Jmas Fan Fiction

Mercy Season

by Jmas

Prologue: Season of Heart

 ~*~

One day with life and heart

Is more than time enough to find a world.

~ James Russell Lowell.

~*~

Echoes of disorder reached across the vastness, rippling along the lines of connection she had established with so many of the promising souls she had encountered over time. Souls who possessed the potential to someday develop into what she was…

Helping others to ascend was not a practice overtly approved by her kind, rather it was something done but rarely spoken of. All species held the seeds of what her kind were, but universal order demanded they be allowed to travel the path at their own evolutionary pace. But rarely – very rarely - there came a special few who evolved at a somewhat greater pace than the majority of their kindred and she, and others who shared her views, believed those unique souls deserved the opportunity to continue their journey beyond the limitations of time and synergy.

The Earth human, Daniel Jackson, was just such a soul and one who seemed to require a good deal more of her attention than the majority of the rest combined.

Daniel walked the edge of death often, far too often. His latest journey had brought him and his friends to the Nox world, where she and Shifu now hovered in apprehension - just out of perception - as he, along with O’Neill, battled against the darkness threatening to pull him away from life and light….

 

~*~

 

Klorel paced before the observation window of the ha’tak, fury building with each step. His First Prime stood stoically before him, having just delivered word their search had produced no sign of the humans or the two Nox who had escaped with them.

Klorel was in no mood to deal generously with anything, much less failure. With a slow turn, he activated his ribbon device and watched the green glow seep away the modicum of intelligence his First Prime had possessed.

As the dark eyes emptied of awareness, Klorel imagined blue eyes in their stead. Imagined Daniel Jackson kneeling before him as a blank face possessing nothing that could be called life.

 

~*~

 

Shifu wanted to step in right away, to stop the pain surely awaiting the only man he had ever chosen to acknowledge as a father image. Oma had no choice but to - most reluctantly - make him wait. She was tempted to send the boy away entirely. The encompassing evil of Klorel was difficult enough for her to comprehend with all her countless years and vast experience behind her…

But Shifu would not be moved.

If she had not known otherwise she might truly have believed that Shifu was indeed Daniel Jackson’s offspring…the youth’s stubborn resolve was certainly quite familiar…

 

~*~

 

There had only been pain and fire, ribbons of scorching heat running the length of his body with every new assault of Klorel’s hand - or the leather strap that had appeared at some point Daniel would never be sure of. Pain upon pain until the actual blows were barely felt anymore, just the echoes they inspired lancing through Daniel’s nerves and back again to his center - and thus to Jack.

That was the hardest thing of all.

The reverberation of his own pain, so easily seen in the reactions of Jack’s body, drew Daniel outward. More than once he had been tempted to let go of his tenuous hold to his own form and follow back along the connection between them to that part of himself that was hurting Jack – and snap it.

If he could let go, Jack would not hurt any more.

But Jack had other ideas. He had held on and made Daniel do the same. Though they were separate, chained ten feet apart from one another at nearly perfect right angles that had allowed Klorel to watch them both at once, the driving force of Jack’s will came through clearly - and would not let Daniel quit. They had not shared a word since coming to this place. Words would only have served Klorel’s purpose, given their tormentor more insight to twist into a weapon against them, and even if they had there were no words adequate to the level of gratitude he felt. Jack would not leave him alone - and would not let him go.

So Daniel stayed – for Jack.

But it was hard.

 

~*~

 


“Please, Oma?” It was only the twelfth time he had asked.

Stubbornness.

The trait was unquestionably second nature to Daniel. He would give up for himself, but not for his friend. Very typical behavior for Daniel she knew, and something she found most admirable.

It was hard for her - and most especially for Shifu - to stand by and do nothing. She had to admit she would have been greatly tempted to intercede if not for the barrier of the Place, the resonance of the energy contained within the structure would not permit her entry. Consequently, even if they chose to break the rules, they were just as helpless as the humans themselves.

“We must wait….”

 

~*~

 

Daniel was tense in Jack’s arms, his body holding itself in readiness for more abuse. Jack wondered if Daniel had even noticed the change in their situation. Nudging slightly at the bond between them, Jack could feel a resistance, an unwillingness to open up and let Jack in.

“Please, Daniel…” he whispered, needing the reassurance as much as he needed to know how badly Daniel was hurt.

Something flickered between them, something dark and wounded and full of a need of its own. A need to stand alone, to hold onto the pain, just a little longer, in order to feel alive.

Jack swallowed against the realization of how nearly Daniel had come to dying again. He had felt his friend start to give up, but there had been no inkling of how utterly close Daniel had come to succeeding. Jack nodded to himself; he could let Daniel alone with his battle to remember who he was, what he could not do was sit idly by while Daniel did it.

 

~*~

 

Jack O’Neill was a good man, though she knew he would argue the point bitterly. One day she hoped he would come to see how completely Daniel relied upon his presence, on his strength of spirit and unwavering resolve. He was, in many ways, Daniel’s counterbalance. She found it quite sad the man seemed not to notice how very essential he was to the human equation of his friend - and of his team…

At least, he did not yet.

As the battle shifted from the physical to the peculiarly metaphysical, she believed with all her being that O’Neill would soon begin to recognize his worth…

 

~*~

 

“They are still joined and in battle against Klorel….” Antaeus warned somberly.

Teal’c looked from one to the other of them in confusion, his doubt clearly evident as he glanced from Klorel to each of the Nox in turn.

Antaeus sighed. “This is the Place of Dreams. For our people it is the repository of the…spirits of our people for generations. Klorel’s evil has tainted the Place - and it has judged. Those who have been most wronged must defeat him. Their actions within will decide their fate.”

 

~*~

 

Klorel, or rather what remained of him, was truly mad.

His dark aspect no longer existed for any purpose other than to destroy Daniel. Shifu posited that the darkness recognized its antithesis, and knew the obliteration of light was its only hope to survive.

Oma was pleased; Shifu was most wise for one so young…

 

~*~

 

“See, that’s why you need me…”

The tone was teasing but Daniel could feel the warmth of Jack’s emotions washing through the connection and diving straight into his weary soul, easing away the fear and doubt. He knew things were a long way from back to the way they had been; he was not really sure they could ever recapture that more naïve place and time again, but the distance seemed much shorter than it had for a very long time. He did need Jack in his life, more now than ever before - not just because of the artificial bonds between them but because of the real ones.

Daniel looked up and met Jack’s concerned gaze, felt his eyes fill with emotion he had no words to fully express.

