Left Behind

 

General George Hammond stared at the blank piece of paper in front of him, his thoughts in turmoil.  He'd written more eulogies and letters of condolence than he cared to remember but he remembered them all.  They were never easy and he laboured over each and every one.  The day they became easy would be the day he ceased to be human.  This one, however, he couldn’t even begin.  He rubbed his eyes wearily, praying it was all a horrible dream.  The manila folder beside him told him otherwise.  He opened the folder and stared sorrowfully and distastefully at the enclosed document: the ‘Certificate of Death’ of Daniel Jackson.  It was two days ago that he heard the words, 'Daniel's dead, sir.’ but he still couldn’t believe them.  He had known something was wrong when SG-1 returned after less than four hours.  An unscheduled return was never a good sign, but this?  Dr. Jackson dead?  He’d never forget the image of Colonel O'Neill, Captain Carter, and Teal'c on the ramp.  Wet, exhausted and, most unsettling, missing their fourth.  They clung together in shock, the silence, except for harsh breathing, unnerving.  He needed his fears assuaged.

'Colonel, where's Dr. Jackson?'

Teal'c uttered Dr. Jackson's name but could not go on.  Captain Carter's anguished, 'He didn't make it, sir,' was heart-stopping.  Didn't make it?  No, this is not what I want to hear.  Then Colonel O'Neill confirmed his worst fears:  'Daniel's dead, sir.'

Two days later, his mind still refused to wrap itself around the words.  Dr. Daniel Jackson, dead.  A gentleman, a scholar and a helluva nice guy.  A civilian who fit so well into SG-1 that Hammond had to drastically re-assess his opinion of civilians in the military.  Daniel more than fit in, he held SG-1 together.  He was...had been...the essence of SG-1.  Now he was gone and in less than three hours a memorial service would be held to attest to that fact.

"My God, George, get a hold of yourself," he muttered angrily, snatching up his pen.  The rest of SG-1 needed him to be strong.  Hell, the whole SGC needed him to be strong.  Daniel Jackson had touched a lot of people

************************************************************************

Colonel Jack O'Neill had gone through the memorial service on autopilot, slipping easily into the strict military protocols, performing his duties with efficiency and professional detachment.  That is, until the eulogy.  The few words he spoke were delivered in a monotone, his mouth hesitating over the words, his soul shattered.  Words were inadequate.  Words could never define Daniel Jackson.  Words could never convey what Daniel had meant to SG-1, to Jack.  Somehow, he got through it and he wasted no time in escaping to his quarters.

He carefully hung up his dress jacket, his mind blissfully blank.  As he grasped his tie, his fingers began to tremble.

"No, damnit!  Not now," he muttered harshly.  He tore angrily at the tie but the inevitable horror flashed into his mind: Daniel engulfed in flames, screaming his name.  Screaming for Jack to help him, to save him. 

"No!"  Jack added his own scream and dropped to his knees, clutching his head in a vain attempt to push the horror out.

"Oh, God, Daniel.  I'm sorry, I'm sorry," he sobbed quietly as he rocked back and forth.  He hadn't cried for Charlie; he wouldn’t allow himself the luxury.  But he couldn't seem to stop crying for Daniel.  Perhaps it was one of Daniel's gifts, or maybe a curse.  Jack had opened up to Daniel almost from day one, revealing private thoughts he never expected to share with anyone.  It still amazed the hardened soldier.  At times he wondered if Daniel was real.  Now, he was gone.  Killed on an alien world.  There was no body.  There was nothing to bring back.  Nothing except the terrifying and debilitating emptiness of loss.

Jack had tried to save his friend but the flames were too great, the heat too intense.  He looked down at his clenched fists.  He opened them slowly and turned them over, shaking his head in disbelief.

"No," he whispered, "this can't be right."  He stared at his hands.  No burns.  No blisters.  Not even sunburn.  I did try to save him, didn't I?  No, this is wrong; this is all wrong.  We have to go back.  We have to-  An agonizing cry escaped his lips as a blinding pain lanced through his head.

***********************************************************************

"Teal'c, am I disturbing you?"  Sam asked as she tentatively entered the Jaffa's quarters.  Teal'c did not lock his door but she didn't know if that meant he welcomed visitors.

"You are not, Captain Carter.  Please, come in."

Sam nodded and closed the door behind her.  She stood awkwardly in the candle-lit room.  "I was looking for Colonel O'Neill," she finally said.

"He is not here," Teal'c stated.

"No, I know that," she said, blushing slightly.  "I couldn't find him and I-I-"

"You are most welcome to stay Captain Carter."

Sam sat on the floor, grateful for Teal'c's understanding.

"I keep seeing the same image over and over," she said, shivering in spite of the room’s warmth.

