Jmas Fan Fiction

TTitle: Day's End
Status: Complete
Author: Jmas
Category: drama, angst, h/c
Rating: PG
Email: jmasg1@bellsouth.net
Disclaimer: Characters are property of MGM, etc.
Spoilers: Forever in a Day, Children of the Gods, Legacy, Secrets, Need, Hathor, Into the Fire, Out of Mind
Summary: Jack takes Daniel 'away from it all' and discovers there is nowhere far enough to go...
Author's note: Sequel/companion to Day After Day (revised version)
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Chapter One: Jack

Daniel's asleep again, the book he wasn't really reading anyway falling against his chest in slow degrees as his head droops down and left to rest against the deck chair. The sun is dipping low over the ocean, but it's still several hours until dark...so I leave him alone for now....

He's still a long way from recovering his physical injuries. The emotional ones...well...he'll be most...if not all...of his life getting over those. I know better than most that the best anyone can hope for is to learn how to live in the company of those memories...

In a very real way, he's been living with Sha'uri's loss since that long ago day on Abydos when Apophis first took her away. The only difference now is that he knows she's truly gone. Before that he had hope to get him through the tough days, the long nights, the endless waiting. He always had that lingering hope that...someday...she'd be on the other side of the 'gate.

But look what happened when she was....

*I saw her standing there by the tents almost as soon as Daniel did, but I was to busy with her Jaffa to do more than wish him well, yell for Teal'c to cover him and curse the damnable luck...Amaunet's plan... that brought us here. Then Daniel was doing his Dirty Harry impression, taking down one of Amaunet's personal guard; only Teal'c's quick action saved Daniel from the other...When I looked back again, Daniel had reloaded his gun and was entering the tent with the demon who was once his wife...

By the time we finally beat Amaunet's forces and followed Daniel and Teal'c into the tent, it was all over. Teal'c was kneeling there with a look of pure remorse on his face and Daniel...

Daniel was lying there on his side, facing Amaunet...Sha'uri once again...now and forever in death. We could only watch in horror and regret as Daniel reached out a weak hand to stroke his wife's face, saying "I love you" in a tone I hope never to hear again. Carter wasn't the only one choking up....

Daniel passed out then, thankfully, and we got him home...after dispatching a detail to transport Sha'uri's body back to the SGC...*

I shiver a little in the evening breeze and go inside the little bungalow I rented for us to get a blanket to put over Daniel...Fraiser will have my hide if I let Daniel get sick again; it was hard enough to talk her into this trip in the first place after everything Daniel went through recovering from Amaunet's attack and the gunshot wound and the blood loss and the infection that followed. Daniel *needed* this...and not just because he came so close to dying on us....

If it hadn't been for his promise to his dying wife, I think he would have given up then...

I just sit here watching him sleep...he still looks like death slightly toasted, pale and gaunt in sleep and when he's awake he barely has the strength to cross the room without tiring.

Then there's his eyes....

His eyes are *old*....

Daniel's always had this ageless kind of wisdom and a moral strength well beyond his years, but now his eyes are just too full...of the things he's seen and been through, of the loss of his own unique brand of innocence that's gradually settled over him like a pall, of the grief that's becoming an all too familiar part of his life...

Life hasn't been too kind to Daniel and it sure doesn't seem like it's inclined to let up on him any time soon. It's a wonder to me that he can bear up under the weight of it all.

He's too young to be this old...

Daniel stirs a little, but doesn't wake up...I hope it's not another bad dream come to visit. He hates taking those sedatives Doc prescribed, but I've got strict orders to make sure he gets his rest...and I can be a regular bear...or is it hen?...when it comes to making Daniel take care of himself.

I'm hoping this trip will help him gain a little perspective...along with regaining his strength...

He has to finally and truly see that...especially now....he isn't alone in this....

Chapter Two: Daniel

// Sha'uri comes toward me...

Only...it isn't Sha'uri....

It's Amaunet. Smiling in a cruel bastardization of Sha'uri's sweet, giving expression...

The only thing this demon wants to give me is pain....

Pain like I've never known...

This isn't my first experience with the Goa'uld ribbon device, but it is by far the worst... I feel the gun I'll never know if I'd have used slip through my fingers, I hear Sha'uri's voice...calling to me, begging me to listen...but then there's only more pain... //

I come awake and try to stand...to run...all at once and feel my legs go out from under me, then Jack is there...holding me, helping me to sit down....saying ...something.

"I'm here...I've got you..." His voice sounds more worried than usual.

I guess I've given him good reason to worry this time...

I was kind of worried myself....

It would have been so easy to just give up...to let the darkness take the pain away....

*Promise me, Daniel.*

That promise is the only thing that kept me from making the mistakes I envisioned in my 'dream’. or whatever it was. I guess I'll always wonder if I *would* have given up on the SGC...on my friends...I would have never been able to consider forgiving Teal'c...

I still need to work on that....

I *know* they're my friends...I know that...but...

After all that stuff with Mackenzie...I trust them, I *do*...only....

How can I tell them that I have to keep a promise I made to my wife while I experienced this strange sort of projected reality inside my mind during a few brief moments that her Goa'uld parasite held me in the grips of a ribbon device? That somewhere out there is a child who may be our one best hope for eventually defeating the Goa'uld?

They'll lock me up all over again....

At the very least, Jack will give me *that* look and dismiss it out of hand as the ramblings of a grief-stricken husband trying to hold on to what's been lost...

"Daniel?"

