Every Time we Loveby devra
Daniel stood before the opened fridge and contemplated the overflowing shelves. He really could go for an omelet, but he still had a problem combining food preparation and balancing. Something usually ended up on the floor. Last time it had been him and he would rather not have a replay of that incident.
Cereal. He could do cereal. He leaned into the fridge, threaded his finger through the plastic handle of the milk container then thumped backwards, using the tip of the crutch to close the door.
Before leaving to spend the holidays with her brother, Sam had guiltily filled both his fridge and cabinets with more food then Daniel could possibly eat during the days she'd be gone. Teal'c and Jack had left two days before her, their guilt appearing in the form of his laptop, research, about two dozen DVDs and a bag from Barnes and Noble with the latest books from the NY Times' Best Seller list.
It was easier to eat leaning against the counter with the crutches keeping him upright than it would be to try to cart the bowl filled with milk and Frosted Flakes to the table. Proudly, he admitted his mobility was an accomplishment and while he didn't feel one hundred percent, the fact that he was up and around and functioning surely accounted for something.
Though Jack, Sam and Teal'c denied it, they weren't exactly disappointed that SG-1 had been stuck on Earth with an uncooperative Janet refusing to even say *when* Daniel would be up to 'gate travel, their emotions were bordering more on stir crazy. Bouncing off the walls. Driving Daniel nuts as they donned virtual cheerleading outfits, complete with pom poms, being annoyingly supportive every step of Daniel's recovery. He had reached his limit when he'd caught Jack applauding in the infirmary when he'd used the bathroom instead of the bed pan. Daniel understood their feelings, he truly did, but that hadn't stopped him from asking General Hammond if there was something, anything, that would occupy his teammates' time. Something besides him.
He poured some more cereal into the bowl, just enough to cover the milk then changed his mind and placed the bowl on the counter. Daniel really wasn't hungry. Tired, yes. Hungry, no. And in the familiarity of his own house, without being scrutinized by three pairs of watchful eyes, he could admit he was in pain. Nothing horrific, just the dull ache of healing muscles and ligaments. The itching of healing scars. He needed a pain killer, then bed.
Daniel took the pain pill, swallowed half a glass of water and stood there. The mere act of putting the glass in the sink seemed inconceivable as he was hit by a wave of exhaustion. He yawned, deciding the most taxing activity he would be able to manage at the moment would be he and his crutches hobbling to the bathroom to take a piss.
* * *
Daniel awoke cotton mouthed and fully clothed. He remembered peeing and then promising himself he was going to lie down for just a second. Then it was as if a light had been switched off. Brain function was slow and sluggish in the wake of the drugged sleep but he was coherent enough to assess his situation before unraveling his tightly curled up body. He was cold. And stiff. And he smelled.
At this moment he would sell his soul, Jack's soul and the majority of the world's population's for the ability to jump into a shower. The neat scar traveling up the outside of his right leg from mid-calf to mid-thigh, plus Janet's very vocal warnings, limited his bathing abilities to self-imposed sponge baths.
He extended his injured leg slowly, using the heel of his palm, pressed into his thigh, to counteract his painful unbending. "Shit." Daniel flopped onto his back, angry that the mere act of straightening out his body left him spent. Pain pills were wonderful, allowing him to sleep, free of hurt, for hours on end. Permitting his body to feel comfortable enough to revert to a *normal* sleeping position, payback in the morning, sucked.
* * *
The coffee pot was dripping and Daniel stood, leaning on his crutches, mentally begging it to hurry. While he stuck to Janet's rules regarding no shower, because retribution would be swift and painful if he fell and re-injured himself, Daniel drew the line at the no caffeine rule. Bruises he wouldn't be able to hide from her prying eyes, but caffeine was undetectable.
The coffee pot had just given its last sputter and Daniel had time to grab a mug before the phone rang. He slammed the mug onto the counter and thumped over to answer it. "Hello."
"Morning check in, Daniel."
"Morning, Janet." He smirked at the phone.
"Nice greeting. Do I detect a touch of grouchiness this morning? Did I get you before your morning cup of coffee?"
Daniel answered her with silence.
"Eat. Coffee is not liquid nourishment."
"I hate you, Janet."
"Tough. You're stuck with me."
"I'm doing okay. I took a pain pill last night. I'm working through morning stiffness. I slept... make that passed out and was in a state of oblivion the whole entire night." He drew a deep breath then exhaled loudly. "I think that's it. Can I say goodbye and get my coffee now?"
"Want company for dinner?"
"Is that a sneaky way to get into my house and check me out?"
"Daniel!" Janet laughed. "If I wanted to examine you, I'd come over and examine you. No, this was a 'do you want company for dinner' request."
"Am I dying?"
"No, you're not dying."
"Good. Can I have hot and spicy soup?"
"I may be late. I'll call you before I leave and Daniel...? Don't look a gift horse in the mouth: you'll eat what I bring."
"You are definitely the mother of a teenager."
"Yeah, I am," she agreed proudly. "Go, have your coffee, make sure it's decaf and I'll see you later."
* * *
Daniel squinted at the computer screen. Then at his notes. A slow smile lit up his face when he found the reference point that had been eluding him. Daniel dug back into his work, pulling the reference books closer to his seat at the head of the dining room table. Of all the rooms in the house, at the moment, this one was the most conducive to working. While it did a number on his shoulder and upper back muscles, here, at least, he was able to prop his leg up on the chair to his right.
Thirst brought him back to reality. He tried to ignore it, work through it, promise his body a whole bottle of cold water if it would cooperate. But visuals of moisture sliding down the clear plastic bottle overruled his ability concentrate. "Fine," he growled.
Moving was easier to imagine than to do, Daniel's body decided to punish him for staying in one position for far too long and he ended up physically using his two hands to lower his stiffened leg back to the ground. Grumbling in frustration, he thumped into the kitchen, angry at his body for betraying him.
The water quenched his thirst but exacerbated his stomach's emptiness as it swished around, so he and his crutches maneuvered around the kitchen and threw together turkey on a roll, chips and pickles on the side. He surveyed the plate with an approving nod.
Once again he ate standing. He was able to cautiously flex some of the pins and needles from his leg while leaning against the counter. Halfway through the sandwich, the phone rang. "Damn." He swallowed his mouthful, adjusted the crutches under his armpits then hurriedly thumped to the other end of the kitchen to pick up the phone. "Hello," he said, clearing his throat.
"Is this Daniel Jackson?"
Too many years at the SGC had forced Daniel's hand regarding safety. "May I ask who's calling?" He had been so positive that it was either Sam or Janet that he hadn't bothered to study the number on the caller ID.
"I'm sorry. This is Karen Bennett, I'm a friend of Rose O'Neill's."
"Rose? Is she okay?" The hastily prepared sandwich and water turned to cement in his stomach.
"Well, yes and no." Even over the phone the woman's nervousness was apparent. "There was an accident."
"An accident?" he yelled. He hadn't meant to yell and stammered out an apology. "I'm sorry, I'm just a bit... did this just happen?"
"No." Her voice was soft and hesitant. "She didn't want to call either her son or you."
"She's up and around? Let me talk to her."
"Rose doesn't even know I'm calling you."
"Rose doesn't know you're calling me?" Daniel echoed. He scrubbed his hand over his face. "Okay, Ms. Bennett..."
"Karen," Daniel repeated, feeling like he was spinning his wheels. "How about we take this from the beginning?"
"About two weeks ago, Rose was walking to her car in a parking lot and she was hit by a car."
"The doctor assured her that she was very lucky."
"Lucky," Daniel snorted.
Karen continued as if Daniel hadn't interrupted. "She was severely bruised, tore a ligament in her right leg but thankfully there were no internal injuries. Her left arm was broken in two places and she underwent surgery for the insertion of pins and a plate."
"She didn't want Jack called?"
"No. Rose was quite emphatic about that."
"I'm sorry. We didn't agree with Rose's decision at all. And for that I apologize."
"Water under the bridge," Daniel commented, even though he could feel anger churning, coupled with helplessness. "Thank you for calling me now." Daniel was sorta glad that Jack was off world at the moment, because the poor guy's motherhenning skills would have been taxed between Rose and him.
"Well, actually, you were second choice. I've been trying Jack for two days..."
"He's out of town."
"Yeah, I figured. Rose always mentions how much the two of you travel, so I..."
"Called me, yeah." Daniel was becoming frustrated. Annoyed that this woman seemed unable to travel from Point A to Point B. "Why did Rose allow you to...?"
"She's being released from rehab—"
"Rose was in rehab?"
"Yes. And that's the problem. They won't release her without aid at home." Karen exhaled loudly. "And I apologize but I can't. With Christmas next week, and all of her friends going to visit their children... there's no one to... she needs... if there's no one to help her, her case manager at the rehab center will send a home health aide..."
"Rose would hate that."
"Rose will hate that I'm calling you."
