"No," Jack's voice floated from somewhere far off. "No, Daniel, don't touch."
Daniel felt the hand he was currently bringing to his face being captured in Jack's. Jack's hand, but Jack was-.
"Jack!" Daniel gasped as he tried to sit up.
"I'm here, Danny." Jack's breath tickled his ear. "Just lie still. You're safe, we're all safe."
Daniel twisted his hand, pulling to get loose. Memories came back in a rush: arriving on P5W-898, exploring the ruins, unfamiliar writing holding his attention, the sudden realization as he translated the warning. A flash of bright light and then-pain, his eyes burning, searing pain. Sam flooding his eyes with water, Teal'c and Jack holding him down despite his efforts to get away, Jack yelling at him to be still. And finally the infirmary, strange hands on him, voices asking him questions, and through it all a darkness that didn't lift no matter how much he strained to see the light, and the burning, burning that made him want to scream in agony.
Daniel gingerly moved his left arm, a slight tug in the back of his hand telling him he was hooked up to an IV. He moved that hand anyway when Jack continued his grip on Daniel's right.
"Jack?" Surely that wasn't his voice that sounded so scared, so weak? His hand barely skimmed the cotton and gauze that covered his eyes before it was forced down by a smaller, softer one.
"No, Daniel. Don't touch." Doctor Fraiser's voice was quiet, bringing calm to the fear that was beginning to twist its way around his heart. "You are going to be okay. Doctor Trent examined you. He said the bandages are going to have to stay on for a week or so, but that there appears to be no permanent damage to your eyes."
"Not blind?" Daniel whispered, afraid to believe her, to hope. His mouth was dry. He couldn't swallow, his heart pounding.
"Not blind, Danny." Jack moved his hand, and Daniel turned his head towards his friend as Jack began a slow stroking of his forearm. "Just for a little while. Now rest. Go to sleep. Let the doc's happy juice do its stuff."
"Sam and Teal'c?" Daniel asked wanting them nearby needing to know they were safe.
"They're debriefing General Hammond, Daniel." The hand moved further on his arm up to his shoulder and Jack began a slow gentle massage of tight muscles. "You'll have to make do with me."
"Umm-okay." Daniel sighed at the sensation of strong fingers kneading his shoulder. "Guess you'll do." He managed a smile despite his hammering heart. Jack's laugh warmed him making the darkness fade for a moment. He caught his breath and tried to bring a hand up to his face once again before Jack captured his hand and placed it back on the sheets.
"Stop," Jack's voice was low, soothing. "I'm going to stay with you. Relax."
Daniel gulped in air and nodded. He hated being in the dark. Funny thing for an archaeologist to be scared of, but it make him remember his mom, his dad, the coverstone swaying.
"I know, Danny. I know." Jack stroked his hair. "You're in the infirmary. You're safe. We're all safe. Everything is going to work out."
Grounding himself with Jack's words, Daniel let them wash over him. He breathed in time with Jack's slow stroking of his hair. He licked his lips, clenching his hand into the sheets. "What happened?" He struggled to make his voice sound normal.
"There was some sort of booby trap at that damn door. Some kind of chemical designed to disable the enemy long enough for the defenders to move in for the kill. You took the brunt of it. Next time, you wear your glasses all the time, understand?"
Daniel shuddered at Jack's matter of fact tone. He smiled. "Guess I should be glad you guys were on my side, huh?"
"You betcha." A small laugh was his answer. "Now, sleep. That's an order."
"Don't need-" Daniel yawned. Maybe a nap wasn't such a bad idea after all. "Don't go." He hated himself for saying it, for appearing needy and weak and alone.
"Don't worry. I'll stay right by your side." The reassurance floated into Daniel's dreams. Jack being there equaled Daniel being safe. Simple math.
Daniel moved confidently in Jack's kitchen, grabbing the coffee scoop from the second drawer next to the dishwasher, the coffee bag from the refrigerator. He could hear the water stop as Jack finished his shower. Daniel carefully filled the coffee maker with water, a small smile appearing as he was successful. Guess all those years of making coffee while half asleep paid off.
He measured two scoops, feeling gingerly with his fingertips before adding them to the basket of the coffee maker. Jack was in his bedroom, slamming drawers. Evidently something was missing.