“I know…” Jack whispered roughly.

And Daniel knew it was true.

It was enough.

 

~*~

 

Holding tightly to Oma, Shifu cried in helplessness and frustration, so desperately wanting to erase Daniel’s pain. The boy was very much like his mother in that respect - and like O’Neill.

Their care for Daniel was so great that any threat to him evoked the immediate desire to take action.

Unfortunately, they could do nothing.

Success - survival, in fact - was up to Daniel himself… and the strength of his bond with O’Neill.

 

~*~

 

What had once been Klorel seemed to know about the hate, seemed to know Daniel’s greatest weakness lay in his inability to forgive himself for perfectly human emotions - like hate and doubt. They were things that refused to sit comfortably with his old soul acceptance of everything in the universe but himself and were the surest means to undermine Daniel.

Jack knew it all too well, had even used it against his friend to his shame, but he had also seen the cut go deep and the healing had been a long time in coming.

Klorel was twisting the past, negating all the growing they had done and forcing Daniel to give up without a fight. He had to fight, Jack had to make him see....

 

~*~

 

Daniel was tired. Soul-tired. Too many hurts had finally taken their toll and she knew the young human had reached the point of barely keeping ahead of his own demons, much less those foisted upon him by the malignant darkness which had once been Klorel.

Only O’Neill and his other friends had kept Daniel fighting this long, they and his promise to his wife, a promise kept, but not in the way he had intended.

Even the small success of freeing Skaara had done little to ease the sense of failure Daniel heaped upon himself daily. For three years he had lived in hope, only to lose that hope in a single, endless moment in time that he could never entirely recover from. His hope had died in the body of his wife, and the substitute search had not begun to replace it.

The dreams through which Sha’re had imparted her last wish had only served to deepen Daniel’s isolation. The rift between him and his friends, through no fault of their own had driven yet another wedge between them. Lya had to acknowledge the Nox, the Asgard and the Tollan - who had placed such an unreasonable demand on a bond none of them could have imagined ran so deep - had completed the isolation.

Daniel had suffered for their sake, and though they had all believed it fully healed, the seeds of doubt had remained - well-hidden and carefully ignored - until Klorel’s evil had burrowed deep within to ferret it out and exploit it.

If Daniel died here, Lya knew the Alliance would be as much to blame as Klorel.

 

~*~

 

Oma pondered the Nox woman’s thoughts.

She agreed with much of it, especially the insight into Daniel. A great deal of responsibility had been heaped upon the young human’s shoulders, things his friends really had little understanding of because their thinking was so much more earthbound.

Daniel’s view of his world extended far beyond the normal strictures of the thinking of his kind toward the higher purpose all souls desired. Where for most humans it was a fleeting formless thing, for Daniel it was as much an unconscious part of his being as each breath he drew.

It was a rare gift; that Lya recognized it as such was a testament to the promise she herself held….

 

~*~

 

So close, so nearly gone....

The knowledge that the end was welcome both satisfied and confused Daniel. The part of him still connected to Jack and his former reality recognized how wrong it was to want it, but the feeling would no sooner arise than it would be toppled aside by the overwhelming knowledge that he deserved it. The conflicting emotions were worse than the blackness welling up from inside him, blackness he had only seen in the nightmares he had spent a lifetime running from.

He deserved this, deserved a death as awful as those he had loved - and failed - had suffered.

He had only to let go, to keep letting go....

It was all gone anyway, and nothing could bring it back....

In the moment of the realization, Daniel was standing on a precipice overlooking a chasm of swirling chaos. His hand was resting on the trunk of an oak sapling, incongruously bright with the flaming reds of autumn - a riot of color amidst the washed out nothingness surrounding him. His hand shook as he slowly released the tree with a sigh of regret. At that moment in time, the only certainty he felt was that in letting go of the tree he would be letting go of life; it was the only anchor he had, the only thing keeping him from slipping - unnoticed - over the edge. Reaching his hand back toward the tree trunk was a monumental task, the simple harmony of mind and muscle seemingly beyond him. As he continued to reach, Daniel felt his body break out in a cold sweat.

He wanted to live, if only for this one final moment, for the tree and for all it represented.

Life, hope, friendship.....

He had that. He did. Wanted to continue to have it....

A gust of wind, like the leading edge of a hurricane front, sent him to his knees and Daniel found himself looking down into the chasm, vertigo assaulting his weary mind as his hand finally clenched tightly to the rough bark.

He had to hold on.

Had to.

The wind pushed at him relentlessly, first behind him then in front until his sense of place was completely lost. His vision was nearly useless beyond the few feet that included himself, the tree and the edge. His body was a mass of tingling sensation as if the wind bore with it fine grains of sand that were scouring away at his exposed flesh. Looking down Daniel could see bits of skin flying away on the wind, blood rising and pooling briefly before it too was carried away.

He knew he really was dying now, but he was no longer willing to let go....

 

~*~

 

The frustration was nearly unbearable.

To be so near and so unable to do anything, not even to be able to reassure Daniel of the light that would await him if he should fail.

Shifu had gone away, not too far but distant enough to settle his troubled spirit.

She hoped upon his return there would be something to celebrate, be it Daniel’s life or the continuation of his journey with them….

 

~*~

 

The light was dying.

Darkness howled in victory. Nothing else mattered now, only the death of the light.

A few moments longer and it would be over. The hated one would be dead and the other as good as dead. The remaining link between the two would either kill O’Neill or drive him mad as the piece of the light he held within died away inside him.

So good, so complete....

Darkness pushed a little harder, basking in the despair it created. These humans were so predictable, so easily manipulated. Darkness had won; the rest was simply waiting. The body was nearly gone and the spirit was bare moments behind it.

The light surged once but flickered, unable to sustain the will to live that even now tried to deny the inevitable.

Darkness was winning, and winning was all it had left....

Light?

No!

Light approached the weak one, approached and engulfed it with a strength that both enhanced and protected.

O’Neill!

It could not be!

 

~*~

 

Shifu whooped in a very human fashion, a sound Oma herself had only heard from O’Neill. She really did need to ask Shifu once again for further details concerning his journey to Earth.

For the time being, however, she only smiled and let her spirit be lifted by Shifu’s happiness and the circle of friendship that shone over the darkness, gradually and triumphantly sending it away.

 

~*~

 

The darkness rose up out of the chasm, swirling up and above their heads in a tornadic fury that could not approach. Jack focused the beam of light into the heart of the black tempest, directed the joint energy he and Daniel possessed, pushed....

