"No-no-NO!" Daniel shouted, so furious he could barely get the words out. "Not now!" The force holding Daniel released its grip and he whirled around to confront Oma.
"I could have stopped Anubis. I could have saved those people!"
"And destroyed us by doing so," Oma rebuked him quietly.
"He must be sent down."
Daniel turned again at the unfamiliar voice. Another one of the Ascended--one Daniel didn't know. But then he actually knew so few of them. This one, though, he sensed was very powerful, even among the Ascended.
"He is too impetuous, too emotional," the being continued. "He has not left his human concerns behind."
"You say that like it's bad thing," Daniel said sarcastically.
"He is still very new to our ways," Oma told the other.
"He knows the proscriptions."
"He is capable of learning," Oma argued. "He possesses the ability to become like us."
"No," Daniel interrupted angrily. "No. You know what? I don't think I want to be like you. I don't want to lose my human concerns. I don't want to sit around with all this superior power and knowledge and not use it."
"Daniel," Oma admonished.
"What good is it if you can't help?"
"Who are you to judge?" the other being asked.
"I understand what you're saying. I do. And to some extent I agree." Daniel said. "We're not gods and we have no inherent right to determine the course of history. But...what is the point of living if all you're going to do is sit on the sidelines? That's not living. It's merely existing. Your knowledge and power are meaningless if they aren't used."
"You lack understanding."
"I understand that I had to stand by and allow Jack O'Neill to be tortured to death repeatedly," Daniel said grimly. "And you'll never convince me that helping him would have disturbed any 'Great' plan."
"We do not plan, for the dance of honey bee is both the all and the void of existence."
"Yeah," Daniel said slowly. "See--I don't even begin to get that."
"Are we agreed?"
Daniel was puzzled by the question until he realized that a number of the other Ascended now surrounded him.
"I am sorry, Daniel," Oma said.
"No, it's okay. It's been a truly amazing experience," Daniel told her honestly. "I just don't think I'm cut out for this 'higher plane of existence' stuff."
"No, no, damn it, no," Jack muttered through clenched jaws. "I'm not going through this again."
"What is it, Carter?" Jack said a little more sharply than he intended. He took a deep breath and turned to face her.
"Are you okay?" she asked, lingering in the doorway of his office.
"Just peachy. Watched an entire planet get wiped out but hey--all in a day's work, right?" Jack said. Carter remained silent, just watching him. He rubbed both hands through his hair and sighed. "Sorry. Don't mind me. Just...having a bad day."
"It could've been worse," Sam said. "We did manage to bring back the tablet that Daniel said will lead us to the lost city. And we know the Abydonians are safe."
"Yeah, that makes me feel a whole lot better," Jack said. "We've got some broken hunk of stone that we might be able to translate. The people of Abydos have been taken off to some 'higher plane'. And God only knows what happened to Daniel."
"I'm sure Oma took care of him," Carter said in an attempt to reassure herself as well as her C.O.
"You said it yourself, Carter. Daniel would have done anything to save the Abydonians. If he didn't, it's because he couldn't." Jack hunched over, putting his clenched fists on his desk. "And right now I don't want to think about why he couldn't."
"Go home, sir. Try to get some rest."
Jack just nodded and waved Sam off. She reluctantly turned and walked away.
"Damn it, Daniel. I can't do this again," Jack said, still hunched over his desk. "You left me once and the only thing that got me through that was knowing that you were still around. Somewhere. And sometime, maybe, I'd see you again. You'd better fucking be alive, or ascended, or something 'cause I can't go through this again."
Six weeks later...
Jack burst out of the gate onto one more alien world just like the dozens of other alien worlds he'd visited. Except that this one alien world happened to hold one particular human being.
"Where is he?" Jack asked tersely. He never stopped moving, simply kept walking, expecting Major Roberts to follow.
"He's been living in a small village not far from here," Roberts answered, hurrying to fall into place at Jack's side. He glanced back at the gate. "Is the rest of SG-1 coming?"
"Carter's in D.C. and Teal'c's visiting his son. Hammond will tell them as soon as they get back."
"Sir, I don't know how much General Hammond told you but...."
Jack finally paused, turning to look at the major.
"Yes?" Jack said.
"Dr. Jackson appears to have completely lost his memory."
