Miracles in Bloomby devra
His eyes began to tear with exhaustion, but he refused to release his death grip on the wheel, and so Daniel just blinked through the moisture. He had unwillingly and impatiently succumbed to Warner's post mission checkup, but he simply didn't have time for the ordered x-rays. No matter how much he had pleaded and cajoled, Daniel hadn't been able to get Warner to understand that time was of the essence. So, hiding his irritation, Daniel had waited until Warner had written out the x-ray orders, making a show of attempting to find a comfortable spot on the gurney. But the second Warner had gone to his office, Daniel had jumped off the gurney, grabbed his clothes, doffed the scrubs and had frantically dressed. He'd tossed the scrubs over the chair and rushed out of the infirmary, bypassing the corpsman coming to pick him up with a wheelchair for his x-ray appointment. The only stop he had made was to his office to swallow some aspirin and pick up his keys before signing out of the mountain.
He had straightened his stance and forcibly hid his grimace behind a sharp retort to the chatterbox of an airman at the last checkpoint. Stiff legged and head down, Daniel hurried awkwardly to the Avalanche. The airman was contact enough, he certainly hadn't wanted to explain his departure to anyone else along the way. It had taken Daniel two attempts to buckle the seatbelt, his body uncooperative to bending in any direction. By the time he'd accomplished the task and exited the mountain, a fine sheen of sweat had covered his body, causing his tee shirt to stick uncomfortably to his torso.
Daniel was fine. There was no time to worry about the nausea burning a hole in his stomach, the unsympathetic bruises from bouncing off the rock walls or the ache in his arms from holding Jack's head above water. The aspirin were going to have to take care of the pain in his right ribcage and the ache in his leg muscles from hours of treading water.
Superstition was clouding Daniel's mind. A whispered promise made to an incoherent Jack on PX0948 had begun to grow to epic proportions as it pushed aside all of Daniel's ability to reason. Daniel was now positive if he fulfilled his promise, it would ensure Jack's survival.
Daniel's fingers beat a tattoo of annoyance on the steering wheel as he stopped at yet another red light. "Oh, God." Daniel slapped on the truck's heater and adjusted the settings to ward off the chill of the frigid water. His teeth began to chatter as he felt the water from the planet begin to crawl up his legs, under his pants, numbing his vulnerable extremities. Subconsciously, his arms tightened their grip on the wheel as he struggled to keep Jack's head above water, and he became peripherally aware of a slight trembling in his leg muscles as they valiantly fought to find purchase in the water's depth.
Daniel jumped at the sound of screeching tires and blaring horns. His heart began to race wildly and he nearly lost the meager contents of his stomach as he was shocked into awareness as cars raced past his stationary truck. An older man to his left slowed down, gesturing wildly, his movements accompanied with loud curses directed at Daniel's inability to drive before he took off through the yellow light, which turned red right after he sped by. Daniel lowered his forehead onto the hard leather of the steering wheel as he slowly took stock of the how and why he was in Jack's truck and not on PX0948, fighting for Jack's life.
He silently cursed at his inability to locate Jack's house key as he flipped through his key ring one more time. Unquestionably, the number of keys seemed to have multiplied. Once Daniel finally found the appropriate one, he steadied his shaking right hand with his left to aid in fitting the key into the slot. He entered the house, locked the door behind him and listened to the oppressive silence. Suddenly, Jack's house became cavernous as Daniel leaned heavily on the closed door, overwhelmed at the number of nooks and crannies in Jack's life, and Daniel prayed that he knew his lover well enough to find what Jack wanted and needed.
Daniel grabbed the kitchen counter to steady himself as he slipped on the papers and various sundries strewn haphazardly on the floor. At first, he had begun his search with a methodical precision, placing everything back nice and neat. Two hours later, frustrated and with a pounding headache, Daniel was now dumping articles onto the nearest flat surface and fishing through the papers, strings, and odds and ends with numb and desperate fingers.
The frantic, frenetic searching had drawn to a halt, and Daniel sat quietly on a corner of the bed, his fingers reverently tracing the outline of the faded word 'Nike' printed on a battered cardboard shoebox. A box, small enough to hold a pair of children's sneakers, and inconspicuous enough to be hidden away in a dark corner of Jack's closet.
Daniel was out of options; every conceivable drawer and hiding place in the house had undergone his scrutiny.
"I'm sorry, Jack," he whispered. There was little doubt in his mind that he was never meant to find this box, positive its contents held bits of Jack's past Daniel didn't need to be privy to. He closed his eyes in a silent prayer of forgiveness before using both hands to remove the lid.
Jack's marriage certificate, a wedding picture and his divorce decree. Daniel placed each of the items in an orderly pile right next to him. Medals, a lock of Charlie's hair, a birth certificate. A handwritten birth announcement. A pair of baby shoes, a yellowed newspaper with a little boy's obituary. School pictures, report cards and a few years' worth of hand-drawn Father's Day cards. Daniel went through these artifacts, hardening his heart against what each item must mean to Jack. If he allowed himself to feel, Daniel would lose what little tenuous hold he had on his emotions at the moment. A baby tooth, a well worn infant baseball cap and an out-of-place, expensive, relatively new Hallmark style Christmas card attached to a pile of letters with a ribbon. Daniel slid the ribbon off the stack of neatly folded papers and placed it to the side. He read the first few letters and skimmed the rest, letters from Sarah, one or two from friends and quite a number from Jack's mother, but still, Daniel couldn't locate what he was searching for. Downtrodden, and with a sense of hopelessness looming over the horizon, Daniel stared at the picturesque image on the outside of the card. As Daniel opened the card with trembling fingers, he felt the sense of failure was becoming a living, breathing reality if what he needed wasn't inside.
Daniel slid his ass onto the floor, his back pressed up against the mattress and all the items, save the card, were lovingly placed back inside the shoebox. Book-like, he held the card open in his left hand along with the phone, and using his right hand, it took him two aborted attempts to dial the numbers written at the bottom of the card.
Daniel had only a moment to compose himself before the voice on the other end of the connection said 'hello'. So familiar in inflection, Daniel's heart constricted painfully.
"Hi," he stammered. The card flitted to the floor when Daniel pulled his knees up to his chest. His long limbs were tucked so close to his body that Daniel could feel his pounding heart against his leg for only a second before a painful spasm in his thigh muscle forced Daniel to quickly unfurl his body from this tight position. For all his linguistic capabilities, it was taking every ounce of his strength to hold onto his composure and not come across as a blithering idiot. "My name is Daniel Jackson, and you don't know me, but I'm a good friend... best friend... of your son, Ja... Jonathan O'Neill." He swallowed. "There's been an accident..." Daniel's voice trailed off, letting the person at the other end digest the information. "No! No!" he replied emphatically at her alarm. "Jack is still alive. Holding his own." Daniel cringed as he said the words he had been avoiding facing since SG1's return from the planet. "Jack asked for you, Mrs. O'Neill. He needs you."
Daniel scooped up the mess dispersed throughout the house and stuffed the loose paraphernalia into large trash bags, all the while silently apologizing to Jack as he went along. He deposited the overflowing bags into the garage with the intention of sorting through them at a later date and returning all the items to their rightful place. Exhausted, Daniel leaned against the inside door to the garage as he literally felt the adrenaline seep from his body, but he forced his mind to stay aware enough to perform a quick walkthrough of the house to make sure everything was presentable for Mrs. O'Neill. As Daniel locked the door, he mentally planned the next day's agenda, and if he was correct, there would be no time for him to return back here before going to the airport.
Daniel's mistake didn't register until he was behind the wheel of the Avalanche. He had just started the truck when he was hit with that panicky feeling, the hot flush of an irreparable error, and he guiltily eyed his cell phone sitting in the empty passenger seat.
This time tomorrow, Mrs. O'Neill would be in Colorado to see her son as per Daniel's request. What Daniel had just realized was Jack would be deep in the bowels of Cheyenne Mountain complex in an infirmary bed, unable to be seen by his own mother. Didn't matter if Colonel O'Neill was 2IC of the best-kept secret in the world. Hell, it wouldn't make a difference if his title was President O'Neill. Security clearance ruled the roost. Parents and loved ones were not allowed to visit injured and dying family members inside the mountain, a facet of the job that everyone had learned to live, or die, with.
He slammed the truck into gear. Not in this case. Nope. Daniel didn't care what marker he'd have to call in or the amount of groveling and begging that would be necessary, or even if this would mean an untimely end to his career with the SGC. Jack had asked, and Jack would receive. Come hell or high water, when Jack woke up, the mother he hadn't seen in almost nine years was going to be right by his bedside, because Daniel had promised.
'When did it get so cold in the infirmary'? Daniel stood under the harsh lights, rubbing his hands over his forearms, feeling the goose bumps as they traversed up and down both his arms and legs. He blinked and his eyes teared involuntarily against the glare of the fluorescent bulbs and not from the accusatory emptiness of Jack's bed. It was neatly made with no sign of anyone having occupied it for some time. Daniel sniffed, 'yup', he definitely needed an antihistamine to ward off whatever irritant was in the cement walls of the infirmary that was making his chest and throat constrict.
"Can I help you, Dr. Jackson?"
Daniel jumped at the nurse's unexpected inquiry. "Ummm. No. I'm okay... fine. I'm fine," he stuttered, hoping the accompanying tight smile would be enough to placate her curiosity. Slowly, Daniel backed away from her concern, heading towards the exit. "If anyone is looking for me, I'll be in my office."
With a shock, Daniel realized his office was no warmer than the infirmary and adjusted the thermostat. He dimmed the overhead lights, leaving the desk light on for illumination, but even that small bulb burned his eyes. The water and the two allergy pills he had just ingested sat heavy and uncomfortably on his stomach, and they weren't doing anything to alleviate the difficulty he was having drawing a deep breath.
He pulled the blanket which was folded along the back of the couch around his shoulders, but even with the added coverage, he still shivered despite the long sleeved shirt, jacket and raised temperature. Tucking arms and legs into a corner of the couch, Daniel manipulated his stiff body into the smallest space possible in an effort to preserve body heat.
"Wake up, Daniel."
He opened his eyes and blinked a few times to bring Janet's face into focus.
Daniel jerked away when she gently laid a hand on his forehead. "What are you doing here?" Janet's eyes raked over Daniel's face.
Daniel righted his body, moaning as twinging, tight muscles made their presence known as he fought to keep the blanket close to his shoulders. "Here as in the SGC, or here as in my office?"
"Why aren't you in the infirmary?"
"Too cold." For emphasis he hugged the blanket even closer to his body. "Too cold in here, also."
Gently pinning his chin between her thumb and forefinger, she forced his gaze to hers. "I think you're in shock, honey."
Daniel's face scrunched up in confusion at the unexpected term of endearment and then angrily, he shoved her hand away. "No need to treat me with kid gloves, Janet... just because Jack is... I'm a big boy. I've dealt with enough death in my life. I can..." He drew a deep breath and squared his shoulder under the protective wrap of the blanket. "I can do it again... practice makes perfect."
"When did it happen? I would have liked--"
"What!" Daniel's spittle sprayed out, peppering Janet's face and shirt.
"The Colonel is not dead. Who the hell told you something happened to him?"
He cocked his head in confusion. "The bed, it was empty and... I assumed..." Daniel's eyes widened in comprehension. "Jack's still here? Where?" Daniel squirreled around on the couch, fighting to skirt around Janet's body, blocking his way.
"No, Daniel. The Colonel isn't here."
"Then were the hell is he!" Daniel replied angrily.
Janet stood from her crouched position and grabbed Daniel's forearm. "If you would shut up and listen, I'd tell you."
Daniel's body went lax under Janet's hand and she withdrew her contact. "I'm sorry."
"No, it's me who should be apologizing," Janet replied tiredly. "Me. That was totally..."
"It's bad," Daniel stated, shamed at how he missed the smudges of darkness under the doctor's eyes or the drawn, pinched lines around her lips. Even pieces of normally pristinely coifed hair had escaped their confinement. "Sorry, Janet," he admitted.
"I had the Colonel moved to the Academy Hospital about two hours ago." Janet made a futile attempt to shove the errant pieces of hair back into the clip at the base of her neck. "How about you come back with me to the infirmary, allow me to finish what Dr. Warner started and we'll talk?"
"No," Daniel said firmly. "We'll talk now. You haven't finished telling me about Jack. Why I wasn't contacted?" Daniel pushed back against the couch pillows to avoid Janet's hands. "Don't worry about me, I'm fine. You take me to the infirmary and you'll put me in a bed... and I can't be there. Not now. Not while Jack is at the hospital. Do it. Here. Turn the lights on, do a look see, and talk," Daniel demanded, throwing off the blanket.
"Stop it! Contrary to what you think, you are not calling the shots here. You left the base against medical advice, disappeared for hours and didn't answer your cell phone. I had to do a bit of fancy lying with the General, so honestly, Daniel, a thank you rather than an argument is what I'd prefer." Janet turned on the overhead lights, not missing Daniel's grimace when the room brightened. She wheeled a chair over to the couch to sit facing Daniel. "You're not doing a great job of convincing me there's nothing wrong."
The apology that Daniel offered Janet was forced when he held his breath as Janet probed his bruised chest. "The Colonel sustained a hematoma on the occipital lobe as a result of his--"
Daniel jumped and clamped his mouth shut, trapping a groan. "I know that, Janet, what else?" Daniel hissed.
"Hurts?" she asked, pressing around the vicinity of his belly.
He shook his head. "That's okay... ow... not there."
Daniel complied, willing to play the game at this point. He situated his body the length of the couch, propping his head on the little needlepoint pillow that had been shoved into the corner. "Jack's injury?" he reminded her. "You were explaining."
Daniel's hand was in her lap and she shushed him with a stern look as she registered his pulse. Janet's fingers stayed wrapped around Daniel's wrist long after the required counting was done. "When the Colonel was stable, I transferred him to the Academy Hospital. He needs neuro checks every hour, Daniel. And in case of a seiz... it was a precautionary movement. He's under a care of a neurologist there."
"Your heart rate is up."
Daniel snorted. "You're surprised? SG1 was on a planet for soil and mineral samples. The proverbial walk in the park." He shot Janet a threatening look when her hand moved to his chest to keep him flat. Daniel gave in with a suffering sigh. "Seizure?"
Janet's hands worked their way down the length of Daniel's legs, her concerned gaze gauging Daniel's reaction to her ministrations. "We have the Colonel on anti seizure medication as a precaution. A precaution," she stressed. "Sometimes injuries like his will bring on seizures." She gripped Daniel's arm and assisted pulling him to a sitting position. "Colonel O'Neill is also on Mannitol to keep the swelling of the brain down. I know you think otherwise, but the coma, at this point, is the Colonel's way of healing."
Janet sat back down in the chair, her experienced eyes measuring Daniel's slow calculating movements as he buttoned his shirt. "You, on the other hand..."
"I'm not going to the infirmary," he growled. "I'm getting up and..."
"Going nowhere without me. Aside from some deep bruising, I don't think anything is broken and you're damned lucky. I can imagine, though, knowing you as I do, you're a bit more uncomfortable than you're letting on." Janet began to tick off her demands. "You're going to listen to me. I did it your way, now it's my turn. You go the infirmary to get the x-rays Dr. Warner ordered before you, how should I put it, took a walk. And we will wait for the x-rays to be developed. After the results are read, and I'm satisfied, then, and only then, will you be able to visit the Colonel. I'll drive. You get thirty minutes by his bedside, then I drive you back here. Set you up in an infirmary bed with some muscle relaxants, you sleep, wake up, and I make sure you eat a good breakfast."
Dejectedly, Daniel dropped his head into his cupped hands, his shoulders drooping in resignation.
Daniel could feel Teal'c's and Sam's comforting presence as they stood watch in the hall outside the cubicle. He and Janet stood shoulder to shoulder and he listened attentively as she instructed Daniel on the necessity of each monitor, the ventilator, each medicinal IV and every tube snaking out from under the blanket. Daniel's hand rested on the guardrail and Janet's fingers skimmed across his knuckles, the paleness of her fingers drawing attention to the darkening bruises on his hands. "I'll be in the hall if you or the Colonel need me. Thirty minutes... no more."
Daniel's whispered 'thank you' was barely audible above the chorus of the machines. He grabbed her hand as she stepped away from him.
Daniel's eyes darted from Janet's startled face to the lax expression on Jack's. In sotto voice, he whispered her name. "Janet? I need you to promise that you'll be honest with me at all times."
The petite woman wordlessly nodded in response, her eyes filling as Daniel enveloped her into a hug. "Jack will be fine," Daniel reassured her as he smoothed down her hair.
Daniel released Janet and she fumbled around in her pocket before producing a crumpled up tissue. "Of course he will," Janet agreed as she wiped her eyes, hastily removing any hint of her loss of control.
The hushed voices of his friends standing in the hallway floated over to Daniel, creating a soothing balm to his frayed nerves. He was thankful for their opportune timing. Sam and Teal'c were now distracting Janet from her ultimatum of thirty minutes, and Daniel was grateful for any additional time his teammates' conversation was buying him. He ran his fingers along Jack's cheek, smiling at the warmth and five o'clock shadow that scraped under his nails. "You need a shave," Daniel teased, studying Jack's features as his fingers traced his lover's profile. Without watchful cameras to interpret his every move and gesture, Daniel was permitted to be tactile. His long fingers traveled over Jack's form, avoiding the various leads and connections, all the while confirming the strength in the sleeping body, pausing to feel the reassuring rise and fall of his chest with the aid of the ventilator. Daniel's thumb gently wiped off a touch of moisture in the corner of Jack's mouth. "You're drooling..." The younger man's Adam's apple bobbed painfully as he held his emotions in check, punching down an overwhelming desire to get into the narrow bed with Jack. "A shave and you're drooling." Daniel wiped his runny nose along his arm, sniffing loudly.
"I did what you asked, Jack. I called your mother." Daniel's hand petted Jack's limp one, carefully avoiding the IV site and pulse ox. "Your mom loves you, but I think you knew that all along, didn't you?"
Sam's footsteps on the linoleum floor warned Daniel of her approach. "Daniel?"
"I'm coming, Sam." He turned to meet her worried glance. "I'll be out in a minute, 'kay?"
She hesitated a moment before placing her hand on his shoulder and kneading his stiffening muscles. Appreciating her caring, but unable to trust his voice with words, Daniel reached up and squeezed her fingers in understanding. Sam nodded, sliding her hands from his grasp before slipping from the room.
Gripping the bedrail for support, Daniel leaned over and kissed Jack's
forehead, silently mouthing an "I love you" against his lover's ear. The metal bar locked in his death grip was cold and hard, dragging Daniel's mind back to the wet, slick rocks on the planet. Daniel was unable to find purchase with hands that were occupied with keeping Jack's head above water and he kicked out, treading imaginary water as he tried to drag them both to safety. In his delusional panic, Daniel knocked over the plastic chair in the room, cringing as the clattering sound echoed like the rumble in their underwater, underground prison. And still he held on.
The rail vibrated under his hands and Daniel felt his elbows lock with the concerted effort of hoisting their combined weight from the water. The situation was deteriorating exponentially as wet clothes, slippery hands and cold were battling Daniel's efforts to save Jack. His hoarse cries of help brought Sam, Teal'c and Janet running.
"Daniel. The Colonel?" Janet ran to first check the monitors and then her gaze and deft fingers worked to assess the body in the bed, checking leads and IV's in a matter of seconds. Her sigh of relief was short lived when she realized that Daniel hadn't responded to her question. Janet stepped closer to Daniel, her hand reaching out to physically appraise what her eyes were recording.
"No!" he screamed, jerking sideways from her touch and it was only Teal'c's lightening fast reflexes which prevented Daniel from toppling over.
"DanielJackson, let us help, you are no longer on the planet. We are all safe. You have saved O'Neill."
Daniel adamantly disagreed as the cinderblock walls of the hospital room continued to morph into a water-filled chamber, fraught with rocks and fear. Jack was going to die because Daniel wasn't strong enough or capable enough to save him. He fought viciously as watery tendrils counteracted his grip. His sweaty hands fought to regain their hold as they were gently bent back and removed one by one.
The weight of the water shoved him down, forcing his head between his shaking knees. "Breathe, Daniel," the echoing voices commanded.
He struggled against the onslaught of cold water and attempted to jerk upright, only to be pulled down once more. "You must do as DoctorFraiser instructs. At this time, it would be most advisable for you to breathe deeply."
"No!" Breathing deeply would mean inhaling water, filling lungs, drowning. He fought and struggled against the watery hands fighting to keep him still, until a sharp prick from the rock wall brought darkness and failure down around him.
Daniel's mouth was full of cotton and seemed unable or unwilling to cooperate in conjunction with his brain. His body was heavy and lethargic and he could only hope Jack was willing to get up and get him a glass of water. Maybe an aspirin or two? And in about another ten minutes, a fresh, hot cup of coffee. "J'ck?" His voice sounded surprisingly old and decrepit, scoring his throat painfully.
Daniel's eyelids opened but the room swam nauseatingly and he slammed them shut.
"I will return with DoctorFraiser." Teal'c touched Daniel's forearm with a gentleness belying the man's size.
"I could have gone to the airport myself," Daniel complained, adjusting his sunglasses against the glare of the sun. "Jack's mother isn't expecting anyone but me."
"Janet didn't want you to drive. She didn't want you to leave the hospital or the bed or even the room. So I would advise you to grin and bear it." She offered him a quick empathetic smile which Daniel chose to ignore.
Daniel hrmpff'ed in reply and just let the argument die a natural death. Whatever sedative Janet had injected him with yesterday while in the throes of his flashback, had left him groggy, disconnected and cranky. And though he didn't want to admit it, Janet was correct; he really wasn't in any condition to drive. And he'd rather be resting in his bed, preferably with Jack lying in his arms.
"What do you supposed she's like?"
"Daniel." He couldn't help but cringe at the exasperation in Sam's voice. "The Colonel's mom, Mrs. O'Neill."
Daniel shrugged and then realized Sam's attention was focused on maneuvering around the slow moving traffic. "I don't know." He checked his watch. "We're going to make it in time, aren't we?"
"We have plenty of time. It's me driving, remember." She flashed a quick smile. "How are you going to recognize her?"
"Suitcase. A purple, paisley print monstrosity. Her words, not mine." Daniel pulled a slip of paper from his pocket, reviewing the travel agenda that Mrs. O'Neill had called him back with while he was still at Jack's house cleaning up, and then checked his watch.
"Plenty of time, don't worry," Sam said, laying heavy on the horn.
They arrived just as Mrs. O'Neill's flight was supposed to be landing, and Sam dropped Daniel off by the front entrance of the airline terminal.
"Don't worry, by the time the plane taxis and the passengers disembark, you'll have time to grab yourself a cup of coffee before meeting up with her."
"Yeasureyabetcha," Daniel answered sarcastically, before slamming the car door.
Daniel had hurriedly limped along to the luggage area, but now, as he checked his watch for the fourth time, he admitted that Sam had been right. Daniel was sorry he hadn't stopped to grab a cup of coffee from one of the shops he had hobbled past but at this point, it was too late to leave his post to even use the vending machine, enticing him from right around the corner.
He began to play 'Which one is Jack's Mom' with the passengers milling around the empty baggage carousel. Daniel had narrowed his choice to three women when luggage began to circulate.
