The Strength to Fall
by marzipan77
Days of our Lives #5 – Owie Challenge
Rated – Older Teen for some very bad language
Tag to Evolution, Season 7

Part One

It was the anger that led him.  It had been there all along, simmering, familiar, but the further he and Bill had penetrated into the jungle, the harder it became to ignore it.  He didn’t know when it started, but he knew when he could finally put a name to it, identify the feeling that had been clenching in his gut for days, weeks even.  It was in the general’s office, when Hammond had looked over at him and summarily told him to ‘go fetch’ the Tel’chak device – oh, and take Dr. Lee along with you.  And Jacob and Sam had looked over at his disbelief and smiled.

The anger kept him silent during Lee’s nervous stammering.  Bill was a scientist – a theoretical, happy in the lab, physicist.  Bill was a good guy:  loyal, hard-working, dedicated to the program – but he’d never fired a weapon, never traversed the mine fields of field work or come face to face with the enemies that a veteran SG team member had.  He’d let the scientist talk himself out, let him reassure himself of his safety in Daniel’s care here on safe old planet Earth, let him get involved in mundane details of the trip like sun block and time changes and Honduran money.  And when Lee had finally sighed in acquiescence, the anger had gentled Daniel’s voice and kept his instructions simple and straightforward, as if he’d really been planning an ordinary archaeological expedition, not a top-secret search for a dangerous Ancient device.

The anger shortened his good-byes.  Sam and Jacob were too wrapped up in the dead super-soldier to notice his curt, thin-lipped farewell.  His quick departure had hidden the resentment from Teal’c’s usually piercing gaze as he and Bra’tac discussed Jaffa movements and strategies.  The anger had curled his lips into the semblance of good humor that he’d been practicing for weeks, helped him to blank his features when Jack came up with his oh so funny list of helpful hints for clueless archaeologists.  Yes, Jack, I’ve packed my clean underwear and my allergy meds, but thank you so much for asking.

And the cold rage had certainly kept him from asking any questions – questions like what the heck the military was thinking sending him and Lee off into the volatile South American jungle with no weapons, no back up, and almost no supplies.  Check in every 12 hours via the sat-phone, Daniel.  We need this device, Dr. Jackson.  Hey, thanks, it’s great to know that absolutely no one has my back.  Oh, and no pressure.

The anger kept him moving towards the surface, Bill Lee clinging like a 180 pound ball and chain to his ankle as the temple flooded with ice-cold water.  Anger, bitterness, all colored with dark triumph as he dragged the heavy, cubical device out of the water and his own exhausted body from the cramped submerged corridors.  They’d done it.  They’d found it.  Maybe he really should get a whip and a fedora.  The burst of acidity in his gut drowned the welcome thought of shoving their success down certain military throats as he raised his eyes to the heavily armed guerrillas watching calmly from the clearing’s edge.

The anger kept him sharp, kept him conscious through the pain.  It helped him focus past his swollen throat and cracked lips, past the wracking chills of the night and the dry heaves of the day, past the broken skin of his wrists, and the broken blood vessels in his face.  The anger ate away at the fear, and purged the guilt of Bill’s moans and cries for help.  And when the brighter, harsher pain of the burns and shocks of the battery threatened to undo him, the rage drew him away from his broken body.

It nearly escaped when they brought Bill back.  He’d told them – about the device, about the Stargate, about the Goa’uld, about Daniel – who he was, what he could do, where he’d been.  Daniel’s muscles clenched until he shook, and he almost let the bile and blackness out all over the wounded scientist who didn’t deserve it.  It was the tears that held him back – Bill’s tears, and Bill’s anguished plea about dying in a stinking hut in the jungle.  He bit it all back, swallowed it until he thought he would choke.

It was the anger that opened his mouth – that fueled his outrage that Rafael had turned the thing on.  It burst open in demands and orders that the reckless, festering, so-called freedom fighters listen to him and shut it down, and clamped his lips closed when Rafael used his fists and a simple car battery to shut him down instead.  It was the first thing he remembered when the grayness fogging his vision receded, but the body of the dead guerrilla lying on the cot made him careful, and he let it burn through the pain and fear and defeat so he could concentrate – so he could get Bill out of there.

