"Did you get them home? Did everything...?" Daniel was sitting up in bed when Jack, Sam, and Teal'c entered the infirmary.
"Safe and sound. That's me, Jack O'Neill, intra-galactic taxi driver," Jack replied. He frowned as he looked at Daniel. Not that he was going to say anything out loud, but Daniel looked like crap and he doubted his friend had gone back to sleep after the other SG-1 plus Daniel left the infirmary. Carter's expression had already softened and she stepped closer to Daniel's bed.
"You need to sleep." She put a hand on Daniel's forearm, on skin that was bruised and so very, very pale.
Daniel smiled, an effort, Jack could tell, and turned his hand palm up so Carter could entwine her fingers with his. "I'm okay."
Okay, not fine. The choice of words alone was telling. The skin around Daniel's eyes looked bruised and his lips were chapped. Even though that other Daniel had provided the key to healing this Daniel, Jack hated to admit that the Daniel before him looked only one step away from the grave.
"How was he?" Daniel asked.
"He's gonna be fine." Jack cut off Daniel before he went down that particular road. The last thing he wanted Daniel to do was start worrying about a teen-aged Daniel's recovery. This Daniel needed to focus on getting better and on his own health. "He's young."
"And I'm not." Daniel closed his eyes. "Got it."
"You know what I mean," Jack said, with all bluster and no bite. He shoved his hands into his pockets and curled them into fists, envied Carter the ease with which she stroked Daniel's forearm.
"I believe Daniel Jackson sleeps," Teal'c said quietly a few minutes later.
Teal'c was right of course. It wasn't as if Daniel had the stamina to stay awake for a long period of time. Jack stepped closer to the bed then and stood watching Daniel breathe.
He didn't turn when he heard Fraiser's footsteps. She smiled up at him as she stood beside him, looking down at her patient.
"He'll recover," Fraiser assured. "It'll take awhile, but he'll recover. He needs his rest." She looked at each of SG-1 in turn. "You can have five more minutes. General Hammond would like to meet with all of us in the briefing room in ten." She patted Daniel's arm and then turned to leave.
"Thanks," Jack replied. His throat felt strangely thick as he stood there beside Daniel's bed. He looked across the bed at Carter and Teal'c, who appeared to be as caught up in watching Daniel breathe as he was. In that moment, he vowed he'd do whatever it took to make sure Daniel would resume his place on SG-1.
* * * *
Jack leaned back in his chair and took a long sip of coffee. He watched as Fraiser lined up a folder and two pens before she interlaced her fingers. She looked beat. Daniel's addiction and treatment had taken a lot out of all of them, but Fraiser had been on the front line for the whole battle.
"Doctor Fraiser," General Hammond asked from the head of the table, "your report?"
"Yes, sir. Daniel is free from the addiction."
"That's good news," Hammond said. Jack could hear the hesitation in Hammond's voice. Maybe like the first time they'd approached the alternate universe SGC, Hammond still felt as though the news might be too good to be true. Daniel had nearly died when the bone marrow transplant failed to cure him of the addiction--a miscalculation and misunderstanding of the exact nature of the drug.
"Of course he had to actually die from the treatment in order for it to work," Jack commented. "Good old Daniel. The come-back kid."
"Jack," Hammond warned.
"It is good news, sir," Fraiser continued as though Jack hadn't spoken. "Although I don't want everyone thinking that Daniel will be walking out of the infirmary and back onto SG-1 in a week or so. His immune system still hasn't recovered as of yet making him more vulnerable to infection. He will continue to tire easily; he's got weight and muscle to regain, but he will recover. Of that I have no doubt. It's going to take time though. I think it's important for him to not feel pressured to rejoin SG-1 any time soon." She pinpointed Jack with her gaze.
"What are you looking at me for?" Jack asked. "I know Daniel needs time. I just don't know how patient you think he's going to be. We all know Daniel puts more pressure on himself than any of us put on him."
"What can we do to assist DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked. "We do not wish to hinder his recovery in any way."
Fraiser smiled. "At this point, the most important thing for everyone is going to be letting Daniel dictate what type of assistance he wishes from you."
Jack spun a pen on the legal pad before him. "In other words, stay out of his way, Teal'c." He knew how Daniel was going to be--impatient, pissy, easily angered and frustrated, and most likely not wanting anyone's help. Yeah, SG-1 was in for a grand old time down on the farm.
"Are we looking at specific time frame, Janet?" Carter asked.
If only this whole debacle could be reduced to a simple question of days or weeks, Jack thought. He knew Carter carried her own guilt about the mission and Daniel's subsequent addiction. Not that she could help having blue eyes any more than Daniel could. The question didn't surprise him in the least. Carter liked her problems reduced to numbers, to elegant solutions that presented themselves in perfect symmetry. It wasn't only Daniel that needed time to heal.
Fraiser, not unexpectedly, shook her head. "I don't have an answer for that, Sam. Barring any complications, I'm looking at releasing Daniel from the infirmary at the end of this week, with the understanding that he's not coming back for even restricted duty for a few weeks after that. At this point, I'm not willing to give an estimate beyond that time frame."
"Understood, Doctor Fraiser," Hammond agreed. "In the meantime, I'm relying on you to let us know of any needs Doctor Jackson has." He looked at Jack. "I know we've discussed this before, Colonel, but I do want a list of possible fourths for SG-1 on my desk by fourteen hundred hours tomorrow. I'm not looking for a permanent replacement for Doctor Jackson, but I can't afford to have SG-1 completely out of commission for the length of his recovery."
"Yes, sir," Jack responded. He just hoped Daniel didn't get wind of the order for a few days.
* * * *
"Do you need anything, Doctor Jackson?"
Daniel turned his head to look at the nurse who stood by the bed after recording his latest vitals. "No. I'm fine. Thank you, Carol."
She smiled. "If you need anything..."
"I know." Daniel pointed to the call button. "I will."
He closed his eyes as she left. He hated this--hated feeling as if he'd never get his energy back, hated that his world had shrunk to the infirmary. Intellectually he knew he was on the mend. He just didn't feel it yet.
A persistent need made itself known. Carol was at the other end of the infirmary and the rest of the staff was busy with settling in SG-12 who'd come back from their last mission with extremely painful rashes from exposure to some sort of alien poison ivy. Daniel moved his legs over the side of the bed carefully. Thank goodness Doctor Fraiser hadn't insisted on a catheter. Of course if he had that, he wouldn't have to face the marathon to the bathroom. Being tethered to the IV was bad enough.
Putting his feet on the floor, Daniel was glad for the socks he'd asked for earlier and gripped the head of the bed as he stood. He breathed carefully through his mouth as nausea churned in his stomach and spots danced before his eyes.
Good. Good, he told himself when both receded. He could do this.
Daniel wrapped his hand around the IV pole and took a step. He slowly made his way to the bathroom. The handrails in the small room had never looked so good to him before. He sank down on the toilet with relief. His legs were shaking from the effort it had taken him to get here, but he managed to take care of everything and wash his hands.
When he opened the door, he swore that the infirmary had grown larger--he didn't remember it ever being so big. The bed seemed so far away.
One step at a time. That was all he needed to do.
Yeah right. He made it halfway to his bed before he knew there was no way he was going to make it back there on his own. He was breathing too hard to call for help and besides, he really didn't want to invite the wrath of Doctor Fraiser on himself.
"Do you require assistance, DanielJackson?"
At that moment, Daniel thought he could hug Teal'c. Well he would have if he'd been able to lift his arms and actually exert the effort. All he could manage however was a small nod. With Teal'c taking most of his weight, they traversed the rest of the way.
Teal'c helped him into the bed and then covered him with the sheet and blanket.
"Your breathing is labored," Teal'c pointed out. He reached for the call button.
Daniel shook his head and pointed to the nasal canula. Teal'c placed it over his head and Daniel sighed in relief as the oxygen began to help.
Uh oh. "Janet." He waved a finger in her direction.
