Daniel reached out to his ever-present coffee mug as he considered the inscriptions that he had been studying for the past hour. There was something about them that fascinated him and it wasn't until the coffee was actually in Daniel's mouth that he realised that it was stone cold. Grimacing slightly, he spat the coffee back into the mug before glaring at it as if this would make a difference to what he found there.
The past few days had been punctuated by visits from Ferretti and Janet, among others, and he had tolerated them, knowing that to go along with their good intentions meant that they would leave him alone all the sooner. That was something he had learned over the time he had known Jack - that there was a time for a strategic withdrawal, a time when you just had to retreat in order to move forward in the future.
Daniel glanced up at the calendar on the bookcase.
Did I remember to cross yesterday off? he wondered. Does that make today Thursday or Friday?
He knew that SG1 were due back some time on Friday afternoon and the way that his heart started to pound when he considered this fact made Daniel frown.
So much for 'let's be friends, Jack', he thought, bitterly. I start thinking about seeing you for the first time in days and my stomach starts to flop about like a frog with a broken leg. Wonderful.
"Coffee," Daniel said to himself, picking up the half-empty mug as he got up from his chair. "That's what I need..."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~The morning had come way too quickly for SG1.
Dr. Wilson had added insult to injury by apparently being a consummate 'morning person' - she had almost begun to talk again even before she was fully awake, but Jack was happier now.
He had managed, through great mental effort, to get to the stage where he could tune out what the annoying scientist was saying. A quick glance at the faces of the other two team members clearly showed that this was a mental discipline they had yet to master.
Jack stifled a grin.
As the team headed back towards the area where the Stargate for this planet was situated, Jack thought over what he had been contemplating the previous night. He had fallen asleep in the end, but it seemed as though, once he had, that same home movie had started in his dreams. This time, however, it seemed intent to focus on two particular scenes, each more recent than those he had recalled earlier. Once again, all he could see was Daniel's face, full of emotions he was unable to hide.
Horror as Jack reacted coldly to his declaration of love....
Terror as Jack held his life literally in his hands, at the precipice....
Would it really have been so hard to tell him how I feel about him? Jack thought. I had nothing to lose, not really. But I panicked, both times, made a decision to keep in control of the situation, as if Daniel was someone I couldn't trust not to hurt me...
Jack stopped in his tracks as the thought hit him.
"Colonel?" Carter asked, as she came up to where he was standing. "Is something wrong?"
"No, Major," Jack replied. "Just thinking about something, that's all. Let's press on..."
He began to walk again, this time conscious of Carter's eyes on his back. It was as though he could feel their heat, burning through the layers of clothing he was wearing, piercing him straight to the heart.
Was that what this is all about? Jack wondered. How could I be so stupid? Daniel's the last person who would ever be likely to hurt me, no matter how he feels about me. And now I've blown my chances with him, haven't I?
Tell him, his internal voice encouraged.
Why do you always pop up at the most awkward moment? he thought. How can I tell him now? He'll laugh in my face - that's all I'd deserve.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Finally, Daniel thought. Friday at last!
As much as he had enjoyed the work he had been doing for Dr. Johannssen, over the past few hours Daniel had noticed that his thoughts kept wandering. Whereas normally he could quite easily work for long periods of time, concentration at the maximum, now his eyes seemed to keep straying to the clock, while his mind calculated the amount of time left before SG1 returned.
It's just habit, Daniel told himself. It's been so long since they've been on a mission without me that I don't know what to do with myself, that's all it is. Even as he thought that, Daniel was not convinced that this theory held water as an explanation. They're my friends, he thought, Sam, Teal'c and Jack. That's what it is.
Sighing, he returned his gaze to the inscription he had been working on, but it was no good. His usual level of concentration, the one which enabled him to work steadily at something for hours on end, was missing.
"This is crazy," Daniel said out loud, his words echoing in the empty office. "I'm not achieving anything."
As Daniel spoke, he stretched in his seat, feeling the bandages on his side stretch and shift. There was a sudden twinge of pain, one which razored its way up his spine, making his head swim slightly as it hit.
"That's not good."
With one last glance at the inscription, which still stubbornly refused to give up its secrets, Daniel threw the pencil he had been toying with down onto the desk and got up, heading for the infirmary.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~SG1 were resting in the shade of a large rock outcropping. Carter was on watch and Jack was watching Teal'c being interrogated by Dr. Wilson. The scientist was struggling valiantly to get answers to her questions out of the Jaffa, who was being even more taciturn than usual. Never one to waste words, Teal'c was managing to answer even her most cleverly-phrased questions with a single word.
At one point in the interrogation, Teal'c caught Jack's eye with a glance that was full of equal amounts of amusement and annoyance. It was at this point, although he had been enjoying the show so far, that Jack decided to intervene.
"Isn't it time for you to meditate, Teal'c?" he asked, crossing to where the Jaffa and Dr. Wilson were seated.
"It is," Teal'c replied gravely.
"Enough, Dr. Wilson." Jack's voice was firm. "Teal'c needs to do this, and he needs peace and quiet."
"But I have more questions..." the scientist began, pouting slightly at the colonel's words.
"Later," Jack said. "If Teal'c wants to."
Dr. Wilson looked unconvinced, but nodded grudgingly.
"I'm going to relieve Major Carter. You just stay here and keep quiet, okay?"
She nodded again, her eyes going to where Teal'c was sitting, now clearly having begun kel-no-reem.
Shaking his head at the infinite resources of curiosity that God seemed to give to scientists, Jack headed for where he had last seen Carter, climbing easily up onto one of the ledges that threaded their way around the rock.
"Nothing going on, sir," she reported. "Dr. Wilson's very quiet. What did you do?"
"I could see Teal'c getting ready to disembowel her, so I thought I'd better give him an out," Jack said, with a smile.
Carter smiled back, knowing full well that the Jaffa had more patience than herself and the colonel put together.
"He misses Daniel," she said, quietly. "And so do I."
"I know," Jack said. "For all his faults, at least he never interrogated someone like that."
"What are you going to do, colonel?" Jack looked at Carter, his eyes asking her to continue. "I mean, about Daniel. I don't want to interfere, really, but we can't go on like this. SG1 needs Daniel. And so do you, if only you'd realise it."
"What are you, Jiminy Cricket?" Jack asked, trying to smile to soften the harshness of his words.
Carter shook her head, getting up from where she had been crouched on watch.
"Just a friend, colonel," she answered. "That's all."
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~I spend way too much time here, thought Daniel as he headed through the doors into the infirmary.
As he looked around the strangely empty room, he remembered the last time he had been in here, with Sam joking about him needing to use 'his' bed again. It hadn't been funny at the time and the joke had not improved with age.
Where is everyone? he wondered, crossing the first room and heading into the next. I know there haven't been many missions recently, but this is ridiculous. There must be someone here...
From where he was standing, in the empty ward, Daniel could see the door to Dr. Fraiser's office standing ajar. Taking one last look around, but still not seeing any other medical staff, Daniel began to cross the room towards Janet's office, just to check whether the doctor was there.
"How is Dr. Jackson?"
Daniel stopped in his tracks, hearing General Hammond's voice echoing through the empty room. For a moment he was torn - wanting to know what the conversation was about, particularly as he seemed to be its subject, but also fearing discovery. He sidled closer to the doorway, leaning in what he hoped was a casual manner on a nearby cabinet.
"I think this rest has done him good, General," Dr. Fraiser's voice said. "It's been a while since he has had such regular meals and reasonable amounts of sleep. As his doctor, I should be thanking you."
"I can hardly take the credit for the idea," Hammond said. "It was Colonel O'Neill who suggested that he be temporarily re-assigned after all..."
The words, so casually spoken by the general, struck Daniel with the force of a blow.
How could he? Daniel thought, suddenly furious.
Without another thought of why he had come to the infirmary in the first place, Daniel headed out of the infirmary, not noticing that he brushed hurriedly past one of the nurses in the doorway, so eager was he to escape.
Damn him, Daniel thought. And to think I considered him my friend...
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~At last, SG1 had reached the 'Gate, which dominated the plain where it was situated, rising up as it did from unbroken pasture land. Jack had never been so glad to finish a mission, even one where he had been given so much to think about, one way or another.
Taking one last look at the grasslands that lay undisturbed from the plinth where the 'Gate stood, Jack took in the thoughtful look on Carter's face as the major glanced up at him from where she was standing, still by the DHD.
Okay, Major, Jack thought. I get the message. Time to talk with Daniel, sort this mess out if I can...