"Daniel Jackson in flames, calling for help," Teal'c intoned softly.

"Yes," she whispered.  "You see it, too?"

"I cannot get Daniel Jackson out of my mind.  I saw him perish and yet I cannot believe he is gone.  I cannot find solace even in kel-no-reem."

"I can't believe it either," Sam said softly.  "It seems so unreal.  I keep expecting him to walk in any minute and say, ‘Hey, guys, what’s up?’”

“As do I.”

“I wonder how the colonel's doing?"

"I have not seen O'Neill since the memorial service for Daniel Jackson." 

"Neither have I,” Sam replied grimly.  “He left so quickly.”

Teal'c and Sam sat in silence, replaying the service in their minds.  Daniel had been honoured with all the pomp and ceremony the SGC could provide.  Teal'c believed it was worthy of a warrior.  Sam, always moved by military funerals, couldn't help but wonder if maybe Daniel, never a big fan of things military, would have been annoyed.  Touched, certainly.  Surprised and embarrassed, definitely.  She smiled at her friend's image and allowed her tears to fall once more.

************************************************************************

Jack had a lot of work to do to prepare for Daniel’s wake.  His friend had been honoured the military way.  Now, he would be honoured the O’Neill way with food, laughter, and lots and lots of drink.  Jack had refused all offers to help.  This was something he wanted to do alone; this would be his gift to Daniel.  It also kept him busy and focused.  If he stopped for an instant he’d hear the screams.

The wake was crowded and boisterous.  Jack moved easily amongst the guests, chatting a mile a minute.  He was attentive, engaging, and fooling no one.  Shortly after taking great delight in describing the Sha’re/Daniel lip-lock he witnessed on his return to Abydos, he welcomed the arrival of Carter and Teal’c. 

‘Sam, Teal’c.   I’m glad you made it.  Something to drink?”  he inquired.

“Yeah, sure, beer,” Sam requested.  Glad we made it?  Where else would we be?

As Jack poured the beer, he became transfixed by the ensuing bubbles.   The mask fell from his face, revealing the anger and loss he tried so hard to conceal.  Abruptly, he fled outside, away from the revelry, away from the memories.

Jack sought refuge in his driveway, swinging his hockey stick, smacking the balls again and again.  He had started to keep count to keep his mind occupied.  He lost count.  He didn’t know when; it didn’t matter.  All that mattered was Daniel was dead.  He failed to save him.  He couldn’t even bring him home.  His vow of never leaving anyone behind tore at his soul.  Tears of rage burned his eyes and with an anguished cry he smashed his stick into the side window of the car sitting in the driveway.  ‘Someone get this damn car out of here!’

Jack’s rage dissipated with the explosion of glass and he stood there staring at the damage he had done.  A comforting presence appeared at his side.

‘What’s on you mind, Colonel?’  Hammond asked.

‘Retirement, actually,’ Jack replied dismally.

‘You don’t mean that.’

‘I think I do,’ he replied wearily, his eyes downcast.

Hammond knew what was happening.  He understood the pain of losing someone under your command, the pain of losing a friend.  There was something extraordinary about Jack’s friendship with Daniel Jackson.  There had been a depth there that Hammond was just beginning to realize.  For Jack to lose that, so soon after losing his own son, must be a horrendous blow.

Hammond patiently explained to Jack that he couldn’t retire just yet.  He needed Jack to pack up Dr. Jackson’s belongings and close down his apartment

‘National security aside, you’re probably the closest thing he had to a family.  It’s not an order.  It’s a request,” he said kindly.

‘Yes, sir.’  God, Daniel.  You’re really gone.

‘Why don’t you come join the others at the back?’  Hammond suggested.

‘Yes, sir,’ Jack replied and turned to follow the older man

************************************************************************                                   

Jack let himself into Daniel’s apartment.  Carter and Teal’c would arrive soon but Jack wanted some time alone…with Daniel.  The vast collection of books and artifacts greeted him, their orderly chaos comforting and indefinably tragic at the same time.  A life’s work, a woefully short life’s work would soon be boxed up and put into storage.  The books would no longer be lovingly pored over, yielding their secrets to the most brilliant mind Jack had ever been privileged to witness.  Long, slender fingers would no longer turn the pages in eager fascination, the mind already processing what the eyes were about to see.  Artifacts,  A lot of these still look like rocks, Daniel, once admired and treasured, would be wrapped and once more placed into darkness and obscurity.

 

Jack glanced over to the fish tank, his eyes invariably drawn by the column of air bubbles.  The gurgling of the aerator threatened to bring back other memories, painful, soul-wrenching memories.  Jack tore his gaze from the tank and strode quickly to Daniel’s stereo and flipped on the power.  If’ you’ve got Handel’s ‘Water Music’ in there, you’re in big trouble, Daniel.   Soon, Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ drifted out of the speakers.