"We overdo it a little?" she asked.
Daniel didn't bother to open his eyes or to respond--not when the answer was already known.
"Daniel Jackson was halfway to his bed when I asked him if he needed assistance," Teal'c informed her.
Thanks big guy. Piss the doctor off even more.
"Walking is good exercise--and will help recovery. Next time, ask for assistance though." Janet patted his shoulder. "I don't want you falling."
"I will," Daniel finally found his voice. He wished he hadn't. It still sounded weak and tired.
"Do you wish company, DanielJackson?"
It didn't matter what he said--Teal'c was going to stay. Daniel knew he would--and on that comforting thought he fell asleep.
* * * *
"My number one choice would be Colin Markingham, second choice is Renee Lyskowski, and for third, it's a toss up between Pete Quintos or Lori O'Roarke." Daniel handed a folder to Jack without hesitation. "I've listed each of their strengths and areas of expertise for you along with any other pertinent information I felt was necessary to make your decision."
Jack looked down at the folder before glancing at Daniel, who was sitting up in a chair by his bed. "Who told you?" He pulled a stool closer and sat down beside his friend.
"No one told me." Daniel regarded him with a solemn expression. "It's common sense that I need to be replaced on SG-1."
"For now," Jack was quick to interrupt. "This," he tapped the folder, "is a temporary replacement." He spun once on the stool when the silence grew between them. "So, Fraiser springing you soon?"
Daniel gave a half-smile. "Two days. She said I can go home in two days." He gave a pointed glance at the folder. "Did you have any of those choices on your list for General Hammond?"
"I must be channeling you," Jack replied. "Every one of them. This is going to help me make my final choice." He smiled for Daniel's sake. "Thanks for the help."
"Any of them will do a good job. You might want to rotate them depending on the mission."
What Jack wanted was Daniel back on his team. Barring that, he'd have to settle for the people Daniel deemed best to take his place. And that's what it was--settling, because no one could replace Daniel on Jack's team. SG-1 worked because each of them knew the other's strengths and weaknesses. They could go on a mission and fall into their roles without discussing them at all. Introducing someone new, while necessary, was going to throw that off. He didn't say a word though. Daniel didn't need Jack's doubts to add to his own troubles.
"You hungry?" Jack asked and stood. "Carter and Teal'c said they'd meet us in the commissary."
Daniel nodded and got slowly to his feet. Jack was pleased to see he was steadier than the day before. Daniel pulled the tie of his bathrobe tighter.
"Let's go, Speedy," Jack teased and they began their trek to the commissary.
It pained Jack to listen to Daniel's hard breathing when their goal was simply the elevator. Fraiser assured them all that walking was good for Daniel and had cleared him the other day for taking his meals with his friends in the commissary. Of course, Daniel needed a nap after each meal, but he *was* getting better. Jack reminded himself of that as he stole surreptitious glances at Daniel while they stood in the elevator cab. Daniel wasn't as pale as he'd been just two days ago, and his stamina was increasing. Jack just wanted the recovery to be faster. Too bad, Jack wasn't in charge of the universe.
* * * *
Sam pushed her green beans around on the plate while trying very hard to not let Daniel know she was watching him. Colonel O'Neill on the other hand was making no secret of his mother-henning.
"You've barely eaten enough to fill a thimble," the colonel said in a tone that would have had anyone else on base quaking in their boots.
But it *was* Daniel, and Sam suspected he knew the colonel better than any of them. "Exaggerating much, Jack?" Daniel pushed his plate away--most of the salmon and the baked potato remaining. "I ate enough." He reached for his dessert, a cup of chocolate pudding. Sam watched as he ate a spoonful. His face turned pale and he began to sweat.
"Excuse me." Daniel stood and walked as fast as he could towards the restrooms.
"Daniel," Sam stood up to follow him.
"Uh Carter? No offense, but I don't think Daniel wants you following him in there." Colonel O'Neill put out a hand to stop her and threw his napkin on the table. "I'll take care of it."
Sam sat back down before forcing a smile at Teal'c. "I'm sure he'll be fine."
"I agree, Major Carter." Teal'c nodded. "Daniel Jackson has shown us his strength on many occasions."
She looked up at him in surprise. With everything that had happened over the past month, Teal'c's words were a revelation. Daniel was strong. He'd shown them that as he'd fought through the addiction with every ounce of courage he possessed. She felt the familiar pang of irrational guilt as she saw him coming back across the expanse of the room--still pale but walking steadily, the guilt that the price he'd paid was so much worse than her own.
Daniel sat down and reached for his water. Sam bit her tongue to keep from asking him how he felt. The colonel kept his distance, another surprise, but Daniel's body language radiated prickliness.
Tryingdesperately to think of some topic of conversation to break the uncomfortable silence around the table, Sam came up with nothing.
"Major Carter, perhaps you could tell Daniel Jackson of the research you have been doing on the device found by SG-3 on P5W-333. I am sure he will find it interesting."
Sam gave Teal'c a grateful glance and leaned forward. "We think we may have found a translation device. We can't be sure but..." Sam smiled as Daniel sat up straighter in his chair. This would work, she was sure.
"Wake me when Carter's done with her babbling," Colonel O'Neill said and slouched back in his chair. "I could use a nap."
Sam grinned when Daniel rolled his eyes at the colonel's comment and made a "gimme" motion with his hand. With that kind of encouragement, what could she do but oblige.
* * * *
Home. Home was good, even if Daniel hadn't seen the inside of his apartment in longer than he wanted to remember. He didn't understand how sitting in a car while an airman drove him home and getting to his living room could make him feel so exhausted. It wasn't as if he'd had to walk up the stairs, though he was glad the rest of his team was off-world. Their hovering and concern was starting to drive him crazy. It was hard enough to stay awake, much less pay attention to a conversation and contribute to it.
Janet had reassured him yet again that the fatigue was normal, that he shouldn't be concerned, that he was making progress. Yeah, progress.
Daniel stretched out on his sofa and looked up at the ceiling. He thought of his younger counterpart in the alternate universe. The kid had gone to hell and back to save his life. He hoped the younger version of Daniel recovered. He pulled the afghan down from the back of the couch and turned on his side. His muscles ached from inactivity, but his body was crying for rest. He sighed and reached for the remote. He had no idea what was on TV at this time of day. He flicked through at least a dozen channels, skipped past news and soap operas, game shows and baseball games until he settled on a re-run of an old detective show. He closed his eyes and let the sound wash over him. He pulled the afghan tighter and smiled. Yeah, it was good to be home.
* * * *
Being stuck at home while his teammates were out doing things--saving Earth and the galaxy and all that--was becoming totally boring. His phone calls to Janet had resulted in a visit from her and a solid "no" when he'd requested to come back to work even part time.
Granted he wasn't up to par. He knew that. He wasn't too sure about driving anywhere as he still got shaky at times, and he didn't have the energy to face Janet's wrath.
He stared down at the toast he'd made and felt a familiar churning in his stomach before he took half a slice in his hand and ate a cautious bite. When it stayed down, he continued to eat. Daniel took the plate to the sink. He filled a glass with water and downed it. His dishes were piling up in the sink and he really needed to wash them, but at the moment he began to wonder if he even had enough energy to make it into the couch.
The walk from his kitchen to the couch seemed as long as some of the hikes he was used to on missions and he sank down onto the cushions with a groan. He felt for the remote, buried behind one of the pillows, pushed the on button, and stretched out. He didn't even care what was on as long as he had to do nothing more than lie there and listen.
* * * *
Jack knocked on Daniel's apartment door, waited a few minutes, and then knocked again. He checked his watch--fourteen hundred. Unless Daniel's body clock had been totally reset, he doubted his friend would be asleep. He dug in his pocket for the key and opened the door.
"Daniel," he called as he entered. "Company."
He frowned when there was no answer and no movement. He was sure Daniel wasn't at the mountain--someone would have mentioned it.
