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Title: Between The Lines
Author name: Icarus
Author email: email@example.com
Sub Category: Drama
Summary: Jack explains the difference between military policy and reality -- hypothetically, of course. It's all about where you draw the line.
DISCLAIMER: The characters and universe contained in this story are Copyright MGM, Showtime, Gekko, Double Secret. No infringement on their copyright is implied. Copyright © 2005 All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or part without the author's explicit permission. Ask, guys. I'm easy to reach and usually quite generous.
Author notes: Thank you to Sue Barrett for the swift beta review. Welcome to my new addiction, space-fans.
Between The Lines
Jack cleared his throat and sniffed, his voice hoarse with exhaustion. They'd been up all night talking. "Yeah, well. There's the policy policy, and then there's the real policy. You know. The workaday one."
Daniel was half asleep, eyelids drooping and heavy, but he manfully forced himself to stay awake and dug his chin into a throw pillow. "What do you mean?" His beer was in the other room, but he was glad of it since that usually put him out.
Jack's had propped his cheek up on his fist. He was even more tired than Daniel, but clearly determined. "Well. You're not supposed to..." he waved a hand vaguely, "... do anything. But life gets a lot more complicated than that."
Daniel raised his eyebrows in place of a question.
"There's the unwritten rulebook, you see." He stared up at the ceiling as if trying to gather his thoughts.
His pause was so long, Daniel wondered if he'd fallen asleep. But Jack went on:
"Say you're in a barracks. It's been a while, you have a quiet moment. If no one's around -- that's cool. But quite frankly, people are always around. And the showers are worse. I mean, grand central station.
"So, if you hear someone jacking off in their bunk," he shrugged, "you don't say anything. I mean, you gotta sometime. You try to be quiet, but... what can you do?"
"Now, let's just say - hypothetically - that that kinda sets you off. Hypothetically. So you wait for another time."
Daniel pursed his lips and nodded. "Of course. I've lived in a dorm, Jack."
"Yeah, I know. All right." Jack nodded like they're on the same page. "So let's just say that 'another time' rolls around, and you hear this other guy jacking off when you do. I mean, what are you gonna say? 'I can hear you, so knock it off'? No. You just let it go."
Daniel gave a patient nod. Not that this had ever happened to him, inwardly he was blinking, but he waited for Jack's point.
"That's tacit permission, you see," Jack explained. "The next time he's doing it, you can too." Jack licked his lower lip a little. "And if you like it, if you get off on that, well, that's no one's business but your own."
Oh. Daniel burrowed his chin a little further into the pillow, careful not to stare at Jack.
But a glance at Jack's expression showed he was a million miles away, staring at his hands. "Fast-foreword a few months. You've got yourself a bit of a situation. Technically, you're bending a few regs, or, well, more than bending them. But in reality it's not a problem. You know, it's not personal, it's just - you know. Fun. You're friends and it's A-okay."
"Okay," Daniel said, then immediately regretted it, as Jack looked up sharply. Wary. But he continued.
"Then it starts to get to be a problem. You know. You don't really realize it, but you're only hanging out with each other. You're on the damned radios in the air all the time, joking around. You're pissing everyone off and you're too stupid to know it." Jack shook his head. "So here's where the unwritten rules kick in again: Your CO's supposed to report it. You're supposed to have all sorts of 'bad things' happen. But a good CO's not gonna waste two fully trained pilots. No siree. Especially if you're both good, and one of you's great, which, well, there's no point in being humble here.
"No, your CO finds a reason to split you up. Like, for example, promotes one of you and leaves the other in the dirt." Jack winced and balled up his fist. "Which gets ugly real fast, let me tell you. You get a good whiff of just how close you came to making a really big mistake. I mean Big big."
Daniel chewed his lips and nodded slowly.
"Of course, the CO doesn't tell you why. But you know why. Which means he knows, which means a whole hell of a lot of people know. Maybe." Jack cracked his knuckles. "So what do you do? I'll tell you what you do. You've got to convert yourself back. Clean up your act, get back on the straight and narrow, yadda, yadda."
