"I'll get it," Daniel called as Jack's doorbell rang for the second time. He put the basket of laundry he was carrying on the closest chair and hurried to the door.
"Sara?" Daniel held the door open wider. "Come in." He motioned for Sara to enter and then saw her husband Ted coming up the sidewalk carrying a diaper bag. Daniel left the door open and guided Sara into the living room, one hand at her elbow.
"Sorry," he murmured as he noticed the laundry basket on the chair and quickly moved it to the floor. "Here, sit. Umm...do you need anything?"
"Dr. Jackson," Sara smiled at his nervousness. "I had a baby. I'm not an invalid. Relax." She made a soothing sound to the infant she held in her arms.
Daniel sat on the arm of the sofa, watching Sara as Ted came to her side and put an arm around her. "Daniel."
"What?" They asked in unison.
"You always call me Dr. Jackson." Daniel waved vaguely with his hand. "You can call me Daniel. Oh," he stood abruptly, " I guess you're here to see Jack. I'll go get him. He's painting the guest room."
"Not anymore," Jack's voice sounded from the top of the stairs. "Give me a second to clean up and I'll be there."
Daniel walked to Sara's side. "I know you have something to discuss with Jack. I can take the baby for you if you'd like." He held out his arms for the baby. Sara gave him a grateful smile as she handed the infant to him. "I'll just go outside for awhile if that's okay?" He waited for Sara's nod before heading to the sliding glass doors.
"If Abigail gives you any trouble," Ted walked with Daniel to the deck, "just give a holler."
"We'll be fine." Daniel slid the door open and stepped onto the deck, sitting on one of the chairs Jack had placed there the week before in anticipation of summer.
"Hey there, little one." Daniel looked down into blue eyes that were watching him intently. "Hope your mama and papa aren't giving Jack any bad news." He glanced worriedly through the doors. "So, Miss Abigail, how about we get to know each other?" He smiled as the baby made a cooing noise. "What should we talk about? You want to learn some Ancient Egyptian?" He smiled as a tiny hand curled around his little finger and held on tight. "How about I tell you some stories my mama and papa told me when I wasn't much bigger than you? A long, long time ago..." Daniel began spinning a tale of ancient gods while blue eyes focused on his face. Almost instinctively he began rocking the baby in time to his words.
Daniel looked up in shock when the door slid open some time later. Abigail had long ago fallen asleep, the warm sun nearly doing the same to him.
"Hey, Daniel, no sleeping on the job," Jack chided gently as he came over to take the baby from Daniel's arms and hand her back to her mother. "What a big girl you are," he said in a crooning voice that Daniel had never heard before. A voice that Jack must have used time and again with an infant Charlie.
Daniel narrowed his eyes as he studied Jack. Something bad must have happened. Jack's shoulders were nearly rigid, his smile for Sara almost brittle. Daniel moved unconsciously closer, his hand coming to rest on the small of Jack's back, out of sight of Sara and Ted, and when Jack seemed unable to move, Daniel offered to walk them to their car.
"Daniel," Sara said, her eyes dark with some unfathomable sorrow as they stood on the walk. She gave a small nod to Ted as he took the baby and headed for the car. "I wish..." She lifted her hand to touch his cheek, then she smiled sadly. "Love him, Daniel. Don't let him shut you out. He's worth fighting to keep."
"Sara?" Daniel kissed her cheek lightly, his throat tight, "what..."
She shook her head. " I'm glad he has you, Daniel. You're more than a match for him. I never was." And then she was opening her car door and waving at him as they drove away.
Daniel stood watching, a strange ache in his chest, unsure of what had just transpired. He turned to head back to the house, only to find Jack halfway down the walk straining to see a car that had already disappeared.
"Jack?" Daniel pulled gently on Jack's arm, guiding him back into the house. "What happened?" He didn't like the lost look on Jack's face, as if he'd been punched in the gut with some horrible news.
Jack closed his eyes and rubbed at his forehead, a signal to Daniel that a headache was blossoming there. "Sara came over to tell me that she and Ted are moving. He got a job offer from a small company in Alaska." Jack collapsed onto the sofa. "Shit, Danny." He rubbed his forehead again, moving his fingers in small circles on his temples.