Okay, this was not good. Jack took in the dirty dishes piled in the sink and on the counter, the dirty pan on the stove and the overflowing waste-can. He glanced at the coffee-table with its containers of what appeared to be day-old Chinese food and some soda cans.
"Daniel?" he knocked on the bedroom door and entered. Yep, there was his elusive friend, sound asleep on top of a rumpled comforter in clothes that were even more rumpled. He moved closer and tripped on something in the gloom. Daniel was so deeply asleep; Jack didn't think turning on a light was going to make a difference. He switched on the small lamp on the bedside table and realized why Daniel's room smelled like a locker room. Dirty clothes were in various piles around the room--as if Daniel had simply dropped them where ever he'd taken them off. Jack dreaded checking out the bathroom. Hell, he'd faced down System Lords with less trepidation than he felt when he turned the knob.
Just as bad as he feared. Wet, dirty towels were piled in one corner. He backed out of the room and crossed back over to his friend.
"Daniel?" he asked again. A snore was his only answer. He put his hand on Daniel's forehead--and smiled in relief. No fever. Jack moved down to the end of the bed and pulled off Daniel's shoes. He looked around and found a blanket hanging over a chair. He shook it out and spread it over Daniel before turning of the light and leaving the room.
He pulled out his cell phone and hit 2 as he went back to the kitchen and opened the fridge. Well no wonder Daniel wasn't doing so great--the fridge was nearly empty.
"Carter," he said when his 2IC answered her phone, "I need you to get a paper and pencil."
He could hear her rummaging around in what was probably a drawer. "How's Daniel, sir?"
"Sleeping. You got that paper?"
"Good. Milk, eggs, peanut butter, bread," Jack paused as he began opening the crisper drawer.
"Let me guess. Daniel's fridge needs re-stocking," Carter said. "I can take care of it, sir. I know what he likes. I'll be there in about an hour and a half with groceries."
"You might want to get Teal'c and bring some cleaning supplies too," Jack added. "Oh, and get some beer."
"Beer? Daniel doesn't..."
"For me, Carter. This is gonna be thirsty work."
* * * *
Someone was in his apartment, but Daniel couldn't quite muster up the energy to care. Some off-key singing clued him in that there was no reason to worry.
"Sam?" he called. He grimaced at the taste in his mouth. He needed water, and then a more urgent need made itself known.
"Daniel!" Sam showed up at his bedroom door, her smile bright and with what looked like one of his whisks in her hand. "You're awake." She stepped into the room and towards his bed, her smile turning downward. "Are you feeling all right?"
Daniel rubbed his forehead. The headache and fatigue that had seemed to dog his every step for the past several days appeared to be gone. He could hope for small miracles. "I'm...fine. Just a little confused." He put on his glasses. She was holding one of his wire whisks--he wasn't hallucinating. "Um, why are you here?"
Sam wrinkled her nose and gestured towards a corner of the room with the whisk. "Colonel O'Neill called." She shook her head. "You should have told someone you needed help."
"Help?" Daniel got up and then grabbed the headboard until the momentary dizziness passed. "I was doing just fine."
"Colonel O'Neill is still doing your laundry," Sam looked at her watch, "which he started three hours ago. Your fridge was nearly empty, you had no clean dishes, and I could have called in the xenobiology department to figure out what was growing in your tub."
Daniel held up an index finger. "Okay, okay. I get it." He made his way towards the bathroom, hoping that Sam took the hint, and nearly fell back on his butt as the door opened and Teal'c stepped out.
"I have battled the germs in your bathroom and have emerged victorious." Teal'c gave Daniel a pointed look." Although you may wish to procure a new cleaning implement. This," and he held up a worn toothbrush, "is not conducive to maintaining proper cleanliness in a bathroom."
"You cleaned my bathroom with a toothbrush?" Daniel stepped right up to Teal'c and took it from him.
"Yes, Daniel Jackson. You should do the same at some point. It is most...satisfying...to vanquish all traces of dirt with such an implement."
Daniel slid past him and into the safety of his bathroom. "I'll be sure to keep that in mind." He was going to kill Jack. But first he was going to take care of business.
* * * *
Oh. This was not good. Pissed-off Daniel was never good. Pissed-off Daniel who didn't want company was even worse. Pissed-off Daniel standing in his living room in a pair of jeans that really needed a belt to hold them up and a t-shirt that had seen better days was just pathetic.
"Carter made some vegetable soup," Jack told him. That gained him a glare and the old arms-folded-over-the-chest position. "You like vegetable soup."
"You know what I like even better?" Daniel took two steps towards Jack. "I like to be left alone instead of having people invade my home."
"Oh, and you were taking such *good* care of your apartment." Jack pointed towards the folded laundry on the coffee table. "Yes, I can see you were coping just fine on your own."
"That's not what I meant," Daniel said, measured and precise. "I want to be alone."
"We can leave, Daniel," Carter replied. Jack shot her a glance that he hoped would quell that urge. She didn't look too phased by it and actually headed towards her purse.
"You don't have to leave, Sam," Daniel said and rubbed his forehead. "I'm...just forget it." He went to the sofa, pushed Jack's leather jacket out of the way, and sat, no, collapsed would be a better word, down onto it.
"Do you continue to feel unwell, Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c asked.
Good job, Jack thought. He doubted Daniel's pissiness would extend to Carter or Teal'c. The "invasion" hadn't been their idea after all.
It was the way Daniel hesitated that gave Jack his answer before Daniel even spoke. He was still feeling crappy. Jack guessed a headache and certainly fatigue. He could relate--he'd had his share of long recoveries from injuries received on missions gone wrong.
"You tell the doc?" Jack asked. He gathered up a pile of folded towels, trying for nonchalance.
"There's nothing wrong with me that time and rest won't cure," Daniel said in a tone that sounded vaguely like Fraiser's. Daniel picked up the TV remote and aimed at the TV, effectively shutting all of them out.
Brilliant idea, O'Neill, Jack said to himself as he took the towels into the bathroom. It was time to put another plan into action. It was too bad he didn't know what it was yet.
* * * *
"Here." Sam handed Daniel a cup of coffee when he came into the kitchen.
He wrapped his hands around the mug as if seeking its warmth and took a long sip before he raised his eyes to meet Sam's gaze. "Thanks."
Sam gave an inward sigh of relief. She smiled back. "You're welcome."
She didn't miss the way the glance he gave over his shoulder at the living room where Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c were currently watching a DVD. This was one of those things she couldn't fix--and it was driving her crazy. Everything was off--the balance of their team was tilted, skewed. Colin Markingham was a good man--he knew his stuff, but he wasn't Daniel. She missed the way she could bounce her ideas off her friend and colleague, his excitement growing exponentially with hers. She missed the quiet camaderie they shared, an understanding of their teammates that Markingham, simply through lack of being together for years, lacked. She looked down at her own coffee mug, at the scratch across the back of one knuckle, and remembered Daniel screaming for release when the addiction had been at its worst.
"It wasn't your fault," Daniel said quietly.
Sam looked up at him, at a face immeasurably dear, and felt her breath catch in her throat. "I know."
Daniel's expression changed, his mouth twisting up into a sad half-smile. "You know it up here," he said as he reached across and tapped her head with his index finger. "But not here." And he pointed to her heart before he clutched his coffee cup with both hands again.
"I wish..." Sam began and then shook her head. "It wasn't fair. It was just a quirk of genetics."
"Unlucky me, lucky you," Daniel pointed out. His smile grew a little larger and more vibrant. "You're a scientist, Sam. You of all people know fairness rarely comes into play in the universe."
Sam huffed at the comment. "Yeah, I know it. But sometimes..."
"It stinks," Daniel finished for her.
She couldn't help it. She laughed and reached out to cover his hands with hers. "I love you, you know that?"
Daniel grinned. It made him look healthier, more alive. "I bet you say that to all the guys."
"Only the ones where I mean it," Sam said, a lump in her throat.