With that thought, he turned and stepped into the event horizon.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Daniel had gone from the infirmary back to his office in something of a daze - he had gone from being surprised to discover that Jack had engineered his removal from SG1, through anger at the inherent betrayal of this action, and straight on into cold fury.
Whereas before he had been anticipating SG1's return, now he was ambivalent towards it. He wanted to see Sam and Teal'c, but the idea of coming face to face with Jack O'Neill made Daniel's blood boil in a way that surprised him.
He had always considered himself a peacable person. Even in some of the most extreme circumstances that SG1 had found itself in, he had always tried to talk his way out of situations rather than rely on force, and that fact had been a source of pride to him during some of the darker times.
But now, now he was full of a cold darkness, one that he had seen before in himself and had never liked. He knew, as much as anyone knows themself, that he was not perfect - there was a darker side to him, as there is to everyone, that he had managed to keep hidden from the rest of the world.
Occasionally, however, that darker side would gain control, and then Daniel would find himself doing things that might be considered out of character.
He could still recall the look on Sam's face when he had coldly killed those Goa'uld larvae on Chulak, thinking only of revenge for the loss of Sha're. He could dress his motives up, try to tell himself that he was thinking of the Hosts they would possess, the many people who would not have to endure that terrible slavery, but that would be a lie. Vengeance had been the driving force behind his actions, Daniel knew that.
So, the last thing that he really wanted now was a confrontation with Jack. It could only end badly, with words being said that both of them would regret, words that would cut like knives, inflicting wounds in their friendship that could never be healed.
For their sake, for the sake of the other members of SG1, he could not allow that. He would have to leave.
As he stepped through into the relative warmth of the SGC, Jack was once again amazed that it had all worked.
Secretly, every time he stepped into the wormhole from another planet, there was always the nagging doubt in the back of his mind that this time the iris would not open and they would all be splattered across its surface like bugs on a windshield.
Once again, he was glad he had been proved wrong and shook his head at ever having come up with that description all those months ago - once he had said it, the idea had stayed with him, whether he wanted it to or not.
Looking round as he headed down the ramp, Jack checked that the rest of his team had also emerged, noting with a small smile to himself that Dr. Wilson now seemed to have attached herself to Carter and was plying the Major with questions.
Unlike the frosty response the scientist had received from Teal'c, Carter seemed to have decided to tolerate the inquisition she was receiving, but was starting to realise that answering one question only led to three more.
Jack took a quick look round the 'Gate room as he headed down to the bottom of the ramp where General Hammond was waiting as usual. He hoped that the disappointment did not show on his face - he had hoped that Daniel would be there to greet them on their return, but there was no sign of him.
A sudden movement in the control room caught Jack's eye and he glanced upwards, his heart beginning to pound a little as he looked for Daniel up there. No. There was no errant archaeologist up there either....
Hammond's voice was as calm and controlled as ever - the single word a question and a greeting all rolled into one.
"Nothing to report, General," Jack replied. "The planet was uninhabited, as the MALP showed, and looks like it's been that way for a while."
"Go get yourselves checked out," Hammond said. "We'll debrief in one hour."
Jack hurried down the corridor towards the infirmary, a cold feeling creeping over him. Was something wrong and Hammond hadn't wanted to tell him?
He had spent too many hours there, visiting one or other of his team, but mainly it had been Daniel who he had been forced to sit vigil for, more times than he cared to consider.
You're getting paranoid in your old age, O'Neill, he thought. If something was wrong, Hammond would have said.
He could hear footsteps rushing along behind him and slowed his pace, knowing immediately who it was trailing him.
"Where is DanielJackson?" Teal'c asked, barely out of breath although he had clearly run a good part of the way between the 'Gate room and their current position.
"No idea, Teal'c," Jack replied, without turning to look at the Jaffa as the two men travelled on through the grey concrete corridors in silence.
This is the last place they'll look for me, Daniel thought with a minor feeling of triumph.
He huddled further into the corner of the booth he occupied, the fingers of one hand toying idly with the label on the luke-warm beer he had bought in an attempt to blend in.
He had decided as he left the SGC that he did not want to be found, or at least not until the anger he was currently feeling had been given a chance to die down naturally.
Daniel knew that this could take some time - he was royally pissed off with a certain colonel, so much so that he was a little afraid of what he might say to Jack if they met, let alone the reaction his angry words might provoke.
Best we keep apart for a while, he thought, taking another swig of the tepid beer.
Sighing slightly to himself, Daniel rested his head back on the wood panelling, letting his eyes travel round the dimly-lit bar. It was almost empty, only the odd person here and there, but all of them clearly people who were hiding from something or other. He could tell that by their slumped posture, the defensive walls that each one was projecting, their chosen solitude.
He remembered something then that he had first heard when he was at school. The words had stuck with him, despite all that he had gone through, and he recalled the time when he had thought that they were wise :
No man is an Island, entire of itself;
The words nagged at him, mocking him. He could not remember a time when he had ever felt so alone.
It had taken at least three beers before Daniel felt better about his current situation.
Maybe 'better' was an unfortunate choice of words to describe the way he felt - there were too many shades of Harlan's world when he considered that word and for a moment he envied the clone of himself that was probably still there.
You don't have to cope with all this, he thought. Lucky bastard...
If he didn't feel any happier, at least the alcohol in Daniel's system had ensured that things were softer around the edges, the pain in his heart suddenly seemed less intense and it was as though he could breathe again. The fact that the small part of his brain that was still rational was screaming for his attention was something he was currently able to ignore.
Alone again, he thought bitterly, as he swilled back the last of the beer. What the hell is wrong with me?
As swiftly as it had come, the numbness began to evaporate, to be replaced by a desperation that Daniel had not felt for the longest time.
When he was a child, he had cultivated solitude, creating for himself a kingdom that he peopled with the characters from the myths and legends of a multitude of races.
After the agony of losing his parents, Daniel had withdrawn into himself, creating a persona of independence to safeguard his shattered heart. And the fact that the world around him, the people with whom he interacted, had not only believed in that persona but rewarded it with academic prizes had only strengthened his creation.
At college he had been the misfit, growing from a child into a man with no-one to guide him but the same legends - in some ways they were closer to him than family, he could rely on them, trust in their eternal truths in a way he had never been able to bring himself to do with the fallible people with whom he mixed day by day.
He had heard the things they said about him, the epithets attached to his name, but he had scorned them all, choosing to prize knowledge, and the getting of it, above all else.
Until the day he stepped out of line. In his quest for the truth, Daniel Jackson had forgotten that there are some truths that no-one wants to hear, some theories that no-one will believe, some occasions when the world would rather cling to myth.
And suddenly he was an outcast, shipwrecked from the one world he knew, choosing to make a hazardous journey to another because there was nothing left for him.
On that alien world, he had found a purpose, a place for once and he had revelled in it, believing that his luck had changed.
But the loneliness he had known before was only lying in wait for him, biding its time until Daniel lowered his guard, till he became accustomed to being a part of something, only for it all to be snatched away by the whim of an alien parasite.
Daniel had come back to the planet he had left just over a year earlier, the place to which he had never expected to return, seeking only to recapture the elusive quality of 'home' that had been stolen from him. Even as he stepped through the 'Gate into the SGC, to face the derisory gaze of General Hammond, a small part of Daniel's heart had feared that his quest would fail and he would be alone again, this time forever.
Gaining friends, or more a makeshift family, in SG1 had been something that Daniel had never looked for, never really expected. The best that he had experienced in the past with colleagues was support, but now he found a camaraderie created by dangers faced together. The fact that Daniel discovered the strength of forgiveness was an unexpected bonus too - he had stumbled so many times, often with terrible consequences, but his 'family' just kept on coming back for him, literally at times.
Even when things had seemed at their worst for him, Daniel had always been able to rely on his friends, in a way that had begun as a novel experience but had mutated along the way into becoming second nature. They had seen him through the horrors of the sarcophagus addiction, the death of Sha're, even the thought of his own death more than once.
But all of that was in the past now.
Where the hell is he? Jack thought, his concern for Daniel rising by the minute.
When Daniel had not been present in the 'Gate room on SG1's return to Earth, Jack had expected to find him in his office, having lost track of time through his fascination with some artifact or other. But the discovery that Daniel's office was empty had chilled the colonel to the core, making him remember how Daniel had been only days before.
He had called Daniel's apartment, only to be greeted by his voice on the answerphone, asking him to leave a message.