And felt something give.

As the darkness swirled impotently and began to dissipate, a part of Jack’s brain - the part that wanted to deny the empirical evidence of his heart and mind - fairly thrummed with a cultural reference he knew even Daniel would ‘get’.

‘...which old witch....’

The darkness sputtered down to nothing, small gritty bits of dust that never came close to touching them and the sun broke through. The light was restored - and their small beam was lost in the glory of it.

 

~*~

 

“They have won, Oma…must this happen?”

Oma sighed. The question was a valid one, but she had no satisfactory answers.

They could only wait, as Daniel’s friends did…

 

~*~

 

The monitor gave a final fitful series of beeps that descended into the long tone they had all dreaded as much as they had expected it. Janet moved immediately into CPR position even as Sam bowed her head to pinch Daniel’s nostrils together and bent her mouth to his cold lips, puffing a sobbing breath into his now still body.

‘Dammit, Daniel...you can’t give up like this....’

It was all Sam could do not to shake Daniel in anger while she waited for Janet’s five count that would tell her to breathe for him again.

‘What the hell is the colonel going to say? What’re we going to do without you?’

….

Janet stopped, her eyes meeting hers with the look Sam had grown to hate.

No!

They could not just quit on Daniel.

When had he ever given up on them? From day one he had given his all to his team, his family. Pushing against all odds to bring them back from Antarctica, bucking bigger odds - and his team - to save the planet. Daniel did not give up.

How could they?

The tears began to fall again as she watched Janet slip off Daniel’s quiet - forever quiet now - body.

No...

 

~*~

 

Time passed in utter silence.

Doctor Fraiser was the first to move, rising to her knees and reaching for O’Neill’s hand, intending to break the hold that had not wavered throughout the long battle to save Daniel Jackson. As the doctor pulled the grip seemed to become all the stronger, refusing to let go.

“Oh, God...”

Major Carter finally turned into her father’s embrace, unable to watch the unconscious symbol of their fear. Awake or not, O’Neill would find it hardest to accept Daniel Jackson’s loss; they all knew it.

Teal’c moved forward quietly, intending to offer assistance if it became necessary.

And saw movement.

As O’Neill’s hand seemed to grip all the tighter, Daniel Jackson - moved.

He was alive.

 

~*~

 

But, no, Daniel was alive. Jack could feel it in his head and in his heart. He just had to make them all see it. With a sigh of apology, Jack dug his hand even deeper into Daniel’s skin, letting his fingernails press into the muscle until he could feel the pain he was causing Daniel through their connection.

‘C’mon, Danny, show ‘em what you got....’

It seemed to take so long. Too long. A silence stretching and warping until Jack began to doubt what he had believed was true.

Then Daniel breathed - a long, low, crackling sound - but he breathed...

Jack watched as the others caught on to the fact, watched the disbelief wipe away the sad looks and gravitate directly into joy.

Daniel was alive. Not exactly well, Jack could have seen that even if he did not already feel it, but alive and fighting his way back to them.

Life was good.

 

~*~

 

Shifu laughed, a bright joyous sound.

Daniel had survived…

This time.

Recovery was still to come, but she had no doubt his friends would help him, and that they would not allow themselves to again forget this lesson regarding their friend, his place in their lives, and in the fate of their world. For his part, Daniel had rediscovered the foundation of his trust in others, in friendship, and in himself.

She allowed Shifu a moment to say his silent goodbyes to Daniel. She promised they would look in on him again soon - then let them slip away, directing their energy back to their own plane.

For now, she was content to know Daniel had safely passed another hurdle in his difficult young life. His friends would see him through the physical healing; their vivid determination to alter their joined path from what it had been was most heartening. They would continue to grow strong, individually and as one.

Oma feared they would need that strength. One threat may have just been defeated, but she had no doubt still others lurked along the uncertain shadows of the future….

 

 

Chapter 1: Season of Change

~*~

Teach me to feel another’s woe,

To hide the fault I see;

That mercy I to others show,

That mercy show to me. 

 
~ The Universal Prayer- Alexander Pope

~*~

 

 

Daniel looked good.

‘Well… ’ Sam hastily amended to herself with a sigh of concerned relief, ‘he looks better.’

As drained as he still seemed, the man lying on the lounge chair across the broad wooden deck from her - observing the poorly concealed non-attention people were paying to him - looked nothing at all like the pale phantom who had floated back through the gate with Colonel O’Neill three weeks before. This Daniel bore very little resemblance at all to the one who had swiftly hit his very corporeal knees on the ramp, the same one who would have ended up on his nose if the colonel had not been prepared to catch him.

Sam remembered the many personnel present - there to welcome Daniel home - almost stumbling over one another as they got Daniel to the end of the ramp and into recovery position. They had waited anxiously, every eye completely focused on their ill and oblivious friend until Janet finally established the problem had just been Daniel’s blood pressure dropping after the shock of reintegration. General Hammond had broken his own surprisingly impressive speed record getting down to the gateroom from his office to join them all in hovering; there was no way they could keep from it after all they had seen and experienced on the Nox world.

Knowing the ‘incident’ – as it was now being called - resulting from Klorel’s stolen device had a semi-logical explanation could not keep their hearts from stopping at the sight of Daniel looking so brittle. Sam had been there all along and still had trouble believing what she’d seen. Others, like Sergeant Davis and Major Coburn, had gone almost as white as Daniel - solely on the strength of the stories being told and retold all around the complex. While the details of what happened on the Nox world still were not generally known, just the highlights that were making the rounds even then were more than a little awe-inspiring…not to mention creepy.

For all that Daniel Jackson, double linguistics and archaeology Ph. D., was one of the few civilians at SGC, over time he had earned a lot of respect in some much unexpected places among the ostensibly hardened hearts of the military contingent of the facility. Griff and Pierce had practically adopted Daniel after the Unas situation, impressed first by the fact he’d survived then later by the respect and pain he exhibited for those who had been lost. So many members of the other teams Daniel had worked with over the years felt the same way, usually for quite comparable reasons.

Sam honestly wasn’t a bit surprised at the growth of Daniel’s almost legendary status among the teams, not with Lou Feretti around. Lou had become one of Daniel’s biggest fans and unlikeliest friends during and after the first mission through the gate. Stories Feretti started were usually enhanced and spread through the SGC grapevine with something approaching the speed of light. The two men had long ago gotten past their shaky beginnings until now Feretti was more convinced than ever that Daniel could walk on water if he were only given a good enough incentive to want to do it.

