Jmas Fan Fiction

Title: Darkening the World
Date: September 13, 2000
Status: Complete
Author: Jmas
Category: Drama, angst, h/c
Rating: PG-13, language
Email: jmasg1@bellsouth.net

Disclaimer: Characters are property of MGM, etc.
Spoilers: Scorched Earth, The Other Side, little one for The First Ones
Summary: “The shadow of his loss drew like an eclipse, darkening the world.” Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
Author's note: Actions may often speak louder than words…but sometimes the words need to be said.


 


Darkening the World

By Jmas

 

Chapter One

Daniel was angry, as angry as he'd ever been with the man he considered his best friend.

After four years together, Daniel had thought he knew Jack O'Neill better than anyone...now it seemed he barely knew him at all. The situation with the Enkarans was just the final straw upon a load of repressed emotion, a long list of situations in which Jack had reacted without thinking. And worse, treated Daniel as if he had no right to question decisions that were later proven so terribly 'wrong.'

They had barely exited the gate, when Jack had turned on Daniel with eyes glinting with suppressed rage. Not acknowledging Daniel had been right, not happy all had turned out well for both species. Jack was angry that Daniel had defied his orders and nearly gotten himself killed...neatly forgetting the fact that Jack himself had been the one to activate the bomb that came within seconds of killing him. Well, Daniel had taken enough. Things had been strained between them since the events on Euronda. Though Jack had apologized profusely...most often drunkenly...for his hurtful words there, Daniel had been very much aware of Jack's disapproval of the 'way' he'd lodged his protests and Daniel had been able to live with that...that was Jack. But this...this...situation had taken Jack so far out on the limb of might vs. right Daniel could not back off, had even congratulated himself on his restraint in not reacting to Jack's dark looks and condescending words.

Now Jack was glowering at Daniel like he was the one in the wrong...and Daniel couldn't take any more of it...

"Jack..." he warned, his tone quiet and level.

"Not now, Daniel..." Jack nearly yelled, glancing quickly at the techs milling around the gate room.

Daniel turned sharply on his commanding officer, very much aware that right now that was the Jack standing before him. "It’s never ‘now’ with you, Jack. If I’d waited for your ‘now’ I’d be just as dead as the Gad-meer."

Daniel knew immediately he'd said too much...pushed too hard...as he watched Jack’s face go pale and his mouth drop open, just as quickly closing in shocked disbelief. Daniel could see the anger shift out of Jack’s eyes, displaced by something dark and hurt and haunted.

‘Oh, shit.’ In that moment Daniel knew Jack hadn’t forgotten anything. Jack knew exactly what had almost happened…

“Jack?” The concerned tone only seemed to fuel the darkness as Jack shook his head harshly and handed his weapons off to the supply officer before moving to the bottom of the ramp. “Jack!”

Daniel reached for Jack’s arm, intending to stop his commander and friend from walking away. Jack tensed at the touch but didn’t turn around.

“Not *now,* Daniel!”

Daniel felt the tension gather itself, felt the explosion of strength shoving his touch off and away, felt his balance shift backward and knew he was falling…

……………………….

Jack stormed down the corridor feeling sick.

A matter of seconds...and Daniel's very facile tongue...were all that had saved him back on the planet. He'd gone back up to that ship knowing full well Jack had no choice, knowing it was a matter of minutes before the decision had to be made...knowing Jack would make it and, in essence, putting Jack in the position of necessarily killing his friend.

Damn him. How could he risk his life like that? How could he make Jack out the villain in this piece? How could he almost...

Jack felt a surge of bile rise up in his throat and ducked into the nearest restroom, barely reaching a stall before his stomach rose up in rebellion….

‘Too close, too close, too close…’ the litany echoed through Jack’s head like the death knell he had nearly sounded for Daniel. With the click of a little red button, Jack had effectively, in form if not in fact, murdered one of his closest friends. If Daniel hadn’t ‘educated’ the day-old robot, Lotan, in the quality of mercy, Daniel would have been blown away with the ship…and Jack would never have forgiven himself.

