Category: Slash, H/C of the mental kind, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Season: 2 - August 24, 1998
Spoilers: The Gamekeeper, Cold Lazarus (minor)
Written: August 10-12,19 2003 Revised: January 12, March 18, May 1,31, June 24,26, July 8, 2005 Revised for spelling: July 31, 2016
Summary: After the mission in “The Gamekeeper,” 'Daniel' retreats to his apartment. Jack follows, only to be told that 'Danny' has checked out (in a manner of speaking).
Disclaimer: Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't. A gal can dream though!
1) Sometimes, Jack and Daniel speak almost telepathically. Their “silent” words to each other are indicated by asterisks instead of quotes, such as **Jack, we can't.**
2) Silent, unspoken thoughts by various characters are indicated with ~ in front and behind them, such as ~Where am I?~
3) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better: Judy, QuinGem, Sentarla, Claudia, Allexandrya, Robert!
“Daniel?” Jack called out hopefully. ~Come on, Danny; be
here!~ Jack tossed his car keys onto the entranceway table and
stepped into the living room of his country-style house. “Danny?”
Though unable to sense Daniel's presence, Jack refused to let go of the hope that his archaeologist was somewhere at home, ~Where you belong!~
The Air Force colonel checked the kitchen, and then, taking the stairs to the upper floor two at a time, he approached the master bedroom.
**Danny? Please tell me you're here.** The emptiness grew as outer and inner silence reverberated as one. ~Not here. Crap, Danny. Where are you?~
After a thorough recon of the upstairs, Jack returned to the main floor of his house and checked the study.
~Maybe you're curled up on the sofa in there. You always say it's so roomy, you could get lost lying on it.~
The sofa in the study was old and worn, but extremely comfortable, and Daniel frequently cuddled up in it while Jack worked at his desk. Of course, both preferred it when they snuggled together on the couch.
“Double Crap,” Jack spoke aloud, seeing the room vacant. His lover's absence was upsetting, but Jack wasn't willing to admit defeat just yet. ~Dang it, Daniel.~
Five minutes later, Jack walked into the living room and plopped down in his armchair, having checked every inch of his home, inside and out, for his lover.
~It was that friggin' Keeper,~ Jack silently determined as he reflected back on SG-1's stressful mission to P7J-989.
On the planet, The Keeper had captured the entire team, locking them into what essentially amounted to game chairs, each having devices on them that infiltrated both Jack's and Daniel's minds. As it turned out, Sam and Teal'c had been more or less immune due to the Goa'uld markers in their bodies (Teal'c from his symbiote and Sam from her brief joining with Jolinar).
While providing life support, the machines also tapped into painful experiences from the participant's past, playing them over and over again right in front of their eyes. Those whose minds were invaded were urged to try and rectify this tragedy or event by trying various alternatives to what they had initially done. When one action failed, the scenario would reset, and the participate would try something new.
The Keeper had no sympathy for the emotional anguish that replaying the various tragedies had on the participants. His sole concern was providing “entertainment” for the “residents” of the planet, all of whom believed the atmosphere of their world was poisonous and thus lived underground. These residents viewed the various replays from the minds of anyone in the chair.
In Jack's case, the machine had replayed a mission gone wrong, and for Daniel, it had forced him to relive the death of his parents.
~Ah, Danny, when that twirp brought us back together, I instantly saw the pain in your eyes and heard the ache in your voice. I'd like to beat that smug, self-important clown senseless for forcing you to go through that. Geez, I wasn't even there to help you through it; dang Keeper couldn't even put us together.~
The Keeper had chosen to have Teal'c join in as part of Jack's Special Ops assignment, while Sam was with Daniel at the New York Museum of Art.
When SG-1 had finally freed themselves, and having convinced the residents to return to the surface of the planet which had rejuvenated itself, the team returned to Earth and participated in an immediate debriefing. Afterwards, Daniel had made a hasty exit from the conference room. Jack had assumed he'd be in his office, but when he finished filing his report with Hammond and went to collect his lover for the ride home, Jack discovered Daniel had already left the base. He had hoped he'd come here -- ~home.~
Normally, Jack would have known if Daniel were there simply by seeing, or not seeing, Daniel's car, but his lover's ~stone age~ car was in the shop again, and Jack had driven them both to work. Daniel's escape from the SGC had been via a taxi; even worse, according to the guard at the gate, Daniel had rejected his offer of getting an airman to drive him home.
Jack knew the taxi was a message, and it said, “Don't call me, I'll call you.”
