolism of chocolate as an indicator of romantic intent and the relative merits of milk versus seventy two per cent cocoa solids and most bizarrely of all to Daniel's mind, the love poetry of Catullus. With passing reference to Sappho and a sideswipe at Shakespeare.
"'Then, beauteous niggard, why dost thou abuse the bounteous largesse given thee to give?' What was that all about, huh? That guy was never lucky in love, no matter what they say about Anne Hathaway or the beautiful youth..."
And, of course, Daniel had no answer to give to that: it was so far out of his field that it defied analysis. In every respect.
All in all, Daniel was relieved and delighted when they finally made it to Janet's territory and he could abrogate responsibility to the experts.
Janet's approach was crisp and professional as ever, much to Daniel's personal reassurance: he'd half-convinced himself on his and Jack's surreal progress that he was the one who was barking mad here. She ran through the usual battery of diagnostic tests with her usual efficient and bracing bedside manner: Jack sat blinking owlishly and chuckling to himself throughout.
"And you say he had nothing to eat or drink on '142?"
Daniel looked at Janet, frankly shocked. "Of course not. You know how Jack is - cautious to the point of paranoia about that on a first visit, ever since...uh, well, he's careful about it. He insisted we eat our field rations and only our field rations the entire time we were there. And before you ask, they were exactly the same as they usually are - uniformly vile."
"What about water?"
"We drank from our canteens."
"And nothing to eat or drink since?"
"No time," said Daniel succinctly. "We got back. We came here to get checked out. We debriefed -"
Jack swatted Daniel coquettishly on the arm. "Oh, you... we did no-ot. We never got that far, we just --"
Daniel took note of Janet's rapidly climbing eyebrows and pursing lips and raised his voice to drown out impending disaster. "We debriefed with General Hammond and headed for the locker room to shower. We were headed topside to get something to eat when Jack suddenly started acting really strangely. That was when I brought him back here."
Janet shook her head and looked closely at Jack. His pupils were dilated and he was keeping his head up with an effort. As she watched, he gave in and his head lolled onto his chest. "Well then, I haven't a clue what's wrong with him. Actually, if pressed for an opinion, and it's scarcely a medical opinion at this point, I'd say he was at least three sheets to the wind - but you say that's impossible."
"Definitely." Daniel was quite clear on this point. "We all ate and drank exactly the same, and that was field rations. Standard USAF issue field rations. We didn't split up at any time, Jack had no opportunity to eat or drink anything different from the rest of us. And we're all okay - we are all okay, aren't we?"
Janet nodded. "Yes, as far as I know. The three of you seem to be acting quite normally. The Colonel's the only one whose behaviour is... off." She shook her head again. "All we can do is wait for the results of the blood tests to come back, see if that gives us any clues. In the meantime, I'm going to have to confine him to the infirmary - quite apart from anything else, it would do nothing for discipline on base for anyone else to see him in this state."
Daniel puffed out his cheeks in relief and gave Janet a lopsided grin. "I was hoping you'd say that." Truth to tell, he wasn't quite sure he could handle Jack in this state. And he was damned if he was going to tolerate being treated as an overgrown girl, no matter what Jack's chemical status might or might not prove to be. "You're going to be the one to break the news to him, I take it?"
"News? What news?" Jack's head came up with a jerk. For a moment, the usual Jack looked out of his eyes: but then his gaze came to rest on Daniel again, and his expression softened. "Just gorgeous..." he sighed, mercifully very much under his breath, and closed his eyes once more.
Janet's eyebrows were on the up and up again, but she made no comment other than a mild, "I think I'd better, don't you?"
Daniel was hard pushed to do anything but agree. He gave Janet a grateful smile and nodded wordlessly so as not to draw Jack's attention again. He almost got away with it: it was very bad luck indeed that the instrument cart was quite as close to him as he turned to leave Jack in what was undoubtedly the best place for him. And even worse luck that the only item that he dislodged was the metal bowl sitting precariously close to the edge of the cart. The resultant clatter as it hit the cement floor would have wakened the dead, let alone the merely apparently inebriated. Daniel froze to the spot as Jack's eyes snapped open once more.
"Daniel? You running out on me on those lovely long legs of yours?" Jack slurred.