The woman who grabbed the purple piece of luggage surprised him. Of the three, she had been his last choice, with only her age keeping her in the running. A sturdy woman, handsome, casually dressed and who wore glasses. But except for the graying hair, there was nothing in her stature or appearance which bore any resemblance to her son.
More nervous than he would care to admit, Daniel pushed himself off the pillar that had borne his weight and moved to introduce himself to Mrs. O'Neill. Daniel finally saw what he had been searching for as Mrs. O'Neill leaned over to say goodbye to a fellow passenger, Jack's familiar smile mirrored on his mother's face.
Suddenly, the woman who had flown across country to see her son didn't seem like such a stranger anymore, and Daniel stepped up with greater confidence to meet his lover's mother.
"Mrs. O'Neill, do you want to go to the house first and freshen up, or would you rather go straight to the hospital?" Sam asked.
"Please call me, Rose, Samantha, and the hospital first, if you don't mind."
"Daniel?" Sam's eyes met his in the rear view mirror, checking for confirmation.
"Hospital's fine," Daniel answered tiredly, hunkering down in the corner of the backseat and resting his head against the window. The last of the women's conversation he heard was his friend insisting that Rose call her Sam and not Samantha.
With great hesitation, Rose gently fingered Jack's hair.
"He's gray," she commented with a voice thick with emotion.
Sam's face was full of sympathy as Rose reacquainted herself with Jack, and Daniel was stunned at the territorial feelings surfacing while she hovered over Jack.
Rose cleared her throat. "Sam, would you and..."
"Sorry. Daniel. Would you two mind, I'd like some time alone with my son." She flashed a smile which Sam accepted with understanding, but it took two tugs on Daniel's arm before he followed her out the door.
Daniel sat in the waiting room at Sam's insistence while she nervously paced the hallway outside, covering his six, performing watch duty. The ever-present soldier taking the forefront when Sam became upset. Daniel was trying to come to terms with his feelings towards Mrs. O'Neill. Everything about the situation shouted resentment and while sitting on these faux leather couches, Daniel allowed his mind to wander over to the dark side. He was thoroughly annoyed at this woman who'd arrived on the scene and usurped Daniel's place by Jack's side, forgetting his name in the process. Angry that Sam managed to become buddy buddy with this stranger in the time it took her to drive from the airport to the hospital. Pissed that his own feeble mind had betrayed him yesterday, costing him precious, solitary time with Jack. Right now, from Janet Fraiser on down, up to and including himself as well as the man lying in the ICU unit and the woman who was holding his hand, Daniel hated them all.
The three of them picked at the fast food on their trays. Sam had done her best to engage all of them in some type of conversation but her efforts to include Daniel had fallen flat, so for now just Sam and Rose were conversing.
"Let's go, Sam." Daniel stood suddenly, sweeping the garbage from the table onto his tray.
"Daniel!" The pursed lips, narrowed eyes, and the timber of her voice were more than enough clues to let Daniel know just how rude Sam thought he'd been.
"No, Daniel's right. It's been a long day. I would appreciate..."
"Of course, Rose." Sam tripped over apologies to the older woman.
Daniel and Rose faced off in the foyer. "I just thought that Sam..."
"No. This is Jack's house. This is where you'll be staying." With a supportive hand wrapped around his still aching ribs, Daniel awkwardly bent down and picked up the ugly, paisley bag.
"Look, Daniel, if my being here is an inconvenience," Rose stuck her hands on her hips, "I'll gladly take a room in a nearby hotel."
The suitcase landed on the wood floor with a resounding thud. "Rose, let's try this again." He drew a deep breath and drew on his years as a linguist on the SGC's premier team. Treating Rose as he would any inhabitant that he would be making first contact with, he took a mental cleansing breath and forced himself to start over. Daniel raised his arms, devoid of weapons, to waist level, palms open, fingers spread outwards, and he began again. "Sam has to work and I'm on medical leave because of..."
"...what happened. I understand that. I can see that, Daniel. I'm more than happy to stay in a hotel. I certainly don't want you, if you feel as bad as you look, to believe you need to be responsible for me."
"Mrs. O'Neill--" This wasn't going well, Daniel thought as he pulled his glasses off and pinched the bridge of his of his nose in frustration.
"Rose. I'm sorry if my staying here with you is an uncomfortable situation and I apologize. But I'm fine and I thought this would be the most convenient for all concerned. I will be able to transport you back and forth to the hospital, and..." Daniel hissed, ashamed at how this woman had the very Jack-like ability to push all his buttons. "Jack would want you here," Daniel said, hoping to end an argument he was positive he was destined to lose.
Rose followed Daniel to Jack's bedroom, his and Jack's bedroom, the bedroom Rose would be sleeping in during her stay. He saw Rose's eyes scan the room and Daniel's tracked right along with her, each of them searching for different parts of Jack's life.
Daniel placed the luggage on the bed and Rose picked up the picture of Charlie that Jack kept on the nightstand. She said nothing, her fingers tracing the outline as tenderly as they had Jack's profile this afternoon.
"The bathroom is right here." Daniel showed her and flipped on the light switch for emphasis. "There are clean towels in the closet, I'll get you some."
Daniel turned and tried not to notice Rose hugging the treasured photograph of Charlie tightly to her chest. "I'll find the towels on my own."
"Okay, I just wanted to make things..."
"Did I thank you for calling me? If I didn't, I'm sorry. Thank you."
"Jack asked for you."
"Thank you for listening to him," Rose replied. She returned the picture to the nightstand. "Good night, Daniel."
"'Night, Rose." Daniel was smart enough to know when he had been summarily dismissed.
The size of the spare bedroom was claustrophobic. Daniel had gotten as far as the door to the room when he realized he didn't want to wander around the house and draw Rose's attention. So instead, he sat on the bed, missing Jack terribly and fearing his inability to suppress his emotions because of the woman who was sleeping down the hall
Three days after Rose's arrival, she managed to corral Daniel into taking her shopping, a chore both he and Jack only did out of necessity. Daniel at first balked and then gave in when he found her picking up the phone and asking information for the number of a local cab company.
An hour and the start of one humdinger of a headache later, Daniel followed Rose through the local grocery store, leaning on the cart for support more than actually guiding it along. It was mid morning and the store was deserted and quiet enough that Daniel was able to make out the Musak being piped in over the loudspeakers.
Daniel managed a meager shrug when Rose asked him which type of milk he desired. "Either one is fine."
Her gaze slid over the top of her glasses and she shook her head in what Daniel decided was undisguised annoyance at his inability to make a choice. He was going to ask Rose to pick up a container of half and half for Jack and then realized with a pang there would be no need.
"Were you going to say something, Daniel?"
"No, no," he quickly answered.
The heavy smell of the roasting chickens while Rose was getting her order filled at the deli counter turned Daniel's stomach, and he left the filled cart and walked over to the far corner. A display for halvah caught his eye and for a moment he contemplated the selection before making his choice.
Marble with a chocolate covering, a taste left over from his childhood days growing up in the Middle East. A treat that Jack hated with a passion but always managed to pick up for Daniel when he went shopping. Daniel remembered with a smile how a bar would usually be sitting on the desk in his office after the two of them had an argument, the closest thing to an apology Daniel would receive.
"What do you have there?" Rose asked as she put the sliced, packaged cold cuts in the cart.
"Halvah," Daniel stated shyly as he held up the package for her to inspect.
"Oh... an acquired taste, I'm sure," Rose stated. "Put it in the cart, and let's finish so we can get to the hospital by lunch."
Daniel threw in a box of Coco Puffs to counteract Rose's oatmeal and Special K. There was a standoff in the middle of the cereal aisle, and Daniel refused to back down.
"That's not exactly healthy," Rose sniffed, pointing at the garish drawings on the box of Daniel's cereal of choice.
"It's an acquired taste," Daniel replied haughtily. "I think we're about finished here."
"Yes, I would agree," Rose answered in the same tone of voice.
"Dr. Jackson! Hi, how are you?" the middle aged woman behind the register exclaimed as Daniel began to unload the grocery cart.
His head jerked up in surprise. "Helen!" Flustered, Daniel dumped the items in his hands into a heap on the moving conveyor belt. "Ummm... long time no see."
"Sure has been, Dr. J. Where's that good looking Colonel?" Helen stopped ringing up the items and astutely assessed Daniel. "Are you okay, honey?"
Daniel couldn't help but smile at her concern. "There was an accident, and the Colonel is in the hospital recovering."
"Oh my," she said, a manicured hand flying to her mouth in shock. Daniel could only nod at Helen's concern. Seeming to sense Daniel's awkwardness, Helen turned her attention to Rose. "And this must be the Colonel's mom, damn, the resemblance is remarkable." Helen stuck out her hand in greeting.
"Resemblance?" Daniel stepped back and examined Rose as she exchanged hello's and a handshake with Helen. He shook his head in confusion. Except for the occasional smile that would flash across Rose's face, Daniel saw nothing in Rose that reminded him of Jack. Nothing at all.
Rose handed the filled bags to Daniel and he arranged them into the trunk of the Avalanche. He snatched the bar of halvah peeking out of one of the bags and stuck it in his jacket pocket.
"I didn't know you were a doctor, Daniel."
"That's still a doctor. It's something you should be proud of."
"I never thought of it that way, honestly." Daniel said closing the trunk. "It's just a part of who I am."
After the visit to the grocery store, over the next two days, Daniel and Rose spent an inordinate amount of time being extremely polite to each other. They traveled back and forth to the hospital, staying for long periods of time. Daniel gleaned childhood stories from Rose as she spoke to Jack, and Rose learned nothing from Daniel as he sat silent by the bedside.
Jack and Daniel really never had any schedule they adhered to, even on downtime, and Rose was slowly driving Daniel crazy with her anal desire for their lives to run like clockwork. At home, Rose was never able to sit still, flittering from place to place. Cleaning, rearranging, working off nervous energy. Daniel could feel his head pound and his blood pressure rise exponentially with every room she dusted and every load of laundry she washed.
He could have kissed Janet when she cleared him for light duty.
Rose watched Daniel pull that monstrous truck out of the driveway and breathed a sigh of relief. He was a nice, pleasant enough young man, obviously well educated and intelligent, but she was confused at what her son could possible have in common with him. Sure, they worked together, but to call himself 'Jack's best friend', in her opinion, was quite a stretch of the imagination. Okay, it had been nine years since she or Jack had seen or spoken to each other, but there was no way she could believe a person who had such a serious nature as Daniel wouldn't bore Jack within minutes.
She straightened the pillows on the couch, smoothing out the beautiful afghan thrown along the back. The throw, the rug covering the gleaming hard wood floors, the photos of friends on the mantle, some familiar to Rose, some unfamiliar. Silly little pieces of Jack's life brought both tears and satisfaction to Rose. Her joy that her son had found some type of happiness in his life was tempered with the sorrow that she hadn't been around to witness it.
"Damn!" Daniel slammed the truck into park. "What the hell does she... damn," Daniel reiterated, pulling the keys out of the ignition and flinging open the door. The garage door was wide open and there was a pile of very familiar looking trash bags on the curb alongside the bundled papers and garbage pails.
Stuffing the keys into his pockets, Daniel opened the top green trash bag to confirm his suspicions. He stuck his hand and grabbed a handful of papers, pulling them out into the sunlight. Daniel shoved them back in into the depth of the bag and tied it back up. It took him only one trip to carry the three awkward bags into the garage.
He was dropping them onto the cement floor when Rose appeared through the door connecting the garage to the house.
"What are you doing?"
"What am I doing, Rose? What are you doing?"
"I was cleaning out the garage."
"Thank you," Daniel replied. "But there truly isn't any need."
"What you're telling me is that you don't want me to?" Rose challenged.
Daniel sighed. "I guess that's what I'm telling you... or wait until I can help." He tapped the pile of trash bags. "There are some things of Jack's in here that shouldn't be thrown out."
"You should have said something, Daniel."
"I didn't think I needed to. I didn't expect to come home to find you cleaning out the garage."
"Do you want me to check with you before I throw anything out?" Rose asked.
Daniel didn't miss the sarcasm in her voice, the challenge of pissing rights in Jack's house. "No. That's not necessary... and I'm sure you know that."
"Daniel," Rose replied, "I'm not sure of anything anymore."
Daniel had all the best intentions on departing the mountain earlier than usual in order to visit Jack on his way home. He had wanted to snatch a few minutes alone with Jack for fortification before going home to a full course dinner, a chatty Rose and a return trip to the hospital to spend the evening watching Rose watch Jack. But things hadn't gone as planned. Daniel had spent too much time wading through his inbox, playing catch up from his time on medical leave and by mid afternoon, he had been engrossed in deciphering the "tower of Babel" of languages inscribed on an ancient tablet brought back by SG5.
It was only when Sam stuck her head into his office to see how he was that he realized the lateness of the hour.
He had driven home like a madman, only to find an annoyed and pissy Rose as she wrapped up the remains of something that smelled delicious to his empty stomach. She had accepted his apology with a haughty "hurmpf," which only succeeded in making Daniel feel guiltier than he already did.
Without a word, he stood in the kitchen doorway as Rose finished cleaning up. She wiped up the counter and folded the towel before looking at her wristwatch and then the clock on the microwave. "If you would have told me that you were going to be this late, I would have gone to the hospital alone," Rose said, her voice clipped, tight and accusatory to Daniel's ears.
"Sorry," Daniel whispered.
"Next time, call. Do you want to me to make you a sandwich before we leave?"
"No, I ate already," Daniel lied.
"Let's go, we have about ninety minutes before the end of visiting hours," Rose commanded, latching onto Daniel's arm.
Daniel hated the nurse on duty, the one who anally stuck to the ICU visiting rules. "One visitor," she reminded them as they attempted to stop by Jack's cubicle. "One. Family first." Daniel hated the one finger the nurse showed for emphasis, and the empathetic pat Rose gave to him as she hurried off to spend time with Jack. Again.
The cloying heat of the ICU waiting room, which had felt good only moments before, was beginning to become oppressive. He hadn't expected to spend time in this eight by ten foot room with the uncomfortable couch and even more uncomfortable chairs. In an effort to stay awake, he began to pace, counting the number of steps in either direction in every language he knew. That distraction became monotonous and Daniel dropped down in frustration on the unforgiving couch. He took perverse pleasure flinging the out-date-magazines across the room, smiling wickedly at his infantile behavior as one after the other flew through the air, hit the wall and slithered to the ground.
He stretched his arms over his head, scowling as taught muscles pinched and tugged with the effort. Daniel patted his jacket pocket, pleased when his search produced a slightly melted candy bar and a half-eaten package of cheese crackers. He really needed to eat something more substantial but the cafeteria was three floors down, probably closed already and he was afraid if he left this claustrophobic box of a room, he would miss his visiting minutes with Jack.
Daniel kicked the chair to his right. Rose wasn't family. He was family. Teal'c, Sam, Janet, Cassie, General Hammond, hell, even Siler were closer to Jack than the stranger that had been sleeping in their bed for the past week. Nine years was a long time to lapse between phone calls and Christmas cards. 'Not fair', Daniel groused like a petulant six year old as he licked the melted chocolate off his fingers. He stuffed the empty wrapper into his pocket and picked up the bottle of water he had brought in from the car. Warm, but at least it washed down the pieces of chocolate stuck in his throat.
Daniel flung the empty plastic bottle into the garbage, smiling with satisfaction as it went in. Too thirsty to eat the crackers, he bunched up his jacket and stuck it behind his head, angling his neck upwards so he could count the ceiling tiles.
"Attention. Visiting hours are now over. Attention. Visiting hours are now over."
Daniel jerked awake, banging his head on the frame of the couch where his jacket should have been. He struggled to a standing position, cupping the back of his injured head. "Damn." Daniel checked his watch, grabbed his jacket from the floor and ran headlong into Rose, who was entering the waiting room.
"Whoa," Rose said as Daniel grabbed her arms to keep her from toppling over.
"The same," Rose stated a-matter-of-factly as she shook herself loose from Daniel's grip and began to slip into her coat. "I came in a while ago, but you were sleeping so I went back to sit with Jack."
"Sleeping?" Daniel shook his head in amazement. "Did you try to wake me?"
Rose seemed to be taken back by that question. "No, should I have?"
Daniel walked away, down the hall and past the nurse at the desk, ignoring her whispered shouts of warning. He was at Jack's bedside for all of two minutes before a nurse appeared by his side.
"Sir, you have to leave. Visiting hours--"
"Over, yeah I know." Daniel stroked Jack's cheek and turned to the nurse. "I'm sorry. I just needed to see him."
"Okay," she said with more understanding than Daniel thought imaginable. "But you need to leave now."
Rose was still in the hall leaning against the wall. She eyed Daniel with curiosity. "See, I told you he was the same."
"Yes, you did." Daniel placed a hand under her elbow, guiding her to the bank of elevators, making a concerted effort to squash down the tsunami of resentment he was feeling towards Rose.
Daniel kept his eyes on the changing numbers over the elevator doors. "Maybe tomorrow," he agreed.
Two more days of limited time with Jack, and Daniel was pissed as he stomped through the house, shrugging off Rose's attempts to placate his anger. Eventually Jack's mother had given up and left Daniel to his own devices, a habit that Jack obviously hadn't inherited. As he sipped a mug of coffee, Daniel watched through the sliding doors as Rose busied herself in Jack's garden.
Rose's ability to lose herself in everyday chores and shut out the machines and smell of the hospital was beginning to grate on Daniel's nerves. He found himself waging a daily struggle to hold back sharp, angry words when Rose showed even the minutest concern over Daniel's eating and sleeping habits. Rose didn't seem to understand Daniel's lack of conversation and Daniel couldn't comprehend Rose's constant chatter. Daniel's daily diet was being supplemented by doses of Tylenol to counteract the pounding in his head from unspoken, harsh words of reprimand.
Daniel went from the computer to the TV, then deciding on a shower to cool down the emotions bubbling just below the surface. He grabbed towels, clean clothes, slammed the bathroom door and locked it, a habit born of necessity since he and Rose had become roommates. Exhausted, he canted against the shower door, focusing only on how great the pounding water felt on his body.
Daniel had gone to the SGC very early that morning to work on some reports and had brought back breakfast for both he and Rose. They had gotten a late start to begin with and hadn't been at the hospital long when Janet appeared with Jack's chart in her hands. He had argued with Janet, not wanting to leave the hospital. The doctor had threatened that security would bodily escort him from the building if Daniel didn't go home for at least a few hours.
"I was just home." Daniel's defiant posture as he had leaned against the hospital's cinderblock wall had tested Janet's patience as she had reasoned with him.
"We're running tests on the Colonel all day, Daniel." She raised her hand to ward off the questions ready to fly from Daniel's mouth. "No need for concern. Just the opposite. A battery of tests to check on the swelling, neurological testing, respiratory testing. Trust me on this one. There's no need for you to sit here... you or Mrs. O'Neill." Daniel had turned away from the concern in the petite doctor's eyes. "Go home, rest," Janet had said softly as she placed a warm hand on his arm, dropping it as he eyed the offensive touch with annoyance. Her voice had become colder and more demanding as she continued the conversation. "You look like crap-"
"Is that your professional opinion, Dr. Fraiser?" He really hadn't meant that, but he had been angry and upset and she had been right there in front of him to bare the brunt of his fury.
Janet had sighed. "No, my professional opinion is you're running yourself into the ground and your ass should be in a bed in the infirmary." She had ducked her head in embarrassment, a blush of color highlighting her cheeks. "I'm sorry."
Softening, a small smile had touched Daniel's lips. "I'm sorry, Janet. I didn't mean..."
"I know you didn't. Go home, sleep. I promise if any..."
Daniel leaped from the shower in a panic. Rose was outside, he was under running water, neither of them would hear the phone if Janet tried to reach them. Hurriedly, he toweled off and dressed, more wet than dry, the sweatshirt and jeans resisting falling into place against his body. Barefoot, he rushed into the kitchen and exhaled loudly at the red zero on the answering machine. To relieve his active imagination, he checked for voice messages on his cell phone. Finding none, he refilled his coffee mug with fresh coffee and turned away from the sight of Rose still digging in the garden as if she hadn't a care in the world.
"Damn!" Daniel mumbled. "I know it's..." Somewhere between watching the clock and finishing his coffee, Daniel recalled reading an article about music and people in a coma. He had easily found the portable CD player, the headphones, fresh batteries and was now ransacking the bedroom in an attempt to locate Jack's favorite, overplayed CD. He shoved the contents of one night table drawer back, cursing under his breath as it took two tries to close it properly. Daniel flung himself across the bed and reached for the drawer on the second nightstand.
He jerked open that drawer and even at this awkward angle Daniel managed to rifle through the meager contents. "Shit," he exclaimed, slamming the drawer shut. Daniel slithered off the bed and dropped to the floor, picking up the comforter. He peered into the dusty darkness, sneezing twice as dust bunnies tickled his nose. With groping fingers, Daniel latched onto a satchel and dragged it out into the daylight, sneezing again as he dusted off the collected cobwebs.
It took him two tries to unstick the zipper. "Finally," he muttered, shoving his hand into the darkness of the bag, cursing under his breath as his fingers traveled the bottom of the satchel, feeling the hard plastic shape of a CD case wrapped in something soft. Daniel fingered the item and was unable to stop the tentative smile tugging at his lips. With a small sigh, he slowly removed his treasure from the depth of the satchel. Tossing the CD onto the bed, Daniel looked at the ragged tee shirt of Jack's. Daniel remembered the satchel, the tee shirt and an impromptu downtime about six weeks ago. The last time Daniel had seen this tee shirt was at a hotel far from Colorado, in the middle of the day, after removing it from a hot and sweaty Jack.
Daniel smiled through tear-filled eyes and he reverently caressed the shirt, breathing deeply of the material that held a lingering odor of his lover. Very slight, but enough to evoke a horrible fear in the pit of Daniel's stomach. "I need you," Daniel pleaded into the folds of the shirt.
Hugging the shirt to his chest, the satchel forgotten, Daniel stood and dropped onto the bed, falling sideways. Forgetting Rose's presence in the house, Daniel wrapped both arms around the empty tee shirt, bringing it up to rub soothingly against his cheek as he deeply inhaled Jack's essence and memories still trapped in the shirt.
The song that Rose was humming died in her throat as she stood in the open doorway of her bedroom, the arms that were filled with sheets fresh from the dryer tightened subconsciously, clutching the warm laundry to her chest as a shield of protection.
The afternoon sun was highlighting the rise and fall of Daniel's chest as he lay on his stomach. Deep in slumber, his body language was not that of someone who was unfamiliar with the room he was in. This was not someone who had accidentally fallen asleep somewhere they shouldn't have. Daniel slept with a man's tee shirt tucked tightly in his grip, pillows resting under his head and chest, and the blanket which covered only bare feet was confirmation to Rose this room was a place where Daniel obviously felt comfortable, even in the depths of slumber.
Tiptoeing over the threshold, she lowered the pile of laundry onto the chair and, wary of every squeak in the wooden floor, she cautiously approached the bed. Daniel's face was turned towards her and in sleep, the lines of stress and anxiety that had haunted him these past days had lessened, leaving in its stead a much more at peace Dr. Daniel Jackson. A man, her son's best friend and co-worker, was sleeping in Jack's bed in the middle of the afternoon, holding what she believed to be Jack's shirt. Not just holding, but snuggling with it. Snoring, drooling and burrowing into the pillows like it was the most natural place for him to be.
