Coming Down Glass

There was only one thing of which Daniel was aware - the rain cutting against his face. At first it seemed he should bleed from the assault, but now he felt no pain. No. His eyes stung. He looked toward the dark sky, let the rain shards slice his eyes. He put a damp hand in his pocket and fingered the glasses there. They would offer him a small amount of protection. He didn't want that. He took his hand back out of the pocket, let it fall onto his thigh. If he could, he would tear his eyes from his skull and throw them on the ground, crush them beneath his feet. He didn't want to see anymore.
He couldn't stay here forever, wherever here was. He blinked. His eyelids were pumice against his eyelids, sloughing off skin. He was being torn from inside as well as out. His suit was getting ruined as well, torn to shreds by the violent, icy rain. Ridiculous. It was only getting saturated and would live to see another day. Live to see another day. What a terrible expression. Daniel was horrified by it and for thinking it. He lifted his right hand and swiped it down his left sleeve, as if he could slide the water away. Even if it worked, it would be a temporary fix only. All fixes were temporary, which meant the definition for 'fix' had to be wrong.
He thought he was becoming more aware than he wanted to be. Or unhinged. He suspected both might be inevitable.
Daniel stood up. Water that had collected in his lap splashed away, blending in with the deluge coming down around him. It didn't matter. All this water would disappear tomorrow and everything would look the same as before it had started. It was temporary. He sat back down. He didn't have anywhere to go. He thought maybe that wasn't right, and yet it was and had been for a while. A shiver ran through him. The numbness he felt was from cold, he realized. It shouldn't have taken him so long to figure out the connection. He hadn't been able to get warm since they'd got back.
No one else had seemed affected by the pervasive cold on P3X 666, but he had noticed it instantly. He was still noticing it, it seemed. Except that also wasn't right. He was on Earth, wearing a terrible black suit and sitting in the rain. Daniel looked down once more. Even in the dimness of night, he could see his hands were dull purple. They looked malformed and ugly against the waterlogged sheen of his pants. He rubbed them down the front of his legs, got no warmth from the slight friction. He squeezed his hands into fists and finally felt something. His fingers throbbed a strange beat.
The rain slowed to mist, tiny pinpricks. Daniel unfurled his fists. His fingers throbbed even more once blood began pumping back into them. He resented them for feeling. It didn't seem right that things so useless should even be able to do so. He supposed, though, at least that feeling was discomfort. He might deserve pain for his own part in all that had happened. He'd told Wells it wasn't anyone's fault, and that things just happen sometimes. He believed that. He also believed in could haves and should haves.
He closed his eyes again and saw hers. Hers were the kind that drew a person in, whether filled with a mischievous glint, tears of concern, steeped with capable intelligence or wide with dismay. Daniel didn't realize how much she said without words. These eyes he saw now were voids, horrifying and blank and he couldn't stop seeing them. Open or shut, his eyes betrayed. He avoided people, because at any moment, Janet's dead eyes might transpose over whomever happened to be around him. It was a curse or it was punishment, penance in either case.
Daniel sought the solitude of dark while on base, but had known that couldn't be done forever. Not there, anyway. He was still hiding in shadows and in the cold. Janet's yes...the haunting of them...bore into him, holding him in place. Heavy and swollen droplets of water shook loose from his hair and fell onto his shoulders, feeling more solid than liquid. He was pinned in place by such vast weight.
The dull brown of the streetlight's rays against his eyelids flickered and then disappeared. He opened his eyes and clambered to his feet. He saw he had been sitting on the ground. He should leave this place, and go home. He looked around, realizing he didn't even really recall how he'd gotten here, but now knew where he was. He had always recognized it, he thought, on some level. It made horrible sense.
"You've been out here for a long time, Daniel."
Had he? He probably had. He probably hadn't really known why he came here and that was why he was soaked clean through. He probably had some reason for sitting on the cold curb outside of Janet's house. There were no lights on in it, he noticed. Each window was an enormous dark eye.
"I know," he said. His voice was strange. He couldn't figure out where she had come from. "But I don't know why."
"I could guess," Cassie said. "Maybe the same reason I'm freezing my ass off out here instead of being in...there."
The house kept staring at him, and even it was taken over by the ghost of Janet's eyes. He wondered if Janet had family Cassie should be with. He should know whether or not Janet had family. That he didn't was just another strike against him, proving how lopsided their friendship really was. Had been. If nothing else, he could blame himself for that. Daniel looked at Cassie. Her hair was matted and wet, bedraggled. She stared at him, arms wrapped crossed over her chest, and for the first time in a great number of hours, Janet's dead eyes weren't the worst things he had ever seen in his life. His own misery became secondary.
"Are you okay?"
Death always seemed surrounded by inadequacies. Words were hollow. Oddly proffered baked goods equaled tokens of unease. Eye contact was scarce and fleeting, which didn't really matter much to him in this instance. After so many thousands of years dealing with death, it seemed to Daniel that humanity should be better equipped by now. At the same time, he thought being better equipped for tragedy would just make people harder beings. He didn't know which state of being was worse.
