Tough Guys Aren't Always So Tough
Category: Slash, H/C of the mental kind, Epilogue, Romance, Established Relationship
Pairing: Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Spoilers: Show and Tell, Cold Lazarus
Size: 26kb, ficlet
Written: May 5-8,14, 2004 Revised for consistency: January 19, 2007
Summary: Will the third boy Charlie in his life be one Charlie too many for Jack O'Neill?
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: Claudia, QuinGem, Drdjlover, Kalimyre!
Tough Guys Aren't Always So Tough
Jack drove the truck down the narrow road that led away from Cheyenne
Mountain. He reached over and turned on the radio,
uncharacteristically choosing a station that was playing loud, raucous
Daniel sighed as he reached over and turned the radio off.
“Hey, I was listening to that.”
“Sure you were. You know, Jack, you probably shouldn't even be driving,” Daniel opined. “Pull over.”
“It's a scratch,” Jack responded, moving his right arm slightly and refusing to let the pain he felt show in his voice or face. “Don't know why the Doc even put me in that sling,” he commented about the object that had been tossed into the cab of the Ford truck as soon as the colonel had unlocked and opened the driver's door.
“Right,” the archaeologist responded. He knew the injury wasn't that severe, and Janet had given them the usual instructions for similar injuries in the past, so he wasn't worried about any potential complications setting in. Besides, they had more important things to settle. His lover's physical injury was nothing compared to the emotional difficulties the past day-and-a-half had brought. “Jack, we need to talk.”
“Yeah,” Jack agreed, trying to sound enthusiastic. “Danny, we need to make sure we get to the stadium to get those tickets. I don't want to miss that game next week. It should be one heck of a showdown ...”
Daniel listened as Jack rambled on about the baseball game they were going to attend the next week. Finally, there was a pause.
“Jack ...” the archaeologist began to no avail.
“Did you see the clip of that home run last night? Man, I tell ya, that guy could give Teal'c a run for his money. I think these guys are on steroids or something. Either that, or the baseballs are nothing but feathers. That ball was still flying ...”
Again, Daniel listened to Jack rant about a game-winning homer for the Colorado Rockies. He looked out his window as Jack talked, trying to decide on the best method of handling the current situation. Then, another pause occurred.
“Jack ...” the shaggy-haired scientist began again.
“By the way, Danny, you did great back there, the way you reacted so quickly and knocked off that rebel Reetou. You really saved my bacon. I'm proud of you, Love, the way you did what was necessary. Those Reetou rebels are going to be tough to fight. I hope that doohickey of Carter's ...”
Daniel leaned his head back against the headrest of his seat as he looked at his prattling lover. It was nice to know Jack was proud of him, but the problem was that he knew Jack was covering up some deep feelings that were crying to be heard. The situation at the base had been emotionally difficult for Jack, but few knew the full extent of it.
It had begun with the arrival of a young, nameless boy who had announced he was there to give Jack a message of warning. As it turned out, the boy had been manufactured by an alien he called his mother. She was from a race called the Reetou, and apparently, rebel factions of the Reetou were on a mission to destroy all human beings on the misguided theory that the Goa'uld threat would disappear if they didn't have humans to serve as hosts.
Unfortunately, a small band of Reetou had come through the Gate undetected, the aliens invisible to the human eye. With the help of the Tok'ra who provided the SGC with weapons called Transphase Eradication Rods, or TERs for short, that allowed the Reetou to be seen, SG-1 and others were able to defeat the rebel band.
Sadly, the Reetou 'mother' who had created Charlie had been killed in the skirmish, leaving the boy alone. She had also been rushed in her creation of the human child and, as a result, his body was deteriorating. Janet predicted he would soon die.
Jacob, however, offered to take him back to the Tok'ra. The boy was young, but Jacob believed a symbiote could save his life, allowing the youngster to grow up.
The scene in the gate room as Jacob took the boy had been full of emotion for Jack. The nameless boy had taken to him from the beginning, even deciding to call himself Charlie after Jack's son. He had even asked if he could be Jack's son. For the Air Force colonel, losing the alien Charlie was a grim reminder of his own son's death.
During the review at the end of the thirty-six hour ordeal, Jack had been all business. When he had spoken of Charlie and his future, his tone was formal and distanced. He stated facts, his voice calm and firm. His eyes were focused on either the general or the report he had prepared. There had been no shine in them. He had just wanted to survive the rest of this day and go home.
Now that they were alone, Daniel was determined to break through Jack's thick exterior wall of protection. His lover was hurting, and it was up to the younger man to get him through it. Aware that they were just minutes from Jack's house, he tried to take advantage of another break in the conversation.
Once again, however, the older man refused to stop what amounted to a filibuster, this time talking about one of the newer SGC recruits.
