Traces of Love

Author:  Orrymain
Category:  Slash, Drama, Angst, Missing Scene/Epilogue, Romance, POV - Daniel, Established Relationship
Pairing:  Jack/Daniel ... and it's all J/D
Rating:  PG-13
Season:  4 - May 2, 2001 (Flashback to June 23, 1997)
Spoilers:  Thor's Hammer
Size:  25kb, ficlet
Written:  August 10-26, 2003  Tweaked: July 30, 2004  Revised;  February 16-17,25-27, 2008
Summary:  After putting Daniel to the test, Jack has to deal with the fallout.
Disclaimer:  Usual disclaimers -- not mine, wish they were, especially Daniel, and Jack, too, but they aren't.  A gal can dream though!
Notes:  
1) Thanks to my betas who always make my fics better:  QuinGem, Claudia, Drdjlover, Melissa, Lissa, Linda, Keri!

Traces of Love
by Orrymain

We've come so far.  I'm not sure why I'm thinking about this now.  Maybe because Jack's been a little under the weather, and I'm having to take care of him a little bit.  He's so used to taking care of me.  He's not the best patient in the world.  I guess I'm not, either.

Here I am, though, thinking back to a day several years ago, when love was nothing more than a ... a whisper.

--

It was crazy, absolutely freakin' crazy.  We walked onto P3X-974, uh, also known as Cimmeria, and were laughed at.  That just wasn't the usual reaction we received when going off-world.  I mean, most of the time, a planet's inhabitants treat us like we're gods or something at first, bowing down and even acting afraid.  It was a little disconcerting to see them laugh, especially since it was a loud, ruckus-like sound coming from the people.

Jack took it in stride, but I admit I was confused.  I wish I had stayed confused instead of switching to being scared out of my wits, but when Jack and Teal'c disappeared, I was really afraid that they were dead.  It would have been my fault because I'm the one who insisted that we go to Cimmeria in the first place.

Sam stayed calm, her military mindset taking charge, but me?  Inside, I was a mass of quivering jelly.  Everyone I had ever cared about died or went away, and now, Jack was gone, too, and I was only just beginning to realize how important the CO of SG-1 was to me.  Okay, I panicked, a lot.  I was half-expecting to pass out because my heart was beating so fast.

Fortunately, after talking to one of the locals, Gairwyn, it became clear that Jack and Teal'c had just been zapped to some underground tunnel complex, courtesy of Thor's Hammer, a device intended to protect the Cimmerians from the Goa'uld.  Why couldn't they put up a sign or something?  'Goa'uld, Stay Out'.  Okay, so that wouldn't have stopped us.  We're ... the nosey kind, although I prefer the word 'curious' to 'nosey', so why I said it, I don't know, but that's neither here nor there at the moment.

Gairwyn took us to meet a woman named Kendra.  For the first time since I'd lost Sha're, I could envision her coming back to me.

Kendra had once been taken as a Goa'uld host, but Thor's Hammer helped her destroy the symbiote that ruled her.  Incredible as it seemed, she was now free, living her life of her own free will on P3X-974. There was hope in my heart at last.  If I could only find Sha're, I could bring her here.  Then we could be together again.  I wondered if we'd go back to Abydos.  It's easier there, in so many ways.

Okay, so, Kendra agreed to take Sam and me to the underground complex where she believed Jack and Teal'c could be found.  She didn't want to go at first, and I can't say I blame her for being hesitant to go back there. She's a survivor, though, so she summoned her courage and led the way.

Sam and I argued a lot as we traveled with Kendra.  Kendra had some difficulty remembering how to get there, and Sam was concerned that she might be stalling, but I just knew we could trust her.  For the first time in months, I had real hope that we could save my wife, and nothing was going to deter me from finding the secret of the Hammer, not even Sam's doubts.

I didn't like arguing with Sam.  She's a good friend, but sometimes she gets stuck in her military mindset.  I couldn't stop.  I *had* to believe in Kendra.

