Daniel strode toward the locker room, his throat tight with pent up emotion, his heart pounding in his chest. He knew Jack had been under orders not to let his team know anything about his undercover mission but he was finding it almost impossible to reconcile what his head told him with what he felt in his heart. He'd gone to Jack to talk to him, to try and discover why his friend's integrity and honesty had suddenly taken a nose-dive into the gutter - and yes, they had drawn straws, each of them itching to be the one to see Jack - but he had won not lost the draw. Now he felt like a fool twice over.
It wasn't even the subterfuge that was eating so badly at him but the words Jack had spoken so cuttingly, tossing them off, not as rehearsed lines, but as casually as Daniel's own had been heartfelt. Sinking down onto a bench in front of his locker, he rested his aching head in his hands, the damning, hateful words circling endlessly in his memory.
"I guess you couldn't relate to me anymore than I could to you."
"So, this whole… this friendship thing we've been working on the last few years…"
"Apparently not much of a foundation there, huh?"
Damn it! Stop! Daniel pounded the heels of his hands against his forehead. It was an act! He said our friendship is solid. Why then did he still feel let down, betrayed?
He groaned. Because you're an idiot, Jackson, that's why. A sentimental, naïve idiot!
Because their friendship was solid. Because he knew Jack O'Neill as well as he knew himself. Because he should have seen it, recognized the words for the bullshit they were.
What would he have done if he had been in Jack's place? Risked blowing his cover, risked getting someone killed or tortured for information? He already knew the answer to that. He would have done what his training had taught him to do. What Jack had done. Played the part and covered the hurt he'd feel at saying words designed to wound, to push away a friend in order to keep them safe. He was the ingrate here, not Jack, and he was acting like a school kid who'd just lost his best friend.
Sucking up the hurt, putting it back where it belonged, filed along with so many other bad memories of the unsavory things they'd all had to do in order to keep themselves and Earth safe, he stood and changed his clothes then headed out into the night.
He heard hurried footsteps behind him then, "Daniel!" He stopped and turned back when Jack called his name.
Jack stared at him for a moment. "So, about what I said…" He waved a finger back and forth between the two of them. "We're okay?"
The last vestiges of Daniel's disappointment and regret faded in the face of Jack's uncharacteristically hesitant approach. He smiled, feeling relief flood through him. "We're fine. You did what you had to do. What any of us would have done."
Jack nodded and walked over to join him. He grinned that full-fledged, wide open, Jack O'Neill grin that Daniel knew so well and clapped Daniel on the shoulder. "So, you want to have that beer? For real this time?"
"I don't like beer," Daniel reminded him.
Jack raised a finger. "You will not drink microbrew in my home!"
Daniel fought back a grin of his own. "I'm not military, Jack. You can't order me around."
Jack's expression changed to total innocence but Daniel wasn't fooled for a second. "Not ordering, Daniel. We'll buy a bottle of scotch on the way home. As a matter of fact, I'm thinking I could do with a couple of shots myself."
"Sure, why not."
"Good." Jack led the way to their cars. "So," he said as he walked around to unlock his vehicle. "You lost the straw draw, huh?"
Daniel shook his head and smiled. "No, Jack. I won."