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Sky, Moon, Stars, and Ocean

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Sky, Moon, Stars, and Ocean

 

Jack stared at the phone in his hand. Finally home—in a place that no longer felt like one. Daniel was...gone, and so it seemed was everything that made this house be a home. Boxes were stored out of sight in the closet Jack never used, in the garage behind other boxes—anywhere that Jack couldn't see them even though he knew they were there. Maybe a day would come when his heart wasn't raw, when every swallow he took didn't result in pain. Maybe a day would come when he didn't feel like punching Jonas Quinn every time he saw him and could forgive him. Maybe a day would come when he could even forgive Daniel—damn him.

His hand was shaking and he clamped down the emotion threatening to overwhelm his senses. He would not lose control-not again. He pushed buttons, listened as the phone on the other end rang and rang. A selfish part of him wished for no answering voice on the other end.

"Hello?"

Of course his mom didn't have caller ID. Of course she didn't.

"Mom."

"Jonathan," Rose's voice brightened. "About time..."

Jack had to interrupt because if he didn't, he'd never be able to say the words. "Daniel...Ma, Daniel is..."

There was silence on the other end and the sound of something metallic falling. "Johnny? No. Please."

"He...there was an accident. He's..." Jack rubbed his face. So much he couldn't say. How did one translate ascension to someone who couldn't know the truth. "Killed in action." There. It was said. The best lie he could think of to represent the truth.

Rose took a deep breath. "When is the service? I'd like to be there."

Jack fixed his eyes on the calendar hanging on the kitchen cabinet. "There wasn't, isn't one." He kept his voice flat, even. "His body..."

Another deep breath sounded in his ear, this time shaky. "Johnny."

"Yeah." Jack couldn't do this. He couldn't hear his mother's grief. He had to shut that part of himself off even as he knew it wasn't the right way to deal with...damn it, Daniel. He wanted to scream into the phone, let out rage and sadness and everything built up over the past year. How could he ever tell Rose about his and Daniel's increasingly at odds relationship? How could he tell her Daniel's ascension, no scratch that, he'd have to say death, was something he was sure was his fault, his responsibility? How could he admit to her the words said in anger and the words left unsaid?

"How are you doing?" Rose finally asked through tears.

"I'm..." Jack closed his eyes. "I'm good. Look, I have to go. I'll call you when I can." He needed to end this. Needed to stop the pain. It didn't matter that he knew Daniel wasn't dead in any sense that his mother would understand—Daniel was not here.

Rose wasn't having any of it. "Jonathan, you need..."

He cut her off. "What I need is not something I can have." He grabbed a beer from the fridge. "Mom, please. Just...I can't talk right now."

"Promise you'll call. Anytime. Any hour. If you need to, want to talk." Rose said.

She was his mother—knew him better than anyone else. And she would give him the space he needed.

"I love you, Ma," Jack said, unable to speak above a whisper.

"I love you, Johnny," Rose said. "I'm so sorry." Her voice cracked and Jack waited. He held the phone long after she ended the call, and then got another beer.

* * * *

"Rose?"

Karen Manning knocked on the back door and Rose answered it still wiping her eyes.

"Rose? What's wrong? What happened?" Karen guided the other woman to a chair.

"I had a phone call," Rose said. She busied herself with grabbing two mugs from the cupboard. "From Colorado."

"Your son?"

"Jack's the one who called," Rose said. She filled the teakettle with water, put it on the stove. "His..." She didn't know what the proper term would be for Daniel. Lover? Boyfriend? Partner? None seemed right. "Daniel died."

Karen tapped a spoon against the table while she thought and Rose felt like grabbing it from her to stop the noise. "Daniel." Karen drew the word out. "That young man who visited with Jack last Christmas? The one with glasses and the blue eyes?"

Rose nodded, unable to speak while she poured hot water into the cups. "Yes. Daniel." She forced herself to sit. Manners dictated she offer cake, cookies but she suddenly felt old and weary. She pressed the tea bag with her spoon, watched the water slowly change color. She remembered sitting at this very table late one evening while snow swirled outside with Daniel in Karen's place. She'd served him the same chamomile tea when it was apparent he wasn't going to sleep anytime soon. He'd smiled saying that if chamomile tea worked to bring sleep, not to tell Jack or he'd wind up with a cupboard full of it and no coffee. How could he just be gone? "Too young," Rose said only afterwards realizing she'd said it out loud.

Karen covered Rose's hand. "I'm sorry. It's never easy. The other gals and I can watch your house while you travel to Colorado for the funeral. We'll take care of everything here."

Rose shook her head. "There's no funeral. There was no..." she had to swallow hard at the next part, "body. I don't know why they didn't have a memorial service. Maybe it's classified."

Karen tsked and added sugar to her tea. "You'll let me know if there's anything I can do?"

"I will," Rose said. What could be done? Oh Daniel, she thought. He might not have been her son, but she'd held him in her heart as one. Always would. When she finally brought the tea to her lips, it was salty and bitter.

* * * *

Jack turned off the TV. Lately it couldn't hold his interest-not when there was no one there to make snarky comments about the mistakes in every history program or hum quietly while a hockey game was on. He'd begged off the team dinner after their last mission. Carter looked disappointed while Teal'c nodded in understanding. As for Jonas Quinn, he didn't care what the man thought. He may have been made a member of SG-1 and Jack would follow orders but he didn't have to like it.

He sighed and dialed a familiar number.

"Mom," he said when Rose answered.

"Jonathan, how are you doing?"

Jack leaned back in his chair, tilting his head to look at the ceiling. He'd been the dutiful son, calling her weekly or as close to weekly as he could manage. "I'm good."

There was a hesitation and then a deep breath. "You don't have to lie to me."

Jack sighed. What was there to say? That the guilt ate at him day by day and he thought of running to Minnesota to the cabin? That he wished he could drown himself in liquor and go through his days in a haze? That Daniel wasn't really dead dead but may as well be because he wasn't here for Jack to hold? That he was afraid if he let himself mourn he'd never surface from the depths?

"I'm good," he repeated. "I'm doing as well as can be expected."

Rose started to say something and then stopped. Jack heard her take a deep breath. "I've been lighting candles for Daniel," she said. He recognized the change in tack.

Jack closed his eyes, pictured Daniel excited over some old artifact, his eyes alight with the joy of discovery. He could almost hear Daniel lecturing on the importance of ritual. "He'd like that, Mom."

"I don't know what he believes—believed, but I thought..."

"He could probably lecture for hours on the subject," Jack said, chest and throat tight.

"I looked up the patron saint of archaeologists. Saint Helena," Rose continued. "Patron saint of archaeologist and new discoveries."

And the conversation fizzled again. Jack cleared his throat. "Thank you."

" I could come and help you out for a time."

"No. I'm away too much," Jack said. "That's not a lie." He heard Rose tapping something. A pen, a pencil? He couldn't be sure.

"I think I'm going to go with Karen and Anita to Florida for a few weeks," Rose finally said. "They've been after me to go for a few years."

"I think that would be a good idea." Jack stood and felt as though he'd aged a hundred years. "Enjoy yourself, have some fun and sunshine. Sounds like a nice trip."

"I love you, Jonathan," Rose said.

"Love you too, Ma," Jack said. He let her hang up first, unable to cut the connection himself, unable to open it either.

* * * *

Rose looked around the house one last time. Everything that needed to unplugged was, her suitcases were ready. She looked at the packet of letters in her hand. She'd written one a week since Jack had first called about Daniel's death and until this point had resisted mailing them to Jack. After the last phone call, she'd resolved to reach out through the letters. He wasn't ready to talk and although she didn't want to let him cut himself off from her, she also knew Jack very well. Pushing at this point was going to drive him further into himself. She had numbered each envelope-wanting him to read them in order. Maybe written words would reach him. A car horn beeped from the driveway and she tapped the letters against her hand. Yes. It was the right thing.