"How completely?" Jack asked.
"He didn't even recognize his own name. Frankly, sir, I got the impression that he didn't have a real firm grasp of the English language either."
"You haven't been able to communicate with him?" Jack asked with concern as he started marching toward the settlement again.
"No, we can now. He just kind of stared at us for a while, and then all of a sudden he started speaking." The major shrugged. "Maybe he's just a little rusty."
The man seated on the ground turned and looked up at Jack. His bright blue eyes narrowed slightly as he studied Jack.
"I'm supposed to know you."
"You do," Jack insisted. "It's Jack. Jack...."
"You remember?" Jack asked hopefully.
"The major said you'd be coming," Daniel explained. Jack closed his eyes as the brief flare of hope burned out.
"Of course he did," Jack acknowledged. "So. How are you?"
"Aside from the fact that I don't know who I am or where I came from.... I'm actually quite well. Thank you for asking."
"Well, see--I can help you with that," Jack said, lowering himself stiffly to sit next to Daniel. "You're Dr. Daniel Jackson and you're from Earth."
"So I've been told."
"You are--were--whatever--part of SG-1. My team. That's you, me, Major Samantha Carter and Teal'c. We travel to other planets. We explore. Look for allies. Fight the Goa'uld."
"Long story," Jack said dismissively.
"How do I know you aren't just making this all up? What if I don't even know you? Or what if I do know you but you're someone I was trying to get away from?"
"You did. Kind of. You chose to leave us," Jack admitted. Daniel studied him suspiciously. "One of the planets we visited.... There was an incident. You were very, very badly hurt. There wasn't anything we could do to help you."
"Then how come I'm still alive?"
"Ah, see--that's where the story really gets interesting. There are these 'beings'. The Ascended. They look like big glowy squids and they exist on some allegedly 'higher' plane. We'd run into one of them--Oma--a couple of times before. Apparently she took a liking to you because she came to help you when you were dying."
"So I became one of these glowing...?"
"Squids," Jack agreed. "You've been gone for more than a year."
"What have I been doing?" Daniel asked, genuinely curious although still not completely convinced that this Jack guy wasn't just a few tent posts short.
"Honestly? We don't know. You did come back to see me once when I was in trouble. And Teal'c, too, apparently," Jack explained. "The last time, a few months ago, you came back to tell me that Abydos was in danger."
"Another planet. You lived there for a while. Married one of the local girls and stayed to teach the people writing and history--all that culture crap."
"Crap?" Daniel said sharply. Jack smiled at the oh so typical Daniel response. Daniel might not remember who he was, but he was still very definitely Daniel.
"Wait...I'm married?" Daniel questioned. That helped explain why he'd felt so uncomfortable any time one of the local women expressed an interest in him.
"Was," Jack said simply. "She died. But your in-laws and friends were still there. You wanted to help them. So SG-1 went to help."
"You, Samantha Carter, and Teal'c," Daniel said, wanting to fix the names and their roles in his mind.
"Uh...Jonas is.... You know--let's leave that story for another time," Jack said quickly. "The point is things got a little hairy. We found the Eye of Ra, Anubis got pushy, you found a tablet about some lost city, Yu stuck his nose in and it...got a little hairy."
"No, Yu. Oriental guy, snake in the head. Trust me--you know Yu."
"Okay," Daniel said slowly. "So what happened?"
"Anubis got the Eye and started kicking ass on the other system lords. You...you vanished. We were afraid Anubis had destroyed you."
"What about Abydos?"
"Wiped out," Jack admitted. "But Oma helped the Abydonians to ascend."
"So...they're all big, glowy squid things now?"
"You do realize this sounds completely insane?" Daniel said dryly.
"It's kind of a 'you had to be there' thing," Jack agreed. "Which you were. You just don't remember."
"It's such a bizarre story I'm inclined to believe you," Daniel said, bemused. "I can't believe anyone would make up a story like that and expect it to be convincing."
"Bizarre--yes. And that's not the half of it." Jack reached into a jacket pocket and pulled out a pair of glasses. He tentatively offered them to Daniel. Daniel gave him a puzzled look but took the glasses and put them on. His puzzled expression gave way to amazement as he looked around.
"I can prove all of it, Daniel. The planets, the Goa'uld, even the big glowy squids. I can even prove that we're...friends. But you'll have to come back to Earth with me."
