“I’m not discussing it, Daniel, so just drop it.”
Daniel watched Jack walk stiffly away, absolute in his refusal to tell Daniel what he’d done while in the throes of withdrawal. Daniel sighed, tired and frustrated. He needed to know. He had only vague impressions of events back on Earth, but something was telling him that whatever had happened was important. Daniel had skirted the truth earlier, telling Hammond that he didn’t really remember anything after going postal in the general’s office. It wasn’t a complete lie. What Daniel could recall was too nebulous to call a true memory. In all honesty, he hadn’t wanted to admit to anything for fear he’d find himself packed off for mandatory sessions with MacKenzie. This way, everyone was happy to just blame it all on the addiction and leave it at that, thinking that he didn’t know what had happened. And he didn’t. What Daniel did know was that some very strong emotions had been playing out under the influence of that machine.
Daniel rose from where he was sitting on the cold, tile floor in the room that had been designated as his and Jack’s for the duration. Jack had looked alternately grateful and aggravated at being asked to bunk with Daniel, but had acquiesced after Sam’s pointed reminder of Dr. Fraiser’s order to keep a close eye on Daniel. Daniel blew out an angry breath. Once again, he was the designated ‘fragile flower’ and it pissed him off royally. He understood. He’d suffered far more serious effects from the goa’uld machine than the rest of his team, but that was over now. He was fine and the last thing he wanted was more ‘help’ from Jack O’Neill. Not that kind anyway. What he did want from Jack was what Jack knew.
That thought got Daniel moving, wandering the maze of halls in the abandoned palace. He’d never before dropped a subject simply because Jack had asked him to and he wasn’t about to start now. Daniel knew full well that he could be irritatingly tenacious. He would let the issue slide for a while...but then he’d be back. Again and again and again until he finally wore Jack down. Daniel knew it and he knew Jack knew it. And the fact that they were confined on this planet, to this palace, for the next few weeks meant Daniel had all the time he needed to work on Jack. Daniel had seen the look in Jack’s eyes. He knew...he understood that something he had said or done had caused Jack a whole lot of grief. If only Daniel could remember what that something was.
Without intending to, Daniel found himself back at the heart of the ‘opium den’. Sam was happily engaged in tearing apart the light machine to see what made it tick. How it had made them tick. Of course, she couldn’t take it completely apart yet. They were going to need that machine for a while. The absence of the light show brought to Daniel’s attention just how gloomy the palace was. The dark colors of the walls and pillars were barely touched by the weak sunlight filtering through opaque windows. Despite the numerous inscriptions to study, Daniel didn’t think he would ever come to see this as a cheery place for convalescing. With a sigh, Daniel hunkered down, watching Sam tinker with the inner workings of the goa’uld machine for several minutes before she became cognizant of his presence and sat up with a warm smile.
“Sam, can I ask you a question?”
“Sure, Daniel. What’s up?” Sam responded immediately. She was so open to him that Daniel hated to burden her with any of this mess, but he needed information and he knew he could count on her to be honest with him.
“Um, do you, uh...do you know what happened when Jack went to my apartment? You know when...?” He winced at the pained expression that crossed her face. “I wouldn’t ask if I didn’t need to know.”
“I’d tell you if I knew,” Sam said earnestly. Daniel believed her. Knowledge was vital to both of them and she would never willfully keep him ignorant. “All the colonel would say is that you were about to pull a Barber.”
“Crude, rude, and shockingly insensitive. That’s Jack all right,” Daniel acknowledged wryly. Sam smiled hesitantly
“He was really shook up.” A grimace twisted Sam’s face. “I’m so sorry, Daniel.”
“For what?” Daniel was genuinely puzzled.
“You were almost dead when the colonel brought you back and I was just standing in front of this stupid light, completely oblivious. I feel awful.”
“Apparently, technically, I was dead.” Daniel smiled apologetically at the guilty expression on Sam’s face. “Don’t feel bad, Sam. None of us were able to fight this thing. If our situations were reversed I wouldn’t have done any better.” He made a disgusted snort. “Obviously.”
