Strained by devra

I have one foot out the door when the phone rings. With a show of defiance I shut the door then turn the key, locking it. It's one of those perfect Colorado days and I gaze wistfully up at the sun before adjusting my sunglasses, wishing I could have a good enough excuse to play hooky. My cell phone rings just as I'm running a few plausible excuses through my brain.

"Morning, Daniel, and yes I'm leaving now." I check my watch. "And if you ask very nicely I'll bring you coffee from Star—"

"Could you pick me up?"

"A Danish? Sure no problem." I put the key in the ignition and turn, anchoring the cell between my head and shoulder.

"No, I don't want a Danish, what I need is—"

The phone suddenly slips from its position like a banana from a peel and thuds to the floor between my feet. "Damn." I try to bend down to reach it, but I'm too tall and the space is too narrow for me to maneuver without bending body parts in directions that even twenty years ago I wouldn't have been able to do. Our telephone connection must have been severed because to add insult to injury, the cell phone, which has now slid by my right foot, rings again. I kick it gently to the side. "I'll get you your Danish and coffee," I yell, and the call eventually goes to my voice mail. I nod in satisfaction, start the Avalanche and manage to get to the end of the driveway before the phone rings again. I slam the truck into park, fling open the door, jump outta the driver's seat, bend down and answer the phone, all before the call can make it to voice mail one more time.

"What, Daniel?" I grab the phone and *hold* it in place. "If you don't stop calling me I won't have time to pick up your coffee and Danish."

"Jack, not to sound unappreciative, but I don't need a coffee or Danish."

"You don't?" He needs something, though. Daniel sounds off, sorta like he's returned home from a mission injured and he's trying to cover it up. "Well, exactly what *do* you need?"

"No questions asked and a lift to work."

"That's it?"

"Yup. That's it."

"Do you need—"

"That's it, Jack. No questions. Lift. Can you handle that?"

"Morning to you, too. And yes, I can handle that."

* * *

I pull into the driveway and don't even have to signal my arrival with a honk of the horn. Daniel's already outside. I see his face. I know that face. He's hurting. He's pissed and he's damn uncomfortable.

I'm checking for any visible bruising as he eases his body into the passenger seat. Proud of my fortitude, I'm still holding my tongue as he gently lowers his briefcase between his knees then awkwardly maneuvers the seatbelt with a vocal hiss of discomfort.

We're three quarters of the way to the mountain and I've been doing everything from counting sheep to singing Beatle songs just to make sure that I keep my mouth shut as promised.

I'm halfway through the second chorus of Eleanor Rigby when Daniel interrupts. "I know it's killing you, so just go ahead and ask."

"No, it's okay," I reply with a melodramatic air. "Your injury is between you and Fraiser."


I give a silent harrumph, annoyed and more than a little upset that he's hurting enough to go to Fraiser but isn't willing to share with me, so rather than say *exactly* what's on my mind, I move right into 'Paperback Writer'.

* * *

Nary a comment passes my lips, but I do take in all the *things* Daniel is doing left- handed, from reaching across his body to open the car door, to signing in. We make it all the way to the elevator, inside as a matter of fact, before I lose control. "What the hell gives?"

"You were so close, Jack. So close."

"Sue me." Yeah, I was. Thank goodness we didn't bet on it.

"I should have bet you wouldn't have made the whole trip without—"

"Caring, Daniel. I'm actually hurt that you won't share with me exactly *why* you're walking around with this constipated grimace on your face."

"*That* is exactly why I'm not telling you what—"

"Ahaa! Something did happen."

"You knew something happened. I'm just choosing not to share what it was because of your immature—"

"Does it involve your dick?"

Daniel closes his eyes then drops his head, slowly shaking it. "Because obviously this is all about *you* and how my injury affects your pleasure, I won't hold you in suspense. No, it doesn't involve either my dick or my asshole."

The 'thank god' is out of my mouth before I can stop it.

"Nice to know where I rate in this relationship."

* * *


Fraiser looks up from the piles of charts she's buried behind. "He's not here." She sticks the pen behind her ear and accepts the cup of coffee I hand her. Fraiser sniffs the coffee and puts it to the side without taking a sip. "I hope this coffee wasn't being used to bribe me."

"Hey, maybe I just wanted to, you know, give you a break from—"

"To quote someone I know, 'yadda yadda'."