"Yeah, she probably will," Daniel agreed. "When is she due to be released?"
"It was supposed to be tomorrow, but they changed it to today."
"I'm sorry for the short notice. If this is an inconvenience..."
"No. No. It's *not* an inconvenience, I'm just trying to figure out the logistics... I need to make arrangements for a flight out."
"I'm not leaving to go to my daughter's until tomorrow evening. I can stay in the house until you get there?" Karen asked hopefully. "Rose doesn't even know I'm supposed to be visiting my children," Karen whispered. "So she'll be under the impression that I'm going to be staying with her."
"So in other words..." Daniel couldn't help but smile. Rose's friends went in through the back door like he did with Jack to get what they wanted. "Rose isn't going to be expecting me."
"It will be a surprise of sorts."
"Oh, you could say that. Do you have a cell phone, Karen?" Daniel leaned across the counter and grabbed a pen and a paper napkin. " I'll call you and let you know the flight arrangements and also this way you can get out of the line of Rose's anger *before* I get there."
"Whatever you want, Mr. Jackson."
"Daniel," he replied automatically, then wrote down the numbers she rattled off.
"Will Jack be coming with you?"
"Jack?" Daniel exhaled. There would be no time to contact Jack and bring him back to Earth before he left. "I'll leave a message with the appropriate people so he'll know the moment he returns to... Colorado Springs."
* * *
Daniel slid into the back of the taxi, exhausted even before he got to the airport. He laid the crutches across his lap and his backpack to his side. Packing hadn't been a priority and all his essentials were stuffed into the backpack, traveling lighter than light because there was no way he would be able to handle himself *and* a suitcase. Into the backpack he had managed to squeeze underwear, socks, a toothbrush and a razor, a handful of teeshirts, a pair of sweats, and a pair of jeans. Counting the clothes on his back, including his shoes, he had about three more days of clothes before having to worry about doing a wash. He had his cell, his meds and a dog-eared best seller that Jack had been trying to read for company on the plane. The only luxury he had sprung for was first class tickets so he could stretch out his leg.
The Allieve he had downed seconds before the cab had arrived was doing nothing more than bringing the rush of pain down to a dull roar. Janet's heavy duty, 'knock you on your ass' pain pills were a no go until Daniel arrived somewhere where he could be horizontal for at least six hours.
* * *
Daniel dropped the backpack into one of the chairs by Gate fifteen, balanced himself then dug his cell phone from his jacket pocket, hitting the speed dial number which would connect him directly to Janet's cell.
"Did you change your mind about the Chinese...?"
"Don't bother. I'm not home." It was probably safer to break the news slowly. Daniel's gaze moved to the wall mounted clock, calculating the time. Breathing a sigh of relief that there was no way Janet would be able to get to the airport before his plane took off.
"You're not home?"
There was a deadly silence on the phone and for a moment, Daniel thought he had lost the connection. "Janet?"
"Oh, I'm still here. I'm just waiting for a clarification to your statement 'you're not home'."
"I'm at the airport."
"You're at the airport," she repeated incredulously. "Would you care to explain? For your own wellbeing, that's an order, not a question, and the answer better be that you're picking someone up."
"No. I'm boarding a plane and going somewhere."
"Rose is hurt, Janet." Daniel repeated the story at breakneck speed, too fast for Janet to interrupt.
"The Colonel doesn't know?"
"No. He's due back in forty eight hours, I left a message with the General—"
"You should have waited—"
"No time." Daniel rechecked the time. He needed to sit, take the weight off his aching shoulders. The adrenalin rush of making the arrangements and getting out of the house on time and to the airport was slowly seeping from his body.
"You did bring your pills?"
"And you will *take* your pills."
"You need to take care of yourself. That injury, your not yet *healed* injury, isn't something to play around with. Daniel, I may have removed the external stitches, but there was deep muscle and ligament damage. The crutches and the PT, which you are going to be missing I might add, is a necessity, not a luxury. The leg is to be nonweight bearing. If you don't feel well, if you develop a fever, you get your ass to a hospital… then call me."
"I know," Daniel answered impatiently, wondering what constituted not feeling well in Janet's book. 'Cause right now he didn't feel well and the ache in his leg was the least of his problems.
"You're going to be worthless to Rose if you don't... actually in your condition, based upon her injuries, I'm not too sure exactly what help you're going to be."
"I'll be fine until Jack gets there. She'll be fine. We'll manage. Look, Janet," he lied, "they're calling for the plane."
"Be safe. Call me the minute you step foot in her house."
"I have your cell number. I will hunt you down."
* * *
First class or not, Daniel was uncomfortable and he shifted his weight in the unforgiving seat for what seemed like the hundredth time.
"Try this, sir." The stewardess appeared by his row, lifted up the arm rest between Daniel and the empty seat next to him, then placed two pillows and a neatly folded blanket down.
"You just looked very..."
"Thank you," Daniel repeated. "It was very nice of you to go through all this trouble."
"Trouble?" The young woman smiled then stepped aside, revealing a total of perhaps five people, including Daniel, in first class. "No trouble at all. Is there anything else I could get for you?"
Daniel shook his head then smiled as the stewardess reached up and flipped off the overhead lights.
* * *
Sleeping on the plane had been a bad idea. Instead of refreshing him, Daniel felt hung over and disorientated as he stood under the harsh lights of the airport terminal, balancing on crutches, trying to get his bearings.
"You seem a bit lost."
"Just acclimating myself to the... yeah, I'm lost," Daniel admitted to the stewardess from the plane.
"Taxi? Or is someone..."
"Follow me," she said. "This isn't my home base and my next flight out isn't until the morning so I need to check into the lovely hotel the airport puts the employees up for the night."
* * *
Friendliness had moved over into annoying chattiness as Daniel and Lorraine waited for cabs. At the moment, small talk wasn't his forte at the magnitude over his worry for Rose began to set it.
"You really don't look like you should be traveling anywhere," Lorraine said as she pointed to his bent leg.
"Oh." Daniel followed her finger's path. "Not really. But..."
"Who are you going to visit?"
"Most people who fly are going to visit someone."
"Oh. My... mother-in-law." Okay that was weird, he may have hesitated but the words just felt right. Like they belonged to him. "Yeah, my mother-in-law," he repeated, just to make sure that those words sounded just as right the second time around.
"Nice and dutiful. Though I can't imagine even a mother-in-law that would allow her daughter's husband to hobble through the airport and wait in line for a cab when he's on crutches."
"She doesn't know I'm coming to visit." Daniel should have been a gentleman. Should have offered the cab to Lorraine, but he didn't, though he did give her an apologetic smile when the next in line cab driver pulled up in front of him.
* * *
Thankfully the cab driver was the silent type. He nodded his understanding, gave a simple "no problem" when Daniel gave Rose's address and then said nothing more except to hum off key along with the radio.
He dug around in one of the side pockets of his backpack and pulled out the number to Karen's cell phone, found his phone, punched in her number then called to let her know he was on his way.
* * *
Between the confinement of the plane and cab, the mere act of hobbling up the walk towards Rose's house was an excruciatingly painful journey. He balanced precariously on the top step, took a deep breath, then exhaled long and loudly through pursed lips. Daniel leaned to the side, using his elbow to ring the doorbell.
He was swiping the sweat from his forehead when the door opened. "Hi." Daniel dropped his hand back to the crutch. "I'm—"
The grey haired woman blinked. "Daniel Jackson?"
Daniel straightened his shoulders and tried to force his body into a more upright position. "Yeah, I'm Daniel." He released his right hand, did a little hop and a two step, repositioning his center of gravity and offered Karen his hand.
"I didn't realize you were—"
"The crutches aren't permanent?" Karen waved her hand in front of her face, trying to obliterate the statement she'd just blurted out.
"It's okay." Daniel craned his neck around her form, trying to see into the house.
"Oh, sorry," she said, stepping to the side. "I'm usually not *this* rude nor politically incorrect in one sentence. It usually takes me a whole conversation to reach the 'open mouth, insert foot' stage. Please come in." It was her turn to peer around Daniel. "Luggage?"
Daniel shrugged his shoulders. "Traveling light. Just me, my backpack and my crutches."
"Well, come on in."
* * *
Daniel stood in the foyer and waited for Karen to close the door and join him. He slid the backpack off his aching shoulders onto the floor. It hit the floor with a thud and Daniel grimaced at the loud sound in the quiet house. "Sorry," he said in a hushed whisper. "Where's Rose?"
"Sleeping. Though she won't admit it."
Daniel glanced at the backpack. "Hope that didn't wake…"
Karen shook her head then glanced at her watch. "Would you like a cup of coffee or tea before I leave?"
"Coffee," Daniel blurted out.
"Long trip, huh?" Karen answered with the hint of an understanding smile.
Daniel just nodded.