“Not your fault, Daniel.”
“I know.” They both knew...and it didn’t make either of them feel any better.
Daniel was back in one of the many rooms he’d not had time to thoroughly examine before. Devoid of any furnishings it gave no clue as to its purpose. There were just yards and yards of inscription covered walls and pillars. He sat in front of one of the columns, notebook in hand, and stared as his mind drifted. Yet he was instantly aware of Jack peeking in during what must have been his 100th circuit of the palace. He was playing the old ‘it’s harder to hit a moving target’ game in an attempt to avoid Daniel. Jack started to quietly make yet another escape when Daniel acknowledged his presence. “Jack.”
“Not going to happen, Daniel,” Jack snapped defensively, although he did step into the room.
“Trust me, it’s for the best.” Daniel finally turned his head to look directly at Jack.
“Best for me? Or for you?” Daniel asked softly.
“Both.” Daniel shook his head with a look of terrible sadness. And Jack felt a shiver go up his spine as he flashed back to the balcony and seeing a similar expression on a man about to let go.
“That bad?” Daniel asked, reading something of Jack’s discomfort on his face. Jack stood in obstinate silence. “Jack, I really need to know.”
“For once in your life, Daniel, can’t you just let it go?” Jack begged. No, of course not, Jack thought wearily. Instead Jack could see the stubbornness kick in. The tension in Daniel’s shoulders, the set of his jaw - after all those years Jack could read him like a book. He knew Daniel was not going to let this go. “I’ll never make it three weeks,” Jack grumbled. “I’m going to have to shoot one of us.”
“What are you so afraid of?” Daniel persisted. Jack stiffened defiantly, denying Daniel’s assumption. “Jack, I remember some of it. I remember fragments of thoughts and feelings and I really need to figure them out.”
“No!” Jack thundered. Daniel watched as his former lover made like the proverbial bat out of hell. Jack didn’t usually move that fast unless there was a goa’uld on his six. The self-described hard-ass colonel was scared to death, and that scared Daniel. Ultimately, however, Daniel was more frightened of not knowing. He decided to press his advantage while Jack was somewhat off balance. Daniel didn’t have to search long before finding Jack lurking around Sam in the light room. She was looking at Jack suspiciously, unable to figure her CO’s sudden interest in goa’uld technology. Sam finally caught sight of Daniel standing on the other side of the room. She didn’t need to be an astrophysicist to see that Jack plus Daniel equaled time to get the hell out of Dodge. Jack watched her go, torn between wanting to tag along with her and not wanting to give Daniel any proof of how threatened he felt.
“Jack, what did I do?”
“You were on your balcony.” Daniel just nodded. That much he remembered.
“You were going to...let go!” Jack snarled angrily. Daniel tried to figure out who the anger was directed at. Daniel? Or Jack? Daniel moved closer to the darkened machine, standing directly across from Jack.
“Not a pleasant experience. I understand that.”
“No, it wasn’t,” Jack agreed grimly. “I watched Barber.... Granted, I didn’t know the guy well but it still sucked. Not something I wanted to repeat. Especially not less than 24 hours later.”
“So, it wasn’t me. You would have felt this way about anyone.” Jack’s words were strangled to incoherency. And Daniel still wasn’t getting it.
“Damn it, Daniel! Of course it was you!” Jack looked about as anguished as Daniel had ever seen him.
“What did I say?” Daniel asked softly.
“Nothing. Nothing that meant anything,” Jack insisted irritably. “It’s just like when you were coming down off the sarcophagus.” Daniel cringed. He’d never fully purged the guilt he felt about the things he’d said and done while addicted to the sarcophagus. “You said some pretty nasty things then, Daniel. But it wasn’t you. It was the addiction.”
“But at least some of it was based in the truth,” Daniel admitted.
“For crying out loud, Daniel. Why do you have to be so damned honest with yourself? Do like the rest of us and bury the bad stuff way in the back of your mind and pretend it never happened,” Jack said. “Denial, Daniel, it works.”
“There were real feelings this time, too,” Daniel said, ignoring Jack’s advice.