It was tainted now, the anger.  Everything was leaking in, dissolving its purity, fouling its simplicity.  He was too tired to keep it all separate, too hurt, too desperate.  The jagged blaze of pain from the gunshot blurred the lines, and the madman standing there threatening to skin him alive.  A small flame of it still burned when he thought of Bill – they’d go for him next, find him hiding in the jungle where Daniel had left him.  Bill Lee.  Lab scientist.  A good man who should never have been sent here.

A sudden burst of noise.  A shower of dirt.  His heart was hammering, staccato, sharp.  He grasped at the anger like an anchor.  The face that emerged from the green blur of the jungle might have been a memory or a hallucination – his mind’s attempt to give the anger form and substance, a focus and direction.  But it wasn’t.  Utter weariness released the death grip he had on his mouth.

“What the hell are you doing here?”

They’d dragged him back to the guerrillas’ camp and the anger kept him on his feet, smoothed his features, and sharpened his black humor.  Jack largely ignored him, choosing to chat with his obviously military pal.  Fucking bastard.

Cold brown eyes stared.  He felt Bill tense next to him, and reach out to grasp his arm.  Huh.  Must have said that out loud.  Daniel was suddenly cold, freezing, the sweat that covered his body, that dripped down his neck, turning his skin to ice.

“Daniel?”  Ice.

The anger turned his blood to acid in his veins.  Heat poured from his body and he couldn’t stop the sudden shaking.  He tasted blood in his mouth and felt the rough dirt under his cheek.


Voices.  Hands.

“It’s okay, turn him on his side.  You see this a lot down here.  He needs fluids.”

Not Jack.  Not Bill.

“You called for an extraction, right?  When is that damned chopper getting here?”

Yeah, that was Jack.  Angry – as usual.  But… something else colored the colonel’s tone.  His mind couldn’t come up with the word, couldn’t hold onto any thought, not even the anger anymore – it was slipping away, falling into the darkness that reached out for him.  Jack’s growling echoed in the emptiness, sharp, afraid, and echoed back his terror.  Wait… Jack was afraid?


Part Two

“No, sir.  I can’t risk moving him yet.”

A voice he should know, but awareness was only just peeking around the dark curtain drawn across his mind.  A long sigh touched the abraded skin of his cheek with cool moisture.

“How long?”

“Give me 4 hours, Colonel.  We’ve got to stabilize him before we can risk the flight home – if he convulses on the plane…”

Daniel turned his head, frowning, unconsciously seeking the comfort of the woman’s voice.  Metal scraped across the floor and he flinched from the sound.

“Damn.  I thought you said the pain meds would keep him out.”

“I hoped so, sir, at least until we had a chance to get him cleaned up.”  The soft voice was closer now; the air around him moved and a cool hand touched his forehead.  “Daniel?  Can you open your eyes?”

He’d try – for that voice he’d try.  A sliver of light reached beneath his heavy lids.

“Hey.”  The voice was even softer now, paired with a gentle smile and concerned dark eyes.

Janet?  Why did he think she should be half a world away?

She leaned closer.  “There you are.”  She turned away for a moment and he moaned in disappointment.  “Here – try this.”  Something lightened within him when she turned back and he felt plastic prick against his blistered lips.  “Small sips, Daniel.”

It felt so good – cool and sweet and fresh – but she took it away too soon and he made another strangled sound.

“That’s enough for now.”  Her eyes were darker and her hand slid down his cheek to rest on his shoulder.  “Daniel, I’m sorry, but I’ve got to get those wounds cleaned.  It’s not going to feel very good, but the sooner the better.”

He understood, he really did.  He’d do anything to stay here with the soft, cool cushion against his back and the dimness easing his burning eyes.  He felt light, untethered; only the feeling of the thin sheet that barely skimmed his skin and yet caught against the burns and sores reminding him that he still had a body.  A momentary surge of panic stole his breath until he heard the whimper torn from his throat.

“Daniel?”  The hand was back, its feathered touch holding him there.

He frowned, trying to remember the right combination of muscles he’d need to smile, to tell her it was okay.  The pain would remind him he was still alive – still human – with a body and blood and a beating heart.

“I’ll be right back with something to help with the pain.”  She leaned closer and he smelled her cleanness.  He wanted her to stay.  “I promise,” she whispered before she raised her eyes to someone on the other side of the bed.  “Ten minutes.”