“Did you notice Private Stiner? He's really coming along nicely. I was doubtful at first. Didn't think he had the guts to stand up and tackle something unknown, but he's been proving himself. I might talk to Hammond about ...”
Daniel sighed, ~Okay, Jack, we're almost home anyway.~
The archaeologist shut the door behind him. Jack was several feet ahead of him, near the sofa, leafing through the mail. As he watched, Daniel felt a myriad of emotions. He was frustrated at being cut off by his lover so many times on the way home, and he knew there was more to come. He was also worried Jack's protective exterior of wit and sarcasm would prevent him from getting to the truth.
Jack had a habit of lashing out in order to protect himself from hurt, so as he observed his soulmate, Daniel threw up his own shield of armor.
~I can't let him get to me. Remember, Jackson. He won't mean it. If he turns on you, it's only because he's scared. Come on, now. You have to be strong. Jack needs you. You know it. He loves you, so ... so don't let him push you away.~
Daniel felt an increasing amount of love and compassion for his lover as he thought about the recent events, and all his lover had been going through. Jack was hurting, even if the older man couldn't admit that yet. Daniel saw it, though, and just as Jack had helped the younger man to start dealing with his demons, it was now up to Daniel to reciprocate, not because he was obligated to, but because he wanted to. He loved Jack, and that love would get him through whatever he had to do in order to get Jack to face the truth.
Daniel took a deep breath as he encouraged again, ~Remember, don't let him push you away. You love him. He's counting on you.~ Then he forged on. “Jack ...”
“Hey, the latest issue of National Geographic arrived. Sweet!” Jack exclaimed as chipper-sounding as he could. Time for my ritual. Looks like a good issue, too. Cool looking bonus map of ...”
Daniel walked to within feet of his lover as Jack chattered away about the contents of his favorite magazine. When he was sure there was nothing more Jack could add, he spoke again.
The older man turned abruptly, setting the mail on the counter as he stared out the patio door, and suggested in a complete non sequitur, “Danny, I'm seriously thinking about putting in a pool. We could ...”
“Okay, that's it,” Daniel stated forcefully. ~Just reached my limit, Colonel.~
“So you like the idea, too?” Jack asked, trying to ignore the fierce look in his lover's eyes.
“Jack, stop it,” the younger man ordered.
“The pool would be great. Maybe even a spa. Think of the cuddling time,” Jack intoned. “We could lots of fun in a pool!”
“JACK, STOP IT ... NOW!” Daniel shouted. He hadn't wanted to raise his voice, but he hadn't any other option. ~Okay, brace yourself. It's going to get ugly soon.~
“I'm just trying to talk, Daniel,” Jack responded. “You're always wanting me to talk more. You do it all the time.”
Daniel closed the gap that had remained between he and his soulmate. He looked deeply into his eyes, and then he leaned even closer, putting his arms around Jack. He used the palm of his right hand to move his lover's head closer to his shoulder, and with his left arm, he tugged the older man closer.
Jack wanted to resist, just slightly. He couldn't 'hide' and be in Daniel's arms at the same time, but the younger man wouldn't budge. There were too many times in the past when the younger man had wanted to run from his embrace, but Jack had held on for dear life until Daniel realized he was safe. Now, it was Daniel's turn to be strong.
Holding his ground with his hands on his hips, the archaeologist spoke strongly, “You're not moving, O'Neill. You hear me? Not one inch from where you are right now. It's okay, Jack. Isn't that what you always tell me? We're together. Talk to me, and not about ridiculous pools and ... baseball games.”
Jack wanted to lie, but he couldn't. He'd spent years perfecting his tough guy exterior, making sure people saw the dense military man, the tough-as-nails colonel, the in-your-face Special Forces officer, but with Daniel, the walls always came tumbling down, his clever, cheeky, and sometimes flippant-sounding cover dissipating into nothingness.
Daniel felt Jack beginning to crumble within his hold and urged, “Tell me. It was a hard couple of days, wasn't it?”
Jack sighed as he slowly let go of the image and let his feelings shine through. His chin burrowed into Daniel's neck, and he felt the release of tears.
“It still hurts, Danny. I can see him on the floor, the blood everywhere. I thought I'd moved on after that ... crystal thing, but Charlie ... I mean ...”
“I know what you mean, Love.”
“He had no one, Danny. That Reetou mother -- I guess she meant well, but she screwed up,” Jack opined. “That little boy is paying for her impatience. No one has a right to do that, to hurt a child like that.”
“I understand your anger,” Daniel responded. “Charlie was nothing more than a tool, created to help us. That was his purpose. I wish they had found another way, too.”
Jack tore out of Daniel's embrace, walking over towards the phone. He picked up the base and slammed it back down in anger.