Daniel took off the glasses and studied them carefully while Jack talked. He looked at Jack, his brow wrinkled with confusion.
"These aren't new." Daniel said, holding up the glasses for Jack to see. "The ear piece--it's a little bent."
"No," Jack agreed, not quite getting the point. "We can get you some new ones, though."
"You say I've been gone more than a year."
Jack nodded, still not sure where Daniel was headed with this.
"You kept my glasses?"
"Because I...." Jack struggled with an explanation. He realized he was hitting Daniel with a whole lot of 'new' information. An entire life he was apparently unaware of. He wasn't sure that Daniel was ready to hear that he'd been Jack's...partner.
"Because I thought you might need them if you ever decided to come back."
"Oh. Thank you."
The words seemed inadequate in the face of what was obviously a big commitment from the stranger sitting next to him. Commitment to Daniel's memory, to waiting for Daniel's return. Inadequate but Daniel couldn't, at the moment, find any better words.
"So?" Daniel asked.
"Will you? Come back to Earth with me?"
"You're not making me?" Daniel asked, slightly surprised. The few people from Earth he'd met so far had acted in a very...proprietary manner toward Daniel. He'd half expected to be taken to Earth whether he agreed or not.
"No, Daniel," Jack said with a smile that didn't quite hide the fear in his eyes. "I won't make you. I was never able to make you do anything you didn't want to before. I'm not going to try now."
Daniel pondered both Jack's words and his expression.
"Can I leave if I want to? Come back here?" Daniel wasn't sure why he even asked. He hadn't for even a moment felt like he belonged among these people. Still, he preferred to know that he had the option.
"I give you my word that I'll do whatever I can to make sure that you're wherever you want to be," Jack said solemnly.
"Of course, for all I know your word is worthless," Daniel said, a small smile softening his words.
"A lot of people would agree with that," Jack admitted freely. Daniel's smile broadened, beguiled by such guilelessness. "Of course those people all happen to be scum-sucking low life bottom feeders but there ya go."
"Of course they are," Daniel said.
"You've trusted me before, Daniel, and I've always tried to deserve that trust. And if you have any doubts--don't go. We can always check back in a few months. See if you've changed your mind."
"I have a life there?"
"Yeah," Jack said. "Your work. Your friends." Jack thought for a moment. "That's about it. Work and friends. And the two were pretty much tied in to each other... Admittedly, it wasn't the most glamorous life but it seemed to suit you."
"Well, I don't know for sure but I have the feeling I'm not the 'glamorous' type anyway."
"No," Jack said with a lopsided grin. "You are many things, Daniel Jackson, but glamorous isn't one of them."
"So no one will be offended when I show up looking like this?" Daniel asked, gesturing at his rough, homespun clothing.
"It won't be the first time you've come home in native duds," Jack explained fondly. "At least this time you won't smell like a mastadge."
"Wouldn't matter anyway," Jack said quickly. "Trust me--people are going to be so happy to see you they won't care what you're wearing."
"People?" Daniel asked a little nervously.
"Lots of people."
"But...I won't...I don't remember them," Daniel said, concerned.
"Doesn't matter," Jack assured him. "They remember you."
"Okay. Let's go." Daniel said abruptly.
"Really?" Jack asked, eyes widening with delighted surprise. "When?"
"Now," Daniel repeated.
"Now it is."
Major Roberts finished the dialing sequence and stepped away from the DHD. He studied the two men waiting to go through the gate. O'Neill wore his customary casual confidence, but his obvious need to stay within inches of his long missing teammate betrayed his concern. Roberts wasn't sure if O'Neill was concerned about Jackson's welfare, or just afraid that if he took his eyes off of Jackson the archaeologist might vanish.
Dr. Jackson, on the other hand, had eyes only for the stargate. He seemed unaware of O'Neill's barely restrained hovering. Or maybe Jackson had still had some buried memory of how things had been when he was a member of SG-1. Maybe Jackson was simply so accustomed to O'Neill's presence at his side that he didn't notice it anymore.
"Appreciate the hospitality, Major," Jack said, catching Roberts' eye.
"Any time, sir. Tell General Hammond I fully expect to have this one wrapped up in time to make our scheduled return tomorrow."