The image spawned a new wave of vomiting and dry heaving as his stomach clenched in the realization of what his action had almost wrought. Seizing further with the knowledge that he’d just shrugged off his friend for no reason. He’d heard Daniel fall and hadn’t even stopped long enough to see if he was all right.

Jack made his way to the sink, plunging his head under the cold water as far as he could.

‘Stupid, stupid, stupid…’ he berated himself. He’d taken a risk, ordered Carter to make a bomb knowing she was opposed to it on so many levels. Even Teal’c had made his opinion known when he supported Daniel’s ‘technical’ non-mutiny. And Daniel…Daniel had only needed time…time Jack couldn’t give. Time to think…the one thing Daniel did better than any of them…and to come up with a way out that didn’t involve the destruction of an entire race to save another.

And he’d done it…. on his own with no real support from his friends…his team…. because of Jack.

Jack looked up into the mirror…noting the hollowness around his eyes, the pinched expression he was well aware had become almost fixed there. What was wrong with him? When had he turned into someone even he didn’t always recognize? When had he gotten to the point that any means to his perceived end was the right one?

He’d been so damned wrong this time…and Daniel had almost died.

*Colonel O’Neill, report to the infirmary, ASAP*

Shit. The post-mission exam…he had totally forgotten.

With a sigh, he straightened and slid his still shaking fingers through his hair. He’d go let Fraiser check him out…then find Daniel and figure some way to make this okay between them. This tension had gone on long enough…it was time for both of them to sit down and have a long talk.

 

 

Chapter Two

Sam couldn’t believe her eyes. The colonel had looked at Daniel with so much ‘anger’ in his dark eyes. The exchange of tense words had fanned those flames into flaring sparks and she had seen the hurt as well as Daniel’s realization as he reached out. The colonel hadn’t even looked back, just pushed Daniel off with his elbow and left. He hadn’t heard Daniel’s head thump against the rail of the ramp, hadn’t rushed forward as their friend slumped to the ground unconscious. He hadn’t seen the shocked looks on all their faces, hadn’t seen Daniel lying there so still…

Janet had appeared within seconds, directing her med team with her usual precision and carrying Daniel off to the infirmary. Hammond had hovered over the proceedings, incredulously demanding to know what had happened back on the planet. With the two principles in their own personal drama unable to speak, it had been left to her and Teal’c to provide the abridged version. Whatever the consequences, Sam was not prepared to gloss over anything. They had all been placed in an untenable position…too little support, too few options.

Things had gotten incredibly tense back on the planet; she’d had trouble meeting Daniel’s eyes knowing she’d been the one to create the means of his near destruction. She was certain the colonel was relieved at how things had ended…but she was just as sure he believed he’d had no choice. Just as all of them knew Daniel had no choice once he had come up with the idea to talk to Lotan. Words were Daniel’s forte; he wielded them as precisely as they did their own physical weapons. As worried as she’d been about him, Sam had felt incredibly hopeful knowing Daniel was up there.

Up until the moment she’d had to give the word that time was up.

She remembered the clenching in her gut when the colonel announced that Daniel had *asked* to go back up to the ship. Once again refusing to give up, she knew. She was sure, as Daniel had to have been, that the colonel would activate the bomb. Short of an instantaneous miracle, there was no choice. A calculated risk with a countdown attached…one that, thankfully, paid off.

The colonel had looked at Daniel so searchingly when he’d materialized before them after the naquada reactor had exploded far above them…so plainly wanting to know what had happened, equally pissed at Daniel’s creative interpretation of orders and relieved that Daniel was *there* and not raining down on them along with flaming bits of the ship. And Daniel had delivered, barely glancing at them…almost as if he was waiting for the repercussions to fall and seeking to delay them as long as possible.

