He remembered cars in a pocket of his brain. He remembered driving for a long time and seeing hazy mountains rise up in the distance and not being sure if they were real or clouds. He remembered this road Sam was driving him along at the moment.
"Daniel?" Sam reached over and rested her hand on his knee. "You okay?"
He nodded. "Fine. I...I remember this."
"This?" She stopped at a traffic light. "The city, the traffic, what?"
"You turn left at the third light," Daniel said with assurance. "That's the way to Jack's house."
"That's exactly right, Daniel." She smiled at him.
Daniel smiled back. "No, it's left." And he was relieved when she laughed for the joke it was.
The remainder of the drive didn't take long and soon they were pulling into Jack's driveway. Daniel hesitated when he got out of Sam's car.
'Not much of a foundation,' a whisper of a voice said in his brain, but he didn't understand what the words meant. The house looked pretty solid to him. Daniel pulled his bag off the back seat and held it to his chest. He hadn't been out of the SGC since returning to Earth. This feeling of not quite belonging, thought, of walking into new houses with little more than a suitcase, was a familiar one. He'd read his own history on base. Parents killed in a tragic accident when he was eight, a series of foster homes. He supposed that was where the pain came from, buried deep in his psyche. But something else was tugging at him, telling him, even though he wasn't capable of understanding it yet, he'd truly come home.
"Come on," Sam said. She wrapped an arm around his waist, urging him forward. "I'm hungry."
The door was thrown open as they walked up the front walk.
"You're late, Carter. What was the hold up? Have to play with your toys a little while longer?" Jack's words were at odds with his smiling face. The tone was almost joking, and Daniel tilted his head trying to reconcile the words with the expression. He couldn't read Jack yet. Couldn't remember the friendships everyone assured him he had with these people. There was another language at work here, a language he hadn't yet learned to translate.
Daniel looked at Sam wondering if she'd get angry at Jack. He stepped in front of her, deflecting the words to him. "It's my fault, Jack. I wanted to get some books out of my office."
"Hey, chill, Daniel." Jack reached out to circle Daniel's wrist with his hand. "I'm not upset. Just was a little worr...well you know, was wondering where you guys were."
Daniel nodded as he was pulled into the house. He looked around the living room and closed his eyes a moment as images swirled around in his mind superimposing themselves on his vision. Sitting on that sofa, playing chess, drinking a beer and talking about Sha're, watching hockey games and movies, being told that there was no friendship, lying there with his ankle wrapped in ice and drinking a cup of soup.
"You okay?" Jack's voice was low and filled with concern. "Maybe you'd better sit down, you're a little pale."
Daniel nodded and let Jack guide him to the sofa. He sat on it, holding his bag even tighter.
"Here, DanielJackson." Tea'c pressed a glass of ice water into his hands.
"Thank you," he kept one hand wrapped around his bag and held the cool glass with the other. Daniel sipped at it slowly before finally looking up into three concerned faces.
"It was just...um...I think I remembered some things." Daniel found his eyes drawn to Jack's. "About this house. I think I used to come here."
"Yeah," Jack sat down on the coffee table facing him. "Yeah, you did, Daniel. We had some good times."
Daniel smiled back at him wondering why Jack's mouth smiled while his eyes held a hint of sadness.
"I remembered how to get here," Daniel said, unable to keep his eyes fixed on Jack's brown ones. He felt like a child reporting his accomplishments in school.
"You did? That's great, Daniel." Jack's smile turned into a wide grin. "Hey you want to take your bag up to the spare room?"
Daniel nodded and stood, the others ready to catch him if he exhibited the slightest wobble. "Can you show me where it is?"
The grin on Jack's face faded a second before returning. Jack threw an arm over Daniel's shoulders.
"It's a little crowded right now, Daniel, but I cleaned the bed off and there's room for your stuff," Jack explained.
"It's fine, Jack. I really appreciate you, um, you know, taking me in." Daniel stepped inside the room Jack indicated. Crowded was the kind word for the state of the spare room. It was filled with boxes all marked 'Daniel's stuff.'
"This is mine? All mine?" Daniel turned to face Jack after depositing his bag on the bed.
Jack was studying the carpet, rubbing at an apparent spot with his toe. "Well, not all of it. I have some of it in the garage and some in the cellar."
"But why?" Daniel plopped down on the bed taking it all in. "I mean, you didn't need to."
"That's where you're wrong, Daniel." Jack looked very serious and sad. "I did, more than you'll ever know."
"But..." Daniel stopped as Jack held up a hand and shook his head.
"I'm having some stuff delivered for dinner besides grilling the burgers and dogs. You have time to take a short nap if you want to," Jack said. "I know it's been a rough couple of days on you."