"Will do." Jack turned to look at Daniel. "You ready to go?"
"We're going through that?" Daniel asked, waving curiously at the active stargate.
"That's our ride," Jack agreed.
"And we're going where?"
"Home, Daniel. We're going home."
Sam Carter wasn't about to wait a moment longer. She hurried up the ramp, her boots clanging against the metal grid, and wrapped herself around Daniel in an enthusiastic hug. She pulled back slightly and gave Daniel a little shake.
"I can't believe you're really back," Sam said with a smile that lit her face. Daniel made a small, almost embarrassed shrug and turned to Jack.
"Samantha?" Daniel asked.
"Major Samantha Carter," Jack said with an amused gleam in his eye. "Sam to her friends."
"I hardly think you have to tell him that, sir," Sam said, assuming that O'Neill was pulling her leg...again. Then she took a closer look and realized that there really was no sense of recognition in Daniel's expression.
"Daniel doesn't remember anything, Carter," Jack said.
"No? Oh. Oh, God--I'm sorry," Sam said quickly, releasing her hold on Daniel and stepping back.
"Why?" Daniel asked.
"Well, it has to be little disconcerting to have a complete 'stranger' grab you the minute you arrive through the gate," Sam said. She felt terrible for having basically assaulted Daniel, but she felt even worse that she was apparently a stranger to him.
"It's okay. I didn't mind," Daniel reassured her quickly. He smiled shyly. "In fact, I kind of enjoyed it."
"Then...can I have another?" Sam said, half teasing. To her delight, Daniel put his arms around her and gave her a gentle hug.
"All right, all right," Jack grumbled with mock disgust. "Enough sappy stuff."
"Forget it, sir," Sam said, keeping one arm around Daniel's shoulders. "I've got a whole year to make up for."
"In small doses, Major. We don't want to overwhelm the boy on his first day back."
"Yes, sir. I mean no, sir, we don't," Sam said, startled by the sound of Hammond's voice. She quickly released her hold on Daniel and stepped to the side.
"Welcome home, son," Hammond said.
"Um...thank you," Daniel said, shooting another look at Jack.
"Daniel, this is General Hammond, commander of the SGC," Jack explained.
"It's good to see you again, Dr. Jackson," Hammond said, holding out his hand. "You've been sorely missed."
"I wish I could say the same," Daniel said ruefully as he shook the general's hand. "Sorry."
"No need to apologize," Hammond said kindly. Any further welcome the general had prepared remained unsaid when he realized that Daniel's attention had been drawn to his surroundings.
"Am I...? Um...." Daniel gestured vaguely at the soldiers in the room.
"Military?" Hammond asked. "No, Dr. Jackson, you're not a soldier. In fact, you're probably the least military person who's ever worked here."
"Oh, good," Daniel said with obvious relief. "I don't mean any offense, but.... It just didn't feel right to me. For me."
"Truer words were never spoken," Jack said dryly.
"Major, would you escort Dr. Jackson to the infirmary?" Hammond suggested. "There's a certain doctor who can't wait to get her hands on our boy here."
Daniel immediately looked to Jack for explanation.
"You have to have a physical exam, Daniel," Jack explained. "It's routine. We all get them. All the time. Doc Fraiser won't hurt you. Much."
"You'll be fine, Daniel," Sam said, throwing Jack a warning look. "Come on, I'll...reintroduce you to Janet."
Jack's eyes were fixed on Daniel as he left the gate room with Sam. Jack knew Hammond was waiting to speak to him but he simply couldn't tear his eyes away. And he thought he might just have to have a little discussion with Carter about the excessive touching going on. Purely for Daniel's benefit, of course. Didn't want his...Daniel getting overwhelmed.
"It was basically just like Roberts reported," Jack said crisply, finally able to turn his attention to Hammond now that Daniel had left the room. "Daniel had no idea who he was or where he came from and neither did the locals. But you know Daniel, sir. He can make friends with anyone. Didn't take long for the villagers to decide that he wasn't any threat to them and one of the local families took him in. Basically he helped out wherever they needed help and they made sure he had a roof over his head and food to eat."
"That certainly sounds like Dr. Jackson," Hammond said.
"It is. It is Daniel," Jack said earnestly. "He may not know who he is but he acts like Daniel. He thinks like Daniel."