Finally, though, when my gut was twisting so much I thought I might throw up, I had to ask Kendra if there really was a chance for Sha're.  I mean, uh, I could have been ... projecting.  I could have been lying to myself, but she said yes, and that was all I needed.

It was a long journey, and Sam didn't have the faith in Kendra that I did.  She wanted to turn back, believing I was clinging to a false hope.  I protested adamantly because there was no way I was going to stop now.

“Haven't you ever had a feeling that made absolutely no logical sense and it turned out to be right?”

That's the question I asked Sam.  She didn't have a comeback to that, not that I would have listened.  I walked away, trailing Kendra and leaving Sam behind.  She had no choice but to follow me, or leave me behind, and she'd never do that. I guess it was wrong of me to walk away like that, but this was my chance to help Sha're.  It didn't matter whether or not Sam followed, but I was glad she did.

Soon after that, we found Jack and Teal'c, and Thor's Hammer.  My heart pounded with joy.  Whenever I found Sha're, I could save her.  I could finally make it up to her for putting her in danger in the first place.  It was all my fault; I never should have uncovered the Abydos Gate.

Then my heart pounded with anxiety.  How could he ask this of me?  Jack handed me the staff weapon, and my heart went from joy to despair in two seconds.  He wanted me to destroy the Hammer so we could save Teal'c.  Teal'c couldn't leave the underground cave without going through the Hammer, and going through the Hammer would mean his death since the Jaffa needed the larval Goa'uld to survive.

Jack's eyes met mine in a chilling moment of revelation.  I had to sacrifice my one and only way to save my wife for the certainty of saving Teal'c now.

On a deeper level, I knew it was a test.  Always the military power, always the CO, Jack had to know that I'd do as he asked, that I'd put aside my personal desires for the good of the team.  Truth be told, I guess I had to know that I'd do it, too.  It was probably the single most difficult thing I'd ever done, but what choice did I have?  None.

After I did what had to be done, we went home, leaving the new Sagan Institute Box with Kendra to give to the Asgard, hoping that we'd somehow be able to communicate with them one day.  I had to focus on that, on the hope of our successful explorations, and not the loss that was overwhelming me.  It hurt, but what good would it do to let anyone see that?  I knew exactly what I had to do.

When the Hammer was destroyed, I covered my hurt.  That was something I always did back then.  It was protection.  Like anyone would care anyway?

“Well at least we know it can be done, right?”

That's what I said to Teal'c when I handed him back his staff weapon after killing my wife; I mean, having destroyed her chance to be free.  

--

We returned to the SGC, and General Hammond was there waiting to find out what we'd learned on the planet.

“It was a picnic, a breeze, General,” Jack scoffed.

The general knew Jack was being a smart-aleck and simply announced that the briefing would begin in an hour.

Sam and Teal'c walked towards the exit and I started to follow them, but then I felt Jack's hand on my shoulder, asking me if I was okay.  Hmm.  What did he want me to say?  What *could* I say?

“Sure, Jack, I'm fine.”

I walked away, leaving the colonel standing there.  Jack already knew me better than I knew myself.  He knew “I'm fine” meant anything but that.  I saw his concern, but I couldn't deal with it at that moment.  I had just lost Sha're again, and it was all my fault.  I had insisted we go to Cimmeria, and I had destroyed the Hammer.  I had condemned Sha're to remain in her nightmare as an unwilling host to an evil parasite.  I'd opened the Abydos Gate.  My fault, just like always.

The briefing went smoothly, until we got to the part about the Hammer. Everyone seemed uncomfortable then.  Jack kept looking at me.  Sam was shooting daggers at Jack, and Teal'c seemed to find the wall extremely fascinating.  The general knew something was off, and since I didn't want to sit at that table all afternoon, I bit the bullet and said what needed to be said.  Someone had to.

