Rating: PG13 this part; NC17 later
Pairing: Tony DiNozzo/Daniel Jackson
Feedback: is loved. Here or at nilahasi at yahoo dot com
Summary: Tony DiNozzo begins working undercover at an archaeological dig in North Carolina shortly after a former Navy Lieutenant, working there as an intern, as well as the dig supervisor are murdered. The supervisor's replacement is Daniel Jackson.
Author's Note: This is a crossover between NCIS and Stargate SG-1; it takes place sometime early in Season 3 of NCIS, and some unidentifiable time early in Season 9 of SG1.
ETA: I know that this was originally posted in three parts, but either LJ's changed their posting size limit or I'm clueless, because I get error messages when I try to post it as before. I decided to break it up into 5 parts; the story's 50 pages long in Word, so it's about 10 pages each part.
Tony yawns, raising his hands as far as they can go in the cramped little rental car, eyes closed. "I thought you said that this was supposed to be a fun, scenic get-away with work on the side," he complains.
Gibbs, sitting next to Tony in the driver's seat, shoots him a glare. "You said that. I said that it was an undercover case that would probably entail some pretty intensive work."
“Yeah, yeah, some Navy kid turned archaeology intern gets whacked at some new Indian archaeological site and then the director of the dig, Forson, dies as well. So I get to go undercover and get all chummy with the staff.”
Gibbs is glaring at him. “’Navy kid,’ DiNozzo?”
Tony waves his hand. “Kidding, Boss, just kidding! I know what’s going on. Hey, how far is my new apartment from the beach, anyway? I’ve heard that North Carolina has fairly okay beaches. I may need to research that.”
“Get with the program, DiNozzo,” Gibbs snaps.
"Sure, Boss," Tony says, and then, reaching around next to his door, lowers his seat until it’s almost horizontal. "Hey, let's do your little morning briefing this way today. And if I close my eyes, that just means that I'm really concentrating on what you're saying."
Gibbs picks up his empty Starbucks cup and hurls it at Tony, hitting him squarely in the head. "DiNozzo! Get your head out of your ass and sit up."
Tony heaves a belligerent sigh, but raises his seat, as requested. "All right. Give me the lowdown for today."
Gibbs sighs. “Well, Ziva and McGee are still having trouble finding any connection between the disappearances and Lieutenant Adair, other than the obvious archaeological one. Adair's body's being released to his family today-we've had it two weeks, no new leads, nothing left for the body to tell us, as Ducky said. And as Abby keeps telling me, she can't trace anything without the murder weapon."
"Right, so I'll be sure to be on the lookout for any blood-covered blunt objects walking around, hopefully before they bash in my skull," Tony quips.
At that, Gibbs glances at him, his eyes quickly moving. "You read the mission report."
"No, Boss, I thought it just looked pretty so I-"
"Tony!” Gibbs snaps, uncomfortable. "That wasn't a question."
"Then why did you wait for an answer?" Tony asks.
"Shut up, DiNozzo," Gibbs says, but it’s without any venom. "You read the report," he repeats, carefully looking down at his fingers wrapped around the handle of a coffee mug. "You can handle yourself. That was not an invitation to speak," he said, holding up a finger. "This is nothing like the White case. You'll be fine."
"Who're you trying to reassure here, me or you?" Tony asks, expression carefully neutral.
Gibbs just glares at Tony, and the uncomfortable air is gone, replaced by the familiar banter they play so well. "The real important thing for today is that the new director of the dig is heading in. Name's Jackson, came all the way from Colorado, he and Forson used to be colleagues. You keep a close eye on him."
“Like white on rice, Boss,” Tony says, and then cringes a bit as Gibbs glares at him.
Back at his apartment, Tony rifles through the box of books Gibbs sent him-"light reading," the other man had said, but the box was full of texts like Geographical Information Systems in Archaeology and Human Osteology: A Laboratory and Field Manual. Tony is pretty sure that the addition of If These Pots Could Talk: Collecting 2,000 Years of British Household Pottery was either an accident or some kind of strange joke.
Still, Tony has to admit to himself that the books have been helpful; he’d gone from knowing absolutely nothing about archaeology to the realization that he doesn’t want to know anything about archaeology.