“Good choice, Danny,” Jack said approvingly, as he dutifully fed his friend’s fish, consciously averting his eyes from the bubbles.  That task complete, Jack pulled a soft-covered book off the shelf and sat down.  He opened the book and familiar handwriting leapt out.  He had inadvertently picked one of Daniel’s journals, one of his private diaries.  Jack knew he shouldn’t read it but this was Daniel he was holding in his hands.  He absently flipped pages, catching a snippet here and a snippet there.  Feeling guilty, he was about to close the book when a single phrase jumped out and slapped him in the face:  We left Jack behind.  Jack was transfixed.  This was Daniel’s journal for the planet Argos where Jack had aged dramatically. 

We left Jack behind.  Not since losing Sha’re have I felt more angry or felt more helpless.  Hammond ordered the gate shut down.  No one is allowed through to Argos.  I understand his reasoning.  The threat, the very real threat of an alien virus, a fatal alien virus rampaging on Earth.  But to just leave Jack there.  Alone.  God, I feel so guilty.

“For crying out loud, Daniel,” Jack murmured, shaking his head as he continued to read.

I should have stayed behind.  I never would have left if I’d known this was going to happen.  Hammond won’t let me go back.  I don’t understand why.  So what if I get infected?  At least Jack won’t be alone.

Jack’s vision blurred and he blinked the tears away.  “Damnit, Daniel.”

Technically, he’s not alone.  In fact, he’s surrounded by young, beautiful people.  I just pray that Kinthea helps him and that Jack will allow her to.  It’s funny.  Jack and I both have the dubious honour of being married without our knowledge.  If he gets just an inkling of the pleasure Sha’re gave me he’ll die a happy man.  I hate to admit it but I was jealous of Jack.  Knowing that he and Kinthea were in that tent, making love.  Not that I wanted to be there instead of Jack.  God, I would never betray Sha’re.  Never.  I’d slit my own throat first.  It was just the overwhelming desire to be held again, to be loved again.  God, Jack’s right.  I do babble.  I feel so damn useless.  I hate this.  What would Jack do?  I can almost hear him. ‘For crying out loud, Daniel!  Stop writing in that damn book and get me the hell home!’  I hear you, Jack.  I’ll bring you home.

“Aw hell, Danny.”  Jack put the journal back on the shelf.  He couldn’t read anymore.  It was too painful.  He never thought he could miss someone so much.  Not since Charlie.

A rattle at the door alerted Jack to the arrival of Carter and Teal'c.  He quickly swiped at his eyes then welcomed them inside.

After exchanging pleasantries, they began the sombre task of packing boxes, each one lost in their own private memories.  Sam hovered around the bookcase containing Daniel's journals. Inevitably, she pulled one out and Jack watched warily from a distance.

'Oh, wow, look at these.  Expedition journals.  One for each planet we visited.  One for Abydos.'  She opened the book, smiled and read aloud: 

Colonel O'Neill thinks I'm a geek.  I have no idea how to get us back.  I'll never get paid.

Sam smiled and felt the tears build once again.  She flipped the pages.

'Oh, wow, he must have written this right after we got back.'

Sha're is gone.  Jack says we'll find her.  If anyone can, he can.

Jack couldn't bear it any longer.  'Ah, come on, that's his diary.  I mean, what's he going to think if he-'  Jack severed his train of thought.  Daniel wasn't going to walk through that door.  Ever.  He was dead.   After an uncomfortable silence, they resumed their grim task.

Teal'c shared his memory of he and Daniel playing an old Egyptian game, 'The Jackal and the Hound'.  Jack tried not to think and Sam wandered over to the fish tank.  She peered into the tank, watching the fish, the bubbles, the red bubbles, the flames, Daniel screaming.  She jumped back with a strangled cry.  Jack was at her side in an instant. He knew what she had seen because he couldn’t stop seeing it.  She recovered quickly and the three soon ascertained that they had been experiencing the same vision over and over: bubbles rising and then culminating in Daniel's death.

'I'm telling you, something's wrong,' Jack said.

'Yeah, what's wrong here, Colonel, is that Daniel is dead,' Sam declared.

'Is he?'

'You were there.  We all were,' she insisted.

'Then why don't I believe it?'  Jack said.  'I mean, I keep expecting him to walk through the door.  I-I-I keep getting these-'  Jack threw his hands up in frustration and said,  'Screw this packing.  Let's get back to the base.'