"Ah Sam." Daniel stood and came around the table to enfold her in a hug. She hugged him back, holding on tight. "I love you too," he whispered. "And I'm sorry I was such a bastard earlier."
They stayed that way a few moments longer and then she pulled away. She looked up at Daniel. "What are the colonel and Teal'c doing? Still watching the movie?"
Daniel looked over his shoulder. "Jack's asleep and Teal'c's put in Star Wars."
Sam nodded and went to Daniel's fridge. She opened the freezer compartment. "Good. Because I don't think we need to share this with them."
"Spoon?" Daniel asked as she opened the container of Moose Tracks ice cream. He handed it to her with a little bow.
They stood shoulder to shoulder at the counter and dug in. Daniel's arm kept bumping against hers. She felt warm and happy. Her friend was on the mend, and she knew with a certainty that she hadn't felt previously that Daniel would return to them. It might be weeks, or even months, but he would return.
* * * *
Daniel leaned into Sam as she kissed his cheek.
"Thanks," he said. "For everything."
She hugged him just a little tighter and then opened the door. "I'll call tomorrow."
"Thank you for allowing us to help you in your time of need, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c clasped Daniel's forearm. "I was most honored."
"Um, you're welcome." Daniel stepped back as Teal'c released him and pushed up his glasses. He closed the door behind them and turned to rest his back against it.
It wasn't late; the sun was just setting, but he felt as though he'd pulled an all-nighter. Damn he hated this over-whelming fatigue. His concentration was shot to hell and he was beginning to think it would never come back. It had been two weeks since he'd been pronounced cured, and yet he still couldn't stay awake for more than a few hours at a time. He detested being sick, and even more, hated needing someone else.
He pushed off the door and made it as far as the couch. Jack was still in the kitchen and he wanted to ask when Jack was going to leave but he didn't have the energy left to do it.
Daniel opened his eyes to see Jack standing in front of him with a glass of water. "Hey." Daniel straightened and took the offered glass. "Thanks." He drained nearly half of the glass in one go.
"I've finished cleaning up," Jack told him and sat down in the easy chair. There was a long silence. Daniel willed Jack to talk but it seemed he was pulling the taciturn card.
"Jack." Daniel said at the same time as there was a, "Daniel."
"You go first." Jack waved a hand in Daniel's direction.
"No, you can." Daniel answered at the same time.
"I'm sor..." they both began at the same time.
Jack grinned. "Good to know we got that out of the way, huh?"
Daniel rubbed his forehead. "Yeah. Great."
"Headache?" Jack's question was all concern.
He nodded, too fatigued to do anything more. He heard the creak of springs as Jack got up and Jack's footsteps walking away. He must have drifted for a moment or two because there was Jack, right in front of him.
"Aspirin," Jack told him and put two tablets in Daniel's hand before he handed him the glass of water.
Daniel took them. "I'm not very good company."
"No, you're not, but it's allowed," Jack told him. "Stretch out on the sofa."
"Stretch out. Relax," Jack ordered gently. He patted the first cushion.
Daniel didn't so much stretch out as simply allow himself to topple over. "There. Happy now?"
Jack didn't respond, and Daniel tensed as Jack took off his glasses and then touched his temples with strong callused fingers.
"What are you doing?"
"Be quiet. Relax. Stop fighting being tired." Jack began to rub his fingers in slow circles.
Daniel bit back a sigh of relief. God, that felt good. "Maybe you shouldn't..."
"Will you relax?" Jack moved one hand and patted Daniel's shoulder. "You're not helping things by thinking. Just chill."
"Okay. Chilling here," Daniel said. He interlaced his fingers over his chest and took a deep breath. Jack moved his hands down to Daniel's shoulders, massaging them, finding knots Daniel hadn't been aware of. He let himself go--imagined the infinity of an Abydonian night--and fell asleep.
* * * *
He smelled coffee...coffee and bacon? Jack opened his eyes and then groaned when he tried to move.
Daniel's easy chair hadn't been conducive to a good night's sleep. He heard Daniel in the kitchen, but Jack couldn't quite get his head to turn in that direction. Ow. C'mon O'Neill, you can do it.
Jack got to his feet and immediately felt like he was only a step away from getting the senior citizen discount at the grocery store. He straightened, certain he heard a creak when he stood.
He looked up to see Daniel looking at him from across the counter with a smirk.
"Breakfast'll be ready in about fifteen minutes. Why don't you go take a shower?" Daniel turned back to whatever he was doing before Jack could say a word.
Fifteen minutes, huh? If he was lucky, he'd make it to the bathroom by the time those fifteen minutes were up.
It didn't take him fifteen minutes to get in the shower, although it felt like it might take the rest of the time to undress and actually step into the tub. Damn, he couldn't be getting old. He refused to admit it.
Jack sighed as the hot water hit the knotted muscles in his neck. For a long time, he just stood under the spray and concentrated on relaxing.
He had the day off. No, correct that. He had the day off from work at the SGC. His day was going to be on--spending time with Daniel, making sure Daniel knew they couldn't wait until he was back on SG1. It wasn't as if Daniel wasn't looking better. Because compared to even a few short days ago before SG1 had headed out on their mission, Daniel was looking ten times better than he had. He'd lost the pallor that had dogged him, and although Jack could see Daniel was still easily fatigued, he had more energy than he'd had before he was released from the infirmary.
They'd do something today. Jack began to dry himself off. Maybe a visit to Garden of the Gods, or a drive up to Denver. Maybe there was some sort of museum exhibit Daniel would be interested in. Hell, Jack would even go to that Indian restaurant Daniel liked so much even though he didn't care for Indian food. Getting out of the apartment would be good for Daniel. Who was he kidding? It would be good for him. He missed his friend, even though he wouldn't say it out loud. That was a secret he was sure he could keep.
* * * *
"Yes," Daniel agreed. He ducked his head and hid his smile when Jack looked surprised.
"Yes? No arguing? No complaining?"
Daniel leaned forward and put his elbows on the table. "Should I take it back?"
"It's just you usually..."Jack turned his hand, palm up, "you know, complain a lot before you agree to do something."
"And you want me to do that now? Argue that I want to stay home and don't want to get out of my apartment?" Daniel put his index finger against his lips. "Because I can. Argue, I mean. If you want me to."
Jack shook his head. "Are you sure the whole...incident didn't give you brain damage or something? Like change your personality?"
"I'm sure Janet would have found something along the way with all the tests I've undergone." Daniel got up and began to clear the dishes from the table. "I've been stuck in the mountain or here for the past nine weeks. Believe me, going out is not a chore. And I'll leave what we do up to you. I don't care as long as it's not within these four walls."
Daniel could have sworn Jack let out a chortle of glee. He didn't dare look back to see if Jack was rubbing his hands together in anticipation. The thought of getting out outweighed all else. He wasn't sure if hockey season had started yet, but even sitting at an Avalanche game would be better than sitting and staring at the TV.
"I'll take care of this," Jack said from beside him. "You go get ready."
Daniel looked down at his jeans and t-shirt. "Uh, I am ready." He pushed his glasses further up his nose.
"Your t-shirt has holes in it and you might want to put a belt on with those jeans." Jack's voice was matter of fact. "Grab a sweatshirt or something warm."
"Yes mom," Daniel teased. He walked towards his bedroom realizing he wasn't sure of the temperature outside. He went to the bathroom and took his time brushing his teeth. He looked older, he thought, as he stared at his reflection, and how was it he could get so much sleep and still appear tired? Some days he wondered if he'd ever have energy again--not that he was going to let Jack know he was tired. No, the anticipation of getting out and doing something, anything, was too great to resist.
He rummaged in his closet and found a well-worn plaid shirt and an equally worn sweat-shirt. He got on his knees and just for good measure pulled out his hiking boots. If nothing else, they, along with a pair of wool socks, would keep his feet warm.
By the time he got back to his living room, Jack had the kitchen cleaned up and was sitting on his couch reading one of Daniel's books, one Daniel hadn't been able to concentrate on for more than five minutes at a time.
