Those Moments

Living the Moment

The night was crisp. Far crisper than it ought to be for this time of the year. In the fading light, Jack picked out the roof tops of the houses around his, their chimneys puffing out curls of smoke from freshly cut firewood. Birch and red fir seemed to be the favorites here, but to Jack’s mind nothing beat the memories of his youth and winters gone by like the rich aroma of tamarack.  
“This is nice.” Daniel was laying back against Jack’s chest with his head to the left of his, fingers of one hand curled around an almost cold cup of coffee.
If you don’t mind freezing your ass off, Jack wanted to say, but instead grunted softly in agreement. They were on Jack’s roof top. In place of the usual chair for one and a coffee pot of his bitter best, there was a nest of pillows and a thermos of some blend Daniel swore by, but that Jack could never quite stomach. He didn’t tell Daniel this.
Daniel shivered, and Jack responded by reflex and pulled him in closer, like it was a natural thing to do. He supposed it used to be, but not with Daniel. A different house, the smell of strawberry scented shampoo versus whatever Daniel used, and a more slender frame topped with a bob of dark blond hair.
Once upon a time Sara had shared the same passion Jack had for stargazing, and he remembered times before Charlie was born spent on their bedroom balcony at the old house, counting the stars and naming the constellations. They were quiet times, private times…
“How did we get here?”
“Here? You want me to wax philosophical?”
“Not meaning of life stuff.” Daniel bumped his head against Jack’s shoulder in a mock show of annoyance that stood no chance of being taken seriously when it was chased by a throaty chuckle. “You and me. How did we get to this moment?”
“And that’s not philosophical?” He was trying for levity, but after the week they’d all had, Jack figured Daniel deserved a few moments of clarity. “Honestly, I don’t know. But if it makes you uncomfortable…”
“No. Well. Actually, I’m not sure how I feel right now.”
Jack didn’t really want to go down the path of having to discuss his emotions. Not with Daniel. Hell, not with anyone given half a choice. The problem he had at that very moment was one of feeling laid bare. Memory tampering aside, what Nem had done in an attempt to make him believe Daniel was dead, was to open up a little door in Jack’s mind that he had slammed shut a few years ago. Behind that door, all carefully barred up, welded… if that was a better analogy, was a pool of emotions that shouldn’t have existed. Jack loved Sara. Still loved her, if anyone really pressed him for an answer. And yet here he was with Daniel in his arms… and it felt right.
“How so?”
“I’m not gay.”
Jack frowned; glad that Daniel couldn’t see his face and the mixture of surprise he was wearing. “Well…”
“I mean, how can I be, right? I’m married.”
“To a woman.”
“Ah, yeah.”
“And yet?”
Daniel’s thoughts were transparent, whether that was because Jack had become so attuned to him that there was some freaky ESP thing happening, or because his own thoughts were being so accurately mirrored.   Jack dipped his head to his chest, his whiskered cheeks rubbing up against Daniel’s. “Has anyone ever told you, you think too much?”
“You’re saying I’m over-analyzing this? Us?”
Jack shrugged nonchalantly. “Why are you here?”
“Because you, Teal’c and Sam packed up my apartment.”
“We thought you were dead.”
“Which I wasn’t, but I understand your dilemma.”
“Thanks. Not quite the answer I was looking for.” Jack picked up the thermos and nudged it against Daniel’s now-empty cup moments before he poured out a fresh round of coffee. “Why are you here? You could be in bed, doing exactly as Fraiser said you should be by catching up on, oh… how many days of lost sleep?”
“Too many.” And Daniel yawned loudly as if to emphasize the point, while the steam from the coffee floated its way up from the cup to be lost in the cold night air. “Nem lived his life searching for his lost love, or at least some proof of what happened to her. Thousands of years. All of that advanced technology at his fingertips and he still couldn’t find her.”
“Different circumstances, Daniel. There’s no comparison.”
“There’s every comparison.” Daniel sighed and wriggled against Jack chest. “I could search for years and never find her. And even if I did… who would she be?”
“Sounds like someone looking for excuses.”
“To stop? No. I have to find her. Or, like Nem, I have to be certain of her fate. I owe her and Kasuf that much.”