No.  He knew who it was.  He squeezed his eyes closed, muscles flexing up and down his body, clenching, cramping.  Another hand touched his shoulder and he gasped.

“Hey, it’s okay.  You’re out of there – it’s just me.”

This hand was heavy, smothering, pinning him down.  He reached for his anchor, the hot, all-consuming flush of anger, searched for it where he had always found it before.  Where was it?  He couldn’t have lost it, couldn’t have left it in the jungle.  He needed it, had to keep it locked across his heart.  He knew he was panting, heard his mewls of protest as he fought back the other threatening emotions.  No.  Not now.  Not in front of him.  Hot, stinging, the tears breached his defenses and trickled down his cheek into his hair.

He tried to keep his head turned away, but the long fingers brushed against his chin, turning his face, wiping away the moisture with a gentle swipe.

“Daniel.  Open your eyes.”  That voice.  But not angry now.  It sounded – sad.  He shook his head, breath catching.  He wouldn’t look.

“It’s okay, Daniel.  I understand.  The pain meds – they take it all away, all the control, all the barriers you try to raise.”  The hand was on his shoulder again, squeezing.  “They tear down all the walls, even walls as high and thick as yours.”  A remembered bitterness stole into the words.  “Believe me, I know.”

One sob escaped before he could trap it behind his tight lips and his eyes flew open.  His throat was burning again; the feeling of the cool water Janet had given him a distant memory.  He tried to focus on the familiar face so close to his – the lines and planes he could reproduce in exact detail in his mind – almost more recognizable than his own.  He focused hard, felt his eyes flick back and forth between the brown shadowed pools and the thin smile.  It should have been enough – had been enough before to renew the heat and find the anger that could shelter him.  The effort made him tremble and shook more tears from his eyes before he could slam them shut.  Another gentle brush across his cheek caught the moisture as if it were precious.

Suddenly there was distance – the air expanded around him and the steady hands retreated.

“So, Bill’s doing well – keeps yammering on, apologizing, asking about you.  Kinda annoying, isn’t he?  Reminds me of someone.”

Even in the darkness behind his closed lids he could track Jack’s movements, follow them like a divining rod as the man fidgeted around his bed.

“Frasier said his injuries weren’t as severe…”

The voice stumbled to a halt, the harsh scratch of callused fingers through short silver hair so familiar Daniel could see the gesture Jack performed in his mind’s eye before the backdrop of a hundred distant worlds.  The memories came easily now, no longer a struggle to find a name, a face, a mission, flooding him with images in pounding white-capped waves of emotion.  Love, loss, pain, friendship, trust, laughter, loneliness, and the cold blade of dismissal.

A throat cleared.  “There’s a jet waiting to take us to Lackland, but the Doc wants some time to fiddle around with you before she gives the all-clear.”

Daniel’s mouth opened and the word escaped before he could call it back.


Boots tapped against the floor.  “Gee, I don’t know, Daniel, maybe because you were tortured, beaten, shot, not to mention without food and water for God knows how long.”  The sarcasm felt forced, obligatory, something expected, and Daniel pried his eyes open, blurred gaze unerringly resting on the figure at the end of the bed.  He managed to shake his head.

“Why, Jack?”  It sounded like a plea to his own ears and he felt the last few tears drop like weights onto his tender face.  He had to understand.

His tone seemed to pull Jack to his side as if he there were a cord connecting them.  The stoic soldier bent forward, his hand coming to rest on the bed next to his injured friend, the dark eyes now bleak, unshuttered.

“That’s a hell of a question, Daniel,” he choked, a smile vanishing before it really began.

Daniel watched his fingers, still smeared with dirt and blood, grab for Jack’s sleeve, felt the rough green fabric against his skin and clutched hard, desperate, knuckles whitening.  Watched amazed as Jack’s other hand moved to cover his.

“I think the answer’s going to take more time than the Doc’s going to give us right now, buddy.”  The movement of cool air ruffled the thin sheet and sent goose bumps flickering up and down his body, but something much colder wrapped around his heart as Jack removed his hand.

“Hey-” Strong fingers caught his chin as he tried to turn away and Jack’s gaze held him steady.  “We’ll talk.”  The intensity made it a promise.  “I’m not going anywhere.”

He nodded.  “Me neither.”