And Rose knew the reason for her son's happiness lay in that bed, yet years of ingrained teachings of what was right threatened her sanity. Naked, sweaty men doing things to each other, things that were inherently wrong and unnatural prompted a flush of embarrassment and anger so unexpected that Rose had to grip the edge of the dresser in an effort to physically restrain herself from throttling Daniel until he woke. Hatred of this man who slept in her son's bed. Daniel had so perversely warped her son's way of believing... Daniel must be the reason Jack had not found another wife and had more children. This man was the reason her arms and heart were empty of grandchildren.
Instinctively she crossed herself, silently thanking God that Patrick wasn't alive to see this. To know that the O'Neill line was going to die because Jack had been taking another man into his bed would have destroyed Jack's father.
Rose clamped her hand over her mouth and barely made it to the hall bathroom before losing the contents of her stomach.
Rose stood in the hallway, chewing her thumbnail, indecisive of her next move. Daniel's plaintive pleading reached her, pulling her once again to the doorway of Jack's room. He was still asleep, in the throes of a nightmare, restlessly traveling across the bed to escape the demons.
"I won't let you die, Jack," Daniel promised as he grabbed fistfuls of the shirt and blanket. "Hold on... have you." Daniel feet found purchase on the quilt and he slithered upwards on the bed.
Silently, Rose stood frozen in the room, a reluctant voyeur to Daniel's nightmare as he relived his battle to keep Jack alive. Clenching and unclenching her hands, Rose stepped forward and then back again as she fought with her own demons.
And in those moments, as Daniel struggled to save Jack, Rose struggled to get beyond her prejudices and see what her son needed. Set aside her ideals and beliefs to focus on Jack's. Ignore what was important to her and remember what was important to her only child. What made Jack happy. The pictures on the mantle, the little pieces of contentment in this house, roses in the garden, the garden itself, and the warmth within these walls even without Jack's physical presence.
She sat on the bed and gathered the tormented man in her arms, begging his forgiveness for her unvoiced thoughts. He hung on to her, his tears and sweat soaking her shirt. "I tried... I tried."
"You saved him, mhuirnin, my sweetheart," her grandmother's Gaelic words of tenderness flowing easily from her lips. "You brought our Jack home." Rose held this flesh and blood connection to her son, rocking and soothing him, giving Daniel permission to release his tears simply by her presence.
Rose scoured through the diminishing remains of their expedition to the grocery store and managed to find enough ingredients to put together a plate of scrambled eggs and bacon for herself and Daniel. The mundane, everyday chores of feeding, cleaning, washing and working in the garden helped to erase the feelings of inadequacies over her inability to do something, anything, to speed up Jack's recovery.
She had just finished cooking when Daniel entered the kitchen.
"Daniel," Rose said, acknowledging his presence with a nod of her head.
The silence that followed was awkward and embarrassing. Rose paused, her hands occupied with holding the two filled, steaming plates, observing the young man who stood hovering uncertainly in the kitchen doorway. Primed and ready for a quick departure, Daniel was swaying front to back, his arms wrapped firmly around his midsection. With his head hanging and his eyes downcast, Daniel reminded Rose of a little boy who was going to get beaten for speaking out of turn. Or for getting caught with his hand in the cookie jar.
She plunked the plates onto the table, the sudden noise catching Daniel's attention. He remained where he was while Rose slid her chair out and sat down.
"I'm really not hungry..."
"Oh, do me a favor," Rose said as she picked up her empty coffee mug and waved it in Daniel's direction. "I made fresh coffee..."
"Sure," Daniel answered with a sigh. Rose accepted the filled mug with a crisp thank you and called out to Daniel as he went to leave the kitchen.
"Hey, where are you going? Sit." Rose used the ball of her foot to shove the empty chair in Daniel's direction. "Eat." She pointed to the other plate with her crisp slice of bacon.
Daniel hesitated a moment before sitting in the proffered chair. He picked up the glass of orange juice by the place setting, and warily eyed its contents. "Was this left over from... Did you check the expiration date on the carton?"
Daniel's eyes widened. "Fresh?" he asked incredulously.
Rose hid her smile behind her mug of coffee as Daniel drank deeply. "There were three lonely oranges rolling around in the fruit bin of the fridge, so I made some OJ." Rose tapped Daniel's now empty glass. "Remind me to buy oranges the next time we shop."
"Or at least juice with pulp in it." Daniel's tongue flitted around the edges of his mouth, capturing errant pieces of pulp.
"Jack always hated the pulp. Only wanted the pulp free, fake orange juice," Rose said. She grabbed the salt shaker and liberally salted her eggs.
"Still hates the pulp," Daniel responded around a forkful of eggs. "He likes his eggs runny."
"Just like his father did," Ruth sighed. "I used to hate making breakfast for the two of them. Fake juice, runny eggs, soggy bacon and light toast with raspberry jam. And they'd read the sports page to each other. Honestly, it wasn't the highlight of my day. After a while I stopped making breakfast for them and insisted they go eat at the diner and..." Rose looked up from her plate, watchful eyes not missing Daniel's subdued persona or the fact that he was playing with his food more than eating. "Are you okay?"
"Yeah. Why shouldn't I be? Oh." Daniel flushed with discomfort. "I didn't mean to..." He used the fork to point in the direction of the bedroom.
Rose took a sip of coffee and changed the subject. "I've heard from everyone else how Jack got hurt and how you saved him. Everyone but you," she scolded.
"There's nothing to tell. There was an accident while we were examining ruins, the ground gave way and deposited us in an underwater cavern. Jack hit his head during the fall and I kept his head above water until we were rescued."
"Hours later, the water was frigid and you yourself were injured."
"You saved Jack."
"No. I didn't. Jack's in a coma. Saving means the person is walking and talking without the fear of a vegetative state hanging over their head."
Rose smacked Daniel's hand and he pulled it back, tucking it under his armpit for safety. "Ow! What the heck was that for?"
"For your lack of faith. Jack's a fighter, a stubborn son of a bitch. And I want him to wake up so... so... Crap." Rose grabbed at the tattered napkin, dabbing at the corner of her leaking eyes. "I want him to introduce me to you."
"Rose?" Daniel leaned forward. "We've met. The airport, we're both staying here, dinner."
"I've met you as his friend, not as the person who..."
Daniel's face flooded in embarrassment as Rose strove for the proper word. He regained his composure and adamantly began to deny the path Jack's mom was heading. "Best friends. We're best friends... honest. I just feel very guilty."
"You're a poor liar, Daniel."
Daniel sat back with a sigh. "Jack has told me that on a number of occasions."
"My son has always been a good judge of character. I may not understand about you and Jack being..."
"Best friends," Daniel interjected.
Daniel ducked his head and laughed at Rose's "yeahsureyabetcha."
"I'm not a young woman." She waved away Daniel's objections. "No reason to be polite. I'm not young, the calendar and the mirror every morning have a nasty habit of reminding me. But I'm young enough and aware enough to want my son to be happy again. And if you're being in his life as his best friend, or whatever, makes Jack smile...then it's okay with me."
"Rose! Rose!" Daniel yelled.
"Daniel! I've got something on the stove, this better be good!" Rose reprimanded, wiping her hands on the dishtowel as she approached Daniel, who was standing in the doorway of the spare room.
Daniel pointed to the bed and the side table. "Those are your things. The books, the candles, magazines? Rose?"
Rose slowly nodded in agreement. "Yes, those are mine. My things are now where they belong, in my room."
"This is my room," Daniel argued. "I'm sleeping in the spare room."
"No... as of now, I'm sleeping in the spare room. Your room is down at the end of the hall. The one with the big bed, and the bathroom, the one..."
"Oh, that room." Daniel ducked his head and blushed. He could actually feel the heat deepen when Rose had the audacity to laugh at his discomfit.
"Yes, that room, Daniel. The one you should have been in from the beginning."
"I'm going to be gone for two to three days, Rose." Daniel took the wicker basket of clothes from Rose's hands.
"Thanks. Laundry room, please."
Daniel put the basket atop the dryer and told Rose again that he would be gone for a few days. She began to sort the clothes, throwing certain items in the wash, others onto the floor. "Rose?"
With a dirty towel hanging from each hand, she faced Daniel. "I heard you, mhuirnin, I'll be okay."
"Janet's number is on the speed dial, call Sam if you want company. She'll spend the night if you get lonely. The numbers for the oil company..."
"The local fire department and emergency rescue..."
"I'll be unreachable, but if something happens to Jack..."
"Daniel!" Exasperated, Rose threw the towels back into the basket.
"Listen to me. Nothing is going to happen to Jack, not now, and not while you're away. I will be fine. Everything will be okay. Would it make you feel better if I promise not to have any wild parties while you're gone?"
Daniel opened his mouth to comment before he realized Rose was baiting him.
"Honest, don't worry, okay? The only thing you're going to come home to is clean clothes and a refrigerator full of food that I like.
"Don't forget the Coco Puffs, okay?" He gathered Rose up in an impromptu hug. "Bye, Rose." Daniel released her and stepped back, smiling. "Actually, I kinda left you a list of things to pick up at the store..."
"A list?" Rose challenged.
"The money is under the bowl. I left extra in case of an emergency..."
"Bye, Daniel. Now skat, before you're late again.
"Hi, Sam." Daniel paused long enough from the task of stuffing books into a satchel to give his teammate a smile.
She perched on a wooden stool, leaning cautiously on an empty space of desk. "You won't be gone long," Sam stated a-matter-of-factly.
"You sound like General Hammond." Daniel forced the last book into the bag, threw some pencils into the empty crevices around the books and zippered it closed. "A lot of things can happen in seventy two hours."
Daniel staggered under his heavy load as he entered the Gateroom. He offered Teal'c an apologetic smile. "I'm not late." Daniel furrowed his brow in concentration. "Am I?"
"You are not, DanielJackson, I am early. SG8 is waiting for you at the temple on PY4S896." Teal'c leaned over and removed the heavy satchel from Daniel's shoulder.
Daniel shifted, straightening his remaining packs. "Thanks."
"DanielJackson, all you need to do is ask and I will gladly assist you with your burdens." Teal'c's bow was slight enough that Daniel understood the double entendre.
"I know you will."
"Do not worry. MajorCarter will watch Mrs. O'Neill's six while you are away."
The personnel in the Gateroom turned at Daniel's loud bark of laughter. "God help Sam, Teal'c, I have the strangest feeling it's gonna turn out to be the other way around and Sam's not going to know what hit her."
Frustrated and red faced, Daniel banged his hand on the desk at the nurses' station. "I need to speak to someone. Now!"
"Dr. Jackson, I've already paged Colonel O'Neill's doctor," the young woman behind the desk stuttered. "If you would like, I could try again..."
"No, forget it, never mind," Daniel replied angrily. "I'll find someone who can answer my question."
Daniel couldn't begin to imagine the expletives the woman would utter once he was out of earshot. At this point he really didn't care what lasting impression he was giving as he stomped into Jack's room.
He began to frantically pace the length of the bed, muttering under his breath at the injustice of his job. "Damn!" Ignoring the cell phone precautions posted on the wall, Daniel pulled his phone out and tried calling home, not even bothering to leave a message when the answering machine picked up. He tried Sam's home, office and ended up leaving a curt voice mail on her cell phone. Growling in annoyance, he punched in the numbers for SGC's infirmary.
"Hi. Do you know when Dr. Fraiser will... forget it," he yelled, slamming the phone closed and flinging it against the wall. Daniel planted his elbows on the bedrail and dropped his head into his cupped hands, angry at his own impulsiveness.
"I sorta lost it, Jack. Sorry," Daniel said.
"Yes, you certainly did."
Daniel spun around to face Janet.
Janet pointed at the shattered innards of the phone scattered along the linoleum. "Feel better?"
He glanced over his shoulder at Jack and then turned hardened eyes on Janet. "No." Daniel pointed to Jack. "Care to explain... I thought all decisions..."
"There was medical need."
Daniel took up a protective stance at the head of the bed. "You were in the process of taking Jack off the vent before I left. I never would have gone..."
"You had no choice. I had no choice. The vent was removed but the Colonel was having difficulty with reflux of stomach secretions and saliva. There was a danger of him aspirating on his body fluids. I never would have done a tracheotomy if it weren't warranted. You know me better than that."
"It's more invasive. That procedure is a step backwards."
"In a manner of speaking, yes, it is. I'm not going to lie or even stretch the truth, but he's breathing on his own."
"I can't leave him anymore, Janet," Daniel confessed, dropping heavily into the chair. "Going to the mountain is hard enough... but when I'm not just a phone call away. I spent seventy two hours off--... away doing a translation that I should have been able to accomplish in half that time."
"So what are you going to do?" Janet pushed, tilting forward and whispering loudly. "Tell the General you need time off to sit by your lover's bedside? Destroying your career and taking the Colonel's down with you without giving him voice in the matter?"
Daniel blushed under her scrutiny, thoroughly chastised, and totally embarrassed.
"Your cell phone was destroyed out of anger and frustration, but it is replaceable. The Colonel's career in the military isn't. Don't destroy all that you've both worked for because you have no control over the situation." Janet leaned wearily against the wall, shoving her hands into the pockets of her lab coat. "Do you want me to put you on medical stand down? I will, if that's what you want."
Daniel looked over at Jack, snaked his hand around the railing and possessively placed his hand on the blanket-covered calf. "No," he replied sadly. "I'm fine. Thanks anyway, Janet."
The house was quiet and empty when he returned from the hospital. Rose was out and Daniel had no desire to even check for a note or any indication where she might have disappeared to. Daniel haphazardly dropped items along the way, briefcase, jacket, keys, neither looking nor caring where they landed as he made his way to the backyard.
When anger assaulted Daniel, he would usually lose himself in his work, finding solace in artifacts and ancient teachings. By instinct Daniel knew there would be no comfort in the written word today, no escape in research, so Daniel tried Jack's method of working off anger. Physical exertion. He couldn't bear the thought of using the gym at the mountain so instead he tore into the garden at home. Mindlessly digging and pruning, allowing no conscious thought to the fastidious work Rose had been doing.
Daniel was filthy. And thirsty. And hot. His throat was dry and parched and his black tee shirt was absorbing the heat of the afternoon sun, sticking uncomfortably to the sweat pooled between his shoulders.
"Living things flourish if you treat them with respect and love, Daniel."
Daniel stopped digging and rested heavily on the shovel. "I'm really not in the mood for an O'Neillism at the moment."
"Does it make you feel better to obliterate what I was working on?" The twinge of hurt that Rose was unable to hide broke the camel's back and Daniel threw down the shovel and turned. He painfully swallowed his angry words when he realized both Rose and Sam were standing side by side watching him.
He beat a hasty retreat, barreling past Sam, refusing to acknowledge the destruction he had rendered in the backyard. Daniel made it to the kitchen without interference, but by the time he opened the fridge to retrieve a bottle of water, Sam was in his personal space.
Daniel closed his eyes against her judgment and concentrated on slaking his thirst. He rolled the cool plastic bottle against his sweaty forehead. Daniel finished the water and slammed the fridge door shut. "Don't say anything else, Sam. Nothing. Not that you're disappointed in me or angry or how selfish I've been. Please."
Daniel rested his forehead against the doors overlooking the backyard, achingly watching Rose pick up the pieces of his fury. "Oh God, Sam. What did I do? I didn't mean to-I wasn't paying attention. Damn, look at the mess I've made... of not only Rose's hard work but..."
Sam came and stood by his side, draping her arm around his shoulders before planting a gentle kiss on his grubby cheek. "It wasn't intentional, Daniel. I'm sure Rose knows that."
Daniel shook his head. "No," he whispered. "Not intentional, but I was angry..."
Daniel disengaged himself and disappeared from the kitchen only to return seconds later, with his keys and wallet in hand. He gave Sam a light peck on her forehead, leaving an outline of lips in his wake.
The afternoon sun had sunk lower in the sky by the time Daniel returned.
"Rose," Daniel called softly. "I'm sorry. I only wanted to help and made a mess of everything."
She was on her knees, leaning forward, resettling and rearranging the dirt, ignoring him.
Daniel placed two potted bushes directly in her line of vision. "The nursery called them garden roses. Lagerfeld and..."
"Paradise," Rose said, gently caressing the blooms. She looked up at Daniel, shielding her eyes against the glare of the sun, but unable to hide their redness from Daniel.
"Me too, Daniel." She patted the moist ground by her side.
"Can I help?" Daniel asked shyly, squatting down next to her.
"Can you? You have to understand before you can help." Rose picked up a seed packet and grabbed Daniel's hand, flipping it palm side up. She shook the packet until a few seeds bounced into his palm. "See these," Rose said, separating the seeds with her fingers. "To the naked eye, they're just husks, but the gardener can look beyond their shells and recognize the potential and beauty they house. The gardener has faith that with love and guidance... and time, a miracle will occur."
"Patience," Daniel added. "Like Jack?"
"Yes, mhuirnin, like our Jack. We need..."
"I need," Daniel replied humbly.
"We both need to have a seed of faith, Daniel, for this miracle to occur."
The familiar stuffiness and tightness started the moment he shucked his clothes and deposited them in the hamper. Four sneezes in quick succession confirmed his fear as they were followed by two more seconds later. He stood naked in the bathroom, rooting through the medicine cabinet, searching for allergy medication. He popped two from the blister pack and swallowed them dry before chasing them down with two aspirin.
Daniel grabbed a bottle of water, shoved two more allergy pills into his pocket and snatched the box of tissues as an afterthought. He buried a sneeze in the crook of his arm and went to meet Rose by the front door.
"It's just allergies," Daniel assured her as they stepped outside, locking the door behind them. He was able to smother a sneeze into a tissue and blew his nose hard enough that his ears popped painfully.
Daniel smiled as Rose touched his cheeks with the back of her hand. "Are you sure?"
"I'm sure." He yawned and Rose grabbed the keys dangling from his fingers.
"Okay. Thanks." Daniel yawned again. "I think that's probably a smart idea."
Daniel relaxed in the passenger seat of the Thunderbird. Rose was leery of the Avalanche, 'too big' she had claimed and had embraced the older car with a chuckle of 'mispent youth' and downshifted like a pro.
Between the pills, his physical exertion in the garden and the fact that just twenty four hours ago Daniel had been offworld, the desire for sleep was just about pulling him under when Rose found a parking spot in the hospital lot.
"Want to stay in the car?"
"No," Daniel answered, annoyed that Rose would even think Daniel didn't need to see Jack.
"Touchy," she muttered under her breath, shoving the box of tissues and water bottle at Daniel's midsection. "Bless you," Rose answered when Daniel sneezed in response.
Between the sneezing and coughing, the people accompanying them in the elevator ride to Jack's floor gave Daniel and Rose a wide berth.
"Sick people should stay home where they belong, not spreading their germs," a woman said as she stepped out of the elevator, shooting Daniel an evil look just before the doors closed.
"A hospital is for sick people!" Rose yelled back.
"Your son's maturity gene comes from your side of the family, doesn't it?" Daniel inquired hoarsely.
"Shut up and drink your water or better yet, blow your nose. You sound like Elmer Fudd," Rose replied sweetly.
For some reason, Rose's comments tickled Daniel's funny bone and he fought a valiant battle during the walk to Jack's room to suppress his laughter. He lost his composure two feet from Jack's door, slumping sideways against the wall.
Rose stamped her foot in frustration. "Daniel!"
"I'm sorry." Daniel's snort, loud and out of place in the hushed hallways of the hospital, increased his loss of control.
Rose pulled Daniel into Jack's room before his laughter brought the wrath of the nursing staff down on them.
"Stop it." Her harsh words were softened by her own laughter.
Daniel clamped a hand over his mouth but his shaking shoulders were a dead giveaway to his overflowing, uncontrollable mirth.
A solemn nurse appeared in the doorway. "If you cannot keep the noise down, you will be asked to leave."
The reprimand sobered Rose almost immediately but Daniel burst into renewed peals of laughter at Rose's somber expression. "Enough," she warned, sucking her lips inwards to hide her smile.
"How old are you?" Rose inquired as her eyes flittered around the room. With a tilt of her chin, she motioned towards the bathroom. "Go wash your face, and please, I beg you, try to gain some semblance of adulthood while I go talk to the nurse to see how Jack's doing."
Rose wagged a finger at him when he offered her a sloppy salute. "Don't push your luck, Dr. Jackson," she warned before leaving.
Daniel swiped at the laughter-induced tears on his cheeks. He walked over to the bed, adjusting the blanket around Jack's legs, petting the limp hand with the IVs resting motionless by Jack side. Daniel cleared his throat, a shock of guilt twanging every exposed nerve. "Sorry, Jack, guess we ignored you and your predicament there for a moment or two or three. I didn't mean to... be so callous... or laugh. How did I forget? Oh God." A sob escaped Daniel, shocking him. "No," he whimpered, tears blinding him as he increased the pressure of the unresponsive hand. "You sonofabitch. How dare you do this to me?" He sniffed and coughed, choking on the tears. "You promised... you said if I brought your mom, you'd be okay. Well, she's here, dammit." Daniel rattled the bedrail with his free hand. "Open your eyes, you liar." He jostled the bar to emphasize each and every accusation. "I refuse to be alone again, do you hear that, Colonel O'Neill! Refuse!" Daniel shook the hand held tightly in his and then dropped it, frightened by the intensity of his own emotions.
"Daniel." Rose stood in the doorway with a worried expression. "It's okay," she said softly in the wake of Daniel's outburst.
"No, it's not okay," he replied thickly. "It may never be okay again." Daniel picked up the Jack's limp hand and let it fall onto the bed. "See that?" he sobbed. "I can do it again if you missed it." Daniel picked up Jack's hand and watched as the lifeless hand slithered from his grasp to fall back to the bed. "If and when Jack wakes up, then what? Huh?" Daniel slid a shaking arm under his runny nose, sniffing in whatever the sleeve didn't capture. "He may be a quadriplegic with a side order of brain damage, or maybe I'll get the whole package and Jack will be a vegetable."
Three strides and Daniel was standing toe to toe with Rose, using the wall for support as he swayed, leaning away from her supportive hand. "That's what I have to look forward to. Me! Not you, so don't you dare be condescending and tell me it will be okay. Cause you don't know. You don't know the half of it."
Rose crossed over the threshold into the hospital room, removed the doorstop and shut the door behind her, containing Daniel's hysteria to the room itself.
Between the allergies and constant flow of tears, Daniel's eyes were red rimmed and swollen to slits. He coughed into cupped hands, the harsh sound twisting into torturing sobs. "You want to know something?" Daniel's voice was tight and he wiped his nose against his shoulder as he looked at Jack. He held onto the doorjamb and canted drunkenly into Rose's personal space, and drew a long shuddering breath before whispering conspiratorially in a hoarse, hushed voice. "Want to know something... tonight I'm feeling really, really selfish. I want Jack back. All of him." Rose grimaced at the brittle laugher. "I don't want to settle." Short, hiccuping inhalations began to interfere with Daniel's flow of words, each one wrapped around a sob. "I need to hear his voice, I want to feel his touch... I... I need to feel his touch... and at this moment I don't give a shit if my sentiments are making you feel uncomfortable, because..." Daniel's arm swept behind his back, encompassing the length of Jack's supine body, "I don't want this!"
Daniel crossed his arms over his head and buried himself against the wall, amazed at his body's ability to produce even more tears as moisture from his nose and eyes soaked his shirt. This time he didn't pull away from Rose's touch as she rubbed his back. "What do you say we go home, Daniel, okay?"
Daniel choked back a sob and nodded.