"I mean..."
Touch, it seemed, was still touch. Daniel knew now why he had not allowed it prior to this. Cassie's arms wrapped tightly around him, and the embrace was pain, heartache. Sorrow. His muscles quivered. He felt Cassie shaking as well. He put his arms around her and they stood in the cold and mist and dark. He heard her snuffle once softly, as if she didn't want him to hear it. He moved one hand up, cupping the back of her head. She was a tough person; she would be all right in time. Right now, though, she was a little girl who had just lost a mother for the second time in her short life.
"I thought you would be with family," he said into Cassie's wet hair.
"They don't..." She hugged him more firmly. "They can't understand."
He supposed that was true. Cassie shivered again. The warmth they shared was not enough. Daniel wondered if they would ever feel warm again. He wanted to rub the ache away for her, soothe her somehow, but there truly was no way to accomplish that. So Daniel held her and Cassie held him. For the moment, it would have to do. It was the closest thing to comfort Daniel had felt, and he hoped Cassie found some relief, too.
"Besides," Cassie said after a moment, "You're as much family as they are. More, even."
That broke his heart. There was suddenly wetness on his face that had nothing to do with rain or mist, and it was hot against his icy cheeks. It stung, cutting tracks into what was left of his already flayed skin. Cassie's words had released tears held long at bay, and like everything up until this point, they hurt as much as they healed, a terrible and necessary symbiosis. The tears came down as the rain had, like glass - delicate, beautiful and brutal.
"Am I?"
"All of you are."
Family. The tears slid down his cheeks, and they mingled into Cassie's hair. Daniel became aware of her whispering to him. He didn't need to know what words she was employing to understand she was telling him he would be okay. It was a strange reversal of roles, though not entirely so. The tears dried on his face, undoubtedly leaving salty outlines, as he stopped silently crying at long last. He felt weak, tired.
"You should go inside," Daniel said. He sniffed, nose running. "You'll catch a cold."
"I don't want to," Cassie said. "Everything in there reminds me of her."
The house stared at him, at them. He nodded. He couldn't blame Cassie for not wanting to be in there, surrounded by memory. Daniel broke the hug at last, stepping back. He kept his hands on her arms, afraid if he let go he would fall over, or worse - that she might. Cassie had a streak of dark makeup smudging across her face. He reached up and brushed a thumb over her cheekbone. The smudge muted somewhat but didn't rub away.
"Of course it does, of course. I could take you to Sam's house, but I don't think I drove here."
"I don't think you did, either, and I don't want to go to Sam's. I have a car. Let me take you home."
He nodded, following her to the car, Janet's car, that sat in the driveway. It was Cassie's car now. She unlocked it, the taillights flashing demonically red for several blinks. As she climbed behind the wheel, he slid into the passenger seat. Daniel wondered if she should really drive, but there seemed little other choice. He wasn't sure he could himself, if it came to that. He tipped his head against the rest, closing his eyes for a moment. The car was cool, and in the enclosed space he could smell damp wool and hair. Cassie sneezed and started the engine. He opened his eyes, looking over at her. She seemed...determined, but out of her element. She glanced his way, her eyes reflecting green and white from the dashboard lights.
"You were with her," she said, "Weren't you?"
"Yes. I was."
"I knew it." Cassie smiled at him, lopsided and without feeling. He shivered, the muscles of his lower back locked in a slight spasm. His nose tingled, and gooseflesh broke out on the left side of his body. "I saw it in your eyes."
She didn't say anything else, and he couldn't seem to speak at all. Cassie reached over and nudged the heat up a little, then shifted the car into gear. Soon the silence was eaten up by the thrum of tires against the street. Daniel lifted a hand up and put it in front of the vent. The warm air gusted across his fingertips, making them throb again.
He didn't notice they had stopped until Cassie put a hand on his forearm.
Daniel got out of the car, and so did Cassie. When she followed him up the sidewalk and into the house, he figured out her intention was to stay with him. He didn't have a problem with that, though he wondered why she would want to stay here instead of with Sam. If she wanted him to know, she would say something. He walked into the kitchen and filled the teakettle. The heat from a fresh cup would do both of them good. He could hear Cassie wandering around the house.
"You have messages," she said.
He didn't respond. He had been meaning to call the phone company to add voice mail to his service, but since he didn't get that many phone calls to his home number it always seemed like a waste of money. He wished he had followed through on that. Cassie apparently pressed the play button. Daniel heard Sam's voice, though it was muffled beyond intelligibility. It didn't matter. He could guess what she was saying. The voice was cut off by a short beep, only to be followed by another message. It was Teal'c this time, sounding uncomfortable and even more formal than usual. Two final beeps rang. Either that was the last call or Cassie had stopped the machine.
"I shouldn't have done that." Daniel turned to her as she entered the kitchen. "I'm sorry."