"I'm coming," Rose called when she opened the door. Anita got out of the car, took one of the suitcases. The other woman raised her eyebrows at the letters Rose held.

"Bills. Ugh."

"Not bills," Rose said. "Lifelines."

* * * *

Jack ached, deep in his bones. Fraiser had wanted him in the infirmary a few more days but he'd cajoled and turned on the charm. He had to get away to what? Process? Had it all been a dream? A hallucination? He'd wanted, needed Daniel so badly that he'd conjured him up? A shudder passed through Jack's body and he felt his stomach turn. Luckily this time he made it to the bathroom in time. He wasn't sure if the vomiting was a side-effect of everything that happened or the stress of having Daniel so close and yet unable to be touched.

He washed his hands and walked into the bedroom. Rest, Fraiser had ordered. Rest and quiet. He picked up the letters he'd pulled from the mailbox and deposited on the bed. More letters from Rose.

"It hurts, I know," the very first letter had read months ago. "It hurts to remember, but remembering is the way Daniel lives." Every letter since had held memories of Daniel from his mom.

He knew he was being unreasonably stubborn. He never wrote back, but still made the awkward phone calls. At some point, he realized the phone calls never mentioned Daniel. He would talk about weather, hockey, anything but a possible memory. And so the letters held the things Rose didn't say aloud. Memories of Rose and Daniel cooking, decorating Rose's house and Jack's, phone calls they'd shared that Jack hadn't even known, the first awkward meeting between them, and her love of him as if he were her own son.

The last letter in the stack was heavier and Jack opened it first, packets of seeds falling into his lap.

"Are you going to plant the garden this spring? These were some of Daniel's favorite annuals. I remember how much Daniel loved planning the garden. He had a real green thumb."

Jack threw the letter on the floor, pressed the palms of his hands against his eyes. Damn it, Daniel. Why? He could feel tears forming and he got up again, walked to the bathroom and splashed cold water on his face until the feeling went away.

He groaned as he bent over to pull the box of letters from the night table. He'd saved every one, had read every one. He stuffed the new ones in, unread and threw the seed packets on top for good measure.

He lay down on the bed, stared at the ceiling, and prayed for sleep to take him away.

* * * *

Rose leaned back on her heels, satisfied at the color combination in the raised bed. A memory garden she'd named it in her mind, going through old emails and drawings Daniel had sent her. She'd come to a certain peace about Daniel's passing. A peace she was sure Jack had not reached. He never mentioned the letters, and a few weeks ago, Rose had steered the conversation back to Daniel. Her question about the garden had been ill-timed, she admitted, but no, Jack said, there would be no garden. Of course there still would be, Rose knew, Daniel had chosen perennials as well as annuals. She'd made up her mind to visit Jack in July, to be there for Daniel's birthday. The phone calls since then were the same desultory conversations they'd had for months. If Jack wouldn't go in the garden, she'd drag him out there by his ear and force him to put his hands in the dirt. Daniel's legacy she would say. An insult to his memory to ignore what had made him happy. Stubborn to the core was her Jack. Rose turned back to the task at hand. She still had 4 flats to plant.

Later that night, a soak in the tub (and wasn't that fun trying to get up, Rose sighed), a phone call to Marjory, Karen, and Anita to firm up plans for a weekend away, Rose finally sat down with a glass of wine—reward for a day of working in the garden and hopefully something that would help her sleep away the aches and pains she knew would dodge her the next morning.

She looked at the picture she kept on the table beside her favorite chair—a picture of Jack and Daniel taken on the deck of Jack's house. Daniel was leaning back into Jack, his face upturned and laughing while Jack looked down at him with an expression she remembered Patrick showing her. "Oh mhuirnin," she whispered, tracing one finger over Daniel's face.

She dozed off in the chair and woke to a ringing phone. A quick glance at the clock told her it was only eight thirty, not so late after all, although she doubted she'd be able to sleep after her impromptu nap.

"Hello?"

"Mom, it's Jack."

Rose smiled. "Since you are my only child, I figured it was..."

"He's alive," Jack's voice was hoarse. "Daniel."

She was glad she was sitting down because otherwise her ass would have been on the floor. "Daniel?"

"Yes," Jack laughed in her ear. "He's alive. He's back."

"What? But how?" Rose heard the words but for some reason she couldn't make sense of them.

"Remember..."

"Yes. No questions. No who, what, where, when, why, how." Rose did her best to keep the irritation from her voice. "He's alive," she repeated. "Daniel is alive? Can I talk to him?"

Jack hesitated. "Not right now. There are some—issues. But Ma..."

"I know, I know." Rose took off her glasses and blindly reached for a tissue. "Tell him welcome home."

* * * *

She'd flown to Colorado on the next available flight—unfortunately two days out. A surprise, that was what was called for. Jack had called a few times since the first night. Daniel was healthy, uninjured. He wasn't home yet but soon, Jack promised.

Rose let herself into Jack's house with the key Daniel and Jack had pressed into her hand two years back. "In case," Daniel had said.

She tucked her suitcases behind the sofa and inspected Jack's refrigerator, shook her head at the lack of anything healthy, and got called a taxi to take her to the nearest grocery store.

Rose looked at the clock—she knew Jack's hours were erratic but with Daniel home from wherever, she hoped her son's schedule was somewhat normal. She'd baked two lasagnas, a chicken poppyseed casserole, and now had a chicken roasting in the oven—not to mention the apple pie and lemon meringue pie she'd baked.

She heard a vehicle pull into the driveway and wiped her hands on the towel she'd stuck in her waistband. There was a sound at the door and Daniel was standing there inside the house, a bag in his hand and looking much as he'd looked the last time she'd seen him more than a year ago.

"Mhuirnin," she whispered and she couldn't help herself, she embraced him, held him tight, and cried into his t-shirt. It took her a moment to realize that Daniel wasn't hugging her back, that his body was stiff under her arms. She dropped her arms, stepped back, and looked up at him.

He looked back, confusion in his expression. "I'm sorry," he said and although his voice sounded exactly like the Daniel she knew and remembered, his next words cut her to the core. "Do I know you?"

Rose covered her open mouth with her hand and saw Jack come in behind Daniel.

"Oh shit," Jack said. Rose wanted to echo the sentiment.

* * * *

Jack took in the scene before him—his mom standing a few steps back from Daniel, dismay on her face while Daniel stood with his head cocked, studying Rose with a look of total confusion.

Okay, time to be the take charge guy, Jack told himself. He took Daniel's duffel bag.

"How about we get you settled in?" He put a hand on Daniel's shoulder as much to steady his friend as himself and guided him towards the living room. He did some quick calculations—Rose could use the guest room, Daniel, the pull out sofa in the den. Had Daniel remembered what they'd once been to each other...no, Jack would not go there. At least Daniel was back in the flesh, and even if he never remembered being lovers, it would be enough to have his best friend back with him.

"I'll be back," he mouthed over his shoulder to his mom.

"We'll unfold the sofa bed later," Jack said as he put Daniel's bag on the floor in the crowded room. Thank god for small favors he thought as he realized he didn't have any of Daniel's boxes in the den.

"I'm guessing your mom?" Daniel squinted at him. "She looks like you. I mean, you look like her. Your smiles." There was a small self-deprecating huff of laughter.

"You have a headache," Jack said. Some things never changed. "It's been a long couple of days. Do you want to rest for a bit?"

It was testament to just how quickly Daniel was crashing when there was no response, just Daniel sitting down on the sofa and tilting to one side. "No. I mean, I'm not..." Daniel gave a jaw cracking yawn. "Maybe. Just a little..."

Jack pulled an old afghan from the back of the sofa. "I know, buddy," Jack said as he covered him. "Coming back is hard work." He waited a moment and grinned when he heard a very familiar soft snore and then he bent down and took the glasses from Daniel's face. He held them a moment in his hand, felt his stomach contract before he placed them carefully on the coffee table. He wanted nothing more than to just stand in the room and watch Daniel sleep—watch his chest gently rise and fall with each breath, but duty—and mothers called.