For once, Jack was lost for words, afraid that any message he did leave would be so transparent to his friend, the concern he was feeling so evident, that Daniel would guess the truth he had been hiding from him in a heartbeat.
Now, for lack of anything better to do, the colonel was listlessly pushing what had once been chicken casserole around his plate in the messhall.
His thoughts were in turmoil, as he considered what to do next - he needed to find Daniel, some instinct telling him that his friend was in trouble, but he had no idea where to begin looking!
Somehow, Daniel had found himself in another bar. Wracking his brains as hard as he could in his semi-drunk state, he could not remember leaving the previous one or coming in here - this one was far smokier than the one he had spent time in earlier, and there was something about it that tugged at his memory.
Hadn't he been here before? Back when he had first come back to Earth, just after he had got his own apartment?
Now he remembered. This had been a bar he used to come to when he had moved out of Jack's spare room - he had never told anyone that he came here, but there was something about this place that seemed more friendly than most of the others he had frequented. It had been part of his well-kept secret. After all, he was in the military now, so 'don't ask, don't tell' was something he had to bear in mind.
"Mind if I join you?" a voice asked.
Daniel turned towards the voice, eyes meeting with the person who had spoken, blue eyes meeting brown. For a moment, time seemed to stand still. In that moment, Daniel thought that the man standing there was Jack.
"Sure." Daniel's voice was a little unsteady as he contemplated the man who wasn't Jack after all. "Take a seat."
"Thanks," the man said, with a smile. After he had settled into a nearby chair, he smiled at Daniel again. "I'm David."
"I've seen you here before," David said. "But that was a while ago..."
"I've been busy," Daniel said, taking another mouthful of beer to hide his growing nervousness. He could feel emotions rising within himself, emotions that he had thought under control.
"Doing what, Daniel?" David asked.
Saving the planet? Daniel thought, smiling to himself at the thought. "This and that," he said, after a moment's thought.
"And what do you want to do tonight?" David asked, looking Daniel straight in the eye.
Those eyes, Daniel thought. They're the same colour as Jack's. I'm so alone. Would it be so bad?
"I'm wasting my time here, aren't I?" David asked, after there was silence between for a moment, starting to get up from his seat. "I'll see you around, Daniel."
"No." Daniel blurted out the word. "Stay. Please."
It was only as he spoke those words that Daniel took a proper look at the man sitting there with him, as David sat down again. He was not as tall as Daniel was, but was more compactly built, with dark hair that curled slightly where it was cut short on the top of his head. His eyes were brown, as Daniel had noticed, the same shade of brown as Jack's, and there was a light in them that the colonel's seldom had.
Something inside Daniel lurched.
Would it be so bad, when he was feeling so alone, to take some comfort when it was being offered freely?
He smiled tentatively at David, basking in the warmth of the other man's smile when his was returned. After a few minutes more talk, none of which Daniel could remember later, he followed David out of the bar.
He had followed David home, back to the other man's apartment as if he were a puppy that had latched onto him. The thought amused Daniel, still slightly drunk as he was, and he smiled.
The door had hardly closed behind the two men before David had turned to Daniel, one hand closing around his arm and pulling him in the direction of the couch. The two men hit the couch, which creaked loudly with the weight. Daniel's head spun slightly as he tried to figure out how he had come to be here, in the apartment of someone he had never seen before....
He closed his eyes, resting his head on the back of the couch, comfortable for a moment with the warmth that he could feel coming from the body beside him. Daniel could feel tentative fingers on his forehead, stroking at his hair as it swept across, another hand resting warm on his stomach.
It was only as lips touched his that Daniel jerked awake again - he had been so comfortable, with the warmth and the beer he had consumed earlier, that he had begun to doze lightly.
"Jack?" he murmured, before he was fully awake.
"Who the hell's Jack?" a voice snapped.
Daniel's eyes opened sluggishly and he focussed on the face before him, a face it took a long moment's thought to put a name to.
David smiled, his eyes bright with need. The hand which had been resting on Daniel's stomach, where warmth from the fingers was leaching through his shirt, came up to cup the back of Daniel's head, pulling him forwards slightly. As he opened his mouth to protest, Daniel felt lips press against his, a tongue roughly demanding entry to his mouth. As the tongue forced its way in, Daniel began to panic slightly.
What had seemed like a good idea in the semi-darkness of the bar suddenly seemed like a major mistake in this stranger's apartment.
Pulling back from the kiss, his face a little flushed, David spoke, his eyes taking in the look of annoyance that was sweeping Daniel's face.
"What?" he snapped. "You wanted this - no-one forced you to come here..."
"I've changed my mind," Daniel said firmly, his hands coming up to push David away.
He felt David's hands loosen their grip on him and shook them off, getting to his feet. He was almost to the door of the apartment before David caught up with him.
"What the hell do you think you're playing at?" David yelled.
He grabbed at the front of Daniel's jacket, slamming him against the wall nearest the door. Daniel felt his head snap back, impacting with the plaster. David pressed forward, his mouth grinding onto Daniel's until he tasted blood - he was unsure whether it was his own.
For the first time since he had joined the SGC, Daniel was glad of the hours of training that Jack had pushed him into completing, making him unafraid to do whatever was necessary to get out of the situation he had stupidly placed himself in. Two well-placed blows found him free of David's grasp and a moment later he was running somewhat blindly down the stairs and out of the other man's apartment building.
Stupid, stupid, stupid, Daniel thought as he left the apartment building. What was I thinking?
He stopped at the corner of the street to get his bearings, trying to figure out how far he might be from his own apartment, but without very much success. Try as he might, Daniel couldn't figure out how he had got from the bar to David's apartment, so he now had no clue which way was home.
Home, he thought bitterly. That's a joke...
It was late, the streets were deserted, cars passing where he was standing only occasionally.
His head was swimming slightly from the hangover that was starting to take hold, his lip felt as though David had bitten a chunk out of it and Daniel touched it gingerly with a fingertip. He moved closer to the streetlight and examined his finger - there was definitely blood there, but not a great deal, he was glad to realise.
Where the hell am I? he wondered, looking round to try and spot a street sign. Guess I'd better try and get a cab home.
To the right of where he was standing, Daniel could see an intersection, one where there seemed to be more traffic, so he began to walk in that direction. It was only when he reached the intersection and began to look for a cab that Daniel realised he didn't have his wallet. He remembered having it in the bar, having shoved it back into his pocket after settling his tab, before stumbling after David. Now his jacket pocket was empty.
Now what? he thought.
Digging through his trouser pockets, he came up with a couple of coins, shoved there hastily some time during the day. Not enough for cab fare, that was certain, but....
It had taken a while, but Jack had given up looking for Daniel within the labyrinth of the SGC complex and had headed home reluctantly, having instructed various members of the SGC staff to contact him if Daniel made an appearance.
On his way, he had gone over to Daniel's apartment, his over-active imagination fighting back the memories of his previous visits there - after all, there was no reason to suspect something bad had happened, was there?
Before leaving the SGC, Jack had spoken with Janet Fraiser, who confirmed that Daniel had seemed in good spirits, engrossed in his work as usual but not objecting too vociferously to regular meals and reasonable amounts of sleep.
Why is it, Daniel, Jack wondered, that now I want to talk with you, you manage to pull this disappearing act?
Jack had made a decision, during the time he had been looking for Daniel. The rising concern he was feeling made him certain that it was the right one.
Whatever the consequences, he was going to try and be honest with Daniel from now on, no longer lying about his feelings for him. It was the least he owed him as a friend, let alone whatever further relationship might develop between them in the future.
Not that Jack had any idea how this might be received. After all, his own reaction to Daniel's words had been so traumatic for his friend that Jack had been shocked at it. If he had been given a moment to consider what impact his reacting that way might have, the colonel knew now that he would not have been so quick to turn and run.
He had considered how he might approach the subject with Daniel, toying with the idea that the two of them should get drunk, but if he gave that idea any sensible thought, Jack knew that intoxication was no basis for the kind of relationship he was considering embarking upon.
Shouldn't I be more freaked by this? he wondered, as he hammered fruitlessly on Daniel's apartment door for the second time. Here I am, considering getting horizontal with my best friend and I'm still calm...
"He's out," a voice said, coming from down the hallway. Jack turned in the direction of those words, spotting the woman he had seen some days before, on his last but one visit to the building. "Dr. Jackson. He's out. Left about 4 hours ago."
"Oh." Jack thought for a moment. "Thanks."
Where are you, Daniel? he thought, as he headed down the stairs.
