DC + 5 months
Daniel sighed as he let himself into his apartment, grateful for the silence after days of ultimately useless discussion and argument. Another planet bowing down before the Ori. He dropped his bag onto the dining table and changed into clothes that hadn't been stashed in a locker for the better part of a week. He looked at his bag with a sigh, thinking about the projects and notes and questions that had accumulated while he was off-world, but he just couldn't deal with them right now.
He tuned the radio to the classical station and sat down, hoping to decompress a little. The music faded behind the sounds and images that sped through his mind.
Teal'c's hand was firm on his arm. "We have to leave now, DanielJackson." They were almost to the door of the town hall when the D'ran military burst through and began rounding up all those present who opposed Origin. He and Teal'c ducked into an alcove, pressed flat against the wall, then began pushing through the crowd of confusion. Daniel couldn't even hear his own voice shouting, "Stop it! We'll take them with us. They're no danger to you!"
The gunshots were already echoing across the town as Mitchell hurried the team through the Gate.
This is pointless, Daniel thought, heaving himself up off the couch. His keys were in his hand, and he was shrugging into his jacket before he remembered that Jack wasn't just a quick ride away anymore.
He threw his keys back onto the hallway table in frustration and grabbed a beer from the fridge instead. He slumped back onto the couch and swallowed a healthy mouthful.
"Damn it," he muttered to the empty room. Of course, Jack was gone; he'd been transferred five months before with almost no notice. Definitely without the same team pow-wow that had accompanied his promotion to Brigadier General. Daniel tried not to feel slighted; he knew that Jack didn't really have a choice. It had just felt as if they had been on the verge of something happening between the two of them, with Jack off the team and the defeat of the Goa'uld. Then Jack was gone.
Daniel pulled out his phone, twisting it in his hands. He could call Jack, of course, but that wouldn't really accomplish what he needed. He didn't want to talk, not even about inconsequential things, certainly not about D'ran or the Ori. He just wanted to be not alone.
Another swig of beer, and he turned off the radio, switching the TV on to some random hockey game and closed his eyes, imagining Jack's colorful commentary as he listened to the game.
DC + 8 months
Jack tapped his pen as he listened to the phone ring and kept scanning the AAR in front of him. What the hell had Mitchell been thinking? He chewed on the inside of his cheek. A click alerted him that the line had been picked up.
"Good to hear from you, Jack. How can I help you?"
It took Jack a moment to readjust when he heard Landry's voice on the line instead of Mitchell's as expected.
"Hank. Sorry to bother you. I was actually trying to get in touch with - "
"Colonel Mitchell. Yes, I know. I asked them to put your call through to me instead."
Jack grimaced. "I see," he said slowly.
"Yes, I thought you might be a little upset at SG-1's latest mission." Landry's voice sharpened, "Even though no one was injured and all mission goals were achieved."
Jack glared at the phone and rolled his eyes at Landry's unsubtle reminder that his concerns were unfounded. Just because everything turned out okay this time did nothing to make Jack rest easy about future missions.
"You're not going to let me talk to Mitchell are you?"
Landry's laugh grated on Jack's next-to-last nerve. "And that's why they put you in the big chair, Jack."
"Jack, you know I read all of SG-1's old mission reports when I took this posting."
"Of course. That's why they gave you the slightly-less-big chair. By the way, how are you finding it? I never thought it was quite as comfortable as the one General Hammond ... appropriated."
"The chair's fine, Jack. My point is that Colonel Mitchell didn't do anything you haven't done in the past, yourself. Several times, actually."
And damn Landry for bringing up the thought that Jack had been repeatedly quashing. He knew his team, knew how to read them. He knew how to tell when Daniel's judgment was based on rational thought rather than his desire to trust in everyone's better nature, knew when Carter's scientific curiosity was getting the best of her, when Teal'c was getting ready to go off of some Jaffa-revenge thing and how to head that off -- well not really. But he wasn't some wet-behind-the-ears kid who was still counting his trips through the gate like Mitchell.
And worse, Jack knew what it was like when it went wrong, despite the best knowledge, despite the best judgment.
Landry continued, "That being said, I've already had a conversation with the colonel, as his C.O., on the advisability of certain actions."
