Jmas Fan Fiction

Doubt and Faith

By Jmas

 

Doubt is a pain too lonely to know that faith is his twin brother.
   -- Kahlil Gibran

This story contains spoilers for Meridian (foreshadowing) and Menace (after the fact), as well as names from many fifth season eps. I chose understanding, and in the end, I chose comfort before the events of Meridian. After the events of seasons four and five, I felt Daniel and Jack both deserved it…as did we.

 

Silence thundered through the gateroom, seemingly shaking the walls and rippling through the hearts of those watching helplessly from the observation window. The gateroom itself was a tableau of undirected helplessness as two members of SG1 stood, or more properly leaned, together at the base of the ramp. Major Carter and Teal’c had arrived several minutes before the other two, their message inarguably clear: evacuate the gateroom and let no one inside, half of SG1 was coming in ‘hot’.

The simple word carried the implication of a thousand nameless horrors faced daily by the SG teams; viral and bacterial contagions, radiations known and unknown, things even more insidious - even more deadly. The bottom line was they were, essentially, helpless to do more than contain the danger and sometimes not even that.

Sergeant Davis watched as his commander set his jaw and stilled his mute reaction to the state of two of the most important people in the Stargate Program. It was hard not to react – only years of training kept Davis in his seat.

Colonel O’Neill and Doctor Jackson looked like hell – or at least, like they’d just returned from it. Brownish matter covered their bodies to such a degree Davis knew only those closest to the two men would be able to tell the two men apart. Doctor Jackson’s glasses were missing, and Colonel O’Neill’s trademark P90 was likewise gone. Focusing harder, Davis realized both of them had identical looks of controlled panic in their eyes. Whatever had happened had been bad – and was likely to get a lot worse.

The general had finally recovered with an effort Davis doubted many would even have noticed. Only those who had served with Hammond would realize the clenched hands and tight lines around his horrified eyes were more than the reaction of a very strong commanding officer. Only someone who knew him well would see the dread in the general’s eyes as he asked his premiere team for a situation report.

As the colonel and the archaeologist staggered to the ramp steps and sat down heavily, Major Carter and Teal’c arrived in the observation room fresh from decontamination. Davis knew they would have been cleared completely before being allowed to come here and breathed a sigh of relief – two less friends to worry about.

Leaving only the two men who sat below them, leaning into one with a visible exhaustion that notched Davis’ worry levels up several settings. It just wasn’t normal for either Colonel O’Neill or Doctor Jackson to react this way. There were no jokes, no dreadful puns, no looks of reassurance or easing that would otherwise expel the funereal aspect they presented.

“Major Carter?” The general’s voice revealed, at least to those who know him, the depth of his concern.

The major’s pale face flinched once, her deep frown and hesitation preparing them for the worst even before she could speak.

“It was a trap, sir…in the temple. Daniel figured it out, but it was too late…”

Teal’c nodded grim affirmation, eyes focused down into the gateroom. “Major Carter and I had left the temple to explore the perimeter. There came the sound of a small explosion. When we returned to the interior, a glass wall separated us from Colonel O’Neill and Daniel Jackson even as the - substance poured out upon them from the walls and ceiling. We were unable to aid them.” The big man’s hands extended in front of him, mutely expressing the helplessness he clearly still felt.

Doctor Jackson looked up from where he sat, and Davis realized the microphone in front of him was still on and had carried the entire conversation down to the two victims.

“From what I had time to read, the substance is supposed to disable intruders and make them…’defenseless’. “ The young scientist’s tone was as weary and grim as Davis could ever remember hearing it.

Major Carter nodded at her colleagues, a slight smile of sympathetic pain twinging on her lips before she turned back to the general. “We’re certain it’s some kind of drug, sir. As Daniel said, it’s supposed to incapacitate the victim, but we didn’t have time for him to translate any further. If…when...he just needs time to figure out the rest.”

Sergeant Davis swallowed as the major’s usually impeccable control nearly broke. There was a lot to be done, and he had the feeling there wasn’t much time.