The phone rang and rang.
It was starting to rain - Daniel was feeling even colder and more miserable than before. He tried to hunch into the meagre shelter that the phone booth provided as he listened to the phone ringing.
What if something went wrong on the mission? he thought, a chill running down his spine that had nothing to do with the weather. Why don't you answer?
Finally, just as he was about to give up, even though he had no other way of getting home bar walking, a sleepy voice answered.
Daniel had almost convinced himself that something had happened, that somehow tragedy had struck his team when he was not with them, leaving him an orphan again, another family lost to him. So, when the voice he had been waiting for finally came, he was lost for words for a moment.
"Who is this?"
"I... It's Daniel."
"Daniel? What is it, what's wrong?" There was a pause. "D'you know what time it is?"
Daniel checked his watch, peering uncertainly at it.
"It's 3am," he said.
"Why are you phoning me at 3am, Daniel?"
"I can't get home," Daniel replied, feeling the emotions he had earlier been trying to drown in bad beer coming back to ambush him. He had to swallow a couple of times before he could speak again. "Can you come and get me?"
"Where are you?"
"I'm..." Daniel looked around for a moment before spotting a street sign. "...at the corner of Belmont and Third."
"How did you get all the way over there? Never mind. I'll be 20 minutes."
"Thanks, Sam," he replied, suddenly feeling a whole lot better.
She was there in 15 minutes. From where Daniel was sheltering, he could see the car heading in his direction, coming to a crawl as it reached the intersection, the driver looking intently into the darkness. He hurried over.
"Are you okay, Daniel?" Sam asked, as he opened the passenger door. She gasped slightly when the interior light came on. "What happened to your lip?"
Daniel settled into the passenger seat, one hand reaching up for the seatbelt as the other came up to touch his mouth. He tried to smile at Sam, wanting to thank her for coming to his rescue like this, but he could see from her face that this change of expression made her frown even more.
"Were you mugged?" Sam asked, as she pulled away from the kerb.
"I'm fine," Daniel said, closing his eyes.
He could almost feel Sam's eyes glancing over to him, and he could imagine the concern that he would see in them if he looked towards her now.
"I can take you to the hospital, Daniel," Sam said, sounding more and more worried as she spoke.
Daniel reluctantly opened his eyes again. All he wanted to do was sleep, but he wanted his own bed.
"I'm sorry to have dragged you out like this, Sam," he said, trying to sound as normal as possible, "but I had no-one else to call. Could you take me home?"
"No. I think you should stay at my place," she replied, firmly. "If you were mugged..."
"I wasn't mugged..."
"Then what? You look like you've been in a fight. The colonel has been looking everywhere for you - no-one knew where you were..." Sam paused, seeming to consider something for a moment. "Daniel, if you were in some kind of trouble," she said, tentatively, "you'd tell me, wouldn't you?"
"I don't have very many other people to tell," Daniel replied, hating the slightly self-pitying tone that came into his voice when he spoke those words. "I'm not in any kind of trouble."
At least not anything you can fix, he thought bitterly. Jack wants me off the team, that's all...
Sam seemed satisfied by his answer, or at least resigned to not pushing for anything more. Whichever it was, Daniel was glad, not wanting to answer any more questions. He could feel his head starting to pound and he was shivering slightly in his damp clothes. All he could think of now was a hot shower and a soft bed.
Carter waited until Daniel was in the shower before she picked up the phone.
Daniel had protested nearly all the way to her place but Sam had ignored him resolutely, insisting that he was in no fit state to be left alone - she was concerned that he had caught a chill when he had been waiting for her in the drizzle and the thought of him returning to his apartment alone worried her.
The phone rang only twice before it was answered.
"Major?" Jack's voice was not that of a man who had been woken from sleep. "It's nearly 4am. What are you doing up?"
"It's Daniel," Sam replied, glancing over her shoulder a little nervously, as if mentioning his name might cause Daniel to appear. "He's here."
"He's okay?" Jack asked.
Even over the phone Sam could hear the concern in the colonel's voice, try as he might to hide it.
"Just a little chilled, that's all."
"I'm coming over," Jack said, the tone of his voice brooking no argument.
"I need to speak with him," Jack answered.
"At 4am?" Sam asked, incredulous. "Can't it wait?"
There was a pause.
"I suppose so," Jack conceded, finally.
"Come over at lunchtime, colonel," Sam suggested, "after both of you have got some sleep. We don't have to report in till tomorrow so there's time for you both to sort this mess out that's between you."
"Yes, Ma'am," Jack replied, before hanging up.
"You need to speak with Jack," Sam insisted, for the second time.
"I want my clothes, Sam." Daniel's voice was as cold and hard as she had ever heard it. "And I don't want to talk to Jack."
It was all Sam could do to stop herself from grinning at Daniel. He was sitting on her couch at the moment, wrapped in a blanket, looking for all the world like some over-sized urchin, rescued from the snow. He was struggling to stay awake, the occasional yawn splitting his face when he least expected it.
"You need to get some sleep," Sam repeated, trying to stay patient. "You know where the spare room is. Your clothes are in the wash - by the time you wake up they'll be dry and Jack will be here. You can talk with him and sort out whatever it is that's going on between the two of you."
"I'm not tired, Sam," Daniel said, frowning slightly as a massive yawn erupted halfway through his sentence and contradicted him. "Okay," he conceded, "maybe I am tired, but I still don't want to talk to Jack. Why did you call him?"
"Because he was worried about you, Daniel. We got back from our mission and no-one knew where you were."
"You don't look fine."
Sam leaned back against the nearby wall, crossing her arms and fixing Daniel with the look she had practised on Cassandra when she was at her most stubborn.
"You look like someone who just got me out of bed to come and rescue him from the wrong part of town," Sam said. "Someone who's got a split lip but insists he wasn't mugged, someone who needs to stop running away from whatever is going on between him and his best friend."
Daniel said nothing. With as much dignity as he could muster, he gathered the blanket tighter around himself as he got up from the couch and headed towards the spare room.
When Daniel woke, he found his clothes (now clean and dry) piled on the chair next to the bed. From the living room, he could hear voices, so he assumed Jack had arrived.
Why did you interfere, Sam? he thought, trying to summon up a little anger towards her for getting Jack over. The last thing I need to do is talk with Jack. How can I, when I know what he's planning for me and why?
The smell of coffee drifted through into the bedroom. As Daniel got out of bed, his stomach began to complain, reminding him just how long it had been since he had last eaten anything. He had put away a fair number of beers last night as well, but the hangover he had been experiencing earlier seemed to have died down slightly.
He dressed quickly, wanting to get this encounter with the colonel over and done with. As he sat on the edge of the bed to tie his laces, Daniel pondered how Jack might respond to being confronted with what he knew was being planned. He would deny everything, that in itself was a certain response.
How could he admit that he wanted Daniel off the team simply because of the things he had revealed about his feelings?
The awful thing was that Daniel could almost understand how Jack was feeling. The awkwardness that had sprung up between the two men since that fateful day had been clear - even when they had been close to death together, Jack had said very little about Daniel's revelations.
But, if he could understand the feelings that had motivated Jack's decision, Daniel could not forgive the way that they had been executed. The underhandedness, the fact that he had used General Hammond to do his dirty work, persuading him that it would be a positive move for Daniel to assist the archaeologists.
If only Jack had been honest, said he could no longer work together with Daniel, knowing what he did about the other man's feelings, maybe they could have stayed friends. But he had chosen this path instead.
Squaring his shoulders and feeling more like a man going to face a firing squad than anything else, Daniel left the spare room in search of coffee and Jack.
"What the hell happened to you?" Jack blurted out, the moment he laid eyes on Daniel.
"Hello to you, too," Daniel replied, heading straight for the kitchen, in search of the coffee he could smell.
As he went over to the coffee machine, Daniel heard Jack get up from where he had been sitting, chatting with Sam, and follow him into the kitchen. He made a conscious decision to try and ignore the colonel, concentrating on boosting his depleted caffeine levels as quickly as possible.
"Where have you been, Daniel?" Jack asked. "Did Carter tell you we've been looking everywhere for you?"
"Bite me," Daniel muttered to himself, his back still to Jack.
He took another mouthful of coffee as he tried to decide how he wanted to handle this situation. It was clear that there was no way he was likely to get out of Sam's house without some sort of conversation with Jack, no matter if this was the last thing on earth Daniel wanted to do just now.
Or ever... he thought.