“And Skaara,” Jack added after a moment. “He’s out there somewhere as well.”
A wave of cold air swept over the rooftop, snatching Jack’s breath. Daniel became restless again, hugging the cup to his chest in an attempt to steal its warmth. “Have you heard of the saying, ‘Misery loves company?’” he asked, taking a sip of the bitter brew and then turning to meet Jack’s inquiring gaze.
Jack was only too familiar with the term. Hell, he’d nursed the notion of finding company, sexual or otherwise, in total strangers, just to be able to offload his misery without commitment.   No looking back, zero interest, burden shared verbally… if not emotionally.   But it had never happened. Sara’s idea he should get a life and see a therapist had only served to send him spiraling even further into depression.
And yet he still loved her.
“So that’s your answer?” Jack asked. “The reason you’re here.”
“I thought so at first. At least until I realized something.”
“Don’t make me ask.”
“I’m not gay.”
“Could have told you that.”
“I’m not bisexual either.”
Jack had no answer, beyond a total failure to classify anyone by their sexual persuasion on a good day. Maybe it was some ethos tied to Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but he simply didn’t care about the rights and wrongs of where people placed their love. In reality, he was the last person to hand out a lecture on relationships.
“So, you’ve got it all figured out?” he asked after a long enough pause to give off the effect of him having at least considered what Daniel was trying to say. “My ass is getting numb here.”
“I was thinking of answering with something about not measuring love by how much we have, but by our capacity to give it freely. Lame?”
Jack shrugged and scrunched his nose. “Eh… a little wordy.”
“You should be grateful I left my spiel on cultural and social biases out. “
Daniel drained the last of his coffee and set the cup down. “Where does this leave us?”
“You and me? Or SG1?”
“Both. I guess.”
“Do you want this?”
“Yeah. I do. I mean I still love Sha’re, and that will never change, but…”
“I love Sara.”
Daniel twisted in Jack’s arms to look sideways at him, a small smile on his lips. “I always thought you did. Nice to hear you say it, though.”
“So, does this make me gay or bisexual or some other label?”
“Nope. Guess it makes us human.”
“Good. As for us… no brainer, Daniel. Work never comes home. Ever. And this,” he slid a finger back and forth between them, “never goes to work. Not on this planet or any other. Because when it comes right down to it, we gel well together. Not just you and me, but Teal’c and Carter as well.”
“Don’t ask don’t tell?”
“No. Screw that crap. This is us doing the right thing for everyone. I want this as much as you, but we’ve opened a Pandora’s box that can’t be closed and we owe it to everyone to keep our eyes on the ball.”
Daniel nodded once and turned to lean back into Jack’s chest. The sky above was peppered with stars—doorways to who knows where. “Jack?”
“Where is Abydos?”
“Put your head into my chest.” Jack swung the telescope around until the eyepiece was directly in front of him. He leaned forward, taking Daniel with him, until he could see through the lens piece. A few minor calibrations later, and he gestured for Daniel to take a look.
“Which one?” Daniel asked. “In the very center?”
“No. Count three to the left of the center star, and then two down on the arc to the right. The bottom star is Abydos’.”
“You knew exactly where it was?”
Jack knew. Every day for however long Daniel had been on Abydos, Jack had known exactly where to look. He lived by the creed that no one ever got left behind, but reality was a harsh teacher in this regard.
“Yeah. I might have left you behind, but I always knew where you were.”

Alive in the Moment

It was years ago. Same roof top, same season, almost the same moment in time where smoke curled from neighborhood chimneys, heavy with the scent of a variety of timbers, and the distant flicker of lightning gave promise to a storm on the horizon. Jack almost felt melancholy at the sense of déjà vous the memory aroused. Only this time, instead of having Daniel lying heavily in his arms, he was seated just out of range on one of two deck chairs Jack kept on his rooftop.
Something wholly unspoken hung in the air between them like an invisible barrier. It had been this way for weeks now, since Daniel’s return from ascension, and while Jack could recognize the presence, he couldn’t quite bring himself to confront Daniel about it. He was quietly dying on the inside. It felt right. It was how life was for him, when confronting fears or facing-off with emotions was fraught with more dread than stepping on to a new world.