Clearly, Daniel wanted to be left alone, which wasn't a surprise to Jack. The younger man had been through so much pain in his lifetime, and when nightmares surfaced, Daniel usually withdrew from anyone close to him, erecting thick walls of stone as a shield. However, Jack also knew that this was an instinctive reaction on Daniel's part, the result of his lover's lonely childhood when there had not been anyone for him to turn to.
Jack bore silent witness to two factions, warring within himself, back and forth, like a table tennis match. If he pushed too hard, Daniel would run away, and if he allowed him to retreat, Daniel would shut down.
~At least running from someone who really cares will be a novel experience, and you won't be able to stop yourself from examining the unfamiliar.~
Resolute in his decision. Jack grabbed his keys and headed for Daniel's apartment.
As he drove, Jack couldn't help but continue to think about his lover's torment, and the sad history that led him to this pattern of running and hiding.
~It's not your fault, Danny, but times, they are a changing, as the old song goes.~
Jack smiled, briefly remembering their lovemaking and moments of quiet, when their budding nation of two was content to simply enjoy the presence of the other. It was exciting and new to discover that some of their closest moments were those when both talkative men said nothing, at least not in words.
The thought of Daniel retreating from that closeness was disturbing. Jack's goal was to make his partner smile and laugh. They were going to move forward, not backward in that regard.
~I won't let you hide. I know; it's what you've always done. Hiding may seem right to you, but, My Love, that was before, and it is *so* not gonna happen anymore!~
Jack and Daniel's romantic relationship was still new, only a couple of months old, but their friendship was long established, and even as Daniel's best friend, Jack wouldn't let him hide. Now that they were lovers, there was no way Jack was going to let the walls build up between the two.
“No more running, Daniel,” Jack said aloud just as he pulled into the parking lot of Daniel's apartment building.
Standing in front of Daniel's door, Jack struggled with a new wave of decision. He knew Daniel had to be inside, but his intuition told him his lover wouldn't answer the door if he knocked. Even though Daniel had a nasty habit of leaving the door unlatched, sometimes even totally unlocked, Jack was afraid Daniel would latch the door if he thought he was there, knowing Jack wouldn't go away.
~Getting here was the easy part. Do I take a chance you won't lock me out? I don't want to invade your privacy, but I also don't want to spend the night out here in the hallway.~
Jack struggled with his decision. In his hand, he held his key ring, and on it was the key to Daniel's apartment.
Daniel and Jack had exchanged keys back when their relationship was still just that of best friends. The archaeologist had stayed with Jack for a couple of months after returning from Abydos, and their friendship had blossomed in spite of the odds against it. When Daniel had reluctantly decided that he should move into a place of his own, the two went apartment hunting together. Finally, during their downtime after visiting the Nox world on P3X-774, Jack had helped Daniel move into his new digs.
“Here's to your new place, Danny. May it be home sweet home for however long you want it to be.”
Jack and Daniel clinked their glasses together. Jack had surprised his best friend with a bottle of champagne to celebrate his new apartment.
“Thanks, Jack, for, uh, helping me find it and move in ... and, um, well, for ... everything.”
The two smiled at the toast, finished their champagne, and stood, neither saying anything for a minute.
“Well, it's late, and we have a big day tomorrow at the Mountain, so I'll go. It's ... a nice place, Danny,” Jack commented, taking another look around at the loft. ~But it means you're here, and not at ho...not at my place.~
Jack headed for the door and grabbed the doorknob, but Daniel reached out, briefly touching Jack's forearm to stop his exit.
“Um, Jack, here's your key to the house. I ... I really want to thank you for giving me a place to stay, and, uh, helping me ... well, readjust, I guess. It ... it means a lot.”
Jack stared at the key intently as he reached out to take it, but to his surprise, he found his hand doing a shaking motion. Suddenly, his hand steadied, and he pulled it back decisively.
“No, Daniel, keep it, for whenever. You know, mi casa, su casa, and all of that. Use it, if you want to, and it would be good for emergencies. In our business, you never know.”
“Jack, I don't know. I mean ...”
“It's just a key, Daniel.” ~Don't make me take it back.~
“Yeah, it's ... just a key.” ~But it means ... gawd, you trust me; you ... you really want me to have it.~
They stood in silence, eyes locked until Jack broke the deadlock, saying, “See you tomorrow at the Mountain -- 0900, and don't be late.”
“Is that a.m. or p.m.?” Daniel teased.
“Very funny, Doctor Jackson,” Jack responded dryly. After a chuckle, Jack said a simple, “Bye.”
“Night, Jack ... and thanks again,” the archaeologist said, feeling grateful to have a friend like Jack O'Neill in his life.
Jack walked down the hall as Daniel slowly closed the door to his new home.