"Well, we'll have to hope there's some way of restoring his memory."
"I'm pretty sure the memories are still there."
"What makes you say that?" Hammond asked.
"Roberts said that when they first met up with Daniel he didn't seem to understand them. But after a while he suddenly began speaking to them--in English. Apparently the same sort of thing happened with the locals. They said he didn't speak at first. Just seemed confused. But before long he started to talk to them. And apparently their language based on some old Celtic language. It's a language Daniel would've known."
"That sounds hopeful," Hammond said cautiously.
"And his glasses," Jack added quickly. "I didn't see anyone there wearing glasses. They're still fairly primitive, tech-wise. But when I gave Daniel his glasses he immediately knew what to do with them. I really think his memories are there, somewhere. He just needs something to remind him. To sort of pull it to the surface."
"I certainly hope that's the case," Hammond said.
"So do I, sir," Jack said fervently. "So do I."
"Jack," Daniel called in a low but distinctly concerned tone the minute Jack walked into the infirmary.
"Problem?" Jack asked, taking in Daniel's wary expression, Fraiser's stubborn expression, and Carter's amused one.
"She wants me to take my clothes off," Daniel said, keeping a suspicious eye on Fraiser.
"And wear this," Fraiser said pointing at the exam gown. Daniel just held up the faded garment with an expression of disbelief.
"Not exactly the height of fashion, I know," Jack said calmly. "But we've all been through it hundreds of times. You included."
"Oh." Daniel stared at the gown for moment longer and then just shrugged. "And she says I have to stay here."
"Oh?" Jack asked, turning on Fraiser.
"Just overnight for observation."
"Is that necessary?" Jack asked.
"I don't want to stay. I want to go...." Daniel looked lost, not knowing where he wanted to go or even if he had any place to go, but knowing he didn't want to stay in that room.
"I have to be sure that you've recovered," Fraiser said.
"Recovered? Recovered from what?" Daniel asked.
"Dr. Jackson, the last time you were in this infirmary and under my care you were.... You were dying."
"I'm feeling much better now," Daniel said quickly.
"Yes, well, 24 hours of observation will make me feel better," Fraiser said.
"But...but...." Daniel sputtered.
"Come on, Doc," Jack protested. "Admit it--you just want hog Daniel all to yourself."
"Why would she want to do that?" Daniel asked, looking to Jack curiously.
"I'll explain later," Jack said, waving off any immediate discussion on the topic.
"Daniel looks perfectly healthy," Sam said, trying to support Daniel's case for spending as little time in the infirmary as possible.
"Daniel has been gone for more than a year. He died, ascended and descended. And that's just the changes we know about," Fraiser said stubbornly. "I have no idea what his body may have been subjected to during that time."
"He didn't have a body during that time," Jack pointed out.
"And," Fraiser said, glaring at Jack, "I need to investigate the cause of his memory loss."
"I don't want to be here," Daniel repeated. He was uncomfortable in this place. Of course, if this is where he...died it would certainly explain the sense of unease he felt.
"I'm sorry, Daniel," Fraiser said kindly. "I wouldn't insist unless I thought it necessary."
"You said I didn't have to stay anywhere I didn't want to," Daniel reminded Jack.
"It's just one night," Jack said guiltily. "It won't be so bad. And I promise I'll personally come and spring you first thing in the morning."
"If you like, I'll bring some of your things--journals and stuff--and you can look through them this evening," Sam offered when it was obvious Daniel was still reluctant to stay. Jack knew there wasn't anything very personal of Daniel's left at the SGC. But maybe reading something in his own handwriting, in his own words, would help jog Daniel's memory. It sure couldn't hurt.
"My things?" Daniel asked, his interest piqued.
"Yes. Just mission reports and notes and stuff. But you might find it interesting."
Jack let out a sigh of relief. He really didn't want to force Daniel into staying. But he really, really didn't think he was capable of letting Daniel go now that he had him back.
"Hey, T," Jack called easily as his Jaffa teammate emerged from the stargate.
"Where is Daniel Jackson?" Teal'c said.
"Good to see you, too," Jack said, more amused than offended. "Daniel's in the infirmary."
"He is injured? Ill?"