“Yep.” Another conversation that would go nowhere, Jack mused silently to himself, at their nights spent on a cold rooftop, pretending that stargazing was important enough to waste their evenings on. Truth be told, he wasn’t even sure why Daniel tagged home with him at all.
“We used to do this before…” Daniel absently waved a hand in front of his face, at the treetops beyond the roof, and in the direction of the coming storm. “… You know. Back then.”
“Before you…?”
“Sometimes. Yes.”
“Only sometimes?” He frowned, looking off into space, before shaking his head slowly. “Don’t know, but it feels like it was more than just sometimes.”
“Sometimes more than sometimes? Or were you just qualifying your answer?”
Jack sighed heavily and scratched at an absent itch on his eyebrow, more out of habit than anything. “Yeah, okay,” he said with a little more irritation coloring his tone than he had intended, “so maybe more than sometimes. Does it matter?”
“You’re angry?”
“Am not.”
“You sure? Sounds like it to me.”
“I’m not angry.”
“No.” Daniel ducked his chin down to his chest, seemingly finding something more interesting to stare at on the ground. “You’re not angry. You’re frustrated.”
“Frustrated. I assumed you mean in an emotional way, not…”
“Physical? Ah, no…”
“Good. Good. Because physical is…”
“Something else altogether.”
“And? What?”
Jack could almost hear Daniel groaning internally as he cocked his head to the side and looked over at him with one eyebrow arched in a typical Jackson manner that he suddenly and painfully realized he’d missed.
“What’s got you frustrated? I can only guess it’s me.”
“I’m that transparent?”
Daniel shrugged one shoulder. “I seem to remember being the cause of your frustration on more than one occasion in the past.”
“We are still talking emotional, right?”
“I thought so.”
“Good. Just wanted to clarify…”
“So…” Jack scrubbed a hand down his face and sucked in a deep breath. “I’m not good at this.”
“Talking? I won’t argue with you there.”
“Daniel,” Jack said in a warning tone.
“Okay, I get it. Shut up and listen?”
“Actually, I was hoping for more than listening.”
“Really? I thought we were leaving physical out of this?”
Jack let the moment slide. He would willingly take the conversation to a point where his true feelings would be laid bare, but there would be a price to pay by way of the fragile friendship they had, and for the sake of memories Daniel obviously hadn’t recovered yet… if he ever would.
Jack rubbed his sweaty palms on the tops of pant legs, using the moment to gather his thoughts and find some running order to the growing confusion of questions he had, of things he needed to know.
“Carter hated me for the longest time.”
“After I…?”
“Yeah.   You know how she gets when she can’t rationalize something with all her science and stuff.”
“Because it was you who told Jacob to stop trying to heal me, right?”
“You know that?”
“I asked you to tell him to stop. So, yes… I know.”
“I thought I was going nuts.”
“Oma has that affect on everyone. Letting us think we’re going… crazy.”
“Nuts,” Jack mouthed in familiar fashion. “Bonkers.”
“Having a conversation with a healthy me in your mind? Definitely counts up there in the slowly going insane department.”
“Yeah, a little less slow and more full-impact. I didn’t expect you’d remember. Actually, no, take that back, I didn’t even think you knew.”
“Nuts?” Daniel looked over at Jack and then straight up to the stars above, as though he was looking for something… or maybe someone. “We were both there, Jack.”
“So, not nuts?”
“Do you believe Jacob could have saved me?”
The crunch question and the one Jack had gone over and over in his mind ever since he was forced to make a choice, even with Daniel standing at his shoulder handing out his final request. And it wasn’t as though they had options to fall back on at the time.
Jack smiled thinly, trying his best to push the memories of the moment away, and ultimately not succeeding as the ghost of Daniel’s hand brushed the top of his shoulder in a touch that conveyed more than the need of a friend wanting to die.
“I’m thinking!”
“I didn’t choose her over you… over my friend. I chose a possibility over a reality.”
“Ascension was a possibility?”
“No. No, ascension was a solution. It gave me the possibility to return one day.”