Idly, Tony grabs the field manual and settles down on the couch, restlessly flipping through television stations. Tomorrow, he’ll have to really put the act on—convince this new director that is was Jack Rourke, assistant dig supervisor, and completely capable of doing his job. Tony knows that Gibbs is still wondering why he took this mission, but that’s okay; if Gibbs hasn’t noticed Tony’s glances in the last few years he’s worked for him, then he’s either oblivious and never going to notice, or he has noticed—and doesn’t care, or can’t make himself care.
And if his thoughts happen to wander to rooftops and too-blue skies, well, he knows that there’s a bottle of tequila in a kitchen cabinet just begging to be opened.
Monday morning’s dawn comes bright and early, and it’s all Tony can do not to throw his alarm clock across the room when it begins buzzing at 6:30.
An hour later, showered and dressed in grungy jeans and a faded t-shirt, Tony’s begun the annoying process of rummaging around his temporary apartment, attempting to locate a sneaker for his bare left foot. He checks the bedroom and looked under the bed, again, but no luck: no shoe. He’s turning to leave the room when he notices the tip of a shoelace poking out of the bottom drawer of his bedside table. With a shake of his head, Tony opens the drawer to find the errant shoe.
"No more tequila," he mutters as he sinks down onto the bed to put on the shoe. Reaching over, he plucks his Word-a-Day calendar from the little table and rips off Saturday (velleity) and Sunday (nychthemeron) and crumples the papers into a ball, dropping them onto the floor a few feet away from the trash bin. That leaves the current day's word-"Monday, August 8th, today's word is-pros-prospis-prospicient? What the hell, Boss?"
With a sigh, he pushes the calendar farther back onto the bedside table. The stupid calendar was a gift from Gibbs, who’d been in charge of furnishing the apartment; of course, Gibbs had promptly delegated the job to Abby and McGee, which is probably why the majority of Tony’s furniture looks as though it had come from a thrift store. A couple of things, though, just scream Gibbs—the calendar being the foremost.
The apartment isn’t going to win any awards for its beauty, but it does have the advantage of being incredibly close to the dig site, and so only ten minutes after settling into his sad Toyota truck, he’s already at work—and only fifteen minutes late. There are no other cars at the dig site, though; Tony unlocks the front door and begins switching on lights, resigning himself to a morning of flipping through the old archaeology books Forson has left behind, and waiting.
Tony scans the pages of the book he’s pulled down, gazing at pictures of stars and galaxies swirling like the whorls of a fingerprint. With a glance at his watch, he realizes that it’s nearly 8:00; the new guy has to be there soon, Tony rationalizes, and surely he could take just a few moments to rest his eyes.
Tony’s next thoughts are of a swift breeze whistling by his ear, and the clean slopes of rooftops when something grates loudly and his eyes pop open. A strange man stands in the shadowed doorway, a large object in his hands, and Tony can’t help it: he leaps out of his chair, stumbling a bit, and immediately reaches for the gun at his shoulder holster—only the gun and the holster are missing. Force of habit, Tony thinks, and a stupid mistake to make when undercover, and now he has to cover for it.
"Sorry," he says, smiling. "Fell asleep. Bad dream. There may have been vampires involved, I'm not sure."
The other man nods. "That's really weird."
Tony nods back. "Yeah, I get that a lot."
As the other man just stares at him, Tony stretches, eyeing the other man up and down—is that a tweed suit? With another smile, he walks over a few steps and holds out his hand. "You must be Dr. Jackson. My name's-Jack. Rourke."
“Daniel Jackson at your service,” the man says, and shifts the bundle in his arms to shake Tony's hand briefly. "Rourke?" he adds. "I thought the dig assistant was Stan Gibson. He communicated with me about the position-I assumed he'd be working here."
"Yeah, Stan didn't work out," Tony says. "Something about a pit bull and whipped cream, apparently it's a felony in this state."
Jackson just stares at him, again, and then strolls over to the desk where Tony’s book lies, closed. “The Sirius Mystery: New Scientific Evidence of Alien Contact 5,000 Years Ago,” he reads. And then, with a sigh, asks, “And you’re the assistant I’ll be working with?”
Tony hurries over to the book and shoves it back into the sagging bookshelf behind his desk. “Hey, it’s not mine!” he says, defensive. “All the books here—well, basically everything that’s here belonged to Forson. And it’s not like I was reading it, anyway. Just—it has nice pictures,” Tony finishes lamely.
“Right,” Jackson says, still looking at Tony as though he’s insane.
“You know, you’re taking a really big leap onto the moral high ground there for a man who just walked in the door carrying a coffeemaker in his hands.”