“Oh, wait, Danny ...” Jack called out, turning a taking a few quick steps back towards the apartment.
Daniel flung the door back open with amazing speed, eagerly calling out, “Jack?”
“Pizza ... Friday night, okay?” Jack tossed his head to the right slightly and then asked, almost rhetorically, “Why break a ritual just because you have your own place now?”
~Yeah, why break a ritual?~ Daniel's mind was a jumble. He wasn't used to having people in his life who cared, and now someone who appeared to be his polar opposite, did care. The truth was, Daniel cared, too. “Sure, Jack. I'd ... I'd, uh, like that very much.”
Again, they both stood, staring at each other. It was time to say goodnight, but both lingered for reasons neither understood. Finally, Jack let out a kind of half cough, as if to prod himself into action.
“Okay. Tomorrow ... 0900.”
Jack turned and hurried down the hall as Daniel watched from his doorway, a smile on his face. When Jack disappeared from his view, Daniel walked back into his apartment. Just as the older man had noted earlier during his silent debate, the archaeologist didn't lock the door. Instead, he walked to the sofa and leaned against the arm. He frowned.
~Gawd, it's so cold in here. When did it turn cold? It was ... it was warm a minute ago.~
Daniel went into a self-hug, glanced over his shoulder to the glass doors, and then walked to his balcony. He looked out just in time to see his friend approach his truck.
At the same time, Jack paused for a moment, looking up towards the balcony. Seeing Daniel, he waved and gave a brief smile. Daniel returned the wave, a tiny smile on his face as he did so. Seconds later, Jack got into his truck and drove away.
~Geez, it's cold all of a sudden,~ Jack thought as he shivered and headed for home.
When Friday night came, Jack and Daniel settled into their ritual, discussing the latest SGC happenings, hockey, and artifacts, though in reality it was Daniel doing the discussing while Jack slept with his eyes open. As was their norm, they dined on pizza and beer, and eventually, they ended up on the roof deck for an hour or so.
Jack kept his telescope on the deck. Watching the stars was something that relaxed him, filling his soul with peace. Tonight, he looked through it for a few minutes before settling into one of the deck chairs to gaze at the stars with his friend.
For whatever reason, on this night, the two men didn't talk much under the moonlight. Nothing was wrong, and they both understood that. They were just enjoying being alive, with each other, in a companionable silence of thanks.
When it came time to go, they climbed down the ladder, and though Daniel offered to help clean up the kitchen and living room, Jack waved him off.
“It'll wait until tomorrow,” Jack said.
“Yeah. I'm glad you came by.”
“Me, too,” Daniel agreed. ~It was better than reading SG-2's report again; they just don't know what to look for, and ... and, stop thinking about that, Jackson. That's one of the things you like about these crazy Friday nights -- you don't have to think about work. Gawd, when ... when did that start to become important?~
As Daniel put on his jacket and headed for Jack's door to return to his apartment, he stopped, standing in place, totally still.
“Danny, are you okay?” Jack asked seeing Daniel's stillness.
~I have to do this. I ... want to do this. Trust him, Jackson. He's your best friend. He's ... Jack. Go on, Jackson; for once in your adult life, take a risk.~
Hesitantly, Daniel turned around and held out his right hand, his palm up displaying a shiny silver object at the center.
Jack walked a couple of steps closer so he could see better. As he stared at Daniel's outstretched hand, his eyes focused on the object. He slowly raised his eyes to his best friend's.
~You have such expressive eyes, Daniel. No wonder Sha're didn't argue about being a gift.~
“It's ... just a key, Jack. You know, mi casa, su casa ... and all of that.”
“Emergencies,” Jack said with a smile on his face.
“Yeah. Use it ... if ... if you want.”
Daniel bopped his hand slightly, motioning for Jack to take the key. Jack's fingers pressed down on Daniel's palm to grasp the item, and as he did, Daniel's fingers curled slightly over Jack's closed fist.
They stared deeply into each other's eyes. Jack realized this was a first for his young friend, evidenced by his nervousness and the increased rising of his chest.
Daniel was very protective of his privacy. Giving Jack a key, telling him to use it, was nothing short of a miracle. Both men smiled shyly. Being this close was something new for both of them.
Jack slowly pulled his finger's back, the key sliding with them against the palm and fingers of Daniel's hand until Jack's fist scooped up the key along the tips of Daniel's fingers.