"Jonathan," Rose began when Jack walked back into the kitchen.

"Mom," he said and enveloped her in a hug. She leaned into him for just a moment and then pushed him away.

"Okay, I know no questions but amnesia?" Rose busied herself with wiping down an already immaculate counter.

"Not exactly," Jack began. "Well sort of. He is regaining most of his memories."

"Most." Of course that would be what his mom would latch on to.

"He didn't know me or Sam or Teal'c at first," Jack admitted. "He's been cleared for his job."

Rose stared him down, made him feel as if he was a kid again. "And what's the prognosis?"

Jack took the towel from Rose and guided her to a chair. "No one knows. The doctors are hopeful he'll remember everything eventually." Jack took a deep breath—couldn't tell his mom he hoped Daniel didn't remember the pain of letting go of his previous life, the anger, the tension. "But for now, no pushing at him. Let him discover things on his own.That's what the doctors are saying."

"I shouldn't have shown up with no warning," Rose said. "I can check into a hotel. You and Daniel need..." She stopped and Jack averted his eyes when her own filled with tears. "He doesn't remember your relationship."

Jack shook his head. "No. But he's back and alive and that's what matters."

Rose smiled at that. "He is." She traced a finger along the grain of the table. "So what do I do?"

"Be yourself," Jack said. "And," he added as he took an appreciative sniff, "promise to feed me and Daniel."

* * * *

Awkward did not begin to describe the meal they shared later, Jack thought. Daniel sat at the table, his eyes darting from Jack to Rose and back while they talked. He complimented Rose's cooking and even, Jack was glad to see, went for second helpings. Jack noticed Daniel's anxiety begin to escalate as the meal continued and by the time Rose brought out the lemon meringue pie, Daniel was searching Jack's face for reassurance. Yeah, Daniel had worked his ass off since his return, helped save the world yet again, but now, now Daniel had time to process, to get down to the business of resuming a life he only partially remembered. It was as if his body had relied on muscle memory and years of the training the SGC insisted even its civilian members undergo and now he was set adrift in a world he didn't quite understand. That or, much as Jack hated to entertain the thought, he didn't want to remember that last tumultuous year.

"Johnny." His mom kicked him under the table and when he looked up from his pie, he followed her gaze.

Daniel sat, chin propped in one hand, fork nearly dropped out of the other, his eyes partly closed. He shuddered and then looked up, tried desperately to cover the fact that he'd fallen asleep at the table. "I'm sorry, Mrs. O'Neill." He gave that hesitant smile that Jack kept seeing since his return. "The pie is very good."

"Thank you," Rose said. She patted his arm—Daniel didn't quite pull back. "Leftovers tomorrow, but I think maybe bed now?"

"I..." Daniel looked to Jack as if Jack held the answer to such a simple request.

"Up to you, Daniel," Jack said. Give him space, let him find his way.

Daniel gave a quick nod. "Bed sounds good." He stood, put his plate and fork in the dishwasher. "I feel like I should..." He gestured towards the remains of the meal.

"You're tired," Rose said. "Jack and I will clean up." She stood and moved one step towards Daniel before she changed direction and went to the refrigerator instead.

"Night, Daniel," Jack said. "If you need anything, just call." It was hard watching Daniel walk from the kitchen. He sighed once he was sure Daniel was out of earshot. It was a delicate dance they were performing—where once they'd moved as one, now things were off center, unbalanced.

"He looks well," Rose said as she rinsed dishes. "He just seems so..." she stopped, searched for the right word, "lost."

Jack filled the dishwasher. "He is lost. I just hope he can find himself again."

* * * *

The house was silent as Rose made her way to the kitchen. A cup of chamomile tea would do the trick, she thought. Two am and she couldn't sleep. Soft light crept out from under the den's doorway and she stopped, hesitated over whether to open the door or not. The sound of soft snoring made her decide to check. She told herself it wasn't the overwhelming need to see the man she considered as much a son as the one she'd given birth to. She pushed the door open and winced at the slight creak it made.

A slow smile spread across her face as she took in the sight—Daniel sprawled on the sofa bed, covers twisted across his lower torso and Jack, in a chair next to him, just watching. Jack looked up at her and put a finger to his lips even as he rose to join her.

Rose took a step closer, fingers twitching to pull the sheet up around Daniel's shoulders. The urge couldn't be denied and she bent over to straighten the sheets. She looked up after she was done to see her son watching with amusement.

"He's just gonna kick them off again," Jack murmured.

She shrugged her shoulders and followed him from the room. They walked to the kitchen silently.

"Do you want a cup of tea?" Rose asked. Once upon a time, she and Daniel had shared a few cups over this very table. She couldn't remember Jack ever doing so.

"Hmm." Jack ignored her.

"I asked you a question," she said as she prodded his shoulder.

"Yeah, sure," Jack said.

Rose studied him after putting the mugs in the microwave. Jack looked tired—more tired than she expected considering Daniel was back among the living.

"I couldn't sleep," he said when she placed a mug in front of him complete with chamomile tea-bag. "I felt like I had to watch him. Breathe, you know?"

Rose knew. She was a mother after all.

"How are you?" Rose finally asked when she'd figured the tea steeped long enough. She took a sip and felt herself relax as the warm liquid went down her throat.

Jack looked at her in surprise. "Me? I'm fine."

"You can't lie to me, Johnny," Rose said. "You spent most of this past year trying to do just that."

Jack stirred the tea with his spoon—he hadn't added sugar—just stirred and stirred and refused to meet Rose's gaze. She watched as he swallowed hard, once, twice, three times.

She reached across the table, covered his hand with hers.

Jack looked at her. "I want all of him, Mom. Is it wrong to want all of him?"

Rose wanted to tell him it would all be okay. That Daniel would remember everything and everyone, but she couldn't. She couldn't fix this for Jack or for Daniel. She settled for the only thing she could think of. "Drink your tea, Johnny."

* * * *

Rose busied herself in the kitchen—cooking had always brought her peace. She wasn't sure when Jack or Daniel would waken—it had been near three am when she'd headed back to bed and she'd heard Jack go into the den once more. She looked at the cinnamon rolls rising in the pan. There was a sausage and egg casserole just waiting to be popped in the oven along with the rolls. For now, though, there was coffee. Good coffee—she had remembered Daniel's favorite blend from previous visits.

A quiet cough startled her and coffee slopped from her mug onto the floor.

"I'm sorry," Daniel said. "Let me clean that up." He grabbed some paper towels and threw them on the floor. "I didn't mean to scare you, Mrs. O'Neill." He bent down, wiped up the mess and then stood with the paper towels, looking lost.

"Here," Rose pointed to the trash can.

Daniel threw the dirty towels in and then gave her a shy smile. "I, uh, smelled coffee."

"Sit down," she ordered. "I'll get you a cup."

"You don't have to wait on me," Daniel protested. But all the same, he sat at the table. He wrapped both hands around the mug. "Cream?" He looked down into the whitened brew.

"I re...I thought.." Rose stumbled over words, remembering Jack's words of warning from the doctors.

"We've met before, haven't we?" Daniel asked.

Rose felt a welling of joy until she looked at his face and realized it wasn't memory at all that had made him ask the question. He looked at her, his expression open and quizzical. What was she supposed to say? She settled for the truth. "Yes."

"I can't remember. I'm sorry," he said and lowered his head to stare at the coffee as if it held the answers to all his questions. He took a sip and let out a small sigh of appreciation. "I remember liking coffee."

Rose patted his shoulder as she got up to put the rolls and casserole in the oven. She brought the coffee pot over to the table. "No one should ever forget coffee." She felt relieved when she received another one of those hesitant, shy smiles.