It’s Jackson’s turn to blanch a bit. “Always be prepared,” he says, but it looks to Tony as if he may be hugging the coffeemaker a bit closer.
“Why don’t you put the coffeemaker over there?” Tony suggests. “Next to the one we already had,” he finishes under his breath.
Reluctantly, Jackson complies, placing the coffeemaker on a small table.
“I promise never to touch it,” Tony offers, and Jackson visibly relaxes.
“Help me grab a few books from my car?” Jackson asks, but he’s already walking toward the doorway without waiting for an answer. “You can fill me in on what’s going on while we get organized.”
Apparently, Tony thinks later, “a few books” mean, to Jackson, his entire library. As Jackson carries in the smaller items—a couple of table lamps, small boxes of strange ethnic statues—Tony has to bring in the four large boxes of books that Jackson has somehow managed to cram into his tiny rental car.
As Tony carries in the last monster box of books, he sees Jackson standing in front of the bookshelf, running his fingers along the spines of the books inside.
“He’s got Budge over here, see? Completely out of order. Can you believe that?” Jackson asks, pointing to a book.
“It’s a catastrophe,” Tony replies soothingly. With a heave, he settles the box of books onto the floor. “So, do you need help putting these in order, Dr. Jackson?”
“No, no, I’ll do it. I can be kind of particular about how my books are arranged. And call me Daniel,” Jackson says, waving a hand. “Anyway, I can take care of that later. How about you show me around the site, though?”
“Sure,” Tony agrees. “Right this way, Daniel.”
And so Tony leads Daniel outside, past the gravel parking lot and into the scant few acres out back which contain the burial mounds scattered in an open plain among a few sparse dogwood trees. Stepping over a low fence of orange tape, the two walk the perimeter of the site, and Tony mostly remembers what each of the numbered, picketed signs refer to.
“So, you’re pretty new at this,” Daniel remarks around the second or third time Tony balks at remembering the names of his coworkers—although, Tony thinks, in his defense, he has only met them once, and he was mostly profiling them and not paying attention then, anyway. But that’s not something he can ever tell Daniel.
So Tony says, “Well, everyone has to start out somewhere, right?” And then, quickly changing the subject, “So, the crew chiefs will be coming in tomorrow to brief you on the progress made so far, and then we’re all set to really get down to work with everybody on Wednesday.”
“That sounds great,” Daniel says, and as they head back to the office building Tony’s surprised to see the summer sun high overhead. His stomach gives a rumble, though, just as they walk inside, and Daniel laughs.
“Go home,” he says, settling himself behind the desk and running his hands over the polished wood surface. “There’s nothing else we can accomplish today. I’ll stick around and get all of my things put away. Toss over the key and I’ll make sure to lock up after I’m finished.”
Tony’s eyes light up, and his heart’s obviously not really in his quickly asked, “Are you sure? I could stay.” But even as he asks, he’s already tossing the keys over to Daniel, who’s waving him out the door.
As far as Daniel knows, he’s got the only key, but Tony can feel, deep in his jeans pocket, the imprint of the spare he’s already made. He doesn’t worry too much about leaving Daniel alone at the site; it would seem suspicious if Tony had stayed much longer, and he wants on the guy’s good side so that if he should finally turn out to be fucking them over, Tony will be there to catalogue it all—a confidant, a friend.
And besides, after his nightly check-in with Gibbs, he’s going to head back into the office to see what Daniel’s been up to, anyway.
That night, Tony’s phone conversation with Gibbs includes Tony saying, “Okay, Boss,” and, “Yeah, I know,” a lot, because there’s really nothing new to go over and they just seem to keep hitting the same high points over and over—keep a close eye on the new director, let us know A.S.A.P. if he makes any new keys, call for backup at the first sign of suspicious activity. Gibbs demands to know Tony’s first impression of Jackson, and Tony tells him—nice, apparently caffeine addicted, a little strange socially, easy on the eyes—Gibbs’s muttered “Hmph” was worth that one.
After they hang up, Tony drives out to the dig site and is unsurprised to find it empty. He digs through Jackson’s pens and notepads and thinks about how much this guy’s going to hate him, should he ever find out who Tony really is.
Tony makes a special effort to get to work just a little bit early the next morning, to make sure that he doesn’t miss anything when the other staff arrives, but Daniel’s not even there when Tony pulls into the parking lot.