Daniel cursed Sam's need to get involved in what had, up till now, been a personal matter between him and Jack. Sure, she had been the one to persuade him not to quit the SGC, but he had been on the way towards changing his mind before that - it was just Jack that he could not have stood to be persuaded by, he knew that now.
"What do you want, Jack?" Daniel asked, turning towards him in the confined space of Sam's kitchen.
He cradled the mug of coffee in his hands, as if trying to draw warmth from it, or as if it could shield him somehow from the confrontation he could see heading this way fast.
"What do I... that's rich, Daniel." Jack's voice was incredulous, his eyes wide.
If I didn't know better, Daniel thought, bitterly, I'd think he had no idea what he'd done.
"What happened? We got back from the mission, you were nowhere to be found, and then you ring up Carter in the middle of the night..."
"I don't want to talk about it," Daniel said, putting the mug down on the kitchen counter. "I'm going home."
As he passed where Jack was standing, Daniel stiffened slightly, not knowing whether the colonel would try and stop him. Jack did not move, merely watching him with a worried expression on his face.
Jack's voice was concerned and it was that tone that cut through to Daniel, shattering whatever control of his emotions he had managed before.
"What?" he snapped, turning back to where Jack was still standing. "I told you - I'm going home."
Turning back to where Sam was still seated on the couch, her eyes wide at the exchange between her friends, Daniel hesitated for a moment.
"Can you lend me $20, Sam?" he asked, a little uncertain of her response. "I lost my wallet last night."
Sam got up from the couch, crossing over to where her bag was hanging by the door. After a moment's rummaging in its contents, she offered him two tens.
"Look after yourself, Daniel," she said, as he took the money. "Please."
"I will, Sam," Daniel replied, trying to smile, to reassure her he was really okay. "I promise."
Though he could feel Jack's eyes on him still, Daniel headed for the door without turning around.
As he waited impatiently for a cab, Daniel kept expecting to feel Jack's hand on his shoulder at any moment. But when it never came, and a cab finally drew up to take him home, Daniel let out a sigh of relief at having avoided the confrontation that he was dreading more and more.
It was not the fact that he and Jack were heading for some kind of showdown as inexorably as the Titanic had headed for an iceberg, that was not what alarmed Daniel the most. What worried him was the fact that he was almost looking forward to it.
He had gone from feeling guilty at having put Jack in an untenable position by disclosing his feelings for the colonel, right through to the other end of the spectrum. Now all he felt was a righteous anger, one that burned inside him stronger by the minute.
But he had never wanted that inevitable head-to-head with Jack to take place in front of an audience. That would have been unfair on Sam, forcing her to choose sides - she had put her position within the SGC at risk already, in theory, by opting to take Daniel's side earlier. Maybe now she was regretting that?
Whatever her feelings about the subject, Daniel did not want to embarrass himself in front of Sam. It was bad enough that he knew that, when the storm hit, he would get to see a side of himself that came out very rarely, a side that he was not proud of.
He still remembered with chagrin the last time he had lost his temper, that time when he had been affected by the sound frequencies on that planet with the strange plants. Daniel had tried for fury, angered by Jack's attitude, but had achieved only petulance.
The cab drew up in front of Daniel's apartment building, and for a moment he just sat there, looking up at it, before the driver spoke for the second time, jolting Daniel back into reality once more.
Inside his apartment, Daniel was suddenly struck with indecision. There was so much he could be doing at work, but he could not bring himself to go there, feeling as he did. But if he stayed at home, there was a chance that Jack might turn up on his doorstep again, this time for the true ending of their relationship.
Standing in front of the fish tank, Daniel watched the few survivors drift effortlessly to and fro within the water. He had come to find watching the fish a relaxing pastime, one that allowed his mind to wander freely, while his eyes studied the almost hypnotic movements of colour.
Why should I run? he thought. If I had any reason to feel guilty, then maybe I should, but Jack is the one who should be feeling guilty...
"I shouldn't have let him go," Jack said, for the third time, sitting forward on the chair and resting his head in his hands.
When he looked up again, glancing towards where Carter was sitting on the couch, he found her eyes on him and looked away hastily.
"You need to speak with him, colonel."
"Jack," he said, reminding her they were off-duty.
"You need to speak with him, Jack," Carter repeated, with a small smile.
"I don't know what's got Daniel so bent out of shape!" Jack said, with a frustrated sigh. "Everything should have been fine - he due for a couple of weeks playing with rocks, you know how he complains he doesn't get enough time to really study anything anymore..."
"So," Sam said, leaning forward slightly, "you're trying to tell me that you were thinking of Daniel's welfare when you arranged this little holiday for him?"
Jack felt his face redden slightly at Carter's words. The fact that she had figured out that Daniel's transfer to the archaeology section of the SGC was all his idea had been bad enough, but now she was starting to annoy him. Jack could not bring himself to lie openly to Carter about his motivations, but he could hardly admit them either.
"I think I should get going," he said, trying to change the subject.
The look that the major gave him told him exactly how unsuccessful this tactic had been, but Jack ignored it.
"I'll see you at work, tomorrow," he said, as he let himself out.
There was a knock on Daniel's door, making him jump.
He had lost track of time, staring into the fish tank in a haze of thoughts and memories, as he contemplated his options for the future. Could he carry on working in the SGC? He certainly had nowhere else to go.... Shaking his head in impatience at the impending sense of doom that was creeping up on him, Daniel opened the door and froze.
"Can I come in?"
"How... I mean, I guess so," Daniel said, not quite knowing what to say to David, who had been the last person he expected to see on his doorstep.
"I found your wallet at my place this morning," David said. "That's how I knew where to find you." As he spoke, he pulled the wallet from his jacket pocket and handed it over to a reluctant Daniel.
"I don't know what to say," Daniel said, shoving the wallet into his pocket without examining it further. "I'm sorry about last night, I should never have let things go that far between us."
"And I should have learnt when to take 'no' for an answer by now," David said, with a smile. "You reminded me."
Daniel blushed at the memories those words conjured up for him - the last he had seen of David the previous night had been a glance back at him writhing on the floor of his apartment as Daniel had fled the scene.
"Thanks for bringing my wallet over, anyway."
"I wanted to see you again, Daniel," David said. "I know things got out of hand between us last night, but I'd hate to think that you'd hold that against me. Can I buy you lunch as an apology?"
Daniel hesitated, uncertain how he should respond.
Why not, he thought. Why shouldn't I get on with my life?
"Just lunch," he said. "I'm not promising anything. Not after last night."
"I understand," David said. "I was out of line, but you have to admit that you led me on, so I guess we were both acting stupid."
"I... I was reacting to something that had happened."
"I kind of worked that one out myself," David said. "And I'm sorry about biting you like that. Does it hurt?"
"A little," Daniel admitted, his hand coming up to touch his face as he spoke. "But not enough to stop me eating..."
Well, that was a royal waste of time, Jack thought as he headed home. So much for Plan A - talking to Daniel!
He had slept fitfully the night before - until he had known where Daniel was, and that he was safe, Jack had not slept at all. It was the suddenness of Daniel's disappearance that worried him the most.
Could he have figured out that I was behind his transfer? Jack wondered. After all, Carter worked it out herself, so why not Daniel as well?
"No way to know without asking him, O'Neill," Jack said, turning left at the next intersection and heading for where Daniel lived.
As he approached the apartment building, Jack slowed his jeep, looking for a parking space. He was level with the building's entrance as the doors opened and two men emerged.
Jack recognised one of them straight away, sure that he would know Daniel anywhere. The other man was someone he had never seen before and the two men were talking and smiling like they had known each other for a while.
Is that what Daniel and I look like when we talk? Jack wondered, half his mind still searching for a vacant spot at the kerb. After a moment, Jack's foot pressed down on the gas pedal. It didn't take you long, did it?' he thought, bitterly. 'A couple of days ago you were telling me you loved me, and now you're already with someone.
Thinking back to his first glimpse of Daniel that morning, Jack's lips tightened into a thin line. Someone had clearly hurt his friend, and he had been left alone and penniless in a bad part of town. If this man was the one who was responsible, then Jack, as a friend, would make sure he discovered he was messing with the wrong man if he tried anything similar in the future with Daniel.
I'm too late to be anything but a friend, Jack thought, but I'll be the best friend you ever had, Daniel, I promise...
He had tried to stay calm, he really had. But all his efforts had been to no avail. No matter how hard Jack tried, he could not stop thinking about Daniel. It had seemed such a positive thing to say to himself, so selfless to think that he could live with just being Daniel's friend, and even as he had thought it a small voice in the back of his mind had taunted him, calling him a liar.