So the Enkarans were on their way back to their ancestral home and the Gad-meer would be reborn. All in a day’s work for SG1…

‘Yeah, right…’

The entire situation had been impossible from the very beginning. A lose-lose game none of them had even wanted to play, but sure as hell couldn’t afford to lose. She wondered even now if there had been other answers they simply hadn’t had time to see. They would never know now.

Hindsight was more than twenty-twenty…and looking back all she could see was a rift between them that might never be healed. Daniel had made a choice. The colonel had made a choice. Hell, she had too, by building the damn bomb. Even Teal’c had made a choice by not going against his own feelings and stopping Daniel. Choices made, chances taken…and it had worked out in the end.

Sam wasn’t a great believer in fate…but it seemed in this case, that ubiquitous force had played a major role in saving the Enkarans and the Gad-meer. As for SG1…she just hoped they could save themselves…

*********************

Teal’c was greatly upset by O’Neill’s words and actions. Daniel Jackson had not deserved to be condemned and pushed away for his actions on the planet. The choices had been made under such extreme circumstances. Neither choice had been intrinsically wrong. Neither choice had been made lightly.

Teal’c remembered O’Neill’s eyes as his commander hesitated over activating the bomb. The pain of that decision was most evident and yet both of them knew there could be no further hesitation or the death of the Enkarans would be a certainty. Daniel Jackson had known it as well, but could not fail to take the opportunity and still be true to himself. Teal’c had believed O’Neill was aware of that fact as well.

It occurred to Teal’c that O’Neill’s actions in the gate room were a result of that pain. Of being placed in the position to possibly end Daniel Jackson’s life in order to save the Enkarans. One man’s life against hundreds, a concept Teal’c well understood, as they all did. O’Neill’s anger at himself had been redirected to the source of the pain. Daniel Jackson.

When Daniel Jackson had returned from the ship the first time, Teal’c had watched the younger man gently introducing Lotan to the people who would die if the ship continued on its path. Several times it had seemed to Teal’c that Daniel Jackson was avoiding O’Neill, barely glancing at the older man. Was it a matter of simple avoidance, a means of escaping the older man’s disapproval and reproach…or a desire to not be swayed from the course he had set in motion? Daniel Jackson was not prepared to give up, and it seemed to Teal’c that he had wanted no one to distract him from his focused effort to alter the robot’s programming with little time to spare.

Both men had acted as their characters demanded. Neither had been wrong insofar as time and available options had allowed. Daniel Jackson had succeeded, literally at the last moment and the Enkarans were on their way to their true home. A successful mission albeit one of the most stressful ones Teal’c could recall. At any other time it would have been enough, yet Daniel Jackson was in the infirmary and O’Neill was noticeably absent.

Something needed to be done. But first, he had to find O’Neill.

 


Chapter Three

As if from a great distance, Daniel could hear voices…

Words. Disjointed, jumbled…

“Concussion..”

"X-rays..."

"MRI..."

Janet’s voice. And Warner?

Someone was hurt?

A light touch on his forehead, fingers on his eyelid pulling upward…

Guess that ‘someone’ is me. It might help if you turn the light on, guys.

Thinking was painful, remembering doubly so, but with effort Daniel remembered everything. Jack’s eyes, Jack’s pain…

Daniel knew he hadn’t been truly angry with Jack. His anger had come from a lot of sources, mostly the nearness of death…the events of the past few months, too little sleep, too many demons…

Demons took on many forms for Daniel: images of the past; images of real-life, albeit alien, monsters; images of his friends in pain, dying…

Demons he understood…

So did Jack.

Jack had faced a demon back on the planet and had focused his anger on the one who had made him face it…Daniel.

Even with his brain skittering over thought like raindrops on a hot surface, Daniel understood the anger he’d seen in Jack’s eyes. If he’d managed to keep his mouth closed a few seconds longer, they would all have walked away, confronted the demons and been able to talk about it calmly. Or not. But they would have had more control, less immediacy of feeling, to contend with it all.