“Thanks, Danny.” ~I feel better than if I'd won the lottery!~
“See you Monday, Jack.” ~Gawd, thank goodness he took it. What if ... what ... breathe, Jackson. He took the freakin' key. It's okay.~
“Yeah, Monday.” The older man smiled. ~That's two whole days away. I never thought I say this, but I can't wait for Monday!~
Jack watched Daniel walk out the door. He followed and locked it, but couldn't resist looking out the closed blinds to watch Daniel get in his car and drive away, but it took longer than he expected.
As Daniel unlocked his car door, he turned and faced the house. There was a look on his friend's face that warmed Jack's heart. Daniel noticed Jack peeking through the blinds and was embarrassed for a moment, though he wasn't sure why.
Jack smiled, and so did Daniel, and as they had done at Daniel's apartment, they both stood entranced for a few moments, unable to move or stop staring at each other, before Daniel finally got in his car and drove away.
Jack walked over to his favorite armchair and sat down.
“When did it get so cold in here?” the lonely man asked the furniture.
Getting no response from the inanimate objects, Jack closed his eyes and pondered the sudden chill.
//End of Flashback//
“Colonel O'Neill, it's nice to see you again.”
Jack was pulled out of his thoughts and indecision as Barbara Harper, a sharply dressed woman in her fifties, greeted him as she prepared to unlock her own apartment door.
“Good evening, Mrs. Harper,” Jack said, his fingers fumbling with the keys.
Jack couldn't stand in the hallway doing nothing, and he couldn't risk Daniel not answering the door, so he inserted the key and turned the lock as quietly as he could.
“How's Daniel, Colonel? I haven't seen much of him recently. Until I saw you just now, I had wondered if he had moved.”
“No, no, he still lives here. We ... he goes out of town quite a bit on business, and lately, it's been a bit frantic, but he's fine.”
“Give him my best, Colonel, and have a good evening,” the blonde woman stated cordially.
“Thank you, Ma'am. You, too.”
Jack sighed a breath of relief as the widow entered her apartment. He followed her lead, and walked into Daniel's, a bit amazed the archaeologist hadn't heard him in the hallway through the door since he'd been holding it ajar.
~No more running, Daniel, not now, not ever. You're not getting rid of me that easily,~ Jack thought as he quelled his nervousness and strengthened his resolve.
Everything was quiet, too quiet for Jack's tastes. He slowly walked into the bedroom and, looking to his left upon entering, found Daniel seated on the floor in front of the closet. His lover was wearing navy blue sweats, but no shoes. His legs were pulled to his chest with his long slender arms wrapped around them, pulling them taut. Daniel's head was tucked onto his knees.
Jack's heart cried as he saw his shattered lover looking so lost and alone.
“Danny?” Jack called out almost solemnly.
“Daniel. My name is Daniel,” the younger man spoke in a monotone, not moving an inch, his words being the only acknowledgement of Jack's presence.
~Daniel? Oooookay.~ A bit hesitantly, Jack walked to where Daniel sat. In front of the emotionally drained young man was an old, battered cardboard box, water-stained at the bottom. The torn and jagged lid to the box was sitting against the wall. Several items had apparently been removed and were on the floor near Daniel's bare feet. Jack moved a foot or so closer and said gently, “Daniel, we need to talk.”
Daniel said nothing as Jack joined him on the floor.
~He needs space; give him that, O'Neill -- for now.~
Jack made sure that he was near Daniel, sitting to the younger man's right, but he wasn't so close that they touched.
~I can give you this, but I won't let you push me away, Danny. We'll sit here, or do whatever you want, but I'm not leaving. You might as well accept that right now.~
Jack reached out and briefly touched his lover's shoulder. Daniel tensed and edged slightly to his left, away from Jack, but it wasn't abrupt.
~Hmmm. You didn't move far. I can still reach you, and if you didn't want that, you could have moved further away from me. You want a little room to breathe, but you don't want to be alone. Noted, Danny.~
Jack removed his hand, and for a few minutes, the two sat in silence.
~I need to see your eyes. I can always gauge your health and moods by your beautiful eyes. They're your soul, Danny.~ The problem was that Daniel's soulful blue eyes were hidden since his head was tucked into his arms. “Danny?”
“Daniel,” Daniel immediately retaliated, though his body didn't move an inch.
Jack turned his head. He wasn't sure what to say; he just knew he had to wait it out until Daniel was ready to do battle ... with himself. After several minutes, Jack heard a silent communication.
**Go away. Just ... go away!**
Minutes passed. As he waited, Jack pondered the strange non-verbal communication that he and Daniel had discovered they shared. It had begun over a year ago. It was usually just short words or phrases, and as a rule, they had to be in the same room, or at least very close in proximity, but the bond was growing as their relationship strengthened. He didn't understand it, and while it made him feel a little odd, Jack liked being able to share this intimate way of talking with his lover. Suddenly, he heard Daniel's voice in his head again.
