Miracle Upon Miraclesby JoaG
Jack stared in shock at the wasted man who sat despondently in the wheelchair before the parallel bars. The man's head was bent, his shoulders slumped and his hands were tightly gripped together. Jack checked the room once more, but the only two people there were this stranger, and his therapist. That couldn't be Daniel, could it?
The elation Jack had experienced moments ago upon discovering that Daniel was alive all but vanished at the sight of the form that couldn't even get up from the chair without the help of the therapist.
He watched unbelievingly as the man's arms visibly shook as he held tightly onto the wooden bars. The same strong arms that had meant love, safety, laughter and solace to Jack. His right leg was encased in a metal brace, a parody of the once long, muscular limbs that had carried Daniel with grace across a room. Head lowered, the man panted loudly with the effort of remaining on his feet. The thin form was hunched over as he strained to remain standing. Jack thought that this man simply couldn't be Daniel.
The man's face was contorted with effort as he lifted his injured leg with obvious difficulty and dragged it forward a few inches. He stood frozen in the same position until the therapist spoke softly to him. Then he shifted his weight, moved his grip slightly farther along the bars, and brought his other foot forward. He repeated the movements laboriously, and Jack could see the perspiration beading on the man's face, his sweats already darkening in color from his efforts.
"I can't." The man looked like he was ready to collapse and he'd barely made it halfway along the six-foot length bars. "Please."
"Just a few more steps, Doctor Jackson. You're doing good."
Jack's heart lurched when he heard the name confirming the man's identity. He'd been wishing with all his heart that the person before him wasn't truly his lover, and that Daniel was really in the shower, or back on his way to the infirmary, somewhere, anywhere but here. And then the man raised his head and Daniel's familiar features morphed over the pain-filled grimace. Jack glanced at Carter and Teal'c, seeing the shocked expressions on both their faces. He figured his own incredulous look matched theirs.
He wanted nothing more than to rush over there and take Daniel into his arms and hug him hard, to hold him close and tell him everything would be all right. But the shock of seeing the physical changes in the man he loved held him at bay. He swallowed against the tightening of his throat, unable to take his eyes off the person who was struggling to take several simple steps.
He remembered Carter's soft gasp and Teal’c’s subdued exclamation of surprise when they'd first entered the room, but now there was nothing but silence. Hammond had told them it had taken Daniel weeks to recover from the dual infection, the one in his lungs and the one in his leg. Pneumonia, muscle and ligament damage in Daniel's leg had stolen the vivacity from the man Jack remembered. Fever and infection had devoured muscles and strength. Apparently the General had another perception of recovery than Jack did.
It seemed to take Daniel forever to make it to the end of the parallel bars. And he looked like he'd run a marathon.
Jack stared. He couldn't help himself. They'd thought Daniel dead all these weeks while he, Carter and Teal'c had been stranded on that damned planet. Jack hadn't cared much about survival then, but he had owed it to his teammates to try. Had he been stuck out there alone, it might have been another story. All that time, stuck on some alien world, the image of Daniel being helplessly swept away by a wall of mud and water had haunted Jack's every waking, and sleeping, moment.
They had needed to get to higher ground immediately in order to survive, and thus had effectively cut themselves off from the Stargate for several weeks. Up until an hour ago, they'd been unaware that a search party had come looking for them, something in the mud around the 'gate had affected their radio signals. The S&R team had discovered Daniel, miraculously still alive, but had found no signs of the rest of SG-1. The search for Jack and the others had been called off after a short couple of days.
At the time, Jack had figured he'd get his remaining team members home and then, possibly, retire from the SGC. He'd lost or nearly lost Daniel too many times; but those had been false alarms, miracle upon miracles had always brought Daniel back to them.
This time, Jack had figured Daniel had run out of those; but obviously, looking at Daniel now, Jack had been dead wrong.
Hammond had just earlier informed them that Daniel was alive but had been very sick. The three of them had rushed straight from the Gateroom to the infirmary; the first time in memory Jack could remember such eagerness to head there, only to be informed by a nurse that Daniel was in therapy.
So once they'd been more or less forced into the showers and had gotten into clean clothes, he'd told the nurse they'd be right back for their physicals and had come here to the gym hunting for Daniel. And now here they all stood watching, in disbelieving shock.
"Okay, Doctor Jackson. Let's see if you can turn around and make it back to your chair."
"No, it's too far. I need to sit." Daniel's words were punctuated by wheezes, followed by a wet, painful-sounding cough. "Now. Please." The therapist quickly put his arms around Daniel, helping to support him through the coughing fit.
It looked to Jack that the pneumonia still had its hold on Daniel. He took a couple of steps forward, intending to bring Daniel's wheelchair to him but the therapist took that moment to let go of Daniel and get the chair.
Jack's movement must have caught Daniel's attention because he raised his head and looked at them. Jack hadn't thought it possible, but his face went even paler as his eyes opened wide in shock.
- - - - - -
He couldn't do this.
It was too much.
Why had he let Janet threaten him and force him out of his bed? He wasn't ready to get up. He was sick; he needed rest, sleep, privacy.
So let her sic Mackenzie on him. What more could that shrink do to him that he hadn't already tried? Lock him up? Been there, done that. And anyways, at this point, even the white padded room was beginning to look good, because there, they had pumped him full of drugs and had left him alone.
His leg was shooting waves of fire up into his thigh and hip, the injured muscles barely able to support his weight despite the brace. His chest was heavy and congested; he could hear himself wheezing as he gasped for breath. His whole body was trembling, and he knew it was on the verge of giving out on him and collapsing.
His wheelchair was too far away; he'd be willing to drop to the floor right now, but knew if he unlocked his elbows, he'd fall in a heap and the action would cause the pain in his thigh to flare to a point that would probably have him sobbing in agony.
So here he was, again. He'd been pulled out of his comfortable bed with threats of blackmail by someone who was supposed to be his friend. The day before yesterday, he had acquiesced to Janet's demands and had managed to stand up and take several pain-filled steps. Yesterday, he'd shuffled the length of the bars. Today, halfway through the physical therapy, he decided it was useless.
Because the pain in his leg and chest was nowhere near the pain in his heart and soul. His friends, his life, his love, were gone. Dead. Missing. Lost on another planet. Never to be seen again. Swept away by a mudslide. Buried under tons of mud and debris.
But whereas Daniel's fate had been one huge galactic joke – he'd somehow survived the river of sludge that had swept him half a mile down the valley and had left him with a deep and infected gash and a honking case of pneumonia – but none of his team had been found in the two-mile wide disaster area. He'd been told it was a miracle he survived.
Damn it. He could have done without the fates interfering this time. He could have done without a miracle.
"I can't." I can't take it anymore, the loneliness, the pain, the knowledge that everyone was gone. That Jack was gone. Oh God, Jack! "Please."