Jack tossed the pen onto his desk in lieu of an audible sigh. And that was the best he was going to get here.
"Well, thank you, Hank. I'm sure you have a lot of base-running type things to get back to, so I'll let you go... do those."
Landry chuckled. "I'll do that. Oh, and Jack?"
"Don't try to bypass me on matters pertaining to my staff again. You've got a lot more on your plate than just SG-1, or even the SGC. Mitchell's a good man -- you knew that when you picked him for the job -- and he will take care of his team."
Jack put the phone down. Yes, he knew that Mitchell was good, but Mitchell was never supposed to be in charge of Jack's team.
DC + 13 months
"Daniel." Jack's voice was tense when he answered the phone.
"Jack." Daniel parrotted back as he sat at the small table in the base VIP quarters, angling to avoid catching a glimpse of himself in the mirror.
"We've talked about this, Daniel. You know better than to eat strange food on even stranger worlds. What were you thinking?"
"I was thinking..."
"No, you weren't. If I were still in command, your ass would be grounded so fast. Rookie mistake, Daniel!"
"Well, you're not in charge, are you? So get off my case, Jack."
Silence momentarily greeted Daniel's outburst.
"Get off your case, Daniel?"
"Yes, Jack. Landry and Mitchell have already read me the riot act. Sam stopped by to add her two cents before she went home. I'm sure Teal'c will arrive with candles and gentle admonishment any time now. I didn't call you to get another reminder that I screwed up.
"I don't need any reminders. I'm purple! Very, very purple. And maybe I just need to vent about that to a friend."
Daniel waited, listening to Jack's even breathing on the other end of the line. Even when he'd been Daniel's commanding officer, he'd rarely been that hard on Daniel after an incident like this, and it was always followed by showing up with cards and commissary pie -- if Daniel was restricted to base like now -- or movies and beer -- if Daniel was allowed to go home. Unfortunately, distance prohibited those tactics, so Daniel would take what he could get. But he'd be damned if he was going to listen to another lecture first.
"Yeah, I guess that makes sense." When Jack finally replied, the edge was gone from his voice. "So, 'very, very purple', huh? Are we talking eggplant or Barney the Dinosaur? Please tell me someone got pictures!"
Daniel groaned at Jack's enthusiasm for his misfortune. Jack didn't need to know he was smiling as he made himself comfortable in the chair for the rest of the conversation.
DC + 16 months
Jack surreptitiously checked his watch as the senator droned on. Another 15 minutes before he could expect Davis to rescue him from this entirely unnecessary meeting. He nodded, caught up with the current tangent of the conversation, and set his mental countdown to 15.
So, when the brisk knock came just a few minutes later, Jack didn't even have to fake the look of surprise.
"General, I'm sorry to interrupt, but there's a phone call you need to take." Paul Davis' typically calm demeanor was slightly betrayed by the tension around his mouth and eyes as he spoke.
A sick feeling settled in Jack's stomach. He turned to Senator Lightman, paused in mid-sentence and seemingly unaware of the rapidly escalating tension in the room.
"I'm sorry to cut this short, Senator, but duty calls."
The man closed his mouth and nodded, obviously unhappy at being dismissed, but unable to complain in light of nearly 25 minutes of blather regarding the dire consequences of shirking one's duty.
Blowhard, Jack thought as he watched the senator collect his things and walk out. Davis shut the door behind them with a nod as Jack picked up the phone.
"General," Carter's strained voice greeted him. The sick feeling intensified.
"Carter, what's the bad news?"
She sighed. "It's Daniel, Sir." And wasn't Jack tired of hearing that phrase? He took a deep breath as she continued. "It turns out that the political situation on P5X-329 was even less stable than we had been told."
A soft chirrup from his computer notified Jack of Landry's incoming email.
"There was an attack by the rebel faction while we were there. The section of the building that Daniel was in was hit hard. It took us a while to get him out. He's in the infirmary now."
Jack was scanning the email as Carter spoke, each version filling in gaps from the other. Chemical weapons, Mitchell pulling Daniel out and getting him home, both men suffering varying levels of effects from the toxic gas -- breathing problems, skin lesions...
"He can't see, Sir." Carter's voice broke, and she paused to take a shuddering breath.
Jack gave himself a second to absorb the news, to acknowledge the radiating fear and dismay before locking it away to deal with later.