More minutes passed.
**Takes one to know one.**
A few more minutes of silence passed, until finally, a soft voice filled the air, verbally saying, “It's all I have left of them, Jack. Not much, is it.”
It wasn't really a question, but was more of a statement that Daniel had spoken as he turned his head towards the older man, though still resting his head on his knees. Jack's heart broke in two as he saw Daniel's red-brimmed eyes, tears still escaping silently.
“Sometimes I forget ... what they look like. I don't ... can't ... remember her scent anymore, or his hands. He ... He'd hold me, lift me up to the pyramids. I used to remember the strength of his hands touching me. I ca...can't remember anymore, Jack. They're ... they're gone.”
“No, they aren't, Danny,” Jack refuted softly.
“Daniel. My name is Daniel,” the younger man stated a bit loudly, though his voice quaked.
Daniel's tears tore through Jack like a stake being driven through his heart. He loved Daniel, and he wanted to help; he just didn't know how. Still, he had to try. He had to make sure Daniel knew he wasn't alone.
Jack reached out to dry his lover's tears. Daniel closed his eyes, unconsciously leaning towards the man who was now his center, his life. Jack moved his hand to Daniel's and took hold. He held the trembling hand of his soulmate, rubbing it gently in his, and then moved both their hands to rest over Daniel's heart.
“They're not gone, Daniel. They're right here, in you,” Jack reassured his lover.
“But I ... I don't remember. They're fading away. It's like I'm losing them all over again. I watched them, Jack, that ... their image recreated by the Keeper, and I realized how much I'd forgotten. Her voice. For a minute, Jack, they were like strangers to me, even though I knew who they were. It gets harder and harder to see them.”
“You're not losing them. You won't forget. Maybe we need to talk about them some more. You could tell me about the pyramids and, ah, just remember your life with them, Danny.”
“But I don't remember,” Daniel whined, and then more harshly added, “and my name is Daniel.”
“Okay, Daniel, but you do recall a lot. It's all there, and your parents will always be in here.” Jack tapped Daniel's chest over his heart with their entwined hands. “It'll get easier, Danny...iel.”
“Daniel. Why can't you call me Daniel?” Daniel asked in exasperation.
In a flash, Daniel sprang up from his seated position and fled the bedroom before Jack could even react. As Daniel moved, the items that had been in front of him fluttered about.
For the first time, Jack observed the items in detail. There were a couple of dissertations with the name 'Melburn Jackson' on the covers stacked to the right of the box.
There were a few small photos, mostly crinkled and worn on the edges from being handled. As he looked at them, Jack recognized the small boy who would grow up to be his lover. He couldn't stop a smile from forming.
~You look like Charlie, Danny. Crazy, isn't it?~
Jack examined another item, a small light blue blanket which was frayed at its edges. Sewn into the corner of the warmer was the word, 'Danny'.
Jack spotted one more item on the floor -- a pair of wire rimmed glasses, its lenses cracked but still in tact. Jack looked again at the photos of Daniel and his parents, and recognized the glasses as having belonged to Claire, Daniel's mother.
Carefully, he gathered up all the items and placed them gingerly in the box. Before closing the lid, Jack took a final look at a photo of Melburn and Claire Jackson, holding their infant son, a pyramid looming over them and a camel to their left.
“Don't worry,” Jack spoke softly. “He'll be okay. I don't know how you feel about it, but I love him, very much.” Jack sighed as sadness loomed over him. “I'll take good care of him. I promise.”
Jack reverently pushed the box back into the corner of Daniel's closet, where he could tell it had resided until today. Then, once again, he went in search of his lover.
Jack stood silently near the kitchen counter, watching Daniel as he stood on his balcony, arms folded in a self-hug.
~You're hurting, Love, but you aren't going to go through this alone.~
Taking a deep breath, Jack walked out to the balcony, stopping behind his lover and wrapping his arms around Daniel's waist. Jack leaned his chin onto Daniel's shoulder, silently rejoicing Daniel hadn't pushed him away.
Jack closed his eyes for a moment to regain his resolve. He was so used to saying 'Danny' when they were alone. Daniel had never objected before; well, not really, at least, not beyond his initial objections when their friendship was first forming. As a result, Jack suspected the war raging within his lover had little to do with his name.
The word was barely a whisper, and Jack wasn't really sure what the question was.
“Why what, Daniel?”
“Danny. Why do you call me ... that?” Daniel asked quietly.
Jack's eyes widened a bit and he shrugged lightly as he answered, “Because it's who you are, in your heart and soul.”
