A Thousand Tomorrowsby devra
He showered. Spent time in the infirmary. Complained, loudly at that, and won his freedom. We barely debriefed. He took off. Hours later, I followed.
Shit, I tried. I truly did. I had the best intentions of heading Daniel off at the pass, catching him before he left the mountain, but I'm the General now, and while it allows me *some* leeway, I just can't leave at the drop of a hat. There are times being *the man* sucks. Today was one of those days.
And in one swift and blinding moment, the hole Fraiser's death has left in our lives becomes bottomless. As much as I groused about her Napoleonic power traits, I depended on her level-headed observation. She would have known what to do, what to say to Daniel.
He's spread out on one of the lounge chairs, bare-chested, his tee shirt is draped over his face, his half-full glass of wine is dangling from his fingertips. The bottle is standing obscenely upright, pressed between his thighs.
It's late afternoon, but he's been out in the sun long enough to have acquired some damage. The sunburn's gonna hurt, but the bruises on his chest are going to hurt more. I'm guessing, based on the level of wine remaining in the bottle, in the end Daniel's head may hurt the worst of all.
There's a smattering of perfectly round bruises peppering his stomach, just below his sternum and I can't help but touch them.
Daniel lifts the shirt to the side and blinks at me. Lazily. And the difference between Fraiser and Brightman flattens me like a steam roller. He's probably hurting enough to have his ass securely tied to an infirmary bed next to Teal'c and Carter, but I'm damn positive he got a shot, a bottle of pain killers and was sent on his merry way. Brightman obviously finds it easier to believe Daniel's an adult when it comes to taking care of himself and that he's going to behave and listen to her list of instructions. I shake my head. In the very near future, I'm going to give the doctor a crash course in the care and feeding of Doctor Daniel Jackson.
"Connect the dots."
"Huh?" I bend down to remove the wine glass from between his lax fingers.
"Hey!" He struggles to sit up, then remembers the bottle between his legs and tries to grab it. I snatch it from him, ignoring his whining call of my name, then place both glass and bottle on the table, out of reach.
In the hopes of providing a distraction, I point to his abdomen. "What did you say?"
Propped up on his elbows, he looks downward. "Oh. Connect the dots."
That's what I thought he'd said the first time. "Care to explain?"
He rolls his eyes, then takes his pointer finger and slides from one bruise to another. "Connect the dots." Daniel smiles at me. "When I connect the dots I get a bird. See?"
He moves his finger along the same pathway.
I don't see. For the sake of all concerned, this isn't one of the times to let him know that I haven't a clue. "Oh yeah. Interesting."
"What do you see?"
"Me? Hmmm." I see a bruised, drugged and drunken archaeologist, lying on a chaise, bare-chest sunburned on a warm August afternoon. "I see a plane."
In an effort to see what I see, Daniel contorts his body, tilting a bit to the right. He wavers a bit, then grabs hold of the arms of the chaise.
"Dizzy?" I grab him and the chair in an effort to keep them steady.
Bad mix of drugs in his system. The fact that it was a bad mission is worth repeating. A whole bunch of bad shit all the way around. "Let's get you in the house."
"Fine here." Daniel burrows away from my outstretched, helping hand, repositions himself on the chaise and closes his eyes.
There's still enough heat in the late afternoon for Daniel to sleep comfortably outside, but the sun is still strong enough to do more damage so I pick up his tee shirt and cover as much of his exposed body as I can with it. He fails miserably to swipe away the kiss I leave behind.
Removing temptation, I take the wine glass and bottle into the house. I pour the remainder of the glass of wine in the sink and leave the open wine bottle on the counter, holding the list of medical instructions in place with it. I smooth the list out and decide I'll search for the cork later.
I open his fridge, laugh and close the door. I pull my cell phone out of my pocket and make a quick call. It's time to call in some markers. Payback is such fun.
* * *
Daniel's fighting waking up. He's been moving and fidgeting for the past half hour, smacking his lips and tugging at the blanket I've thrown over him just because he looked cold, but his eyes are still glued shut. I lift the steak up and flip it over, the charcoal-driven fire sputtering and spitting. I poke the second steak. Based on their thickness, Daniel has about another five minutes before he *needs* to get up.
He sniffs the air, rubs his chest and makes a low whimper. I hear an "ow" when he attempts to turn on the chaise. "Think I need to get up."