"We can't even get in to talk to him yet. General, I just feel so helpless right now."
"I know, Carter." There wasn't anything else he could say, nothing he could do in DC besides read reports and take meetings. And none of that would help Daniel.
"Listen, when they do let you in, tell Daniel that I'll be there as soon as I can."
"Yes, Sir." He could hear her forced half-smile, as she struggled to keep her spirits up.
Davis slipped back into the office after Jack hung up.
"You heard what's happened?" Jack confirmed.
The lieutenant colonel nodded solemnly.
"I'm heading out to Colorado tonight."
Davis shook his head. "General, you're going to have to hold off. You've got the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and the French rep from the IOA tomorrow."
"I don't care. We can reschedule."
"With all due respect Sir, no, you can't reschedule those meetings."
Jack closed his eyes and tried not to snap at Davis. The man was a good officer and a fantastic liaison. He took way more than his fair share of the shit assignments, keeping as much of the knucklehead stuff off Jack's desk as possible. And he was right -- about the Chairman anyway; the IOA, in whole or in part, could take a flying leap as far as Jack was concerned.
"Okay, I take those meetings, you can rework the rest of the week? We defer what we can, teleconference what we can't? I can do paperwork from the Mountain."
"We can do that, General. You'll be on a plane tomorrow night."
Jack nodded. "And keep me updated on anything comes in from the SGC in the meantime."
It was late the following night when Jack arrived at the Mountain. He headed straight for the infirmary. In the main ward, he found Mitchell watching Carter doze in the chair next to his bed.
Mitchell looked up as Jack approached. Reddened patches reminiscent of severe sunburn dotted his neck and jaw. His eyes betrayed an uneasy exhaustion.
"General O'Neill." Mitchell struggled to straighten himself into some kind of horizontal attention.
"As you were," Jack chided, half-tempted to smile at Mitchell's earnestness. This kid was so much more spit and polish than he had ever been.
"Just wanted to tell you, you did good, Colonel. You got your team home." You got Daniel home.
"Thank you, Sir," Mitchell rasped. "I just wish I'd been able to get to him sooner." His eyes hovered in the direction of the isolation rooms and Daniel, and he shifted uncomfortably under the light blankets.
"Not your fault, Mitchell. And the doc's hopeful that Daniel will recover in time." Jack omitted mentioning that the phrase 'full recovery' had yet to be uttered. Mitchell would find out soon enough, might as well let him get one more night of rest.
"Look, it's happened to all of us -- Daniel more than most maybe -- but even when a world is safe, it's still a dangerous job."
Mitchell sighed, which turned into a series of hacking coughs. Jack handed him a cup of water. "You got him out alive, and that's what counts."
Jack stayed for another few minutes before leaving with an exhortation to 'get some rest.' As he approached Daniel's iso room, Dr. Lam came hurrying up to meet him.
"General O'Neill, I just heard you were here. You saw Colonel Mitchell?"
"He's responding very well to treatment."
She positioned herself between Jack and Daniel's room. "You have to understand that Colonel Mitchell had limited exposure to the gas, and he was wearing at least minimal protective gear when he entered the affected area. Dr. Jackson's exposure was much longer and much more concentrated. His symptoms are correspondingly more severe.
"We've been keeping him in isolation until we're sure that the chance for secondary infection is minimized. Most of his symptoms are responding well to a combination of steroids and a medicine provided by the Trion, and we should be able to move him out to the ward later today."
Jack waited for the rest of the prognosis. Lam's expression was too serious for good news.
"But the real concern right now is his vision. You've read the background on the Trion society, General?"
"Then you know that they are much more advanced than we are, both medically and scientifically. This weapon was developed in order to leave any survivors unable to fight, blinding them through damage to the optic nerve. The damage is beyond our ability to repair, but the Trion government had provided us with an experimental treatment they are developing to combat the damage. They have had some limited success."
"Understood." Limited success was better than nothing at all, Jack supposed, itching to get in and see Daniel for himself.
Lam recognized that the conversation was over. She nodded and moved away from the door. "Just a few minutes tonight, General. Daniel needs his rest."
"Thank you, Doctor," he said quietly as he let himself into Daniel's room.
