Tickling the Ivories by devra

General Hammond's POV

"Here, General, let me take that for you..."

"No, Jack, it's quite alright..."

Damn it, I've lost the tray of uncooked burgers and franks to the Colonel, who takes them right over to the grill. Colonel O'Neill is capable of many things... but barbecuing raw meat is not one of them. I cringe as I imagine the condition those burgers are going to be in about 45 minutes. All the hard work with the seasoning, the shaping them carefully... Okay George, get a grip... they're just burgers and Jack is just trying to be helpful. Instead of continuing to lament about those burgers, I turn my attention to the people who are enjoying this beautiful day in Colorado with me... at my house... at the annual SGC barbecue.

I'm really not too sure how this whole shindig became an annual anything. The first one-the news of it probably just spread by word of mouth-was a celebration of survival. Hell, we had lost a lot of good people that first year...actually, each year...faces change...losses...It's the nature of the beast in our line of work.

My gaze is drawn to the lone figure of Dr. Jackson standing off to the side, segregating himself from the people he works with. Head down, shoulders rounded... I know in my heart that this young man doesn't want to be here, listening to the life sounds around him. He craves to be locked in a dark room, alone, devoid of light, laughter. I know from experience... that's how it is when you lose someone you love. Even from this distance, I sense the impenetrable wall Daniel is constructing.

I watch him take a step back when Dr. Fraiser approaches him and actually flinch as she touches his arm. He will answer her questions regarding his health and state of mind in polite, clipped, one-word answers. Daniel averts his head, signaling the end of this exchange...after a few moments Dr. Fraiser leaves...and Daniel is again standing alone.

My eyes flit around the backyard and, though Dr. Jackson is standing alone, he isn't *alone*. Major Carter is watching him, as is his commanding officer... the man whose attention should be on the grill. Teal'c's regard of Dr. Jackson borders on obsessive...something that may possibly warrant a discussion between Colonel O'Neill and myself.

My thoughts are drawn away from my flagship team as someone calls my name...and I am sucked back into the events of the day.

* * * *

Entering the house, the door slamming shut behind me, I can still feel myself smiling at the antics of the SGC personnel. Placing the ice bucket on the counter, I open the freezer and stop. The noises from outside fade as I focus on noise from within my house. A smattering of sound that begins to feed a flame of anger and a feeling of desolation deep within me. With exaggerated slowness, I close the freezer door, all cognizance of the activities outside gone from my conscious thoughts. I am focused on the sound... and I climb the steps to a small room...a music room...the place where I still keep my wife's piano. The one thing I draw comfort from...the item that no one has been permitted to touch since her death. No one...not our daughter, not my beloved grandchildren. The room I go to think when days are tough...when I miss her so much that each waking hour becomes 60 minutes too long. Our place...my place....

Angry words freeze on my lips as I stand in the doorway of the room...and listen. With love and loss in my heart, I listen to the melody and haunting words the young man is playing on my wife's piano and the comfort the man sitting next to him is offering.

I said hello I think I'm broken
And though I was only jokin'
It took me by surprise
when you agreed
I was tryin' to be clever
For the life of me I never
Would have guessed how far
the simple truth would lead
You knew all my lines
You knew all my tricks
You knew how to heal that pain
No medicine can fix

I swallowed thickly as the words and music brought snatches of memories of my wife. Hours of happiness spent in this room. I am rewarded in my mind's eye of visions of her sitting happily by the piano, sharing with me her music and that special smile. Memories falling over each other, assaulting my senses with their intensity.

And I bless the day I met you
And I thank God that He let you
Lay beside me for a moment
that lives on
And the good news is I'm better
For the time we spent together
And the bad news is you're gone

As Daniel's shoulders begin to shake with emotion, his fingers falter momentarily on the keys. I take in Jack's placement of his hand on Daniel's shoulder, the fingers tightening gently.

Lookin' back it's still surprisin'
I was sinking you were rising
With a look you caught me
in mid-air
Now I know God has His reasons
But sometimes it's hard
to see them
When I awake and find
that you're not there

A lifetime of memories that my wife and I shared...homes, children, weddings, grandchildren. In my mind's eye, a rollercoaster ride of everyday occurrences in our marriage that strengthened our love. A year of togetherness was all Dr. Jackson had been granted...a year of honeymoon love to be followed by years of self-flagellation. Visions of what if's will haunt Daniel for the rest of his life.

You found hope in hopeless
Your made crazy sane
You became the missing link
That helped me break my chains

When he concludes, the last notes echoing in the room, Daniel's shoulders begin to shake with the unspent emotion he has been withholding since returning to the SGC after Sha're's funeral.

In this sunlit room, the general in me sees only the friendship between the two men sitting on the piano bench. A team leader comforting a team member...one best friend comforting another in the storm of a tragedy. Military to civilian...friend to friend.