"Yup, timing's about right. Steaks are almost done."
"Steaks?" Daniel pulls himself up and sniffs the air again, finally opening his eyes. "I don't have a grill."
"You didn't," I agree, flipping the steak over one last time. "Do now."
"Because it's a crime to cook steaks like these in the oven."
He extends his neck and tries to see around me. "I don't remember having steaks like those either."
"Well, it's like 'what came first, the chicken or the egg'?"
Daniel scrubs his forehead. "Should I understand that?"
With great care, I place both steaks on the platter. "Well, there was this grill and nothing to cook on it. Then there were these great steaks with no place to grill them. Chicken. Egg. Are you getting the correlation?"
"Oh. It's scary but I think I am."
"Just let me put the steaks on the table and I'll help you—"
"Got it." Daniel looks at the blanket pooling in his lap, his brow furrowing in confusion when he realizes he's not wearing a shirt. He untwists his tee shirt from the blanket and slowly slips it on over his head.
Daniel has this redwood table on his deck, which he has inherited from the previous owner that really has seen one winter too many, but for some strange reason he seems as attached to it as he is to the futon thingie in his bedroom. It's octagonal, and used to wobble until Daniel stuck a block of wood under whatever leg was causing the problem.
There's a bench for every side of the octagon and the center of it has a lazy Susan which the pole to the umbrella goes right through. Everything's original except the umbrella and the pole. Those had been ripped and bent and Daniel had had no choice but to replace them. Actually, I replaced them, a housewarming gift, though Daniel had called it other names the first time he opened the umbrella to reveal the ostentatious Hawaiian print, complete with pineapples, palm trees and hula girls.
So, the table is set. I've used real dishes and silverware, not paper plates, and there are flickering candles for atmosphere. So sue me. Every now and then, I too, can be romantic. The sun is going down and there's an amazing sunset. I'm guessing the powers that be are adding their two cents to this dinner, as well.
Daniel stands, stretches slowly then digs into his pants' pocket and pulls out his cell phone. I know who he's calling and I don't mention that I also called earlier, before I put the steaks on. I'm eavesdropping, pretending I'm not and Daniel doesn't buy my act for a second, smiling wanly when he catches me studying him.
His smile expands, and based on this one sided conversation, I'm ascertaining he's actually talking to Carter. Good. The smile disappears, his lips purse together then the smile returns—he's got Teal'c on the phone. Even better. Everyone's accounted for.
He snaps the phone shut, tosses it onto the chaise then shuffles over to the table, leaning on it for support as he lowers himself to the bench. I spear the rarer of the two steaks and slide it over onto Daniel's plate. He gets a tin foiled wrapped potato and two spoonfuls of string beans.
He frantically waves me away when I try for a third so I compromise and push the butter at him.
The potato gets opened and slathered with butter, the string beans as well; cholesterol be damned after a mission like today. I mirror his actions; hell, I was waiting on the other side of the 'gate, screw my cholesterol as well.
Daniel doesn't speak until he's done chewing his first piece of steak. "Sam and Teal'c are going to be released from the infirmary in the morning."
The potato bears the brunt of his frustration as he mashes the butter in. "I should have known."
"Known what?" I fill his glass with lemonade. "That the inhabitants had a hidden agenda? That they intended to use SG1 as a bargaining chip with the villagers in the next town?"
He shrugs and even in the candlelight he looks defeated, lost and pissed. "Daniel," I tap his plate with my knife. "They tipped their hat and you—"
"Sam and Teal'c still ended up in the infirmary."
"Alive. All of you. Let's get our priorities straight on what matters."
"I should have known," he repeats, playing with his food.
"Hey!" I rap his knuckles with the flat edge of my knife. "This food is too good to waste."
"Eww." He wipes the back of his hand on the napkin and shoots me a look of disgust.
"Eat," I repeat, sawing off a piece of steak, then shoveling it into my mouth. "Ith good."
"Close your mouth when you chew." Daniel cuts off another piece of steak, rotating his fork, contemplating the meat. "Where *did* the steak come from?" He puts the steak in his mouth, chews, then swallows. "For that matter, where the hell did the grill come from?"
"The one and only."
"He bought me a grill and steak, because...?" Daniel rolls his fork at me, wanting an answer."
"Because I asked him."