Daniel was going to protest that he wasn't in the least tired, but there was too much going on, too many things to think about, and he nodded. "Thanks, Jack. I think I will."
"I'll call you in about an hour." Jack stood in the doorway a moment longer and then left before Daniel could say anything else.
He got up and walked to the door, watching as Jack walked down the hall, wondering why he felt so alone in a house full of people. Daniel sighed and went back to lie down on the bed. The days since his return had been long and he'd been kept busy. Maybe, Daniel thought as he closed his eyes, a few days away from everything would give him time to learn to be himself again. Whoever the hell that was.
Jack excused himself from the dinner preparations. Sam was busy pulling the Chinese food from the bags it had been delivered in. Teal'c was checking on the burgers and hot dogs and the pizza was on the table. He flipped the coffee maker on as he walked past it.
"Sir, you want to eat in here or outside?" Carter faced him with her hands full of plates.
"Outside," Jack decided. "He's been cooped up inside on base or on a ship since we got back. I think it's time Daniel gets to breathe some fresh air." He shooed her out the door and went to wake Daniel.
He stood in the doorway, just watching Daniel sleep, something he hadn't been able to indulge himself in on base. It was right Daniel was back where he belonged with his friends, his family. Daniel was sprawled in a position Jack recognized from countless off-world missions. One arm was flung over his eyes and the other lay limp at his side. Daniel's fingers twitched as he dreamed.
Daniel was alive, he was real, he could be touched. Jack was still amazed by the miracle. He'd never told the others how hard it had been to watch Daniel in pain, dying, and to not be able to gather him into his arms to take away the hurt. And so, because he couldn't provide what Daniel needed, he'd taken the coward's way out and left, unable to say more than how much he admired Daniel. He wasn't good with words. All the words in the world would have never been enough to tell Daniel how he felt about him.
Maybe this was Oma Desala's version of a cosmic joke. Jack couldn't tell Daniel how he felt about him, what Daniel's presence and friendship meant in his life when he'd had the chance, and now Daniel didn't remember that friendship so the point was moot.
Jack threaded through the boxes taking up most of the space in the spare room, making his way to the bed and sitting down on the edge of it. He let his hand hover a moment over Daniel's shoulder, not wanting to disturb his rest, listening to the soft sighs of Daniel's breathing.
Jack shook his head when he realized Daniel had fallen asleep with his glasses on.
"What am I going to do with you, Danny?" he whispered. What he wanted to do was to pull Daniel close into an embrace, keep him safe, make sure he didn't get any ideas about dying or ascending into his head. What Jack did was to reach out and close his fingers around Daniel's shoulder; around muscle and bone and skin; around warm, living flesh.
"Time for dinner, Daniel." Jack shook him lightly, not surprised when Daniel tried to roll away from him, mumbling something about sleep.
"Come on," Jack tapped Daniel's cheek with a finger. "You need to get up and eat."
Daniel's eyes popped open. His breath quickened and his hands came up towards his chest.
"You're at my house," Jack reassured him, helping to ground Daniel in his confusion.
Daniel continued staring at him as he pulled himself into a sitting position. He adjusted his glasses, straightening them and then pushing them up on his nose. "Jack?"
The voice was unsure, so unlike the Daniel of old Jack wondered if Oma Desala had taken more than just memories despite Daniel's demonstrated competence over the past few days.
"In the flesh," Jack said.
Daniel grasped Jack's arm, sliding his hand down to Jack's. Jack remained still, realizing that Daniel's dreams were only now dissipating. Daniel was looking down at their hands, fingers entwined, and he twisted them, turning Jack's hand palm up before withdrawing his own.
"I couldn't touch anyone," Daniel said, clasping his hands together in his lap. "I could see you, but I couldn't touch anyone. No one could touch me." Daniel stared into the corner of the room.
"Daniel?" Jack wasn't sure what was going on. Flashback, memory, or waking nightmare, a wisp from Daniel's time as an Ascended being or from his run-in with the crystal skull.
"I need..." Daniel had curled his hands into fists and was pressing them against his temples. "Jack, I need to remember."
"Give it time." Jack reached up and pulled one hand away before patting Daniel's knee. "You, we have time."
Daniel smiled at him, although the blue eyes remained troubled.
"Come on. Let's get some food in you. That'll help." Jack stood up, offering a hand to pull Daniel up.
"Help?" Daniel followed Jack out the room. "Food will help?"
"Hey it's worth a shot." Jack grinned. "Besides I didn't let Carter cook anything so you'll be safe."
Daniel stopped in the center of the hall, staring at Jack. "Because she burns it. That's what you say, Jack. "Carter, can't you make a decent meal?" and then she says, "I'm an astrophysicist not your personal chef, sir.""
Jack smiled and patted Daniel's shoulder. "That's exactly what we say."
