Dr. Daniel Jackson sighed, and not for the first time. He shook his head and turned to look at his friend. "Listen, Jack," he said. "If you weren't interested, you should have just said 'no'."
Colonel Jack O'Neill shook his head. "Now, I didn't say I wasn't interested. I was only saying that you have never mentioned this person before and I have never seen a picture. Is there something I should know?"
Daniel's left dimple appeared as he pursed his lips in chagrin. "I told you. Her name is Allison Howard. Everyone calls her Ally. She is one of my oldest friends. She is single and unattached. She is educated and an overall good person."
"Oh, good. At least you didn't actually say* the words 'Good personality'."
Daniel sighed. "Do you want me to cancel?"
"No, no. I would love to take your friend to dinner, since you will be unable due to 'work commitments'." The line sounded rehearsed even to him.
Colonel Jack O'Neill stood in the door of a mostly casual Italian Restaurant in Colorado Springs. Dressed comfortably in gray pants, an un-tucked, short-sleeved, button-down, cream-colored shirt, and his favorite leather jacket. He looked around for a woman sitting at a table by herself. He knew this wasn't a 'date', but he felt like he was being set up and it made him uncomfortable.
"Can I help you, sir?" a young blonde holding menus inquired.
He glanced down at her, but barely saw her. "I'm supposed to meet someone here."
"Do you see the person? Or are you here first?"
"I don't...know." He looked down at the small blonde and smiled. "It's a friend of a friend I've never met..."
"Ah." She showed the wisdom of her teenage years. "A blind date."
Jack was not amused. "Her name is Allison Howard. Maybe under the name of Daniel Jackson?"
The blonde nodded. "Dr. Jackson's friend is here. Follow me."
On the way to the table, the hostess told him Daniel was a regular at this particular restaurant and had set up their table in advance. Jack followed the girl to a table that was set for two, feeling more set up, but there was no one there. He looked around the restaurant, then to the hostess. "You said she was here?"
"She's using the restroom. Your waiter will be Jamie and he'll be here shortly. Can I get you something to drink, in the meantime?"
Jack ordered a beer and took off his jacket, hanging it on the back of the chair. Then he sat and waited.
"Colonel O'Neill?" a voice spoke to him from behind him.
He turned around to see a red-haired woman with intense blue eyes and a smile. He quickly stood. "I am."
She offered her hand. "Allison Howard. Ally."
"Jack." He took her hand and quickly took her in.
Allison Howard was pretty. Not an extraordinary beauty but pretty. Her eyes were pale blue with slate-gray flecks. Her hair was straight and long, deep auburn red. She had a straight nose and full lips and minimal make-up, which Jack liked. She was only about as tall as his chin, but had fantastic posture that made her seem taller. She was slim but curvy, wearing a sky-blue, V-neck, curve-hugging shirt and dark-blue, straight-leg jeans with pointed-toed shoes peaking out from them. As she withdrew her hand and walked to her chair, he noticed she was wearing heels, which meant that she was actually shorter than his chin.
"Stop it," Jack told himself. "It's not a date."
"Pleased to meet you, Jack," Ally said, smiling as she sat down.
He waited until she was seated, then sat across from her. "I didn't know what to expect," he confessed. "Daniel didn't give me any description to go off of."
She smiled. "That sounds like Daniel." She looked down at the table setting, then back up at him. "He only told me that you were a good friend and a Colonel in the Air Force. He did add that you have a 'quirky sense of humor' and 'can be impossible'."
Silently vowing to kill Daniel when he saw him next, Jack smiled. "Well, I guess I could plead guilty. I won't, but I could."
Her smile widened into a bit less hesitant, lighting her eyes up in a way that Jack liked.
The waiter brought his beer and her wine.
"Did Daniel tell you this wasn't a date?" Ally asked softly.
"He did. I am simply filling in for him."
She looked relieved. "Good. Did you think he was just pulling your leg? Setting you up?"
Jack smiled. "Actually, yes."
She smiled. "Good. Me, too. Can I ask what your expectations are?"
Jack's eyebrows rose. "No expectations. None. You?"
"Dinner with a friend."
"Great. That said. Do you like pizza?"
"Yeahsureyabetcha! What kind?"
"I like everything except anchovies, mushrooms and olives. You?"
"I'm not a big vegetables on a pizza lover."
"So...pile on the meat?"
He smiled. "Pile on the meat."
They made small talk through the dinner of pizza. Jack liked that she seemed to get his sense of humor and that she had a quick wit herself. He learned that she had been a high school teacher, a college professor, and was now a sales person for a textbook company. She learned that he was from Minnesota and they discovered they both liked to fish, though she admitted that she didn't like actually catching fish.