“No,” Jack rasped harshly. He didn’t want to believe that. “You were high, that’s all.”
“I wasn’t high. If I had been I wouldn’t have been out on the ledge. I would’ve been bouncing off the walls and driving everyone crazy,” Daniel pointed out logically.
“Which would be different from your usual behavior how?”
“Not this time, Jack,” Daniel said stubbornly. “You’re not going to use jokes, or sarcasm, or false ignorance to hide from this.”
“Not hiding,” Jack asserted, knowing he wasn’t fooling either of them. Jack’s hands were twitching at his sides, the effects of the milder withdrawal they were all going through making him edgy. Suddenly it occurred to him that Daniel might be more strongly affected than the rest of the team. He’d been bounced from addiction to withdrawal, high to low, and back again like a yo-yo. “Daniel, you’ve had this worse than any of us. You’re still a little out of whack here. We all are. Just leave it alone for now.”
“For now,” Daniel snorted. He started pacing, becoming more and more agitated. He turned on Jack suddenly, anger sparking in Daniel’s eyes. “Are you afraid I’ll jump?” He gestured wildly as he rounded the machine to confront Jack. “I don’t think there’s any place here high enough to kill me.” Daniel got right up in Jack’s face. “Going to start locking up your gun?”
“Back off, Jackson!” Jack rasped angrily. “That tears it you son of a.... And thanks, really, for planting that scenario in my head. Honestly hadn’t considered it before.” And now that he had, Jack thought he’d better tell Carter to secure her weapon, too.
Daniel, meanwhile, was struck by the possibility that he might have pushed a little too far this time. He backed away several steps, struck again by how out of control his emotions were. “Sorry, I...that was out of line.” Daniel realized he was reacting out of frustration. He just couldn’t get a grip what it was that had brought them to this point. It kept sliding just out of his reach, just out of sight. He looked bleakly at Jack, who was now wearing that hated stone face, like nothing in the world could touch him. Daniel knew better.
“Daniel, don’t,” Jack growled. Daniel wondered what the anger was masking. Fear? Grief? “Damn it, Daniel. Snap out of it.” Or was it a mask at all?
“It’s okay, Jack,” Daniel said vaguely. “It’s not your fault.” Daniel felt a profound urge to get out of the room. Get away from Jack. Daniel felt like he was being crushed, suffocating as if buried under tons of stone. Daniel almost laughed at that, thinking it a fitting legacy, perhaps, given his parents’ fate. But even that bitter humor was quickly beaten down. Although his blocks were psychological rather than physical, they were equally lethal and worse, his desire to hold on to Jack was threatening his former lover, too. That wasn’t what Daniel wanted. It wasn’t what he needed.
Jack was shouting every obscenity he knew, and then some, as he hauled ass after Daniel. Daniel had gone from being pissed off, which was okay, Jack could deal with that, to grieving, being crushed by the weight of the world, which was very much not okay. Carter poked her head out of the doorway to her assigned room as soon as she heard the commotion. Jack barked one word, ‘Daniel’, and she joined the hunt without question. Far too many minutes of frenzied searching later, Jack found him. On a balcony, barely visible in the deepening twilight. Carter pulled up a few steps behind Jack and waited for his lead.
“Daniel, I’m only going to ask you once. Come inside.” Jack moved a few steps closer when Daniel didn’t react to him. “We’re only about three stories high, and it’s all sand down there. The fall won’t kill you,” Jack informed Daniel bluntly. “But I will.” Carter sputtered indignant noises behind Jack. He made a slashing gesture with his hand and she unhappily desisted. “I can’t do this again, Daniel. I can’t.”
“I know,” Daniel said, nodding his head slowly, understanding. “It’s not...take Sam and go.” Carter made a choking sound. She wasn’t the only one with her heart in her throat.
“Daniel, for god’s sake, it’s the freaking light!”
“That just intensifies the feelings.” Daniel sighed. Many of the remaining memories had returned during the brief time he’d evaded Jack, tumbling into his mind almost faster than he could assimilate them. “I think I understand. I think I know why.” Daniel looked at Jack. “I remember.” He gave a violent shake, trying to throw off the vestiges of addiction induced melancholy. “It wasn’t just you, Jack.”
