Seeds of Faith by devra
Author's Warning: Non con, rape; language.
Daniel shot up in bed, panting heavily, his sense of loss slicing through whatever drugs Janet had pumped into his system. In the darkness of the bedroom he blindly reached for the phone, knocking it off the cradle and onto the nightstand with a loud clatter. He grabbed it and hugged it to his chest, his heart pounding painfully against his ribs in anticipation of what he had to do.
The numbers on the keypad glowed fluorescent green in the gloom but without his glasses, Daniel had to hold the cordless phone almost to his nose to see the sequence he needed.
Like the 'gate address to Abydos, this number was forever burned into his subconscious, but it was the drugs clouding his memory that forced Daniel to hesitantly push the numbers, repeating each one out loud.
Daniel had his whole speech worked out. Words, comfort, it was all there, jumbled, but he could pull on his inner strength to get through this.
Daniel could feel his resolve shatter just by hearing the familiar voice.
"Rose?" He tightened his grip on the phone, holding it with two hands, pressing it painfully against his ear, bringing Rose closer to him.
Daniel nodded, forgetting that Rose was unable to see him.
"Daniel, honey, are you okay?"
Daniel pretended not to hear the note of worry in Rose's voice, the rise in pitch as she asked about him. He needed her strength; he needed one of them to be capable of holding on, because right now he could feel himself slipping. "No," he whispered, choking on that one word.
"Where are you?"
"Home. Jack's home." Daniel pulled the blanket up and swiped at the hot tears rolling down his face.
"Mhuirnin, you need to tell me what's wrong. I can't help you unless—"
"Jack's gone," Daniel blurted out. There was a horrific noise in the room reminding Daniel of a wounded animal and he cupped a shaking hand over his free ear to block out the hateful sound.
Daniel tried to conjure up the incident, but all he could recall was a hollow emptiness.
"You can't tell me, can you?"
"I promised I'd call you." Daniel hoped that Rose would accept that.
"Yes, you did. Thank you," was Rose's inane response.
"Please don't cry, Rose," Daniel begged as her soft sobs traveled the phone line.
"You—are you alright?"
Daniel took a moment to assess. "I don't think so," he answered. Whatever concoction of pills Janet had given him dulled the pain but there, along his back, were pinpricks of awaking discomfort.
"Let me talk to someone, Daniel," Rose demanded, her voice heavy with tears.
"No one's left but me. No Sam, Teal'c… no Jack. All gone," he sobbed. "I'm all alone."
"No, you're not… I'll be there as soon as I can." Rose's shuddering breath cut through Daniel like a knife. "Janet, where's Janet?"
Daniel closed his eyes, trying to concentrate, to remember, but all he could recall was the sympathy in Janet's brown eyes and the pills she made sure he took. "I don't think she's here."
"I need to talk to someone, Daniel. I don't think you should be by yourself."
"I'm alone." Daniel dropped the phone and drew his legs up to his chest. Bereft, he buried his head in his knees, allowing his sobs to be swallowed up. He could hear Rose calling his name from the phone on the bed, but he was so caught up in his own grief, he was unable to answer her.
* * *
"Jesus, Daniel, what the hell is going on here?" Jack dropped the bottle of water and handful of pills on the dresser and hurried over to the bed. He sat at the edge of the mattress, running gentle fingers over Daniel's shoulders, shaking his head at the feel of fever and congestion under his ministrations.
"No!" Daniel shouted, pushing away from Jack and catching him by surprise, almost upending Jack from his perch on the bed. Daniel's hand scrambled on the bed, attempting to locate the phone.
"Oh, no you don't," Jack said, lifting the phone from Daniel's grasp. Then, wrapping an arm around his shoulders, Jack pulled Daniel towards his chest, kissing the head that fell heavily against him. "This can't be comfortable, Daniel, just let me hang up the phone and I'll get us settled… what's this? Hello?" Confused, Jack spoke into the phone. "Is someone there? Hello?"
"Jonathan?" Rose sniffed.
"Mom? Are you okay?" Jack asked.
"Am I okay? Me? Are *you* okay?"
"Why wouldn't I be?"
"Daniel said… he said you died. You, and Sam and Teal'c."
"Awww… damn it." Jack laid a cheek amongst the sweaty strands of Daniel's bent head. "Daniel's had a rough time of it…"
"And where the hell were you?" Rose demanded. "Allowing him to get on the phone? Where are you now?"
"I'm here with him—in the house."
"You left him alone," Rose accused haughtily.
"Okay, I did. I'm sorry. Fifteen minutes… I went to pee and…" Daniel began to squirm and cough in Jack's arms, fighting him, shoulders heaving, and Jack realized if he didn't end the conversation, he was going to end up with a lap full of retching archaeologist. "Look, Mom, I gotta go. I promise I'll call you back and explain everything." Guiltily, he disconnected the phone, cutting her off mid sentence.
He slid out from under Daniel and guided his upper torso over the bed, sticking the garbage pail under Daniel just in time, supporting him so he didn't land face first in the pail.
"Better?" Jack asked, petting Daniel's head.
"No," Daniel answered, jerking away from Jack's helping hands, flopping back onto the mattress. Daniel muttered a low "ow" before turning from his back to his side, curling in a fetal ball. He dragged one of Jack's pillows to his stomach, settling into this position with more of a whimper than a sigh. Jack stood and arranged the blanket around Daniel's shivering body.
"You called my mom."
The blanket rose with the rise and dip of Daniel's shoulders as he shrugged under the covers. "Weird dreams. Thought you were dead. Thought everyone was dead."
"I'm not," Jack said softly.
"I know," Daniel sighed. "Tell her I'm sorry. Didn't mean to scare her."
"I'll call her right after I speak to our lovely CMO."
"Hammond… call him too, 'kay?"
Softly, Jack stroked Daniel's head. "Why am I calling the General, buddy?"
"I'm going to be late for the briefing, you know how he hates tardiness," Daniel whined, then pulled the pillow tighter to his stomach, whimpering when a cough racked his body.
"I'm sure he'll understand," Jack answered, feeling a knot in the pit of his stomach over the imaginary briefing Daniel was referring to.
* * *
Jack nervously fiddled with the numerous pill bottles on the kitchen counter while he waited for Fraiser to answer the infirmary's phone.
"Infirmary, Dr. Fraiser," she barked.
"Colonel." In his mind's eye Jack could picture the petite doctor leaning against the cinderblock wall next to the phone. A chart stuck under one arm, the phone balanced between her shoulder and chin while she tried to tuck errant strands of hair behind her ear with her other hand. "How's Daniel?"
Jack began to line the pill bottles up in size order. "Not good."
"Up and down… no rhyme or reason. And before you ask, yes for the Motrin and Tylenol. There are the nightmares…"
"Sir, after what Daniel went through, I would be concerned if he *didn't* have nightmares."
"Hallucinations." The bottles were now being maneuvered into the shape of a pyramid.
"Those are from the steroids for the lung infection and a side effect of being in the sarc…" Jack heard the doc's frustrated sigh and he answered with one of his own. Fraiser cleared her throat before continuing "Have you been cutting the steroid dosage like I explained?"
"Yes," Jack replied, banging the counter with his fist when the pyramid of pill bottles fell over, rolling in all directions.
"Do you have a specific question, Colonel, or did you just need to rehash everything we discussed yesterday?"
"Are you sure Daniel is okay at home? He just seems…" Jack fumbled for a word. "Off, Daniel's off."
"We talked about this, Colonel, even before we knew SGs-8 and 10 were coming in hot. Home or the Academy Hospital. You balked at sending him anywhere but home. I listened to your song and dance and in the end agreed that maybe Daniel's mental health *could* benefit in familiar surroundings. The teams' arrival just rushed the decision up a day or two. But believe me, sir, if I didn't think Daniel should be sent home, you would have known it. The fever's low grade enough to be controlled with antibiotics and Tylenol," she explained, her exhaustion apparent even without Jack being able to see her.
"It's not too late to change your mind, Colonel, while the mountain is on lockdown, Daniel can *still* be transferred to the Academy Hospital."
"No. It's okay. I'm okay… I think Daniel's gonna do okay, it's just that—it's hard, seeing him—again…"
"I understand, sir, but please remember I'm just a phone call away." She exhaled wearily. "Look, if you want to call me, bug me, it's okay, by all means do just that. But if his fever goes over 103 or the wounds on his back look infected, don't call, get his ass over to the Academy Hospital ASAP and then call, okay?"
"He vomited today," Jack said, feeling stupid the minute the words were out of his mouth, complaining about a little upchuck in the wastebasket when the SGC was on lockdown and Fraiser and her teams were working their butts off.
"Excessively?" Jack waited while Fraiser gave an order to one of her nurses. "Sorry, Colonel."
"No, just once."
"Keep plying him with fluids, watch also for dehydration, you know the symptoms that would warrant a trip to the Hospital. Colonel, believe me, I trust your judgment. How about I call later to check in?"
"I'd appreciate that. Thanks."
* * *
The phone rang as Jack was gathering up the pills he'd dumped earlier on the dresser in the bedroom. "Damn!" He slammed the pills back down, then grabbed the phone, cupping his hand around the mouthpiece to contain his whispered greeting.
"When the hell were you going to call me back?"
Jack exhaled noisily and dropped down on the bed with a huff. Daniel didn't move; neither the ringing phone nor Jack's company stirred him from sleep.
"Mom? Mom? I'm sorry if I've called you at an inopportune time, *Jonathan*," Rose spit out sarcastically, "but about an hour ago I get a call from Daniel who informed me you, Sam and Teal'c have all died, and then he enlightens me that he's not doing well *just* before he breaks down."
Jack leaned back against the headboard. "Mom, please…" Jack scrubbed his hand roughly across his face.
"Don't you please me, Jonathan Patrick O'Neill."
"There isn't much I can tell you."
"I'm thinking if I hadn't been privy to Daniel's call, I wouldn't have been told a thing."
"What do you want me say, Mom? That's you're right? Okay, you are."
"I thought you'd died, Jack," Rose whispered. "I thought I'd lost you."
"Geez, Mom." Exasperated, Jack flung his head back, banging it on the headboard. Silently cursing, he brought his hand up to rub the affected area. "I'm sorry. Daniel wanted me to tell you he's sorry. I'm sorry, he's sorry."
"Jack?" Daniel moved his legs restlessly under the blanket.
"Let me call you back…"
"Not a chance in hell… I'll hold on."
"If that's what you want." Jack flung the phone to the end of the bed and dropped a tentative touch to Daniel's shoulder. The past two days' worth of combative nightmares prompted cautiousness in his approach to Daniel, for both their safety. "Daniel?"
Jack felt the shoulder under his hand stiffen when he asked if Daniel wanted to sit up. "Fine like this," he stated hoarsely. "Don't wanna move, comfy."
"Okay," Jack answered, grimacing as Daniel's fever warmed his lips when he kissed the back of his neck.
"I could have told you I had a fever, you didn't have to check," Daniel said as he slowly pressed the heel of his right hand into his temple. "Not that I mind the kiss… I don't," Daniel whispered.
Jack leaned and planted another kiss on the base of Daniel's hairline. "Headache?"
"Too-many-drugs headache. Were you talking to Rose?"
"What? Oh shit…" Jack hastily retrieved the phone. "Mom?"
"You were expecting someone else?"
"Let me talk to her, Jack." Daniel waved a hand behind his back, accidentally smacking Jack in the arm. "I want to tell her I'm sorry."
"Hold on a minute, Mom, Daniel wants to speak to you." Jack captured Daniel's floundering hand and slapped the phone into his palm, closing the fingers around the phone. "She's all yours."
Daniel coughed and cleared his throat before greeting Rose. "Hi… Rose. I know. Me, too." Jack got off the bed and walked around to the opposite side, leaning against the wall, watching Daniel on the phone. He winked at Daniel and was rewarded with a true smile as he made a futile attempt to wave him away. "Jack? Jack's right here annoying me." Daniel nodded and then gave a slight chuckle. "No, he's behaving."
Daniel moved on the bed and his eyebrows shot up his forehead. Jack watched him breathe through the pain, never losing his concentration, keeping his voice on an even keel while talking.
"Daniel," Jack whispered twice before gaining his attention. "Pill?" he mouthed, "for the pain?"
Daniel coughed and shook his head, "Sorry, Rose… Jack was asking me something." Daniel laughed. "Jack, your mom says go away." "Water," he mouthed silently, "cold water."
Jack pushed off the wall and walked to the dresser. He counted and picked up the scattered pills, shoving them into his pocket before he went to the kitchen to exchange the bottle of now warm water for a cold one from the fridge.
Daniel was occupied, in a manner of speaking, his mom was keeping him company long distance, so Jack used this borrowed time and took out the garbage and got the mail. Flicking through the mail, he sorted it into two piles, bills and junk, depositing the junk paperwork into the recycling bin in the garage. He grabbed a brown envelope addressed to Daniel and the fresh bottle of water, then returned to the bedroom.
* * *
Jack swung the bottle of water in Daniel's line of vision, dropping the envelope on the end of the bed.
"The roses we planted are in bloom," Daniel whispered into the phone, acknowledging Jack's presence with a smile. "After I get home from work, I'm going back to the garden center to talk to the owner before I prune them… I'm not too sure how… Oh, yeah…" a look of hurt and confusion flashed over his features. "Yes, Jack's right here, do you want to talk to him?"
Jack took the phone from Daniel and gave him the water bottle in exchange. "Mom, hold on a minute, 'kay?" Gently, Jack assisted Daniel in levering his body to a sitting position. "Take these," he ordered, turning Daniel's left hand over and depositing the slew of pills into the upraised palm. Satisfied Daniel had taken what Fraiser had prescribed, and after scribbling down the time on the pad on the nightstand, Jack gave Daniel the envelope. "This came for you, knock yourself out while I say goodbye to Mom."
Still drinking, Daniel nodded, accepting his glasses before ripping open the envelope. Jack couldn't help but smile at the noises of appreciation Daniel made when the soft covered book slid from the envelope into his lap. Fumbling, he stuck the glasses on his face, patiently allowing Jack to adjust them for him. Leaning over Daniel, Jack propped up the pillows on his side of the bed and plucked the bottle of water from Daniel's grip, patting it into place against the pillows. "Don't want it to drip on your new book."
Already lost in the pictures, Daniel just absent-mindedly nodded then stuck a hand under his glasses and rubbed his eyes and Jack could only hope there were tons of pictures in that book, because once those pills kicked in, Daniel's concentration was kaput.
"Mom," Jack said, scooping up the discarded envelope and dropped it into the bedroom trash.
"What the hell is going on there?" Rose demanded angrily. "It's winter in our section of the United States but Daniel is quite convinced the roses are in bloom."
"I heard that. I know," Jack admitted.
"Did you hear about how he needs to go to work in about an hour, because the General hates when he's late? Did you hear that? Or that he's annoyed Janet won't let him work at home? Or that he couldn't find his way home."
"No," Jack replied sadly, sitting in the chair tucked away in the corner of the bedroom, averting his eyes from Daniel who was intently studying the book.
"If you're still within earshot, get your ass away from him. When you're out of his range of hearing, *you*, Jonathan O'Neill, are going to tell me exactly what the hell is wrong with the boy starting from the top of his head, all the way down to his toes… am I making myself perfectly clear?" Rose threatened, bringing a reminiscent chill to Jack's soul as he recalled a tone of voice he hadn't heard since he'd been accused of smoking on school property by his High School Principal.
"Yes, Mom." He got up and kissed the top of Daniel's bowed head before leaving the bedroom. "I'm in the kitchen, okay?"
"You can still hear Daniel if he needs you?"
"Yes, I can."
"I'm waiting… go ahead."
Jack opened the fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer, twisting off the cap and flinging it over his shoulder into the sink.
"Are you done procrastinating, Jack?"
"No," he answered truthfully.
"Take a breath and just say it," she gently guided.
How did Jack tell her that saying it made it real? Speaking the words out loud would cement into place his guilt for not being there for Daniel, for allowing SG 1's archaeologist to travel offworld with another team. "There needs to be some ground rules, Mom. You can't ask any who, what, when, where or why questions. Can you do that? Because if you can't…"
"Just say it, honey," she reiterated.
"Daniel was missing for two weeks…" 'Please, Mom', Jack pleaded silently, 'don't make me explain why I didn't call you. Don't make me admit that I sat in the house at night staring at the phone wanting to call you for support, but afraid that I didn't have the guts to face both yours and my teammates' accusations'.
"You were scared."
"Fuckin' terrified," Jack admitted.
"Jonathan!" Rose admonished.
"Mom? I'm still terrified," Jack confessed, wetting his suddenly tight throat with a slug of beer. "Daniel was tortured, the other people he was with were killed…" Jack searched for a plausible lie, one that would explain the residual sarcophagus addiction that Daniel was slowly shedding. "They injected him with a medley of drugs… that's what's causing his confusion."
"Why isn't he under Janet's care? He sounds horrible."
"Residual bilateral pneumonia and he was in the infir… under Dr. Fraiser's care for over two weeks… being prodded and poked, and X-rayed. Daniel's had more respiratory treatments than you can shake a stick at. The doc figured it was time for him to be released, time for him to come home. Being under the microscope was just increasing Daniel's agitation." Jack hated how easily the lies had the ability to build one after the other, until the truth was hidden.
"So what's scaring you, my Johnny?"
Impatiently, Jack swiped at the tears from his mother's use of an old, but obviously not forgotten, childhood nickname. "Daniel doesn't remember any of what I just told you. I don't know what to do if he asks and I don't know what to do if he *never* asks."
"Ignorance is not bliss."
"No, it's not. It's not bliss, it's not right… and I believe it's slowly destroying him."
"There are experts for this, you know—"
"I know!" Jack shouted. "Sorry," he said, softening his voice. "The experts said to give him time." Jack didn't tell his mother that the experts haven't been awakened the past two nights by a Daniel who screamed himself hoarse, begging and pleading for mercy.
"I'm catching the next flight."
"No, no you're not, Mom. We're okay."
"Ha! I'm not that old nor am I that far away to know when you're lying."
Jack rotated his neck, feeling the bones crack. "I'll admit we're *not* okay, Daniel's not okay… but he's getting there. I've got a handle on this. I promise if things change…"
Jack spun around, surprised to see Daniel standing in the entranceway of the kitchen, leaning heavily on the doorjamb, shivering, barefoot, and bathed in a sweat.
"I gotta go, Mom."
Jack walked over and gently cupped Daniel's sweaty cheek. "Yup, Daniel. I gotta go."
"Think the fever's broken…" Jack replied, kissing the damp, but cooler forehead.
"Fever? He had a fever… never mind." Jack tolerated the motherly sigh with a smug smile. "Call me tomorrow," she ordered. "And Jack, just so you know, the conversation about my coming to visit the two of you isn't closed just yet."
"I love you."
"I know you do, and I know Daniel does. Now go and take care of our boy."
* * *
"I want a shower," Daniel complained as he warily eyed the warm basin of soapy water Jack had balanced on the bathroom vanity.
"No shower, no bath until Fraiser says so." Jack motioned for Daniel to unbutton the pajama top and remove the flannel bottoms. "Stop griping." He took the washcloth floating in the basin, then wrung out the excess moisture. "Should I be insulted? Have I lost my touch that you don't want me to sponge you down?"
As much as Daniel complained, he leaned into Jack's ministrations with appreciative groans. "Feels good," he murmured as the warm washcloth swiped over his bare chest and down his arms. As the soapy water made contact with Daniel's stomach, Jack laughed out loud at the grumbling he got in response.
"Hungry?" Jack asked hopefully.
Daniel looked down at his abdomen in betrayal. "Obviously."
Tossing the cloth into the washbasin, Jack grabbed one of the folded towels on the floor next to him, then began to hesitantly pat Daniel's torso dry, feeling the familiar flush of anger at the Goa'uld who had left such horrific calling cards. Daniel jerked as the towel strayed to his back, pulling his shoulders into a tight defensive mode.
"Not my back?"
"No, took care of that earlier." Jack swallowed the 'don't you remember'?
"Oh," Daniel replied, obviously confused.
"So you're hungry?"
Jack stood and flung the towel into the pile of dirty clothes and picked up a flannel pj top and helped Daniel into it, waiting patiently as Daniel slowly buttoned it up.
He dumped the water down the sink and refilled the basin, adding Benadine solution to the soap and warm water.
"Pancakes," Daniel said. "I could go for plain, ordinary pancakes."
"Pancakes?" Jack asked, painfully kneeling between Daniel's knees, peeling back the towel he had used to cover and protect Daniel's legs while he'd cleaned his upper body.
"Yup… covered in syrup, silver dollar pancakes, like the diner's."
Jack forced the bile back down as the mere thought of pancakes mixed with the scattered scab marks, stitches and bruises spotting the length of Daniel's long limbs, sickening him.
"Jack? It's okay. They look worse than they feel, honestly."
Jack didn't believe that lie for one God damn minute as he felt Daniel's reassuring soft touch on his bowed head.
"What, Daniel? Oh, sorry," he lied, "I was just wondering if I had all the ingredients for pancakes."
* * *
"Are you finished?" Jack asked, rising from the table and placing his hand on Daniel's empty plate."
"Wait!" Daniel chased a crumb with his fork and dragged the miniscule piece of food through the syrup. He licked the prongs of the fork. "Good… that was good."
"I'm glad, now drink your juice," Jack ordered as he carried the plates to the sink, smiling broadly once his back was turned. Daniel had eaten well, was finishing his second glass of juice, but the best was the chatter Daniel had maintained the whole time. Okay, the talking was interspersed with yawning and coughing, but Daniel had held his own.
"Leave the dishes," Daniel begged, standing and making a show of patting his full stomach. "I'm in the mood to watch a movie or something."
"Ya got nice fresh sheets on the bed," Jack cajoled, dumping the dishes haphazardly into the dishwasher and kicking the door shut with his foot.
"Thanks, Susie Homemaker, for the sheets and all," Daniel waved his hand to encompass the kitchen, "but I'd appreciate a change of scenery."
"Okay," Jack agreed with a shrug of his shoulders. "The couch it is."
* * *
'*This* is good', Jack thought hopefully as he absentmindedly combed his fingers through Daniel's hair. The two men had settled on the couch, Daniel sitting at the edge until Jack had sat down and then he'd grabbed a pillow, had plopped it into Jack's lap and slid down. Jack had waited, the TV remote paused and ready to peruse his 250 stations until Daniel got comfortable.
"Anything but sports," Daniel had groused when Jack's remote finger stopped at a hockey game.
"It's a repeat anyway. Ahhh, here we go…" Jack said, already beginning to laugh at the antics on the TV screen. "A Marx Brothers classic."
"A Day at the Races, love this," Daniel had uttered, burying a yawn in the pillow.
Fifteen minutes into the movie, Jack shoved a pillow into Daniel's arms to hold against his chest when the scenes on the screen brought on a coughing fit. Ten minutes later the coughing subsided into only an occasional residual throat clearing. Twenty minutes later, Jack covered Daniel with the afghan and fifteen minutes after that, Daniel was fast asleep.
Jack watched the remainder of the movie with a snoring Daniel for company and went back to the sports channel after its conclusion.
Jack held his breath as Daniel coughed, hugging the pillow wrapped in his arms tighter to his chest, and Jack waited until he was through before softly calling his name. Daniel just sighed, burrowing deeper into the pillow that was cushioning his head in Jack's lap, moving slightly. Jack tugged the slipping afghan up to Daniel's shoulder, angry that even in sleep, Daniel subconsciously made sure his back made no contact with the couch cushions.
* * *
Jack awoke with a start. He acclimated to his surroundings in seconds, an ingrained military habit. Reaching down towards Daniel, he cursed loudly when his hand made contact with only emptiness.
"Daniel?" he yelled, jumping up and moving to avoid the pillow that had fallen from his lap to the ground.
The house was freezing, the temperature dropping the closer Jack got to the kitchen.
"Damn." The glass doors leading into the backyard were open, the napkins that had been piled on the table scattered the length of the floor from the wind whipping through the room, and standing in front of the open door, shaking, pajamas flapping in the breeze, was Daniel.
"What the hell do you think you're doing?" Jack asked, stepping inbetween the door and Daniel then slamming the door shut. "It's freezing out there… and you," Jack took Daniel's hands between his warm ones, making a futile attempt to rub the iciness from his fingers," you're freezing in here."
"What's wrong with me?" Daniel inquired plaintively. "I told Rose the garden was in bloom."
"Your sense of time is skewed, that's all. Being held prisoner can do that."
"Skewed? Skewed?" Daniel said bitterly, pulling his hands from Jack's grip. "Fucked up is more like it. That's snow on the ground, Jack. Snow! Don't touch me," Daniel demanded, then jerked his hands from Jack's grasp. "I never saw snow in my mind, and even now when I close my eyes, I'm positive the snow is wrong, an illusion... and what I'm seeing in here," Daniel prodded his temple with his finger, "is real. The trees and flowers in bloom…" Daniel took a breath to regain momentum, but the action backfired into a paroxysm of coughing that had him holding onto the counter for support.
Jack filled a plastic cup with water and cautiously walked it over to Daniel. Daniel turned his head away from Jack's approach. "Get… a… way," he hissed through his struggle to breathe.
Jack placed the water on the counter until the cup touched Daniel's hand and backed slowly away, reaching towards the medical paraphernalia by the sink. "You need the inhaler."
"No, you bastard!" Daniel screamed, scooping up the cup and flinging it at Jack. Daniel was shaking so badly that the cup whizzed past Jack and hit the fridge instead, bouncing harmlessly off the freezer door before dropping to the floor, splattering the water in all directions. "What I need is a sarcophagus!"
"Daniel." Jack forced his voice to remain void of emotion.
"Jack." Huffing, still fighting to draw a deep breath, Jack didn't miss the hand curling into a fist as it hung by Daniel's side or the beads of sweat popping out on Daniel's forehead.
Jack didn't surrender his gaze, but met Daniel's iced blue, angry eyes unwaveringly. Nervously, Daniel glanced at the door, the outside light illuminated the snow-covered backyard and the ice in his eyes melted into a puddle of confusion. "Oh God," he whimpered. "It's happening again."
"What?" Jack leaped forward to grab Daniel's trembling, swaying body before he took a header onto the floor. "*What's* happening? The sarc… it's okay, you fought it before."
Daniel's eyelids closed and for a frightening moment, Jack was positive Daniel had passed out until he shook the limp man and he moaned, never opening his eyes. "What's real?"
"This is," Jack answered, placing a soft kiss on the sweaty, warm cheek.
"And so are the blooms on the flowers, and the heat of the summer night that I'm positive is right outside that door. I'm afraid." Blue eyes opened and challenged Jack to dispute his confession.
"I know," he replied softly. "Me, too."
"Confused," Jack said, "there's a difference."
"Doesn't feel like there is. Confused, crazy, nuts, schizoid, white padded room, needles, loss of control of the situation, of my life."
"Time, Daniel, give this time."
Fear replaced the confused expression on Daniel's face. "I can't. I'm afraid that time is running out."
* * *
"I need to go to the gardener tomorrow," Daniel mumbled sleepily as he settled in bed. Jack sat at the edge of the mattress and drew the blanket up to his shoulders. "The ground cover I ordered never came in."
"Let's worry about that tomorrow, alright?"
Daniel coughed, guiltily smothering it under the blanket.
"Want a drink?"
Daniel shook his head.
"Want me to stay?"
Again Daniel shook his head. "Okay. I'm okay. Just don't let me forget about the ground cover and… something to protect the bushes against the winter."
"Tomorrow, Daniel," Jack answered sadly. "Don't worry."
"Not worrying," Daniel sighed, closing his eyes. "But winter comes when you least expect it."
* * *
The phone rang as Jack was cleaning up the wet kitchen floor. He sprang to answer it before the jangling sound woke Daniel.
Jack dropped into the chair, using the toe of his shoe to swipe the rag he had left on the floor back and forth. "How's things going, Doc?"
"Better, we actually isolated and contained the virus and by tomorrow morning the containment will be lifted."
"Thank you. Not that great, one loss…"
"I understand," Jack insisted. "Give yourself and your staff some credit."
"Thank you, sir."
Jack bent and picked up the rag. Tossing it into the sink, his mind wandered, missing the beginning of the new conversation Fraiser started. "Hmmm, sorry I didn't... what…?"
Jack heard the sigh of exasperation and could picture the heavenward roll of the doc's eyes. "How is Daniel, sir?"
"He ate tonight, it was only pancakes though."
"It was *something*. Daniel ate something, that's the important thing."
"Okay, then you'll be thrilled to know that he drank two glasses of juice, took his meds and is all tucked in for the night, hopefully."
"But? I'm picking up a ton of unspoken words, sir."
"Mood swings, anger, confusion, choking cough, nightmares, agitation, Daniel admitted he wanted the sarcophagus… are those enough buts for you, doc?"
Jack didn't miss the soft 'damn' from Doctor Fraiser. "Sir, how about I stop by tomorrow, draw some blood to check his levels, do a look see, and basically assess Daniel? Maybe I was wrong, maybe the Academy Hospital should have been the next step for Daniel."
"No," Jack hastily added. "We made the right decision. But I would certainly appreciate you stopping by, Doc… Janet." Jack felt uncomfortable using the doctor's first name, but he could think of no other way for her to understand how thankful he was for the safety net his friend had thrown under him.
"You're welcome, sir."
* * *
Jack stood on the back deck, bundled up, oblivious to the biting cold, lost in thought. The garden was hidden by snow and the mask of darkness threw shadows over the whole backyard. He strained his eyes, glancing into the gloom, focusing on the direction of the garden, trying to imagine what Daniel was seeing.
He stepped backwards, dipping sideways through the opened French door, stuck his head into the kitchen and held his breath as he listened for Daniel, his ears humming with the house's silence.
With a heavy sigh Jack retreated back onto the deck, leaning against the wall closest to the open door, just in case Daniel called for him. He pulled his cell phone from the depths of his pocket, and in defeat, punched in the telephone number burned into his memory.
The hour was late, but Jack made no apology when his mother answered the phone.
"Hi Mom," Jack said, his words forming little clouds of condensation in the cold night air. He took a deep breath. Asking for help had never been easy for him. "Mom, I think…"
"It's okay, Johnny, I know. You don't have to even ask. I've already made the reservations and the plane arrives late tomorrow afternoon."
Jack mentally committed to memory the travel itinerary his mom rattled off. "Got it."
"Let me go finish packing, I'll take a taxi from the airport. You just take care of Daniel."
"Thanks, Mom," Jack whispered.
"I love you," she answered. "See you in a few hours."
"A few hours," he echoed, stunned at his mom's willingness to jump into this battle without any forethought. Sadly, he realized she had already broken the phone connection and didn't hear his 'I love you, too' before hanging up.
* * *
Daniel was annoyed at the persistent voice that insisted on calling his name. Futilely, he positioned a pillow over his head, trapping it with his arm, but still the voice penetrated his dream state, pleading with him. And this had been a productive, restful sleep and Daniel was reluctant to leave it behind.
He opened his eyes into the darkness provided by the pillow and felt the familiar aching, burning need in his belly accompanied by the bloom of a headache pressing against dry eyeballs. Sleep had been better, allowing him to hide in its depth and Daniel angrily tossed the pillow off his head, irked that he was now too uncomfortable to return to sleep.
"Daniel, please," Jack moaned, thrashing and pulling at the covers, tugging at them so they scraped along Daniel's injured back.
"Stop," Daniel begged, snaking out and capturing Jack's flailing hand. "Wake up."
"You can't have him!" Jack screamed, tugging his arm from Daniel's grasp and shoving him away.
Jack's surprise outburst hurt and it took Daniel a moment to gather his bearings and lever his body upright. "I'm here, Jack. Open your eyes," Daniel asked, keeping a safe distance.
"No time… no more time. Sorrysorrysorrysorry," Jack whispered, tears leaking out under closed lids.
Crablike, lowering himself on the bed, Daniel stretched his body next to Jack's, laying his head on his lover's heaving, sweaty chest, painfully draping his legs over Jack's restless ones. "I'm right here," Daniel crooned, covering his whimpers of pain with the need to comfort Jack. Daniel alternated between light taps and actual petting of Jack's face to awaken the sleeping man. He heaved a sigh of relief as the thrashing slowed and eventually stopped.
"Daniel?" The voice was groggy, still lost in dreams as Daniel sensed Jack trying to decide which reality was the correct one. "Daniel." No question this time and Daniel lift his head. In the dimness, Jack's sad smile with its flash of white teeth was a beacon to him and he again dropped his suddenly heavy head onto Jack's chest.
"Go back to sleep," Daniel said, melding into Jack.
