How had he ever got himself into this situation in the first place?
Jack remembered watching Daniel squat by Sha're's grave. Daniel's hands had been deep in the sand for a moment, before he raised them, full of the element that now covered her, and let the grains trickle through his fingers to the ground below.
It wasn't unusual for Jack to be lost for words, not where Daniel was concerned.
Daniel was the verbose one, the one with the vocabulary that allowed him to say much without saying anything at all. Words that shielded him as often as they illuminated, showing the intricate spirals of his mind to any who cared to look and listen.
Not that many did, even though it had seemed at times to Jack that he and Sha're were both like planets orbiting Daniel, pulled by him, trapped by him. But now one of them had spun free, spinning to her destruction in a way Jack had seen coming ever since the day that Apophis had chosen her. Ever since the day Sha're had been taken and Daniel left behind.
If it hadn't been that Daniel needed to impress someone, that he needed to show Jack what he had found, they could all as easily have been taken, or killed. It was blind luck that Ferretti had seen the address that the guards had dialled to, or they would have had no idea where to look.
Was it better, Jack wondered, that Daniel had the chance to see what Sha're had become? Or would it have been kinder if he had never known, always wondering what had happened to her?
Daniel hadn't said much this time round, pulling his silence round him like a cloak, and it was that which worried Jack more than anything else. Daniel had mentioned the odd dreams he'd had last time they met up with Sha're, the confusing twisting of reality and imagination that had Sha're and Amonet battling for supremacy as Apophis' queen fried Daniel's brain once more.
He hadn't wanted to hear it, not really.
Even dead, Sha're held the power, as if she circled him and he watched her, making Jack her dark antithesis. He hated her and loved her as well, remembering the radiant happiness he had seen in Daniel's face on Abydos, the pain she had caused by being taken as a Host, even though it was not of her choosing.
He was glad Sha're was dead - if he hadn't been certain already that he was damned, Jack might have been concerned about the vehemence of his feelings towards her. It wasn't right, not really, to blame Sha're for things she had no control over, for the actions of the parasite that controlled her, but Jack hated her still. For every time he saw that look in Daniel's eyes, the one that said he was close to the brink, and it was because of her.
And still he couldn't break free.
So, Jack hated her and he envied her in equal measure. After all, who knew better the circle in which he was trapped than the other who had danced that dance? Even as a Host, she'd been unable to escape him, coming back to him in her hour of need, when heavy with child, and again even through dreams.
They were bound together, they three.
He had no idea what went on in Daniel's head, and Jack wasn't completely sure he wanted to know either. He was sure Daniel's imagination was a scary place, even from the little Daniel had told him. Hadn't he watched his parents die? How could Daniel be unaffected by that, even had nothing else happened along the way?
Chances were, he would come tonight, seeking solace. And Jack, ever-faithful, would give Daniel what he needed, bask in the warmth for a little while.
Not for long. Soon the sun would rise and Daniel would spin off again, inexorably pulling Jack along behind him, while giving the illusion that he was the follower. Jack knew differently. Ever since the first time Daniel had stepped into danger, he had been the one reacting to Daniel's actions and not the other way around.
And he could deny him nothing.
He wanted more, but that wanting was a futile thing, born of his desperate need, and Daniel ignored it, if he even realised it existed. How could he see what Jack needed, when he was so intent on himself?
It was ultimately self-destructive, Jack had seen the signs written long ago, he knew how it would end. He was like something trapped in a decaying orbit, circling the place that would become his destruction. In time, it would pull him down, for he wasn't strong enough to break free. It wasn't the fault of the thing he circled, that would be like blaming the sun for scorching the leaves when it rose, it was just how things were.
Force of nature.
It had all been fated, Jack felt at times, written before history itself, this dance they were trapped in. It had begun when he had taken Daniel home with him after they all returned from Abydos, something striking a chord within himself as he saw Daniel looking so lost.
That had been the beginning of the end.
Daniel had looked for comfort, and Jack had given it, never realising the chains he was weighting upon himself. It had come to be something of a pattern, he realised now, looking back. Daniel would be distraught, usually over something to do with Sha're or the child, and would come to him. It was always a reaction to something, Jack had figured out, never that Daniel just wanted him. It was never that.
And this time? This time they had found the child, answered Sha're's call again and followed blindly as she led them to him. The child, Shifu he said his name was, had chosen to send Daniel inside himself, making him look for answers to the questions he had never asked. Made him examine himself.
