Together

 
"Ma'chello."

General Hammond, Dr. Frasier, and the remaining members of SG-1 exhaled a collective sigh of relief at the utterance of that single word. As they watched Ma'chello's little invention crawl out of Teal’c’s ear they knew that their friend and colleague would be fine. Colonel Jack O’Neill closed his eyes in silent gratitude; his team had survived another crisis. Dr. Daniel Jackson thanked whatever gods looked after Jaffa warriors then watched Major Samantha Carter place her hand affectionately on Teal’c’s arm. The small gesture struck Daniel like a blow. A frighteningly vivid image of himself, huddled in a white room while his friends clustered around the doorway, flashed in his mind. No one would even come near me when I was locked up, let alone touch me. Daniel looked over at Jack, the distance separating them far greater than mere feet.

Feeling like he was being watched, Jack glanced behind him, straight into Daniel’s piercing blue eyes. Both men quickly looked away. Damnit, Daniel. Don’t look at me like that. Pushing his feelings back into hiding, Jack concentrated on Teal’c.

Opening his eyes slowly, Teal’c gazed at his surroundings than focused on Jack.

“O’Neill.”

“Good to have you back, Teal’c,” Jack replied with a smile.

 "How is Daniel Jackson?" Teal’c asked.

All eyes turned to Daniel, or more precisely, to where Daniel had been. Jack looked at the vacant spot with alarm. Damn, when did he leave?
"Dr. Jackson is fine, Teal’c," Hammond answered. "He’s himself again. We’ll explain it all later. For now, you just rest."
"Thank you, General Hammond."
"That goes for the rest of you as well. You too, Doctor," he added as he left the room.
"Yes, sir," they responded.
Jack looked thoughtfully at the spot where Daniel had been standing as mental images of recent events assailed him. When Teal'c became ill, everyone, especially Daniel, had concentrated on helping him and then when he, Carter and Frasier became infected, Daniel did everything he could for them. Concern for Daniel, however, had basically been nonexistent. He was out; he was fine.  Now, all the guilt Jack had felt at leaving Daniel at Mental Health came rushing back. Damn it to hell. Jack turned back slowly, the dark, alien eyes still fixed on him.
"We have failed Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said softly.
Jack stared at Teal'c before finally murmuring, "Yeah." I did.
"Sir?" Carter said uneasily.
"I’ll find him," Jack said quietly.
Jack left the infirmary desperately wanting to hit something, or someone. MacKenzie would be nice. Not that easy O’Neill. You let them take him. You let them lock your best friend in a goddamned padded cell. Hell, you even made the phone call. Taunted by his own thoughts, Jack finally did lash out at the wall. The resounding thud was satisfying, as was the throbbing from his right hand; it took his mind off Daniel for all of three nanoseconds. Way to go O’Neill. Think Danny would be impressed? Jack sighed heavily. He had missed his friend these last few days. He hadn’t realized how much he relied on Daniel. He filled in all those empty spaces in his days and in his soul. His guts twisting, Jack quickly sought refuge in a nearby supply room. Leaning against the locked door behind him, he slowly slid to the floor as the enormity of his actions overwhelmed him. Images of Daniel huddled in the corner of a white, padded cell: crying, laughing, losing it. No, damnit, he didn’t lose it.  He'd been infected by one of Ma'chello’s damned Goa'uld killing inventions.
"Jesus, Danny. How do I fix this?" Rubbing his hands tiredly over his face, Jack silently berated himself for the millionth time. He had failed Daniel as a commanding officer by not keeping him safe. And he had sure as hell failed him as a friend, allowing him to be locked up and put away. Leaning back, Jack banged his head in frustration against the door. "Crap, this isn’t accomplishing anything." Wearily, he got to his feet and straightened out his uniform. The SGC halls were blessedly empty as he surreptitiously emerged from the supply room.
Knowing Daniel as he did, a fact that Jack took great personal pride in, he theorized that Daniel wanted to talk, no, needed to talk but was too wound up to initiate contact. Jack knew all about that. Daniel had drawn Jack out numerous times. "Time to return the favour, Daniel," he murmured under his breath. He figured that Daniel was either immersed in translations in his office, or bonding with an artifact in his lab. Jack opted for the office.
Standing in front of Daniel’s office, Jack suddenly felt unsure of himself. Maybe he really does want to be alone. Maybe I'm the last person in the world he wants, or needs, to see right now. Forget it, Jack. You're not backing out on this one. Inhaling deeply, he knocked briskly and opened the door.