"I know the doctors have told Jack," he made a whirling gesture with his hand, "and everyone that I need to remember things on my own, but..." He sighed. "I'm sorry."

"Daniel, do you realize you have apologized to me three times in the past five minutes?" Rose asked. "There's no need."

"I'm..." Daniel began and then stopped. "I don't know what to say."

"Mhuirnin," Rose said softly.

Daniel finished his cup of coffee, poured himself another and then held the pot over Rose's cup until she nodded for him to pour. "You called me that yesterday. Sweetheart."

"That's right," Rose said. "My special name for you."

"Not Jack?" Daniel raised his eyebrows.

"Not Jack."

"Johnny, you call him Johnny. Or Jonathan," Daniel said. "I have the feeling he hates that."

"I'm his mother. He's not allowed to hate it," Rose said and smiled.

"Not allowed to hate what?" Jack asked as he came into the kitchen. He grabbed a coffee mug, poured a cup for himself and sat down between Rose and Daniel.

"Your mom calls you Johnny," Daniel said. Rose didn't miss the way Daniel's eyes had lit up when Jack came in the room, or the way tension in his shoulders and the line of his jaw eased when he saw him. No, Daniel might not remember the relationship but he'd latched onto Jack as his lifeline in what must be a confusing world.

"Yeah, I've been trying to break her of that for years," Jack said. "But no one ever listens to me."

"Not even me," Daniel said and this time there was something of triumph in his voice.

Jack's expression changed—flattened—at the comment. Rose stood up wanting to distract Daniel from even noticing the change.

"Would you help me get the plates, Daniel?"

Daniel popped up and went to the correct cupboard. She shared a smile with Jack.

"You made your cinnamon rolls?" Jack asked as he wandered over to watch her take pans from the oven.

"Yes." Rose swatted his hand away as he reached out to swipe some icing from the bowl.

"Is there something I can do to help?" Daniel asked.

"Here." Rose handed him the bowl and spatula. "Spread that over the rolls."

Daniel started the task and elbowed Jack when he tried to get some more of the icing. "Stop that, Jonathan Patrick O'Neill."

Jack laughed and stepped back. Rose looked at Jack behind Daniel's back. He nodded. Perhaps another little step forward?

Breakfast was a more relaxed meal than the previous night's dinner, Rose was happy to see. Daniel ate with a healthy appetite while Jack spent most of his time trying to not let Daniel see he was watching Daniel.

"I have to go in today," Jack said after the meal had been cleaned up. "Paperwork."

Rose did not miss the brief alarm that washed over Daniel's face at that announcement. He smiled weakly and turned his attention to Rose. "Looks like you'll be stuck with me."

"I'm thinking the garden could use some cleaning up," Rose said.

Jack gave Rose a hug and took a step towards Daniel before he backed off. "I'm so sorry I'm going to miss that."

Daniel stood by the door and watched Jack leave. He turned to Rose with a smile she could only interpret as false. "What would you like me to do, Mrs. O'Neill?"

Rose wiped down the counter and threw the dishrag in the sink. "How about for a start you call me Rose?"

She didn't miss his hesitation. "Rose," he finally said as if he had to test it in his mouth.

"Now," Rose said, "let's go get our hands dirty."

* * * *

"Lagerfeld," Daniel said as he brought his hand to cup a silvery rose.

When Rose nodded at the naming, he smiled sadly. "I'm not quite sure how I know that. I'm pretty sure I've never had any training in botany."

Rose kept her silence, although she wanted to scream at him, 'Don't you remember? We planted these together when Johnny was in the hospital and we didn't know if he'd ever wake up from his coma? ' She wanted to hold his hand and name each plant, each blossom, each small peep of green coming from the rich soil and remind him of when he'd planned it and planted it.

"I never knew Jack wanted a garden," Daniel said when they finished the last of the beds and were admiring their handiwork; Daniel rocked back on his heels while Rose was happy with sitting on the bucket she'd commandeered.

"He didn't," Rose said before she could remember not to say anything.

Daniel cocked his head as if considering her words. "You made him, huh?" He made a sweeping gesture. "All this space—it needs a garden."

"Mhuirnin," Rose began and then stopped. Daniel was rubbing dirt between his fingers. His face had gone pale—far paler than it should have been considering they'd spent the morning and part of the afternoon in the sun.

"He didn't plant it," Daniel said. "You and I did." He did not smile. "We..." he frowned as if he had a headache. "You and me, he was sick?"

"He was in the hospital." Rose acknowledged. "You bought the roses."

Daniel sighed. "It's...things slip in and out. I'm never quite sure if it's a true memory or something I just wish had happened."

Rose reached out her hand, relieved when Daniel took it in his. "This. This is true. You and I...we created this. And you've kept it up ever since."

A slow smile spread on Daniel's face. "Huh."

She got to her feet and gave him an impulsive hug then stepped back and wrinkled her nose. "How about both of us get showers and then have lunch?"

He laughed, he actually laughed and Rose couldn't stop grinning all the way through her shower.

 

* * * *

Daniel yawned as he finished the second sandwich Rose had pressed on him. She watched him—her gaze as intense as Jack's had been ever since he came back. He ducked his head, uncomfortable with the attention and got up to put his plate in the sink.

Rose came to his side, pushed him gently out of the way. "Go on. Stretch out on the sofa. The dishes can wait."

"But..."

"Shoo. If it makes you feel any better, I'm planning on heading into the living room and putting up my feet myself."

He sighed. He might not remember his relationship with Jack's mother, but she was a force to be reckoned with. Jack was so her son, he thought as he went into the living room. The sofa did look inviting and he lay down, then got up to move to the recliner.

"Sofa," Rose said as she came in the room. "Stay. If I lay down on there, I won't be getting up."

She turned on the TV, reducing the volume. Daniel turned on his side and saw she'd found an old black and white movie. He had no idea what it was—some screwball comedy from the 30s or 40s, he thought.

"I can turn it off," Rose said.

"It's fine," Daniel said. He closed his eyes, suddenly weary beyond reason and soon the dialogue faded from his thoughts.

He was going to die, he knew it. He shut off all the fear and relied on knowledge. Knowledge had always been his salvation. Sam was there, crying, and Teal'c, quiet and strong, and Jack. Oh god, he didn't want to leave, but he needed something more. Something was wrong, very wrong and Daniel didn't know how to fix it. But Jack, Jack would listen, Jack always listened—except when he didn't.

Gun—he had a gun in his hands and Jack was in front of him. And it hurt, it hurt, hurt, hurt and he thought he'd crawl out of his skin as worms burrowed into his insides, twisting, turning, burning with need. Stay away he wanted to scream. Leave me, I'm better off alone. Don't want to hurt. Don't want to hurt anybody else.

Balcony—he looked down. It would be so easy to just jump. No, not jump. Fly. He could fly—fly into the sky and it would all go away. All the pain, all the loneliness, all the hurt. Breathe someone yelled and hit his chest. Breathe and it was Jack.

Stress. Just stress. He was not going crazy like Nick. Not crazy. The room was white and he was alone. Alone with no one to care. No one to listen. But they came. Sam and Teal'c and Jack. Listen he screamed but maybe no one heard. Not even Jack.

And he was alone. On a foreign planet. Forget. Forget. He was different, set apart, and then Sam and Teal'c and Jack showed up. Jack who kept watching him—hadn't that happened before?

Pain, pain, pain. How much pain could he stand? Jack watched him—let him go. Tell me to stay. Tell me...

Daniel sat up, tangled in the afghan and half off the sofa. He breathed hard as if he'd been running and looked up to see Rose (her name was Rose, right?) standing away from him, hand over her mouth, and eyes wide behind her glasses.

"Rose?" He tried to steady his breath.

She took a step closer to him. "You were yelling. Nightmare?"

Daniel wiped his face. "Yeah. I mean, no. Not really. Just..." The images were quickly fading from his mind except that Jack had figured in all of them. "Sorry. I didn't mean to scare you."