Of course, he thinks, and lets himself into the building, keeping his promise and not touching Daniel’s coffeemaker even though he really, really wants to. One by one, the dig supervisors trickle in—first, it’s Mona, all curly blonde hair and coke bottle glasses, and after her Ted walks in, mumbling about traffic and thumbing through a handful of mail that he’s brought with him. Ted, Tony thinks, looks like a hippie with his long blonde hair in a ponytail and ratty t-shirts.
The two supervisors nod at Tony, and they pull up chairs in the conference room as Mark walks in, short brown hair ruffled, as usual. Tony strikes up a conversation with Mona, and they talk about her dog and the weather and coffee preferences, easy the way Tony could never speak with his real coworkers. Tony knows it’s dangerous, but a part of him really wants to trust Mona even though he knows that he can’t allow himself to trust anyone at this point; anyone at the site could be a killer.
Daniel saunters through the door seven minutes late, Tony notices, but the other man’s clutching a large mug of coffee as though it’s his salvation, and so Tony keeps quiet. For a few seconds.
“Nice of you to get here,” he jokes, and Daniel smiles bashfully as he settles into the chair at the head of the conference table.
“Yeah, sorry about that. I’m still adjusting to this time zone, I guess. You’d think that transitioning from Colorado to North Carolina would be easier, but, well, adjustment issues,” he says, and that’s that for now—Daniel reaches into his satchel and pulls out a few papers and a notepad and begins to ask questions of the dig supervisors, and Tony does his best to look supremely interested and at the same time pay as little attention as possible.
Tony knows that Mona’s ex-boyfriend is an abusive jerk; he knows that Ted’s grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and that Mark is allergic to shellfish. This is why, after the long, boring meeting is over, Tony walks out with the three supervisors and then runs back in, feigning some kind of forgetfulness—“I’d forget my head if it wasn’t securely bolted on,” he says, and they all laugh and wave goodbye.
Inside the office, Daniel is settled down behind his desk, scribbling notes all over spare scraps of paper. He glances up curiously at Tony, who smiles a bit and says, “Just wanted to make sure that you’re adjusting well. Can you find the grocery store? Gas station? Food, shelter, clothing, that sort of thing?”
Daniel smiles back. “I think I’m figuring it out, yes.”
Tony nods, moves as though he’s thinking about leaving, but keeps his body language open, the lines of his shoulders and torso are sloping planes.
“So what brings you here, Jack?” Daniel asks, fingers steepled on his desk. “I’ve read your file; you’re from Ohio, went to a university there, got your masters, worked some odd dig sites for the last couple of years. Why here?”
Tony pretends to think for a moment. “Maybe I like the idea of being remote,” he says. “There’s a difference in the remoteness of a desert and the remoteness of a fairly small Southern town. I don’t know about you,” he says, conspiratorially, “but I prefer the small town. Air conditioning. That sort of thing.”
They both laugh, and Tony adds, “It’s just nice to get away sometimes, you know? I’m sure that there’ll be time for the big important digs later, but right now, this just feels like the place to be.”
Daniel smiles, almost genuine, and Tony has to ask, “And what about you, Daniel? What are you doing way down here? I may have taken a peek at your file, as well, you know.”
Daniel looks away, blue eyes glancing out the window, and replies, “I guess I know what it’s like to live in remote places.”
And after that, the ice seems to break; Tony already knows that Daniel’s come from a top-secret project in Colorado, and Daniel confirms this, talking at some length about his coworkers but never mentioning the nature of his job. Tony learns that Daniel does indeed like his coffee; he’s also a sucker for Indian food and, apparently, a master of languages.
Tony says “Oviamente” when Daniel asks what languages he knows, and rolls his eyes as Daniel tells him that his pronunciation could use work.
Eventually, the conversation wanes and Tony readies himself to leave. “I was serious about the grocery store. Let me know if you need help finding it, we wouldn’t want you to starve out here,” he says.
“Actually, I think that there’s a grocery store pretty close to my apartment,” Daniel says, and Tony looks surprised, as though he doesn’t already know that—as though Tony’s apartment hadn’t been picked because of its proximity to Daniel’s new place.
That night, when Tony briefs Gibbs on the day’s activities, he tells Gibbs that Daniel knows a number of languages, is private but not overly introverted, and is muscular but passive—Tony can’t imagine him ever willfully hurting someone.
“I don’t know if it’s gut or something else, Boss, but I just can’t see Dr. Jackson being our guy,” Tony says.