I sink into the chair opposite her and grab my heart. "I think I'm offended."

"And I think you are a horrible liar." She looks directly into my eyes and smiles. "Daniel's not here."

"I know, you said that already."

"So may I ask why *you're* still here?"

I point to the dejected coffee mug. "I was being nice."

"Okay, he was here. I examined him and now Daniel's not here."

"Is he—"

"He's fever free, infection free, living, breathing." Fraiser pulls the pen from behind her ear and begins to tap it against the desk. "And for Daniel, that's an accomplishment and I'm not looking a gift horse in the mouth."

"So he's—"

"Not here."

Sometimes our CMO takes *way* too much pleasure yanking my chain.

Fraiser opens a file then grabs the coffee mug I had presented her with, shoving it at me. "Do me a favor and dump this atrocity on your way out." And no one would believe me if I told them, but the woman actually flutters her eyelashes at me. "If you want to bribe me, next time remember I like the *good stuff* from Daniel's coffee maker, with real milk and one Equal."

* * *

Daniel's in his office. Could I have checked there first? Yeahsureyabetcha, but I wanted to make sure that he was okay, and while Fraiser didn't divulge anything, I've known her long enough to read between what she considers to be her cutting edge humor to understand Fraiserspeak.

The man in question is leaning over his keyboard, typing with his left hand, his other hand is balancing an ice pack the size of a heating pad flung over his right shoulder.

"Damn." Like a chicken hunting for food he pecks at the space bar then leans across his body to get a folder. The ice pack slithers off his shoulder, down his arm and onto the floor. "Aw crap!" He throws up his hands in frustration, then grimaces in pain, forgetting his range of motion is hampered by whatever he's done to himself. "Shit."

The next curse he utters, when he leans over to pick up the ice pack, is in Abydonian and if literally translated, I believe it's a physical impossibility to make one's body bend that way.

"Don't strain yourself."

"Too late," he grimaces as he slaps his left hand to his right shoulder, bending inward.

I pick up the ice pack and put it on his shoulder. What I would much rather do would be to massage away the aches and pains of whatever he has done, but there are certain things you cannot explain away on security cameras and I'm thinking the colonel giving the archaeologist a massage might be one of those things.

"Later," I promise, sliding a hand up his back out of the camera's eye.

He looks over his shoulder at me like I've told him I've just had sex with Anise. "Nothing personal, Jack, honest, but the only thing I want to do later involves medication and my bed."

"That bad, huh?"


"Go home," I offer.

"You go home." Daniel is obviously on the low end of the twelve year old scale as he slides away from me. He pouts then gets up to get a cup of coffee, and this time when the ice pack falls to the floor we both leave it there.

"You're a tad touchy, aren't you?"

He growls at me then takes a moment to realize that he can't pick up the coffee pot with his right hand, so he slams the mug on the shelf and uses his left hand to pour. I know enough to keep my mouth shut when some spills on the floor. He scrubs at the spot with his boot then salutes me with the mug. "You're right, I am touchy. I cannot *just* go home, I have things that needed to get done *yesterday*. I now have to type left handed—"

I make a pecking movement with my pointer finger. "Yeah, I saw, it's not a pretty sight."

"And I'm being harassed by someone who obviously has nothing better to do with their time."

"I have *lotsa* stuff to do."

"Then, please, Jack," Daniel sighs, "please go do it."

"I will."

"When?" Now he's whining.

"As soon as you tell me what's wrong, how did it happen, and what did Fraiser say?"

Nonplussed, he blinks at me over the mug of coffee. "That's blackmail."

"Yeah, so it is."

"So what would you say if I told you that you'll be sleeping on the couch for the next six months if your ass isn't out of my office in sixty seconds?" Daniel tries to hide the flash of pain that skitters across his face as he moves. "Would that be considered blackmail?"

"Sex should not be used as a bargaining chip."

He makes a show of checking his watch. "You've used twenty seconds already." The bastard smiles *that* smile. "And just so we're clear on one point, *I* never mentioned sex, you know."

"At least tell me what you did?" I beg.

"You have another thirty seconds."

"Okay, okay, I can take a hint." I ignore Daniel's chuckle. "You obviously need a lift home, so do you mind coming with me to the store before I drop you off? I'm thinking of making lasagna."