Jack's starting to sound worried and I feel his hand on my forehead, checking for fever for the hundredth time since we've been here...Jack's gonna make somebody a wonderful mother....

I look up at him and see the worried expression that's become a constant with him lately...because of me....

I catch an exasperated twinge in Jack's eyes now, I must be looking apologetic or something...Jack can't stand it when I start 'jumping on my guilt trip'...I can't help it, it's a reflex from long ago...too ingrained to ignore....

Jack makes me look at him and gives me that deep appraisal that used to cause me to feel so inadequate...Now I know it's just Jack...if he didn't like me, he wouldn't put up with me...

Something Sha'uri's gift help me to see....

"I'm okay, Jack...."

His eyes say something unkind and it's obvious that he doesn't believe me...but I know he's just worried about me...and that's okay. There's nobody on this world...or any other now...that I'd let get away with it. If I weren't feeling so...out of it...I'd fight him a little more, but that would take more energy than I can spare right now...so I just let him.

I'm just so tired....

I never realized how much energy I'd applied to *not* thinking of Sha'uri. Now that she's ...gone...I can't seem to stop trying to remember every second....every moment... of the last vision I had of her. Whatever those 'dreams' were...they are as real to me now as all the other little moments of our lives on Abydos...and I feel like I have to commit each one of them to memory while I can...

Jack must see something in my eyes, because he nods at me and helps me up without a word.

Just there.

Just Jack...

How could I ever believe he'd be anything less...?

Chapter Three: Jack


As I help Daniel inside, I keep catching these looks from him. Looks of doubt...? He's my best friend, but there are things about him I still can't begin to fathom...

He's one of the smartest people I've ever known, he feels everything on a level I'm only beginning to understand, he can stand up to the nastiest enemies and turn around on a dime and see their point of view....His eyes can speak volumes, but he can also put on this expression...an expression that tells me something's wrong because it is so distant and dark....but gives me no clue as to what's going on behind it.

I don't think, even now, that he can understand, accept...whatever... what he means to us...and to me. Daniel's been left alone too often to deal with the garbage life's handed him...He doesn't know how to reach out for support, because he's never had anybody there to fill that role for him...

'Been there, done that...'

Daniel's the one who taught me to look outside of myself...

It's time he learned his own lesson....

I ease Daniel down onto the sofa and cover him again, going into the kitchenette to fix us some decaf. Daniel hates it; so do I, but it's that or nothing.

I hear something in the living room and go back to find Daniel sitting up, actually trying to get up...

"What the hell are you doing?" I ask him in my best and most-used...on him...exasperated tone.

"Jack..." he starts to argue with me, then his knees buckle.

I sit him back down, telling him not to rush it. I know how much he hates this physical weakness, but he shouldn't be pushing it too soon. I don't want to even think how much blood he lost all over that mountain; I *can't* think about the look in his eyes when he passed out just as the rescue chopper came into view...

*It was like he was saying goodbye....

I remember ordering him not to die on me....

Later in the infirmary, I reminded him...a little forcefully...of the promise he'd made to Sha'uri...urging him to fight....

No matter how much he wanted to let go....*

It's a wonder he doesn't hate me for pulling out that blatant emotional blackmail...but he scared me.

Daniel's the closest friend I've let myself have in too many years. I'd've said...or done...anything to keep him from giving up. Just like I'd say or do anything to take this pain away...

Daniel finally lays his head down...giving me a little frown of impatience. He hates being sick as much as I do...And there's this little thing he has about being dependent.

He just never learned how....

Sha'uri and the Abydonians were probably the only ones he ever allowed himself to depend on in his adult life....until his wife and his life there were ripped way...along with a good portion of his soul....

It had taken a long time for that particular wound to heal...or at least cauterize; endless sleepless nights, too many nightmares to count, an emotional reticence that kept him from accepting his role as part of our team...our family... But he'd been learning to trust us, to rely on us...until...

Until Machello's little silver bullets...

Until we'd let him go without a fight...

Until we'd broken the trust it took so long for us to build....

Until we walked away from him and left him alone.

Daniel had finally allowed us into those protected places...and we blew it.

*I* blew it.

Now Sha'uri's gone. And the closeness we'd built up over two and a half years hasn't healed enough for him to trust me again. I'm still waiting for him to tell me more about this promise, but...it's going to take a lot of work to make him see that I'm never going to let anything like that happen again.

Chapter 4: Daniel

I can still hear Jack's voice before he walked away....

*'It was a pleasure doing business with you, *Doctor* Jackson.'*

I'm still having trouble figuring out how much of those dreams were dreams or if they were dreams at all...

Were they Sha'uri's projections onto my mind of what *she* thought I would do if...when...she died? Or was it me? Would I have quit SGC and run off to some remote dig?

Possibly....

A lot's happened since I returned to Earth...as much good as bad, but the bad was just so...bad. Too many times I've found myself questioning my own usefulness, my purpose beyond the obvious, as a part of the SGC. Gradually, I came to realize I *did* have one...sort of. Somebody had to keep those military minds from running roughshod all over the galaxy and taking what they wanted without considering the rights of others...or the rightness of doing it. But after a while I got tired of fighting those battles...all of the battles...or maybe I just got tired. From the first day on Abydos to the Nox and the Tollans to the fiasco on Hathor's world to staring down the face of death *(for the what, fifth or sixth time?)* in the person of that alternate reality Apophis...there've been too many uphill struggles, too many situations that stretched my nerves and resolve to the breaking point, too many mistakes that cost too many lives...