“What else could it be other than your gut, DiNozzo?” Gibbs asks quietly, voice measured; and then he sighs. “I know what you mean. All the checks on this guy are coming out clean—I’m not convinced that he’s going to be the guy, either. Keep a close eye on him though, Tony—just because he didn’t have anything to do with Forson’s death doesn’t mean that he doesn’t have secrets.”
Everyone has secrets, Tony thinks, long after they’ve hung up, and he falls asleep to the curve of Daniel’s hands wrapped around his coffee mug, the blue of his eyes.
Tony dresses very casually the next day—soft, worn blue jeans and a wrinkled t-shirt. They’ll have tents set up to protect them from most of the sun, but August in North Carolina is nothing to laugh at—so while he considers going with shorts instead of jeans, Tony decides that he’d rather be hot than covered in the chiggers and ticks that undoubtedly crawl all over the dig site.
When he pulls into work, he sees, to his surprise, that Daniel’s there already, reading off assignments from a clipboard to the three supervisors and a gaggle of starry-eyed interns circled around him. Tony will tell Daniel that there are too many interns, and that there’s no way he can possibly remember all their names, but he could recite to Gibbs each intern’s full name, date of birth, and university history.
Tony walks up, smiling bashfully, just as Daniel dismisses everyone. “Looks like I’m the late one today,” he calls out, and Daniel smiles back.
“You didn’t really miss anything; I was giving everyone else their assignments. I figured you and I could work together today. Work for you?” Daniel asks.
“I see how this is going to go,” Tony says, smirking. “You want to supervise me to make sure that I don’t destroy something.”
“You know, it’s possible that you may be correct,” Daniel says, his eyes glinting. “Now grab a shovel, let’s get going.”
“Heavy labor? That doesn’t seem fair,” Tony says, grabbing a shovel and following Daniel, who’s walking with an obvious spring in his step.
“You’re happy today,” Tony notes, jogging to walk alongside the other man. “Get lots of coffee this morning?”
“Just excited to be getting to work,” Daniel says. “And, yes, the coffee probably didn’t hurt, either.”
Tony chuckles, nodding at Mona as they pass by her station. “Where exactly are we heading, anyway?”
“Northwest corner,” Daniel replies. “I’ve been going over Dr. Forson’s notes, and for some reason he’s completely neglected this part of the site. I thought we could just do a little digging over there. We’ll plot the area out, and go down maybe six inches.”
“Be ‘we’ you mean ‘us’?” Tony asks, hopeful.
“If by ‘us’ you mean ‘you,’ then yes,” Daniel corrects.
As they near the northwest area of the site, Tony sees that Daniel’s already set up a small covered area; there’s a table, piled high with pickets and tape, and also what looks like a cooler.
“You must have gotten here pretty early,” Tony says casually.
“Would you rather have gotten here early to get everything set up?” Daniel asks, smiling when Tony doesn’t respond.
“All right, let’s get this area roped off.”
Mostly, they work in silence. It’s not that hot early in the morning, and the ground is wet with dew; it’s not long before Tony’s sneakers are soaked. The buzz of insects in the bushes is soothing background noise, and Tony can hear the sound of picks and the low murmur of chatter coming from the workers at the other end of the field.
Slowly, they rope off the area in a large square; Daniel explains that after they’ve roped off the outside area, Tony can begin digging and then afterward they’ll rope the area off into smaller, three by three blocks.
It’s not easy work, and Tony appreciates it; it’s mindless, hammering a picket into the ground, winding a piece of rope around the wood, and moving on to the next space.
It takes them nearly an hour and a half to rope off the entire area; by the time they’ve finished, the sun is much higher in the sky, and even though it’s barely 9:00 it’s at least 80 degrees in the sun and climbing. Daniel produces a couple of bottles of water from the cooler and tosses one to Tony; after he’s drunk his fill, Tony throws the bottle down into the tent’s shade and grabs his shovel.
Daniel follows Tony, carrying what looks like a large but shallow box frame with a screen in the bottom, as well as a large roll of plastic. After Daniel winds the plastic around their dig area as a barrier, they soon have a system going—Tony shovels dirt into the frame and Daniel shakes the sieve, depositing all the dirt onto the plastic and leaving a few pebbles into the sieve. Daniel doesn’t look surprised, and Tony figures that this first exploration is probably cursory, and they’re not expecting to find anything until they start digging deeper under the surface. They make a good team, as Tony shovels his dirt into the sieve and moves on.
