The Games People Play

“This is real right?”  Jack asked tapping his pen in random succession on the briefing room table.  
    Four hours had past since SG1’s return from the ‘Keepers virtual world.  Jack, Sam and Teal’c had been through the post mission exam and were now waiting for the General to begin the debriefing. 
    “O’Neill if you do not desist in this line of questioning I will not be responsible for my actions.” Teal’c spoke with an eerie calm giving Jack the raised eyebrow.
    Jack stopped mid tap and looked over at the Jaffa sitting next to him.  “A little edgy eh, Tealc?”  He spat.
    “Indeed.” Teal’c replied unfazed.  Jack decided against making any further comments since he valued all of his body parts.
    “Sir, it’ll probably take a little time to adjust that’s all.  Even Daniel’s being a little…cautious.” Sam said from across the table.
    “Huh.” Jack let a smile touch his lips, Daniel and cautious just didn’t go in the same sentence.  “Where is he anyway?”  Jack swiveled slightly on his chair to search the room as if he thought Daniel might be hiding in a corner somewhere.
    Sam gave her C.O a blank look.  “I haven’t seen him since he left the infirmary.” 
    “Nor have I,” Tealc pointed out. 
    “He better not be late.  I wanna get out of here and forget this day ever happened.” Jack eyed both his companions warily before returning his attention to the table.
    “The memory the ‘Keeper chose to recreate was not pleasant,” Teal’c said after a moment’s silence, as if needing to explain to Captain Carter the reason for Jack’s poor mood.
    Sam wasn’t really concentrating and, upon hearing Teal’c’s words, had to shake herself out of her reverie. “Yeah, Daniel’s was no walk in the park either.”  Sam hadn’t failed to miss the exasperated sigh that escaped Jacks lips.  “Sir, Daniel was pretty upset before, maybe I should go look for him.” 
    “He’ll be here Carter, just give him a minute.  I’m sure he’s fine.” Jack assured, doing a full 360 on his chair before folding his hands onto the table.
    “It must have been hard for you guys to relive those memories,” Sam commented.
    “Yeah well I’ll get over it, I can think of worse memories the ‘Keeper could have picked,” Jack said dejectedly, looking around the room trying to find something to occupy him until the General showed up.
    “I was not aware DanielJackson's parent were dead.” Teal’c said gravely.
    The sentence caught Sam off guard slightly, she hadn’t thought about it before but now the implications of what she’d witnessed were just hitting home.  “I don’t think Daniel’s ever mentioned it.”
    “No he hasn’t.” Jack said plainly, settling for doodling on the pad in front of him
    “But you don’t seem surprised,” she remarked giving Jack a quizzical look.
    “It’s in his file.  Orphaned aged eight.  Spent eight years in foster care,” Jack recited as if he had the paperwork in front of him, not realizing he’d spoken it aloud until it was too late.
    “Daniel’s an orphan?  Well I guess that explains why he doesn’t talk much about his family.”  Sam couldn’t believe Daniel had never told her.
    “What is foster care?”  Teal’c asked.   
    “It’s where children who have no family to look after them go to live with substitute parents until they're adopted.” Sam informed him, a sad note in her voice.
    Jack could see the next question lined up and wanted to head it off at the pass.  “Adopted means a family who is willing to take the child on as their own.”  He halted in his doodling action and lowered his voice.  “Look we should drop this, I don’t think Daniel would appreciate us talking about him behind his back.”  Daniel had never mentioned anything about his time as a ward of the state, but from the way Daniel acted sometimes it was starkly obvious his childhood wasn’t a bed of roses and that thought made Jack sick to his stomach.
    Teal’c appeared to think about the request for a moment, realizing the subject was causing O’Neill unusual discomfort, before turning to address Captain Carter.  “It appears you have also been affected.” 
    “What?”  Sam looked at Teal’c as if he’d grown an extra head, taken off-guard by the suggestion.
    “You have been pre-occupied since our return, I believe your experience with the ‘Keeper to be the cause.”  Teal’c answered, his features still impassive.
    “Yeah, it’s given me a lot to think about.  I guess I never really saw the true implications at the time, everything happened so fast,” Sam’s voiced drifted, remembering the feeling of being completely helpless to stop Daniel’s torment.
“Explain.”  Teal’c raised one eyebrow and urged Sam to clarify her last statement.
    “Well, what I never fully appreciated, until now, is that for the ‘Keeper to have been able to recreate that scenario from memory, Daniel had to have witnessed the accident when he was a little boy.”  Sam looked at her teammates across the table for any reaction.
    “What?”  Jack looked up at that.  He hadn’t wanted to be part of the conversation, but that last bit made him think he was missing something. 
    “He had to have witnessed it.  He not only lost his parents in an horrific accident, he was actually in the room and saw the whole thing happen.”  Sam took in the confused stunned look on her CO’s face; obviously he had only just appreciated the implication too.  “I take it that part wasn’t in his file.”
    “No.  It wasn’t.”  Jack replied without losing the stunned look.  He’d had a chance to exchange a few words with Daniel, while they were locked up in the virtual SGC to make sure he was okay, but he’d never given the facts much thought.  He had been focused more on getting out than anything.
    “Sir, don’t you think ...” Sam stopped mid sentence as Daniel walked in the room.  Jack shifted uncomfortably as if he’d been caught doing something he shouldn’t.
    “DanielJackson,” Teal’c announced feigning casualness, “are you well?”
    ‘Oh very subtle Teal’c,’ Jack thought smugly.
    “I’m fine Teal’c,” Daniel answered as he made his way around the table to take his seat next to Sam.
    Daniel had hoped that his witnessing his parents’ deaths wouldn’t be an issue, but that hope was quickly being extinguished. He could tell by the way his teammates were following his movement around the room that they where expecting him to have a mental breakdown any minute. 
    ‘Thought I was late but the General’s not even here yet.  Jack quit looking at me like that.’   Daniel wondered if Jack had become telepathic overnight when he suddenly turned away, but realized General Hammond had just entered the room.
    “At ease people,” the General spoke.  He took his seat and signaled for Jack to begin with the de-briefing.
