This time, Daniel called him. Jack had expected that his very, very smarty-pants friend would eventually figure out that he hadn't been completely honest in their last conversation, but he'd been hoping that it would take longer than one freaking day. Sheez.
"Yeah, Daniel, I'm fine. No, you don't need to send the marines. No, it wasn't nothing, but it's taken care of now. No, it wasn't really just a cable movie that had me calling you with extremely weird questions. Yes, it's true, there's more to the story, and I will happily tell you all about it. Later." Jack answered each of Daniel's rapid-fire questions in order, holding the cordless phone between his ear and shoulder as he worked at the kitchen counter, chopping onions and potatoes and dumping them in a foil packet with butter and spices to cook on the grill.
Silence at the other end as Daniel digested this. "You're sure you're okay?" he said at last.
"Friggin' peachy. Listen to my voice. Don't I sound chipper?"
"Uh…" Daniel's answer was slow, still processing. "You do, actually. But since when do you use words like 'frigging'?"
"Eh, this young guy I've been working with. Must be rubbing off on me. Seriously, Daniel, I'm awesome. I'll tell you all about it as soon as I can, but it's not really a story for the phone."
"You've been up to something." Daniel's voice was completely certain, but he didn't sound unhappy or anything. "I knew you wouldn't be able to just sit around fishing and reading the newspaper for very long. You know, they still want you to head up Homeworld Security. And Landry says that your retirement paperwork never actually went through. It's probably still sitting on his desk."
Jack sighed. "Yeah, I kinda figured. Look, I gotta go. Talk to you later, okay? I promise."
"I'll hold you to it."
Jack hit the end button on the phone and set it on the counter, then stared down at the messy cutting board. They still wanted him on Homeworld Security. It was an important job, and he was probably the most qualified person on the planet. When they first told him about it a couple of months ago, he had rejected the idea immediately, and he still wasn't sure that he really wanted it. But he also didn't really want to be retired. Retirement was kind of boring. And the world was full of people who needed to be protected.
Jack wandered deeper into the cabin, and didn't even hesitate in the door before stepping into the guest room and moving right over to the bed. Dean was still sprawled all over it, apparently asleep, but at Jack's invasion of his space his eyelids twitched and he turned over with a sigh. "Five more minutes. No, make that five more hours."
Jack smiled. "I'm just here to exercise my visitation rights."
Without opening his eyes, Dean reached over and grabbed the bottle of Advil from the nightstand, then cuddled it to his chest like a tiny, cylindrical teddy bear. "Mine now. Comfy here. The Advil likes me."
"Clearly, you were not hugged enough as a child." Jack shook his head sadly. "And you're sleeping with that knife under your pillow, aren't you?"
"'S a good friend," Dean slurred. "Now go 'way and lemme snuggle with my buddies."
Jack grabbed the kid's blanket-covered leg and gave it a little shake. "C'mon, kiddo. I know we had a bad night, but you've been sleeping for almost twelve hours now. Time to rejoin the living."
Dean pushed his head into the pillow and let out a deliberate snore.
"Well, your loss. I have steaks on the grill. Thick, juicy, porterhouse steaks. I have this seasoning rub, secret recipe passed down through generations of O'Neills, and a sauce that's just…mm. Indescribable. They're just getting to that point where the juice is starting to drip out, falling down into the coals, creating this aromatic smoke. But well, if you're tired, I guess I'll just have to eat both of them all by myself…."
Dean finally couldn't stand it anymore. He sat up abruptly, eyes wide, hair all over the place, drool dripping from one corner of his mouth. "Okay, okay! I'm up. Don't eat my steak."
"Wouldn't dream of it." Jack couldn't resist ruffling the kid's dark blond hair, making it stick up even more. "Come out when you're ready."
He made his way back to the door, peripherally aware of Dean smoothing down his hair with a forbidding scowl, just a touch of something else in his eyes. Bewilderment, maybe. The young man was still shaky, he knew, still struggling to re-bury all of the hard, painful stuff that had been dug up last night. There were cracks in his armor, places Jack could get in.
He had said things, last night, sitting on the cold ground in the circle of Jack's arms, things that Jack was sure he had never, ever said aloud to anyone else. Dean hated being vulnerable, obviously, but he had passed the point of no return with Jack. They weren't strangers anymore, teaming up for one random job. This was more like what had taken SG-1 months and years to develop.
It was just fine with Jack. He was perfectly willing to make room for one more person who could come in without knocking, one more person who was allowed to share his favorite beer, one more person he would cook waffles and steak for. Dean, though, seemed to be having a little more trouble with the concept. That was all right. They had time.
They ate outside, sitting on mismatched lawn chairs at a white wicker table, the spring afternoon warm and bright around them. Afterward, Jack took the dishes in, and Dean took the cell phone out of his pocket and stared at it for awhile.