Jack doesn't think I remember that people died on P8X873 because I took off after Sha'uri...I wish I'd pulled back when Jack ordered us to. If I hadn't seen Sha'uri...those soldiers would still be alive....she'd still be alive.....

Just one more mistake on top of so many others....

How many times will it take for me to listen...?

For all the things I've been faced with in my life, I'd always been able to focus on the bigger picture....the reality beyond the reality, but it just seemed to get harder, to take more energy and effort to do it. I began to feel a coldness...almost a fatalism...settling over me that frankly scared me....

But at the bottom of it I had the team...

Jack, Sam, Teal'c....

Until the Linvris chamber and all the personal hell that followed....

I felt like a kid again; abandoned to the mercies of strangers who only thought to silence the overly sensitive kid with the weird ideas and even weirder ways of expressing himself...

I just wanted to shut it all out, just like before, and...in a way...I did. Part of me shut down, or at least went into hiding. The part that had begun to unconditionally accept the friendship and support of SG1. Suddenly, the conditions reasserted themselves, and that part of me that I thought had gone the way of childhood fears just waited for them to let me down again...

The other part of me knows that it's unreasonable, feels guilty for even considering it...and most days that's the part of me that stays in control....

But then there are those *other* days....

The days when their abandonment cuts like a knife through my soul...and my one remaining lifeline, Sha'uri, isn't there anymore to keep me from drifting away....

Chapter 5: Jack

Daniel's off in that o-zone again...that deep thoughtful place that he's been retreating to a lot lately...even before all of this happened. I can do companionable silence...even enjoy it sometimes (contrary to popular belief, I *don't* have to fill every idle moment with chatter), but this isn't it...

Daniel's gone somewhere I can't go...somewhere he doesn't want me to follow...

I miss the days when he could go on for hours talking about the simplest things with an enthusiasm and life that I really did envy, even if I couldn't entirely understand it. It seems like a lifetime ago...

I watch the emotions rushing in and out of his eyes at almost the same speed as thoughts through his brain...they aren't good thoughts; they run the gamut from hurt, anger, guilt, pain, loneliness, to that infinite sadness that resonates inside of me with a bitter familiarity. Right now, I think he's forgotten I'm even here...he's lost in that private hell where only he
can go, where he won't allow me to help...

I've been there with him before; after Abydos, after Chulak, after Nem, after Hathor, after Shyla...He learned how to let me...us...help him. But now....?

I was there after all the many pains and heartaches he's had to deal with because of the Goa'uld, but also, ultimately, because we went through that gate back to Abydos in the first place...my fault as much as anybody's, but I know Daniel takes that guilt on himself as well...In the end, it's nobody's fault. They say shit happens, but that doesn't begin to cover it. Apophis
happened. The Goa'uld happened. The Stargate happened. All that *stuff* happened to bring us to the point where Amaunet tried to kill him and Teal'c reacted in the only way he could....

But knowing that's not going to make it go away.

It's not going to make it any easier.

It's not going to bring Daniel back to us....

Unless he can learn to depend on us again.

I just don't exactly know what's going to make that happen...or even if it can.

I've been where he is right now and the one thing I know for sure is that...in the end, you can't go back....you can only move forward from where you are. I'm just not sure anymore if we can get there from here. We can't pretend none of the things that happened in the past few months didn't....We can only try to rebuild what's been lost and help Daniel ....

I just hope it isn't too late...

Sitting here watching his eyes droop in the firelight...still caught up in that private play of emotion as sleep moves in to claim him, I can only wonder if he can hold on until we can find that place...

He's still so lost, and I don't know if he even wants...or knows how...to be found...

Chapter 6: Daniel

// Sha'uri comes toward me, dressed as I saw her that first night on Abydos; sweet, innocent, uncertain. I reach for her and she comes into my arms. I can smell the desert perfumes in her hair...

In a flash of blinding light and pain, she is suddenly standing above me...eyes glowing beyond the killing light of the ribbon device....

"My host cannot help you."

'Hear me, Daniel...'

The gun slips out of my hand and from behind me comes a flash of light and sound, the
pain stops and I fall to the floor. As if through a haze, I see her beside me on the floor....

"You did the right thing, Teal'c...."

And he did, I know he did, but how am I ever going to be able to forget that he was the one who took her away from me...twice....

Forgiving is a much easier thing than forgetting.... //

I come awake all at once, sitting up too quickly...causing the blood to rush to my head and
my vision to darken for a moment...

As the dizziness fades, I look around the room to see Jack asleep on the other sofa. It's still dark outside...must be late...or early...

When I can trust my legs to hold me up, I maneuver my way to the sliding glass doors that open onto the small deck. Grabbing a jacket from the peg, I step out as quietly as

I can. I just need to get out....

I make it as far as the deck steps before I have to sit down again.

'Damn this weakness...'

I want to walk....I *need* to clear my head before it explodes; that's kind of hard to do
when I can't even manage ten yards at a stretch....

I've left my glasses inside, so I can't see the stars; I can barely see the ocean in the
moonlit darkness. Figuring it isn't worth the effort of going back in after them, I just close my eyes and listen to the surf rolling in, letting the whisper-crash carry me away...

It seems like I sit here for a long time, when I feel something warm wrap around my shoulders and something cold touch my hand. A blanket and my glasses. Jack.

He starts to go back inside, but...

"Jack...?"

"Yeah, Daniel?"