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    SG1 managed to debrief General Hammond in just under an hour.  It was a less than pleasant experience. Jack did his best to relate exactly what happened regarding the Keeper, his Residents, and the virtual SGC, without losing his temper at the very mention of the man responsible for mentally torturing his team.  Daniel tried to explain the cultural reasoning behind it all but his nervousness was reflected in his incomplete thoughts and sentences making it extremely difficult for anyone to follow what he was trying to say.  General Hammond had eventually taken pity on him, subtly suggesting it would be best to keep all the detailed facts for their written reports so everyone could leave and get some well-deserved rest.  Sam had spent the entire briefing casting concerned glances at Daniel interspersed with odd tid-bits about advanced technology and Teal’c never said anything unless asked a direct question.  Fun was had all ‘round.
    In his office Jack was now attempting to make a dent in the growing pile of paper work that seemed to be procreating on his desk.  Unfortunately he couldn’t concentrate and not because paper work in any form gave him an itchy trigger finger.  His mind was currently being occupied by more pressing matters, like troublesome archaeologists.
    A quiet knock at his door pulled him out of his thoughts for a second.
    “Come in,” Jack commanded off-handedly, thinking it would be an airman or SF delivering a message.  Jack was surprised when Daniel walked through the door.  “Daniel!” 
    “I’m not disturbing you, am I?”  Daniel asked rather timidly.
    Something wasn’t right, Jack sensed it immediately, Daniel wasn’t normally the kind of guy that would worry about interrupting someone and Jack didn’t think he’d ever heard Daniel talk so shyly in all the time he’d known him.  Jack looked Daniel up and down suspiciously from his seated position behind the desk.  Daniel was leaning heavily against the door half hiding behind it, his head ducked so low his hair partially obscured his face, the body language alone screamed ‘I’m hurting’.
    “’Course not.  What’s up?”  Jack replied, as if he didn’t have a good idea already, Carter’s little revelation in the briefing room had opened his eyes to something more sinister than the reliving of forgotten pain. Daniel had seemed okay in the briefing though, well, as okay as he could be under the circumstances.  Somethinghad obviously occurred since SG1 left the briefing room, Jack figured. He pushed the papers in front of him off of his desk and into the bin next to him as he offered Daniel a seat. 
    “Nothing, really,” Daniel said casually, not moving.
    “Nothing?”  Jack questioned, curiosity written all over his face.  “Just visiting?”  He said lightly, reading from the defensive body language he’d be hard pressed to get a reply.
    Jack waited a minute for Daniel to voluntarily elaborate on the reason for his visit, but, as predicted, all Daniel offered was a shy half smile and an awkward shrug of his shoulders. 
    Just as Jack was about to bite the bullet and out right ask him if everything was okay, his ‘phone rang.  Sighing deeply Jack grudgingly picked up the receiver, turning slightly in his chair but not taking his eyes off Daniel, still hovering silently in the door way.
    “O’Neill?” It was General Hammond.  “Yes, be right there sir.”
    Jack placed the ‘phone back in its cradle, stood up and walked over to the young man currently propping up his door frame, or was it the door frame holding him up? Jack couldn’t tell. 
    “The powers that be have sent some Muppet from the pentagon.  Hammond wants me to sit in on the report.”  Jack puffed out, watching Daniel closely for any reaction, but got none.  “Anyway, I’ll be lucky if I’m out of here before seven.  Why don’t you head home early, you look like you could do with the rest.”  Jack’s tone turned to one more of concern than flippancy.
    After an awkward moment’s silence Jack patted Daniel’s arm and walked away.
    Daniel looked up just in time to see Jack round the corner.  Not feeling comfortable in the desolate, cold, concrete hallway, Daniel quickly pushed off from his slouched position and headed in the direction of Sam’s Lab.
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     “If that’s all General, I’ll be off,” Jack said casually as he stretched out numb limbs.  Jack was actually quite proud that he’d managed to sit through the weasel from Washington’s report without so much as a yawn escaping.
    “Just one minute Jack, if you don’t mind.”  General Hammond asked before Jack escaped.
    “General you know me, anything for you.”  Jack did yawn this time as he followed the General into his office.
    “I won’t keep you long Jack.”  The General’s words where kind but his tone indicated he was worried about something.
    “Okay.”  Jack shut the door behind him, wondering what could possibly have the General worried enough to talk to him in private.
    “It’s about Dr. Jackson.” 
    “Ah.”  And suddenly it all made sense.  At least, Jack thought it did.  Daniel had been skittish all through the debriefing and after learning the facts of the mission, he should have expected George would want to check up on him at some point.
    “He’s already submitted his report, although it appears certain bits where skimmed over I managed to piece together what was missing from Captain Carter’s version.”  George looked toward Jack and noticing the Colonel doing his best to smother another yawn he decided to get to the point.  “Dr Fraiser has voiced concerns about Dr Jackson’s well being.”
    “I figured she might.”  Jack sighed, sliding into the chair he had been leaning on up until now; he figured he was going to be hanging around a little longer than he’d hoped.
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    Teal’c was settling down into Kel-no-reem when a knock at his door drew him out of his thoughts.
    “Enter.” 
    “Hey, Teal’c.”  Daniel walked into the candle filled room.
    “DanielJackson it is late should you not be sleeping?” Teal’c greeted from his crossed legged position on the floor.
    Daniel tried to ignore the fact that Teal’c had basically suggested it was past his bedtime.  “What ‘you doing?”  He asked sounding peculiarly childlike to Teal’c’s ears.
    “I am attempting Kel-no-reem.”  Teal’c said straight to the point as always.  “Would you like to join me?”  He added when he noticed Daniel looked rather troubled.
    “Really?”
    “Indeed.”  Teal’c indicated with a nod of his head that Daniel should join him on the floor.
    “Okay.  What should I do?”  Daniel asked once he was settled, legs crossed and feet tucked beneath him.