Daniel smiled at the kiss Jack planted on his head, fighting back the urge to cough or even clear his throat. Jack's familiar fingers swept gently through Daniel's hair.
"I'm sorry," Jack whispered. "Not enough time to use the sarc and you…"
"Not now," Daniel hissed as even the mere mention of the Goa'uld device reawakened the need and the headache. Suddenly Jack's body was no longer the comfortable pillow it had been seconds ago and Daniel moved back to his side of the bed.
"I was uncomfortable," Daniel lied easily, settling back onto his stomach, keeping his head averted from Jack, staring at the wall and seeing nothing but shadows in the darkness.
"You begged not to be put back in the sarcophagus… you pleaded with me."
"Since I remember none of this, I'm guessing a thank you is in order," Daniel answered, wincing at the sarcastic undertones he used.
Daniel hated the silence that followed and hated even more Jack's supportive hand that grew heavier as callused fingers massaged his tight neck muscles. Daniel closed his eyes with a sigh and permitted pleasant summer scenes to overlap and eventually overshadow the need still gnawing in his gut. Garden views drove away the headache which had been increasing exponentially with every breath he drew. As he slipped into sleep, Daniel allowed blossoming trees to protect him from hidden memories of an event he believed was so horrific it was slowly driving him insane.
* * *
Jack slipped out of the bed, turning to readjust the blanket over Daniel's form, cursing in exasperation as a light morning kiss signified the return of fever. 0-eight hundred hours, two hours past Daniel's time for medication and the slight twitch of Daniel's hand as it rested on the pillow confirmed the missed dosages.
Dragging his body into the kitchen, Jack dropped four slices of bread into the toaster and poured two glasses of orange juice. He gulped his juice while he set up the coffee maker.
"Hope you're making that extra strong," Daniel asked as he stiffly lowered his body onto a kitchen chair.
Jack flipped the on switch to the coffee maker, popped up the toast and handed Daniel his glass of juice. "Thought you were still sleeping," he stated, gauging Daniel's fever with a peck to the dry, warm forehead.
"Couldn't sleep," Daniel said, scratching first one bicep and then the other. "Feel like I could, can… jump out of my skin."
"I know what it is, Jack. But knowing doesn't make it any easier." Daniel buried a cough into the crook of his arm. "Thought I would see if I could do some work… toast?" Daniel asked with a tilt of his head towards the toaster.
"Sorry," Jack apologized, getting the butter from the fridge and generously spreading it across two slices. "Cinnamon?" he asked, one hand on the cabinet door.
"Sure… is my laptop here?"
Jack poured Daniel a cup of coffee, ignoring the menacing glance when he cut the caffeine with milk, lots of milk. He placed both the coffee and the liberally buttered cinnamon toast on the table and turned to count out and calculate Daniel's morning meds.
Daniel took a bite of the toast while staring at the pile of pills Jack had spread out before him.
"Do you want a pain pill also?" Jack poured himself a mug of coffee and lightly buttered the last two pieces of toast, carried both to the table, then dropped into the chair opposite Daniel.
Daniel began to line the pills up in size order, eating and drinking as he measured and positioned them. He captured stray crumbs in the corner of his mouth with his tongue before he began to methodically take the pills in size order—smallest to largest. Jack waited before he finished the last pill. "You didn't answer me," he asked patiently, "would you like a pain pill?"
Daniel hesitated. "Are you reapplying a bandage to my back?"
"Later, after lunch."
"Okay," Daniel replied, finishing the last of the toast and licking his fingers. "Later… I'll take one before you…" Daniel's hand flip flopped in explanation.
"An hour before."
Daniel nodded, pushing away the plate, getting up to refill his coffee cup.
"Daniel," Jack warned.
"Half a cup," Daniel countered.
"Add milk," Jack ordered, ripping his toast in half.
"Forget it," Daniel opened the dishwasher and dropping the mug onto the top rack. "Where's my laptop?"
Jack didn't even jump, he just nonchalantly sipped his coffee when Daniel slammed the dishwasher door shut. "Den," he said, indicating the direction with a wave of his coffee cup.
* * *
An hour later, Jack found himself overtly watching Daniel from the hallway. The laptop was opened and situated on Daniel's lap, balanced precariously on legs that were stretched out on the coffee table. Daniel was leaning awkwardly forward, not allowing his back to make contact with the cushions and though his fingers were poised on the keys, his glance was focused on the windows overlooking the backyard.
For ten minutes Jack studied Daniel and the only movement he picked up on was the furrowing of his brow as he concentrated on the snowy landscape outside those windows.
* * *
Jack showered, checked on Daniel, called the general, and gratefully acknowledged both Carter's and Teal'c's return from the Alpha Site now that the lockdown order had been lifted.
"General, I'll be…"
"Colonel O'Neill... Jack." Jack could hear the squeak of Hammond's leather chair as his commanding officer made himself comfortable. "Taking care of Dr. Jackson *is* your priority at the moment."
"I understand, sir."
"I don't mean to sound heartless, Colonel, but Dr. Jackson is our only lead as to why he was the only survivor on PX2004."
"You don't believe that Daniel would talk to save his own skin. Do not tell me that is what you are insinuating." Jack was positive he was walking a thin line of insubordination with Hammond's silence.
"Honestly, Colonel O'Neill, I'm not the one harboring those thoughts."
"Oh, sorry, sir." Jack could feel anger surge through him against the powers that be who believed, even after all these years, that Daniel was the weakest link at the SGC. "You just felt I should be aware?"
"Yeahsureyabetcha," the General replied sadly. "Oh, and Jack, just take care of our boy, that's *my* only concern."
* * *
"Too late." Jack cursed his missed opportunity and shoved the pain pill into his pants' pocket and placed the glass of water next to the opened, still booted up laptop. Daniel was sleeping, hugging the edge of the couch, his head resting on one bolster, his feet tucked under the cushion.
'That's it', Jack conceded as he powered down the laptop. There was a bottle of Restoril sitting on the kitchen counter, sleeping pills that Daniel had talked his way out of taking so far. But at the moment, Jack was tired of Daniel's catnapping during the day and his propensity to roam the house during the night.
Jack noted when he studied Daniel, these little snatches of sleep he was stealing during the day were doing nothing to aid in his recovery. The dark smudges under his eyes were deepening daily and fine lines of age and stress hardened his face even in rest. Part of Jack wanted to wake Daniel, force him to swallow the pain pill so he could treat his back, but the chicken in him covered Daniel with the light shawl from the loveseat and allowed him to sleep undisturbed.
* * *
Jack was bringing out the garbage when the taxi pulled up and parked in front of the house. He opened the back door for his mother, offering her a hand to assist her out and help her over the mounds of snow. Jack paid the driver and took the single suitcase from the trunk. He gave her his elbow as they traversed the sidewalk. "Traveling light?" Jack inquired, swinging the suitcase.
Rose patted the large duffel bag hanging in the crook of her arm. "You have a washer and a dryer. And there's stuff in here also," she replied indignantly.
Jack let her walk through the door first and then followed, closing the door against the frigid air.
"Brrr… a little colder than last time," Rose complained, stamping the excess snow off her boots.
"Give me your coat, Mom, I'll…"
"Let me look at you…" Jack stood at parade rest, allowing her to examine him from head to toe. "You're tired," Rose said as she unbuttoned her coat and handed it to her son. "Daniel? Where's Daniel?" Her head searched up and down the hallway before leaning against the wall for leverage to remove her boots.
Jack took Rose's coat and pointed to the mat by the door for her to place her boots. "He's sleeping. Want to freshen up?"
"Nope, I want to see Daniel."
"Don't worry, I won't wake him, I promise. Where is he, bedroom?"
Jack flung Rose's coat over the divider, ignoring Rose's look of consternation. "Den… he's sleeping in the den."
* * *
Jack moved the laptop and Rose sat at the edge of the coffee table. She looked over her shoulder and flashed an infinitesimal smile at Jack, then turned her attention back to Daniel.
Rose battled Jack's glare with one of her own, and laid the back of her hand against Daniel's cheek. "He's got a fever."
"I know, comes and goes, Doc Fraiser is treating it with antibiotics."
Rose shook her head and sighed. "He can't be comfortable like this, the poor boy is gonna fall off the couch."
"If Daniel's comfortable enough to sleep, leave him."
"Hey, honey," Rose whispered, brushing a strand of hair off Daniel's face. "Oh… he's got…" Rose swiped her finger along her own hairline in horror.
"Stitches, Mom, he had stitches. Yes, I know."
Daniel's eyelids fluttered a few times and Rose found herself holding her breath until he was able to hold them halfway open. "Rose?"
"Yes, mhuirnin, I'm here," Rose whispered, leaning closer to grab the flailing hand that was searching for her.
"I didn't think you'd come," Daniel sighed, his eyes closing. "Didn't think anyone listened to me."
* * *
Jack ignored the redness in his mother's eyes when she sat down at the kitchen table.
"Coffee? Tea?" he asked.
"Coffee would be fine, thank you."
Jack made a sandwich for each of them, finishing that task about the time the coffee maker had produced a fresh pot. Two mugs of coffee with a shot of whiskey in both joined the two dishes on the table.
"Did ya think I was lying?" Jack took a gulp of the hot coffee, relishing the punishing, burning trail it left in its wake.
"No, yes… honestly, I don't know."
Jack began to pick the errant pieces of cheese protruding from his sandwich, dropping them onto his plate.
"Stop playing with your food."
"Fine," Jack said, pushing the dish away.
"So we're going to be at each other's throats while I'm here?" Rose countered, shoving her dish towards Jack's. "You feel too guilty to yell at Daniel so you're gonna yell at your poor mother?"
Jack snorted, "If I ever had to think of a way to describe you, 'poor mother' wouldn't be my words of choice."
Rose responded to Jack's snort with a chuckle of her own, using her plate to maneuver Jack's plate back in front of him. "I don't think I even want to know what your choice words would be, Jonathan."
He made no comment when his mother made the feeble excuse to use the bathroom, knowing that she really was going to check on Daniel again.
"How's he doing?" Jack asked after she sat back down.
"Stirring, coughing… how did you know I was going to check on him?"
"Because the apple is still hanging on the tree, Mom."
Jack's glance kept flying over to check the microwave's clock as he and his mother finished up lunch.
"Do you have a hot date I don't know about?" Rose questioned as she picked up their empty plates and brought them to the sink.
"No, Daniel really needs to get up."
"He will, give him time…"
A knock on the front door followed by a familiar voice shouting, "Hello, anyone home?"
"In here," Jack replied, getting off the chair to prepare another cup of coffee. "Doc," he said, placing the mug in front of an empty chair.
"Colonel… Mrs. O'Neill." The doctor smiled at the Colonel and bent to hug his mother, dropping her medical bag by the doorway.
"Rose, please call me Rose, Doctor Fraiser."
"I'll only call you Rose if you remember to call me Janet."
"It's a deal, Janet," Rose said, indicating the cupful of steaming coffee on the table. "Have a seat, stay."
"I came to check on Daniel. Colonel?"
"He's sleeping," Jack said, pouring another cup of coffee and replacing the pot on the burner when his mother waved away his offer of topping off her mug.
"How long has he been sleeping?" Janet removed her coat and folded it over the back of the chair.
Jack checked the microwave one more time, sighing. "Four hours, that's longer than he sleeps at night," Jack replied ruefully. "He's slightly overdue for another regimen of meds."
"Okay." Janet raised her eyebrows as she bent to pick up her bag. Jack had taken a step forward and he noticed his mother leaned forward to stand.
"What?" Jack asked, annoyed at the Doc's shaking her head.
"No, Rose, have yourself another cup of coffee and Colonel… you sit down. The two of you stay here, talk. I'm gonna have a look see at the patient."
* * *
Daniel was surprised to see only Janet enter the den and from her expression, she seemed taken back that he was sitting up.
"Alone?" Janet asked, sitting down on the couch next to Daniel.
"Didn't think Jack would let you examine me without coming along as a guard dog."
"I've instructed Rose to hold his leash very tightly," Janet said, reaching out and capturing both of Daniel's hands in her grip before he had a chance to protest.
"Rose is here?" Daniel made a futile attempt to tug his hands from her grasp, annoyed when he wasn't able to. "I thought I imagined that." Daniel averted his glance, fixating on the sunshine-lit backyard. "I have a hard time differentiating between fantasy…" His breath caught in his throat as he felt Janet push up his sleeves and tsk'ed at the matching reddened scratch marks on his forearms. Daniel cleared his throat before continuing. "Fantasy and reality blend together."
"Did you tell the Colonel…?"
Daniel's bark of laughter was bitter. "Believe me, Janet, Jack's well aware of the head case I've become."
"Daniel! I was going to ask if you'd mentioned to the Colonel how itchy you were."
Daniel freed his hands, pulled down his sleeves down and reached for the glass of water Jack must have left for him. He slammed it back down when he realized he was shaking too badly to maintain his grip on it. "Damn it!"
Janet got up with a sigh. "I'll be right back."
Daniel looked up at her, confused. "Going to get Jack and Rose?"
"No. Just me and you, Daniel. I want you to stay here," she ordered.
"I'm in pajamas, I stink, I probably can't walk two feet without falling over, forget about driving. Where did you think I would go?"
* * *
Daniel gratefully accepted the bottle of water Janet handed him, making no comment that she had already unscrewed the top, and he watched with interest as she placed all the pill bottles on the table in front of them.
"Too many," he said in disgust.
"Maybe," Janet acquiesced. "Maybe, but for now each one serves a purpose. When you left the infirmary, I sent you and the colonel packing with a bag of medication. He was more concerned with your being well and you, right now, are trying to focus on your wellbeing." Janet picked up a pill bottle. "Antibiotic."
"This is ridiculous, Janet," Daniel complained as his long fingers slithered under the sleeves of his pajama top and scratched already abused arms.
Ignoring both his protests and nervous itching, Janet forged ahead, shaking the bottle she held in her hand. "Antibiotic, these are pretty self explanatory."
"Yeah, been there, done that, more times than I would care to remember."
Janet moved the antibiotics to the opposite end of the coffee table, moving to two large OTC drug bottles. "Tylenol and Motrin."
"For the fever and the accompanying headache, yada yada yada as Jack would say."
"What does Daniel say?" Janet asked.
The pajama-clad man coughed, turning his head to the side, then shrugged. "You're the doctor, you tell me."
"Daniel," Janet hissed.
Daniel ducked his head; there was no mistaking the anger in Janet's voice. "The fever is lower today and the headache," Daniel sighed, "comes and goes."
Janet slid those bottles over to join the antibiotic and concentrated on a sleeve of bright pink pills. She lifted it and tapped Daniel's forearm with it. "Benedryl, for the itching."
Guiltily, Daniel slid his hands out of his sleeves and dropped them into his lap.
"Take it. It will work. The itching is a side effect of the sarc, like the sweats and the shakes—"
"I know all that… don't you think I know that?"
Janet put the pills on the table. "I know you're aware of the symptoms. But you need to treat them, not pretend they don't exist."
"I'm not pretending they don't exist," Daniel protested as he raised his reddened arms as proof.
"Okay." Janet threw her hands up in the air. "Tell me when you took the Benedryl or the Compazine to settle your stomach or the Robaxin for the muscle tremors." Janet picked up a tiny bottle. "The sleeping pills. How about those?"
"Nothing," Daniel whispered.
"Valium for the addic… Valium, the antibiotic… the Tylenol and Motrin. The Percocet only when Jack changes the bandages. The Decadron and the inhaler. That's it."
"Why?" Janet asked, stunned and puzzled.
"Control." He gave Janet a flash of a smile, coughing.
"They aren't a crutch, Daniel, they're part of the cure. Promise me…"
"Promise you what? Every time I feel sick to my stomach from the antibiotic that I'll take another pill to counteract the queasiness, or whenever I itch because the Valium isn't working I'll pop a fluorescent pink pill… or when it all becomes too much, I'll take a sleeping pill? I can't promise you that, Janet, and you know it. That isn't me… and right about now, I need to hold onto as much of me as I possibly can."
Daniel hated the sympathy in those eyes, the "poor Daniel" look he knew all too well. The gaze that always preceded the change of foster homes or the one he remembered Janet giving him before he had woken up in a white padded room.
"You need sleep."
"I *was* sleeping," Daniel complained indignantly. "I was," he pouted at Janet's 'yeah right' expression.
"You and the Colonel have matching bags and shadows under your eyes."
"So let *him* take the sleeping pill."
"Is this selfishness a new character trait left over from the—"
"I get your point," Daniel sighed.
"Good, I was hoping you would see that others were suffering right by your side."
"I'll take the pill, tonight, okay? I promise. Now can we just get on with whatever it is you came here to do?"
"Fine, Dr. Jackson, strip to your boxers. I'm going to see how well the Colonel has been taking care of you."
* * *
Rose entered the den cautiously, knocking, suddenly feeling like a stranger in her son's house.
"You don't have to whisper, Rose, nor do you have to knock."
Rose stayed silent after she sat on the couch next to Daniel, waiting to take clues from him.
"Contrary to what Jack believes, I'm not fragile. You don't have to tip toe or knock on doors around me. Though rolling your eyes or mouthing the words 'Daniel's nuts' is considered acceptable." Daniel shifted on the couch, using the palms of his hands to lever his body. "Where *is* Jack, by the way?"
"Walking Janet to the car."
"You don't want to hear all the gory details?"
Rose met the challenge in Daniel's glance head on. "No. I don't need to listen to Janet spout any medical terminology to make any decision. I can see just by looking at you—"
"You've been in this room for less than five minutes. Okay." Daniel moved so he faced Rose. "Tell me, come on, I'm curious, how am I doing?"
"You're being a bastard."
"Okay," Daniel conceded. "I'll give you one."
"You're physically hurting."
"Two, but that's a given, just by looking at me."
"Keep going, you're on a roll."
"And you're scared. Scared—scared of both remembering or not remembering whatever happened."
"Jack told you?"
"Jack told me you couldn't remember." Rose reached out and grabbed Daniel's retreating hand. "It's okay to be afraid."
From this angle, Rose watched as Daniel's eyes filled, but there were no tears and she held her disappointment in check when Daniel averted his face to look out the den's windows.
"Fear is a human emotion. Fear of the unknown, the darkness, what lies beyond. Damn straight I'm afraid. But if you'll excuse me, it's past lunch time and I'm going to make myself something to eat."
* * *
With badly shaking hands, Daniel attempted to construct a sandwich. The twist tie on the bread was impossible to unravel and eventually he just ripped open the bag, extracting two slices. Then, it took two tries to open the plastic wrapped cold cuts and he gave up slicing a tomato after the first try.
"Let me help," Rose gently tugged the knife from Daniel's grasp. Stunned, Daniel allowed Rose to take the utensil and he was mortified as big fat tears began to roll down his cheeks as he observed Rose deftly slicing the tomato into thin, precise pieces. Head down, side by side, the security of Rose performing such a mundane household chore forced the tide of tears to turn to loud, embarrassing sobs.
"Oh God," he stuttered, hiccupping as he attempted to draw a deep breath. "I'm sorry," he pushed the half made sandwich away, feeling sick to his stomach at the mere sight of the cheese and turkey. "I'm not even hungry. I don't know why I thought I was."
Involuntarily Daniel jumped, pulling his shoulders up around his ears when the clatter of the dropped knife into the porcelain sink seemed to echo inordinately loud. "I'm not usually this jumpy," he apologized, swiping his running nose with the sleeve of his pajama top, sniffing in what the flannel didn't catch. "You may not believe it, but I don't ever remember crying over someone slicing tomatoes for my sandwich."
"I understand," Rose said in a voice filled with empathy as she patted Daniel's forearm. "But all you had to say was, no you didn't want tomato, I wouldn't have been offended. Honest."
Daniel's answer was somewhere between a snort and a sob at Rose's remark and brought the heel of his hand up to catch the moisture leaking from his nose which his sleeve had missed.
"Don't you even think of doing anything so disgusting," Rose commanded, stopping Daniel's hand and depositing a tissue from her pocket into the open palm. "Blow." She waited until he was finished blowing and wiping before plucking at Daniel's sleeve. "Did my son teach you that disgusting habit?"
"Which disgusting habit of Daniel's am I going to take credit for?" Jack asked as he entered the kitchen.
Hurriedly, Daniel scrubbed at his eyes, embarrassed not only at his loss of control but at Jack's and Rose's patience as he regained his composure. He let the two of them continue to banter about his bodily functions before he felt confident enough to intervene.
"Excuse me," he said, turning, "I'm right here in the room with you… do you think this topic of conversation could possibly wait until I was out of earshot."
Jack wagged his eyebrows at Daniel. "Nah… what fun would that be? It's more fun to discuss your farting and burping with my mother, 'cause Teal'c and Carter already know all of your nasty habits. Mom's still an innocent in that area."
Daniel's glance volleyed over to Rose as she gathered up the sandwich on the counter, arranged it onto a plate, and shoved it into Daniel's hands. "You mean using his shirt sleeve to wipe up his snot is just the tip of the iceberg?" Rose asked innocently, winking at Daniel.
Daniel stood there, dumbfounded, while Rose took a seat at the table, opposite Jack. "Daniel? Care to join us?" Jack asked, pushing the chair out with his foot. Warily Daniel sat down at the edge of the chair.
"Why don't you sit back?" Rose admonished, "You'll be more comfortable."
"No, it's okay, Rose." Daniel said, choking down a bite of sandwich, hoping to distract her. "For now this is fine."
Jack gave Daniel a look of sympathy so intense that Daniel had no choice but to lower his eyes. He knew that Jack and Janet had discussed him and how she had treated his injuries, but knowing and seeing *that* look in Jack's eyes, Daniel couldn't help but feel utterly humiliated. "Hey, don't fill up on the sandwich," Jack ordered. "Frasier said you look like I'm starving you… so tonight's dinner is your choice."
Nothing at the moment appealed to Daniel, food held no interest but for the sake of the two people gazing expectantly at him, he chose Chinese.
* * *
Daniel blinked at Rose. Slowly bringing her into focus as she began to set to the table, moving around him. Jack had gone to pick up the food, but Daniel couldn't help but think of it as excuse to escape, but that was fine, 'cause he wished he could *escape*, so he couldn't fault Jack at all.
As he studied Rose, he felt a smile building, the first in a while and it felt strange, and the fact that it *felt* strange was strange.
"Rose?" Daniel gripped her hand as she set a fork next to his place setting.
Now it was Rose's turn to blink.
"Thank you for coming."
Her smile lead Daniel to believe he had never told her he was glad she was here and he ducked his head in embarrassment when he felt her lips brush over his hair.
"That's what family does."
* * *
"What are you doing, Daniel. I got it." Rose grabbed the white containers out of Daniel's outstretched hands.
"I need to get up… walk around."
"Why? So you can make all that food that you *didn't* eat digest."
"I'm old, not stupid, mhuirnin, ripping up and rearranging one moo shu pork pancake and removing the fortune from fortune cookies does not constitute dinner."
"Hey, I took the required bite of the fortune cookie, and I drank the soup," Daniel groused.
"Okay, I'll give you that," Rose agreed as she began to pick up and put down the various pill bottles on the counter, squinting at the various labels.
"What are you looking for?" Daniel asked sharply.
"This," Rose said. She twisted the top off one of the plastic bottles and shook it until a single pill dropped into her palm. Rose moved her hand in front of Daniel, gently poking him in the chest, allowing the pill to bounce enticingly around.
"Take it. Things will look better after a good night's sleep."
Daniel picked the pill up and rolled it between his fingers, contemplating. "This little pill will make things better, Rose?"
"You'll sleep, Daniel, a little sleep never hurt anyone."
* * *
Jack hated this, actually abhorred waking a slumbering Daniel. He had forced Daniel into bed about two hours ago when he kept nodding off in the middle of the movie; now he was shaking him awake, apologizing at his forgetfulness in reminding him to taking the evening meds.
A half moon of bleary blue appeared and Jack gently tugged on Daniel's bicep, hauling him to a sitting position. Daniel shoved Jack away and stood, swaying.
"Whoa, Daniel. No need to get outta bed." Jack chuckled. He swung the bottle of water in front of Daniel, smiling as Daniel's eyes tracked the pendulum swing of the bottle.
"Why d'ja wake me if I don' have to get up?" Daniel slurred, listing towards Jack.
"Meds," Jack answered, propping Daniel back to the upright position.
"Oh." Daniel dropped sideways, bouncing on the mattress.
"Here." Jack took Daniel's right hand and transferred the pills from his palm to Daniel's. He cupped his hand under Daniel's for support and stood guard as Daniel emptied his hand of the pills, one at a time, without question. "Drink this." Jack shoved the bottle into Daniel's hand and waved his finger to convey that more than a sip was required to wash the pills down.
Daniel began to cough and for a split second, Jack was afraid the pills and the water were going to reappear, and he held the garbage can hovering by Daniel's stomach.
Daniel dropped the half filled water bottle into the garbage and proceeded to push it away. "Fine," he mumbled hoarsely, clearing his throat. "Sleep," he yawned, "Just what Janet ordered… sleep because you need it, she said." Daniel hunkered down, haphazardly drawing blankets all about him.
Jack withdrew the water bottle, placed it on the nightstand by Daniel's glasses and, as a safety measure, placed the pail within arm's reach. He tugged down the blanket and gauged Daniel's temperature by a ghost of a kiss to his temple. "Yes, Daniel," Jack said, adjusting the blankets around the sleeping man, "sleep is just what the doctor ordered."
* * *
Something was wrong. A shadow that seemed to flit along Daniel's subconscious moving slow enough to sense something was out of place but traveling too fast for him to grasp. Intuition, a sense honed from years with SG-1.
"Major Athans…" Daniel hissed, annoyed that SG-12's team leader paid him no heed and continued to travel the paved road to their destination. Daniel stopped short and both Lts. Revlon and Acadia were forced to veer around him to avoid bowling Daniel over. Subconsciously, Daniel's hand rested on his side arm, and he called the major's name again, louder, with more insistence.
"Dr. Jackson." Major Athans pivoted. "May I ask what's so important?"
Daniel stepped into the major's personal space, head down, whispering. "This isn't right," he explained with a sweep of his hand.
"Dr. Jackson, *what* exactly do you mean. We're already running behind schedule, and from what *you* informed us in the briefing, the Paas are very punctual people. 'Quite anal about being on time' I believe were your exact words."
Frustrated, Daniel pushed his glasses back to the bridge of his nose. "Yes," he stuttered, "thanks for listening… but this is festival time for them and from what SG-1 learned at our last encounter…"
"SG-12 is here to finalize a treaty for mining rights, *you're* here too because they requested you, do you understand that? I for one am certainly not going back to General Hammond and informing him that we lost the treaty because the *civilian* told the military leader that he had a *feeling*."
Out of the corner of his eyes, Daniel noticed the fringe of bushes to his left move in the nonexistent breeze and he had only a second to issue an Abydonian curse before the Goa'uld sonic bomb rolled between him and the major.
* * *
Daniel awoke with a horrific headache, a ringing in his ears and the knowledge that he'd been right. He opened his eyes and blinked a few times to bring the world into focus, with no luck. Blind, one of the more endearing side effects of the sonic bomb. He took a deep breath and did what Jack had always drummed into him. Assess the situation. Okay, he had been stripped of his jacket and boots, his watch and vest were also missing, their familiar weight missing and though his hands were painfully bound at the wrists, surprisingly, his feet were free. He was lying on his stomach on a soft cushion and when he scissored his unbound legs, Daniel was able to ascertain that the cushion seemed to be the size of a nice sized mattress. He fought to find purchase on its spongy surface to sit upright.
"Major? Lt. Revlon? Acadia?" Daniel called. He tried their names again when he received no answer. Grunting, he slid off the mattress, landing hard on a cold cement floor. He sat there awhile, resting his back on the bed, blinking his eyes, willing them to focus, breathing heavily, and concentrated past the shadows until the outline against the wall firmed into a door. He pushed himself upright then took two unsteady steps towards freedom, but would have fallen flat on his face if a pair of arms hadn't grabbed him. He froze at the timbre in the voice.
"Daniel Jackson of the Tau'ri, you are leaving already? Has not my god given you comfortable accommodations?"
Out of habit, Daniel's rote 'false god' earned him a backhand across the face and a forceful toss onto the bed. Daniel scrabbled up the bed, squinting. He was still recovering from the aftereffects of the sonic bomb and, coupled with the fact he was without his glasses, there was no way in hell he was able to make out the tattoo adorning this man's forehead. "Okay, you know my name—how about you introduce yourself to me?"
"You will know soon enough."
"Where are the people I was with?"
"They are with friends. You—"
"Am locked in against my will," Daniel answered with more confidence than he felt.
"Are very rude, Jackson of the Tau'ri, rude, but very beautiful."
"I bet you say that to all the Tau'ri you hold hostage." Daniel began to slither around the bed, attempting to put as much distance between himself and the man who had begun to make him very nervous. He jerked in surprise when quick as lightning hands gripped his ankles, anchoring him to the mattress. Daniel bucked and attempted to throw a punch with bound wrists but he had no leverage to do any damage.
"You may scream, Daniel Jackson." The Jaffa cocked his head. "Actually I would prefer that you scream."
Daniel earned himself another backhand when he spit in the face that now hovered over his.
"I would advise you not to do that again." He wiped Daniel's spittle off his face with the tips of his fingers, then outlined Daniel's mouth with the moisture.
Daniel turned to the side and spit out a mouthful of blood. "Isn't your boss gonna be annoyed when you damage the merchandise?" Daniel teased.
"That is what the sarcophagus is for." Daniel shuddered in revulsion as a rough tongue licked his neck. "And if you listen very closely, you will hear your teammates scream as my master questions them… but I have been given permission to play with you as I see fit, before my god requests your presence."
Daniel fought and bucked as the massive body worked his way up his torso, capturing his bound hands and forcing them over his head. Daniel's struggles earned him a powerful punch to the temple and when he regained consciousness he was again lying on his stomach with the First Prime's body crushing his to the mattress.
Daniel began to curse in Goa'uld and dug his teeth into the palm that had moved to cover his mouth.
"I like when you struggle, young one." Daniel could feel the Jaffa rub his bloody hand on his shirt, wiping it clean. "Fight me some more," he hissed into Daniel's ear, the hot putrid breath in close proximity, nauseating Daniel. He began to pant, breathing through his mouth to ward off the odiferous smell of the Jaffa's desire. Daniel's lungs huffed in a futile attempt to capture oxygen under the weight of the body holding him down.
* * *
Daniel's erratic panting woke Jack out of a sound sleep.
"Wake up, Daniel," he said to the restless man, self-preservation reminding him to keep his distance.
Daniel continued to fight with his nighttime demons, English words interspersed with Goa'uld terms. Angry words. Jack managed to latch onto more of the tone than being able to translate. "So much for a full night's sleep." With a sigh of exasperation, Jack slid up the mattress, leaned over and flicked on the bedside lamp.
Jack shook his head. While in the throes of the nightmare, Daniel had managed to twist his unsettled body tightly in the blanket, cocooning his limbs so securely he was now struggling against its confines. He had moved from his stomach to his side with his fingers interlocked with each other. He was breathing heavily and Jack believed he had no choice but to reposition Daniel. Hopefully after he accomplished that, they both could get back to sleep and more importantly, halt this nightmare before it escalated into something that would bring a panicked, overly curious mother to their doorway.
"Daniel, wake up," Jack ordered, bending over him to release the blanket tucked under his body.
"Nonononono," Daniel muttered, throwing his joined hands backwards, narrowly missing Jack's jaw. Daniel jerked his shoulder out from under Jack's weight, connecting with his lover's sternum so forcefully that Jack's hand slipped from adjusting the blanket. Daniel turned onto his stomach, flopping around like a fish out of water, burrowing his face into the pillow, banging his still joined fingers against the headboard.
Jack grabbed Daniel's hands and forgetting about the injuries to his back, he pressed into Daniel, hoping to provide comfort. "You're home, it's okay," Jack whispered into Daniel's ear.
The plan backfired and Daniel bucked convulsively under Jack. Tucking his knees under his stomach, forcing his ass into the air, Jack had no choice but to release Daniel.
"Wake up!" Jack shouted as he roughly shook Daniel's trembling shoulder.
"Let me go, you son of a bitch! Do. Not. Touch. Me!" Daniel yelled before becoming a mass of warring arms and legs. Jack was fighting to pin down any moving appendage he could grab when Daniel suddenly went limp in his grasp.
"Thank you," Jack whispered, looking heavenward. Tentatively, he carded his shaking fingers through Daniel's sweaty, soaked strands.
"Oh god, no," Daniel pleaded, begging for mercy, averting his head from Jack's touch.