Finally having a working understanding of what they were dealing with, General Hammond started giving orders, the practical familiarity of procedure providing a refuge against the fear and horror of what might yet come. Davis watched as the general, the major and the usually stoic Jaffa reached deep into that place where all good soldiers retreated when reality was far too real and action was necessary.

And they had to act - now - before it was too late.

 

~*~

 

Jack watched Daniel rub his temple absently for the tenth time in as many minutes while he never once took his eyes off the laptop screen in front of him, never once stopped scribbling on the legal pad under his other hand.

They’d been locked in the isolation room for over seven hours now, after being poked, prodded, and made to give ungodly amounts of bodily fluids that were somehow supposed to tell Fraiser what was wrong with them and how to fix it. Sort of like what Daniel was doing...only louder, more intrusive and far more embarrassing.

Communal showers were a given in the military, but what he and Daniel had been subjected to was far worse. An hour of scrubbing, first alone and then with the aid of hazmat- suited male orderlies who dispassionately scrubbed away at their skin as if trying to remove as many layers as humanly possible without the aid of a knife. They’d emerged pink and raw into the hands of a similarly suited Fraiser, who withdrew what seemed like gallons of blood before guiding them into the Iso room and leaving them alone without so much as her usual words of comfort and hope.

Which hadn’t helped Jack’s state of mind at all.

Daniel’s gear had already been in place, providing the scientist with an outlet for the rampant fear Jack was sure he shared. But even without a distraction, Jack knew Daniel would be handling things better. That’s just how Daniel was.

The focused concentration of the man sitting barefoot on the bed beside him - with his hair still spiked from the shower and in loose hospital scrubs looking like nothing so much as a kid who was fighting his bed time for all he was worth - made Jack smile. He knew Daniel was tired, and he had more than a passing suspicion that the headache he was experiencing was likely doubled in Daniel’s case as he fought to concentrate past it. There was no way to know if the headache was a sign of things to come or simply the culmination of an ages-long day, full of fear, panic and the very real possibility of dying.

The temple seemed so far away now, the normalcy even of the Iso room making a centuries-old booby trap seem so impossibly distant and unreal. The food cooling untouched on the trays by the door, Daniel’s driven translation, the drafty room with its sterile smells, and its too white walls and blankets and furniture all conspired to keep Jack from allowing himself to let go of the reality and forget, if only for a moment, that they could be dead by morning.

Jack sighed and rolled out of his bed to retrieve a bottle of water and another supply of Tylenol, the only thing Fraiser would allow them to take until her tests were complete. Stopping beside Daniel, Jack intercepted the younger man’s hand on yet another pass across his forehead, placing two of the pills in his hand instead. Daniel stopped looked at what he held, nodded thanks before dry-swallowing the pills and going back to work. Jack shook his head knowing he should probably say something, encourage Daniel to take a break. But they were racing against time, against whatever was even now working its way through their bloodstreams awaiting who knew what flashpoint of infection or infiltration to bring them down.

There was no time to waste. He knew it. Daniel knew it. Fraiser knew it. Just as there was no point in trying to deflect Daniel from his steady purpose. There was no choice, and all of them knew it.

Choiceless was not a state Jack was comfortable with.

He hated it in fact. He hated even more knowing even if Daniel didn’t have the translation to occupy him, they would still be sitting in silence, the distance between them having grown so pervasive since Rees’ shooting that they really didn’t have much to say to one another outside work anymore.

It sucked.

Jack knew Daniel understood why he’d done what he’d done. After having his wrist set, Daniel had been given a full report on what had been going on elsewhere in the SGC while he’d been trying to talk sense into the emotionally unstable robot. They would never know if Daniel had been right in thinking Rees was about to stop her toys or if Carter had called it correctly that the replicators were testing out their independence. The fact remained that time and the self-destruct countdown had been against them, and they had been left just as choiceless then as they were now. Daniel had said he understood, and Jack had no doubt that was the truth - Daniel never lied - but the fact remained a distance had grown up between them Jack hated.

