For someone who's on record as saying he doesn't like schmoozing, Jack's looking more than comfortable doing just that. (He looks pretty damned edible in his Class As too, but that's a whole 'nother story.) The scary thing is, I've decided, he's really quite good at it - which you wouldn't necessarily expect if you encountered him at work, on base. I mean, look at the way he's been turning on the charm all evening: he rarely turns on the charm at the Mountain, not without following it up with a sucker punch. Maybe he should though, it sure pays dividends - he's got at least half of the women in the room, and a good percentage of the men too, right under his thumb. And as for that grease-painted harpy with the Rouge Noir talons and the Lady Clairol hair - well, I'm surprised she hasn't ripped off her panties and laid down for him over the buffet table with a post-it note reading 'Help Yourself, All You Can Eat' stuck to her forehead. What a shame Jack isn't in the market for female companionship. Not.
And that senator he's talking hockey with right now - geesh! If that man mentions 'stick action' once more I'm going to have to take a leaf out of Jack's book and go over there and hurt him. I know Jack hasn't been at this gay thing long enough for his gaydar to be reliable, or even existent, but I'm betting the good Senator's has been up and running for a while. Not a guy who'd worry unduly about a proctologist exam, if I'm any judge. Jack, on the other hand, wouldn't necessarily recognize another man hitting on him, in my experience, unless he did exactly that - hit him with it. Over the head and hard, probably more than once. After all, look what I had to go through to get him into bed.
Oh, that does it - 'butt ending'? Good grief, where does this idiot get his pick-up lines? On special at Wal-Mart? They creak louder than a pair of fake leather boots. And Jack's just taking it at face value, lapping it up: and that's a less than encouraging image in the circumstances. I'm going to have to break this up before Jack gets in too deep. Decking a senator would not look good in his report. Or on my record.
"Aah, Jack? Excuse me, Senator," - the winning smile isn't winning with this bastard: if looks could kill I'd be dropping like a stone right about now. "I'm, ah, sorry to interrupt you both, but there's someone I'd like you to meet over here. If you'll excuse us?" And I take Jack very firmly by the arm and lead him away.
The Senator looks a tad irritated just for a moment, but is smooth enough to recover quickly and say to our retreating backs, "Certainly. I look forward to catching up with you later, Jack."
Sheesh. Obvious, or what? Jack, poor sap, slings back over his shoulder as I urge us on our merry way, "Sure thing, Sir. Look forward to it."
"Dean. Call me Dean."
Boy, that guy has expensive dentistry going on there. If sharks used orthodontists, they'd be lining up for his one.
"Sure, Dean." And then Jack adds in an undertone, through a fixed smile complete with slightly clenched teeth and without moving his lips, "Daan-iel..."
"Not a word Jack. Not one. Just nod and smile and be grateful I'm saving you from a fate worse than death."
Jack looks genuinely puzzled as I tow him along determinedly. "Daniel, what the hell are you talking about?" He sniffs at me pointedly, but discreetly. "Have you been drinking?"
I'm scandalized. "No, of course not! Just a token glass, and that was more than half soda - I'm driving us back, remember?"
"Then what do you think you're doing? I was just starting to get somewhere with him."
Starting? I don't think so.
"Oh? And what makes you think that?"
Jack gives me a pained, 'it's obvious' sort of look. "We were talking about hockey. The Senator's a huge fan, who knew?"
"Who knew that the Senator was a huge fan, or who knew that senators ever got genuinely enthusiastic about anything?"
Jack shoots me 'the look'. "My, we're waspish tonight, aren't we? Political commentary isn't necessarily the best way forward here, y'know - tact and diplomacy should be the order of the day, as per Hammond's orders. We do need some allies in the Corridors of Power, so I'm following those orders."
Ah, the Nuremberg Defense. Didn't work in '45, and I don't think it's going to work now.
"And you think he's a good choice?"
"Sure thing." Jack looks complacent. "He's already spoken about making inroads on the budget freeze. Obliquely, of course, but that's politics for ya, and his interest in..." he pauses for a moment and flicks his gaze from side to side, apparently deciding that discretion is still the better part of valor, "Deep Space Radar Telemetry seems genuine."