"I'm sorry," Jack said, his useless hands falling into his lap. He then cringed in horror and fought the urge to cup his hands over his ears as Daniel lifted his head, tilted it back and filled the bedroom and Jack's soul with a scream of anger and frustration.
* * *
"Just a nightmare, Mom, go back to bed," Jack replied impatiently, trying to still a thrashing Daniel.
"Dammit, Jack, that doesn't look like *just* a nightmare to me."
"Jeeze, Mom, not now," Jack shouted over his shoulder, loosening his grip on Daniel. "Damn!" Daniel used Jack's distraction to his advantage and pushed off Jack, offsetting his balance and sending his body and part of the blanket to the floor with a resounding thud.
"Oh mhuirnin," Rose exclaimed, rushing to Daniel's aid.
Jack jumped off the edge of the bed, playing defensive guard between his mother and Daniel. "Stop," he ordered, throwing up his hands. "Just stay where you are." He bent on creaking knees. "Daniel," Jack whispered, copying Daniel's familiar 'meet and great the aliens' posture of extended hands, palms facing upwards. "Come on back to bed." Jack tugged at the blanket.
"Not again," Daniel begged, his eyes opened wide but not seeing the bedroom. Of that, Jack was positive. He crabwalked away from Jack, backing up until he literally hit the wall. "Nonononononono," he shook his head emphatically. "Don't you understand, I won't talk."
"I promise I won't put you back in there," Jack said softly.
"I won't talk," Daniel threatened, "And there's no one left to kill but me. Only me. All dead."
"It's okay," Jack said, "I understand."
Daniel nodded, closed his eyes and laid his head back against the wall, drawing a deep breath. Jack counted to twelve Mississippi and Daniel still remained motionless.
"Daniel?" When he received no response, coherent or otherwise, Jack exhaled loudly. "I think he's sleeping," he said, scooting over to Daniel.
"My name is Daniel Jackson, Dr. Daniel Jackson," Daniel began, eyes popping open the moment Jack touched him. "I'm an archaeologist on SG-1." Daniel nervously licked his lips, beginning again. "My name is Daniel Jackson, Dr. Daniel Jackson. I'm an archaeologist on SG-1, we are peaceful explorers. My name is—" on and on Daniel droned.
"Shit," Jack leaned over and tapped the top of the nightstand, cursing again when he found the cradle for the cordless empty, the vision of it on the kitchen counter taunting him. "Mom, get my cell phone, it's on the dresser—I need to call Fraiser."
Blindly, Jack stuck his hand out and his mom slapped the phone into his waiting palm. Jack trained his glance on Daniel, never letting it waver and he was almost relieved when Daniel's breathing became fast and irregular, hoping maybe he'd hyperventilate, pass out and put and end to this nightmare.
"Mom," Jack hissed as she sat down within an arm's length of Daniel. "What the hell are you doing?"
She began to hum a tune Jack was vaguely familiar with but the name escaped him. "Shut up and call Janet, okay? Jack! Just do it!" Though the sentence was spoken softly, her eyes sparked with annoyance over Jack's hesitation.
Jack punched in the numbers to Fraiser's cell phone, the one glued to the woman's side since Cassie had begun to drive, and between Daniel's rant and his mother's humming, Jack was positive he, himself, was one step away from a nice, white padded room.
"Sorry," was the first word out of his mouth. "It's late, I mean early—I mean we have a situation here. Daniel. I gave him his meds about—" Jack checked the bedside clock, "two hours ago along with a sleeping pill. What, Mom?"
"Me, too," Rose muttered.
"Hold on a minute, Doc. You too what?"
"I gave Daniel a sleeping pill also," Rose admitted.
"Two pills, Janet. Daniel's had two sleeping pills, plus the Compazine, the Valium, damn the whole fuckin' medicine chest and he's traveled from a humdinger of some sort of nightmare-flashback thingie into a full fledged flashback that I can't pull him out of." Jack nodded. "Now? Daniel's doing a rendition of name, rank and serial number." Jack could feel his face harden. "I know, Doc. I understand and yes we discussed this. *But* telling me to ride this out at the moment is not the answer." The exhausted man scrubbed at his face, bringing his hand up to slide through his grey hair. "Are you sure? What about—? Okay, you're the doc, Doc."
Flipping the phone shut, he tossed it onto the bed.
"Daniel?" Rose spoke, softly, her hand reaching out to touch Daniel's shoulder.
"Damn it, move!" Jack shouted, throwing his body over Daniel's to stop the fist that was headed towards his startled mother. "Move," he commanded again as he felt Daniel slide to the floor under their combined weight. "Start the shower, now!" He grunted as his partner's long legs fought Jack's for purchase on the wood floor. "Mom, cool water - Fraiser's orders." Holding Daniel still was like battling an octopus, all arms and legs and Jack jerked his arm away from the proximity of Daniel's snapping jaw.
"It's done," his mother replied from the doorway separating the bathroom from the bedroom.
"Upsie daisy, big guy," Jack said, attempting to haul Daniel upright by his arms, landing hard on his ass when Daniel kicked and took Jack's feet right out from underneath him.
* * *
Jack knelt under the cool, streaming shower spray with Daniel, the two of them sporting more bruises than when the night had begun. Face to face, still fully clothed, and soaked. Jack had shoved the struggling man under the water, following right behind him, sliding the shower door closed in his mother's face.
Daniel's agitation increased twofold the second the water hit his body. Jack apologized profusely as he pinned the incoherent man to the slippery tile wall. Holding him in place with the weight of his body, Jack changed the temperature of the water from cool to tepid to warm, feeling Daniel's body relax in increments.
Jack forced Daniel to his knees and accompanied him to make sure he didn't fall face-first onto the porcelain. The previously flaying arms had made contact with Jack's jaw and he rotated it now, touching it tenderly, positive he would be wearing an array of colors later today.
The harsh breathing had halted, the physical argument had stopped and Daniel's knees gave out and he sat with a splash, letting the water flow over his bowed head. Jack sat also, pulling Daniel along the tub, awkwardly wrapping his legs and arms around the quiet man, maneuvering Daniel's head until it rested on his shoulder, whispering nonsensical words of comfort until the trembling stopped. "Daniel, I think we're finished here, okay?"
Lazily, Daniel acquiesced with a nod. "Finished. No more," he repeated, his words slurred and barely understandable. He lifted his head and blinked at Jack, confused. "It's raining?"
Jack kept one hand on Daniel's chest and turned off the water with the other before sliding open the shower doors. "Mom," he yelled, leaning his head out the door.
"I'm right here." She peeked in through the opened shower door. "My opinion? Strip in the shower. You and Daniel. I've grabbed plenty of towels."
"My god, Jonathan? Shy? I'm your mother, no matter how old you are." She disappeared from Jack's line and vision and returned holding a towel like a matador. "I won't peek, I promise. Come on," she said with a flick of the towel. "Daniel needs—" she cleared her throat and stood a little straighter when she continued. "Daniel needs to get out of those clothes."
* * *
Jack and Rose were matching bookends to Daniel's sleeping body. He was in the middle of the bed, under the covers, snoring and oblivious to Jack and Rose as they sat, pillows propped behind their backs, leaning up against the headboard.
Rose held one of Daniel's hands, lightly caressing his fingers, watching the peacefully slumbering man with one eye, the other eye watching Jack fiddle with the cell phone, flipping it from hand to hand.
"Sorry for what, ma?"
"Butting in. Thinking I knew better. Giving Daniel medication without talking to your first."
"You're a mother."
"You wanted to make things better."
"I screwed up. I butted in where I had no right to."
"You care. No harm in that—no harm done."
"I still feel badly." Rose smiled as Jack leaned over Daniel and kissed her cheek.
"You're a mom, guilt is your middle name."
"Don't get fresh."
"Come on, you have to agree my attitude keeps you on your toes. Sharpens your senses *and* makes you feel years younger just having me around to reprimand."
Daniel mumbled something Rose was unable to understand. She raised the blanket to cover his exposed shoulder. "What did Janet say?" Rose asked. As soon as Daniel had been settled in bed, she had insisted that her son call the doctor back.
Jack dropped the cell phone onto the night table, punching the pillows into shape. "The same thing she told me this afternoon. It was only a matter of time before Daniel hit a brick wall. It wasn't the pills, or the withdrawal, or his sleeping patterns, or not eating - it wasn't any one thing. She warned me, she said these things would finally explode. And she was right."
Jack shrugged. "Best case scenario, he'll sleep the rest of the night and wake up sometime tomorrow and remember everything. Worst case, we could get an instant replay of what happened earlier—it's a crap shoot."
"You're saying Janet doesn't know."
"Yup, that's it in a nutshell."
* * *
Daniel withdrew his hand from Rose's and furtively searched out his other hand, clasping them tightly together. Jack's own hand hovered over Daniel's shoulder, waiting, eventually falling back into his lap when Daniel tucked his joined hands under his cheek with a sigh.
"His back. How could...? Why would *anyone* want to do him harm? How did it happen? The prognosis?"
"He'll heal. It hurts. It's uncomfortable. And the people…" Jack leaned his head back and rested it where his bunched up pillows met the headboard. "Stop it," Jack said gently, the hardness of his voice covered over by weariness. "You knew the parameters before you even came here—no questions. There's no who, what, when, where, or why. I'm sorry," he added more softly.
"I'm sorry also," Rose replied sadly, sliding from the bed and taking her pillows. She leaned over and kissed Daniel's cheek. "He feels warm to me," she stated, pulling the blanket up to his shoulders. "Should I get him anything?"
"Nothing. He's had enough drugs for the night," Jack said, smoothing down Daniel's still damp hair. "We'll sort it all out after we've slept." He moved his hand to the back of Daniel's neck. "Temp doesn't feel that high. And Mom?"
Rose turned slowly, hugging her pillows to her chest, yawning. She smiled when she caught Jack mirroring her yawn. "Contagious," she mumbled.
"Tired," he answered, smiling. "Do me a favor? Leave the door open, just in case."
"Just in case?"
"In case Daniel wakes up and he wants you or maybe…"
"If you need me, Johnny?"
Rose dropped the pillows at the end of the bed, took four steps and gathered her son in her arms, holding back a grunt of surprise at the strength of his grip. "It's okay to need me, you know that."
She could feel his nod against her neck before Jack gently pushed her away. "I'm too old to need my mommy."
"Oh, you just don't get it," Rose tsk'ed, picking up her pillows. "It's not about blood relationships, mothers or fathers. This," Rose's glance traveled from Jack to Daniel. "Us, the three of us. Is about understanding and faith."
* * *
Jack was shaving when Daniel shuffled into the bathroom. He made no comment as Daniel peed, he just lent a supportive arm to Daniel's elbow when he seemed to sway a little too dangerously for the bathroom setting.
"I'm okay," Daniel said as he jerked his arm from Jack's grasp and grabbed the counter to hold himself steady.
"Okay, just make sure you keep your aim steady, just had the mat washed."
Daniel weakly shouldered Jack to the side so he could wash his hands in the sink. "Ha ha," Daniel replied sarcastically, drying his hands on the towel on the counter. He paused, catching the reflection of Jack's grimace in the mirror as he stroked the razor over a darkening bruise.
"It's nothing," Jack said quickly, using the towel that Daniel had just discarded to gently wipe away the excess shaving cream.
"It's not nothing, Jack." Daniel reached out and tenderly touched the mark. "I may be confused, but I'm *positive* that wasn't there last night. Was it?"
Jack shook his head.
"I did that?"
Jack snagged him by the sweatshirt before he could leave the bathroom.
"And I did that," Jack said, bringing Daniel's wrists into their line of vision, cringing at the mass of bruises circling both hands.
Daniel's brow furrowed in concentration and Jack could do nothing but bury his disappointment when Daniel admitted that he remembered nothing.
Jack followed Daniel back into the bedroom and made no move to stop him as Daniel slid under the covers, turning his face to the wall. "Still tired," Daniel lied. Jack had no trouble seeing through the false yawn and hated himself for not having the strength or courage to force Daniel's nightmares into the light of morning.
"It's from all the drugs from last night," Jack said. "And fever, you still have a slight fever," was Jack's lame excuse.
"Headache," Daniel admitted, burying a cough into the pillow.
"I'll wake you in about an hour for breakfast."
"Set the alarm, it's obviously safer," Daniel warned sarcastically.
* * *
Jack pasted a smile on his face before opening the door. "Carter. Teal'c. Welcome back."
The last thing Jack felt up to was putting on a façade for those that knew him best. He was tired, and crabby and cranky, but could well understand their desire to see Daniel, and for that reason he couldn't dissuade them from visiting today.
* * *
Jack was annoyed for not trusting his own instincts and turning down their need to visit. He wondered if his teammates could see through Daniel's forced gaiety and exuberance as they sat around the dining room table eating lunch.
Daniel awkwardly stumbled through his end of the conversation, trying to add to the flow, laughing a little too loudly and harshly in places where humor wasn't needed. Jack was itching to touch him to confirm the feverish flush to his cheeks, but Daniel seemed brittle and on edge and Jack fought to keep his hands to himself.
"Maybe you want to lie down, Daniel?" Carter asked, her fork frozen between her plate and her mouth after Daniel blinked in confusion at a simple question she had asked.
"No! I'm fine," he barked. Daniel picked up his glass and gulped down half of it.
Daniel buried his interest in the food on his plate and Jack took advantage of Daniel's distraction to warn the people sitting around the table with an emphatic shake of his head and silently mouthed "no" to let sleeping dogs lie and stay silent.
Tentatively, conversation was resumed and Daniel began to use his fork to tap a repetitive rhythm on the side of his dish. But it was the bobbing of Daniel's right leg brushing continually up and down Jack's left leg that pushed Jack over the edge.
"Daniel," Jack whispered, forgetting his own warning by applying the gentlest of pressure on the nervously bopping leg.
Talking came to a screeching halt at Daniel's loud exclamation of surprise. Jack sat horrified when Daniel flung the fork in a knee jerk reaction and it made a graceful arc through the air, spiraling prongs over handle, then shattering Teal'c's water glass on impact. Daniel leaped up, his momentum knocking his chair to the ground. Instinctively, Jack threw out his arm, unsure of whether he was making the effort to catch Daniel or the chair.
Like a deer caught in the headlights of an approaching truck, Daniel's eyes widened, his breath quickened and he froze, his glance sliding around the room when concerned voices called his name.
Daniel had begun to tremble, panting as if he was struggling for breath and he stepped back, hitting Jack's arm, batting it out of the way. He stumbled over the legs of the overturned chair and balanced himself by grabbing the half wall behind him.
Jack stood slowly. "It's okay."
"I'm sorry…" Daniel stuttered. His eyebrows gathered together, his upper teeth tugged and pulled at his bottom lip and Jack cringed as embarrassment flooded Daniel's face.
* * *
Cornered by concerned, sympathetic looks, Daniel held onto the wall for support, waving away Jack's approach. "I'm okay," he stammered, bending slowly, righting the fallen chair. Daniel patted the back of the chair and offered the shocked faces around the table a hesitant, reassuring smile. "Please don't," Daniel said when he realized the whole luncheon contingent were on their feet. "I'm just going to—I'll be..." Daniel's hands fluttered through the air, searching for the words he couldn't find. With a heavy sigh, he dropped them by his side. "Excuse me," was all he managed to sputter before leaving the room.
* * *
He had never considered himself a coward, but sitting on the cold bathroom floor, his back pressed against the locked door, Daniel was terrified of his loss of control. The pain in his back as he forcefully leaned against the door was grounding him, allowing him a sense of reality, normalcy.
Was he terrified because for a moment he'd found himself somewhere other than at the dining room table? Somewhere back on the planet reliving whatever the hell had happened there? Was it the shadows on the wall that had frightened him or the fact that the shadows remained silent, teasing him with fleeting flashbacks? Was he more afraid of remembering or terrified that he would *never* remember. Neither prospect seemed either promising or hopeful.
Only two things enticed him. One would be to crawl into the bed on the other side of the door and drag the covers over his head and pretend he hadn't lost two weeks of his life. The other idea would be to find a way to go back in time and to stop himself from ever making that fated trip to the planet. For a second Daniel permitted the fantasy of "what ifs" to wash over him, nauseated at his own cowardliness, his desire to escape and his refusal to remember.
"Go away, Jack," was Daniel's answer to the knock on the door.
"It is I, DanielJackson, not O'Neill."
"Oh, in that case, *please* go away, Teal'c."
"I will not."
"Your choice, but you're missing an excellent lunch."
"I am missing something more important than nourishment, I am missing my friend."
"Please, Teal'c," Daniel begged. "I need time. Just give me time." He was beginning to hate the mantra of those words.
"There is no need to hurry."
Daniel's bark of sarcastic laughter echoed in the tiled bathroom. "I believe my desire to remain here will exceed your ability to stand guard outside the bathroom door."
"Do you wish me to leave?"
"If wishes were fishes," Daniel mumbled.
"I do not understand that reference."
Daniel sighed. "If wishes were fishes we'd all be throwing nets. If wishes were horses we'd all ride."
"Do you wish for a net?"
"I don't need a net, Teal'c. The men in white have more than enough of those to catch me with." Daniel heard something and thought he must have been mistaken. He pressed his ear to the door to check. "Teal'c, did you just sigh?" he asked incredulously.
"No, I did not. I expressed exasperation at my inability to not understand yet another comment that you have spoken about, those men in white. I am sorry."
Now it was Daniel's turn to sigh.
"May I ask what is it you are wishing for, DanielJackson, if you do not desire a net or a horse?"
"Control, the ability to remember, the need to forget."
"Those items appear to be contradictory."
"Yeah, you noticed that, too?" Daniel shrugged. "I'm thinking that's probably part of my problem, if not all of my problem."
"Then you are confused," Teal'c stated smugly.
"That's putting it mildly."
"SG-1 will not fail you."
Daniel shifted, the burning ache across his shoulders and his back forcing a change of position. "Fail me?" Daniel gritted his teeth and rocked back and forth on his numb ass cheeks trying to alleviate the growing discomfort.
"I will not permit you to be subjected to the atrocities of Mental Health once again as you—"
"Thank you for your concern." Daniel cut Teal'c off. For him to think about the white padded room was one thing, but for Teal'c to mention it made it feel like a possible reality. "I'll be out in a few minutes," Daniel promised.
"Do you require me to wait?"
"No." Daniel swallowed the angry words that wanted to follow. "I'll be fine," he assured his friend, offering a smile that Teal'c couldn't even see.
"As you wish," Teal'c answered and Daniel shifted sideways, bending his ear toward the door, straining to hear the floorboards creaking under Teal'c's weight as he departed the bedroom.
* * *
"Coffee's fresh, and Carter bought a great chocolate…" Daniel watched as Jack picked up his fork and examined what it held. "What's this called again?"
"Death by Chocolate, sir."
"Whatever," Jack mumbled around the forkful of dessert he had just shoved into his mouth. "Ith delithoush." Jack grabbed his coffee and swallowed, smacking his lips. "It's right up your alley, Daniel. Go get yourself a piece."
"Don't talk with your mouth full, Jack," Rose admonished.
Daniel stood there, unsure of whether he should apologize or play their game of ignorance.
"Would you like me to get you a piece?" Sam offered.
"Coffee?" Daniel squeaked.
"Sure, cake and coffee," Sam said, standing. "Anyone else?"
Daniel saw Jack open his mouth and wave his plate in Sam's direction and Rose spoke for her son, commenting about too much chocolate. Daniel stood blinking at the good natured argument that ensued.
Sam returned with Daniel's coffee and cake and he felt her prodding him gently towards the seat she had vacated. He dropped onto the corner of the couch and accepted the food and drink from her outstretched hand.
"Well?" Jack asked.
"I believe O'Neill would like your opinion on the cake."
"Oh, sorry." Daniel took a bite and tasted nothing. He could smell the cloying sweetness of the chocolate, but the texture was pure sawdust and he fought to swallow the clump sitting in his mouth. Daniel put the plate down and hastily reached for the coffee mug on the end table.
Daniel looked over the rim of his mug at the four pair of eyes waiting expectantly for his opinion. He lowered the mug, palming it, soaking up the warmth. "Great, Sam."
"See, I told you, Teal'c, this was a good choice. You had to see the two of us in the bakery, I wanted this cake and Teal'c wanted cream puffs."
"Cream puffs?" Jack chortled. "For some reason, T, I just can't see you ordering those."
Daniel played mental volleyball as his gaze flitted from one person to another, anger and confusion reigning as they accepted his silent presence, no one commenting on the unfinished mug of coffee or the uneaten cake.
* * *
Daniel was sleeping, clothed only in sweat pants, spread eagle on his stomach, huffing shallowly, the recently treated, healing wounds on his back barely visible in the gloom of the bedroom. He had easily acquiesced to Jack's offer of a bowl of cereal after Carter and Teal'c had left, which had been refilled when Jack found him slurping down the milk, practically licking the bowl. He'd held his tongue and simply poured more into the bowl, adding milking, and Daniel had ended up with two bowls, a handful of meds, averted eyes and forced conversation as Jack followed Fraiser's step-by-step instructions.
Jack paused mid-bend, one hand on the bottle of cleansing solution, the other hand gripping the open door of the vanity as he replaced Daniel's medical supplies to their assigned bathroom shelf, when Daniel's guttural Goa'uld followed him into the bathroom. "Damn it, Daniel" he sputtered, "Can't you just sleep?"
Angrily, he flung the plastic bottle into the recesses of the cabinet and dropped the rest of the medical paraphernalia onto the vanity before stepping out into the bedroom.
He was no fool, he'd learned his lesson from last night and earlier today, and now he stood a safe distance from the bed, his hands shoved deep into his pockets, his guts twisting painfully as he watched the scenario being played out before him.
Puppetlike, pulled by mental strings, Daniel's hands sought each other out until right and left fingers intertwined. Jack backed up, blindly searching for the chair and sat heavily, his eyes glued to the bed, powerless to stop Daniel's nightmare, remembering all too well and clearly his own nightmares of Iraq.
Tonight's nightmare was quicker, Daniel fought less, spoke more. His tone quality traveled from his patently "peaceful explorer" voice over to exasperation, ending with pinpricks of blood dotting his lower lip as he stifled a scream when he was forced to acquiesce to his demon's demands.
Tonight, in this bedroom, Jack's age caught up with him as he shakily rose from the chair and shuffled over to the bed. Daniel was sleeping on his stomach with his face buried in the pillow. Jack knew it was idiotic, but the way Daniel's face was stuffed into the pillow, all he could think of was suffocation. Stupid, he knew, and he had to battle down the urge to wake him, but it was Daniel's hands, the fingers tightly entangled together that stopped Jack. It appeared that Daniel was still running with the visions of his nightmares still nipping at his heels so Jack settled for pulling the covers over Daniel's sweaty body.
* * *
Daniel was sitting, crossed legged, bare chested, his arms hanging limply in his lap, eyes closed, his forehead was resting against the glass of the French doors.
"Daniel?" she whispered again, hesitantly.
"Didn't mean to wake you," he apologized.
"You didn't wake me, I'm old, I get up a few times a night because the bladder isn't what it used to be," Rose explained, sliding on slippered feet closer to Daniel. "What are you doing up?"
"Oh, are you in pain? Do you want or need anything?"
"God, no," he snorted. Daniel rotated his head, gazing sleepily at Rose. "The pills make me sleep like the dead and then I'm up— just... up. I didn't want to wake up Jack, so instead my night wanderings woke you up." Daniel sighed. "Sorry."
Rose bent and planted a kiss to the top of Daniel's head. "Don't apologize, mhuirnin, please." She leaned forward, pressing her nose against the glass, the absence of light in the kitchen allowed the back yard to be visible in the darkness. Rose tapped the glass, drawing Daniel's wandering attention to the yard.
"Bet you want to know what I see out there?"
"Not particularly," Rose said, breathing heavily onto the pane of glass, drawing a tic-tac-toe board in the condensation. "You want X's or O's."
"I'm unbeatable," Daniel warned as he slowly pulled himself upright.
"Hah! That's what they all say." Rose drew an O in the center box.
"Okay, that was a fluke," Daniel said when Rose drew a diagonal line through the boxes.
"Was that a challenge, Dr. Jackson?"
As Daniel began to draw a breath to steam up another panel, he began to cough and Rose gently pushed him out of the way. "Get a drink of water, weakling, and let the pro handle this."
* * *
Daniel sneezed just as Rose drew another line through yet another victory. "One more," he begged, blowing his nose on the tissue Rose plucked from her bathrobe pocket and handed to him.
She patted his arm. "No more. Take your loss like a man."
"You had an unfair advantage." Daniel sneezed again. "See, I'm sick and under the influence of medication which *obviously* is affecting my thought process. Or…" He turned narrowed eyes on Rose.
"Daniel, you're a sore loser, do you know that? It's really not an endearing trait, honey." Rose pulled another tissue from her pocket and started to wipe away their game.
"Destroying the evidence?"
"Yes, I am, and while I perform my dance of victory and clean our germs off the window, go get a shirt from the dryer." Rose paused, rubbing Daniel's bicep. "You're freezing."
Daniel left the kitchen, grumbling under his breath.
* * *
Daniel needed one of those ankle bracelet alarms the police used when someone was under house arrest, Jack thought as he stomped out of the bedroom, or maybe, Jack painfully admitted, he needed not to let down his guard.
The door to the spare bedroom was closed, so thankfully, Daniel's nighttime wanderings hadn't disturbed his mother. The den was empty, Daniel's laptop was cool to the touch. The kitchen undisturbed and the doors to the backyard were locked.
Jack remembered those nights. The ones where Sara would fall into an exhausted sleep, Charlie sleeping the sleep that children do, and it would be him and his mother. Hours on the couch… one lost soul, one guiding light.
And it became like some convoluted time warp in the dimly lit living room as Jack gazed at the two figures on the couch. If he dared to close his eyes, there would be no doubt in his mind that he would be able to recall the weight of his mother's hand as it had rested in his hair. Or the grounding sound of her voice as she had rambled on into the early morning hours, talking herself hoarse as she shared stories with the fragile, returning POW, throwing him a lifeline to grasp when the nightmares and terrors haunted him.
But it wasn't him his mother was comforting, the house was different, there was no Charlie sleeping in any of the bedrooms, nor a wife warming his bed. Things were different, his life was different, hell *he* was different. But for one second he had believed otherwise.
Jack shook his head, the minutest of smiles tugging at his lips as Daniel's and his mother's snores took on a rhythm of comedic proportions.
* * *
At the moment, Daniel would sell his soul, and the soul of everyone who lived in this house and in the immediate vicinity, for the opportunity to step foot into a sarcophagus just one more time. By the way his body ached and his head hurt, he knew from experience the fever was back, the heat seemed to ebb and flow with his withdrawal symptoms. He grabbed Jack's pillow and shoved it tightly against his abdomen, hoping to counteract the gnawing that seemed to be eating him from the inside out.
There was an upside to all of this, Daniel realized as he swallowed convulsively against the rising tide of bile. His mind was perfectly clear. No more lethargic, disjointed thoughts, clouded by the innumerable daily pills Jack and Rose forced on him. For three days he had given the illusion of ingesting the pills, countless doses of meds hidden by slight of hand when Rose or Jack turned their backs.
Daniel was willing to struggle against the reawakening withdrawal symptoms in exchange for coherent thought and control. He used the corner of the pillowcase to sop up the sweat that pooled under his eyes, clamping his mouth shut to stifle a moan.
The house was quiet, Jack had left for the mountain over an hour ago and Daniel had heard him whisper a soft 'goodbye' rather than risk waking him with a kiss. The words without the action had been the routine since Daniel had come home and truthfully he hated being treated like a fragile, breakable object.
Daniel could hear Rose puttering in the kitchen but unlike Jack, Daniel knew from experience, she would drag his sorry ass out of the bed and force him to partake in daily life no matter how much he protested.
He got up slowly, unraveling hurting muscles, making an unsteady way into the bathroom, using the walls and furniture for support. He peed and then turned sideways, dumping the contents of the pocket of his sweatpants into the toilet, chuckling with perverse pleasure as the myriad of meds were flushed with his piss down the sewer.
The injuries on his back had healed to the point that Janet had given him the green light to shower and he was ever so grateful for that small amount of independence. He stepped under the warm water and slid the shower doors shut, moaning in almost sexual pleasure at the sensation of the warm water as it pelted his body. Daniel opened the tube of shower gel, ignoring his shaking hands as he doled out a dollop into his palm and went through the rituals of washing.
The mental numbness was slowly dissipating. He could feel again. His thoughts were his own. The only problem, Daniel acknowledged as he gazed into the mirror, was that he looked like shit. He cleaned the mist off the glass with a swipe of his hand and leaned closer, examining the bloodshot, sunken eyes.
First order of business was a shave, which he managed with the seldom-used electric razor. Task completed, he admitted to his reflection that externally, he did look a little better while internally, his mind was registering with crystal clarity a fever and a lack-of-sleep headache.
Tylenol, he would permit himself. Tylenol was okay, it didn't cloud your mind and hopefully it would take the edge off.
Guiltily, he dropped the Tylenol bottle into the sink and watched as the lid popped off and the contents spilled out. "Shit."
"Are you okay?"
"I'm fine," he sighed. Daniel righted the bottle. "I'll be out in a minute."
"No, no, take your time. I was throwing in a wash and just wanted to know if I could strip the bed."
"You don't have to do that. I'll be out, just give me a moment and I'll do it." Daniel plucked three fairly dry tablets from the sink and swallowed them, grimacing at their bitter taste. He snapped the lid on the now nearly empty bottle and ran the water to aid in dissolving the remaining pills. He grabbed his toothbrush and sparingly spread toothpaste along the bristles, knowing his stomach wouldn't be able to handle lots of that fresh, minty taste. "I'm just brushing my teeth and then I'll help. I have some towels here that can also go in."
* * *
"Here's your lunch—oh this is interesting," Rose said, sitting on the couch as she leaned forward to study the laptop screen. Daniel's back was to her, he was standing by the den windows, peering out into the bright sunshine. "I noticed the snow's starting to melt."
Daniel nodded in agreement, his head continuing to bob long after Rose received his affirmation. But then again, the constant motion was typical of Daniel these past few days. Unable to sit for more than a few minutes, playing round robin amongst the rooms and furniture, his attention span miniscule as he bounced from one thing to another. "Lunch," she reminded him gently.
She shook her head as she observed Daniel's nervous itching as he joined her on the couch, mentally grimacing at the imagined condition of the raw skin under the shirt. "Do you want some Benedryl for that?"
"What? Oh." Daniel dropped his hands and grabbed the sandwich off the plate. "No, actually it's become more of an annoying habit. Sorry."
"What are you sorry for? I'm just being a meddling old woman."
"No, you're not."
"No, I'm not what… meddling or old?"
To Rose's chagrin, Daniel took a bite of lunch and replaced the sandwich back on the plate resting on his knee. "Neither." The sandwich began to slide around on the plate, knocking chips to the floor as Daniel's leg began to bounce up and down. Rose diverted his attention back to the screen. "You never answered my question, what's this?"
"Oh, something I was working on before—let me show you."
Rose snatched the plate before it fell to the floor and placed it on the table.
"It's a program I've installed, I downloaded digital photographs of the garden before the first snowfall and see—"
Rose watched as Daniel, with a few strokes, morphed the barren garden onscreen into one overflowing with flowers and blooming rose bushes. "It's beautiful, Daniel."
"Someday," he answered, "not anytime soon, but someday." Daniel slammed the lid of the laptop shut, jumped up and left Rose in the den, stunned.
She found him pacing the living room and it wasn't until Rose blocked his path did he even look up to acknowledge her presence.
"I don't know 'what', Daniel, why don't you tell me?"
Daniel circumvented Rose's body block and strode to the closet, flinging it open. He tugged at his coat, paying no attention when the hanger clattered to the floor. "I need to go out for a while."
Rose placed her body against the front door. "Go where?"
"Out," he said, shoving his arms into the sleeves, his fumbling fingers unable to perform the simple task of zipping the jacket. "Please move."
"Let me get my coat and we'll go for a drive."
"Car, key, wheels—drive."
Rose heard the hesitation in his voice. "I'm just going to go get my coat and pocketbook."
"You're not going to call Jack or Janet, are you?"
"No, why would I?"
Daniel had moved his pacing to the foyer by the time Rose returned with her coat on, pocketbook over her shoulder, and Daniel's car keys swinging from her finger. "You know, I'm thinking this a good idea, I could go for some fresh air myself."
* * *
Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, Rose thought as the salesperson, for the third time, righted the table that Daniel kept bumping into. Daniel huffed and moved to lean against the counter next to Rose, who counted to ten before she slapped her hand atop his impatiently tapping fingers as he waited for her order to be filled.