Part Three

Strong hands on his arms, not hitting, not pushing, just resting there – warm, supporting – brought Daniel back to himself.  Words repeated in his ear, not angry, guttural demands, nor harsh laughter, just normal words, saying normal, everyday things, talking about friends, telling stories,  saying familiar names, familiar phrases.  His breathing slowed and colors dripped back into the black and white world of his pain.  Strained tendons, rigid muscles relaxed and Daniel let his head fall back against the once-fresh pillow, now stained with his sweat.  He blinked at the face so near his own, coming back into focus.

“Yeah, flashbacks are a bitch.”

A breath of laughter eased from between his lips at the carefully casual tone and Daniel nodded agreement.  Small, efficient motions turned the pillow over, and he smiled gratefully and let his eyes drift shut at the feeling of cool smoothness under his cheek.

“Colonel, if you could just move back so I can check his IVs.”

Daniel’s eyes flipped open and he moved his head restlessly, but Jack just smiled his crooked smile and shifted from where he’d been crouching in the aisle next to the couch to perch on the edge of the seat behind him, allowing Janet to move next to her patient.  He couldn’t go far within the narrow confines of the small plane.

“Is he okay?”  Bill Lee’s nervous query was nearly lost in the constant background hum of the Learjet’s engines which Daniel could no longer distinguish from the drone of memories crowding his mind.

Glancing up at his colleague’s bruised eyes where they peered down over the back of the padded seats, Daniel nodded again.  “He’s fine, Bill.”

“Okay… good…it’s just – that sound you made.  It was like-”  The scientist’s voice faltered.

He could still hear the echoes of his screams from the thin walls of the hut, the sound coming back weaker and weaker every time the metal clamps had dug a fresh trough for the pain.  His body trembled as if skin and muscle and nerve had its own well of memory to draw from, forcing him back there without warning to relive it.  “Sorry, Bill.”  He remembered Bill’s own screams for mercy – the scientist had been alone inside their prison shack for many more hours with only Daniel’s distant cries for company.

“Hey.”  The sharp syllable drew blue eyes back to Jack’s face.  “You have nothing to apologize for, Daniel.”  The steely brown gaze flipped to hold Bill Lee’s for a moment before returning, softened, to his friend.

Daniel frowned, wanting to reprimand Jack for his protectiveness, his dismissal of Bill’s own suffering, but he couldn’t find the energy.  He opened his eyes at Janet’s soft touch on his wrist and saw understanding there before she stood.  “Dr. Lee – let’s get you situated down here where you can stretch out…”  Her voice tapered off as she led the man away from his perch towards the couch in the opposite corner of the cabin over his muttered objections.  As Daniel listened to the quiet voices retreat the last of his tightly clenched muscles abruptly released, resurrecting his tears with a sudden gasp.  Before he could close his eyes Jack was there.

“It’s okay – he’s safe, Daniel.  Doc’s taking good care of him.”  The heavy hand on his shoulder seemed to secure Daniel to the present, link him unequivocally to the here and now and he reached for that connection to ground himself.  Jack shifted to sit in the captain’s chair near Daniel’s head, maintaining the contact as if he knew.  The next words proved that, somehow, after all the time, the hurt, the silence, somehow, he did. 

“You don’t have to stay strong for him anymore,” Jack leaned close, whispering, his unshaven cheek close to Daniel’s.  “It’s safe for you to fall.”

No.  He bit down hard against the urge, choking back the rush of words that threatened to explode from behind his exhausted barriers.  He couldn’t- not now.  It wasn’t safe – it never had been.  Falling, losing control – Daniel shook his head.  He didn’t trust-  Daniel’s eyes sought out Jack’s and saw the realization there – and knew before he saw the minute tightening of muscles around the older man’s mouth that the stubborn, determined colonel was not finished.

Jack eased back, giving Daniel room to catch his breath, but his hand stayed steady on the archaeologist’s shoulder.  “You asked me a question back there, Daniel,” he began after a moment.

“Jack-”  He interrupted, panic making his voice too sharp, too loud.  Not here.  Not now.  Maybe not ever.

“Daniel.”  Less a spoken word than a sigh.  Jack hunched forward again.  “Now.  Here.  Janet won’t let anyone interrupt.”

