Give and Take

Jack woke to the smell of burning bacon. Three days, and Daniel had burned it every single time. The second day, Jack had watched it happen, in much the same way as he'd once watched a mosquito land on his arm, pierce the skin, and drink, fascinated into being a passive observer, consequences be damned.

Daniel had been doing everything right; the toast was hidden under a napkin in a wicker basket; the table was laid. Eggs, mushrooms, hash browns... all ready. Coffee, richly acrid, was brewed and scenting the air.

And the bacon, sizzling and shrinking, was turning black, beginning to smoke, and Daniel was watching it, shoulders relaxed and rounded, fingers drumming idly against his leg.

Jack hadn't been able to see Daniel's face. Hadn't needed to. He'd known exactly what it would look like. Abstracted frown, disarming, distracting, contradictory half-smile; distant, long-gone eyes.

The bacon fat had burst into flames and Daniel had jerked out of his daze, muttered, 'Fuck' a lot more than was polite, and doused the conflagration with worrying skill.

And now he'd done it again.

Jack sighed, which seemed to be the first thing he did every morning recently, and rolled out of bed. Daniel had left the bathroom a mess. Toothpaste dribbles down the side of the sink, towels damp with water -- Jack could make a towel last a while before consigning it to the laundry, but it was different when it was wet with water that had been on someone else's body.

He dried his face gloomily, gingerly, on a dry corner, and then turned and stumbled, catching his foot in the folds of a discarded pair of Daniel's shorts, left on the floor. They'd been there when he went to bed, and he'd stepped around them with a scowl.

"Daniel!" he howled without moving, frozen by outrage.

It took Daniel a moment to arrive -- probably opening all the windows to let out the fucking smoke -- and he poked his head around the door with an inquiring smile that made Jack's teeth ache. How could someone so bright and savvy about customs be so clueless about the dos and don'ts of being a house guest?

"Shorts, Daniel," he hissed, disentangling his foot from them and shuddering. "Basket. There."

"I was going to tidy up after breakfast," Daniel said. "Really."

"Sure you were."

Jack stalked past him, clutching his robe tightly to him, because he'd forgotten to belt it and Daniel was getting an eyeful.

"This isn't working, is it?" Daniel said after breakfast, consumed at the kitchen table in a tense silence Daniel had tried three times to break, succeeding only in chipping off a 'yes', an 'I don't take sugar! How many times do I have to tell you?' and a growl. "I'm getting on your nerves."

"Little bit," Jack allowed grudgingly, his upbringing making it difficult to admit. "I'm not used to company."

"I'm not either." Daniel shrugged. "I've never lived with anyone as an adult."

"Except Abydos," Jack reminded him. He was starting to reassess the happy faces when Daniel had been about to leave. Maybe they'd thrown a party as soon as the 'gate had shut down. Celebrated getting their spare tent back, or something.

Guilt at his silent bitching made him feel miserable. God, he was grouchy. Three days of Daniel being underfoot, three days of sharing. He'd never been good at that. Ever. He'd clung to his toy cars, marbles, balls, with a tenacity his parents hadn't been able to scold out of him. It wasn't meanness; he didn't want to lose them; didn't trust anyone else to look after them the way he did.

"That was communal. It was different." Daniel gestured around him. "This is yours. Your space. And I'm inside it. It must be difficult. I'm sorry. I should have taken Sam up on her offer. Or just stayed on base."

"No, and no," Jack said with a sigh. "This, or a hotel, and you can't afford a hotel. Not until they get your bank account sorted out. It won't be for much longer. As soon as you're officially here again, you can get a place of your own."

"Why no?" Daniel crunched into a slice of toast, scattering crumbs, most of which hit his plate. Most. "Sam's reputation? Isn't that a bit Victorian? And the room on base is, well, impossible to get any sleep in, what with the constant tramp of feet in boots going past, but I've lived in worse."

"Her reputation might not matter to you, but it does to me," Jack said tersely. "And you're not a fucking mole; you need the sunlight from time to time. Proper earth sunlight."

"Then we need to sort out some ground rules, because I can feel that I'm annoying you, and that bothers me."

"You're not doing anything I don't do," Jack admitted, staring down at his own mess of crumbs and smeared butter. "We're both slobs."

"Men," Daniel said. "We're allowed. It's charming."

"No, it's not," Jack said with a frown. "It's just laziness."



"When did you last dust?"



"All I see is your mess all over the place. I'm spitting toothpaste where you've spat, I'm pissing where you've tried and failed to hit the spot, I'm sitting on a couch covered with books, and pens, and they'll never replace cushions --" Jack stopped abruptly. "Okay, that came out all wrong."

"Or honest." Daniel scrunched up his face. "It's been three days, Jack. I'm going to be here a few weeks, if not more. We won't make it. I'm annoying you already, and I'm on my best behaviour."

Jack looked at him. Daniel. Back from the dead, or as close to death as made no difference. Daniel real, alive, and solid.

"Daniel? You annoy me living, dead, or in between. In my face, or thousands of light years away. It's what you do best."

Daniel nodded, looking resigned, not hurt. "Thought so. I'll pack."

Jack stood up and patted Daniel's shoulder before collecting their plates, just because he could, reminding himself of what he'd got back. "No way, Daniel."