After they'd polished off the pizza, Ally leaned back with her second glass of wine and asked. "How long have you known Daniel?"
"Oh, I don't know. Eight or so years. You?"
"How well do you know him?"
"'Bout as well as anyone, I guess. We've been through some sh---tuff together."
She nodded. "Life and death 'shtuff', I'm guessing."
He nodded, wondering where this was going. "How long have you known him?"
She smiled. "Since college. In fact," she paused and took a long deep breath.
Jack leaned in. "Yes?" His eyes narrowed slightly, waiting.
She started to say something, then stopped. She took another breath and finished her wine. "Do you want to go for a walk?"
"I don't know. This is your town, remember? I just have a feeling that I can trust you and I don't want to stay here."
Jack nodded. "'Kay."
Jack flipped the switch to turn on the lights as he walked through the front door of his house. "Excuse the mess. Wasn't exactly expecting..."
Ally followed him in and smiled. "Now I know I can trust you."
Jack pouted. "Now why would you go and say something like that?"
"If not, then you would have been 'expecting'."
He snapped his fingers in front of him in a 'darn it' motion. Then he turned to the kitchen. "I don't have any wine. How 'bout a beer?"
She nodded. "Sure." She walked into the living room and looked around. "Nice place."
"Thanks. I like it."
"Why do you think Daniel set us up?"
Jack paused, taken back by the abruptness of the question. "I don't know." He handed her a beer bottle.
"I mean, you'd think he'd have a female friend or coworker he could send to keep our dinner appointment. Less threatening that way, don't you think?"
"O--kay." Jack slowly put the beer to his lips. "Was I that bad?"
"What? Oh, no! No...it's not that...I mean, it's just..." She sighed. "Well, I'm wondering if he's thinking your love life needs as much help as he thinks mine does."
Jack almost choked. Then he thought of Sam. "Probably." He realized what he'd said and added, quickly. "Not saying that your love life needs help..."
She chuckled. "Oh, don't worry." She drank from the bottle and turned to look out the sliding glass door. "It does, but it's beyond help."
Jack approached her. "Oh?"
With a deep breath, she started. "I've known Daniel since college. I was an undergrad and he was a grad student, working with my Linguistics Professor while doing his thesis." She smiled. "He's the reason I continued my education, even after becoming disenchanted with the University system."
"Looking back, I think I fell in love with him within days of meeting him. He was helping me with my lab assignment, which was frustrating me beyond belief. He was so patient and willing to teach..." She turned back to Jack and stepped to a chair to sit.
"I knew I'd never have a chance with him, so I pursued a friendship," she smiled. "And that's what I got."
Jack sat across from her and listened.
"When he went off to Egypt, I wrote to him and he wrote back. When he came back, we met for lunch and it was like he'd never left. Our friendship has always been incredibly easy to maintain. He told me about his theories for the pyramids and I remember his pain at them being dismissed by 'academons'."
"Yep. Demons in the academic world."
Jack smiled. "May I use that?"
"Sure. Daniel will know instantly you got it from me, though."
"For years, he traveled doing his thing. I graduated, got my Masters, Ph.D. and started teaching. Whenever he came back, he and I would have lunch and catch up. Then he got involved with a colleague and it ended badly. He came home and we talked for hours. Then he met Catherine Langford and told me he was going to be working for the US Government on some sort of archeological research that might validate his theories." She smiled, widely at Jack. "He was so excited, but as any scholarly skeptic, he felt caution dealing with the US Government and the military. That must have been around the time he met you."
Jack nodded. "About."
She held the bottle between her hands and rolled it in her palms. "Then he disappeared. Over a year went by. No answer to my letters, his phone was turned off, I couldn't get any answers from anyone."
Jack straightened. "Listen, I can't---"
Shaking her head, she interrupted. "I'm not looking for answers. I know how it is with the military. I'm just talking. I guess I just need someone to finally know...you know? Someone who knows Daniel and cares for him. I know I'm probably not making any sense."
Jack looked over at her. "I think I get it." He set the beer on the coffee table and moved to the chair next to her. He leaned toward her. "Go on."
Ally was especially pretty as she smiled and touched his hand. "Thanks."
"Suddenly, he was back. His first letter to me was short and cryptic. What was hard for me to understand is why it took another 6 months for me to get lunch with him." She looked off into space. "But when I did, I could see there was something different about him. Something haunting. Daniel has always assumed blame for things that were way beyond his control. I think it started when his parents died. Now, apparently, he'd gotten married and she'd disappeared. He felt responsible and said that he was searching for her."