“What?” Sam blurted out, startled from her silence.
“Carter, shouldn’t you check on the kid? Or something?” Jack prompted. She stared back at him, her own version of the stubborn face set in place.
“It’s okay, Sam,” Daniel reassured her. “I’m not going anywhere,” he said with a slightly embarrassed nod at the balcony. Carter shot a warning look at her CO before reluctantly leaving the balcony.
“Daniel.” Walking away was not an option for Jack. It never had been.
“You were right,” Daniel said quietly.
“I was,” Jack said quickly. A frown creased his forehead and he shuffled his feet. “Uh...about what?”
“The withdrawal,” Daniel said, unable to suppress a small bittersweet smile at such typical Jack behavior. “We’re a little on edge right now. We should probably keep some distance for a while.”
“Exactly,” Jack agreed with obvious relief. Daniel fought another surge of anger at Jack’s eagerness to hide emotionally as well as physically. “You’re okay here, right?” Jack asked as he backed slowly toward the doorway.
“My grief over us, over losing you, is what the addiction played on. That’s what fueled my suicidal impulse,” Daniel explained in a firm voice. Jack stared wordlessly, his eyes dark with pain, his jaw clenched in anger. Certain he now had Jack’s full attention, Daniel continued. “I would never have attempted...never considered doing that if it hadn’t been for that damn light. But I have grieved for us. Apparently I still am.” Daniel looked Jack directly in the eye. “That’s what all that ‘stuff’ I was babbling was about.”
“I know,” Jack ground out through clenched teeth.
“I thought maybe you did,” Daniel said. “Anyway-sorry.”
“For what?” Jack asked warily.
“For putting you through that,” Daniel said with a weary wave of his hand as he leaned against the stone railing. “For making you think it was all your responsibility.” He chuckled bitterly. “After all, you’re not the only person I’ve ever lost.”
“But I’m the worst because I did it deliberately,” Jack said quietly. “Sha’re, Shifu - they couldn’t help the pain they caused you. They had no choice.” Daniel dropped his head as his heart twisted with not yet forgotten grief. “I had a choice. I could have lessened the pain. Instead, I added to it.” Daniel was grateful that Jack both recognized and acknowledged his own role in the emotional black hole Daniel felt like he’d fallen into in the last few days.
“Yes,” he agreed softly. Jack grimaced. “Truth is - it really does all go away. Love, family, friendship...everything. And I can’t get it back.”
“You can,” Jack insisted. “We can.”
“Are you sure about that?”
“Are you?” Jack shot back.
“No,” Daniel admitted ruefully. “The only thing I’m sure about right now is that I can’t be sure of anything I’m feeling or thinking.”
“So...sleep on it,” Jack suggested. “We’ve got time. We’ll figure it out.”
2 days later:
“Mmmrrghhhhh...Wha...?” Daniel reluctantly opened his eyes to see Sam smiling brightly at him. She wiggled a syringe at him.
“More blood samples,” she explained.
“Leech,” Daniel grumbled as he sat up.
“Janet’s orders,” Sam responded defensively.
“I was talking about Janet.” Sam grinned. As soon as Daniel had grudgingly bared his arm, she efficiently drew some of his blood. While she finished he looked over at the other, unused, bedroll. “Where’s Jack?”
“Wandering,” Sam replied with a shrug. She was dying to ask what was going on between the two men but forced herself to not intrude. Daniel sensed her apprehension.
“Don’t worry. We’ll work it out,” Daniel said giving her hand a soft squeeze. “How are you feeling?”
“Okay. A little restless but okay,” Sam said. “You?”
“Restless about sums it up,” Daniel said agreeably. “Except when I’m sleeping for ten hours at a stretch,” he added ruefully, glancing at his watch.
“That thing really played hell with your metabolism,” Sam said, jerking her head in the general direction of the light room. “Sleep is exactly what your body needs.”