Not that Daniel had gotten to spend very much time around the water at the general’s mountain retreat. From all reports - i.e. Daniel’s grumbling - he had barely been allowed to leave the cabin except to lie out on the deck and sleep even more, much less allowed to hazard the unknown dangers of the lakeshore. Sam could hardly blame Daniel’s overprotective caretaker - i.e. the colonel - Daniel still looked disturbingly exhausted. According to the Nox, and Sam now had an entirely new respect for what the Nox had to say, his current condition was to be expected under the circumstances.

It was so hard for all of them, though, to see Daniel so….

To remember how close…

Sam shuddered, pulling her thoughts forcibly away from the memory of Daniel’s rapidly cooling skin under her hands, of his still breath …

For too many interminably long seconds, Daniel had been clinically dead. For so many days he had lain pale and uncharacteristically fragile while his body struggled to remember what it was to be himself and to be alive again.

Sam hated that word, hating applying it to Daniel at any time. Fragile simply was not a concept anyone, especially SG1, usually associated with Daniel. Even back in their first days as a team, Sam never viewed Daniel as weak. Stubborn, barely trained, and not even vaguely aware or interested in military discipline, definitely yes - but he was also stronger in countless more ways than many of the military staff had been willing to give him credit for at the time.

Sam felt like they - SG1 - had helped Daniel grow considerably in matters pertaining to being a member of a team, and in shedding the self-isolating defenses he had grown as a result of the repeated hard knocks he had been subjected to by life. In return, Daniel helped all of them come together and find their soul. She would always believe SG1 would never have made it as a team without him.

Daniel was their balance, inevitably, they were less without him - and they all recognized that simple, unalterable fact. The colonel definitely knew it; he had already given Hammond the ultimatum that right after Daniel’s first scheduled mission - an easy archaeological mission with SG5 that everyone seemed to feel would get their favorite archaeologist-linguist back up to speed without putting him in danger - Daniel would stay with SG1 from then on.

None of them had truly been surprised when the general agreed. Going so far as to mulishly state his case before the budget committee in order to requisition the necessary funds for a bigger linguistic staff so Daniel would no longer be spread so thin. The general tended to avoid the red tape machine with a vehemence matching or exceeding the colonel’s, albeit with a lot more style and far greater diplomacy.

“We’ve got the budget,” he had said, his voice full of gruff affection for Daniel and still reflecting his own distressed awe at what he had witnessed on the Nox world, “and by God we’ll make use of it.” The ‘for our boy’ had gone unspoken, but they all took it as read.

The satisfying end result was - there would be no more Daniel-less SG1, not for any reason, and the other three members of said SG1 could not be happier at the thought.

At the moment, however, the colonel looked far less like their usual irreverently happy, fearless leader and a whole lot more like a particularly ruffled grey hen hovering over his prize chick. The fact that the colonel was twenty feet away did little to lessen the effect. No matter how hard the colonel tried to appear cool, calm, and collected on the surface, they all recognized the façade for what it really was.

Sam knew things between the colonel and Daniel had gotten more than a little intense during their experience on the Nox world. She could only begin to imagine the full reality of what they had gone through - sharing every thought and emotion for days on end through one of the most horrific experiences imaginable. Just the things she witnessed were more than she was comfortable with knowing.

At least the colonel had a legitimate excuse; the others weren’t much better. The traditional ‘anytime anywhere’ card game lacked a good deal of its usual fervency. The barbecued ribs were in grave danger because the cooks, Davis and Siler, weren’t even pretending to give it their customary attention. The conversation all around them, customarily loud and raucous any time they all had a day out, was subdued enough to suit a funeral far more than a happy homecoming. They were all trying too damn hard, but Sam could not think of a single way of stopping it from happening.

It would just take some time and patience, and a little more convincing themselves that Daniel was back to stay. They had a ways to go, but one thing was assured: everything they had gone through in the last year - the confusion, the distance, the separations - was all over now.

SG1 was back and better than ever, and they were all determined nothing would ever be allowed to come between them again.

Nothing.

 

~*~

 

Teal’c sipped at the ‘lemonade’ Major Feretti had given him and almost smiled…

Daniel Jackson was returned to them.

Teal’c had greatly feared the incident on the Nox planet would be the last one in which the luck O’Neill spoke so highly of so often would bring Daniel Jackson back from death. This time, as the Tau’ri often said, it had been much too near a thing.

They had all needed this “downtime” to reassure themselves that SG1 remained intact as much as Daniel Jackson had needed it to regain his depleted strength. O’Neill and Daniel Jackson, on the advice of Doctor Fraiser and the Nox healers, had spent the greatest amount of time together since their return. The connection forged by Klorel’s device had been very delicate and by the end of their ordeal very strong. Teal’c believed the fact both men were alive this day was attributable solely to that connection.

The closeness of the two friends on the Nox world, while not altogether dissimilar to the friendship they had known almost from the beginning of their acquaintance, had breached barriers most people would find difficult to willingly choose to share. The Nox had expressed the belief that spending time together as their separate selves would help them adjust to the loss of that extreme sense of connection and assist the two men in returning to their former states more easily. Doctor Fraiser had agreed but would not authorize them to travel too far beyond her medical reach, prompting General Hammond to offer his lakeside haven just outside the city of Colorado Springs.

After the first week, Teal’c and Major Carter had been permitted to visit, O’Neill’s continued solicitousness a source of great amusement. Prior to their mission to the Nox world, he had not exhibited such blatant concern toward Daniel Jackson in a disturbingly long time. Teal’c found its renewed presence most reassuring, and it was quite apparent Daniel Jackson did as well - even as he attempted to maintain the surface pretense of annoyance.

Their young friend had suffered many personal blows over the past year, and while Daniel Jackson’s inner strength was something Teal’c continually admired greatly he also knew the scholar’s pain had worn upon his spirit considerably.

Sadly, Teal’c was also aware the team’s support of Daniel Jackson had been lacking at times, and while their young friend had articulated his understanding it did not, as O’Neill would say, “make it right”.

Leaning unobtrusively against the wooden stairs leading up to the cabin, Teal’c observed Daniel Jackson as he absorbed the regard of his many friends. The young scholar was obviously rather perplexed at this new shift in his existence. The confusion itself was quite saddening, the situation should never have been allowed to descend to the point it had.