I try to be patient, I really, really do. But this is obliviousness above and beyond the call. "Jack, the only inroads the Senator's genuinely interested in making, obliquely or otherwise, are into your shorts."
"What?" He looks clueless for a moment, then his brain catches up with his ears and the penny drops. "You mean --?"
"Don't turn back and look, for heaven's sake! You'll only encourage him!" It's difficult to hiss a couple of sentences with only two sibilants between them, but I think I might just have managed it: motivation is a wonderful thing. "And yeah, I mean exactly what you think I mean."
I get the trademark cocky grin and bouncing eyebrows as he digests this information. "Ya think?" I swear to God he preens. Well, forget it, flyboy - you can preen all you want, but you're going home with me. Dear God, I can't believe how de-evolved that sounded: those jarheads must be rubbing off on me. But I'm going to press my advantage anyway.
"I know. Unlike you, my gaydar actually works. That guy's about as straight as a three dollar bill and he was trying to work out which way the land lies."
Jack looks a little doubtful. "You sure about that? He's a married man with four kids, for cryin' out loud. He keeps German Shepherds. He drives a truck. And he knows his hockey."
Yeah, like I'm going to dignify that one with a verbal response. I just raise my eyebrows, cock my head and look straight into his eyes. It works.
"Ah, o-kaay, I take your point, there are some similarities there. But four kids?" He fugues out on me for a moment or two while he runs the intel past his inner analyst, then shakes his head and smirks. "That's one hell of a spacious closet."
"Uh-hmmm. Walk-in, fully carpeted, and all utilities. Your tax dollars at work." I can't suppress the snort of amusement that bubbles up inside me. "I'd sure love to be a fly on the wall on the average Monday morning in that guy's office though. Damage control must be a nightmare."
His eyes are sparkling with humor now. "Damage control, or cruise control?"
That's my Jack, always quick with the slick one-liner. "Damage control. Cruise control is what should have kicked in on Saturday night."
"Sheesh, ya always have to top me, don't ya? And you know exactly what context I made that remark in so there's no need to smirk like that. And don't say anything either. Now, you'd better find me someone to talk to, or the Senator might reckon you're onto him. And that might raise some awkward questions."
Good point. I look around and spot a friendly face in the crowd - Susan Fellowes, of all people. Jack should be safe enough there, so I reckon I'll just park him with her group.
"Okay - this way. I've just spotted someone I haven't seen for quite a while. An old colleague of mine from England."
Jack feigns looking a little alarmed. "Another geek? Where?"
I decide to let that one slide for now. I'll go for payback later.
"Just over there. The brunette with the long legs."
Jack looks a little put out, and starts to mutter.
"Sheesh! How is it that you have old colleagues that look like Mary Steenbergen? All of my old colleagues look like Drill Sergeants."
"That's because all your old colleagues are Drill Sergeants. Or if they're not now, they have been." And I'm not going to give him the chance to snipe back at that one. I score my points where I can get 'em.
"Susan! Lovely to see you!"
"Daniel! I wondered if you'd be here somewhere, I heard through the grapevine that you were working for the government now. How's life been treating you since you moved to Colorado?"
I plant a quick kiss on her cheek as I answer, "Oh, same old, same old. I keep busy. Jack, I'd like you to meet an old friend of mine, Susan Fellowes. Susan, this is Colonel Jack O'Neill. Jack, Susan's an old friend of mine from college days. Doctor of Old World Prehistory working out of Birmingham, England."
"Professor now, Daniel."
"Yeah? Congratulations! I'm sorry, I don't keep up as well as I should; my work takes me away a lot. When did that happen?"
Susan smiles. "Only about a month ago. The ink's hardly dry on the offer letter yet. But Daniel, we're being rude. Forgive us, Colonel - we haven't seen each other in an age. How do you do?" And she extends her hand. "How do you know Daniel?"
"Pleased to meet you, ma'am." Jack is on his best behavior as he reciprocates with his extended hand and one of his most charming smiles. "I'm Daniel's commanding officer."