Jack nodded at the sink. "And stick me with these? Nice try."

"I said I'd clean up." Daniel sounded affronted.

"We need to go out," Jack said, dumping the dishes into the sink because the dishwasher was full of clean dishes neither of them had got round to unloading. "That's what's wrong with us. No mission for another two days, in each other's faces -- we'll go out."


"Tempting, but no." Jack beamed at Daniel, his good humour restored. If they weren't in the house, Daniel wouldn't get on his nerves. Simple as that. "You remember what you used to like to do?"

"Uh, would I know if I wasn't?" Daniel shoved his glasses up and looked as if he was about to go off to Thinkyland again.

"It's too early for deep and meaningful. Get your shoes on, and let's --oh. They are on. Daniel, what did I tell you about that?"

Daniel stood and kicked his shoes off, hard enough that one banged against the side of the island Jack was leaning against. "I'll pack. I'm not losing you over this."


"We're friends." Daniel hesitated. "We are? Still? I didn't --"

"Yes, of course we are," Jack said hurriedly, avoiding saying the f-word. "Sure, we are. No change there. None at all."

He was just getting warmed up when Daniel cut him off. "Friends don't give a relieved sigh when friends say they're going to have an early night."

"You looked tired!"

"It was nine o'clock! Why would I have been tired at nine o'clock? I just couldn't stand the way you kept asking me if I minded you watching hockey. How many times did you want me to lie?"

"Knew you were lying."

"Of course you did. And I know you're lying when you say you want me to stay, so I'm going. Staying on base isn't a problem; getting on each other's nerves like this is."

"I don't want you to go." He didn't. As soon as Daniel had suggested it, it had started to seem like a bad idea.


It was never good when Daniel asked a one-word question and waited for an answer. It was as if in his head a conversation had so many words, and if he didn't supply them, Jack had to, until they'd reached Daniel's quota.

"When I was a kid --"

"Wait." Daniel held up his hand. "You're planning on telling me a story? About your childhood?"

"Might be," Jack said defensively.

"Oookay." Daniel got up, poured himself some more coffee, leaving a diamond-bright scatter of sugar and a wet spoon in the sugar bowl. He sat down at the table, took a sip from his mug, and gave Jack a bright smile. "Go on, then."

Jack clamped his arms across his chest to stop himself reaching for the dishcloth. "I had this marble."


"And it reminds me of you. You remind me of it, I mean." Okay, that was lame. Jack cleared his throat. It'd worked in his head. "It was my favourite. Won it off the neighbourhood champion when I was seven; I'd had it for years. Bright blue. Lent it to my best buddy, Andy, and the stupid son of a bitch lost it down a storm drain."

Daniel waited and Jack spread his hands wide. "What? That's all I've got!"

"I never played marbles," Daniel told him. "Although the children on Abydos had something similar. Fascinating, really, to trace the parallel evolution of games --"

"Daniel. Too early for that, too."

"Oh. Right." Daniel carried on drinking his coffee in slow, thoughtful sips. It wasn't a reprieve. "I still don't get why it reminds you of me." He blinked. "Because my eyes are blue?"

"They are?"

"I think -- yes, they are." Daniel frowned. "What colour did you think they were?"

Jack squinted across at him, trying not to make it look obvious. The sunlight was glinting off Daniel's glasses, making it impossible to tell. "Uh... kind of a greyish hazel?" he hazarded, feeling proud of the 'hazel' bit.

"No, they're blue."


The conversation languished and Jack stared at the damp sugar trail. It'd go hard soon, and be a bitch to clean, but if he didn't, well, he'd had ants in the house once, and that'd been a total pain in the ass....

Daniel gave an exasperated huff and got up, taking off his glasses and stalking over. "Look."

Jack looked. "Blue," he acknowledged.

"Like the marble?"

"How the hell would I know? Thirty years --more -- and you expect me to remember what colour it was?"

"But you do; you remember it was blue." Daniel stepped away from him, putting his glasses back on and looking nicely frustrated. It was balm to Jack's spirits.

"I remember it was blue because that was its name," he explained. "Big Blue."

"You named your marble?" Daniel sounded incredulous.

"Hell, yes, I named Big Blue!"

"Did it come back?"

"What part of 'went down a storm drain' did you not get?"

"It could have, ah, floated back up in a flood? Miraculously. Like me."

"It could have, though I really don't like the odds, but it didn't."

"Then I'm not getting the connection."

"You know, I'm not either," Jack confessed. "I was going somewhere with it, and then...pffft."

"So we just spent ten minutes talking about a marble, for no good reason at all?"

"Looks that way."

Daniel's shoulders relaxed. "I remember us doing this."

Jack smiled. "Thought it'd come back to you eventually."

"I'll, ah, clean up the bathroom."

"You do that, Daniel."

"Are we still going out?"

Jack stared out of the window. It had clouded over, and it looked like rain. "There's a hockey game on at ten. Repeat of Wednesday's, but I'll be able to wake you up for the good parts."

"They have hockey on in the morning?"

Jack smiled. "Glad you're back?"

"I'm glad I'm here," Daniel said.

Jack winced. That was close to sentimental. "Daniel?"


"Always too early for that."

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