Teal’c was most grateful for this new opportunity they had been granted. Daniel Jackson had been isolated, by himself and by his friends, for far too long, but such things were all in the past now and Teal’c firmly believed SG1 would soon be whole once again.

 

~*~

 

Daniel looked tired.

Jack knew the younger man should be resting, but he also knew even suggesting any such thing would earn him yet another scathing pseudo-annoyed Jackson glare. Daniel was still less than one hundred percent and they both knew it. They had another week of limited duty to get him, and the rest of them, back up to snuff, but Jack worried it might not be enough time.

While he knew they had no real choice in the matter, Jack was not one bit happy at the idea of letting Daniel go off alone with Roger Coburn’s team. Unfortunately, the rest of SG1 was scheduled for their evaluations, and their little jaunt to the Nox planet had left them no more grace time. Daniel, by virtue - or curse rather - of his appendix attack, had fallen off schedule with the rest of the team the year before - a situation Jack intended to rectify as soon as the new staff showed up.

‘The team that serves together suffers through evals together; it’s got to be in the rules somewhere ,’ Jack thought wryly. ‘If not, it soon will be…’

Major Roger Coburn was a damn fine officer and a very good man, and Jack knew he would bust his ass to take care of Daniel - but not like they would and not….

‘Hell, not so soon.’

They had just gotten Daniel back and Jack really, seriously, totally, completely, and thoroughly hated the idea of letting him go home on his own anytime soon, much less across the galaxy for a significant amount of time without them. The two of them had some leftover Nox-y “mind-meld” stuff going on, which was worrisome enough considering, but still it was…

It was hard.

The old cliché about walking a mile in another man’s shoes barely began to cover the experience they had just shared. There were still times Jack could feel Daniel inside his head, hear what the other man was going to say before he actually said it, know what he was thinking and feeling even at those times when Daniel refused to reveal anything at all. Over the past week, Jack had come to realize what they had now was not so very different from the way things had always been between them, but it was poles apart from what they had allowed themselves to become before Klorel’s little ‘gift’ knocked them both on their psychically connected asses.

‘Talk about a blessing and a curse…’

Jack was glad it had happened, he honestly was; neither the team nor their friendship could have survived if things had been allowed to continue on the way they had been going, Jack was certain of it. But as a result of the experience, he had learned things about Daniel - and Daniel about him - that even now gave him nightmares. Jack was more than a little aware there were a lot of things people should never be forced to face about themselves, much less be forced to reveal to someone else so intimately. Every individual possessed private places - places belonging only to their own soul, places never meant to see the light of day, much less have a heart to heart with another’s psyche. Comparatively speaking, he and Daniel had more ‘places’ than a large percentage of people had to deal with in a lifetime. That fact alone should have made things harder, but was actually proving just the opposite.

If it had to happen Jack was damn glad it was with Daniel. There was no one he trusted more. No one.

They had talked about it, a little, and Jack was secure in the knowledge that his memories were as safe and private with Daniel as they had ever been in his own head. In a way it was comforting to know that some of those memories would live on with Daniel, and that he would honor them just as much as Jack did. Just like Jack would do for Daniel’s.

God, the things Daniel had dealt with over the years…

 

Utter pain, abject loss, certain knowledge that he was alone in the world long before the so-called adults had bothered to confirm what he already knew…

 

Complete aloneness, too bright to be bothered with, too confusing to lesser souls who could barely understand much less challenge a mind that pursued things far too fast and far too convolutedly for them to keep up…

 

Rejection and worse, repeated abuse on levels both physical and emotional. An easy mark for those who feared what they could not intimidate, and certainly couldn’t understand.

 

A family found, one golden year of peace and belonging, soon swept away by an evil none of them could ever have suspected…slim hopes held tightly to his heart, held close in the protection of his soul until he could hold them no longer….

 

Hard-won belonging, friendship, bonds to be treasured and feared. Almost lost again, but regained in the midst of such terrible pain…

 

Jack had always known Daniel was an exceptionally strong personality, but now he had intimate insight into every painful detail of how his friend had come to be the man he was. To say the very least the knowledge was heady stuff, heartbreaking and still raw in places, but all part of what made him Daniel. And Jack was more privileged than he could express Daniel seemed comfortable with the unchangeable reality that most of the large and small details of his personal life were no longer his own.

Neither of them even pretended to expect it would be easy sliding back into so-called normal life; Jack was sure it would not be in ordinary circumstances - never mind they would soon have to let Daniel go on that mission, let him go through the gate and leave them behind…

Part of Jack still remembered the times when just stepping apart a few feet from one another had nearly been enough to kill Daniel.

Another part of him, a part still surprisingly easy to access, continued to carry the echo of how Daniel had felt….

 

Daniel was splitting apart.

Worse than before, so much worse.

Wrenching jolts of dissolution shuddered through his body until he was certain he was no longer connected to it at all. Strong arms tightened around his chest, but it was not enough. Was not …

“Jack!”

He had to see, fought to open his eyes, succeeded only to find the swirling haze of colors washing over his vision with the strength of radiation, splitting him on an almost elemental level. Nausea transmuted into pain, pain into something he felt might be close to implosion lacking only the merest spark to render him messily and totally lost…

He was peripherally aware of his own harsh gasps for breath, of blood rushing through his veins at too great a speed, of his heart thumping raggedly in his chest, forgetting its accustomed rhythm; beating faster and faster, closer and closer to nothingness…

Warm pressure brought him back, surrounded him until the tide receded and he could breathe again. He knew he was moaning uncontrollably as normality settled back over him in a rush of awareness, but at the moment he could not seem to care.

He was rocking. No. He was being rocked. Small movements up and down as strong hands stroked soothing patterns across his back.

Daniel slowly became aware of a voice – or rather the resonance of a voice – beneath his ear where it rested against something warm, solid, familiar; the voice urged him to breathe, ordered him to breathe, apologized over and over…

“I’m sorry, Daniel, should have known. Breathe, kid, in and out…”

All of Daniel’s awareness was focused on those words, on the soft shirr-whup of the heart he could hear more clearly than the words.

Gradually his vision cleared, the colors fading to - black. He almost laughed at the realization that the black was a shirt.

Jack’s shirt.

The pain was easing away on Jack’s words, on the soothing hands reminding Daniel that he was still yet alive and connected to his suddenly rebellious, trembling body. He nodded a little against Jack’s chest, hoping his friend would understand he was all right, or at least was getting there. On some instinctive level, though, he knew this momentary control was fragile, and somehow dependent on Jack.