Susan does an exaggerated double take. Some things never change. Although quite what she's double-taking at is a moot point. Because Jack really does look damn fine in those Class As. And the O'Neill charm is turned up full blast.
"Commanding officer? Fascinating. And how do you find that?"
Ah. So that's what she's double-taking at.
Jack's grin has an edge to it. "Oh, I've always liked a challenge."
"Well, I daresay you've got a good one there. And what do you attempt to command him in?"
"Oh, this and that. Whatever comes up, you know how it is."
Bastard! I know exactly what he means by this. Susan, luckily, is oblivious to subtext.
"Indeed I do." Susan smiles warmly at him and Jack returns the smile with interest, the charm kicking right in there again. Yeah, it looks like they might get along right off the bat. Which will make a change for Jack and a geek. And for Susan and a military type, come to that; she put in a lot of hours on many and various demonstrations in between digs. But it's been a while, I guess she must have mellowed.
"I had the dubious privilege of supervising Daniel on his first dig in Britain," Susan continues. "We were investigating a cave system that had turned up a lot of human bone: it scared the cavers who discovered it half to death. Remember, Daniel? The one where you nearly killed yourself going down that pothole?" She turns to Jack to explain. "We had to lower Daniel hand over hand down a very narrow shaft that led to the main cave, and the whole thing was really quite unstable. There was a small rock fall - nothing much to speak of, mainly a lot of dust as it turned out, but it was very unpleasant for Daniel; all that dust had him choking so hard he nearly fell out of the harness. I'll never forget pulling him back out again: all we could see were two huge blue eyes in an utterly filthy face and he was cursing a blue streak in between trying to cough up a lung. He was tremendously creative in his use of language that day. My other colleagues and I learned a lot."
She's grinning as she speaks - Susan was always a tease. And looking back on it, it had its humorous side despite being far from funny at the time. But, damn it, that one was a gift to a certain Air Force Colonel of my acquaintance, and predictably enough, he's on it like white on rice.
Jack's eyes are dancing as he flicks me a quick look.
"Daniel? Choking going down a shaft?" He's half-turned to me so that Susan can't quite see his expression, thankfully. His voice is carefully neutral, but those damned eyebrows are threatening to bounce again and I can see the suppressed laughter in his eyes even if nobody else can. I'm not taking him up on it though, I'm damned sure I'm not outing myself at a cocktail party. And I'm not looking away quickly because his puerile attempts to yank my chain are having any effect on me at all. Really, I'm not.
"Damn, but that sounds inconvenient. And so uncharacteristic." He turns back to Susan to expound. "He's usually so competent. I've always found him more than competent, actually. Especially at the physical stuff like going down shafts. Exactly this kind of situation comes up surprisingly often for us. Just goes to show, practice makes perfect."
Susan shrugs, with a warm twinkle in her eye. "He was young then, and very green; he's obviously more experienced now. And give him his due, he never complained."
"Yeah, well, some things never change," Jack says, with another charming smile. "Daniel still never complains. Not even when he's going down unstable shafts."
Okay, this 'shaft' motif is starting to get a little old. You can take some things just that little bit too far. And it's a bit of a surprise that Susan hasn't picked up on the double entendre - she used to be very quick at this kind of thing. But she just chuckles: ah well, I suppose people change. Or maybe I'm just being a touch over-sensitive. Still, time to change the subject, I think.
"So, Susan - I'm surprised to see you here. What are you doing at this little shindig?"
"Oh, I'm here by default. I'm on an exchange visit to Baylor. The invitation the department received was actually for my exchange partner, but seeing as he's currently over in England," she shrugs, "I was drafted. Besides, I was fascinated to see exactly what interest the US military could possibly have in prehistory. Back in England, the armed forces seem to have very little use for it, if their cavalier attitude towards important sites is any indicator."
No changes there, at least: the whole Salisbury Plain thing obviously still rankles. But it's slightly tricky ground, the military/archaeology connection. Before I can answer, Jack chimes in.