    It took Teal’c a matter of minutes to explain how to begin the meditation.  Daniel Jackson was a fast learner for which Teal’c was grateful, had it been O’Neill he doubted they would have made such progress.  That thought made Teal’c wonder if either of his other teammates knew where Daniel was.  O’Neill and Captain Carter would have left the base long ago, as should have Daniel Jackson.  Teal’c had to admit his young Tau’ri friend’s behavior was concerning him.  Although at the same time he was pleased that Daniel felt comfortable enough to approach him when he needed companionship, even if the he didn’t seem consciously aware of what he was doing.  The discussion he’d engaged in with O’Neill and Captain Carter regarding Daniel had raised only questions, providing no answers or solutions to his friend’s current unhappiness.  Although he was still unclear on many things relating to the Tau’ri, Teal’c was sure being an ‘orphan’, as O’Neill had put it, was not something children aspired to become.  Teal’c could see the pain that hid behind Daniel’s eyes and wanted nothing more than to console his young friend over the recent events.  Unfortunately he doubted he could accomplish such a task without further information.  Instead Teal’c chose to continue with Kel-no-reem in the hope that maybe the answer would come to him.
    The first thing Teal’c saw upon opening his eyes was Daniel, slumped slightly forward, head resting on his chest, breathing heavily.  He had fallen asleep while attempting to reach the deep state of meditation.  Teal’c decided his questions could wait and, with a grace no one would ever expect from the large Jaffa, Teal’c picked Daniel up off the floor, one arm supporting his back while the other hooked under his knees and placed him gently on his own bed, covering him with one of the sheets. 
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    “Sir, wait!”  Sam yelled when she saw the Colonel exiting his office.
    Jack turned around and waited for his feisty second in command.  “Captain?”
    “I was just on my way to see you Sir.”  She stopped a second to catch her breath before continuing, “It’s about Daniel.”
    He indicated with a wave of his arm they should walk and talk.  “Ah huh”.
    “He came to see me yesterday,” she started.
    “So?”  Jack asked pretending not to understand what she was getting at.
    “Well I don’t know exactly, but he was acting strange, like he was only there because he didn’t want to be alone.  That’s just not like Daniel.”  Sam finished and turned in time to see Jack screw up his brow.  “What?”
    “Nothing, just …Daniel came to see me yesterday as well,” Jack said hesitantly
    “He did?  And?”  Sam questioned, having to practically drag it out of him.
    “And I admit he seemed…odd.”  Jack frowned again.  Truth was he hadn’t really had a chance to assess Daniel’s mental state before he’d been called away.
    “Odd?”  Sam asked bemused.
    “For Daniel.”  Jack clarified at her confused expression.
    Sam processed that last comment carefully before continuing.  “Sir, I’m worried about him.”
    “Just give him some time.  Daniel is no stranger to tragedy, believe me, he’s been through worse.” 
    “How can anything be worse?”
    “Trust me.”  Jack looked her dead in the eye willing her to drop it. 
    Seeing her stern face suddenly blanch he knew what she was thinking and didn’t want her to pursue those thoughts any further.  “Why is this bothering you so much Carter?”  Jack strived to change the subject.
    The question threw her slightly, “Truthfully?”  Jack nodded.  “I don’t know why he never told us.  He knows so much about each of us, I thought I knew him too.”
    “Carter, don’t take this personally.  Daniel likes, hell, loves to talk, but never about himself.  Even to me.”  Jack was actually saddened by that fact.  It wasn’t until he’d vocalized it that he realized how true it was.
    “I think you should talk to him.”  Sam said out of the blue, obviously not convinced this issue was something to be left alone.
    “And why, pray tell, do you think that Carter?”  Jack asked, keeping his tone light.
    Sam walked slightly ahead of him turning and halting their forward progress.  “Sir, believe it or not Daniel looks up to you.”  Sam sighed at the Colonel’s disbelieving frown and raised eyebrows.  “Look I know you two don’t always see eye to eye, but he trusts you more than anyone, he needs you.”  Sam shuffled back a few paces wondering if she’d over stepped her place as a subordinate.
    Jack thought about what Carter had just said.  Daniel needs him?  He guessed that could be true, in a round about way.  It just felt strange for someone else to say it.  That didn’t matter at moment in any case, Carter’s concerns for Daniel echoed his own thoughts from just yesterday when he was in his office.  Daniel was upset about something and it was pretty darn obvious what that something was.  Jack had hoped all Daniel would need was a little time to digest what happened with the ‘Keeper and move on, but then, Jack reminded himself, Daniel wasn’t like him and something this close to home would hurt him more than any physical injury an enemy could inflict.
    “Maybe I should talk to him.”  Jack tried to be nonchalant.  He didn’t want Carter thinking she was right all the time.
    “That might be a good idea,” Sam humored him good-naturedly.  “Just go easy on him, he was really upset.”  She bit her lip as she said those last words.
    “I promise to be nice to him Carter, I always am.”  Jack wasn’t sure what she was implying but he didn’t like it.
    They continued to walk down the corridor side by side.  “Of course you are, Sir,” Sam said hiding her smirk.  Jack just glared.
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    “Teal’c, buddy, have you seen Daniel this morning?”  Jack asked heartily.
    “Colonel O’Neill, Captain Carter.  I am pleased to see you.”  Teal’c moved from the doorway to let them inside his quarters.
    Jack immediately recognized the lump under the bed sheets.  “Oh Teal’c?” Jack sing-songed.  “What is Daniel doing in your bed?”
    “He has been here all night O’Neill.”  Two sets of raised eyebrows were the only reaction.  “Daniel Jackson came to visit me late last night, he seemed troubled so I offered to teach him Kel-no-reem.  We did not get very far,” Teal’c clarified after a brief pause.
    “He fell asleep?” Jack asked, lowering himself to sit on the edge of the bed at Daniel’s feet.
    “Indeed.”
    “Don’t worry Teal’c, I’m sure he was just really tired, you’re not nearly as boring as Carter.”  That was a comment Jack belatedly thought he should have kept to himself.  “Ah, what I meant to say was…”
    “We know what you meant sir,” Carter said briskly still standing by Teal’c at the door.  “For now I think we should concentrate on the problem at hand.”
    “Problem?”  Jack was wondering if he’d missed another memo.