Where was Jack, anyway?

Daniel focused a lot of effort into forming the word.

“Jack…”

Shuffling noises, the warmth of a body standing near…

“Daniel? Can you hear me?”

Janet. A warm hand touching his cheek. He tried to nod, decided against it as sparks filled his head…

“Don’t move. Just stay still.”

‘Great advice. A little sooner would have been nice…’

Licking his dry lips, concentrating impossibly hard on the simple task of forming a word. “Where…?”

“Where are you?” Janet completed the thought helpfully.

‘I *know* where I am. Guess again.’ Aloud Daniel could only moan a negative.

Janet’s hand shifted to his forehead, holding his head still. “You were…hurt…you’re in the infirmary. Do you remember?”

Daniel grunted an affirmative, hoping Janet was current on patient-speak.

“We’re still running tests, but we think you have a pretty severe concussion…”

‘Feels severe from this side of things. Where the hell is Jack?’

“Jack…” Daniel felt like that effort was slightly more successful than his first.

“Yes, Daniel, he, um, he pushed you away, you fell down and knocked your head against a railing.”

The effort at contact drained him, but Daniel persisted. “No…need…see…Jack…”

‘Well, that was a study in coherency…’ Daniel moaned to himself, even as the tiredness…or more likely Janet’s drugs…pulled him back into sleep.

“The colonel is outside, Daniel. I’ll send him in when we’re finished here.”

Knowing Janet always kept her promises, Daniel let the drugs send him into unawareness. Far too much experience had taught him that he probably didn’t want to be awake while they ‘finished.’

…………………

Jack stalked into the infirmary, still feeling queasy, but ready to get the exam over with so he could go find Daniel.

Carter and Teal’c were standing in one corner of the waiting area. He wasn’t really in the mood to have them rake him over the coals for something he already felt like shit over, but…

They looked more worried than angry.

And where the hell was Daniel?

The queasiness returned full force.

Jack forced himself to walk across the room.

“What’s goin’ on?” Even as he asked the question, Jack knew it was bad. Knew it was about Daniel. Knew it was his fault.

Carter dipped her head, glancing away as she gathered the courage, or maybe just the words, to tell him of his sin.

“Daniel…hit his head when you…He was knocked out, sir.”

Knocked out? Knocked out wasn’t so bad. Was it? He’d been knocked out dozens of times in his life. So had Daniel.

“What’s Fraiser saying?” Jack found his gaze directed to the double doors into the treatment area as if he could conjure the petite doctor’s presence.

“Nothing yet. Last we heard he was still unconscious and they’re running more tests.”

Stepping away a few steps toward the doors, Jack pushed idly at one of them far enough to see Daniel lying on an exam table with his eyes closed, Fraiser hovering over him.

“…see…Jack…”

Daniel was asking for him? Why? Daniel ought to be as pissed at Jack as he was at himself….

Fraiser answered Daniel quietly, looking up toward the doors and meeting Jack’s eyes. With a small frown, she motioned for him to leave the room and moved to follow.

“Colonel O’Neill?”

“How…uh…” The words didn’t seem to want to come.

Janet Fraiser had the unique ability to intimidate those within her realm despite her small stature. Jack was painfully aware of that irritating talent at the moment but did his best to meet her gaze levelly.

“We’re still running tests, Colonel. At the moment it looks like a very severe concussion, but we won’t know for sure until the x-rays and MRI come back.”

“Severe concussion? Severe as in…what?”

Fraiser shook her head. “I’d rather not move into the realm of conjecture until I have the test results. For now it looks like his optic nerves are involved, plus extreme headache. We’ll know more in an hour or so.”

With that Fraiser disappeared back behind the door, leaving them to digest her words.

Carter was swallowing hard in an expression Jack had come to recognize as her means of suppressing strong emotion.

“What?”

Looking away then back again, Carter answered quietly. “She said his optic nerves were being affected, sir. Daniel could be blind.”