"No, physically he's fine. But you know how Fraiser is," Jack said with a shrug. "In fact, I was just about to go get him released."
"I will accompany you," Teal'c said, tossing his staff weapon to an S.F. and walking toward the door.
"I never doubted it," Jack said to himself before jogging to catch up to Teal'c.
During the brisk walk to the infirmary Jack tried to bring Teal'c up to speed but he was fairly certain the Jaffa wasn't even listening to him. Teal'c seemed to have only one thing in mind--seeing Daniel ASAP. Jack couldn't really fault him for that.
Teal'c barged into the infirmary with implacable determination. Carter was perched on the side of Daniel's bed, showing him some pictures. She didn't waste any time clearing out of the way when she saw Teal'c bearing down on them. She stumbled a couple of steps away from the bed and glanced over at Jack. Based on the indulgent smile on her face she wasn't offended by Teal'c's single mindedness either.
"Daniel Jackson." Teal'c bowed formally to the archaeologist.
"Teal'c," Daniel said with just the barest glance at Jack for confirmation.
"It is truly wonderful to have you among us again, Daniel Jackson," Teal'c said, his eyes warm with affection. "I have greatly missed our talks, and I look forward to resuming our weekly games of Jackal and Hounds."
"Um...that sounds really nice. Really nice...but...."
"Like I told you, Teal'c, Daniel's memory has gone AWOL," Jack explained.
"I heard you the first time, O'Neill," Teal'c said without even looking at Jack.
"Okay. Guess that puts me in my place," Jack muttered to Carter.
"The loss of your memory is of no concern," Teal'c said quietly to Daniel. "Together we once forged a strong if unexpected friendship. If necessary, we shall do so again."
Carter smiled approvingly at Teal'c, and Jack noticed the subtle easing of tension in Daniel's shoulders. If he hadn't feared that Teal'c would pound him into the ground, Jack would've kissed the Jaffa for finding the perfect words to make Daniel feel at home.
"I'm looking forward to it, Teal'c," Daniel said warmly.
"But that'll have to wait," Jack said quickly, before either Carter or Teal'c could draw Daniel into something that only the they would find fascinating. "Time for Daniel to go home now. The three of you can play again tomorrow."
"Admit it, sir, you just want to hog Daniel all to yourself," Carter said, slightly disgruntled that her C.O. was stealing Daniel away again so soon.
"Would I do that?" Jack asked with mock innocence.
"Why would he do that?" Daniel asked, perplexed.
"You'll have to forgive them, Daniel," Fraiser said as she joined them. "Your teammates are a little possessive when it comes to you."
"Especially O'Neill," Teal'c answered, provoking an even more confused look from Daniel.
"Anyway, you're free to go, Daniel," Fraiser told him. "But I do want you to check in everyday. I'm still hopeful we can figure out a way to help with the memory loss."
"Okay," Daniel said, ready to agree to almost anything if it meant he could go.... "Wait--I don't have anywhere to go. I don't have a home. Do I?"
"You're coming with me, Daniel," Jack said. "My place was basically your second home anyway."
"Come on," Jack said, jerking his head toward the door. "We'll get you settled in, feed you some real food, and reacquaint you with the marvels of cable T.V."
"Home sweet home," Jack said dryly as he ushered Daniel into the house. "Grab a seat. Make yourself at home. Need a drink?"
"Uh...no. Thank you. I'm...fine." Daniel wandered across the living room, already engrossed by apparently pretty much everything: pictures, books, CD's, even the rug on the floor.
"Ooo-kay," Jack said easily. He settled himself on the couch and watched Daniel as he searched and studied.
"So...is this jogging anything loose in the old noggin?" Jack asked gesturing around the room. Fraiser had agreed that keeping Daniel surrounded by things he had once been accustomed to might help prod his memory.
"Some things seem familiar," Daniel admitted. He reached out and stroked his finger along one of the swords mounted over the fireplace, apparently unaware that it was one of his own.
"But people more than things. You, especially. But Sam, too. And Teal'c. Even General Hammond and Dr. Fraiser," Daniel continued as he resumed his exploration. "Some places, too. This place."
"You spent a lot of time here."
"I lived here." Daniel stopped still, suddenly certain of that fact.
"Er...well...sort of," Jack agreed.
"You had your own apartment. Nice one. Kind of quirky. Kind of like you," Jack told him.
