I lean over the banister, ready to call Daniel to bed...it's late and we have an early morning briefing...in a few hours, actually. Daniel is sitting at the dining room table, bathed only in the light from his laptop monitor. He takes a sip of coffee from the ever-present mug to his right, stretches back in the chair and sighs.
I pause, contemplating this man. Who would have thought Daniel would hold such a place in my heart, in my life? That I would let down my defenses enough for him to enter first as a friend and then as my lover, saving my life in more ways than one. From myself, from Ra. On Abydos, on Earth, on countless planets across the universe.
Plaid shirts, baggy pants, bookworm, serious, inquisitive, know-it- all, genius, linguist, guilt-driven, caffeine addict, wimp, geek...Daniel. Some things have stayed over the years...some things have been added. Some things changed.
From my vantage point, I see his black tee shirt stretch over the broad expanse of his back...no longer a wimp, this Daniel, my lover, my friend. He is becoming as adept with a weapon as he is with his archeological tools. Does he like that idea? No. Do I like that idea? No... but we both know the necessity of it if he is to remain on SG1. He has acquiesced to that order, when I had explained the weapon could be used at one point to save his teammates lives, my life. I used the guilt factor to make that point. There are times, though, when I see Daniel with his gun drawn, that I feel I've lost a bit of what makes Daniel...well, Daniel.
He's still a bookworm, preferring the written word to a movie or hockey game. We've compromised...he sits on the couch and reads while I watch television. Sometimes, he reads to me at night...in bed...after sex. Showing me a part of him that he doesn't share with anyone else.
The geek...well, until Daniel gives up his penchant for baggy clothes or the plaid shirts he loves, or always working...that nomenclature will be all his. The serious nature of Daniel is a part of him we're working on. He has had too much hardship and heartache in his life for him not to be serious, but he doesn't laugh nearly as much as he should...doesn't smile as much as he should. Daniel has told me he's afraid to be happy...afraid to show the powers that be his happiness for fear of losing it all over again.
His genius goes without saying. Thinking circles around almost everyone, to some extent even Carter. The ability to see beyond...to think outside this box...to push the military minds, my mind, to the limits... that's Daniel's true genius. Let's not forget his linguistic capabilities. His ability to communicate, his ability to talk dirty to me in 26 languages before, during, and after sex... well, honestly, that is a little turn on I never would have thought of...one of Daniel's traits that is certainly a keeper.
Daniel gets up to fill his coffee mug and my breath catches in my throat as I feel myself grow hard just looking at him. Plaid baggy, flannel pajamas riding low on his hips...thinking I have to change my ideas about Daniel in baggy, plaid outfits.
"Jack." He turns towards me and smiles, lifting his coffee mug in salute.
My eyes rake over his body, he gets the idea. Even in the muted light, I'm sure he blushes, but he licks his lips in invitation. Daniel places the mug on the table, powers down the laptop...taking his time...driving me crazy. The flannels threatening to ride lower down those slim hips with every step.
"Daniel?" I squeak. I clear my throat in an attempt to bring substance back into my voice. "Bed...now."
He approaches me, kissing me chastely on the lips, tasting of coffee, smelling like Daniel. I grab him, wanting more...he pushes me away, saying something to me in a language not of earth. Motioning with a tilt of his head towards the bedroom. Daniel precedes me ...and I follow my friend and lover to bed... through life.
Friends and Lovers: Daniel's POV
I can sense him watching me. The numbers on the computer monitor show the lateness of the hour. I need to sleep... we have an early morning briefing in a few hours. Jack needs to sleep. The room is dark, save for the light of the monitor. I take a sip of the coffee, grimacing at the cold bitter taste of something that has been put aside because of my work, my obligations to the SGC.
Jack believes his Special Ops training prevents detection. I may not hear Jack, but I always sense when he is near me. Who would have thought that Jack would hold such a place in my heart, in my life? That in time, I'd have learned to lower my defenses, and let him touch a part of me first as friend, then cautiously and with trepidation on my part, as a lover?
I trust him with my life... all of me. On another planet, on Earth, in our bed. All the personality traits that make him who he is... loyal, sarcastic, witty, short tempered, patient... these are what he presents to the world. In our life, he has become more than just words.
This military man...this man of values that at times I have problems comprehending. He is this soldier, warrior, the Colonel who only shows his face when cornered, when his team is threatened, when I am threatened. Because of that, I have learned to fight, defend myself, carry a weapon, so it will be one less worry for him out in the field.