It was such an awesome responsibility…

Hammond believed time apart would help them get past what he called the ‘back pocket syndrome’. Maybe he was right, maybe not, but Jack could not shake his anxiety. It just felt too soon. Trouble had a habit of finding SG1 even on the most innocent of missions and while Daniel might only be scheduled to go off and poke around in the dirt on a dead world, Jack had a horrible feeling something was destined to go terribly wrong.

As good as they were, SG5 was not SG1.

‘I’m a team snob, so sue me….’

With more effort than he would ever admit to, Jack tried to look casually disinterested as Daniel got up to go inside.

Their resident coffee-meister had just drained his first cup of the holy elixir in over a month - a cup of his favorite, can’t find it anywhere but Starbuck’s out near the mall, costs enough to feed a small army blend. Jack owed Griff an arm and a leg for making the special trip out to pick up a thermos full of the stuff. Daniel had prolonged the experience to the point where Jack had grinningly suggested Daniel and his mug should get a room. Once the archaeologist to bean bonding session finally ended, the expected diuretic side effects kicked in, so it was no mystery at all to Jack where Daniel was heading now.

It took Daniel a lot longer to get upright than either he or Jack was comfortable with. The worst thing about it was he had actually shaved a lot of time off what it had been taking him even just a few days before. As Daniel gained his feet, carefully masking the effort Jack knew it required, Roger, Lou, Hank and a hefty portion of the SGC leadership and enlisted immediately stopped what they were doing…

Cards halted mid-shuffle, conversation dwindled to token noise, a Frisbee floated disregarded toward the lake…

A dozen or more able-bodied military folk had practically snapped to parade attention within seconds.

‘Good instincts there, guys.’

Jack waved them back with a smile and moved to get up himself. He might have to let Daniel out on his own next week, but that was next week. For right now…

‘Oh, shit.’

Daniel’s newly patented ‘I need a minute to myself, give it a rest, Jack’ stare was aimed directly at him - and Daniel knew very well how much Jack hated that one. It was followed up with an understanding and slightly amused smile that almost made him want to smack Daniel instead, but Jack realized this was more of Daniel getting them used to being back in their own skins, just like he had been doing ever since he stopped sleeping twenty-four seven. Jack knew Daniel was right, even accepted it was necessary - but he sure as hell did not have to like it.

And, dammit, Daniel knew that, too.

‘Maybe I should just go in and check on him….’

Maybe he had a death wish.

Maybe…

“Oh, Cassie…?”

 

~*~

 

‘Too many people…’

When the general had phoned and suggested “a little get-together” earlier in the week, Daniel had been uncomfortable at the idea. He realized now he should have been far more suspicious that the older man’s well-known Texas understatement was in use.

It made him edgy, all of it - the mass of people, the carefully helpful maneuvers, and the too polite inquiries…just everything. Jack effectively breaking all known land and speed records for hovering in place was not exactly helping matters either.

Daniel knew - better now than ever before - Jack truly meant well and that his friend understood exactly what it was taking for Daniel to sit still among the large gathering, but for those very same reasons he also knew he had to get through it. He would do it.

The team needed to believe Daniel was okay, and the rest of them - the general, Fraiser, the rest of their friends, and even the people they worked with daily - needed to feel things were back to normal, that SG1 was on track and ready to go. Doctor Fraiser had offered another week but, as tempting as a delay was at this point, Daniel knew putting it off would not make things any easier. He was getting stronger by the day, and sleeping less - which for once was actually a good thing.

As wonderful as Jack had been about the entire situation, Daniel desperately needed some time alone in his own head. Just a little time to be himself again - by himself - if only to be confident in his own mind he could still manage to do it.

He had scarcely even seen his apartment in over a month, one short visit to pack for this trip didn’t begin to count as quality home-bonding time. Although Daniel knew Sam had been taking care of everything there for him, he still wanted to sleep in his own bed, read his own books, sit on his own balcony, and kill his own fish. Sam was, and would remain, unaware Daniel knew the latest tankful was not even remotely related to the one he had left behind, and he had no intention of telling her he did…or how he had come to find out about his dearly departed Les Poulets du Désert family.

Daniel sighed; mostly he just wanted his life back. Not life as it had been before the fake Lya had shown up and lured SG1 into Klorel’s trap, but his new life. The life that included his team and his friends in a way Daniel, not so long ago even now, had feared was gone forever.

It was almost - no, it was - worth everything he had gone through to have it all back. Daniel had never been a great believer in the theory of ‘going home again’, life had never given him very many reasons to believe it was even possible. Having achieved the closest thing to it he had ever known now was a miracle he in no way expected to ever deserve. Daniel had missed ‘home’ more than he could ever begin to explain -- and he knew now that Jack felt the same way, which was a miracle of a different kind altogether. Sadly, Daniel doubted he could ever find the right words to tell Jack just how much the trust and support the other man had given him through their entire ordeal meant to him.

‘Just as well he knows already…’

Daniel knew he really ought to be more uncomfortable about this thing; it was hardly as if he made a practice of baring his soul - even verbally. The bottom line was, quite simply, he trusted Jack. Even when things were at their worst Daniel had always trusted Jack, and everything they had been through over the past month or so only served to make that trust stronger. They had never really needed the words - but it was still reassuring. After all was said and done, after all that had been said and done, it was more encouraging than he could ever express to have affirmation he was not alone in his feelings.

Daniel breathed a long sigh of relief as he finally slipped into the quiet of the cabin. Heading for the bathroom, he fervently hoped this new nervousness in relation to noise and crowds went away before they returned to the mountain. It was another legacy of Klorel; one the Nox hadn’t been able to help him with. He was no stranger to mild phobias, but this was unnerving; he hated it. He could just see himself breaking out in a cold sweat every time the alert claxon went off or if the cafeteria happened to be too crowded; MacKenzie would have a field day with that one. He had to get past it, one way or another.

Finishing his business in the bathroom, Daniel washed his hands and returned to the living room. He eyed the door apprehensively for a long moment before shaking his head and sinking onto the couch with a tired sigh. He just needed a few minutes to catch his breath, just a little while to gather enough strength and resolve to get him through the rest of the day.