*********************************************************************

Jack, Sam and Teal'c emerged from the 'gate at a run.  They had left Daniel behind, a very much alive Daniel.  Through extensive physical and psychological tests, and ultimately, hypnosis, Doctors Fraiser and McKenzie concluded that someone or something had planted the image of Daniel Jackson’s death in their minds.  Someone who wanted Daniel and didn't want anyone coming back for him.  Every time they thought of going back to look for their teammate, blinding pain would obliterate the thought.  Now that they knew the memory was false, they could function.

'Daniel!'  Jack shouted as they neared the ocean.

'Maybe we're too late,' Sam suggested worriedly.

'I'm not leaving here without him this time, Captain,' Jack said resolutely.   No goddamn way, Danny.  Even if I have to search forever, I'm not leaving you behind.

They stood at the shore's edge, three desperate people searching for any sign of their missing friend.  A disturbance in the water caught their attention.  They stood mutely but on full alert as an alien creature emerged from the sea and came slowly towards them.  Then suddenly, he was there.  Daniel.  Erupting out of the water like a crazed jack-in-the-box yelling, 'Don't shoot!'

Jack shook his head.  Daniel, always looking out for the other guy.  His first words were for the benefit of the damn creature that screwed with their minds.  Jack, still wary, drank in the sight of his bedraggled friend.  Wet and exhausted, but oh, so alive.  So gloriously alive.  They had found Daniel and they were taking him home.  Jack knew there was a long story here and he was going to listen to every blessed word.

************************************************************************

"Off-world activation!  Repeat, off-world activation!"

Hammond was down in the control room in seconds.

"Incoming traveller!"

Hammond held his breath as he waited for confirmation of the signal.

"It's SG-1, sir!"  the technician announced.

"Open the iris!  Medical team to the gateroom!"  Hammond ordered as he rushed into the gateroom.

"Please, God," he whispered. 

Seconds passed agonizingly slow.  Bodies tumbled through: Carter, Teal'c,
and finally, Jack with his arm wrapped protectively around a sodden Daniel Jackson.  The control room burst into spontaneous shouts of joy and applause.

"Look what the tide washed in, sir!"  Jack called, grinning.  "Can we keep him?"  he asked, squeezing the blanket-shrouded figure in tight.

Hammond, grinning from ear to ear, rushed up and pumped Daniel's hand furiously.

"Dr. Jackson, you are a sight for sore eyes.  Welcome home, son.  Welcome home."

"Thank you, General," Daniel replied, grinning.  "You don't know how good it feels to be home."

"Well done, SG-1," Hammond said proudly.

“Doc, can we skip the exam until Aquaboy here’s had a hot shower?”  Jack asked, unable to wipe the grin off his face.

Janet took one look at the wet, shivering and obviously healthy Dr. Jackson and nodded.  “See that he gets some dry clothes, Colonel.”

“Th-thanks, Janet,” Daniel stuttered, his teeth beginning to chatter.

Jack whisked Daniel away while Carter and Teal’c happily filled in General Hammond with what little information they had acquired.

***********************************************************************

Jack patiently waited outside the shower, smiling at the soft grunts of pleasure emanating from the steaming stall.  A hot shower, followed by clean, dry clothes, hot food and hot coffee and his archaeologist would be ready for a nice, long sleep.  Jack shuddered involuntarily at the thought that not long ago, Daniel’s sleep was thought to be eternal.  He wondered how long Nem’s little memory would haunt him.  How long before the sick ache of leaving his friend behind subsided.   Too damn long.

“Jack?”

Jack started and looked into the concerned face of his friend; a wet, tousled and freshly scrubbed friend.  He couldn’t stop the silly grin that erupted on his face.

“Much better,” he murmured approvingly.

“I feel much better, not like a wet rag anymore.  Are you okay, Jack?”  Daniel asked as he dried himself off vigorously.

“Yeah, I was just…thinking.  So, you ready for a hot meal and coffee after we get you checked out?  Hammond says you can wait until tomorrow for debriefing.”

“How about a hot coffee and a hot coffee?”  Daniel countered impishly.

“Good to have you back, Danny-boy,” Jack chuckled, scrubbing a towel in Daniel’s hair.

“Jack, you’re mussing up my hair,” Daniel complained.

“Oh, like you ever comb it.”

Jack yelped as a wet towel thwacked him across the head.

“Reflexes are sharp; that’s a good sign,” Jack teased.

Daniel smiled, glad to see Jack enjoying himself and not looking so distant as he did a few minutes ago. 

“Here, I brought you some clothes.”

“Thanks.”  As Jack handed him the clothes, Daniel couldn’t miss the quick but thorough once-over of the older man’s assessing gaze.

“Nem didn’t hurt me, Jack.” 

Jack nodded doubtfully.  “That’s good.”   But he sure as hell hurt us.