"So why does this feel so familiar?" Daniel persisted.
"You...spent a lot of time here," Jack repeated evasively.
Jack had to jump to his feet when Daniel suddenly took off down the hall. Daniel needed to pause and think for a moment, but ultimately he arrived at Jack's bedroom without a single wrong turn. Jack followed him into the bedroom and watched as Daniel walked around, his eyes taking in everything.
"This is familiar," Daniel said, stopping at the foot of the bed. "This room."
"You've been here," Jack said.
"So you keep saying."
"You've been here a lot."
"In your bedroom? Explain to me why your bedroom would be familiar to me," Daniel challenged.
"Because...it's your bedroom, too," Jack said hesitantly.
"Mine? You mean.... Are we...?" Daniel stammered. Jack nodded sharply, wary of Daniel's reaction.
"I don't.... I don't remember that," Daniel said, rubbing at his forehead as if the attempt to dredge up the memory were causing him actual physical pain. "Why don't I remember that?"
"It's all right, Daniel," Jack said calmly.
"No, it's not," Daniel said sharply. "It's important. I should remember it."
"You didn't even know your own name a few days ago," Jack reminded him. "Hey--you don't remember Sha're yet and she was your wife."
"Wife. I had a wife. But now I'm...I'm with you?" Daniel asked, clearly perplexed.
"Like I said--you're a little quirky," Jack said. Daniel sat down on the foot of the bed, clearly frustrated by his inability to recall his former life.
"Hey, Daniel. Don't get yourself all tied up in knots over this--okay? I'm just telling you so you'll know, not because I expect you to jump right back into...stuff," Jack said. "In the meantime, you can sleep in the guest room. Or I will, if you feel more at home in here."
"I feel comfortable here," Daniel said almost to himself. "I feel like I belong here. I feel like I belong...with you. But I don't remember it."
"It'll come back to you," Jack said.
"What if it doesn't?" Daniel asked. He looked up at Jack apprehensively.
"Then...you get a fresh start, a whole new life to explore," Jack said.
"From my viewpoint--yeah, it does," Jack admitted. "But we'll deal with it. For now we'll just go with the flow. We'll stick to whatever you remember or feel comfortable with."
"All of this is giving me a headache," Daniel sighed.
"Now that I know how to fix."
Jack looked down at the dark head resting against his shoulder. The previous evening, Daniel had insisted that they share the bed even though he had no memory of having ever shared a bed with Jack before. Of course, sharing the bed was all they had done because Daniel was still trying to wade through barely remembered feelings to find his way to his life.
Jack didn't mind really. He didn't even mind the morning erection currently trying to attract his attention. Morning erections and waking up next to Daniel were things that were familiar to Jack. Things that felt good.
"Jack," Daniel muttered sleepily.
Jack smiled. That, too, was familiar. Daniel talking in his sleep. Jack had had lots of fun teasing Daniel that he really never did shut up. It had become a familiar routine--Jack would insist that Daniel never shut up, Daniel would refuse to shut up about shutting up, and Jack would pull out one of his tried and true methods for shutting Daniel up. Methods that Daniel generally approved of in a very vocal manner.
"Jack." Daniel was looking at him with drowsy eyes.
"Yep," Daniel said with a contented yawn. He trailed his fingers across Jack's chest, feeling along all the bumps and grooves curiously. "This feels good."
"Uh huh," Jack said as Daniel's hand moved languidly down his torso. Jack quickly grabbed Daniel's hand and pulled it back up to safer territory.
"I really don't think we're ready for that, Daniel."
"Looks to me like you are," Daniel said.
Jack looked down the bed and groaned. There was no way he could explain the little tent down there as--say--his knee. Daniel slipped his hand from Jack's grasp and ran it gently across Jack's chest again.
"I may be out of practice but I'd say you're definitely ready," Daniel said, still looking down along the lean length of Jack's body.
"I meant you're not ready for this, Daniel," Jack explained.
"It feels good," Daniel said, focusing his attention on Jack's nipples.
"Yes, it does," Jack agreed even though he wasn't sure if Daniel was referring to his own comfort level or Jack's chest. "Daniel, please. I'm trying to be rational and mature and...and...."
"Are you normally mature and rational?" Daniel asked, searching Jack's face.