Daniel turned his head toward the door as it opened. Jack fisted his hands in his pockets as he looked at Daniel, dismayed to find he looked exactly as bad as Jack had anticipated. His face was drawn tight with pain and fatigue. Rough, red patches covered most of his exposed skin. His breathing was steady, but labored and raspy. And his eyes...
There was no more of Daniel's familiar sharp, focused gaze. His eyes were looking in the general direction of the door, searching but obviously not seeing.
"Hello?" Daniel questioned the room, his voice painfully hoarse. Jack winced in sympathy.
"Oh, yeah, right. Sorry. Hi, Daniel."
"Jack." A flash of a smile crossed Daniel's face before he started coughing. He stretched his arm out to the small tabletop next to the bed, feeling around.
Jack eyed the table and picked up a small canister. "Inhaler?" he asked.
Daniel nodded, taking it and breathing in a few pumps.
"Thanks," Daniel whispered when he was breathing near normally again.
"Daniel, I know I've said this plenty of times before, but believe me, this time it is completely altruistic: Don't talk."
He continued with slow, deliberate breaths and nodded.
"It's late, and you need your rest. I just wanted to stop in and let you know that I'm here. I'll drop back by in the morning, okay?"
Jack rested his hand on Daniel's shoulder gently. "Try to sleep."
Jack rolled his eyes; was he ever full of useless platitudes tonight. But when Daniel relaxed back into his pillow, he thought that maybe they wasn't quite so useless after all.
Daniel's frustration level was rising. He didn't really want to examine his emotional state any more in-depth than that, and had spent most of the past week trying not to give in to the fear that his sight wouldn't heal. Carolyn had cautioned him that the treatment was long-term, and it would take weeks before they'd know the full extent of his his recovery.
In the meantime, he was stuck at the Mountain because they were reluctant to release him into the general population with untested alien drugs in his system. Normally, he wouldn't mind, but he couldn't distract himself with work in this instance. It was hard to analyze ancient texts when everything he looked at was a big blur. An improvement over the total blackness of the first few days, but still frighteningly incapacitating.
Additionally, SG-1 was preparing to resume their mission schedule in a few days. Daniel tried not to read too much into the fact that they had recruited Nyan to join them 'in a temporary capacity.' The next mission required someone with archaeological expertise. Daniel had been looking forward to it for a month.
Jack had been spending as much time as possible keeping Daniel company / harassing him. But his duties kept him in his office most of the day, and often into the evening, and Daniel was pretty sure he'd have to return to Washington soon, taking even that small distraction with him.
Carolyn had finally agreed that Daniel no longer had to stay in the infirmary and was recommending that he be moved to VIP quarters. He was presenting his arguments to Carolyn that he go home instead, when he heard Jack's combat boots scuffing the infirmary floor. He smiled to himself, half-convinced that the reason Jack was prolonging his visit here was his relief at leaving his dress blues in the closet.
"It's not as if I'd be leaving my apartment," he offered.
Carolyn's sigh betrayed how annoyed she was getting with this conversation. "I don't want you to be alone. Just because you haven't had a negative reaction thus far, does not mean that you won't as the treatment continues in the future."
"Okay, so we set up some sort of phone check-in." Daniel looked over to see a Jack-shaped blur taking his spot leaning against the wall next to Daniel's bed.
"Dr. Jackson, this drug is making neurological changes in your brain. I just can't take that chance."
Jack cleared his throat. "I think I might have a solution."
They waited for him to continue, but Jack was obviously having a good time playing the moment. Daniel finally broke the silence. "Do tell, Jack."
"TDY at Homeworld. We have a project that could definitely benefit from your expertise. I was already thinking about trying to tempt you out there before all this happened."
"General, I'm reluctant to let Dr. Jackson go across town. With all due respect, why would I let him go across the country?"
"Because this addresses all of your concerns. Daniel will be staying with me, so he won't be alone. We have medical staff at the Pentagon that has been read into the program, so you can work with them regarding dosages and check-ups, and if anything happens, they're only minutes away."
Daniel wished he could see well enough to measure the silent communication between Jack and Carolyn. Being able to read people's body language and expressions used to be so natural to him; missing it was like missing a limb.
Finally, Carolyn said, "Fine. If Dr. Jackson is agreeable, I'll sign off on it."