I don't even know what it is I want to say: 'thank you,' 'I'm sorry,' 'why?'....

"Can we go for a drive?"

He looks at me a long moment, but in the darkness I can't read his expression. He nods and reaches out a hand to help me up. He doesn't ask where I want to go. I guess he knows that it isn't the 'where' that matters, just the going...

He heads onto the highway that follows the ocean; driving fast, but not too fast...steering the little rental car without a word....

My mind accepts this substitute for personal movement and the cobwebs start to clear. Jack just drives...letting me sit and absorb the welcome nothingness as I stare out over the ocean...

It helps...

For the first time since...it happened...my mind goes completely unfocused, the thoughts, dreams, nightmares fade away into the void...an absence of thought that brings a release I never even suspected I needed until it comes...

Jack just keeps driving....

I don't even realize that tears are falling until one of them hits my hand, but I don't bother to wipe them away. I'm past caring what anybody thinks and I know that, of all people, Jack understands. Beyond the doubts that plague me, I am certain of that.

I don't know how long we travel like that...Jack lost in his own thoughts, me...just watching the vast ocean through a blurry haze of silent tears...

I come back to myself when I feel the car slow and stop, looking up I see the lights of a convenience store and look over at Jack.

He smiles crookedly in apology, "I need some real coffee."

I feel like an idiot, dragging him out here in the middle of the night. "God...Jack, I'm sorry..."

He lifts a finger and wags it at me. "Ah ah...it's no big deal. I just want a cup. Need anything?"

I shake my head and he gets out, complaining loudly about the cramped car the rental company stuck him with. I lay my head back on the seat and close my eyes...

// Jack's eyes look at me through the confusion on his face. His inability to express himself verbally in no way hampering the expressiveness of his eyes and features. He trusts me to find an answer to this, or at least some way to communicate...but time and again I fail..

Jack holding me tightly in the SGC storeroom...and how many times later during the torment of withdrawal? His eyes reflect a measure of trust I hadn't hoped to ever see again when he told General Hammond that he wanted me back on SG1...back on *his* team...

Jack's eyes looking uncomfortable and afraid; even without my glasses I could see him jump back as I dove for the image I thought was standing behind Teal'c...looking just as discomfited when Mackenzie called him back there for me...looking like he was humoring the flaky team mate he'd always proclaimed me to be... //

I jump at a touch on my shoulder. We're...I don't know where we are.... We're back on the coast highway, parked on the shoulder. Jack's looking at me like I've sprouted a new head...or just cut off his...

I shake my head...apologizing, questioning....

"You were getting kind of restless there..." Jack clears his throat, almost as if....

No, not Jack....

My hands, my body trembles in a sudden rush of intense feeling and I feel a sinking in my stomach. I automatically reach for the car door and get out...

I feel like I can't breathe...

I hear Jack cursing and getting out behind me as I walk out a little from the car, breathing deeply and trying to regain some control....

The peaceful release from earlier is gone and I feel like I want to scream....


Chapter 7: Jack

"Dammit..."

I don't know what he was dreaming before...or maybe I do...but that was one of the quickest changes I've ever seen come over my changeable friend. He was so open before, finally giving in to the grief that's been eating him from the inside out...

He was asleep when I got back into the car, so I just headed back down the coast road, thinking to get him back to bed where he belonged, when he started thrashing around in the seat next to me and yelling for me to come back...

It doesn't take a Ph. D. to figure that one out...

Damn....

Then he goes so pale in the dashboard lights that I think he's going to pass out and jumps out of the car. I get out and run after him, but he hasn't gone very far....

He's just standing there looking out over the ocean, breathing hard and shaking so much I can see it even in the moonlight...

I want to hold on to him, tell him it's okay...but knowing what caused this reaction, I don't know if it's wise...

"Daniel...?"

He just stands there, shaking his head, not looking at me....like he's telling me not to get too close...*not* to touch him....

I remember that look...

*Up on the mountain, trying to get away from those goon...his eyes all too plainly showing that he was on the edge, and anything could have pushed him over...*

Well, he's back on that edge...and I wonder if he might not just be better off if he went ahead and fell either way...

I reach out and squeeze his shoulder.

Like a house of cards, Daniel seems to fold in on himself, going down on his knees as I wrap my arms around him....his ragged sobs reverberating through my chest and tearing at my heart....

It's like the fight's gone out of him and he can't hold it in any longer; the grief and pain finally winning out over the distrust...at least for now..

I realize the sky if brightening when Daniel finally grows quiet in my arms. He stays so quiet and I realize that he's gone to sleep again....

He shouldn't be out here...(Hell, none of this should ever have happened to bring him to this time and place, but here we are)....Fraiser will surgically remove parts of me that I'm fondly attached to if I let him wind up with pneumonia or something, but....

He *needed* this...and I'm thinking maybe *we* needed it, too. I don't know exactly what just happened here, but I can't help thinking that it's a step in the right direction. I slip off my jacket and throw it over Daniel, and settle in to wait and see....

......................................................................................

The sun is well up and warm on my back when Daniel finally stirs from an apparently dreamless sleep....

"Jack...?" He raises up slowly. He still looks like hell on a bad day, but somehow...better...

I keep a hand on his arm to steady him as he rubs the sleeps from his eyes and puts on his glasses. He looks around for a minute, obviously confused, then he blushes a little as the memory of last night visibly comes rushing back...

He opens his mouth to say something, but nothing comes out....he finally gives up and drops his head into his hands.