But Jack didn't allow himself to hope too much at the snatches of memory Daniel was exhibiting. Fraiser herself had said although she believed Daniel would eventually regain all his memories from the time before he ascended, she would make no guarantees as to the timetable. Jack had his own theory that the loss of memory from before Daniel's ascension was due to the shock of being back in his own body. It was simply too much for Daniel to take in and absorb all at once. Daniel just needed time to...process.
He let Daniel precede him down the few stairs. Jack needed time to process himself. Daniel was back, and Jack had no idea where he and Daniel stood. When he'd spoken that crap about there not being much of a foundation years ago, he hadn't known it was going to start cracks in what he thought was a pretty solid relationship. Jack wasn't superstitious but maybe he'd jinxed things by saying it. At least he had a second chance now and there was no way in hell he was going to screw things up. The past year had taught him that. It was going to take work and time and Jack was determined no matter how long it took, Daniel would come back to them, to him and if things couldn't pick up where they left off, they could at least start again.
Daniel stepped onto Jack's deck, conscious of the other man right behind him. Sam and Teal'c were already seated at the picnic table laden with food. Sam patted the bench beside her and he sat down and stared. Where had all this food come from? Smells of vaguely familiar spices tickled his nose. The food filled every conceivable type of container Jack must have had in his kitchen. Grains, vegetables and meat swimming in sauces, a thin round of bread covered with some type of red sauce and covered with cheese; he couldn't pull the names of what he saw into his brain. But he remembered feasting. A flash of Jack and Sam sitting with Sha're and him around a low table, Sha're pressing a tidbit into his mouth, her long fingers touching his lips, played before him. A celebration, it appeared, but for what? For him? He meant so much to Sam, Jack and Teal'c they felt the need to have a feast?
"Um, Jack?" Daniel looked up from his perusal of the offerings only to see Jack frowning at him.
"What's the matter, Daniel? I can get you something else if you don't like anything here." Jack appeared to be ready to jump up and cook a gourmet meal if Daniel requested it.
"No, it's not that." Daniel shook his head. "It's just..." He gestured to all the food in bowls, on plates, in baskets. "Do I eat this much?"
He didn't understand Sam's quiet snicker or even Teal'c's smile quickly hidden behind a napkin. But Jack didn't laugh. Jack looked hurt and sad.
"I wasn't sure what you'd want, Daniel." Jack moved his hand to one of the plates. "I ordered some of your favorite foods and thought you could decide."
Daniel swallowed, his throat tight at the kindness Jack showed him. "Thank you, Jack." Daniel found he couldn't look at Jack anymore, confused by the emotions playing in the other man's brown eyes. "I don't know what all of this is." He glanced up briefly and then quickly lowered his head. "I'm sorry."
The silence stretched out into awkward minutes until Jack took a fork in his hand and began pointing to the dishes one by one. "This is Kung Pao Chicken, extra hot, the way you like...liked it. Vegetable Lo-Mein from Chun's Chinese Palace..." Jack paused as if waiting for some revelation from Daniel.
"I'm hungrier than I thought," Daniel said to relieve the tension and then realized it was true. He took the fork Jack offered him and began filling his plate with small portions of everything on the table. His actions broke the silence and the others began loading their plates, Sam started the conversation by talking about some project she was working on with occasional interjections from Teal'c. Daniel tasted his food, flavors he didn't remember exploding on his tongue bringing flashes of other meals, other times seated at this table, other conversations. He let himself be washed away in sensation, in a whirlwind of memories.
"...niel, you want some more?" Jack's voice startled him into dropping his fork.
"What?" Daniel focused on Jack who was holding a platter of hamburgers and hot dogs.
"You okay there?" Jack was frowning, gesturing to Sam to do something.
Sam placed her hand against his cheek and his head was gently turned in her direction until he was looking into her blue eyes. "Daniel? Do you feel okay?"
He nodded, at a loss to explain what had happened. Daniel felt his mouth hanging slightly open and shut it with a snap. He turned away from her looking to Jack, believing of all of them seated at the table Jack would understand what he needed. He didn't know why, the memories still assaulting him were nebulous. Daniel only knew Jack would take care of things while he could not.
Jack tilted his head and then stood, rubbing his hands together. "Let's get this stuff cleaned up. Carter, you want to get the ice cream out of the freezer?"
Daniel hunched his shoulders sloughing off Sam's sisterly pat as she slid off the bench.
"Teal'c, you mind helping me?" Her tone was cheerful, but Daniel knew he'd hurt her by his reaction to her touch.
Teal'c stood and gathered a number of dishes. "I would be most pleased to assist you, MajorCarter."