Years ago, Rose had read a book by Stephen King called "It" which featured the terminology 'dead eyes. Never really understanding those words in the context of the story, she now knew full well what they meant. Empty. Like Daniel's. Scaring the living daylights out of her as she drove home. Staring out the passenger window, seeing nothing, acknowledging her presence by a nod of his head when he accepted the water bottle and handful of tissues. Using neither except as a shield against his body. Rose was sure Daniel was still locked in the hospital room with Jack, replaying and examining every hurtful word he had uttered in the presence of the comatose man.
A thousand different words flew through her head and she was positive none of them would erase or ease what Daniel was feeling at the moment, so she said nothing. The smothering silence frightened her as much as at the dead eyes that stared out at the moving landscape.
Rose was out of her element, totally, unequivocally, floundering like a fish out of water, flying by the seat of her pants. There were tons of clichés, but none measured up or even came close to how absolutely terrified she was at the moment. Her feelings of inadequacy in the car were nothing compared to how she now felt with Daniel facing her.
Daniel sat at the edge of the bed, looking up at Rose with an expectant, hopeful look. "I don't want... to think any more." He threw his glasses onto the bed and scrubbed at the tears that had begun anew.
Leaving the hospital had seemed the thing to do, but now, sitting in the darkened bedroom, confronted with such unmitigated pain, Rose wasn't so sure. It had been years since anyone had needed or wanted her mothering skills.
She soothed the cowlicks on his bowed head. "You're tired." Her simple statement was met with a nod and the snuffle of a stuffed nose. Rose's hand slid down, her thumb swiping away a tear pooled in the crease of Daniel's tightly closed eyes. "Get ready for bed." A simple order, stated softly, a command, an edict for Daniel to obey.
Rose got up and ruffled through the basket of folded laundry in the corner of the room. She found a pair of comfortable sweats and walked over to Daniel, gently laying them on his lap. "Go," she prodded.
Daniel stood, and like an old man, shuffled to the bathroom, his shoulders slumped in defeat, his head hanging low, the clothes held in a protective grasp across his stomach.
The second the bathroom lock was engaged, Rose fought the urge to glue her ear to the door and eavesdrop. Instead, she released her nervous energy into turning down the bed and plumping the pillows. She stepped back, rearranged the pillows, smoothed out invisible wrinkles on the sheets, and geometrically aligned the triangle of folded back comforter.
Rose always managed to keep herself busy with nonsensical things when nervous or stressed, a habit which had always been a particular quirk belonging just to her that had driven both Jack and his father up the wall. She was actually making sure both sides of the comforter hung equidistant from the floor when she heard the bathroom door open.
Slowly, as if every muscle and fiber in his body ached, Daniel literally crawled into bed, slithered under the covers and flopped onto his back. He flung an arm over his eyes, hiding.
Unsure of what comfort to give Daniel, she decided to go with what she needed at the moment. Contact. Gently, she pulled the blanket tautly over Daniel's body and tucked it in. She paid no heed to the tears that leaked from under his arm or the lip Daniel was abusing to rein in his emotions.
Rose eased herself onto the bed. Humming softly, she pushed aside an errant strand of hair. Daniel coughed into his forearm before slowly lowering it to reveal a blotchy face and tired eyes. The silence as he gazed at her was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable, Rose realized, just empty. And unsure. Daniel broke it by sneezing and Rose sighed before getting up to get him some tissues.
"I said horrible things," Daniel stated, not expecting or needing Rose's acknowledgment. Rose stood over Daniel, hugging the box of tissues to her chest. He huffed in a feeble attempt to control his breathing before blowing his nose. "Don't leave," Daniel said suddenly when Rose made no effort to reclaim her place on the bed. "I want to apologize."
The bed dipped under Rose's weight. "Apologize? You don't have to apologize. Actually, I was wondering how long it would be before..."
"What you told me today in the garden? I lied. I don't believe in faith or miracles..."
"You're giving up on Jack?"
"Yes... no... I'm giving up on myself. Having faith is too hard, expecting miracles is setting me up for disappointment."
"You have no faith?" Rose replied angrily "You? I've lost a husband and a grandchild, and my son rejected me... and for a time I lost my way in this world. But I've never, ever, ever lost faith in the ability that miracles can spring from a seed. Are you a coward, Daniel, unable to face what may be the next step?"
"There were no miracles for an eight year old boy whose parents were killed while setting up a display in a museum in New York."
Daniel curled on his side, wiping his nose on the pillow, ignoring the bunched up tissues gripped tightly in his fist, and Rose adjusted the blanket around his body.
"There were no miracles as foster parents refused to battle a grandfather that didn't want me but wouldn't give permission for me to be adopted, so until I was sixteen, I was fostered in countless homes... so many families, but not one home."
Daniel's other hand skirted around the pillow and began to tear the corners of the tissues peaking through his fist into shreds.
"I've felt at home three times in my life... like I've belonged. With my parents, until they died. Living for one year with my wife and her family... and now here in this house... with Jack."
"I didn't know you were married." Rose's own fingers began to worry the quilt on her side.
Daniel sobbed out Sha're's name. Swallowed and then told Rose he had been widowed after a year of marriage. "I can't lose Jack."
Rose sat with Daniel, rubbing his blanket covered arm long after his last hiccuping breath had transformed to steady, deep breathing and long after swollen lids had closed against blood shot eyes. "I promise you, Daniel," Rose whispered as she readjusted the blanket around his sleeping form. "I won't let you lose Jack, I have enough faith in the miracle of that little seed for the both of us."
Rose sat at the kitchen table reading the morning paper. Daniel walked in, acknowledged her presence with a grunt and headed right for the half filled coffee pot.
Rose didn't turn, but she heard his groan of pleasure as the hot, liquid caffeine entered his system.
"Bless you," she answered when he sneezed. Rose plucked tissues out of the box on the table and extended her hand behind her back. "Blow," she said, wiggling the tissues up and down. With a hoarse 'thank you' he accepted the gift and blew loudly. Rose continued to pretend to read the paper.
"Breakfast?" she asked with a schooled, noncommittal tone to her voice. Licking her finger, she turned the page.
"Nope," he mumbled around the coffee mug. "Gonna be late." Rose heard the clatter of the mug against the porcelain sink. "Damn, I'm already late."
Rose was concentrating so deeply on studying the paper before her rather than permitting her eyes to stray to checking out Daniel's emotional state, she jerked in surprise at the slight peck on her check.
Self-consciously, Daniel ducked his head. "I've gotta go now..." Flustered hands flew in all directions. "And I'm..."
"Late, I know." Rose shooed him from the kitchen with a wave of her hands. "Go."
She waited until the front door closed before touching where Daniel had kissed her. Then and only then did she allow herself to smile.
As Daniel opened the front door and the wonderful smell of dinner greeted him, he realized with a pang of guilt that the past few days had fallen into a routine.
"I'm home, Rose."
He smiled as she came out of the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dish towel. "Good day at the office?" she quipped. "You look tired."
"Long day," he admitted.
"You were gone way before I got up, weren't you?"
Daniel had learned early on where Jack had inherited his mothering techniques. "I visited Jack before work..."
Rose studied him long and hard. "That's not all..."
Daniel sighed, the moment of comfort beginning to dissipate under her well meaning interrogation. "I saw Jack at lunch and stopped by the hospital before I came home." Daniel angrily shook his briefcase. "I have work to do after dinner."
Rose didn't back down or blink an eye in the face of Daniel's mounting annoyance.
Rose began to laugh and snapped the dishtowel at Daniel. "You're a stubborn SOB, you know that? Dinner will be on the table when you decide to join me." She turned and walked into the kitchen, still giggling.
"Now I know where all of Jack's endearing qualities come from!" Daniel shouted after her, smiling as Rose began to laugh even louder.
Rose talked about her visit with Jack today and Daniel laughed at her perfect mimicry of the nurses and aides taking care of him. "I spoke to Janet today," Rose interjected suddenly.
Daniel got up and noisily dumped the remainder of his dinner in the garbage.
Rose swiveled in her seat. "You barely ate."
Rose sighed but ignored Daniel's petulance. "We have to make a decision, you know."
Daniel pushed himself off of the counter he had been leaning on. "I have work to do."
He swung towards her, unable to keep the emotion from his voice. "I know, Rose. Don't you think I remember Janet's words about a long term care facility for Jack? But I can't make that decision... not now. In the beginning you told me to keep up my faith. Putting him in one of those facilities..." Daniel saw Rose cringe at his tone with regard to the word 'facility', but still he kept going. "... is akin to giving up. I won't give up... I'm surprised you're going against everything you've forced into me about hoping for a miracle."
He stomped from the room, only to be pulled up short by Rose's hurried footsteps. "How dare you! Thinking that this only concerns you."
He twisted to face her. "How dare me? Jack goes into a facility, you go home and I'm left alone."
"Oh God, mhuirnin, no." Rose took a hesitant step towards Daniel.
He backed away, throwing up his hands in defense, but Rose tugged them down and held them tightly in hers, shaking them. "Look at me, Daniel! We're family, you and me... and Jack. Family. Miles aren't going to separate us... and no matter what happens, you will never be alone."
"Not yet, please. I need more time."
"Janet will understand, Daniel. But this is also for Jack... therapies. You need to..."
"Stop being so selfish?" Daniel recognized that his need to keep Jack close was also some convoluted sick way of physically holding Rose to this house and in his life. Allowing her to continue healing a part of him that had been broken for far too long.
She was as astute as her son. "I'm not going anywhere, Daniel. Not until Jack is settled, I promise." Rose met his gaze shyly, tears moistening the corners of her crinkled eyes. "I need you too, you know."
"What's this?" Daniel hurriedly picked up the plate Rose had placed on the table next to his laptop, rescuing the papers underneath.
"I ate dinner..."
"No, the garbage ate your dinner," Rose chided.
"I'll eat it later." Daniel furtively glanced around, searching for an empty part of the table to put down the food.
Rose pushed the plate at Daniel. "No, you'll eat it now." To Daniel's dismay, she took the pile of papers on the chair and deposited it on the floor.
"Hey!" Daniel cried indignantly.
Rose sat, daring Daniel to object and totally ignoring the unfamiliar word Daniel muttered under his breath, waiting until he dug into the food piled on his plate.
Daniel meandered into the kitchen to refill his coffee cup. He stretched stiff muscles, remembering with a painful ache other late nights where strong hands would massage away his hurts and cajole him to bed with promises of more. Daniel breathed though the physical hurt of missing Jack and recalled, with a wry smile, Rose's admonishing stance as she stood next to the dining room chair, hoping to force him to abandon the work he had brought home. With a huff of anger and an exaggerated swish of her bathrobe, Rose had gone to bed. Daniel had been pleasantly surprised when his first foray into the kitchen for caffeine had revealed Rose's parting gift of a fresh pot of coffee, accompanied by a scathing note about the evils of coffee mixed with too little sleep.
He took a sip and was eyeing the freshly baked apple pie sitting on the counter when the phone rang. Daniel faced it with his heart pounding. "Oh God, no..." he begged. One ring, two rings...
"Answer it," Rose whispered from the doorway.
Daniel's hands were shaking so badly, the coffee was sloshing over the side of the cup, splattering his hand and the counter as he set the mug down. Daniel cleared his throat, hoping for enough saliva to produce a voice. "Hello... yes. When? Okay. We'll be right there." Daniel paused, took off his glasses and swiped at his eyes with the back of hand. "Thanks for everything. Bye."
Daniel hung up the phone, slid his glasses back on and turned towards a visibly shaken, white faced Rose. "Daniel," her voice was hushed and muffled behind the trembling hand covering her mouth.
"Jack opened his eyes about thirty minutes ago... the phone, that was Janet... she wanted... she thought we would like to know." Daniel rushed at her and hugged Rose off her feet. "He's awake!" Daniel shouted.
"Put me down," Rose demanded, stepping back once Daniel deposited her onto her feet. She adjusted her hair and her glasses. "Me, I'm going to get dressed. You... you're going to clean up your mess. And then I don't give a crap about the time, you and I are going to say hello to Jack. It's been too damn long since I've seen those brown eyes of his."
Daniel was glad when Janet motioned for his attention, awash with guilt over the reprieve he was feeling by her summons.
"I'll be right back, Jack." Daniel squeezed the limp fingers. Jack's gaze never wavered, never acknowledged Daniel's presence or departure, intent on studying only Rose.
"I know this isn't what you expected. I should have been a little clearer when I called. I'm sorry."
Ashamed that Janet was able to read how shallow and ungrateful Daniel felt, he opened his mouth to protest, and then shut it. He was too physically tired, too emotionally spent to dispute the truth. The whole ride over to the hospital had been filled with high spirits. The truth of the long journey Jack still had to make slammed into them full force the second they stepped into the room. The trach was still in place, Jack's fingers were barely responsive to touch, but it was his eyes that had scared Daniel, chilled him.
"He's awake," Daniel answered. "That's enough for now," he lied.
Janet didn't argue with Daniel's falsehood. "We're going to leave the trach in... wean him off of it. The Colonel's confused, Daniel, unsure of where he is. We need to give it time... give him time."
"I know, I know," Daniel conceded. "Do you think he... will he be...?"
Janet's supportive arm spoke the words Daniel couldn't. "It's too early to say. I know it's hard."
"Don't tell Rose right away, okay," he begged. "Let her think that everything..."
"Daniel." Janet's voice was a harsh whisper in the silence of the hospital hallway.
Daniel backed up until he was leaning against the wall. He gave Janet a tight, forced smile. "Jack's awake," he conceded.
"He's awake," Janet echoed. "Let's be thankful for one miracle at a time."
"So the prognosis is good?" Rose asked.
Rose, Daniel and Janet were closeted in a tiny, out of the way office.
Janet nodded, closed Jack's file and smiled broadly, unable to control her own happiness. "It's very good," Janet confirmed. "The CAT scan, MRI and all the other tests confirm the reduction of swelling. His pupils are responsive to light and you yourself have been witness to his ability to track movements."
Daniel's hand found Rose's and he grasped her fingers tightly; she squeezed his fingers in response.
"What's the next step, Janet?"
"Rehab. Where a full assessment of the Colonel's abilities can be conducted and addressed."
"There's more, isn't there?" Daniel wasn't sure if he hated his ability to be able to read into what Janet wasn't saying.
"The doctor said the prognosis was good, Daniel," Rose reprimanded. "That's enough for me."
"Not for me," Daniel countered.
"Mrs. O'Neill... Rose?"
Rose waved a dismissive hand at Daniel. "Go ahead."
"Colonel O'Neill will go to the rehab with a trach, eventually being fitted with a valve which will allow for speech. He'll receive intensive speech therapy as well as physical therapy to address the weakness we've noted in his leg muscles. Occupational therapy will address fine motor skills... honing in on any areas where difficulties are noted as time progresses."
"Mentally?" Daniel asked cautiously.
"Daniel!" Rose cried, standing, gathering her sweater, clearly indicating that this meeting was over.
Janet held Daniel's gaze while Rose stood with her hand on the doorknob, listening, without listening. "Honestly, Daniel. Based on the tests, I believe the Colonel is going to make a full recovery."
Daniel drove two blocks before Rose opened her mouth. "That display with Dr. Fraiser, what the hell was that all about?"
He shrugged, keeping his eyes straight ahead. "I wanted to know what to expect. This way I can be prepared."
"Prepared for what? To be disappointed?"
Daniel ignored Rose's goading. "I trust Janet's honesty. I have faith in her abilities as both a doctor and my friend."
"Faith?" Rose repeated.
Daniel shrugged again, keeping his eyes trained on the road ahead. "I guess having an O'Neill underfoot twenty four hours a day is beginning to rub off on me."
There were a few minutes of silence. "Faith, okay." Daniel noticed that Rose couldn't hide her smile behind her hand. Eventually her hand dropped into her lap as she studied the passing houses. "I'm glad you had the courage to ask Janet to lay all the facts on the table," she conceded. "'Cause I didn't. Thank you."
"Hey, Jack." Daniel gave a quick glance into the hallway, thankful Rose had stayed by the nurses' station to chat with one of the wives of another patient on the floor. Daniel positioned himself in Jack's line of vision, making a show of shaking off the rainwater on his shirt. "Didn't expect that downpour, that's for sure." Daniel took off his glasses and cleaned them on a corner of the bed sheet. Slipping them back on, he gave Jack a smile and stepped a smidgen to the right, his lips forming an ugly line at Jack's refusal to track his movements. Daniel sighed in frustration. No one else seemed to have this problem, Sam and Teal'c glowed with Jack's recognition when they came to visit. Rose even regaled Daniel with Jack's coordinated blinks in response to her questions. Fraiser was overflowing with pleasure at the Colonel's progress.
"I'm sorry. Okay?" Daniel wrapped his arms around his sodden shirt, shivering at the room's cool temperature.
Daniel shook his head, droplets of water snaking down his neck. This attitude was getting him nowhere. He couldn't blame Jack for being angry, hell he was angry himself, but playing "poor Daniel" was just infantile. What was he going to do, whine to Janet that Jack wasn't looking at him? He snorted just thinking about that. In reality, he was thankful at all the strides Jack was taking and condemning himself, or even Jack, was a totally ridiculous avenue to travel down.
Daniel placed his hands on the end of the bed and leaned forward. "I understand why you're pissed at me, but that's not going to stop me from visiting."
Daniel plucked his shirt away from his wet body. "I know, I know what you're thinking. I should've been carrying an umbrella. It's spring and after eight years of living in Colorado, I should know better. But I keep losing those damn things..."
"Hi, Jack. Daniel, are you complaining again?" Rose placed a kiss on Jack's forehead and Daniel felt his stomach plunge somewhere around knee level as Jack turned to receive his mother's greeting.
Rose wagged a finger at Daniel. "I told you it was supposed to rain, but did you listen to me?"
"You're as bad as your son is."
"And explain to me why you should be complaining about that?" Rose countered, smiling at Daniel. Daniel offered Rose a fake smile as he faded into the corner of the room, his usual spot these days, out of the line of silent communication between mother and son.
Daniel was early. So early, the day shift was entering the rehab the same time as he was. He held the front door open, letting a few familiar faces go past, exchanging morning greetings.
Tentatively, he pushed open the door to Jack's room. The lamp on the table was switched on to its lowest setting, casting a yellowish haze to the otherwise dark room. Daniel entered quietly, allowing the door to swish closed behind him.
Daniel now relegated his appearance to the background when visiting. Being ignored was Daniel's punishment, he'd decided, and it was accepted without an argument.
Walking quietly to the bed, Daniel stood over his lover. In a gesture as involuntary as breathing, Daniel's fingers traced the laugh lines on Jack's face, jumping back as Jack's lids opened, revealing brown eyes too lucid to have been sleeping.
Jack grabbed Daniel's retreating hand and tugged it forward, dragging it up and down his cheek, eventually planting a kiss in Daniel's palm.
Daniel cleared his throat, swallowing before he had enough spit to moisten his chokingly dry throat. "So, decided you're not mad at me anymore?"
Daniel made no effort to stifle a chuckle when he was rewarded with a very familiar wink in response to his question.
Daniel was stretched the length of the couch, the book he had been reading tucked under his chest, his glasses resting on the closed cover.
Grinning wickedly, Rose hesitated only a moment before hanging her sweater back in the closet. Tonight, she would get information about Jack's evening via a telephone conversation with the nursing station.
Rose had noticed that Daniel was exhausted when he came home from work, but knew enough to chatter around his silence and not call attention to it. Her devious plan of taking a little longer than usual to get ready had worked perfectly. There was going to be hell to pay when Daniel woke and realized he had slept through the rehab's visiting hours. He would stomp through the house with smoldering anger, but Rose had her spies at the hospital and even though Daniel would lie to play his guilt card, she knew that Daniel had visited Jack early this morning.
Daniel mumbled in his sleep and Rose froze, counting up to ten before she dared to move from her spot. Covering Daniel or even moving the book would have to wait, he'd survive.
Rose had just hung up the phone with the nurses and was putting up the kettle for tea.
She kept up with her task, not even turning to greet him. "Have a good sleep?
"Why didn't you wake me?"
Rose lit the fire under the water and turned to face her accuser. "You were tired, and it was more important for you to sleep than to trek across town to see Jack."
"I don't need for you to decide what's important for me."
Without missing a beat, Rose white lied. "No, you don't. You're absolutely right and I'm sorry."
Daniel opened his mouth and slammed it shut. "You're agreeing with me?"
"Absolutely," Rose said as she pulled out two mugs. "Chamomile or..."
"Chamomile is fine. I'm right?"
"Oh, one hundred percent," Rose agreed as she placed two tea bags in the boiling water. "I should have woken you. I had no right to make that decision."
"It's okay, Rose. I didn't mean to come off so..."
"Angry?" Rose poured the steeped tea into the cups, hiding her smile.
"Yeah, angry," Daniel said, accepting his cup from Rose.
"It's okay." Rose sat and Daniel followed suit. Rose pushed a plate of cookies at Daniel, mentally ticking off her triumph in this battle.
Daniel sat slumped in one of the uncomfortable chairs in Jack's room. His ass hurt from this position but he was actually too lazy to get up and trek up and down the hallway. Bored, he leaned over and snagged the newspaper from the table and began to mindlessly flip through the pages.
"Hi, Dr. Jackson," the aide said in greeting as he pushed the wheelchair into the room.
Daniel looked up. "Oh hi, Rich. Jack."
"Okay, Colonel, I'm going to leave. It looks like you're in good hands."
"Thank you," Jack said. The words hollow and mechanical, but they were an acknowledgement.
"Always my pleasure." The young man set the brake on the chair, patted Jack's shoulder, nodded a goodbye at Daniel and disappeared into the traffic of the hallway.
Jack looked at Daniel, and pointed to the newspaper in his lap. "Interrupt you?"
"Huh?" Daniel stuttered, confused. "Oh, this. Nope. Just passing the time until you were finished."
"Missed you," Jack stammered.
Stupid tears burned Daniel's eyes and he blinked his emotions back under control.
"Sorry, I'm fine," Daniel sniffed.
Daniel checked his watch. "Jack, it's almost lunchtime and you didn't finish the crossword yet? I'm disappointed."
"Waiting for you," Jack said, released the brake and began to wheel the chair over to Daniel, yelling a 'sit' when Daniel got up to assist him.
"Oh, ordering the archaeologist around already? I see those intensive speech therapy sessions are paying off," Daniel kidded. He couldn't help but smile at the command of the English language Jack was regaining at breakneck speed. The words had a tendency to be metallic-sounding due to the trach, but each piece of vocabulary was there, used correctly and to Daniel, that's all that was important.
Jack maneuvered so he was side to side with Daniel. "Crossword?" he reiterated.
"Can you answer a question first?"
Jack nodded, confused.
"This is awkward." Daniel drew a deep breath and suddenly Daniel's words came tumbling out, tripping over each other their haste. "When you first woke up, why didn't you acknowledge me, look at me...? Grrr-- forget it, stupid question. Never mind."
"You were angry."
"Me? Why the hell would you think I was angry?"
"You never came near me. Never touched me." Jack indicated the far corner o the room. "Stood there in the shadows. Ignored me." Jack shrugged, "Thought you were just here because..."
"I love you," Daniel blurted out.
"I know," Jack said, patting Daniel's knee. "Now that's straightened out, can I please have the crossword. Open to page 48A."
"Bossy," Daniel whispered as he leaned over to grab a pencil from the nightstand and located the appropriate page.