"I'll be right back, Jack." Daniel patted his shoulder. He pressed the aspirin into Jack 's hand when he returned a few moments later, giving Jack the glass of water once the aspirin were safely in Jack's mouth. Daniel sank onto the couch beside Jack, placing a hand on his lover's thigh. Jack flung his head back to rest on the sofa back, his breath coming harshly from his open mouth.
"I'm happy for them, I really am, you know," Jack finally spoke in a weary voice. "Sara and Ted are happy with the opportunity."
Daniel rubbed his hand on Jack's thigh, kneading the tight muscles. "It's okay for you not to be, Jack."
"I still love her." Jack rolled his head to look at Daniel. "Not in love with her, but love her. She was, she is, a good woman. I never hated her for leaving. God knows I wasn't worth living with after everything happened. How she was able to ever forgive..." Jack choked down the emotion.
"I know." Daniel pulled Jack's head to his shoulder. "I know." He rubbed a hand over Jack's neck, sliding it up into the soft gray hair and moving it in small circles.
'You never hated Sara, you just hated yourself,' Daniel thought to himself as he laid his cheek against Jack's head and remembered Sara's advice. 'I'm not ever giving up on you, Jack O'Neill. I can be every bit as stubborn as you are.' Daniel smiled as he heard Jack's breath slow and deepen. He closed his own eyes, Jack's head a welcome weight on his shoulder. For now, for this night, he would keep the demons at bay.
" Not one word," Jack's voice rang out in the Gate room as SG-1 returned through the wormhole after a very productive mission to P5R-331.
Daniel grabbed for Jack's arm as the colonel turned back to face his teammates and nearly tripped at the end of the ramp. "Careful, Jack. Wouldn't want to damage your assets," he warned.
"Indeed," Teal'c added, with an artfully raised eyebrow. "Ambassador Tiera appeared very interested in them."
Daniel frowned at Sam as she barely suppressed a laugh and then gave up and joined her. "It was rather funny, Jack."
"SG-1, welcome home," General Hammond greeted them. "How was your mission?"
"Oh, you know, sir. Daniel did the meet and greet thing, Carter did some sciency stuff, Teal'c did his inscrutable alien act, and I did the usual charm the natives, get engaged to the ambassador and have to break her heart when we come home."
"I'm sure you'll be giving me a full report in detail, Colonel." General Hammond's mouth twitched in a smile as he walked away. "Debriefing at 0700 on Tuesday."
"Don't forget to put in how much the ambassador admired your assets, sir." Carter grinned, ducking behind Teal'c.
"You jealous, Carter?" Jack retorted. "Just because the woman knew a good thing when she saw it."
Carter left the room with Teal'c, unable to hold in her laughter any longer.
"So," Daniel said as he and Jack followed them, "are you willing to show your assets off to me later tonight?"
"Eighteen hundred hours, Daniel. My place. Be there or be square," Jack whispered, his breath tickling Daniel's ear.
Daniel wrinkled his brow in puzzlement as he pulled his car into Jack's driveway. There were no lights on, the lights that always made him feel as if he'd found a home forever at last, one that gave him comfort and a sense of belonging. Jack's truck was parked in the driveway, so unless Jack had been driven back to the Mountain for some emergency, he was there. Maybe Jack had already gone to bed and was waiting for him. Daniel smiled at that thought. Or maybe something more sinister had happened. Daniel's heart started beating triple time. He went to his trunk and rummaged around for a suitable weapon, just in case, hands closing over a baseball bat left from a picnic Janet had thrown in honor of Cassie's getting her driver's license. Approaching the house, baseball bat resting on his shoulder, he tried the door and found it locked. Daniel dug out his key from his jeans pocket and cautiously opened the door. There was noise, the sound of a child's laughter coming from the living room. Daniel moved through the kitchen by memory.
As he approached the doorway, Daniel could see the flickering light that meant the TV was on. He froze as he heard first Jack's voice, then Sara's, then a voice that could only be Charlie's. Daniel put the baseball bat in a corner and entered the living room quietly.