To the outsider, our friendship is an enigma. To me, it is the whole basis of our relationship. On Abydos, I observed Jack with Skaara, defending all those people, disobeying orders and letting me stay with Sha're. A year later, he started by opening his home to me, guiding me in the ways of the military, making sure I eat, sleep, that's my friend.
Holding me during addiction withdrawal, writing my eulogy, letting me cover his six, trusting me...that is my friend.
Jack showed up at my apartment after Shifu departed with Oma...forcing me to face the feeling that I again had failed Sha're. My lover made me realize my sense of failure was becoming my prison. He held me after I stood on my balcony, ready to end my life, crying as he held me...that's my lover. Letting me see a side of him that few, if any, will ever see. With Jack and I, we cannot be one without the other. The lines between friends and lovers have blurred over time...a comfortable feeling.
We fight and argue, we are intrinsically two very distinct people. Our approach to life issues are very different, but he respects me, and I him. Jack is not dumb, but I have learned from this act, that people will reveal information to those they believe ignorant.
Being with Jack has shown me a contentment that shakes me to my core. My track record for happiness, or that of those close to me, is not in anyone's favor. Especially not in the favor of those involved with me.
The man who shares a beer with me while observing the constellations is my friend. The man who makes pancakes and waffles for breakfast with a side of my favorite coffee is also my friend. The man with the callused hands that soothe me in bed after a nightmare shares the distinction of being both friend and lover. Those hands seem to lose their roughness as they touch me in places that make my soul sing and my body quiver...my lover does that to me.
I stand to refill my coffee, moving my shoulders to work out the kinks. I hear Jack call out my name.
"Jack." I lift my mug and smile at him, letting him think I couldn't feel him, his presence, his eyes on my back as I sat working.
Jack gazes down the length of my body, and I blush as I feel the familiar warmth spread to my groin. The fact that his mere glance can make my body respond is evidence of the depth of my feeling towards him. I slowly lick my lips and clean up...trying to again regain control over my body.
Jack calls me again, and by the catch in his voice, I now know this desire is mutual and there will be little sleep, if any tonight. I approach him, kissing him softly, but he wants more. I whisper to him of a recently acquired language from a new earth ally. Loosely translated, it means "may the darkness of night fade in the light of our love."
I motion towards the upstairs, the bedroom, leading the way. And I need Jack to follow me, my friend... my lover.
Strangers: Jack's POV
Daniel doesn't want to be here, in this car, near me, close to me. I see it in his body language, his clipped answers, and the fact that he told Janet as much. The lockdown of the base has been lifted, and Fraiser insisted that Daniel leave.
His casted arm lies awkwardly in his lap. I've known him long enough to be aware that the arm pains him, well enough to know he will not take any medication that the Doc has given to him. He has again begun to hold his pain close to him, physical and mental, like when he returned from Abydos.
I miss what we had, our friendship. We are together now to fill a physical need, no longer as an extension of our friendship and love. When we have sex, because we no longer make love, there are many things I want to say...to retrieve what we have lost. But in the light of day, the words seem awkward and contrite. But also, it has been awhile since either of us has seen the light of day waking in the other's arms. We part ways upon the completion of the coupling. Daniel and I have become perpetual one-night stands.
I have pushed him away little by little...and Daniel has allowed it. Fighting me at first, my comments and actions. But I know him too well, and have pushed every button to put him where he is now. Alone, alienated, unsure of his friendships and standing with the SGC.
I have chosen, and today when I saw the tears in his eyes as the android lay prone at his feet, I know I have chosen wrong. I chose to let the daily stress of the SGC chip away at us and now I'm angry because I got caught in the riptide, and let it happen. NID, Kinsey, Simmons, Summits, Asgards, Goa'ulds, Tok'ra words, emotions. Actions and activities that destroyed us both as surely as if we had been zatted twice over. We were both losers, Daniel paid the price and so did I. The difference is, over our loss of control I turned my anger outward, and Daniel has turned his inward. But honestly, in the end, it doesn't make a difference as it all comes down to the fact that I have lost my friend and lover...and am left sharing my life with this stranger in my car.
Today, when I shot to kill, I did it to protect Daniel...whether from *her* or from the base's destruction. Too much, too little, too late. But he will never believe it...never believe the fear I felt when the gate room cameras went down and I knew he was in trouble. Daniel will only see me with my smoking gun, the proverbial military man, standing over something that he cared about. And I could see in Daniel's eyes when he looked at me...the ultimate loss and betrayal.