"Heard that." He waggled his fingers at Daniel. "Gimme."
"Pushy," Daniel said, "and before you say anything, I wanted you to hear that."
With shaking hands that Daniel ignored, Jack tugged the paper from Daniel's grasp. Writing itself was good OT therapy for Jack, maintaining tiny letters in the boxes was something he was struggling with.
"Daniel. Word that means..."
"Hey," Daniel said with forced indignation. "I thought you loved me but now I know you just want me for my linguistic capabilities. Cheater!"
Daniel stopped and exchanged a few pleasantries with the girl at the rehab's front desk and he noticed with surprise that Rose's signature was directly above the line he was just about to sign his name to. Daniel managed to squeeze at least one solitary visit to Jack during the day before he and Rose would jointly visit in the evening.
Sometimes Daniel's visit would coincide with one of Jack's therapies and Daniel would stand watching, silently urging his lover on. There were times Daniel would read a chapter or two of the newest John Grisham's novel to Jack and other days when Daniel would force Jack to read to him, so he could become accustomed to the ebb and tide of Jack's voice with the trach. Daniel worked hard at understanding the nuances of Jack's communication. Struggling to teach himself this new language, working at never having to ask Jack 'please repeat that, I couldn't understand'.
Daniel was tired, and it probably would have been more beneficial for him to grab a quick nap on his couch in his office. But he had finished the translation the General needed, so with no immediate emergency looming over the horizon, Daniel decided to pay himself back with an impromptu visit to Jack. He hated the surge of jealousy he felt seeing Rose's name and the time that had elapsed since she'd signed in. Jack's mother obviously visited her son during the day, the car was at her disposal and Rose did talk about her visits without Daniel. Jealousy, pure and simple at her ability to spend time with Jack as opposed to Daniel's stolen moments.
Angrily, Daniel scribbled his name and the time and curtly accepted the pass the young girl handed to him. Forcefully, he stuck the identifying label on his shirt and stomped off in the direction of Jack's room, not caring if he was behaving like an irritable child.
Daniel stood in the open doorway, his greetings to Jack and Rose dying on his lips. Jack was in the wheelchair, his back to Daniel. Rose had a chair pulled to the side of the wheelchair and she had a bowl in one hand and a spoon in the other.
"Please, Jack," Rose was pleading as she bobbed the spoon up and down enticingly.
Jack shook his head no. Daniel could picture the pursed lips, the narrowed eyes and the hardened jaw. Whatever Rose was tempting him with, wasn't sitting well with Jack.
Janet was diminishing the size of the trach valve and it was only a matter of time before the trach itself would be but a distant memory, but while that process was being completed, Jack was required to stick to soft foods, a rule he detested with a passion.
"You need to eat," Rose explained, speaking slowly.
"Not a baby," Jack countered.
"I'm sorry, Jack, I didn't understand you."
"Listen! I... am... not... a... baby. Don't want applesauce."
From his vantage-point, skulking in the hallway, Daniel saw Rose's shoulders rise and then fall with exasperation. "Okay, no applesauce for now."
Rose dropped the spoon into the bowl and slid them both to the ledge by the window.
Jack's squared his shoulders proudly at the battle he had just won, and Rose, Daniel realized, Rose suddenly looked old, defeated and incredibly sad. Suddenly a coward, Daniel turned and ran, unwilling to arbitrate this argument. At the desk, he crossed his name out completely while the girl was helping someone else, destroying all evidence of his visit.
Involuntarily, Daniel's mouth began to water. Daniel had forgotten to grab something to eat in his rush to leave the base and he could feel his stomach's emptiness waking up as dinner time for the rehab residents grew near. The carts loaded with food were rumbling down the hallway towards the common room and the enticing smells weren't helping him maintain his focus.
Daniel scrubbed his face in exasperation, trying to bury his desperation in false optimism. Daniel shook the bowl of nutrition supplement that sat uneaten on the tray table. "Come on, Jack," he teased. "Use your imagination. Think sci fi... hundreds of years in the future. Ten course meal in..."
Shaking hands held the trach valve in place. "Go... home."
"I'm sorry, Jack. You can't leave yet. Janet explained..." Daniel stammered.
"You, leave." The gritty, gravely voice produced via the trach frightened Daniel more than any Goa'uld voice he had ever encountered. There was more than anger in Jack's voice, the metallic sound was filled with an emotion that Daniel was finding impossible to pin down. Jack pounded the arms of the wheelchair. "Go home."
Wearily, Daniel slumped down on the bed, checking the clock. Recently, Jack's attitude was the same every time he was alone with Daniel. Without the buffer of Sam, Teal'c, Janet or Rose, Daniel alone bore the brunt of Jack's anger. Anger at himself, anger at the situation, and anger at his lover for not saving him from this wheelchair. Jack didn't have to speak the words, his brown eyes smoldered with emotions. The rehab psychologist had warned both him and Rose that Jack's anger was to be expected, and as hard as it was to listen or bear witness to, at the moment, it was actually part of the recovery process.
Open handed, Daniel slapped his knees and stood stoically before Jack, eyeing the dish. "You don't want a feeding tube... I don't want you to have a feeding tube. Eat that," Daniel ordered.
Exasperated, fed up with Jack's attitude and hungry enough to eat the slop himself, Daniel threw up his hands. "I'm sorry, Jack. Okay? Sorry you're here, sorry it's not me..."
A cloud of confusion settled on Jack's face. "Not you."
"You're right, it's not me. I'd give anything to change places with you."
"I don't know why I insisted to walk over the rise. Nothing was that imperative that I couldn't wait until the next day. With all the rain, I should have known the ground was..."
"Unstable. Even at the briefing, Sam had mentioned seismic activities in the region by the gate." Daniel began to pace from the window to the bed, back and forth, apologies spewing forth, hands flying through the air. He whipped around in response to a grunt of effort from Jack. He managed to inquire about Jack's state of being before he was hit broadside with the bowl of vanilla flavored pudding supplement. The plastic bowl clattered to the floor, the impact forcing the remaining slop to splatter along his pants' leg.
Shocked, Daniel could only open and close his mouth without benefit of sound.
"Finished?" Jack asked smugly.
"Obviously," Daniel responded, stepping back from the liquid pooling around his shoes. He bent and retrieved the empty bowl, angrily thumping it onto the tray. "If you didn't want it, Jack..." Daniel grabbed the single napkin on the tray and made a futile attempt at swiping away the remnants of Jack's supper.
"Needed your attention," Jack hissed.
Furious, Daniel flung the sodden napkin into the bedside garbage pail. He threw his arms out to the side, and with liquid clumps seeping through his shirt and dripping down the length of body, he presented himself to Jack. "I'm here, I'm all yours." Daniel pulled the shirt from his body. "Captive audience. Say what you will."
"Why is she here?"
"Who, Jack?" Daniel asked tiredly. "Why is who here? There's no one here except me and you." Daniel went to sit on the bed and thought better of it, popping up before he could spread pudding over its pristine sheets.
Jack narrowed his eyes and sighed. A strange, hollow sound emitting from the trach. "My mother."
Daniel cocked his head and raised his eyebrows at Jack's question. "Huh?"
"My... mother." Jack kept his finger tightly on the trach valve, doing his best to elongate and enunciate each word, which instead only slurred his effort.
"You're mad because Ro... your mother is here?" Daniel's eyes scanned the room, searching for something absorbent to clean up Jack's mess. He located the pitcher of water and a wad of tissues and knelt with the pitcher, soaking, wiping, disposing, while Jack waited for his answer. "You asked for her," Daniel finally said, tipping the pitcher at a 90 degree angle so the last remaining drops would moisten the tissues in his hand. Frustrated, he flung the last of them along with the empty pitcher into the garbage.
"Did not," Jack insisted.
"Yes, you did!" Daniel scrubbed his fingers through his hair, paying no heed to the foodstuff transferring from his hands to his short strands, forcing them to stand up in every direction. "You may not remember, but I do. Very clearly. Every single solitary word." Daniel jabbed the air for emphasis.
"Daniel." There was no mistaking the softening of Jack's tone.
Daniel dropped his head. His eyes were intently studying the toe of his shoe as it spread the puddle of food over a larger area of floor.
"I know." Jack's whisper of acknowledgement was barely audible.
Daniel gave Jack a tight smile before resuming his study of the pattern he was painting on the tiled floor.
Daniel's voice cracked at the next admission. "You broke my fall and hit your head on an outcropping. Then the water..."
Dejected, Daniel shook his head. "Water. Underground cavern. Janet said the water probably saved both of our lives."
Daniel shrugged. "I guess so, softer than hard ground or rocks."
"My mother?" Jack prodded.
"Oh, yeah. I needed to keep you conscious. You asked me to do something, made me promise to call her if anything happened to you."
"No," Jack shook his head adamantly. "I never would have..."
"You did." Daniel shrugged. "Why the hell would I lie?"
"I'm still alive."
Daniel gave a short bark of bitter laugher. "Nothing happened. Sure, Jack. I made the wrong decision. I'm sorry. Is that what you want to hear? But you know, at that point in time, I didn't know that weeks later I would be arguing with you." Daniel slapped his palms on the tray table and leaned in towards Jack. "I just knew that when Sam and Teal'c rescued us... it was bad. You were bad... and I had promised." He pushed himself off the table. "I promised," he whispered.
"I really don't want to hear it, you know that? I really don't. I don't want to know why you and your mom parted company. You never shared any of this with me before and I don't need to hear it now."
"What?" he sighed. "What could Rose have done that warranted you cutting her out of your life for years?"
Jack's glance traveled the length of Daniel's body, pausing momentarily on the hardening pieces of food-like stuff stuck to his pants before settling on the view out the window. "I... fail... ed."
"Jack, how the..."
"Shut up," Jack hissed, air exploding through the valve with the force of his anger. "I failed. When Sara was pregnant, my dad died unexpectedly." Jack's gaze dropped to examine the floor tiles.
"You had parents?" There was an overtone of sarcastic awe in Daniel's voice that caused Jack to cringe.
"A mother and a father... what did you think?"
Daniel ducked his head. "You just never spoke of them. No pictures... I assumed... I don't know what I thought," he admitted.
Jack sighed as much as the trach would allow. "Had both a mother and a father," Jack repeated. "No siblings, though. My parents were ecstatic when we found out Sarah was pregnant."
"No reason for you to be sorry, he died a long time ago." Jack fiddled with the trach valve and Daniel stepped forward to help him. Jack shook his head, took a sip of water and smiled sadly at Daniel. "The birth of Charlie was the only way my mom was able to deal with my dad's death. Full circle, she said. The Lord giveth..."
Jack fidgeted in the wheelchair, but Daniel kept his distance until Jack was able to locate a comfortable position. "When she held Charlie in her arms for the first time, she smiled, one of those smiles I thought she had buried with my dad. And I knew it would be okay. She would be okay."
Both Jack and Daniel turned when a nurse lightly tapped on the half-opened door. Jack shook his head and waved her way when she inquired if he needed anything.
"My mom was an active woman..."
"Ha!" Daniel couldn't help the interjection that shot out of his mouth.
"Still is, huh?" Jack shook his head in amazement, his eyes lost in a sea of memories. "Never sits still?"
"Nope, never," Daniel agreed, sorry that he had veered the conversation away from the direction it had been heading. "Rose... your mom loved Charlie."
"And Sara, even me. Family was important to her."
"I think it still is, Jack."
The sound of a jet flying overhead captured Jack's attention and his gaze followed the plane as it traversed across the blue sky. He didn't turn to face Daniel, but kept his eyes trained out the window. "Sara depended on her. God, when I was gone... all those months." Jack scrubbed his face. "All those months, mom was there for Sara and Charlie, when I wasn't, and she was there after my return when I was unable to be a father or a husband." Angrily, Jack whipped to Daniel. "My mom was able to put the pieces of my life back together, for God's sake, she held my family together while I learned to function in the realm of humanity again. And me... me? how did I repay her? I left my gun where my son, her reason for living, could use it to kill himself."
Hurriedly, Daniel pushed aside the tray table separating them, and pulled Jack into his embrace. "She still had you and Sara," Daniel reasoned.
Jack gently pushed Daniel away, embarrassed. He used the back of his hand to swipe away the tears pooling in his eyes. "No, she lost it all when Charlie pulled the trigger. All it took was one shot for us to scatter to the far reaches of the world. I failed as a father, a husband and a son. It was easier to walk away than to face the accusations in her eyes. I haven't seen her since the day we buried Charlie. I didn't even have the balls to tell her how sorry I was."
"You're not entitled to hog all of the blame, you know. I was a horrible mother."
Daniel watched Jack's eyes widen in horror.
"Go away," Jack pleaded.
Rose stomped into the room, throwing her sweater and purse onto the bed as she made her way over to Jack. Daniel stepped back, ready to beat a hasty retreat as the two O'Neill's stepped into the ring. He jerked when Rose's hand grabbed his forearm in a death grip, her nails digging painfully into the skin. "Where do you think you're going, Daniel? In this family, in for a penny, in for a pound."
Just by the redness of Rose's eyes and nose and the slight tremor of the hand wrapped around his arm, Daniel was quite aware that the older woman had heard more than enough of Jack's confession.
"Go away," Jack reiterated.
"Not this time, Jack-o. Once before you told me to leave, and I did. But not this time. When Charlie died..." Rose voice hiccuped and caught at the mention of his name.
"Mom." Jack's eyes filled with tears. "Please," he begged.
"No," Rose said, clearing her throat. "When he died, a lot of me died right along with him. And it was too painful for me to see you hurting like you did. You and Sara... I felt like a failure, not being able to fix this for you."
"Not your fault," Jack whispered.
"Nor was it yours." Rose released her grip on Daniel's arm and bent down by the side of the wheelchair. "Look at me, Jack. Look."
Daniel stood transfixed and embarrassed at the scene before him. Emotions too raw and painful to be witnessed, even by those who lived them, and he wished he could leave and go hide somewhere.
"Please, Ma." Slowly, the tears Jack has been heroically damming up broke through.
"By the time I came to my senses, I realized how much you needed me... God, and how much I needed you, but by then, it was too late. You were gone."
"Why are you sorry, Jack? Huh?" Rose gently took Jack's hand in hers. "I left you when you needed me. I turned and ran rather than deal with the aftermath of a tragedy. That's right. Charlie's death was no one's fault. Not yours, not mine, not Sara's, not Charlie's... it was a tragedy, Jack. And I refuse to compound that tragedy by letting you push me away again." She took Jack's reluctant hands to her lips and kissed them.
Daniel felt like an intruder and gradually began to back up into a corner. "Daniel," Rose warned. "Come back here."
Daniel approached them slowly and when he got close enough, he was taken back when Rose extricated one of her hands from Jack's and reached towards Daniel. He refused, tucking his hands under his armpits. The sorrow that arose from Rose's eyes was palpable, but Daniel stayed his course, mortified that Rose would pick this time to cement Daniel's placement in the O'Neill household, and turned to flee the room.
"Daniel. Wait up."
Daniel stepped from the elevator, waving away the occupant's offer to hold the door for him.
Not until the elevator door closed did he turn towards Rose. "I'm coming back, Rose. I'm just going to get something to eat."
"I didn't mean to make you feel uncomfortable. I'm sorry."
"I know," Daniel answered gruffly. "It's just that you and Jack need time for yourselves. Without me."
"Oh, I understand," Rose said, but her body language inferred to Daniel something completely different.
Daniel sidestepped Rose and checked out the waiting room. When he found the room empty, he signaled her to follow him. He closed the door behind her and leaned against it, barring anyone from entering.
"You're making this too easy. Accepting me... and I'm quite sure that it's not. It can't be. It wasn't easy for either Jack or I to come to terms with what we mean to each other. So I'm finding it hard to believe that you would feel comfortable welcoming me with open arms."
"Jack is my son."
"Yes. Jack's your son. Not me. Not Daniel Jackson. Oh, Rose, what I'm saying is that our choice to love each other, is just that, our choice. There's no need for you to feel anything more than a casual acceptance towards me. You wanted to make amends with your son, and from what I saw, you did. There's no need to pretend to love me or have a desire to include me in your family structure."
"I love Jack," Rose stated simply.
Daniel snorted. "I don't doubt that. But I'm excess baggage. You don't have to feel obligated to love me also."
"Why can't I?"
Daniel closed his eyes and tilted his head heavily against the closed door. "You can come to love me, Rose. In time." He studied her so intently that that she turned away from his backwash of emotions. "I don't want you to love me because you're afraid you'll lose Jack if you don't. That won't work. It isn't fair to Jack or to me. I want you to love me because I make Jack happy and you understand in reality what we mean to each other. Don't love me in theory, Rose." Daniel puffed out his cheeks and sighed heavily. "Pick up the pieces with Jack first. Make sure you love him enough to understand him, that's all I ask." Daniel pushed off the door and opened it, ending the conversation. "I'm going to the cafeteria, do you want something to eat?"
Daniel entered Jack's room with a cup of coffee in one hand and a brown paper bag in the other. Two sets of eyes studied him.
"What did I do?"
"Jack..." Rose prodded from her perch on the windowsill.
"ImsorryIthrewthebowlatyou," Jack confessed with his head bowed.
"Huh?" Whatever Jack had said was garbled more than normal. Daniel had prided himself on understanding the majority of Jack's speech even with the trach, but this sentence had him baffled. "What the heck did you say?"
Daniel was peripherally aware of Rose's slight kick to the large tire of wheelchair. "Jack..."
"I'm sorry I threw the bowl at you." He shot his mother a seething glance.
"Oh...Oh, that's okay." Daniel laughed, placing the bag onto the dresser in the room. One handed, he rooted around, withdrawing a tinfoil-wrapped sandwich. Daniel took a gulp of coffee before he began to unwrap his lunch. Jack sniffed the air appreciatively as Daniel hungrily bit into his BLT. "Oops, sorry." Blushing, at his oversight, he began to hurriedly rewrap his meal.
"No, it's okay. I'm sorry," Jack replied sheepishly. "Eat. I'll just drool."
"Jack!" Daniel couldn't help but flinch in sympathy as the wheel got kicked with a little more force this time. "Let Daniel eat in peace. Serves you right for making the poor boy wear your lunch." She rolled her hand in Daniel's direction. "Eat, don't listen to Jack. He's just being a baby."
"Am not!" Jack hissed.
"Yes, you are, honey." Rose slid off the sill and kissed Jack on the head. Daniel smiled as a blush flowed over Jack's face. "I'm going to see what I can do about getting you something else to eat." Rose grabbed Daniel's forearm as she walked past. "Nice hair." She sniffed the air around Daniel. "Smells like vanilla. New conditioner?" she whispered, giggling before she left the room.
"Hey. Nice hair?" Daniel wiped his hands on the napkin. "What's that supposed to mean?" Touching the stiff-as-board strands sticking up, Daniel threw his half wrapped sandwich on the dresser, nearly upsetting the coffee cup he had set there earlier.
He bent sideways to study his reflection in the mirror. "What the hell?" Daniel gingerly pulled at hair coated with the pureed mixture. He caught Jack's glance in the mirror and he menacingly narrowed his eyes at Jack's awkward sniggering.
"Gives new meaning to the term bed head."
"This is all your fault!" Daniel complained, making a futile attempt to pat the errant strands back into some type of order. Daniel couldn't help but smile at the strange sound Jack was emitting. Mechanical and echoing, but there was no mistaking the noise as laughter, something he hadn't heard in a long time.
Daniel unwrapped his sandwich yet again and took a monstrous bite, stuffing the overflowing pieces into his mouth. "Payback, Jack," he said, chewing with great exaggeration. He held in his own laughter as Jack winced before he continued chuckling when Daniel dramatically "mmmm'ed" in appreciation of the sandwich.
"Daniel, you're gonna choke," Jack howled.
"Yummm... best sandwich I've ever tasted," Daniel said, licking his fingers before picking up the other half and waving it under his nose. "Smell's delicious."
"Sonofabitch," Jack chortled. "On second thought, hope you choke!"
Rose stood outside the room listening, her heart swelling with the sense of true recovery she heard with the laughter. Daniel was wrong, she would never love him as an extension of Jack. Any person that could make her son smile, laugh and enjoy life like Jack was at this moment, deserved to be loved of his own accord.
Daniel felt incredibly guilty. Betrayal was probably a better word. Sneaky was even a more feasible description. Playing hooky in the middle of the day. He really didn't need to be seeing Jack. Okay, he'd visited Jack this morning for a quick hello before a morning briefing, but for some strange reason, Daniel's inbox was empty and there had been nothing on his desk that couldn't wait an hour or two, or maybe even three. Sam had taken the day off and had kidnapped Rose for a 'girl's day', which at this exact moment in time, Daniel was beyond grateful.
"Hi, Jack." Daniel beamed when he entered the older man's room, disappointment raining down on him when Jack didn't even raise his head to acknowledge Daniel. Jack was sitting at the edge of the bed, head lowered, hands hanging loosely between his knees. His shirt was wide open, his pristine white tee shirt hanging half in and out of his pants, and only one shoe was laced.
"Hey," Daniel said softly.
Jack's head shot up, eyes widening in surprise. "Oh... 'doing here?"
"Playing hooky," Daniel admitted under Jack's scrutiny.
Daniel blushed at the smirk on Jack's face. "And you," he said quickly in an attempt to draw the attention away from this day's poor work ethics. "What are you doing?" Daniel asked, lifting his hand up and down to encompass Jack's disarray.
"Showered by myself. Getting dressed... I didn't expect you." Daniel was mortified as Jack's cheeks reddened.
"I'm sorry, Jack. I didn't mean to surprise you. Do you want me to go?" Daniel asked, backing out of Jack's personal space.
"Yes... no, I mean, no, don't go."
"Whatever you want," Daniel offered. He stepped forward, settling his body between Jack's spread knees. It took every ounce of strength not to intimately touch Jack, so instead Daniel began to slowly tuck in Jack's tee shirt. Jack allowed that and Daniel was so focused on the feel of his lover's body close to him he yelled in surprised when Jack batted Daniel's hands away from his half buttoned shirt.
"Hey!" Daniel replied indignantly. "What did you do that for?"
"Don't need you to take care of me," Jack said as his battled against shaking fingers to button the ones he had missed. "I can do this myself."
"I didn't mean you couldn't do it, Jack. It was just nice to be able to touch..." Daniel's finger skimmed a light trail around the neck of Jack's tee shirt, teasingly tugging on the binding.
Jack began to pound the bed in frustration, ripping open his shirt, forcing whatever buttons had been closed to be ripped out and fly to various corners of the room.
Daniel dropped his head, the floor tiles holding a great deal of interest, a pattern that seemed soothing to one's soul. Daniel was surprised he hadn't noticed the little intricacies in the design that complimented the color of the room. As a matter of fact, the whole feel of this room, Jack's room, had a relaxing ambiance.
"Pay attention, Daniel," Jack commanded. Eight years of having this man watch his six, commanding him, and Daniel had no choice but to obey. Jack stuck his arms onto Daniel's chest, tremoring hands that were unable to find purchase on Daniel's shirt. "This is what you'll be getting. Old, damaged goods. I won't be able to..." Jack made a futile try at unbuttoning one of the buttons on Daniel's shirt. "I can't even..."
"I'll wear tee shirts, no buttons," Daniel quipped.