"Just a few more steps, Doctor Jackson. You're doing good."
Feeling no better than a prisoner being tortured by the Goa'uld, Daniel grit his teeth, lowered his head and forced himself onward. Slowly, inch by agonizing inch, he managed to walk to the end of the bars.
There was no sense of victory or triumph. His lungs burned with effort, his clothes were soaked with perspiration – and all he'd managed to do was travel six feet.
There was nothing to walk towards anymore. No future, no life, no love...
"Okay, Doctor Jackson. Let's see if you can turn around and make it back to your chair."
He couldn't. There was no reason to force himself to work harder. All that getting mobile would mean was a return to an empty house, a job that no longer held any interest, and an assignation to a new team composed of strangers who could never fill the place of his lost family. There was nobody to share his bed with, nobody to tease, nobody to love, nobody to love him back.
What was the point?
He'd thought losing Shau'ri had been bad. But Jack and the others had been there for him then, helping him get through his grief. Losing Jack had been like losing a leg, a piece of himself, leaving him struggling to make sense of the world, and constantly finding himself several steps behind everyone else.
Jack, Sam and Teal'c had been publicly mourned by the SGC in a memorial ceremony while Daniel had lain unconscious in the infirmary, fighting for his life. He'd woken up two weeks later, asking for Jack, only to be told that none of his team had made it. By the time Daniel had begun grieving, everyone else was getting on with their lives.
There were people always around him, nurses, doctors, a few visitors; well meaning, solicitous, but they all made it worse for him. All Daniel wanted to do was forget. He didn't want to think of a time where he didn't hurt, where he'd been loved, where there had been hope. And all they ever did was make him remember.
His *friend* Janet had turned on him, threatened him to do things he felt he wasn't ready for. And there was nobody around to stick up for him, to help support him, physically, mentally and morally. So he had found it easier to acquiesce and not argue. He had allowed himself to be pushed, pulled, prodded and hauled wherever, whenever and however they wanted. As long as the end product was his being left alone.
So here he was, forcing his injured and unwilling body to take a few steps, when all he wanted was go back to his room and curl up under the sheets and go to sleep. And maybe this time, he'd dream of Jack.
But he'd been struggling too long, breathing too hard, and it had been inevitable that he'd start coughing. He felt the tickling start deep in his lungs. He had to get off his feet.
"No, it's too far. I need to sit." The cough bubbled up and he was hacking and choking, his chest and ribs contracting painfully from the weeks of abuse the pneumonia had put him through. "Now. Please." He felt Martin holding him steady, preventing him from falling as he fought to breathe. Miraculously, Daniel managed to hold on to the bars throughout the coughing spell. Sweat poured down his face as he struggled to stay upright as Martin rushed to get the wheelchair.
He caught sight of movement near the door and he raised his head instinctively. He saw people standing just inside the room, watching with looks of horror on their faces. Before Daniel's face could heat up in embarrassment at being caught in such a vulnerable position, he realized they looked familiar.
One man had stepped forward, his hand reaching out to Daniel.
Oh God. Oh God! They were here! They were alive! Jack was alive.
No, he was dreaming. He was awake, and he was dreaming. But Jack was here, in his dream, in this room. Jack wasn't dead!
It was only when the room began spinning and dark spots darkened his friends' faces did he realize he was gasping for breath. The world tilted, greyed out for a moment, then the painful shock of something hitting his butt and back brought him back to his senses.
In slow motion, he saw Jack, Sam and Teal'c moving towards him, knees bending and bodies slanting forward as they rushed to kneel beside him. Sounds merged, voices fused into a cacophony of noise.
"No, no, go away."
He didn't want them to see him like this. He didn't want them to touch him. He turned, half lying in and out of his chair and managed to shift onto his side, turning away from his friends and towards the one person he prayed could get him out of here. He dragged his injured leg forward, the metal brace scraping harshly against the tiled floor, while begging everyone to leave him alone.
"Please, get me out of here," he begged his therapist.
Hands grabbed him, lifted him deeper into the chair. He slumped in the seat, unable to hold himself upright. He squeezed his eyes tightly shut, trying desperately to ignore the faces he'd thought he'd only ever see again in his mind's memory. His feet were lifted onto the footrests, the brace adjusted. He held tightly onto the armrests, everything was lurching wildly and he was afraid he'd fall out of his chair.
It was only when he felt the wheelchair moving that Daniel dared open his eyes again. He stared at the blurry floor as he was wheeled past, listening intently for the sound of footsteps, praying they wouldn't follow. And praying they would.
By the time they reached his infirmary bed, his chest was tight and he was having trouble taking deep breaths. But this time, he knew it wasn't from the illness. He accepted the help into his bed, waited patiently as his brace was removed, and then turned onto his side. He felt cold, and tried to pull the blanket up to his shoulders. But it was tangled around his legs, so he pulled it up and around as best he could to cover his back, leaving his legs and hips exposed. There wasn't enough of the blanket to cover his face, let alone his shoulders, which was what he wanted to do to try and tune out everyone.
He could hear the whispered conversation between his therapist and doctor. He heard Martin leave and Janet's footsteps approached after a moment. He swallowed convulsively, trying to ease the lump in his throat.
"Daniel, are you all right?"
Janet was standing beside his bed, and Daniel simply nodded, not looking at her. "I'm fine. I'm just tired." He was amazed his voice came out sounding close to normal. Hoarse, but normal.
"Don't you want to take a shower?"
He turned to look up at her in confusion when he realized why he was chilled. His clothes were damp with sweat, and he could smell himself. But just the thought of getting back out of bed was too much. He was afraid he'd see Jack again if he were moved through the infirmary. And at the same time, he was afraid that he'd miss Jack if he came looking for him here.
"Later? I'm really tired." This time he sounded shaky, his voice sounding hoarser and thicker than the normal cough-irritated tone.
"Let me at least get you some dry scrubs."
"Just leave them there. I'll change when I shower."
Janet looked up past him for a moment, then smiled down at him. "Okay, later. I'll let you rest for a while." She reached down, untangled the blanket by lifting his injured leg out of the way, and pulled it up so he could bunch it around his chin.
"How's your leg? Do you need something for the pain?"
Daniel shrugged. He often welcomed the burning agony in his leg, only because it helped take the focus off the pain in his heart. But Janet's pills always helped ease both types of pain, and the slight stupor it left him with sometimes helped make him forget his loss. Not thinking was easier, not remembering was even better. He wanted to sleep. He needed to sleep. He just wished he could forget.
Janet stepped away from the bed for a moment and returned, handing him a glass of water and a tiny paper cup with two pills in it. He swallowed the medication and the water, then handed both empty containers back to her. He huddled back under the blanket, reaching one hand down to his thigh and laying his fingers over his throbbing wound.
"Daniel, do you want to talk—"
"I'm tired," he repeated.