"Jack?" He approached the man who was sitting transfixed by the images on the screen. "Jack?" Daniel called again when there was no reply.
Jack tilted his head onto the back of the sofa and looked up at Daniel, giving a small smile. "Hey, Daniel. It 1800 already?" He thumbed the remote and the room became silent and dark except for the crackle of flames from the fireplace Jack knew Daniel loved.
"Actually it's 7:30, Jack. I was held up on the base by Sam. She needed me to translate one of the scrolls for cures that the ambassador gave you as a gift." Daniel walked around the sofa to plop down beside Jack with a sigh. "You'll be happy to know she's given us instructions for brewing an aphrodisiac."
Jack only smiled halfheartedly, catching Daniel's closest hand and rubbing his thumb over the knuckles.
"So," Daniel thrust his chin towards the cardboard box on the coffee table, "I never knew you had videos of Charlie." He watched Jack closely, unsure if he was treading on dangerous ground.
"I didn't have them," Jack said quietly. "Sara dropped them off while we were offworld on ythe mission. She had a note with them, saying that she had copies made for me." Jack took a few deep breaths. "I never wanted to see them after he died. I never was as strong as she was."
"And now?" Daniel gestured toward the TV, toward the small stack of videos that Jack had evidently watched before he arrived. He'd wished over the years that there would be some old family movies of him and his parents. Daniel knew he'd be compelled to watch them even if his heart rebroke in the process.
"Now I need to." Jack smiled briefly. " They're my last link to Charlie. Chances are I won't be seeing Sara again. He had her laugh, Daniel, and her eyes. I need to remind myself that he was happy and healthy for the time I had him."
Jack made no effort to turn on a light or talk further. Daniel didn't break Jack's need for silence other than to begin to rub Jack's neck. He watched as once, twice, Jack moved his hand towards the remote and then back to rest on his thigh.
"Jack?" Daniel finally asked, "Do you want me to go back to my apartment tonight?"
Jack's grip on Daniel's hand tightened, although his voice was strangely calm as he replied, "I...Danny, I need you here."
"You want to watch the rest?"
Jack smiled at him gratefully. "You want to see them?"
Daniel pulled his legs onto the sofa, sitting cross legged. "If you don't mind. I'd love to see Charlie in action." 'I'd love to see what you were like before,' he didn't add aloud.
Jack just grinned, pushed the play button, and threw one arm over Daniel's shoulders, the same way they sat whenever they were alone watching a movie together.
Daniel settled close to his lover as usual, watching a Jack he never knew on the screen.
"This was right after I came home after Iraq," Jack whispered, his arm slightly trembling on Daniel's shoulders.
For Jack's sake, Daniel held back his reaction to the images. The Jack on the screen was thin with haunted eyes that followed the blond haired boy's antics with something that resembled disbelief at the normality of the situation. For all the years he'd known Jack, Daniel had always, despite his curiosity, respected Jack's silence about that time in his life. He'd held Jack through the nightmares that came in cycles after particularly grueling missions, traced the scars that crisscrossed Jack's back when Jack lay deeply asleep beside him after making love, but he never demanded Jack tell him about that time or asked that Jack bare his soul, knowing that he'd be there for Jack if he needed to. In all those times Daniel had never thought about what Sara or Charlie had gone through or how very lost Jack would have looked, all of them victims of Jack's imprisonment and torture.
As if he'd heard Daniel's thoughts, Jack continued. "Charlie didn't recognize me when I finally came home from the hospital." His hand had moved to Daniel's hair and was twining the short strands with restless fingers. "I'd been away so long. Hell, even before Iraq, I was never around much."
Daniel watched as a smiling Charlie crawled onto Jack's lap and showed him some worms held in small dirty fingers.
"Now we go fishing, Daddy?" the boy asked hopefully, perhaps unable to understand his silent father.
The haunted man on the screen smiled, transforming for an instant into the Jack that Daniel knew and loved. "Now we go fishing, Charlie."
Daniel smiled as Charlie urged his father to his feet, grabbing the cane by the lawn chair and handing it to him. Evidently now meant *now*. Obviously Charlie had inherited that trait of impatience from his father.