"I'm glad you can joke about this, because I sure as hell can't," Jack yelled. He swung one of his legs, lightly kicking Daniel in the shin, drawing his lover's attention downward. "See... one works." Jack swung again, and Daniel did a quick back step out of the line of fire. "This one..." Jack grunted with the effort of making his leg obey, but all he could manage was a slight sway. "Damaged."
"No? My hands shake, I walk with a cane on a good day and with a walker on a bad day. I still have this stupid thing in my throat. If I was an artifact, you would throw me in a box filled with the chipped goods."
"I don't judge my artifacts on their condition, Jack, but on the story they tell. And how they reach out to me. Their history. Cause no matter how damaged or broken, or chipped an item is or how faded... I see past all those shortcomings and put together the big picture."
Jack snorted in response.
"You listen to me." Daniel leaned forwarded, grabbing Jack's biceps. "I have a house of items that are testament to your ability to love me when I was..." Daniel gave Jack a shake and began tapping himself on the chest. "When I was-what was the terminology you used? Oh yeah," he huffed angrily. "Damaged goods. I have a stuffed camel and tapes and books, a train set and a box of crayons that show your ability to love me when I broken, damaged, whatever the hell you want to call it."
"That was different," Jack said softly.
"Different, my ass! How dare you measure your ability to love me damaged against my ability to love you right now."
Daniel watched as Jack's hands fumbled around buttons still left attached after his tantrum. He gently placed his hands atop Jack's, keeping them steady, guiding them through the simple act of the button through the hole. "Let me help you," Daniel begged, smiling triumphantly as the task was accomplished. "Let me help you because I love you. Not because I owe you, but simply because I love you. Please don't make this a battle or a contest."
Defeated, Jack's head fell forward to rest on Daniel's shoulder. "I can't do this."
Hating himself, Daniel looked towards the open doorway before placing his arms around Jack. "You're not doing this alone," he promised. "We... me and you, are doing this. Together."
"We make a good team."
"The best," Daniel agreed, releasing his hold when Jack pushed for freedom from his hug.
"We kick ass."
"Across the galaxy," Daniel whispered, his fingers tracing pathways up Jack's legs, suddenly reawaking sexual feelings he had buried during Jack's recovery. "And right here on terra firma."
With a strength that surprised Daniel, Jack's hand captured Daniel's meandering right hand. "Stop," he pleaded.
Smiling wickedly, Daniel's hand fought for dominance and broke free of Jack's grasp, his thumb skimming over the bulge in his lover's sweatpants.
"Wipe that smile off your face, Dr. Jackson."
"Sorry, Colonel," Daniel replied, biting his lower lip to keep the smile in check.
"Keep your hands to yourself," Jack commanded, looking bereft when Daniel stuck his hands deep into his back pockets. "Here... keep your hands to yourself here." Jack leaned forward and unbuttoned one of Daniel's buttons.
Daniel looked down and smiled. "See... you can do it."
"Obviously I just needed the right motivation."
"Oh, seeing your archaeologist naked is motivation?" Daniel chuckled. "Maybe I should mention that to your OT therapist.
"I'm frustrated," Jack admitted.
Daniel burst out laughing. "I think we both are."
"Get your mind outta the gutter, Daniel." Jack pointed to his groin. "I'm not talking about this ... I'm talking about I've reached a plateau. Progress wise. Muscle weakness, shaking hands... I've stopped going forward.
"Wheelchair versus cane/walker. Coma verses talking. Vent versus trach. Trach verses that tiny button thingie due to be removed soon."
"I get your point."
"Think of it this way. At least from the plateau, we can see over the next hill, and know what's next over the horizon. You're no longer stuck in a valley where you're surrounded by impassable mountains."
"Have you been hanging out with Oma while I'm been recovering, cause you're starting to sound just like her."
"No, Jack. Just your mother."
"Okay, that explains it."
Rose watered the plants in the garden and checked her watch upon finishing. With precise movements, she turned off the water, rolled up the hose and dried her hands on the towel folded over the arm of the deck chair. Once inside, she locked the French doors and deposited the towel atop the washing machine. All the noises in the house seemed excessively loud. Her heels on the wood floor, the load of clothes completing the cycle in the dryer, even the low hum of the fridge.
She was used to being in Jack's house during the day without company. Hell, she was used to being home without company. Rose was active and had many friends and interests at home and even here, in Colorado, she had managed to keep busy visiting Jack, catching up on her reading, tending the garden, and experimenting with recipes.
Daniel wasn't home. Not that he was home during the day anyway. He wasn't. Most days he was just a telephone call away, though he had been called out of town during Jack's early days of recovery. This time, there was a palpable air of difference about Daniel's trip out of town. First off, Daniel was already three days late. Rose was far from stupid and she didn't miss the looks that flew between Jack, Sam and Murray, or Janet's awkwardness whenever she inquired about Daniel. Then there was the expectant way Jack watched the door or jerked whenever the phone rang.
A feeling of nervousness seemed to have settled around the house, and Rose jumped when the buzzer for the dryer rang. "Crap." Rose placed her hand over her heart, willing the pounding in her chest to subside. "Jumping at shadows," she chided.
"No news is good news," Rose muttered to the plants on the counter, pulling off one or two dead leaves. "It'll be fine," she explained to the wandering Jew while she gave the plant a drink of water. "He'll be okay," Rose said, wiping up the excess moisture on the countertop.
"Do you mind if we stop by Daniel's apartment before we go visit the Colonel?"
"No... not at all." Rose's smile was more of a grimace as Sam maneuvered around the afternoon traffic with all the finesse of a New York City cabdriver. She tightened her grip on the door handle and hid a whimper of fear around a sudden cough when Sam cut off a truck trying to break into her lane.
Rose trained her eyes on the passing scenery, watching the suburban neighborhood change into a more citified area. "Daniel lives here?" Rose questioned when Sam parked the car.
Sam shut the car off and leaned over Rose, pointing upwards. "Yup, eighth floor. Don't be fooled by the outside, though." She straightened up and opened the door, indicating with a nod of her head for Rose to do the same. "Kinda like Daniel."
Rose wasn't too sure what Sam was getting at with the last remark, but she had seen for a moment the haunted look depart the young woman's eyes. The same expression Rose had seen for the past three days every time she looked in the mirror. Worry, fraught with sleepless nights.
"Sam?" Rose asked in the elevator ride up Daniel's apartment.
"Hummm." Sam's glance was glued to the changing red numbers.
"Is there something you're not telling me? I know you can't tell me where Daniel is, but..."
"I can't, Rose. I'm sorry."
"I understand." But she didn't and in a flash her worry turned to anger at the secrecy surrounding this group of people. Rose hated being a stranger at a party where everyone was best friends. Her feelings must have shown because when the two women exited the elevator, Sam laid a gentle hand on her arm, preventing any movement.
"Please, believe me, Rose. I'll tell you as soon as I know anything."
Placing her hand atop Sam's, Rose patted the slender fingers with reassurance. "I guess I can't ask for anything more than that, can I?"
Sam sadly shook her head. "No, I guess not," she whispered.
One step over the threshold and Rose knew exactly what Sam had meant. There was a spaciousness and warmth to this room, to the whole apartment, that was hidden and secreted away by the building's plain exterior. She followed Sam and then branched out on her own, the piano in another room catching her eye.
"Damn! Damn! Damn!"
"What?" Rose hurried back to the living room.
Sam was frantically dumping the contents of her pockets on the ledge, sorting through the pieces of paper. "I left Daniel's mailbox key at home. Damn! I knew I should have put them on the same ring."
Rose felt horrible. Suddenly aware that this "What me worry?" woman, who had been a pillar of strength during Jack's recovery, was unraveling right before her eyes.
"It's okay. Maybe the super has an extra copy?"
Sam began to stuff the paraphernalia back into the depths of her pockets. "No, security purposes, he's been instructed not to hand over any of Daniel's keys no matter who they claim they are. I can't believe how stupid I was."
"Don't worry, Sam."
"Daniel hates when the mail..."
"Sam!" Rose grabbed a hand filled with slips of paper, shaking it to get Sam's attention. "It's o-kay," Rose reiterated slowly. "Honest, it will be fine. All of it will be fine."
Rose answered Sam's shaky smile with one of her own. "Sorry," Sam warbled. "Would you mind staying here while I went back home to get the key? Or do you want me to drop you off at the rehab..."
"No, honest, I'm okay here. I don't want you to drive from here to Timbuktu."
Sam was now beginning to turn an unattractive shade of red in embarrassment. "Okay, I'll call the Colonel on the way and tell him that we were delayed. I'm so sorry, Rose. Really. I didn't mean to..."
"Hush," Rose said. "Go, I don't mind staying here at all. Drive safely and Sam?" inwardly grimacing as she remember the younger woman's driving skills. "Do me a favor and please don't rush."
Rose meandered through the kitchen. Raising her hands, she tapped the copper pots hanging above her head, sending them swinging. She laughed as they tapped into each other, providing her with a symphony of metallic sounds. The noise faded and Rose stepped back, impressed with the quality of items around the kitchen. The pots, the array and variety of spices, not to mention the extensive collection of cook books tucked away in the corner. For a moment, Rose slid one of the books from its perch and lost herself in the description of the exotic recipe... her mind wandering at her own ability to reproduce the mouth water description. She slammed the book with a huff as she spied the hand-written notes on the sides of the pages. "Last time I'll cook for you, Daniel. Payback, I'm thinking." Rose picked up the book to return it to the empty slot it had occupied when a piece of paper fluttered to the ground.
Rose retrieved the crumpled, well used, dog eared, littered with stains piece of lined paper and squinted at the familiar handwriting. "Jack?" She studied it closer, tilting it so the light highlighted the recipe. "You sonofabitch," Rose said, seesawing between annoyance and tenderness. She smoothed the paper against the cookbook, finally laughing at the fading words 'Mom's Beef Stew' written across the top, reveling in her recognition of a Hennessy family recipe, passed down from her grandmother.
Gently, Rose replaced the paper into the front of the book, remembering with clarity the look of disgust on Jack's face every time she had cooked her beef stew. Sliding the book back into place, she was content that a little piece of her had been with Jack during their nine years' separation.
Rose was astonished at the sheer quantity of books that occupied the majority of Daniel's house. Everywhere one looked, books spilled and overflowed from tables and shelves. There was no sense of clutter, no intense desire to move or straighten a single volume. They just belonged where they were. "Kinda like Daniel," Rose whispered Sam's sentiments. Her fingers skipped along the bindings, registering Daniel's eclectic taste in the written word, pausing occasionally to study books that looked incredibly old occupying the same shelf as the current best seller.
The gurgling fish tank caught her attention and Rose tapped on the glass. "Hi, guys." The fish seem to follow her finger in anticipation. "Hmm, hungry?" Rose searched the countertop, located a plastic baggie filled with what she hoped was fish food, and threw some in the tank. Like scavengers, they descended on the flakes before they hit the gravel. Rose threw a little more of their food into the tank, apologizing for her ignorance. "I didn't know. I'll come back tomorrow," she promised. "Just in case Daniel can't."
Rose unlocked the doors and stepped out onto the balcony. The daytime view was nothing to rave about, but Rose had this strange feeling when night fell, the city lights from this angle would be downright breathtaking.
The piano just wasn't a piano, it was an honest-to-God baby grand, with a surface so shiny and impeccable that Rose's image was crystal clear. She hadn't touched a piano since her mother forced lessons down her throat when she was a child. Always regretting her decision to forego her musical talent, Rose had pushed lessons on Jack, who at least had had the ability to stick with it longer than she had, but the lure of the outside and sports had severed his interest after less than one year. Guiltily, she used the edge of her shirt to wipe away her tell tale fingerprints left behind on the black, reflective surface.
Rose's fingers tripped over the keys, the sweet, in tune sound reverberating in the hush of the room. Natural sunlight peeked through the half-closed blinds, lighting up the room enough to satisfy Rose's curiosity. There was a large screened TV situated in front of a well-worn couch and recliner. The ever-present books were stacked next to a modern, futuristic computer sitting in the corner on what resembled an antique writing desk. Magazines were thrown haphazardly the length of the coffee table. Months of Archaeology Today were intermingled with a like number of Fly Fishing. A Hockey News was stuck between the pages of a National Geographic. This was Jack's home as much as it was Daniel's. Didn't make a difference whose name was on the mailbox or the lease or even the mortgage on the house Rose was staying at, the lives of these two men were obviously tightly intertwined.
The lighting in the bedroom was muted and Rose stood in the doorway, allowing her eyes a period of adjustment. A huge bed, set on a platform, took center stage, otherwise the room was sparsely furnished. Of course, there were books on the chest at the foot of the bed and a TV on the hutch, the latter being Jack's choice, she was sure.
In this room, the walls were devoid of carvings and the various other sundries that were present in the other rooms. A large comforter, decorated in rich earth tones, the color of desert sands, took the place of a bedspread. Rose resisted the urge to straighten the quilt, and instead picked up the out-of-place stuffed camel sitting on the chest, his head resting on the pile of books.
Rose turned the stuffed animal in her hands, curiously examining it. "What are you doing here, fella?" The toy was soft and Rose couldn't resist the urge to squish it between her fingers. "You seem out of place here, you know that."
The animal's glass eyes silently appraised Rose. "Okay," Rose laughed. "I take it back."
"You definitely are an enigma, Daniel Jackson," Rose admitted, unconsciously stroking the well-worn fur of the stuffed camel. Too new to be a toy left over from Daniel's childhood, but so obviously loved that the fur was frayed in spots, Rose had the distinct impression that this stuffed animal was important to Daniel. Reverently, she replaced it, positioning its head and neck so they again rested comfortably on the stack of books. Rose patted the camel's head in friendship before leaving the room.
Rose was sitting at the table, reading one of Daniel's cookbooks, taking notes with a pencil and paper she had scrounged up from one of the kitchen drawers when she heard the key turn in the door.
"In here, Sam."
Sam entered the kitchen, her hands clutching Daniel's mail. "Sorry it took so long. She dropped the mail in the bowl on the table and leaned over to see what Rose was doing. "Oh, I love that recipe. Good choice."
"Is that a hint?" Rose asked.
"What if I said yes? Daniel makes that recipe so well, the way the sauce..."
"Are you challenging me, Samantha Carter?" Rose finished up copying the recipe with a flourish and closed the book.
"Ha! Think you can best Daniel in the kitchen?"
Rose stood and tapped Sam on the arm with the book. "I don't know, I've never seen the boy cook. Something I'm obviously going to have to rectify, aren't I?"
Rose spent a sleepless night tossing and turning before giving in and getting up before daylight. Wrapping her bathrobe tightly around her body to help ward off the morning chill, she shuffled into the kitchen and put the kettle on for tea. Rose dropped two slices of bread in the toaster and leaned against the counter, waiting for her breakfast.
Sam had told her last night at the diner after their visit with Jack, while they were eating dessert, that she and Teal'c were leaving town in the morning for a few days.
"Does it have to do with Daniel?" she had questioned suspiciously.
"No, it doesn't, Rose."
"Why should I believe you?" Rose had demanded, slamming down her tea cup with such force that a wave of hot liquid washed over the side. Her appetite had suddenly dissipated, and Rose had pushed the half eaten dish of rice pudding aside.
"Because I wish it did," Sam had said sadly, stirring her cup of coffee. "Honest, I'm worried also."
Rose jumped when the toast popped up. She buttered the bread, drank the tea, ate one slice of toast and threw out the uneaten slice with stiff, precise movements. Rose showered, dressed, threw in a load of laundry and then went out to food shop, buying the ingredients listed in Daniel's cookbook, supplementing the shopping cart with staples and one or two food stuffs she knew Daniel enjoyed. How a man who obviously cooked with great distinction, could like Coco Puffs not only amazed Rose, but allowed a smile to flitter across her face at the memory.
She drove to Jack's house by rote and unpacked the bags without thinking. Rose unfolded the recipe and stuck it to the fridge with a magnet, chuckling mirthlessly as she recalled Sam's challenge. Purchases put away, the clothes went from the washer to the dryer and Rose left the house, yet again, to visit Jack.
"The Colonel's in the atrium, Mrs. O'Neill."
"Thanks, Linda." Rose placed a tin foiled platter on the counter of the nurse's station. "These are for the staff."
The nurse leaned forward and peeked under the foil, squealing in delight at the brownies under the wrap. "You spoil us, Mrs. O'Neill," Linda exclaimed.
"It's my pleasure," Rose responded with a tight grin. There was no need to let the people know that the brownies had been baked for Daniel two days ago and she could no longer stand looking at them as they sat on the counter. Rose adjusted her shirt and smoothed down her pants. "The atrium," she repeated.
"Yup," Linda said, withdrawing a brownie and taking a tentative bite. "Joe, the therapist from Speech, took him there." Linda cupped her hand under her chin to catch the crumbs from the brownie. "These are delicious."
"Enjoy," Rose said, waving goodbye before she headed off to the atrium.
"Want to go for a walk?" Rose prodded, her foot swinging back and forth.
"No, no walk." Jack leaned forward, almost nose to nose with the full length window which overlooked the entrance into the rehab.
"It's beautiful outside."
"Then you go outside," Jack answered sarcastically. He used the arm of the chair to lever his body upright and grabbed his cane resting against the window. "I'm going back to the room."
"Sit down," she hissed.
"Make up your mind, Mom. Outside, inside, walk, sit, you're driving me crazy."
"And you... you're a pog mo thon."
Jack just stared at Rose, his mouth opened in shock. "You just called me a pain in the ass, didn't you?"
Rose huffed indignantly, standing up. "Well if the shoe fits... Me, I'm going outside."
The rehab had a beautiful garden and Rose found an empty bench to enjoy the view, mentally ticking off the blooming bushes and flowers, a therapeutic pastime for her, but not mind numbing enough and twenty minutes later she found herself back in Jack's room.
"I'm sorry, Jack. I'm sorry Daniel's not here..." She was speaking to his back. He had situated one of the room's two chairs before the window and was studying the view of the parking lot. "He's not going to come home any faster just by watching. You need to be outside, to walk..."
"I can't hear the phone ring outside." Jack tapped the window with the tip of the cane.
"You can't hear the phone when you're at therapies either."
Rose jumped when Jack slammed the cane against the metal ledge. "I know it doesn't make sense. But outside is farther way." Agitated, he waved the cane around. "Forget it, it's a stupid thought and I wouldn't think you'd understand."
Rose dropped a kiss into Jack's hair, fingering the grey strands, rolling them between her thumb and pointer finger. "I may not understand that particular superstition but I had plenty of my own with your dad. I was the wife of a fireman, I had my share of craziness to keep him safe. I always made sure to serve stew on one of his days' off."
Rose planted one more kiss and walked around to face Jack, sitting on the metal casing that held the air conditioning unit. "Why? Because when we were first married and your dad joined the department... on his first three day shift home, I made stew... and he survived his first fire when he went back to work. So the next downtime he had... I made stew..." Rose shrugged. "And so on and so on."
"I hated that stew as a kid."
Rose could feel a smile take root even though she made an attempt to smother it. "I know you did, but it kept your father safe."
"I wish you would have told me, I wouldn't have complained about eating it."
"There are a lot of things I should have told you, Jack."
"I still don't want to go outside."
Rose got off the ledge and pulled the second chair in the room next to Jack's. Settling down on the fake leather, she placed her hand atop his. "I'm not asking you to go outside. I just wanted you to know I understand."
Sleep deprivation from the previous night was the only reason Rose slept. She hadn't meant to fall asleep in the recliner, but she had turned the TV on and had allowed her mind to get swept away in an old Humphrey Bogart movie.
Jerking awake, it took Rose a moment or two to acclimate first where she was, and second, what had pulled her from her slumber. "Oh God," she yelled, fumbling in her attempt to shift the chair to an upright position. "I'm coming, hold on," she ordered the ringing phone. She stumbled in her haste to answer it. Shaking fingers curled around the receiver, hesitating for a blink of an eye while her sleep addled brain ran through the scenarios at the other end of the phone.
"Is this Mrs. O'Neill?"
Rose recognized the gruff voice of the night supervisor at the rehab center. "What's wrong?" Her stomach began to slip down and was beginning to puddle in the vicinity around her ankles.
"Oh, I'm sorry. There's nothing wrong with the Colonel and I sincerely apologize for calling and bothering you at such an ungodly hour, but we're having a slight problem."
Rose rubbed the sand from her eyes as she squinted and attempted to read the digital readout on the microwave. "I'm a bit confused," Rose said, unable to hide the annoyance from her voice. "If the problem isn't Jack, what's so imperative that you couldn't wait until morning to call me?"
"It's past visiting hours..."
Huffing Rose replied, "Of course it's past visiting hours, it's 230 am!"
"Dr. Jackson refuses to leave."
"Excuse me?" Rose used two hands to grip the phone tighter to her ear.
"Dr. Jackson. He showed up about fifteen minutes ago..."
"I'll be right there. Don't let him leave!"
His answer was a sharp burst of laughter. "Don't worry, Mrs. O'Neill, that's the problem, we can't get Dr. Jackson to leave."
Rose tapped the elevator button impatiently. "Come on!" she urged the descending red indicator light. "Took you long enough," Rose reprimanded the opening elevator doors.
Exiting the elevator at Jack's floor, she lightened her echoing footsteps, actually tiptoeing by the time she arrived at the closed door to his room.
Rose was angry. The unexpected tears of relief she had cried when hearing Daniel was safe had long since dried up. Fear for his safety had scattered in the wake of his thoughtlessness.
Rose squared her shoulders and pushed open the door, using her weight to close it behind her. The bedside lamp cast an unflattering shadow across Jack's relaxed, sleeping features. The days of recovery were slowly being undone by the hours of stress and worry over Daniel. The shadows under his eyes and a hint of returning gauntness in his cheeks set her blood boiling.
And Daniel? He was sleeping in blissful ignorance, stretched out at an awkward angle on one of those hard backed metal chairs that he and Rose always joked about. The side of the chair was by the head of the bed and Daniel's long legs were stretched out, resting next to Jack's blanket-covered ones. With his shoes still on, no less! Dirty shoes depositing grime and dirt on the clean covers, it was no wonder the nurses were annoyed at Daniel's breaking of the rules. Daniel's elbow was resting on the metal arm of the chair, and his curled fingers were comically stuck in his hair, working at keeping his head upright. He was sleeping and snoring loudly, his head bouncing up and down with each inhalation and exhalation, adding fuel to Rose's fury.
No longer mindful of hushing her footsteps, Rose went around the bed to wake Daniel, eager to grab him by the ear and drag his butt home to endure a good talking to about family responsibilities. Her hand was stretched out, fingers poised and ready to dig into Daniel's shoulder and shake him into wakefulness, when she finally saw.
"Oh, Daniel," Rose said softly, her fingers relaxing and flying to cover her mouth to halt any further expressions. The bedside lamp was reflecting the reason Daniel had been late, the illuminations of the small bulb cutting through Rose's anger like a sharp knife.
Daniel's left wrist, sitting on his lap, was encased in an ace bandage and Rose could see the slight swelling of the curled fingers. At this angle, Rose was presented with every multicolored bruise peppering Daniel's face; marks that had stood silent in the shadows when Rose first entered the room now screamed for recognition.
"Daniel?" Rose hesitated, unsure of where to touch him in order to wake him.
"His right knee or maybe his left ankle," Jack whispered from the bed.
"What?" was Rose's foolish response.
"Only place to touch him without having him grimace in pain. Watch." Jack squeezed Daniel's right knee with no response from the sleeping man, but when his fingers moved up to Daniel's thigh, he moaned and minutely slithered away from the offensive touch. "See?"