Dammit.  A finger of anger uncurled from his gut.  “What the hell right-”

One finger rose before him, and it was only the sad smile on Jack’s face that kept Daniel from erupting.  “No right, Daniel.  I’ve got no right to force this now, I know that.”  The scarred brows furrowed, sorrow growing in the dark depths of his eyes.  “I know.”

Daniel blinked and closed his mouth.

Jack scrubbed the hand not connected to his friend over his face as if he could tear off his oh so comfortable mask.  “Daniel – I’m afraid, if we don’t do this now, if we let this go on, pretend it isn’t happening, let ourselves believe you’re too tired or hurt for this – we might never do it.”  He forced his hand to relax from its rough grasp and moved it to rest a moment against Daniel’s bruised cheek.  “It took this much, Daniel, it took seeing you against that tree with a bullet in your leg and three killers staring down at you for us to get this far.”

The touch of his friend’s hand, calloused, rough, against his face, brown eyes so close that the sorrow reflected there seemed to fill his world sent Daniel back in time.  His body had been broken by the staff blast, seared and bloody, but all he could remember in this moment wasn’t the pain but the loss in Jack’s eyes where he crouched beside him, hand against his cheek.  He had known, then, in Apophis’ ship, that his death would be an open wound in Jack’s soul, bleeding out his life for every minute he survived alone.  And now, after all these years, when he’d thought that friendship, that closeness that had come to mean so much to him was long, long forgotten, Jack had touched him again.

“Why, Jack?”  He barely breathed the words, hoping this re-forged connection might be enough to fill in the rest.

“Ah, Daniel.”  Jack smiled.  “Look at you.”  His smile grew and he reached up to ruffle the short, almost military hair cut.  He gently squeezed Daniel’s muscled arm before resting his elbows on his knees, letting his hands dangle as he bent his head over them in regret.  “You’re all grown up.”

Daniel waited.  “Jack?”

A self-deprecating snort sounded from the bowed grey head.  “How many times have you died, Daniel?  How many times have I killed you?”

A flicker of fear swept down Daniel’s spine and he stirred on the narrow couch, curling further onto his side so that he could reach out and touch his friend’s arm.  “Jack, you’ve never…”

Jack O’Neill raised his head, gaze lingering on the IV tubes that snaked from beneath the tape around Daniel’s hand before it rose to the battered man’s face.  “Daniel.”  His voice was gentle, quiet, as if afraid the words would run off if he spoke them louder.  “I’ve been responsible for men for most of my life.  Commanded, led, ordered, taught.  Men have died under my command – you knew some of them.”  The brown eyes brightened as he shifted forward.  “Some people very close to me have paid the price for my- ” he stopped suddenly and Daniel tightened his grip.

“No, Jack.”  Nothing that had happened between them should make Jack relive his son’s death.  He’d never be so angry at Jack O’Neill, so hurt, so painfully selfish that he’d wish that on the man.

“Yes, Daniel.  Too many people in my life have left it never knowing what they meant to me.  And,” he swallowed, “you were one of them.”

He couldn’t move.

“Do you know how many times you’ve saved my life, Daniel?  How many times you’ve saved my soul?”  Jack’s stifled laugh sounded like a sob.  “And I sat there while you died, while you moaned and bled and… died… and I made smart remarks about admiring you.”

The pain was there, in his memories.  The feeling of drowning, the choking taste of blood, the fresh tears of Sam and Teal’c and Janet – and the emptiness that sat there at his side and wore the face of his best friend.  And that emptiness, that bleak loneliness where his only lasting friend had been had cut so much deeper than his wounds.

“I know,” Jack muttered, again answering Daniel’s unspoken question, “I know.  It started before that day.  Long before.”  He slowly moved his hand until it held Daniel’s wrist in gentle grip so that he couldn’t draw it away.  “But it was then that I finally killed you.”


Part Four

Eyes closed against his memories, Daniel felt a sigh break through the stranglehold he’d kept around all those moments of loneliness, those sharp stabs of indifference from his friend’s hand that had drained away any confidence he’d once had in their friendship and his own place on SG-1.  Death.  Yes.  That was exactly how it had felt.  Daniel’s breath caught painfully as he hovered between relief that Jack finally understood and sorrow that his strong, often silent friend shared the depth of this loss.