"It's okay." The teakettle started to sing. Daniel switched the burner off and removed the kettle from heat. He remembered that he was out of tea. He glanced at Cassie with a shrug. Her lips were a still blue from the chill rain. Heading for the door, Daniel touched her briefly on the arm as he passed by. "Let me see if I have anything you can change into."
"Daniel?" Cassie said. He stopped. "Why were you alone? Before."
"I don't...I didn't know how else to be," Daniel said. He tapped the doorframe with his left hand and ran a finger down, letting his hand fall to his side. Cassie frowned, and he figured she wasn't happy with his answer. He didn't know what else to tell her. "I'll get the bed set up. You can sleep there tonight, I'll take the sofa."
He walked to the bedroom, feeling strange to be doing normal things so easily in an abnormal situation. He pulled a pair of sweats and a sweatshirt out of his dresser. Daniel didn't know if his clothes would fit Cassie. The shirt would be huge. Fit or no fit, it was dry and warm. His jacket felt cumbersome with water. He set Cassie's clothes on the bed and took off the suit coat. Though it had been heavy, it had kept more heat in than he had realized. Cold air hit him through the thin dress shirt. He didn't feel like putting the soggy jacket back on. He tossed it toward the closet, heard it land on the floor with a plop. Part of him wanted to go over and hang it up.
He left the saturated lump of fabric there, scooping Cassie's clothes from the bed. Daniel walked back down toward the kitchen. Cassie stood in the middle of the room, turned away from the door. She tilted her head back, and he heard her neck pop several times. He winced.
"Here you go." He said it softly, but Cassie twirled around so fast Daniel knew he had startled her. "Maybe you want to take a shower? Chase the chill away."
"Yeah," she said. "Maybe."
"Down the hall and to the right."
She walked over to him and collected the clothes. Their eyes met. Daniel realized these normal things they were doing weren't ordinary at all. They wouldn't be until he could look at her and not see the hollow pain, not see Janet in Cassie's eyes, different from the apparitions he experienced previously. Worse, a million times so. Cassie broke eye contact and went into the bathroom. The screech of the bathroom faucet sounded seconds before the steady beat of water shattering on porcelain. It sounded like a rainstorm, and for a brief moment Daniel worried that the shower would hurt Cassie, leave gashes on her skin. Then he scrubbed the irrational thought away.
Pinching the bridge of his nose as he moved, Daniel went back into the bedroom. He tore off the sheets and tossed them on top of the wet jacket. Before he made the bed back up with fresh sheets, he took off his own clothes. He let them lie in piles. He tugged on a sweatshirt and track pants. The difference in clothing warmed him physically. He made the bed quickly, tripping over his trousers several times. He kicked them out of the way. He didn't think he would wear that suit again. He didn't want to have to.
The phone started ringing while he had a pillow tucked under his chin. He moved sideways toward the bedside table. Reaching a hand out, he had the intent to answer it until his fingers contacted the receiver. Daniel returned his focus to the pillowcase, tugging it on and then tossing the pillow on the bed. The phone cut off, and he heard the machine in the entryway pick up. Sam's voice, concerned and congested, carried back toward the bedroom.
Daniel sat on the bed. He reached for the phone again, and again let his hand fall. He heard bits of what Sam said, and felt removed from it. Detached, like he had been for days. She asked about Cassie. Daniel frowned. The shower turned off with a shudder of pipes just as Sam stopped talking. He heard Cassie moving around in the bathroom, murmuring to herself. He stood up and journeyed into the small living room. The sofa wasn't very comfortable, even to sit in, but he sat anyway.
The bathroom door opened, and Daniel heard Cassie padding down the hall. He looked down at his own feet. His toes were bare and bluish. He curled them under slightly. It didn't help warm them. Cassie scooted around him and plopped down on the far end of the sofa, tucking her legs underneath her. He glanced over to her. The sweatshirt was as huge as he thought it would be, and its massiveness made her appear very small.
"I'm not really tired now," she said. "But I'm much warmer."
"That's good."
"Daniel?"
"Hmm?"
"Was Mo...did she...?" Cassie's expression turned to horrification, and her eyes welled up again. "No, I don't want to know. I don't know why I thought I did."
Daniel swallowed. He slid over until he was right next to her. Cassie toppled toward him, resting a cheek on his shoulder. He put his arm around her.
"When you're ready," he said.
"When you're ready, too."
It would be a while, for both of them, Daniel thought. He stared at his hand on Cassie's shoulder and then at the one still on his leg. Cassie reached out and took the hand from his lap, wrapping his fingers around hers. His hands might not be so useless after all.
"Were you supposed to stay with Sam?"
"I was going to."
"Why aren't you?"
Cassie shifted slightly, lifting her head up. She squeezed his hand.
"I thought you needed me more," she said. His stomach clenched, and Daniel was afraid he might start crying again. "I should probably call her back."
Neither of them moved. Outside, the mist turned back to rain.
End

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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.