"Thanks, Jack..." It's barely a whisper, but I ruffle his hair a little to let him know I *do* understand. His particular brand of grief...so far, at least...has actually been kind of tame compared to some of the things I pulled when...

Not going there.

Daniel moves a hand to my shoulder, squeezing a little in some subtle message before using me for leverage to get himself upright. I climb to my feet stiffly and look at him questioningly...

"Ready to go?"

He nods and starts toward the car, leaving me to wonder just how much got settled here....

Chapter 8: Daniel

I hit the sofa again as soon as I get through the door...my body is still trembling from pushing myself too far for too long and my side is starting to ache....

It's been a long night....

Jack drops another blanket over me (*Janet must've really threatened him*) and heads into the kitchen. I hear him banging and rattling before he finally comes back with mugs of soup and a handful of crackers.

For once, I'm actually hungry.

Jack's looking at me and trying not to *look* like he's looking at me....

I don't know what to do.

Most of me understands...everything...but...

On top of that other pain there's still this ache inside, this feeling that I'm more alone than I've ever been in my life...that there's a wall between me and the friends I thought I could count on that can never be torn away...

And yet, I know beyond any doubt that Jack has been here for me from the beginning, will be there...but...

Maybe I'm just trying to keep them from hurting me again. Maybe I'm just tired of getting close to people only to lose them again. Maybe I'd just rather go it alone, like in the dream, because in the end it's the only safe way to go. Maybe I'm just as flaky as everybody seems to think I am and I really did deserve to be locked up in Mental Heath.

Maybe...hell....

I remember how I felt back on Hathor's planet...hearing that everyone was dead...A familiar coldness settled over me then, the icy grip of a defensive mode that I'd learned the hard way as a kid and never entirely let go of...until Sha'uri...until SG1....

Then it all went to hell...and I just don't know what to do with myself anymore...

*Promise me, Daniel...*

Why did she make me promise that?

'To keep you from running away, smart guy...'

It's important that we find the boy, I *know* that, but all I really want to do is run as far and as fast as I can...find a place to bury my head in sand and rocks and forget I ever knew about the Goa'uld....

'That's realistic...'

I'm sick to death with being realistic...with being responsible...

Jack's still looking at me...real subtle, Jack....

I have to fight down a surge of unreasonable anger, knowing it's unreasonable, knowing it's unworthy....knowing it's going to drag me down if I can't get a handle on it somehow....

I don't know what he expects from me....well, I do...but...

I don't know if I can give it to him...

I don't know if I can give it to myself.

Chapter 9: Jack

Watching Daniel's hands go white-knuckled around the soup mug, I look up quickly to meet his eyes....

It's something I've never seen in Daniel's eyes....

Anger...worse than that...rage. Cold and hot all at once and so close to the surface it makes my heart skip a beat...

I've seen a lot of things in Daniel's eyes over the years, but never anything this raw...

This dark...thing...in Daniel's eyes is so totally out of character, but is it really unexpected? Is it even really a bad thing? Maybe Daniel *needs* to get mad....

Even after Sha'uri disappeared, I don't think he actually expressed anger. He was determined, yes....sad, yes...even depressed for a while...but angry in any obvious way? Not that I ever saw....

Maybe it's long overdue...

Maybe he needs to be pushed over that particular edge, too....

Maybe I'm just the guy who can do it....

Oh, boy...

"Hey, Daniel..."

He looks up at me quickly, then ducks his head so I can't see the dark, smoldering flash...He's trying to suppress this, just like he's been trying to suppress everything else he's been feeling since...

"Not now, Jack...."

Oh, but it has to be now....

I take a deep breath and prepare to dive....

..................................................................

"Did you ever stop to think what might have happened if you'd never opened the Stargate...?"

He looks at me like I just shot him. Of course he's thought of it...I doubt a day goes by when he doesn't. I keep going quickly, before he has a chance to speak...

"I mean think about it...No Sha'uri, no Skaara, no Ra, no Apophis...hell, no Goa'uld's.... "

He goes a couple of shades whiter than he was already...and gets up quickly, heading for the door.

'Uh uh, you aren't getting away that easily.'

I jump up and head him off at the door. He stops, but doesn't look at me.

"Yeah, think about it, Danny-boy...Think about what you started. Think about the things you could have saved yourself from if you'd never listened to Catherine in the first place..."

Daniel takes a deep breath, whispering, "Why are you doing this, Jack?"

I'm not ready to answer that question, yet, and I think he already knows it anyway...

"What if we hadn't taken out Ra? What if we'd never met Hathor?" If only. "What if we hadn't met Shyla or Nem or the Keeper or Machello...."

He looks up sharply at the name and I know I'm on the right track here...

"Think of it, no Machello taking over your body, no little Goa'uld busters making everybody think you've gone nuts..."

I'm interrupted there by a raised hand, not threatening...just warning me...

I'm not inclined to be warned...

"What's the matter, Danny-boy...? Hit a nerve...Too close to home? You got sent to that place because of those things, but maybe...just maybe...you thought that's where you belonged..? Where *we* thought you belonged?"

The hand flashes out, taking me across the chin...not much of a punch, he's too weak for that...On a hunch, I lightly reach out and slap him back. His eyes seem to explode in a fire of anger and hurt...and he hits me back....and again...and again...

Once he's let the leash off his anger, it's as if he can't stop it. He just keeps punching weakly at me until he's got nothing left to drive him and then collapses in my arms. He doesn't have enough energy left to even cry, just lays there limply in my arms breathing heavily....