* * *
Daniel closed the door behind Karen then breathed a sigh of relief. She was wonderful, had gone beyond the call of duty of friendship and Daniel couldn't help but smile at the extensive list of instructions sitting on the counter for him. The second her car pulled away, Daniel went to check on Rose for himself.
She was sleeping on her back, semi propped up on pillows, with her casted arm lying across her stomach. He watched her breathe for a few minutes then maneuvered awkwardly backwards into the hall, leaving the bedroom door open just in case she needed help.
* * *
Rose felt old. No, that was wrong, she felt ancient. 'Tis the season, she ruefully thought as she eased her aching body out of bed, distributing her weight, taking it slow, breathing through the tightness, just as the physical therapist had shown her.
She adjusted the brace on her leg, then used the bedpost to hoist herself into a standing position. With a groan she grabbed the cane and shuffled into the kitchen.
Maybe it was an old woman's sixth sense, or the two coffee mugs in the sink. Though it could have been the overstuffed, vaguely familiar backpack sitting in the hallway that led her to believe that Karen had gone behind her back and done what she had promised she wasn't going to do.
She followed the sound of voices to the den, mumbling under her breath the entire time she hobbled down the hallway. Words of anger were already forming in her mind. Both Jack and Daniel were going to get an earful, followed be a 'not so nice' conversation with her ex-good friend, Karen.
The voices were the TV. There was no Jack nor Karen in the den. The only other person in the house was Daniel. Asleep. Dead to the world asleep. Slowly, Rose situated herself between Daniel and the TV. "Daniel." She thumped her cane on the ground which elicited no response at all. Rose snorted then poked him in the leg with the tip of the cane.
"Shit." Daniel shot up with a gasp then grabbed his leg in the exact spot Rose had touched.
That certainly hadn't been the reaction Rose had expected and she stepped back in shock. She wavered, and it was only the entertainment stand the TV was nestled in that saved her from falling. "Daniel?"
He turned sideways, keeping the hand against his leg. "Rose." He sighed deeply. "This wasn't exactly the way I wanted to greet you." Daniel leaned over and swung a pair of crutches over the back of the couch, then pulled himself into a standing position.
"I'm sorry," Rose stuttered. She felt horrendous that Daniel actually flinched when she pointed her cane at his leg.
"Nothing to be sorry about," Daniel blushed. "I came here to take care of you—"
"You're going to take care of me?" Rose's gaze flitted from Daniel's face to where his hands gripped the crutches.
"Yeah," Daniel replied indignantly. "I'm going to take care of you."
Rose laughed. "Between the two of us, Daniel, we don't appear to have enough working limbs to make one person."
Daniel wasn't smiling. He was assessing her. She'd seen that gaze on Jack's face enough times to be familiar with it. "I'm okay," she said softly. "I'd do a pirouette to show you, but I'm getting a little old for those ballet moves. What about you?"
"I never could do ballet."
"Daniel." He was more exasperating than a toddler.
"I'm as fine as you are."
"Touché," Rose said. "Nice to know some of my son's annoying, snide habits are rubbing off on you."
Daniel bent forward then kissed her gently on the cheek. "Damn it. You know I've missed you?" He moved forward and enveloped her in a one armed hug, but his weight offset Rose's precarious balance and for a second the two of them wobbled like a pair of toy Weebles.
* * *
"So Karen called you?" Rose had followed Daniel into the kitchen and now was sitting on a chair watching him sort through a pile of take out menus that Karen probably had left behind.
"No," Daniel said. "Chinese?" He squinted at the menu. "This one delivers."
"Stop changing the subject, Daniel Jackson."
"Rose. I'm starving and would feel better if I knew the food was on the way before we get into this discussion."
* * *
"Okay. Food's been ordered. Now talk." Rose watched as Daniel managed to pace the kitchen even on crutches.
"Jack was out of the country." Daniel tapped his crutch. "I wasn't. Karen called this morning. Explained the rehab situation. Told me that she'd been trying to call Jack with no luck. I hopped on a plane."
Rose screw up her face. "Hopped?"
"Hobbled. I hobbled onto a plane." Daniel shrugged. "So I'm your sloppy second."
Rose looked over her shoulder and lowered her voice to a whisper. "Jack's not here. So I can let you in on a little secret, I've always loved you best."
Daniel's smile melted into concern when he caught her massaging the fingers of her casted hand. "Are you in pain?" He turned suddenly toward the counter and Rose managed a strangled cry of his name when the crutches and his legs became entangled and he listed sideways. He grabbed the counter's edge then shook his head in what Rose imagined was exasperation. "I'm okay," he sighed without even turning around.
"Of course you are." Rose watched as Daniel's finger skimmed along a paper on the counter. "What are you reading?"
"Instructions." He lifted his head and checked the microwave clock. "Time for a pain pill."
Daniel pivoted slowly. This time his smile stayed in place. "I know the feeling. Makes me too groggy to function."
"I don't need the pills during the day."
"Don't kid a kidder, Rose."
* * *
Rose sputtered and protested, but she allowed Daniel to cut up her food into smaller pieces. She chewed, pushed food around on her plate, annoyed at her need to depend on anyone. Karen was hard enough, but the fact that Daniel had dragged himself to her house was embarrassing.
"I'm sorry," she muttered softly. "You shouldn't be here taking care of me. From the looks of it, you should be taking care of yourself." She blinked away the moisture forming in her eyes. "Damn," she sniffed. "I'm old, crotchety, lame and now emotional."
"Shut up and eat your sesame chicken," Daniel chided, pointing a chopstick at Rose.
"When did you get to be so bossy?"
"Not when. Who, would actually be the better "w" question."
"Gotta love my Jack."
"Yup, a man who can make his presence known without even being anywhere near the conversation is really—"
"Overbearing?" Rose filled in. She chuckled at Daniel's widening eyes. "Didn't I already tell you that I loved you best?"
"Your secret's safe with me."
"And when is he coming back to the states?"
Daniel picked up a piece of chicken, then contemplated it. "Two days." He stuck the chicken in his mouth and chewed slowly. "Knowing Jack he'll be right back on a plane to come here. I mean, why use a phone when he can scream at both of us in person."
"Visiting her brother."
"And Janet said you could just jump on a plane to—"
"I called her from the airport," he replied indignantly.
"I bet she wasn't—"
"Rose! Is it possible not to center the conversation around me?"
"You wouldn't deny an old lady one more question?"
"Not at all. Just show me an old lady."
"What happened to your leg?"
"Accident. Lots of stitches."
Rose glowered at him.
"You said *one* question. You asked *one* question and I gave you two answers."
* * *
"Do you need anything?" Daniel hovered over her as she sat on the chair in the den. "Blanket. Something to drink?"
"I need you to sit down."
"Before I get—"
"Sit," she ordered, using her good hand to point to the couch.
Daniel didn't want to sit and Rose knew why, but she had to get him into a seated position before he passed out in front of her. "It's okay, Daniel."
"It's not." He adamantly shook his head.
"It is," she repeated patiently. "Okay, now I can admit that I'm glad you're here. I need you and you may not think so, but you're actually so dead on your feet you're swaying. And I'm warning you, if you fall, you're going to stay where you land until Jack arrives."
"How about a round of pain killers for me and you? With a juice chaser?"
* * *
Rose followed Daniel into the kitchen, realizing her bright idea wouldn't allow him to carry both their meds and drinks.
"Oh, crap," she blurted out when Daniel placed the pill in the palm of her hand.
"The spare room, I started to move all the Christmas decorations in there. Before... I actually was going to the store to buy... when this happened... there's no room."
"The couch is fine."
"The couch is not fine."
"Take your pill." He balanced awkwardly and bent to push her hand as a gentle reminder to take the pill. "The couch is fine for tonight. Tomorrow I'll decorate and you'll direct, so by tomorrow night the bed will be mine. Okay?"
Daniel clinked his water glass against Rose's. "After I take the pain pill, I could be sleeping in the street and I'd never notice."
* * *
Daniel lied. Even with the pain pill he was feeling every lump and spring in the cushions, but it wasn't as if he could get up and silently walk around the house. The crutches on Rose's wood floors sounded like a herd of elephants. He couldn't even turn on the TV. Or get a drink of water. Or use the bathroom for fear the flushing toilet would wake up Rose. In the darkened room, Daniel could admit to himself how frail she'd looked and it scared the shit out of him.
Daniel needed to sleep, to be awake and aware for Rose tomorrow. He shifted his body, hating sleeping on his back, but due to the extent of his injury and the prohibitive width of the couch, he really didn't have much choice.
His right leg was throbbing. Punishment for being on his feet too much today and the pain pill was doing nothing but making him groggy, allowing him only to skirt along the edges of sleep.
* * *
Sleep, when it did come, was deep and long. Way longer than it should have been. With a sense of remorse, Daniel got up for the day. He may have slept too long, but thankfully, Rose was still asleep.
He moved slowly, measuring his steps, gaining familiarity in an unfamiliar home. Checking the cabinets, he again blessed Karen for stocking them, the fridge was the same, filled with fresh fruits and veggies.