She gave a shaky laugh and sat down on the sofa next to him. She reached out and patted his leg with a hand that wasn't quite steady. "Must have been a doozy."

For some reason that struck Daniel as hilarious and he started laughing except despite his best efforts, he couldn't bring himself to stop. He was vaguely aware of Rose getting up and fiddling with something and then she was back and pressing a glass into his hand.

"You're not taking any medicine are you?" She tapped his cheek to get his attention.

He turned to face her and then looked down at the glass. "Whiskey?"

Rose nodded. "Not my normal choice of beverage for a troubled soul, but..." She shrugged her shoulders. "I don't think it'll hurt this time."

Daniel threw back the alcohol, felt it burn all the way down. "Thanks," he said after he coughed. A vision came to him—Sha're tsking over him and Kasuf when they'd imbibed in a bit too much of Daniel's moonshine. He smiled into the empty glass. The memory didn't hurt as much as he thought it would.

* * * *

Something was up. Jack could feel it the moment he walked into the house. Neither Daniel nor his mom was talking though so he figured it was better to just let it go—at least until he could figure out a sneaky way to do some detective work.

Dinner was quiet and Daniel spent most of the time pushing food around on his plate instead of actually eating it. Oh yeah, something was most definitely up.

"The garden looks nice," Jack finally said.

"Thank you," Rose said. "Daniel did most of the work. My knees aren't what they used to be."

Daniel looked up from his plate, eyes wide behind his glasses. "You helped, Rose. More than you know." And there it was—the quick duck of the head.

So...okay that was it for the detective work. "Something you guys aren't telling me? Found a body in the garden?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Daniel said with far more vehemence than Jack would have suspected.

"We worked in the garden, ate lunch, took naps, and then cooked supper," Rose said, while she looked at Daniel and not Jack.

"I'm...never mind." Daniel stood up abruptly, nearly knocked over his chair. "Excuse me."

He practically ran from the kitchen and it took everything in Jack to not follow him.

"Mom?"

Rose sighed and put her head in her hands.

"You don't have to tell me." Jack could see her struggle.

"Nightmare," Rose finally said. "He had a bad nightmare. He laughed it off, but..."

"Yeah," Jack said. "That's Daniel."

* * * *

He didn't understand. All the flashes that kept coming throughout the meal, especially when he looked at Jack. What was happening to him? Daniel leaned against the closed door and realized he'd gone not to the den but was in Jack's (Jack's?) bedroom. Why would he go to Jack's bedroom? That didn't make any sense. He pressed his fingers against his temples, pain blossoming behind his eyes. Damn it, why couldn't he remember everything? Or maybe he didn't want to. Maybe he'd done something horrible—maybe that was why he couldn't remember—maybe not remembering was a blessing in disguise.

The little bit of food he'd eaten churned in his stomach. He breathed through his mouth, hoped to keep it down. He hadn't been so angry at Jack before. Not at the SGC, not when they had been working. He hadn't even felt anger at him earlier in the day. But now...the nightmare. He'd lied to Rose when he'd said it wasn't a nightmare. It had been. Jack was there—had been there and then he wasn't. And Daniel had been alone. His chest hurt, a deep ache that spread from his chest to his throat and made him want to scream his hurt aloud. His vision blurred and he stumbled away from the door, banged into the small table by the bed.

He caught it before it completely toppled over but not before a box spilled its contents on the floor. Daniel got to his knees, started gathering the papers...and froze. There were seed packets...impatiens and petunias and zinnias. He saw his name on one of the papers.

"...some of Daniel's favorites...loved the garden...plant in his memory."

He fell backwards onto his butt and grabbed another paper. Letters, he realized, they were letters.

"I remember the first time I met Daniel...so scared and prickly...that should have given me my first clue..."

"Daniel sent me flowers from the garden...always thoughtful..."

"Did you realize Daniel called me once a month?"

"When I saw...it should have been obvious from the first..."

"Your father and I had a wonderful marriage...I'm only sorry you and Daniel couldn't have had the years we did..."

"When I realized Daniel loved you...that you and he were lovers...don't forget, Jack, don't ever forget..."

Daniel scrambled to his hands and knees. That's what he got for reading something he shouldn't have. He lurched to his feet and got to the bathroom just in time. He bent over the toilet, brought up the meager amount of lasagna and bile.

"Daniel!"

There was pounding on the bedroom door. Daniel ignored it and sank to the floor. He heaved again and then rested his head against the cool porcelain seat.

"Hey." Jack came in the bathroom. "You okay?"

Daniel didn't think he responded but he heard water running in the sink and then a cool washcloth was draped over the back of his neck.

"You done?" Jack asked after a few more dry heaves.

Daniel pushed himself up and back, leaned against the tub, too tired to stand. He could feel his face burning red. He kept his eyes closed, unable to face Jack. If you listened in on a conversation it was eavesdropping, what was the word for reading letters meant for someone else? He didn't know—only that he wished he hadn't.

"I'm sorry," Daniel said. "I shouldn't have..."

"It's okay," Jack said. "It's okay."

But it wasn't. Daniel knew it. He dared opening his eyes and his voice cracked as he spoke. "Why didn't you tell me?"

* * * *

Jack knew the moment he'd gone into the bedroom. He saw the scattered letters and knew. He couldn't bring himself to feel betrayal or even anger. Daniel was lost and like anyone lost, he was searching for any clue to put him on the right path.

Daniel was hanging over the toilet, gagging, retching, dry heaving and Jack wet a washcloth when Daniel didn't respond to him. He draped it over Daniel's nape and waited, feeling helpless in the midst of Daniel's distress.

"Why didn't you tell me?"

Daniel's eyes were reddened, his face pale, and his voice reminded Jack painfully of a year ago goodbye on the Gate ramp.

"I couldn't," Jack said. "The doctors said..."

That brought a blaze of color to Daniel's face. "The doctors? They aren't living with..." he gestured futilely at his head "this."

Jack shook his head. "I hoped you'd remember on your own."

"Yeah," Daniel sighed. "And what happens now when I still don't remember?"

Daniel's voice was bleak, and Jack had no answer. He busied himself by filling a cup with water and handing it to Daniel.

Daniel took it, pulled back slightly when Jack's fingers touched his. He drained it and let his head drop back.

"I need...help me up," Daniel said a few moments later, his voice weary but stronger than it had been.

Jack extended a hand, pulled him up and kept holding on until he was sure Daniel was steady on his feet. At least that was the lie he told himself.

"I have to get out of here," Daniel said, and Jack knew he meant more than the bathroom.

"You want to go to the SGC?" Jack asked. "I can drive you or call Carter."

"No. Out. Away. Just alone." Daniel shook his head. "A walk."

Jack knew he had to let him go, and wouldn't Fraiser, Warner, and McKenzie have a field day with him if they knew he was about to encourage Daniel to wander the streets alone.

"I'll keep the light on," Jack said and watched Daniel walk through the bedroom door.

* * * *

Rose tapped her foot as she looked at her son.

"He's hurting, Jonathan. And he was just sick. And you let him go?"

Jack looked at her, his face stubborn and reminding her painfully of his father. "It's Daniel. You know him—do you really think I can stop him if he wants to do something?"

Something passed over Jack's face as he said those words—some old pain deeply buried.

"I just don't think he should be out walking the streets when he's obviously upset," Rose said. She didn't tell Jack of her fear—that it was possible Daniel would be lost to him forever. "So where would he go?"

Jack put his hands on the counter, hung his head. "If he remembers how to get there? The park 4 blocks over. There or the cemetery."

Rose tapped a finger against her lips. "The cemetery is pretty far."

"Ma," Jack said and then stopped. He turned to face her, put his hands on her shoulders. "He saw the letters. Read them—or at least part of them."

Rose waited because there was something more. Something Jack was hiding.

"I can't tell you everything, but..." Jack let out a big breath. "We were...before he disappeared...things were not good."