    “Sir, we’ve been through this, this whole thing with the ‘Keeper has shaken Daniel up more than he’d care to admit,” Sam admonished keeping her tone low so not to wake the man in question.
    “I agree with Captain Carter, O’Neill.  Daniel Jackson does appear to be experiencing difficulties.  Perhaps you should talk to him,” Teal’c suggested.
    “Why does everyone keep saying that?”  Jack asked waving his hands in exasperation, as if he had no clue why anyone would suggest such a thing. 
    “Everyone, Sir?”  Sam asked, suspicion lacing her tone.
    “You, Teal’c, even Fraiser got Hammond to grill me after the debriefing yesterday,” Jack admitted.
    “Why did not you say anything prior, O’Neill?”  Teal’c accused.
    “Well I thought they were just overreacting, you know how Fraiser is when she gets her claws in...” Jack paused, trying to think of a reason why he should be the last person who should talk to Daniel.  “Besides, Danny’s a big boy.  I didn’t think he’d appreciate us sticking our noses where they don’t belong.” 
    Sam and Teal’c’s glare didn’t waver. Jack cracked.  “Look, I admit he is acting a little…clingy all of a sudden.  I already said I’d talk to him, and I will.  Just not now okay.  Let him sleep,” Jack spoke with finality.
    In one subconscious move that no one failed to miss Jack O’Neill stood up, straighten out the blankets and brushed the hair out of Daniel’s face.
    “What?”  Jack asked when he noticed both Carter and Teal’c now smiling at him.  Neither said anything as they exited the room.  Jack shut the door and trailed after them. 
“What?”
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    “Daniel?”  Jack called as he entered Daniel’s office, the table lamps were on but he couldn’t see anyone inside.  “Daniel, you in here?”  Jack moved over toward the desk where he caught a glimpse of a mop of light brown hair.  “Well, well Dr. Jackson.  Where’s my camera when I need it?”  Jack asked the sleeping archaeologist as he perched himself on the edge of the desk.  “Daniel?  Wakey, wakey...”  Jack leaned over and proceeded to poke Daniel’s cheek.
    “Um, wha’?”  Daniel blurrily opened one blue eye only to find a pair of brown ones about two inches from his face.
    “Jack!”  Daniel sat up with a yelp.  “What are you doing here?”
    “Oh you know, just thought I’d stop by, see how you’re doing,” Jack remarked casually.
    Daniel eyed him suspiciously as he sat back, rubbing his eyes with one fist to wake himself up.  He was still sleepy and decided he needed coffee.  As he stood and made his way to the coffee machine in the corner, he could feel Jack’s eyes following him.
    “You okay?  I’d have thought you got enough sleep last night, you looked so cozy,” Jack asked when Daniel returned to stand in front of him, coffee in hand.
    “I’m fine.” Daniel remarked indignantly ignoring that last comment as he placed his cup down on the desk and wrapped both arms around his body. 
    “How come you never went home last night?”  Jack questioned, ignoring the defensive body language for now.
    “Um, I had stuff to do,” Daniel answered evasively, refusing to look Jack in the eye.  Daniel was feeling a little embarrassed that he had fallen asleep in Teal’c’s room last night and had no doubt in his mind that Jack knew about it.
    “Oh yeah?” Jack challenged with a ‘you know I know’ look. 
    “Yeah.”  Daniel stood by the lie, no way was he admitting to being too scared to be alone for any length of time at the moment.
    “So you’re okay then?”  Jack asked again.
    “Why is everyone asking me that?”  Daniel questioned trying to sound clueless but failing.
    “Oh, I don’t know Daniel, maybe because they care about you.”  It was said with more sarcasm than intended. 
    When Daniel’s self-hug tightened, Jack remembered his promise to Carter to be nice to him.  Adjusting his position Jack moved in front of Daniel.  Standing a few inches taller he reached his hands out and held Daniel by both shoulders.  “Look, Carter was concerned that’s all and hell, from what I gather went on while we were separated on that damn planet I am too,” he admitted letting his hands drop back to his side.  “I figured maybe you’d want to, err…talk…about it.”
    “Talk?”  Daniel raised his eyebrows at the implication that Jack O’Neill actually wanted to ‘talk’.
    “Yeah talk.  Why, what’s so strange about that?”  Jack was offended at what Daniel was implying, even if it was the truth.  He didn’t know why he’d let the others talk him into this.  Jack had never been good at consoling people; Sam, hell Teal’c even, would probably have been better at this than him.  However deep, deep down Jack knew Daniel thought differently and that was the only reason Jack was willing to persevere.
    “Nothing I guess.  What did you want to talk about?”  Daniel opted to act the innocent.  He was well aware of his powers and was going to use them to his full advantage to get out of this soon to be awkward conversation.
    “Well, I was thinking maybe, you know relating to the whole ‘Keeper’ issue, you’d like to tell me about your parents,” Jack spoke hesitantly trying to act if it was no big deal.
    Daniel did a quick about face and sat down at his desk pretending he had work to do.  “Not much to tell really,” he muttered.
    “Oh, I think there is.”  Jack didn’t budge an inch.  That last abrupt move revealed just how much this was bothering Daniel and Jack was beginning to feel more confident that he was doing the right thing.
    “Well you already knew I was an orphan, so what more is there?”
    Jack looked down at Daniel as he perched on the corner of his desk once again.  He could tell from his face Daniel wanted a straight answer, Jack just wasn’t sure if he could provide one.  “You watched them die.”
    Daniel paled markedly, his cocky attitude suddenly forgotten.  That wasn’t something he’d have expected Jack to bring up, imagining just how close to home it must hit for him.
    “Oh.”
    “Oh?”  Jack asked disbelieving that was all Daniel had to say.
    Daniel cringed pushing the books in front of him to one side giving Jack his full attention.  “That’s what you want me to talk about isn’t it?”
    “Well, it’s as good a place to start as any.”  Jack said mockingly.
    “There was an accident setting up the exhibit, they died, I saw it happen, end of story.  It really isn’t a big deal.”  Daniel shrugged reclaiming his mug to avoid Jack’s glare.
    “Carter seems to think it is, says you were rather upset.”  Jack knew he was taking a risk and dragging Carter right into the mud with him, but hell, it was her idea, she got herself into this.