Jack hadn't even told him what the project was, and Daniel was already chomping at the bit to get out of there. At this point, it could be pretty much entirely made up, and Daniel would still say yes, just to not be stuck under the Mountain. But he couldn't resist pushing back at Jack, just a little, on principle.
"I don't know, Jack. You planning on telling me what I'm going to be working on? There's some pretty cool audiobooks I've been meaning to get around to reading."
Another minute of frustrating silent communication taking place unreadably right in front of his face, and Carolyn took her leave. Jack pulled a chair up close to the bed. "No one here is aware of this, so keep it quiet. Not even Carter, for the time being. The IOA is talking about taking the program public. I need someone with a brain to keep them from sending the whole world into a panic."
Daniel nodded. The idea of letting the bureaucrats on the IOA free-rein with something like this was insanity of the first order.
"Well, then, it sounds like I'm getting out of here," he said with a smile.
The Prometheus courteously gave Jack and Daniel a 'lift' to the beam-down spot in a little-used corner of the Pentagon North Parking Lot.
Jack gave a satisfied grin. "Ah, that's the only way to travel."
"Says the pilot," Daniel retorted.
Jack led Daniel across the parking lot to the waiting car. Daniel was surprised to hear Jack direct the driver to take them home.
"I'll give you the grand tour of the place on Monday. But we'll just take the weekend to relax," Jack explained.
The drive to Jack's Arlington apartment didn't take too long. Once in the apartment, Daniel gratefully set down his dufflebag.
"So, how's this work, then, Daniel? You need me to help you count steps or something between the furniture?"
Daniel glared at Jack. "I'm not blind, Jack. I just can't see."
"Ah. Yes, well, I'm glad we cleared that up." Daniel didn't need to see the details of Jack's face to get the sarcasm dripping off that statement.
"It's like when I don't wear my glasses. Well, a lot worse, but the only problem is, lenses can't correct it."
"Yet, Daniel. Yet."
Jack lifted the duffel, then threw an arm around Daniel's shoulder. "Come on, let me show you to the guest room, then we can talk about dinner."
Daniel trailed along with Jack, through the cozy apartment. "I'm sure you have work that you should be catching up on. Contrary to popular belief, I can handle myself for a little while, you know."
"I know. But I think the world can survive if I take a weekend off to help you get settle in."
They both paused, waiting for the ringing phone signaling that the world disagreed with Jack's assessment, but nothing happened. Daniel's chuckle broke the tension. "Yeah, I guess so. Thanks, Jack."
Daniel swallowed back the wave of gratitude that threatened to overwhelm him as he followed Jack through the rest of the apartment.
The weekend passed quietly, and more easily than Jack had expected, given that he was suddenly sharing space with someone else for the first time in a long time. Jack had almost convinced himself that the way he and Daniel used to fit together had all been in his mind -- the grass is always greener, etc. -- but they fell right back into it. Granted, it was now about shower times and wet towels and preparing meals, rather than escape plans and and mission priorities and diplomacy, but it worked for them.
Jack had intended to walk Daniel through getting his ID Monday morning -- he would be around too long for a regular visitor pass -- and getting him situated in his new office. But when they arrived, he was immediately redirected to deal with an emergency involving the appropriations committee, leaving Daniel in Paul Davis' capable hands for the morning.
It was hours later before Jack managed to extract himself long enough to swing by Daniel's office. Daniel had apparently thrown himself into his role without reservation and was in the middle of a pitched argument with one of the DoD reps.
"We don't speak for the world. We cannot possibly pretend that we can come up with a declassification plan and just throw it out there. Other countries must be consulted."
"The IOA --"
"Represents only a handful of them. And it is the height of arrogance to presume that what works for us, automatically will extend to the rest of the world."
Jack grinned at the discomfited expression on the visiting colonel's face. Watching Daniel outtalk someone was a thing of beauty -- as long it wasn't Jack himself on the other end.
Daniel was still impassioned at the end of the day, talking nearly nonstop through the ride home and as they sat down to dinner. Jack began to realize exactly how much he had missed this since the promotion and the move. Daniel went on and on, and Jack just sat back and watched, entranced by his voice and his gestures, by his hands trace patterns in the air. Jack's mind transferred those patterns onto his own skin, imaginary touches leaving behind a trail of warmth and a reawakened need.