"Not running, no. Just... leaving you here for a little while," Daniel said brightly. "So that Janet can check you out. I'll be back in the morning to see how you are."
"Why? I'm not sick. I feel fine - just a little tired is all. I don't need a quack. I just need to get home to bed." Daniel was acutely aware of the expression on Janet's face even though he wasn't looking at her directly - something about the hiss of indrawn breath that he heard painted what he knew had to be an accurate mental picture. But he kept his eyes locked on Jack's - as far as he was able, Jack's eyes were apparently capable of working quite independently from each other - and said soothingly, "You just go to sleep there. You'll be fine if you get a little shut-eye."
"Okay. Maybe just five minutes," Jack said obediently, adding with a flourish as Daniel backed away slowly, "'Good night, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest'."
If Daniel's steps speeded up to the point of unseemly haste as he neared the relative safety of the door -- well, he trusted Janet and her adherence to the Hippocratic oath not to kick a man when he was down. Although after the 'quack' comment he was prepared to concede he was possibly being a little over optimistic there.
Daniel didn't spend a very comfortable night. Between worrying about Jack, worrying about what Jack might let slip and worrying about whether or not whatever was affecting Jack was actually contagious and if so, exactly how it was going to affect him, he didn't get a whole lot of sleep. When he finally did slide over the edge into blessed oblivion, at around four, he slept heavily, waking bleary-eyed and unrefreshed - and late.
In a comparatively short time, having cursed profusely, cut himself twice while shaving and spent an unproductive ten minutes he could ill afford to waste rearranging bits of toilet paper on his chin while cursing some more and trying to hop into his pants, he grabbed his car keys and headed off for the Mountain.
As soon as he entered the infirmary, he knew that something was up. Janet was sitting in her office and looking particularly tight-lipped.
"Uh, good morning?" Daniel made it very slightly into a question.
"I've had better," Janet replied, shaking her head irritably.
"What's up?" Daniel enquired reflexively, and promptly mentally kicked himself for asking. The words were barely out of his mouth before he really regretted uttering them: Janet took a deep breath and started to catalogue exactly what was up. It was a long list, apparently delivered in no sort of chronological order. But as far as Daniel could make out, the main thrust of it seemed to be that 'the Colonel was impossible.' Just not in the same ways as usual.
Like that was news? However, Daniel smiled sympathetically and made the appropriate noises for the duration, and Janet did eventually run out of steam.
"So, it's not exactly been a bed of roses then," he finally said.
Janet grimaced ruefully. "That's a pretty fair summary, yes. But there is some good news: the blood samples I took revealed the main effects of this... whatever it is. Something's been playing merry hell with his limbic system: his dopamine levels were through the roof when you brought him in. They've fallen since, I'm happy to say, although they still weren't quite back to normal at the last count."
Daniel snorted with amusement despite his other concerns. "'Playing merry hell'? Is that a bona fide medical term?"
Janet grinned back at him. "Layman's version. Anyway, what it means is, the Colonel's hormones were all over the place - another layman's term, before you ask. The dopamine had a cascade effect on his serotonin and oxytocin levels - all hormones that are associated with varying levels of emotional arousal during the natural course of a romantic affair."
"Wait a minute here," Daniel's brow wrinkled as he picked his way through this startling information. "You're saying that Jack is lovesick?"
"Essentially, yes, for want of a better description. And I'm hoping that the falling hormone levels are an indication that he's getting over it. Although what caused it, I have no idea."
"But it's not contagious."
"It doesn't seem to be, none of the rest of you seem to be affected. Thankfully."
"Yes indeed." Daniel shuddered. A most unwelcome image of a lovesick, two hundred and twenty pound, poetry quoting Jaffa had just popped into his head.
"I'll want to keep the Colonel here for observation for a while though. Just to confirm that his dopamine levels return to normal and stay there."
Daniel shook his head to clear it - the image had been an unpleasantly lingering one. "That sounds good. How long do you think he'll be here?"
Janet pulled a face. "At least until this evening. Maybe overnight. We'll just have to wait and see. Meantime, do you want to see him?"
"Ah, I think not, thanks. I wouldn't like to trigger a relapse. I'll be in my office - call me when you have any further news, huh?" For the second time in less than fifteen hours, Daniel turned and fled. He heard the muttered, "Chicken!" that followed him out, but he loftily chose to ignore it. Discretion, after all, was very often the better part of valour.