Coffee. He needed coffee. Daniel located the filter, coffee; moved them to a more accessible level for him then started brewing a fresh pot. He ran a physical assessment while he waited for his morning caffeine. Honestly, he hurt everywhere; payback, he understood, for being upright and moving halfway across the country yesterday. Today would be better, he promised his leg as he dry swallowed an antibiotic. He was going to remember to take these suckers and for once in his life, sitting his ass in front of the TV with his leg up sounded damn appealing. But first and foremost, after a breakfast of coffee and toast, he was going to decorate Rose's house for the holidays, clearing the boxes out of the spare bedroom. He wasn't in the spirit or anything, but he needed someplace to sleep tonight that wasn't the couch.
Pivoting on the crutches still gave him issues, so he just turned his head to greet her. "Morning." She was moving slowly, but then again, in this house who wasn't? At least her face seemed brighter today. "You look better."
Daniel reverted to studying the coffee pot as Rose studied him. "You, on the other hand, look like you could go another round with Mr. Sandman."
He raised his glasses and rubbed his gritty eyes. "I need my morning caffeine fix." Slowly he leaned forward, and moved the teapot to the sink, filled it, then placed it back on the stove, turning the flame on under the teapot. "Tea?"
"Daniel, please I have to learn to do this—"
"Tea?" Daniel insisted.
"You know, I really hate the fact that Jack's stubbornness has worn off on you. The physical therapist is coming today at eleven. Want me to see if we can get the two for one special?"
* * *
Rose was hurting after the therapy session, and it scared Daniel that she accepted another pain pill with the simple lunch of sandwiches he'd prepared.
"I'm just going to lie down." She pushed away the plate of unfinished food. "I'm sorry."
"Okay." Unable to offer her an arm, Daniel stood awkwardly while she leaned on the table and her cane for support. He didn't care if he invaded her privacy or personal space, and he followed her into the bedroom because of how helpless he felt.
"I'm sorry Jack's not here." He took the cane from her and placed it against the night table.
"I'm sorry you're sorry, Daniel." Rose lowered herself into the bed, cradling her arm against her chest. "I'm old and helpless, and I'm sorry Karen called you."
"Just go." Rose turned her face against the pillow then closed her eyes.
For a split second he entertained the thought about going, walking through the door and taking a nap himself while Rose slept. "No." The word was out of his mouth before the seed of a nap could take root and he moved both crutches under his left arm and used their combined support to lower his body onto the edge of the bed. "There may be a lot of things I'm unable to do, but I can keep you company when you're hurting."
Without turning her head, she blindly reached out to Daniel with her good arm. He met her halfway and grabbed her hand in his, holding it tightly until the pain pill took effect.
* * *
It actually looked like Santa's Village had thrown up in the spare bedroom. Getting around the boxes on the floor was an exercise in patience and acrobatic balance. As he maneuvered around, he flipped open the lids with the tip of his crutch.
He moved slowly. Excruciatingly slow. Daniel likened it to a dig. Unwrapping each individual decoration. Admiring it. Examining it. Then decided where it fit. Snow villages, accessories, angels, candles and a multitude of Santas. Indoor Christmas lights with ribbons and bows. He had found two overflowing boxes of tree decorations, but no tree. So he shoved those into the corner with the end of his crutch.
Rose spent the afternoon sleeping and Daniel spent the afternoon thumping back and forth, arranging and rearranging the multitude of Christmas paraphernalia Rose had accumulated during the years.
Daniel's body gave out before his desire to finish and he sat on the living room couch for just a minute to rest his shoulders and leg.
* * *
Rose was amazed. Shocked, and her feeling of age and helplessness intensified twofold when she saw the results of Daniel's work. Her fingers itched to move the decorations to their *allotted* places of honor but that would be cruel payback for Daniel.
"I wanted to decorate," she whined to a Daniel who was asleep on the sofa. "I bet you didn't even do it right." Rose limped over to the couch and gazed down at his sleeping form, making note of the shadows under his eyes. "You needed Christmas music, and hot chocolate. The smell of cookies baking. You needed the memories that go with the decorations. You shouldn't have put them up alone."
Daniel muttered, but stayed asleep.
* * *
Her friends were true angels. Her freezer was filled with enough frozen meals to last until the turn of the next century, each one clearly labeled. Her kitchen was small enough that Rose felt comfortable enough not to rely on the cane. She moved with tiny steps, glad to have a free hand.
Two containers of stew were defrosting on the counter. The last step of their defrost cycle and cooking would be done in the microwave when Daniel awoke. Cookies were baking in the oven, compliments of her neighbor who baked the easiest way possible, with those silly slice and bake concoctions. She had been trying to lure Rose into the *dark side* of baking and had gone as far as to buy her the chocolate chips cookie dough mix in the tube, which was now baking in the oven. Begrudgingly, she had to admit they did smell delicious and was going to be the closest thing to home baked for a while.
Twenty minutes later, Rose was cautiously balancing the cookie tray one handed. She was very proud that nary a one had ended up on the floor as she placed the tray on top of the counter to cool.
"Something smells good." Daniel stood in the doorway, leaning heavily on his crutches, sniffing the air.
"I made dessert as a thank you for..."
A flash of anger hardened Daniel's face. "You cooked?"
"You decorated?" she shot back.
"You're missing the point!" he shouted at her.
"Oh, I am?"
"I'm supposed to be taking care of you."
"Daniel, honey, there are all different ways to take care of someone and just because I sliced and baked a tube of compressed dough doesn't mean you've failed. It means your presence has given me the strength to push myself a little bit more."
"You made Pillsbury slice and bake cookies? For me?"
"For us. Stew first. Then dessert."
* * *
Rose watched as Daniel cleaned up, yelling only once when his hand strayed to the cookies. While Daniel loaded the dishwasher, Rose grabbed her cane, got up, went to the living room and put on a Christmas music CD. "Better," she acknowledged with a slight nod of her head when choir-like voices filled the room. While she usually set up her Christmas village on the server in the dining room, Daniel had separated the town and her living room was filled with little glowing lights from the houses, churches and other things she had acquired over the years.
"Those are nice," Daniel said, sweeping the room with his gaze.
Damn, the boy could barely walk but he was doing a damned nice job of holding onto a crutch and shoveling a cookie into his mouth. "Jack's father started the collection the year we were married. I probably can remember the year I got each one of these houses.
"Then as Jack got older, he and Sara and his father would each buy me one, and the town began to grow by leaps and bounds. I think the Christmas village is one of the reasons I don't sell this place. Life's really simple there."
"Yeah, but I bet they don't have chocolate chip cookies and milk waiting for them in the kitchen."
* * *
"You're right. They're good. Not great. But good."
"Good enough for me," Daniel said, licking his fingers.
"You're a cheap date, Daniel Jackson."
"Funny, that's what Jack always says." He dunked the cookie in the milk and hurriedly shoved it into his mouth when it began to fold and disintegrate. "Where's your tree?"
"Still on the tree lot. I've always bought a real tree. Tradition. You don't have a real tree at Christmas?"
"Christmas isn't a great time for Jack so we... no we don't have a tree, real or otherwise."
"I didn't know that. How sad," she said with a shake of her head. "Charlie always loved Christmas."
"That's probably why. I think Jack almost feels as if he's betraying Charlie's memory if he enjoys the holidays."
"For the first eight years of my life I lived in Egypt and my parents were... no, we didn't celebrate the holidays. And most of my formative foster years were spent being shuffled around... so the answer to your questions would be no, Rose. Christmas really has no meaning to me and if Jack doesn't want to celebrate, that's fine."
"What do you want to do, Daniel? Would you like to celebrate?"
"We exchange gifts with our friends." Daniel's gaze drifted towards the living room. "But we have none of these things. Not the houses or the angels—all that stuff."
"So basically, you can't celebrate because you have no memories and Jack can't celebrate because of the memories."
Daniel stirred his milk with half a cookie, then dunked his fingers in to capture a floating chocolate chip. "Yeah, that would be it in a nutshell."
"So, I guess," Rose said, pushing the plate of cookies closer to Daniel, "it's time to make some memories."
"Maybe my son needs to remember what a gift certain memories are."
* * *
Rose was sleeping, he had just checked, but he'd rather be safe than sorry so Daniel turned off the speaker to Rose's computer before he powered it up. There were times, such as these, Daniel thought as he picked a search engine, the wonders of technology were limitless.
Okay, maybe limitless was the wrong word to use when two hours later, he was still sitting in the dark room staring at the monitor. He took off his glasses and scrubbed his face. Thankfully, he had reached the end of his search, though all the enthusiasm and adrenaline rush he had experienced when he first sat down at the computer had been sucked out of him as he hit one brick wall after another. He had made concessions. Added a few things, took away a few others and was actually a bit surprised when he ended up ordering from a company less than an hour's drive from Rose's house. This might not have been what she was used to, but it would be another memory for her and a brand new one for him.