I pull the truck into my driveway. It is twilight and the street lights give a hauntingly homey quality to the houses that line my block. I will not do to Daniel, what I did to Sarah, I'll talk...and I *will* be honest. I don't know if we can go back to what we had... those moments of happiness. I am beginning to believe they were an illusion...that friendship. For us to be lovers, we must regain the friendship...something Daniel knew...and I forgot.
I make the first step backwards, to regain what we have lost as I whisper to the stranger in this car, the stranger who occupies my bed, but no longer my life. "I've missed you, Daniel."
He looks at me, his jaw clenched in anger. Daniel opens the passenger door and steps down. I hold my breath...waiting for him to begin the long walk back to his loft, but he surprises me by going to the front door and using his key to gain entrance. I hesitate, promising to be truthful, fearing what the truth will reveal.
He is standing in a posture that I haven't seen for some time, observing yet seeing nothing in the darkness outside the sliding glass doors. Anger that has become an all too familiar companion begins to well up inside of me. Anger at the words that Daniel is harboring inside of him... that he needs to say so we can begin to heal. So I push...none to gently, I nudge him with goading words. "Ya know Daniel, part of this, this friction between us...you have to take some responsibility in all of this."
The only response I receive is the rigidity of Daniel's stance, but I know I now I have his undivided attention. "This thing between us..."
Daniel pivots, pinning me with his piercing blue eyes. "You made quite sure, Jack...there is no more *us*."
"You stopped caring, Daniel. You just gave up." I feel like an observer of an accident, it is horrific to see, but yet your eyes are drawn to it. This is either going to be the beginning or the end, there will be no holding back for either us. And for the second time today, this stranger in my house calls me a "stupid son of a bitch."
"How dare you say that *I* stopped caring. That's a joke. The first thing that went was the friendship, Jack. You became degrading, demeaning...with regard to my position on SG1. In front of Sam, Teal'c, strangers. You expected me to leave your treatment of me on a planet, at the mountain, and come home and fall into bed...and let you make love to me. Touch me. Believe you when you told me you loved me...when you no longer respected me?"
He pushes past me, and I grab his arm. I left him in the gate room less than 12 hours ago, I'm not letting him return the favor by leaving me now. And I ask him the question that has tormented for months. "Why did you let me, Daniel? Why did you let me push you away?"
I am getting angrier now as I see Daniel begin to mentally retreat. This has become important, and I intend to bring him kicking and screaming down the path of truth. "Why the fuck did you let me test the limits of our love? You just folded...weren't we worth fighting for? Weren't we worth *you* standing up to me and asking, why the hell are you doing this to me, to us?"
He counters, "Why did you feel the necessity to test how much I loved you? I spent my childhood in foster homes testing the limits to see how much they could take from me before they sent me packing. "
Slight tremors begin to course through Daniel's body, I can actually see it, I can feel it through the arm that I'm still holding. He jerks his arm from my grasp, and walks over the fireplace. He's looking at the pictures displayed, removing the one that has SG1 at a barbecue at the General's house. I can see him caressing the glass covering the picture. The hands that had spent hours caressing me, hands that I want back in my life...hands that now belong to a stranger.
I can see by the set of his shoulders his battle to maintain his composure. He places the picture with great reverence back on the mantel and turns to face me. "I didn't want you to send me packing. I didn't want to lose my family, my life. Especially you...God I'm pathetic..." The grown man makes eye contact, and I see only an eight year old boy with countless years of hardship ahead of him. I stand my ground, though I wish to take him in my arms. But he needs to face this. "I was willing to take everything you did to me...rather than be alone again. Goddamn you, Jack, I hate you for making me care...making me believe you would let me have it all."
Daniel removes his glasses, holding them between thumb and forefinger, sliding his forearm across his face, to catch any unshed tears. He replaces the glasses, supporting his casted arm with his uninjured hand. Daniel whispers..."Why, Jack?"
So many questions. Why are we not friends or lovers anymore? Why are we strangers? Why did I shoot Reese? Why did I hurt him? Why did I feel the need to test his love? That is what he' is looking for. "Sarah never saw me for what I truly am. And when she did, she left me. It nearly destroyed me." I scrub my face with my hands, I am embarrassed to feel this emotional...I am a middle-aged grown man... but my need to have Daniel back where he belongs overpowers everything else. "So little by little I let you see the *real* Jack O'Neill. I guess I wanted to know if even *you* could still love me. Gotta say though, Daniel, you confused the shit outta me by staying. I missed you Daniel...I missed us."
Maybe my need and desire have telegraphed themselves into my features as Daniel responds, "I've missed you, Jack. I missed me...I've missed us."