"Oh." To say Daniel *loves* lasagna would be an understatement. He clears his throat. "No problem, you can just drop me off after you—"

"Noodles, fresh oregano, mozzarella, ricotta…" I tick off the items on my fingers.

"Garlic bread?"

"Thanks for reminding me—fresh garlic, butter, bread."

"Over dinner," he whimpers.

"Over dinner?" Sue me, I didn't get to be Special Ops only because I looked damned good in the uniform. Daniel's practically salivating and there's no more watching, checking or mentioning of the couch.

"If I spring for dessert and the how and why of what happened to me, can I stay for dinner?"


* * *

Daniel got dinner and I got nothing. Oh don't get me wrong, it was comic relief watching him cutting into the lasagna with his left hand and it took a whole lot of strength not to jump up and do it for him. But I was good, my ass stayed glued to the chair and I never even chuckled at the scenario.

I give him a wickedly, innocent smile. "Can I get you more?" Now on a good day, Daniel can eat me under the table when it comes to my lasagna. Garfield and Daniel have more in common than people think.

He looks up from his plate, where his attention has been focused as he attempts to coax a piece of stubborn cheese onto the end of the bread. "I'm good."

"Really?" I point to his right hand which is sitting in his lap. "To me you only appear okay. *Good* would be if both hands were working to their ability."

"You noticed?"

Without another word, I place another square of lasagna on his empty plate, then lean over and cut it into bite sized pieces. "Yeah, you could say I noticed."

* * *

The apple pie was my choice, Daniel's really not a lover of apple pie, he just loves someone who loves them, which is why a magnificent Dutch apple crumb has the place of honor at my kitchen table, though it's hard to enjoy this culinary work of art. Daniel's in pain. The lay person would never notice, but years of reading Daniel have fine tuned my ability to gauge his discomfort by the set of his mouth and the deepening of the fine lines in the corner of his eyes.


He nods, miserable.

I give him the good stuff, the prescription ones, which he readily accepts. I cut myself another sliver of pie and sit. "Gonna share?"

Daniel mumbles something unintelligible.

"Would you care to repeat that? Did you fall? Trip?" I lead him on with my fork.

"I just turned the wrong way."

"Interesting." It's not, really, 'cause I've been there and done that and the only thing you feel after an injury like that is stupidity, but I would *never* say that to Daniel. I'd rather he admit it to me first.

"Not interesting at all. It's plain stupid. I was stupid."

"Human," I say around a mouthful of apple pie.

"Stupidly human."

"You're human."

I'm at the receiving end of a look which only seems to bring home the point of how stupid Daniel seems to think I am at the moment. "I fell asleep on the couch. I woke up late—"

I nod in agreement. Yup, that's a typical Daniel scenario. "Slept the wrong way, huh?"

"No. I didn't sleep the wrong way," he mimics in his 'you don't know everything voice'.

I smile my apology for interrupting him.

"Like I said, I was in a hurry, so I got dressed, but I needed a pair of socks, which I remembered just as I was leaving the bedroom and I turned to open the drawer to—" his sigh is overflowing with confusion and sadness. "When did I get old?"

"Pulling a muscle has nothing to do with age."

He snorts. "Sure, tell that to Janet, who made sure to lecture me about—"

"What? The dangers of going into your sock drawer?"

"No, the lecture bordered on sleeping should be done in bed," he awkwardly waves his left hand through the air, "not on couches, at computers—"

"Well I agree with her on that. I think that all your sleeping should be done in bed, with me."

"Surprisingly enough, Jack, your name didn't pop up in the conversation at all."

I feign hurt. "Really? I would think—"

"Do me a favor and don't think."

"I don't get any respect."

Daniel smiles and pops a piece of lasagna in his mouth. "Thor respects you," he answers after swallowing.

"Nice to know little grey beings from outer space appreciate me."

Daniel rolls his eyes, spears another piece of lasagna, chews, chases it down with a large drink of iced tea, then just up and leaves the room. I read him loud and clear. Time will do that. His façade is slipping. He's hurting more than he wants me to know and he feels stupid, silly and old, no matter how much I reassure him. So I give him time. I wash the dishes. Clean up the kitchen, making each moving longer and more drawn out than it needs to be.

* * *

I sit next to him on the couch. "Can I get you anything?"