Jack watched Daniel and wondered if he'd ever discover what had happened, if Daniel would ever trust him enough to say. The last time, with Sha're, he had pieced it together, knowing his scepticism didn't help Daniel be any more forthcoming. It had sounded crazy, though, that Sha're was trying to communicate, when all the time her captor was intent on murder.
This time, he had seen it in Daniel's eyes. Something had happened, something big. And Jack knew that, one way or another, he would probably be the one who had to pick up the pieces.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
It was as inevitable as the sun rising, Jack decided, as he opened his door and found Daniel there. Now, now that they had found the Harsesis and lost him again, Daniel wanted to talk?
"You were there." He didn't need to ask what Daniel meant, just closed the door behind him. "You all were, apart from Teal'c, and Sam suspected I'd done something to arrange his death, which I probably had."
Jack just looked at him, in silence, watching him move. Daniel paced, measuring the length of the living room, unsettled.
"It was as though I needed you to be there, Jack. To see what I'd done. And you tried to kill me when you realised."
Daniel paused - he nodded, looking past Jack, his gaze fixed on the far wall.
"You knew I'd become something I'd never want to be, so you tried to help me."
"By killing you," Jack said, his words flat.
"This whole experience has made me think about a lot of things, you know?" Daniel was looking at him now, eyes sharp and alive. He was balanced on the balls of his feet, looking like he was undecided whether to stay or leave. "Things I've done," Daniel continued.
"You're no worse than anyone else," Jack said, evading Daniel's gaze.
"How can you say that, knowing what you know about me?"
"Because it's the case - we all make mistakes, Daniel. We all do things we regret."
"I regret a lot of things." It was the tone of Daniel's voice that made Jack look at him. The words were steeped in sorrow. "Too many to count, maybe."
"Like what?" Jack hated himself for it, but he had to ask. Had to hear it from Daniel, make him say the words.
"You want me to spell it out for you?" Daniel asked, disbelieving.
"I used you." Jack waited. "I needed something from you and I took it, with no thought of what you wanted, or how you felt about it."
"You make it sound like you forced yourself on me, Daniel." He couldn't look at Daniel, didn't dare allow himself that luxury.
"And I didn't?" Daniel's voice was full of self-loathing, like he'd turned over a rock and found something horrible lurking beneath it, and that something was his own true nature.
"I could always have said 'no' to you, Daniel. I could have turned you away. I just chose not to."
"Why not?" Daniel asked. "Why, whenever I turned up on your doorstep, didn't you ever shut the door in my face, Jack?"
Jack looked at him this time. It was clear Daniel had no idea at all.
"That was never an option, Daniel," he said, trying to keep calm. "And you know that. You've always known that."
Daniel shook his head.
"I'm seriously thinking about resigning." He looked down. "I did that before, in the dream Sha're gave me." He didn't mention the pain Jack knew it had caused him, even though it hadn't been real.
"Why?" Jack asked. "Because you got a look inside yourself and didn't like what you saw?" Daniel nodded, not looking up. "Welcome to the human race, Dr. Jackson."
"Because I have no idea how you can bear to look at me every day," Daniel said, meeting his eyes now. "Knowing what I've done. What I am."
"For crying out loud, Daniel, would you listen to yourself?" Jack shook his head, as if trying to make his thoughts fall into order. "That isn't a good enough reason. Running away solves nothing."
"I need to do something, Jack."
"You want forgiveness? Absolution?" Jack asked. "I can't give you that, no-one can."
"Then what happens now?" Daniel asked, looking up again. His eyes were suspiciously bright - he looked like a man perched on the edge of a precipice, too scared to look down.
"We keep going."
"As easy as that?"
"Who said it was easy?"
"I never meant to make you do anything, Jack." Daniel sank into a nearby chair, resting his head in his hands, his voice muffled. "You should have done something, said something."
"You're a force of nature, Daniel," Jack said, and smiled to himself when Daniel looked up, confused. "You don't argue with nature, you just get the hell out of its way. Besides which, you're still forgetting it takes two to tango."
"You had your moments, Daniel," Jack continued, watching Daniel return his head to his hands once more. "More than most, maybe. But I should have said something."
"Would I have listened?" Daniel asked. "Or would I have just kept on going?"
"I have no idea," Jack said, feeling the first flickerings of hope.
~ fin ~