Several times, though, Daniel has to stop to wipe the sweat from his forehead and away from his glasses, and Tony’s a bit surprised to look up after a delay to find Daniel tying a bandana around his head that he’s apparently pulled from his pocket.
“Crips or Bloods?” Tony quips, and Daniel raises an eyebrow at him and goes back to his sieve.
Apparently Tony’s broken the quiet, though, because Daniel starts to chat, telling Tony about the unbearable dry heat in Egypt, so different from this Southern humid mess they’re in now. He describes the Egyptian aysh bread and a cheese called gibna beida with such fondness Tony can hear the hunger in his voice.
Tony’s sneaking glances as Daniel speaks, imagining the man conducting a dig in some exotic place in Egypt—what a tan he’d have, skin dusted with the sandy red dirt, sweat everywhere… And Tony realizes, with a shock, that he’s fantasizing about a man who will probably never even know his real name.
They’re about halfway done digging around the perimeter of their site when Daniel decides it’s time for lunch; Tony thankfully drops his shovel and follows Daniel back to their tent. Daniel’s packed sandwiches, just simple ham and cheese, but they’re cold and before Tony knows it he’s eaten two and finished off his water. Daniel’s still working on his first sandwich, smirking at him around a mouthful of bread.
It doesn’t seem possible, Tony thinks, but it’s become hotter outside.
Daniel’s face is slightly sunburned, his forearms and hands are lightly coated with dirt—and it would probably be gross to watch him eating a sandwich with dirty hands if Tony hadn’t done the same thing. A bead of sweat rolls down Daniel’s throat, tantalizingly slow.
“It’s incredibly hot outside today, isn’t it?” Daniel asks, snapping Tony out of his reverie. “Isn’t it interesting how we do that?” he continues, looking at Tony as though he’s studying him. “Everyone knows it’s hot outside, obviously, but for some reason we feel the need to point it out.”
“Well, Daniel, it appears that you’re becoming a Southerner,” Tony says. “Pretty soon you’ll be drinking sweet tea and eating cornbread and opening doors for all the pretty ladies.”
“Why Jack, you cad,” Daniel says, finishing his sandwich.
At the end of the day, they’re only a little over halfway done with the northwestern dig site; a combination of the heat and the heavy work have slowed them down, and Tony feels as though he could sleep for a week.
As soon as they’re dismissed, Tony’s in his battered pickup, heading for his apartment and a shower before some well-deserved dinner. And it’s not until he’s stepping out of the shower, the day’s dirt clogging the bottom of his drain, that he realizes that, even after all the ribbing he’s given Daniel about finding and going to the grocery store, he is completely without the necessary ingredients to make anything even as simple as spaghetti.
Tony’s tired enough to almost not be surprised when he stumbles upon Daniel in an aisle filled with pasta and tomato sauces.
“Fancy meeting you here,” Tony says, dumping a box of vermicelli into his shopping cart.
Daniel smiles. “You look tired,” he says conversationally.
“Not so much heavy shoveling in my last job,” Tony replies, and then winces as he sees Daniel select a bottle of spaghetti sauce into his cart.
“You know, that stuff doesn’t taste like anything when you compare it to home-made sauce,” Tony says. “Fresh garlic, hot Italian sausage, maybe a little basil if you’re adventurous.”
“Right,” Daniel grins. “And who’s going to be making this wonderful sauce for me, huh?”
“Well, I learned it from a lovely lady I dated in college—she was a great cook,” Tony lies. “If I weren’t such a jealous man I’d give you her number, of course.”
Tony pulls the bottled sauce out of Daniel’s cart and sets it back on the shelf. “You realize that this sauce has to simmer for at least three hours before you can eat it, right?”
Daniel smiles, and there’s a glint in his eyes. “I’m sure we’ll find something to do with our time.”
Tony smiles back, and chatters on as they wander the aisles, gathering up ingredients, but inside his mind’s moving a mile a minute. He’s known Daniel for only a couple of days—and sure, the man’s nice and attractive, but this, Tony thinks, wouldn’t be some kind of one night stand. However, he repeats to himself, the man is nice and attractive, and they’re both far from home.
To Daniel’s objection, Tony pays for all of the sauce ingredients at the check-out. “No, seriously, I got it,” he says. “I hope you know that we’re making it at your place, though. Mine’s kind of a dump.”