"Oh, you'd be surprised how often this man's Air Force takes an interest in Ancient History. But I didn't think the British Army had shot up Stonehenge yet? I thought they were being a tad more restrained in the area now?"
Now that was quick. And smart. Really smooth. Boost Susan onto that particular soapbox and you might never get a word in for hours, much less have to answer any awkward questions. Sometimes even I forget that he isn't just a dumb flyboy and that he's normally very good at reading people. Also that he actually listens. Reads too. Jack shoots me an amused look when he sees my expression. Okay, message received and understood. Hooking up dropped jaw now.
"Not nearly restrained enough, I'm afraid. At least I, and many of my colleagues, don't think so..."
Jesus! Major Davis moves like a cat; I never noticed him coming.
"Sorry, did I startle you? My apologies. Colonel O'Neill, sir." That nod was nicely judged, Major. Just enough the right side of obsequious not to be gushing. Thankfully, Jack's too involved with Susan to pay much attention. The Major looks disappointed. Or maybe that's just my imagination. Although I'm thinking probably not. The old spidey sense tingles whenever this guy's in the vicinity.
"Doctor Jackson, Senator Freeman has expressed an interest in chatting with you. Can I steal you away for a while?"
"Of course. Will you excuse me, Susan? Jack?"
Susan's still in full flood and Jack just raises a hand in a 'sure, go, do what you have to' gesture.
Ten minutes later and I still don't know why Jack's new best friend Dean wanted to talk to me. The Major and I've been standing here like a pair of stuffed toys waiting for some acknowledgement beyond a cursory nod of the head. Jerk! If I was interested in his business activities, I would have asked him about them. Oh wait, I get it: one-upmanship huh? Payback for cutting Jack out of his herd? He's picked on the wrong one here; I can do bitchy just as well as he can, if not better. Just give me something to work with and I'm so there. Construction work, hmmm.
"...I have interests all over. My HQ is in Idaho, but I have current projects in Viet Nam, Canada, Thailand, you name it. It's a multi-million dollar concern."
Score! The perfect opening and I'm not going to miss it. Best 'clueless innocent' face on and then - try this for a slap shot, asshole.
"You uh, you do a lot of Pacific Rim jobs then? You must have good contacts. It's a competitive field, from what I understand."
Well would you look at that? I didn't think the human complexion could achieve quite that shade. Davis, the consummate politician, gamely covers what could have been an awkward gap in the conversation - but I can sense him quivering beside me. Oh yeah, he's amused - he definitely got that one. Well, well, so the gaydar was right there too. I must remember to tell Jack. Speaking of whom, how's he getting on?
Uh oh. I've seen that look on Susan's face before -- several times, over the years. I think I might have made a tactical error there: she's interested, especially now that Jack's busy proving that he has a good brain and he isn't scared to use it. She was always a sucker for a good argument. And that description is probably more accurate than is strictly decent. Damn, I should have thought of that; we always did have a similar taste in men, if she'd only known it. Oh puh-lease - she's not eating that little cream-filled pastry thing in between arguing with Jack, she's giving it a blowjob. And we'll have no more of those cozy little pats on the arm either thank you, Professor Fellatiowes. Time to disengage here and drift back, I think.
"Well obviously I think Tibet should be free, and before you ask, that's from an ethical standpoint, not a strategic and tactical one."
"Oh? You surprise me."
"You think 'military' and 'ethics' are a contradiction in terms?"
"Uh, Jack? The driver's waiting. Sorry to have to run out on you, Susan, but apparently we now have to get up earlier than expected. A meeting's been rescheduled." Jack, thankfully, doesn't react to the half-truth by an iota - although his eyes do flick down in my general direction for a moment. Nope, nothing there yet Jack - but give me time. I'll be rising earlier than expected and so will you.
"Oh, you have to go? So soon?" Susan looks disappointed. Yeah, eat your heart out, sugar: the only cozying up you're gonna get tonight is if you've brought your flannel pajamas with you. This one's mine. And I'm going to make damn sure he knows it when we get back to the hotel.
"Looks like it, ma'am. One thing I've learned in my time, I shouldn't keep my driver waiting. He's a busy man with the capability of making my life hell. Not a good combination." Jack extends his hand again with a genuine smile. "It's been a pleasure talking with you."