"How much longer?"
"Excuse me, you wanted to get out, we're out."
"Are these okay?" the saleswoman asked as she presented Rose with a mixture of wildflowers.
"I just want—" Rose turned, then contemplated the flowers behind the glass doors, "can you add two of those Gerber Daisies and eight yellow roses?"
"Are you sure about the roses, ma'am? They really don't fit the overall theme."
"Damn it," Daniel shouted, slapping the countertop, "she asked for roses, just give her the roses."
"There's no need to take that tone of voice with me, sir."
"She's the customer, what happened to the adage the customer is always right? Huh? Maybe I should speak to your manager."
"That's enough," Rose ordered, grabbing Daniel's bicep.
"No, Rose, you don't deserve to have your request questioned." He sidestepped her grip, knocking over the card display next to the register. "Where's the manager?"
"I *am* the manager," the saleswoman declared, "and honestly I'm going to have to ask you to leave."
"Leave? What the hell did we do?"
Rose would have liked to slap some sense into Daniel but settled for shoving the keys into his hand. "Go wait in the car."
* * *
"This isn't the way home."
"No, it's not and so I don't kill you or at the very least say something I'm going to regret, I'm going to warn you to just be quiet and enjoy the ride."
"She was rude," Daniel pounded the dashboard in frustration. "She had no right to question your choice."
"Can it!" Rose yelled.
"You're a grown woman, how could you permit—"
"No more," she whispered. "Okay? I got the flowers I wanted, the woman believed she was helping and let that be the end of this discussion, please? Don't make me regret getting you out of the house." Rose found a station on the car radio and turned it on loud enough to cover the scratching sound of Daniel's nails across the material of his jacket.
* * *
The walk had left Daniel more winded than Rose would have liked, but he had kept up with her as they maneuvered around the headstones.
"Hi," she said softly, berating the tears that even after all of these years, she still shed at the finality of Charlie's name engraved in stone. "Hi, angel." Rose stepped forward to caress the curve of the granite. Parents were never supposed to outlive their children and grandparents, and it was unimaginable for them to survive their grandchildren.
Singing softly, she opened up the flower arrangement and separated the wildflowers and daisies from the yellow roses. She stuffed the crumbled wrapping into her pocket and gently placed the wildflowers into the first stone vase on the left side of the headstone. One by one, Rose set the yellow roses into the second stone vase.
"Can we leave now?"
"Are you feeling alright?" Rose turned and examined Daniel.
"Fine. When I said I wanted to get out of the house, I didn't exactly expect to spend the afternoon in the cemetery. In the snow. Cold."
For the second time in less than two hours Rose could feel herself losing patience with a Daniel who seemed to be a stranger. "Go wait in the car," she again ordered.
Daniel ignored her and pointed to the two flower-filled vases. "Why do you bring flowers?"
"The wildflowers signify Paddy and me, I guess. I loved wildflowers and worked my butt off getting them to grow in my garden in Minnesota. The daisies… it's silly, I know, but Sara carried them the day she and Jack were married. Two, one for Jack, one for Sara."
"One for each year Charlie lived. So when I visit, it's like a little piece of all of us are here with him." Rose cocked her head at Daniel. "Don't you ever bring flowers to your wife's grave?"
"My wife—she isn't—Sha're is buried out of the country." Daniel cleared his throat, coughed and pulled his jacket tighter. Rose didn't miss his ungloved hands slipping into the opposite sleeves of his jacket. "I don't get to visit her as often as I should."
Empathetically, Rose patted Daniel's arm. "I understand. Paddy is buried far from where I now live, but he loved to garden with me, so every flower that blooms, every seed I plant, is for him. How do you remember Sha…" Rose hated herself for faltering over the pronunciation of her name.
"Sha're," Daniel corrected. "Warm summer nights. Certain cooking odors. Shooting stars… too many things..." Daniel heaved a sigh, his whole upper body rising and falling with the breath. "Not enough things." Daniel swiped his runny nose on the sleeve of his jacket. "You do know I wish Charlie never died."
"I know that, mhuirnin."
"Even though it would mean Jack and I wouldn't be together, I still wish Charlie was here, you know that, don't you?" Daniel implored.
"I agree, a lot of things would have been different." Rose regretted the words the moment they were out of her mouth. "Oh God, Daniel, I didn't mean that the way it sounded."
"Yes, you did." Daniel stepped away from Rose, the crunch of the snow under his feet seemed exceptionally loud in the cemetery and Rose had to fight the urge to shush Daniel. He squatted down by the roses and began to finger the separate petals, moving from one bloom to the other. "I don't belong here… there's no part of me in this family."
Rose walked up to Daniel and rested her hands on his shoulders. "No part of you in this family? You're wrong, so very wrong. I know in my heart that Jack wouldn't have survived without you. And I thank you for that and Charlie thanks you."
"Savior, huh?" Rose felt the warm moisture of tears as Daniel rubbed his cheek against her hand. "A lot of people would disagree with your assessment, beginning with the families of the people that died on my last mission."
"I think I always remembered. It really wasn't a matter of remembering, it was a matter of believing those memories." Daniel stood up so suddenly that Rose was flung backwards and it was only the close proximity of the headstone that enabled her to stay upright. "We've gotta go," he barked, his fisted hands were pressed against his abdomen, bent forward. Obviously Daniel was suffering.
"You're in pain." Rose berated her blindness. "I'll call Janet." She fumbled, trying to remember where she stuck the cell phone Jack insisted she carry.
"No, please don't," Daniel begged, panting heavily.
"Why the hell not?"
"Because my self control is all I have and the drugs that Janet prescribed took that away."
"Oh god, when was the last time you took your medication?" she cried in horror when she realized what Daniel had just said.
Daniel hands fell to his side and he began breathing deeply, his inhalations and exhalations creating miniature clouds of condensation in the cold air. "I needed to remember," Daniel apologized, bowing his head.
"Long enough," was the terse reply.
"This isn't a game. Janet thought you needed those meds for a reason, Daniel."
"A few days."
Furtively, Rose searched her memories of the past days, angry and upset that she and Jack had noticed and chosen to ignore Daniel's agitation, inability to sleep, nervous twitching and itching. They had discussed it during dinner, over breakfast and the morning paper but always in hushed voices out of Daniel's range of hearing. They'd never approached Janet with their concerns. How stupid they had been? How uncaring their actions must have seemed to Daniel.
"I'm sorry," Rose stuttered.
Daniel cocked his head. "What are you sorry for?"
"I… Jack... we knew something was wrong but we—"
"Something was wrong? Oh." Daniel's index finger made a circular motion by his temple. "Dr. Jackson was a little nuts? Nah," he said with a dismissal flick of his wrist. "Jack's used to that, me being a little *off*… you know, been there, done that. I was kinda counting on Jack's—what's the word I'm looking for? Distraction?"
He stepped away from her cautious approach. "No, I'm not going to appease whatever guilt you and Jack have over what you did or didn't do." He slapped his chest, the strength of the anger lost in the thickness of his winter coat. "This was my decision, taking matters into my own hands, taking back control was for *me*, not for you and certainly not for Jack."
"You're shaking like a leaf, you can barely stand upright and you're doubling over in pain, how the hell is that taking control?"
"I can remember."
Rose laughed sarcastically. "Remember what? How to be rude and nasty? Definitely can see you remembered that. Or maybe," Rose challenged, "you remembered how to be a bastard."
Daniel turned and began to stomp towards the car, but his balance was so compromised that he slipped and stumbled twice before Rose caught up to him, grabbing onto the material of his jacket. "Maybe you learned how to be a coward, and run. Is that it?"
"Let me go."
"No," she said, tugging at Daniel's jacket.
"Please. You have to let me go."
"Why, Daniel. Why do I have to let you go?" Rose loosened her grip ever so slightly though there was never any doubt in her mind that Daniel had the ability to leave her in the dust even in his weakened state. He wanted to tell her, that was obvious, but he was struggling with maintaining his dignity, sharing when the time was right for him, not when she demanded it.
"You're going to see me differently…"
"That's the biggest load of bullshit!" Rose countered, giving Daniel a little shove of disgust.
"I was raped."
* * *
He was furious at his inability to hold his tongue, horrified at the shocked look on her face. Afraid to face the irrevocable damage his confession had caused, so he had deserted Rose by Charlie's headstone and ran. Literally took off, slipping and sliding in the patches of snow and wet grass until shortness of breath and the fear of falling flat on his face made him stop.
Now, Daniel wove drunkenly in and out the headstones, the man who had guided his team out of tunnels, labyrinths and mazes had become totally disoriented, unable to locate either the street or his car. His fear had distorted his sense of direction until he was lost among the dead.
Daniel hadn't meant to tell Rose *that*. Maybe, just maybe, if she would have prodded and poked, he would have spoken about his role in the deaths of the people who had been with him, assuage his guilt, allowing her to be the priest to his confession. Accepting whatever act of contrition Rose would have deemed equitable.
But he had voiced the unthinkable. Mentioned the unmentionable. And there was no turning back and nowhere left to run or hide. He spied a wooden bench, its slats darkened with moisture from the melting snow, but quite honestly he didn't care, and sat.
Daniel had begun to imagine the quiet sedate life of the husband and wife whose monument the bench faced. Paula and Kevin Richardson, according to the dates etched in stone, had died within days of each other. Daniel began working on a whole scenario of the Richardson's life on Earth, and he was so intertwined in the happiness of how he imagined their lives had been, that he ignored Rose's frantic calling of his name until it cut through his daydreams like nails on a chalkboard.
"Over here, Rose," he called, amazed at how tired and strained his voice sounded.
Daniel was eternally grateful that Rose, unlike her son, had accepted Daniel's reappearance with nary a word of admonishment.
"Do you think they were happy?" Daniel asked, pointing towards the Richardson's gravesite.
Rose followed the line of Daniel's finger and read the inscription. "I don't know," she shrugged. "I'd like to believe that everyone in their life finds some degree of happiness. Or contentment."
"That's a nice sentiment." Daniel began to pick at the wooden slivers of the slats of the bench, dropping the ones he pulled off into the space between the wood.
"What do you believe, Daniel?"
"Me?" He looked up into her expectant face. "Me?" he reiterated. "I believe no one knows the chaos that exists behind closed doors." Daniel stared at Rose, challenging her to bring up his revelation, daring her with both his body language and his unblinking gaze, feeling victorious when she was the first to drop her glance. He slowly stood up, the coldness of the day seeping into his very existence.
"Are you ready?"
Daniel sucked his lips inward, damming them to stop the angry words ready to spew at the flash of pity on Rose's face. Not trusting himself to say any words of civility, he just nodded. He concentrated on the feel of her gloved hand as it tightly gripped his, warming his cold fingers.
They walked to the car in silence and Daniel waited patiently while Rose opened the door for him. He slid into the passenger seat and rested his suddenly heavy, aching head on the headrest. Rose caught him off guard with a feather light kiss to his cheek. "Have faith," she whispered before closing the door.
* * *
Jack dropped his keys and the envelope from General Hammond on the table, his jacket he flung over the back of the chair, the darkness of the house hardening the already existing lump in his stomach. "Mom? Daniel?" He quickened his pace, flicking on lights as he went from room to room until he spied his mother out on the back deck. He slid the door open and stepped into the cold evening air.
"Old habits are hard to break?" he asked gently, pointing to the cigarette dangling between her fingers.
She glanced down to where Jack was indicating, her features scrunching in confusion. "Oh, I didn't even—" Rose dropped the cigarette into the plastic cup in her hand. "Doesn't even taste the same," she said, obviously embarrassed.
"Bad day?" Jack jerked his head towards the bottle of beer next to the crumbled cigarette pack.
Rose snorted. "See this?" she said, holding up the pack. "I've been carrying this around in my pocketbook for years. The same two cigarettes in the same old pack, the last two I never smoked."
"Smoked them today," Jack stated.
"Yup, that I did. They were stale and horrible, and the beer, I opened it, carried it out here and didn't drink a drop."
"Because after the day I had, I realized I needed something a bit stronger than beer. Want it?"
"Nope," he said, wrapping his arm around her shoulders, planting a quick kiss in her hair. "Let's go inside and I'll pour us both something a little stronger."
Jack could feel the weight of his mother as she relaxed against him. "You had a bad day also?"
Jack's thoughts flew to the envelope lying next to his keys. "Bad day," he sighed.
* * *
He and his mom had their whiskey shots and now the only thing they were sharing was just awkward, uncomfortable silence over their empty glasses.
"Daniel's in the den," was Rose's answer to Jack's unasked question. "He has been since we came home."
"Home?" Jack squeaked. "You took him out."
"He's not a prisoner."
"No, no he's not," Jack hastily replied. "Where did you go?"
"Out." Rose jumped up, grabbed the two empty shot glasses and began to rinse them out. "Stew? How's stew for dinner. I can make the hot biscuits that you—"
"Stew's fine, Mom."
Rose whirled around, the glass dripping water down her arm onto the floor. "And Daniel, Daniel's going to be fine."
"Yes, he is," Jack reiterated, adding a smile to his bald-faced lie. His stomach churned at the tight lipped, forced smile his mother returned.
* * *
The shot of whiskey was doing nothing but burning a hole in his stomach, it certainly wasn't giving him the backbone to do what he needed to do. The brown envelope tucked under his arm carried the weight of more than all the books in Daniel's office. The den door was closed and Jack was clueless and frightened at his inability to face what lay beyond.
Cautiously Jack turned the knob, the banging pots and opening and closing of cabinet doors in the kitchen as Rose prepared dinner added a normalcy to a situation that wasn't.
Jack cringed as the door squeaked on its hinges and he made totally inappropriate, ridiculous mental note to dig out and apply the WD40 at his earliest convenience. The den was bathed in light from the overhead fixture, as well as all the table lamps. The TV was on, even the radio was softly playing in the background and Daniel, Jack realized, was fast asleep in a position that was testament to the man's exhaustion.
Daniel's ass was on the floor and his long legs were entangled with each other under the coffee table. The upper portion of Daniel's body leaned into the cushions of the couch, his head pillowed in the crook of arms that rested in the crack between two of the cushions. The pressure of his head against his forearms had forced the eyepiece of his glasses to rest on the bridge of his nose leaving a tattoo of red indents on his face. The opened laptop on the coffee table confirmed that Daniel had been working before drifting off, but then again, evidence of how Daniel had spent his afternoon was also in the envelope Jack was holding.
Methodically, Jack walked the perimeter of the room, shutting off the overhead light, the TV, radio and one of the table lamps, leaving the room lit by just the glow of the laptop's screen and one dim bulb. He powered down the laptop and closed the lid, then placed the envelope on the table next to him.
"Daniel," he whispered. It took three attempts and an incremental increase in the volume of his voice before Daniel even stirred, but there was no mistaking the slight smile.
"Jack?" Daniel turned his head towards the sound of Jack's voice, never opening his eyes.
"The one and only." Jack shifted his ass from the table top to the couch, leaning over to gently slide Daniel's glasses off his face, pinning down the hand that was floppily resisting their removal. "It's okay, I'm putting them right on the table." To reassure Daniel, Jack patted the wooden surface. "Right next to the laptop."
Daniel's mumbled a barely audible "thank you" before burying his head deeper into the couch cushions.
"Hey, big guy, let's get you to bed."
"Couch, couch is fine." Daniel slid his legs out from under the table and blindly pushed at Jack's knee. "Move."
"Let me help you."
"No," Daniel grunted, "I can do it myself, not an invalid." Toddler-like, Daniel climbed onto the couch and settled in with a sigh. "Couch is fine."
"I can see that." Jack chuckled as he covered Daniel with the blanket that had been folded over the back of the loveseat.
"Pissed Rose off today," Daniel yawned.
Jack bent down and kissed Daniel's temple, pulling the blanket up to his shoulder. "I'm her son, she's used to being pissed off by the men in her life."
"Made Janet angry."
Jack patted down an errant cowlick of Daniel's. "Made Janet angry, huh? For that one, you're on your own."
The corners of Daniel's lips lifted in a sedate smile and Jack watched as Daniel's eyelids fluttered a few times before staying lowered. The contents of the envelope would wait to be discussed, Hammond would understand.
"I'll wake you when it's time for bed." He would deal with playing defense to the ever diligent, though caring General Hammond. All it would take would be a well rested Daniel and an astute and empathetic Jack to get Hammond the answers he would need.
* * *
He followed the wonderful odors into the kitchen. "Smells great." Jack sniffed the air appreciatively.
"See, how many times do I have to tell you… cook and freeze… cook and freeze, this way when you have a day like today—" Rose's attempted smile fell flat and Jack watched his mom literally shake herself back into reality. "Will there be two or three places for dinner?"
"Two, Daniel's sleeping."
He didn't miss the whispered, "Thank God," before his mom shoved place settings into his abdomen. He accepted them with a surprised "ooph" and began setting the table with the plates, knives, forks, napkins, glasses, pausing after every step to bend an ear in the direction of the den.
* * *
"What are we going to do about Daniel?"
"Excuse me?" Jack lowered his fork back onto his plate, the meat and noodles still speared on its prongs. "Do what about Daniel?"
His mom's fork waved through the air and then dropped onto the plate. She wiped her mouth with the napkin before continuing. "Okay, maybe those aren't the right words."
"What happened today?" Jack asked suspiciously.
"We went to the florist and then the cemetery."
"Cemetery? You took Daniel to the cemetery? Aww, geez, Mom, what the hell were you thinking?"
Rose flung her napkin on the table. "Geez, Jack, I don't *know* what I was thinking," she mimicked. "I figured he was climbing the walls and needed to get out of this house, to get a breath of fresh air. To see there's still a world and a life outside of this house."
"You wanted to show him life, so you took him to the cemetery. Please explain the logic in that?"
"He's mentally and physically hurting, haven't you noticed he jumps when people come near him? Are you that blind?"
"No, of course I'm not blind," Jack mumbled, studying the suddenly unappetizing food on his plate. "I've noticed. You coulda called me."
"I know, but he wanted out."
"So you gave him—"
"An out…" Rose shrugged and began to gather up the still full plates. "Obviously even the cemetery was too crowded for him."
Years of experience taught him his mother would talk when she was ready and all the questions in the world wouldn't hurry this conversation along. Impatiently, he watched as his mother dumped the food into the garbage, the plates into the sink and began to fill the sink with water and soap. Rose tapped her foot until the water was at an acceptable level before she shut it off and turned back towards Jack, nervous hands clutching at a hastily grabbed towel. "Days... He hasn't been taking his medication for days."
Jack reared up in surprise. "That's bullshit. I gave him the medication every single morning and night."
"Hey, and I gave it to him every afternoon." Rose flung the towel onto the counter and sat back down. "But did you ever *see* him take it? Think back. Come on, think," Rose prodded.
Jack recalled hurriedly dumping the required pills into outstretched hands and then— "No, you're right. I never actually saw Daniel swallow any pills."
"Played us for fools."
"He's the damn fool!" Jack slammed the table top for emphasis.
"No, he isn't," Rose replied softly.
"How the hell can you say that?" Jack sputtered. "He *needed* those pills, Fraiser said that Daniel couldn't—"
"He could and he did. Daniel took control of his life from us and gave it back to himself."
Jack felt the weight of his mother's hand atop his. "Daniel remembers," she whispered.
"I know." Jack had read the report, countless times, black and white confirmation of the details of Daniel's memories.
"And I think he needs more help than either you or I can give to him."
"I disagree," Jack replied adamantly, furious at his mother for crossing the line. "He's not crazy."
"I never said he was, don't go putting words in my mouth," she answered with a not so gentle rap on his knuckles. "He's confused. He needs guidance."
"No! Daniel just needs time. He's been through enough crap in his life. I know what he needs—"
"Damn you, Jack! Why can't you see it? I know you *know* it, why can't you see it?"
Jack stood up. "I'm going out. I need some air."
"You're running. And you're leaving Daniel behind."
"I'm not deserting him, *I'm* treating him like an adult. Allowing him to come to terms with what happened. I'm here for him when he needs me."
"You can't face it, Jack. Admit it." Rose waved a dismissive hand at Jack. "You can't even say the words. If *you* can't say them, how the hell can you help him. You may be treating Daniel like an adult, but you sure aren't behaving as one."
It was a struggle, but Jack managed to suppress the words of anger dancing on the edge of his tongue, allowing his mother to have the final words, though he agreed with none of them. "I'm going out," he reiterated, letting the slamming door express his anger.
* * *
Rose checked on Daniel, her fingers searching for fever as she adjusted the blanket around his shoulders. This was a train wreck waiting to happen. Her options were few and her ability to interfere had been severely curtailed by Jack's behavior. Jack was her son, stubborn to a fault. This inherited trait had destroyed his marriage to Sara and pretty soon was going to be knocking out the foundation of his relationship with Daniel. Jack was too close to this situation, unable or unwilling to see the forest through the trees.
She had run all those years ago, losing Jack, Sara and herself in the process. This time, Rose vowed, she was digging in her heels and fighting to keep her family together, or at the very least, keeping Daniel's soul intact.
* * *
The house was dark when Jack returned home and he was thankful that his mom wasn't up waiting for him like he had broken curfew. The door to the spare room was closed but the den was fully illuminated.
He stood in the doorway, silently observing Daniel as he frantically paced back and forth, the envelope's contents strewn haphazardly over the couch and the coffee table.
Daniel lifted his head and halted mid-pace. His face was flushed and even from where Jack stood, there was no mistaking the slight tremor in Daniel's hands as he bent down and scooped up a sheet of paper to wave accusingly at Jack. "How the hell did you get this?" Daniel yelled.
"Keep your voice down."
"Stop telling me what to do." Angrily, Daniel flung the paper at Jack and it fluttered to the ground between the two men. "Answer my question—where did you get my report?"
"The general." Cautiously, Jack inched closer to Daniel.
"He had no right."
"Hammond had every right, Daniel, you know that. He's concerned, hell, we're all concerned."
Daniel's eyes widened and Jack took another step towards him as all color washed from his face. "Who else has seen this?" he gasped.
"No one," Jack quickly reassured him. "Though Hammond is one step away from giving the report to Fraiser who in turn will give it to Mackenzie. Who in turn will—"
"I get it!"
"And the general and I got the gist of it also, *after* reading between the lines. Suffice it to say, this report is far from your usual submission of excellence. Did you really read it before you hit the send button?
"Good people. SGC… the cream of the crop. Someone's father, son, cousin, brother died needless, horrible deaths at the hands of a sadistic Goa'uld."
Jack kept inching closer to Daniel, praying that he wouldn't catch on and begin to back away. "I know."
"I was tortured and killed and revived over and over again."
"I… we, the general and I know that," Jack was now only an arm's length from Daniel, close enough to see the beads of sweat dotting Daniel's upper lip.
"I was raped," Daniel blurted and then waited a moment, harshly scrubbing at his face. "You don't have anything to say to that, Jack?" he challenged.
"I know," Jack replied softly.
"You know because you read it. But those were just words, you don't understand. How could you understand?" Daniel replied angrily. "You can't possibly imagine what it was like." He ran shaking fingers through his short hair, leaving a disheveled mess in their wake.
Daniel was as close to the edge as one could possibly be without falling into the precipice and probably the only one who couldn't see it was Daniel himself. The red rimmed, bloodshot eyes, the wild hair, his shirt hanging crookedly, his forearms covered with marks left from persistent scratching, all painted a picture letting Jack know this was neither the time, nor the Daniel, to share his own sordid memories with. Instead he stood silent, allowing Daniel's anger to wash over him.
There was no mistaking the fury on Daniel's face as he studied Jack. "Look, I'll correct whatever needs correcting in the report, I'll cross all my t's and dot all my i's. I'll make it read coherently. I'll be the good civilian in the military world and attend my debriefing with Hammond, sit through a thorough yet another physical and the obligatory psych exam. What more do you want?"
"Forgiveness." The word popped out of Jack's mouth before he could stop it.
"Forgiveness? What the hell for?"
"For taking two weeks to find you, for letting you go with the other team—"
"You're being ridiculous. You have no reason to feel guilty… it was me. I couldn't stop any of it, me… not you. The capture, the killing, the rape… hell, I should be the one feeling guilty, not you."
"There was nothing you could have done."
"That's an empty platitude. Well there was nothing *you* could have done either," Daniel spit back. "And I for one kinda like this blanket of guilt I carry around with me."
"You have no reason to feel—"
"Don't you dare, do you hear me? Don't you dare tell me what I should and shouldn't be feeling." Daniel gasped in surprise, his right hand clutching his stomach while his left hand slapped the air to find purchase to hold him upright.
"Let me help you," Jack pleaded, grasping the floundering appendage.
Daniel jerked from Jack's grasp and bent down to sweep the papers from the table onto the floor, swaying dangerously as he stood, his arm folded tightly around his abdomen. "You helped me enough," he admonished. Daniel began to shake, minute tremors that built in intensity. "I don't want your help nor do I need it."
Jack caught Daniel just as his knees buckled and his eyes rolled back in his head, gently guiding his descent onto the floor. "Ahhh, Daniel." Jack held the unconscious man in his arms, rocking the lax body. "You need my help, and I need to help you."
* * *
Daniel's memory was vague and spotty. He really wasn't sure what had occurred to leave him in this state, only that everything hurt. There wasn't a part of his body that didn't ache or pound and the only comfort he could grab onto as he stepped into consciousness was the cool cloth being gently dragged across his face. Daniel leaned into the wetness, a soft sigh of relief escaping his parched throat.
"Back with us, Daniel?" was the gruff reply to his sigh and the cloth gave one more swipe across his forehead before stopping.
"Jack?" Daniel blinked rapidly against the brightness of the light until the room came into blurred focus. "I'm in the den?"
"Did I?" Daniel made a flopping motion with his hand.
"Passed out, did a nice damsel in distress faint. The only thing missing was your hand thrown up to your forehead before you took the header towards the floor."
"Oh, and you?"
"Me? Played Dudley Do Right to your Nell."
Daniel felt more confused as this conversation wore on, Jack's demeanor was bordering on lightheartedness, but his eyes... Daniel was awake enough to see the worry and sympathy, but there was more than that, there was, "Pity," Daniel said out loud.
"Pity?" Deft hands began a quick appraisal around Daniel's hairline. "Are you sure you didn't hit your head?"
Roughly, Daniel shoved Jack's hands away, feeling the heat of embarrassment work its way up from his feet to the top of his head as today's memories came flooding back to him in a swift tidal wave. Jack knew, the general, Rose and before long Teal'c and Sam. The looks of pity, the tsking, and the shaking of heads that he had hated as a child would return.
He turned, burying his face into the couch cushions. Daniel was hungry, thirsty, and in pain but he would be damned if he would show any more weakness to anyone.
"Go away, Jack. I'm just incredibly tired." And it was no lie; the effort of speaking was taking more energy than he had.
He felt Jack's hand on his shoulder and Daniel fought the urge to shrug it off. "I called Fraiser, she's concerned and is going to stop by tomorrow. It's her call if she wants you back in the infirmary."
Daniel nodded in response, his nose rubbing against the couch material because there were some things not worth fighting over.
"Can I get you anything?"
A bottle of Tylenol, a drink, a promise that this would be gone in the morning, something to eat, the sarc, a hug. "No, I'm fine," Daniel murmured.
"Wouldn't you be more comfortable in bed?"
"The couch is fine."
There was a gentle squeeze to his shoulder and before the touch disappeared, it was replaced by a blanket tucked securely around his body.
"Thank you," he whispered, unsure or even uncaring whether Jack heard. He drew his knees up, hoping to alleviate his stomach ache, the thirst would abate in time and if he closed his eyes, the burning would dissipate, the headache lessening if his breathing was kept at an even meditative rate.
* * *
Daniel stumbled into the hallway, bouncing off the far wall, nearly barreling Rose over in his haste to get to the bathroom.
He shut the door on her concern and Daniel leaned against it, wavering between his desire to vomit or not. The nauseous feeling that had awoken him was slowly dissipating, being replacing with a low, burning feeling of hunger for nourishment and for the sarc. "Damn it," he said, kicking the door with the heel of his foot, frustrated.
Daniel jerked at the sharp rap on the door. "Open up."
"I'm okay, Rose."
"I didn't ask if you were okay, I said open the door. Think of it as an order as opposed to a request."
He stepped forward, leaned on the vanity for support and turned to face the door. "It's not locked, you can enter at will."
Daniel bowed his head at the opening of the door, wishing he was still sleeping but he couldn't help but jump at the excessively loud sound of the toilet lid closing. "Huh?"
"Sit," Rose ordered, pointing with the glass of juice she held in her hand to the shut toilet lid. "No argument will be accepted," she warned.
Daniel shuffled around her and sat, having no choice but to grab the glass shoved into his hands. "You're going to drink this, every last drop. I want it finished by the time I come back here."
"Okay." It was easier if he did what people wanted, arguing took more energy than he had, more than he could spare.
Tentatively he sipped the juice, building up momentum, gulping by the time he reached the end, tilting his head back, upending the glass to drain the last drop. The glass mysteriously disappeared only to be replaced by a bowl of cereal.
Daniel shut his eyes against the sting of tears and emphatically shook his head. He was horrifically appalled by his obviously fragile mental status when a simple bowl of cereal could make him cry. He felt the gentle prod of the bowl against his chest, a dribble of milk slipping over the side and wetting his shirt.
"It's Coco Puffs, please, mhuirnin, eat." And for a moment Rose sounded as lost as Daniel felt and he couldn't help but glance at her, but in her face he saw only understanding. He caught her soft smile before bowing his head over the bowl of cereal and milk.
Awakened by the juice and the cereal, his stomach began to rumble but he turned down Rose's offer for more. "I'll be right back." Rose's quick kiss to his still lowered head was too fast for Daniel to pull away from.
Daniel eyed the opened bathroom door and for a fleeting moment the thought of closing and locking it against intruding thoughts and people who wanted in when he craved solitude crossed his mind. But he was too mentally and physically exhausted to even make the effort, so he instead acquiesced to the inevitable and accepted the pile of hot-from-the-dryer towels that Rose dumped in his lap upon entering the bathroom.
"What are these for?" he asked, hugging the warmth to his chest before lifting his arms up and dropping his head into the softness he was clutching. "No, Rose, no…" Daniel raised his head from his pillow of towels and adamantly objected to the fact Rose was playing with the water faucets in the bathtub.
"What are you doing?"
"You would benefit from a nice warm bath." Rose leaned over and adjusted the knobs, sticking her hand under the running water.
"Shower," Daniel stuttered, "shower is fine."
"A shower is fine, just not now."
He could see Rose contemplating the various bottles in the bathtub. "Which one do you… never mind," Rose said, grabbing a greenish bottle and pouring a way too generous amount under the running water. She swished her hand around in the water. "Perfect."
"No argument. Like the door, juice and the cereal, the bath is not something up for discussion."
Daniel could feel what little resolve he had melt at the caring in her voice, the strength she exuded. "Okay," he whispered, "bath." He watched as she puttered around the bathroom, periodically checking the temperature of the water, disappearing for a blink of an eye, reappearing with clean clothes for him, his glasses folded on top of the neat pile. Daniel conveyed his thanks with a smile.
Eventually the bath was just right according to Rose-specifications and she turned the faucets off. "Come into the living room when you're done."
"Sure." The idea of disagreeing with her didn't even occur to Daniel—
couch or bed, den or living room, both were comfortable enough places to rest his weary body and mind.
* * *
Rose didn't want to run him a bath, give him warm towels or clean clothes. Nor did she want to ply Daniel with cereal and juice, not at all. What she truly wanted was to fold him in her arms and weave lies that this would be alright, could be forgotten, anything to wipe the haunted, trapped look from his eyes.
She had one foot out the bathroom door, when she heard Daniel softly call her name. Rose turned slowly, smiling tentatively at the picture of a disheveled Daniel still hugging the towels, standing barefoot in the middle of the bathroom.
He blinked owlishly at her, almost like he was unsure of why he called her name.
"Sorry." He shifted the towels. "Where's Jack?"
"He left for work."
"No, Daniel, it's after eleven."
"Eleven? I missed..." His sigh was loud enough to be heard by Rose standing five feet from him. "I better take the bath."
"Before it gets cold and all those nice bubbles disappear."
"Can't have that, all the nice bubbles disappearing." Daniel took a step forward and then stopped, wrapping both arms tighter around the towels, staring at her. She expectantly waited for Daniel to continue speaking but he dropped his gaze to study the mat under his bare toes, and Rose took that signal as an opportunity to step back into the hallway and close the door behind her.