I grab his uninjured hand, holding it between my own. I rub it against my cheek, hold it to my heart, and bring it to my lips to kiss the palm. He gently wipes the tears that have overflowed from this old Colonel's eyes. Tears born of a fear that I have almost let this man, my former friend and lover, become a permanent stranger in my life.
He whispers words to me...words that evoke different emotions. I can remember another night, filled with friendship and love, flannel pajamas. Daniel answers without asking. "It means, 'may the darkness of night fade by the light of our love'."
Strangers: Daniel's POV
It was only a matter of time before an incident at the SGC brought me to where I am right now. Wishing I had taken a painkiller for my broken wrist, wishing I was still in the mountain, in the infirmary... wishing I was anywhere but here. Sitting in Jack's car, in his driveway, by his house. I used to believe that this was my home in a way, but for me it has become a shell holding together empty rooms. Like me, solid on the outside, empty on the inside.
I miss Jack. The man who shared my life, my bed, my love...not this stranger sitting next to me. He got angry. Jack's anger built up little by little, catching me so totally unaware, that its presence in our relationship became the norm. Anger towards me becoming so all consuming, that like an eclipse, it blocked any rays of light attempting to reach me.
I *so* want to switch position to alleviate the pressure on my arm. But I won't...I don't want to hear the inevitable "told you so." So I sit stoically in this seat barely breathing. I close my eyes to ward off the oncoming headache, as well as to avoid Jack's imminent line of questioning. The scene in the gateroom replays behind closed lids. Pity, I who hate pity...who suffered through years of pity as the poor orphaned child, saw it today in Jack's eyes. Pity for the "geeky, civilian scientist" who had no comprehension as to why the big bad military man did what he had to do. I understand *now* that he came in gun drawn because of the countdown, but that doesn't excuse the pity.
"I've missed you, Daniel."
I whip my head around, thoughts jumbling over each other, trying to understand. I am angry...angry at him, myself, what we have become. Angry that I am unable to read the meaning in those eyes I used to know so well. Angry that there will be no turning back now...with those words, he has pushed me into a corner. This will be the beginning or the end...Jack has thrown down the gauntlet, and it is up to me to accept or reject this challenge. I open the truck door, hesitating for a millisecond. Years of running from feelings, as I desire to go home, to my loft, shut the door, lock it and hide. Steeling my resolve, I turn towards the walk, to the door, opening it with a key that hadn't been used in months.
I stand at the sliding glass doors, gazing into the darkness of the yard. Remembering other times, better times. Missing them with an almost physical pain. Snatches of times past that are colored by our present relationship.
Jack is standing behind me. I feel him, as I always could, as I always will be able to. His physical presence burns into me, boring holes in my back.
True to his modes operandi, Jack expects me to shoulder some responsibility for the state of our relationship, but I will have none of that. I pivot, the heat of anger courses through my veins when Jack mentions "this thing between us..."
"You made quite sure, Jack... there is no more *us*." He will never know how much that hurt to say...acknowledging that what we once had, the friendship segment of our relationship, is over. Without the friendship, we can never be lovers.
"You stopped caring, Daniel. You just gave up."
For the second time in less than 24 hours, I call him a "son-of-a- bitch". I spout words about caring and friendship...for a linguist, I feel a short circuit developing between my cognitive thought process and my mouth. Panicking, I'm fearful I am going to give up what my brain has been protecting for months.
A compulsion to run, my primal instinct, kicks into overdrive. The walls of the house begin to close in on me...if I do not leave, Jack is going to sense my fear and push, not physically, but verbally. Being with me for as long as he has, the Colonel has learned the power of the spoken word. He grabs my right arm as I push past him. Words are exchanged... words brimming with emotion bottled far too long ...but I am so busy trying to protect what I don't want him to know, that I mentally close down and retreat.
Jack notices this and explodes. Questioning why I permitted his treatment of me these past few months. Words and actions that have ruined *us* as well as our friends and SG1. I throw words and sentences back at him, but I begin to tremble with the effort of withholding the important words, key words.
Without even a comprehension of time, I find myself at Jack's fireplace and my eyes search out a particular picture. I reverently take the photo from its place of honor. At first glance, it's just a picture, not even worth a second look by the girl who developed it at the One-Hour Photo. To me...I remember the day, the people...my feeling...my first real sense of feeling, belonging. I run my fingers over the glass, wishing to recapture what once was.