Jack wanted to be strong enough to live with the fact that Daniel seemed to have moved on, but every time he told himself he could do that, he knew that he was wrong.
Wanting something badly enough was not sufficient to make it happen.
He had been given the chance to consider how he felt about Daniel, following the revelations he had made, and what he discovered frightened him more than a little.
If it had been anyone but Daniel that he was starting to feel this way about, Jack was not sure he would have been able to cope with it. But the fact that he trusted Daniel, more than he had ever trusted anyone for the longest time, meant that he did not fear the same rejection that he had dished out only days before.
Not that he thought that Daniel was perfect.
Anyone who knew Daniel knew that this was not the case. At times, he could be the most annoying person on the planet, his single-minded nature driving his colleagues to distraction, his passionate nature leading him into countless dangerous situations.
The other side of that, however, told a different story. The other side of his single-mindedness was that of a loyal friend, one who would do whatever he could for someone he cared for. The passion that burned inside Daniel frightened Jack a little at times - he had seen his friend come far too close to the edge, even in the short time they had known each other.
But to be the subject of such passion.... how could anyone resist the wholehearted way that Daniel threw himself into a relationship? There would be no doubt, if Daniel said he was in love with you, that you would not know.
Mentally, Jack was slapping himself in the head.
He had been given a chance for the kind of relationship he thought himself lucky to have seen once in his life, and he had turned it down. Jack had been fortunate to find Sara, even if things between them had been destroyed by Charlie's death, and once that marriage had floundered, he had resigned himself to being alone.
And then Daniel had come along.
How could Jack have ever realised that Daniel would come to mean so much to him?
The start of their friendship had been innocuous enough, forged in the fight against Ra, and had gone on from there, from strength to strength. Even when problems had arisen along the way, somehow the bond between them had survived it all, been reinforced by the things each man had suffered.
The fact that it had even seemed to survive Daniel's declaration of love for Jack, surely that was a testimony to its strength?
I hope so, Jack thought. I really hope so...
Well, this was a mistake, Daniel thought.
He was sitting in a small cafe, one he visited occasionally, listening to David talk about himself. It had turned out that the man he had met the night before, who he had found attractive enough to consider going home with, was a high-priced lawyer with an ego to match.
I have nothing in common with him, Daniel thought, with a sigh. Nothing at all...
It was all he could do to continue smiling and nodding in the appropriate place in the conversation as David talked on. Not that the other man seemed to notice that Daniel's interest in the subject was feigned - for that to happen, he would have had to pay attention to something other than himself.
Suddenly, for some reason Daniel could not fathom, all he could think of was what the rest of SG1's reaction would be to this situation. The way that Teal'c's eyebrows would raise, before he fixed David with an implacable gaze. The twinkle in Sam's eye as she figured out a way to stop the lawyer in mid-flow. He could imagine easily the look of boredom which would cross Jack's face, the same look he saw every time he launched into one of his own tirades on some artifact or other.
"I'm sorry, David," Daniel said abruptly, when the other man paused for a moment. "I can't do this."
"What is it?" David asked. "Was it something I said?" He looked slightly puzzled as he spoke, a frown marring his forehead.
"It's not you, it's me." Even as he spoke, Daniel could see that the other man did not understand. "I told you I was still dealing with something that happened. It looks as though I'm not far enough past that to do this..."
"There's someone else, isn't there?" Daniel nodded. "Someone I can't compete with..."
"No, it's not as simple as that." Daniel's voice was calm as he spoke. "Someone I've been close to for a while - I thought... well, it doesn't matter what I thought. He did something that surprised me, something that hurt more than I expected it to."
"I can't say I'm not disappointed," David said, his hand going into his jacket pocket. He produced a card, handing it to Daniel as he spoke. "If you change your mind, give me a call, okay?"
With those words, and leaving some bills on the table, David got up and left. If he had looked back, he would have seen Daniel methodically shredding the card he had given him.
He was halfway to Jack's house before he realised where he was going.
As much as Daniel was dreading the confrontation that he knew he needed to have with Jack, he also knew that there was no way forward for either of them without it. Even if it wrecked the friendship they had, they had reached a point where tough decisions needed to be made, hard words spoken.
He almost changed his mind as his hand reached up to knock on Jack's front door.
"Daniel?" Jack looked surprised to see him there, nearly as surprised as he was to have made it.
"You wanted to talk, didn't you?" Daniel asked, pushing past him into the house.
"Ah. Sure," Jack said, as he closed the door behind them. "Come on in." He followed Daniel into the living room. "D'you want something to drink?" He was watching Daniel pace as though studying some kind of dangerous animal. "Coffee? Beer?"
"Coffee," Daniel said. "Thanks," he added, belatedly, as Jack headed for the kitchen.
"Take a seat, Daniel," Jack called through.
Daniel ignored his words, crossing over to the mantelpiece. He seemed to do this every time he came to Jack's house - there was something about the small collection of photos that drew him like a magnet, no matter how many times he visited.
Was it that they reminded him of the kind of family life he had never had himself?
Whatever it was, he always ended up here, gazing at the pictures of a smiling child, knowing that it was this child's death that had provided the catalyst for the change that had taken place in Jack.
If Charlie had not died, would the two of them ever have met?
It seemed unlikely. After all, it had been the near-suicidal state that Jack had been in when they had first met, the thought of giving what little was left to him for his planet, that had driven the colonel to take up the first Abydos mission.
Lost in his thoughts, Daniel did not hear Jack come back into the living room.
"I'm glad you came over, Daniel," Jack said. From where he had sat down, he could see Daniel stiffen as he spoke. "You okay?"
Daniel considered the pictures arrayed in front of him for a moment, before turning to face Jack.
"Why shouldn't I be okay, Jack?" he asked, coldly. "After all, I got what I wanted, didn't I? I always said I wanted more time to study the things the SG teams bring back - now it seems as though I have all the time in the world..."
"It's not like that, Daniel," Jack said, suddenly worried at the venom he heard in Daniel's voice.
"Then tell me, Jack, what is it like? You got me transferred off SG1, didn't you?"
"I never thought you'd sink so low," Daniel interrupted. "I thought, despite all the despicable things you've done in your past, you'd at least have told me if you couldn't work with me any more. But instead you run to Hammond, get me transferred. I never had you pegged as a homophobe, but I guess I never was that good a judge of character."
"What?" Jack asked. He shook his head, trying to process the things that Daniel had said. "You thought I got you transferred because you told me how you felt about me?"
The lure of the coffee was too much for Daniel - even as angry as it was, the caffeine called to him and he crossed over to where a mug of it was waiting for him. Having collected it, he retreated to where he had been standing by the fireplace.
"I admit," Jack said, "I asked Hammond to transfer you. But it's a temporary thing, Daniel, I swear it. If it wasn't, then Carter and Teal'c would be queueing up behind you to kick my butt from here to Chulak."
Daniel did not smile at that image, just took another mouthful of coffee, a pensive expression on his face.
"Then, why Jack?" Daniel asked. "If you're not trying to kick me off the team, why get me transferred at all? And why make it look as though it was Hammond's idea?"
"Would you have gone along with it if you knew it was my idea?" Jack asked, then carried on speaking, not waiting for an answer. "You know you wouldn't. You would have wanted to know why - you would have thought... Hell, you would have come to the same conclusion that you did anyway. That I wanted you off the team, that I couldn't cope with..."
"You can't even say it, can you?" Daniel snapped, his eyes blazing. "How can I believe you, Jack if you can't even say the words?"
"Is that what this is about?" Jack asked, frowning. "What do you want me to say, Daniel? That you told me you loved me and I couldn't deal with that? If that's what you want to hear, fine... I've said it now."
"I want to know what you thought you were doing," Daniel said. "Because at the moment I don't know how I could have ever convinced myself that I was in love with you. Not if you could do this sort of thing without even feeling guilty about it!"
"What was I supposed to do, Daniel?" Jack pleaded, his eyes intent on Daniel. "I couldn't tell Hammond the truth..."
"What truth, Jack? You need to make up your mind what you want! One minute you're trying to persuade me not to quit the SGC, going to ridiculous lengths and risking your career to intercept my letter of resignation, and the next you're fixing for me to be transferred. What was I supposed to think?"
This is it, O'Neill, Jack thought. Time to put up or shut up.
"Alright," Jack said, leaning forward and placing his mug of coffee on the table. "You want to know the truth? I'll give you the truth..."