"Hey Daniel," he said pleasantly to the man hunched over the desk.
"What do you want, Jack?" Daniel asked tersely.
Okay, not going to make this easy.  Can’t say as I blame you.
"I thought you might like to know Teal’c is doing fine. Junior’s doing his thing." Low blow Jack, but if it gets a response.
Daniel flinched slightly, pausing in his writing. "That-that’s good to hear. Thank you."
Jack wandered around the room, picking up things, fiddling with them, and putting them down again. Casually, he said, "You saved his life, Daniel. You do know that, don’t you? You saved all of us."
"Look, I’m kind of busy right now, Jack."
"I was kind of hoping we could…you know… talk."
"There’s nothing to talk about, Jack," Daniel said icily.
"For crying out loud, Daniel. Help me out here, will ya?"
"What, like you helped me?" Daniel cried, his eyes blazing with hurt and anger. "Wait, I have an idea," he said, waving a finger in the air. "Call MacKenzie. He loves to talk. Doesn’t listen worth a damn, but he loves to talk."
Oh Danny, you are going to feel like such a shit in a few minutes.
"Why do you do this to yourself, Daniel?" Jack asked softly.
"Why do I do what?" Daniel snapped.
Jack responded by gently shaking his head.
Waving his hands in frustration, Daniel said, "Would you just get the hell out of my office, Jack. I’m not in the mood."
"I’m not leaving, Daniel," Jack said quietly.
Glaring defiantly, Daniel threw his hands up in resignation. "Fine! You stay, I’ll leave!" He bolted to the door, but Jack deftly stepped in front of it, blocking his escape. Daniel stopped short of a collision with Jack, visibly trembling.
"Please get out of my way, Jack," he said in a low, even voice.
"Sorry, no can do," Jack replied casually.
Daniel’s eyes remained fixed on the floor, his posture rigid.
"Can’t even stand the sight of me, eh Danny?" Jack said sadly.
Daniel’s eyes flicked up automatically, looking directly into the dark, caring eyes of Jack O’Neill. Not willing to let go of his anger, he lunged for the door. Anticipating his move, Jack easily caught him and crushed him to his chest. As Daniel struggled, Jack hung, on speaking urgently into Daniel’s ear. "I’m sorry Daniel. I am so goddamned sorry I left you in that cell. I’m sorry."
Daniel stopped his thrashing but was literally vibrating in Jack's arms. Jack did not ease up on his grasp. "I was so fucking scared, Daniel. I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry."
Daniel stiffened then sagged in Jack’s arms as the fight drained out of him. Clutching at Jack’s shirt he spoke in choking sobs. "I...needed...you, Jack…I...needed you." Unable, or unwilling to hold it in any longer, Daniel finally let the tears come. Losing strength in his legs, he began slumping to the floor. Sensing the physical change in his friend, Jack shifted his weight to also sink slowly to the floor while still clasping the most precious thing in his life tightly to his chest.
"Shh, it’s okay. We’ll get through this," Jack murmured soothingly as he held Daniel, gently rocking back and forth. Daniel’s tortured sobs were heart-wrenching. Daniel had first cried in Jack's arms when he went through sarcophagus withdrawals. The anguish in those cries was something Jack had never, ever wanted to hear again. But here it was. Squeezing tightly, Jack tried to physically absorb Daniel’s pain. Daniel clung to Jack with a ferocity and desperation that overwhelmed the older man. When Daniel had been ill he had placed all of his trust in Jack to help him and Jack had returned that trust by making the phone call that had sent Daniel to a padded cell. Now, once again, Daniel was trusting Jack to get him through this. To make everything all right. "I’m here, Daniel. I’m here. I’m not going anywhere. You’re not alone. You’ll never be alone," Jack promised. Burying his face in Daniel’s hair, Jack let his own tears fall.  
Daniel knew, as soon as Jack’s arms engulfed him, he wouldn’t be able to hang on to his anger. Anger was an emotion he always had difficulty with; it was just not in his nature. Jack frequently frustrated him and disappointed him on occasion, but he was a bastion of strength that Daniel had come to rely on. That was what hurt so much; Jack hadn’t believed that something had happened to him in the Linvris chamber. He had gone with the party line that Dr. Jackson was having a nervous breakdown. But he was here now,  and Daniel couldn't get enough of him. Anger, however, was no stranger to Jack O’Neill. As he tried to comfort his friend, anger burned within him; anger at himself for giving up so quickly on Daniel and anger for all the crap that seemed to befall the hapless, young archaeologist.