Daniel rubbed his hands on the sweat pants he was wearing, still staring at his plate. He heard the glass doors slide open and close behind him and only then ventured a glance at Jack.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said. "I don't know what..." he made a circling gesture beside his temple.
"You're not crazy, Daniel," Jack rushed to reassure him. "Confused but not crazy."
"Stressed," Daniel blurted out. "You said it was just stress and then they put me in a white room." He wished he'd kept his mouth shut when he saw pain cross Jack's face at the memory.
"Yeah, they did." Jack rearranged his fork and spoon. "Yeah, a lot of shit happened to you, Daniel. A lot of shit that never should have."
"And to you, Jack," Daniel whispered. "I didn't mean to bring up bad memories."
Jack smiled at him and Daniel felt a flutter he didn't comprehend in his stomach. Jack mattered to him, Daniel knew with certainty even though he felt like he was looking through clouded glass at the past. Jack was someone he could count on.
"No, Daniel. You're remembering. That's a good thing," Jack said. He stood and started gathering the remaining items on the table. Daniel copied his movements, their hands brushing against one another's as they reached for the pitcher of iced tea.
"Sorry," Jack coughed and pulled his hand away. "You get it."
Daniel nodded and lifted the nearly empty pitcher, his fingers warm where Jack's had met his. He followed Jack to the door, sliding it open for Jack who was carrying far more than he was. Daniel put the pitcher on the counter, tangling with Jack once more as they both turned back towards the sink at the same time.
It was his turn to cough and wave a hand in apology.
"Do I do that a lot?" Daniel asked. Jack raised an eyebrow in question. "You know, get in your way?"
"No. You're not in my way, Daniel. Don't let anyone tell you any different." Jack sounded almost angry as he answered the question.
A chill passed through Daniel and he pulled his arms up to his middle, wrapping them around himself for warmth. He was getting a headache and he wanted to be away from these people even though he knew they were his friends. Wanted to go to the room where Jack said he could stay, close his eyes, and pray in the morning things wouldn't be so confusing.
"Hey," Jack was standing next to him jostling Daniel's shoulder with his own. "You look tired. Why don't you go on up to bed?"
"But Sam and Teal'c..." Daniel protested, feeling it was the polite thing to do even though his head was beginning to pound.
"We're going to be leaving, Daniel," Sam said. "I have an early meeting tomorrow and after eating all this food, I don't have room for dessert anyway." She came over to him giving him a hug and kissing his cheek.
He was astonished when Teal'c drew him into a gentle embrace.
"Rest well and dream good dreams, DanielJackson."
"Yes, Teal'c." Daniel didn't move from his position against the counter as Jack walked the other two to Sam's car.
He heard the goodbyes being said and Jack's laugh as he told them to have fun working since he and Daniel had the next three days off, Doctor Fraiser's orders. Daniel wondered how he could have days off since all the paperwork declaring Doctor Daniel Jackson was indeed alive and well wasn't yet completed, but he was grateful for them nonetheless. He felt he hadn't even had time to breathe in the few days he'd been back.
Jack came back into the kitchen and put the ice cream back in the freezer. He pulled a glass out of the cupboard, filled it with water, and handed it to Daniel along with two aspirin.
"Take them." Jack tapped Daniel's hand. "You have a headache."
Daniel obeyed the order and drained the glass. "How did you know I have a headache?"
"Daniel, Daniel, Daniel," Jack sighed. "I've known you a long time. I can tell. Your eyes get scrunchy whenever you start getting a headache."
"Scrunchy, Jack?" Daniel placed the glass in the sink.
"Scrunchy, Daniel. Trust me." Jack nodded. "There's a clean toothbrush for you in the bathroom and towels are under the sink."
"Jack?" Daniel paused halfway across the kitchen. He waited until Jack turned to face him. "Thank you. For... you know."
"Yeah, I know." Jack stared at him for a moment. "Now, go. Get to bed. You'll feel better once you get some rest."
Daniel wished he could be as sure of that last statement as Jack seemed to be.
The hoarse cries had Jack on his feet and down the hall towards Daniel's room before he was fully awake. Jack opened the door to the spare room, letting the light from the hallway filter in, not wanting to alarm Daniel even more.
"Daniel?" Jack searched the darkened room, unable to see Daniel sitting in his bed. He moved the few steps it took to turn on the bedside lamp. The twisted covers and pillows on the floor told the story. If Daniel had had a nightmare it was a doozy.
"Daniel?" Jack spied his friend huddled in the corner tucked under the window sash.
Daniel looked up at Jack, his face crumpling as he noticed someone was there. "Jack? Jack, you're here?"
"Sure am." Jack held his hands out to his sides and moved slowly around the bed towards Daniel. "You mind if I sit down here and keep you company?"
