The SGC therapist keeps telling Daniel that the human mind is a strange thing. Of that Daniel has no doubt. The new therapist is a nice enough kid. Daniel’s irrationally grateful that they didn’t turn him over to MacKenzie; his spotty memory holds just enough about the psychiatrist to make him jumpy at the thought of spilling his guts to him for an hour and half every week.
Although maybe MacKenzie would have some better advice than, ‘memory is a strange thing, don’t push so hard.’ How can he not push it with everything he’s got? Everyone is watching him from the corners of their eyes, watching for signs that he’s back to whatever passes for normal around here - especially Jack.
Sam tells him not to worry about it. Teal’c tells him that his absence was hard on the Colonel. The therapist thinks he’s being overly sensitive and shifts the subject back to the latest source of Daniel’s frustration – trees.
“What do you think the trees represent?” the cherub faced doctor asks in that gratingly understanding tone.
“I don’t think they represent anything,” Daniel responses truthfully. “It’s a real memory, clear and…” He gropes for a way to make the doctor understand the feeling of the memory “…solid,” he settles on half-heartedly. It’s a poor descriptor for the strength of this tiny fragment of memory. “I’m lying on the ground on my back staring at treetops.”
“What kind of trees are they?”
Daniel frowns. “I don’t know. I’m not a botanist; they’re just trees, nothing special about them that I can see.”
“Then why is the memory bothering you so much?”
“It’s not bothering me exactly. It’s just…” Daniel sighs and pushes his glasses to the top of his head, squeezing the bridge of his nose as he hunts for the right words. “It feels significant. It feels like there’s more to the memory, and that it’s more important than anything else I’ve remembered.” A pause. “Or forgotten.”
“Have you tried recreating the moment?” the doctor asks, and it’s such a good idea that Daniel can’t believe he hasn’t thought of it on his own. His eagerness to try this, try anything that might help, must show on his face, because the doctor ends their session early.
Daniel ignores the overenthusiastic greetings and sidelong looks of the people he passes on his way to the elevators, intent on getting into the open air, into the trees. The first open patch of tree-covered ground he finds outside of the mountain, he flops down onto his back and waits.
It’s peaceful here, not quiet exactly, not so close to base, but calming somehow, like everything is moving at a slower pace. It’s not the right place; the trees in his memory are taller and broader, but he knew that before he started.
Daniel struggles against the fog in his mind, pushing at the memory, trying to force it forward or back through sheer will. He gets a headache for his trouble and switches to a more passive approach, slipping into the meditative state Teal’c has taught him. It helps the headache but not the memory loss.
Daniel doesn’t even notice that he’s drifting into the outer edges of his tree dream until he hears Jack’s voice calling him from the top of a mountain in Colorado and hears the echo of it from his tree drenched memory.
The part of Daniel that is still in the here and now wonders how Jack found him. But the part of him in the past, staring up at taller, broader trees doesn’t wonder; Jack always knows where to find him.
“Jack?” the Colorado Daniel answers blearily, unwilling to come out of the memory until he’s figured out its significance. The Daniel in his memory answers the same way but in a lighter, happier tone.
“Whatcha doin?” both Jacks ask.
Daniel doesn’t answer flesh-and-blood Jack, because the Jack in his memory is moving in fast forward as the scene comes back to him in a rush. Jack kneeling next to him, leaning over so that his familiar, much loved face blocks the view of the alien sun streaming through the breaks in the trees, leaning further still until Daniel’s eyes drift close as a warm, smiling mouth closes over his own. And just like that, Daniel knows the holes in his new life haven’t just been about missing memory.
“Daniel?” Jack repeats in the present, concern coloring his tone. “You okay?”
Daniel smiles as Jack kneels next to him, face hovering over his as Jack searches his face for signs of trauma or alien possession. Daniel lifts his head to press a soft, chaste kiss against Jack’s mouth and grins as the shocked look on the other man’s face transforms into joy. Daniel gazes up at the thing he’s been missing from his life and says, “You know, I really like trees.”