"You ordered him?"
"No, no. A-s-k-e-d. Said please and everything."
* * *
Daniel finishes half of everything on his plate and disappears into the house without an explanation. Dollars to donuts he's taking either a pain pill or Tylenol and I smile at him around my mouthful of food when he returns and hands me a beer. He gets pain relief. I get a beer. Subterfuge. Works each and every time.
"You should have been there. Watching our six." Accusatory sentences, said with the same emotion as 'Nice weather we're having. Think it's gonna rain'?
"Excuse me?" The wonderful dinner immediately sours in my gut.
My question gets waived away and Daniel sits. "Forget it."
"No backsie's, Daniel. You can't say shit like that then—"
"We needed to be four out there today."
Okay, that's doable, and I pick up my knife and fork to finish my steak. "So we'll talk about adding a fourth—"
"We needed you. *I* needed you to be the fourth."
That's it for the dinner. With measured movements I place my utensils on my plate and shove it to the side. "Those days are over, Daniel."
"Yeah, they are, aren't they?" He leans over and swipes my beer, taking a swig before I can stop him. "This is stupid. If you would have been with us today, you would have gotten hurt also."
"Maybe. Maybe not." Gently I extract the bottle from his grip. "I would have listened to you though."
Bingo. I caught it. A cursory widening of the eyes. Nine years with the man. Friends. Lovers. Even if he doesn't think so or want to believe it's so, I can read him like a book. And the page he's now opened to reads something like 'Carter didn't heed his warnings'. Hell, who am I to reprimand her? It took me years to learn the concept 'the archaeologist is usually right'.
Carter knows she was wrong. She as much told me when we spoke. I read between her 'sirs' to get the gist of what happened, and I trust her to be honest enough in her report. She's a good officer and in time will be a great one, but it's the time thing she has a problem with, headstrong, superior intelligence, willful, stubborn, great attributes for a 2IC, things that need to be tempered in a commanding officer. Been there, done that, I know. I speak from experience. She was lucky. This time everyone arrived home alive. I look at Daniel's bowed head, thankful that Lady Luck was SG-1's fourth on this mission.
I stand and begin to clean off the table. Daniel stays seated, contemplating the moisture pattern his glass has made on the redwood.
* * *
He looks up at me and my tray of watermelon slices, blinking myopically. I get a crooked smile, and in spite of how he's built himself up and the depth of wisdom in those eyes, for one moment, one succinct moment in time when he smiles just that way, I get a visual of how he must've looked at seven before tragedy became his middle name.
His smile broadens when I mention that I love him and he accepts it with a slight bow of his head and a blush of embarrassment. Not that he hasn't heard me say that before, it's just the "L" word is saved for passion and heat, not backyards with octagonal tables, gaudy Hawaiian print and flickering candles.
I put the tray on the table and slide onto the bench to his right. "Go on, take a piece." I nudge his elbow.
Daniel ponders the tray. "I didn't have watermelon. At least I don't think I did." He cants his head in my direction. "Ferretti?"
"I think it's about time Lou made Colonel. The poor guy needs a raise." Daniel grabs the piece I had been eyeing and he takes a bite before I can wrestle it away.
I rotate the tray, studying it from all sides, then pick a juicy half moon and take a bite. I watch Daniel intently picking the seeds out of his slice. The mix of medication and booze are affecting his perception and I'm torn between putting the guy to bed and just getting him to unwind.
The first pit I spit into the napkin next to my plate. The second one I spit at Daniel. He wipes the area on his neck that I hit, ignoring me. Actually I'm not too sure he even realizes it was me, and not some nocturnal bug. I wait, then spit two pits in quick succession.
He whips around, furious, his eyebrows hanging low over narrowed eyes. Okay, in the scheme of things, maybe this wasn't one of my better ideas. "Daniel, look, I'm –" A seed flies through the air and pings the tip of my nose.
A finger in my face follows the seed. "Don't say a word, you started it."
"Nice shot." I wipe my nose with the back of my hand.
"Thank you," he mumbles before losing himself in the watermelon again. I'm waiting for an open shot when Daniel suddenly drops his slice, slams his eyes shut and begins to tremble. His breathing catches, then hitches and bounces all over the place, trying to find a normal rhythm.