"But you worked them out," Rose said, determined to believe the best.

"We didn't have the chance," Jack said. "I thought we'd have time, and then...he was gone and I never had the chance to tell him."

"You do now." Rose gave Jack a quick, hard hug. She sniffed and then held out her hand. "If you won't go for him, I will. Give me your car keys."

* * * *

Daniel sat on the bench, stared out at the lake without really seeing. Why hadn't Jack told him? Jack had never listened to the doctors before, sneaking him coffee—he distinctly remembered Janet speaking in a low quiet tone that Jack had joked reminded him of being sent to the principal's office, but the coffee hadn't reappeared after that.

He should have figured it out. There was one constant in all of the dreams—Jack. But why the anger? Why the disquiet? Jack was there yes, but it seemed that every interaction now flooding his memory was one of argument, of pain, of being at odds with one another. Maybe that was why Jack hadn't said anything. Had they gone their separate ways before he'd spent the year ascended?

He pushed his glasses up, pressed his thumbs against his eyelids, desperate to dispel the pressure of a blossoming headache. Memories flooded his mind and he pushed back against the bench, trying to keep himself from spinning off into madness. And still—Jack, Jack, Jack was there. He was on the ramp in the Gateroom and there was no pain. For the first time in a long time, there was no pain, no hurt, only acceptance.

"Where are you going?" Jack asked him.

"I don't know," Daniel said—the tears in his own eyes mirrored by Jack's. This was right. He couldn't tell Jack how he knew, only that he knew. He was so very very tired of fighting.

"Daniel?"

Daniel started, his hands shaking as he turned to face Rose. She sat down next to him, not touching but close enough that he could feel her body heat.

"I'm...I'm okay," he told her.

She stared at him and gave a small huff. "Mhuirnin. You can lie to yourself but don't lie to me."

He turned from her and looked out at the lake. "I remembered. Everything." He tapped his head. "It's all back."

He saw Rose reach out from the corner of his eye and then hesitate. He inched his hand towards hers and felt hers enfold his. He couldn't look at her, kept his gaze fixed on the lake and the ducks swimming there. Rose's fingers were warm on his.

"Nothing was working out between us," Daniel said into the silence. "I had to go." And then he went quiet because he couldn't tell her. Rose could never know the truth. "I loved...I still love Jack."

"I know," Rose said. "I know you do." She sighed and then touched his face. "Look at me, Daniel."

Daniel dragged his eyes from the lake and faced her. He took a deep breath and did his best to school his expression into neutrality.

Rose smiled and patted his cheek much as his mother had when he was so very young. "Jack's father and I had our share of arguments. Had our share of yelling at one another. But that never meant we didn't love one another. We fought and made up and learned from the experience. And through the years, our relationship grew stronger and stronger—even through the darkness. You and Jack—you're both stubborn and headstrong and convinced you're right. It's no wonder you argue." She laughed. "You even argue with me. That's not a weakness. It's your passion shining through."

Daniel leaned forward, let his head rest on her shoulder. Other half-forgotten words came to him. Not worthy, life a failure, not a delusion, help me, help me, let me go.

He shivered even though there was no reason and Rose brought her arms around him.

"Let me take you home," she said.

He nodded, knew where he needed to be.

* * * *

Rose could not resist stealing glimpses at Daniel as she drove Jack's far too large vehicle back towards her son's home. He had his head against the window, eyes closed, worn out. She'd already decided she would spend the night in a hotel—had called on the way to the park. Besides, even if Jack and Daniel had forgotten, Daniel's birthday was in two days and she had some planning to do.

"We're here," Rose said as she pulled into Jack's driveway.

Daniel straightened and stared out the windshield. "Yeah."

Rose tapped her fingers on the steering wheel and waited. When Daniel made no move to get out, she took a deep breath. "I can drive you somewhere else."

Daniel shook his head. "I..." He looked at her and smiled, one of those sad smiles that didn't reach his eyes. "I have to, no, I need to do this."

She nodded and was relieved when he allowed her touch. "I know, mhuirnin. I know."

Rose watched as he walked towards the door and then smiled as Jack opened the door before Daniel had a chance to put his hand on the knob. Yes, Rose thought, going to a hotel for the night would be the very best thing.

* * * *

Jack stepped back as Daniel entered the house. He looked around him, only to see his mom taking off in the Avalanche.

"Rose said she's staying at a hotel for the night," Daniel said. His voice was hoarse, as if speaking hurt.

"Ah," Jack said. He reached out towards Daniel then let his hands fall back at his sides and clenched them into fists—to keep himself from reaching again. "Dan..."

"Jack."

"Daniel."

"Jack."

Jack grinned as they spoke together once more. "Well, this is familiar."

To his surprise, Daniel nodded. And then, Daniel did something Jack hadn't seen in a long time. He wrapped his arms over his chest, in that self-hug he'd done in the first few years Jack had known him. "I remember." When Jack opened his mouth to say more, Daniel loosened his hold on himself and put up a finger. "I remember," he said again. "Everything." He pushed up his glasses. "Well maybe not everything, because although I..." He looked away, took a step towards Jack and then veered off to one side. "What went wrong between us? What did I do to ruin it all?"

The hell with it. Jack stopped Daniel with one hand and then when he felt the tremor run through Daniel's arm, pulled him close. He didn't speak, couldn't speak, and when Daniel first stiffened, he held Daniel in a gentle embrace, enough that Daniel could break it if he chose. Please stay, Jack thought although he kept the words to himself. But Daniel didn't break away. Instead he leaned against Jack, brought his arms around him and gripped so tightly it was as if he thought Jack would spin out of gravity's force if he didn't hold him.

"Daniel," Jack whispered into Daniel's hair. "Not your fault. It was not your fault. You didn't ruin it."

"You...you were always there," Daniel said. "All my dreams, since I came back. No matter what, you were there." He pushed away and Jack let him go. His eyes were reddened and he gave a small gasp. "You let me go. I needed to go, and you let me go."

Jack nodded. "Hardest thing I ever did. You were dying. You asked me..." Still after all these months, after nearly a year, Jack felt his throat tighten. "It was the last thing, the only thing I could do for you."

"I'm sorry," Daniel said. "I'm sorry I put that burden on you."

Jack shook his head, reached out for Daniel once again. "It wasn't a burden. Never a burden." He took Daniel's hand, tugged gently. "C'mon. I think we both need to sit down." He didn't miss the fine tremors of emotion now running through Daniel's body.

Daniel didn't resist—a good sign, Jack thought as he led them into the living room.

They sat on the sofa—"Not much of a foundation." The thing was he'd always known how to hurt Daniel and hurt him he had. He couldn't be sure where they'd gone off-track. He only knew he wanted to be back on track.

"You came to me," Jack said and the fear he'd held inside broke. "Ba'al."

Daniel looked at him quizzically, tilted his head in a way that Jack had seen more times than he could count. "I...Ba'al?"

"He tortured me. You were there for me. Interfering. You told me I was a better man..." Jack couldn't finish, his voice cracked.

Daniel moved close, pulled Jack's head to his shoulder, placed a hand on Jack's nape.
"Together."

To Jack's horror, he felt tears in his eyes and he couldn't keep them from falling. "God, Danny. You're here. You're here." He brought his hands up to Daniel's face, kissed him on the lips, unsure if Daniel would respond in kind.

And then Daniel was pushing back, strong, his long fingers pulling at Jack's hair, his tongue grazing Jack's teeth.

"Not here," Jack gasped. Daniel pulled him up and they went towards the den, unable to stop touching.

They fell onto to the sofa bed, and Daniel straddled Jack, bending over, nipping Jack's neck. He murmured something against Jack's overheated skin and Jack felt a shiver start at the top of his head and travel down his spine. Daniel pulled up Jack's t-shirt and then looked up at Jack.

