The Colorado Springs detective halted his determined path to the bar and groaned.
"Ah, geez--you're the last person I want to see."
"Thank you," Daniel said, giving Pete a puzzled look.
"Sorry, I didn't mean that," Pete said, claiming the bar stool next to Daniel's. "You're actually one step removed from the last person I want to see."
"I'm either too drunk or not drunk enough to understand that," Daniel said, staring at his shot of whiskey.
"How about I buy you another and see if that clears things up?"
"Hit me," Daniel said without hesitation. Pete nodded at the bartender and moments later two fresh whiskeys were slid in front of them.
"To love," Pete said, lifting his glass.
"It's a bitch," Daniel said, knocking his glass against Pete's.
"Me, too, what?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, that. Yes."
"At this particular moment...I'm not real happy with the situation," Daniel agreed.
"What is your situation, if you don't mind me asking?" Pete said, turning on his stool to face Daniel.
"Well," Daniel said, looking at his watch. "As I sit here sharing a drink with my friend's fiancé, my...my...."
"True love? Light of your life? Soul mate?"
"Uptight, repressed son of a bitch," Daniel said.
"Ouch," Pete said. He thought for a moment. "Shouldn't that just be bitch?"
"In truth his mother was probably a very nice woman," Daniel said.
"Oh," Pete said. "His."
"Don't ask," Daniel said, putting his forefinger against his lips.
"Wasn't planning to," Pete said. He waved at the bartender. "How does another one sound?"
"Sounds like a plan," Daniel said. He pulled a couple of bills from his wallet and tossed them on the bar with the money Pete had already laid down. He replaced the wallet in his back pocket and resettled on his stool.
"So...son of a bitch?"
"Uptight and repressed," Daniel reminded him. "And on a date."
"That sucks," Pete said, clearly offended on Daniel's behalf.
"In ways I never imagined," Daniel nodded. He glanced sideways at Pete. "What's your tale of woe?"
"Sam dumped me."
"Ouch!" Daniel looked at Pete with wide, disbelieving eyes. "She didn't."
"She did," Pete said, slamming back his shot.
"What the hell did she do that for?"
"Beats me," Pete said morosely. "We were happy as clams...or so I thought. Then Sam interrupts me while I'm on the phone with my real estate agent and tells me that I'm not the right one for her."
"Not the right one?" Daniel said incredulously. "You're intelligent, funny, cute...."
"Cute?" Pete asked.
"And sweet," Daniel said emphatically. He paused, reconsidering his words. "And that wasn't a come on."
"I know that," Pete said with a dismissive wave of the hand. "Another drink?"
"I wouldn't say no." Daniel waited until they each had a new drink, holding his glass up and staring into the liquid. "She really broke off the engagement?"
"Really," Pete said. He fished around in his pocket, pulled out the engagement ring and laid it on the dark, scarred wood of the bar.
"Nice ring," Daniel said.
"Want it?" Pete said. He chuckled. "And that wasn't a come on."
"I know." Daniel stared at the ring, then sighed. "Does she want to be alone for the rest of her life?"
"Oh, she's just waiting for her true love," Pete said. He smacked Daniel on the shoulder. "And you could've warned me, you know?"
"Warned...? Oh, no," Daniel said. "Not...Jack?"
"Yes, Jack," Pete said. "I suppose you all got a good laugh out of the gullible cop."
"No, no," Daniel protested. "It wasn't like that at all. We thought you were the real deal."
"The real schmuck, maybe."
"She's nuts. Jack is...it's Sam's fantasy. It's not real. And there's absolutely no good reason to give up you for Jack." Daniel paused. "And that's not...."
"A come on, I know," Pete said. "But Sam says it's real."
"Love," Pete said.
"She says it is. She says O'Neill is in love with her, too."
"The uptight repressed son of a bitch," Daniel said angrily.
"Yep." Pete choked on his whiskey. "Whoa--you mean General O'Neill...?
"Don't ask," Daniel said, putting his finger to his lips...and poking himself in the eye.
"What the hell is a guy like you doing with a guy like that?" Pete asked.
"Is that a come on?"
"Oh. And not much at the moment."
"What?" Pete asked.
"Er...are you like Sam?" Pete asked.
"I should hope not," Daniel said, offended. "Trust me--the equipment's entirely different."
"Not that. I mean is O'Neill just your fantasy?"
"More like a nightmare," Daniel said. "But to answer your question: Jack and I have a relationship...at least we did until he decided to run the heterosexual flag up his pole and see how many women would salute it."
"That ought to be a real eye opener for Sam."
"She'll never know," Daniel said.
"Sam was going to see him when she left me," Pete said.
"Well...that could get interesting," Daniel said.
"That's one way of looking at it, I suppose."
"No, really," Daniel insisted. "Sam's going to Jack's house...and Jack has a date."
"Oh. Interesting," Pete said, nodding. He pondered the possibilities. "I got twenty bucks says Sam can take her."
"I got fifty says Sam can take Jack," Daniel said.
"You know, with your fifty and my twenty we could get really stinking drunk," Pete suggested.
"You mean we aren't yet?"
"Nah, not even close," Pete said, waving up another round. "It's party 'til you puke time."
"In all honesty--that doesn't take me long," Daniel admitted.
"You have to work up to the really intense partying," Pete said seriously. "It takes training, conditioning. And a really big liver."