"Daniel, is my Black Hawks sweatshirt out there?" Jack's voice carried into the kitchen easily.
The slamming stopped and in his mind's eye, Daniel could see Jack pausing and realizing what he'd said. Feet pounded in the hall, down the few steps and into the kitchen.
"Oh, shit, Daniel. I'm sorry, I-" Jack's breath was coming in short huffs. Daniel smiled, imagining Jack running a hand through his hair in frustration.
"It's okay, Jack." Daniel gestured to the bandages. "Doctor Trent said everything's looking good and they should come off tomorrow. Oh and by the way, I think your sweatshirt is in the dryer."
"How'd you know that?" Daniel heard Jack go to the basement door.
Daniel sighed. "You did a load of laundry last night. I don't remember you getting it out of the dryer."
Daniel's only reply was the sound of Jack running down the stairs. Daniel moved to the kitchen table, one hand outstretched, feeling for the chair. He sat down giving himself a mental pat on the back for his accomplishment. Daniel wondered if he'd be able to find his way around his own apartment as easily as he found his way around Jack's house. When had Jack's home become more familiar than his own? When Janet released him from the infirmary five days ago, Jack had only asked one question of Daniel, "Your place or mine?" For some reason Daniel hadn't even hesitated in his choice.
Jack came up the stairs from the basement, taking the steps his usual two at a time.
"Here," Jack sat by him moments later, placing a coffee mug at Daniel's right hand. "Get your fix."
Daniel took a cautious sip and then gave a sigh of delight. "Thanks, Jack." He put the mug down, curling his fingers around it, the warmth of the ceramic cup providing a familiar comfort easing the fear that bubbled up at the strangest times.
"Hey, you okay there, Danny?" Jack nudged Daniel's foot with his own.
"Huh?" Daniel barely registered Jack's voice lost in thought.
"I'm temporarily blind not brain damaged, Jack." Daniel took a gulp of his coffee. "And I'm fine."
He heard Jack's chair scrape back as Jack got up to get another cup of coffee.
"And wipe that, 'Yeah, right, Daniel,' expression off your face." Daniel leaned back in his chair.
"What? Me? I didn't say a word," Jack complained good-naturedly. "You developing psychic powers now?"
"No. But I know you, Jack." Daniel pushed his mug towards Jack. "I'll take another cup since you're up."
He grinned at Jack's huge overdramatic groan, knowing it was all for show. Jack had been extremely patient with him the past few days, getting some books on tape from the library for his friend when Daniel appeared bored, offering to read Daniel articles from his latest archaeological journals, giving detailed play by plays of the hockey game they'd watched last night by turning off the sound and informing Daniel that he would be a much better play by play announcer. Of course, the frequently interspersed comments of, 'I can't believe he didn't take that shot, can you Daniel? No, no, pass, pass the puck!' made the game slightly harder to follow, but it had still been fun and taken Daniel's mind off the fact that his eyes were bandaged. That and the sound of Jack's voice.
Daniel was used to Jack's voice. He'd been listening to the man for years. He knew the, 'I'm an Air Force Colonel and I know best in this situation,' voice, the, 'I'm an Air Force Colonel and you're the linguist/archaeologist so do your stuff,' voice, and the, 'I'm an Air Force Colonel and I don't have time for the chit chat, so give me the down and dirty,' voice. He knew the, 'I'm your friend and trust me, you are not fine,' voice that was usually prefaced by a quiet, 'Daniel,' and the, 'I'm your friend and you'd damn well better not have done anything to get yourself killed,' one that usually had a, 'Daniel, that somehow stretched into three or four syllablesÛ"something Daniel had never heard until he'd met Jack O'Neill. But there was the other voice, the one that filled their interactions from the time he'd woken in the infirmary this time, the one that he heard when he'd woken from nightmares after Sha're's death, the one that came in the middle of the night when he, Jack, and Sam had spent three long weeks in the Goa'uld pleasure palace, the voice that reminded him of the way Sha're said his name after they made love, the voice that said, 'Danny, I'm here.'
"Daniel? Yoo-hoo? Earth to Daniel."
Daniel felt Jack's fingers linger just a moment longer than necessary as his mug was pressed back into his hands.
"You sure you're okay?"
He nodded. Jack sounded worried and Daniel had no trouble imagining the small frown that would be appearing on Jack's face.
