Speaking in Tongues
It just wasn't fair. Jack O'Neill had taken the time to learn Latin--enough to translate ancient text, even--and Daniel couldn't remember teaching him! He turned his head to look at Jack and frowned, secure in the knowledge that his friend was so caught up in his current argument with General Hammond that he wouldn't notice the scrutiny. The general had strongly suggested that SG-1 take some personal time, mostly to give Jack and Teal'c some time to recuperate, but as usual, Jack hadn't agreed. Now, two days later, he had called them all back to make his case to Hammond, who was as unmoved in his decision as he'd been earlier that week. Of course, this hadn't stopped Jack from protesting. Loudly. Unfortunately for Daniel, O'Neill's agitated tone merely reminded him of what it had sounded like to hear him speaking Latin. His pronunciation had been atrocious, his voice decidedly grumpy--but simply hearing such foreign but familiar words from Jack's lips had done strange things to Daniel.
In fact, once the Colonel and Teal'c had finished explaining about the time loop and Jack had begun to relay the translation, Daniel had actually found himself blushing. It wasn't often that the colonel could surprise him like that, catch him with his guard down, not anymore. His attraction to Jack was something to be dealt with by not dealing, a tactic that was a poor stop-gap measure at best and doomed to dismal failure at worst. Still, he'd thought he'd done a pretty good job managing his reactions. He no longer allowed his eyelids to drop closed when Jack touched him, and had spent time carefully cataloguing his own reactions to certain O'Neill behavior patterns so as to recognize them with his mind before his body reacted. He'd actually begun to think that this tactic was working much better than he'd expected until Jack had started to translate that text and his own body had started to translate Jack's words viscerally, rather than intellectually.
"Daniel?" This was Jack in the present, something Daniel realized a bit too late for his preoccupation to go unnoticed. "You ok?"
"Hmm? Oh... uh, yeah. I'm fine, Jack," Daniel said, shaking his head slightly to clear it.
"Let's go, then." O'Neill rapped his knuckles on the table in front of Daniel and moved off toward the hallway. It didn't take him long to follow, seeing as he was the only one left in the briefing room.
"Teal'c and Sam?" he questioned.
"Their faith in my persuading skills was lacking," Jack said, rather loftily.
"By which you mean, they saw it was hopeless and went back to what they'd already been doing for the past two days," Daniel filled in.
"Maybe," his friend allowed. "At least you stuck around."
"Actually, Jack, I spaced out around 'General, Teal'c and I are most probably the most well-rested people in the galaxy.' I think we found it a little hard to believe that you of all people used any of that time to take a nap."
"Think that was pushing it?" Jack asked as they boarded the elevator, somehow managing to appear as though it was a serious question.
"Slightly," Daniel answered with a smile. "This hasn't been all that bad, though--thanks to you, I have about three months' worth of work already done, after all."
"Yeah, well, be glad you can't remember working on it," Jack said sourly as he exited the elevator. Daniel muttered a few choice Abydonian phrases as the doors closed just in time for him to rest his forehead on the cool metal in frustration.
Hours later, his mind drifted as he worked on a translation of an old cuneiform tablet whose images had been faxed to him from a dig site. The events of the past week shouldn't have bothered him so much, but--the idea that Col. O'Neill could know more about an ancient language than he did himself was just... wrong--wrong, yet compelling. The pen in his hand moved with his unconscious mind as his conscious one fretted, distracted. If he admitted the truth, he was actually jealous of himself--of the memories he'd been cheated out of, getting to watch Jack struggle and learn. He felt cheated out of both the breakthroughs as well as the inevitable fits of anger, and all he had to show for it was...
"You busy?" Jack's voice penetrated his reverie, shocking enough that Daniel jumped to his feet, dropping the notebook, pen, and faxed images in the process.
"Well, I was," he said, his mouth twisting along with his eyebrows as he surveyed the jumble of papers on the floor at his feet. "Any particular reason why you felt it necessary to sneak up on me?"
"Didn't really need to 'sneak'--you were miles away." The other man smirked as he added, "As usual." Jack picked up the notebook and flipped through it, clearly searching for the current page.
"Here," Daniel said, reaching for it. "I don't work linearly," he explained quickly as his gesture became more insistent, his impatience prompted by his friend's sidelong look. Jack's grip tightened on the paper, and Daniel cursed himself inwardly. He decided that the colonel's reaction to being ordered around was really Daniel's own fault--he never took Jack's orders lightly either, after all. O'Neill paused on a page, and Daniel's hands twitched visibly.