As Daniel began to dress, he asked, “Was that true about my apartment?  You really closed it up?”

“The military works fast when it wants to, Daniel and you had some pretty sensitive material stashed there.  If any of that got into the wrong hands…”

“You mean my journals?  Who’d believe them?  I’m Daniel Jackson, remember?  Laughing-stock of the archaeological world.  Now, in my spare time, I write unpublishable science fiction and fantasy,” Daniel said with a wry smile.

“That’s your cover story?”

“A lot more plausible than the truth, don’t you think?”

“You’re nuts,” Jack laughed.

“See what I mean?”  Daniel smiled.

“Okay, you win.  Anyway, until we find you a new place, you’re stuck with me again.”

“I hope you don’t mind,” Daniel asked seriously.

“Why in God’s name would I mind?  Daniel, we had a memorial service and a wake.”

“A wake?  For me?”  Daniel asked incredulously.

“Jesus, Daniel.  Don’t you get it?”  Jack said gravely.  “We thought you’d been killed.   Dead.  Gone.  Forever.  We couldn’t even bring your body home for crying out loud!”

Daniel stared, unprepared for the raw pain in Jack’s voice.

“I-I’m sorry,” he stammered.  “I-I try not to think about…that.”

“The being dead part?”  Jack asked a little more gently.

“Yeah.”

“Well, we can’t stop thinking about it, thanks to your friend.”

“Jack, Nem was desperate to-”

“Don’t!  Don’t Daniel.  Don’t you dare say you understand what he did,” Jack said angrily.

Daniel closed his mouth.  But I do, Jack.

“Daniel,” Jack sighed.  “I don’t want to fight with you.  I just want to get you checked out, get you the hell home, and then feed you and put you to bed.”

“Best offer I’ve had in a long time,” Daniel said, his eyes twinkling.

“Come on.  Oh, I almost forgot.”  Jack dashed to his locker and pulled out a cup of coffee.  “Here, it’s still hot.”

“Jack, I love you,” Daniel murmured, reaching greedily for the hot beverage.

“Just don’t tell Janet you got it from me.”

“Promise, but she’ll never know.  It’ll be long gone before we get to the infirmary,” he said, gulping down the dark liquid.

Jack couldn’t help himself and he reached out and ruffled the damp hair.

Daniel gave a martyred sigh and put on his best ‘grin and bear it’ expression.

*******************************************************************

Daniel sat on the edge of the bed and stared at the floor as his mind sought to digest Janet’s words.  He had asked her about the memory Nem had given Jack, Sam and Teal’c.  Reluctantly, she had explained how they had watched him die in flames and how he had screamed for Jack to help him.  He shuddered at the image and recalled the haunted look in Jack’s eyes.

“Daniel?”

Daniel looked up slowly and saw worried brown eyes hovering over him.

“You okay?  Doc says you’re free to go,” Jack said.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.  It’s just that-um-Janet told me what you all saw.  The flames.  She-she said you tried to save me but the heat…the heat was too much.”

“Crap, she shouldn’t have told you that, Daniel,” Jack said sitting down next to his friend.

“My fault,” Daniel shrugged.  “I insisted.”

Jack couldn’t miss Daniel’s furtive glance to his clasped hands, to his obviously unblemished, clasped hands. 

“I know what you’re thinking,” Jack said easily.

Daniel blushed and looked away ashamed.

“Hey, it’s okay.  I wondered the same thing.  I mean, if I tried to save you then why the hell weren’t my hands burnt to a crisp?”

Daniel looked back at Jack, his curiosity peaked.

“Well, it seems Nem’s memory also triggered some pretty wicked headaches and mind blanks,” Jack explained.  “It seems any time we tried to remember what really happened, wham-o.  Also, Doc said she never mentioned the lack of burns to me because of post-traumatic stress.  Personally, I think she valued her life,” he smiled.

“She’s a wise woman,” Daniel said.

“Yes, she is.  Anyway, these blinding headaches would obliterate our attempts to find the truth.  But,” he said, quickly standing up, “it was all a pack of damn lies and we’re putting it behind us.  Now, you ready to blow this joint, or what?”

“I’m ready.  Take me home, Jack,” Daniel smiled.

*********************************************************************

“My God, you have all my stuff here,” Daniel said in amazement as he entered Jack’s house. 

“They brought it over yesterday.  The rest is at the base.”  Jack explained.

“Wow, even my fish,” Daniel exclaimed, rushing over to the aquarium.  “And they’re still alive.”

“Well, thank you for the vote of confidence, Dr. Jackson.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” Daniel said, glancing back at Jack.  “I didn’t mean…no, I guess I did,” he grinned.

Daniel tapped on the glass and made ‘fishy’ noises as he reached for the container of food.