Jack didn’t know how long they huddled there clinging to each other, each taking from the other what they both desperately needed. Jack knew instinctively when it was time to let Daniel go, but he was loath to release him completely. He pulled back, keeping his arms loosely wrapped around Daniel. Daniel shifted in his arms, still seeking comfort. Sighing, he wiped a sleeve across his face, and laid his head tiredly on Jack’s chest. Smiling, Jack kissed the top of Daniel 's head, resting his cheek against the soft hair. To Jack, it seemed the most natural thing in the world to do. Daniel snuggled in closer and Jack found himself silently crying, overwhelmed again by Daniel’s faith in him.
Warm and safe in Jack’s arms, Daniel was content to just sit there, listening to the strong, steady heartbeat beneath his ear. He felt the hitches in Jack’s breathing, followed by a vague sensation of moisture. Stirring, he looked up questioningly.
"Jack?"
Jack knew he couldn’t hide the fact he was crying so he didn’t even try. Besides, he didn’t want to let go of Daniel.
"Yeah, Daniel?"
Daniel searched Jack's face. "Jack?" he repeated, the crack in his voice unmistakable.
Giving Daniel a quick squeeze, Jack said, "What, you’ve never seen a colonel cry before?"
"Why, Jack?"
"Why?" Jack said incredulously. "God, Daniel. How about because I hurt the best friend I’ve got in the whole world. Because I don’t know how to fix it. Because..." his voice trailed off. "Because I’m afraid of losing you."
Alarmed by the despair in Jack’s face and voice, Daniel scrambled to his knees, grasping Jack’s shoulders. His blue eyes, huge and anxious, looked straight into Jack’s soul.
Jesus, Daniel. How do you do that?
"No-no-no-no Jack. No. You’ll never lose me. You can’t because I...I can’t lose you."
Jack shook his head. "I screwed up Daniel. I should have listened to you. I should have listened to my heart and not my goddamned head, but damnit Daniel, you scared the crap out of me. Hell, I could be brain-dead and no one would notice but you, Daniel," he said, waving his hands in the air. "Your brain is so far out there if anything’s out of place we have no idea what to expect, or what it could do to you. We panicked. I panicked. I let you down. I'm sorry." Reaching up, Jack rested his palm gently against Daniel’s cheek.
"Can you forgive me, Daniel? I mean, really forgive me?"
Daniel’s eyes glistened with tears as he placed his hand over Jack’s.
"God yes, Jack. I have no right to ask for forgiveness, but yes."
Clearing his throat and blinking back tears, Jack patted Daniel’s cheek. "Got any Kleenex around here?" he asked hoarsely”
Smiling, Daniel got to his feet to retrieve the ever-present box of tissue. He moved slowly to allow Jack time to regain his composure. Daniel also needed the interlude to organize his own whirling emotions. He couldn’t allow Jack to feel guilty over his commitment to Mental Health. He just had to think of Shyla and the sarcophagus to realize how much Jack cared. Ashamed of his previous anger towards Jack, Daniel tentatively sank back down beside his friend. "Here," he said gently, offering the box.
Jack looked through tired eyes at his equally exhausted friend and nodded gratefully. Daniel settled in beside Jack, their shoulders touching. After a few minutes of silence Daniel asked, "Do you know what really scared me, Jack?"
Not trusting his voice, Jack merely looked at Daniel, gently shaking his head. Lowering his eyes, Daniel began to quietly speak.
"At first, it was the thought of going insane. You know, knowing that I was and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Nothing anyone could do. But then, I knew instinctively that I wasn’t crazy but I couldn’t explain it. I couldn’t convince myself. Of course MacKenzie’s damn drugs didn’t help. But the point is Jack, if I couldn’t convince myself, how the hell could I convince anyone else?"
Jack visibly winced at Daniel’s words. Daniel saw the guilt in his friend’s face and quickly said, "I don’t blame you Jack, believe me. It must have been just as terrifying for you." Daniel was dismayed to see tears in Jack’s eyes again. "I’m sorry Jack, but I need to talk about this."
Jack waved his hand, encouraging Daniel to continue. "I’m not going anywhere," he said thickly.
"I-I don’t really remember going to Mental Health. Janet must have had me pretty whacked out. I do remember something of MacKenzie’s evaluation though." Daniel laughed bitterly at the memory. "Condescending, pompous bastard. Kept saying I was delusional. Hell, I knew that; I needed to know why. He wouldn’t listen. He just pumped me full of more drugs."
"None of us listened to you, Daniel. That’s the whole fucking problem," Jack said tiredly.