"Patience," Jack said with an easy grin. "Besides, if this is what you were working on--it's wrong." He waved his hand dismissively at the block of writing he'd stopped to look at, his eyes narrowing as if to read it more closely.
"Give me that." Daniel grabbed for the notebook and felt his face burn with embarrassment when he moved too slowly and missed. "You're just trying to goad me."
"And it's working."
"Ok, fine." He moved closer to Jack and crossed his arms, cocking his head to the side and nodding his challenge. "How do you know it's wrong?"
"Well, I'm pretty sure that unless this is a legal document talking about what not to do in this particular society..." Jack's voice trailed off as though he were too embarrassed to continue, and Daniel couldn't help the irritated sigh that escaped him.
"Jack?" he prompted, eyebrows raised.
"Let's just say I don't think these people would waste valuable tablet on an act of that nature, especially not between two men and a cat." His deadpan delivery was flawless except for the mischievous twinkle in his eyes.
"What? There's no way it says--" Daniel spluttered. "Not to mention the fact that you can't even read--" He snatched his notes back, frowning and scanning them for a long minute before he realized the full extent of Jack's joke on him. He'd translated the cuneiform into Latin instead of English! Granted, he'd skipped around a bit, most likely because he hadn't been paying attention in the first place, but still...
"Can too," O'Neill said, grinning.
"There's nothing about a cat anywhere--" Daniel started to protest, before the other man interrupted him with his patented 'Jack Was Right' demeanor firmly in place.
"Yeah, but you had to look to make sure," O'Neill said, his forehead starting to crease the longer he looked at Daniel. "Which means you don't know what it was you were translating." He frowned, his expression shifting from triumphant to concerned. "Ignoring the fact that you can translate something in one language into another language by accident..." Jack muttered in a low voice before looking back at him and shaking his head. "That's not like you, Daniel."
"I was distracted," Daniel said without thinking.
"Is there something--" Jack began, but Daniel interrupted him harshly.
"No, not unless you'd like to spend a few hours in here helping me with my backlog," he snapped, spinning in a half circle with his hands outstretched towards the many stacks of papers and artifacts strewn throughout the office. Why was Jack being attentive now, after initiating what had seemed to Daniel to be a very obvious shift towards putting distance between the two of them? It was hard enough to bury his own surges of affection and regard for Jack without the other man changing the unspoken rules of their interactions yet again.
Some of his frustration must have seeped through to his body language, because when Jack spoke again, it was without his trademark casual sarcasm.
"If you'd like me to," Jack agreed in a soft voice, his hands buried deep in his pockets. He rocked back on his heels and blinked a few times as Daniel stared at him, completely disarmed. "Got anything urgent for the old Latin to English dictionary?" he asked, a hint of his usual self-deprication trickling back into his voice. Daniel had been formulating a gentle let-down when something about the way Jack had offered triggered a few of the dormant butterflies in his stomach. He was torn--would having Jack in his office working on something... academic be too much for him? Or would it help to ease Daniel down from the emotional high he'd been fighting with ever since Jack and Teal'c had explained the problem of the time loop? His mind realized that the latter was a pretty elaborate rationalization a few seconds too late to stop himself.
"Actually..." he blurted out, turning his back on the other man as he headed for the corner of the room where he'd exiled most of the Latin projects he'd come across. "There are some here." He hadn't heard O'Neill move, however, and when he looked behind him, he saw that Jack had picked up an oblong wood carving from the edge of his desk, where it had been mostly buried by file folders.
"What about this?"
"That? Well, um, I--I'd actually thought I'd lost that, to be honest," Daniel stammered, surprised. He walked over to examine it more closely.
"I know some of these words," Jack said. The sound of wonder in his voice caused Daniel to look over at his face sharply. It hadn't occurred to him that Jack had learned what he had during a time crunch, out of necessity rather than the sheer joy of it, as he himself had done.
"Yeah, I guess you would," he conceded, his eyes never leaving Jack's face as the other man sounded out some of the words he recognized.
"Lingua--language?" Jack glanced at Daniel for confirmation before turning back to the object. "And somnia's got to have something to do with dreams. You know, Daniel, this seems a little too easy to have come knocking on your door, don'tcha think? I can pick out at least half of these words, and I'm not... well, we won't go into what I'm not." The way the older man's hands smoothed over the ancient wood spoke volumes more than the nonchalant way he was speaking, but Daniel knew better than to draw attention to the dichotomy.