"Us. It's always been us," Daniel whispered. He bent and used his tongue to circle Jack's nipple.

Jack arched his back. He'd dreamed of this—dreamed Daniel was with him during that long year and he'd woken aching and with his eyes burning and now, now Daniel was here. His voice broke as he called Daniel's name once again.

Daniel blew on heated skin and then began a trail of kisses down Jack's torso—and Jack realized, mixed with the kisses, the benediction of tears.

"Daniel."

"I love you," Daniel said. He looked up, his glasses askew and his face red.

Jack smiled and pulled off Daniel's glasses, a familiar gesture he'd done even before he and Daniel were lovers. "I know you do. I never doubted." He felt the pressure in his groin vanish in the face of Daniel's emotion. "I have never doubted your love."

Daniel nodded. "I...yes. Yes." He appeared unaware of the tears wetting his cheeks. Jack used his thumbs to wipe Daniel's face.

"We can wait," Jack said. "We have time. All the time in the world."

Daniel shook his head. "I love you," he said again, fierce and strong. "I love you." He hooked his fingers in the waistband of Jack's sweats and tugged them down even while he covered Jack's stomach and chest with kisses. "Need..." His voice trailed off as he moved lower.

Any thought of speech flew from Jack's brain as Daniel applied all his attention to Jack's cock. He'd allowed himself the fantasy a few times while Daniel was ascended but the memory had been bitter. Fantasy was over-rated Jack decided. Daniel was as skilled with his mouth on Jack's cock as he was using words for off-world diplomacy.

Jack groaned with need and he felt Daniel smile. Bastard, Jack wanted to say, but he couldn't speak. He put his hands on Daniel's shoulders, gripped hard, the feel of muscle strong under his fingers. He couldn't hold back. He could not. Jack felt the release and his whole body shuddered with the onslaught. But Daniel wasn't done. He rested his hands on Jack's hips, peppered Jack's thighs with kisses.

"No lube," Daniel said. He tapped his fingers on Jack's stomach.

Jack felt exhausted—there was no way in hell he could get to the master bedroom where he knew there was lube. He felt sudden cold when Daniel pushed away and rummaged in the drawer of the side table and still he didn't move. He didn't even have the energy to open his eyes.

"Ah." Daniel gave a small sigh of satisfaction and Jack wondered what he'd found.

Daniel pressed his body full length against Jack, rubbing. "Turn over," he whispered into Jack's ear. "Please."

"Ugh." That was the only thing Jack could form his mouth to say but he turned on the sofa, felt Daniel's cock against his back.

"Okay? Okay if I..." Daniel kissed Jack's shoulder, nipped at the junction.

God, how did Daniel have breath for speech?

Jack pushed himself into position, lifting his hips slightly, spreading his legs. Hopefully that would tell Daniel how he felt about the idea. Daniel pushed against him harder, his t-shirt wet against Jack's back. Daniel moved his fingers lower, searched for entry, and Jack grunted as Daniel used his fingers to open him further before he felt the tip of Daniel's cock. And then, then, oh God, Daniel was in him. Fully in him and they found their rhythm as if they'd never been apart. Daniel let out a hoarse cry as he came inside Jack. He bent his head to Jack's shoulder and then let his body down half on, half off Jack as he pulled out. The bed was shaking and it took Jack a moment to realize what was going on. He forced himself to turn, to take Daniel in his arms as Daniel sobbed.

"Daniel," Jack said. He rubbed his hand on Daniel's back.

Daniel's hands were curled into fists digging into Jack's back, his arms tight.

"Shh," Jack murmured. "It's all right. It's okay. We're okay."

The tempest was relatively short-lived for which Jack was grateful. He just held on and allowed Daniel to release his what must be overwhelming emotion. When the sobs slowed to the occasional hitch in breath and hiccup, Jack loosened his hold. He put a finger under Daniel's chin, tilted it up.

"Sorry," Daniel said, his hair flattened on one side, a smear of mucus across his cheek, and his eyes red and still teary.

"It happens," Jack said. "You think you can stand?"

Daniel frowned as if the sentence hadn't quite computed.

"I think we'll both feel better after a shower." Jack really didn't want to move even though he knew it was probably for the best.

"Hmm..." Daniel rolled totally off Jack and onto his back. He rubbed at his forehead. "Yeah."

* * * *

Jack wasn't so sure a shower had been a wise choice because he was certain that despite his assistance Daniel was going to keel over in the warm flow of water.

"Hey," he said after getting his own body as clean as possible. "How about I fill the tub for you?"

Daniel blinked at him and then smiled. "Can I sleep?"

"In a little bit," Jack promised and then did his best to keep Daniel upright through the rest of the shower.

He didn't relax again until he had Daniel safely ensconced in the master bedroom and he was lying beside him.

"Thank you," Daniel whispered, one finger tracing Jack's face. "For...everything."

Jack smiled, pressed a kiss to Daniel's hand. "Sleep. I'll be here."

"You're mine," Daniel said, his voice slurring with the onset of exhaustion.

"You're mine too," Jack told him. "My sky, moon, stars, ocean." He covered Daniel's now relaxed hand with his own. "Everything."

* * * *

"Hey Mom," Jack spoke quietly even though Daniel still slept like the dead in the bedroom while he stood in the kitchen eating a slice of apple pie for breakfast. Thank goodness his mom had finally given in and gotten a cell phone the previous year.

"How's Daniel?" Rose asked.

"What? No good morning, son? No I'm so glad you called Jack?" Jack tried to sound hurt but couldn't keep the chuckle from his reply. "And he's sleeping."

"Thank goodness," Rose said. "I'm going to spend tonight at this hotel too, but my stuff..."

"Why don't you come around in an hour or so and then we can talk about where you'll stay. We can go out for brunch if Daniel deigns to join us." Jack stuffed more pie in his mouth.

"Don't you dare wake him, Jonathan," Rose warned and then her voice took on an even more maternal note. "Are you eating pie for breakfast?"

Jack swallowed his current mouthful and then admitted the truth. "Yeah. In a bowl with milk so you know, fruit and dairy."

His mom huffed. "Remember when we used to do that for supper in the fall?"

"I remember." Jack said and held up the bowl to drain the milk.

"You know, you could have actually waited until you were done eating before calling me," Rose said.

"Hey, I wanted to talk," Jack said. He wiped his mouth with his hand. "Besides, I realized when I was going to go out and pick up some things that you happen to have my truck."

"Sorry about that," Rose said and Jack snorted.

"You are so not."

"Well maybe not. I had some errands to do this morning. Order a cake for tomorrow."

"Cake?" Jack rinsed the bowl at the sink.

"Tomorrow is Daniel's birthday," Rose reminded him.

Jack's heart started to beat faster—last year, he thought. Last year, he'd spent Daniel's birthday trying to drink away the pain of loss.

"Jack?"

"Yeah, I'm here." Jack reminded himself that Daniel was just steps away. He was here. Here and alive. Warm, breathing, healthy, whole.

"Do you think we should invite Sam and Teal'c?"

It took a moment for the words to register, caught up as Jack was in memory. He shook his head as if to clear the pain.

"Are you there?"

"Sorry, Mom, I..." Jack cleared his throat. "Let me ask Daniel. He still is a bit...overwhelmed."

"Okay," Rose said. "I'll see you and Daniel a bit later." His mom sounded a bit hurt by his inattention.

"Love ya, Mom," Jack said. "Come to the back door. I have the feeling Daniel's still gonna be asleep."

As soon as his mom hung up, he went to the bedroom, sat on the bed beside Daniel and rested his hand on Daniel's side, allowed himself to feel the soft rise and fall of Daniel's breath and attempted to still his shaking hands.

* * * *

"I don't think I can move," Daniel said as he pushed his plate away.

Rose smiled at him from across the table. "Waffles, eggs, pancakes. I believe you sampled everything from the buffet."

Jack snorted. "Twice."