And I tell him...tell him all of it. I was willing to take Jack no matter how he treated me. Leaving Jack, would mean leaving SG1, the SGC, the mountain ....my work, my family. I had already lost two families, I wouldn't survive the destruction of another. But it had become a Catch 22, by allowing Jack to eat into my self confidence, I withdrew, and by withdrawing, I was losing Sam and Teal'c, as well. I hate myself for being this pathetic and I tell Jack that. I who had no family for most of adult life, was hanging on to the one I now had by the skin of my teeth. I refused to let go...I refused to be set adrift, I refused to let him go. So I clung tenuously to whatever Jack would throw my way.
"Goddamn you, Jack. I hate you for making me care...making me believe you would let me have it all." A family, a friend, a lover, I'm left with nothing but memories and an occasional fuck. Not a pretty sight. I can't see Jack's expression through tear filled eyes. Refusing to let them fall, I whip off my glasses and scrub my eyes with my shirt sleeve.
I replace my glasses, Jack's expression of shock taking me by surprise. I cannot comprehend that he didn't realize his constant words of anger hurt me. Hurt me, my head hurts, my arm, I literally ache with the need for a pain killer. But I need one thing from Jack, knowledge. "Why...Jack?"
The Colonel and I both came into this relationship with a ton of excess baggage. Jack had Sarah and Charlie. I am orphaned and widowed. Loved and lost, testing the other's ability to love more. Jack is correct, I must share some of the responsibility. We've done this to ourselves...and I am ashamed.
"I've missed you Daniel...I've missed us."
I see the hope of friendship in those words...the echo of laughter, the promise of love, the possibility of regaining what I thought to be lost, the warmth of my lover. "I've missed you, Jack. I missed me...I've missed us."
Jack grabs my right hand with surprising intensity...holding it between his own. His warmth spreading to me as he brings it to his cheek, rubbing it against his stubble. In a gesture that speaks of promise, he holds it over his heart, then kisses my palm. I hold back a groan of pleasure...that simple touch. God that simple touch letting in long forgotten rays of light into my soul, my heart. I had forgotten how much love Jack could convey in simple movements.
Tears, run down Jack's cheek and I use my thumb to wipe them from both eyes.
I remember a night, long ago it seems...that spoke of love and happiness. I search my memory and retrieve the words I used then...but this time, I translate the meaning for him. 'May the darkness of night fade by the light of our love.' By the look in his eyes, he understands. It is going to be a long road, but hopefully, the healing can begin.
Friendly Observation: Teal'c's POV
"MajorCarter, you have requested my presence?"
"Come on in, Teal'c."
I bow upon entering. She acknowledges my greeting with a slight smile. It has been some time since SG1 has gotten together as a team and I can no longer remember when Major Carter and I have spoken in private. By tacit agreement, we have ignored the interactions of Daniel Jackson and O'Neill. We have taken to hiding within our separate lives rather than face the truth. We are in danger of losing SG1, not from the Goa'uld, but from a deadlier weapon, one from within....our own teammates.
I myself have become immersed in the Jaffa uprising, my concerns for my Taur'i family pushed to the side. Major Carter has taken to finding work that keeps her locked in her office, rather than spend time with O'Neill and Daniel Jackson.
I alone am aware of Daniel Jackson and O'Neill's bond which transcends the boundary of their friendship. General Hammond has approached me, seeking my counsel as their teammate. It was with great sorrow that I had no answer for the General. I am satisfied that he has chosen not to place his head in the sand like Major Carter and myself. And after the incident with the replicators today, General Hammond used the terminology "calling them to the carpet" with regard to Daniel Jackson and O'Neill.
"Teal'c, have a seat."
This has been a trying few days for the SGC and especially SG1. I look up at Major Carter and am dismayed by the exhaustion in her face. Her eyes, so like Daniel Jackson's, are dulled with smudges of darkness shadowing them. I am concerned. My symbiote moves with my agitation as I feel growing anger towards our other teammates. Do they not see what they are doing? Without warning their words of friendship have become as sharp as a warrior's knife. The wounds they inflict cut deeply, not only into each other, into us as well.
Major Carter gently covers my hands with her own. "You need to hear this, Teal'c. I need to share it with you... then we need to decide what to do."
She explains that while trying to get the gate room cameras back on line, she became aware that the audio feed from the cameras was not lost. "I have the feed from Daniel's encounter with Reese in the gate room." She swallows, visibly upset, but she is a strong warrior and I will not insult her with well meaning platitudes.
She takes a deep breath and rewards me with a slight smile. I believe she is thankful that I let her gain control of her emotions of her own accord. "I have the audio feed from Daniel and the Colonel's encounter in the gate room."