"Stop staring, Jack."
Jack started, pulled out of his reverie. "How do you know I'm staring?"
"You're not speaking, not moving, yet generally facing my direction. Plus, I know you. What's going on?"
Too soon, thought Jack, and pushed back from the table to begin clearing the dishes. "Just happy you're here, Daniel."
Watching Daniel throughout the week convinced Jack that it had been the right thing to get him away from the SGC. A Daniel without purpose was a sad sight; a Daniel who was challenged intellectually was a wonder to behold.
It was good for Jack too. The way he felt now with Daniel around made him see what had been missing. He felt energized, whole, happy. He couldn't not want to be near Daniel.
It wasn't just sexual attraction, although that was certainly there. It had always been there, and for a while, Jack had thought they might pursue it after he was promoted off of SG-1. But there had never seemed to be a right time to make that move. And then he had been transferred, and Daniel had been heading to Atlantis. Then Daniel had been detoured into this new conflict with the Ori, and Jack had spent the last year and a half trying to pretend that nothing would have come of it, that his feelings were fading with time and distance.
But this past week served to show that they hadn't. And, if he was reading things right, they hadn't faded for Daniel either.
Daniel closed his eyes and let the sound of the running water and Jack's voice wash over him. It had been a long week -- good, but tiring -- and he was taking a few moments to relax while Jack washed up after dinner.
He suddenly realized that Jack had stopped talking a few moments before, and he opened his eyes. Jack stood next to him, his hand reached out to cup Daniel's jaw, his thumb softly stroking along Daniel's cheek.
"Daniel," Jack said softly, want and heat and doubt all threaded through the one word.
Daniel swallowed and closed his eyes again. He leaned into Jack's touch, felt the slight drag of rough hand against stubble, then stood. This was the moment, the one he feared had been lost for good. His arms circled Jack's waist, and he drew him in closer. Jack's hands framed his face as their lips met and moved together. Daniel's lips and tongue explored the physical presence that Jack O'Neill, breathed him in, tasted and touched and learned him.
"Bedroom?" Jack broke away long enough to question, his breathing ragged, as he dove right back to tasting Daniel's skin, nipping small kisses along his jaw and down his neck. Shivers spiralled down Daniel's spine.
"Bedroom," Daniel agreed, grabbing Jack's hand and leading the way.
"Comfy bed," Daniel commented. "Lots of give."
Jack grinned and pulled Daniel tighter against him, pressing a kiss against his forehead. The overpriced mattress had certainly lived up to the salesman's hype. Daniel rested his head on Jack's shoulder and pressed closely against him.
They lay quietly for a while, until Daniel suddenly chuckled, and Jack felt the warm breath across his chest. He made an inquisitive sound.
"I was just wondering who's going to win the pool at the SGC?"
Daniel tilted his face toward Jack just far enough to smirk at him, then settled back against his chest.
"Us?" Jack asked, and Daniel hummed in agreement. "But how would they know?"
"I don't even ask anymore," Daniel answered.
Jack idly stroked his hand up and down Daniel's side as he thought. "It's gotta be Teal'c," he declared, relishing the burst of laughter that drew from Daniel.
The ringing phone woke Jack from a deep sleep. He mumbled his way through the conversation and hung up before realizing that Daniel wasn't in his bed, as he had been every night for the past few weeks. As he made his way to the kitchen to put the coffee on, he saw Daniel asleep at the dining table next to his laptop.
Daniel's vision had improved enough that he was able to use it with the assistance of some special software for the vision impaired. His doctors had tried to put restrictions on how many hours a day Daniel could use it. The sight before him told Jack just how much Daniel was adhering to that.
He started the coffee brewing and then took a minute to just look at Daniel, amazed at the turn their lives had taken recently, thinking about how right it was to have Daniel right there next to him, day in and day out. And how much he wanted that to continue. He didn't want to go back to the strain that being apart had put on their friendship, not to mention trying to figure out how the hell to handle a subrosa long-distance relationship. A finger of guilt crept through his mind as he thought that he wanted Daniel to stay right here, because staying in DC would only happen if Daniel didn't get better, and that's not what Jack wanted at all.