As much as Daniel wanted everyone to believe he was okay with going to P2X498 with SG5, he was not looking forward to the upcoming mission at all. Everyone seemed to think it was a good idea - everyone, that was, except Daniel and his team. He wished he could explain the sense of trepidation that came over him when he considered SG1 being apart just now, even for a short time, but he couldn’t even explain it to himself. Whatever its source, the feeling that something very bad was going to happen, to the others or to him and SG5, was entirely too strong for his liking, and Daniel could not help but be afraid that after they had come so far so recently, SG1 would not be together at a time when they really needed to be.

He just had no clue what to do, and no energy left to try to find one...

‘God, I m so tired…’

 

~*~

 

General George Hammond had to laugh.

‘Jack O’Neill is going to worry himself into a coronary if he doesn’t learn to lighten up…’

Dr. Jackson - Daniel - was fine. He was still a little rough around the edges. Some lingering effects from his ordeal were only to be expected, but George also knew their premiere archaeologist and linguist was eons away from the battered boy who had come back from the dead - literally - before their very eyes barely three weeks prior.

George never wanted to go through anything like that again.

The problem was, as long as he headed Stargate command and as long as SG1 remained SG1, George knew he would. The life they led and the things they did were rarely conducive to calm, predictable, orderly missions - or decisions. Sometimes the job was harder than anything ought to be, but most days George knew he wouldn’t want it any other way.

Most days.

At least on the surface, Daniel seemed completely oblivious to all the concern directed toward him, lounging back and sipping his precious cup of coffee with an aura of focused devotion that might worry anyone who did not know him as well as they did. While George knew his CMO had been reluctant, he also believed she knew as well as he did there was no way Daniel’s team, or anyone else in the SGC, was about to let him overindulge in anything for a very long time. That boy would eat, sleep, and work precisely as much as his team thought was good for him until they assured themselves he was back to stay - or until Daniel’s patience ran out. George had no intention of placing any bets on which might come first. He knew his premiere team entirely too well.

According to the doctor, Daniel still tired very easily - and it had been clear she was correct from the moment they had arrived that morning. But for the moment, he seemed supremely oblivious of the hovering horde surrounding him and easing his way even as he pushed himself to get better.

‘Funny, that boy can exhibit the patience of a saint when he wants to with just about everyone but himself.’

Watching the saint in question smile with his trademark patience at one of Feretti’s inevitably bad jokes, George remembered talking to Daniel when they were not at all sure either he or Jack would survive the separation. He remembered the things Daniel had asked him to take care of if things went wrong.

‘Nothing for himself at all, just for his team.’

A long time ago, yet another time when they mistakenly believed Daniel was dead to them, Jack had declared in his eulogy that Daniel ‘made the SGC happen’ and at the time George had agreed in a purely abstract sense. Daniel Jackson had cracked the code that unlocked the secrets of the Stargate; that was an indisputable fact.

Now, though, George understood Jack had been more right, in more ways, than any of them could possibly have imagined at the time. Oh, he had no doubt they would carry on without Daniel and do the job, but he hated to contemplate the much sadder and poorer place SGC would be. Daniel really was their anchor, determinedly keeping them securely where they needed to be in the grand scheme of things cosmic and responsible even as he kept them striving to reach for the stars.

Much as George disliked the idea of separating SG1 at this point, there really was no choice until the new staff attained proper clearance. While he would never consider trying to test the ties that bound those four together, he did believe the distance would ultimately do them good. If nothing else perhaps it would help them to put things into perspective enough to settle into something approaching normalcy again.

‘Hell, if nothing else maybe Daniel can go to the bathroom without an honor guard.’

George watched the young man in question slowly get up to do exactly that, and had to laugh out loud as the majority of his command immediately paused in whatever they were doing. A good-natured and approving glare from Jack put them all in their place - second in the archaeologist-sitting stakes - and a less amused but patiently affectionate counter-glare from Daniel put the good colonel right back down on his ass again.

‘Yeah, a little distance might be just the thing. ‘

 

~*~

 

For at least the tenth time that day, Janet hoped she was right in believing Daniel was ready to go back to work. She was fairly certain no one else had noticed the lines of tension on Daniel’s face or the fine tremors of exhaustion in his hands as he had carefully, and not nearly so casually as he probably hoped, made his way inside. Glancing around, Janet amended her thought, the colonel noticed.

Colonel O’Neill was playing things very cool, respecting Daniel’s wishes no matter how much he personally disliked the necessity, but the deep lines of anxiety around his mouth as well as many frequent, nervous glances toward the cabin after Daniel had gone inside told their own story.

No, the colonel had not missed a thing.

Janet resolved to create an opportunity to talk to him before they left the cabin. He had a unique perspective on Daniel none of her tests could ever come close to approaching. If the colonel thought Daniel was not quite ready for even limited duty, she would throw her considerable CMO weight around and get the mission postponed.

The specter of the past still lingered over all of them, regardless of their efforts to make it go away…

 

//Daniel screamed. Long, low, keening...as if he had just lost.....

Janet got her stethoscope situated and leaned down to take a reading. Daniel’s heart was racing. The screaming died to breathless gasps as Daniel gulped in air that did not seem to be helping at all. The Nox were awake now and had kneeled down to stroke comforting hands over both men’s bodies. It seemed to be helping so Janet joined in, letting her hands knead Daniel’s shoulder in a mirror of the gesture she had seen the colonel use so often over the past few days.

By slow degrees, Daniel finally settled into restless sleep.

Looking up into the weary faces of the three Nox, Janet let her expression beg the question.

Antaeus smiled grimly, “We can only wait and see.”//

 

With an effort, Janet dismissed the unwelcome memory with a sigh. She smiled tightly as she observed the colonel checking his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes, then frowned deeply - before calling to Cassie, aka Janet’s adopted daughter, aka the colonel’s adopted niece, aka his favorite co-conspirator. As he whispered into her ear, she smiled indulgently at what Janet knew was patent verification of the mother hen from hell ways they had both come to recognize at twenty paces. The negotiations were unusually short for once, telling Janet better than any words could just how worried the colonel actually was.

Having extracted her demands, Cassie patted her de facto uncle on the shoulder indulgently and made her way to the cabin, no doubt prepared with a dozen convincing reasons to be inside other than to check up on Daniel. Puberty came with its own set of ready excuses; Janet was learning that lesson the hard way. Colonel ‘Sneak’ had just enlisted her daughter as his spy, knowing full well Daniel would never in a million years get pissed at her the way he would at said colonel - Janet just hoped Cassie received something first-rate in payment for services rendered.