“Yes, Mom,” Daniel teased. Sam stuck her tongue out at him in retaliation.
“I’d better get these samples back to Janet.”
“Any change in the prognosis?” Daniel asked as he slowly began to fully untangle himself from his sleeping bag.
“Three weeks minimum,” Sam said shaking her head as she gathered her equipment and headed for the door.
“Oh, goody,” Daniel mumbled as he reached for his pants.
During the first couple of days they’d all adapted to the slow weaning of the alien energy source. Daniel still felt a little edgy-restless as Sam had put it-but for the most part in control. Yet he and Jack were still avoiding each other. As Daniel’s emotional state had evened out he’d devoted a lot of time to trying to comprehend everything that had happened between the two of them. Not the dramatic balcony scene. That had been all too easy to understand. But what had been going on between them that had led to such a dramatic near finale. Daniel thought he understood, or at least was beginning to understand, but it was time to talk to Jack and start dealing with fact rather than conjecture.
Daniel saw Jack’s legs first, stretched out on the floor. Jack was sitting on a sort of veranda at the front of the palace, his back against the exterior wall, looking out over the dull blue-gray and seemingly barren sea. Daniel hesitated just inside the doorway, trying to judge Jack’s mood from what little he could see of the man.
“Daniel.” Jack’s low voice acknowledged Daniel’s presence. A brief smile eased Daniel’s expression. He hadn’t expected or even intended to sneak up on a man as professionally paranoid as Jack. Daniel moved out onto the porch, standing just on the other side of the door from Jack, and joined him in gazing over the monotonous vista. “What’s up?” Jack asked after a moment.
“Me - finally,” Daniel said with mild disgust. “Apparently sleeping half your life away is the treatment of choice for addiction to alien machines.” Jack rolled his head against the wall as he looked up at Daniel.
“You needed it,” Jack suggested. “And it’s not like we’ve got anything better to do.”
“Not for the most part, no,” Daniel agreed, glancing at Jack.
“Don’t, Daniel,” Jack said wearily.
“We have to talk, Jack,” Daniel rebuked mildly.
“I can’t do this again, Daniel.”
“That’s what it was, wasn’t it?” Daniel asked, turning to fully face Jack.
“What what was?” Jack asked defensively.
“This,” Daniel said, gesturing at both of them as he knelt to bring himself down to eye level with Jack. “What happened between us. It was you not wanting to lose anyone else,” Daniel explained. “I lost you because you were afraid of losing me.”
“I suppose you think that makes me a coward,” Jack snapped, not bothering to dispute Daniel’s conclusions.
“Yes,” Daniel said mildly. “And a fool.” Jack bristled at the accusation. “You don’t know what might have happened in the future. Maybe we wouldn’t have stayed together. Maybe,” Daniel put up a hand to stop Jack’s imminent rebuttal. “Maybe one of us would have died. But maybe not. Instead you made sure we both lost something good when you cut me off. And we were good together,” Daniel added defiantly. Jack simply closed his mouth, unable or unwilling to argue the point. “If only I had known....”
“Hey!” Jack interrupted. “If only *I* had known.” Daniel turned a puzzled look on him.
“No! I didn’t know. You should’ve realized by now that I’m freaking clueless most of the time, Daniel. I swear I don’t know how or why it happened but I thought I was...I don’t know...being mature. Being a responsible leader.” Jack’s expression was grim. “I thought I was doing the right thing.”
“Now? Now...I still think I did the right thing. Probably,” Jack said stubbornly, struggling with his own conflicting needs. “I may have been a little confused about the why of it but it was the best decision. This way is better...easier...for both of us.”
“Easier?” Daniel asked in disbelief. “Could I just point out something here?” Jack shrugged, and then nodded. “Did the fact that we weren’t involved anymore make it any easier when you...when we were on my balcony? Did you feel any less frightened or hurt or...or...?”
“Damned if I do and damned if I don’t,” Jack agreed, speaking more to himself than to Daniel.
“I guess so,” Daniel said softly after a moment. He rose and turned to go. Jack made no move to follow but reached out with one hand. Puzzled, Daniel grasped it.