Daniel jerked out of Jack's embraced and went back to the living room, pacing in a circle near his piano. Jack followed, choosing to stand in front of the bookshelves as he watched Daniel's internal struggle. Suddenly, Daniel stopped and looked at Jack. To Jack, he looked so much like a scared and lost little boy, and, in a sense, Jack knew that's exactly what Daniel was.
“There's a difference? I'm ... me, Daniel. Dan...Danny's just ... just a name, and I'm not ... I don't like it. I ... I want you to call me Daniel,” the shaggy haired man insisted.
Jack's heart continued to ache. Daniel's eyes were cold, unfocused, and confused. No longer resembling a lonely child, Jack now thought Daniel looked old, an adjective Jack never thought he'd use in describing his youthful lover.
“Yes, Daniel, in a way, there is a difference,” Jack finally responded.
“No, there can't ... there isn't.”
Jack slowly walked towards Daniel, closing the distance between them slightly. His voice was soft and loving, but also firm and confident.
“Daniel closes himself off from pain. He erects walls, lots of thick walls, to protect himself from being hurt. He's afraid to laugh or smile for fear the shield he wraps around himself will break,” Jack explained and then walked a few more steps towards his lover. “Daniel is the intellect. He's a brave man, a fighter. He doesn't give in. He thinks he has nothing to lose, so he puts himself on the line at the drop of the hat. He's a good man, and he's a man who has compassion for everyone but himself.”
Jack kept focused on his fidgeting partner and drew another breath as he continued, more softly now.
“Danny is you, the little boy who loves and gives more to others than anyone I know. He's kind and selfless. He's also loving and a romantic son of a gun. He's your spirit. He soars like an eagle, unafraid, unaware that people out there want to and would hurt him. Danny sees innocence everywhere, because Danny is innocent.”
Jack closed the remaining gap between himself and his anguished soulmate. He cupped Daniel's face with his hands as he spoke, “Danny isn't afraid of pain because he trusts people. He never thinks he'll be hurt because he can't imagine cruelty. All Danny wants is to love and be loved. He takes risks and opens himself up to the wonders of the world. Sometimes, Danny gets the door slammed in his face, and that's when Daniel takes over, the intellect trying to protect the heart and the spirit.”
Daniel's eyes were closed, and another tear seeped down his face. Jack dried the tear with his thumb and leaned in for a short, sweet kiss, brushing his lover's quivering lips.
“I love you, all of you -- the intellect, the little boy, the spirit, the protector. You're a genius, and that's helped you, Dan...iel. It's helped you to wrap yourself in an invisible armor to stave off anyone or anything that might cut through it. The problem is your heart and soul are too big, too giving, and too caring to stay wrapped up and locked away.”
“Danny was a little boy,” Daniel stated almost inaudibly. “He's ... gone. It's ... it's why I can't remember anymore.”
Jack pulled Daniel into arms and held him tightly as he soothed, “No, he's not gone, Daniel. He's here, now. He's just being protected, kept safe, because you think if you lock away that little boy then you won't have to hurt anymore.”
Shaking his head, Daniel pulled away, the war still raging inside him as he shouted, “No, you don't understand, Jack.”
“Tell me then. Explain it to me. What is it I don't understand?” Jack asked as tenderly as he knew how.
“They're gone. Don't you get it? They're gone, and I've ... betrayed them. I ... I'm forgetting. Just go away, Jack; you don't get it. You can't!” Daniel said in a raised and fretful voice.
Daniel was standing still, but his body was twisting involuntarily as his fingers cut into his skin from his ultra tight self-hug. His head was lowered, the carpet fascinating him. He had put several feet between him and his lover.
“Can't I, Daniel? I think I understand loss and faces that fade pretty dang well.”
Daniel's head shot up. His eyes widened as he realized what Jack was talking about. Daniel's heart pounded with regret and sorrow.
“Jack, I ... I'm sorry, Jack.”
“Daniel, listen to me. Sometimes, I wake up at night, sweating, shaking like a leaf. I hear the gunshot. I hear Sara's yell. I see ... I see his blood curdling out of his head. I feel his cold, lifeless hands in a dreary gray hospital. For a long time, Daniel, that's all my life was. Seeing, hearing, feeling the sounds of death.
“After I ... after we met, those sounds stopped consuming me. At least now, they're only in my nightmares. But Daniel, sometimes I forget, too. His voice, his smile: the memory fades and disappears; and then I remember, because I force myself to think about him. I look at the photos, watch the home movies, pull out that box of memories, because I need to remember not that he died, but that he lived, and the joy he brought to me, and to Sara. I don't ... Daniel, you know me. I don't do feelings well.
