I have a tale to tell.
Sometimes it gets so hard to tell it well.
“I don’t see the point,” Daniel said, sighing. He lay down on the MRI’s sliding bed, assisted by two Spec-5s in charge of the imaging center at the Air Force Hospital.
From a separate room, Jack said, “I just want to make sure Oma or someone else didn’t mess with your head.”
Daniel grumbled under his breath. “If Janet didn’t agree, I would definitely not be here.”
The woman assisting him grinned. “We wouldn’t be doing this without her test order, Doctor Jackson.”
Again, Daniel sighed. Headphones were attached, then the stabilizer was secured around his head and he was given the usual instructions about moving and breathing. The table was activated, and he found himself inside an elaborate, space-age coffin. Or so it seemed like. Naturally, every little twitch, zing, or itch over his body began to report it needed attention. He growled to himself.
Over the headset, the male’s voice asked, “What kind of music would you like to hear?”
“Classical,” Daniel replied. It would spare him the annoyance of hearing a rock song he didn’t like. Classical was different. Beethoven began to play, but not even his music could distract from the noise.
In the waiting room, Jack sat down and pulled out his cellphone to play a crossword game. The only downside was that he couldn’t fill in the spaces with any answer he wanted and make them all fit. He had a knack. Daniel used to print out crosswords for him, just to see what he’d come up with. Jack grinned to himself, but it quickly faded when reality intruded.
It had been two weeks since Jonas had left. Despite Daniel telling him that it was all coming back, it hadn’t. The man hadn’t been the type to obfuscate or hide the truth, and it was clear, most of the time, that he was still the same person. His ability to annoy was there. It was part and parcel of Daniel’s personality to be as much of a reflexive smart-ass as Jack was. It was why they had butted heads for a long time, even after getting together.
At first, though, that familiar personality hadn’t been on display on Vis Uban. Daniel had been defensive and scared, putting up a wall of protection so thick it had almost been real. Frustrated beyond belief, Jack’s patience had flown the coop and he’d instead locked up his feelings and focused on the mission. Then suddenly something made Daniel change his mind and return to Earth with them; he’d never said what that had been. There were moments when Jack thought to ask, but it had never felt appropriate. They had always been around other people.
There was the moment in the locker room, getting ready for the second mission when he could have asked, but again he’d kept quiet because Daniel had been someone resolutely confused. Staring at objects with a frown of concentration. Why add to that with a question he might not know the answer to? Or at least to Jack’s satisfaction, which was entirely different. Then Daniel had surprised him by remembering Charlie’s name and something about his death—and after that, Jack had had no interest in asking questions. Now, though? He had tons, almost as many as Daniel had.
Remembering their private time together brought a hard pang in his chest and he rubbed at it as he set his phone aside and rested on his knees. He was in danger of losing control—and though that would never be allowed, the emotional hurricane inside wanted to be set free. He felt his eyes heat up and angrily got up to pace, forcing his thoughts to concentrate on mundane operational stuff back at the base. He was doing just fine until a memory party-crashed and hit him below the belt: their first kiss.
A feeling of dread followed: What if Daniel never reclaimed his memories? They would have to start over. Jack had to admit that might be a possibility. Daniel was different. He seemed to be harder somehow, more resolute in his manner.
As if he had something to prove.
Jack withheld the snort of disbelief he almost let loose because while he didn’t think Daniel had anything to prove, the reverse was not true. Someone with only a handful of memories needed to have them back so he could feel he belonged. His abilities hadn’t suffered a memory lapse, so at least he didn’t have to worry about being useful.
Jack grimaced. He recalled that moment in the briefing room, getting unnaturally upset and losing his cool with Daniel. It had been unprofessional—and the little talk with Hammond afterword had been horrible, having to apologize to the General for his behavior, something that shouldn’t have been necessary if he hadn’t dropped the ball. The reason for his irritation, he’d discovered later during introspection, was Daniel calling him Jim. While Carter had found it funny, Jack hadn’t. If he’d been someone who hadn’t been in a relationship with Daniel, it might have gone differently. But the storm of feelings rushing through his mind wouldn’t desist.
“Done,” Daniel said, interrupting, leaving the MRI room. “Janet will give us the report later, I think.”
Jack frowned and went into the lab. “Hey, don’t you guys have an idea about the scans were taken?”
“No, sir,” said the male tech. “It has to be read by a radiographer conferring with his doctor.”
Jack grunted and gave them a terse nod. “Thanks.”
Returning to Daniel’s side, who held his phone out to him, Jack took it and they headed for the nearest exit. Daniel was silent. Another unusual personality change. But on the other hand, they were walking through a hospital and any chit-chat might stray into classified. It was best to wait until they were in Jack’s truck. And then Jack would get to ask the question. Well, more than one, if he was honest.