    “I’ll get over it, it happened a long time ago,” Daniel said dismissively, mildly annoyed to hear his friends had been talking about him.
    “That’s one way to put it I guess.”  Jack scanned the room looking for inspiration to continue.  “Or you could say it happened just yesterday.”  He settled his gaze back on Daniel who was fidgeting under the scrutiny. 
    “Jack I really don’t want to talk about it.”
    “It’s okay to be upset, Daniel, you don’t have to put up a front for us.” Jack said, his tone surprisingly gentle.
    “Jack, I said I was fine, please just let me deal with this in my own way.”  Daniel turned pleading eyes on Jack.
    He wasn’t going to fall for it this time.  Jack had lost all patience with Daniel’s pussy footing around.  “Just what is your way anyhow?”  Jack held his hand out to halt Daniel’s predicted defensive response.  “AH!  Now Daniel I realize this must be very hard on you right now.  Believe me I KNOW.”  Jack emphasized the ‘know’ part, hoping Daniel got the message.  “But I’ve only recently come to realize I know very little about you.  There is obviously a lot more to Dr. Daniel Jackson than I originally thought.  You’re a good guy Daniel, always willing to help everyone no matter what.  You’re all preachy about being open and honest, however, you seem to have a hard time applying those ideals to yourself.”
    “Now what the hell is that supposed to mean?”  Daniel was hurt by the implication that he was being less than honest with himself.  What really bothered him was that he was starting to think Jack might be right.
    “It means, Daniel, that I think your way of dealing with bad stuff is to bottle it up inside and try to forget it ever happened,” Jack answered him sternly.
    “What’s so wrong with that?  I can look after myself you know.”
    Jack lowered his voice and softened his tone slightly.  Yelling at Daniel wasn’t going to get him anywhere.  “I don’t doubt that for a minute.  But sometimes you need to let your friends, me…” Jack poked himself in the chest for emphasis “…help you.” 
    Daniel put down the papers he’d been fiddling with and slumped back in his chair.  “It’s not that easy Jack,” he finally huffed dejectedly.
    “Daniel!”  Jack said the name harshly.
    “Jack.”   Daniel countered, sounding completely defeated.
    Jack muttered to himself jumping off the desk as he shoved his hands into his pockets, afraid he might strangle Daniel - Homer Simpson style - if he didn’t.  He took a deep breath before continuing.  “Daniel, it wasn’t your fault.”  Jack said finally ducking his head; he was so going to kill Carter and Teal’c for this.
    Daniel frowned.
    “Oh for cryin’ out loud.”  Jack said almost to himself at the incomprehensible look he just got from Daniel.  “The ‘Keeper picked events from our memories as a sort of test, right, for entertainment?  That’s what you said in the debriefing.  You and I were expected to keep living those memories in a continuous loop trying various, different scenarios until we succeeded in changing the outcome.”
    Daniel nodded meekly seeing exactly where Jack was going.
    “Well I’m telling you there was nothing either of us could have done to change what happened.”  Jack tried to make eye contact with Daniel so he would have a clue that some of what he was saying was registering with him. 
    Daniel kept his head intentionally low as he uttered his regrettably truthful reply.  “I know.”
    Jack didn’t waste time and, with a level straightforward tone, asked the question he had wanted to ask from the start.  “What happened, Daniel?”
    Daniel slowly stood, taking a deep calming breath as he moved around his desk to, once again, stand face to face with Jack.  Daniel did his best to keep his voice steady, but the anxiety was coming through loud and clear.  “My parents were in charge of an exhibit at the New York Museum of Art.  It was all the artifacts they’d uncovered during our time in Egypt.  They were trying to recreate a tomb using the original cover stone- it was on the crane being lifted into place.  They…they were standing underneath when the chain broke.  It fell, they died instantly.”  Daniel didn’t wait to see the look of remorse on Jack’s face.  He immediately lost his nerve and sat back down, picking up a pen that was lying on his desk he began to twirl it between his fingers.
    “And you were…?”  Jack encouraged, hating what he was doing but knowing it had to be done.  He found his mouth had gone dry and it was hard to form the words.  The whole thing sounded like some ghastly nightmare. 
    Daniel sighed dejectedly, “I wasn’t supposed to be there, they told me to stay outside the work area until they’d finished.  I was walking towards them when I heard the chain snap, I don’t think they saw me but…well I had a front row seat put it that way.”  He cast a quick glance at Jack, catching the older man’s eye for just a second before returning his attention to the pen in his hand.
    Jack rubbed a hand through his hair as he sat down on one of the other office chairs. 
    He suddenly found himself feeling sorry for, yet at the same time, extremely angry with, Daniel’s parents.  Sorry because he knew what it was like to loose a son and he secretly hoped that they hadn’t realized they’d never see their child grow up.  The anger he felt he knew was unjustified, but couldn’t help it all the same.  How any parent could knowingly put themselves in danger when they have a child that depended on them was a mystery.  Jack then realized he’d done exactly that, had things worked out differently and he’d gotten himself killed on a mission this could easily have been Charlie sitting in front of him.  That thought shook Jack more than he would ever admit.   “Jesus, Daniel, how come you’ve never told me?”
    Daniel let out a nervous laugh, still not looking at Jack.  “Well it’s not exactly a conversation starter, besides I’m over it.” 
    “Are you?”  When Daniel didn’t answer Jack looked up to see his eyes where bright, staring at the wall.  ‘No, you’re not, are you?’  He could feel the emotional turmoil radiating from Daniel in waves.  “There wasn’t anything you could have done, you were just a little kid Daniel.  The ‘Keeper was full of it.”  Jack tried to be comforting.
    Daniel couldn’t take anymore; he was jumpy and a little disturbed by the events he had just recounted.  The recreation brought everything back so vividly it was as if it had happened just yesterday like Jack said.  The fact that he wasn’t eight years old anymore didn’t seem to make the slightest difference.  Apparently he was experiencing the same feelings of uselessness and abandonment all over again.   