Jack looked at Daniel worriedly, "All hypothetical. Just so we're clear."
"So, the whole situation's fucked. You got overly attached and that was the problem. It's one thing to be screwing around, a whole other thing to be a big baby, bawling your eyes out about being transferred to another base and whatnot."
"Wait. You were crying?"
"Right, right." He gestured for Jack to continue. "Sorry. My mistake."
Jack shrugged philosophically. "It's the military. You gotta be prepared to be moved around, you could lose people in a war, you can't let it get to that - that point." He rubbed his nose and took a long breath. "Anyhow, women love the uniform, right? The Air Force has a hot-shit uniform, don't ya think?"
"Yes," Daniel said carefully, wondering what he was agreeing to.
"Yeeeah," Jack grinned. "There's a lot of officer's clubs, a lot of action." Jack shook his head. "And it's fun, it really is."
Jack chuckled to himself quietly. "A damned wild scene. Whew. So you keep totally, you know, really dirty but clean in that sense. But there's a lot of temptation there, too. A lotta wild women. Can get you into trouble."
Daniel blinked at him and ventured a question, "How?"
Jack took a breath. "Well. This was back in the seventies, you see. And there was a lot of 'multi-partner' stuff going around, if you know what I mean."
"Yeah. Wild times."
"Anyways, you can end up with a lot of close calls. Some foxy chick might want you and another guy too, and that just gets... intense. And no matter how many ground rules you set for yourself, you're gonna break them. I mean, you say yes, because hey? Who's gonna turn that down?"
Daniel didn't comment, staring down at the floor.
"But it gets outta hand. You and the other guy start going at it - and Miss Wonderful thinks it's hot, but it's really oh-so-stupid. You backslide a little, maybe get his phone number, after.
"It's all because you're flirting too close to the line, you see?" Jack said earnestly. "It's like... Russian roulette. It's just a matter of odds and bad luck."
"What do you do then?" Daniel asked softly.
"Well, there's a couple of things. First off, while it's not on the rulebook, in the unwritten rule is if you're careful, civilians are okay. Both sides of the fence."
Daniel nodded slowly. "Right."
"But eventually it gets to be kinda distracting, you know? I mean all of it. The parties, the sex, the booze... too many late nights, too many times waking up where you don't know what day it is or where the fuck you are. It starts to wear on you. Wears you down."
"Uhm-hmm." Daniel could see that.
"So rather than kill yourself driving home drunk some night, you pray for lightning to strike. Which it did."
Daniel realized he must have fallen half-asleep. "Wha-?" He straightened up.
Jack grinned at him impishly. "Thought that might wake you up a little.
"You get lucky. You fall head over heels - and this time it's the right side of the fence." Jack rubbed his eyes and blinked. "Who knew you could find someone great in a seedy bar?"
Jack folded his hands together over his forehead and leaned back into his pillow. He sighed, long and low. "Yep. Everything just... clicked."
"Well, that's good then," Daniel said, turning towards him. "Isn't it?"
"Yeah. Until it all goes to shit."
"Yeah," Daniel sighed. He thought for a long moment. "But that was a long time ago - I mean," he amended quickly, swallowing, "time passes. Doesn't it?"
Jack nodded. "It does. But... you don't."
"You don't?" Daniel blinked. "Not at all?"
Jack shook his head, the pillow whispering against his hair.
"With anyone? Of... either side?"
"Nah." Jack shrugged. "Maybe you're a little older and wiser... maybe your standards are a little higher. Or maybe it's just not worth the risks." He smiled ruefully. "On a whole lotta levels."
Daniel reached over Jack and clicked on the bedside lamp. "Until?"
Jack nodded, licking his lips. He rolled onto his back, not looking up at Daniel. "Until."
"God." The sheets rustled as Daniel slid down beside him, soft against his bare skin. "Then. What does this mean?"
"I haven't a clue, Daniel. Not a fucking clue."