Daniel glared at him but his lips twitched. "I was hungry."

"We noticed," Rose said with a laugh and then she turned serious. "Daniel, I ordered a cake for tomorrow. Would you like Sam and Teal'c to join us?"

"A cake? Join us for what?" Daniel frowned.

"It's your birthday," Rose said. "Jack said I should ask you whether or not you'd like Sam and Teal'c to join us."

"Uh, yeah, sure, I guess." Daniel placed his napkin on the table. "Would you excuse me, please? I need to..." He made a vague gesture in the direction of the lobby. When Rose and Jack just nodded, he did his very best to not bolt from the table.

He sighed as he reached the relative safety of the restroom. Grateful no one else was occupying it, he locked himself in a stall and then sat to calm his shaky breath. He'd remembered it was his birthday—it was one of the first things he'd been able to recall once back through the Stargate. But the reality of it hit him. The reality that he was back in the flesh overwhelmed him much as it had those first few days when he'd come back to human form. He became aware of his blood pumping through his body, each hair on his forearm, his breath sounding loud in his ears, the still sweet taste of maple syrup hidden between his teeth and the way it felt to have someone love him and care about him. That was the overwhelming part—the fact that he mattered to Jack and Rose and Sam and Teal'c and countless others. He put his hands between his thighs to stop their shaking.

He heard the door as someone else entered the restroom.

"Daniel?"

"I'm okay," Daniel replied, relieved that his voice was steady.

"Not sick? Mom was worried you ate too much," Jack said. Daniel saw a pair of familiar shoes in front of the door.

"No. Not sick. Just..." He let out a whoosh of breath. There was no way he could really explain it. "A little overwhelmed."

"Okay. I'll just be going then," Jack said, but not before drumming his fingers on the door of the stall.

"Thanks," Daniel said and waited until Jack left before getting up. He went to the sink, washed his hands, splashed cold water on his face. Then he took a deep breath and headed out to Rose and Jack.

* * * *

"Daniel," Sam said as she hugged him. She smelled of vanilla and roses and Daniel smiled into her hair.

"Thanks for coming, Sam," he said.

"Happy birthday," she said and pushed away, looking up at him with tear-bright eyes.

He smiled back at her, memories of work sessions late into the night, putting their minds together to solve a problem and her trust and belief in him filling his mind. "Thank you."

Teal'c grasped his shoulder. "Daniel Jackson. I am most pleased that you are able to celebrate your natal day and that we were able to share it with you."

"I'm pleased you were able to join me," Daniel told him.

"Rose O'Neill can be most persuasive," Teal'c said.

"Uh, yeah, there is that," Daniel said with a glance at Rose who was busy putting pieces of birthday cake into smaller containers.

Teal'c squeezed Daniel's shoulder in acknowledgment. Strange how life could change, Daniel thought. How an enemy could become a comrade in arms, a friend one could trust and count on. How an alien could teach a person more about humanity than many humans.

"Thank you," Daniel said.

Teal'c raised an eyebrow, but said nothing, just gave a short nod in acknowledgement. Sometimes, Daniel reflected, with a friend, one didn't have to explain everything one said.

The house was quiet after Sam and Teal'c left and Daniel stood in the kitchen licking frosting off the knife Rose had used to cut the cake.

"Didn't anyone ever tell you not to lick a knife?" Rose asked with a laugh and a head shake.

"I learned it from your son," Daniel said, right as Jack came into the room.

"Don't believe him, Mom," Jack said. He came to Daniel and took the knife from him and then very deliberately took a final swipe of the knife with his tongue.

"I give up," Rose said. "It's useless to try to reform either of you. I'm sure you were a perfectly nice boy before you took up with Jack." She left the kitchen shaking her head.

"See what you did," Jack said. He grinned at Daniel. "Scaring my mom off."

Daniel shook his head and followed Rose to the living room.

"Sit here," Rose said and patted the sofa cushion beside her. When Daniel settled next to her, she handed him a small gift-wrapped package.

Daniel turned it over in his hands. "You didn't have to get me anything. I didn't..."

"The polite thing to say is thank you," Jack said as he sat next to Daniel.

"Be quiet, Johnny," Rose said and put her hand over Daniel's. "Open it."

"We'll be here all night," Jack commented which drew a glare from both Daniel and Rose.

Daniel tore at the wrapping paper, just to annoy Jack and a small medallion on a chain fell out of the package. He held it up, squinting at the writing on it. "Saint Helena."

"Patron saint of..." Rose began.

"Archaeologists," Daniel finished with her. He looked at Rose who suddenly looked worried and unsure. "Rose?"

Rose gave him a shaky smile. "I...I'm sure you're not Catholic, but," she took a deep breath, "when we thought you were...gone...dead...I went to the church and lit candles for you and then found out Saint Helena was the patron saint of archaeologists." She shook her head and took out a tissue to wipe at her eyes. "I prayed she'd watch over you in heaven. Forgive a silly old woman?"

Daniel shook his head and when he spoke, he found his voice strangely thick. "Thank you." He held up the medallion. "Not just for this, but for the candles and the prayers." Daniel slipped the chain over his head, tucked the medallion underneath his shirt. He leaned in and pressed a kiss to her cheek. "That's one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me."

Rose smiled at him, reached up and touched his cheek. She sighed. "Don't ever do anything like that again."

Daniel covered her fingers with his. "I'll do my best, Rose." Jack put a hand to his lower back, a touch to ground him and felt surrounded by the love of family.

* * * *

Jack stood back while Daniel hugged Rose before she got in the taxi. They'd been recalled to the SGC and much as Jack wanted to drive his mom to the airport, time wouldn't permit it. So here they were saying their goodbyes in front of Jack's house.

Rose said something into Daniel's ear and then she stepped back and brushed his hair from his forehead. Daniel nodded and said something back which made his mom smile.

When Daniel stepped away, Jack took his turn to give his mom a hug and kiss.

"Thanks for coming, Mom," he said. "And for, well, everything."

"I was going to come even before I knew," Rose said to him. "I knew you'd need someone here for his birthday if..." She wiped her eyes. "Well he's back and that's what matters."

Jack hugged her once more. "Love you."

"I love you too, Johnny." Rose rested her hand on his cheek. "Take care of him."

Jack nodded and then saw his mom safely ensconced in the taxi. He and Daniel waved as the cab went down the street.

"We'd better get moving," Jack said as he headed towards his truck. He didn't look to make sure Daniel followed.

The drive to the mountain was mostly silent. Jack snuck a look at Daniel when they were waiting to go through the checkpoint. Daniel had the medallion Rose had given him in his hand, rubbing the chain through his fingers.

"You ready for this?" Jack asked.

Daniel looked over at him, eyebrows raised, his mouth pursed in a familiar expression. "Yeah. Yeah, I am."

Jack pointed to the medallion. "Mom told me she was lighting candles for you. She was worried it was somehow disrespectful to your memory. I told her you'd appreciate it."

"I do. I did." Daniel stopped talking as they went through the checkpoint. He didn't speak again until they were in the elevator headed down to Level 27. "Saint Helena is the patron saint of something else."

"Yeah?" Jack asked. He vaguely recalled his mom telling him during those dark dark days without Daniel.

"New discoveries," Daniel said, his eyes fixed on the numbers on the control panel. "Appropriate."

"New discoveries," Jack repeated, his gaze fixed on Daniel whose expression was one of excitement.

"I made some new discoveries," Daniel said. He waved a hand in the air. "Not archaeological ones. Other more important ones. Ones about family and friends and forgiveness."

Jack took a step closer to him, bumped against him—a way to say I love you but nothing to anyone viewing a security camera. "Then I'm glad."

Daniel looked at him and slipped the medallion in his pants pocket. "Me too, Jack. Me too." The door whooshed open and Daniel took a deep breath.

"After you, Doctor Jackson," Jack said and watched as Daniel stepped out of the elevator and back into the place he belonged.