Daniel looked up and forced himself to search the solemn gaze above him.  Jack’s hand drifted towards him, strong fingers ghosting over Daniel’s forehead in that gesture known to parents all over the galaxy that eased a child’s pain.

“You okay?”

The thin smile told Daniel that Jack was asking about more than his physical well being.  He felt himself nod and then shake his head, and saw the same uncertainty on Jack’s face.  Soul baring conversations – this was new ground for both of them.  He opened his mouth to try to explain, but Jack puffed out a breath of laughter and his hand on Daniel’s wrist tightened fleetingly.

“Yeah, me too.”

The bite and burn of his wounds abruptly climbed above the drugged blanket that lay across Daniel’s body and he winced, groaning.  Trying to edge into a slightly less uncomfortable position, he rolled onto his back and tugged his hand from Jack’s grip, grateful when the man followed his movements and eased a pillow beneath his bandaged leg.  When Jack made to stand, Daniel frowned.  “No.  I don’t need Janet,” he huffed.

“Always could read my mind, Daniel,” Jack teased quietly.  His dark brown eyes suddenly took on a haunted cast.  “But then, if you could, we wouldn’t be here, would we?  With you wondering why in the hell you bothered to come back.”  He shifted forward.  “If you could read my mind you would have always known how much you meant to me, how much I missed you when you were gone, how I blamed myself – and rightly so, dammit – for letting you go.”  The flare of pain was joined by one of anger.

Daniel felt the brittleness of his smile.  “You hid it well, Jack.”

Hands rubbed down the long face of the Air Force colonel as if he were hiding from his friend’s searching eyes.  “Yeah, well, I owe it all to my years of military training and my innate pig-headedness.”  When Jack dropped his hands, he met Daniel’s gaze steadily.  “And I know I owe you an explanation, hell, I owe you a whole hell of a lot more than that, but I’m not sure it’s going to help.”

He was right.  No explanation would erase those months of brokenness, of trying desperately to fit into SG-1 - a place that used to feel like his home, of the sense of failure that had exploded within his soul, firing jagged shrapnel into every area of his life.  He’d been left alone too much, left with his regrets, his losses, with ample time to second guess all of the choices he’d ever made and count up the bloody casualties of his mistakes.  He hadn’t lied to Oma when she offered him a new start, a new path – he’d truly believed that the failures of his life had far outweighed the successes.  He remembered telling Jack, in that brightly lit place between reality and ascension, that he thought he could do more, be more, if he went away, feeling all the while that taking that irrevocable step away from his life couldn’t possibly hurt any more than Jack’s rejection had.

Back then he’d been able to hold onto the tears until he’d turned his back and taken his first steps in Oma’s shadow along his ascended path.  Now they came too easily to his eyes, and he flushed with shame that the pain and loss and medication meant he could do nothing to stop them from falling.  He turned, craning his neck to hide his weakness against the back of the couch, the feel of a light touch against the back of his neck undoing him.

Quiet words breathed against his skin.  “That doesn’t mean I’m not going to try, Daniel.  I… I-” The choked syllable told the archaeologist that he was not the only one at the edge.  “I never had a little brother, Daniel, someone who looked up to me, depended on me, sought my approval.  Not until I met you, anyway.”

A rush of emotion swamped his defenseless body and Daniel bit at his lips to try to harness some control.  A throaty laugh escaped and he blinked his eyes free of moisture.  “You thought of me…” he turned his head and paused for a second.  “That explains a lot, actually.”

“Really?”  Jack frowned, as if surprised.

“Yeah.”  Daniel shrugged, clutching his shell of analytical reasoning around him like a shield.  “Someone your parents insist you drag along when you’d rather forget he’s alive.”  It had felt just like that.  “An annoying pest, always getting into your things and asking awkward questions, especially when you’re having fun with your friends.”

 Jack shook his head.  “How about a constant irritant who you’d gladly trade your life for, Daniel?  Someone who you’d do anything to protect, and the person you most want to impress, to show only your best side to.  You forgot about that part.”  One finger rose to squelch Daniel’s hasty reply.  “And during those last two years, you’d seen far too much to believe I even had a ‘best side’ anymore.”

Daniel felt the honesty behind Jack’s words and steeled himself to listen.