Tears came forward, unbidden, but she swallowed. "It broke my heart to see him suffer and to know, for certain, there would never be anything but friendship between us." She took a drink. "Then he told me that she died. I could see again he blamed himself. Hell, then his ex-girlfriend disappeared and he blamed himself for that. He hadn't seen her in something like 5 or 6 years and suddenly he was responsible for her disappearance. I kind of got mad at him for that one. I told him that he wasn't God and couldn't possibly be responsible for the lives of everyone he's ever come in contact with."
She looked at Jack, earnestly. "I know that hurt him and I regretted saying it, immediately. Three months later, he showed up on my doorstep with a smile and I apologized for the next three days. He'd forgiven me before he'd even decided to make the trip."
Jack smiled. He knew that about Daniel. It was difficult for that man to hold a grudge.
"Then he disappeared again. Another year, I didn't hear from him. I did get a call from a General Hammond - which impressed me, by the way. A General calling me! - saying that he was unavailable. He was very kindly trying to tell me to stop trying to contact Daniel, but I'm stubborn."
Jack nodded. "I know the feeling."
"When I finally got a call from him again, I was over the moon." She grasped Jack's hand. "I couldn't wait until he told me he would be able to have lunch with me."
"This time, he was different again. But not in a bad way. He was more at peace with himself, more comfortable in his skin than I had ever seen him. Whatever demons he'd carried about his parents, Sherry and Sarah, he seemed to have put to rest. He looked fantastic and sounded happy." She looked down at her beer again. "I fell for him all over again."
Jack was surprised that Daniel had told her Sha're's name, but didn't correct her on the pronunciation.
She looked up at Jack, then. "I've never told Daniel. And while I haven't been a nun, by any means," she grinned, her eyes wide. "I can't believe I just told you that. TMI, sorry."
He grinned. "No. Really. I'm relieved."
She laughed and blushed, slightly. "To be perfectly honest, me too."
His grin widened. "You were saying?"
"Yeah, well, I have never been in any kind of long-term relationship. I knew they wouldn't work, so I never tried to kid myself. That's the reason Daniel thinks my love life needs serious help. I figured that was the reason he set me up with a male friend instead of a female. I wanted to make it clear that I wasn't interested in romance, but I didn't intend to tell you everything. Wow. Sorry."
"Don't apologize." He sat back and looked at the empty beer bottles on the coffee table. "Now, I know why Daniel set us up." He then told her about Sam. He told her about how it could never be possible as long as he was in her chain of command and that, now, she was involved with someone. "Daniel was probably hoping I'd forget Sam and you and I would hook up."
Ally nodded. "Knowing Daniel, he probably thought setting up two of his close friends would be a fantastic solution."
"It would be until we broke up," he grinned.
"Oh, god. Then he'd be miserable all over again. Let's not and say we did," she laughed.
He winked at her. "I'm going to hold you to that."
She laughed again.
They talked well into the night, mostly about Daniel, and when one of them thought to look at the clock, it was 4 am. Jack took her back to the restaurant where her rental was still parked.
"It's nice to know, Jack," Ally said, as he opened her car door for her. "That there is someone in his secret world that cares for him as much as I do. I wish I could be a part of it, but at least I know." She reached up and kissed him on the cheek. "Thank you."
Jack watched her get into the car. "Hey, Ally?"
She stopped and looked at him.
"Why don't you tell him? He's not involved with anyone now and, while it might be difficult not knowing what he's doing all the time, wouldn't it be better than what you have?"
Ally smiled. "Do you really think he'd get involved with someone who couldn't share his work? Someone he'd have to leave for days, weeks, months at a time? Do you think, even though I'd love to have him even part-time, he'd allow that?"
Jack's dark eyes were solemn as he shook his head. "Probably not."
"Probably not. Good night, Jack."
"Good, er, morning, Ally."
Colonel Jack O'Neill turned see Daniel running after him. "Daniel."
"How'd it go?"
"Really? I called her last night, but she didn't answer, so I was kind of worried."
"You didn't call me."
Jack's grin slowly crept across his face as he recognized anxious concern. "That's what you were worried about?"
"Don't worry, old man." Jack slapped his back. "She was smiling when I took her back to her car."
Daniel blinked. "Took her back to her car?"
"Yep. I wonder what's for lunch?"
"Jack!" Daniel frowned. "What do you mean took her back to her car?"
He smiled. "Never you mind, Danny boy, never you mind. But if I were you, I'd call her soon. Or, maybe I should call her..."
He sauntered off with his hands shoved into his pockets, grinning, hoping he'd set something in motion.
|Genres:||Friendship, Pre-Relationship (het), Romance, Smarm|
|Summary:||Daniel sets Jack up with an old friend, but...|
Author's Chapter Notes:
If you're a fan of Sam/Jack, don't worry...More Daniel worship, really.