"It wasn't the wording as much as the purpose that couldn't be figured out," he explained, choosing to focus on the content of the inquiry rather than the context. "It's basically a command to dream one's own desires, but that's fairly mundane to have survived this long. In fact, if you'll let me have that back..." Daniel reached for the carved driftwood, feeling a twinge of annoyance at himself when the part of him he had trouble controlling pointed out gleefully that Jack didn't seem to want to give over this item, either. It was irritating to think that, in the space of twenty minutes, he could be both frustrated and delighted by Jack doing the exact same thing. Still, considering that he usually throws up his hands in disgust at anything remotely academic...
Daniel reminded himself that Jack's occasional slip-ups when it came to disguising his intelligence had made it more than clear that he wasn't completely repulsed by learning. He just hated long explanations. Speaking of which...
"You were saying?" Jack broke into Daniel's internal dialogue with a smug look on his face and a firm grip on the artifact in question.
"Sorry," Daniel said. "Believe it or not, I was trying to figure out a way not to bore you with the background information." Rather than grant Jack the battle of wills he seemed to want, Daniel moved to stand beside the other man, brushing shoulders with him as he traced the lettered grooves in the wood.
"So, this is more of a puzzle than a translation," O'Neill confirmed.
"Puzzles are more of a key component than you'd think," Daniel began to say before feeling the physical change in the man standing beside him. The two of them were so rarely in such proximity anymore that Daniel had forgotten how easy it could be to sense Jack's moods in this way. Clearly, the colonel thought he was about to be subjected to a long commentary of an answer that could have been reached at with a simple 'yes.' Something in him made him wonder whether this perception went both ways; Daniel decided to have fun finding out the answer, shifting his weight to the left to rest casually on the desk as he adjusted his glasses and tried to make his voice sound excited and boring at the same time.
"Well, the correlations between pure translation text and riddles associated with some higher purpose have been proven by many in the fields of archaeology and linguistics, you simply have to--YES, Jack, it's a puzzle!" The fake-out worked not only to tease out a fraction of pure surprise in Jack, but also to loosen his grip on the artifact. Before Jack's special forces training could kick in, Daniel reached out and lifted the carved wood from his hands, careful to avoid looking too triumphant about it.
"Were my eyes starting to glaze over?"
"A little," Daniel said, the smile he'd been suppressing escaping in increments to light his eyes and twist his lips upwards.
"I'm not... terrible at puzzles," Jack said with a noticeable pause before the word 'terrible.' He looked away as if he knew making eye contact with Daniel would remind both of them of his notorious lack of patience. Making a circuit of the room, he wandered casually over to the table where Daniel had exiled any project he'd come across that had to do with Latin as soon as he'd realized the distraction they'd posed. "So, most of these are probably puzzle-related, too, then?" He gestured to the not-so-neat pile of papers and objects.
"Well," Daniel temporized, "I'm not usually the person most linguists think of when they're looking for a simple--" He was cut off by Jack, who simply walked back over to the desk and looked at him steadily, eyebrows raised. "Yes, yes they are."
"This one is more interesting," Jack said, deftly pulling the wooden object from Daniel's fingers before the younger man could realize his intent. "Let's see here..." Jack's voice trailed off as he squinted at the lettering, beginning to speak the words under his breath as he grew more confident with his pronunciation.
Daniel told himself that it was only natural that he push off from the desk and move closer to Jack to see whether he was getting it right or not. He felt like he was able to capture just a hint of what he'd missed as he heard Jack sound the words out, his own lips moving unconsciously along with the colonel's as he followed along. Eventually, O'Neill started to read off the inscription in his regular voice, and without thinking, Daniel started to read it with him in unison.
"Oro vestri unus verus perturbatio super vestri own lingua."
Something was happening--something more than what the experience of hearing his voice blended with Jack's was doing to him. The timbre of their voices were matching up, the cadence of their speech reaching a kind of resonance that he was certain they couldn't have managed on their own. More troubling was the fact that his voice seemed to carry on without him when he tried to stop it. Something was compelling him to finish what he'd started, compelling them, he realized, feeling rather than seeing Jack's sudden tenseness.
"Vos es requiro somnio is verum insquequo is est universus."
As the sound of their voices faded from the room, Daniel felt the air around them pulse, as though the words had generated a kind of electric charge that had released when the two of them had finished speaking. He turned to ask Jack if he'd felt it too, but Jack wasn't there. A sharp moment of panic later, he heard the colonel's familiar voice from across the room, sounding as steady and unruffled as Daniel felt off-balance.
"Hey, Daniel--you busy?" Jack's tone, body language, and facial expression were all completely neutral; in fact, he looked much as he had when he'd first walked into Daniel's office fifteen minutes earlier. Frowning, Daniel looked at Jack for a long minute, his hand unconsciously gesturing from the desk nearby to the door his friend had just walked through.