“Love and resentment all rolled up into one sneezy, myopic, morally superior package.”  Jack’s open smile took the sting from his words.  “I mean that, Daniel.  Morally superior is not an insult, it’s simple truth.  And I found out, during those years, that my little brother had grown up and, in every way that is measurable, that’s important, he outdistanced his big brother by leaps and bounds.”  The familiar expression was self-deprecating, not smug now, shutters folded away and painful, brutal openness written on Jack’s tired face.

“You were strong, held yourself like a soldier.  Not the stammering civilian who had to be dragged away to safety.  You learned everything I taught you and then some.”  A flash of pride illuminated his dark, expressive eyes.  “And you were still coming up with the big ideas, ideas that saved the world and made us friends all over the galaxy.”  Jack shook his head.  “You didn’t need me anymore.”

Confusion burnt away the last of Daniel’s tears.  His searching blue gaze stared straight into Jack’s soul and saw the remorse and grief lying there.  He opened his mouth to utter a harsh denial, but his voice dried up at Jack’s next words.

“And then you were asking me to let you go.  Me,” Jack laughed – a dry and twisted sound, “the one who had pushed you away.  Some irony there.”

Suddenly the pieces all fell into place.  Daniel felt the last tattered shreds of his anger go as he held his friend’s gaze.  “I remember, Jack.”

“I know…”

“No, Jack,” Daniel interrupted gently.  “I remember.  In Ba’al’s dungeon.”  He watched as the realization struck Jack like a blow.  “He’d been torturing you for days, killing you and reviving you in the sarcophagus when I came to you.”  Daniel tipped his head.  “You asked me to return the favor.”

“You remember?”  Jack’s throat worked as if he were trying to swallow dust.

“I do.  You were desperate.”  Daniel’s smile was forced.  “I wanted you to come with me, but you wanted me to let you go.  You said, ‘I’d do it for you.’”

“God, Daniel.”

“Do you remember what I said, Jack?”

The colonel raised his eyes to the low ceiling of the Learjet and Daniel watched his hands clench and unclench on his knees.  His breath gusted out in one long sigh as he dropped his head and forced himself to meet Daniel’s eyes.  “Yes.”

“I said, ‘You’re a better man than that.’”

“Well, clearly, you were wrong,” Jack snapped, anger rushing in to displace his grief.

This time a smile came easily to Daniel’s face.  “No.”  He raised himself awkwardly from his position on the couch, dropping his feet to the floor, and grabbed Jack’s hands in his.  “I wasn’t wrong.  You’d never have let me go if you thought I’d truly be gone, Jack.  You knew, deep down in that olive-camo heart of yours that leaving with Oma was my only chance at some kind of life.”  His grasp tightened.  “And I have to believe that if I hadn’t reached out to disarm that bomb, if Jonas’ people had been as smart as he was and never built it in the first place, that you and I would have found our way back to each other - just like all brothers do.”

Jack’s fingers tightened around Daniel’s and both held onto the scraps of their friendship.  Blue eyes fought to communicate love and forgiveness while brown made their own promises of unbreakable bonds.

“I’m sorry, Daniel.”

“Me too, Jack.”  All at once Daniel’s surge of energy was gone and his eyes fluttered to half-mast.  Strong, familiar hands held him as he collapsed forward, his head coming to rest on a broad, solid shoulder that was in just the right place.  Arms folded around him gently, one hand cupping the back of his neck, holding him there for a long moment just as he once had in the ‘gate room so long ago before he was laid back down against the soft cushions.  Long fingers rearranged his blanket before brushing through his hair.

Seated once more on the floor at his side, Jack pulled his legs up awkwardly, never taking his eyes from his friend’s face.  “No more solo missions, Daniel,” he whispered, somewhere between a warning and a guarantee.

“I agree,” Daniel groaned in reply.  He made sure to meet Jack’s eyes.  “I need my team.”

“Yeah, and I’ll be right here to remind you about that,” Jack snapped back lightly.  When Daniel’s eyes fell shut Jack shifted closer and nudged his good leg.  “Hey, you okay?”

A smile ghosted across cracked lips.  “I’m fine.”  He actually meant it this time.

“You will be.”  The voice at his side completed his thought.

Daniel allowed sleep to drift over him, knowing that, for the first time in a long time, he wasn’t alone.  He could rely on Jack to be there when he woke up.  He sighed – it was safe to fall.







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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.