Horrified, Rose hissed. "Stop that!"
Jack smiled sadly at Rose. "I'm just making sure he's alive, breathing... that's all."
"Is he okay?" Rose snorted. "Sorry, that was a stupid question. Daniel's not okay."
"He's banged up and obviously exhausted. But he's back and that's what's important."
"I should take him home."
"Yes, you should. But tomorrow. Not now, okay? I just need to..." In the sparse light, Rose watched Jack's gaze study the ceiling tiles. "Let him stay," Jack pleaded. "Go work the famous O'Neill charm on those nurses."
When she returned from the nurses' station with their reluctant permission, Jack was already sleeping, his left hand resting on Daniel's knee. Tiptoeing once again, Rose retrieved the extra blanket from the closet and gently covered Daniel with it. She risked a tender kiss to his head before curling her own body up into the second chair in the room, sleeping deeper in this uncomfortable position than she had the whole time Daniel had been missing.
Daniel shuffled into the kitchen and sat heavily on the wooden chair. The chair woke all his aches and pains and he shifted uncomfortably, sorry he hadn't continued his sojourn into the living room.
"What are you doing out of bed?" Rose had her back to Daniel, stirring the ingredients of a pot cooking over a low flame. Daniel's stomach growled in appreciation of the odors wafting from the stove.
"My stomach's hungry."
"Go back to bed, mhuirnin, I'll bring you dinner."
"No more bed, please. Living room, I can do living room." He shot Rose an evil glance when she stepped forward to help him.
"Don't ask, Rose. I beg you, don't ask."
"Why can't I ask?" Rose demanded angrily, waving the ladle at Daniel. "You're bruised and battered beyond belief. I was worried. Jack was worried. Sam and Murray..."
"I know! Don't you think I don't know!"
"I want to know..." Rose pleaded.
"Why not? Why can't I ask what happened. Tell me why?"
"If you ask, I'll have to lie and I don't want to do that to you."
Daniel dropped his eyes, ashamed at the expression of hurt on Rose's face. "I understand."
"I'm sorry," Daniel whispered.
Rose's back was the answer to Daniel's apology.
Daniel skipped the living room and went back to bed.
Rose was crowding him. Placing demands on him he was unable meet. He was dead in the water, sinking fast, weighed down with inexperience in dealing with someone who cared so much.
Jack cared, Sam, Teal'c, hell Janet, Cassie and the General cared, but they understood. Inherently, they all knew when Daniel's emotional well had run dry and backed off. Even Jack.
The bedroom door opened a crack and a splinter of light from the hallway shone in.
"I'm not sleeping, Rose."
"I didn't want to disturb you."
"You're not." Daniel awkwardly levered his body to a sitting position, thankful the room was dark enough to mask his grimace of pain.
"Janet called to remind you to take your pills. Jack also. He said when you got up to call him."
"I didn't even hear the phone ring."
"That's 'cause I unplugged it when you first went to bed. Sorry."
"I'd tell you if I could," Daniel whispered.
"Oh God, Rose, please understand," Daniel pleaded, terrified he was going to lose Rose, horrified to know that he cared enough to be concerned over whether she was going to walk out and leave him. "Jack and I are teammates... Even though I'm not military, I can't always escape the hardships or hazards. I can't and Jack wouldn't want me to. We're in too deep to walk away. Sometimes there are horrific outcomes and people die, and get battered or end up in rehab. But there are times... many times, when what we do is right, and wonderful, and a great reason to get up in the morning. And Jack and I know this... and understand how in a blink of an eye, it can all change."
Daniel felt the bed dip under Rose's weight, saw the outline of her shadow. Saw the dejected slump of her shoulders.
"It's our job, our life... and the reason we're together." Tentatively, Daniel reached out to Rose with his right hand, heartened when she clasped it between her two hands. "I hope that's sufficient for you. Enough to make you understand."
Though Rose held Daniel's hand, she didn't respond and the silence became thick, uncomfortable, smothering, and Daniel found it hard to breathe.
Her sigh was deep and heavy. "Like you, I can't lie and let you think your explanation is acceptable. It's not. But I don't have a choice, do I?"
"Then I'll have to make do."
"Me too, Daniel." Rose released Daniel's hand and stood, smoothing out her pants. "Promise me this. If something happens to you or Jack, that I won't be an afterthought. That someone, somewhere, has my number... to call so if anything should happen to either of you, I will know. Can you promise to do that for me?"
On the morning of the third day, Daniel opened his eyes, feeling human for the first time. Muscles and bruises only yelled in protest when he stretched, they no longer screamed in agony. Tentatively, he reached up and fingered the swelling by his eye. Maybe today wearing glasses could be a possibility.
Daniel was surprised at how slowly he still moved. Even the act of easing himself into position before standing upright took extra movements. As he stood in the bathroom, Daniel contemplated the pros of a shower versus the pros of submerging his body in a warm bath. His still bandaged arm made the decision for him and Daniel turned the faucets on and adjusted the temperature for a bath.
Daniel sat in a kitchen chair, attempting to switch on the coffee maker telepathically. He could see it in his mind, the filters, the freshly ground coffee, his favorite mug sitting on the shelf...
Daniel jumped at the sound of Rose's voice, he had been so intent on savoring his virtual coffee he hadn't even been aware that she had entered the kitchen.
"Hi, Rose," he croaked.
"And he speaks." Daniel adjusted his imaginary glasses out of habit and immediately dropped his hand when he realized his mistake.
"You look a little better, pressure of the glasses still bothering you, though?"
Daniel had tried, but the eyepiece still rested uncomfortably on the sensitive bruise. "Later today or tomorrow, probably."
Rose took Daniel's bandaged hand in her own. She 'tsk'd' at the bandage's wetness, but gently moved each finger, keeping close tabs on Daniel's facial expression. "Janet said if it still bothered you..."
"It feels better. See?" Cautiously, Daniel wrapped his fingers around Rose's hand and squeezed. Rose returned the pressure and stayed her position for a moment or two more than was necessary. "Thank you," was Daniel's soft response when Rose moved away.
Rose wanted to dispute the 'thank you', explain to Daniel that taking care of family is what one did when someone was ill or hurt. She was positive Daniel allowed Jack emotional closeness and to some degree, Sam, Murray and Janet, but Daniel had erected walls a mile high without any footholds for anyone else. Every now and then, when Daniel allowed, she could peek over the top but before long another row of bricks were added and her view was obstructed.
She sighed deeply, it was too early in the morning for such philosophical musings. Mundane was better at the moment. She prepared the coffee maker for its morning run. "Hungry?"
Rose had to laugh at the plaintive pleading tone of Daniel's voice. "Hungry?" she reiterated.
"This is not let's make a deal."
"Never mind." Stiffly Daniel got up and hobbled away, leaving a stunned Rose in his wake.
Rose was faster than Daniel and she had a bowl of cereal in her hands before his body hit the couch cushions. He sat heavily and ducked his head at Rose's offerings.
"You're hungry, that's all," Rose explained, putting the bowl on the coffee table and sliding it towards Daniel.
"I thought I was downright nasty, if you want to know. But if you want to call it hungry, I can live with that," Daniel said as he picked up a single Coco Puff and popped it into his mouth.
"I would have come for the dish." Rose took the bowl from his outstretched hand and dumped it in the soapy water.
Daniel leaned against the counter and Rose could feel his eyes studying her.
"I was out of it for a few days, huh?"
Rose rinsed a pan and handed it to Daniel to place in the drying rack. "Two days. You slept most of the time."
"Hah! I was drugged for most of the time. There is a fine line between drugged and sleeping, obviously you've taken lessons from Janet."
"I do have to apologize for something, though." Rose handed Daniel another dish for the rack. "Jack. I have to apologize because of Jack. I never really understood how much of his, what shall I call it... worrying gene he inherited from me."
Daniel laughed, taking yet another dish from Rose's grasp. "At least now I know who I can call and blame when he gets in his mother hen mode."
"Okay, which one's the antibiotic? I'll take that one." Daniel fiddled with the pills next the glass of water. "I don't want to sleep anymore. I'm not in pain... So that lets out two of the three pills. I just need you to show me which one is which."
Rose was sipping her tea, looking down at Daniel as he contemplated the three pills arranged in size order before him. He looked up at Rose, a wry touch of a smile on his face. "I should know this. I've taken these enough..." Rose had to laugh as Daniel's finger traveled like a divining rod over the pills.
Rose sucked back a smirk when Daniel noticed the imperceptible shake of her head and put that pill down, she gave the same slight movement with his next one but for his third choice her gaze traveled heavenward. He smiled, palmed the pill and swallowed the water in one gulp.
"Good choice, now put your shoes on and let's go see Jack."
"You took an unnecessary risk."
"I missed a lot, the trach's gone."
"Don't you dare change the subject."
Daniel moved slowly, checked the hallway and then closed the door to Jack's room. "This isn't the place to have this conversation, and you know it."
Jack slammed his cane into the side of the bed. "It's never going to be the right time with you." Jack sat down and tossed his cane to Daniel. "Here, take it, you need it more than I do."
One handed and surprised, the cane slipped between Daniel's fingers. He looked at it and thought better than to make an attempt to retrieve it.
"Pick it up," Jack ordered, his features hard and unreadable. "You can't, can you?" Jack leaned forward in his chair. "I'm ordering you to get it."
"Do you need it?"
Jack slammed his fist so hard on the little round table that the stack of plastic cups fell on their side. "No, I don't need the cane. What I need you to do is learn to follow orders and not question them."
"You weren't there."
"No... I was here waiting, and I expected a member of my team to treat the..."
"Gregory is an asshole, Jack."
"No, Daniel. That's where you're wrong. Major Gregory isn't an asshole. He was doing what the SGC and the Air Force pay him to do. He was protecting his team... a team you put in danger by your shortsightedness."
"Since when is protecting people shortsightedness? Young children, women..."
"You walked into a civil war."
"We didn't know that."
"No, you didn't, but when the Major assessed the situation and ordered you to pack up your gear--"
"Jack," Daniel hissed, "this isn't the time or the place to discuss this. Your mom, a nurse... hey, anyone can walk in."
Frustrated, Jack flung his hand to the side, sending the plastic cups scattering to the far corners of the room. "You were just plain stupid!"
"And you're a sonofabitch. You want to revert to name calling? Fine, just remember you'll lose... one of my doctorates is in linguistics."
"You're a sanctimonious bastard, you know that?"
"You would have done the same thing."
"You'll never know, will you?"
"No, I won't. But you're making a damn good show of being an arm chair colonel, aren't you? I made a humanitarian call when no one else would."
"That's what you're calling it? I was going more for the stupidity and ignorance angle. I'm thinking insubordination--"
"I'm thinking you better shut your mouth, Jonathan O'Neill."
"Mom," Jack sighed. "How long were you standing there?"
"I told you this wasn't the place to discuss anything, Jack."
"Shut the hell up, Daniel," Jack fired off.
"I'm out of here," Daniel said, pushing off the dresser he had been leaning on.
"Don't you dare step foot out of this room, mister," Rose ordered.
Daniel stopped and backed up, returning to the area where he had been standing.
"Maybe my mom should go with you in the field. You seem to listen when she gives an order."
"Jonathan!" Rose's hands flew up in exasperation. "You haven't changed, do you know that? Always having to have the last word, always brow beating someone with your own ideals."
Jack snorted. "Me brow beat Daniel into accepting my ideals? Ha!"
"Rose, it's okay." Daniel was confused with the contradictory emotions battling on Rose's face. The flush of fury seemed to counteract the tears pooling in her eyes.
"Mom, Daniel and I were discussing..."
"You weren't discussing anything. You were arguing. You were being a bully. Yelling so loudly, I heard your voices through the closed door. But this time I refuse to walk away, Jack. I won't stand to the side and let you push away the one you love because you are too pigheaded to see how much damage you do with you words. You're a coward, Jonathan. You say hurtful things and then run."
"I don't run," Jack argued. "I stand my ground."
"Okay, you physically stay, but you mentally and emotionally close yourself off. You have your say and then refuse to listen to anyone else's. There's nothing wrong with arguing... you do that quite well. It's the listening and forgiving you have a problem with."
"Okay, I'm sorry, Daniel. See, ya happy, Mom?"
"Why can't you admit how affected you were when you didn't know what happened to Daniel? You can't lie to me, because I saw your face when I arrived here to retrieve him and you begged for him to stay. Where's that Jack?"
"Enough!" Daniel said tersely.
"He's right, Mom."
"No. I won't allow you to push this under the rug. Either of you." Daniel averted his gaze under Rose's scrutiny. "I'm not privy to where you were, Daniel, or the truth to what happened, and you've made sure that I know it's none of my business."
"Rose, I can't..."
"I know you can't, we've had that discussion before. But maybe you should think about those you would leave behind when you make rash decisions."
The door opened before Daniel had a chance to dispute or challenge Rose's remarks. Jack sat smug and silent in the chair and Daniel slunk into the corner when Sam breezed into the room.
"Colonel. You're looking well."
"Due to be released in two days, Major."
Daniel's head shot up. "I didn't know that."
"Surprise, surprise," Jack answered sarcastically.
"Jack," Rose warned.
Daniel was embarrassed by the awkwardness he was positive Sam was feeling. He knew her well enough and she knew both him and Jack well enough to know she had stumbled onto and into something she would rather not be a spectator to.
"Rose." Sam, being the trouper she was, ignored the tension and embraced Jack's mother.
"Hi, honey. Glad you're back safe and sound."
She walked from Rose's hug and stood in front of Daniel, examining him. Her eyes took in every bruise and he was sure her imagination was working overtime to fill in the blanks. Bless her heart, though, she acknowledged his presence with a soft 'Glad to see you're home, Daniel', and nothing more.
They chatted about nonsensical things, Daniel listening with half an ear.
Jack had moved onto his being discharged when Daniel interrupted him. "Sam, could you do me a favor and give me a lift home?" he asked abruptly.
"Daniel?" He shut himself off from the question, imploring Sam with his eyes to do this favor for him.
"Sure, Daniel. Are you okay?" Sam reached out to touch his arm, but Daniel skirted her grasp.
"I'm fine. I'm going to get a cup of coffee from the cafeteria and I'll meet you in the lobby when you're finished here.
"We're here, Daniel. Are you sure you don't want me to pick you up something to eat?" Sam pointed upward. "It's been awhile since you've been home."
Daniel couldn't seem to find the words to thank Sam. She allowed him his space and solitude on the ride home, never pushing, never questioning. Giving him what he needed. "Sam..." he stuttered, abashed at his lack of ability to express his gratitude.
"It's okay," she simply said, placing a feather light kiss on his cheekbone.
"I don't need anything. Just driving me home was..." Cringing as he felt the all too familiar heat of a blush work its way onto his cheeks.
She giggled. A funny, rare sound coming from Sam, one that made Daniel smile just by its presence. "It's just okay, Daniel."
"Thank you," Daniel whispered, humbled by the depth of their friendship that gave her the strength to accept his personality quirks without question.
"Shit," Daniel sputtered angrily. Frustrated, he banged the net on the side of the tank as the dead fish once again floated out of the mesh scoop. This was a hard enough task to accomplish with both hands and glasses. He was finding it impossible with only one functional arm and no glasses.
He finally snagged the glassy eyed Angel fish and bid him a silent goodbye when he flushed him down the toilet. Daniel was amazed that more hadn't expired in his absence. Now that he thought about it, the apartment didn't seem to have the stagnant feel it usually did when he was gone on an extended mission. Nervously, he paced through the rooms a few times just to appease his worry that someone had been here.
Daniel rubbed his hand across his uncomfortably empty stomach to quiet the loud growling. His fridge was fairly empty. He was hungry enough to contemplate the two eggs left in the cardboard container that had an expiration date of yesterday. He popped open the lid on the butter, nodding in satisfaction when he noted that the butter still smelled acceptable. In the freezer, he found a loaf of whole wheat bread, and one-handedly he tossed the frozen package onto the counter with a thud.
He was using the fork to scrape the plate, furiously dragging the utensil to procure every crumb of the syrup-covered French toast. Daniel was in the process of licking the fork clean when Rose called his name.
Daniel jumped in surprise, dropping his fork with a loud clatter onto the plate. "Rose?" Confused, he turned to the sound of her voice and hit his bandaged wrist on the corner of the table. "Crap." He folded his body around his arm, using his right hand to hold it tightly to his body.
"I'm okay, just give me a second," he hissed through tightly clamped teeth, drawing deep controlled breaths to work through the initial shock. Daniel finally was able to inhale deeply, holding it before releasing it in a long cleansing breath.
"Better?" Rose asked.
"What are you doing here?" Daniel blinked owlishly in her direction. "How did you get in?"
Rose dropped the key next to Daniel's plate.
Daniel picked it up and held it close to his eyes, squinting at the metal in his hands. "You have my key? Who gave you my key? Why do you have my key?"
"Yes, that's yours. Sam gave it to me and I was taking care of the fish..." Daniel followed her to the fish tank. "I was making sure that," she hurriedly squatted down, bending her head to search through the plastic plants. "Oh no, where's Shamu?"
"Shamu?" Daniel rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand."
"No, not yet. Who is Shamu?"
"Black and white striped guy..."
"Oh, the Angel fish. Sorry to say I had to send him to a watery grave. You named my fish?"
Rose stood. "You don't give them names? They're pets."
The headache that Rose had mentioned was taking root behind Daniel's eyes and blossoming at the surreal scenario he was participating in. "They're fish, Rose."
"You don't enjoy them?"
Daniel squirmed as the French Toast churned in his stomach. "I enjoy them," Daniel stammered guiltily.
"Don't you feel any emotional attachment to them?"
"They're fish," Daniel repeated, hoping those words would be enough to placate Rose. "They die."
"Because they die you try not to get attached to them?"
Rose sighed. "Never mind."
Daniel felt incredibly stupid as Rose dismissed him with a wave of her hand and stood there after she brushed by him, making a futile attempt to understand the whole conversation that had just occurred. He dragged himself to the den and dropped down into the plush cushions of the couch. He toed off his sneakers and stretched his legs onto the coffee table, smiling as he wiggled his toes. And just for a second, he just enjoyed the satisfaction of relaxing.
Rose appeared with a tall glass of water in one hand and her other hand was tightly fisted.
"I'm not thirsty."
Rose stood over Daniel, and opened her fist. Three pills rained down on Daniel, hitting his stomach before rolling down and settling in his crotch. "You'll need the water to wash the pills down."
Daniel picked the familiar looking antibiotic, popped it in his mouth and Rose handed him the glass of water. He washed the capsule down and handed the water back to Rose. She accepted it and seemed to wait patiently as Daniel gathered the other two pills.
"Here," Daniel said, holding out his hand with the other two pills. "I don't need anything, honest." He smiled reassuringly at Rose's skeptical look.
Rose indicated Daniel's injured arm with a wave of the water glass. "You're holding that arm like it's attached to your chest."
"Oh?" Daniel glanced down at the offending appendage. Slowly he unfurled his fingers. "It's okay."
Rose snorted in response, a very familiar Jack sound. "Janet gave me hell for not giving you the blood thinner."
"You told her?"
"She stopped by while I was visiting Jack. Actually, she was trying to track you down. It's either take the pills or she'll pay you a personal visit of which I'm sure you'll know the outcome. Her words, not mine."
"Oh," Daniel replied stupidly. Fingering the pills, contemplating his options. He didn't want the drugged feeling from the pain pill, but neither did he want to spend any time in the infirmary. The pills won out and Daniel shoved them in his mouth and reached blindly for the glass of water. Rose plucked the empty glass from his fingers and left the room.
Exasperated, Daniel closed his eyes.
Daniel shook his head. "No, my eyes burn without my glasses."
"I have them... your glasses. When I went to get the pills, I got your glasses also. Do you want them?"
"You went home before com...?" Daniel sighed. He opened his eyes and rolled his head towards Rose's voice, his eyebrows rising in surprise to find she was sitting on the overstuffed chair to his right, legs tucked under her, relaxed. "You didn't have to do that, Rose. I would have gone home... to Jack's house later."
"What?" Daniel whined.
"You didn't have your glasses to see, or more importantly, you don't have a car."
"Okay," Daniel huffed in annoyance. "You're right... thank you."
"So do you want your glasses?"
Daniel yawned. "I think wearing my glasses right at this moment would be a moot point."
"I'm leaving, you know."
"Hmm? Oh, okay, I'll be ready in a minute."
"No, Daniel... leaving, leaving. Going home."
Rose saw the moment her words penetrated Daniel's sluggish thought processes. His eyes widened and there was an imperceptible stiffening of his body. But it was the naked fear reflected in the depths of his blue eyes that confused her, but before she could even say his name, Daniel regained control.
He dipped his head backwards, resting it on the couch cushions as he stared at the ceiling. "Jack and I always argue like that, Rose. Visions clash... it's who we are. We push and pull... each of us giving as good as we get. What you witnessed in his room was normal. He cares..." Daniel shrugged. "We worry, we disagree, we fight, we argue, we go for the jugular. It's us, it always has been and it always will be."
"My leaving has nothing to do with what happened today. It's just time for me to head home."
Daniel opened his mouth and Rose waited for him to say something, anything, but he obviously thought better of it and clamped his mouth shut, choosing instead to take his emotions out on worrying a string dangling at the edge of his tee shirt.
"I need to go home, Daniel."
He nodded in agreement, tugging at the string.
"How long have you and Jack been together?"
"We've been friends since Ab... since our first mission together. Give or take nine years."
"I'm not talking about being friends... I'm talking about being..."
"Oh, you mean together. Why?"
"I just want to know if this... what happens between you two isn't a flash in a pan, a fling?"
"Quick sex between buddies. Scratching an itch?"
Rose schooled her facial expression and body language. "Yes, Daniel if you want to be that crude. That's exactly what I'm asking."
Rose saw the pin pricks of red coloring Daniel's cheeks. Only the set of his jaw and the slump of his shoulders clued Rose to the fact that Daniel was more embarrassed than angry. "I'm sorry," he whispered, tugging at the string so hard it snapped in his hands. "Jack and I are just... different. Our relationship... it isn't usual boy meets boy, boy falls in love with boy, kinda story." He offered Rose a small, sad smile.
"What sort of story is it?" Rose hesitated and then got up and sat on the coffee table directly in front of Daniel.
"We are friends, Rose. First and foremost, Jack's my best friend. Respecting me enough... he waited for me. He's very, ummmm... convincing. I wasn't sure I was ready to love anyone again after my wife passed away."
Daniel laughed at Rose's shocked expression. "Rose... you thought it was me who corrupted Jack?"
It was Rose's turn to be embarrassed and the fact that Daniel patted her knee in such an understanding manner only deepened her awkwardness.
"You look like I did when Jack first approached me with a little list of pros and cons of why the two of us together would be the best thing since sliced white bread."
Rose studied Daniel under half-mast lids, drinking in his far away look as he remembered. "The list was mismatched and unbalanced. The column for the cons outweighed the pros by a healthy margin."
"If you don't mind me asking, how did Jack persuade you?"
"Mind you asking?" Daniel's first response was a short bark of laughter at her question before he furrowed his brow in concentration. "I really wasn't sure I needed convincing... I was almost there myself, but there was one particular item in the pro's column. The one where I saw what Jack was offering me, the one that tipped the scales." Daniel got up and sidestepped Rose's legs. He went to a bookshelf ensconced in the corner of the room and pulled out a piece of paper stuck between two books. Proudly, he handed the paper to Rose and sat back down again.