* * *
Daniel hadn't turned the page of the book he had his head buried in for over twenty minutes, the whole time she had been sitting with him. Daniel had been fairly animated after his bath but as the day wore on, the façade he had constructed slowly began to slip away, leaving deafening silence in its wake. Rose, tired of trying to maintain a steady stream of conversation, left Daniel to his own devices, turning her frustration into a cooking marathon until the house was filled with mouth watering odors.
Daniel held the book at arm's length, stretching; his nose crinkled as he sniffed the air. He closed the book, placed it on the coffee table, not even bothering to mark his place and left the room without a word.
* * *
He stood in the doorway of the den, staring at his laptop, wishing he could delay the inevitable and forgo the general's request to fix his mission report. He could feel his eyes fill with those damn tears as Rose cautiously approached and patted his hand. "Janet just called. She'll be here in a little while."
Daniel nodded, fearing the tenor of his voice if he even spoke a word.
"It's okay to falter, Daniel. Sometimes people need to rely on others to be strong for them, but that doesn't make them weak." Rose reached up and touched his lips with her fingers. "I know you understand what I'm saying, but understanding and believing are two very different things."
* * *
Clad only in his boxers, sitting at the edge of the bed, Daniel shivered in the coolness of the bedroom. He rubbed his bare feet along the area rug for frictioned heat and protectively wrapped his arms around his bare middle for warmth. The goosebumps covering his body had begun to multiply exponentially each time Janet briskly paced past.
"Ha! That's the understatement of the year, Dr. Jackson." She stopped and stood directly in front of him, gazing down at him. "Get dressed," she sighed, dismissing Daniel with a wave of her hand. "Then we'll talk."
Daniel dressed quickly, sat on the chair in the corner of the room, and quietly observed Janet as she efficiently packed away her medical equipment as well as little pieces of him. Blood, urine, cultures bottles and tubes of liquids were placed with care into her medical case.
"I hated not being in control."
Janet finished her task, closing the medical case, snapping off her gloves, shoving them into the garbage before disappearing into the bathroom. She returned and stood before Daniel, wiping her hands on a towel.
Daniel dropped his head against her scrutiny. "Stopping your medication wasn't one of the smartest things you've ever done."
"I know that," he whispered. "But there was a need."
"Your behavior became erratic, you barely slept or ate and you passed out."
"Good news travels fast."
"No, what travels fast is that people care about you, even if you don't."
Daniel's head shot up. "I said there was a need." He pounded the arm of the chair in frustration.
"And that *need* is going to put you right back in the infirmary." Janet began to tick off his symptoms on her fingers. "Exhaustion, low grade fever, wheezing, you're shaking," she accused through narrowed eyes.
Daniel stuck his telltale trembling hands between his thighs.
She shook her head, pursed her lips and continued. "I can see you've lost weight, blood glucose is low, blood pressure is high, headache, you're ready to jump out of your skin, and you've been nauseous."
"You're out of fingers," Daniel couldn't hide the sarcasm from his voice. "Why don't you just stick me in the infirmary?"
"Honestly, I'm not sure I shouldn't."
"I could put you in a bed, force IV's meds on you, but I'd be treating the symptoms and not the problem, Daniel."
"Problem? The symptoms *are* the problem."
"No, they aren't," she answered softly. "They're part of it, yes, but there's more."
"That's not true."
"Don't embarrass or cheapen our friendship by thinking I'll fall to prey to your batting eyelashes or your baby blues. If you want us to have a doctor-patient relationship, fine, I can do that… go get your coat and I'll take you back to the infirmary."
"No, I don't want that."
"You know something, Daniel, neither do I, but there's something going on, something I don't believe a stay in the infirmary will cure."
"You're talking Mental Health."
"No, I'm talking about you *talking* to someone, anyone, about what's—"
"Making me crazy?"
"Is that how you feel?" Janet stepped closer to Daniel.
He reached out to touch her hand and then pulled back, finding interest in his thread-bare jeans instead. "Time, I just need time to put this mission in the proper perspective."
"You mean bury it."
"I mean deal with this, in my own way, in my own time. Trust me."
"No?" Daniel threw out his hands, slapping his wrists together. "Let's just end this here. Take me to the infirmary."
"Bravo." Janet clapped her hands together lightly. "Taking lessons from Cassie? Daniel, please cut the melodramatics, remember I'm the parent of a teenager, I'm used to dealing with infantile, emotional behavior."
"You have nothing on Cassie, but yeah, you're sort of leaning in that direction."
Embarrassed, Daniel buried his face in his hands. "I'm crazy. Maybe I do need Mental Health and not the infirmary."
"Do you want to go through the 'gate again? Answer me, 'cause if you don't all I have to do is place my signature on the correct form and it's a done deal."
Emphatically, Daniel shook his head. "That's ridiculous, of course I want to go."
In defense, Janet threw up her hands. "Listen to yourself. Think about your behavior, it certainly doesn't seem to be the actions of someone who wants to rejoin their team members."
And at that exact moment, Daniel knew his back was against the proverbial wall. The woman standing in front of him was the key to his ability to walk up the ramp and through the 'gate. No matter what had happened, he couldn't give up that part of himself. Janet had placed responsibility for his recovery into his own hands, which was the most adult treatment anyone had afforded him since his return home. Even though he appreciated her faith, he was absolutely terrified that he wouldn't be able to carry this out by himself.
* * *
After Janet left the room, Daniel cleared a place on the dresser and used the med bottles as anchors to hold the list of instructions in place. These weren't even all of them, she had let him know, his blood work probably would require more to be added to this conglomeration, his little foray had forced his body to take a step backwards, it seemed.
He crawled into bed, burrowing down under the quilt, past caring what Janet would think if she found him or what Rose would do if she saw him. Daniel allowed himself a luxury he rarely, if ever, could afford, and gave into emotions he had been using so much energy to suppress. Awkwardly at first, unsure of even how or really why he was doing this, he wept silent tears.
* * *
"I really can't stay long," Janet said, accepting the cup of tea from Rose. "I need to drop off Daniel's blood work before heading home."
Rose arranged a platter of freshly baked cookies on the coffee table in front of Janet. "Have some."
"Thank you." Janet dipped into the platter and extracted a cookie, sighing appreciatively after her first bite.
"Don't worry, calories after a stressful day don't count," Rose quipped, grabbing a cookie for herself.
"Oh, great words of wisdom," Janet said smiling and taking another bite, "but how do you know my day was stressful?"
"You were with Daniel," Rose admitted, trying to rein in her curiosity.
Janet shoved the last part of the cookie in her mouth and Rose waited patiently for the other woman to decide how much of her conversation with Daniel could be revealed.
The shrill ringing of the phone broke Rose's concentration and she jumped up to answer it, only taking a few steps before the ringing stopped. She shrugged and sat back down, turning expectantly to Janet.
* * *
Daniel thought a moment, taking the phone back down with him under the warmth of the covers.
Daniel didn't bother holding back his yawn. "Around."
"Were you sleeping?"
His eyes burned, his throat was parched, his head ached horribly and to top it off, he was under the covers fully clothed. "I'm not sure." Daniel certainly didn't feel rested though if Jack would cut this conversation short, he was positive he could have one more try at sleeping, the bed was warm and comfortable and if he closed his eyes, the burning lessened—
His eyes popped open. "Sorry… I guess I am… was sleeping."
"I'm sorry. Where's Mom?"
"Somewhere," Daniel waved a heavy limb towards the door even though Jack couldn't see. "Out there—"
"Listen, okay? Just say yes at the appropriate times."
Jack sighed. Daniel knew the sound of that sigh very well. It signified a Jack who was working overtime trying hard to keep his impatience in check. "I didn't say anything yet, Daniel."
"I'll answer the questions for you," Daniel said, the security of sleep was slipping away and Daniel wanted to latch onto it before it escaped from his grasp completely. "Rose is here. Janet is here. She examined me, yelled, gave me new meds and a Ten Commandments of dos and don'ts. Rose is probably plying Janet with cookies to get her to spill my condition."
"I'm fine, Jack, though I'm sure Janet is headed back to the mountain so if you wait a bit, you can also finagle how I'm doing outta her. Better go the chocolate route, though, your mom has got a corner on the cookies."
"I love you, Daniel."
He thumped his fist forcefully into the mattress. He silently damned Jack as tears blurred his vision. "I know," he whispered, "I know you do, but I think need to sleep now," he lied just before cutting the connection.
* * *
There had been very few times that Jack had felt as helpless as he did at this moment. Charlie's death, his subsequent divorce, leaving Daniel on Korel's ship, and now. In an uncharacteristic display of anger, he flung the phone off his desk, the clatter of it hitting against the cement floor deafening. "Damn you!" Jack had observed Daniel pulling away as he had tried to reel him with little touches, playing the sappy Colonel, only to be thwarted at every turn. It was frustrating and if he had the guts to admit it, a blow to both his ego and his heart to not feel needed.
Jack bent and picked up the phone, slamming it down on the desk's surface with as much finesse as when he had flung it off. Daniel had so many people trying to help, how dare he take it upon himself to believe he knew best? Been there, done that, Jack thought angrily. Daniel's behavior was a direct parallel to his return from Iraq and though Daniel would believe differently, Jack knew every symptom the guy was suffering and the reason for each. From this moment on he refused to cut him any slack. It wasn't going to be a pretty sight, but Jack vowed that he was going to pull Daniel back into humanity, back into his bed and his life, even if he had to spend every last breath doing so.
This wasn't a dance where the lead could be handed over to Daniel and the worst repercussions would be a few stubbed toes, no fucking way, Jack thought as he slammed the truck in gear and exited the parking lot. Jack understood all too well from experience, there was more at stake here than just a bad mission, the problem was getting Daniel to see what he was at risk of losing if he kept closing himself off.
* * *
"Medically, I can tell you what's wrong with Daniel. Physically, we got that covered. His body will heal in time." Janet's voice was lost in a sigh.
Daniel pressed his body against the hallway wall, listening, chiding himself for eavesdropping but unable to stop. The clink of glasses against plates, the pauses in conversation, the voices, the discussion of Daniel over tea and probably some of Rose's cookies had taken Daniel's hunger pangs and twisted them to stomach-wrenching nausea.
"He shouldn't be treated with kid gloves."
"I *know* that, he just looks so lost and helpless."
Oh god, they saw him as a whimpering, infantile child. Standing alone in the hallway, Daniel hung his head and prayed for a hole in the earth to open up and suck him downward.
"But Daniel isn't… he's an adult and needs to be treated as such even though his behavior may say otherwise. Let him have the control back he desires. He obviously feels he's missing control over his life so we need to force him to make decisions."
Force? Embarrassment flipped over to anger and subconsciously Daniel clenched his hands into fists.
"Silly things," Janet said and Daniel could picture the doctor's face as she answered Rose. "This or that for dinner… don't ask him if he wants to eat, don't give him the opportunity to say no."
"A five year old gets treated like that," Rose responded haughtily, and Daniel fought pumping his hand in the air in silent victory that Rose understood how degrading it would be for him if she followed Janet's orders.
"I know that, Rose. Professionally, I *see* the physical symptoms tearing him apart, personally, he's struggling with god alone knows what sort of demon has taken up residence—"
Daniel jerked upright, hugging the wall even tighter as he heard the angry clatter of dishes and movement. "Well, *Janet*, I would think Daniel being raped is a big enough demon for him to come to terms with. As his doctor *and* his friend I'm a bit disappointed at your lack of sympathy—"
Daniel froze at the word that spewed from Janet's mouth.
"Yes, raped. Why do you looked so surprised? What type of doctor are you that you couldn't tell from the physical signs?"
"Go home, Janet."
Two bodies spun in unison to the sound of his voice.
Daniel placed his index finger to his pursed lips, effectively shushing Rose.
"We need to talk, Daniel."
Janet rose from her chair and Daniel slowly backed away from her. "No." His glance slid sideways to where Rose sat. "Not now."
"Don't mind me," Rose said, gathering up the dishes, "I'll just leave the room and you two can talk all you want."
"No!" Daniel shouted.
"Just no, Janet, okay? You wanted me to be responsible and in control. You're getting both. I'm taking responsibility by asking you to leave before this situation gets out of control."
"How long were you listening?"
"I was listening long enough, I heard enough."
"Come back to the SGC with me?"
He pulled his arm away from Janet's encroaching hand. "No."
"I can make that an order, you know."
"You can, but you won't." Daniel walked past Janet and opened the front door. "Goodbye, Janet."
Daniel would have to have been blind to miss the look the two women exchanged, the touch of commiseration, the empathetic glance the doctor gave to Jack's mother before she gathered up her belongings.
Daniel averted his head when Janet halted directly in front of him. "I apologize, Daniel, I didn't know."
"You weren't supposed to," he whispered softly, unable to keep the bitterness from his voice. "The sarc took care of all the physical signs."
"I'm glad I know, now maybe—"
"Understand this. *I'm* not glad that you know. Now if you don't mind, it's a little chilly with the door open."
"Yeah, Janet, me too."
Hand on the knob, Daniel walked the door shut.
"I'm not going to leave like Janet."
"No, I guess you aren't."
"It's a little too late for that, isn't it?"
"Why didn't Janet know you were raped, Daniel?"
Daniel halted abruptly, cocking his head at Rose. "Do you remember when I once warned you about not being able to answer all the questions you asked? Well, that's one of the questions."
"And how the hell was I supposed to know that?"
"You weren't." Daniel followed Rose into the kitchen. "You betrayed a confidence."
Rose dumped the dishes on the counter and began to methodically wash one of the mugs repeatedly.
Daniel pounded the table in frustration. "Turn around," he ordered, "look at me."
Rose slammed the mug into the sink, muttering under her breath as it shattered on impact. She pivoted. "You have too many rules."
"So this is *my* fault? You and Janet were sitting in the living room choreographing my recovery over tea and cookies. How dare you twist this around."
"I'm not going to apologize for caring."
Daniel dragged the heel of his hand across his aching forehead. "There's a thin line between caring and sticking your nose where it doesn't belong, and Rose, you crossed way over that line." He flopped down into the chair, suddenly exhausted. "Are you going to apologize for divulging information to Janet?" Daniel demanded.
Rose laughed. "Divulging information? We're talking about your health and mental wellbeing, not some top secret government information."
"Why can't you admit that you had *no* right to tell Janet I'd been..." Daniel's hands fluttered through the air as if trying to grab onto the elusive word.
"That you were raped? You can't even say the word, how are you going to come to terms with it?"
"I just want to put it all behind me."
Rose dropped into the chair across from Daniel, folding her hands when Daniel pulled away from her grasp. "That's not going to work, mhuirnin. You fought to find that memory and now that you have it in your grasp, you want to let it go? No. Shake it into submission. Overtake it. Show that you're the boss. Deal with it."
Daniel stood up suddenly and he lifted his chin in Rose's direction. "Deal with it? Who the hell are you to tell me what I should do or shouldn't do?" He shuddered as his voice cracked with emotion.
"Who am I?" Rose slapped the tabletop and Daniel was pretty sure she would rather have smacked him.
"That's what I asked," he hissed. "*You*!" he yelled, jabbing a finger in the air in Rose's direction. "You obviously have visions of grandeur regarding your place in my life." Daniel held his ground as Rose slowly got up and stepped into his personal space.
"Do you know you're an arrogant sonofabitch?" Her eyes were narrowed, her voice razor sharp and Daniel believed he had never seen Rose resemble Jack as much as she did at this moment.
"I never said I wasn't," he replied indignantly, shoving his hands deep into his pockets.
"I think it would be advisable if the two of you just shut the hell up right this minute."
"Jack!" Rose said, and even Daniel could hear the relief in her voice.
Daniel just hung his head in resignation when Jack placed a heavy hand on his shoulder.
"Daniel? Mom? Someone? Anyone want to fill me in on what's going on?"
"Ask her," Daniel spit out, shouldering past Jack.
* * *
"Let him go," Rose begged with a slight nod. "Just let him go."
Rose jumped at the sound at the forceful closing of the bedroom door, then with a shake of her head went to the sink, gingerly picking the pieces of the shattered mug.
Jack captured her hand, plucking the remnants of the mug from her. "What happened, Mom?"
"Grab me a piece of paper towel, okay?"
Jack ripped off the paper towel, laid it on the counter and she could feel his eyes boring into her as she cleaned up the evidence of her anger.
Jack scooped up the towel when she finished and dumped it into the garbage.
"All my fault, Johnny." Rose filled the sponge with soap and began to wash the dishes. "I butted in where I had no business sticking my nose and Daniel made sure I knew that."
"I don't believe you, you were giving out as good as you got. Whatever I walked in on certainly didn't sound like someone who thought the argument was their fault."
"I told Janet that Daniel had been raped and Daniel overheard. It was a stupid thing to do. He accused me of stepping over the line."
"You didn't just step over the line, Ma, you took one giant leap over that sucker."
"How was I supposed to know that Janet had no idea?" Rose sniffed, rubbing her nose on her forearm. "Janet is his doctor, he's under her care, I would *imagine* there would be some physical evidence."
"There wasn't, and I can't tell you why."
"Don't ask, don't tell, yeah believe me, Daniel made sure I got that point. Words like knives that boy has." She handed Jack a clean, wet dish to be placed in the dish drain.
"It's his livelihood," Jack explained, taking another dish from Rose's outstretched hand. "Words."
"I know it is. Like I know I was wrong talking to Janet. I'm concerned and damn it, Jack, he's headed for a fall and I can't stop it."
Jack leaned in and gently kissed her cheek. "No one's asking you to, don't put all that pressure on yourself, only Daniel can help Daniel."
"And us… what the hell are we supposed to do? Stand around?" Rose replied, angry that Jack was going to sit back and just watch the outcome. She was taken aback when Jack pulled her into a tight embrace.
"Of course not," he said soothingly. "We're going to be there to soften Daniel's fall, catch him if necessary."
Soapy wet hands, wound their way around her son's back. "How did you get so smart?"
Jack tightened his embrace. "Experience, Mom. Remember? Been there, done that."
* * *
Jack knocked on the door and then pushed it open, not bothering to wait for Daniel's consent to enter. In the dim room, Daniel sat at the edge of the bed, shoulders slumped, his gaze seemingly fixated on his nervously twisting fingers. There was no sign from Daniel that he was even aware Jack had entered the room.
He sat next to Daniel's and slung his arm around his shoulder, pushing at Daniel's head until it rested on Jack's own shoulder. Cat-like, Daniel rubbed his five o'clock shadow against the soft material of Jack's shirt.
He leaned into Daniel, surprised when he didn't pull away from the contact. Jack hedged his bet and took one of Daniel's hands in his, a touch that was allowed. Though he was overjoyed at the limited contact, Jack chose not to carry it any further.
"You took my mother on. Either you're one of the stupidest or one of the bravest men I know. *No one* has ever gone toe to toe with Rose Hennessy O'Neill and lived to tell about it."
"I'm going to go with stupidest."
Without forethought, Jack snaked his hand up to rest in Daniel's hair, gently kneading the strands between his thumb and forefinger. "Do you want me to ask my Mom to leave?"
Daniel choked out a broken "No," which was followed by a contemplative silence before Daniel added in a hushed voice. "Does she want to go?"
Jack turned and planted a kiss on Daniel's head. "This isn't about what she wants, Daniel, this is about what you want. What you need."
Daniel slid away from Jack and red-rimmed, blurry eyes challenged him. "I want to sleep without nightmares."
"I can't guarantee when the nightmares will stop, but they'll lessen in time. If anyone understands that, it should be you."
"I know that, logically I know that, but I'm so tired." Daniel yawned, not bothering to mask it behind his hand.
"Want me to stay with you while you get some sleep, I can check to make sure there aren't monsters under the bed, or in the closet."
Daniel buried another yawn in the hollow of Jack's shoulder blade. "I'm not afraid of those monsters."
"I know." Jack released Daniel and slid down to the foot of the bed. "Come here," he said patting his lap.
"You want me to sit on your lap?"
"Oy, Daniel, you *are* tired." Jack leaned over and tugged on Daniel's arm, feeling a moment's resistance before Daniel gave in. Jack guided the exhausted man to lay the length of the bed, his head on Jack's lap, his feet resting on the pillow.
* * *
Jack rocked from side to side making a futile attempt to restart the blood flow to his sleeping butt cheeks. The pins and needles feeling in his ass was nothing compared to how his knee was *going* to feel when he finally was able to get up. But for now, Jack settled back on the edge of the bed with only a minor groan of discomfort, content that Daniel was sleeping.
Daniel burrowed deeper into Jack's groin, sliding his hand across the quilt, curving it around Jack's ass. "Big guy, you're killing me here," Jack squeaked. He jumped in surprise as Daniel rubbed his nose against his crotch, hot puffs of breath penetrating through the material of Jack's pants.
He was just raising his hands to reposition Daniel when the cell phone in his pocket rang. "Shit," he hissed, raising his ass off the bed, holding the back of Daniel's head with his right hand and with his left, dug out his phone.
* * *
Rose stood in the kitchen doorway watching Daniel watch Jack. Her son stood with one hand on the doorknob, his back towards the younger man ready to open the door to outside. Jack shook his head in denial then rested his forehead against the door.
"Go, Jack," Daniel whispered, holding himself tall. "It's okay."
Jack pivoted, his hand still on the knob. "Daniel…"
Two strides and Jack enveloped Daniel in a bear hug that left Rose breathless in empathy. Over Daniel's shoulder, Jack sought out Rose's attention. "Take care of him," he mouthed silently.
"I will," was her silent answer, smiling sadly at Jack, before she turned into the kitchen to give them some privacy.
* * *
Once awake, Jack knew the only way Daniel would now allow himself to be physically handled by more than a simple touch, would be to catch him off guard, hence his justification for the impromptu embrace.
The hitch in Daniel's breathing was expected, it was the whimper that hurt Jack and he fought down the urge to call Hammond back and tell him that SG-1 was going to go on a S & R mission to PX3R37 minus not only their archeologist, but also without their colonel.
Daniel was quick to catch his transgression and used it to make Jack smile. "I *will* be fine, honest. Rose will keep me in line."
"I love you."
"I know you do." The breath of Daniel's whispered words warmed the skin on Jack's neck. "I'm sorry I can't…"
Jack pushed Daniel away from him, holding his shoulders in his tight grasp, silencing him with a chaste kiss, saddened when this ghost of affection caused Daniel to squirm. Daniel broke it off and Jack allowed him to take a step back. "I'm sorry."
"No, you're not." There was no recrimination in Daniel's voice, just resignation and a slight, minute, barely noticeable upturn of his lips. "I told you I'll be fine."
Jack walked slowly to the door and was turning the knob before Daniel called his name. "Daniel, I have to go," he answered without facing Daniel, keeping his glance trained on his white knuckled grasp of the doorknob.
"Make sure you watch your six for me, okay."
* * *
"Hi, yourself." Rose had waited in the kitchen, unsure of what Daniel expected.
"Smells, good." He was slouching against the doorframe, hesitant, obviously unsure what Rose expected from him.
"Vegetable soup." Rose dug a place mat from the drawer and arranged it on the table; spoon, napkin and the solitary table setting was complete.
She filled her soup bowl and was shuffling slowly to the table so not to spill any. Gently, she situated the bowl on the mat and grabbed a muffin from the basket on the table. Rose sat, looking up at Daniel as she split the muffin in two. "You know where everything is. You don't expect me to serve you, do you?"
* * *
Daniel was blowing on his spoonful of soup, his blinking eyes blurred behind his steamed up lenses.
"Why not just take them off." Rose dunked a piece of the muffin in the soup and stuck it in her mouth.
"I might as well," he groused, "they're not doing me a bit of good." Daniel stuck the soup in his mouth, then slipped off his glasses and folded them.
Rose crumbled up her napkin and placed it on the table. "There is something you need to know, Daniel."
"Would it help if I told you I'm sorry?" Daniel pushed the remainder of the bowl of soup away.
Rose pushed the soup back towards Daniel. "No, it wouldn't, because we both needed to say what was said. You're not sorry, and quite honestly, neither am I."
"Do you want me to leave?"
"No, mhuirnin," Rose chuckled softly, "I don't want you to leave. *I* don't want to leave either, but you need to understand a fundamental truth to being part of a family is that you're loved no matter what. Can you remember that?"
* * *
Daniel tossed and turned. Blankets on, blankets off, the room was too hot, too cold, and the pillows were uncomfortable, the mattress full of hills and valleys marking the territory of the bodies that had lain there previously. Daniel had slept, of that he was positive, the nightmare that still clung to his memory was proof that he had reached REM sleep for part of the night. He was embarrassed under the cover of darkness that it had been his own pathetic whimpering that had awoken him.
Frustrated, he pounded his pillows, then dragged Jack's pillows to his side of the bed to hug them against his body.
When Jack had told him SG-1 was being recalled to lead a Search and Rescue mission to PX3R37 to save SG-9, Daniel's emotions had scattered. His sense of morale obligation had been strong, his volunteering to help spewing from his mouth immediately followed by an overwhelming gut wrenching fear of having to step through the 'gate.
Daniel had known Jack was going to shoot down his accompanying SG-1, but he had been relieved to hear the words, his sense of relief far outweighing his desire to help. But now, in the emptiness of the bedroom, there was no disputing that he was a coward, an alien and horrific feeling that left him feeling more bereft than any nightmare.
* * *
"Didn't anyone ever tell you caffeine isn't a sleep aid?" Rose raised the level of light emanating from the overhead dining room fixture.
"Argh…" Daniel groaned, shielding his eyes against the barrage of wattage. "Punishment? Okay, I'm sorry, I didn't mean to wake you."
Rose tapped the opened magazine in front of Daniel and waved her hand along the length of the table, encompassing the slew of brightly covered magazines. "How the hell could you read anything in the dark?"
"What were you doing? Looking at the pictures?"
"Yes," Daniel answered without hesitation. "Visualizing."
Rose picked up one of the magazines and leafed through it, backward and forward. Once again, examining the front before placing it back on the table. "Gardening magazines?"
"You created a monster, I guess." Daniel shrugged and closed the magazine he was reading. "Sorry I woke you."
"Stop apologizing. I'm old, I don't require a lot of sleep anymore." She pulled out a chair and sat, sliding one of the magazines towards her. "Nice," Rose mentioned, pointing to the blooms on the cover. "What about you?"
Daniel bent over to see the photo on the front. "Yeah, it's nice, but those flowers would never—"
"I'm not asking about the flower, I'm talking about you."
Rose sighed, mentally counted to ten. "Do *you* need to sleep?"
"Me? Nah. Sleep is overrated."
"Daniel." Rose pulled out that long buried, 'don't mess with me, I don't think you're cute' voice, the one that always managed to get Paddy and Jack to confess to any wrongdoing.
Daniel took a sip of coffee, seemingly surprised to see the mug empty. "The body is willing, but the mind isn't able."
"Isn't able to what?"
"Sleep, shut down, shut up."
"How about a sleeping pill?"
Suddenly, Daniel stood. "More coffee?"
Daniel laughed. "Why bother?"
"Half a cup." If you can't beat 'em, join 'em, Rose decided.
* * *
They sat in silence, flipping through magazines, Rose fighting to suppress yawns as dawn approached, watching with a mix of amusement and concern as Daniel's eyelids began to droop.
"Jack's going to be alright, isn't he?" Daniel didn't pick his head up as he sat nonchalantly turning the pages of the magazine, as if he were alone at the table.
"I wouldn't know, would I?" Rose replied angrily, slamming the magazine shut, tossing it onto the pile. "I'm not privy to your daily lives, the whispers, the looks, the silence. I just stay home and pick up the pieces." Rose clamped her hand over her mouth, stunned by the anger that burst forth, but more horrified of the look that skittered over Daniel's face. Raw, unmitigated pain that disappeared so quickly Rose wondered if it been her guilt that had given her a momentary window into Daniel's heart. She dropped her hands into her lap. "I didn't mean that. I'm sorry."
Daniel pulled the magazines towards him, placing them into small stacks. "Don't apologize, you're one hundred percent correct, especially the part about picking up the pieces." He lifted up one of the stacks, held the edges and tapped it against the table top, aligning all the magazines perfectly. Daniel gently placed it down and moved to the next pile of magazines, repeating the same procedure. "Ya gotta admit, Rose, I'm pretty screwed up."
"You were tortured, abused. People died."
"I was raped, Rose, you can say it."
"You know, Jack knows, hell, General Hammond and now Janet knows," Daniel spit back. "So how the hell does it help me if everyone knows, answer me that, Rose?" He slid his arm across the table, effectively clearing it in one fell swoop. "Fucking damaged goods, that's what I am." Daniel jumped up. "Where's my keys? I need my keys, *now*!"
He overturned the wicker basket sitting in the center of the table, dumping out the contents then began sifting through the junk. "Keys—where are my keys?"
"You're in no condition to drive."
Daniel frantically searched through the pile, items sliding every which way along the table's surface.
"Stop!" Rose commanded as she captured Daniel's trembling hands.
"I can't." His hands slipped from under Rose's grasp. "If I stop, even for a minute, then the reality of what happened becomes overwhelming and I can't breathe, I can't function."
"You aren't functioning now," Rose said softly. "This isn't functioning, even you have to see that."
Spent, Daniel dropped heavily into the chair. "I'm not fooling anyone."
"You're fooling no one, Daniel, least of all yourself."
"Then help me," Daniel pleaded. "Show me what I'm doing wrong, why this time is different?"
"Show you what?" Rose shook her head, confused.
"How to put this behind me—as I've always done. Pack it away. Compartmentalize each and every feeling, every emotion."
"I can't do that, you know that, mhuirnin."
The items from the basket went the way of the magazines and Rose jerked back in the chair when Daniel pounded his fists on the table. "You're a liar." He jabbed his finger in her direction.
"I'm a what?"
"Liar. You heard me. Mothers have all the answers. So you're a mother, tell me how to fix this."
"I don't have the answer you're searching for, Daniel."
"That's where you're wrong. See, I grew up being told that mothers have *all* the answers. I wasn't deaf, I heard all those whispers about the poor boy who didn't have a mother. The shaking of heads, the forgiveness I received for every transgression was because I didn't have a mother's guidance. Show me what I was missing." In defiance, Daniel crossed his arms, tilting his chin at Rose's direction. "Come on, do your stuff, guide me, give me the answers I need."
* * *
The smell of coffee filled the cab of the Avalanche and Jack couldn't help but smile as he drove the last few blocks to his house. This had been the fastest Search and Rescue mission in SG-1's history. SG-1 and SG-5 had kitted up, made it to the Gateroom when the wormhole had opened up and spit out a very embarrassed SG-9.
Jack had stayed for the debriefing, bid Teal'c and Carter a fond farewell, changed into civvies and stopped at Starbucks on the way home to surprise Daniel with a Janet-forbidden, high octane cup of coffee.
* * *
The temperature had dropped, the sky was gray and heavy, and his knee let him know that snow was on its way. Jack hated the way his body made sure to remind him of his age every chance it got, but he pushed aside the self pity and gratefully stepped over the threshold in the warm house.
"Mom?" Jack dropped the coffee and bags on the counter and rushed to his mother's side. Haggard and old was the only way Jack could describe her, two words, before now, he never would have used to describe his mother.
Rose was leaning heavily on the counter, rolling an empty mug between her hands. "I'm glad your home." Rose offered Jack a wobbly smile in greeting, but there was no missing the redness or puffiness surrounding her eyes.
"See for yourself," Rose answered, tapping the glass before turning around to refill her mug from the coffee pot.
* * *
"Hey, Daniel, whatcha doing?" Jack shouted from the second step of the deck. The air was frigid and the dull sun was casting long shadows as opposed to providing warmth.
Daniel hesitated, the ice chopper gripped in his hand poised in a downward motion. He buried the metal tip of the chopper in the snow by his feet and pivoted towards Jack. "Everything okay?"
"Everything is okay with me. You? Everything okay with you?" Jack shrugged. "You look cold."
One handed, Daniel pulled the ice chopper from the mound, yielding it across his chest like a staff weapon. "I'm not cold."
"Well, I am. I'm going to go into the house and find some gloves, can I interest you?"
Daniel just shook his head in response, losing interest in Jack's presence, restarting his task of chopping the accumulated snow and ice in the garden.
* * *
Rose met Jack at the door, her arms laden with winter apparel. "I grabbed everything from the closet I could carry, I don't think things match."
Jack took the bundle from his mom and deposited it on the kitchen table. "I don't thing Daniel will care if his gloves don't match." Rose turned to gaze at Daniel and Jack slid a kitchen chair over to her, gently pushing her into taking a seat. "Do me a favor, just sit." Jack waved a hand, shushing all her objections. "Yeah, I know you're okay, just humor me, keep an eye on Daniel while I make a phone call."
"Mom?" Jack gazed questionably at the hand his mother had wrapped around his wrist.