Daniel looked despondently at his friend. Dropping his head onto his arms, Daniel mumbled wearily, "God, I’m so tired." Daniel felt strong, warm fingers knead the back of his neck. Shifting his head, he gazed up warmly at Jack. Seeing the shining eyes locked on his, Jack smiled gently, gave Daniel a final squeeze, and then let his hand rest on Daniel’s shoulder. Silently thanking Jack for the contact, Daniel resumed talking. "Waking up in that padded room...that was a real eye-opener. I thought, 'you’ve really done it this time, Jackson. They’ve locked you up and thrown away the key'." Daniel shuddered at the memory and Jack’s hand tightened on his shoulder, grounding him. "I didn’t know how long I'd been there; I had no sense of time. But I do remember when you guys came. God, I was so ashamed."
"Jesus, Danny," Jack whispered as he pulled Daniel in close. "You’re killing me here, you know that?"
"I was...I was glad they’d taken my glasses away. I don’t think I could’ve handled seeing your faces."
"Why Daniel?" Jack knew what he was going to say and he didn’t want to hear it, but he was here to help Daniel. "What did you think you’d see?"
"Fear. Revulsion," Daniel said quietly. Glancing sideways at Jack, he said, "You wouldn’t come near me. You couldn’t wait to get out of there." The hurt in Daniel’s voice twisted like a knife in Jack’s heart.
"Aw crap, Daniel." Jack twisted around so he could look into his friend’s eyes. "You’re half right, Daniel. We were scared. Not of you, but for you. And, if we felt any revulsion, it was for what had been done to you, not of who or how you were." Daniel ducked his head and looked away. Jack gently grasped Daniel’s chin, turning his face back. "Look at me, Daniel." Satisfied that he had his attention, Jack continued. "I was scared and I was angry. You don’t know how tempted I was to just grab you and take you the hell away from there. We were told not to approach you in case we upset you and made things worse." Jack’s eyes darkened. "I will never, ever forgive myself for that."
Haunted eyes looked at Jack, and Daniel voiced the fear that tormented him. "I thought you’d abandoned me, Jack. I-I thought you'd given up on me."
A look of shock crossed Jack’s face and he hugged Daniel fiercely. "God, Daniel. Never. Never." A fresh onslaught of quiet sobs shook Daniel’s body as he released his fear, and Jack hung on, riding it out with him. "We’re a team, Danny, you and I. Forever." Horrified that Daniel would even consider such a thing, Jack gruffly whispered, "Damnit, Daniel. Don't you know what you mean to me?" Gently pushing his friend away so he could make eye contact Jack said, "I did a lot of thinking Daniel, while you were in that...place, and yes, it damn well hurt." Jack was rewarded with a quick smile, a gesture that did more for Jack’s tortured soul than he would have thought possible. "God, I’ve missed you," he said impulsively. Daniel’s eyes shone with gratitude and he blushed, ducking his head, an action that only endeared him more to the seasoned soldier. Clearing his throat self-consciously, Jack said, "Anyway, I thought long and hard about what I’d do if the worst happened."
Daniel looked up. "You mean, if I never got better?"
"Yeah."
"Jack, if Teal’c hadn’t been there and that thing stayed inside me..." Daniel shivered. "Would it have killed me? Would I have gone insane?"
"Daniel. Teal’c did come. It did leave. And you are as sane as you ever were, and I mean that in a good way." Rewarded with another smile, Jack punched Daniel lightly. "Now will you please shut up and let me finish. I’m trying to emote here."
"Sorry," Daniel said smiling.
"Thank you." Jack leaned back against the wall, gathering his thoughts. "If you didn’t get better...I was going to leave SG-1."
"Jack-"
"Ah-ah." Jack held up a finger, effectively silencing Daniel. "I know what you’re thinking. What about Sha’re and Skaara? You know that every team has a standing order to watch for Sha’re. Any sighting and Hammond would have me through that gate so fast. What I would do is, I'd leave SG-1, but I'd stay with the SGC part-time. That way, I could spend a lot of time with you and still go on some missions so I could have stories to tell you. I figured you'd get tired of sports scores pretty damn quick."
"What about Sam and Teal’c? You couldn’t just leave them."
Jack leveled his gaze at Daniel. "We’re all agreed, Daniel. No Dr. Daniel Jackson, no SG-1. Period. End of story. If Hammond wants to create a new one he’ll have to do it without us."
Daniel shook his head vehemently. "No. No, Jack. I’m not-"
"Yes! Yes, you are that important Daniel. Accept it. It’s a fact and it’s not going to change."
Dumbfounded, Daniel sat back speechless. Jack sat back too, feeling emotionally and physically drained. They sat in silence for several minutes.