    Knowing he was about to lose it any minute, Daniel decided to make a fast escape.  “Look I’ve got stuff to do.  Briefing’s at five right?” Daniel said.  Not waiting for an answer, he snatched up a file from the desk, side stepped Jack and was out of the room before he could be stopped.
    “Daniel…wait!”  Jack almost followed after him, but decided against it.  Letting out a sigh as he ran a hand through his greying hair, Jack contemplated where on Earth he should go from here.
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    “Okay, whose idea was it for me to talk to Daniel?”  Jack shouted as he stormed into Sam’s lab.
    “I take it the talk didn’t go well?”  Sam responded without looking up from the microscope, not really needing to hear the answer. 
    “Really?  What gave you that idea?”  Jack’s retort dripped with sarcasm.  
    “What has transpired, O’Neill?” 
    “Teal’c!” Jack said surprised, turning to face the Jaffa sitting in the corner. “Didn’t see you there buddy.”  He moved to take a seat in the opposite corner.  “I don’t suppose any of you have seen Daniel today have you?”  His tone now more concerned than angry.
    “No, not since Teal’c’s quarters this morning.”  Jack’s face dropped.  “That bad?”  Sam asked, worry lacing her tone now too.
    “Oh I don’t know.  How bad is it when you’re halfway through a very upsetting and personal conversation and the guy you’re talking to runs off and hasn’t been seen since?”  Jack kept his tone light despite his concern for Daniel’s sudden absence.
    “Perhaps DanielJackson is concealing something he doesn’t wish us to discover.”  Teal’c offered.
    Jack puzzled over that one for a second, wondering if Teal’c knew something about Daniel that he didn’t, before shifting the conversation in a different direction.
    “Yeah, talking of concealing information, Carter, why the hell didn’t you tell me his parents got crushed under a ten ton rock?”  Jack’s flippancy amplified his annoyance.
    Sam flinched at the harsh choice of words.  She put down her work and turned to face the Colonel.  “I thought you knew.”
    “I knew there was an accident, I didn’t have any of the gory details.  I’m going to have serious words with Hammond about how we gather personnel information, it’s down right cryptic.”
    Teal’c watched as the colour drained from Sam’s face.  “Are you unwell Captain Carter?”
    “I’m fine Teal’c, just thinking about it makes my stomach turn.”
    “That bad?”  Jack asked, now more sympathetic, he’d forgotten Carter had had to sit through the ghastly scenario again and again too.
    Sam looked Jack in the eye.  “I think what makes it worse is knowing Daniel went through that all alone when he was only eight.”
    “He says he’s over it.”  Jack said, leaning back trying to make himself comfortable.
    “You believe him?”  Sam asked sceptically.  Daniel’s recent behavior didn’t indicate he was over it at all.
    “I doubt, no matter how hard a person tries, that they can get over something like that.  They learn to live with it and move on.”  Jack spoke as the voice of experience. 
    The three teammates sat in silence, occupied with their own thoughts.
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    Daniel sat with his hands clasped together on the conference table.  ‘Crash, scream!’  The sounds from the recreation were echoing through his head, the loud crash the stone made as in impacted with floor, trapping his parents between it on its way.  Their screams as the crushing weight rested on top of them, ’Dr Jackson!’ the workers surrounding them all calling out in urgency.
    “Dr Jackson?”
    Daniel thrust his head up quickly, blurry eyes struggling to focus.  He could still hear them calling his Dad's name.
    “Dr Jackson.” 
    For a moment the two realities blurred and it took a minute for Daniel to realize where he was.  The voice wasn’t calling his father, it was calling him.
    “Daniel, are you alright?”  Sam asked him from across the table, her tone patronizingly gentle.
    “Excuse me.”  Was all Daniel could manage, before snatching his glasses off the table and bolting from the room.
    Sam got up to follow and was part way out of her chair when Jack grabbed her arm.
    “I’ll go.”  He said simply. 
    Sam wasn’t going to back down that easily, this had gone far enough.  She’d been with Daniel while it had happened he hadn’t.  “Sir, I think I can help.”
    “I know, and you can, later.”  It was times like this chain of command really sucked Sam decided, grudgingly re taking her seat.
    Jack then stood, gave General Hammond a quick nod and left the room in pursuit of Daniel.
    General Hammond nodded back.  He didn't know the exact reason behind Daniel’s irrational behavior, but he could hazard a guess, and was confidant Jack would sort it out.  In the mean time he decided it best to continue with the briefing as normal.
    Jack finally caught up with Daniel in the corridor.  He was waiting by the elevator, forehead resting on the mental door, arms hanging limply by his sides.
    Up until now Jack had been keeping a rather frantic pace in order to catch him, before he could go hide somewhere where they wouldn’t find him for a week.  Now as he approached, he slowed to a stroll in an attempt to keep things as casual as possible.
    Daniel heard him coming, but didn’t bother to look up when he spoke.  “Sorry, I ...just need a minute.” 
    When Jack didn’t answer Daniel had assumed he’d believed him and moved on, so the sudden hand placed on the small of his back made him jump a mile.
    If Jack noticed, he didn’t comment.  “We can do this briefing without you, go home get some rest, I’ll fill you in tomorrow.” 
    “Thank you.”  Daniel wanted to say he was fine, smile and look nonchalant, but frankly he honestly didn’t know if he could.  He didn’t want to be removed from the mission, however at the moment he didn’t think he had much of a choice, if he wanted to keep his dignity. 
    The elevator dinged and Daniel removed his head just in time for the doors to open.  Rubbing one hand over his face and leaving it there, Daniel walked forward.
    “Give me a call when you get home.”
    “I will.”  Daniel answered without looking up or removing the hand that was now pinching the bridge of his nose.
    “That’s an order.”  Jack reiterated as the doors closed.  It had the desired effect and made Daniel smile just a little.
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    Daniel shot up out of bed in a blind panic, sweat covering his forehead.  It took him a while, but he finally recognized his surroundings.  He hadn’t gone home after all.  He was still in the mountain, in one of the bunkrooms.  Running a hand over his face to try and wake himself up, Daniel quickly leapt off the bed and left the room while still adjusting his shirt.  He felt an overwhelming need to be around his friends but doubted Jack or Sam would still be on base, that left Teal’c – Daniel hoped to God Teal’c was still in his quarters and not roaming the base somewhere.