When his breathing evens out a little, I ask, "Feel better?"

His head nods, but he says. "No..."

I laugh a little a that.

"You can be a real bastard sometimes, Jack."

I nod my head, I know it....I can live with it....if it works...

He raises a trembling hand to wipe his eyes, "Why, Jack?"

I don't know which 'Why?' he wants an answer to...

"Why is Sha'uri dead? Why did we leave you in that place? Why did we ever step through that gate in the first place...?"

He nods at all of them...

I only wish I could even begin to give him an answer.....

To any of them...

Chapter 10:Daniel


Jack just looks at me. There are no real answers, I know that. None that are going to matter. I just want to stop feeling this way.

I just want to stop feeling....

"Daniel...."

When look up Jack's got this apologetic expression on his face...

"I....uh..."

Eloquent as always, Jack...

I just shake my head. I know 'why' he did it...I just don't know *how* I feel about. Or about anything....

My hands hurt, my side hurts, my head hurts....

But I feel strangely...better...

Well, not exactly better either...just different...

Jack can be a first class....

Friend.

*God, I'm so tired...*

Jack reaches out a hand to help me up and puts me back on the couch...again...I feel the blanket fall back over me, then nothing...

...................................................................

// 'Hear me, Daniel...'

"You have delivered me to the vile Goa'uld...."

"You want to kill me, Daniel?"

"You're hallucinating, Daniel..."

"I am sorry, Daniel Jackson."

"My host cannot help you."

"I love you, Daniel."

"We can get through this..." //

I'm awake again, sitting up in the darkness and rubbing my face to clear away the jumbled memories that won't let me sleep.

"God, when is this ever going to stop..."

I don't even realize I've said it out loud, until a voice out of the darkness says quietly, "It never does, Danny..."

I respond without thinking, leaning back against the sofa, "How do you keep going then?"

Jack gives a breath of a laugh. "Some days you don't...."

Well, that's encouraging....

I can hear Jack shifting around in the dark. "I can't give you all the answers, Daniel. You know where I was when we met before Abydos...All I *can* tell you is that it does get, not exactly better...but bearable. Especially when you let your friends help...?"

That last bit is a question. A question I'm not sure how to answer...

Punching on Jack helped, strangely enough. Him *letting* me punch on him helped...

"I don't know, Jack....I want...I don't know what I want...."

And the hell of it is I really don't.....

Chapter 11: Jack

When I wake up Daniel is gone...shoes, jacket...yep, gone.

I jump up and look around the house calling for Daniel as I go....

Nothing.

I pull on a jacket and step outside, scanning the beachfront...

The wind's whipping up, a storm's rolling in off the ocean...not good...

*Where the hell is he..?*

The guy's not even supposed to be doing anything more strenuous than couch-potato curls and already we've spent the night by the side of the road after driving for hours, we engaged in a little light sparring and now from the tracks I've found it looks like he's gone for a long walk by the ocean with a storm less than an hour out....

Just another day in the life...

I follow the easily visible tracks and wonder how he managed to slip out on me. Either Daniel's getting better or I'm getting old.....

'What's this....?'

I pick up another set of boot tracks coming out of the rocks and meeting up with and then following Daniel's. Daniel's footprints are just a little more eroded by the surf than the follower's, but not much....

My alarms are going off like crazy. This is a private beach; nobody else should be here...

I start off at a trot, wishing for the weapon that's hundreds of miles away in Colorado....

I come around some rocks and see the tracks converge and the definite imprint of a human body...Daniel?...in the sand....

Whoever it was got up again under his own steam, before moving beside the other guy. He fell here...and again a few feet further. I spot something half-buried in the sand...

A watch...

Daniel's.

This is *so* not cool....

I start running.

The tracks lead into the rocks, into a cove completely hidden from view...

Deja vu.

I've been in enough traps to recognize one when it hits me over the head, but...

There's Daniel.

He's collapsed up against some rocks, he looks unconscious...

I look around, but don't see anything; the ground here is more rocks than sand...no tracks...

Knowing full well what I'm walking into, I go to Daniel.

He is unconscious, an ugly...bloody...bruise swelling fast on his temple.

*Fraiser is seriously going to have my ass...*

I tap Daniel lightly on the cheek and he starts to rouse...then comes quickly awake when he sees me.

"Jack it's a..."

We both hear the click of a gun safety and turn around at the same time...

'Dammit...'

It's Blackie...the drug-runner from the mountain and he looks entirely *too* happy to see us...


Chapter 12: Daniel

'Why did you have to follow me, Jack?'

I heard the guy behind me when I was walking down the beach, way too deep in thought to react on a good day. He hit me with his gun as soon as I turned around and I didn't even see who he was until the stars cleared...

How the hell did he find us out here?

Jack's looking at the guy with that expression he usually reserves for guys like Apophis, the one that says 'turn your back on me and I'll kill you'...But Blackie, as Jack calls him, has a similar look, not to mention the gun.

Jack just sits there beside me against the rocks, his body tense and watching for any possible openings...I just don't think this guy's going to give him one. I can't figure out why he hasn't already killed us...

Jack looks at me, asking if I'm okay...and I nod back at him. 'Okay' might be pushing it a little, but...

Blackie is just sitting there in front of us, as if debating something with himself...

He finally seems to come to some sort of decision and motions for us to get up. Jack helps me, once again I seem to need it...and we move out ahead of Blackie, back towards the bungalow.