* * *
No, he refused to get up. The bed was warm, comfortable and he was able to move his leg with only a minimal amount of stiffness. "Away," he mumbled. "Go. Away."
"I will not go away until you tell me what that truck is doing outside the house—"
"Truck?" Daniel opened one eye.
"Yes, truck. Big truck."
"Ahh, that truck," Daniel wondered if his leg was numb enough to allow him to sleep on his right side.
"Yes, *that* truck."
"Nothing to worry about, Rose."
"Nothing to worry about?" she squawked. "There are men in red and green uniforms, right as we speak, climbing up ladders to my roof, don't you dare tell me not to worry."
"Lights," Daniel yawned, finally aware that he was never going back to sleep in this lifetime. "In case you haven't noticed," he whispered theatrically, "neither one of us is capable of climbing a ladder and putting up lights." He cleared his throat at her pursed mouth expression. "You have put up lights outside?"
"No?" Daniel pushed himself to a sitting position. "Ever?"
"It's been a long time. Not since Paddy died."
"Not even a wreath on the door?"
Rose shook her head. "I only celebrated Christmas on the inside."
"Like mother, like son, you know."
Rose bent awkwardly and kissed Daniel on the forehead. "Hell, he had to learn his bad habits somewhere."
* * *
Daniel balanced securely on his crutches and bit into his toast, smiling at Rose as she gawked out the front door. "There are reindeers on my lawn. With lights. I have lighted reindeer on my lawn."
He rolled his eyes, trying to remember if he had even ordered reindeers. It had been late, though he did remember a two for the price of one special.
"I have poinsettias—oh." Rose hobbled backwards, a Charlie Chaplin type of step complete with cane, and moved closer to Daniel as a gentlemen entered, nodded at Rose, his arms full of two, gigantic, full bloom poinsettias. He glanced around the room, his brown furrowing at Rose and Daniel, he shook his head and tsk'd in sympathy.
"Definitely can see why you needed our service." He placed the plants on one side of the brick fireplace then stepped back and surveyed them. "I think I'll decide where to place all of them after the tree is in."
"Yup, tree," the two men said in unison.
"Big tree," the man added. He pointed to an area by the front picture window, next to the fireplace. "Think right there would be nice."
"Excuse me," Rose said, awkwardly side stepping Daniel and disappearing down the hall into the den.
"She doesn't think the tree would look nice there?"
"I think she's just a bit overwhelmed," Daniel said in a hushed, conspiratorially toned voice. He raised one crutch and pointed the tip down the hallway Rose had disappeared into. "I'm just going to—" Daniel retreated, trying not to notice the size of the tree they were bringing through the door.
* * *
Rose ambushed him two steps into the den. "You bought a tree?" she repeated, then to Daniel's horror, began to cry.
"Oh, God. I'll make them take it back. Return it all—the reindeer and the lights. I just thought..."
Rose shook her head, crying harder.
"I overstepped my boundaries. Please, Rose, I'm sorry—"
"Stop feeling guilty." Rose used the back of her hand to wipe up the moisture. "I'm crying because… damn you, mhuirnin, I'm overwhelmed. How dare you surprise me like this?"
"You're in the den crying because you're surprised?"
"No, I'm in the den crying because I'm too embarrassed to cry in front of complete strangers. Especially over a tree. And poinsettias."
"And lighted reindeer?"
She sniffed away her remaining tears. "The jury's still out on the reindeer."
* * *
"We slept the whole afternoon away." Daniel was sitting on the couch, his right leg stretched out on the coffee table. "You, at least," he gestured towards Rose who was reclining on the chair, "had a physical therapy workout. What did I do?"
He waggled his fingers. "This is the only part of my body that got exercise. Computer. Keys. And Google searching. I let my fingers do the walking," he admitted with a sly smile.
"You're nuts and that's a direct quote from the nice poinsettia man." Daniel watched as Rose rooted around in her sweater pocket and pulled out a tiny device. She raised her eyebrows at Daniel, pressed a button and suddenly the tree lit up with little tiny white and blue lights. "Seems you bought the deluxe package, Daniel Jackson." Rose pointed the remote towards the picture window. "And, I'll have you know, this little piece of technology also just lit up the outside."
Daniel snorted. He felt punch drunk. Still tired. Lethargic. The mere act of keeping his eyes opened and his brain focused was almost more than he could handle. "I think I've overdosed on holiday cheer." He pointed to the tree. "I didn't order the deluxe package, because that would have been with ornaments. You already have ornaments." He reached for his crutches, "I'm going to go get—"
"Do nothing. You're exhausted." She waved her cane the length of the couch. "Go lie down. Go back to sleep."
"What are you going to do?" He eyed her suspiciously.
"Call for dinner. Then sit back, watch the lights. Then when dinner arrives we'll eat and watch a movie. If you're good I'll let you have a glass of wine. Then we'll have dessert. A pain pill. Then bed. Got it?"
"We'll decorate tomorrow."
"You're really pushy."
"I lived with Jack and his father. It's a survival technique."
* * *
Dinner was delicious. They ate in the living room on wooden snack tables that Rose had instructed Daniel to set up, and they devoured their meat loaf, mashed potatoes and corn right out of the metal dishes they had been delivered in. "Good." Daniel sopped up the remaining gravy with the dinner roll. The additional sixty minute nap had taken the edge off of his exhaustion, not that it meant he wanted to run around the block, but that he was more awake and coherent than before.
"Once you're done licking the tin foil, how about a Christmas movie or two?"
Daniel guided the snack table away, grabbed his crutches then pulled himself to a standing position. He made two trips to the kitchen to clear up their mess, then on his way back into the living room, turned off the lights. "I got a better idea."
"Better than a movie?"
Daniel put both crutches under his right arm and offered his left to Rose. "How about perusing the outside?"
* * *
"Daniel," Rose hissed. "People are stopping and *looking* at the decorations."
He checked over his shoulder at the mini van that was slowing as it passed the house. "Rose, I'm on crutches, you have a leg brace and your arm in a cast, I'm quite positive the father is pointing us out to the kids as examples as what can happen when you decorate the house."
"They did a beautiful job."
Daniel nodded, finding the lump in this throat a bit disconcerting. He was unable to comprehend why. It was a house. With lights. And wreaths. And some pretty classless, strewn-with-lights deer. But the whole scenario looked right. It felt right also, but was so emotionally moving he was uncomfortable and confused.
"Thank you," Rose said softly, placing her hand over Daniel's where it gripped the crutch.
And while the emotions were still uncomfortable, Daniel's confusion dissipated in Rose's smile.
* * *
"Do you want to watch It's a Wonderful Life or Scrooged? Jimmy Stewart or Bill Murray?"
The ache in his leg had begun when they came back inside. He wished he could recall doing something that would have kicked off the toothache-like throbbing. Daniel had spoken to Janet this morning and he had physically and extremely carefully pressed along the still angry, red scar line according to Janet's specifications. He had also begged and had been denied the right to shower because he had had it with sticking his head under a faucet and just wiping down with a hand towel.
But there hadn't been any tenderness or discomfort earlier; Daniel had called Janet because he valued his life. She had spoken with him first, then with Rose and then with him again, ending the conversation with the fact that Rose was doing better than he was and to call for any problem.
The ache was deep-seated and worsening. If he didn’t get off the couch now, he wouldn't be moving anytime in the near future without help and he really didn't think Rose had the capability to get his ass off the furniture. Or the floor.
"So Daniel, answer me... Wonderful Life or—"
"Wonderful Life," he blurted out.
"Okay..." She found the title, pulled out the tape then handed it out towards Daniel to remove it from the covering.
Daniel grabbed his crutches, gritted his teeth, stood, hobbled over to Rose and removed the tape from the jacket. "I'll be right back," he cocked his head in the direction of the hallway. "You can start it..."
* * *
He grabbed his cell phone, went into the bathroom in the spare bedroom, then locked the door behind him. He dialed Janet's number, still standing, not chancing even sitting on the toilet lid.
Daniel swallowed. "Janet?"
"Daniel? What's wrong?"
Background sound was fraught with infirmary noises. "I caught you at a bad time."
She didn't confirm or deny. "What's wrong?"
Suddenly saying his leg ached sounded stupid and infantile.
"Look, you didn't call me to shoot the breeze."
"On a scale of one to 10—"
Daniel touched the side of his leg with his crutch. "No swelling. There's no heat, redness." Damn, he felt ridiculous.
"If I told you I don't know. Ummm... the muscle feels tight. Achy. Like I've over—"
"—Done it? Been on your feet too long? Flew across the United States—"
"There was no option."
"No, there wasn't," Janet agreed. "I understood. I understand. But try. Sleep. You and Rose sit your collective butts on the couch and don't move. Don't be more of a hero than you need to be."