 

Chapter Four

Sam watched as the colonel’s face paled at her words, wished she could call them back and make them less…real. But no one could and she really didn’t think the colonel would appreciate less than total honesty – however harsh it might be.

The possibility that Daniel might be temporarily blind or – God, no – permanently as a result of one rash action settled over the colonel’s face like a mask of ice, aging his face and stature in a matter of seconds and settling into the deep shadows of his eyes.

Sam traded glances with Teal’c and saw confirmation as the Jaffa’s expression softened in that way so unique to him…a subtle change but so profoundly expressive of concern, empathy and sorrow. Sam tried to return the look with one of reassurance but failed as she felt her control falter and tears spring to her eyes.

Daniel couldn’t be blind. Everything that made Daniel so good at what he did was based on his ability to see, judge and respond to the people and things he encountered. How could Daniel translate the seemingly thousands of artifacts the SG teams brought back if he couldn’t see the glyphs and writings – some written in languages only he had the training and experience to read? How could he read beneath the surface of a problem he couldn’t judge with those wise-old eyes that rarely missed a nuance of expression? How could he look into the soul of another and find the good?

He couldn’t.

The force of the realization swelled and threatened to break loose. So much of ‘Daniel’ was contained in those blue eyes that ‘saw ‘ so much, distilled it and allowed his remarkable intellect and conscience to act on it. Not always in the preferred military fashion, but according to his admittedly high standards of universal fairness. If Daniel was blind he could no longer function as part of SG1, likely not even the SGC, and the heart and soul of both would be ripped apart in the process.

It couldn’t happen. It just couldn’t.

………

Teal’c watched Major Carter’s eyes fill with tears barely held in check and replaced with determination that Daniel Jackson not be lost to them in this way. O’Neill still stood watching the doorway behind which lay their friend. Teal’c understood all too well the guilt weighing upon O’Neill at this moment. Teal’c’s own actions had more than once stripped Daniel Jackson of something he cared for. And Teal’c knew Daniel Jackson cared greatly about the work the SGC did.

With his accustomed stubborn conviction and almost innocuous expectations, Daniel Jackson brought a definitive level of conscience to the sometimes…often…less than contemplative military operation. Teal’c had observed that most of the SGC personnel he’d encountered possessed an inborn sense of what was right, it just seemed Daniel Jackson’s was more fully developed…and more often exercised even if occasionally contrary to the wishes of his more military peers and superiors. Teal’c had always been aware of the tendency but had been pleased to note the increased maturity with which it had been put to use in recent months. It was almost as if Sha’re’s death or perhaps the years long search for her had unlocked a potential in Daniel Jackson that could so easily have plunged him into a much darker place.

Teal’c was proud of the evolution of Daniel Jackson’s spirit, more so than he had ever taken the time to express to the younger man, a regrettable oversight. Teal’c knew O’Neill was alternately pleased and saddened by the change but it also seemed the two men clashed more and more often over the fundamental differences that had once been their combined strength. Their viewpoints had always come together in the end to come up with solutions both could be proud of.

Euronda had seemed to change things. The confrontation had been public and hurtful, the apology seeming to shock both into a realization of distance neither had been fully aware of. Teal’c believed that distance to be responsible for the rather covert nature if Daniel Jackson’s ‘alternate solution’…an action necessary to the moment but destined to increase the distance even further.

Looking at O’Neill’s tortured eyes fixed on the double doors as if somehow the painted wood might provide answers to the question foremost in all their minds, Teal’c felt a surge of hope and the realization that the distance might not, after all, be so far as to preclude the rebuilding of a bridge….

 

 

Chapter Five

It was cold…

Chills ran through Daniel’s body as he slowly became aware of lying flat on a hard bed. He wanted to shift into a less uncomfortable position, tried…and felt firm, warm hands stop the movement.

“Stay still. Fraiser’s got you hooked up to enough wires to power the whole damn mountain.” Jack. Quiet, strained…but definitely Jack.