    “Daniel Jackson, I am pleased to see you again.”
    “Hey Teal’c, can I come in?”  Daniel asked shyly.
    “Of course.”  Teal’c moved to one side.
    Daniel walked in and sat hesitantly on one of the chairs.  “Not doing Kel-no-reem?”  He asked, noting the lack of lit candles.
    “I do not require it at this time.”
    “I’m sorry I fell asleep on you yesterday.”
    “The purpose of Kel-no-reem is to relax.” Teal’c stated succinctly.  He knew Daniel was here for a reason, even if Daniel wasn’t aware of that reason, so chose to let him lead their conversation. 
    “Uh huh.  Have you seen Jack?”  Daniel asked nervously, gaze fixed to the floor.
    “I would imagine he has left the base by now, as you should have.”  Teal’c eyed Daniel cryptically before continuing.  “You have not left since we returned from the ‘Keepers planet.”  He stated, making it a challenge not a question.
    “I’ve been busy.”  Daniel spoke quickly, running the words together, a sure sign he was lying.
    Teal’c eyed him again and Daniel felt the flush rise in his face.  Lesson number one – never lie to a Jaffa or an Air Force Colonel, they always know.
    “DanielJackson, if something about our pervious mission is concerning you…?“
    “No I’m fine,” Daniel cut him off.  “Its just…erm… I was wondering if you and Jack were okay,” he diverted lamely.
    “I am fine.  O’Neill’s memories were unpleasant, but I have witnessed many atrocities in my lifetime. I believe you have as well .”
    “What?”  Daniel asked nervously, getting the ‘deer in the head lights’ look.
    “The way of our worlds may be very different Daniel, but, even on Chulak, a child witnessing a parents demise would be an upsetting experience.”
    “You’ve been talking to Jack.”  Daniel accused, eyes slitting, eyebrows drawn together.
    “He is merely concerned for your well-being.”
    “I’m fine.  I don’t know why everyone is making such a big deal out of it.”  Daniel protested, shaking his head as if it was everybody else who was having trouble dealing with the mission not him.
    “Perhaps because it is a big deal.”
    “It isn’t,” Daniel whined.
    “Are you so sure?”  Teal’c’s tone lowered slightly and became sterner, indicating he would not partake in this conversation much longer.
    Daniel didn’t answer, he wasn’t sure, and couldn’t answer because then Teal’c would know he wasn’t sure. Then Teal’c would tell Jack.
    “I better go finish what I was doing, I’ll catch you later, Teal’c.”  Daniel abruptly stood and practically ran out of the room.
    Teal’c let him go.  He had observed this behavior many times in Daniel Jackson and knew the young man had to make his own decision as to what to do next. Teal’c didn’t know where O’Neill got his patience.
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    Jack was fed up.  The whole day had been a complete waste.  When Daniel didn’t call him as he’d asked, Jack got worried, he called Daniel’s apartment, but there was no answer.  Before he set out on a trek over to Daniel’s apartment Jack tried one last thing and contacted main gate security. His suspicions were confirmed when the airman informed him that Daniel hadn’t signed out.  Jack was less than pleased.  He’d attempted to find Daniel on the base, but to no avail. He was finally convinced that Daniel just didn’t want to be found.  Sam had had similar luck, only she wasn’t so easily dissuaded, convinced Daniel needed them right now she absolutely refused to leave the base until she’d talked to him.  A fruitless endeavor if ever there was one.  Jack knew what a sneaky shit Daniel could be sometimes and if he was trying to avoid them he could easily keep it up for days.
    Jack left Carter on Level 26, in a less than happy mood.  'God help Daniel if she does find him’ Jack thought as he headed home.  Having just walked through his front door he skipped the lights and headed straight to the fridge to pull out a beer.  Daniel caused him so much stress that alcohol was the only way to calm his nerves sometimes.  The words ‘Damn it Daniel’ vibrated through his head on a continuous loop as he drank.
    Jack took a deep breath and then went in search of food in the dark kitchen.  Upon opening his second cupboard door he happened upon a bag of chips.  Conceding that that was as good as he was going to get, he strolled back out of the kitchen, snatched the TV remote from the counter and sank into his couch.  There wasn’t anything that was going to get him up now.  Except that.  A high-pitched ring originating from the hallway. 
    Squeezing his eyes shut, as if the very action would make him invisible, Jack toyed with the idea of not answering the doorbell.  Unfortunately, Jack O’Neill, despite appearances, was not one to laze around when he was needed. 
    Heaving a sigh at the great injustice, Jack rose from his slouch and marched towards the door ready to give who ever it was hell for disturbing him.  However, when Jack swung the door open he found the last person he’d expected to see standing there.
    “Daniel?” 
    Daniel was shivering, the rain soaking through his jacket and trickling down his collar.  He regretted his decision to come the minute he’d rang the bell.  He had contemplated running before Jack could answer, but quashed that idea rather quickly, aware of how childish it was.
    “Hi Jack.” 
    Daniel’s reply was so quiet Jack could barely hear him.  “It’s raining.”  He said casually to disguise the fact the he was assessing Daniel’s mental state.  From the arms wrapped tight around his middle, Jack conceded it wasn't looking too good.
    “Yeah I, err, noticed.”  Daniel’s tone was light, trying to make it a joke, but the little hiccup at the end gave him away.
    Jack stood to one side indicting Daniel should get inside and out of the rain that had already soaked him, the fact that Daniel was dripping from head to foot, yet the rain was a little more than drizzle, made Jack wonder just how long Daniel had been out there.
    It registered rather quickly with Jack that Daniel hadn’t moved.  Not even an inch.  After another minute of uncomfortable shifting and no forward momentumJack couldn’t help but wonder if Daniel was going to voluntarily elaborate on why he was there or continue to hug himself like if he let go he’d shatter into a million pieces, which from where Jack was standing, seemed a very likely outcome.
    Out of time and out of patience, Jack quit waiting for Daniel to move under his own steam and pulled him inside by the wrist.  A chorus of ‘Damn it Daniel’ echoing through his mind once more.