Jack looked up in surprise at Daniel and put the book back down carefully, although not, Daniel noticed, without a look of chagrin.
"Don't worry. I won't blow your cover." Daniel felt himself smile as Jack made a face.
"Gotta keep 'em guessing, Danny-boy," Jack said as he stood and tossed his truck keys from hand to hand. "Better grab a jacket," he suggested over his shoulder as he walked to the door.
Daniel pulled his second-warmest jacket off the hook and then grabbed lighter-weight one for good measure. He stepped into the hall and locked the door behind him.
Jack waited at the elevator, whistling, and Daniel went to join him. It was going to be a good day. He could sense it.
* * * *
"You up for a hike?" Jack asked as he pulled into a parking area at Garden of the Gods. He waited as Daniel considered the offer.
"Yeah," Daniel finally answered, nodding for good measure. "Yeah, I am."
Jack consulted the park map again. An easy 1 mile loop with minimal rise in elevation was the description. Daniel would need to be able to do far more than a one mile hike before he went off-world again but this would be good for Daniel. Certainly better than his walks around his neighborhood. "Sounds good."
They began walking at a slow pace--more a stroll than anything else, Jack trying to match his pace to Daniel's rather than the other way round.
A ground squirrel chittered at them as they passed it, and Daniel stopped to watch it, his breath making visible puffs in the cold air.
"You doin' okay?" Jack asked when they reached the halfway point.
Daniel grinned at him and nodded. "Fine." He sounded a little breathless but Jack wasn't surprised at that. They'd picked up the pace a while back.
Taking their time, they finished the hike and spoke only a few times. Daniel grabbed a bottle of water when they sat in the truck again.
"You want to drive through the rest of the park?" Jack asked. He turned on the heater as they sat in the lot.
"Do you mind?" Daniel replied. He unzipped his jacket as the truck got warmer.
"Would I ask if I minded?" Jack shrugged. He pulled out of the lot and tossed the folder to Daniel. "You can navigate."
He smiled as he noticed Daniel carefully unfold the map and study it as if it was an alien artifact, and realized he'd been right; Daniel had needed this outing. Hell he'd needed it too.
* * * *
"And if you need anything, call."
Daniel leaned against the wall while Jack gave final orders. He thought of closing his eyes and falling asleep right there, but considering Jack was still standing in his living room, it would be awfully rude. "Yes, Jack."
"I'll give you a call in the morning," Jack said as he walked to the door. "And if you don't answer the phone, I'm gonna show up here."
"Are you even paying attention?"
Daniel heard Jack give a small huff of laughter before he left for the night.
Thank goodness. All he had to do now was get himself off to bed. They'd spent the day at Garden of the Gods and then went to his favorite Indian restaurant for supper. His stomach was comfortably full, he was warm, and he felt tired in a good way, the kind of tired where he'd sleep the whole night through.
Turning off lights as he went towards his bedroom, Daniel felt he was finally on the home-stretch of getting better.
* * * *
Daniel looked up from his notes as Jack entered the briefing room. "Hi."
"Here." Jack handed him a cup of coffee and then sat down next to him. "So, what do you have to tell us about Mini-Me?"
"Imini." Daniel took a sip of coffee. "I'm just here as back-up for Colin." He leaned back in his chair. "I'll make sure to kick you under the table if I catch you not paying attention."
"Huh." Jack grabbed Daniel's pen and started walking it through his fingers.
"Do you mind?" Daniel snatched it back and straightened in his chair as General Hammond, Sam, Teal'c, and Colin Markingham entered the room. Colin smiled at him and opened his laptop. Sam sat down on Daniel's left and patted his hand where it rested on the table. Daniel kept his sigh to himself--seemed his teammates were still in mother-henning mode even with his return to work.
Colin did an adequate presentation on Imini and the significance of the temple they'd seen from the UAV photos. He knew Colin was doing a great job on SG-1. If he couldn't be out there with his team, he wanted the best for them.
"SG-1, you have a go at 1100 hours," General Hammond said, dismissing the team.
Daniel stood up to go with them before he realized he wasn't going to be stepping through the Gate this time. He tried to cover by taking the time to organize his file folders and hunt for the pen Jack dropped during the briefing.
He looked up to see General Hammond watching him. "Sir?"
"It's not so easy being the one left behind," General Hammond said, his Texas drawl more pronounced as his voice softened.
Daniel coughed to hide his embarrassment at being caught with his emotions showing. "No, sir. No it's not." He realized that the general was well acquainted with this feeling. He was *always* left behind.
"My daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughters are on vacation this week," General Hammond continued.
"That's nice, sir." Daniel hoped he sounded polite enough.
"Yes. Yes, it is." General Hammond handed him the pen that slipped through his fingers again. "However, it's Tuesday, and time permitting, we go out to eat as a family on Tuesdays." General Hammond's eyes held a certain twinkle that suggested he was up to something.
"Oh." Daniel gathered up his file folders and hooked his coffee mug with an index finger.
"I'd appreciate some company for dinner at say, nineteen hundred hours? We always go to Allegro's."
"I'd be honored, sir," Daniel said and then he bowed his head. "Thank you, sir."
He left the briefing room feeling a little bit better. He twisted his wrist to look at his watch. He'd better get moving if he wanted to be in the Gate room to see his teammates off on their mission. If he couldn't go with them in person, he at least wanted them to know he'd be there in spirit.
* * * *
George thought he would have been better off just staying at the SGC rather than going out for dinner with Daniel and then being called back in the middle of the night. SG-4, however, had made it back safe and sound despite the few tense hours where it did seem as though negotiations with the natives were going to work out. He swallowed hard against the feeling of nausea he'd been fighting for the past hour.
"Sir?" Major Wallace asked as George winced. "Are you okay?"
'I don't think I am,' George wanted to say. Instead he opted for nodding his head and waving a dismissal at SG-4. They made it out of the briefing room before George's dinner made reappearance in the trash can. He stood there with sweat running down his face and realized that he felt chilled and hot at the same time. It seemed maybe a visit to the infirmary might be in order. When the first cramps hit his gut, he knew a visit to the infirmary was going to be a necessity.
* * * *
Doctor Fraiser looked down at her patient who was resting comfortably in the bed. Hooked up to an IV for both fluids and an anti-emetic, General Hammond looked far better than he had a few hours ago. He blinked up at her drowsily.
"You'll feel fine by tomorrow evening, sir. Probably something you ate." She checked the IV line and paused when he reached out to touch her hand. "Sir?"
General Hammond frowned up at her. "Doctor Jackson went to dinner with me. We both ate the same food."
"I'm on it, sir," she told him as she patted his hand. "You rest. I'll take care of Daniel, sir." General Hammond closed his eyes and Janet motioned for one of her nurses to come to the bedside before she moved away.
She went to her office and dialed Daniel's apartment. There was no answer. She left a message on Daniel's answering machine. "Daniel, pick up the phone. If you're there, I need you to pick up the phone now." She waited, her alarm growing when Daniel didn't pick up. She hung up and dialed again, giving him another chance. But nothing. Cell phone, she thought and dialed that number. To her relief, Daniel answered.
Okay, that was not a good answer. Daniel sounded confused, his voice weak. "Daniel, this is Doctor Fraiser."
"Hey, Janet." His breathing was heavier than she would have liked.
"Daniel, are you ill? Can you tell me where you are?"
"Work. I have to get to work," Daniel told her. "I, uh, work."
"Listen to me, Daniel. Someone will come for you." She waved to one of the orderlies walking past. "I need you to stay on the phone with me."
She held her hand over the phone before turning to Ted. "We need to find Doctor Jackson. Get them to triangulate his position or whatever it is they can do with cell phones. Get someone down here now so we can get on it."
"Yes ma'am," Ted replied before hurrying off towards the exit.
"Daniel, how are you feeling? Are you sick?"
There wasn't an answer although she heard his breathing. "You need to talk to me. I can't see you."