“They’re a hell of a lot easier to keep alive than you,” Jack muttered under his breath.

Daniel didn’t know if he was supposed to hear the remark so he pretended that he hadn’t but he couldn’t ignore the pain in Jack’s voice.  He straightened up and turned to face his friend.

“Thank you, Jack.”

“For not killing your fish?”

“For coming back for me.”

Jack locked eyes with his teammate.  “No one gets left behind, Daniel,” he said gravely.  “Ever.”

The deadly seriousness in Jack’s voice and eyes sent a shiver down Daniel’s spine.  Jack had set an impossible vow but he knew, without a doubt, that Jack would sacrifice himself to keep his team safe.  The thought was frightening as much as it was comforting.  He also knew that some pretty heavy shit had been happening here while he was ‘gone’.

Jack saw his own pain reflected in Daniel’s eyes and he reached out to pat him on the shoulder.

“Don’t even try, Daniel,” he said softly.

“What?”

“Blaming yourself for this.”

Daniel blushed and ducked his head.  “I just hate the thought of you and the others suffering because of me.”

“You see!  Now, there you go.  You never listen to me,” Jack groused.

“I listen,” Daniel said defensively, a small smile tugging at his lips.  “I just choose to ignore you.”

“Oh, well, that makes it all right then,” Jack said amiably.  “So, do you want that coffee or not?”

“Yes!  I’ll make it,” Daniel said, scurrying into the kitchen.

Jack smiled and followed him, still not willing to let him out of his sight for very long.  Still afraid that maybe this wasn’t real, that it was just a dream.

“Did he feed you?”

Daniel turned.  “Nem?  Yes, if you could call it that.  Gave me a bed, too.”

“If you could call it that?”  Jack quipped.

“Yeah,” Daniel smiled.  “You know, he meant well, he just-” Daniel stopped when he saw Jack visibly tense.  “Sorry,” he mumbled as he returned to scooping out the coffee.

“It’s okay, Daniel,” Jack sighed.  “I wasn’t there.  I can’t begin to imagine what 4,000 years of grief must be like.  At least now he can get on with his life, thanks to you.”

Daniel turned on the coffee-maker and leaned against the counter, his arms wrapped around his chest.

“He-he said you wouldn’t be looking for me.  That I was ‘lost’ to you.  God, Jack.  The thought of never getting home, of never seeing any of you again, of never-“

“Hey,” Jack said, gripping Daniel’s arm.  “You’re alive and you’re home.”

“What if I’m dreaming?”  he asked, his blue eyes beseeching.

“Well, then so am I,” Jack said simply, “and I hope we damn well never wake up.”

Daniel, unsure how to respond, blinked rapidly and studied the floor.

The awkward silence that followed urged Jack to say, “Let’s get your room straightened out while we wait for the coffee. “

“Okay,” Daniel said, thankful for something to do.

“You still have some stuff here from last time, you know,” Jack grumbled over his shoulder..

“What, you didn’t sell it?”

“Not a lot of call for rocks.”

“I didn’t leave any artifacts, ” Daniel countered, enunciating the last word.  

Daniel entered the bedroom and gazed fixedly at the boxes.

“They’re all labelled?” he murmured to himself as he perused the assortment.  “’Closet’, ‘dresser’, you even have one marked ‘bathroom’.”  Daniel looked up at Jack, the question clear in his eyes.

Jack shrugged.  “I knew you were dead but…I couldn’t believe it…I couldn’t let go.  To tell the truth, I don’t even remember labelling these,” Jack said, gazing at the boxes.  He looked back at Daniel and raised his eyebrows, “I can’t explain it, Danny.”

Daniel felt the unmistakable prick of tears at the realization that Jack had genuinely mourned his absence.  There were times when he had felt that Jack merely tolerated him out of a sense of duty or honour.  Maybe as some sort of misguided loyalty for throwing himself in front of the staff weapon on Ra’s ship.  Daniel had always hated the feeling, not just because of its unworthiness but because he truly desired Jack’s friendship, respect, and trust.  Daniel strove to achieve them but he had to be true to himself in the process.  He was not a soldier and he didn’t want to be a soldier.  He knew he tried Jack’s patience innumerable times.  But until now, he had never felt…wanted.

“Daniel?”  Jack asked with concern.

Daniel blinked hard and looked into the concerned brown eyes of his friend.  His friend.  No more doubts.  No more second-guessing.  Jack O’Neill was truly and undeniably his friend.  He wanted to hug Jack and tell him that everything was okay, assuring them both but he didn’t have to do that.  The warmth of concern radiating from Jack enveloped him as much as any hug.  One day they would be comfortable enough with each other for a more physical display of affection.  Daniel knew this and it warmed his soul.  He smiled.