Daniel tried to form an answer, but couldn’t quite seem to get his mouth and brain operating on the same wavelength. He knew on some level that he should be worried about that. And there was something else…

His last clear memory was of Dr. Fraiser’s words…something about swelling and a course of something…medication that should take the swelling down so he could see again…

His eyes.

Daniel struggled upward again, trying to force sluggish hands to his face; to the bandages he could now feel compressing his nose and the tops of his ears…

“No, Daniel…leave it alone. Doc says it has to stay on.” Hands again, ruffling his hair just above the bandages. “She says the medicine needs time to work and she doesn’t want you straining your eyes trying to…see…” Jack’s voice shook on the last word making Daniel wish he could see what demons lurked there, what emotions were strong enough to break Jack’s control…

The long rough fingers still carded through Daniel’s hair soothing the near constant ache…comforting the fear that threatened to rise up and consume him. Daniel wondered if Jack even realized what he was doing, wanted to ask but was almost afraid to disturb the stillness. As he fell deeper under the drugs, encouraged by the slow, steady movement, Daniel recognized that somehow Jack needed this as much as he did so he let himself drift away content, for now, to know he wasn’t alone…

**********

Jack could feel the tension ease under his hand as his fingers stroked through the short hair, saw Daniel’s hands gradually relax and grow still. Jack was barely aware of the motion, his mind consumed by the overpowering need for absolution.

But Daniel didn’t seem to blame him, seemed to want Jack nearby…

‘Of course, right now he’s so doped on Doc’s magic brew I wonder if he even knows it’s me?’

Jack sat back in the bedside chair, his hand slowing in its motion but never quite losing contact. Daniel might have to wake up to darkness but Jack was damned if he’d let him wake up alone.

It felt so strange to look at Daniel’s face and not be able to see his eyes. So much of Daniel was in his eyes, so much emotion was revealed to any who knew how to look. Jack knew. Those blue eyes could contain so much wonder at discovery, so much intelligence and wisdom and caring, and Jack couldn’t help but wonder if those things would still shine out of Daniel’s eyes if he could no longer see them.

One stupid move, on top of so many other stupid moves lately and Jack knew he might well have destroyed any chance that Daniel would ever again use his amazing…and yes, sometimes annoying…talents and heart to save the representatives of Earth from themselves. They needed Daniel, Jack was never so sure of that fact as he was at this moment, and he might be lost to them now. All because Jack couldn’t stop to think, couldn’t control the urge to *act*…regardless of whether that action was right or wrong or just plain dumb.

As Jack watched, Daniel’s forehead crinkled as if he were thinking very hard about something even in the midst if his well medicated sleep. Knowing Daniel, he probably was. Jack resumed the hair stroking, smiling a little as Daniel sighed and the frown faded away. Shaking his head, Jack wondered when it had gotten so hard to remember the simple things about Daniel, the things that would never completely change no matter what crap life continued to throw at him, the things that kept Daniel able to see the other side of things even when the other side set him against his friends and his world. Jack admired that persistence. Always had, even when it drove him bonkers.

It just seemed like it drove him closer to bonkers more often lately.

But why?

 


Chapter Six

Daniel woke to darkness.

Again.

The hand on his head grounded him enough that he could fight down the panic that had gripped him each time he’d woken up throughout the night. At least, he supposed it was the night; he wasn’t really sure how long it had been.

Why was it so cold?

Daniel felt Jack’s hand leave his head and fought down the urge, the almost painful rush of panic, to call it back. Something warm wrapped around him…a blanket…and the hand returned.

“Thanks, Jack…” Daniel heard the waver in his voice, frowned at the outward sign of his fear.

“Sure thing, Daniel.” Jack’s voice was quiet, reassuring…but somehow distant. Not distant in the way it had been so often recently, more like…guilt. Jack was feeling guilty for the accident and probably the anger that precipitated it all. Daniel knew it was par for the course with Jack…for both of them really…to take responsibility even when it wasn’t entirely their fault. A character flaw they shared and sometimes fell over themselves trying to assume. It was an old and well established pattern Daniel didn’t need to see to recognize.