Everything was familiar, but Daniel couldn’t nail down an associated memory. A bit of knowledge, untethered, told him it’s possible for familiarity in the same way he automatically knew how to speak, read, walk, eat, and perform tasks. He knew how to put on the field vest, how the P90 worked, and other standard readiness checks prior to a mission. Which meant his memory was selective.
This Oma Desala person must have done it on purpose, but the reasoning eluded him. While many things were familiar, like that writing on the tablet, there was no memory associated with them. He’d seen that photo of Jack’s son, Charlie, and had known who he was. But the details were blanketed in a fog that wouldn’t lift. Daniel was certain it would only take some type of tactile association to kick it all loose. Why hadn’t it happened yet? It was aggravating.
As they drove toward the mountain on I-25, passing the businesses that lined the major highway, Daniel felt the concert echo begin to leave his ears and upper body and his hearing returned to normal. He’d attended only two concerts in his life, and the sheer amount of loud noise combined with the huge bass speakers had left him thrumming. The MRI was much reduced, so at least it didn’t take too long.
“Penny for your thoughts,” Jack said. He wanted to look at him, but when he did, he tended to stare, even for a few seconds, and he wasn’t going to risk it behind the wheel.
Daniel shrugged. “I …” He tried to find the appropriate words but there simply weren’t any. “I think it will take something … abrupt and startling … I think.”
“Something to jog my memories loose.” He explained the difference between amnesia and selective loss. “I don’t know why she’d have done it like that. Oma, I mean.”
“Well,” Jack began. “It’s probably got a lot to do with The Others, that they might interfere if you recall life as an ascended being. Apparently, that’s classified.” Daniel snorted, making Jack grin.
“How do you suppose that?” Daniel asked.
“It’s just bits and pieces of what you said on Abydos. You know, what Carter told you about?” Daniel nodded. “And there was that visit while Baal tortured me.”
“What?” Daniel asked, alarmed.
Jack winced. “Sorry.” He quickly explained but didn’t go into detail about Kanan and the reason that snakehead had been in his head. He wasn’t ready to talk about it. And he’d only spoken to Jacob about it because the man was desperately trying to vindicate the Tok’ra in general. “My point is that you kept saying The Others would interfere if you started to lay waste to the stronghold to get me out of there. So, I figure they’re the ones who’d either zap your mind completely or kill you outright if you began to remember the wrong things, so I think Oma protected you.” He sighed heavily when Daniel remained silent. “It’s aggravating to me, not having you remember, and I can only imagine how much more that aggravation is for you.”
“You have no idea,” Daniel breathed.
Jack risked casting a glance at him. He looked … lost. Depressed. A little melancholic, despite the sheer will in him. As he took the off-ramp for Highway 115, an idea came to him. Maybe not so great an idea, but it would fill Daniel’s prescription for abrupt and startling. When the entrance to the Cheyenne Mountain State Park came up, he took the side road that led to a Rest Stop and an unmanned information center about the Park. His luck was with him because only two cars were there, so he drove past them to the end of the row.
Daniel gave him a puzzled look but said nothing. Jack wasn’t sure if that was good or bad, but it didn’t deter him from this terrible idea, even though they were on the clock and were due back on the base after the appointment. They were, in his view, allowed a lunch break, so this would do as an excuse. Besides, his idea wouldn’t take long, and everything depended on how Daniel responded.
Jack slid the column lever into park but left the engine running. Filled with the anxiety of the unknown, he turned to face his former partner--who would hopefully become that again. But in touching Daniel, Jack had to restrain himself from going further, no matter how badly he wanted to do it. It had been slightly over a year since he’d gotten any, and this was Daniel. His libido and desperation were untrustworthy.
He cleared his throat as Daniel gave him a puzzled look, turning only slightly to face him. “Um …” Jack began, feeling lame and uncertain. “Listen.” He held out his hand, palm up. “Take it.”
Daniel shrank back a bit, but over the next few seconds, he slowly reached over and took Jack’s hand. “Okay,” he said. Jack moved his hand, gently squeezing and caressing. A noticeable blush rose on Daniel’s cheeks as his eyes widened.
“What’re you …?” he began, trailing off because Jack was slowly easing him forward.
“This is important,” Jack said quietly. “We were together, Daniel.”
“Together?” Daniel asked, brows skyrocketing into his hairline. “Together together?”