The wind is getting pretty gusty now and thunder rolls in off the ocean in waves of sound. We'll be lucky to make it back to the house before the storm hits. Jack's looking at me in quick glances and I know, with several year's worth of certainty, that he's thinking about trying to take this guy...now, while we're out in the open...

One thing I have learned with SG1 is to trust Jack's instincts when it comes to tactical measures. If Jack thinks we have a better chance out here, then we have to take it. I nod at him subtly and try to concentrate on taking my weight off of him as inconspicuously as I can...

I feel Jack gathering himself, pushing me aside as he ducks backward. I turn in time to see him grab Blackie's gun hand and Blackie bring a hand down on Jack's neck in a vicious blow. Jack keeps a hand on the gun, but he's visibly stunned...

Blackie twists suddenly, dislodging Jack's hand....

I've managed to get to my feet, but I can see that I'm going to be too late as Blackie aims the gun at Jack's head...

Jack...

My friend...

That's all that really matters...

Chapter 13: Jack

Blackie's tough for such a little guy...the chop he lays on me numbs my arm, but I try to hang onto the gun...

Somehow he wiggles away from me, wrenching my shoulder in the process and I look up to find myself looking up the very big barrel of a very big Berretta....

On the periphery of my vision, I can see Daniel getting to his feet, but in my direct line of sight I see Blackie's finger tightening on the trigger...

Daniel won't make it...

And the only comfort I can find is that he won't live long enough to beat himself up over this, too...

A driving rain begins to fall as I keep watching Blackie's trigger finger and my only absurd thought is, 'God, why now?'

Like a cosmic 'Why not now?' a huge bolt of lightning strikes the rocks nearby; the crackling explosion is more than enough to distract Blackie...

Quicker than I would have given odds on given his physical condition, Daniel kicks at Blackie's hand using one of the hand-to-hand moves I never thought he'd get and moves in to land a healthy uppercut under Blackie's chin that rocks the guy on his heels...

With a strangled cry, Daniel moves in closer, hitting Blackie repeatedly. Blackie lands a few, but Daniel is...

Daniel is lost in it....

Beyond seeing, beyond hearing....just beyond....

All the anger I thought he'd expressed last night was only the tip of the emotional iceberg...this is blind fury....

Daniel's face is a mask of rigid grief, tears flowing unnoticed, and it seems to me that he doesn't even know what or who he's striking out at anymore...

My head's a little fuzzy as I climb to my feet; as much as Blackie deserves it, I have to stop Daniel...

"Daniel!"

He can't hear me...

I move in to grab his hands, earning a pretty solid swipe across my cheek for my efforts, but finally I wrestle his arms around and wind up holding him against me, his fists locked against his chest.

Blackie hits the ground as soon as I get Daniel off of him and it's obvious he won't be getting up for a long while...

"C'mon, Daniel...I've got you..."

Daniel's chest is heaving and his breath is coming in shuddering gasps. His head is moving in little negative shakes like he's trying to deny...something.....

The rain is driving down harder on us now, and I know I've got to reach him...

"Daniel....Come on, kid...It's me. It's Jack..."

I just keep repeating it over and over, and gradually his breathing slows and the tension in his body seems to drain away....

"Jack...?" His voice is barely there...and so uncertain that I realize he thought....

"Yeah, Danny....I'm here. I'm okay. You stopped him..."

I let go of his hands then and he turns to look at me in such total confusion, that I know I'm right....He thought Blackie had killed me....one more loss on top of so many others....

Daniel sinks down; his hands, bloody and bruised, move to cover his face.

"God...Jack...what...?"

He stares up at me again, his eyes full of...stuff...I can't even begin to fathom....

What I do know is that we need to get in out of this rain and get somebody out here to pick up Blackie. I know I'm going to be lucky to get me and Daniel back to the house, so I take off my belt and one set of bootlaces, using them to tie up the unconscious bad guy. I stuff him up under a rock...appropriate place for him...and turn back to Daniel.


Chapter 14: Daniel

I'm back on the couch again....

Some distant part of me remembers a flash...a sound...then...

Nothing really, until I looked up to see Jack staring down at me with the rain pouring down his face...his eyes boring into me, pulling me back....

I thought he was dead....

I vaguely recall getting back to the house, Jack stripping the wet clothes off me and wrapping me up in a blanket. I remember quiet voices, official voices...some guy in white bandaging my head, checking Janet's stitches, and wrapping up my hands...then something sticking me in the arm...then blackness....

It's dark again, a fire is blazing in the hearth and I smell...coffee...?

Jack is sitting across from me, hair still a little damp, dressed in sweats and bundled in a blanket of his own. He's asleep with his head resting on his knuckles, coffee mug balanced on the couch arm. Above the loose collar of his sweats, I can see a livid bruise where Blackie hit him...

I thought Jack was dead....

And I've been such a total ass to blame him...and the others for something beyond their control. Mackenzie, now...no...I can't even really find it in me to blame him; he operated according to the facts as he perceived them...he just didn't have all the facts....

Jack's been bending over backwards trying to help me and I've shut him out at...almost...every turn, as wrapped up in my hurt towards them as my grief over Sha'uri....

It's not going to go away overnight, but I know...now more than ever...that I don't *want* to be alone anymore....

I've had love that few people ever dream of, and friends who'd walk through hell for me...have in fact...

I've lost the love....

I don't want to lose my friends, too...

Chapter 15: Jack

Daniel's dreaming again; not too bad yet, just restless...