Life had dealt them one blow after another over the past year, so many difficult and nearly impossible choices setting them at odds in ways Jack had never wanted or needed. Daniel was one of the closest friends Jack had ever had. They’d seen each other through kinds of hell no one should ever have to go through. Theirs had never been an easy way, but it had worked.

Now though…

All Jack knew was he hated what had come between them, and he missed the days when he could just look at Daniel to know what the younger man was thinking and feeling. He hadn’t been able to do that in a very long time, and he missed it. Missed knowing there was one person in the world who could do it for him as well. There’d been a comfort in it, even when he and Daniel were at odds - the easy knowledge of familiarity and understanding that transcended individual foibles and let them do that thing they did that had won them so many friends and enemies all over the galaxy. They’d balanced one another, complimented one another, and they had worked.

They didn’t work anymore, and Jack hated it. They did the job, yes. But the differences in the methods were like the differences between a kid’s finger painting and a Renaissance masterwork. They’d lost the spark, and Jack wanted it back….

“Me too…”

Jack turned over in the bed, not sure he’d heard the quiet whisper, or what it meant. He hadn’t spoken aloud. He knew he hadn’t….

Daniel was still scribbling away, acting as if he’d never spoken, acting as if he hadn’t just echoed Jack’s thoughts.

Jack scrubbed a hand over his face, the headache growing fiercer by the moment. Maybe it had been a dream. Maybe he wanted it so bad, wanted to know Daniel felt this distance and hated it just as much as he did so badly that his tired mind had supplied something that wasn’t really there.

Weird.

Daniel was rubbing his head again, and Jack noticed how his friend’s hand shook as he attempted to continue taking notes. The headache seemed to be progressing similarly for both of them, and Jack couldn’t pretend anymore that it was just a coincidence. Whatever they’d been exposed to, it was having an effect - and it was growing worse as time went on.

Damn, this sucks….

Jack forced himself up, noting the unsteadiness in limbs that only minutes ago had seemed so reliable. Their grace time was up; he was sure of it, and they really were racing the clock and their own bodies now.

Moving to sit beside Daniel, Jack raised an eyebrow, asking without asking what Daniel had discovered so far. A headshake was the only answer he received.

Not enough. And this time Jack didn’t need a translation to understand Daniel’s answer.

By Fraiser’s continued absence, he figured her news wasn’t any better. And he knew Daniel knew what it meant as well.

With a sympathetic smile, Jack simply forgot the distance, forgot he hadn’t been capable of casually touching Daniel in what seemed like ages, and reached out a hand to rub the nape of the other man’s neck in support, encouragement, and plain apology.

And his world exploded.

He was falling headfirst into darkness, a familiar darkness….

Daniel.

Sadness and pain, loss and loneliness, isolation and doubt. Doubt of his own worth and contribution. It was Daniel, but a Daniel undermined in a way Jack would never have suspected possible, would never have allowed if he’d only known…

The chasm between them had never seemed wider - and Jack had never wanted anything more than to cross it at that moment and never let it grow up between them again.

 

~*~

Daniel had been aware of Jack’s scrutiny throughout the long day of sublimating his own doubts, fears and pain in order to get the job done.

It seemed like he’d been doing a lot of that lately - getting the job done no matter what the cost.

Rees had been the final straw, not that Jack had killed her but that Daniel had failed. Too many failures, too many people suffering as a result of them, and Daniel was tired. Soul-weary and hurting but unable and unwilling to open himself up for inspection to the man he’d always been able to turn to before.

Too much time, too much distance, and too many things had been said and done for them to go back.

Or so Daniel believed.

And his belief hadn’t been alleviated by Jack’s floundering attempts to bridge the gaps between them by way of his own guilt.

They were a mess…

Both driven down the wrong road by circumstances and their own self-involvement, until it had gotten to the point neither of them knew the way back anymore - and neither of them was about to admit they were lost.