Jack almost gasped at the intensity of the blue eyes smiling back at him, lighting up the room and the dark recesses of his soul.

“I’m just so damned glad to be home, Jack,” Daniel said softly.  “Since leaving Abydos, I’ve never really felt like I belonged anywhere.”

“Your home is here, Daniel.  With us.”

“I know that now,” Daniel replied, ducking his head.

“Took you long enough,” Jack grumbled.  “Now, come on, let’s have that coffee before Teal’c and Carter get here.”

“Sam and Teal’c are coming?”  Daniel asked as he followed Jack back to the kitchen.

“They better.  They’re in charge of the food.  In the meantime, scarf one of these down,” he said, tossing Daniel a granola bar.

“You scared the hell out of all of us, Daniel,” Jack explained.  “They need to see for themselves that you’re alive and okay.  Fraiser said the memories Nem gave us would fade now that we know the truth.  Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen overnight.  So, don’t be surprised to wake up in the middle of the night to find me standing over you poking you in the ribs.  I’ll just be checking to see that you’re real.”

“Thanks for the warning, I think.  Could you just shake me, instead?  Gently?”

“I’ll think about it,” Jack grinned.  “There’s always ice water.”

“Maybe we could just stay up and play chess?”  Daniel suggested. 

“They’re here,” Jack said at the sound of the doorbell.

“Or, ‘Jackal and the Hound’?”  Daniel called after Jack.  “Teal’c likes that.  Hey, we could have a sleep over only…not sleep.”

Jack looked back over his shoulder and smiled.  “Trust me, Daniel.  You won’t even know I’m there.”

Any further pleas died in Daniel’s throat when he smelled the spicy Chinese food and realized how incredibly hungry he really was.

“Guys, it smells great,” he exclaimed.

Sam threw her arms impulsively around Daniel.  He stiffened slightly in surprise and embarrassment, then remembering Jack’s words, he hugged her tightly giving her the assurance that she needed.  It felt pretty damn good, too.

Now, it was Sam’s turn to blush and she stepped back awkwardly.

“I missed you, too,” Daniel said.

“Teal’c,” he said quietly, placing a hand lightly against the man’s chest, “feel up to a game of Jackal and the Hound after dinner?”

“I would find that most pleasurable, Daniel Jackson.”

“Great.”

“If O’Neill will allow it,” he added solemnly.

“Allow?”  Daniel said stunned.

“He is under strict orders to see that you are fed to satiation and well rested,” Teal’c explained.

“Yes, but-“ Daniel looked at his friends bemused faces.  “Hey, guys, I’m a grown man.  I know when to go to bed.”

Three pairs of raised eyebrows caused him to redden and admit, “Okay, sometimes I don’t always, well…all right, a lot of the time I don’t but-“

“Don’t worry, Daniel.  You and Teal’c can play a few games,” Jack said, “but you are going to get some sleep.  After we fill you with all this stuff you’ll sleep like a baby.”

“You’re probably right,” Daniel admitted as his stomach growled alarmingly.

Of course, Jack was right.  After being trounced soundly by Teal’c on the last game, Daniel conceded that he could barely keep his eyes open.  Jack and Daniel saw Carter and Teal’c to the door.

“Thanks for coming, guys,” Daniel said.  “I really needed that.”

“As did we, Daniel Jackson.”

“We’ll see you tomorrow at 0800,” Sam said.  “Have a good sleep.”

Daniel grimaced but was thankful Hammond hadn’t scheduled the meeting any earlier.

“He’ll be there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, Captain,” Jack said, clapping Daniel on the shoulder.

“Goodnight, sir,” Sam smiled.

Jack closed the door and ordered, “Okay, off to bed with ye.”

Daniel stifled a yawn and nodded sleepily.  “See you in the morning, Jack.”

Jack smiled and watched Daniel shuffle off to the bathroom to get ready for bed.

“Sweet dreams, Danny,” he murmured to himself.

********************************************************************

 

 

“Crap,” he muttered as he finally went to bed.

Daniel slept like a log and Jack slept like someone falling off a log…repeatedly.

“Goddamnit,” he grumbled as he sat up in bed rubbing his temples wearily.  He peered at the clock and scowled at the 2:00 am.

“Peachy.  Every hour on the hour.”

The first awakening scared the hell out of him and he had rushed into Daniel’s bedroom.  Daniel was there, of course, sleeping soundly.  Jack didn’t have to touch him as he had threatened.  He could feel his aura from where he was standing.  He stood silent guard for a few moments before padding softly back to his own room.

Jack lay back in bed and closed his eyes.  Everyone was fine.  His team was whole again.  Nem was a bad memory, nothing more.  A bad, false memory at that.  He could feel himself drifting…

“Damnit, now what?”  Something woke him and it wasn’t him this time.  He listened and then heard the soft but unmistakable sounds of Daniel in distress. 