He paused for a moment, watching Daniel's face for some clue how to proceed, but the other man was inscrutable. Jack knew he had to do this, even though he knew that Daniel had moved on, had found someone else, he owed it to him to be honest about his feelings.
"I couldn't tell Hammond why I wanted... no, why I needed you to be safe, that I needed time to figure out how the hell I was feeling," Jack said. "How could I? I had no idea what I was going to do, I still don't, not that any of this matters any more..."
"What you were feeling?" Daniel echoed. "I don't understand, Jack."
"You threw me for a loop, Daniel," Jack said. "You told me you loved me and I flipped out, I ran out of your apartment like my butt was on fire."
"And...?" Daniel prompted, when Jack fell silent.
"And it took me a while but I realised that... Hell, what does it matter what I figured out?" Jack asked, settling back into the couch. He rested his head on the back, closing his eyes.
"It matters to me," Daniel insisted. "I need to know, Jack."
"I realised that I think I might feel the same way," Jack said, without opening his eyes.
Inside, he was not sure what reaction he was expecting - at times he was a betting man but this was one situation he would not give odds for. There was silence.
"Oh?" Jack echoed, opening his eyes. "What do you mean, 'oh'?"
"That was why you were trying so hard to get me not to resign," Daniel asked, "wasn't it?"
"I blew it, Daniel," Jack said. "How could I let you throw your career away because of how I treated you? You've worked too hard to do that."
"So you wanted to fix things, is that it?"
"At first," Jack conceded. "You know me, can't leave well enough alone. I know what you said 'some things can't be fixed, you just have to live with the fact that they're broken', but I couldn't believe that. I got to thinking about what you'd said you were feeling, I couldn't stop thinking about it, in fact. And being on that planet together didn't help matters much."
Daniel shuddered at the memories those words conjured up - he had tried to forget the long minutes he had spent in that chasm, the creeping feeling of a certain death that had come upon him.
So many things had happened in his life to date that he wondered that there was ever a night when he slept peacefully, but this experience had provided plentiful material for the most recent series of nightmares.
"I think that was when I knew," Jack said in a quiet voice, one that Daniel had to strain to hear.
"Knew what?" Daniel asked, needing to hear the words. He looked intently at Jack, silently urging him to speak, to say the things he needed to hear.
Just say it, Jack, he thought.
"Did he do that to you?" Jack asked, suddenly. Daniel blinked at the change of subject. "Your lip," Jack continued.
Daniel tried to figure out what response would save him the most embarrassment. He was not proud of his behaviour the night before - David had been right. As much as the other man had not stopped when Daniel had wanted him to, he had led David on, thinking that he was willing to go through with intimacies that he clearly was not.
Jack evidently took his confusion as a positive answer, a frown crossing his face when he spoke again.
"I know it's none of my business, Daniel," he said, "but as a friend, I wanted to say you shouldn't let anyone treat you that way..."
"What?" Daniel asked, his head spinning slightly as he tried to keep up with the conversation.
"You deserve better," Jack said, getting up from where he was sitting and heading back into the kitchen.
This time Daniel followed him, still cradling his half-empty mug to his chest as he did so.
"It was a mistake," he said, speaking to Jack's back as the colonel poured himself another mug of coffee. "Things... things got out of hand."
"I'm not trying to tell you how to live your life," Jack said, turning back to where Daniel was standing.
He glanced at Daniel's mug, gesturing with the pot of coffee - Daniel stretched out his arm, allowing Jack to top up the contents.
"I know I don't have any right to do that. I just don't want to see you get hurt, Daniel," he continued, reddening slightly. "I think I've done enough of that for a while."
"I think I should go now," Daniel said, taking a hasty swallow of coffee and hissing slightly to himself at its warmth.
He was a little ashamed of himself - he knew that Jack was concerned about him and a part of himself was warmed by that knowledge. But how could he admit what had happened between him and David? How could he ever expect Jack to understand and not condemn him for his actions last night?
It had taken a long time, it seemed, for the colonel to start to come to terms with another man, even a close friend like Daniel, having those kind of feelings for him, so how could he expect any sympathy for a casual liaison gone so wrong?
"I'll see you tomorrow, Daniel," Jack said.
After he had spoken, he watched his friend take another mouthful of coffee before he left, placing the half-empty mug on the kitchen counter as he muttered apologies and goodbyes.
You just couldn't go through with it, could you?
Jack's thoughts were mocking, as he looked back on his most recent encounter with Daniel. He had come so close, teetering on the edge of admitting everything, but a sense of being far too late had overwhelmed him at the last moment, his eyes falling onto Daniel's face. He had taken one look at Daniel's lip and knew that he had to say something about that - he had to be a friend to Daniel, now more than ever.
He doesn't need me, Jack thought. Why should he? What have I got to offer him? There's no way I could compete with that guy I saw Daniel with, even if I wanted to...
Thinking back, Jack considered the way that Daniel looked at the moment - the evidence of Daniel's lip contrasted strangely with the way he had been so relaxed with the man who was surely responsible.
How could he let anyone treat him like that? Jack thought, savagely.
He could feel the anger rising within himself as he considered what might have happened last night. Did Daniel have any other injuries that were not so obvious?
You don't have the right, O'Neill, he thought. How can you judge someone else when you hurt him as badly? Just because you chose to hurt him with words, rather than with your fists...
As the night drew on, all Jack could think about was Daniel. Where he might be, who he might be with, whether his friend was safe or not....
A multitude of scenarios, most of them refugees from a variety of TV shows, skittered through Jack's brain, taunting him with images of Daniel on the receiving end of violence of one sort or another. Jack came close, more times than he wanted to think about, to picking up the phone and calling his friend, just to make sure he was okay.
And what would you say? he thought. You don't even know if he's home and if he is he might not be on his own...
The irony of the situation was not lost on Jack, as he tried to relax, tried not to let his heart fill with the emotions he had been trying so hard to suppress. Wasn't he the one who had rejected Daniel, when his friend had opened his heart to him?
Now the boot was firmly on the other foot - now Jack had realised that he felt the same way about Daniel, his jealousy burned within him.
Try as he might to be mature about this, all his intentions to just be Daniel's friend were just smoke. As much as he might want to be that able to deal with it, the concept that he had been so easily replaced in Daniel's affections grated with him. Did that mean that what he had told him was a lie?
He didn't want to believe it, but if Daniel really loved him, could he have been so quick to get into a relationship with someone else?
Hell, he thought. It hasn't even been a week, Danny...
Another, more rational part of him saw Jack feeling a little guilty, so the two emotions were warring for control.... Had he brought about this situation? Had his rejection of Daniel's feelings driven him into a relationship with someone who treated him badly?
As much as he might be jealous of the other man, whoever he was, or feel responsible, another part of Jack just wanted to rip the man limb from limb. The thought of anyone daring to treat a friend of his like that, let alone someone for whom he was developing deeper feelings....
What am I feeling anyway? Jack wondered. I used to be married, I had a kid, and now I can't stop thinking about the SGC's prime candidate for Geeky Scientist of the Month...
Not knowing what else to do, and having nowhere else he wanted to be, Daniel had gone back to the SGC.
This had been something of a pattern for him, in all the turmoil of his life - traumatic things happened and he threw himself into his work. Even when he had lost Sha're, his work had always been there.
By immersing himself in the things that had survived the past, studying things that had existed for centuries, witnessing the rise and fall of civilisations, Daniel had found a sort of peace. Even though his own life was full of pain and loss, the fact that these fragile links with the past endured gave him comfort.
That the turmoil inside himself was something of his own creation made Daniel laugh to himself, a hollow mocking laughter. So many tragedies in his life had been inflicted upon him, the cruel vagaries of the universe seeming to scorn his attempts at happiness, that Daniel sometimes wondered why he tried.
What's wrong with me? he thought, cradling his head in his hands. Why can't I just get what I want, for once? First Sha're, now Jack...
It had taken him months to summon up enough courage to tell Jack how he felt about him - he had struggled with the feelings for even longer, suspecting that the seeds of those emotions lay as far back as the first time they went to Abydos. He had pushed those feelings to the back of his mind, telling himself that he was happy with Sha're, that he longed to be with her more than anything else.
But now, of course, that was never going to happen. Those longings had been buried along with Sha're, and were now lying deep below the sands of Abydos.
It had been hard for him to deal with that, the destruction of all his hopes of returning to his peaceful life on Abydos, even though the rational part of his brain had told him long ago that this was a pipe-dream.