“I do love you, Daniel.”
“I know.” Daniel regretfully released Jack’s hand and continued through the door. “It’s just not enough, is it?”
2 days later:
“I’ve been thinking.” Startled, Daniel looked up from the notebook where he’d finally been managing to do some real translation work. Jack was standing in the door, hesitant.
“About what you said the other day,” Jack explained. Daniel sighed and pointedly turned his eyes back to his notebook. “You’re wrong. It is enough.”
“Obviously it isn’t,” Daniel said curtly, snapping the notebook shut.
“It is,” Jack insisted.
“Damned if you do and damned if you don’t.” Daniel spit Jack’s words back at him as he turned to face the colonel who still stood by the door, seemingly frozen in place.
“Well, yeah,” Jack said reluctantly. “Damn it, Daniel. Do you have any idea what it would do to me if something happened to you?”
“I think I have an idea,” Daniel said dryly.
“Right,” Jack conceded. “But you’re stronger than I am, Daniel. You can handle shit. I’m not good at it.”
“Practice makes perfect,” Daniel said with a hint of bitterness. Jack stayed silent, unable to find a suitable response. “Sorry,” Daniel continued. “I’m hurt. And disappointed. And I’m taking it out on you.” A slight smile curved Daniel’s lips. “Of course, you’re the reason I’m hurt and disappointed....”
“Nothing new there,” Jack acknowledged with a tentative grin of his own. “Thing is - you were also right. I can’t not....” Jack fumbled desperately for words. “It’s too late for me to pretend that what happens to you doesn’t matter to me. Years too late.”
“So where does that leave us?” Daniel questioned softly.
“Well, if you still love me.” Jack glanced quickly at Daniel’s face before dropping his eyes and continuing uncomfortably. “And if we can get past all of ‘this’ then...I hope it leaves us together.”
“Together?” Daniel asked warily.
“Together,” Jack agreed. “I’ve been thinking and I think together is good. It’s what we should be.”
“Together,” Daniel repeated. “As in you and me...?”
“As in forever, I own you, you own me, til death do us part together.”
“Oh, that kind of together,” Daniel said noncommittally.
“We can still do that, can’t we?” Jack asked anxiously.
“You know I never stopped loving you.” Jack nodded. “And I already own you...as much as anyone can.”
“Took me a while to figure that out but...yeah.”
“Then I suppose that means we should be together.” Jack burst out of his reticent stance and grabbed Daniel, claiming him with a kiss that told Daniel everything Jack couldn’t find the words to express. Daniel responded instinctively, locking his arms around Jack, holding him like he’d never let go. When they finally broke apart, gasping more from emotion than lack of air, Jack grasped the sides of Daniel’s head with both hands.
“I swear, Daniel. You ever die before me - again - I’m coming right after you.”
“Yeah?” Jack’s hands loosened their grip and he slid his right hand gently down along Daniel’s jaw and onto his neck.
“You die before me, I’m staying here just to spite you.” Taken aback, Jack stared at Daniel. Then a grin tugged at one side of his mouth.
“You’d do it, too, wouldn’t you?”
“You know I would,” Daniel promised.
“You realize that means I would have to come back and haunt you? I’d follow your every step and hover over you whenever you try to work,” Jack vowed.
“So basically nothing would change,” Daniel said philosophically.
“Apparently not,” Jack agreed, pulling Daniel into another, gentler, embrace. “Except the sex.”
“What?” Daniel said, pausing in his quest to kiss every inch of Jack’s neck.
“I gotta think it’s probably not easy for a ghost to get a hard-on.”
“Somehow, I think you’d manage, Jack,” Daniel snorted softly into Jack’s shoulder.
“We’re going to be okay,” Jack said. “Right?” Daniel hesitated, taking a moment to drink in the reassuring presence of his past and future lover with all of his senses.
“We’ll be okay, Jack.” Daniel smiled as he pulled back far enough so that he could look into Jack’s eyes. “Who knows? We may even be better than okay.”
Back to Eos' Home