“General, we found Jack and Teal'c in the underground cave that Kendra led us to.  The Hammer was there.  It's a ... a device that prevents a Goa'uld from ever leaving the cave.  The host has to be very strong to win the struggle.  It's almost impossible to do.”

I hesitated at that point.  My mind was shouting that Kendra did it, that she'd freed herself.  Sha're: I let her down, again.

Seeing the stares, I continued doing what no one else seemed to be able to do.

“The only sure way we knew to free Teal'c was to destroy the Hammer, so I took the staff weapon and fired it.”

Jack was still staring at me.  Sam was looking down, shuffling some papers.  I could swear she had tears in her eyes.  Teal'c was still focused on the wall, and I just wanted to go home.  I guess the general sensed that any further discussion was pointless because he ended the briefing right after that.

As quickly as I could, I went to the locker room.  I changed clothes and was headed for the exit when I thought about Jack.  He deserved more than the flippant “I'm fine” that I had given him in the gate room.

Jack wasn't one to wear his heart on his sleeve.  He wasn't outspoken with his feelings or emotions, so for him to reach out to me like that was a pretty big deal.  I owed it to him to do more than to simply dismiss him the way I had, so I decided to go to his office and maybe invite him over for Chinese so we could talk.

As I approached, I could hear voices coming from Jack's office.  It was Jack and Sam, arguing, their voices about as sharp as I'd ever heard them.  They never saw me standing at the edge of the doorway, listening to them.

“Sir, I don't understand why you had to make Daniel destroy the Hammer.  I could have done it, or you.  Why put him through that?”

“Carter, he had to know that he could do it: make the hard choice.”

“You doubted him?  I thought you trusted Daniel, Sir.”

“I do, Carter, with our lives, but he needs to trust himself, not rely on my trust for him, which, by the way, he still isn't sure of.”

“I know it's been hard for Daniel, but Sha're ...  Sir, do you know what that must have done to him, to have to destroy the one thing that might save her if we find her?”

“When, *when* we find her, Carter, not if.  I promised Daniel we'd get her back, and we're going to, and when we do, we'll figure out something.”

As I listened, I felt better, hearing Jack reaffirm his promise even though he didn't know I was listening.  Somehow, I still believe him.  Maybe I just want to believe him, but no one has ever instilled that kind of confidence in me before, not the way he does.

“Right now, my first responsibility is to the team, and so is Daniel's.  He has to know, one hundred percent, that he can make the tough calls.”

“With all due respect, Colonel, Daniel's not military.  Why should he have to act like it?”

“Because, Carter, when we're out there, on some Twilight Zone of a planet, we never know what is going to happen.  We have to trust each other, count on each other, know without a doubt that when it gets rough, no one will back away.”

“Daniel wouldn't do that, Sir.”

Wow, I thought.  Sam was really fighting for me.  It made me feel even guiltier, though, for the way I had forced her to go along on the planet.  I'd been pretty harsh with her, and here she was, defending me, against her CO, and I knew that wasn't easy for her.

“He didn't know that.  Look, Carter, you're right.  Daniel isn't military, and that puts him at a bit of a disadvantage to anyone looking in, but we're a better team with him than without him.  I had to know; more importantly, Daniel had to know that when push came to shove, he could shove right along with us.  He knows that now.”

“And so do we.  Isn't that the point?”

“You may not like, but, yes, that's the point.”

“I still think you were wrong, Sir.  His ... his eyes.  How can you ignore the pain that you put there because of this?  And if we do get Sha're back, how do we explain to her that her husband destroyed the machine that could have freed her from the Goa'uld?”

“For crying out loud, Carter, we'll deal with it when we find her.  Sha're's a strong woman.  She'll understand, just like Daniel does.  Out there somewhere is a way to help her.  We'll find it.”

“Are you sure about that, Colonel?  Are you sure Daniel understands?”

“I hope so, Carter.  I'm going home.  Your complaint is duly noted, but if you feel a need to go higher with this, you have my permission.”