“SHE COULD HAVE FOUND ANOTHER WAY! Daniel, why couldn't they come up with a ... a radio, a message on a computer, a ... A SOMETHING? WHY ... WHY INVENT A LIVING BOY DESTINED TO DIE?”
~This is progress,~ Daniel sighed. He needed to remain calm. Jack was just releasing his pent-up anger and rage, which the archaeologist knew was a good thing. “They didn't know they were out of time. Maybe we wouldn't have believed some message over a computer. We respond more to life, any kind of life. They knew that. They've been watching us for quite a while. Mother knew the boy was ...”
“His name is Charlie, Daniel.”
Again, Daniel calmed himself. Jack was looking for a fight. He wanted to fight. He wanted to do anything but dig down inside for whatever the real emotion was that was causing him so much despair at the moment. Daniel knew this, and again, he silently urged himself not to react. He couldn't afford that.
“Jack, the Reetou didn't have to try and help us, but they did. Right or wrong, the method they chose was a child, and I'm not sure that wasn't a smart choice, because we did listen. We may not have believed him at first, but we did listen, and consider. So, in the end, that boy was the right thing.”
Not stopping, Daniel continued, “I know it's hard, but Mother did the best she could. She couldn't wait another second. We can't blame her.”
“I can. She created a life, and he ... he was going to die.”
“But he won't now. He's with the Tok'ra, and that's what we need to remember.”
“And what kind of life is that? How many home bases have the Tok'ra had since we met them? And it hasn't even been that long,” Jack complained. “I don't even think I trust them.”
Daniel rolled his eyes at the comment and responded, “They'll find him a home. We have to trust them.”
Jack kicked the edge of the sofa was his foot. He really wished there was a Goa'uld to kill. He needed a release. The older man was skeptical of Charlie's fate. He wanted to believe Daniel was right, but the Tok'ra had already been too shifty and evasive for Jack's taste.
Yet, the still-mourning father knew there had been no other option for the manufactured boy. He walked towards the fireplace, stopping just a foot away. He stared at the bricks that sat in front of the chimney. He put his hands in his pockets as he sighed.
“Jack.” Daniel moved forward. He ran his right hand up and down his lover's back, his left hand gently rubbing Jack's forearm. “Jack.”
The older man began to crumble under Daniel's touch, but was fighting it as he told himself, ~I don't want to lose control.~ But he couldn't help it. It was Daniel, and he trusted him more than anything or anyone else, even himself.
“It's okay,” Daniel said softly. He moved his right arm to go around Jack's waist, and then he pulled lightly on Jack's arm, effectively turning his lover back to him. “It's okay,” he said again, so soft and tender that Jack couldn't fight anymore.
Jack shook his head back and forth and closed his eyes. He swallowed hard as he leaned into Daniel's embrace, the tears starting to fall.
“How many times do I have to lose him, Danny? I watched him die ... in my arms, Danny. Gawd!”
“I know,” Daniel acknowledged. “It must have been horrible. I can't imagine what that was like.”
“Oh, geez, yes, you can. I'm sorry, Danny, I shouldn't ...” Jack pulled back, about to bolt from the closeness of his lover, but Daniel held on.
Jack felt horrible. Daniel hadn't lost a child, but, as a child, he had watched his parents die, and that was about as close as they could get to having experienced the same thing. He hated that he had reminded Daniel of that pain.
Surprisingly to the older man, though, Daniel hadn't become consumed with his own pain. Instead, he cupped Jack's face, drying the tears with his fingers as they caressed the older man's cheeks.
“This isn't about me,” Daniel intoned, his eyes looking deeply into those of his lover's. “We know what I've been through because we've talked it so much, but we haven't talked as much about Charlie, and, right now, Jack, we need to talk about your son. I can't imagine, I truly can't, what it would be like to see your child die.”
“No words. There are no words,” Jack said as Daniel pulled his lover back to him. He nuzzled his chin into Daniel's shoulder, and then his neck, unable to stop the waterfall of his tears. “He was so young, full of life. It was stupid, so stupid.”
“It was an accident,” the younger man reminded, his hands rubbing up and down his soulmate's back, occasionally patting him with taps of encouragement and reassurance.
“That ... crystal entity thing,” Jack recalled. “I had to watch him go away again.”
“I remember, Love. He looked just like Charlie,” Daniel spoke about the shape the crystal unity at taken toward the ends of its stay on Earth.
“He forgave me, Danny. The voice, the eyes -- he wanted to take away my pain. Why'd he have to look and sound so much like Charlie? Why couldn't he have been someone else?” Jack cried.
“Because getting to know you meant getting to know all of you, and that includes what is in here.” Daniel pulled back slightly to look into Jack's eyes as he spoke and to place his hand over Jack's heart. “Charlie is in here. If the crystal unity needed to understand you, it had to understand your sorrow over the accident.”
“I killed him, killed my own son.”