"Shit, Daniel." I grab his chin, trying to get him to focus on something besides his inability to breathe and end up with three watermelon seeds in my face for my effort.
"Checkmate." Nonplussed, he wipes his face with a napkin, then picks up his piece of watermelon and begins to eat again.
"You sonofabitch!" I scrub my face. "This means war." I get a seed in my hair for my rant.
"Don't choke," he warns as I gobble down a chunk, trying to store up my ammunition.
I let fly a mouthful of seeds and when the spit clears, one is stuck to the lens of Daniel's glasses, one in his hair and two are sliding down his face. "Are you finished, Jack?"
I sidle away from him. "I don't know, are we?"
He flicks the seed off his glasses and shakes his body, dislodging the majority of my barrage, but there's one lone seed stuck where his neck meets his shoulder. Hesitantly, I slide back towards him, pick the seed away and kiss the spot. He tastes of watermelon and I smile into the hollow crevice of his shoulder.
"Care to share?" Daniel doesn't move, but this time the hitch in his breathing is due to my tongue traveling along his neck.
I want to tell him he tastes like memories of warm summer evenings at my grandparents' house where I learned the fine art of watermelon kisses, but I remain silent and flick the remaining seed towards my napkin. It swoops through the air, pings against the pole holding the umbrella, hits Daniel's forehead and falls onto his plate. "Wow." I surprise even myself with that one. I wonder what the odds of me doing that again are and begin to line up another seed.
Daniel slams my shooting hand into the table. "I love you, Jack, but don't push your luck."
"You have to admit the trajectory on that shot was—"
"Amazing." He finishes my thought, but the word is long and drawn out. Slurred, almost.
Then I remember.
"Let's go inside."
Daniel sighs and reaches for his slice of watermelon. "Retri—" He breaks for a yawn. "...bution."
"Tomorrow," I promise then stand, tugging him upright. A thousand tomorrows, hopefully. But one can never be sure, so I tuck tonight into that place where memories are stored
Daniel breaks my hold once inside the house and flops down on the oversized couch. He curls into himself and pulls the afghan down off the back of the couch. I shake my head and sigh as half of the blanket slips off him onto the floor.
He accepts the blanket, pulling it up to his nose, even though it's warm in the house. A creature of habit, I check his forehead for fever but feel nothing but the warmth of sunburn. We'll work out the sleeping arrangements later, 'cause even though the couch is bigger than his futon, my ass still isn't going to fit on there with him.
* * *
I'm buying Daniel a dishwasher for Christmas or a lifetime supply of paper plates, that or we're going to eat out for all of eternity. Doing dishes is right up there with Goa'uld torture. The last of the dishes are drying in the drain and I go out on the back deck to close up for the night. There are still watermelon seeds on the table and I flick them off, practicing my aim, watching them fly haphazardly in all directions. It's not as much fun without Daniel on the receiving end. There's something very deep and meaningful about that statement, and I'm proud of myself for even acknowledging those sentiments. A thousand tomorrows are just days if I don't have Daniel's presence.
"Jack?" Ah, my presence is paging me. "Thought you were sleeping?" The doorframe is supporting his weight, keeping him upright. "Aren't you coming to bed?" His smile is slow in building as he watches me close the umbrella. "Did I ever thank you for that monstrosity?" "Yeah, you did. In your own way." Daniel scrunches up his face and nods. "Okay." "Feeling okay?" "No pain." "Kinda figured that." "Can we sleep outside?" "We sleep outside on missions all the time." "We can't cuddle during missions, remember?" Yup, he's feeling no pain alright, 'cause he just said the word cuddle. Not one of the vocabulary words that he's comfortable with. "So you want to drag sleeping bags out here?" "It's warm enough." Daniel glances upwards. "Nice night. Under the stars. Me. You." Okay, he *really* needs to go to bed *now*. Daniel may be a lot of things, but romantic he's not. Also, the way he's feeling at the moment, all I'm going to get will be him snoring in my ear. "Sure. You sit. I'll get the sleeping bags."
We'll sleep under the stars if that's what he wants. I'll get a kiss for my effort to make him happy and another memory to file away. But hey, I guess that's what life's all about--a thousand tomorrows with a side order of memories. Works for me.
Chat is a dangerous thing. To my heart sisters, this visual is for you. Jo thanks for your support, patience and your amazing supply of red pencils. May your halo never tarnish
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