“No, Sir, I just ... I just wanted to know why you did it.  He's ... he's your friend, Sir.”

“He's my best friend, Carter, and no one is more surprised about that than me, so, yes, I am perfectly aware of the fact that he's in pain.  Now if you'll excuse me.”

“Goodnight, Sir.”

I ducked into an unlocked office just in time.  I didn't want them to see me.  I just wanted to disappear.  I wasn't sure how I felt about destroying the Hammer, or Jack asking, no, ordering me to do it.  All I knew for certain in that moment is that I missed my wife, and I wanted her back.

--

That night I was sitting out on my apartment balcony, thinking about Sha're and what had happened on Cimmeria, when there was a knock on the door.  I didn't answer it, but the knock persisted, getting louder and harder.  I have to admit I smiled.  I knew it was Jack, and I knew he'd stay there as long as it took to get me to answer the door.

“Daniel,” Jack shouted through the door, “I'll stand out here all night if I have to, so you might as well open up.  You don't want me to disturb the neighbors, do you?”  He pounded again and said in a lighter, though still raised voice, “Remember, I have a key!”

I admit it.  I smiled again.  I was right.  Funny how at the same time I was both depressed about my life and yet happy at hearing Jack's words yelled through the door.

Slowly, I rose from my seated position and ambled over to the door while Jack kept up his pounding, his last forward motion almost hitting my nose as I pulled open the door.

“Geez, Daniel, next time warn a guy.  I almost hit you.”

“Sorry, Jack.  What's that?”

“Pizza.  Beer.  You know ... the usual.”

Crazy as it might sound, pizza and beer had become “the usual” for us whenever SG-1 had faced some nasty nightmare.  It was comfort food.

Jack came in, quickly making himself right at home, and I let him.  It never dawned on me at the time that Jack was the only one I ever let get that close to me or be in my personal space.  I was pretty guarded back then, but, somehow, right from the beginning, Jack flew under the radar, tearing down whatever defenses I tried to put up to keep him and others away.

We were still feeling our away along the galaxy, and around each other, when the events on Cimmeria occurred.  Jack didn't know I had heard his disagreement with Sam, nor what I was thinking and feeling inside.  I saw the uncertainty in his face as he tried to bluff his way through our late night pizza with an air of confidence.

We played a game of chess, something else that had become part of “the usual.”  I won.

Jack cringed as he told me, “We need to find a game I can win sometimes, Danny.”

“How about gin?  I'm not very good at that.”

“Good, let's play that next time.  Give my deflated ego a bit of a boost.”

I laughed, “Sure, Jack, anything you say.”

We both sat down on my sofa, Jack with his beer and me with a glass of wine, and settled into a silent commiseration of unspoken thoughts.

“Daniel,” Jack leaned forward putting his emptied beer bottle onto my coffee table, “I ... I'm sorry about the Hammer.  I do understand what that could have meant for Sha're, but Teal'c ...”

“... is here now, Jack.  Yes, I know.”

“Daniel ...”

“Jack,” I stood up and began pacing back and forth between an armchair and my piano, “I know why you wanted me to be the one to destroy Thor's Hammer.  I ... I understand that I needed to prove myself to you ...”

“Daniel, it's not ...”

“Jack, listen, please,” I pleaded, cutting off the man who would one day be my lover.

He nodded and sat back on the couch, waiting for me to continue.

I spoke softly, but firmly.

“It's okay, Jack.  Yes, I'm ... depressed a little.  I ... we found something that could save my wife, free her from the parasite that makes her a slave and keeps her away from me now.  It's ... it's a hard thing, Jack, to know we finally came across a weapon that could destroy the Goa'uld and give me back Sha're, but like you said, we were choiceless.  I wasn't sure I could do it.  When you handed me the staff weapon, I knew what you wanted, and I knew why.  I ... I hated that staff.  I hated myself, and ... I ... I guess I ...”

I couldn't say it, but bless my tough-as-nails colonel, he could.