"Er...no, not usually," Jack admitted reluctantly.
"Then stop. How am I supposed to remember us, remember how we're supposed to be if you start acting out of character?"
Jack had to stop and think about that for a moment.
"That almost makes sense," he said.
"It does make sense."
"We're still not going to do anything," Jack insisted. "Call me quirky but I prefer that my partner knows who I am."
"I know that I don't remember us together but it feels right ," Daniel said with certainty.
"I want you to know that it's right," Jack said, rolling toward Daniel. Jack drew Daniel's face close to his, their lips only a breath apart. "In the meantime, we can try...this."
A first kiss of sorts--well, first for Daniel anyway. Although Daniel didn't act like it was a first for long. After brushing their lips together tentatively a couple of times, Daniel slowly but surely deepened the kiss. He stroked his tongue against Jack's lips, teeth and tongue, making teasing retreats only to return more aggressively.
Daniel moaned quietly into Jack's mouth while unconsciously pushing his hips closer to Jack's. Jack groaned himself. He wasn't a saint by any stretch of the imagination and it had been longer than he would've liked since he'd shared his bed and his body with a lover.
"There's something strangely attractive about the idea of having our first time again," Jack admitted.
"Really?" Daniel asked, attempting to kiss Jack's moving lips.
"Kind of. You doing your peaceful explorer thing is...exciting," Jack said. "Although, I really do like the 'knowing all the right buttons to push' stage we were at, too."
"I don't know what you like," Daniel said, chagrined. "Hell, I don't even know what I like."
"You like kissing."
"Ya think?" Daniel said dryly. He frowned, puzzled when Jack laughed at his words.
"Do you have any idea how much I've missed this?" Jack asked. Daniel just shook his head regretfully. He didn't know. Not yet. And what was more frightening--maybe not ever.
"I don't know and it's...."
"Scary. Very scary," Daniel said, worrying at his lower lip. "I have no idea what I did to make you want to be with me."
"You didn't do anything. You just...are. You're Daniel," Jack said, which explained it all as far as he was concerned. "You're annoying and argumentative and quite frankly the best damn fuck I've had in decades."
"Ah, so it's all about sex," Daniel said. He leaned forward and kissed Jack again.
"Of course it's all about sex," Jack said gruffly when Daniel pulled back far enough for him to speak. Daniel felt strangely at ease with that. He also had the impression that this was something Jack often said because Daniel knew, in some deeply obscured part of himself, that Jack absolutely sucked at talking about feelings.
"I like kissing," Daniel reminded Jack.
"So you do," Jack said, happy to accommodate. And even happier to find, as their bodies drew even closer, that another part of Daniel's body was showing some interest, too. Daniel's fingers started to bite painfully into Jack's muscles as Daniel tried to increase the friction between their bodies.
"Guess I'm not the only one who's been going without for too long," Jack teased lightly. Hell, Daniel probably hadn't had an erection for a year. Jack frowned as it occurred to him that Daniel hadn't even had a body for a year.
"Did you...could you even feel things when you were ascended? I mean--could you feel heat or cold or wet...?"
"I don't know," Daniel groaned, shaking like he couldn't stand this resurgence of sensation. "I don't remember. I just...oh, God, I don't remember ever feeling this."
"You okay?" Jack asked, running his hands down the sweat slicked skin of Daniel's back. Jack was still uneasy about making love to Daniel when he felt like Daniel couldn't possibly make an informed decision about what he wanted.
"I'll be fine," Daniel said quietly. His breathing eased slightly as Jack's hands moved calmly across his skin. Jack had let things progress so far. Too far. Now it was either plunge ahead or give Daniel the always appreciated welcome home gift of blue balls.
"How do you feel?" Jack persisted. He had to know before he could go any further.
"Of course the truth," Jack said.
"Ever since I...came back? Got thrown out? Whatever.... I never felt right. I didn't know who I was but I knew I didn't belong there. Here, now, I feel like...like I'm where I belong, Jack. Part of me--my instinct, my intuition--is telling me that it's right to be here. That it's right for us to be together."
"But you don't know it."
"I don't remember it, but I do know it."
"I love you," Jack said, brushing his fingers down the side of Daniel's face.
Daniel just smiled.
"I know that, too."
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