“I don't know words like you do, and I sure as heck don't show my emotions like ... geez, Daniel, you know what I mean. I hide. I let Colonel O'Neill cover for Jack. I joke, tease, and use sarcasm to hide my feelings and my pain. If I were standing here with anyone else, I would never admit that, but I'm here, with you, with my best friend and my lover, and I know you already know that.”
Jack's eyes were misty as he closed the distance one more time between himself and Daniel.
“The point is that it hurts to open myself up to remember Charlie when the pain and guilt is still so much a part of me, but I'm better for it when I do. The pain lessens, but the memories grow stronger. You made me talk about him, remember,” Jack asked, his eyes begging Daniel to recall the event he had in mind. “... after those unity crystal things, and that's when I realized I had put Charlie in this little corner of my mind. I buried him there, thinking it would hurt less, but it didn't, Danny...iel. It hurts more to try and pretend the pain never happened. If we spend every moment remembering, we stop living; if we cut off our remembering, we stop being human. The only way we can heal is to embrace our pain and still live everyday to the fullest. Danny, you have so much to live for.”
Jack reached out with his right hand and placed it on Daniel's cheek, gently caressing the smooth skin and drying away the still falling tears.
“The little boy Danny needs to remember that his parents loved him, that it's okay to be sad, to miss them, to be angry that they aren't here. He needs to know that they didn't mean to leave him. It was an accident, just like ...”
Jack swallowed hard. He hadn't intended things to go like this. His heart was in his hand.
“... just like Charlie's death was an accident. You need to talk about them, Daniel, about what it was like to grow up in Egypt, to see those pyramids through those little boy eyes. Daniel ... Daniel doesn't need to protect Danny anymore, because I'm here, and I'll keep you safe now. Together, we'll remember. We'll remember Claire and Melburn and talk about how much they loved you.”
“And ... and Charlie?” Daniel whispered.
~Geez, look at you, in so much pain, and yet, you're taking care of me. No wonder I love you so friggin' much.~ Jack nodded. “Yes, and Charlie, too. Who knows, Daniel ... maybe they're together, out there somewhere. You looked like him. It was almost scary when I saw that picture of you: same ragamuffin hair, same beautiful smile. So, maybe your parents are taking care of my son.”
“I'd like to think so, Jack. I ... I'm not sure what I believe ... about stuff like that, but ... I'd like to believe they were together somehow.”
Jack smiled, and finally, Daniel gave a little smile, too.
Daniel nodded as he leaned into Jack, placing his head on the very strong shoulder of his soulmate. He let Jack's powerful arms engulf him with a feeling of safety.
“I'm sorry, Jack, for being such a pain.”
“But you're my pain, Daniel, and I love you.” Jack pulled back slightly, taking his lover's hand. “Come on, Daniel.” Jack led the compliant archaeologist back to the bedroom. “Come sit on the bed.”
Again, Daniel did as Jack requested. He watched Jack move towards the closet, retrieving the box he had so carefully put away only an hour ago. The older man carried the box over to the bed. As he took the spot next to Daniel, Jack placed the box slightly in front of Daniel, and then he placed his arm around Daniel's shoulder and leaned his lover into him.
“It doesn't have to be now, Daniel; not even tomorrow or next week, but sometime soon, when you're ready, I want you to show me those photos in that box and tell me what you remember about them. I want you to prattle on about whatever the heck I know I won't understand that your father wrote about in those papers.”
Jack kissed Daniel's forehead, mussing his hair slightly.
“I want you to talk about each and every single thing in that box. Maybe it's not all pretty and sunshine, but leaving it buried, trying to pretend it's not there only hurts more. So, we're going to open that box and talk about it until it's so vivid in your mind that you know you'll never forget because you know that your parents are inside you, that they will never leave you, just like I will never leave you. Okay?”
Daniel shifted his head slightly, still staring at the box.
“Okay, Jack, and we do the same with that box of Charlie's stuff, too. Okay?”
“Always a negotiator,” Jack chuckled as relief spread through him. “That's my Dan...iel.”
“Danny; call me 'Danny'.”
Jack reached out, turned Daniel's face to his, and kissed him.
“I love you, Danny.”
The young man smiled contentedly and admitted, “It feels right when you say it, Jack. I ... I like it when you call me 'Danny'. I just got scared.”
“I know. I get scared, too,” Jack responded with a wealth of understanding within him.
“They always called me 'Danny'. Daddy... Dad ...”
“Hey, it's only me, just me. Stop thinking so much. Give Daniel a rest. He's a busy guy translating all those whatchamacallits and saving the world. He could use a night off. Let the little boy remember, Danny. It's okay. You're safe. It's just us.”