"You know, eight years ago I never even thought about my body."

"I didn't think about your body eight years ago either." I run my hand teasingly along his thigh. "I think about it now, though."

"All the time, obviously."

"You say that like it's a bad thing."

"Jack, there's a time and a place for everything. Even sex."

"Well, we don't have to report back to base for forty-eight hours so there's the time and as far as the sex—"

"Not interested."


"I'm right handed, Jack." He makes a futile attempt to lift his arm. "It's very hard, if not impossible for me to—" his fingers begin to curl and give a minute pump in a visual demonstration.

"Your left hand?"

"I'm not ambidextrous."

"There are other parts of your body that are just as talented as your right hand, you know."

"I'm old, Jack."

"No, Daniel. *I'm* old. Carter is older than you. Hammond is older than me. Teal'c is the oldest."

"Thanks for the grammar lesson."

Daniel is frustrating the shit outta me. It takes him longer to get from point A to point B than it did to take those kids in the Family Circle comic to go out and retrieve the morning paper. "I will admit you are older than you were. Hell, we all are. And the bodies that we once took for granted are protesting."

"A drawer, Jack, I pulled my muscle opening a drawer. I've died and returned in better condition than I am now."

"Whining isn't a good look for you." The faster we get off the subject of Daniel dying, the happier I'll be.

"I don't really care. It hurts when I sit, when I lie down, when I stand—" Daniel shakes his head. "I'm whining, aren't I?"

"Told ya so."

"You can be a touch more sympathetic, you know. I could use some mother henning right at this moment."

He wants sympathy and I want sex. My life is a cosmic joke.

* * *

We compromise. Okay, I compromise and hence am able to get my hands on Daniel's body under the guise of a massage. Daniel's lying on the bed, naked from the waist up and I'm promising my dick a whole bunch of things just so it'll behave itself.

Daniel jumps at my touch and his head shoots up from the pillow. "I changed my mind."

"That's nice," I say as I push his head back onto the pillow. "Give me a minute."

He moans and tries to slither away as I press with my palms into the area under his shoulder blade. "This was a bad idea. Ice. The physical therapist mentioned ice."

"Of course the physical therapist mentioned ice, they weren't going to tell you to go get a massage from Colonel O'Neill." I flex my fingers on his broad back. "These hands work magic."

I ignore the snort that Daniel tries to bury into the pillow.

My fingers do the walking and talking along his naked, broad - I mentioned broad already didn't I? - muscular back. Sara used to love when I did this to her, but I don't think I've shown this talent to Daniel before. His moans of complaint slide right over into groans of euphoria. "Feels good, huh?" I can tell as his body is relaxing incrementally, but I want to hear him admit it.

"Mmmm. Good." Incoherent linguist, it's not too often I can accomplish that. A combination of me, Motrin, a plateful of lasagna and Daniel really didn't stand a chance.

Slowly, he lifts his head. "How long can you keep this up?"

"As long as you want me to," I lie.

"We're off for forty eight hours, right?"

"I don't think—"

"I know, just checking." He rotates his shoulder then draws a deep breath before levering his body onto his side to face me. With an agility he didn't have before, he moves his hand until it covers my groin. "I just want to make sure, you know, in the event I overextend myself—" Daniel applies enough pressure to my cock, that even through my jeans, it stands up and begs for attention. "Or re-injure my wound," Daniel's dexterous fingers stroke along the length of my hard on, "that you will be around to work your magic again."

"Yup, that's me," I agree, as I slide down until we're lying facing each other. "The Great O'Neill, whose fingers have been known to work amazing, illustrious magic.

Age is a relative thing, a point driven home by my temperamental knees. Some mornings you feel great and other mornings even getting out of bed becomes a major accomplishment. Barring unforeseen circumstances, I'll be right with Daniel as he grows older, of course leading the way, breaking in the doctors for him. Hey, I'm military, all it'll take will take will be a little foresight, a medicine cabinet full of Motrin, a fridge full of beer, a lake full of fish, each other and old age will be a walk in the park. Just like every other mission in our life.

The End!

Author's Comments:

Thanks to the Heartsisters for showing me that sometimes art *does* imitate life. Thank you jo, for being the bestest beta, full of patience and gentle reminders when I forget the usual. Mistakes are mine and mine alone.




to contact me