Daniel shook his head and gave a massive shudder. Jack reached up and snagged a blanket off the bed, covering Daniel with it as he sat down beside him on the floor.
There was a nod accompanied by a few harsh breaths.
"You wanna tell me about it?"
That question received a violent head shake, so Jack just sat. Daniel's shivering increased although Jack knew it wasn't caused by the temperature in the room. He used to be good at soothing Daniel's nightmares, certainly had enough practice at doing it over the years. He brought an arm up and placed it around Daniel's shoulders. Daniel sighed and leaned into Jack's side, holding the blanket tight against his chest.
Jack looked at the side of the bed, rubbing his hand up and down Daniel's arm in a familiar gesture of comfort. Jack concentrated on projecting an aura of calm composure, letting Daniel know that he was there for him.
"Thanks," the word was said so quietly Jack almost missed it.
"No problem," Jack answered. "I want to do this." He didn't add he needed to do it. He needed to reassure himself Daniel was there; if Jack threw a shoe at him it wouldn't pass right through him. Jack felt his groin tighten as Daniel's thigh touched his, his visceral reaction to Daniel's presence frightening and at the same time wonderful.
"I dreamed." Daniel hugged his knees tight to his chest. "We were friends."
Jack nodded but felt a crack in his heart as Daniel continued.
"But then we weren't?" Daniel was resting his head on his knees his face turned towards Jack and his face as puzzled as his question had been.
"We had a rough time for awhile, Daniel. We can both be damn stubborn at times."
Daniel continued to study him in unnerving silence until Jack wanted to scream at him. 'What, what do you want me to say, Daniel? Do you want me to tell you I was the one who let you go? Drove you away as well? That I'm scared, have been scared shitless by the way I feel around you?' But Jack said nothing, just sat and listened to the clock ticking on the night table, Daniel's breathing, and the sound of his own swallowing.
" You stupid son of a bitch," Daniel said, expressionless and then straightened up a moment later, startled at his comment.
"Sometimes I am, Daniel," Jack said, taking in the confused look. 'Oh, God, forgive me, sometimes I am.' Jack stared at his hands resting loosely in his lap.
"There's so much in here." Daniel rubbed at his head. "I can't get it to stop. I want it to stop."
"Here." Jack got to his feet, stretching out a hand for Daniel to grasp, secretly pleased when Daniel took it without hesitation. "I have the perfect thing for that."
"Make it stop for awhile?" Daniel still clutched the blanket around himself like a robe as he followed Jack down the stairs.
"Turn on the TV, Daniel." Jack saw him settled on the sofa and handed him the remote.
Jack wondered if being able to operate a remote control was in the genetic makeup of the male human as Daniel unerringly hit the right buttons and began flicking through channels.
The noise of informercials, shopping networks, and old comedies filtered out into the kitchen and Jack stood at his sink, bracing his hands on the counter.
He'd hoped, he'd fantasized, someday Daniel would come back and then Jack would say all those words he'd kept himself from saying before. And now, now Daniel was here in the flesh and he couldn't. Hell, Daniel wasn't even sure of his friendship. Jack very much doubted Daniel would be able to handle things if Jack went back in there and said, "Hey, Danny, do you know I've loved you for years? So whatdaya think about it?"
Jack reached up to the top shelf of one of his cabinets and pulled down a jar of coffee. He'd taken it from Daniel's apartment when General Hammond insisted the apartment be cleaned out. He remembered the last time, the only time, Daniel had made it for him.
Daniel had invited him over for dinner. "No special reason, Jack. Can't I just invite a friend to dinner?" After a meal of spaghetti and salad, Daniel had made them a pot of coffee.
Jack took a sip and nearly spit it out. "What kind of crap is this, Daniel?"
"It's not crap, Jack. It's coffee. Swiss Mocha Almond." Daniel sat back drinking from his own mug.
"Swiss what?" Jack took another cautious sip. "Coffee is supposed to be coffee, Daniel, not an international incident."
Daniel merely raised an eyebrow in that infuriating way of his. "Jack, just shut up and drink it. Live a little. Expand your horizons." He'd said nothing more.
And Jack sat and drank the whole mug, even asking for a second cup.
He'd put the jar in his jacket when Sam, Teal'c, and he had gone to Daniel's apartment. And when he got home that night he'd made himself a pot. It tasted bitter and salty. Jack had thrown his mug against the wall and went to bed, lying awake thinking of Daniel dying.
"Jack?" Daniel sounded worried.
"Be in there in a few minutes, Daniel."
Jack finished getting the coffee maker ready and pulled an apple pie from the refrigerator. After slicing a big piece for each of them he walked into the living room carrying the pie and two mugs. He handed Daniel a piece and motioned for him to dig in.
"This is good," Daniel mumbled around a mouthful of the pastry. He swallowed before pointing with his fork to the mugs.