He had moved on, tried to deal with the way he was grieving for Sha're, and had come to rely on Jack even more than before. They had always been close, closer than anyone might expect two such different people to be, defying all the expectations of those around them in the SGC.
And Daniel had come to recognise the feelings he had for Jack for what they truly were.
But now, he had no idea what to do next. In fact, he had never really considered what might happen after the moment of revelation, the moment when he bared his soul to Jack.
If he had, would he have been able to go through with it after all?
A more rational person might have pondered the possibility of two main alternatives - either Jack would be delighted or shocked by Daniel's honesty. There was no middle ground, no way that he could see Jack failing to react at all. But Daniel had not been rational, never had been where his heart was concerned....
And now what? Jack seemed to be considering the possibility of a relationship, but how could Daniel expect him to make such a fundamental shift in who he was?
Could they really do this? Could it really work?
Neither of them exactly had the best track record in relationships, after all.
I seem to be the number one choice of every psycho out there, Daniel thought, and Jack... Has he ever got over Sara?
Pulling his glasses off and laying them carefully aside on the desk, Daniel ran a hand down his face as he considered this. His fingers brushed over the painful abrasion on his lip and he blushed slightly as he remembered how it had been inflicted.
How could I ever tell Jack what happened? he thought. He'd say I got what I was asking for, no matter what he was saying earlier about not wanting to see me get hurt, about my deserving better...
All he could see in his mind's eye was Jack's face if he told him what had nearly happened between him and David, now close he had come or how few more beers he would have needed to have gone through with it.
Daniel was so lost in thought, contemplating Jack, that he jumped when Teal'c spoke.
"DanielJackson,' the Jaffa's voice said, from just behind Daniel's shoulder. "Should you not be resting?"
"You... you startled me," Daniel said, gulping in air as he spoke. "I know I should be used to how quietly you can move by now, Teal'c, but I really wish you wouldn't creep up on me like that..."
"I knocked on the door," he said. "But there was no response. However, I observed that your office light was on, so I entered."
"I couldn't sleep, Teal'c," Daniel said, looking up at the Jaffa from where he was sitting. "Thought I'd catch up on some work instead."
As Daniel spoke, he saw Teal'c's eyes move across the surface of his desk, examining its contents and proving his words a lie. Though Teal'c did not challenge him, Daniel saw Teal'c's eyebrow rise in enquiry and he sighed, knowing he had been caught.
"Okay," Daniel said, with a slightly guilty smile. "So I wasn't working..."
"You appeared deep in thought when I entered, DanielJackson," Teal'c said, clearly giving him an opportunity to unburden himself, should he wish to take it.
Even after all the time they had known one another, the experiences they had shared, the Jaffa still seemed conscious of the fragility of his place in the SGC. After all, he was an outsider, like Daniel, and so the two had formed something of an unlikely bond, but the Jaffa never forgot that he was a visitor to this planet, no matter how much the other members of SG1 tried to make him feel at home.
"I was thinking about what we've been through over the past couple of years, Teal'c," Daniel began, gesturing the Jaffa towards a seat. "About the bonds that have been formed as a result..."
"And of Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c said, fixing Daniel with an implacable stare.
It was useless to deny it, Daniel knew. There was a look of understanding in those eyes, a look that told him that what he had thought he had kept secret was in fact already known. The Jaffa had observed everything, his usual silence giving him the opportunity to witness things that might otherwise have been overlooked.
"It's not that simple," Daniel said.
"Colonel O'Neill is your friend," Teal'c said, looking at Daniel with interest and understanding in equal measures clear in his dark eyes.
The word was spoken even before Daniel thought it. He considered Jack his friend - even if he had been asked this on the first mission to Abydos, he would have given the same answer.
"You care for him," Teal'c pressed, still in the same calm voice.
"Of course," Daniel agreed.
Another natural response, again said without a second thought.
"You are closer to him than to myself or Major Carter."
Daniel hesitated, feeling for a moment almost as if he did not want to admit the truth to himself in this way, let alone to Teal'c. When the words were spoken so plainly, the idea that he was prevaricating like this seemed more ridiculous by the minute.
"You and Sam are my friends too," Daniel protested.
"But you do not feel the same things for us that you do for Colonel O'Neill," Teal'c replied. "I know that this is not so."
"No," Daniel admitted, after another moment's hesitation. "I don't."
"But you fear that Colonel O'Neill does not feel the same way for you."
"He says now that he thinks he might," Daniel began, suddenly unsure of his ability to express exactly what it was that had happened between the two of them, both the previous night and before. "But he reacted so strongly when I first told him how I felt about him..."
"He was not angry with you," Teal'c stated.
"No. Not angry," Daniel conceded. "He ran out of my apartment - I've never seen Jack move so fast without Serpent Guards around."
"This reaction surprised you?"
"I don't know, Teal'c," Daniel admitted. "I hadn't given that much thought to how Jack might react when I told him how I felt."
"Then it is that simple, DanielJackson," Teal'c stated, repeating Daniel's earlier words. "You care for each other, you are both without a partner, you both wish to pursue a relationship."
Sitting back, Teal'c crossed his arms, his dark eyes intent on Daniel's face.
"Okay," Daniel conceded after a moment's thought, smiling at the way that the Jaffa had made everything sound so straightforward. "Put like that, maybe it is that simple..."
He had finally talked himself into it. It had taken hours, long monotonous hours filled with worry and regret, but in the end Jack had succumbed and had phoned Daniel at home.
The phone rang and rang, before the answer-machine kicked in, the hesitant message echoing strangely down the line and asking whoever was calling to leave a message after the tone.
Does that mean you're not there, Daniel? Jack wondered, as he cradled the phone without speaking. Or just that you don't want to talk to anyone? I can understand that...
Jack sat staring at the phone, willing it to ring, trying by sheer force of concentration for the next person to call him to be Daniel. In particular, a Daniel who wanted to talk, not one who would run out of Jack's house with that uncertain expression on his face.
That's great, O'Neill, Jack thought bitterly. Now you want to talk, Daniel doesn't want to listen...
The phone did not ring, though, and a few minutes later the colonel finally and reluctantly decided to try and get some sleep....
Jack was dreaming.
Somewhere, in his dream, someone was building something. He was looking around, but he still could not see where the rhythmic banging noise was coming from. It sounded just like someone hammering nails into wood or maybe pounding on a door....
He woke with a start.
There was silence in his bedroom, a complete contrast to the noise inside his head - Jack was just relaxing back onto the bed and closing his eyes when the noise began again.
"What the...?" he exclaimed.
He glanced over at the alarm clock in the half-light. Did it really say 5.15am?
Jack shook his head as he stumbled out of bed, rubbing his eyes with one hand as he made his way to the door. Whoever was out there was persistent, he had to give them that....
Finally he reached the door, throwing it open with a sudden motion, without checking to see who was there despite all his years of covert ops experience.
It was Daniel, of course.
Who else? Jack thought, smiling to himself at the slightly stunned expression on his friend's face.
"Do you know what time it is?" he grated out. Daniel shook his head, looking bemused. "Get in here."
Daniel just gaped slightly at him as he spoke, his eyes travelling up and down Jack's body. It was then that Jack realised he was only wearing boxer shorts, not having bothered to throw on his robe on the way to the door.
"Some time today, Daniel!" Jack added, turning away as he felt his face start to redden.
He padded back towards his room, snagging his worn fleece robe when he got there and shrugging into it. After he had taken a couple of deep breaths, Jack felt more able to face his visitor again.
"I'm sorry I woke you, Jack," Daniel said, as soon as the colonel returned to the living room.
He was standing by the fireplace again, like he had done only hours before. Jack shook his head, trying to clear it of the overwhelming sense of deja vu he was feeling.
What is this, Groundhog Day? he thought.
"I know you don't mean that, Daniel," Jack said, "or you wouldn't have kept knocking till I answered, would you?"
"We need to talk," Daniel said, ignoring Jack's words.
"Coffee first, talk later," Jack said, heading for the kitchen.
As he gathered mugs out of the kitchen cupboard, then switched the coffee machine on, Jack pondered the presence of Daniel in his house once more.
Hadn't this been what he had been asking for only hours earlier - Daniel here, in his house and ready to talk?
Yeah, he thought, but a couple more hours sleep would have been nice too...
|Continued in Part 4...|
Disclaimer : Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is written for entertainment purposes only - no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story-line are the property of the author - not to be archived elsewhere without permission.