He leaned over and kissed Daniel's cheek softly. Daniel blinked at Jack and slowly sat up. "I fell asleep."
"Yeah," Jack smiled. "Listen. I got called in. Nothing big," he hastened to forestall any panic on Daniel's part. "Possible security breach at the 302 facility, but I need to go throw my weight around and figure out what's going on."
Daniel nodded and stretched. When he stood and headed toward the smell of coffee, Jack gently steered him toward the bedroom. "You can grab a couple hours more sleep. Call for a car when you're ready to leave."
Yawning, Daniel nodded and stumbled onto the bed, half asleep by the time his head hit the pillow.
Jack checked the alarm clock. "You've got your weekly medical this morning, right?"
"Mmmhmmm," Daniel mumbled, half-nodding against the pillow.
"Call me when you're through. We can grab some lunch."
Daniel's deep breaths were Jack's only answer.
Jack's day was so hectic that it was 2:00 in the afternoon before he got a chance to even think about lunch. He checked his messages, but there was nothing from Daniel. He called over to Daniel's office to unearth him from whatever pile of work he'd buried himself in. Daniel's assistant answered the phone and apologetically explained that Dr. Jackson had left immediately after his doctor's visit, and would not be back that day.
Jack cursed silently and started gathering his papers. He'd known that things were going too smoothly: Daniel adjusting too easily, sliding into his new role like it was made for him (it was, but that wasn't the point), his recovery proceeding without a hitch. But he hadn't wanted to say anything, to upset this small measure of peace they'd been allowed.
Only stopping for a brief word to his assistant and Colonel Davis, he was back at his apartment 30 minutes later. Daniel's things were there, messily piled on the table next to his laptop. Daniel was sitting on the couch. He didn't look over when Jack came in.
Jack put his own things down, hung his jacket over a chair, and sat down next to Daniel, pulling him against his side with only a little resistance.
"Wanna talk about it?"
Daniel shrugged and sighed, but relaxed a little bit beneath Jack's arm, resting his head on Jack's shoulder. After a few minutes, he spoke.
"There was no improvement this week," he said bleakly.
"Okay. All the doctors have said they can't predict the course your recovery will take. One week without improvement doesn't mean everything's final."
"I know." Daniel picked at a stray thread on the hem of his shirt. "I guess it just hit me for the first time that this might be it. Or, even if I continue to improve, I might never get back to where I was. I mean, what happens if ..."
Jack rested his head against Daniel's. "There's options. You could stay here and continue with the declassification project. You could try something completely different. Or you could go back to the SGC."
"What would I do there? I won't pass field qualifications." Daniel sat up, pulling away from Jack.
"True, you wouldn't be allowed back in the field, but you still have your department."
"But I can't see."
"Your staff can. I've heard them already. 'We just need a quick consult, Dr. Jackson.' And then they describe whatever it is to you over the phone. Seems to be working."
"Yeah, but Jack, sometimes, I just have to see it. What if they miss something? The differences can be so nuanced, so small."
"Daniel, they're your staff. We got the best and the brightest, and you trained them to be even better. Have some faith in them, in yourself."
Daniel opened his mouth to retort, but closed it abruptly without saying anything, so Jack continued on.
"This might not be it for you, but there does come a time where we all have to step aside and trust in the next person to do the job. It's always hard to do, and for us, with what's at stake, I think it's especially hard.
"Don't repeat this, but letting Carter take the team nearly gave me an ulcer. And I know she knows what she's doing! When I found out Mitchell somehow got you all back on the team, I almost put the kibosh on the whole damn thing -- pulled him, pulled you, whatever it took. Because it wasn't me out there, making those decisions.
"It's taken some time, but I'm good here, now. And someday, someone else will be doing this job -- hopefully Carter, maybe Mitchell. Maybe pull Sheppard back from Atlantis, but that might just lead to a Pegasus mutiny, so probably not our best option."
Daniel chuckled. "Probably not."
"There's always options, Daniel, is what I'm saying."
Daniel smiled slyly and leaned in toward Jack. "How many of these options have you in them?"
"As many as you want," Jack replied.
Daniel kissed him softly. "Then I think we're going to be okay." He kissed him again, pushing Jack back against the couch. "But I don't think we're making it back to the office today."