"Okay." Her voice was soft and he knew he'd hurt her. He closed his eyes, hating himself for being so weak, for hurting others, and for needing Jack so much. He felt his breathing quicken as Janet pulled the privacy curtains around his bed.
The curtains hadn't been fully drawn when he felt the first teardrop slide down his face to pool against the side of his nose. Irritably, he wiped it away. Tears wouldn't bring Jack back to him. He'd only imagined him out there, hadn't he? He felt another tear follow the same path, then a third. Jack hadn't followed him here, so he couldn't be real. He sniffed softly, his nose already stuffed up.
But he'd seen Jack, hadn't he? And Sam? And Teal'c? Maybe he was delirious, maybe his pneumonia was back and he'd just hallucinated seeing them all. Because if they really were here, shouldn't he be feeling overjoyed?
Another tear fell, this one taking another track and sliding down his chin.
He couldn't take the pain of losing Jack. Not again. Not this time. Not any time in the future.
The soft questioning voice surprised him, but Daniel didn't open his eyes. The tears simply fell faster, his breath hitching as he fought for control. He felt a gentle touch on his cheek, and that was all it took for him to lose it. He turned his face into his pillow to muffle his sobs; giving into the misery that he'd held at bay all the time he'd thought Jack and his team was dead.
- - - - - -
Jack stood hesitantly by the edge of the bed, watching Fraiser hand Daniel some medication. He took the time to really look at Daniel, and realized then that Daniel wasn't as gaunt as he'd first thought. It had been the defeated posture that had given him that impression. Although it was still evident that there had been some weight loss, Jack was relieved to see that it wasn't as bad as he'd first believed.
Fraiser spoke softly with Daniel a moment, then reached back and began pulling the privacy curtain around the bed. As she passed Jack, she squeezed his arm before finally shutting it behind her with a deft pull, leaving Jack alone with Daniel away from the prying eyes of the security camera.
He didn't know what to say to Daniel, afraid that if he opened his mouth, Daniel would pull away from him again. He moved slowly to the foot of the bed, watching as he lay huddled beneath the blanket, all but hiding from the world.
But at the sight of Daniel's fingers slipping out to wipe a tear from his face, Jack found himself rounding the bed to sit beside him, and reached out to gently caress his cheek.
Half expecting Daniel to turn towards him and give him that half-embarrassed smile Jack was so fond of, he was shocked instead when Daniel turned his face into the pillow to hide the sound of his anguish. Afraid of scaring Daniel while trying to comfort him, he simply let his hand rest against the back of Daniel's head.
Too soon, the gasping breaths turned into wet choking coughs. Unable to control his breathing, Daniel lay helplessly gasping, coughing and sobbing.
The curtain moved and he saw Fraiser standing in the opening, watching and waiting. Jack tried to sit Daniel up, thinking it would help ease his breathing. But Daniel was a dead weight, refusing to bend. Jack thought it wasn't so much from weakness as a wish to stay under the comfort of his blanket. Then after one more achingly painful-sounding cough, the spell ended.
Jack stopped trying to pull Daniel up, only to find that Daniel was holding tightly onto his hand. He had returned to his previous position, his face partly hidden in the pillow, but had dragged Jack's hand beneath his cheek. Tears, sweat and saliva leaked onto Jack's palm.
He leaned over and gently rubbed Daniel's back. Slowly the wheezing breaths eased, the tight hold on his fingers loosened, and the tense muscles beneath his circling touch relaxed. He waited several minutes, and once he was sure Daniel was asleep, he straightened up and gently pulled his captured hand away from Daniel's grasp. He wiped Daniel's mouth with the back of his hand, then wiped his hand on the edge of the bed.
Fraiser moved into the cubicle and checked Daniel's breathing and pulse. "He'll sleep for a few hours." She adjusted the blanket so it was clear of his nose and mouth.
"What the hell happened to him?" Jack fought the need to lash out at someone, anyone, for Daniel's condition. Still, deep down, he knew this wasn't Fraiser's fault, and a part of him was thankful that the need to speak quietly kept him from shouting his fury at her.
She sighed. "I wish you had waited for me first before going looking for him."
"To what, prepare me for the fact that he's an emotional wreck?"
"No, Colonel, to prepare Daniel for the fact that you didn't die. He's been through hell these past weeks and..." She ran a hand through her hair, then shook her head. "Look, this isn't the place to discuss this. I'll give you five minutes with him, then I need to do your physical." Without waiting for a reply, she turned and left Jack alone with the one person he had never expected to find at the SGC.
That thought reminded Jack that Daniel *was* alive. Living and breathing, lying in the bed, fast asleep. Okay, granted, it was a drugged sleep, but at least Jack knew Daniel wasn't feeling any pain at the moment. Or anguish.
Taking advantage of the privacy, he leaned down and nuzzled Daniel's cheek, inhaling Daniel's scent. But what he smelled wasn't spices and coffee; Daniel's own unique smell was overlaid with illness, sour sweat and harsh chemicals. Still, Jack kissed the warm, salty skin. "I love you," he whispered into the ear near his lips.
Daniel mumbled something unintelligible in his sleep. Jack laid his forehead against Daniel's temple and took a few seconds to simply absorb the fact that Daniel really was here. That the weeks he'd thought him dead was now just a nightmare, a memory he could simply shrug off instead of actually living it.
They'd deal with whatever other problems Daniel was experiencing together.
He moved away from the bed reluctantly and opened the curtains up, allowing the security cameras to view once again the slumbering form within. With a last glance at Daniel, he left the private room and went looking for Fraiser.
He found her waiting for him in the main infirmary, talking with Carter and Teal'c. She joined him and he slipped his jacket off and offered her his arm, knowing the routine by heart. She started by taking his blood pressure and pulse.
Her words surprised him.
"That was the first time he's allowed himself to grieve." She spoke quietly, and Jack knew their conversation wouldn't carry to the other beds where Teal'c and Carter were undergoing a similar battery of tests. "He's been holding everything inside, withdrawing from everything and everyone."
"Daniel's like that. You need to nag him a little in order to—"
"I know that, Colonel. But on top of trying to cope with the loss of his team, he's also had to fight two very serious infections. At one point we thought he might lose his leg."
Jack stiffened at her words. Despite Hammond's earlier explanation in the Gateroom, Jack had never realized the extent of Daniel's illness.
"But he was walking earlier—" His words were interrupted as Fraiser popped a thermometer into his mouth.
"Yes, he was. And he should have started therapy several days ago. But he's been refusing to make any sort of effort and—" She glared at Jack as he raised a hand to remove the thermometer from his mouth. "His appetite is almost non-existent and I've threatened him with a naso-gastric tube if he doesn't begin to put on weight."
She took the thermometer out of his mouth and Jack licked his lips. "I didn't realize it was that bad... I... Will he...?"