He looks like shit...still...again...

Maybe those bruises will fade enough before we go back that Fraiser won't hurt me too badly...

'Yeah, right...You're butt is in serious Doc-trouble, O'Neill.'

The police said that Blackie was okay, slightly contused, but healthy enough to go to jail; maybe he'll meet up with his buddy, Red....in prison.

I still have this surreal image of Daniel beating the crap out of that guy. I've always known there were hidden...and not so hidden...fires inside my young friend, but this...?

I just hope I don't see too much of that side of him.

I hope there's never a need.

He's a long way from better. I don't know if there is a 'better' beyond all of this. I just hope that what I saw in his eyes out there on the beach in the pouring rain was indication that now he's at least ready to let me help...

I look up to see Daniel's eyes open, looking at me in that direct, near-sighted way that always makes me wonder if he doesn't see further without the glasses...or maybe just deeper. Maybe it's just the fact that without them, I can see into those strangely intense blue eyes and right down to his soul.

And right now, his soul is crying....

All the reticence, the half-veiled looks, the closed up I-can-stand-alone defensiveness of the past few days is gone. *This* is the Daniel I've walked through that gate with a hundred times...the man who earned my respect in countless large and small ways...the friend I've let into places I'd almost forgotten I ever had...

This is Daniel.

Not *Doctor* Jackson, not Danny-boy, not Space Monkey or any of the other stuff I've managed to come up with over two and a half years...

Just Daniel.

My best friend.

I guess he can see well enough to read my eyes because he nods at me, asking and receiving something we've both been denying too long. I return the gesture in my own clumsy way, recognizing that forgiveness is a very fragile thing. A lot of crap has gotten in the way lately, a lot of blame on both our heads.

But at the bottom of it all, one thing hasn't changed...

We're still all we've got...

Now more than ever.

I get up and go over to sit beside him on the couch and he moves over a little, wincing at the movement...but he's not moving away....

Just making room.

Chapter 16: Daniel

For all the heaviness in my heart, there's a lesser weight that eases away as Jack looks down at me...reflexively checking my head for fever...

*Janet must've *really* threatened him.*

I just shake my head at the gesture; as much as it generally bugs me to have Jack playing 'Colonel Mom,' right now it feels pretty good...it feels normal and right and...real.

This *is* my reality now....

A world without Sha'uri, without that ever-present hope of stepping through that gate back to a life that can never be recaptured...and probably never could have been...

The year I spent on Abydos with Sha'uri was the happiest of my life and that's never going to change. I'll never know what could have been. I'll never know what may have happened if I *had* been able to save her.

What I do know is that she's gone...

Tears fall from my eyes again and Jack looks at me in concern, his hand open toward me asking the question that he would never have had to ask before...

I nod a little, as I lean into the circle of Jack's arms...a safe place...and finally and completely let go; crying for Sha'uri...my beautiful wife, for Jack...the friend I almost lost, for myself...my own stupidity that almost let it all fall apart, compounding one tragedy with still another....for the loneliness that still aches in my heart and will never find an end....

Jack just holds onto me without a word.

We both know there are no words.

I can feel Jack rocking me gently, hands stroking my back to ease the pain that can never be truly eased, and some distant part of me is aware of tears falling into my hair...

Jack.

Chapter 17: Jack

Daniel falls asleep again in my lap and I just shift around to hang onto him...

*He's been alone with this long enough...*

How long has it been since I thought that while I combed that damnable mountainside looking for him? I can't even remember...

Well, I found him then, but we both know how that ended. And really, except for the few times he's let his control slip, he pretty much *has* been alone with his pain...

It stops now...tonight.

I don't expect everything to go back to the way it used to be, too much has happened and there's still the big question of how Daniel and Teal'c are going to work things out...and there's that other question about the promise, but now that he's finally let me in it's going to take a truckload of C4 to get me back out...

I just hope that someday, somewhere in that amazing heart of his, Daniel can find a way to forgive Teal'c...I know he said the words, but...deep down, I wonder. Teal'c *did* make the right choice, the only choice in my book...but right now that part of Daniel is still feeling things with a husband's heart...and that may not be so easily convinced...

As I sit here watching him sleep, head cradled in my lap....he looks too damnably young...

The guy who almost apologetically opened that Stargate three and a half years ago is gone forever. I just hope the guy we brought back with us a year later; the guy who taught us all a thing or two about fairness and enthusiasm and questing for knowledge for its own sake, can find his way back.

Daniel shifts a little, whispering in one of those languages that he's the only one on Earth who can speak; the one they spoke on Abydos...even my untrained ears recognize those tones....

From sad experience, I know he'll spend a lot of time there...hopefully in dreams more often than nightmares. It's good that he remembers...

It was trying to forget that nearly drove me to...

There've been times in the past few days when that dark part of me almost wished that I'd succeeded in my original mission to Abydos, or at least refused Daniel permission to stay there...Daniel would have gone back, and lived happily...or not so happily...oblivious to the Goa'uld, but then I remember his eyes looking at Sha'uri that night we returned to Abydos...

For all the pain he's going through now, I don't think he'd want to lose those memories. Someday, hopefully not too far into the future, he'll be glad of those. The fact that Sha'uri's been separated from him for over two years doesn't diminish those memories...or the pain he feels knowing that she's irrevocably gone....

The loss of hope is just as real and valid as the physical loss. It's the loss of innocence that I find sticking in my throat...and that's something he'll never get back again....

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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