“... and you hated me.”

I stopped my pacing, looked up as I folded my arms around my chest to protect me.

What if Jack didn't understand my hatred of the moment?  What if I said the wrong thing?  What if my best friend ...

The thought froze in my mind.

Earlier in the day, Jack had told Sam I was his best friend.  I had been stunned, and I realized now that as opposed as we were in our ideology and beliefs, the man sitting in front of me really was my best friend.  I chuckled.

“Daniel, hating me makes you laugh?”

“No, I'm sorry, Jack, I wasn't thinking about that.”

He looked so confused and I couldn't blame him.  My mind had jumped from Cimmeria to the warmth of friendship in a matter of seconds.  How could he know that?

“What *were* you thinking about, Daniel?”

“Friendship.”

“Oh,” Jack responded, flinching and turning his head to look out the glass patio door.

I smiled as I went back to the couch and sat down, close to Jack, so our shoulders touched.  It was something he had begun when I first came back from Abydos.  During our toughest moments, especially if he was worried about me, he'd always sit by my side, trying not to invade my personal space, but sitting close enough so that we brushed each other's sides.  It was a symbol, I guess, of caring and saying “I'm here.”  By doing this small act then, I wanted Jack to know we were okay.

“Jack, for a split second of time, yes, I hated you, but I also hated me, Sam, and Teal'c.  I hated the entire universe for taking away what might be our only chance to save Sha're, but, uh, you were right about Teal'c.  We can't live in possibilities and dreams.  We have to do what is right, now, even when it's ... hard.  You needed to know that I knew that, right?”

Jack was leaning forward again, his hands clasped in front of him.  He was twisting and rubbing his fingers together.

“I wish it could have been different.”

“I know, but wishes ... wishes are only wishes, Jack.  You did the right thing, and so did I.”

Jack looked at me and smiled.

“I trust you with my life, Daniel.  I hope you know that.  I'm ... I'm not good with words, at saying what I feel or how I think.  That's your department, but ...”

Jack's voice trailed off as he turned back to the patio door, and I could hear his breathing deepen, trying to ... no, I had to be imagining that.  Jack and I were close, but ...

I couldn't finish my thought either, so I took a deep breath myself and decided it was time to forge ahead.

“C'mon, Jack, I'm going to deflate that ego of yours some more and beat you at your own game.”

I stood and walked towards a cabinet, opening it to pull out what I needed.

“And what game is that?”

“Gin.”

“Oh, no, that's my game, Dannyboy.  You're out for the count before you start.”

“Oh, I don't think so, O'Neill.”

The challenge was on.  Jack won, of course.  He's good at gin, almost as good as me.  Someday I might tell him that I won three college championships playing gin at Oxford.  No, I won't.  He likes beating me too much, and I love him when he gets so cocky, pardon the intended pun.

--

As I lay here now on our large bed some four years later, tracing my sleeping lover's face, remembering that time on Cimmeria that had been the first real test of our friendship, I smile at the memory, not in the sadness or loss of what it meant to Sha're, but in the memory of the love that was edging to the surface even then between My Jack and I.

I place a kiss on his cheek and settle my head on his sexy chest, running my fingers through his silver-gray hairs.  I love doing this, love being here like this, with My Jack.  I feel his lips on my head; a kiss on my hair.  I guess he wasn't asleep.  I'm so glad he's feeling better now.

“Love you, Danny,” Jack murmurs as he wraps his arms around me, causing me to sigh contentedly.

“Love you, Jack,” I say, my heart grinning with happiness that those traces of love were never erased or detoured.

It just doesn't get any better than this, than being loved by Jack O'Neill, and I am.  Thinking about those Cimmeria days, all I can think is, wow, I'm not alone anymore.  Ever since meeting Jack on the first Abydos mission, he's made sure I've never been alone.  My Jack -- how I love him for loving me.

~~Finis - Finished - Done - The End - But is it ever Really?~~
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