I lean forward, anxious to hear this. Both O'Neill and Daniel Jackson refused to speak of the incident. Major Carter hits a button and the room is filled with the sound of the replicators moving along, what sounds like, the gate room floor and ramp. I next hear Daniel Jackson's voice...talking with the robot.
He is a brave man, Daniel Jackson, and I am filled with a warrior's pride as he pleads for Earth's survival to the robot. By the echoing sound I know so well, I can tell she is walking down the ramp...Daniel Jackson is promising to show her his world. But something goes terribly wrong and the next sound I hear is one laced with pain from Daniel Jackson. The robot is irate and the lab is filled with the sounds of the replicators following her back up the ramp in the gate room.
Daniel Jackson again begins to argue with her, screaming at her that her father made her wrong. I can visualize very clearly Daniel Jackson's persuasiveness as he begs for Earth's continued existence. I now can hear the resignation in his voice then echoed in her voice that she is going to follow his lead...Daniel Jackson had convinced her to shut down...to sleep. I am again filled with pride that he is my friend.
While Daniel Jackson was in the gateroom, both Major Carter and myself, as well as the other members of the SGC, were fighting the replicators in the base. Fighting for our lives and the lives on the planet. Daniel Jackson neither heard nor saw any of this...he had succeeded in getting the robot to acquiesce. But we did not know this.
The reverberating sound of gunfire fills Major Carter's lab. In my minds eye, I see O'Neill discharging his weapon...I hear Daniel Jackson cry out. He is screaming at O'Neill for firing and for his own ineffectiveness to protect one he believed to be his friend.
I hear but have difficulty acknowledging Daniel Jackson calling his friend a stupid son of a bitch, his voice cracking with emotion. I hear O'Neill saying he was sorry, that that was the way it had to go down. As other people enter the gate room, I can no longer distinguish our teammates' voices from the others. Major Carter shuts off the tape and turns to me.
I am not sure what she wants. What should I say? Had I known the destruction Reese was going to cause on this planet, to the people I call my family, I would have killed her with my staff weapon as she lay defenseless and sleeping on her world.
"The Colonel took Daniel home." Major Carter states. "To talk, hopefully."
I stand, I feel the need for Kel-no-reem. "Then it is their hands, Major Carter." I place my hand gently on her shoulder. "We will hope that they will behave like warriors and confront their truth."
"General Hammond is not aware of the contents of this tape, Teal'c."
"And we will keep it that way for now. Nothing is going to be gained at this point in time by playing it for him. We will decide, once we have spoken to O'Neill and Daniel Jackson."
"Thank you, Teal'c." Major Carter gives me a forlorn smile.
Even though I am missing my comrades and friends...I want to make amends to the friend standing in front of me whom I have ignored. So I ask, "Would you care to join me in the commissary for a meal, Major Carter?"
"Thank you, Teal'c that would be nice...I would like that."
I bow at her acceptance. The healing of SG1 has begun. I can only have hope that the Colonel and Daniel Jackson can see what they once were...and regain what they have lost...what we all have lost...
Begin Again: Daniel's POV
I stretch out my legs, leaning back in the chair on Jack's deck. The sun should be rising soon, the night sky is lighting with the first rays of color. I shiver in the early morning dampness, but I am lacking the energy to go inside. The upside to Janet's painkillers is that for the four hours you are under their control, you sleep the sleep of the dead...and I should know, I've been dead enough times to be familiar with that sensation. Like clockwork, I awoke, but I was still too groggy to ingest another pill. I know my limitations, I need to eat something first or nausea will accompany the ache in my wrist.
* * * *
Jack and I talked last evening and made discoveries. Some rekindling...some new...some old. But different...this time around different. It must be different, because too much hurt has been rendered for us to just pick up where we left off.
Jack gives me space and sits on the chair, I stay on the couch...not touching. No physical contact, hey I barely make eye contact with Jack, keeping my head lowered. Afraid to see what was right in front of me. I was and still am, afraid to do this over again.
Jack cautiously moves to the couch... he seems to seek my approval with step he took. He sits next to me and we continue to talk. I am the one holding back and Jack respects that. I hold my resolve...and then he places his hand atop mine. Jack's hands....that belonged to a stranger this morning...now, mere hours later I feel the warmth of friendship in his callused fingers.
We talk until there are no words left to say. Words are my life, but sometimes words are not enough. Jack and I can say whatever we wish during the night, it is the actions during the light of day that will make or break us this time.
He leaves my side and returns with water and my painkiller...and a few Oreo cookies, placing them on the table in front of me. I pick up a cookie and hold it up to him, questioning. "Jack?"