"With therapy, Daniel will make a complete recovery. What you saw today was a combination of weakness, apathy and depression. I told him two days ago that I'd have no choice but to consult with Doctor MacKenzie if he didn't try and make an effort. That, at least, got him up out of bed and into rehabilitation."
"But now that we're back, surely—"
"Colonel, maybe I haven't been clear. Daniel's been through so much that the least little bit of stress can put him over the edge. You saw him just now..." She took a tray of empty vials and moved them onto the bed. "Stress is a funny thing – winning the lottery can be just as hard on a person as losing a spouse. When Daniel finally was well enough to be told that SG-1 had been... lost, it was long after we'd held a memorial service for you. Everyone here had moved on, and Daniel was just beginning to mourn.
"Saying Daniel was devastated would be an understatement." Fraiser began drawing blood, her movements gentle but efficient despite the tension in her body. "He blamed himself and refused to talk about it. I tried to get him to open up, so did Major Ferretti, Nyan and even General Hammond. But Daniel just clammed up and... he was very weak, and in a lot of pain. I was very concerned." She finished with the blood samples and directed Jack to hold a cotton swab over the puncture wound. "I still am."
"So you think our being back might make it worse for him?" Suddenly Jack realized that Daniel had been dealing with his pain by himself, and that he might have to continue doing so alone.
"No, not necessarily."
Jack sighed in relief. "But you said that seeing us was stressful."
"Yes. We need to give Daniel time to adjust to the fact that you're alive. He needs to make the first move, to set the pace."
"So, what? We wave to him from the hallway? Talk to him over the phone? Wait till he invites us to sit down with him for dinner? Or do we just keep out of sight until you give us the all clear?"
Fraiser glared at Jack, and he glared back. What he'd been hearing wasn't good, and he just wanted to go out and hit something.
She turned her back, giving him privacy and time to compose himself.
"Daniel needs you," she said after a few seconds, and Jack didn't miss that she'd deliberately stressed the last word, "now more than ever. I'd suggest there be one of you around him as much as possible, even if it's just sitting in a corner when he's awake. Give him time, let him come to you, Colonel. Just be there for him."
"That's what I'd planned on doing." Jack lay back on the bed and allowed Fraiser to finish her physical.
"I know how exhausted you all are."
And they were. They'd had to traipse over what had felt like half the continent to get back to the Stargate. The destruction from the rains had been extensive, and they'd had to skirt the area and go miles out of their way, only to find after days of travelling, they'd come to a large body of water and had had to turn back and retrace their steps. It had been an exercise born of frustration, grief and endurance.
"But after a day or two if you feel up to coming in and—"
"I'm not going anywhere."
"Sir, you need to rest and—"
"I can rest here. Look, you know there's no way I'm going to be able to go home and sleep now that I know Daniel's..."
Fraiser was silent as she finished her examination. Finally she told Jack he could get dressed.
"I don't want you spending the nights in his room. You will get quality sleep in a bed as opposed to a chair, or else I'll banish you from visiting until I'm satisfied that you're recovered." She raised a hand at Jack's objection. "Colonel, need I remind you that you and your team have also been undergoing strenuous circumstances? You've lost weight, and you're exhausted, and you've just had a shock. If you think you'll have trouble sleeping, I can prescribe something to help with that. But I'm laying down the ground rules right here, right now. It's bad enough that Daniel's fought me all the way, I don't need you or the rest of SG-1 butting heads with me also."
"Send Carter home." Jack could still picture the exhaustion visible in his 2IC's face and posture as they'd trudged up to the DHD only... God, was it only such a short time ago? "Teal'c's fine. He and I can take turns with Daniel until Carter's gotten a few days of R&R."
"She's not going to like it."
Carter was going to object, big time. But if he was tired; he knew she was just as exhausted. He didn't want to have to worry about Daniel without having to worry about her also.
"Like you said, doc. It's easier if I only have one person to worry about. If I know she's home resting..."
"Sir, you should take your own advice."
He shook his head and spoke softly. "You know as well as I do that I won't be able to relax until I can take Daniel home." He just prayed that the man he would be taking home wouldn't be the shell of the man he had lost five weeks ago.
"Yes, sir. I understand completely," she said with a sad smile.
- - - - - -
Jack watched apprehensively as Daniel slowly came awake. For a few moments he stared at nothing, then his gaze shifted and fell on Jack. He stared, blinked, moved on to look at something else, then returned to Jack. He did that several times, as if he wasn't quite awake and thinking Jack might just be an illusion or a figment of his imagination.
Fraiser had said to let Daniel set the pace, but Jack decided to try and nudge him a little.
Daniel quickly turned his gaze away from Jack, as if his speaking out loud had finally made Jack real and by ignoring him, he could pretend Jack wasn't there.
Resolutely, Jack forged ahead.
When Daniel licked his lips, face still averted, Jack got up and filled a glass from the water pitcher. He grabbed a straw, pulled the chair he'd been sitting on closer to the bed, and brought the drink close to Daniel's mouth. Daniel hesitantly looked at Jack before taking a sip, then quickly drained the water.
Jack placed the empty glass beside the bed, reached for the call button and pressed it, and then grabbed the controls and raised the head of the bed.
The door opened and a nurse stuck her head in.
"Oh, you're awake, Doctor Jackson." She smiled at both Daniel and Jack. "I'll be right back with your supper."
Jack seated himself in the chair again, watching Daniel trying to ignore him, and failing. "I'm sorry about earlier," Jack said when Daniel looked towards Jack's right knee. "We shouldn't have barged into the gym like that." Daniel's gaze moved to Jack's hip. "But when Hammond told us you were here, well, we just had to come and see for ourselves that you were really okay." Daniel's gaze flicked left, then came back to stare at the wall right behind Jack's right shoulder.
"We thought you'd died, Daniel."
Daniel met Jack's gaze for a second before moving back to the wall.
"We saw that wall of water take you down and... we almost didn't make it ourselves. We ran for high ground and managed to get onto the cliff face. You remember the cliff, don't you?"
Jack paused, waiting for a reaction but Daniel continued to stare at nothing.
"We climbed up to the top and then got stuck up there for over two days before the water level receded enough for us to try and climb back down. But the force of the water had taken a good portion of the cliff with it so we had to climb back up and detour around. It took us all this time to make it back to the 'gate."
Jack cursed inwardly at the damned lousy luck that had forced them to take cover in a spot where they hadn't been able to take advantage of their higher vantage point. They had never noticed when the Stargate had activated, having been relying on hearing chatter through their radios if an S&R team was ever sent through to look for them.
The arrival of supper stopped further conversation as the nurse placed a tray on Daniel's roll away table. With a shy smile, she handed Jack a cup of coffee and a piece of pie.
"Doctor Fraiser mentioned you could do with some fattening up," she said as Jack pulled the plastic wrapping from the pie. "I remembered you liked pecan so I took the liberty."