"I couldn't help him," she whispered, shooting guilty looks through the window into the backyard. "He wanted something I couldn't give him."
Jack gripped her hand and squeezed. "The only one who can help Daniel is Daniel."
* * *
Jack called Daniel's name before he approached. "What?" he sighed, pausing in his attack to free the ice-bound garden.
Jack lightly slapped the gloves across Daniel's reddened hands. "Put these on."
Daniel blinked at the gloves in Jack's hand. "Oh." He fought for a second as Jack made a move to exchange the handle of the ice chopper for the gloves, eventually giving in, watching possessively as Jack leaned it against the fence.
Jack took Daniel's hands in his, turned them palm side up and deposited the gloves in them. He looped a scarf around Daniel's neck as Daniel struggled to insert stiff fingers into the gloves.
"Let me." Without waiting for an answer, he manipulated Daniel's hands until the gloves were in place and then he gripped them in between his warm ones, giving them a squeeze and a little shake before releasing them. Jack dug deep into his jacket pockets and produced two woolen caps. He stuck one on his head and gave the second to Daniel who mimicked Jack's action. "Better?" Jack asked, replacing the chopper into Daniel's outstretched, waiting hands.
"Thank you." Jack had noticed that Daniel was more intent on digging than he was on making any type of eye contact and he stepped back to take in the whole picture.
Even from where Jack stood he could see twin spots of bright red that splashed color onto Daniel's cheeks which matched, in perfect hue, the color of his nose and exposed earlobes. First right, then left, the way Daniel was alternating rubbing his ears against his shoulders, Jack was positive Daniel was experiencing the pins and needs that accompanied thawing. Daniel kept crinkling his nose, sniffing and then rubbing the tip with the back of a gloved hand. A moment later he would pause and slide his glasses into their proper position with the side of his thumb.
"Would you like some help?"
"Help?" Daniel paused and Jack couldn't help but think that Daniel looked almost suspicious of his offer.
"Help." Jack imitated Daniel's digging motion.
Daniel squinted at the pile of snow, sniffed, and wiped his nose once again along his glove. "You've only got one ice chopper but there's a—"
"Shovel. Garage… I know." Jack said, walking towards garage.
* * *
Despite the temperature, Jack was sweating and he ached. Badly. And if *he* was sore, he could just imagine how Daniel felt. Except for stopping when Jack first appeared, there hadn't been a break in Daniel's diligence. Pure adrenaline and a single-minded stubbornness was probably the only thing keeping Daniel upright, while Jack, on the other hand, was faltering and he couldn't halt the grunt of exertion as he lifted the next shovelful of snow. Daniel, distracted by Jack's noise, stopped for a moment, blinking in apparent confusion at him.
"Are you okay?" Concern turned to surprise as Daniel's eyes widened when his gaze moved to a spot somewhere over Jack's right shoulder. "Teal'c?"
"As per O'Neill's request." Teal'c approached, bearing an ice chopper similar to Daniel's, but in a newer, more pristine condition.
Teal'c caught Jack's perusal of the chopper and he tightened his grip, proudly displaying it to the men standing before him. "Is there a part of this winter digging-in-the-garden ritual that I am unaware of? Does this instrument not meet with your approval?"
"No, it's more than fine, big guy."
Daniel acknowledged Teal'c's presence with a nod and went back to hacking away at the ice in the same corner he had been working on for almost an hour.
"Carter?" Jack whispered to Teal'c.
"Major Carter is doing what you requested, though I believe it is wise to mention that both she and Mrs. O'Neill questioned your sanity."
* * *
Shoveling snow and chopping ice in frigid temperatures was an utterly stupid, asinine, ridiculous way to spend an afternoon. Daniel knew it, but refused to give into the voice of reason chattering away in his head. He grabbed the voice by the shoulders, backed it up to the deck stairs and ordered it to sit, roughly pushing it down. "Stay here and shut up," Daniel ordered.
'You're crazy', was its loud reply.
Daniel just shook his head in response.
'You're cold and tired, and it's damned selfish of you making your friends play in your delusional world'.
"I didn't ask for help."
'They're your family, what did you expect them to do? What *do* you expect from them'?
"I expect nothing." Daniel stabbed repeatedly at the hard ground. "I'm fine," Daniel whispered, soft and low.
'In what reality are you fine? You're hanging on by a thread', was the taunting reply. 'Everyone sees it but you'.
"I can deal. I don't need to rely on anyone but me. I'll figure this out," Daniel insisted, stubbornly attacking the frozen dirt.
"Why what?" Daniel could feel the tenor of the voice change, and he retreated a few steps, stopping when he bumped into an unyielding, solid object.
'Why are you…' the voice faded away and Daniel jumped when the dense matter he had backed into grabbed his arm.
"Why am I what?" Daniel demanded, shrugging off the arm.
"Is there a problem, DanielJackson?"
He turned towards Jack, a rush of guilt deepening his already flushed cheeks at Jack's wan appearance. "Why don't you guys take a break?" he offered.
"I believe it is time for all of us to take rest, DanielJackson." With ease Teal'c plucked the ice chopper from Daniel's hands and leaned both tools against the fence. "I see Mrs. O'Neill standing most anxiously by the door waving." Teal'c waved back, a waggle of fingers, and Daniel smiled at the big Jaffa's child-like wave in response to Rose's.
"Good timing." Jack laid the shovel by the other tools. "I could go for a nice…"
"Hot chocolate, O'Neill?
"No," Jack laughed, "I was thinking more along the idea of a shot of 100-proof to warm my bones."
Daniel stood rooted, watching Jack and Teal'c's departing backs as they headed towards the house. His mind registered things with crystal clarity—from the sharp smell of winter that hurt his nasal passages to the beckoning warmth of the house that seemed to extend a welcome to his aching body.
'Afraid'? the voice whispered in his ear.
Daniel vigorously shook his head. "Of course not."
'Then go follow them', the voice prodded. Daniel took two hesitant steps before stopping. 'What's stopping you'?
"I need to finish here," Daniel explained, going back to the fence to grab the ice chopper.
"Put it down, Daniel," Jack shouted from the deck, one hand poised on the door handle. He waved Daniel forward. "Come on inside, warm up for awhile."
'He and Teal'c won't go in unless you do. Jack's cold and I'm sure even Teal'c would like to stop for a bit'.
"Just for awhile," Daniel agreed as he reluctantly put one foot in front of the other and headed towards the house. Before he stepped up to the deck he gazed over his shoulder, wishing for the peace and solitude of the frost-covered, frozen garden.
* * *
"Don't go one step further," Rose ordered as the three men walked into the kitchen. "Take off your boots, I don't want you trekking muddy footprints all over the house."
Jack and Teal'c did as commanded but Daniel needed a prod and a visual from Jack to complete the task.
"I'll take those," Sam offered, indicating their hats, gloves and coats.
"Thanks. Could you put them on the dryer?"
This time, Rose noticed Daniel angrily shrugged off all attempts to assist him and although he did it with shaky hands, he managed to don his outerwear and wipe the condensation from his glasses on the front of his tee shirt.
Rose caught Jack assessing Daniel's tee shirt and without a word spoken, Rose silenced Jack's reprimand with a glare.
"You guys must be starving. I've whipped up a little something."
Sam snorted. "A little something? Rose, I have dinner parties…"
"Dinner parties? You? Carter, isn't that a stretch of the imagination?"
Sam's sputtered indignation was drowned out by Teal'c's resonating agreement with Jack.
Rose acknowledged the light-hearted banter for what it was. An avoidance technique of comfort, showing Daniel his friends were present and accounted for if he needed them. She shooed them towards the living room, no one commenting when Daniel held back.
* * *
"Rose and I got what you requested, sir," Carter said once they were settled around the coffee table, shooting an anxious glance towards the kitchen.
Rose couldn't have cared if she humiliated her son or not, and she leaned into him to place a kiss on his cheek.
"What was that for?" Jack asked, a slight stain of embarrassment coloring his face.
"For sometimes being smarter than I give you credit for." Rose took her fingers and wiped away any trace of her kiss, smiling as the deepening color reached the tips of Jack's ears.
"I do not believe I have ever seen you blush, O'Neill."
"I'm not blushing," Jack protested as he rubbed his cheeks. "I'm still red from the outside."
"If that's what you want to believe, sir, you'll get no argument from me."
"I'm going to get Daniel, he needs to…" Jack sputtered.
"Don't worry, I'll go get him." She halted Jack's walk towards the kitchen with a mere touch to his arm. "Let me," she pleaded. "I need to redeem myself in both our eyes."
* * *
Daniel was fingering the tiny clay pots that lined the counter, totally unaware that Rose was watching him.
"They were Jack's idea." Rose purposely kept her voice soft as she stepped up next to him, picking up a clay pot to the right of the one Daniel's fingers were resting on.
Daniel jerked from her proximity and stuffed his hands into his pockets. "For what?" He turned, leaned his hip against the counter and faced Rose, placing a good amount of space between them.
Rose couldn't answer. The young man whom she had met less than a year ago was gone and in his stead, facing her was a man, old beyond his years with lines of stress around his eyes and a pinched, hardened look around his mouth. Suddenly Jack's idea didn't seem so wonderful under Daniel's scrutiny.
"Rose?" Daniel waved an arm above the pots.
"Oh, Jack thought maybe you could begin the garden inside until you got the…"
"Jack thought?" Daniel plucked up a planter and drew his arm back, and for a flash Rose was positive Daniel was going to haul off and fling the damn thing. But he instead he balanced the clay pot closer and examined it, tumbling it over before he rested it upright in the palm of his hands. "Now what?"
"Plant?" Daniel placed the pot he held in his hands back amongst the others. He gestured outside the door. "I don't know if you noticed—"
She rolled her eyes. "Stop with the smart aleck responses. Sam and I hauled our butts all over Colorado Springs to fill Jack's order to 'buy all the necessary gardening crap'. Do you have any idea how hard this stuff is to find in the dead of winter?"
* * *
The kitchen was a mess. There was as much dirt in the pots as there was on the floor and over Daniel. Rose had waved away Jack, Sam and Teal'c on a number of occasions. The plate of sandwiches she had made for Daniel was gone, the three glasses of juice downed in quick succession. She knew better than to comment about Daniel's inhalation of food and eventually moved the dirt smudged glass and dish into the sink.
He seemed to look around the room expectantly as he brushed his hands on his jeans.
Rose grabbed a plastic bag off the table, gathered the top in her hands, shook it up and then opened it, offering it to Daniel. "Pick one," she said moving it enticingly under Daniel's nose.
"Just close your eyes, stick your hand in here," Rose shook the bag more time for good measure, "and pick. I promise you, it won't bite."
With a long suffering sigh, one that Rose was sure that Jack was privy to on many occasions, Daniel hesitantly stuck his hand into the bag.
"See, that wasn't so bad, was it?" Rose peered at what Daniel held in his hand. "I figured you plant the impatients and I'll plant—" Rose shoved her hand into the bag and pulled out a packet, "the black eyed Susans.
"I can't do this," Daniel stuttered, flinging the seed packet onto the table.
"We don't have to do this today if you don't want."
"I don't want to do this any day."
"I've learned the hard way there are *no* miracles in my life. Faith is the fallout caused by the luck of the draw, like a bad joke cosmic game of poker and the people who died got dealt incredibly sucky hands. And me—" Daniel wiped his nose with his forearm, leaving an obscene mustache of dirt streaking across his upper lip. "I'm not that person any more. No matter where I look, my soul is faithless. I don't believe in miracles anymore, Rose."
"Oh, mhuirnin, don't say that."
Daniel cleared the counter with a swipe of his arm, sending clay pots filled with dirt the length of the kitchen, scattering and shattering on impact. With stocking feet, Daniel kicked shards out of his range. "I didn't lose my way, Rose, *that* Daniel lost too much of himself and *this* Daniel returned, and no amount of digging, or planting, or wishing, is going to bring him back."
* * *
Sure she had waved him back into the living room, but Jack *knew* Daniel and there wasn't any way he was going to slink off and hide, so Jack stood in the doorway, silently observing the exchange between his mother and Daniel.
In the beginning, as Daniel worked alongside his mom, Jack had gloated regarding his experiment with the pots and the seeds; but as he watched, he began to pick up little nuances, frantic movements that his mom was missing.
The man who performed the simplest rituals with precision was working at fast-forward speed. Moving too quickly for the task at hand, there appeared as much dirt on Daniel as went into the pots. The floor and his jeans were liberally splattered, and bless his mother for not calling attention to it.
Though Daniel gave the outward appearances of living a cluttered life, to a fault, Daniel knew where each and every reference book lay in his office and his and Jack's homes. In a flash, Daniel was able to locate research or notes he had written. Haphazard filing to the lay person, but Jack knew different, hell all of the SGC knew different. In the warmth of his kitchen, from his vantage point of the doorway, Jack was seeing in Daniel qualities of a man who was a stranger to him as Daniel began to lose the order in which he was working, picking up and putting down already filled pots.
He fought hard not to intervene, to step over the threshold and draw Daniel away from whatever path his mother was leading him down. It reached the point where Jack actually had to leave rather than step forth and render aid to Daniel. He got as far as the hallway bathroom when a crash followed by Daniel's angry voice brought, not only Jack, but also Teal'c and Carter running.
Jack stuck out his arm, blocking Carter's and Teal'c's entrance into the kitchen. Military to the core, they held their position in the hallway while he carefully picked his way around the broken pottery.
Daniel's spark of anger had been snuffed out and he wore an expression of shock at the devastation littering the kitchen by the time Jack entered.
Daniel dropped, his knees making a painful thwacking sound against the wood. "I'll clean it up." Using his hands like a scoop, Daniel began gathering a pile of dirt intermingled with shards of terra cotta planters.
"It'll keep," Rose murmured, bending she tried to pull Daniel to a standing position.
"No, I need to clean up my *own* mess." He twisted from Rose's grasp.
Daniel averted his head, leaning it heavily against the cabinet when Jack called his name. Jack used that to his advantage, stepping even closer.
Jack shushed his mom with a clipped hand motion.
"Daniel." He ignored the ache in his own chest, hating himself for using his 'Daniel don't you dare touch that alien contraption' tone to force Daniel to focus. Painfully, holding onto the counter for leverage, Jack squatted until he was facing Daniel. He stuck out his hand. "I need you to stand, grab my hand and follow me. Do you think you can do that?"
A second's hesitation before Daniel nodded yes, his face still pressed against the wooden cabinet, though he made no movement towards Jack's hand.
"You don't have to look at anyone or anything, just watch the floor as you step, too many sharp pieces, only socks, you need to be careful."
"Careful?" Daniel whispered, finally meeting Jack's gaze.
"Together." Jack reached over and physically placed Daniel's hand in his, tightening his grip on the frighteningly cold fingers. "*We* can do this." With the utmost gentleness, Jack tugged on Daniel's arm. "Come on."
* * *
Jack situated Daniel on the edge of the bed, going back to the bedroom door and closing it with a hushed apology to three pairs of concerned eyes.
* * *
One handed, Jack cleared off the nightstand: books, pens, scraps of paper falling to the floor in a jumbled heap. He left only the bedside lamp on the surface and balanced a tub of warm soapy water next to it.
Daniel had begun to rock with slow precision, like a child lazily swinging. The squeaking bedsprings from Daniel's movements grated on Jack's already twanging nerve endings.
"You're filthy." Jack bent and removed Daniel's dirt covered socks, flinging them over his shoulder. He stood with a groan, using the corner of the night table for support then retrieved a towel, a wash cloth, a clean tee shirt and dumped them next to Daniel.
"I'm going to take off your glasses," Jack advised.
Daniel shook his head and removed his own glasses, manhandling them, wrapping his fingers around the lenses, tugging them off his face. Clutched tightly in his fist, he offered the glasses to Jack who took them without comment, rubbing the smudged lenses on his shirt before placing them on the nightstand.
Jack dipped the washcloth into the tub of warm soapy water and gave it a two handed twist to remove any excess moisture. "You'll feel better after you get cleaned up." Seemingly resigned to the situation, Daniel hesitantly raised his head.
Slowly, Jack maneuvered Daniel's face, right to left, wiping away at the dirt. Catching Jack unaware, Daniel snatched the washcloth from his hand and buried his face in the damp, dirty material. He slid off the edge of the bed before Jack could stop him, landing in a heap at Jack's feet, then buried his face in the washcloth.
For a second, Jack stood gazing down at the man curled by his feet, overwhelmed. He took a step backwards, very close to making a mad dash to the door to fling it open and to yell for his 'mommy' to clean up the puddle of emotions that lay pooled at his feet, but fear paralyzed him.
"I'm here, Daniel," Jack whispered as he lowered himself down to the floor.
Daniel mumbled, his voice muffled in the washcloth pressed to his face.
"I don't know what you said."
Daniel ripped the washcloth off his face and flung it at Jack, who made no effort to catch it but sat impassively and allowed the damp cloth to bounce off of his chest and fall to the floor. Daniel sat up, shoving away Jack's offer to help, tucking his knees to his chest. "I said I was ashamed."
Jack only wanted to touch Daniel, but the distraught man jerked away, pulling his body even tighter. "Rape is an act of violence, there's no need to be ashamed."
"Shut up," Daniel yelled, clamping his hands over his ears. "Shutupshutupshutupshutup."
Fear was a great motivator and Jack was terrified out of his gourd and didn't give a shit how much Daniel cringed from his touch as he tightly grasped his shoulders.
Like a wild animal, Daniel kicked and hissed, but Jack battled the bucking body, until Daniel gave a deep sigh before collapsing heavily onto Jack, his weight nearly knocking the two of them flat.
Jack stroked the sweaty head burrowing into his chest and he began to rock side to side. "I understand, believe me I do," and for the first time Jack was ready to share, to commiserate with Daniel the horrors of war.
Daniel shouldered his way from Jack's grasp and stood, then began to pace the length of the room, shaky at first, gaining strength and momentum. "You really don't understand," Daniel said. He had stopped in front of the bedroom door and had one hand poised on the doorknob.
"No, you're wrong." Jack stood and faced Daniel. "When I was a hostage, my captors took perverse pleasure in forcing—"
"Jesus, Jack," Daniel said, leaving his post by the door and stepping so closely up to him that he was forced to step backwards. "Tell me, did you ever beg for it? Plead for it? Ask to have some man's cock rammed up your ass?" Daniel's face was flushed, twin pin points of color spotting his cheeks, hands clenched into fists that pounded his thighs. Daniel shook his head in disgust. "I can see from the look on your face that I was right. You *don't* understand."
"Survival, you were fighting to survive. You did what ever was needed to stay alive."
"Honestly, I didn't give a shit about surviving. I did whatever I needed to do to get my fix, Jack. It wasn't about survival, never was, 'cause I was willing to die to get into the sarc. It was all about addiction. Pure and simple, I was willing to sell my soul, my body and any other part the First Prime wanted just to satisfy my desire to step into the sarc one more time."
Jack drew a breath and placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder, only to have Daniel physically pick it off and toss it back at him. "I don't want the rah rah talk, the one that says 'none of it matters as long as you're back, Daniel'. That's bullshit. Pure unadulterated bullshit. It does matter. It matters to me. I didn't care about the rest of the team I was with, I didn't care about coming home, and I couldn't have cared less if I ever saw you or this place again."
Jack answered by blurting out the first thing that came to mind. "I love you."
Daniel closed his eyes and began to lightly bang his head against the wall, and Jack was two steps away from him when Daniel suddenly opened his eyes. "Damn you," Daniel warned, sliding sideways against the expanse of wall, out of Jack's reach. "Don't you dare forgive me," he snarled.
"Okay," Jack conceded, throwing his hands up in surrender. "I won't forgive you, but I still love you."
Jack had only the warning of a low guttural growl before he hit the ground with a painful thud. Daniel's weight, as he straddled Jack, was pinning him to the floor. He gazed up to a face filled with fury and a fist hovering just inches from his head. "If it will make you feel better, go ahead and hit me."
"Don't tempt me."
Jack rotated his head, allowing Daniel to have a clear shot at the left side of his face. He could have overtaken Daniel easily, trading positions in the blink of an eye, he knew it and Daniel knew it. Jack saw Daniel draw his arm back, and while he wanted to keep his eyes open, preservation prevented it and they closed of their own volition. A whisper of a breeze skimmed over his face as Daniel's arm passed within inches and he opened his eyes just in time to see Daniel slam his fist into the wall.
"Ow." He slid off Jack and tucked himself into a manmade corner of the room between the bureau and the wall. "Go away. Please. Just go away," Daniel pleaded in a voice stifled amid furniture and plaster.
"Get it though your head. I'm not going to go away." Jack eased himself off the floor and sat on the bed. "No matter how much you beg."
"Call it what you will. I'm not moving. Mom will enter the room years from now and just find our remains. Me on the bed." Jack moved up and down for emphasis, the springs squeaking loudly. "And you? You'll be shoved in that little corner."
"Why not? Why can't you just leave?"
"I'll make you a deal. If you let me do what I want to do, I'll leave. And then it'll be your choice. If you want to stay in that corner indefinitely, fine, or come out and join the living, that's also okay." Jack didn't wait for Daniel's answer, he was off the bed in a flash, pulling Daniel into his arms before he could even sputter a word of protest. "I'm not leaving." He tucked Daniel's head under his chin. "I know what it's like when your world narrows down to your next fix or drink. When satisfying the burning in the pit of your stomach is all you can wrap you mind around. Honest," he whispered in Daniel's ear, "I need you to believe that I do understand."
"I need more than understanding." Daniel choked on his words, his voice a thin whisper of sound.
"What do you need?"
"Can you help me?" The plaintive question was bad enough but Jack was hard pressed to fight tears as he felt the widening circle of moisture on his shirt from Daniel's silent ones.
"Oh, Daniel." Jack burrowed his hand between their two bodies, grabbing a fistful of Daniel's shirt, pulling him in even closer. "I understand but I can't give you the help you need."
Jack felt the strength in Daniel's grip as he latched onto Jack's hand and lifted his face to meet Jack's gaze. Eyes filled with sadness studied Jack. Guilty as charged, Jack felt by denying Daniel his help he was defaulting on his very own credo of leaving someone behind.
"Tired. I'm just so tired and I don't have the strength to fight anymore." His confession came out as a whimper and he dropped his head onto Jack's chest.
Jack kissed the bent head, rhythmically swaying, his hands petting, smoothing, his touch hushing what his words couldn't.
"I need my life back." Jack leaned forward to hear, Daniel's voice was barely audible. "I need help—I need, Mackenzie?"
Shocked, Jack forced Daniel upright until they were making eye contact. "God, not Mental Health, you don't need a padded room."
"No, not a question." Squirming in Jack's grasp, Daniel began to twist convulsively back and forth to lessen the hold. "Mackenzie can help me. Mackenzie *will* help."
"I'm glad you're giving him your vote of confidence. Explain to me why the hell do you want that quack?" Jack shook Daniel, dropping his hands in shock when Daniel began to cower. "I didn't mean that, whatever you want. Whoever," Jack replied emphatically. Jack pulled Daniel back into an embrace, his whispered 'I'm sorry's' were followed up with kisses that were barely tolerated.
"I'm out of time."
Though the mere mention of Mackenzie's name made his skin crawl, Jack swallowed his misgivings in compliance with the lost, pleading quality of those simple words. "Mackenzie, only him." Jack made no comment as Daniel snorted and snuffed his snotty nose and runny eyes on his shirt. "I promise."
* * *
Rose entered the semi-dark room, giving her eyes a moment or two to adjust to the low lighting before stepping over the threshold. Sam and Teal'c had left over two hours ago and she had argued with herself quite emphatically as to whether or not she should intrude into their bedroom. When her tentative knocks to the closed door went unanswered, motherhood and concern won over indecisiveness.
The light bleeding in from under the closed bathroom door was just enough for Rose to discern Jack and Daniel on the bed and the room's overall messy conditions. Though her eyes were drawn to her son's possessive hold on Daniel as they slept, she forced herself to look elsewhere. Socks and towels on the floor by the bed, papers and books scattered around the night table. A basin of diluted soapy water was balanced precariously close to the edge of the table.
The towels and socks could wait, but the basin was a disaster waiting to happen and Rose glanced at the bed before tentatively stretching out her hands to move it just a smidgen to the left.
She jumped back, clutching her hands over her heart. "Daniel Jackson," she hissed, her heart pounding painfully in her chest. "You just scared me half to death."
"Sorry." Daniel furrowed his brow and his gaze danced around the room before landing back on Rose. His eyes met hers and then dropped down to Jack's hands clutched around his midsection, bits of tee shirt visible through his fingers.
Even without light, Rose could imagine the blush of embarrassment coloring Daniel's cheeks.
"Bet you never thought you would see this?"
"See what, my son happy?"
"We've had this discussion before and I was under the impression that we had arrived at an understanding." Rose busied herself finally fixing the basin, straightening up the mess on the floor, then placed a mixed pile of magazines and books on the dresser.
Rose pulled the blanket from the foot of the bed, unfolded it and spread it out over both men. "I love you."
A sleepy smiled spread over Daniel's features. "I'm supposed to know that, right?"
"Yup, that's one of life's consistencies you're supposed to remember." She laid a hand on Daniel's shoulder, pretending to adjust the blanket. "Why aren't you sleeping?" Rose chastised.
"Not tired, just keeping Jack company. He's exhausted."
"You're not?" Rose ran her fingers through his hair and placed a gentle kiss on his temple, noticing at this close range the crow's feet and tight lines around his mouth. "Rest," she whispered.
Daniel opened his eyes and scowled at her, as if to convey that even the mere contemplation of resting was the most insane idea he'd ever heard.
"Stay with Jack," she quickly amended, shifting from leg to leg, idle hands making her awkwardness return. Rose had seen what she wanted to see, both Jack and Daniel were alive and breathing, and Daniel was slightly better off than he had been in the kitchen. Embarrassed at invading their privacy, mortified that she had walked into their sanctuary, Rose backed away, heading towards the door.
She stepped into the hallway, holding the doorknob until it clicked into place. Rose leaned against the wall, her legs shaking as if she had run a marathon, her heart pounding with fear as she closed her eyes and remembered the expression on Jack's face as he lay with Daniel. Contentment, happiness, a mother could read those things without being told. Emotions that Jack hadn't felt for a long time. She knew that, Rose wasn't stupid. Even separated by countless miles she had been well aware of the hell Jack had been experiencing. But Daniel had changed that, Rose wasn't sure when or how, just that she thanked God for the man that taught her son about hope and love and now, Rose was terrified that Daniel had lost himself and in the process, would lose Jack as well. That soon the scene in the bedroom would be a thing of the past and her place in Jack's life would have been like a gust of cool wind on a warm day. Appreciated, but forgotten in the heat of the summer days.
In the dark hallway, with her hands clasped tightly together, Rose's lips moved in silent prayer, asking for divine intervention, guidance, anything, because not only had Daniel lost faith in himself, she, Rose O'Neill, had lost hope.
* * *
"The coffee's fresh," Daniel said from his seat by the kitchen table, his image muted, the only illumination in the room was the light over the stove and the red button on the coffee maker.
Rose opened the cabinet and removed a coffee mug, her hand hovering over a second one. "Do you want any?"
Daniel held up his mug up in reply.
Rose hummed softly as she filled her mug and sat down. Defensively, Daniel wrapped his hands around his cup, and for the first time Rose noticed the slight tremor in his hands had disappeared. Daniel followed her gaze and smiled. "Well, that's an improvement."
"You should be thankful for all the little steps."
Daniel took a gulp of coffee and Rose cringed as he swallowed the hot liquid, her own throat tightening in sympathy. "Jack's still sleeping." he took another sip and Rose could feel Daniel's gaze on her.
"What?" Rose ran her index finger over her front teeth. "Do I have a piece of spinach stuck somewhere?"
Daniel hid a soft chuckle in his coffee mug and Rose realized how much she had missed the sound of Daniel's laughter. "No, I was just waiting for the reprimand as to why *I* wasn't still sleeping." Daniel lifted his cup, "And I'm drinking coffee at," he squinted at the microwave, "three thirty in the morning."
"Misery loves company," Rose replied, taking a tentative sip. "I couldn't sleep, and you're much more entertaining than an infomercial."
"Thanks, I think…" Daniel gulped down the remainder of his mug. "I'm going to get help." He jumped up and walked over to the coffee pot, efficiently cutting down Rose's chance to comment.
Rose got up and went to the fridge, pulling out the milk and jelly, then snagged the peanut butter and white bread from the cabinet, a knife from the drawer and with her fingertips, picked up a glass from the counter. As soon as she sat down, Rose began to assemble sandwiches.
"It's going to be a long night and I function better on a full stomach, what about you? Take one," she said, shoving a sandwich at Daniel, "I can't eat them all. Here, try this also," She filled the glass with milk and slid it to Daniel, smiling when there was no hesitation when he switched from the coffee mug to the glass of milk.
"You're always feeding me," Daniel mumbled around a mouthful of sandwich.
"I grew up where the kitchen was the place where decisions were made and we talked around the table, surrounded by family and good food." Rose took a bite of sandwich, and shrugged.
"Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are good food?" Daniel asked, reaching for a second.
"Obviously, because you're eating them more enthusiastically than the dishes I slave over." Rose rocked in her seat and placed her shoulders back, her look of indignation lost on Daniel as he poured himself another glass of milk.
"You're going to get help?" Rose forced neutrality into her voice.
Daniel's eyes widened over the rim of the glass of milk and he nodded. He seemed surprised that Rose had even caught his reference. He slowly put his glass on the table and used the back of his hand to swipe at his milk moustache, smiling at Rose's clicking of her tongue regarding his manners. "Yes I am."
Daniel sighed. "I need help." He began to twist the crust off the sandwich and roll it into little balls.
Rose tapped his hand.
"Hmmm." His eyes were glued to the tiny pyramid structure he was constructing from the sandwich.
"You need guidance. Someone who doesn't love you like Jack does, like I do. Someone who isn't afraid you're going to shatter into a million pieces. A person who will allow you to get angry, mad…"
"Jack does that," Daniel said defensively, squashing the pyramid into a square.
"Yes he does, but he's not the one to help you and you know that."
"Can I let you in on a little secret?"
"Jack would never have suggested you to seek help. He would have buffered you and played defense and given you lip service. He would have given you the shovel to bury it deep inside."
Daniel straightened up. "Why do you say that?"
"Because he learned it from me. Because I taught him how to do exactly that when he came home from Iraq. I gave him the shovel and in the long run I did him the worst disservice a parent could give a child. I thought no one would be able to take care of him better than his mom."
Rose took Daniel's hand in her own, rubbing her thumb across his bruised knuckles. "You really should put ice on that."
Daniel clenched his hand. "Nah, I think it looks worse than it feels."
"Can I be nosey and ask who was on the receiving end of that fist?"
"The wall?" Daniel snorted gently and then shrugged. "I don't even think I made a dent."
He just shook his head. "No, okay. No more words. I'm talked out, I can't think straight anymore." Daniel gave Rose a weary smile. "And you'll be ecstatic to know, I'm ready for bed."
"Okay, I would expect you would be tired, exhausted, actually, but all I was going to ask you was if you wanted another glass of milk."
* * *
Daniel squirmed in the hard leather chair and battled the urge to check his watch. Again. He was actually spending more time fighting impulses than he was paying attention to the man across the desk. Being here was a stupid mistake. He mentally cursed Jack for deciding *now* was finally a good time to listen to him. He began to formulate the exact conversation the two of them were going to have in the ride home when Mackenzie's voice interrupted him.
"Hmmm?" Daniel used the opportunity to nonchalantly reposition his hand and check the time on his watch.
"Thirty nine minutes."
"Why me, Dr. Jackson?"
"Suffice it to say, I was quite taken back when Dr. Fraiser approached me about treating you."
"You're not *treating* me," Daniel replied indignantly. "If you think—"
"Just let me say, I was surprised you chose me, Dr. Jackson. We don't exactly have what I would refer to as a stellar history."
"I trust you." Daniel sighed, tapping his fingers against the arms of the chair. "Believe me, I wouldn't be sitting in either this chair or this office if I didn't."
"Exactly why do you trust me?" Mackenzie leaned forward, hunching his shoulders and for one minute the man reminded Daniel of Snoopy sitting on his dog house impersonating an eagle. He pulled his legs forward, ready to leave as soon as he delivered his caustic answer, but then he paused and studied Mackenzie's face and there it was, as plain as day, the doctor really had no idea *why* he trusted him. This wasn't a rhetorical question to corner Daniel, but an honest to god question of curiosity.