There was still a lot of healing to be done for SG1, Janet knew, and not all of it was physical. The rifts that had developed between the members of SG1 prior to their Nox experience had taken a lot of time to form; they could not be expected to disappear overnight. While encouraging progress had certainly been made, and heaven knew they were all highly motivated, Janet could not help but worry that other problems might spring up due to overcompensation. Janet was fairly sure the four friends would manage to keep things from going too far; at least she hoped they would.

With SG1…one could never be too sure of anything.

The colonel’s teen-aged spy casually meandered back from her covert assignment looking none the worse for wear and packing a huge handful of cookies. She reported first to her commander before making her way to Janet to advise her Daniel was asleep on the sofa. Snagging a cookie, Janet sent her daughter on her way with a wink and a smile.

The news was hardly surprising; it had been a very long day and probably too much far too soon for Daniel. The general and the concept of ‘small’ were rarely synonymous and this ‘little gathering’ had been no exception to the general - pun intended - rule.

The sun was just starting to touch the treetops as the colonel not so casually rose from his chair and began circulating around the crowd, dropping hints even Feretti could hardly miss.

‘Lights out, party over, love ya, babe, but don’t let the door hit your ass as you leave. As Cassie would say, ‘subtle, Uncle Jack…not’. But it’s working so who am I to argue?’

Teal’c, Sam, the general, Cassie and Janet were staying overnight to lend a hand with packing up and closing the cabin before they all headed back the next day. With a little care and quiet, she was sure they could manage to get the remains of their outdoor festivities put away without waking Daniel. A good night’s sleep was precisely what the doctor ordered in this case.

She just hoped the caffeine Daniel had consumed would not go straight to his nervous system and find him awake in the middle of the night. She had held out the slim hope Daniel would take the hint and finally quit - but she supposed she really should have known better, coffee had been the first thing he’d asked for.

Oh, well, she needed something to rag him about…and there were a lot worse habits he could take up.

 

~*~

 

On the drive back to the city, Cassie watched her extended family as they tried to hide their concern. Daniel had fallen asleep beside her in the back seat of Uncle Jack’s truck almost before they’d pulled out of the driveway. Her mom was in the car ahead of them with General George and Sam, but Teal’c and Uncle Jack were worrying enough to make up for them. So was she.

‘Poor Daniel…’

Cassie simply could not call him ‘Uncle’ anymore, not since she became old enough to recognize the man was way too hot to be anybody’s uncle. She knew her mother and Sam would kill her if they ever heard her say that, even though she knew they thought he was quite the hottie too. Cassie was still trying to work up the courage to invite her sort of boyfriend, Dominic, to the house; there was no way she was giving her two moms more ammunition in the puberty stakes.

Cassie knew Daniel hadn’t gotten much sleep; she had overheard Daniel having a really bad nightmare in the night…

Daniel hadn’t even stirred when they had all come inside after the party. The general just found a quilt, spread it gently over Daniel on the sofa, and they had done their best not to bother him. Cassie had never seen all of them so quiet and subdued. It seemed to her as if they all knew without being told that leaving Daniel to his rest was what they should do. Cassie was hoping it was a good thing she had known it too, maybe even a sign she was growing up. Her mom had approved and, despite being way too cool these days to admit it, Cassie liked it very much when her mother was proud of her.

She was not quite as sure Janet would be proud of the fact that she had eavesdropped a little - okay, more than a little - on Daniel and her Uncle Jack. Late in the night Cassie had gotten up to go to the bathroom when she heard Daniel having a bad dream, not shouting or anything like that, just making sad, wounded sounds.

Uncle Jack had been sitting there in the chair beside the sofa, almost as if he had known something was going to happen and was just waiting for it there alone in the dark. He had woken Daniel gently, quieter than Cassie had seen him since she was a child herself, far from home, alone and afraid.

It had been…nice.

Real nice.

It had been way too long since Cassie had seen the two of them being close like that. She had missed it, missed them. All her family had gotten so busy for a while that it sometimes seemed to her like they were hardly even friends anymore…and that thought bothered her far more than she had been willing to admit to anyone.

Uncle Jack had just hugged Daniel, held on tight like her mom used to do for her when she had first come to live with her and had bad dreams about Han--Toronto. Once Daniel calmed down, he told Uncle Jack about his dream. Some of it was about the last mission they had been on, the one where Daniel had been hurt so badly.

Cassie knew a little about what happened on the Nox planet. About how Daniel really had died for a few long seconds, about Jack being connected to Daniel’s thoughts and bringing him back from the dead.

If Cassie were from anywhere besides - Toronto, she knew the whole thing would seem like one of those cheesy sci-fi shows on cable. But things were strange out in Toronto and SG1 was SG1, after all. If it was out there and it wanted to hurt someone, the odds were better than good her family would be the first ones to get caught up in it. It was a very lucky thing they were as talented at getting out of trouble as they are at getting into it.

The second part of Daniel’s dream was what really scared Cassie though, and made her still wonder if she should rat herself out to her mother for listening so she could at least talk to someone about it.

She heard Daniel say that he dreamed he died. Really died. Not like he had in the past.

‘And how many girls have hottie sort-of uncles who come back from the dead on a regular basis?’

Daniel said in his dream he had been killed by radiation, had felt his skin and his body just waste away in a matter of hours until he just…died. Only not exactly dead. Dead as in gone for sure, but someone called Oma turned him into a fluffy cloud, taking him away from the pain. But he had not felt free, just alone and trapped.

Uncle Jack had made a joke about Daniel turning into an angel, but Cassie could see even he knew it was not a bit funny. For a long time, he just kept holding onto Daniel, promising everything was going to be okay, telling him over and over that it was not going to happen, not ever, they wouldn’t let it. Uncle Jack swore to Daniel he was not going to die until he was old and grey and had lost all his hair just like Cassie said he would. She had no memory of ever saying anything like that, but if it made Daniel feel better a little fib was more than okay with her.

She had watched and listened until Daniel fell asleep again, then decided her bladder could wait for morning. It barely waited and she had been the first one up, so she knew her two favorite uncles had stayed like that all night, Daniel sleeping on a pillow on Uncle Jack’s lap. She thought the two of them really were too cool; friends like friends ought to be. Cassie just hoped she would be that lucky some day.

She was willing to bet Daniel had no more bad dreams, just like she was sure her Uncle Jack would bust his ass -

‘Oops, better make sure that little phrase doesn’t slip out around Mom or Uncle Jack and I will both get grounded…’

- to make sure Daniel’s dream never happened.

 

 

 

part 2

 

 

 

 

 

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