"Coffee's brewing," Jack said and leaned back to eat his own piece of pie. They sat in silence once more, watching a show advocating the joys of making your own pasta.
Jack saw Daniel cast a longing look towards the kitchen as the smell of brewing coffee began filtering in their direction.
"Be right back." Jack took their plates but left the forks on the table. He went to the kitchen, grabbed the coffee pot and the remaining pie.
"Thank you," Daniel said after Jack handed him a filled mug. Jack smiled in amusement as Daniel sniffed the brew.
"It's Swiss Mocha Almond," Jack explained. He took a sip, watching Daniel as he did the same, and smiled. This time the coffee tasted as good as it had when Daniel made it for him, no bitterness, no saltiness.
"This is good." Daniel raised his mug to salute Jack, a gesture so reminiscent of old times Jack was shaken.
Daniel took a big gulp of the brew and turned his attention back to the TV. "It helps, Jack."
Jack nudged the pie plate closer to Daniel, pointing to the forks. They bent over the coffee table eating the pie right out of the container.
"Late night informercials, pie and coffee, good for whatever ails you," Jack said as they finished and relaxed back into the sofa, the empty plate pushed to the far end of the table.
"It's stupid," Daniel said over the voice urging them to call a 900 number so they could learn their futures in romance.
"Yeah, it is pretty dumb," Jack agreed. "I don't even know that I want to know." He did, of course, want to know his future with Daniel. But the future wasn't written in the stars, it rested with the very real, very alive Daniel sitting next to him.
"No, not that. Although that's pretty stupid too." Daniel pulled his legs up onto the sofa, sitting cross-legged. "I mean, this."
His index finger described a lazy circle in the air next to his temple as he mimed the universal gestured for looney tunes.
"No, you're not. You're just having trouble remembering things."
"That's just it. I'm having trouble remembering things and I'm sitting here trying to forget I'm remembering."
Jack stared at him. "Okay. I'm going with because you are a linguist in some strange way only you understand what you just said makes sense."
Daniel stared back, tilting his head and then beginning to laugh. "I missed you, Jack," he said when he caught his breath.
Jack stopped breathing, reaching out to cup Daniel's cheek in his hand before he aborted the gesture halfway and turned instead to fill their mugs with more coffee.
"I missed you too, Daniel."
He heard Daniel's quick intake of breath, a harsh sound before his breathing settled back to a normal rhythm. Daniel accepted the coffee and they grew quiet once more. Not speaking, but then he and Daniel never did need to say things to each other. Silence shared was often enough for them. The nights on the missions this past year had stretched into infinity when Daniel wasn't there to share them, to just *be* there.
A sound he hadn't heard in more than a year infiltrated Jack's senses. He turned his head and saw Daniel's head drifting towards his chest as he slipped into a deep sleep, emitting the soft snore Jack had desperately missed. "You're gonna' get a stiff neck like that, Danny," Jack whispered. He reached out and pulled the other man close, the weight of Daniel's head on his own chest comforting. Jack closed his eyes and let the TV drone on. Maybe this night his sleep wouldn't be interrupted by nightmares either.
He was warm, warmer than he'd been for a long time, and someone's arms were around him, holding him, touching him. It felt...he searched for a word and could only come up with good. It felt good. Daniel opened his eyes and saw gray beyond his nose. An arm was wrapped around his chest, keeping him from moving. His early morning sluggish thinking gave way to understanding as Daniel noticed the table, the coffee mugs, the empty pie plate, and realized the arm around him was male.
"Jack," Daniel said, just because he could and because he liked the sound of that name from his lips. Daniel closed his eyes, ignoring the light creeping into the room. He took a deep breath. Jack smelled of cedar and sandalwood and coffee. He recognized the scents, associating them with a tent and visions of worlds that didn't resemble Earth at all. Memories assaulted his senses and Daniel gripped Jack's arm, riding them out as if he was caught in an undertow and being sucked away from shore.
The arm tightened around him, Jack murmuring, "I'm here." It was enough. Daniel found himself able to breathe again, and he relaxed his hand. He moved his fingers up Jack's arm, the silvery hairs under his fingertips softer than he expected. When he'd been found naked in the meadow, everything hurt. He hadn't been able to bear being touched, and kept himself away from the villagers, unable to explain the visions he had, knowing somehow he would only bring pain to them.
Pain...how many people had he hurt? Daniel pushed himself up, ignoring Jack's grunt as his hand came down on the other man's stomach. Weapons, shooting, standing before a tank filled with Goa'uld larvae and killing them, his hate strong, and then pain, pain, pain. A woman he loved staring at him, a ribbon device in her hand, wanting to kill him. Drowning in his own bodily fluids and unable to tell Jack everything he needed to say. He had to get out.