"You believed in me, Dr. Mackenzie. You listened at a time when no one else would. You called Jack, saved the day, actually. Saved me. Saved Teal'c." Daniel ran his index finger along the edge of the desk. "Others may view it differently, but..." Daniel's voice trailed off at the stunned expression on the psychiatrist's face and he couldn't help but smile as Mackenzie fought for composure by straightening out the pad of paper and checking out the ink content of his pen by scribbling a line or two.
So he had shared with Mackenzie why he had trusted him, and now Daniel sat silent, sliding down further down the chair with each passing minute, his eyes transfixed and studying the gaudy design on the carpet.
"Coming to see me was of your own volition, wasn't it?"
Slowly Daniel lifted his gaze from green and beige carpet. "My decision," he confirmed. "I trust you, yada yada, I thought we covered this a few minutes ago."
"It was thirty minutes ago."
"Time flies when you're having fun."
"Call me Daniel."
"*Dr.* Jackson, what do you want from these sessions? Because if it's peace and quiet, I'd say you're on the right track. If you want something *more*, you have to talk."
"Why are you here? I know it's your choice, I know you trust me."
"Hey, it's a start," Daniel replied angrily.
"Yes it is," Mackenzie conceded in an annoyingly condescending voice.
Daniel was going to rip the pen out of the good doctor's hand and shove it where the sun didn't shine if he clicked it one more time. He wanted the aggravating noise to stop, he wanted to be able to drive himself to these sessions, he didn't want Jack waiting in the outside room, flipping through magazines, he didn't want the questions he knew would be asked on the drive home, and then at home where he could picture Rose waiting expectantly. No way. "I want control," he blurted out. "I want what I lost, what was taken from me."
* * *
"So?" Jack had prided himself with self-restraint. There had been no questions in the waiting room, none in the parking lot and he had waited a respectable fifteen minutes into the drive before uttering a word.
"So what? I see him again on Wednesday."
"Three times a week." Daniel shifted in the seat, rubbing his forehead, an indication that Daniel's headache was probably as bad as his. Daniel leaned his head against the window and pivoted towards Jack, tired eyes blinking lazily behind his glasses. "You expected a miracle?"
"No," Jack said honestly, "I didn't, but I think you did."
"Yeah, maybe I did. Thought maybe after all this time, I sorta deserved one."
* * *
"How did it go?" Rose had been bouncing with anticipation, the whole house shone with her anxiety, but she at least waited until Jack left to go to work.
"It went. Three days a week for the rest of eternity."
"I'm sorry, Rose." Daniel hung up his jacket and closed the closet door, leaning against it with a stance that spoke of exhaustion of mind as well as spirit. "But at the moment, I can't concern myself with the future when getting through each day has become such an uphill battle."
Rose stepped back when Daniel physically waved away her concern. "Just ignore me. It's a start."
"It is." Rose grabbed him by the elbow and tugged the pliant man into the living room, pushing him onto the couch. "What do you want, Daniel?"
Daniel closed his eyes and basked in the winter sunlight flooding the room. "I want to be who I was."
Daniel opened one eye. "I want to be left alone."
"Melodramatic, but again, impossible. Not with this family."
"I want to put what happened in the past where it belongs."
"Okay." Rose sat on the coffee table across from him. "I'm going to say this to you once and only once. I'm astounded by your bravery. Hiding is much easer to face than the truth. Ask Jack and me." Rose squeezed his knee when Daniel went to interrupt. "Shush, let me finish. I love you, Daniel. Jack loves you, but we can't hold your hands during these sessions, we can't speak for you. To overcome, you need to be honest, especially with yourself."
* * *
Daniel sat in the diner enjoying his freedom. He drank his coffee, staring through the window, admiring the day, his car and the empty seat across from him. He admitted that this *excitement* was downright pathetic and almost ludicrous in its stupidity. Because here he was, a man in this thirties, he had traveled through the universe, lived a year on another planet and had saved the Earth on a number of occasions and he was fairly bouncing in his seat because he was sitting in a diner on a Friday morning all by his lonesome.
* * *
"You seem to be in a good mood this morning," Mackenzie stated the moment Daniel took his seat.
"Good breakfast, good company."
"Friends are always a good thing."
"Had breakfast by myself, at a diner."
"Ahh, I see."
"No, you don't," Daniel said, surprising himself with his outburst. He reveled in the one second of satisfaction when Mackenzie's professional mask slipped. "Do you know how degrading it is to be *thrilled* that I'm allowed out to play without parental supervision. That's unacceptable. I've been on my own for the majority of my life."
"We talked about—"
"I want to go back to work."
"At this time—"
"Yes. At this time." Daniel got up and began to pace, not sure if that was acceptable etiquette when seeing a psychiatrist, he just knew that he couldn't just *sit* and be on the receiving end of decisions people were making with regard to his life.
"Look," he said, stopping mid-stride, "I know I can't go offworld at the moment, but do you know the backlog of work that will be sitting waiting for my return? I need to go back." Daniel drew a deep breath. "A compromise. We'll work on a compromise. Three days a week. Two days. Five half days." Daniel only hoped he didn't sound as desperate as he felt.
Mackenzie put down his pen and leaned back in his chair, tapping his tented fingers together. "Tell me why you need to go back to work and we'll talk about it."
"I just told you," Daniel sputtered. "Weren't you listening?"
"Yes, I was." Mackenzie pointed to the chair and for a second Daniel hesitated before stomping over to it and angrily throwing his body into the seat. "You were saying backlog."
"Unbelievable backlog, things in my department will be so out of control that I'll spend weeks getting things back in order."
"You really dislike losing control."
"Dislike is too dispassionate a word, let's go for despise. I truly *despise* losing control."
"Oh, you gotta be kidding me? Right? You've seen my file. I was orphaned at eight. I lost control of my formative years the minute my parents were killed. My life decisions were out of my hands and placed into the hearts and minds of people who couldn't have given a shit about me, my own Grandfather included. So I can't imagine why you would even question the reason control would be such an issue with me."
"I can imagine—"
"Stop saying that!" Daniel huffed, leaning forward and slamming his hand on the desk. "Don't you dare pull psychiatric, empathetic bullshit with me. Not until you've walked a mile in *my* shoes and from where I'm sitting, *Dr.* Mackenzie, that doesn't seem likely."
"You've lost control a number of other times in your life."
"Oh please, let's just call a spade a spade. I didn't just *lose* control—I've had it ripped from me."
"My wife. My life on Abydos. Sha're's son."
Daniel sat back with a heavy sigh, fighting the urge to rub his temples to force the headache back where it came from, but like an auctioneer, any move he would make he *knew* Mackenzie would be all over him in a second, forcing the ante to be raised. "Marchello's device." Unable to resist the urge. "Both times."
Shakily, Daniel got up and walked to the credenza, poured himself a glass of water from the pitcher, and angled his body to hide his shaking hands. He gulped the water down and stood studying the diplomas lining the walls, the empty glass dangling from his fingertips.
"Control is important to you?"
Daniel threw the glass at the diplomas, watching the domino effect as they fell and glass shattered, littering the wooden top and the floor. "That was a damned stupid question. And you know something? You don't deserve all those damn accolades if you are going to ask questions like that."
"Did throwing the glass make you feel better?"
"Did throwing the glass make you feel better," Daniel mimicked with a shake of his head. "No, it did *not* make me feel better."
"Why don't you tell me what would make you feel better."
In two strides Daniel was at Mackenzie's desk, leaning over it, placing his face inches from the man sitting in judgment. "You want to know what would make me feel better? Not being here." Daniel pointed behind him. "Not sitting in the goddamn chair three days a week. Being able to sleep without the aid of pills, being able to function without the aid of pills. Can you do that? Are you *that* much of miracle worker?"
"Will time take away the screams that haunt my dreams, my inability to draw a deep breath as the First Prime held me down and fucked me or better yet, how about my desire to use the sarcophagus? Can you make the longing that eats at my gut disappear in a puff of smoke? Tell me, Dr. Mackenzie, owner of doctorates and Ph.D's, what magic do you possess that will enable me to emerge from this with a modicum of self respect, my control intact and my self loathing reduced to an acceptable level?"
It wasn't until Daniel felt a strong grip on his forearm did he realize that he had been ranting to an empty chair.
"Why don't you have a seat, Dr. Jackson." Mackenzie guided and Daniel followed, stepping backwards, his knees bending automatically when they hit the back of the chair. Daniel sat heavily, shivering, wondering if asking Mackenzie to turn the heat up would be acceptable. His gaze slid to the side. Horrified, he shut his eyes against the destruction he had caused. "I'm sorry." His fingers flew up to his head to massage his temples.
"Would you like an aspirin for your headache?" Mackenzie asked, with more concern than Daniel ever thought the man was capable of.
Daniel swiped at his nose with the back of his hand, shaking his head. "No, though could I trouble you for a paper bag to put over my head. I'm slightly, ummm, embarrassed."
"Human? I lost control, I trashed your office."
"You lost control and you know something, you survived. I survived. The frames will be fixed, the glass replaced, the shards swept up, and after being rattled around, everything will go back into its place."
"Like me?" Daniel rubbed his stomach, shifting uncomfortably in the chair, hating the childlike need for reassurance from Mackenzie.
"I was raped," Daniel whispered those words, but their impact when he spoke them out loud felt as if he had used a megaphone.
"You were. But you're here, in this office, willing to face what happened."
"I groveled, I begged to be used, did you know that?" Daniel searched Mackenzie's face for any sign of disgust and finding none, he drew a breath and continued. "Is that in any report that's come across your desk?"
"Are you trying to shock me?
Daniel shrugged. "Isn't the session over?"
"The person after you cancelled."
"Two for the price of one?" Daniel joked, though neither he nor Mackenzie smiled.
"Rape is an act of—"
"Violence, yeah I know, Jack's made sure to remind me of that."
"Jack? Oh, Colonel O'Neill."
"He's been taking ca… I've been staying with him."
"Colonel O'Neill is aware of the rape?"
"Nightmares have the horrific ability of telegraphing your psyche to an unsuspecting audience." Daniel was parched, dying for a drink of water, but in his anger he had taken care of that. "Can we please not speak about who knows about the—" Daniel rolled his hand, hurrying the conversation onward.
"So what do you want to talk about?" Mackenzie sat back in the chair, one of those high-back leather jobs, similar to the one in General Hammond's office. Daniel felt himself drift, hypnotized by Mackenzie's rhythmic chair rocking. Back and forth, Daniel could almost feel himself sway in time with the psychiatrist. He truly wanted to leave but he didn't have the energy at the moment to excuse himself with an 'I'll see you on Monday' scenario. "So nothing shocks you?" Daniel asked, curious.
Mackenzie shook his head. "I didn't say that. I asked if *you* were trying to shock me."
"Maybe I was," Daniel admitted, blushing slightly under Mackenzie's scrutiny.
Quite frankly, Daniel was getting mighty sick of people treating him like a hothouse flower. Maybe he was craving an honest answer, an honest reaction.
"The inhabitants sold us down the river. The whole treaty was a subterfuge, a smokescreen to give the First Prime what he wanted. Me."
Mackenzie opened his mouth to make a comment, but Daniel cut him off with a short burst of harsh laughter. "I know, you're probably thinking how big *is* Daniel Jackson's ego, thinking everyone in the universe desires him?" Daniel leaned closer, whispering, "I'm not lying." He moved his hand over his heart. "Cross my heart, I have it on the best authority, it was me he wanted."
"This hadn't been the first time you'd been to the planet."
Daniel touched his nose. "Got it in one. No, this wasn't. SG-1 had been there about six weeks before, Sam had discovered a mineral with properties that could..." Daniel's brow wrinkled in concentration, "sorry, the properties escape me. I just remember that she was extremely excited about what it could do. The leader of the Paas invited us…. me, just me, back, during their festival time to sign the treaty for mining rights.
"It was too good an opportunity to pass up so I drew up a treaty, Washington rolled out the red carpet and I went back with SG-12."
"How did you feel, Dr. Jackson, going back without your team?"
"See now, that's a loaded question." Daniel flipped over his right hand over, palm side up. "On the one hand, there's the strong possibility that all of SG-1 would have died instead of SG-12." Daniel flipped over his other hand, also palm side up. "But on the other hand, Jack would have believed me when I told him I smelled a rat and wouldn't have wasted precious time like Colonel Athans. If he would have listened, maybe he and his team would still be alive and I wouldn't be..." Daniel dropped his hands into his lap then sighed.
"You wouldn't be what, Dr. Jackson?"
"Be here, be a mess, be a basket case. Never mind, forget it." Lips pursed in frustration, little sounds of air whistling through his teeth. "No use crying over spilled milk, one of my foster mothers used to say." Immediately, his hand shot up. "Don't go there, Mackenzie, okay? Let's save that for another day."
Daniel was taken back when Mackenzie cracked a smile on his usual *only business* face.
"You knew something on the planet was wrong?"
"Nothing I could put my finger on. A feeling. Eight years of traveling through the 'gate and one has a tendency to develop a sixth sense." Daniel shivered, hiding his reaction by adjusting his body in the chair. "There were Jaffa on that planet, so well hidden that we didn't detect them during our initial first contact. A handful of Jaffa that had in their possession weapons, a sarcophagus, a dead system lord and a planet of terrified, terrorized people." Daniel clapped his hands on his thighs, wiping his sweaty palms on the denim. "I have to go now." He quickly glanced at his watch. "Really, at this rate I'm working on *next* Friday's session."
Mackenzie flipped open a book on this desk. "You're in luck, Dr. Jackson," he tapped his pen on the page. "After the cancellation, my afternoon is free." He picked up the phone on his desk and pushed it towards Daniel. "Want to call home?"
"No," he said softy, shamefaced that Mackenzie circumvented his next excuse and he sat silent until the psychiatrist called his name. "How did the Jaffa hide?"
"Hide, how did they hide? The Jaffa."
"They didn't hide as much as the Paas hid them from us. I really have to go," Daniel said, rubbing the heel of his hand across his chest, wondering if thirty-nine was too early to die of a heart attack.
"Why don't you take a few minutes? Would you like—" Mackenzie turned towards the broken glass." Coffee? Want some coffee?"
Daniel was terrified that his shaking hands would be incapable of holding a cup steady enough for him not to wear the coffee on his lap, and though he eyed at the carafe longingly, he declined with a shake of his head. Mackenzie folded his hands over his belly in a move so reminiscent of General Hammond that Daniel felt a physical ache for the everyday life at the SGC. "You're not going to let me leave until I spill my guts."
"I'm not going to force anything. If you want to leave, I'll see you on Monday."
"Okay," Daniel said, surprised that his body stayed seated when his mind screamed 'leave'.
'Shit', obviously Mackenzie had astutely noticed that he hadn't left yet.
"I need you to be quiet," Daniel ordered, horrified that his mouth had also become an independent entity. "I think I'm going to talk now, and it will work much better if I'm not interrupted. Can you just sit and listen?"
"Do you think—?"
"No!" Daniel yelled, rubbing his palms along the arms of the chair. "I don't want to think, just talk. You—" he jabbed his finger in Mackenzie's direction. "You just listen."
Mutely, Mackenzie nodded.
"Good, we got that settled. Put the pen down. Listen. You can't listen if you're taking notes." Vigorously, he shook his head. "No note taking."
Mackenzie clicked his pen closed and moved it away from the open folder.
With a flip of his finger, Daniel indicated the psychiatrist should shut the folder as well.
Daniel sat up straight, folded his hands in his lap and studied the wood grain in Mackenzie's desk. It was easier to talk without making eye contact and though the doctor usually insisted Daniel look at him, at the moment he seemed to be cutting him some slack. "The Paas lived in fear of a band of renegade Jaffa. Their weapons gave them the edge of physical superiority and they used it to their advantage. Keeping the Paas under their control, lying, saying their god was returning and the Paas would be punished for any misbehavior against the Jaffa." Daniel looked up and captured Mackenzie's glance. "Why did the Jaffa stay on the planet, you're thinking? Haven't a clue. The only reason I could come up with was why leave a sure thing. You're king of the hill, the locals look up to you, worship the ground you stomp on, allow you to take their sons and daughters to satisfy your every whim… why *would* they want to go through the Stargate to end up in the army of another System Lord, or be killed, or tortured. Staying on the planet was much more enticing."
Daniel's throat felt so tight and dry that he had to swallow a number of times to gather enough spit to continue. Fingers moved independently and sought to alleviate the chronic itching. "I never saw SG-12 alive again. Heard them plenty," Daniel blinked the burning from his eyes, "but never saw them alive."
The itching had intensified to such a degree that Daniel fought the urge to rip off his shirt and scratch skin to skin, but chose instead the option of shoving his hands between his thighs, closing them tightly, locking his hands in place. "I really didn't see too much, the First Prime kinda had me at his beck and call. A captive audience, if you will." Daniel couldn't stop the hysterical giggle that escaped. "Sorry.
"'Cause I'm sure curious psychiatric minds wanna know. He raped me once, killed me, stuck me in the sarc… repeated that… and then began sticking me in the sarcophagus without me really being dead, which is a sensation I wouldn't recommend for anyone. And the rest, as they say, is history. Once he realized the sarcophagus was a better way to torture me than forcing his dick into me, *that's* when the fun began. He liked me to plead, beg and degrade myself in a thousand different ways for my time in the box. I'm not too sure when I stopped caring about what he was doing, that probably occurred right around the time I lost my self-respect and my desire to return home."
He swept the back of his hand across his forehead, he couldn't imagine when it had gotten so hot in this office or when it became so hard to breathe. "At night, when it's really quiet, I can still hear myself begging and to this day, if given half a chance, I wouldn't hesitate to throw myself in for just one more cycle."
* * *
Futilely trying to wrap his mind around a report of Carter's, Jack sighed when the ringing phone interrupted him. "O'Neill."
The voice was hauntingly familiar, and Jack chided himself for getting old. "Yes?"
"Doctor Mackenzie here."
"Daniel? How's Daniel?" Jack threw down his pen and began stuffing the scattered paperwork back into the folder.
Jack could sense the hesitation in the psychiatrist's voice. "What the hell does okay mean?"
"I've given him a sedative—"
"A sedative!" Jack couldn't stop the visions of Daniel in a white padded room as they trampled through his brain. "Where the hell is he? So help me god, if you stuck him in Mental Health—"
"Colonel! Dr. Jackson is not in Mental Health. He's in *my* office—"
"Then why the need for a sedative?" A sudden idea popped into Jack's mind and he glanced at his watch. "Want to explain to me *why* Daniel is still in your office? His session was over a while ago."
Jack could picture the hackles on the psychiatrist slowly raising as the sharp, clipped professional voice sent a loud and clear message to him 'me doctor-you not'. "That really is none of your business, *Colonel* O'Neill. I'm calling to inquire if you can arrange transportation for Dr. Jackson with," Mackenzie's voice dropped a pitch, "someone you trust? He's in no condition to drive home."
He scrubbed his hand over his face then pressed backward in the chair and tossed Carter's report into his inbox. "Is he okay?"
There was a tentativeness to Mackenzie's response that scared Jack to death, his mind forcing him to face a reality he'd really rather pretended didn't exist, one in which Daniel would be closer to living in a padded room than stepping through the Stargate again. "Is he okay?" Jack reiterated.
"He's getting there, Colonel." Jack wasn't allowed to be privy to the events that took place between Daniel and the psychiatrist but there was a definite hint of hope in Mackenzie's voice.
* * *
Jack wished that Mackenzie wasn't in the room, watching from behind his desk as Jack painfully squatted down next to the chair where Daniel sat, legs extended, eyes closed, his head lolling against his shoulder at an angle that was sure to leave uncomfortable cricks.
Gently, Jack patted Daniel's knee. "Hey."
Daniel's eyes opened and his gaze flew around the room in apparent confusion, eventually falling on Jack and though his smile was slow in coming, it was a true, dimple producing response. "Hey yourself." His hand went up to massage his neck as he cautiously straightened bent muscles. "Ow." He grimaced and Jack saw uncoordinated fingers try to ease away the ache.
Using Mackenzie's desk for leverage, Jack stood. "Ready to go home?"
"I have my car here." Daniel turned to Mackenzie. "I do have my car here, right?"
Mackenzie nodded. "Yes, you do, Dr. Jackson, though I wouldn't recommend driving at this time. That's why Colonel O'Neill is here."
"Don't worry about it, Daniel. Carter and Teal'c are playing musical cars so yours won't be left here."
Daniel scooted up in the chair and swayed drunkenly. "Who's driving my car?"
Jack leaned over and squeezed his shoulder. "Not Carter, don't worry." He slipped a supportive arm under Daniel's armpit. "Ready?"
"Sure." Daniel leaned heavily on the chair, pushing off as Jack pulled him upright, tottering a bit. Jack turned towards Mackenzie, his eyebrows raised, silently questioning Daniel's mobility.
"Give him a second," Mackenzie mouthed and Jack acquiesced, holding his position as Daniel regained his sea legs.
"Better?" His hand moved down to grip Daniel's elbow.
Jack nodded his thanks to Mackenzie, matching Daniel's slow shuffling step, stopping when Daniel halted at the door to the office.
"Monday. I'll see you Monday."
"Thank you," Daniel whispered softly and the only way that Jack was sure Mackenzie had heard was when he looked up from the file he had just opened, paused, and smiled at Daniel.
* * *
"I'll drop you off, Mom is home, I need to go back to the mountain, there's a ton of paperwork I was wading through. You *know* how wordy Carter gets—"
"Carter's not wordy?"
Even drugged, Daniel managed to give Jack a glance of disdain.
"Okay," he apologized, "the no has nothing to do with Carter's verbosity. Then what?"
"I want to go to *my* home."
"*Your* home?" Jack took his anger out on the car in front of him, honking needlessly when the driver took too long to make a turn. "I really don't think being on your own right at this moment is what Mackenzie had in mind."
"Since when do *you* listen to him?"
"Aw, Daniel, that's not fair and you know it."
"I just want to go home." Peripherally Jack was aware of Daniel's hand as it hesitantly reached out towards him, falling short in its indecisiveness and landing on the gear shift.
Jack's right hand dropped atop Daniel's.
"Please don't make me beg, Jack. A compromise," he hastened to add. "As soon as you're done at the mountain, pick me up and we'll bring in dinner for Rose tonight."
"She'll want Italian," Jack warned, smiling slightly at the grimace on Daniel's face. "Probably from that really expensive place, Paridisio."
"Can I go to the loft?"
"Will you pay for dinner?"
"Blackmail, but yeah, I'll pay for dinner."
Jack made a left at the corner, ignoring the sigh of relief from the passenger seat.
* * *
"You left him by himself, because he agreed to buy dinner?"
"Yes, I mean no, it wasn't exactly like that." Jack winced, unable to ignore the condemnation in her voice. He scribbled his name at the bottom of a requisition form and flung it to the top of the ever-increasing paperwork pile.
"Yes, himself." Jack had been unsure of his actions and the fact that his mother was siding with his conscience was making his nervous. He pulled another report out of his inbox and went to sign his name then realized he hadn't understood a word that was written. Jack tossed it back into the inbox.
"I'm leaving now."
"Good boy. And Jack, when you stop by Paridisio's for dinner, please remember to ask for a side order of gnocchi's for me."
* * *
Jack leaned forward and pulled the balcony doors shut. The air in the apartment had probably been stale, hence the reason for the open doors. He knew that. But he hated those doors. That balcony.
Daniel was in the bedroom, sleeping, curled on his side. One pillow was under his head, the other one was tucked close to his body, supporting the hand that held what Jack recognized to be one of his journals, his index finger marking a spot even in slumber. Numerous journals were scattered the length of the bed and silently and with great gentleness, Jack began to gather them up.
* * *
Daniel didn't open his eyes nor was there even a hitch in his breathing when Jack first took off his glasses and then slid the journal from beneath his index finger. Curious, he tried to decipher Daniel's scribble, to see what he had found so interesting, but the writing was unintelligible and Jack closed the book with a sigh, then placed it on the nightstand.
He hadn't meant to, honestly, he had intentions of going back to the living room and letting Daniel grab a few hours of sleep. In peace, without any distractions or interruptions, but the empty side of the bed looked so inviting, Daniel looked so comfortable and Jack's resolve crumbled.
Jack sat at the edge of the bed, toed off his shoes and with as much grace as possible, slid into position behind Daniel. He shared the pillow with him and laid his arm over Daniel's waist, touching but not grasping Daniel's hand-- every movement done in slow, exaggerated motions so not to awaken him.
Jack just lay there, reveling in Daniel's closeness, the weight of his body as Daniel instinctively leaned into Jack. And there was a stillness in the apartment, a silence that he hadn't felt for longer than he cared to remember and in that silence was a fragile perfection Jack knew wasn't going to last. On cue, Daniel moaned in his sleep and Jack could feel Daniel's heart through their layers of clothing as it began to beat heavily and erratically. Daniel awoke with a start and his hand latched onto Jack's, tucking it against his chest.
"Sorry," Daniel muttered, his voice heavy and distorted with the remnants of his afternoon nap and more than likely the sedative Mackenzie had given him.
"Bad session today?" Jack asked, curiosity getting the best of him.
"Hard," Daniel admitted. "I guess that's to be expected."
Jack kissed him on the nape in response. "You need to know, Daniel, if this gets too hard, there's a cabin in Minnesota with our names on it," Jack whispered.
"Your light at the end of the tunnel?"
"Our light at the end of the tunnel."
"We'll get there very soon."
"Soon." Jack smoothed the pillow cushioning their heads, wishing it was Daniel he was giving comforting touches to and not a pillowcase.
"I'm gonna mark the calendar."
Daniel's sigh broke Jack's heart. "We'll get there, to the cabin, someday."
"Someday," Jack echoed, burying a smile on Daniel's shoulder when he shifted his weight even closer.
"Hmmmm?" Jack could hear Daniel's hand patting the bed.
"Where are my journals?"
"Filed," Jack muttered.
"Filed? You filed my journals?" Daniel flipped around until he was face to face with Jack.
"Yup, I put them in order of importance."
Daniel groaned. "Dare I ask how you *rate* importance?"
Jack kissed Daniel's forehead, secretly pumping his fist in the air at the *normal* look of annoyance that particular sign of affection produced. "Most important first."
"Oh pray tell, Jack, what did *you* rate the most important?"
"It was a close one."
"Okay, it was a toss up between the time when you realized how wonderful *I* was, or how great sex with *me* was, or—"
"Deciphering the glyphs? Opening the Stargate? Can I possibly be so presumptuous to ask where *those* rated?"
"Pfftt .*Those* journals, filled with all that scientific crap, are filed somewhere after the one in which you mention my great ass."
"Your ass?" Daniel flopped onto his back and began to laugh, one hand across his abdomen, the other flung over his face, while Jack just watched in pleasure, until he realized the tenor of the laughter was changing. The edge to the laughter hardened, became brittle, catching on the sobs Daniel was fighting to suppress.
Tentatively, he lowered the hand Daniel held over his eyes, tugging a little harder when he met with resistance. "Ahh, Daniel." Daniel averted his head just as Jack brought his hand up to wipe away the moisture pooled in the corner of his eyes.
He pushed Jack's attempt away and roughly scrubbed his face with the heels of his hands, eventually cupping his hands and leaving them to cover his face, hiding from Jack.
Daniel shuddered, sniffed loudly then used the back of his right hand to wipe under his nose, this time there was no fight when he pushed Daniel's arms down.
"Laughter, being happy, felt almost *too* normal."
"Too* normal?" That's a bad thing?"
"I'm not ready yet."
"But eventually you will be." Jack rubbed Daniel's belly. "Think of what just happened as a 'trial run'."
Flustered, Daniel covered his mouth as he yawned. "People died on that planet, Jack."
"I know they did, Daniel."
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut. "I was… I was raped."
Jack traced Daniel's profile with his finger. "Yes, you were."
There was no mistaking Daniel's battle for control, the worry of the lower lip, the tightly shut eyes, the deepening furrows in his forehead. "I sold my soul to the devil in exchange for a *drug.* I'm no different than any other common addict."
"You're never common."
"You're agreeing with me?" Surprised blue eyes appraised Jack.
"Well yeah, I'm agreeing, not about the common but about the—" Jack's hand waved in the air, "about the other thing."
"Drug addict." The words burst forth in a rush of air. "Right up there with rape as my top words for the week."
Jack wasn't truly sure if Mackenzie's obvious opening of Daniel's floodgates was such a great thing. He wasn't too sure how much to push, how much freedom to allow Daniel, exactly how much wallowing in self-pity and self-flagellation should be permitted. "I hate to break it to you, Daniel, as much as you don't want to admit it, you're human."
Daniel pushed up glasses that weren't there, instead settling for pinching the bridge of his nose. "Is that supposed to be a profound statement?"
"No, it's supposed to be a true one." Jack levered himself onto his left elbow and gazed down at Daniel. "You never cut yourself any slack. While you have an unlimited reservoir of forgiveness for everyone on Earth and throughout the whole entire galaxy, you *refuse* to give yourself a break." Jack leaned over and kissed Daniel. "You're not infallible." He gently poked Daniel's chest. "Human, Daniel."
Daniel pressed his hands into his abdomen before turning away from Jack. "What if I can't?"
"Human," Jack reiterated, planting a line of kisses along Daniel's back. "Let Mackenzie help."
"Okay, that's just damn scary," Jack admitted, "I never thought those words would be coming out of my mouth."
"I was raped."
"So was I." There. Out in the open, Jack said the words it seemed he had spent almost a lifetime silencing.
"POW. Iraq." He shrugged at a Daniel that was still facing the opposite wall. Slowly Daniel turned to face Jack and he had no choice but to avert his gaze from the understanding and sympathy etched in those eyes. Hesitantly, Daniel reached out to Jack, running his hand through his hair.
"How did you get beyond it? Put it all behind you?"
Jack met Daniel's gaze and the compulsion to lie was on the tip of his tongue. To tell him that time heals all wounds and all the other bullshit he had been fed upon his return to the States after his stint as a POW. But those weren't the words that he spoke, and he actually stunned himself with his admission. "I never did."
"Jack?" And there it was, Jack could see it, sense it in the hesitant way Daniel said his name that his horrific fear of hopelessness was warring with his instinctual need to offer Jack comfort.
Jack's hand shot out, grabbing Daniel's forearm, and he silently cursed his actions when Daniel yelped in surprise at the sudden movement. Jack mumbled a hasty apology and sat up, sliding Daniel's body right along with him. "You're not me, Daniel." Jack schooled and measured every touch to Daniel's body. "I denied there was a problem, refused to see it, allowed my anger and my fear to eat away at me. At every part of my life. You're braver than I am."
"Brave?" Daniel shook his head. "Selfishness is not bravery. I want my life back. It becomes a domino effect. Without control, I can't travel through the 'gate, without traveling through the 'gate my team goes off without me. I don't believe walking up that ramp will be anytime in the near future. Jack, Mackenzie, Janet, Hammond, none of them would even consider allowing me offworld. And you know something, I don't blame them. Do you?"
"Well do you, Jack? Would you in good conscience recommend my traveling offworld?"
Jack shook his head, silently mouthing the word 'no'.
"That's why I'm doing this. Because I'm more terrified of being left behind if something happened to SG-1 than I am of reliving what happened."
"Not bravery. Please don't mistake my fear of being alone for bravery. It's not.
"Oh no, you don't. Don't you dare say because I got on with my life—"
"I buried a memory. I pretended it was a nightmare rather than reality. It destroyed my life and my marriage and I allowed it. That's not bravery, that pure stupidity."
"Not stupid," Daniel whispered before looking at Jack, studying him so intently he began to squirm under the unblinking stare. Daniel grabbed him painfully by the shoulders and kissed him long and deep. Jack pulled away only when breathing became a necessity. "Daniel? Not that I minded, but I thought…"
"We're sharing in-depth feelings?" Daniel punctuated the short sentence with teasing kisses.
"Actually, I was wondering if Mackenzie had an opening."
"Two for the price of one," Daniel quipped, but his smile quickly faded at the look on Jack's face. "You're serious," Daniel said, gently tracing the scar intersecting Jack's eyebrow. "I'm sorry," Daniel scrambled to get away from Jack and got as far as the edge of the bed before Jack waylaid him with just a touch to his shoulder.
"Whoa, what was that all about?" Jack positioned himself next to Daniel.
"I feel like maintaining normalcy is too hard. I'm misreading signals."
Jack placed his arm around Daniel's back and cautiously moved it until it rested around his shoulders. "Kissing was good. No misinterpretation there."
"It wasn't the time *or* the place." Daniel ground the heel of his palm into his forehead.
"Headcase." Daniel dropped his head onto Jack's shoulder.
"Human." Jack said, kissing the top of Daniel's head.
* * *
Jack had to pee badly. The elbow sticking in his kidney was only succeeding in making his need that much more urgent.