He shrugs. "I haven't shopped in awhile, and you usually need to eat with those pills." He smiles sheepishly. "At least they fresh."
I pop one in my mouth...and then I finish the others, washing them down with the water and the pill.
I toe off my shoes and rest my head on the back of the couch. Jack sits next to me, the closeness of his body comforting. He turns the TV to some sports channel, and we watch in silence. A companionable silence...not fraught with anger.
"Want me to order pizza?" I must've fallen asleep, by body jumps at the sound of his voice. Compliments of the pill, I need to remove the cotton from my mouth before I can grace him with a coherent answer. I open my mouth, Jack just says, "Sleep for you."
He follows me up the stairs and I hesitate...unsure of my destination. "Your choice, Daniel."
I walk slowly to his room, using the wall for guidance. Jack pulls down the covers and I strip to my boxers and tee shirt and I crawl into bed...not even bothering to hit the bathroom first. With a sigh, Jack leans over me, removes my glasses, kissing me tenderly. I would like to stay awake and reciprocate, hey I would like to be awake enough to at least pee, but sleep's siren song wins out. Big mistake. When I wake, four hours later, it's with an uncomfortably full bladder. I try to ignore it, but its persistence makes further sleep pretty much impossible. The bed side clock reads 5:00 am. I slip on my glasses and get up carefully so as to not awaken Jack. He is sleeping next to me, close yet not touching, snoring softly.
I get up, relieve myself, and get dressed. Searching for solitude, I go outside. The night air is cool, and feels good. I eye the observation deck, not believing I would make the climb with my wrist. I opt for the chairs on the back deck, instead. I sit and wait, drinking in the quietness of predawn hours
I open my eyes to see Jack standing over me, the sunrise visible over his shoulder. I croak out a "good morning."
"Daniel, come inside. It's kinda cold out here. Letting you catch pneumonia was not on Fraiser's list of instructions." He extends his hand to help me up, and I accept gratefully. I'm stiff and achy, my body demands both caffeine and a side of pain killer. Jack rubs warmth into my forearms and steers me towards the sliding doors.
"Jack?" Once inside, a smorgasbord of delicious odors delights my nostrils. The table is set for two with fresh waffles and pancakes, bacon and eggs and, by my place setting, is a mug of coffee. It's a simple gesture from a friend and my eyes fill with tears. A thought, a gesture, an action...made by Jack. A step toward healing...a step away from anger. Toward friendship...and the promise of what lies beyond.
Begin Again: Jack's POV
Daniel has retreated to the couch. I can still decipher his body language well enough to be aware that he is in the 'look but don't touch' mode. We are talking, conversing, saying words tonight that do not echo the anger we have felt these past months.
Prophetically, as he sits in my house I realize that I love him. I guess I never stopped. I guess it kinda just got lost in the translation of our life and our relationship. Daniel admits that he was willing to stay with me, even though I had come damn close to destroying both him and us. I want him to choose me because of his love not from fear and that he no longer wishes to be alone. God, I don't want him to feel like he is settling for me. God, I just wish he would look at me.
I can't take it a moment longer, the need to be near him overpowering my sense of reason. I cautiously move to sit by him, talking all the while, like one would do with a skittish animal. I use words to convince him of his safety as I sit down on the couch. Daniel still has a problem equating family and unconditional love. With a mind of its own, my hand snakes out to lie atop Daniel's. Almost too quietly to perceive, he issues a tiny gasp as my fingers intertwine with his. He doesn't pull his hand away...a first step.
We talk...until there is nothing left to say. Daniel and I prove nothing with words, our actions will be the truest gauge of our ability to survive.
He shifts on the couch, a look of discomfort flashes on his face, pain pill time. Daniel would never admit that he was in need of anything to make his life easier or happier. With Daniel, the more things change, the more they remain the same. I go to the kitchen for a pill to help ease his pain and something for him to eat. I'm the proverbial Mother Hubbard, my cupboards are bare. I open my refrigerator which mocks me with all the tin-foil covered items in residence. None of which I am sure is edible. Many of which, I'm sure, are alive. In the back of the closet, left over from a previous Cassie visit, is a box of Oreo cookies. I remove a few, balancing the water, the drugs, and the Oreos and go back to Daniel.
He looks at the cookies questioningly and I give him some mundane answer as to why they're there. Daniel is hungry, he finishes the cookies, takes the pills and swallows the water in record time. Before I have a chance to offer seconds on the Oreos, he has taken off his shoes, rests head and closes his eyes. A gesture I haven't seen in a while in this house... a gesture of being home.