Dad would want to know. He hit the buttons, waited for voice mail, listened to the mechanical female voice reciting the number. Of course. "Hey, it's Dean. I took care of that thing I called you about earlier. Just a ghost. A little stubborn, though. I'm staying up here in Minnesota with a friend. Not Pastor Jim, different guy. Give me a call, okay? I… I need to, to… Never mind. I'm okay. Just let me know where you are so I can meet up with you."
He flipped the phone shut and dropped it on the table as if it was suddenly too hot to hold. Damn it, Dad, why won't you answer your fucking phone once in a while? Do I ever let your calls go to voice mail? I just wanted to hear your voice, for God's sake. Is that so much to ask?
He didn't think about the reasons that his dad might not be answering the phone. Didn't think about him lying in a ditch somewhere, blood black and dripping, didn't think hospitals and morgues and John Does with too many identities in their wallets to sort out the right one. Dad was in a bar somewhere drinking off the last hunt, that was all. Dean wished he was there with him.
As if summoned by the thought, a beautiful bottle of beer appeared at his elbow, and Dean turned his head, hidden in his hands, to give it an appreciative look. Jack's hand pressed his shoulder, warm and solid, and then the man moved around to the other chair and sat down again with a satisfied sigh. Dean leaned back, taking the beer with him, and felt some of the tension run out of his body.
"Did you call your brother?" Jack nodded at the phone still on the table.
Oddly, Dean didn't feel a twist in his gut at the question, didn't feel himself tense up again, hostile to the probing curiosity of a near-stranger. He just shook his head. "Nah. Sammy's fine. He has his own life now—he wouldn't want me calling him, butting in."
"Uh huh." Jack's voice was neutral. He looked away, over the lake.
Dean shifted a little in his seat, but knew he had to say it. "Look, about what I said last night…"
"Don't worry about it." Jack cut a look over to him, brown eyes warm and knowing, so knowing. "Don't worry about any of it. We all have tough missions sometimes, end up needing to decompress. I've been in your shoes, and I've seen plenty of other people in them, too. The stories I could tell you…if you had the clearance, of course." He twisted a little grin. Opening the conversation in a different direction, giving Dean an out.
Dean hesitated, but didn't take it. "Still, though… Thanks. I owe you one. You were right to want to find out what happened to little Abe." He breathed a shuddery sigh and ran a hand through his hair, ignoring how it shook slightly. "Oh, man, you were so right. If you hadn't been there…"
"But I was. And thank you for acknowledging my awesome research skills." Jack extended his bottle across the table, and Dean obliged, clinking their beers together in a salute.
They stared out over the lake, basking in the sun. Eventually they finished the beers and Jack went in for more, again pausing to squeeze Dean's shoulder before moving back to his chair. Jack was a very tactile guy, Dean was coming to realize, and not just with yo-yos. He bet that with his friends, Jack was always touching, ruffling, poking, bothering, picking up random things and messing with them. Since last night, Dean seemed to be on the list, too.
It wasn't a bad thing. Dean seemed to remember his dad being like this too, once, a long, long time ago. He hadn't known that he missed that until just now.
Dean looked over, unused to hearing that slight hesitance in Jack's voice. The older man was always so certain, so firm.
"Why don't you stick around for a few days? At least until your head is better. I have an extra fishing pole with your name on it, and plenty of steaks in the freezer."
Dean looked to the lake, biting his lip. This wasn't how it usually went. More often than not, the Winchesters hit the road as soon as the job was done, put some pavement between themselves and any awkward questions that might come up. People didn't want them around, even the ones they saved—they didn't want the reminder of whatever supernatural horror they'd encountered. Dean was used to that distrust, that wariness.
Jack was different. It was weird. And sort of wonderful.
Dean relaxed back into his chair and took another swig of beer, letting out a long, slow sigh as it hit his belly. Jack had internet—he'd seen the computer tucked into a corner of the living area and the dish on the roof—and Dean could find another job here as well as anywhere. And fishing… man, he hadn't done any fishing in forever.
He looked over, lifted his bottle to point at his companion. "Okay, old guy. Just a few days. Until my head is better."
Jack grinned, slow and glad, and raised his bottle in a mirrored salute. "A few days it is. Welcome to my little corner of Minnesota, Dean Winchester. I'm sure you'll like it here."
Dean laughed and drank his beer. "I'm sure I will, Jack O'Neill. Yah sure, you betcha, donchya know. Oh, yah."
Jack laughed with him.
A/N: And thus ends the first tale of JACKNDEANINTHEWOODSOMGYAY! It will not be the last. I have at least a dozen ideas for further stories, some long, some short, many with Sam and the rest of SG-1, but all centered on further interaction between these two lovable rogues. Thanks for reading. I cherish each and every comment and review, and don't be shy to let me know what works and what doesn't. Did I make a typo? Was the characterization off? Did the split perspective throw you at times? Was it badly paced, was the ending rushed? I welcome any and all opinions, even if you just want to write one line to let me know you liked it. That's cool, too. Even if you have nothing to say, I'm glad you came along on the journey. So again, thanks for reading! I love you all.
And in conclusion, JACKNDEAN!