Daniel nuzzled into the strength of his Jack. He felt completely safe for the first time since his parents had died. He'd torn down a wall, one that had kept his pain veiled even from the man he loved. Now, though, he felt free, too. It wasn't going to be easy; it would take time, but Daniel was beginning to believe that, just maybe, what he had found with Jack would be forever.
With a contentment and peace flowing through him, Daniel stopped thinking and let Danny be free to be loved, comforted, and cherished, and to remember.
“Daddy used to put me on his shoulders as he walked around the dig sites. He wanted me to be able to see everything.”
“I'd try that on missions, but you're too heavy to carry for long, and it would really be straining the whole 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' thing, wouldn't it?” Jack chuckled. “You sure he just didn't want to make sure you didn't touch anything or go someplace you weren't supposed to?” Jack cajoled his life partner lightly.
Daniel released a soft chuckle, and then admitted, “Yeah, that, too. I ... I liked to investigate. I wanted to help. I guess they couldn't get me to obey orders either.” Daniel took another deep breath. “Mom ... Mom used to call me her little Pharaoh.”
“Because you were stubborn and ruled the roost, I'll bet,” Jack teased.
“Jaaack, I was ... curious.”
“I love you, Danny,” Jack said, his voice cracking, not knowing for sure why he had to say those words right then, but yet unable to resist the force inside of him that said it was to thing to do.
“Jack, can ... can we ... I mean ... I ...”
“Hey, just tell me what you want; my kingdom is yours, my little Pharaoh.”
“You're not going to let me forget that, are you?”
“Not one word, Daniel, not one. So, what is it you want?” Jack asked the timid younger man.
“It hasn't been long, has it? I mean, you and I ... just a couple of months, but it seems ... it seems like ...”
“... forever,” Jack and Daniel spoke in unison.
“I like this place. It's ... a nice place. My stuff is here. It's a ... a nice apartment.”
Jack's nuzzling lover was fidgeting a little, finding it difficult to complete his thought.
“Danny, I like this place, too, even if there are a few too many rocks to be careful of.”
“Playgrounds for ants.”
“Jack!” Daniel exclaimed, a smile on his face.
Jack ruffled Daniel's long hair, something he had done occasionally since they met, but now his fingers could linger and caress. He had a hunch he knew what his lover wanted. Daniel had torn down a wall that night, but they had a long way to go before he'd feel comfortable enough to ask for something that he wanted selfishly.
With a kiss to Daniel's forehead, Jack asked, “Ready to go home, Danny?”
Daniel turned and graced Jack with the most beautiful smile Jack had ever seen.
Daniel put on his shoes, packed a few clothes into a duffel bag, and went to the kitchen as Jack followed. He reached into his cupboard and pulled something out.
“Daniel, I have, I mean we have food at home. You really don't need to bring anything.”
“Ah, but you don't have this, Jack. I'm the coffee ...”
“... addict?” Jack finished for his lover.
“... drinker. And nothing against Folgers, but it's not Starbuck's, Jack, so I'm taking this with me. Maybe I could leave it ...”
“... leave it at home?”
Daniel looked at Jack, wearing a tentative smile, his eyes shy but filled with desire, not just for Jack and their lovemaking, but for a place to call home.
“You don't need to bring it, Daniel,” Jack said, taking the package of Arabian Mocha Java and putting back on the shelf. Jack turned and saw the look of rejection in Daniel's eyes. “Danny, I have three packages at home. I bought them two weeks ago. We've just been so busy that I forgot to tell you.”
“You bought ... three packages, Jack? That's a lot. I mean, it'll take a while ...”
“We have forever, Danny.”
Daniel couldn't hold back any longer. He threw his arms around Jack, finding his lips, and began a round of tongue wrestling that lasted until Daniel thought he'd turn blue.
“Let's go home, Danny,” Jack said tenderly.
Picking up Daniel's duffel bag, Jack moved to the door while Daniel put on his jacket and started to follow Jack out.
“Wait a minute, Jack. I'll be right back. I want to get something.”
Daniel hurried off towards his bedroom, reappearing a minute later with the old, battered box of memories.
“I thought ... maybe ... tomorrow, we could ...”
“Sounds good, Daniel.”
“Danny, Jack. Daniel's on downtime this weekend,” Daniel said freely.
Jack laughed, his heart singing now that things were back on track.
“Okay, sounds good, Danny.”
Together, Jack and Daniel went home, both feeling a wondrous warmth inside that they would nurture and treasure for the rest of time. Their nation of two was in its infancy, but it was already a potent combination!
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