"Daniel," he whispered as he peeled his bare chest from Daniel's equally bare back. There wasn't a hope in hell that Daniel could be comfortable. He was curled under Jack, folded up, his snoring muffled by the pillow his face was smashed into.
Slowly, Jack backed out of bed, padded into the bathroom, washed up and headed back to bed, checking the time on the clock on the nightstand just before making himself comfortable. "Oh crap." He threw back the covers, got out of bed one more time and walked into the kitchen to pick up the phone.
"Mom? Sorry, didn't mean to worry you, but we kinda... sorta..." Jack blushed in the solitude of Daniel's kitchen, "lost track of time." He carded his fingers through his hair, continuing with his apology at breakneck speed. "Daniel had a rough time –Yes, we talked." Jack sighed. "*Yes* I was patient and understanding, have you ever known me not to be? Never mind, don't answer.
"Sorry about dinner, thinking it's a little late for that. Breakfast? Can we take you out for breakfast? No, you don't have to cook—oh pancakes and bacon would be nice-with omelets? We'll bring the bagels.
"No, Daniel's still sleeping. Of course I'm not going to wake him. Should I come home?" Jack sighed. "No, of course, I trust you to be by yourself. It's just that—yes, Mom. Okay, love you, too."
* * *
Rose hung up the phone, poured another cup of tea and treated herself to a second slice of fresh apple pie. She looked at her watch and laughed, she had eaten dinner over three hours ago. At first, when she hadn't heard from Jack, worry had kicked in but eventually she was smart enough to know when Jack and Daniel hadn't appeared with arms laden with Italian food that they had managed to become distracted and lost track of time.
Slowly, she flipped through the newspaper, her mind not really on the words or stories in front of her. "It's time," Rose mentioned to the article on the recent construction of a new theatre in downtown Colorado Springs. No one in the house was there to dispute her, but she knew. In just the last few days, Rose had suspected that her time with Jack and Daniel was drawing to a close. Overstaying her welcome, she knew from past experience, and she would be the buffer between the two of them, nothing would be resolved, no pieces of their life would be reconstructed. Tonight had been the turning point, she realized with a smile as she turned to the comic page, she had heard what she had been looking for. A note of hope and happiness in Jack's voice.
* * *
Jack leaped off the bed when Daniel woke up swinging, his fist missing Jack's face by mere inches.
"Daniel." Softly, over and over, Jack repeated his name until finally Daniel actually saw him. Blinking slowly, Jack saw confusion trickle into recognition overflowing right into embarrassment.
"Damn." Daniel threw himself backwards and dragged the covers up and over his face.
"It's okay." Jack reassured Daniel, but stood his ground, safely out of arm's length.
"Sorry." Daniel sighed, the blanket rising and falling with exaggeration when Daniel inhaled and exhaled with great effort. Hesitantly, he pulled the covers down, peeking over the top. "Did I...?"
"Close." Jack sat on the bed and touched the spot where Daniel's fist came close to making contact. "I bet if you had your glasses on it would have been a direct hit."
"Not funny, Jack."
"I shouldn't have touched you," Jack apologized. He looked down at his body, which was only clad in boxers and shrugged. "I assumed that because you let me touch you..."
"Frottage," Jack smiled, shaking his head at the memory. "Nice word."
"Yeah, definitely had some of that last night."
"We did," Daniel replied, and Jack was smiling when Daniel paused and seemed to reflect his own memories of the past evening.
"I assumed wrong." Jack rubbed Daniel's thigh.
"I thought I could wake you with a kiss. I wanted to wake Rip Van Winkle with a kiss." Jack made punching motions with his fist. "You, on the other hand, had other ideas.
"Rip Van Winkle?"
Again Jack shrugged. "You've been sleeping for hours. Which would you prefer-Sleeping Beauty or good ol' Rip Van Winkle."
"I hate to mention it to you, Jack, but Rip Van Winkle didn't wake up with a kiss."
Daniel gazed down at the hand still rubbing his thigh. "Frottage," Daniel gulped, "that's a good way to wake up Rip."
"Rubbing," Jack whispered.
He bent to kiss Daniel's upturned face and gave a secret hoot and holler when he was met with no swinging fists. The answer he received instead was in Daniel's extremely loud, rumbling stomach.
"Dinner!" Daniel dropped a hand over his abdomen, stealing a glance at the clock. "Oh god, breakfast?"
"Slept right through dinner."
"If I remember correctly we weren't asleep."
"We were in bed."
"We should have been ordering take-out Italian. We should have been bringing food to *your* house. We *should* have been having dinner with your mom."
"It's not okay," Daniel said, the tone and pitch of his voice, Jack thought, completely unnecessary in light of the conversation.
Suddenly this conversation wasn't about Rose, and with a sucker punched feeling settling in on his empty stomach, Jack took a plunge. "We didn't forget you."
"What the hell are you talking about?" Bingo. A nerve hit too close to home and while Daniel angrily protested Jack's sudden change in direction, the set of his jaw and the tenseness of his stance screamed "direct hit" to Jack.
"Standard operating procedure is what I'm talking about. When SG-12 missed two scheduled check-ins, we contacted the Paas."
Daniel's stuttering protests came to a halt as he appraised Jack.
"The Paas presented us with bloodied clothes, dog tags, informed us that SG-12 and Dr. Jackson had met with an unfortunate accident. We were set up, like you had been. Made to believe that you had died along with everyone else."
"I thought you'd died. All of you. Teal'c. Sam. You." Daniel's shoulders slumped, the fight slipping from his body. "The screams from SG-12 seemed to last forever, for too long." Daniel stood and began to pace. "I thought you came to stage a rescue and got captured." His steps sped up, matching his breathing. "Actually the First Prime told me the truth, you know." Daniel stopped and faced Jack, who was shocked at the moisture reflected in Daniel's eyes. "Told me I had been abandoned. I was overjoyed, you know that? Abandoned was better than thinking you were dead."
"We were stonewalled, not dead, Daniel," Jack apologized. "We didn't leave you behind."
Daniel stopped and studied the floor. "I know you didn't, honest."
Jack wasn't too sure how much Daniel forgave him or Teal'c or Sam. "I'm sorry."
Daniel hung his head and sniffed loudly. "Nothing to be sorry for."
"You need to know that we eventually saw through their subterfuge. Blood tests. Too many missing pieces. We knew you were alive. Hell, *I* knew. It just took too long."
"Too long," Daniel echoed flatly, his gaze seemed to take him far from the bedroom and Jack was by his side in two strides the second Daniel began to shake. Jack jerked the comforter off the bed and threw it around Daniel's shoulders.
Even under the quilt, Daniel still shook, the movement forcing the blanket to slip. "Come here." With one hand, Jack held the comforter and with his free hand gently tugged Daniel a step or two closer to him. "It's okay," he repeated as he rubbed Daniel's forearm.
"Too long," Daniel sniffed, and a lone tear escaped from the corner of his eye and Jack watched its path as it slowly wandered over the planes of Daniel's face.
"Yes, too long," Jack agreed sadly as he reached out and halted the tear, wiping it from Daniel's face with the pad of his thumb.
Even with his ministrations, Daniel's breathing was filled with hitches and hiccups, his gaze fixed on the floor between the two of them and his body still shook. Jack was worried. "Do you want me to call Mackenzie?"
Daniel looked up and blinked, vigorously shaking his head. "No, I'm fine. I just thought... No Mackenzie, okay?"
Jack guided Daniel to the bed, one hand on his arm to hold him upright as he stumbled over the comforter. Then he pushed him down onto the mattress, sitting next to him, dropping his hand onto Daniel's exposed thigh. "What were you thinking?"
"You said, 'I just thought', I was just wondering that you where thinking."
"I don't know."
"I'm going to hazard a guess as to what was going on in that mind of yours, Dr. 'I'mtheholderofmultiplePh.D's' Jackson. I think you thought you were finished with all of this. The shakes, the waking nightmares, the guilt, the fear, the anger." He jabbed at Daniel's knee. "You thought after your last session with Mackenzie, laying your cards on the table and you'd be better. A few more weeks, a month or two at the most, three times a week, and you'd have it made in the shade. Hey, you felt so good you even allowed me to touch you."
"Frottage," Daniel whispered.
"Huh?" Jack chuckled. "Oh, yeah." He cleared his throat, forcing back a full fledged burst of laugher, digging in his heels, not allowing Daniel to derail him. "You were wounded. Physically. Mentally. You need time to heal. The deeper the wounds, the longer the healing time. Scars." Jack rubbed Daniel's back, his anxiety level dropping as he felt the shaking diminishing. "The scars that hurt the worst are the ones you carry around inside, the marks people can't see."
"I know, Daniel." He moved his arm up and draped it around Daniel's shoulders, pulling him closer. "Do as I say, not as I do." He gave a quick hug to the body that leaned against him. "There's no quick fix for what happened."
Jack planted a kiss in the mussed hair. "No, you don't. You still believe that you'll wake up tomorrow and you'll find a nice neat compartment to pack this mission away in."
Daniel mumbled something and Jack sighed. "Newsflash, Dr. Jackson. That ain't gonna happen, first off there isn't a compartment large enough to stuff the shit into and second, *I'm* not going to let it happen." Jack paused a moment before beginning again. "Why, you ask?"
"I didn't ask."
"I don't care," Jack replied indignantly, "I'm just going to tell you."
Jack bore Daniel's weight with a smile as he relaxed against him, resting his head against Jack's chest. "Yup, captive audience. Just want to make sure that you're aware that packing the wounds away leads to loaded guns."
Daniel jerked upright. "I would *never*—"
"That's what I thought, also. But things happen, and sometimes shit comes back to bite you in the ass if you don't dispose of it properly. And that," Jack said with a gentle squeeze to Daniel, "are Jack O'Neill's words of wisdom for you to live by." He kissed the head leaning on his chest. "My other words of wisdom, don't stand my mother up more than once." Lightly, he pushed Daniel away. "You go shower, I'm going to be the brave one and let mom know we're going to be a little late for breakfast."
* * *
Daniel gratefully accepted the coffee mug from Rose. She watched as he took a sip then raised his eyebrows in surprise at the taste. He lowered the mug, smacking his lips in appreciation. "Thanks for the little something added."
"You're welcome." Rose raised her own mug in a toast and sipped the hot coffee. "Daniel."
"Please, Rose," Daniel warned, carefully waving the mug between them.
"I'm leaving in two days," she blurted out, losing her composure and departure speech in the wake of Daniel's presence.
"Breakfast was wonderful, thank you." He swallowed another mouthful of coffee, his gaze encompassing the backyard and he moved to the edge of the deck. He looked upwards and made two half hearted attempts before he actually smiled. "It's a beautiful day."
"Yes, it is. Spring will be here before you know it." Rose balanced her mug on the deck's ledge and went to stand next to Daniel. "You're not angry that I'm leaving, are you?"
"If I said yes," Daniel teased, "would you stay longer?"
"If I extended my stay it would only be a matter of weeks, or possibly days, maybe even hours before murder would be committed. Oh, don't get me wrong," Rose whispered, patting his arm, "I love Jack and you, but living with the two of you would be out of the question."
Rose tried to blink away tears at the sound of Daniel's chuckle, failing, she furtively searched and located a wrinkled tissue in her jacket pocket then buried her emotions behind a cough. Suddenly Rose felt the weight of Daniel's arm around her shoulder and before she could protest, she was pulled into a hug. "I'm gonna be fine, Rose."
Rose smiled through her tears, a statement of confirmation, tinged with awe at his ability to set his life back on track. Rose patted Daniel's chest. "I never lost faith in you, mhuirnin."
Daniel's two simple words were heavy with emotion so Rose kept her gaze centered on the wooden deck slats, saving him the embarrassment, though if she had lifted her face to meet his glance, the only thing Daniel would have seen would have been his sentiments mirrored back at him as Rose nonchalantly wiped away her tears with the crumpled tissue.
Eventually, Daniel's hand slid from her back and Rose slowly straightened and went to retrieve her cup of coffee, slipping the worn tissue back into her pocket.
"Would you like a fresh cup?"
Daniel just shook his head. "You're going in the house?"
Rose paused, one hand on the knob. "Is there a reason I *shouldn't* go in?"
"Jack's watching hockey."
"His team is losing."
Rose puffed out her chest. "He doesn't scare me."
"Okay," Daniel said sadly, shaking his head. "Don't say I didn't warn you."
Rose narrowed her eyes, studying Daniel. "How much is the team losing by?"
Daniel mumbled something into his upraised coffee mug.
"Eh? Excuse me?"
"Three goals." Daniel threw up his hand. "And before you ask, they're only in the first period.
"Haven't you learned, Daniel." Rose opened the door and stepped inside. "There's always hope."
* * *
It was after rush hour and Daniel had made it not only it to the airport in record time, but had also found a parking spot fairly close to the terminal, the only hitch being arguing with Rose over who was going to carry her bag.
They had enough time before her plane would be called to board so the two of them were sitting in the snack bar drinking coffee and pretending to eat inedible breakfast food.
They both jumped when Daniel's cell phone rang. "Hello, Jack," Daniel answered, rolling his eyes. He nodded once then twice before handing the phone to Rose.
"He's incorrigible." Rose studied the phone a second before flipping it closed and handed it over to Daniel.
"Like mother, like son," Daniel replied, innocently batting his eyes at Rose. He stood, sweeping their uneaten breakfast onto the tray. "Come on, Rose, your chariot awaits."
* * *
"This is for you." Rose pulled a small manila envelope from her carry on tote and pressed it into Daniel's hands.
Daniel turned it over and was getting ready to open it, but Rose guided his hand with the envelope in the direction of his jacket pocket.
"It's for later." Rose zipped her purse close and opened her arms for Daniel to step into.
Daniel hesitated and then blushed when Rose admonished him. "What? Too big to give your old mother a hug goodbye?"
"Rose!" Daniel hissed.
With a sigh of exasperation, he moved into her grasp, gasping as she enveloped him in a bone crushing hug. "Old my ass," he rasped.
She lessened her hold and laughed.
"You like doing this to me, don't you?"
"What?" Rose kept her hold but stepped back, looking up at Daniel.
"Don't play innocent with me, Rose O'Neill."
"Me? I would never do such a thing."
"I love you."
She reached up and patted his cheek. "I never doubted that for an instant."
* * *
Daniel was antsy, his glance straying towards his watch, calculating Rose's flying time.
"Are you in a hurry to be somewhere else, Dr. Jackson?"
"No," Daniel sighed, pulling his sleeve over his watch. "Sorry."
"No need to apologize, I just wanted to make sure…" Mackenzie leaned back in his chair and Daniel counted to ten before the familiar squeak set in as the psychiatrist began to rock.
"I want to go back to the SGC. Now." Daniel pushed himself up and started to pace, ending up by the credenza then pouring himself a cup of water. He used the Styrofoam to point to the degrees that were rehung on the wall. "Sorry about that." Daniel downed the water, then stifled a chuckle when he realized Mackenzie had switched from glasses to Styrofoam cups. He crumpled the cup and tossed it into the small garbage pail.
"Why the sudden compulsion to return to work?"
Daniel walked to the door then to the familiar leather chair, running his fingers around the back a few times before he sat and faced Mackenzie. "I'm going stir crazy."
"Stir crazy?" Mackenzie echoed.
Daniel laughed at the look of confusion on his face. "I guess the use of the word crazy while I'm sitting in a psychiatrist's office isn't something I should be doing?"
"It may be a poor choice of words."
"See," Daniel said, tapping the desk. "I'm a linguist, I'm losing my edge if the only word I can think of is 'crazy'."
"In what capacity do you want wish to return?"
"Capacity?" Daniel hadn't thought about that. He actually hadn't given much thought to this idea at all. Not until he dropped Rose off this morning. Not even five hours of thinking this over before blurting it out in Mackenzie's office. He hadn't even slept on it, run it past Jack and in horror, he could feel the sweat begin to pool in his armpits and around the base of his neck. There was a saying somewhere about 'never let them see you sweat'. Too late for that, Daniel thought as he unobtrusively ran a hand over his forehead to catch the moisture there before it ran into his eyes.
"Five half days a week. No traveling through the Stargate as of yet."
Daniel blinked. "No 'gate travel?" He only hoped that Mackenzie didn't pick up the relief in his voice.
Mackenzie's gaze met Daniel's and the psychiatrist slowly shook his head. "Not yet. And your going back to the SGC is contingent on your being examined by Dr. Fraiser first."
* * *
Daniel opened the car door, dropped into the seat, exhaled loudly and fit the key in the ignition. Five half days a week, he could deal with that. No 'gate travel for the time being, yup he definitely could deal with that. He reached over to roll down the passenger window and he smiled at the envelope that Rose had left for him, feeling a little guilty that he had forgotten all about it until just now.
He shook it, puzzled at the sound and then curiosity getting the better of him he tore open the top and dumped the contents into his lap. Numerous seed packets flowed out of the opened envelope, landing haphazardly--a piece of paper fluttering in their wake. Daniel held the paper in one hand and stuffed the packets back into the envelope with the other, tossing it back onto the passenger seat. Then, with great trepidation, he opened the letter. The words 'In the Kingdom of hope there is no winter', was written in Rose's precise print, and underneath that, almost as an afterthought was scribbled, in very unRose-like handwriting: "Daniel, I hope that my faith in you will be enough to allow these seeds to take root. You are braver and stronger than you can imagine. My love for you shines through Jack. Rely on him, but depend on your own heart to see what lies in the garden."
* * *
Half days turned into full days without Daniel even being aware of the transition. An hour here, an hour there, a team returning off world needing an immediate translation and early afternoon departures from the mountain turned into late afternoon and sometimes evening.
Today was Wednesday, he was tired and after he turned this report in to General Hammond, he was heading to Mackenzie's for his appointment, and then home. Daniel stood at the window overlooking the Gateroom, focusing on the 'gate, challenging the ancient structure. Although the nightmares had lessened, the flashbacks caught him unaware at times, but they also had diminished. What terrified him was his own fear of going offworld. Maybe taking the bull by the horns and showing him who was boss was the only way to work through this.
"The Stargate isn't the enemy, son."
Daniel turned. He hadn't even heard the general approach and he was embarrassed by being caught so unaware. "I know that, sir, it's what's on the other side." Daniel thrust the report at Hammond, who plucked it from his grasp and flipped through it.
"You could have emailed this to me, but since you're here, do you have a moment to come into my office?"
Daniel checked his watch. "Not really, General, I'm due to meet with Dr. Mackenzie."
"Then go, you certainly don't want to keep him waiting." He shooed Daniel with the folder. "It was nothing important, I just wanted to know how you were doing."
Daniel looked over his shoulder at the Stargate then turned back to Hammond. "I'm doing okay."
* * *
"I'm ready to go through the Stargate again."
"Okay? That's all you're going to say?"
Mackenzie shut the folder in front of him and leaned forward. "No, that's not all I'm going say."
"You're going to ask why."
"Yes. But I'm going to ask—why now? Why not two weeks ago? Or three weeks ago?"
"Would I have been ready three weeks ago?"
"Again, I'm going to put the question back into your lap. Dr. Jackson, would you have been ready to go offworld three weeks ago?"
Three weeks ago, Daniel had had problems going anywhere near the Gateroom. "No," he replied.
"I have seen the enemy and the enemy is me." Daniel leaned back in the chair and stared at the ceiling to gather his thoughts, but Mackenzie was one step ahead of him.
"Mind clarifying that?"
Daniel shrugged. "It just popped into my head today when I was looking at the 'gate. I realized that the only person holding me back is me. It's not the 'gate that I'm terrified of, it's me."
"And you feel that because you've discovered your fear, that you can conquer it?"
Daniel squirmed in the chair, it had sounded so much better in the car ride over, now the words coming from Mackenzie sounded infantile and very textbook. "Well I certainly can't overcome my fear sitting and hiding in my office."
"Is that what you feel like you're doing, hiding?"
Daniel suppressed the urge kick the desk. "No… yes," he admitted softly. "Yes, I'm hiding."
This time, Daniel did kick the desk " How dare you sit on that side of the desk and have the gall to ask me what I'm afraid of? You, you've never stepped foot on that ramp."
"You haven't answered my question."
"I'm not going to." Daniel stood, grabbed his jacket and shoved his arms into the sleeves.
"Walk out that door, Dr. Jackson, and you won't be going through the Stargate anytime in the near future. So I would advise you to weigh your options. Take a moment to consider the consequences of your actions."
Daniel didn't need a moment and he slunk back into the chair and plunked down, his hands buried deep in his jacket pockets, his head hanging down so low his chin was resting on his chest. "I'm sabotaging myself, aren't I?"
"Would you believe me if I told you that little tantrum you just pulled was normal?"
Daniel raised his head slowly, wearing a smirk. "It must mean something if my shrink tells me I behaved normally."
"What are you afraid of?"
"Everything and nothing. I feel like I've come full circle. Like the first missions where I had to prove myself and my worth on the team."
"Do you feel that SG-1 doesn't trust you?"
"No, I feel like I can't trust myself. And honestly, that scares the shit outta me. Failing my team and my friends." Daniel shook his index finger at Mackenzie. "Don't you dare ask what's the worst that can possibly happen. People can die. People *do* die. People *did* die."
"SG-12 didn't die because of you."
"No, they died because they had the misfortune of being with me."
"It could have been anyone."
Daniel dropped his hand into his lap. "It could have been SG-1," he said softly.
"But it wasn't."
"No, it wasn't, not this time."
"You need to decide if staying on this side of the Stargate frightens you more than going through it. Which way are your scales tipping? Are you more afraid of being left here on Earth if something happened to your team or stepping through the 'gate with them and tragedy occurs?"
"I'm not sure. Though actually, I have to say both scenarios suck."
"Think about it and on Friday we can talk about which one sucks more."
* * *
Daniel leaned into the hands massaging his shoulders.
"You left early today."
Daniel moaned as Jack roughly worked out tight muscles. "Mackenzie. That feels good. Yeah, right there." He jerked as Jack touched a sensitive spot. "Ow!"
"Rough session? 'Cause you're wound tighter than a drum."
Daniel slid out from Jack's grasp, saved his document, powered down his computer then stood. Leaning his ass on the table, he faced Jack. "I'm ready."
"Read for what? Bed, sex? Give me a little something to go on, Daniel."
Jack was a consummate poker player, but Daniel saw the worry just below the smile. "Really," he echoed.
"How does Mackenzie… I mean—" Jack was flustered, hiding it behind a quick scrub of his face.
"I've been thinking about it, rolling the idea around on my tongue. It's still in the discussion phase."
Daniel smiled at Jack's tentative touch to his cheek. "Discussion's good."
He pulled Jack's hand down and clasped it between his own. "How do you feel about me going offworld?"
"Whenever you're ready."
"That's too evasive an answer for me, Colonel O'Neill."
"Honestly, I can't answer the question. Damn straight I want you with SG-1, whenever *you're* ready. We miss you, not only me, but Carter and Teal'c as well. We're a team and while other archaeologists have gone on missions with us, they're not you." Jack pulled out a chair and sat. "But if you decide to stay Earthbound, I'll accept that, also. It's *your* choice, your decision."
* * *
An ironic twist of events at oh-three-thirty, Jack thought as he sat in the kitchen. Daniel sleeping, dead to the world and Jack, up and mindlessly turning the pages of yesterday's newspaper, his mind far from the sport scores.
When Daniel mentioned offworld to him Jack had wanted to pump his fist in triumph, it had been a long and arduous journey and Daniel had risen victorious, and Jack couldn't have been prouder. Jack had fought to rein in his enthusiasm, because as much as the three of them wanted and needed Daniel with them, Daniel's decision shouldn't be influenced by any member of SG-1, himself included. Daniel desire to reclaim his place as a member of his team had to come from Daniel, otherwise his victory would be short-lived.
They hadn't talked about it again the rest of the evening, Jack knew that Daniel wanted him to do the happy dance and that he also understood the reason why he couldn't. Everyone had helped Daniel get this far, but these steps, the ones that would take him up the ramp and through the wormhole, had to be accomplished alone.
* * *
Jack looked overhead, shielding his eyes from the sunlight, then he looked at the archeologist hunkered down in the corner, intently studying markings etched into the rock directly in front of him. "Ten minute warning, Daniel, pack it up."
"Heard you the first time," was the muffled reply.
"Yeah, and you didn't listen to me then, either."
Daniel carefully selected a brush from his kit and slowly swept the area at eye level clean.
"That was the twenty minute warning, *this* is the ten minute one," Jack rationalized, stepping closer to Daniel, who still was focused on the sight directly in front of him.
Life was good. This planet PX724 was good. The terrain was boring, the temperature was boring. The mineral search had turned out to be a bust and on paper, when the reports where handed in, the read would be a boring one. But Daniel was here with SG-1 once again, and that wasn't boring. No one would understand that, say, with the exception of Hammond and Fraiser, and maybe, just maybe, Mackenzie. Boring was good. Boring was no nightmares that he needed to subdue in their shared tent. Boring was Daniel grousing over the taste of Carter's cooking and refusing to call it quits for the night. Boring was no Jaffa, no unseen enemies, and as much as Daniel might be disappointed, no inhabitants on this planet. Boring was safe—and for now, that's what was needed.
* * *
"This is not a requirement, Dr. Jackson."
"No." The weight of the folded paper in his shirt pocket seemed disproportionate to the words written on it.
"You can just decline."
"What's the problem?"
"I'm upset that there is a problem." Daniel patted the pocket with the paper. "I thought…"
"You were cured?"
"No, Dr. Mackenzie." Daniel didn't even bother to hide the sarcasm in his voice. "I thought I was able to put what happened on PX2004, behind me. I'm guessing I'm just a little surprised that I can't."
"Dr. Jackson, you're viewing your hesitation to go offworld with another team as a setback. It isn't. It's a step forward. A re-examination of past events. That's all."
"Why do I feel this way? It's an opportunity to put my archeological skills to use, I've seen the reports, the photos, I know what's there waiting for me."
"No, you don't," Mackenzie said with a shake of his head. "You once told me you never have any idea what truly awaits you once you walk through the wormhole."
"Why don't you tell me why you aren't waving that paper under Colonel O'Neill's nose to sign off right now instead of sitting in my office?"
"I'm not sure."
"What *are* you sure of, then?"
"I'm sure of my abilities as an archeologist, linguist, and as a member of SG-1."
"The commander of the team that requested your services obviously is also sure of all of your abilities."
"What if something happens?"
"What if something doesn't?" Mackenzie countered. "What happens if you go to this planet, do your job, and return. What then?"
"I'll do it again and again and it'll become routine and I'll let my guard down one time too many, and something horrific will happen."
"Yes, there's that possibility," Mackenzie admitted, "but there's also the possibility of going offworld with a team that isn't SG-1 and returning complete, whole and unscathed with additional knowledge that will protect us from the Goa'uld. Both scenarios are logistically possible, but it's up to you, Dr. Jackson, to decide which path you want to travel."
* * *
Jack yawned, the least Daniel could have done when he chose to go offworld with SG-11 was to make sure the planet's rotation was in sync with Earth's so he wouldn't be 'gating back to the SGC at the ungodly hour of oh-five-hundred hours. He shifted his weight restlessly as he stood behind Davis watching the hands creep towards the appointed time of arrival.
Fourteen days without Daniel had crawled by, every day spent second-guessing his decision to *lend* Daniel out to another team. There had been no joy like he'd experienced when Daniel had walked up the ramp with SG-1, there had only been trepidation, overshadowed by worry and fear when he authorized Daniel's mission with SG 11.
The check-ins had been punctual, on time and nary a one had been missed, but that still didn't alleviate the gut burning and twisting he experienced every time during those two weeks whenever the klaxons sounded. Teal'c and Carter must have had the same feelings as they continuously tripped over each other in their haste to get the Gateroom.
Maybe this was something he needed to bring up with Mackenzie. Why he felt only safe and secure when his whole team was accounted for. Something new for the man to take notes about, fodder for his folder, but he begrudgingly had to admit that he was experiencing a hard-sought sense of peace these last couple of weeks since he had begun seeing the man.
Daniel had been better than he and had never asked what his sessions entailed, but on his scheduled session days, Jack realized with a pang of longing, Daniel had given him space, taking hints from Jack himself if he wanted to share.
Carter and Teal'c had understood Daniel's need, his mom didn't. And even now he could recall the horrific argument and silence that had followed when she'd called. The first two times Jack had lied, by the third phone call, Rose saw through her son's smokescreen, and of course, not being able to reveal all to her, lead to an extremely heated, nasty discussion, which Daniel was going to clear up when he returned today. Next time Daniel was going to do his own dirty work as far his mom was concerned.
Jack was taken aback when his 2IC took up position on his left. "You're here a bit early, aren't you, Carter? Got some naquada that just can't wait?"
Every member of SG-1 was definitely so predictable when it came to Daniel. "Et tu, Teal'c?"
"DanielJackson is due back this morning, is he not?"
Before Jack could answer the ring began to spin and he could almost imagine SG-1 holding their collective breaths as the chevrons locked and SG-11's IDC code was given and accepted.
"There he is, sir."
Daniel practically bounded down the ramp. From his vantage point Jack could see he looked tired, but definitely more tanned than when he'd left, and there was a sense of rightness in his smile as he glanced upwards and gave a mock salute to his team members overlooking the Gateroom.
"Come on, guys." Jack nudged first Carter and then Teal'c. "Let's go welcome our archaeologist home.
* * *
As Rose drove the last blocks to her house, she began to mentally calculate the chores she needed to do. Helping out her friend who had recently broken her leg and was just getting acclimated to crutches was turning into a full time job, not one that Rose disliked, but one that was pulling her away from her own obligations. Rose was very thankful that Susan's son and daughter-in-law were coming to stay for a few days.
With one hand, she managed to perform a balancing act with her pocketbook and grocery bag, and with the other hand, grab the mail from the overflowing box *plus* hold her keys on her pinky. It was the package propped up against the door that was presenting a problem. Mumbling under her breath, Rose had no choice but to put everything down.
She stuck the key in the lock, put the mail and pocketbook in the grocery bag and picked up the box, and tucked it under her arm. Once inside, she dropped everything on the kitchen counter, returned to the front door, removed the key and closed it behind her. She had learned from previous experience, if she didn't remove her keys when she remembered, she would either spend hours trying to find them *or* lock up the house with the keys still in the front door, a forgetful habit she conveniently never mentioned to Jack.
Distracted by all that needed to be done, Rose began to put away the fresh milk, bread and juice and ended up throwing away perishables that had seen better days. Missing her own brand of tea, she put up a kettle and went to put on her comfortable slippers. Sighing with appreciation as the material cushioned her aching feet, she shuffled back into the kitchen. It wasn't until she was sorting through her mail, a steaming cup of tea by her side, that she remembered the package.
There was no return address and the label that had her street address was typewritten. It was a plain brown box, resembling what one would receive from a florist, but there weren't any markings that would identify it as being delivered from a local flower shop. Like a little kid, Rose shook it, which revealed absolutely nothing except that it wasn't that heavy and the weight of whatever was inside seemed to shift evenly.
Tape sealed the box and Rose went and got a knife which she then slid through the tape on all sides. She slipped her fingers under the lid and lifted it from the bottom of the box, shaking it to remove it from its secure fit.
Fragrance exploded into the kitchen, surrounding her. Smiling, she gently tore through the tissue paper. Flowers of every color and shape filled the box, tightly stuffed, their stems and leaves intermingling. This wasn't any professional arrangement, there was no baby's breath or extra perfectly matched greenery. Here before her was a bouquet of love and appreciation. She needed no card or signature to know who had sent them. They were flowers grown from seeds of faith, nurtured in pots replanted and tended when the winter months had lessened their hold.
Stroking the stems, her fingers found a piece of paper stuck among the stalks.
'Flowers have spoken to me more than I can tell in written words. They are the hieroglyphics of angels, loved by all men for the beauty of the character, though few can decipher even fragments of their meaning'.
There was no signature, there didn't need to be one. Daniel's voice could be heard loud and clear in Rose's kitchen and in her heart. The flowers expressed what he was unable to say, but what she clearly understood. Daniel had found what he had lost--the seeds of faith so carefully germinated through the darkest season had finally taken root and now flourished in the full light of day.
Author's Comments: This story would have taken up permanent residency on my hard drive if it hadn't been for my heartsisters, whose words of encouragement and shaking of pom poms prompted me to finish this journey. Jo, my kick ass beta, my cheerleader, the wearer of the almighty halo, owner of the sharpest red pens in the West— thank you for all of these things and for so much more. Any mistakes in this fic are mine and mine alone. The beautiful quote that Daniel used at the end of the fic is by Lydia M. Child
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