"Thank you," Jack said with a smile, mouth full of pie. Jack followed the bite of sweet treat with a sip of coffee, then glanced over at Daniel, who hadn't even bothered to remove the warming cover from the plate.
"Let's see what you've got," Jack said as he put his dessert aside and revealed Daniel's meal. "Mashed potatoes, chicken, gravy, carrots and peas. Not bad." He pushed the roll away table closer to Daniel and watched as Daniel listlessly picked up his fork and dragged it through the steaming potatoes.
By the time Jack finished the pie, Daniel had taken three small mouthfuls of potato, ignored the vegetables and had nibbled on a single bite of chicken. When he put his fork down and pushed the table away, Jack sighed.
"Daniel, you have to eat."
In response, Daniel simply closed his eyes and turned his head away from Jack.
"Look, it can't be that bad." Jack leaned over and speared a piece of chicken on his fork and scooped up a bit of the mashed potatoes. The food was bland, as he'd expected, but it was filling.
"If you want, I'll ask someone to heat it up."
Daniel continued to ignore him and Jack could understand now why Fraiser had been worried.
"Look, Fraiser said if you didn't eat, she'd have to put that naso-gastro thing in." Jack pointed to his nostril, indicating where the tube would be. They'd all had experience with being fed that way over the past years, and they'd do almost anything to not have to go through it again. "I wish I could help you there, Daniel, but you've got to eat something," Jack added in exasperation.
"You remember how that thing feels going down your throat, how it makes you want to gag? And how your stomach fills up even though you didn't eat anything? And having to talk around it... you feel like you constantly need to clear your throat, because something's there, but—"
In what could be called a fit of pique, Daniel grabbed his fork and shovelled a large amount of mashed potatoes into his mouth. He glared at Jack and chewed the food, swallowing in one bite more than he'd already eaten. He speared a piece of chicken and chewed that almost defiantly. Jack tried not to wince, the food had cooled and the chicken congealed.
Daniel scooped up several pieces of carrots and began chewing. But this time, as he swallowed, Jack saw him hold back the urge to vomit. His breathing sped up for a moment, but when he seemed to have himself under control, he impaled more chicken on his fork.
Jack grabbed the fork and pulled the tray away from him, ignoring Daniel's glare.
"Look, it's one thing to have no appetite, it's another to try and eat when you're nauseous. Have you told Fraiser about this?"
Daniel's pursed lips were answer enough to his question. "Damn." Jack stood, bringing the plate of food with him. He stopped by the door when Daniel turned onto his side, facing away from Jack. Suddenly recalling Fraiser's counsel, Jack realized he'd done nothing but nag and cajole Daniel since he'd woken up. So much for sitting back and letting Daniel make the first move.
"Look, I'll just get rid of this and..." He stood staring at Daniel's back. "You gonna be okay? You're not gonna be sick, are you? I can get a basin if you are."
Jack sighed at Daniel's continued silence.
"Okay, I'm sorry. How about I leave you alone for a while? Unless you want me to..." Unsure now what to do, Jack decided it might be best to give Daniel some time alone. He reached back for the doorknob and reluctantly opened the door. "Okay, I'll let you get some rest." He backed out, glancing once more at the stiff back presented to him, and let the door swing shut behind him.
Even before he could think twice about whether he'd imagined the call, Jack stiff armed the door before it could close and popped his head back into the room. Daniel was sitting up, staring apprehensively at the door. When he saw Jack, he seemed to relax. "Stay?"
Jack couldn't help but grin at the request. He hefted the plate in his hand. "I'll just get rid of this. I'll be back in a minute."
He waited until Daniel nodded, then hurried out into the hall. Reaching the main infirmary, he shoved the plate onto the first empty space he found and rushed to Fraiser's office.
"Doc, I think Daniel's suffering from a case of really bad nausea. That's probably why he's not eating. Do you think that..."
"It could very well be his medication." She put down the pen she had been using to write in a chart. "Nausea is a definitely a side effect, but why didn't he..." She pressed her lips together and sighed. "Right."
She stood up and rounded the desk. "I should have seen that myself. I did ask several times if he felt queasy but he's really not been forthcoming with information." Jack followed her up until he reached the doors. "I'll go and get something that'll help with that little problem."
He hurried back and slowed at the door to Daniel's room. Taking a deep breath, he slowly opened it and peered inside. Daniel was lying on his other side, staring towards the door. Jack noted the sweat on his face, and the short, panting breaths.
"I might need that basin," Daniel said in a small voice as Jack went to sit down. He popped back up, looking around for the kidney shaped emesis basin. Seeing one tucked into the corner, he grabbed it and handed it to Daniel. He forewent the chair and sat beside Daniel on the bed. He reached out and gently massaged Daniel's nape, hoping to help ease some of the tension.
A moment later Fraiser entered the room, took one look at Daniel and quickly administered an injection. "This will help with the nausea," she said as she pulled the sleeve of Daniel's sweats back down. "You'll start feeling better in about twenty minutes."
Daniel lay there with the emesis basis tightly clutched in his hands. Jack waited for the inevitable upchucking, but to his surprise, although after a few near calls, Daniel's breathing eased after the prescribed amount of time.
By the time Jack eased the basin from Daniel's lax hands, his lover was dead to the world, fast asleep.
- - - - - -
"All right, Colonel. Your turn."
Jack started as he raised his head from where it had fallen onto his chest. He opened his eyes and blinked the sleep out of them as he looked at Fraiser.
"Our agreement was that you go sleep in a bed. If you're tired enough to fall asleep on a chair, you'll rest that much better lying down."
"It's not that late." He glanced at his watch, surprised to see that he'd lost a couple of hours.
"No, it's not. But Daniel's overdue for a shower, and you'll just be in the way. In any case, Teal'c's been around and he said he's more than willing to spend the rest of the evening here."
Jack was aching to lie down; he'd ignored the aches and pains of his body while his whole attention had been on Daniel. But now that he'd had time to relax, he was feeling the effects of the weeks of constant walking he'd had to endure.
He glanced over at the bed and saw Daniel was awake and watching them. Fraiser noticed this, too, and smiled at Daniel before turning back to Jack. "Five minutes, Colonel. Then I want you out of here."
Jack ran his hand over his face and through his hair, feeling like he was abandoning Daniel.
"Good night, sir," she added as she left the room.
"Looks like I'm being sent to my room." He looked at Daniel, hoping that his having to leave wouldn't upset him.
"You look tired."
"Yeah, I am. Kinda."
"Go to bed."
"You okay with me going?"
A hint of a smile appeared on Daniel's face. "Yeah. I just..."
"Nothing." The smile disappeared, only to be replaced with a frown. "I'll see you in the morning?"
Jack leaned over and placed his palm on Daniel's cheek, and was gratified to see Daniel turn his head into the caress.