With a gentleness that warms me, Colonel Jack O'Neill guides Daniel's head until it rests upon his broad shoulder. The hand that had been giving Daniel support cards through the younger man's hair in tender, soothing motions. Murmured words drift towards me...spoken too quietly to comprehend, yet the tone of the voice unmistakable. Promises and hope conveyed. Jack places a kiss on Daniel's head, that one simple gesture forcing him to lose any semblance of control he had been attempting to maintain.

The man in me sees much more...and my heart swells with pride as my military persona turns a blind eye to what possibly exists between the two men and what the future holds for them.

* * * *

Jack's POV

Damn him. It's bad enough when he pulls a Houdini off world, but the fact that he's on earth...in his state of mind...makes this vanishing act all the more worrisome.

In true military fashion, I have assessed the backyard and have come up without an archeologist. I nonchalantly meander to the front yard, pacing in front of the General's home...trying not to draw attention to myself as I glance into the cars parked along the street.

I enter the General's house through the front door...the quietness within these walls overpowering after the shouting and laughing outside. So still is the house, that the creaking of the floor above me seems deafening. Smiling to myself, positive that I've located Daniel, I climb the staircase slowly, grimacing as the carpeted stairs creak under my weight...so much for stealth and Special Ops training.

My eye catches Daniel in a room to the side...a sunlit room filled with plants, books, pictures, a small, comfortable, well-worn chair, and a piano. Daniel stands, head tilted to the side, fingers running along the top of the piano...pausing at various pictures, fingering the frames.

I jerk in surprise as Daniel sits on the bench in front of the piano. He plays a melody with his right hand, his left hand laying fingers spayed atop the keys...waiting in anticipation. He repeats the melody with his right hand and now the left hand joins in. First humming the tune, a haunting melody...visions of days past are brought to mind. I find myself standing behind Daniel, but his humming has turned to words and he is oblivious to my presence.

I knew Daniel had a piano in his loft, but in the years I've known him...I've yet to see him play it or hum or even sing a song. Honestly, it never occurred to me until this moment how wrong it is that music isn't in Daniel's life. Songs on the radio are tolerated in silence...I wonder when silence replaced the music. When he lost Sha're...his parents...when he lost hope. Without thought, I find myself seated to his left...close enough to feel the warmth of his body, but not close enough to invade the lonely place to which he has traveled.

Silent tears roll down his cheeks and he makes no move to stop them as they slide slowly down, leaving tracks, falling unbidden to stain his shirt. Without conscious thought, my right arm moves up his back to rest on his shoulders. His fingers falter at my touch, but Daniel doesn't pull away and in response I slowly squeeze the nape of his neck.

I'm so intent on Daniel, that I don't realize that the piano is silent...his fingers paused over the ivories. Daniel's shoulders under my arm move spasmodically as his mind finally catches up with his emotional loss. I push his head gently until it rests on my shoulder. Losing myself in the need to comfort and touch this man who I've learned to love, I wind my fingers through his hair.

"I need you Jack," He murmurs. "Please."

My heart skips a beat, Daniel voicing for the first time...the thoughts that I have harbored during my waking and sleeping hours. My secret.

"I'm here...always," I counter past the lump that has formed in my throat, kissing the top of his head in response.

"No more loss..."

With a low keen issued from his very soul, Daniel pulls himself into the front of my shirt... gripping the material in his fists...holding on to me for dear life.

* * *

Daniel's POV

I was taken aback when I felt his presence next to me...but Jack offered me no words, just the warmth of another human being who cared. I played by rote...a song that had stuck in my mind when Sha're was taken from me the first time. I don't remember how the words or the notes came to me... just that they did... and this instrument before me allowed me to release what I've been holding in ... the knowledge that I had truly lost Sha're all those years before when Apophis kidnapped her on Abydos.

My hands rest on the keys. I don't remember finishing or when the tears began... I make no attempt to stem their tide, but instead look downwards... mesmerized by the growing design the tears are making on my shirt. The weight of Jack's arm around my shoulder does nothing to stop the flow... if anything, it increases their intensity.

This man who has and will always accept me for what I am. Who loves me and has waited for my time... for me to make the move. I've known it... for months. I saw it in his face when I was in mental health, when he held me during my addiction. Jack thinks he hides it well... but he can't. His eyes belie his actions. Jack pulls my head onto his shoulder and I feel his lips atop my hair. I bury my face in his chest and feel both his arms wrap around my body, in comfort, in love.

It may not be today... nor tomorrow... but soon. My heart is ready to accept what is being offered to me... what I've always known, that Jack's love for me will help me. He will show me that it will be possible to open myself to love... and that my last vestige for happiness is not buried on a planet light years from earth.  

The End!

Author's Comments: See Consideration for the first part to this story

Thanks to Majel...for the beta and all the other support I am given...To Jo, Deb, Debi, CA...and everyone else who visits my porch...purple cushions and all...thanks. The words inside the // denote music lyrics and the song that I took the liberty of using is a wonderfully, tender song. The moment I heard it I was reminded of one Dr. Daniel Jackson. The artiCoffee And Lover's Company are a band called Diamond Rio and the song is aptly named 'You're Gone'


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