"Yeesh! Am I ever glad that's over," was Jack's heartfelt verdict as he flopped down on the couch.
"Yeah, I can go with that," Daniel replied as he headed off in the direction of the kitchen. "You wanna beer?"
"Nope. I think I've sworn off alcohol for a while," Jack said with a shudder. "I'm thinking that for the time being, I want to stay in control of myself. I don't remember much about it, but I'm not in any hurry to go back to anywhere near the state I'm told I was in."
Daniel wandered back through to the living room again, beer in hand, and plopped down on the couch beside him. "Do you remember anything at all?"
"Not a lot, no. I remember getting showered and heading topside - then there's a huge honkin' great black hole until I woke up in the infirmary yesterday morning. With a bitch of a headache, I might add."
"Ah well, it's maybe for the best," Daniel said sympathetically.
Jack gave him a questioning look. "A headache? How d'ya work that out?"
"The amnesia. Some things are better forgotten."
"You called Janet a quack," Daniel commented as he smirked at the beer bottle in his hand.
"To her face?"
Jack paled under his tan. "I was outta my gourd. She can't hold that against me. I had a medical condition, for cryin' out loud!"
"In vino veritas," Daniel murmured, and raised his shoulders in a shrug as Jack shot him a sharp glance. "What? It was mentioned as an analogy, that's all - and no, not by me. Janet wasn't altogether... thrilled with the comment."
Jack slumped forwards, his forehead in his hands.
"Flowers, d'ya think?"
"They'd be more appropriate for Janet than for me, certainly. And no cheap skate twenty dollar special from Safeway, either."
Jack raised his head, a look of horror on his face, and groaned when he took in Daniel's mildly reproving expression. "Oh, puh-lease! Tell me I didn't...?"
Daniel grinned smugly and nodded.
"Shit." Jack buried his face in his hands again as a rich scarlet flush spread over his neck. His next comment was muffled. "I'm starting to think you're right about not remembering. This is gonna be one of those things I'll have a hard time living down, isn't it?"
Daniel chuckled. "Uh huh. You know, I never before realised that you were such a marshmallow, deep down. It was scary at the time, but looking back on it, you were quite cute, I suppose."
Jack raised the face of outrage from his hands, eyebrows climbing alarmingly before they snapped back down into a scowl. "Cute, Daniel? Cute? Damn it all, I'm six-two and one hundred and eighty pounds. I'm a Special Ops trained, USAF Colonel. I don't do cute! I wouldn't know where to start!"
Daniel pursed his lips judiciously. "You did the other night. Candlelight was mentioned, and chocolate, as well as flowers, and love poetry. And you were all soft and yielding --"
"Aaarrrggghhh!" Jack clapped his hands over his ears.
"... whereas I definitely prefer you hard and uncompromising. Or something like that. Hard, anyway."
Jack looked at him, and a softening look stole across his features as his hands fell back to his sides again. Daniel's expression immediately changed from teasing to wary.
"What's with the look?"
"Oh, nuthin'," Jack said dreamily. "I was just thinking what beautiful eyes you have." The fingers of the nearest hand started to walk across the couch towards Daniel, who shifted uncomfortably.
"The blue of... gentians in the Swiss Alps."
With a sinking feeling of déjà vu, Daniel said, "Jack, are you feeling --"
"Like lakes of still water under clear blue skies."
The sinking feeling slipped effortlessly into worry.
"The pure cobalt of warm, Caribbean seas."
Forget 'worrying', this was downright alarming: the goofy grin was back in full force.
"As blue as... my balls are gonna get if I keep this up until I really piss you off."
"You bastard!" Daniel exclaimed as he hurled a pillow from the position of relative safety he'd scrambled to at the end of the couch. "I thought you were having a relapse. Jesus, Jack, don't do that to me again!"
Jack dodged the pillow easily and chortled. "You are so easy sometimes. Anyway, as I was just about to say, romance be damned, it just gets a guy into trouble. Wanna fuck?"
Daniel's eyes gleamed behind his glasses as he moved back into Jack's personal space. "Attaboy," he answered with a grin. "I thought you'd never ask."
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