The shower water was hot. I had turned it up almost as far as it would go, ruthlessly shampooing my hair and then scrubbing at my skin until it was practically raw from the washcloth, the soap, and the heat. At this rate, I figured I had maybe two more minutes before Jack's hot water heater was empty.
I leaned my forearms onto the tiled wall, my head lowered between my elbows. The water cascaded over me, continuing to scald the back of my head and shoulders.
I needed to feel something. Anything except that yawning emptiness I could sense in my chest.
Janet. My God, Janet was dead. Janet.
How had this happened? Why her and not me? Why had that son of a bitch Jaffa targeted her, a small, innocent woman? A healer. A peacemaker. Why not me? She and I had been just inches apart. For all I knew, I owed my life to his being a bad shot.
And Jack. He'd held me when we'd gotten home earlier, dinner forgotten. For a few minutes he had clung to me, weeping silently into my shoulder, losing it, like I'd never seen him do before.
I had tried to cry along with him, I really had. After all, I'd shed a few tears when I'd been alone, back in the infirmary, but with Jack I hadn't been able to summon a tear. I just tightened my arms around him and tried to comfort him.
Jack had been crying for Janet, for her loss, but I knew he'd also been crying in gratitude, guilty gratitude, that it had been Janet who had been killed and not me. I'd understood that. I'd understood his overwhelming relief to have me in his arms again, alive and well.
He loved me. And I him. We had promised each other forever, but after a day like the one we'd just had, both of us knew we didn't have a clue about forever. The only thing we were sure of was that we loved and needed each other, and all we really had, all anybody really had, was each moment.
When I got out of the shower, he'd be waiting. He'd expect us to make love. I knew that. I wanted that, too. When I got his arms around me and felt his lips, his skin, his heat, his passion, I knew that the empty hollowness in my chest would be relieved. We would turn to each other soon and drive away the darkness for a little while. Jack would make love to me, and I'd be able to feel again.
The water was really getting cold, so in self-defense, I shut off the faucet and stepped out of the shower to abuse my skin some more, rubbing at it with a towel as hard as I could.
My face in the mirror above the sink was blurry in the steamy glass, but I could see the dark circles under my eyes, which were red- rimmed from stress and fatigue. My hair was sticking up on end, so I ran my fingers through it before picking up Jack's blow dryer and getting the worst of the moisture out of it.
I wrapped a towel around my waist and went out into our bedroom, shutting off the lights and fan in the bathroom.
Jack was barefoot, dressed in his sweats and a ratty old Air Force tee, sitting on the edge of our bed.
I was surprised beyond measure to see him holding a soft, tan colored, curly furred teddy bear in his hands. He didn't look at me as I came out of the bathroom. His eyes were on the toy.
I approached him and dropped my towel. I picked up my sweatpants that were lying on the bed and stepped into them. "Who's your friend, Jack?" I inquired gently.
He didn't answer me, just moved his hands a little, squeezing at the teddy's soft body, jostling it around a little. His head was hanging, and he seemed far away.
I slipped on my clean tee shirt and took the two steps to his side. I dropped down on the bed next to him and slipped my arm around his back. Through his shirt, I could feel the tightly wound bandage around his ribs.
"Jack?" I lowered my head onto his shoulder.
"I'm sorry," he said, his voice just above a whisper.
"For what, babe?"
He gave me a small shrug, still looking at the toy in his hands. With a big sigh, he hugged the teddy to his chest with one arm, turned to me a little, and slipped his other arm around my waist.
"I don't know. I just feel sorry." He tried to laugh, but it came out as hoarse and hollow, and he swallowed quickly. "About everything."
He turned his head and kissed me in front of my ear, running his nose into my hair. He left his head there, his warm stubbly cheek pressed against my temple.
We didn't need words, not right then.
Sorry. Yeah, I was, too. Life was so hard sometimes. And both of us had already been through enough loss between us for two lifetimes.
After a couple of minutes, I reached out and ran my hand over the teddy's soft fur. "Who is this?" I murmured.
"That's Mortimer," Jack said quietly, lifting his head. "When you were in the shower, I remembered that I still had him. He's been living in a box in the back of my hall closet for ages." He took a big breath, and we looked at the teddy together.
I smiled at the silly name. "Mortimer?"
Jack nodded. "He was Charlie's," he told me in a small voice. "A gift to Charlie from my Mom when he was born. We always kept Mortimer for 'best' so he didn't get dirty and ragged like most of Charlie's toys. Mortimer lived on a high shelf in his room. And then later, Charlie was all boy. He had no interest in playing with a teddy bear."
Jack shifted around more, bringing one knee up on the bed to face me. I ran a hand up and down his upper arm, up under the sleeve of his tee shirt, my eyes on the bear.
"I don't know why I took him when Sara and I split up. I think I felt sorry for him, the way I was feeling sorry for myself back then. Ol' Mortimer always seemed so lonely, up on his shelf. He had a stupid name, and Charlie wouldn't play with him." Jack shrugged and looked up at me. "Dumb, huh?"
"No," I told him. "Not dumb. I understand."
"Of course you do, Daniel." Jack leaned towards me, putting his hand on the back of my head, and I met his lips in a warm, dry kiss. He gazed into my eyes. "You understand every damned thing about me, don't you?" He caressed my cheek.
I smiled at him. "Well... don't know if that's possible. After all, I didn't know about Mortimer, did I?"
"No," he said. "Even I forgot about him. But I had an idea."
"No!" I teased him. "Really?"
That made him grin at me. "Okay, don't start," he told me. "No, I had an idea of where Mortimer might be happy. The airman that was down when Janet was killed. The one you two were helping?"
"Simon Wells," I reminded him.
"Yeah. Well, I hear his wife is gonna have a baby real soon. And I think I'd like it if you gave Mortimer to the baby. He deserves to not be living in a box anymore."
He handed the teddy to me, as though he were giving me a treasure, laying it in my arms. I took it and gazed into its furry face, with its black button eyes and black nose. It had a plaid ribbon bow around its neck. It really was cute, and like Jack said, totally unloved and unused, and pristinely clean.
"But he was Charlie's," I protested. "Don't you-"
"No," Jack told me. "I-- it just feels right, in my gut. Really." He looked at me intensely, willing me to understand. "Will you--can you-- go to their house and make sure their baby gets Mortimer, when the time comes?"
"Sure, Jack, but why don't you take him there yourself?"
Another small shrug. "Daniel. I have a rep to maintain, y'know." He gave me a sly grin, knowing how stupid his words sounded, especially to me. "It wouldn't do for Colonel Hardass O'Neill to go walking into their house with a teddy bear." He snorted. "What would people think?"
I gathered the teddy to my chest, holding him loosely with both arms. Jack asked so little of me, really. This was a small thing, something I could do for him, even though I didn't totally understand it.
"Of course, Jack, I can take Mortimer over there in a few weeks when the baby is born, after they get settled."
Jack nodded with satisfaction.
I got up to put Mortimer on top of the bureau. When I turned back to Jack, his eyes were on me.
I stood and looked at him. "I love you," I said. And I really did.
He held his arms out to me, and I went to him, to our bed. Tonight was a part of forever. The only part we really had.
|Genres:||Established Relationship, Missing Scene/Episode-Related, Romance|
|Summary:||Life comes full circle as Janet Fraiser dies when baby Janet Wells is about to be born. Jack and Daniel connect after a day from hell. A toy gets a second chance at "life." An episode tag to Season Seven's Heroes Part 2.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
Warm smooshiness abounds. The guys deserve it, what can I say?