"Stomach. Cramps," Daniel gasped. He sounded in pain. Janet was sure this was hitting him harder than the general. Although Daniel was much better than he'd been even a week ago, his body still wasn't going to be fighting off any type of illness with as much ease as usual.
"We're one our way," she told him. "Do you know where you are? Are you in your car?"
"Janet, I'm sorry. I'm gonna be late. So sorry."
She heard the distinct sound of someone throwing up and held the phone away from her ear. "Daniel!" she called when the sound stopped, but despite her repeated pleas, there was no answer.
* * * *
Oh damn! He was back in the infirmary. He knew it from the smell that seemed to permeate the cement walls and floor, from the feel of starched cotton under his cheek and against his hands and bare feet, from the sound of beeps and hushed voices and the sensation of light seeping through his eyelids.
"Good to see you're back with us, Doctor Jackson."
Okay so that voice wasn't quite as hushed as he'd wished.
He opened his eyes reluctantly, expecting a penlight to hit them any minute.
"Janet." Since when had his voice grown hoarse like that? He didn't rememb... "Oh." Janet came into a focus. She was wearing a look he translated as concern with a capital C.
"How are you feeling?" Her fingers were cool around his wrist. It felt good.
"Um." Her question involved thought and his brain felt as though he was swimming in molasses. "I was in my car?" It was a question rather than a statement because he wasn't quite sure.
"You were in the parking lot. You made it through the security checkpoint before you collapsed in your car." She waited until he looked at her before she continued. "The car's been cleaned."
"Cleaned?" Daniel remembered Jack, Sam, and Teal'c cleaning his apartment but that was over and done. Then the memory of throwing up and not being able to open his car door came back, along with some other even more humiliating ones. "I was sick, trying to get back here."
Janet patted his shoulder, able to understand he'd come to his own conclusions. "You and General Hammond both picked up food poisoning." Her grip tightened when Daniel tried to sit up. "General Hammond is fine. He's out of the infirmary and back at work." She lowered her voice. "He's been to see you a few times, but you've been asleep."
Daniel had vague memories of pain, cramps and nausea. He suspected Janet had him on some good drugs to alleviate the worst of the symptoms. It might explain the overwhelming fatigue he felt as he lifted his hand to touch his forehead. He didn't quite make it and let his hand drop to his chest. He could feel the shaking as it rested there--palsied like an old man. "How long?" He closed his eyes, unable to keep them open any longer.
"You've been in the infirmary for twenty four hours. Another few days and you'll be feeling better. This has hit you a bit harder than the general because of everything you've been through the past months, but you're doing fine." Janet's voice was brisk but strangely reassuring.
* * * *
Daniel kept his eyes closed as the nurses turned him on his side to change the pad and sheets on his bed. He could feel his cheeks burn red and hot with humiliation and embarrassment. And just on the other side of the privacy curtain, he heard General Hammond speaking with Janet.
Ted, the night nurse, swiped a warm, damp cloth over Daniel's buttocks and thighs and then patted him dry. "There we go, Doctor Jackson," Ted said, so matter of fact that Daniel wanted to cry. He let Ted turn him onto his back, not having much energy to help, even though he wanted to.
"Nothing to be ashamed of, sir," Ted whispered as he adjusted Daniel's IV and then his gown. "Happens sometimes." He wrapped the call button around the bed rail. "I'll be here if you need me, sir," he offered before he walked away quietly.
Daniel clenched his fist and stared up at the ceiling. He didn't look at Janet as she slipped inside the privacy curtain.
"General Hammond was wondering if you were up to a visitor," she asked as if he hadn't just shit all over himself in bed. "I can tell him you aren't." She sounded hesitant, unsure.
"He can come in," Daniel replied, swallowing hard. He needed to see someone other than nurses and doctors. For a selfish moment he wished Jack, Sam, and Teal'c were home, and not off on some other planet. Just as quickly, he revised the thought. Having a nurse know he had an accident was bad enough. He didn't think he'd have been able to stand it if it had been one of his teammates there when it happened.
"Good," Janet said. She touched the back of his hand and he turned his head to look at her. "We're going to try to get some solid food in you. I'm sending for some rice and Jello. We'll see how that sits on your stomach."
*He knew he wasn't going to have a choice in eating it so he just nodded. She smiled and then pulled the curtain back. General Hammond stood just on the other side, his frown turning to a smile as he saw Daniel.
"Hello, sir," Daniel said to him. Manners dictated politeness even if he really just wanted to curl up, pull the covers over his head, and sleep for another month.
"Good evening, Doctor Jackson." General Hammond indicated a chair after he placed a small wooden box on the table. "Mind if I sit?"
Daniel shook his head. "Be my guest." He studied the general, who despite being discharged from the infirmary a day ago, still looked a little pale. "How are you feeling, sir?"
"Like fresh roadkill," Hammond replied. "Ready to take a nap every four hours or so."
"Welcome to my world," Daniel answered and then realized how very ugly that sounded. He opened his mouth but was interrupted by the general.
"Don't you apologize, son. You've had it rough the past few months and I'm guessing you're getting pretty darn sick of it." Hammond leaned forward in his chair. "You will get better, Doctor Jackson. I know you don't think it now. Not with this little setback. But I fully expect you to be back on SG-1 within the next month, you hear me?"
The sudden appearance of a lump in his throat made speaking difficult for Daniel. He nodded and concentrated on breathing slow and steady through his nose.
"Now," the general said and pushed the lap table over Daniel's bed. He picked up the small wooden box he'd been carrying earlier. "I've heard you're a good chess player. I wondered if you'd do me the honor of a game."
Daniel opened the box and pulled out the pieces one by one. They were hand-carved and worn smooth by many years of use. "They're beautiful," Daniel observed as he held a knight in the palm of his hand, the horse's mane looking as though it was blowing in the wind. "Where did you...?"
"My great grandfather was a prisoner of war in the Civil War," Hammond explained as he set up the board. "He carved it after he was rescued and spent six months in a hospital recovering from his wounds and illness."
"What happened to him?" Daniel asked as he began placing his pieces on the board.
"He married my great-grandmother, became a farmer, and lived happily ever after." General Hammond smiled at Daniel. "At least that's the family story."
Daniel smiled back. "It's a good one."
"I like to think so." General Hammond tapped the board. "I believe it's your move first, Doctor Jackson."
* * * *
It had become an almost unconscious reaction, one that Jack and the others would have denied if questioned. Step through the Gate, hit the ramp, and scan the room to see if Daniel was waiting for them. Jack was sure Markingham wouldn't have understood the need they, okay, he, had to make sure Daniel was there. Chalk it up to too many times of almost losing Daniel, hell, include all the times they had actually lost Daniel, and the reaction was totally understandable. At least Jack liked to tell himself it was. A quick glance at Carter and her expression let him know it was.
"Brought 'em home, sir," Jack said as Hammond approached.
"I can see that." Hammond made a show of looking Jack's team up and down.
He noticed Carter tense next to him and her hand twitch, and then Jack broke into a grin. Daniel was sitting in the control room, next to Harriman.
He raised a hand in greeting.
"Debrief in thirty, Colonel," Hammond told them.
Jack nodded and his team followed him from the Gate room, heading for the infirmary.
* * * *
Something had happened while they were off-world. Jack didn't know what it was and Hammond and Daniel weren't talking. He slid a mug of coffee towards Daniel who shook his head and pushed it away. Oh yeah, something definitely had happened.
The debriefing went as well as debriefings of fairly routine missions always did. There was a lot of talking and the recommendations, and through it all, Jack kept one eye and ear on Daniel.
Hammond dismissed them and left the room with Markingham close on his heels. Colin had a date with one of the scientists from Bill Lee's department.
"What happened?" Carter asked Daniel and stood by his chair, looking at him as if she was his older, disapproving sister, and not his teammate.
It wouldn't have worked for him, Jack thought. Daniel would have gotten that stubborn set to his mouth and not said a word.
"You are paler than usual," Teal'c added.