Reluctantly, Jack stood and walked to the door, feeling as if this were one of the hardest things he'd had to do in ages. He stopped and looked back. Daniel was watching him and with a strength pulled from deep inside of him, Jack opened the door and left.
- - - - - -
This time it was the coughing that woke Daniel. Although the fits came less and less frequently, they still were painful and difficult to get through. Sometimes it was the pain in his leg that woke him, sometimes it was just the empty hole in his heart.
He finally managed to catch his breath, his head now throbbing nearly as much as his leg.
At least he didn't feel like puking, which in and of itself was a vast relief.
He huddled deep within his blanket, scrubs now damp with sweat from his exertions. He wheezed slightly as he breathed, and he cleared his throat for good measure. He was thirsty, his throat felt scratchy and his chest and ribs ached from their workout.
He heard someone moving around in his room and he waited patiently, knowing that one of the nurses would soon be standing beside the bed with his pain medication and desperately desired water. There were soft whispers, and he tuned them out with an ease of long practice.
As he lay there in the small infirmary bed, his face burrowed beneath the blanket, he realized there was something missing. For days now, he'd wake up with an all consuming sorrow which had more or less taken over his life. He had embraced it, allowed it to speak for him because thinking was too much of an effort.
But his mind was clear today, and despite the discomfort and weakness of his body, it felt like it was raring and ready to go somewhere, to do something, to see someone.
Vague wisps of a dream came to him, and his heart clenched at the remembrance of Jack's touch, the sound of his voice, the look on his face as he spoke to Daniel. Teal'c had been in it too. The dream evoked feelings of warmth, care, and love. All the things he had lost back on that planet, along with the will to keep on living.
But this morning, it felt different. The pain was still there, but it wasn't as sharp as before. There was an element of hope, something that he'd thought he'd never experience again. It puzzled him and he tried to squash it down. He'd had enough pain through loss of loved ones to last him a lifetime. He didn't want to feel anymore, didn't want to care, didn't want to—
"Hey, you awake in there?"
The familiar voice accompanied by a gentle touch to his forehead as the blanket was pulled away from his face startled Daniel. He wasn't dreaming; the pain in his leg was a good enough gauge to let him know when he was and when he wasn't. He blinked up in surprise at the smiling face, brown eyes shining with love.
He uttered the name even before his mind told him this couldn't be real. It had to be a dream, an on-going nightmare that was continuing from the day before.
"Yeah." Jack sat down on the bed, offering Daniel a glass of water and a little paper cup with his meds in it. "Fraiser said to let you sleep in, but it's past time for your pills, and your breakfast."
Daniel snuck a hand from beneath the blanket and took the pills, grateful to see his hand wasn't shaking. Jack's skin was warm as Daniel's fingers brushed his. He took the meds and swallowed the cool water. As he lay back on the pillow, he slowly came to realize that this wasn't a dream. Jack really was here.
The feelings of loss and emptiness eased a little bit as Jack smiled at Daniel. There was movement off to the side and before he could do more than blink, a nurse was placing a breakfast tray in front of him and Jack was raising his bed. He stared at the food and was surprised when for the first time in weeks, his stomach growled its appreciation.
- - - - - -
"I can do this." Daniel spat the words out as he clung determinedly to the bars, ignoring the searing pain in his thigh and the way his whole body shook with the effort of staying on his feet.
"You've done more than enough today, Doctor Jackson. Come on, I've got your chair. Let me take you back to the infirmary."
He hated Martin's use of a soft, supposedly calming tone of voice. Instead, it irritated him that the man, who only yesterday had been cajoling Daniel to walk a little farther, was now trying to get him to stop.
Sweat dripped down his cheek, irritating and distracting him. He wanted to rub the perspiration from his face against his shoulder but any attempt at moving right now would surely land him a place on the floor. He'd done that yesterday; collapsing once in front of Jack was embarrassing enough. He'd be damned if he'd give in to his body's weakness now. Especially since he knew now Jack was watching him.
His fingers were on the verge of cramping, so tightly was he holding onto the wooden poles. Panting and grimacing, teeth clenched so tightly that his jaw ached, Daniel dragged the heavier weight of his brace-clad leg forward. He could feel the injured muscles and ligaments protesting; the earlier warm up and stretching exercises had loosened his limb up, but the exercise was now causing it to tighten in overuse.
Jack's voice was right beside him and Daniel knew that the hand gripping his arm was Jack's, and not the therapist's. Breathing hard, Daniel took his eyes off his feet and looked at him.
"I can do this, Jack," Daniel repeated. "I can walk the length and back one more time."
"I know you can." The hand squeezed his bicep gently. "But you'll be so exhausted that you won't be able to do this tomorrow. You need to pace yourself."
He realized that Jack's words made sense, and finally, he nodded his acquiescence. Jack and the therapist slowly guided Daniel back and despite the huge efforts he'd thought he'd made in walking forward, Daniel realized he'd barely moved a foot in distance.
When he let go of the bars to sit in the chair, his whole body collapsed backwards and he was grateful for their hold on him. As his injured leg was eased onto the foot rest, he realized how exhausted he was. Without a word, he was wheeled back into the infirmary and he succumbed to the embarrassing requirement of a nurse-assisted shower.
He barely remembered being helped into bed. His last memory was that of Jack leaning over him and telling him to sleep.
- - - - - -
The rest of the day was spent in a miasma of drug-induced haze. His leg ached abominably, his body was heavy and tired, his stomach now complaining again at the sight of food. He'd been thoroughly medicated and he slept fitfully, never falling into a deep, restful slumber. He heard Jack and Janet arguing outside his room at one point. Most of their words didn't get past the door, but the tone of their voices was clear as crystal.
When Jack entered, Daniel could see that he looked almost as bad as Daniel felt. He realized suddenly that he'd been selfish. Jack was exhausted and needed to go home. As much as Daniel needed him here, Jack needed to be somewhere else. And he realized that was what Janet had been arguing with Jack about.
But Daniel just couldn't bring himself to send him away. And that admission was killing Daniel with guilt. If he'd been physically able to, Daniel would have gone right back to the gym and forced his body to get stronger, so he could go home with Jack. Instead, he ended up withdrawing into himself to escape the shame of his need.
- - - - - -
By the middle of the sixth day, Jack couldn't stand seeing Daniel go through the constant ups and downs, nearly coming out of his shell at times, only to retreat back inside for reasons Jack still couldn't comprehend.
Still, he getting stronger every day and was struggling to walk just a little farther at each session. He did so with such fierce determination and strength of will that both Jack and Martin Chandler, the therapist, had to fight with Daniel and force him back into the wheelchair long before Daniel himself was ready to. The sessions seemed to exhaust Daniel and would set the tone for the remainder of the day. So after discussions with Chandler and Fraiser, they had changed Daniel's therapy sessions to late afternoons rather than the early mornings.