Daniel bolted out of Jack's embrace, running to the bathroom and falling to his knees before the toilet, trying to expel the memories but only bringing up bile and then dry heaving when nothing else remained. Then a hand touched his hair, a wet washcloth was placed on the back of his neck, Jack knelt beside him, so close Daniel felt his body heat. Toilet paper was pressed into his hand and Daniel wiped his mouth. He sat back, resting the side of his head on the cool tiles of the wall. He opened one eye, wondering if Jack was still there.
"Nightmare?" Jack asked, handing him a cup of water.
"Can you have nightmares when you're awake?" Daniel wiggled forward on the floor, rinsed his mouth, and spit the water into the toilet bowl before flushing.
"Yes," Jack answered and Daniel wondered again at the haunted look crossing Jack's face.
"I killed people." Daniel moved back to his position against the wall. "Killed them. And they tried to kill me." He wiped at his face now covered with a cold sweat. "I died, was dying...and then." Oh God his head hurt. Daniel rubbed at his temples, moved closer to the toilet, afraid he was going to go through the whole process again.
"I let you go," Jack whispered, his voice harsh and echoing in the small room.
"Let me go?" Jack suddenly looked twenty years older. He touched Jack's shoulder and suddenly his mind spiraled back and he was in the Gateroom with Jack. There was a being there, beckoning him through the Stargate. And he was going to go. There was nothing left for him. No reason to stay. He was a coward, unable to tell Jack how he felt, and it was too late now anyway. He was tired of pain, tired of losses, tired of not being happy, so very, very tired. Jack let him go and then it was too late to go back.
"Jack?" Daniel did not take his eyes off his friend. He waited until Jack blinked once, twice, no longer lost in his own memories. "Thank you. I..." Daniel couldn't speak, couldn't risk saying the words he couldn't say then, or now, and shattering what he had. "Thank you."
He was relieved when some of the shadows lightened in Jack's eyes.
"You're welcome." A small smile crossed Jack's face before he coughed and stood. "What do you say I take you out for breakfast?"
Daniel glanced at the toilet before he looked up at Jack. "I don't know."
"You'll feel better if you have something in your stomach." Jack was already pulling a towel from under the sink. "You'll probably feel even better if you take a shower first."
Daniel caught the towel one handed. "You know what, Jack? You're probably right." He stood up, fighting the urge to shiver, totally taken aback when Jack laughed.
"This day gets written in the record books. Daniel Jackson admits Jack O'Neill is right."
He stood transfixed by Jack's laughter, bringing the towel down to cover his groin. Daniel ignored the way his heart pounded and shook his head. "No, I only said you were probably right. There's a big difference."
"Semantics, shmantics." Jack grinned as he pulled the door shut. "Go soak your head."
As he stepped in the shower, Daniel was overcome by a fit of giggles. And it felt so good to laugh.
The house was too quiet. Jack woke up from a lazy afternoon nap and realized the house was as quiet as it had been for the past year. He sat on the side of his bed, head hanging down. What if it had all been a dream?
He felt like an idiot but he did it anyway, nearly running in order to peek in the spare room. The bed was empty but signs of an alive, descended, in the flesh Daniel had Jack breathing easier. Jack picked up the book that must have fallen to the floor because he knew Daniel wouldn't have placed it there. He took in the coffee mug, the half open box with papers spilling out of it, the jeans Daniel wore last night when they went out to dinner in a heap in the corner.
It was too quiet. He'd forgotten how much noise one other person in the house could make. Not that Daniel was talking a lot, but the small sounds in the house coming from someone who wasn't you meaning you weren't alone. Sounds of someone walking in another room, a sneeze when allergies acted up, the muttering Daniel did when he was working on his laptop. Jack sat on Daniel's bed and pulled the pillow to his nose, breathing in lemon and spice.
Daniel seemed like he was regaining his balance, like a child getting back on a bicycle after a fall. Yesterday had been good. Going out for breakfast and watching Daniel eat waffles and eggs. Hiking with Daniel through the Garden of the Gods and studying his face as he enjoyed being in the sunshine and fresh air. Stopping at a little restaurant when Daniel yelled, "Hey I like their ribs," as they drove past. It had been like it had in the past so that, for a time, Jack was able to forget what their relationship had become. He wondered if it was possible to get it back. Because he wanted that friendship back. Needed it in his life. He'd survive without it, but he didn't want his life to continue to have a hole in it where Daniel belonged.