"I heard that. I'm not going to give you the 'run to the hospital if you have any fever, swelling, redness' lecture because without checking my notes I'm sure I already gave you that sermon."
Daniel held back his sarcastic reply. "You did."
"I know I did. I just want you to remember."
"Now turn off the cell phone. Go sit on the couch. Put on a Christmas movie and don't move one iota. Doctor's orders."
* * *
It never failed to amaze Rose how stupid both Daniel and her son thought she was. Believing she *missed* how slowly he was moving, or the distracted, pulling teeth answers she forced from him.
She was tired. Sadly, Rose hated to admit how much the accident had given her a mental slap in the face over the fragility of her body. Honestly, she would have liked to stretch out in her own bed, but it was early, and Daniel would have hovered. Daniel didn't need to hover, Daniel needed to sit. To stay in one place for more than five minutes at a time. If left to their own devices, she and Daniel could probably motherhen each other to death.
Rose watched with amazingly deep satisfaction as Daniel moved down the length of the couch during Jimmy Stewart's frantic searching for the lost funds and by the time the man realized he had never been born, Daniel was fast asleep.
* * *
Sometimes it paid to have friends in high places. Today had been one of those sometimes. Jack waved goodbye to the pilot of the small jet, owned by an old friend of General Hammond who had given Jack an early Christmas present by pulling a few strings of his own. So five hours after returning to Earth, after learning of not only his mother's injuries but Daniel's knight in shining armor rescue, Jack had flown across the United States and now was stepping into the waiting car, once again, courtesy of General Hammond, who had been more than a bit upset that one Dr. Jackson hadn't approached him for the same amenities.
* * *
Jack was in shock. He rubbed his eyes, blinked, rubbed again then shook his head in disbelief over all the Christmas trappings his mother's house was now wrapped in. Even in the early daylight he could see the overabundance of lights and other paraphernalia. What the hell? Daniel hadn't been in any condition to decorate and from what Fraiser had told him, ladder climbing wouldn't have been on his mother's agenda anytime in the near future.
Jack dug out his mother's house key. The key he had accepted under protest, saying there would never be a reason for him to use it. Ha! He should know by now never to say never. Jack opened the door, dropped his bag by the door, then locked the door behind him. He got two steps into the house before he once again stood in open mouthed shock at the gargantuan tree overpowering his mother's living room.
Shuffling, slippered steps drew his attention from the living room and he turned towards the sound.
"Aww, shit, mom." Jack was almost afraid to touch her. She looked old, frail and bruised.
"Nice to see you, too," she whispered, offering her cheek for him to kiss.
"What are you doing out of bed?" His gaze was drawn to her cane. "Shouldn't you be off your feet? Where's Daniel?"
"Daniel's sleeping and you're up?"
"I'm going to the den. I really think you need a cup of coffee. I need some tea and there's some fresh bread for some toast and jam."
* * *
"I'm sorry," Jack said, as he stood in the den holding the breakfast tray. "I don't think you can manage with this on your lap."
She pointed to the coffee table. "Put it down there for now. The snack tables are in the living room."
Jack found not only the snack tables, but Daniel in the living room. As impossible as it sounded, even in sleep, Daniel looked exhausted, almost as if he was working too hard at sleeping. Fighting to keep his body centered on the couch, sleeping on his back, one arm hanging off the couch, touching the floor as a counterweight to anchoring him on the couch. Daniel's other hand was tucked out of sight, hidden under the blanket covering his body. And he was silent. Daniel was rarely silent in sleep. Nor was he still. The Daniel that slept on the couch was both silent and still.
He and Daniel were going to have a little heart to heart sometime today about his desire to be Doodley Doo Right. The Christmas lights and tree were going to top the 'what the hell were you thinking list'.
* * *
Jack set his mother up with the snack table, made sure both the table and she were secure before he sat down on the couch. "The house looks different." He and Daniel had stopped by during the summer, an overnight visit on their way back from Washington.
"The living room and kitchen have been painted. New wood floor in the kitchen. Area rug in this room." She sipped the tea. "Christmas lights."
"Yeah, about those." He leaned forward, grabbed a triangle of toast and took a bite. Jack used the remaining piece to point at his mother. "I mean, between Daniel's injury and his 'bah humbug' attitude, I'm surprised he—"
"Daniel's bah humbug attitude? Funny, he said the same thing about you."
"I always thought that the holidays were a sore point with Daniel. Foster families and such, so I downplayed them."
"You did such a good job downplaying," Rose accused, "that Daniel thinks because of Charlie you'd rather pretend the whole holiday doesn't exist."
Talking about Charlie was hard enough. Talking about Charlie and Christmas was nearly damned impossible.
"Daniel's not wrong, is he?"
"He did a nice job on the lights."
His mother surprised him with a very unladylike snort. "The credit for the village spread all over the house, that, I'll admit, goes to Daniel. But as far as anything else? Daniel has enough problems walking ten feet without listing. He paid someone. The tree. The lights. Even the reindeer on the front lawn."
"Nice reindeer," Jack said sarcastically. "The tree in the living room?"
"Yes, the tree in the living room."
"Big heart. Daniel managed to place someone else's needs before his own."
"It's none of my business if you don't put up a tree, or lights or exchange presents. As painful as it may be, memories need to be relegated to where they belong. In the past."
"I haven't been in your house two hours... "
"Admit it." Rose crowed. "My insight is amazing."
"I wouldn't exactly have put it that way, but yeah, if that works for you…" His stomach churned around the toast and coffee. He could have lost his mother to this accident. "I wish you would have called sooner."
"Why? So you could have come, sat and held my hand?"
"Yes, I would have," Jack replied indignantly. "My prerogative. I needed to be with you."
"You don't like someone taking the decision out of your hands?"
"Mom, you were hurt. I should have been here."
"It wasn't your decision to make."
"I didn't have a say in the decision."
"Sorta like Daniel doesn't have a say in celebrating the holidays?"
"You made your point the first time around. I get it. What I don't get is how you thought it was okay not to call."
"You certainly don't like when the shoe's on the other foot. Finding out after the fact that someone you love has been hurt. Or could have been killed."
Frustrated, Jack threw up his hands. "So not letting me know was payback?"
"No, not letting us know was stubbornness. Like her son."
* * *
Daniel hobbled over to Rose and stole a piece of cold toast. "What? The two of you are looking at me as if I've just disclosed the secret of the universe." Daniel pointed at Jack, then Rose. "Kettle meet Pot. Pot. Kettle." He shoved the remainder of the toast in his mouth then reached for the remaining triangle. "Sorry," he mumbled around a mouthful of toast. "Hungry."
"Hello to you, too, Daniel."
Daniel nodded a greeting then used his shoulder to wipe the crumbs from his mouth. "Hi."
"You look better than last night," Rose commented with a smile.
Daniel gave a slight nod. "I feel better. You look better also."
"I could use a strong cup of coffee, some more toast..."
Rose leaned on her cane and pulled herself up. "Tea. I think I would like some more..."
"No!" Jack jumped up then pointed to Daniel and Rose. "You and you. Sit. You're making me nervous just by being upright."
* * *
Daniel could see Jack was itching to assess him and by the time the physical therapist showed up for Rose, he was practically jumping out of his skin in anticipation.
Daniel sat patiently as Jack ran his thumb up the stubble on Daniel's cheek. "What the hell did you think you were doing?"
Daniel leaned into the hand that cupped his face. "You really don't expect an answer to that question? I'm here because it's Rose."
"Thank you," Jack glanced towards the closed bedroom door before kissing him. "Above and beyond the call of duty."
"She's family. Our family."
* * *
The house was quiet. Rose was lying down after therapy. The two of them had ended up in the bedroom, where Jack had fallen asleep, snoring in his ear. For lack of anything else to do, Daniel began to drift. He would fall asleep if he allowed himself. Why not? Jack. A bed. Comfort. It was enticing. Very enticing and he teased his body by closing his eyes for a moment before extricating himself from Jack, grabbing his crutches and leaving the room.
They were here. In Rose's house. The woman who celebrated Christmas. So when in Rome, buy presents.
Daniel stretched, audibly cracking the bones in his neck and shoulders while he waited for Rose's computer to power up. He had horrible posture to begin with and the strain of the crutches wasn't helping.
The computer was ready. He was ready. Rose was easy. Actually, Rose was too easy. Jack was the problem and he stared at the screen, searching out sites before he ordered a few practical gifts, a few impractical ones, and then one present that was just incredibly all Jack. Giftwrapped and paid extra for next day delivery. His American Express definitely was getting more exercise that he was.
Now what? He was finished and antsy. If he went back to bed he'd toss and turn, wake Jack up. TV wasn't appealing and crutches didn't really lend themselves to wandering. Too noisy. Too awkward.
* * *
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Jack roared. Not a yell. Not an exclamation. A roar.
"Putting the decorations on the tree." He looked at Jack in confusion. The man had been sleeping. His clothes were rumpled, he was in need of a shave and Daniel thought it better to keep the bedhead comment to himself.