"I don't know if my liver's big enough."
"It's fine. It's big."
"How do you know?" Daniel asked, peering at Pete.
"You've heard that old saying: big feet, big liver."
Daniel snorted into his hand.
"And that might be a come on."
"Now I know you're drunk," Daniel said.
Daniel and Pete turned unsteadily on their bar stools, glaring at the source of the voice.
"Oh, look--it's the uptight, repressed son of a bitch," Daniel told Pete.
"And the last person I want to see," Pete agreed.
"Okay," Jack said slowly, eyeing both men with concern. "Just how many have you had?"
"Since we're still vercital...versatile...up, we clearly haven't had enough," Pete said.
"I'm in training," Daniel confided.
"For what?" Jack asked.
"Not sure, but I'll send you a memo when I figure it out," Daniel said. He raised his glass only to have it intercepted by Jack. "Hey!"
"Enough," Jack said firmly. "What are you doing anyway? I can guess why Shanahan is diving into a bottle, but what's your problem?"
"Same as his."
"You're upset that Sam broke off their engagement?" Jack asked.
"No. Well, yes," Daniel said. "But what I meant was that we've both lost our lovers."
"Daniel, you haven't lost...."
"You broke my heart," Daniel declared.
"You stole my girl," Pete added.
"No, I didn't," Jack said.
"Did," Daniel said.
"No, I.... Daniel, I'm sorry I hurt you. But you know why I did what I did and it has nothing to do with how I feel about you." Jack turned his head to look at Pete. "As for you--I feel for you, Shanahan, I really do. But I never tried to 'steal' Sam."
"Yeah, and that makes me feel so much better," Pete said.
"I told her it was never going to happen," Jack said. "I think she was on her way home, if you wanted to...."
"Be the booby prize? No thanks," Pete said. He waved drunkenly at Daniel. "Besides, I've got Daniel."
Jack raised an eyebrow.
"He made a pass at me. I think," Daniel told Jack. "I may have made a pass at him, too."
"Couple more whiskeys and we'll know for sure," Pete said, gesturing wildly at the bartender. Jack made a curt, cutting motion and the bartender backed away.
"You're straight, Shanahan," Jack said.
"Well, sure, but any port in a storm."
"Daniel's not a port."
"Hey, given a chance I might like being a port," Daniel said.
"Daniel," Jack began, grasping Daniel's shoulder.
"Fuck off, Jack," Daniel said, shrugging Jack's hand away. "You've got a date. And if Pete and I want to sit in a bar making passes at each other, that's our business."
"My dating days are over," Jack said.
"You're taking a vow of celibracy...cebrilacy...." Pete said.
"You're giving up sex?" Daniel asked.
"I'm giving up women," Jack said. "Not sex."
"I don't know--sounds to me like you've pretty well eliminated all your options," Daniel said.
"The only way I could make Carter understand was to tell her the truth," Jack explained, refusing to let Daniel goad him. "So my little secret is out of the bag."
"You...you told her?" Daniel asked, mouth gaping in disbelief.
"Yep. Guess I'd better call Hammond first thing in the morning." Jack watched Daniel's reaction as Jack's words finally sank in. "And so help me, Daniel, if you start crying I'll shoot you."
"Can I cry?" Pete asked.
"Depends. What are you crying about?"
"I don't know. Everything?"
"Wouldn't it be better, and less messy, to go try to talk to Sam?" Jack asked.
"I'm not playing second string," Pete said, shaking his head vehemently.
"You play?" Jack asked.
"Yeah," Pete said, nodding.
"And from Jack--that's a come on," Daniel told Pete.
"Not my type," Pete said.
"Oh for crying out loud," Jack muttered.
"He's cute, isn't he?" Daniel asked Jack, nodding at Pete.
"No, Daniel, we can't take him home." Jack stopped and looked Pete over. "On second thought--how much has he had?"
Daniel carefully counted off on his fingers, then looked up at Jack with a proud smile.
"Peachy," Jack sighed. "Look, Shanahan, here's the deal. I'll make sure you're safe for the night and you forget you ever had this conversation with Daniel."
"What conversation?" Pete asked with a befuddled expression.
"That's my boy," Jack said, patting Pete on the shoulder. "All you need to remember is that you're straight, and Daniel's mine."
"Excuse me?" Daniel said.
"Fine. Shanahan, you're straight and I'm Daniel's," Jack said.
"You belong to Daniel," Pete said slowly.
"Straight," Jack prompted.
"Straight," Pete said, nodding. He began weaving a path to the exit, muttering. "I'm straight. I'm straight. I'm...what?"
"Rectilinear," Daniel said from right behind him. Pete spun around so fast he lost his balance and fell to the floor. "Um...oops?"
"Daniel," Jack sighed as he leaned over to pull Pete upright. "What have I told you about playing with the straight boys?"
"It confuses them?" Daniel said.
"I'm not confused. I'm just drunk," Pete protested. He shook off Jack's hand and staggered out the door with as much dignity as he could muster.
"Are you sure we can't keep him?" Daniel asked wistfully.
"It's all I can do to keep you," Jack said. "After tonight, Shanahan is on his own."
"Ouch," Daniel said sadly.
"Yeah," Jack said, holding the door open for Daniel. "Ouch."
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