So they remained apart. Continued to deny the need to connect on the myriad of levels that had always defined them - but had not in so long…

It was getting increasingly hard to focus on the job at hand, the characters on the screen insisted in wavering just as his weary brain tried to get a handle on their meanings. The headache didn’t help, clouding his thoughts in still more layers of confusion and despair.

Everything was counting on his success. Obviously Janet wasn’t having any luck via her methods. All he’d managed so far was more of the same things he already knew - the drug, or whatever it was, would leave the temple’s enemies defenseless. Nonspecific as hell and just as useless. There had to be more and he had to find it soon. They were running out of time.

Seemed like they’d been running out of time for far longer than this latest crisis. They were putting out an awful lot of energy for very little return, and more and more it seemed like they were failing.

It wasn’t just Rees -

Chaka, Faxon, Elliot, Sarah, the Russian team, Tollana, the Tok’ra….all gone or mostly gone. Good people, good lives, and the evil just kept on winning. Earth was just as much at risk as it had been since the gate was first opened, the asteroid threat had proven that and the Asgard safety net seemed as worthless as the beams of light it was written on.

They needed a win. Needed something good to happen. But it never did. There hadn’t been much good lately to balance the soul-destroying pull of all the bad, and Daniel felt like it was weighing him down, anchoring his soul to the never-ending failures that were his life lately.

And no one else seemed to notice or care.

Once upon a time he’d have been able to talk to Jack, Sam, or Teal’c about it, but it seemed like they’d all gone their separate ways so far that nothing could bring them back to each other. He missed that support, missed the reward that used to come with getting the job done - even if they didn’t fully succeed. When it was over there was still the team. But the team didn’t seem to need each other anymore. Needs had changed, priorities had changed, and too many diverse purposes had eroded their center.

Daniel didn’t doubt their friendships. Those he was certain still existed, but they, too, had altered. He supposed it was natural, so many years together, living and breathing in one another’s back pockets, jumping from one crisis to the next with barely a moment to relax, much less reconnect as human beings and friends.

He hated it.

But he sure as hell didn’t know what to do about it…

Vaguely Daniel was aware of Jack getting up again, surely not for more Tylenol…

No, he was moving closer to Daniel, a lifted eyebrow asking the question both of them already knew the answer to. With a sigh, Daniel shook his head, admitting his latest failure…

Then Jack smiled and touched his neck, an easy gesture that had been missing between them for so very long…

Then Daniel was falling.

Falling into Jack and losing himself in the rush of regret, loss, apology, drive that was Jack….

Self-loathing, loss, failure, and isolation. Deeper and deeper he fell into the certain knowledge that their best wasn’t good enough anymore. They were losing far more than they were winning, and he was so completely alone…

The distance Daniel had seen as differences really weren’t at all. But the gap between them loomed ever larger, and Daniel wanted nothing more at that moment than to find a way across…

 

~*~

 

Oma watched the two men locked in the grip of their own guilt and pain, divided by their own self-sufficiency and stubbornness.

It was sad but so completely human.

She’d made a habit of checking in on the human called Daniel. She’d been there for so many of his hurts, so many of his sufferings, waiting for the day she knew was not long off at this point…

The day Daniel would have to choose. The day many of the things he was feeling now would make a difference in his life he would never imagine.

Knowing how little time was left, Oma made a decision. Now, in this moment, these two friends needed one another again…and all too soon the comfort would be denied them, probably for a very long time, however things might transpire. The goa’uld virus would eventually run its course but would take up precious time she knew these two did not possess.

It was one of the reasons she was outcast from others of her kind, but what they viewed as interference she viewed as mercy and justice on a scale they refused to see.

Someday she would suffer her own consequences for her actions, but that day was not today…

Reaching out a tendril of her being she touched the two men locked together and apart, bridging the gap they could not cross alone…and felt the connection fall into place as it had always done.

Hovering a moment to be sure of her work, Oma smiled and listened as words poured from both men at once. Words she was sure would complete the task of filling up the gaps between them and keep them from falling into the same trap again.

Once certain, she floated away toward the ceiling, resolving to stay near until she was needed.