"Do you want to try some more of that translation today, Danny?" Jack asked, filling the silence when Daniel couldn't seem to find his voice after long minutes.
"Yeah," Daniel nodded. "You're going to have to read what you typed up for me yesterday after we listen to the tape again."
"No problem, Daniel." Jack got up from the table, rinsing out their mugs and was back at Daniel's side as Daniel pushed away from the table.
"Need any help?"
"Nope, I'll be fine." Daniel gestured towards the living room. "Anything in my way?"
"You're cleared for take off, buddy."
Daniel would never know what possessed him to say his next words. "You'd better watch my afterburners, then."
He grinned at Jack's sputter and swore he heard a muttered, 'Always.'
Daniel's heart was pounding so loud he thought that Jack must be able to hear it across the hall.
"Stupid," he told himself. Tomorrow the bandages would come off, he'd be able to see, and everything would be hunky dory. But the nightmares still came despite Doctor Trent's reassurances that there was no permanent damage, despite his own recognition of light and shadow even through the gauze. In the darkest part of the night, lying in the bed in Jack's guest room, the fears came crashing down around him. For the third time in his life he found somewhere he belonged, a true family. He couldn't stand the thought of losing them as he'd lost the first two. Daniel shivered. He could hear Jack's snores coming from across the hall.
It seemed too much to hope for. Daniel brought shaking hands up to his head. What if he was wrong? What if what he thought Jack might be feeling was only his own hopes projected onto the man? What if he took the risk of giving his heart again and it was trampled on? He'd survived it being hurt time and again, but wasn't there a limit to how many times the human soul could bear the pain of loss? It didn't matter tonight, though; he knew that with a certainty. He needed Jack tonight, needed to be close, even if they could only be friends. This night was too long to face alone.
Daniel grabbed his pillow and crossed the hall. He stood at Jack's door silently, ready to turn back, when he heard the snores stop abruptly and a soft, "Daniel?"
"Yeah, Jack." His mouth was dry and his palms were sweaty.
"What's wrong?" The rustle of bedclothes signaled a change in Jack's position.
Daniel averted his head as the lights came on; eyes still sensitive through the protective covering.
"Crap." The lights flicked off, "Sorry about that, Danny."
"I, uh, never," Daniel clutched his pillow closer. "I'm sorry I disturbed you."
"You didn't disturb me." The voice was much closer, startling Daniel. "Come on." Jack's hand rested on Daniel's arm and he gave a little squeeze.
Daniel let go of the death grip on his pillow and offered one hand to Jack, unsure of movement in this room. He let himself be guided to the bed and scooted back on it after sitting down. The mattress dipped as Jack climbed into bed next to him.
"You think I don't have any pillows, Daniel?"
The amusement in the voice brought a smile to Daniel's lips.
"I-" Daniel shook his head, the words he thought he'd say all jumbled in his mind and fleeing before him, "Jack, I-"
"It's okay, Daniel. You can spend the night. I don't mind." Jack's hand slipped to his shoulder. "Settle down."
A pillow was plumped behind Daniel's back.
Daniel slid down in the bed, stretching out his legs, accidentally bumping Jack's. He froze but when there was no reaction he wiggled into a more comfortable position.
"Fine." Daniel lay still forcing his breathing to slow and brought one hand up to grab the corner of the pillow.
Jack stretched out with a sigh. He turned onto his side bringing one arm over Daniel's waist. "Daniel?"
"It's okay, Jack. Feels nice." Daniel gave a shiver as Jack's breath hit the nape of his neck. "Nice."
"I shouldn't. I don't-"
"No. I like it. Jack," Daniel sighed as Jack's hand pressed against his belly, warmth spreading from there to his groin.
"Danny," Jack's breath was moist and warm and tickled his ear.
"Jack, why...you never-you know?"
"There was Sha're. You loved her." Jack pulled Daniel closer. "And then -"
"You didn't want to ruin what we already had," Daniel finished.
"I don't know. Maybe all the little times added up." Daniel turned to face Jack. He reached out to trace Jack's face with a hand that no longer shook. "I once was blind, but now I see. *Now* I *see*, Jack." He pulled his lover's head closer to kiss him. Daniel didn't need eyes to see the love that he knew was shining in Jack's. He always had been able to see Jack's soul with his heart.