Jack carefully placed the pillow back on the bed. It wasn't the time to tell Daniel he loved him in a way more than friends should. Maybe it would never be time. But until it was, Jack could settle for loving him as a friend. Pushing Daniel away when Jack discovered his feelings for Daniel had been stupid. Jack still berated himself for it. It had been unfair to Daniel, unfair to the team. He'd thought he was getting things back on track with Daniel and then he'd killed Reese. So angry he'd nearly lost Daniel once again, Jack had pulled away from Daniel's questions. He thought there was time. Time to fix things. And then they'd gone to Kelowna and there was no more time.
"Stop it," Jack said aloud, forcing himself to focus on the now. How many people got second chances? 'What ifs' and 'might have beens' only kept you from moving ahead. Jack turned out the light as he left Daniel's room.
Daniel wasn't in the kitchen or the living room. Jack even went down to the cellar to see if Daniel had gone poking around in his stuff down there. But the boxes still were sealed and cobwebby. Jack made a mental note to dust them off before Daniel ventured down there. All he needed was to take Daniel back to the infirmary in the throes of an allergy attack. Doc Fraiser would have his head on a platter for sure.
Jack walked outside, smiling as he realized where Daniel had gone. He climbed the ladder to the roof and found Daniel lying there, arms stretched out to his sides as if he were trying to absorb the sunlight.
"Daniel? You awake?" Jack nudged Daniel's foot with his sneaker.
Daniel propped himself on his elbows, squinting up at him until Jack bent and handed him his glasses. "Thanks," Daniel mumbled.
"Hey, you okay?" Jack sat in his deck chair.
"Yeah, fine. I'm fine." Daniel's voice was soft and distant. Jack wasn't sure if Daniel wasn't quite awake or if he was caught up in some memory confusing him.
"Just thinking about things." Daniel got up and sat in the other deck chair, pulling it closer to Jack's. He rubbed at his forehead. "We've been through a lot together, Jack. I remember that. A lot of bad stuff."
"A lot of good stuff too, Danny." Jack shifted, wishing he had his sunglasses on so that Daniel wouldn't be able to see his eyes.
"Yeah." A smile flitted across Daniel's lips before he hung his head. "Bad and good."
Daniel was hiding something. He'd never been a good liar except when taunting a Goa'uld and Jack was too used to reading Daniel's expressions to let him get away with it.
"What's going on?" Jack pressed. "More memories?"
"Memories, flashes. I..." Daniel brought fists up to his head. "Just a lot of things, Jack."
"Okay." Jack was willing to wait. He stretched his legs out, taking surreptitious glances at Daniel. He watched as Daniel twisted one way, then the other, listened as Daniel sighed and then muttered under his breath.
The sun sank lower in the west, the sky turning reddish, gold and purple, the way it sometimes did. Sunset lasted a long time on a Colorado summer evening.
Daniel was still. Jack didn't know when the restless movements had ceased, the anxiousness leaving his friend's body.
"Dan.." he began at the same time a, "Jac..." was uttered by Daniel.
"Go ahead," they both said at the same time before laughing and then falling into silence once more.
'Coward,' Jack told himself as he noticed that Daniel's hair was highlighted with the red and gold of the sky.
"'Of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these, it might have been,'" Daniel quoted. He looked at Jack before turning his gaze skyward. "There are a lot of 'might have beens', Jack."
So many 'might have beens', Jack mused. He couldn't see Daniel's eyes, the sunset reflecting off his glasses hiding whatever emotion was lurking there. He felt tired and old when he should be shouting to the world Daniel was home where he belonged. Jack rubbed his hands on his jeans and looked at the evening stars just beginning to shine.
"I love you," he said into the summer evening.
Daniel turned to face him, lowering his head slightly and looking over the rims of his glasses.
Jack's mouth went dry and he couldn't move. Jack O'Neill, the Air Force Colonel who faced down Ra and Hathor and Ba'al, couldn't move because Daniel's blue eyes were fixed on him. He knew what the phrase 'time standing still' now meant. He opened his mouth, not willing to take back what he said because it was the truth, but willing to tell Daniel it was okay if he didn't feel the same. It was okay because Daniel was here and they had a second chance to at least regain the friendship they'd lost somewhere along the way.
Daniel's fingers covered Jack's lips, and Jack could taste the slight salt tang of Daniel's sweat.
"Don't apologize," Daniel whispered. "Don't, Jack. I don't want to live my life thinking of the 'might have beens'."
Daniel leaned forward, Jack met him half-way. The kiss was awkward, balanced as they were on deck chairs. But it didn't matter. It didn't matter at all. Daniel tasted of chocolate and coffee, just the way Jack had imagined but even more wonderful.
Jack pulled away to take a breath, placing his hand on Daniel's cheek. "It's not going to be easy, you know."
"Love never is, Jack." Daniel smiled into Jack's hand. "But it's worth it all the same."
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, First Time|
|Summary:||After Daniel descends, he and Jack attempt to rebuild their friendship.|