So hopeful were these humans, so fleeting their love and care, but she, of all her kind, valued it for them and even envied it.

Soon, so very soon, time would catch up to them all….

 

~*~

 

Janet looked at the monitor connected to Iso room one, smiling at what she saw. The colonel and Daniel sitting together on one of the beds, the colonel’s hand resting on Daniel’s neck in a gesture of friendship and closeness she hadn’t seen in far too long.

She still had no idea what they were dealing with, so far only isolating a nanovirus, but if the enforced time alone helped the two friends recover some of what had been lost then maybe it would all have been worth it in the end.

A subtle glow on the edge of the screen captured Janet’s attention, barely there then gone again.

‘Maybe a glitch in the system,’ she thought, not sure why her own words didn’t seem to quite convince her.

Janet was on her feet even as the two men fell to the floor, heading for the Iso room at full speed and calling for assistance as she went.

Suiting up was out of the question. She needed to be in there right away, but Janet took the time to grab mask and gloves before opening the door to see the colonel and Daniel on the floor, leaning into one another but quite certainly awake and aware.

The colonel was laughing, hand resting on Daniel’s shoulder as he supported the other man who was smiling more broadly than she’d seen in a very long time. If she didn’t know better she’d have suspected one or both was drunk. As it was, she just shook her head at the vision of friendship and moved into the room to examine them.

Orderlies streamed in behind her, helping her put both men in their respective beds. She ordered another round of tests, not sure what else to do at this point.

Something had obviously changed, and she needed to know what.

“She’s at it again, Daniel,” the colonel observed wryly, looking at the other man as if sharing a secret joke.

Daniel nodded sagely, eyes twinkling. “Just doing her job, Jack. You know how that goes…”

“Got to get the job done, Daniel. That’s the hell of it…”

The younger man blinked suddenly, growing more somber. “Yeah, it is, Jack. It sure as hell as…”

Janet shook her head, certain she was missing something now, but the two men just looked at each other, identical expressions of understanding on their faces as they submitted to the tests.

Whatever was going on, Janet was sure without quite knowing how that everything was going to be okay. And she was just as sure she didn’t just mean physically.

 

~*~

 

Night birds called out to one another around the lakeshore, low lonely sounds that at one time would have underscored to Jack just how alone he had let himself become. Now though, looking over at the man lounging on his deck chair beside him, having given up the pretense of fishing hours before, Jack just basked in the knowledge he wasn’t alone.

The virus had done what Daniel had said it would do, made them defenseless and let them cross the divides between them in ways Jack would never have thought possible again. Fraiser had cleared them finally, having no explanation for the disappearance of the nanovirus or for their return to good health in so short a time. They’d scared Hammond bad enough to be granted a week's leave and Jack had wasted no time inviting Daniel for the fishing trip they’d been denied when Daniel’s appendix had blown and had never found the time for afterward.

It was way past time for it.

Way past time for them to be taking care of their friendship just as strongly and with as much energy and commitment as they did the business of the SGC.

‘Way past time…”

Watching Daniel half-doze in the orange light of the setting sun, Jack tried to shake off the feeling of time getting away from them. Somewhere in all their bridge-gapping Jack had gotten a strong impression that he should treasure these times, that there weren’t many left to either one of them. Depressing and fatalistic, he knew, but the feeling was so strong.

The mission to Kalona was scheduled on their return, but Jack really wasn’t expecting trouble.

‘Not that we ever expect it,’ he thought to himself.

They’d have to be extra careful, keep an eye out for one another. Maybe afterward the feeling would pass and things could get back to normal again. Or the closest approximation to normal SG1 ever managed.

With a sigh, Jack shook his head and tried to clear the depressing thoughts from his mind. He knew they should get up and go inside, get out of the night air. Carter and Teal’c would be joining them the next day for a weekend of overdue team bonding.

And they would go in, soon.

Right now Jack didn’t want to break the spell of the birdsong, the lake and the distinct and soul-healing pleasure of friendship regained.

They’d go soon.

This was more important…

 

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

 

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