“What? You’re talking about Orlin here, right?”
“I thought you knew. You mean to say that whole affair with Orlin wasn’t top of your mind at the time?”
“Err… no!” Weariness washed over Jack, forcing his head into his hands as he tried to make sense of Daniel’s rationale. “Losing you was at the top of my mind. It was at the top of everyone’s shit list at that particular moment, but you left the dirty work up to me.”
“Because I had faith in you.”
“Sam knew. She always did, but she couldn’t face it at the time. It might have taken her some time, but I’m guessing she stopped being angry at you long enough to get her act together and realize you did what you had to do because you believed there was a chance I would make it back.”
“No. You can say that in hindsight, and it’s perfectly okay to do so when you’re sitting here whole and healthy, but none of us had that luxury at the time. We didn’t sit there and watch your glowy ass float through the ceiling, and think, ‘he’ll be back soon… tick tock’. Doesn’t work like that.   You can’t measure grief that way.”
“And right there is my reality.”
“No. The reality of what saying no to Oma’s offer would mean if Jacob couldn’t save me… or…”
“Quality of life.”
“It’s not even that. Life is more than a physical existence. It’s mental as well. And I think even Jacob would concede that the price for his efforts wouldn’t have been worth the attempt. It’d be like keeping someone on life support for the sake of them not being dead.”
“So, Jacob’s attempt was what? Selfish? That we were even wrong to try and save you?”
“No. Not wrong. But I don’t believe Oma gave me a choice out of the goodness of her heart, not when there was a chance Jacob could fix me up good as new. I think she knew that the life Jacob could have saved might not have been worth living.”
“Yeah,” Jack conceded after a moment of hesitation. “I got the feeling from Jacob after you’d gone that he thought the same way.”
“It’s not wrong to want to keep someone with you, Jack.”
“No, but what is wrong is to have someone in this situation in the first place.”
“Yeah, well, mistakes happen. Choices are made that seem right at the time and sometimes aren’t. No point in second-guessing ourselves.”
Yet second-guessing had almost become second nature to Jack. He could count on not enough fingers the number of times over the last year or so where he’d hesitated to make a tactical call, or found himself arguing a point in his mind, as though Daniel was standing right beside him and riding the moral high ground.   More than once he had debated the outcome of a mission based on team dynamics. What if Daniel had been there and not Jonas?
And then there was the other side of his life that he kept well and truly hidden from everyone, except Daniel. There was a relationship that outgrew friendship and became something more intimate.   Jack was drawn full circle, back to them sitting out under another starry night and contemplating their fledgling relationship and where it fit in their lives. The doubts were Daniel’s. Not because he had a problem with loving another man, but because he couldn’t quite throw off the labels of sexuality and look love straight in the eye. Jack understood his confusion, and had found himself in the strange situation of becoming the listener to his partner’s doubts, and the one with the shoulders big enough to wear both their uncertainties.
All that was lost now. The distance between them, measured by the spacing of two deck chairs on a rooftop, may as well have been hundreds of light years… because Daniel didn’t remember anything of what they had. In a way the whole situation was a little cliché. They had spent four years of their life up until Daniel ascended, making sure no one knew about them, and now Jack was the only barer of their past history, beyond what could be read in a mission file.
“You okay?”
“Yeah.” Jack sucked down the last mouthful of almost warm beer and rose the empty bottle to the stars like a silent offering. His cooler was empty now; he hadn’t brought nearly enough up with him to deal with this shit.
“Doesn’t sound like it.”
“Well, it’s been a long night.”
“And year?”
“That, too.”
There is an innocence that comes from watching someone who has no idea they are being watched. The innocence is all theirs. It lives in those moments where nothing is orchestrated, there is no act. This is Daniel. Jack watched him with a curiosity that felt reborn from all those years ago, but which hid a yearning for a simple recognition of what they once had. For a glimmer of hope.
And just when he was finally sure that nothing would ever be right between them again, Daniel lifted his nose to the air and breathed deeply. “Tamarack,” he said after a moment, meeting Jack’s confused gaze, and then slowly closing his eyes.

The End



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