The paper Daniel had given her was a sheet of crumpled loose-leaf and featured two columns written in a very familiar handwriting. The words "pros" and "cons" were written in bold print and Daniel was quite right, the cons had a list of items going to the end of the page, the pros had two. Rose bent trying to make out the undecipherable first pro... but it was the second that made her smile. Written in Jack's clear, precise handwriting were the words, 'I love you'.
"Jack is a sap. A pure, unmitigated romantic."
Rose smoothed the paper against her knees. "And you? What are you?"
Daniel rubbed his eyes and snorted. The pain pills were loosening his emotional barriers just a bit. "Me? I'm the sonofabitch, actually." Daniel waited a moment or two. "No argument, Rose?"
"No, Daniel. You have a tendency to be... how should I put it?"
"A pain in the ass, annoying, argumentative, stubborn, emotionally delayed, pissy, cold..." Daniel paused and blinked questioningly at Rose. "You can stop me at any time you want."
Rose gave Daniel a wry smile. "You forgot self-depreciating, detached and the all important, lack of emotional self-worth.
Daniel cringed at the last comment. "The self worth thing goes way back, the foster care system has a propensity to suck the self worth right out of an orphaned eight year old. Of course the grandfather not giving up the rights to said child but not allowing the kid to be adopted either, I'm thinking, can take care of the emotional detachment. Or the career that doesn't permit one to think outside the box. And the wife that dies because of your inability to think of anyone but yourself, which is a survival instinct left over from those days in foster care. Damn!" Bright blue eyes blinked at Rose. "Then there is the person who enters your life and cares, only to leave just when you're beginning to admit to yourself how important she is."
"I'm not deserting you, Daniel."
"Famous last words. Leaving, deserting... it's just a matter of semantics."
"You aren't eight years old. I'm not your parent, or the foster care system, or your wife. I'm the mother of someone you love... someone who could love you if you would let them. Why won't you let me in?" Rose begged. She sat back and sighed. "I already do love you."
"You honestly don't know, do you?" She waved her arm around the room. "For this. For what I see here. The antiques, the books, the warmth, your movies, your Sponge Bob tapes, your fish, that stupid stuffed camel..."
"Lumpy?" Daniel asked incredulously.
"Lumpy? Yes. Lumpy. For your pans in the kitchen, for your cookbooks, and for this." She shoved the loose-leaf paper under Daniel's nose. "For your ability to make my son love again and for making him happy. That's why I love you."
"Oh," Daniel replied as his fingers worried the hole on his shirt the broken string left behind.
"Sometimes you aren't much of a genius, you know that, don't you?"
Rose could see the tired smile on Daniel's face, even though his gaze was fastened on studying the diameter of the rip in his shirt. "Daniel?"
Rose was unable to hide her smile as Daniel lifted his head in answer to her saying his name, yawning as he met her gaze. "Before I lose you to sleep..."
"Not sleepy," Daniel protested, yawning yet again, making a futile attempt to hide it behind his hand.
"Sure," Rose agreed, "if you say so. I just wanted to ask you something. How come your stuffed camel has a name, but not your fish?"
"You may not understand this, Rose, but the camel contains the best part of Jack, along with the Sponge Bob tapes, the treasured box of crayons I have tucked away in my desk and the train set I have packed away in my closet. Stupid, inanimate objects that mean more to me than any antiques I have in this apartment. Like the list you have in your hand..." Daniel smacked his thigh. "I'm a linguist, and I can't find the words to explain what it means." Daniel tsk'ed in annoyance at his inability to convey what he wanted to say.
"You explained it perfectly," Rose said, placating Daniel's frustration. "You're trying to tell me you love Jack."
Daniel jumped when Teal'c dropped a hand onto his shoulder. "DanielJackson, are you supposed to be in the kitchen with Mrs.Oneill?"
"It's okay, T... Murray. I just wanted to make sure... Rose, that's a little more oregano than I usually..."
Rose wiped her hands on the towel and fixed Daniel with a menacing glare. "No, he's not supposed to be in here."
"Come into O'Neill's den where you can join MajorCarter and myself."
"Actually, Murray, I could use some help in here."
"Hey," Daniel replied with an indignant pout. "I want to help."
"No, Daniel, you want to take over. There's a difference."
"There is indeed a difference between the two, DanielJackson."
"Fine, I'll go into the den." He narrowed his eyes and whispered, "Benedict Arnold," to Teal'c before stomping out of the room.
"Sam, if you move the knight..." Daniel leaned across Sam's shoulders but before he could even touch the top of the chess piece, his team mate slapped his hand away.
"Daniel!" both Sam and Jack called simultaneously.
"I was just trying to..."
"Help. Yeah, we know." Jack made a shooing motion with his fingers. "Why don't you go help my mother in the kitchen?"
"It is because DanielJackson has also been banished from the kitchen for trying to assist your mother, O'Neill." Teal'c entered the den, regally bearing a tray of antipasto.
Jack rubbed his hands together in anticipation and patted the empty side of the folding table which also held the chess game both he and Sam were muddling through. "Put that puppy down right here."
Teal'c stepped back, his hands grasping the tray tighter. "Mrs.O'Neill said I am not to put this tray within your grasp. Is it true you do not share well with others? I have tried to explain that I do not find this to be true, but your birth mother did not seem to believe me."
Daniel's snort earned him a look of disdain from Jack and a chuckle from Sam. He ignored his lover and smiled at Sam as he cleared off a corner of the coffee table as far from Jack as possible. "Put the tray down here."
"DanielJackson, you must also not be permitted to have any of these delicacies until after you have taken your medication. I will put the tray over here by MajorCarter."
"Why thank you T... Murray."
Teal'c gave Sam a slight bow as he placed the tray on the bookshelf next to the scientist. "Sir, do you think it might be possible to stop calling T...Murray... I mean stop..."
Jack sighed in understanding, shaking his head. "No, Carter."
"I do not see why not. Mrs.O'Neill asked me what the name of my birth was and I found it impossible to lie." Teal'c cocked his head. "It is almost an impossibility to not extend the truth to this woman. I have found Mrs.O'Neill to be a formidable warrior and I would be proud to have her with me in battle."
"Why, that's the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me, Teal'c." Daniel met Rose at the doorway to the den with the intent of relieving her of the tray she was holding.
"No!" Rose yelled. "Not with your wrist, Daniel. I'm not cleaning this up if you drop it. Wine leaves a terrible stain. Teal'c..."
"I would be honored, Mrs.O'Neill," Teal'c said, relieving Rose of her burden, a tray balancing a wine bottle, soda and two glasses of juice. Teal'c placed the tray on the table and a hovering Daniel reached towards the neck of the wine bottle.
"Don't even think of it," Rose hissed.
"I wasn't," Daniel stammered. "I was going to pour a glass of wine for Sam." Daniel smiled in his teammate's direction, hoping to gain support.
"Hold out your hand," Rose demanded.
"Are you going to hit me?" Daniel asked, eyebrows raised in inquiry.
"I don't know what you just mumbled under your breath, Jonathan O'Neill, but unless you want to share your thoughts, I would advise you to keep you mouth zipped. Daniel, your hand?"
Daniel gave his hand to Rose and shut his eyes in anticipation.
He heard Rose sign in exasperation as she manipulated his hand so it was now palm side up. Daniel felt two pills make contact with his cupped hand. "If you don't watch out, I'm going to put the pain pills in your juice."
"You're going to slip him a mickey? Why haven't I ever thought of that, Carter? Damn."
"O'Neill, why would you want Daniel to trip on someone named Mickey?"
Daniel let the cross conversations wash over him like a cool breeze on a warm summer's day. He washed the pills down with a glass of juice, smiling as Jack tried to worm a beer out of his mother's clutches.
"Give me a moment, okay? I haven't taken a bite yet."
Rose sat with her hands folded on her lap; she and the remaining members watched Daniel expectantly as he scooped up a forkful of penne a la vodka. He waved it under his nose and sniffed.
"For cryin' out loud, Daniel, we could starve to death by the time..."
Jack threw his hands up in exasperation. "Don't blame me if the food is cold by the time Dr. Jackson decides to take a bite."
Daniel stuck the forkful into his mouth and chewed, slowly and with great exaggeration. He closed his eyes and moaned his appreciation. Daniel's eyes opened and widened in surprise. "Wow! Rose, I can definitely see how the tiny pinch of oregano made..."
Rose blushed and a grin split her face in two. "Oh, you think so? After you said that I wasn't..."
"Hello," Jack said, knocking on the wooden table. "Food, eat, hungry, starving. Mom, now that you've gotten the coveted Jackson seal of approval, do you think we could all eat?"
"Mom, isn't it a little too late to be tending the garden?"
"Never too late, Jack." Rose leaned forward to inspect the blossoming flowers. She pulled a leaf off the plant, examined it and then stuck it in her pocket. "Sometimes moonlight gives you a whole different perspective at what you're looking for."
Rose turned. Jack stood on the back deck, leaning heavily on his cane. "Are you okay?" she asked, pointing.
"You sound like Daniel," she reprimanded with a smile. The night was beautiful, the warm day had cooled and the full moon lit the backyard with a soft, ethereal glow. Rose joined Jack on the deck. "Tired?"
Jack took a deep breath. "Nope, not at all. First day of freedom and mobility in what, three months, and I certainly don't feel like wasting them on sleep."
Rose walked to one of the Adirondack chairs and sat down, stretching out her legs. Jack dropped into the one next to her and placed the cane across his knees.
"Where's Daniel?" Rose inquired.
"Sleeping on the living room couch. Drooling. Snoring."
Playfully, Rose hit Jack's arm. "Leave him alone."
Jack rubbed his arm. "I'm beginning to think you like him more than you like me," he whined.
"No," Rose laughed, "but give me time."
Rose sensed the hesitation in Jack's movements as he went to take her hand. She didn't meet him halfway but neither did she object when he made contact and tightly gripped her hand.
"I'm sorry, Mom. I know finding out about Daniel and me must have been a shock. I hadn't meant for you to discover it that way..."
Rose's laugh was harsh and bitter. "Please, Jack. I'm far from stupid. You hadn't meant for me to find out about it at all."
"Honestly, I never thought you would want to see me again, so the thought of even telling you about Daniel never crossed my mind."
Rose squeezed Jack's fingers. "I've made a lot of mistakes in my life. But walking away from you and Sara was one of the worst."
"We all made mistakes, Mom, and I..."
"Daniel's not a mistake, Jack."
"God, no, he's not." Rose watched Jack nervously tap the cane with his free hand.
"Daniel's one of the best decisions I ever made in my life."
"I didn't think you were that brave," Rose admitted.
"I'm not talking about medals or dangerous missions or whatever the hell you and your friends are involved with now. By bravery, I mean making the first step with Daniel, seeing what could make you happy and grabbing the brass ring."
"How do you know I made the first move with Daniel?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"A little birdie told me."
"Would that little birdie wear glasses?" Jack asked with a teasing tone.
"You're okay with this, Mom? Me and Daniel?"
"What if I'm not?"
"But you are." A statement, not a question, Rose realized.
"Then why did you ask me, if you already know the answer?" Rose asked, turning in the chair so she could study Jack's profile.
"Jaaaack," Rose cajoled, teasingly stretching out his name. "Why did you ask?" Rose reiterated.
"Damn, this is embarrassing," Jack admitted, dropping Rose's hand and scrubbing his face. "I want your blessing okay? I'm almost fifty and for some strange reason that I cannot possibly fathom, I want you to tell me that it's okay that I love Daniel."
Rose smiled. "Jack, your happiness is all that matters. If you love Daniel, I'll love Daniel. Actually, I probably would love Daniel even if you and he weren't... how did Daniel put it... best friends."
Jack's loud burst of laughter was inordinately loud in the quiet of the night. "That's my linguist."
"In my opinion, there is no one better for you to share your life with than that poor boy. He'll give you a run for your money, keep you on your toes, but God help you, Jonathan O'Neill, if you do anything to hurt that young man, I'll tan your hide but good."
Daniel sat at the edge of the bed, bent over, slowly untying his shoelaces. He didn't need Jack to say a word, he was well aware that his lover was taking stock of the bruises still outlined on his back.
"Sorry," Daniel apologized softly, "I didn't mean to fall asleep on the couch."
"Daniel," Jack sighed.
"What? I'm fine." Daniel screwed his eyes shut and swallowed as he felt the bed dip as Jack slid closer. Languid fingers traced a design from the waistband of his pants, upwards. "Jack, please," Daniel begged.
"I need you to promise me..."
Daniel straightened and he felt Jack's hand fall. "Don't say it, Jack, please?"
"Just for tonight, Daniel. Can you do that for me?"
Daniel's gaze flipped over his shoulder, capturing Jack's and he smiled. "Okay, just for tonight. I, Dr. Daniel Jackson, promise for the next ten hours to stay within Colonel O'Neill's sight and not go off world with any team but SG1, nor to touch anything..." Daniel laughed at Jack's expression. "That hasn't been approved by said commanding officer. How's that?" Daniel got up and slid his pants off, hanging them up on a hanger.
"Wow, Rose O'Neill's influence has been stronger than I realized." Jack paused, watching Daniel. "Ummm, aren't you supposed to put on less clothes... it's time for pillow, blankets... me?"
"What?" Daniel whined, looking down at his pajama bottoms. He plucked at the tee shirt he had just slipped over his head. "You have a problem with how I'm dressed?"
"Dressed being the operative word. It has been quite awhile since... I was kinda hoping for naked."
Daniel pulled the covers back and got into bed, laughing as Jack immediately pounced on him. He squirmed as Jack's fingers started to work their way around the drawstring of his flannels. "No!" he hissed into the open cavern that was Jack's mouth as his the man descended on him.
Jack locked his elbows and lifted his body weight off of Daniel. "No?"
"No," Daniel said as his itchy fingers touched Jack's chest as it hovered right above him.
"No?" Jack asked as he lowered his body to deliver light-as-feather kisses to Daniel's neck and jawline.
"Uh uh," Daniel whimpered as callused hands sensually skimmed his flank, the feel of the soft flannel accentuating the touch. "Your mom is just down the hall in the spare bedroom."
"That bothers you?" Jack whispered in Daniel's ear, the tiny puffs of air sending shivers down his spine.
Daniel nodded at Jack's question. "Bothers me, yup." He stretched his neck, giving his lover better access to the sensitive space under his jaw. Daniel stopped Jack as he began to lift Daniel's tee shirt higher.
"It's been too long, Danny."
Daniel smiled at the endearment and he brushed the edge of thumb along Jack's lower lip. "I know," he whispered. "But for now, until Rose leaves, can we be satisfied with the miracle of just being together."
Jack gathered Daniel in his arms and turned to his side, bringing the younger man with him so they were face to face. "It was rough."
Daniel hesitantly touched the scar left by the trach. "Having Rose helped. And as much as she says that she's okay with us... I just don't want to repay her..."
Jack kissed Daniel tenderly. "With the noises that usually accompany our hot animal sex."
Daniel's eyebrows lifted as he considered Jack's statement. "I wouldn't have put it so bluntly... but yeah, that's what I mean."
"How about if we muffle our sounds with a pillow?" Jack asked hopefully.
"How about you settle for just close body contact and wet dreams?"
Daniel stood back hiding amongst the crowd at the airport, allowing Rose to privately say goodbye to Jack. He chastised himself as he watched their interaction, floored that he had been unable to pick out Rose out of crowd when she had first arrived at the airport. Jack and Rose were mirror images of each other.
Leaning against a pillar, he observed Jack bend to listen to Rose, nodding his head at whatever she had said. Daniel smiled as the two of them laughed at Jack's reply.
Rose shoved her ticket into Jack's hand and demandingly pointed at the ticket agent. Mentally chuckling at Jack's acquiescence to his mother's wishes, Daniel was brought up short when Rose cocked her finger in his direction.
"Me?" he mouthed, pointing at his chest. His gaze bounced from Rose to Jack, who was standing in the ten-people deep ticket line.
He shuffled over to her, head down.
"Look at me, mhuirnin."
Daniel raised his head, but concentrated at a point somewhere over Rose's left shoulder.
Rose grabbed Daniel's hands. "Look at me, please," she whispered.
Daniel looked at comfortably familiar eyes. "Thank you. For giving my son back to me, healthy and whole. And I'm not talking about saving him from the accident. I'm talking about saving his soul."
"This is hard, Rose. Saying goodbye," Daniel admitted, embarrassed at the tightness in his throat causing his voice to catch.
She patted his cheek sympathetically. "Is that why you didn't talk to me all morning?"
Daniel made a futile attempt to clear his throat. "I don't do goodbye's well, Rose. Hell, I don't think I've ever been given the opportunity to do them at all." Daniel shrugged. "I just kinda lose people, bypassing this whole 'bye see you later' sorta thing."
"Oh, let me help you. First, you look at the person who is leaving."
"I'm doing that," Daniel said.
"Then you say 'I'm going to miss you'."
Softly Daniel repeated her words. "I'm going to miss you, Rose."
"It was great meeting you, I had a wonderful time."
Daniel closed his eyes to focus against the tightness in his throat that had moved into his chest. Willing his emotions to stay in check, he opened his eyes. "It was great meeting you and... I had a wonderful time."
"Then the person says something like... 'I don't you want to leave' followed by the obligatory, 'but I have to'."
"I don't want you to leave, Rose."
"I have to, Daniel."
"What do I say next?" Daniel begged, lost on how to let her go.
"What do you want to say, Daniel?"
"I want to tell you that I love you."
A knowing smile of acknowledgment lit up Rose's face and Daniel was thrown off balance as she flung herself at him, tightly wrapping her arms around his waist. He rested his cheek in her hair, making a concerted effort to memorize the scent that was so uniquely Rose's.
She stepped back, fumbling in her purse for a tissue. "Silly old lady," she said as she lifted her glasses and hastily dabbed at the tears. Rose touched the damp spots on Daniel's shirt, her hand moving to his face to wipe away a tear.
"We're a pair, me and you, aren't we?" she sniffed.
"Yes, we are."
Rose stuffed the tissue into her pocket and canted her head to the right. Daniel followed her lead and rubbed his fingers over his eyes and adjusted his glasses.
"What the heck are you two smiling about?" Jack bellowed. "Damn, I'm not gone fifteen minutes and the two of you are conspiring about something."
"We weren't talking about you, Jack, were we, Rose?" Daniel chuckled with a wink.
"Oh no... not at all."
"Hey... I'm feeling left out here," Jack groused. "You should thank your lucky stars, Mom, that Daniel and I know some pretty powerful people so we could get clearance to wait with you by the gate. Otherwise we would have had to kick you to the curb..."
"Kick her to the curb?"
"The curb, Jonathan. Would you care to rephrase that?"
"Love ya, Mom," Jack said, pulling her towards him. Daniel reached out a helping hand to keep Jack's balance and to hold the cane in place.
"You're incorrigible, do you know that?" Rose laughed when she separated from Jack, patting her hair back into place. "Don't think you're going to pull that with Daniel. No siree, I gave him my personal email..."
"You have email, Mom?" Jack's head swung in surprise to Daniel. "She's got email?"
"Yup, Jack. Be afraid, be very afraid. You're mom's just a send button away."
"Or a phone call," Rose said. "Hearing your voices is nice also. Or a plane..."
Three pairs of eyes leveled on the ticket agent who called for boarding of first class passengers.
"That's you, Mom," Jack said.
"First class, Jack, you sure know how to treat a gal right."
"Only the best for you."
"Damn," Rose said fumbling in her purse for another tissue. "I promised I wasn't going to cry."
"Here." Jack wiped away her tears with his handkerchief. "Keep it for the plane," he said, sticking it into her purse.
Rose nodded and pulled them both in for another quick kiss. "Daniel, don't forget your promise to me."
"I won't, Rose."
"Here, let me help." Daniel swung his leg over the lounge and jumped up to grab the coffee mugs from Jack as he stepped out onto the deck.
Daniel carried the steaming cups over to the chairs and waited until Jack situated himself before handing over the coffee. Daniel shoved the second chair closer to Jack before sitting down.
Jack flicked his chin over his shoulder. "You can go back to the lounge if you want."
Daniel took a sip of coffee, sighing with appreciation. "No, this is fine," he said, placing his hand atop Jack's knee and squeezing. Jack flipped over Daniel's hand, touched the palm lightly before dropping two pills into it.
"Going to take the pills with no argument."
"No argument," Daniel sighed, washing down the pills with a gulp of coffee.
The two sat in companionable silence for quite a while before Daniel's hand drifted back over to Jack's knee. Jack's placed his empty cup onto the floor by his chair and moved his hand to cover Daniel's.
Though he was aware of Jack's presence, his lover's breath, the warmth of Jack's hand as it lay atop his, he was lost in thought. He answered Jack's question if he was okay with a slight pressure on the older man's knee.
"What did you promise my mother?"
Daniel studied the garden, making mental notes to order more of the river rocks and to see if the garden center had gotten in the ground cover Rose had recommended.
"Daniel, you're a million miles away."
"Do you think we should take some of those bushes down," Daniel's fingers jabbed into the darkness in the direction of the bushes next to the garden. Maybe we should..."
"What did you promise her?"
"Rose is afraid that if something happened to you... or to me, no one would tell her. She hated not knowing what we did and I hated lying. So I agreed to that one concession. So make sure you add her to your next of kin on the appropriate paperwork. Okay... because I couldn't tell her anything... and I promised. This one thing was all she asked." Daniel could feel the manic, panic feeling begin to rise and he jumped up and was down the stairs, walking across the grass before Jack had even grabbed his cane.
"Daniel? Want to share what this is all about?"
Without thought, Daniel stepped back and leaned into Jack, instinctively knowing the man was there to support him.
Daniel shrugged, shaking his head. Before Daniel knew what had happened, Jack had pivoted his body so they were now standing toe to toe. "When I was growing up, Daniel, my mom always had beautiful gardens. Always." He kissed Daniel gently.
"Rose was right, the garden is beautiful all hours of the day." Daniel finished his thoughts with a sentence spoken so softly and with such reverence and Jack had to lean over to catch the end.
"Was that Spanish?"
"Oh yeah... sorry. It translates to 'more grows in the garden than the gardener sows'. Old Spanish proverb."
"Tell me what grows in this garden?"
Daniel studied the garden, visually seeing Rose sweaty and working off her fear of Jack being injured. "I see hope."
"What else?" Jack prodded.
"I see a miracle. Hard work. Love. Family. I see Rose."
"You see, Daniel, she's not gone... she's not an email away or a phone call away. Heck, or even a plane ride from us... she's right here in this backyard in the roots of those flowers, in the blossoms of those bushes. She left a little bit of her heart and soul with us, for you actually, to show you that family isn't an illusion, but something solid and tangible, with roots."
"Right in our own backyard."
Jack took Daniel in his arms. " It was always here... you just needed to know where to look."
|My thanks to everyone who voted for me!|
Author's Comments: It actually took a village of heart sisters to write this fic, and for that I thank each and every one of you. Thanks to Amy for the title, Kiva who got this plot bunny hopping with a little comment she made to me in feedback, and DebA for medical knowledge. Babs for her support and for allowing the inanimate objects from Box of Dreams and Goodbye to Dreams to come out and play in this fic. Jo, thank you for your patience, your endurance, kind words, support and the bestest beta job, though any mistakes are mine and mine alone.
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