"Didn't you just--" he started to ask, stopping when O'Neill turned to shut the door behind him. This was different.
"You remember what you said about the time loop, there being no consequences?" Jack asked quietly from across the room.
"Yeah..." Daniel responded slowly, his mind still trying to figure out which seemed more real, this visit or the previous one.
"You asked me if I did anything crazy or stupid," the colonel went on, stopping to see Daniel's nod. "I taught Teal'c how to juggle." Surprised, Daniel smiled faintly, his mind too preoccupied with the strange behavior his friend was exhibiting to appreciate the humor.
Jack's eyes were shifting around the room in the way they did when he was uncomfortable, and Daniel could see the tenseness in him. Knowing Jack as he did, he could tell the other man was working up to something, and the sight of the closed door behind him seemed to echo in Daniel's head, drumming up his heartbeat and touching up an answering tension. Jack seemed to be waiting for some kind of response, so Daniel opened his mouth to say something, anything, but nothing came out, and Jack spoke again.
"I did a lot of stupid things, actually," he said, moving forward a few feet and looking intently at the floor with each step as if he were searching for trip mines. "There were a couple of things I didn't do, though." He looked up as he said this, and Danielfelt it; the weight of that look was every bit as powerful as a staff weapon--and almost as terrifying. Daniel tried to tell himself that Jack was faking him out, that he was probably going to walk up, hit him, and then joke about how no matter how stupid it was to do, he wanted Daniel to remember it the next time they disagreed about something. Except... Jack didn't look physically dangerous right now. He looked hunted.
"Jack?" They were a foot apart, now.
"--And all I can think about right now is how much stupider I feel-- That there was one thing I wouldn't let myself do, even when I knew for a fact there wouldn't be any consequences."
He thought he was doing an excellent job of not gaping open-mouthed at Jack. He couldn't mean what Daniel wanted him to mean. O'Neill was talking about Sam... he had to be... but the older man had looked up, finally, and Daniel glimpsed in his eyes the same careful restraint he himself always exercised in Jack's presence.
Daniel fought to keep himself steady as Jack slowly closed the distance between them, a determined yet slightly vulnerable look on his face. Jack had fallen silent, but his body language spoke volumes. His clearly conflicting emotions were doing battle on various fronts--smooth forward momentum, clenched fist, a breath caught and held, the latter close enough for Daniel to feel the hitched intake of air. There he paused, the few seconds of uncertainty stretching out before them, leaving him time to question whether it was selfish to stay there rooted to the spot knowing just how much this man loved his job, knowing what he was risking, here.
"Jack, you--we can't," Daniel said, hating himself for saying anything at all.
"I know," Jack said hoarsely as he reached up and removed Daniel's glasses, the same hand sliding behind his head as Jack's other hand moved up to rest lightly on his chest. "I know," he whispered again just as the hand over Daniel's heart clenched into his shirt and Jack kissed him. Daniel had enough time to register the roughness of Jack's shirt under his fingertips, the coolness of his own glasses brushing the nape of his neck, and most of all the desperate heat of their tangled lips before the room seemed to shift again. His mouth still tingling, Daniel blinked a few times, trying to understand what had just happened. The weight of his glasses on his nose told him that whatever he'd just gone through had been realigned, erased somehow in a split second.
"Woah!" It was Jack, who was now leaning against the wall opposite the office door (which was open again, Daniel saw) looking confused and slightly winded. "What did that damn thing do?" Daniel could feel the blush creeping up his collar at the thought of explaining to Jack what he'd just... visualized. He was curious to know whether the other man had also experienced some sort of vision, though.
"Uh--I'm not sure," he said carefully, answering the literal question before asking his own. "What do you think it did?" Daniel searched his friend's face, looking for any clue to how 'shared' their experience might or might not have been.
"You--" Jack broke off, eyebrows furrowing, the hunted look reappearing briefly as they made eye contact. "Never mind." He pushed off from the wall, looking as tense as he would heading into any combat mission deemed un-winnable as he walked purposefully toward the open door.
"Daniel!" Jack snapped without looking back at him, though he did pause in the doorway to speak before stalking off. "Forget it."
"Yeah, that's likely," Daniel said softly to the empty room, listening to O'Neill's angry footfalls echoing in the hallway. He walked back to his desk to reexamine the carved wood artifact they'd read from a little more closely, periodically rubbing his neck to erase the sense-memory of cool metal frames pressing softly against his hairline.