“No,” Daniel refuted, shaking his head. “Charlie made a choice, Jack. It just wasn't the right one to make. But he was just a little boy. He didn't understand, that's all.”
“How could he forgive me?”
~I know his pain.~ Daniel closed his eyes as he again held his soulmate securely. “Because it wasn't your fault, any more than it was Sara's. Accidents happen, even tragic ones, and you needed his forgiveness.”
Jack said quietly, “But he wasn't really Charlie.”
“He was his essence, all that you knew of him. Jack, don't you see?” Daniel pulled back, wanting Jack to see him as he talked. “You knew Charlie better than anyone. Everything good, or bad, you know ... here,” he rubbed against Jack's chest just over his heart and then moved his hand to caress against Jack's head, “and up here. You know Charlie through and through. Gawd, Jack. You *know* that Charlie forgives you because he is your son. How he thought, what he felt ... it's in you, all of it. And Charlie *does* forgive you.”
Still vulnerable, Jack admitted, “I want to believe that.”
“Then do,” Daniel insisted. “It's that simple, and we'll keep working on you forgiving yourself, too.”
“I'm trying, Danny. I really am.”
“I know, but it takes time to let go of our nightmares,” Daniel reminded. “We both know that.”
Jack sniffled as he agreed, “Yeah, it does. I just can't keep losing him. Every little boy reminds me of him. And this boy ... Charlie ... why me? Why couldn't he attach himself to Teal'c or Ferretti or anyone else on the base? Heck, why not Hammond? Hammond's a grandfather, for crying out loud.”
Daniel remained steady as he commented, “Because you're a father, Jack, and everyone knows it. When there's a child around, everything about you changes. All that love you keep inside, in that corner of your heart that is kept just for your son, it comes out whenever you deal with children, just like it has with Cassie and other children we've come across. It's why you spend all that time at the children's home and the shelters. Your love for children can't be hidden.”
“I can't go through it again. I can't.”
Jack walked over to the sofa and sat down. His elbows rested on his knees as he leaned forward, his forehead leaning against his closed fists.
Daniel sat down next to him, saying, “Jack, it wasn't Charlie. It was an alien entity masquerading as your son last year, and this time, it was a little boy created by an alien. Neither of them were Charlie.”
“My head knows that, but my heart just feels the loss all over again.”
Nodding, Daniel suggested, “Okay, then look at the good.”
Jack sat up straight as he faced Daniel, asking, “What good?”
“The crystal unity went on to a new life, to fulfill its potential. It's out there, alive and growing, learning more about itself and the world there. We helped it to find a way. And this Charlie is going to grow up, Jack. He'll have a life. He'll do all the things that little boys are supposed to do. Okay, he has a symbiote. He can still be happy. Jacob's happy as a Tok'ra. He'll outlive us both, and he'll learn what life is about. Both are alive, Jack. They're out there.”
Jack nodded his head, beginning softly, “I wish ...”
~Me, too, again.~ Jack rubbed his hands together just before clasping them in front of him. He let out a small nervous chuckle. “Do you happen to have any idea how much I love you?”
With a smile, Daniel shrugged and answered, “I ... I think so.”
“Danny, someday you're going to know without a question in your mind. I love you so much, Space Monkey.”
Tears were still falling down Jack's face, some of the new ones being tears for his lover's pain.
Daniel pulled them both to lean back against the cushion, Jack's head resting on his shoulder, and said, “I love you, too ... so much, Jack ... so very much.”
“Geez, I feel like such a cry baby,” Jack expressed and then sighed deeply.
“Crying isn't a bad thing.” Daniel kissed Jack's forehead as his hands caressed his lover's head, arms, and back. “You're mourning, Jack.”
“I already did that.”
“No, you didn't,” Daniel said, rejecting the comment. “You cut yourself off from the world, even from yourself. Now ... now you're letting yourself grieve, to say goodbye to your beautiful son.”
“How'd you get so smart, Danny?”
“I listen to you.”
Jack looked up at his lover in surprise and tried to tease, “Since when do you listen to me?”
“New York,” Daniel answered simply as he recalled their trip earlier in the year to the place where his parents had died. “You helped me to let go, and it ... I mean, I know it takes a long time. I'm still working on it. Now, you are, too.”
“We're a mess, Danny, but it's a good mess,” Jack opined with a genuine chuckle.
“The best, Jack,” Daniel agreed.
They sat like that for a long time, Daniel comforting his soulmate, both shedding tears for their lost families. Their grief was enormous, and it wouldn't go away in a day or a week, but as those days and weeks passed, their love for each other would grow, and they would be able to help each other to finally let go and move on from the grief and pain of their losses.
The purity of their love for each other would never die, shining brightly in their nation of two that would carry the two men through the ups and downs of life. For Jack and Daniel, their love would get them through anything.
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