Tony follows Daniel back to his apartment, a kind of nervous energy thrumming through his veins. He brings all his groceries inside, stowing the cold items in Daniel’s fridge. Daniel’s place is nice and large; looks like two bedrooms, spacious kitchen, and a pretty large living area. Daniel doesn’t have a lot of furniture out, but Tony’s not really surprised. He is going to have to start bugging Gibbs about the crappiness of his apartment, though.
“All right,” Tony says, surveying the kitchen. “Get me out your biggest saucepan and a really sharp knife. And your biggest cutting board.”
Daniel, it turns out, does have a large saucepan, but his knife collection is dull and his cutting board very small. “I expect a raise for this,” Tony complains, chopping the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Mincing the garlic is a headache, but he does it, preening inside as he notices Daniel watching his hands, hungrily.
Soon, the sausage and garlic are simmering in olive oil in the saucepan, and Tony’s commissioned Daniel to open the cans of tomatoes. Once the meat is nicely browned, they dump in all the tomatoes and Tony adds in a few frozen meatballs.
“Traditional Italian recipe, right?” Daniel says sarcastically.
“I would never steer you wrong,” Tony replies, and turns the heat down low. “All right, that’s about all we can do right now. Simmering time.” He glances at his watch. “You do realize that we’re not going to be able to eat until about 9:00, right?”
“I can wait,” Daniel says, leaning by him to stir the sauce, surreptitiously brushing Tony’s thigh as he leans over the stove.
“So tell me, Dr. Jackson, what exactly am I doing here?” Tony asks, turning to face Daniel.
“I thought I told you to call me Daniel. And you’re earning your keep,” Daniel says, smiling; he turns and walks into the living room, sinking down onto the couch, and Tony follows.
“Tell me about yourself, then. Why did you come here?” Tony asks.
Daniel looks off into the distance for a minute. “I suppose it was a good chance to get away, get my hands dirty again.”
“So you were in an office back in, where was it, Colorado?”
Daniel nods. “Pretty much,” he says, and stops. “It’s not that the work there wasn’t rewarding, just—I needed a break.”
Tony nods back, understanding. “So what exactly did you do there? Write lots of papers, publish books, what?”
“That’s classified,” Daniel says, smiling ruefully. “You know, I tell you and I have to kill you, that sort of thing.”
“Classified,” Tony draws out the word. “Now that’s interesting. I never really would have pictured you as working for the military. Army, Air Force, what? Or is that classified as well?”
“Still pretty classified,” Daniel admits.
“All right, so tell me what you left behind. Friends? Dog? Cat? Girlfriend?” Tony throws in.
“Subtle,” Daniel says. “I have friends in Colorado. Honestly, I’m not really sure how long I’ll be here. I wanted to get away for a while, and picking up where Dr. Forson left off felt like the right thing to do.”
“Speaking of which—how did you learn about the position? Did you know Dr. Forson personally?” Tony questions, and Daniel nods.
“I’ve known him ever since I was a grad student,” Daniel says. “Not really all that well, actually, but enough to recognize his name throughout the years.”
“So you took over for him out of some kind of professional duty?” Tony asks. “That’s really respectable, actually.”
Daniel shakes his head. “It’s more than that—let’s just say that the particular scenario of an archaeologist dying on a project, leaving behind unfinished work—I’ve seen it happen before. He deserved to have someone take over who would care about the well being of the project.”
Tony nods, silent, and Daniel speaks again. “So tell me about yourself. What are you looking for here?”
Tony knows that Daniel isn’t really asking why he’s at the dig site. “I guess…maybe I needed a little time away, too. Time to try out something new.”
Daniel cocks his head to the side, corners of his mouth turning up a bit. “Well for now, why don’t you try taming your tomato sauce in the kitchen? I think I hear it boiling over.”
Tony mutters a curse and sprints into the kitchen, and indeed the sauce is boiling. Turning the heat lower, he grabs a couple of paper towels to wipe up the mess of sauce that’s bubbled out of the saucepan. It’s quieting now that the heat is lower, though, so he gives it another stir and walks back into the living room.
“New rule, ancient Italian secret,” Tony says, sliding onto the couch. “Sauce must be stirred every half an hour or every time someone goes into the kitchen.”
“Ancient Italian secret, got it,” Daniel replies. And then, suddenly, “So, no girlfriend here, no one you left behind? Cat, dog, goat?”
Tony gives him a half smile. “No one I was ever going to have a chance with.”
Daniel nods, serious. “I know exactly how you feel.”