Oh yeah. He definitely wouldn't have gotten away with that.
"General Hammond and I had a bout of food poisoning," Daniel explained as he got to his feet. "We're both better now." And there it was--the closing off. Daniel pressed his lips together in a tight smile. "If you'll excuse me, I have a translation I'm working on for SG-5."
"I do not think Daniel Jackson is telling us the whole story," Teal'c stated when they stood alone in the room.
"You know Daniel," Jack said. The flip tone he was going for fell horribly flat. That was the whole problem--they did know Daniel.
* * * *
It had been two weeks since the food poisoning incident and Jack was beginning to think the Daniel Jackson that SG-1 knew and loved had been replaced by a pod person. Been there, done that, but still and all...Daniel was just being plain weird. He didn't think Doc Fraiser would go for that explanation though. Even Carter and Teal'c had remarked on it when they'd gone through the Gate a few times. Markingham remained silent on the whole issue.
Jack watched Daniel as he went through the line in the commissary. He noted Carter and Teal'c were doing the same.
"He is procuring milk and juice for his drink," Teal'c said. "And a bowl of red beets along with chicken, broccoli, and rice."
"Eww." Jack made a face. "Daniel voluntarily eating beets? I'm telling you pod person."
"They have chocolate fudge cake for dessert," Carter added as if that would be the deciding factor.
Jack sat back and folded his arms over his chest as Daniel approached and sat down next to Carter. He gave a pointed look at the peach on Daniel's tray.
"What?" Daniel asked, frowning. He looked at each of them in turn. "Is something wrong?"
"They have chocolate fudge cake," Carter repeated although Daniel hadn't been there to hear the comment the first time.
Daniel shrugged. "I like peaches."
"You don't like beets," Jack pointed out.
"Since when?" Jack couldn't resist a smug grin. Honestly, he swore Daniel would have stuck his tongue out at him if they hadn't been in public.
"Is there anything wrong with wanting to eat healthier?" Daniel speared a beet, chewed, and swallowed.
As performances went, it was Oscar-worthy. Jack felt like applauding.
"You aren't drinking coffee," Carter observed in a tone approaching awe.
Daniel shrugged. "Don't need it."
"You have kept regular hours and have been getting regular exercise in the gymnasium."
"Like most of the other people in my department, Teal'c," Daniel pointed out. He frowned as he ate another beet. "You're all acting like I'm doing something wrong."
"Not for normal people," Jack said.
"What is that supposed to mean?" Daniel put down his fork and stared at Jack. "I'm not allowed to do this?" His tone was clipped, precise.
"I'm just sayin'."
"Say it to someone else," Daniel snapped. He stood and grabbed his tray.
"I don't think so. I better not contaminate you with my abnormality." Daniel stalked off before Jack could say another word.
"Sir?" Carter began.
"Yeah, I know." Jack rubbed his right eyebrow. Everything was just peachy in SG-1 land.
* * * *
"What do you want?" Daniel stepped away from his door as Jack entered his apartment. He crossed his arms over his chest and lowered his head to glare at Jack.
Ignoring it, Jack walked into the apartment anyway. "Such a pleasant mood. Wake up on the wrong side of the bed?"
"Get out." Really, it was surprising Daniel didn't break his molars the way he was clenching his jaw.
"No can do," Jack went to Daniel's sofa and plopped down.
Daniel let out a huff of air that would have been amusing any other time.
"Sit down, take a load off." Jack made a broad sweeping gesture.
"I was sitting down before you came," Daniel told him.
Jack noted the book overturned on the coffee table. "So," he shrugged. "Don't let me keep you from it."
Shaking his head, Daniel remained standing. "What the hell do you want?"
"Blood pressure," Jack warned. He didn't care that Daniel was pissed. Things were going to come out in the open--things that had gone unsaid and ignored for too long. For someone who showed so much compassion for others, Daniel could be surprisingly dense about his own concerns. He received a one-fingered salute for the comment.
Daniel left the living room, going into the kitchen where Jack heard him banging things around. No matter. He'd wait.
Or not, he decided ten minutes later when the banging stopped but Daniel still hadn't reappeared. Okay, so Jack could have seen him from the living room if he'd chosen to, but Daniel had his back to him and had been standing unmoving for what seemed like forever.
Jack didn't say anything as he entered the kitchen. Daniel tensed, the tightening of his shoulders obvious to Jack.
Opening the fridge, Jack pulled out a beer--left-over from cleaning expedition. He'd even had Carter buy Stella Artois because it was one of the few beers Daniel liked. Yeah, that had been a great idea too--not.
"You want something?" he asked Daniel before he closed the door.
Daniel shook his head. "You leaving would be nice."
"Hell, Daniel, what bug do you have up your ass? Can't a guy visit a friend? A friend who has been sick by the way?" Jack could feel his patience slipping away.
"You don't think I know why you're here?"
Jack felt like he'd stepped through the looking glass. Daniel's mind could take weird leaps and bounds and often he was hard-pressed to keep up with those quicksilver thoughts, but usually he at least had a clue. "What?"
"How long are you going to wait until you tell me I'm not on the team any more? When are you going to tell me Colin's my replacement?"
"What the hell are you talking about?" Jack had a horrible fleeting thought that maybe the drug addiction had left some sort of lasting brain damage and just as quickly dismissed it when he caught sight of Daniel's face and his very real distress. Daniel actually believed his own words. When had that happened?
"You know what I mean," Daniel snapped. He threw the dishcloth into the sink where it hit a glass and knocked it over. "You can't wait forever for me to come back."
"Colin's a good man. I knew he'd be a great fit with you, Sam, and Teal'c. Oh and he..."
"Daniel." This time, Jack stepped into Daniel's body space. "No one is replacing you. That's never been an option on the table."
Daniel didn't say a word as he stepped back.
"You'll be back before you know it." Jack wasn't the best at encouragement but this was Daniel; Daniel who may have been down before but always bounced back.
"I'm so fucking tired of it," Daniel said as he turned away.
"I know." Jack placed a hand on his shoulder.
Daniel shook his head. "That's just it. You don't know. Not this--this---damn it, we put a kid through hell. What if he...there could have been complications. What if it backfired, if he's addicted now? What if we just thought he was going to be fine?"
"You don't *know* that," Daniel pointed out. He began to pace in the small kitchen. "We don't know any of it. He was a teenager, Jack. A kid really. We asked him--no, you asked him to make a sacrifice for me. I didn't want it at all."
"And if he'd said no, if his...*dad* had said no, you'd be dead."
"He was just a kid."
Then the light dawned, hell, the whole bank of lights at the stadium came on. "He was you."
"That doesn't have anything to do with it." Daniel stopped his pacing to poke his finger into Jack's chest.
Jack rocked back on his heels. "Somehow I don't believe that, and I don't think you do either. Wake up and smell the coffee, Daniel."
"You know what I do know?" Daniel retreated to start pacing again. "I know you didn't listen to a thing I said. It was your call, not mine. Yours and his--not mine, not that other Daniel's. You took that away from me, from him."
"So what? I was supposed to let you die? Like I did before?" Jack's voice rose to match Daniel's. "Sorry. Been there, done that, wore the 'my best friend is dead' t-shirt. Forgive me for wanting you to live."
"Yeah, because living with the constant threat of dying from some cancer and being scarred beyond recognition was such a better choice than ascension."
They were both yelling now and Jack didn't give a damn.
"You don't know shit about letting someone go, about what it was like for me to tell Jacob to stop!"
"And you didn't give a damn about why I wanted to go!" Daniel made a sweeping gesture and knocked a pot onto the floor. It spun a few times before it finally stopped at Jack's toes.
"And when did you give a damn that whole year about wanting to even stay on the team?" Jack threw back at him.