“Jack?” Daniel drawled out the name, knowing Jack would understand the question.

“Not right now, Daniel. You should rest. ‘Meaning ‘I don’t want to talk about this, go back to sleep so I won’t have to.’

“I’ve been resting, Jack.” In other words, ‘Good try, but I’m not giving up.’

“Well…Doc says you need to sleep all you can or the medicine will make you sick.” ‘Please don’t get sick, and I still don’t want to talk about it.’

“I feel sick whether I’m sleeping or not…” ‘Appeal to the nausea. Nice strategy but no-go.’

“Daniel…” ‘Let me off the hook here…’

“Jack, please…” Daniel knew that one didn’t need any subtext. Jack understood. “It wasn’t your fault.”

The hand jumped on his forehead, the heat of it hovering for a moment as if Jack were thinking about leaving…

“Jack!” The waver was back. Even if they didn’t talk, Daniel didn’t want Jack to go.

The hand returned, patting awkwardly before coming to a rest. “I’m here, Daniel. I’m not going anywhere.”

………..

The long sigh of relief was almost too much. Jack knew Daniel was scared, but was just now understanding exactly how scared. All through the night and most of the day Daniel had rested fitfully, coming awake with a jump as he realized where he was, and why. Fighting off the nausea and headache all Janet’s potions couldn’t alleviate for long.

Daniel wanted to talk about it. And Jack knew they needed to, had needed to for a long time, but…

He wasn’t ready.

‘Hell, I’m never ready.’

But he would. For Daniel.

“Damn it, I almost killed you.”

There it was. The truth. Dark and ugly and shimmering between them like a curtain of loss. He’d almost killed the man who understood him better than anyone on the planet, the man he was honored to call friend, the man he’d watched grow in his role as SG1’s conscience…taking on the mantle with a devotion usually reserved for religious zealots and very young children. But Daniel wasn’t a child or a zealot. He was a true believer in the universal good and lost causes of all sorts, something Jack had always known but somehow…forgot. The naiveté of four years ago had faded quickly, too quickly, and been replaced by a pretty savvy diplomat. The stubbornness had always been there, it was just ‘bigger’ now…and sneakier…and more eloquent. Jack was beginning to think Daniel could talk the green out of the trees…

“You didn’t, Jack…” The voice was soft, sure, reassuring.

“But…”

“No ‘buts’…it didn’t happen.”

“But…”

Daniel’s finger hovered in Jack’s general direction.

“No ‘buts,’ Jack. It didn’t happen and even if it had it wouldn’t have been your fault. You did what you felt was right, what would have been right if it had taken me a few seconds longer to convince Lotan. No choice, remember? No options.”

Jack shook his head emphatically, forgetting Daniel couldn’t see the gesture. ”No. There was a choice. You found it.”

Daniel shook his head slightly, mouth tightening in pain at the movement. “I almost didn’t. Thirty seconds, remember? It was too big a gamble that could have gotten the Enkarans killed…and you guys, too…”

The tone was wavering again, but in sadness and the fear of what might have been…

“We both gambled, Daniel. We’re just lucky it was your hand that won the game.”

Even as he said it, Jack realized he believed it. He wasn’t about to let himself entirely off the hook; that would make it too easy to fall back into the distance that had characterized their lives lately. But he felt okay…good…pretty damn good, actually.

Letting his hand resume the steady stroking, Jack leaned close to Daniel’s ear. “I’m sorry, Daniel. For a lot of things. I can be a three-star asshole sometimes.”