At the moment, Daniel was sitting in the wheelchair in a posture very similar to the one Jack had first seen when he'd returned to Earth. Nobody knew what was going on inside that incredible mind of Daniel's, and Daniel wasn't sharing his fears and doubts. And to be fair, neither of them had had any time alone to talk. There was always a nurse or a doctor, or a patient or a camera that was within eyeshot or earshot of them.
One of Jack's own worries was that Daniel wouldn't be able to pull himself out of this funk. Fraiser had brought up counselling once again, and Jack was beginning to think she was right. The irony of everything was that with the progress Daniel was making, he'd most likely be physically strong enough to go home today or tomorrow. It was his mental attitude that was going to keep him here.
Jack had had enough with this place. He needed a break from Daniel's unresponsiveness and sullenness. He needed to see the sky, some sun, get some fresh air. He needed to hear the wind and—
If he felt such a need for these things after having been cooped up underground for only a few days, imagine how Daniel must feel? He'd been stuck inside for months, literally. How could he have been so stupid?
Daniel had jumped at the sudden expletive but didn't turn to see why Jack had gotten upset. Jack decided he needed to talk to Fraiser, make some plans.
"Hey." He got up and walked around the chair so that he was facing Daniel. "I'm going to take off, there are a couple of things I just realized I have to take care of."
Daniel glanced quickly at Jack before staring down at his hands.
"I'll be going home afterwards. Will you be okay by yourself tonight?"
After a moment of hesitation, Daniel simply shrugged. Jack swallowed hard at the downcast expression on Daniel's face. "I'll be back tomorrow morning, okay?"
Mindful of the security camera and wishing he could take Daniel into a hug, and then kiss that dejected look right off his face, Jack had to settle for squeezing Daniel's shoulder. Maybe if he could set this up right, he and Daniel might just be able to have a bit of quiet time together tomorrow.
- - - - - -
"Jack, this isn't the way to the gym." Daniel glanced around as Jack propelled the wheelchair towards the second set of elevators.
Daniel berated himself for not having paid attention to their surroundings. He'd missed Jack dreadfully yesterday after he'd left, and had been feeling sorry for himself ever since. Even when Jack had showed up a few minutes ago, Daniel hadn't been ready to admit the reason behind this particular bad mood. But the change in routine had been enough to bring him out and talking.
"I thought we were going for my therapy..."
Jack stopped the wheelchair beside the guard's desk and signed them both out.
"Oh. But isn't the gym in this direction...?" He pointed downwards with a finger.
"It's a surprise."
"There's a surprise outside?"
"No, the actual surprise is you going outside." Jack pushed the wheelchair out of the building and headed towards a familiar clump of trees.
The sun was shining and its warmth felt wonderful against his bare arms and face. The air smelled of pine and earth, and he inhaled deeply. There was a gentle breeze blowing, rustling the leaves overhead. He could hear the sound of birds chirping along with voices of nearby people who were taking a break.
As they got closer to the wooded area, Daniel knew Jack was heading for a small path that meandered through the woods around the mountain. He'd taken the path often enough when he needed to come outside for a breath of fresh air.
Teal'c stepped out of the shadows of the trees and inclined his head at Jack's greeting. His eyes shone as they fell upon Daniel. He couldn't help but smile back. It felt wonderful to be outside.
Teal'c handed Daniel his cane. "Doctor Fraiser believes that today's excursion may replace your therapy session." Daniel looked down the small uneven path in apprehension, with its many roots and branches ready to trip him.
"We're not going far," Jack assured him as he lowered the footrests on the wheelchair. "It'll be a piece of cake." He helped Daniel stand and then moved so he could help support Daniel. Slowly, they began making their way into the wooded area.
Jack was right. Although still unsteady on his feet, he'd been walking with the cane for a few days now. The going wasn't hard as long as they took it slow. They stopped about fifty feet into the woods and then moved off the trail. Then, in a large clearing completely hidden from the path were Janet and Sam, sitting on a couple of blankets spread over the ground, and a picnic basket tucked off in the corner.
"Daniel!" Sam rushed over to him and hugged him hard. He dropped the cane and wrapped both arms around her. Although she'd been to visit him twice already, each time he'd been too self-absorbed to appreciate her company. Right now, his mood was as light as the sunshine.
"Sam." As he held onto her, he realized this was the first time he had actually touched someone other than holding onto them for support, and vice versa. He and Jack had had no time together, and other than a few simple touches, there had been no other gestures of intimacy. There had just not been any privacy anywhere. And he realized now how much he craved their touch.
He raised his head and looked for Jack, and saw him smiling indulgently at him and Sam. Daniel grinned, and loosened his hold on her. With their help, he got down onto the blanket. To his surprise, Jack sat down behind him and pulled him between his legs to rest against his chest.
"Don't worry. We'll hear if anyone comes this way. Just relax and enjoy."
"What about my therapy?"
"You just did it."
Daniel realized that they had covered quite a bit of territory. "Oh." He smiled. And for once, he was feeling fairly good. Tired, but good. He let his head fall back and he looked at Jack's upside down visage. He was rewarded with a quick kiss. He felt his smile turn into a grin.
Daniel inhaled deeply again and sighed. "Yeah."
"Starving." He eagerly took the plate that Sam and Janet fixed for him. It felt wonderful to be outside, and even better to be able to relax completely in Jack's presence amongst his friends. He knew right then that part of his alienation from everyone had been the loss of familiarity. He had longed for the reassurance of Jack's touch when he had thought Jack to be dead. But even upon Jack's return to him, the simple gestures they could get away with just weren't enough to fill the longing in him.
This... this was exactly what he needed. The meal was relaxed and they bantered and teased; it was like old times. Daniel could feel some of the fears he'd held since his team's return begin to disappear and the tension melted out of him. They were alive; they were here to stay.
He leaned back against Jack. Jack's arms closed tightly around his chest and Daniel laid a hand possessively against Jack's thigh.
He was content. He'd never thought to ever feel like this again. Even after Jack and the others' return, he hadn't been sure if he'd be able to open up to them again and allow them into his heart in the fear that something would happen to them and he'd get hurt all over again.
And Jack, he realized, was just as happy to be relaxing here with Daniel and their friends. He could hear and feel happy sighs beneath his back, and Daniel revelled in the soft kisses Jack kept planting on his head and face. It wasn't like Jack to be so demonstrative in front of everyone, even though they all knew of, and fully sanctioned, their relationship. That alone told Daniel how much Jack had needed this too.
But he realized that loving came with a price. To give so deeply of oneself meant that a piece of you died when and if something happened to the recipient of your soul. But it worked both ways. If something should happen to Daniel, Jack would be just as hurt.