“I’m not going to stay quiet about it anymore, waiting for you to remember.” He was only a foot and a half away from the man’s face now. “You want abrupt and startling. Here it is.” He leaned forward without hesitation and planted his lips on Daniel’s. Daniel let out a sigh of surprise through his nose and … opened his mouth. The hunger and pain in Jack’s body and mind spread through him like fire, and he let go of Daniel’s hand to cup his head. He searched for his tongue and the response was a mixture of satisfaction, relief, and deep, deep need.
Daniel slid the fingers of his right hand through Jack’s short hair and let out a soft, breathy moan. After a while, he pulled back, staring into Jack’s eyes. Then it was his turn to seek the kiss with a tremendous desire to consume. He felt his body responding and with it came flashes of scenes from the past. Like snapshots taken by a Polaroid. He somehow knew that this was the beginning. That finally, the fog would lift.
Jack broke the kiss this time, breathing heavily. He rested his forehead against Daniel’s. “How’s the memory?”
Daniel took a deep breath and rubbed his cheek against Jack’s in a demonstration that felt familiar. He felt Jack smile. “Fragmented, but that’s a start. I remember bits in pictures. No movies yet.”
Jack chuckled and drew back, separating their moment. “Think we can talk more about this after work?”
Daniel nodded, turning to face the windshield. He winced uncomfortably as he adjusted his jeans. “Definitely.”
Smug and happy that the risk paid off, Jack pulled out of the parking space. “Not like you to be so terse.”
Again, Daniel snorted. “There’s too much going on in my head. Best to let it sift itself into making sense.”
Jack gave a nod of agreement, but as they drove for the road that would lead to the base, he said, “I’ve been waiting forever to do that.” He swallowed. “I know it’s frustrating, trying to remember, but try to imagine the other side.”
“I already have.” He gave Jack a crooked grin. “I think we’ve got some time.”
Jack nodded. “Hey. I’ve been meaning to ask you something.”
“You were, well, defensive and almost hostile on Vis Uban.”
Daniel took a deep breath and let it out. “Yeah, I know.”
“Then you suddenly came back with us.”
“What changed your mind?”
Daniel leaned his elbow on the window’s ledge and rubbed at his forehead. His lips tingled, and he wanted more, and that was the only thing he wanted to think about. But Jack had a right to an answer.
“I’d been on Vis Uban for two months. Nothing was familiar and my frustration about my memory was sky high by the time you guys arrived. I was on edge, pissed off, and I got scared. You guys scared me.”
Jack nodded. “I got that vibe.”
“Right.” He took another deep breath. “Anyway, I saw you and I had … feelings. I had nothing else to explain them and … this is gonna sound stupid, but you scared me. Your offhand wit and dry tone made it worse. I couldn’t talk to you because these feelings were overwhelming my brain without explanation.” He glanced at Jack, then back out the window. “I’m sorry I was such an asshole.”
Jack shook his head. “No need.” He paused, then asked, “So, again, what made you come with us?”
“Carter.” He winced because it sounded wrong. “Sam.”
“Why?” There was a slight color of jealousy in his tone and Daniel looked sharply at him. Jack just shook his head.
Daniel did the same thing. “You gotta admit, Jack. Your conversation with me was … if you’ll pardon the term … stiff.” Jack grinned and so did Daniel. “There’s no synonym that’ll take the double entendre out of that statement. So anyway, you were uncomfortable with me. She wasn’t. She was more welcoming.” Jack’s eyes widened. “I’m sorry,” Daniel said, raising his voice a little. “It’s true.”
“Yeah, okay,” Jack said, gesturing by rolling his hand. “And?”
Daniel colored even more, and he remained quiet for a few more minutes before he answered. Jack waited, and just when he was about to drop-kick patience out the window …
“I needed to be around familiar ground. No matter how confused I was, you were familiar. Sam was. Teal’c was. Even Colonel Reynolds. I had to explore it, to get my memory back.” He paused and straightened. “But mainly, it was you.” Jack grinned like a Cheshire Cat. Daniel ground his teeth. “If you had even an inkling that that was the case, why did you even ask?”
Jack’s smile faded and he held out his hand. Daniel slowly took it. “I didn’t know, Daniel,” he said, squeezing. “I was curious to the point of distraction. I had to ask.”
“And now?” Daniel asked, the edge out of his voice. Startling him, Jack brought Daniel’s hand to his lips and kissed the tops of his fingers. His mouth dropped open as a few very real memories came back of Jack doing the exact same thing. “I remember,” he whispered, staring at his hand, then Jack’s lips. “You’ve done that before.”
“And I’ll do it again,” Jack said, but with a firm tone that made it an oath.
Daniel sighed with relief and reluctantly withdrew his hand. “I look forward to it.”
“Me too, Daniel,” Jack said as a heavy weight released from his chest. He hadn’t even known it had been there. “Me, too.”