The corner of Daniel’s lip curled upward in a small smile. “You sure can…”

“Hey!” Jack flipped the hair quickly; smiling at the first joke they’d been able to share in so long he couldn’t remember. “Watch it there, Jackson. That’s ‘Colonel’ Asshole to you…”


Chapter Seven – Epilog

Janet was certain the strain had gotten to both her patient and his constant shadow. The two of them were laughing so hard they hadn’t even heard her come into the room, Dr. Jackson’s laughter interspersed with ‘ow’s’ as the movement made his head hurt. Which only seemed to spark more of the same. It had actually started the evening before, small ripples building more and more until she’d had to threaten to remove the colonel from the room if they didn’t settle down. For some reason that had sparked another round of laughter, but they’d promised to be good. She’d had no idea Colonel O’Neill had learned that particular look from Dr. Jackson, but it proved just as effective when combined with the patented Dr. Jackson charm and quick tongue. She’d relented feeling only a little bit ‘had.’ There’d been many visitors but she’d turned them all away…she recognized healing when she saw it…

Now she had the latest test results in her hand and she was stalling before going into the room. The swelling was down, the pressure should be alleviated enough for them to know whether Daniel’s sight would return on its own or if they would need to consider other options. Sighing she picked up the folder and stepped near the door, smiling at the sound of Daniel’s voice expounding on the tale of his capture by the Unas…something none of them had been able to elicit more than general details about as far as she knew.

Healing, indeed.

…………….

Daniel swallowed hard. He readily admitted it; he was scared. Janet’s sure hands were unraveling the bandages so damn slowly he wanted to scream at her to get on with it…

But at the same time, he didn’t want to know.

He sighed again, blowing out air to take the place of the words that wanted to come out. Jack was still there…somewhere….

“Jack?”

A rustle and a footstep then Jack’s hand was on Daniel’s shoulder, grounding him again. The bandages were pulled away, tickling across his nose as they went…

This was it.

Janet had warned him to keep his eyes closed but it was harder than he would ever have imagined anything could be…

“Just a minute, Daniel, then we’ll be ready.”

‘Easy for you to say,’ Daniel thought unkindly, feeling his muscles tense in preparation for whatever might happen…

Something cool and damp swiped at his eyes, it felt good…

A click then a warmth on his shoulder as Jack’s hand tightened its grip. Ready to offer congratulations or comfort?

“Okay, Daniel. Open your eyes…”

He had to concentrate on the task, overriding the fear and dread to move the tiny muscles in an effort that should have been as simple as breathing. …

Slowly the lids raised and he blinked against the gritty feeling…

Nothing. He still couldn’t see anything…

“Has the burning stopped?”

Unable to trust his voice, Daniel nodded.

A step.

Jack’s hand, tighter than ever on his shoulder…

A click.

Light.

A blur of light, but it was light…

Daniel smiled…not trusting his voice again, but for an entirely different reason.

More light, moving now…

“Daniel?” Janet’s voice, then he could see her face…blurry but unmistakable. And smiling back at him.

“Hi…”

“Well, that’s pretty eloquent, big guy…”

Daniel turned toward Jack’s voice, focusing on the tired dark eyes and stubbled face of his friend.

“Thanks, some of my best work…”

Jack’s smile was clear and bright, his eyes shining in more than just amusement.

“You okay?”

Daniel nodded and winced, feeling the twinge of headache returning.

“Okay, that’s enough for now, Daniel. We’re going to keep you around a few more days, just to be sure. We’ll leave the small lamp on, but I don’t want you straining your eyes more than necessary. Got it?”

Two sets of hands pushed him back onto the bed and he let them. He was so tired suddenly and knew he could sleep now knowing that he wouldn’t wake up to darkness again. Blankets were tucked in around him and he sighed a ‘thank you’…already drifting away.

The door closed. Janet and Jack leaving, he supposed.

The lesser darkness of sleep dragged him down until he was hovering on the edge, but it felt like something was missing…

Then he felt a hand on his head.

Jack.

He wanted to wake up, wanted to tell Jack he didn’t have to stay, but…

“Sleep, Daniel. I’m not going anywhere.”

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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