"Me? What about you? You didn't want me on the team. I knew it. It just made my decision that much easier. Oh wait, you decided Sam was the perfect team member. You a breast man, Jack? "
Jack had had enough, although many years later, if asked to recall exactly what had happened, he never quite remembered the details. He reached out and grabbed Daniel's arm. Daniel pulled back, and for a moment, Jack thought Daniel was going to punch him. Jack pulled harder and Daniel stumbled over the pot right into Jack's chest. He looked up, his eyes bright blue with anger, his face reddened from yelling, and his lips, well, that was the part Jack got confused about because somehow, although he didn't know what made him do it, were irresistibly kissable, so Jack obliged.
"Oh," Daniel murmured when Jack pulled back for breath, and then he pushed Jack further away. "You think a kiss makes it all better?" The anger was back---probably more heated than ever.
"No, damn it. I kissed you because I..." Jack flapped his hand uselessly. "Just forget it." He stalked out of the kitchen.
"What do you mean just forget it?" That was Daniel--showing up behind him just like a bad penny. Jack hadn't even made it to the front door. "You just *kissed* me."
"Yeah well maybe I shouldn't have." God, could he have fucked things up any worse than they already were? "I thought..."
"Oh." The word sounded different this time. He looked at Daniel who was staring back at him with his brow furrowed as if he was figuring out a puzzle. "Oh." This time Daniel drew the word out. "You...oh." He pointed an index finger at Jack.
Jack held his hands up. "Look, I misread things. I fucked up a lot of stuff, but I never...damn it, Daniel, I'm not good at this."
The little shit was laughing. Okay, not exactly laughing but Daniel was smiling and Jack didn't know if that was good or bad. He could feel his face grow hot with embarrassment.
"You love me." Daniel stated. He sounded amazed. "You...that wasn't just a way to get me to shut up. It was..." Daniel pushed Jack against the door, one hand fisted in Jack's t-shirt while he brought the other up to pull Jack's head a little closer. He kissed Jack with an intensity and fierceness that, knowing Daniel, wasn't surprising at all. Daniel pulled away and they stood staring at each other, panting hard.
Wow. That had been...wow. Jack grabbed Daniel's shirt, unwilling to let him go and they stood there chest to chest, hands fisted in each other's shirts and tried it again. Daniel's lips were soft beneath Jack's, his hands were tight against Jack's chest.
Daniel made a little sigh--a sound he made in his sleep sometimes when they were in their tent off-world. Jack had always thought Daniel was dreaming of Sha're when he made that sound and he never once in all the years they'd known each other mentioned it, afraid to intrude on Daniel's loss. He couldn't recall Daniel ever making it when awake. All Jack knew was the sound made certain parts of his anatomy instantly more alert.
He moved his hands up to hold Daniel's head steady and kissed him again. Daniel was a great kisser. "Why didn't you ever tell me?" Jack asked when he pulled away, his breath coming fast and hard.
"What?" Daniel mumbled as he pushed Jack against the door and began pulling up his t-shirt, planting wet kisses on the over-heated skin of Jack's torso.
"How great you kiss." Jack raised his arms as Daniel pulled the shirt higher. The shirt was tossed somewhere to the side, Jack wasn't sure where and really didn't care.
"You never asked." Daniel had his head down and his long fingers were currently occupied with undoing Jack's belt and jeans.
"Huh." Jack grabbed Daniel's shoulders as his jeans were yanked down. "There is that." He stood against Daniel's front door in nothing but his briefs and socks and felt totally at home.
"Um, yeah," Daniel replied. He pushed on Jack's chest which made Jack feel the need to kiss him again.
Jack didn't remember exactly how Daniel got him away from the door and into the living room, although it had involved walking backwards while Daniel pushed at him, but somehow that was where they were, and Daniel was naked too. Well nearly naked, he was down to his boxers.
Daniel was breathing as hard as he was--his breath harsh in Jack's ear.
"Do it," Jack said, a plea, not an order, and shivered as Daniel took hold of him.
"You're sure." But it wasn't a question; at least Jack didn't think it was one. Daniel's hands were strong and sure, and Jack shuddered from his hair to his toes as Daniel began to stroke him. He leaned back on his elbows and let Daniel do as he willed.
The room fell silent except for grunts and the sound of skin on skin. Jack's vision went red and white when Daniel touched his hips, guided him.
"You ever do this before?" Jack asked when Daniel positioned himself beneath Jack.
There was what could have been a huff of laughter and then Daniel asked, "You?"
Long time. It had been a long time, but Jack didn't speak. He entered Daniel, Daniel's muscles clenching around him, which caused the shivering to increase even more. Yeah, it felt good, it felt right. It took them awhile to find the right rhythm and Jack heard that little sound that might have been laughter again. He could feel the laughter bubbling up inside his own chest and as he came inside Daniel, he let loose not with a hoarse cry of completion but a full-fledged laugh.
He lay back on the floor, and Daniel moved to rest half-way on him. Daniel looked at him and giggled. There was no other word for the sound Daniel made. Daniel Jackson, explorer of the galaxy, fighter of Goa'uld, giggled. It was the one of the three most beautiful sounds Jack had ever heard in his life.
"I never knew," Jack said, as he drew lazy circles on Daniel's damp back.
"Huh. How about that?" Daniel murmured. He sounded as if he was half-asleep.
Reaching up, Jack pulled down an afghan from the back of the couch to cover them both. He was going to regret having sex on Daniel's living room floor in the next hour or so, but for now he felt too content to move.
"The same could be said for you," Daniel continued. He lifted his head and looked at Jack. "I *loved* Sha're."
"I know." Jack replied. "I loved Sara. Doesn't mean I can't love you."
"It's been so long," Daniel said, placing a gentle kiss on Jack's lips. "Too long. I want this to be more than a fuck in the night."
Jack brought his arms up and around Daniel, relishing the feel of skin, bone and muscle beneath his embrace. "It will be, Danny. I swear to you it will be." He felt tears come to his eyes and blinked hard. He always cried after sex--a reaction of his body he couldn't control. But he thought this might be more. It had been too long--way too long and not just for the sex, too long that he and Daniel had been at odds, fighting feelings that were probably obvious to everyone else. He held on tight and felt Daniel embrace him. In the safety of Daniel's arms, he allowed himself to mourn for all the lost time.
"What matters is now," Daniel whispered in his ear, "is the future is ours."
* * * *
Daniel turned from the window in the briefing room. "Teal'c." He nodded a greeting and shifted his weight.
"You appear troubled," Teal'c observed. He stepped closer to Daniel's side.
"No. It's not that." Daniel lshook his head. "I'm just thinking about..." He waved his hand in the direction of the gate. "You know."
"It is a wise man who recognizes his fears," Teal'c told him.
Daniel tilted his head and gave a small smile. "Tell that to my stomach."
"Yet you will step through the Stargate without hesitation when we depart shortly."
"Yeah, I will." Daniel let out a long breath. He placed one hand on the window. "I've been thinking about the other Daniel. You know, the teenaged one."
"Ah yes. I am sure he is doing well in his reality."
"He's got all of you surrounding him. Well your alternate reality counterparts at least." Daniel smiled. "I was just thinking about our differences. I mean, he's getting a second chance at growing up. Being a kid."
"Would you wish the same for yourself? To be able to relive your childhood without the losses?"
Daniel looked down at the Stargate where Sam and Jack were already waiting. Jack turned and looked up at the window. He pointed at his watch and frowned and then added a tapping foot for good measure. Would he want to give all this up so that he could have another chance at having a family? He turned from the window and grabbed his pack from the floor.
"No," he said, this time with a certainty he hadn't felt for months. "I'm where I belong." Suddenly he couldn't wait to step through the gate. "C'mon, Teal'c. There's a whole new planet to explore."
He took off ahead of Teal'c, trusting his friend would follow, knowing the others were waiting. Would he give it up? He walked into the gateroom and saw Jack's hastily hidden smile, heard Sam's chatter about some anomaly they were going to find through the gate. He stood shoulder to shoulder with Jack, feeling the warmth of the other man's body and watched the gate begin to spin. He couldn't wait to see what new adventures life had in store.