And realizing Jack was so content now reminded him that Jack had suffered a blow to his soul, like Daniel, even though he'd never spoken to him much of his feelings when he'd been stuck on the planet, thinking Daniel dead. Daniel's own pain had kept blocking out the fact that Jack also been through hell.
So he'd been wavering over his decision these past days, the thought of having to choose throwing him deeper into depression. But this, this was what he'd be missing if he chose not to embrace life again. He had to decide… did he want to take the chance once again of getting hurt this way sometime in the near future?
Jack nuzzled Daniel's neck and planted a gentle kiss against his jaw.
You bet he did!
He watched the leaves fluttering in the trees, the green vibrant against a vivid blue sky. A fly buzzed nearby, interested in the remains of their meal. He closed his eyes, feeling a peace so deep he thought he would cry.
- - - - - -
Full, tired and comfortable, Jack wasn't surprised that Daniel slipped into a deep, easy slumber so quickly. What had surprised him was the total relaxation of his lover as they had sat talking and eating. Not once in the past several days had Daniel engaged in conversation so easily. His appetite seemed to be back, and everyone had noticed that he hadn't required any kind of painkillers despite the somewhat difficult terrain he'd crossed.
It had been wonderful to have held Daniel in his arms again. Right now said wonder was fast asleep on the blanket, sandwiched between Jack and Carter. Jack glanced at his 2IC and noted she looked much better, the days off having done her a world of good. Jack knew he was nowhere close to recovered, the long days and sleepless nights worrying over Daniel having taken a toll on him.
When Fraiser began packing the lunch stuff up, Jack made to help her but she waved him away. "Just make sure you bring the blankets back with you," she whispered. "Teal'c offered to play guard duty, so you shouldn't be disturbed for a couple more hours." She smiled indulgently at Daniel's slumbering form. "Looks like he really needed this." She turned her gaze to Jack. "Maybe you both did."
Several minutes later, everyone had gone, leaving Jack alone with Daniel.
The opportunity was too good to waste, so he slid down alongside Daniel and plastered himself against him. He nestled his face into Daniel's neck, noting that Daniel smelled of fresh air, cotton and shampoo.
A grasshopper serenaded Jack to sleep.
- - - - - -
Warm, wet nibbles teased at Jack's mouth. A hand fingered his hair, another slid along his chest and abdomen.
Jack's eyes flew open and met Daniel's gaze. Bright blue eyes stared down at him before Daniel lowered his head again. He eagerly met Daniel's kiss, passionately welcoming his lover home. He slid his hands along Daniel's ass and legs, pulling him closer until his fingers touched upon the brace Daniel still wore to help protect the damaged ligaments.
Daniel pushed his length against him and Jack was surprised to feel Daniel's hardening erection against his thigh. He'd thought that with the meds and fatigue and... hell, as much as he wanted to make love to Daniel right now, it was just too chancy to risk. And in any case, Teal'c was out there... somewhere close by.
Reluctantly, Jack pulled away. "We can't, Daniel. It's too risky. Too many people around." To emphasize his point, they heard a car horn in the distance and someone called out a greeting.
Daniel laid his forehead against Jack's chest, obviously disappointed.
"How about I talk Fraiser into letting you come home tonight?"
Daniel raised his head, staring at Jack with a hopeful expression. "You're not teasing me, are you?"
"She said you were strong enough, it was just the fact that..."
"I've been a little out of it?"
"That's putting it mildly."
He stared at Jack earnestly, with no sign of embarrassment or sadness.
"Are you still?"
"Am I what?"
"At the moment, yes. I had some growing plans that seem to be disappearing as I speak." He turned onto his back, sighing deeply.
Jack laughed and Daniel threw his hand out, aiming for Jack's ribs, tickling him.
"Hey, cut that out." Jack raised himself onto his elbows, pulling his tee shirt back down over exposed skin and looked at Daniel. "Seriously, Fraiser made an appointment for you to see MacKenzie."
"I'm not surprised. I guess it's high time I get that over with."
"You're not upset over it?"
Daniel paused, then glanced at Jack. He sat up and winced. He rubbed his thigh absently through the support as he spoke. "Yesterday, I might have been. This morning, I'd have dreaded the thought. Right now... I know I can't keep going the way I was. I love you, Jack," he said earnestly. "I need you, and I can't be any good to you when I'm this confused."
"You're not confused."
"I was... I'm not now. I know exactly what I want – I think maybe I do need to talk it over with someone—" Daniel reached up and put a finger to Jack's mouth when he went to object. "I need to talk to someone who'll know whether I'm really over this. I was so afraid of the thought of losing you again, that I think I didn't want to live."
Daniel's confession was so close to Jack's earlier sentiments when he'd thought Daniel dead, that it spooked him. Daniel had experienced so much trauma and loss in his life, that Jack always expected him to bounce right back. That Daniel loved him with this amount of intensity made Jack almost feel like he was unworthy.
"I want to go home with you. I want to get rid of this," and he slapped the brace, "so I can go back out there with you and the guys. Janet said I should recover completely, and I've wasted so much time, it's not funny. I want to live, Jack. I want to feel again."
Jack reached over and with his thumb, wiped the single tear that slid down Daniel's face. "Come home with me, I'll show you what you've been missing."
- - - - - -
Daniel smiled down at the drowsy and sated man that lay curled in his arms. They had just finished celebrating MacKenzie's declaration that Daniel was doing very well, and had signed Daniel off as being fit to return to work tomorrow.
Which was great news, considering that he'd only needed a few sessions with Doctor MacKenzie since the day he had decided he needed help. And still, he could have saved the SGC the time and money spent on MacKenzie – he'd known he was going to be all right the very same night Jack had brought him home. There had been no hesitation on his part, no sense of wanting to withdraw, no sign of the depression that he had been living with since he'd woken up in the infirmary.
Then of course, they'd spent that night reaffirming their love for one another so he could say that he'd been too content to allow such thoughts back in.
Things were going great; Daniel had lost the brace weeks ago and was on his way to losing the cane. Janet had said with a few more weeks of therapy, Daniel would be good as new. He was going back to work tomorrow, and he was really looking forward to it.
He absently rubbed Jack's hair between his fingers, watching Jack sleep in the dimness of the room. It still scared him sometimes, the thought of losing Jack, especially in the dead of night when he'd wake up and would need to turn to Jack to make sure he was still there.
But he knew that the fear had always been there, albeit at a lower intensity. And he also knew now that Jack harboured a similar fear towards him. The nightmares Jack experienced were an unspoken testament of what Jack must have gone through back on that planet.
But they had beaten the odds, and survived. They were alive; they were together. They were going to be fine.
Author's Comments: Many thanks to Jmas, for trusting in me and publishing this story in her first E-zine 'Ancients Gate I - Jack and Daniel'
If you want to see more of Jmas' ezines, here's her link:
And HUGS to devra for the wonderful alpha - her eagle eye always seems to catch what I miss.
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