The video finished some time later with scenes from one of Charlie's birthday parties. It must have been about a year or so later, judging from Charlie's size. Sara was in most of the shots which meant Jack must have been the cameraman. Unlike the images Sara had taped though, Jack had tested all the special features including the zoom button which seemed to be his favorite.
He grinned at Jack as the video ended. "Haven't lost the fascination with the zoom feature, have you Jack?"
Jack gave a playful swat to Daniel's ass as Daniel got up to remove the video from the VCR. "At least my panning is steady, Doctor-let's-give-everyone-motion-sickness-because-I'm-so-excited-over- a-bunch-of-rocks-Jackson."
His lover only laughed and stuck out his tongue. Daniel hesitated at the two stacks of videos. There was only one left unwatched and from the dates on the case, Daniel knew it would be the hardest to watch, the last images of Charlie before the accident, before Jack's world had been torn apart and his soul nearly lost.
"Put it in." Jack nodded at him.
"You sure?" Daniel's hand hovered over the case.
Daniel settled beside Jack once again as Jack hit play. Images raced across the TV, birthday parties, school plays, Charlie's first communion, Christmas mornings, Easter egg hunts, swimming lessons. He heard Jack's quick intake of breath at the sight of Charlie playing baseball with his Little League team.
"He wanted to be a baseball player," Jack whispered. "Baseball player, pilot, garbage man, oh God, Danny."
Daniel pulled Jack's head to his shoulder. "He was beautiful, Jack." He kept his eyes on the screen, watching as Charlie caught a ball and began jumping up and down instead of throwing it to third base.
"Throw it, Charlie," Jack was yelling in the background, even as laughter tinged his voice. "Throw the ball."
The images from the baseball game gave way to Charlie on a bicycle, wobbling down the sidewalk, Jack half running behind him holding his hand lightly on the back of the seat.
"Daddy, daddy, let go, let go," Charlie was yelling. "I can do it. You need to let go."
Jack already had, of course, five or so steps back.
The tape ended there and they sat in silence as the screen filled with snow.
"I need to, don't I, Daniel?" Jack looked at him, his eyes nearly as lost as they were in those long ago images of him just returned from Iraq.
"I think it's time, Jack," Daniel whispered, brushing his lips over Jack's hair in a light caress. "Let the guilt go. It's the only way you can hold on to him."
Daniel felt Jack take a deep breath as if he was going to speak, but a strangled sob came out instead. Jack turned further into his lover's embrace, his hands coming up to Daniel's shoulders, fingers digging into muscles with bruising force. All the years, all the shit, and Daniel knew this was the first time Jack had ever allowed himself to cry for Charlie. To weep for the loss of innocence, the loss of dreams, the loss of the future. All the words in all the languages he'd learned could offer nothing but paltry solace, so Daniel remained silent, speaking with the language of touch, the language of deep abiding love, the language of holding on through the storm. The tears would eventually end, the grief that still dwelled in Jack's soul would be raw for days, maybe even weeks, but Daniel wouldn't ever let go. He wouldn't let Jack go back to being the lost soul he'd been when he'd come home from Iraq or the angry, guilt-ridden suicidal Air Force colonel he'd been when they'd first met.
Lifting his head a moment, Daniel caught a glimpse of the one photo of Charlie Jack displayed in the living room, a laughing Charlie covered in mud. He had no idea of the circumstances of that photo, but Daniel decided that maybe tomorrow, when he knew Jack would be introspective and ready to talk, he'd ask about that particular picture. Daniel smiled at the image of Charlie, remembering a scene from the last video. Jack and Charlie had been fishing and Jack was holding up a huge trout for the camera while an admiring Charlie stood beside him eager to hold the fish himself.
"You're the bestest." Charlie had hugged his dad enthusiastically, with the joy and abandon only a child could give.
'That he is, Charlie,' Daniel smiled and tightened his grip on Jack, 'and I promise I'll take care of him for as long as I have breath in my body.'
He knew it was only a trick of the firelight, but Daniel could have sworn the grin on Charlie's face grew just a little bit wider.
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, Established Relationship, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||An encounter with Sara has Jack remembering.|