"It's mutual. It's been very stimulating."
Oh yeah, I'll just bet it has. Drop the hand, Susan. Drop it right now, you can't keep it. Or anything it's attached to either. Hello? Still here, don't mind me, I'll just stand around waiting until you drop the freaking hand...
"I hope we get the chance to argue this out again, Jack." Those damned eyelashes of hers are creating a bigger downdraft than a Chinook. Not a good look on her. Okay, that's it, break.
"Susan? I hope it's not another eight years before I see you again."
"I hope so too, Daniel," she says. "Let's try and make it sooner rather than later?" - but her eyes are on Jack as she says it. "Maybe if you're in my neck of the woods any time before December, we could have dinner?" I'm not really sure which of us she's asking, but I'll take it at face value for now.
"That would be good. We'll see how it goes, and I'll be in touch. So long for now."
"Goodbye, Daniel. 'Bye, Jack." And we're walking...
"Nice lady," Jack comments as we head towards the door. "Great conversationalist."
"She seemed quite taken with you, too."
"Really? You think so?" I thought I'd kept my tone quite neutral, but the sideways flick of the eyes and the grin tell me otherwise. I'm busted. "I didn't notice. Must be my innate charm and intelligence, I guess."
Yuk it up while you can, O'Neill, your ass is so mine when I get you home.
"Admit it, you were jealous. Just a little touch of the ol' green eye." Jack's face is very, very smug as he hauls off his tie and pops his top button with a sigh of relief.
"Concerned for your welfare." Okay, that was lame. He knows it too: he takes a long look at my face and the smug grin grows wider as he nods his head sharply.
"Yep. Like I said. Jealous." Cuff buttons next, then shirt buttons too, chest hair glinting in the lamplight, muscles in his stomach and shoulders bunching under his skin as he shrugs the dress shirt off. Damn, and why not? One hundred and eighty pounds of mouthwatering possibilities including a damn fine ass: anyone would get... territorial. Not that wild horses would drag that out of me: right now, Jack's ego is healthy enough as it is.
"Mildly concerned. No more than that."
He catches his bottom lip with his teeth and grins at me while he shucks his pants and folds them onto the chair. Turns me to butter every time he gives me that look. And he knows it, the bastard; that much is obvious from the swagger as he turns and heads for the john.
Jack's voice floats back from the bathroom, sounding more than amused. "I think it's very sweet that you were so concerned with protecting my virtue." His head pops round the bathroom door, mouth outlined with toothpaste. "But don't you think the crack about the Pacific Rim was a little... pointed?"
"Ah. You heard about that. A bit much, you think?" It's true, sometimes I go too far. "You might be right. But then, construction interests in Canada and Thailand was way too good an opening to miss. The senator went a very interesting shade of green though." I'm not going to call him on the 'sweet' thing just yet. For that one, I'll make him howl. If he can sit down this week without wincing, he'll be a lucky man.
Jack snorts with laughter. "Oh yeah. Very interesting, according to my sources. That's gonna be the talk of the Pentagon for a week or two. Kinda shriveled his interest in the program though."
Oh. Damn. Wasn't really thinking straight at the time. Pun up for grabs if you want it, I got it off a tee shirt. "Sorry."
His head disappears again and I hear water splashing. "Nah, don't sweat it. He's an asshole." Jack saunters out of the bathroom, rubbing his face with a towel. "I had a quick word with Davis while you were getting the car brought around. Seems our good friend Dean is only a wannabe. A fringe player with very little pull who tries a little too hard. We're probably better off without him. Besides, it was a great line. I'm just sorry I missed it."
"Get your ass over here and I'll give you a resume. But first, is that an unstable shaft I see before me?"
Jack chuckles again as he crawls into bed and settles back comfortably. "That was way too good an opening to miss too... shit, Daniel, yeeeeaaaahhhhh... do that again... yeah, like that... that's good..."
Hah! Opening too good to miss, eh? I've got another one of those staring me in the face right now, and I'm not going to miss this one either.
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