"You’d really retire so you could stay with me?" a quiet voice asked.
Opening his eyes wearily, Jack swiveled his head sideways to look at the perplexed face of his friend. "Yes, Daniel," he sighed. "Didn’t I say you’re my best friend?"
Daniel blinked and smiled. "Yeah," he said shyly. "In the whole world."
"What?" Jack said, bolting upright. "Did I say, ‘in the whole world’?"
"Um-yes," Daniel said uncertainly.
"Crap," Jack said with frustration. "I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say that."
Daniel, humiliated, shrank back against the wall. "Oh," he mumbled hollowly.
Jack shook his head. "Jeez, Daniel, you can be such a dweeb."
Bewildered, Daniel looked at Jack, and Jack smiled, pulling him into a rough one-armed hug. "The universe, Daniel. That’s what I meant to say. The whole goddamned universe." Daniel simultaneously beamed and blushed, sending Jack's spirit soaring. What would I do without you, Danny?
"Jack?"
"Yeah?" Daniel stared intently at Jack, words failing him. However, the emotion in his eyes and on his face spoke volumes, wrapping Jack up in a warm, fuzzy blanket. Smiling, Jack said softly, "I know Daniel. I know." Nodding gratefully, Daniel leaned back on the welcome arm that was still around him. Again, they sat in companionable silence.
"Jack?"
"Daniel?"
"My butt’s numb."
Jack looked askance at Daniel and then burst out laughing at the young man’s earnest look. "Up with ye, Danny-boy." Helping each other to stand, Jack casually asked, "How much weight have you lost, Daniel?"
Embarrassed, Daniel looked away. "I-I haven’t felt much like eating the last few days, what with the drugs and all."
"Bastards," Jack muttered under his breath.
"I could eat now though," Daniel offered.
Jack’s grim look softened and he clasped his hand behind Daniel’s neck. "That’s the spirit. Gotta get some meat on those bones before our next mission. Can’t have you passing out on us on some alien world. What would the locals think?" The grateful look on Daniel’s face rang warning bells in Jack’s brain.
"Daniel?" he asked, an edge to his voice.
Reluctantly, Daniel looked at Jack.
"You thought I’d ground you, didn’t you?"
Looking away guiltily, Daniel murmured, "Well, I have been acting kind of...crazy. Didn’t know if you’d want to risk-"
"Damnit, Daniel. Haven’t you listened to anything I’ve said?"
"I’m sorry, Jack. It’s just that-"
"Just nothing, Daniel. SG-1 doesn’t go through that gate without you. Got it?"
"Yes, sir," Daniel said smiling.
Jack, slightly taken aback at the salutation, mused, "Hey, I could get used to that."
"In your dreams, Colonel."
Jack smacked Daniel playfully on the back of the head. "Cheeky bastard." Rewarded with a wry grin, Jack said, "Uh-speaking of being grounded, Hammond's confined us all to the base for the next 48 hours. Wants to make sure we don’t...you know..."
"Go nuts?" Daniel offered.
"Yeah. So, I thought it might be a good idea if you and I bunk together for a couple of days. Now, before you say anything," Jack added quickly, "Carter and Frasier are shacking up, too. I’m not ordering you, but I’m strongly suggesting, okay? This is for my benefit, too. I saw some pretty weird things while those bastards were in me, and I don’t relish the thought of being alone if I get a return visit." Jack smiled self-consciously and added, "Besides, there's no one else who I’d trust my nightmares with."
Daniel gazed thoughtfully at Jack and asked quietly, "Your place or mine?"
"Mine’s bigger," Jack smiled.
"Ah yes, but I have a bigger coffee pot."
"I’ll make room for it."
Daniel smiled. "I guess you’ve got a roomie then."
"Good," Jack said, nodding approvingly. "Now that that’s settled, let’s eat. I’m starving."
Jack reached for the doorknob, hesitated, and turned. "Uh-look, Daniel. I know that what happened to you can't be forgotten just like that. You've got a lot of hurt and a lot of anger. It's going to take time, probably a long time."
"I know that, Jack," Daniel said softly.
"Yeah, well I just want you to know that if you need someone to punch, or a shoulder to cry or lean on, or anything, I'm there for you. Any time. My house is your house. You need a place to crash for a day, a week, a month, whatever, it's yours," Jack said sincerely.
Daniel swallowed hard. "I know that too, Jack."
"Okay. Just promise me one thing, Daniel."
Daniel raised his eyebrows questioningly.
"Please, please don't shut me out. It doesn't work. You've shown me that. Okay?"
Daniel, his eyes brimming with tears, said, "I promise, Jack."
"Good." Jack said brightly, draping his arm across Daniel's shoulders. "Now, let's go see what's on the menu."
"Jack?"
"Yeah?"
"I love you too."
Jack blushed slightly then reached up to ruffle his friend's hair. "Yeah," he agreed warmly.
 
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.