    “Sit,” Jack ordered, pointing to the sofa.  “Do you want a drink?”  Daniel just looked at him clueless as if the words were foreign to him, so Jack pointed to the open beer on the table for visual aid.
    “You look like crap Daniel.”  He dreaded to think what Daniel had been up to since he saw him last.
    “Thanks.”  The remark was meant to be sarcastic, but the defeated tone swallowed it.   “Look, maybe I shouldn’t have come, I’ll let myself out.”  Daniel said backing away towards the door.
    “AH!  No you don’t!”  Jack slid in front of him and stood on the step blocking Daniel’s exit.  “Daniel,” He drawled as he pushed him back into the living room, “you know you can talk to me about whatever is bothering you.”  Now that was something Jack never thought he’d hear himself say.
    “It’s not that easy”
    “Sure it is, you do it all the time.”  Daniel couldn’t stop a small huff of a laugh from escaping at that comment.
    Jack smiled; Daniel had just confirmed that all hope was not lost.  He pushed his friend down onto the sofa, perching himself on the coffee table in front of him.
    “What?”  Daniel asked, looking slightly puzzled. 
    Jack paused before answering.  Daniel seemed relatively okay now, a stark contrast from the edgy nervousness he’d displayed on Jack’s doorstep.  Thinking the facts over, Jack believed he now knew what the problem was.  It was so obvious he wanted to bang his head against the wall for not seeing it earlier.
    “How ‘you doing?”  Jack asked formulating a plan.  He was getting the impression even Daniel didn’t understand why he was feeling the way he was.  Jack guessed nobody had sat him down and fully explained the meaning of ‘abandonment issues’.
    “Okay.”  Daniel fidgeted under the scrutiny.  He opened his mouth as if to say something further, but quickly changed his mind.
    “Just didn’t want to be alone did you?”  Jack fired the question point blank, seeing no sense in prolonging the inevitable.
    Daniel immediately focused his attention on the floor, eyes brimming with unshed tears.  Jack could be such an ass sometimes he didn’t know how he lived with himself, but on this occasion he knew he’d done the right thing. 
    “I’m so stupid,” Daniel admitted rather sulkily. 
    “Daniel you may be many things, but stupid is not one of them,” Jack assured him good-naturedly before lifting his hand and pushing back the bangs that had fallen forward, obscuring Daniel's face.
    At the touch Daniel looked up and Jack wasn’t surprised to see a tear trace its way down his cheek.  Without thinking, he leaned forward to kneel on the floor pulling Daniel towards him into a tight hug.  Daniel’s only response was to rest his head on Jack’s shoulder, which was more than Jack honestly ever expected.  Daniel had gotten fairly used to him putting an arm around him or taking him by the hand to guide him in the right direction, although Jack could tell by the face he pulled he either disliked being treated like a child or wasn’t used to being touched. The fact that he'd never shied away from him made Jack believe it was the latter.
    The moment ended rather abruptly when Daniel pulled away and shifted further back on the sofa, toeing off his shoes before bringing his legs up and tucking them tight beneath his chin.  Jack took that as his cue to move as well, and deciding not to go too far, sat down beside him.
    “So you want to talk to me now?”
    “I’m sorry, I don’t mean to be such a baby,” Daniel didn't look up.  He doubted he'd be able to look Jack in the eye again after this.
    “Daniel what we went through on the ‘Keepers planet is something no one should have to experience.  You shouldn’t have gone through it the first time,” Jack said firmly eyes focused dead ahead.
    Daniel didn't want to say anything further, he just wanted the conversation to end, but Jack's uncharacteristically calm, and understanding manner, made Daniel feel like it was safe to give voice to the fears that had been plaguing him the last few days.   “I can’t understand why I feel like this, I’m absolutely terrified to be on my own for more than a couple of hours.  It's pathetic.”
    Jack ducked his head unsure as where to start, but knowing he had to say something and soon, eagerly pressed on.  “Well for starters you’re not a baby and you’re not pathetic and I’d imagine, after reliving what I guess is one of the worst moments of your life, you’re probably feeling as lonely and abandoned as you felt the first time.  Am I right?”
    Daniel looked up, a vacant expression marring his face.  ‘Guess he never pegged me for the deep thinking kind of guy’, Jack thought to himself.
    “Right,” Daniel whispered in astonishment.
    “You were just a kid Daniel.” Jack consoled softly, making it sound like no big deal.  “Just because you’re not a child anymore doesn’t make what happened to them, what you saw happen, any easier to live with.  Especially when someone throws it back in your face reminding you of every detail.”  He continued a little more forcefully.
    “I guess not.”
    “You gonna be okay?”  Jack asked after a moments silence, worried he might have stunned Daniel so much with his deep introspection he wasn’t going to move.
    Those insane thoughts were immediately quashed when Daniel nodded and, for the first time since he arrived, started to relax.  Moving from his protective position Daniel placed both feet on the floor.  Not a major break-through, Jack thought, but it was definitely a good start.  Daniel was still a long ways from wanting to be alone however, so Jack decided to make it easier on him by not saying anything further.  He just leaned back, tapping Daniel's knee as he did so to let him know he could stay for as long as he liked.
    The rest of the evening passed by fairly quietly.  SG1 had a mission scheduled for the next day and Jack fully intended for the both of them to be well rested, ready to embark on a whole new adventure, or tragedy as it so often turned out.  Jack turned the TV off with a flick of the remote and let out a sigh that seemed to echo in the silence of the house.  It had been a trying couple of days, days that Jack hoped he’d never have to live over again.  It was strange to think just that morning he was claiming pig ignorance, convincing everyone, including himself, that he would be the last person in the world able to console Daniel.  Yet Daniel had proved to him, not for the first time, just how wrong he could be.
    Looking at the lump slumped next to him fast asleep, Jack had to ponder just exactly what he’d gotten himself into.  He really had to wonder if their meeting was a simple coincidence or an act of fate.  Daniel desperately needed someone to care about him, whether he admitted it or not, and Jack knew he functioned much better when he had someone to care about. 
Fin.

 

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.