"Where did they come from?" The roar toned down to a mere yell.
"Shut up, you're going to wake Rose." Daniel wavered, distracted by Jack's presence as he reached up to hang an ornament. He felt it, felt the tip of his crutch catch and his center of gravity shift so he forced his body to the left rather than land on his injured leg and bring the tree down with him.
Jack grabbed his arm and the only thing that fell were the crutches. With a loud bang. One against the fireplace and the other, first against Jack then onto the coffee table before landing on the floor with a loud thud. Fear was in Jack's eyes as he gripped Daniel's arm, but it turned to anger when he saw the tiny ornament Daniel still held in his opposite hand. "For that?" he hissed. Jack knocked it from Daniel's hand and it flew from his grip and smashed against the brick fireplace. "For that piece of garbage," he repeated with disgust and a slight shake of Daniel's arm, "you were willing to crack your head open?"
"Let go of me," Daniel demanded. He held onto the mantle for support and fought to pull his forearm out of Jack's grasp. "They're ornaments. Rose's ornaments."
"No they aren't, Daniel."
Daniel glanced over his shoulder. "Rose. I'm sorry we woke you."
Rose glared at Jack who glared back, then hung his head. Daniel's gaze bounced between the two of them. Waiting. For something. Neither was budging, coming forth with an explanation. And the silence became suffocating and suddenly Daniel saw where the line had been drawn between them. Family on one side. Daniel on the other.
"I'm sorry," he eventually said. Holding onto the mantel with one hand, he lowered himself to the ground then picked up the crutch closest to the fireplace. "I've stepped on toes." He righted himself. "Between the lights, the trees, the decoration," he flashed a tight grin at the two of them. "I've butted into an area I had no right to be in." He used the first crutch to pull the second one within grasping range and he bent, too fast, flexing at the knee, and he felt the pull and burn of the muscle. "I'll leave you to figure this out." Daniel wasn't sure what hurt worse. The fact that they let him leave the room or they fact Jack and Rose watched him leave and said nothing.
He was okay. He made it down the hall, into the bedroom, his fingers were perfectly steady as he locked the door. It was the bed that did it. The rumpled bed that Jack had been napping on. Jack and Rose were family. He was the outsider. Daniel was the fool. He had been played a fool. No, that was wrong, he hadn't been played, he had allowed himself to be played and the only person to blame was Daniel Jackson. He had wanted the unobtainable. A family. And he had seen and imagined things that weren't there.
In anger, he swung the crutch. He knew it was infantile but it felt damn good when the tip made contact with the water bottle on the dresser and sent it flying. He watched with grim satisfaction as it hit the wall, broke and splattered water everywhere. He was angry at Jack. At Rose. At himself.
At the cost of his dignity and his American Express, Daniel had learned some important lessons. Blood was thicker than water and he was an idiot.
* * *
"Are you proud of yourself?"
"Me?" Jack shook his head at his mother's audacity. "I didn't go nosing around into other people's—"
"As much as it hurts, Jack. And damn I know it hurts, Charlie is dead and Daniel—"
"Daniel knows that. He and I don't *do* Christmas." Jack slapped the tree branches. "This? He did for you. Because he felt badly that you were hurt. That *he* was hurt. So like Daniel…"
"He put others before himself, son?"
"I was thinking more of the line of he doesn't know when to stop."
"They're just ornaments."
"They're my ornaments. My memories." Jack began to pluck the ornaments that Daniel had already hung and placed them roughly back into the box. "I'm going to do with them what should have been done in the first place." He bent down and picked up both boxes.
"You can't get rid of the memories by throwing away the reminders."
"I can damn well try."
* * *
Daniel jumped when the he heard the front door slam. He had been eavesdropping through his own closed door, listening as the voices had been a jumble of noises at first, blending together until they had increased in volume, distinctly separating Jack's from Rose's.
Maybe families weren't all they were meant to be. Honestly, Daniel had never had anything to measure it up against so who was he to judge fairness and equality. Secrets and anger were the norm, obviously. He hadn't expected Rose to love him better than Jack, but he had expected love to factor in somewhere.
He picked up his cell, dialed information then called a cab to the airport. This argument may have started due to his intervention, but Daniel was man enough to admit he was too chicken to wait around for the next act. He was going home.
What was protocol? Should he go out into the living and announce his departure? Or wait in this room, door closed and locked until the cab honked for him. Daniel stared at the bed. His backpack was filled and ready to go. He hooked his finger around the loop at the top of the backpack, took a moment to steady himself then unlocked the door and headed for the living room.
* * *
"Where are you going?" Rose stood next to the tree, fingering the branches.
"Home. Jack's here now. I'm just..." He gazed at what remained of the ornament that had smashed. "...In the way."
"Oh, god, please, mhuirnin…"
Daniel leaned backwards, dropping the backpack and releasing one hand from the support bar of the crutch to hold out to halt Rose's approach. "I don't understand the parameters of family, Rose. I had nothing to judge by. I *have* nothing to measure it up against. My knowledge comes from books and learning—"
"I love you."
"And I screwed up with misconceptions regarding my placement with you and Jack."
"What are you talking about? Placement? I love you like—"
Daniel shook his head. "Please don’t," he begged. "I'm not your son." It hurt to say it, but it hurt more to see the tears overflow from her eyes at his words." Please don't cry, Rose. I only wanted to make you happy and in the process I forgot about Jack. I forgot how and why Christmas was so painful to him. This family thing is too hard for me." He refused to blink. Refused to allow the moisture in his eyes match Rose's. "Too many years have passed for me to ever get this right. I'm sorry." He hobbled over to her, bent and kissed her cheek. "I do love you, you know."
"There's my taxi." The horn beeped, then impatiently beeped again. "Tell Jack I'll call him when I get home."
Rose nodded again, then went back to fixing the branches on the tree.
He shut his mouth. The extraneous words he wanted to say, were just that, extraneous, and proved no purpose except to prolong his goodbye and cement the fact that he still hadn't learned when enough was enough. He used the tip of his crutch to raise the backpack and he grabbed it, maneuvering so it slid over one shoulder.
Daniel had one hand on the door, and if it hadn't been for the table in the hallway, when Jack burst in from outside, Daniel would have landed on his ass.
"I told the cab he had the wrong house," Jack announced, peeking around the door at Daniel, his arms laden with the boxes that held the Christmas tree decorations. "Sorry. Are you okay?"
"That was my cab." He thumped one crutch then stood. "My cab," he reiterated, furious with Jack.
"Naw, it wasn't," Jack insisted, smirking at Daniel as if that had been the stupidest thing Daniel had ever said. He walked into the house, kicked the door shut with his foot then smiled. He knew that smile. An apology without words. An 'I'm sorry' without being able to touch.
"My cab." Frustrated, Daniel shook his head, arranged his crutches and thumped past Jack towards the door.
Jack dropped the boxes onto the coffee table. "I changed my mind," he said to Rose.
Daniel didn't miss the look that passed between the two of them as he opened the front door to escape.
"Hey, where are you going?"
He didn't know whether it was it audacity or stupidity that prompted Jack's question, but with one hand on the front door knob he stopped and gave him the benefit of an answer without turning around. "I'm going home, Jack." He could hear but not distinguish the words of Rose's frantic whispered voice and Jack's just as soft response. "Merry Christmas," Daniel said, then went through and closed the door, escaping to freedom before anyone could protest.
He got as far as the end of the walk before he fell and this time there was no Jack to catch him or table to break his descent. He went down hard, his right crutch slipping sideways and actually tripping him up. Daniel knew it was coming. Understood that there was no way to counterbalance and right himself. He tried to go with the fall, but there was no cushioning his left hip and thigh when they made contact with the scalloped bricks lining the walk.
"Ow. Shit." Daniel closed his eyes against the visual of what just occurred and gave his body a moment to recover. Embarrassed. Frustrated. He felt like a turtle in the middle of busy highway unable to flip back over.
"Are you okay?"
He opened his eyes. Jack's concerned face blocked his whole field of vision. "If I said yes, will you go away?"
"So there's no hope of your leaving if I say I'm not okay."
Daniel averted his head as Jack's hands roamed his body, looking for injuries. He shoved the inquisitive hand away when it got too close to his right leg. With a grumble he levered himself onto his elbows. "I'm fine. Embarrassed. Mortified. But I'll be okay."
"Daniel... *are* you okay?"
"Yes, Rose." She stood in the opened doorway and he gave her a little wave before flopping back down. "So much for a grand exit and quick getaway."
"What? You were going for the 'frankly Scarlett, I don't give a damn' departure?"
"Nothing that dramatic. Just a—" He sat up, snagged his backpack, opened the side zipper then removed his phone.
"Don't." Jack's hand covered his. "Please, don't," he amended.
"I don't belong here."