I turn on the TV to a sports show I have no intention of watching, and settle down as close as I can get to Daniel without being in his skin, as close as he will permit me this time. Daniel drifts off, his head falling onto my shoulder. From his sleep, I steal a small kiss, a small moan from his lips is my reward. My eyes rest on the empty Oreo plate, and I'm suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of guilt. I shake him gently..."Want me to order pizza?" Daniel turns to me with unfocused, drugged eyes. He is not hungry, he's craving sleep. "Sleep for you."
He stretches lazily, like a cat enjoying the midday sun. My body reacts, I'm thinking cold shower while he sleeps. I follow him up the stairs and, with pounding heart, I notice Daniel's hesitation on choosing a room. I'm rooting for my bedroom, it has been awhile since we've woken up together. The choice must be Daniel's.
He walks towards my bedroom, leaning on the wall for support. I am itching to help him...but Daniel needs to make this step on his own. I stay near him, close enough to catch him if he should fall, a position I haven't been in for some time, neither as a friend nor as a lover.
I keep my back turned getting the bed ready because I again feel my body react as I mentally picture Daniel's removal of his clothes. At this time of hopeful renewal, I don't want my body to do the talking for me. We've had our bodies couple in anger and it is unfeeling and almost an act of vengeance. I no longer wish for that.
With a few deep breaths and the promise of a cold shower, I again have my body under control. Daniel is ensconced in covers, his eyes already at half mast. It will be mere seconds before he is fully asleep and I take this opportunity to place a kiss gently on his cheek and remove his glasses. There is no argument on Daniel's part...little steps, but enough to give me hope.
The empty water glass on the coffee table gives me an idea. I scribble a note to Daniel should he awake, but checking my watch and from my experience with Fraiser's meds, I have 4 hours to complete my task.
I forgot an intrinsic part of our relationship. Actions. Little gifts of kindness. Daniel thrives on them. Deprived of them for the majority of his childhood, living in houses where only basic needs were met, never the note in the lunchbox, the special birthday dinners, stories at bedtime...lately I had forgotten, too.
Thank goodness for all night grocery stores. I return an hour later, arms laden with bags. I check on Daniel before I begin. He hasn't moved, his breathing deep and regular. I return to the kitchen and begin to construct the makings for a breakfast feast. I clean up, placing the made batter, fresh fruit, squeezed juice in the refrigerator for safe keeping. The coffee machine is filled, just waiting for a flick of a switch. All lays in readiness.
* * * * *
I didn't mean to fall asleep, not really. Really I didn't. Daniel's side of the bed is empty and cool to the touch, he has been up for a while. Shit! The clock taunts me with time of 5:30 am....I had fallen asleep on top of the covers fully dressed...it was *safer* that way.
I take the stairs two at a time, hoping that maybe Daniel had just moved his sleeping quarters to the living room couch. His name dies on my lips... not there. Where...ahhh. I see him through the sliding glass doors, eyes closed on a deck chair. I'm mean and selfish at this point. He should be inside, in the warmth of the house, but I want to start breakfast first. The breakfast wins out...I will warm him later.
I have this down to a science...Carter would be proud of my precision and planning. From start to finish...including coffee and the table set...under 45 minutes.
I am now standing over Daniel's still sleeping form..."Daniel?" I feel the hesitancy in my voice when I call his name. He slowly opens his eyes and attempts a "good morning" in return.
"Daniel, come inside. It's kinda cold out here..." I continue with the Dr. Fraiser line of guilt, though that's nothing compared to the guilt I feel when he takes my proffered hand and stands with visible stiffness. I step forward to take him in my arms and hesitate when he steps back. Instead, I just settle for rubbing some warmth into his forearms. I then steer him into the kitchen.
I maneuver so I can see his face. I am so tempted to go "Ta- dah"...and have a drum roll...but that would be a little over the top, so I wait while my early morning endeavors filter into Daniel's brain.
"Jack?" I can almost hear the unspoken words...for me? Daniel is thinking. He looks at me, working hard to keep his emotions in check. The residue of months of anger seems to leave his face...replaced with a sense of...peace? Happiness? Place settings for two...plates for two, coffee for two. Friendship. One action...that has affected two people. A simple step...that's all it takes. We will fall and falter again, I am sure, that's just who we are...but I will always remember a simple step.
Author's Comments: Thank you as usual to my beta Majel.remember.I will always flick the switch on the coffee pot for you. And for Jo for those 6:30 am and 6:30 pm emails.glad someone is in my time zone!
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