Jack was in Daniel’s room in an instant.  The younger man was murmuring in his sleep, tears glistening on his cheeks. 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry.  He killed her.  That’s all I ever knew, I swear.  I’m sorry,” he uttered forlornly.

“Daniel!”  Jack said urgently, shaking the stricken man’s shoulders firmly.

Daniel’s eyes sprang open.

“Wha-?  Jack?”

“It’s okay, you were having a bad dream.”

Daniel blinked several times and felt the dampness on his face.  Oh, damn.  Won’t be able to hide this one.

He sat up, rubbing his face.  “Sorry.”

“No problem, I was due to wake up anyway.”

Daniel glanced guiltily at Jack.  “Still having them?”

“Yeah, but they’re getting better.”  Don’t wake up screaming now.

“Daniel, is there something you haven’t told me?”  Jack asked carefully.

Daniel looked tentatively at Jack and then said, “I was going to tell you in the morning…before the briefing.”

“Tell me now?”  Jack suggested gently.

“Yeah-um-could I have a glass of water, please?”

Jack smiled at his stalling tactics.  “Sure.  Be right back.”

When Jack came back, the table lamp was on and Daniel had scooted over to the furthest side of the bed.  He was sitting up, his arms clasped around his knees.  He accepted the glass of water gratefully and then patted the empty side of the bed.

Jack smiled and settled onto the bed, mimicking Daniel’s position.  He studied Daniel carefully and gave him the opening he needed.

“He did hurt you, didn’t he?”

Daniel glanced sideways at Jack, surprised at the absence of anger.

“Yes, but not in the way…you might think,” he said hesitantly.

“I’m not going to like this, am I?”  Jack said cautiously.

Daniel couldn’t prevent the guilty half-smile.  “No,” he said, shaking his head.  “You’re not going to like it.”

“What did you do, Daniel?”  Jack sighed.

Jack listened in silence, as Daniel explained how he had asked, no begged, Nem to access his memories for the answer he so desperately sought.  He didn’t leave anything out.  He admitted the procedure could have been deadly.   His mind could have been destroyed.  He described the pain.  The excruciating physical pain and the even worse, at least to Daniel, emotional pain of Nem’s reaction to Daniel’s memories.  The utter devastation in Nem’s soul would haunt Daniel for a long time.

Jack sat rigid, his emotions engaged in silent war.  Daniel had suffered tremendously but he still managed to feel guilt for giving Nem the answer he had.

Daniel looked at Jack warily, sensing the man’s anger.

“I didn’t know how else to get home, Jack,” he whispered.

Jack’s anger melted instantly at Daniel’s words and he pulled the distraught man into a rough one-armed hug.

“You are one stubborn sonofabitch, Daniel Jackson,” he muttered hoarsely.

Daniel ducked his head, revelling in the spontaneous display of affection.  He sat up slowly when he felt Jack’s grasp loosen.  It was a sensation over much too quickly but he would never forget it.

“So, you’re okay with it, Jack?” 

“I don’t know about ‘okay’ but I can accept it,” Jack replied truthfully.  “I just wish you hadn’t had to go through it alone.”

“But I didn’t, Jack,” Daniel said earnestly.  “I couldn’t have done what I did if I hadn’t believed you were out there looking for me.

“But I wasn’t, Daniel.  We thought you were dead.”

“Yes, but you didn’t believe it, Jack,” Daniel said, gesturing to the boxes in the room.  “Not where it counted; not where it really mattered.”

Jack stared at Daniel and then shook his head ruefully.

“This is one heady conversation for four in the morning.”

“Four?” Daniel said in dismay, peering at the clockface.  “Oh God, we have to get up in three hours,” he groaned.

“Try two, Danny boy,” Jack chuckled as he slid off the bed.  Jack looked at the pained look on his young friend’s face and said assuredly, “Go on, just lay back and you’ll be out in no time.  Two hours to you is like eight to us normal people.”

Daniel moaned theatrically but did as he was told but one question still nagged at his mind.

“Jack?”

“Yeah?”  Jack stopped in the doorway.

“Did you really break Hammond’s window?”

“Oh yeah.”

“Wow.”

“Just don’t give me a reason to do it again, okay?”  Jack said seriously.

“I’ll try not to,” Daniel said softly.

Jack sighed, knowing that was as good as it was going to get.  Daniel was Daniel and that’s just the way it was.  Jack also knew he wouldn’t want it any other way.

“Okay, that’s good enough for me.  Now, get some sleep.”

“’night, Jack.”

“’night, Daniel.”

 

The 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.