Jack glanced towards Rose. "It's been a long time since my mom and I were a family. We needed you... we *need* you to remind us how families are supposed to act."
"I really think the two of you could find someone a tad more adept in the family department than I am."
"Ah, that's where you're wrong, Dannyboy." Jack plucked the phone from Daniel's unresisting fingers, put it back in the side pocket of the backpack and zipped it back up. "You bring a first contact perception into this family thing."
"And your point, Jack? I'm sure there's a point in there somewhere."
Jack rolled his eyes. "It's the respect. And the curiosity. The whole friendly explorer theme. You want to immerse yourself in their culture."
Daniel blinked at Jack.
"You're not getting this, are you?"
"Not one iota. I'm sorta distracted being stretched out on the lawn with two reindeer looking over my shoulder."
Jack chuckled. "You'll survive. Pay attention. We need you to show us how to begin again, Daniel. Teach us how to leave the years of disappointment and tragedy at the doorstep and care again."
"Don't be ridiculous." Daniel struggled to stand, then sat back down with an 'oompf', waiting for Jack to retrieve the crutches, annoyed when he didn't make a move to. "Jack. Crutches?"
"In a second. I just want to finish."
"My ass is cold," Daniel complained.
"I'll warm it later. At least I know you're here in one spot and not going anywhere. Which means you have to *listen*."
"I'm listening. I said the two of you needing my opinion or guidance was ridiculous. You're family. Blood. Mother. Son."
"We didn't talk for almost nine years Daniel. Nine years. That's longer than Charlie was alive."
"My parents are dead. My wife is dead. My only living relative is sharing his days with giant aliens."
"See, all that only goes to prove that we all belong together."
"Dare I ask how you managed that conclusion?"
"Clueless. You're clueless. Even after all that tragedy, you got a tree. You decorated her house. You *saw* what was important to my mother, while I, her own son, couldn't see beyond my own hurt."
"Oh?" Jack's eyes widened in shock. "Oh? I made a great revelation and that's all you can say? I bare my soul and I get a measly two letter exclamation?"
"Oh, my ass is killing me and I need a hand up."
"Please can you help me up?"
* * *
"Here." Jack handed him a mug of hot chocolate and a pain pill.
Daniel took the mug, but shook his head at the medication. "No."
"Yes," Jack insisted. "I know you're fine now, but you're going to be hurting later."
"I tripped. I fell. I went boom."
"Take it," Rose chimed in. "Family watches out for each other."
"Sounds more like family gangs up on each other." He swiped the pill from Jack's hand, swallowed then stuck out his tongue. "Happy."
"Yes we are."
* * *
Daniel sat on the couch, wrapped in a blanket that he didn't exactly remember how it got there, lazily enjoying the gratuitous Christmas carols playing on the stereo, watching Rose watch Jack sort through the boxes of his past and decorate the tree.
"Remember this one?"
Daniel squinted at the round plastic disc Jack had dangling from a string.
"There must be ten of those in the box."
Jack held that one overhead and searched through the box with his left hand, protective newspaper wrappings spilling out onto the floor. He snorted and brought up another handful. "The wonders of melting plastic cups in the oven. I remember that year, our tree was filled with the little suckers."
Jack hung all the discs on the tree then pulled from the box what looked like to Daniel strangely like a replica of a miniature front door to a house. He gazed at the object swinging from Jack's fingers.
"Wow. I had forgotten all about this, mom." Jack chuckled, "it's probably considered an antique by now." Jack waded through the papers on the floor towards the couch. "Look," he cupped the ornament in one hand and stuck it under Daniel's nose.
Yup, on closer perusal it was exactly what Daniel thought it had been. He leaned forward and tapped it with his index finger. "It's a door."
"It opens," Rose reminded Jack.
"I remember." Jack pulled on the ridiculously small doorknob and opened the door. "This was a gift from you and dad on our first Christmas. Mine and Sara's, for our tree." Jack closed the door fingering the tiny silver numbers. "This was our address." He then opened the door again and squinted at the tiny words written on the inside of the door. "Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give. It's Christmas." He shook his head and smiled at Rose. And Daniel knew that smile, too. Gratitude. "Thanks mom."
* * *
Eventually, Jack stepped back, arms crossed and admired his handwork. "Nice tree. Nice ornaments."
Rose reached out and grabbed Jack's hand and in turn, he patted the hand he held in his. Then the two turned as one towards Daniel, who acknowledged Jack's hard work with a thumbs up and yawn.
* * *
He didn't remember getting into bed. Or for that matter getting stripped down into boxers and a tee. Pain pills had a tendency to do that to him. And he certainly didn't remember the pair of hands now cupping his ass.
"I certainly hope so."
"Oh." Daniel paused, thought a minute, then rubbed his nose on Jack's chest.
"Hey," Jack stuck two fingers under Daniel's chin and lifted his face up. "Are you okay?"
"Fine." The word was sluggish and slow in forming. "I think I forgot an hour…"
"Or three or four." Jack kissed his nose.
"Stop." Daniel brought a lethargic hand up, hit himself in the face before he was able to find his nose and rub away the kiss. "Hate that," he groused.
"That's why I do it. To annoy the crap outta you."
"Thanks." He leaned his hand back, found the hand holding his ass and held it there.
"I promised I'd warm your ass and I never go back on any promises that have to do with your body."
"I'm going to sleep." Daniel slid his hand around Jack's waist then tucked his head under his chin. "Try not to wake me as you fondle, okay."
* * *
The next day, the delivery of the presents he had ordered had fortuitous timing. The doorbell had rung ten minutes after Jack had taken Rose to her orthopedist appointment. Daniel had begged to be left at home with the promise he was going to stay in the chair and not move. Okay, he had lied and he had moved to arrange the presents under the tree, but now, as he heard Rose's car pull into the driveway, he was sitting, on the chair, watching TV just like he'd said he was going to. So it only counted as a white lie. Actually, it probably could fall under the fib category if one wanted to get technical.
"Daniel!" Jack bellowed. "What the hell..."
Daniel pulled himself up with the crutches, slowly situated them under his arms, taking his time with his balance, smiling at the imagined infuriation on Jack's face.
"You scream—Rose, you got you cast off—that's wonderful—"
"Eh!" Jack stepped between his mother and Daniel. "No distractions. I want you to tell me why there are presents under the tree."
Daniel shrugged. "I haven't a clue."
"Elves?" Daniel supplied. "I don't know, whatcha think, Rose? Elves?"
"More like sneaky archeologists," Jack grumbled.
"Daniel, why did you do this?" Rose asked, her gaze traveling from the impressive pile under the tree to Daniel.
"This one has my name on it." Jack picked up a present and shook it. "It's heavy." He attempted to peek under the wrapping.
"Stop it." Daniel smiled at Jack. "That's why, Rose."
"You gave me back my son, I don't need anything else."
"Everyone needs a present under the tree."
* * *
"Want to open some presents?"
"Jeeze, Daniel, it's the day *before* Christmas Eve."
"Can't we make new rules?" He shamelessly fluttered his eyelashes at Rose. "Please?"
Rose just smirked then turned her face from Daniel.
"Alright, we'll wait until Christmas," Daniel answered, downtrodden.
"We... I didn't get you anything," Rose said softly, her face slightly flushed in embarrassment.
"We never usually—" Jack raised his hands, palm side up, then shoved them into his pocket. "I didn't get you anything either."
"That's the problem? That's why you've been—the two of you have been avoiding me all day?"
"We weren't avoiding you. Were we avoiding him, ma?"
"We were avoiding him."
"You already gave me a gift. You and Rose."
"Sorry, Daniel, there's nothing under the tree with your name on it."
"Yes, there is," Daniel disagreed stubbornly, watching in amusement as Jack searched through the presents.
"I hate to disagree, Jack, but there's something there."
"There's nothing, mhuirnin."
"Yes, there is. It's under the tree. And in this room. In this house. And in my heart." He laughed. "Hallmark card corny, huh?"
"You said it, not me, Daniel."
"Since the age of eight I was looking for a family. That's all I ever wanted. That's all I ever asked for, prayed for, wished for."
Jack made another show of looking under the tree. "Yeah, here it is," he said, picking up an imaginary box and blowing imaginary dust off the top. "It was hidden way in the back. With the memories."
"That box has been there awhile. Just waiting for Daniel to claim it," Rose commented, moving over and sitting next to him on the couch.
"Since I already opened my present," Daniel said, "how about you and Jack opening yours. It's only fair."
Jack put the invisible box on his mother's lap.
"Nice gift." Rose did a one armed mime adjustment of an invisible bow. "It was given with love."
Daniel flung an arm around Rose's shoulder and gently tugged her close. "I'll have you know, this gift was possibly the best I've ever received."
Dale Evans Rogers
Christmas, my child, is love in action. Every time we love, every time we give. It's Christmas.
A Christmas story to those I hold dear to me. Thank you. To my beta jo thank you for all that you have done.
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