Jmas Fan Fiction

Title: A Place in the Heart
Date: September 26, 2001
Status: Complete
Author: Jmas
Category: drama, wee angst
Rating: G
Email: jmasg1@bellsouth.net
Archive: Helio, StargateFan, Belle’s Place, TPOOL
Spoilers: COTG, Stargate the movie
Author’s note: This story first appeared in the zine Gateways 3, without doubt the premiere zine series in SG fandom. All thanks and utter gratitude to Joyce for the edit, and for kind permission to post it now as a means of comfort to us all.
Disclaimer: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa’uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole
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A Place in the Heart

By

Jmas

// Long ago in Nagada – long before Ra, long before life became little more than the day’s work in the pits and the night’s rest troubled by hunger and exhaustion – there was a boy. The boy was not yet a man, awaiting the next alignment of the moons to perform the ritual that would declare his passage into adulthood. The villagers loved the boy. He was handsome, full of life and curiosity…and his heart was pure and kind… .//


Colonel Jack O'Neill stretched lazily in the hammock, basking in the warm sunlight and the faint buzz that had accompanied the first half of his second beer. Watching his teammates and other members of the SGC milling around General Hammond's pool celebrating life as only those who daily risked that precious commodity could do, Jack sighed deeply.

Life can be so good...

Even as the thought formed itself in Jack's mind, he was startled to find that he actually meant it. Jack tried to pinpoint the exact moment the ache, which had been such an integral part of his life for so long, had faded. He could go for hours, even days, without experiencing the emptiness which had been his constant companion from the moment the shot had rung out in the upstairs bedroom of his once-happy home: the shot that had taken his son away and estranged him from his ex-wife, probably permanently.

Jack couldn’t help the almost reflexive feeling that somehow by releasing the pain he was dishonoring his son's memory. He knew it wasn't true, he would never forget the wonderful gift his son had been, but it was somehow easier these days to sublimate the guilt which had been following him for so long. Jack found that while he could not put a finger on any particular moment or event that had helped the pain to ease, he did remember the day he had once again seen himself in a mirror. It seemed like such a simple thing, but Jack knew it wasn’t. From the day Charlie died Jack had avoided mirrors and smashed more than a few on those days when he just couldn’t bring himself to look into the eyes of the man directly responsible for his son’s death. His own eyes. The day when a mirror had once again become something other than a device to keep him from cutting himself shaving had been a soul-wrenching revelation…

The deep brown gaze had looked back at him in frank assessment, realizing that something had changed. Beyond the added wrinkles, there was something in the eyes that he almost…liked. It wasn’t such a bad face, a little the worse for wear but otherwise not too bad at all. The man who looked back at him really was a pretty decent guy. He still had his moments but they were slowly becoming fewer. In a flash of personal insight, Jack realized he was becoming a better man. He wasn’t sure when the process had begun, much less when he had decided it was a process worth undergoing, but he was fairly sure whatever it was had begun when he had met Dr. Daniel Jackson.

Well, Jack thought, maybe not exactly when I met him...

Jack remembered thinking many things about the scruffy-looking scientist in those first days at Cheyenne Mountain; allergic dweeb, terminal dork, over-educated nerd among others. As he had watched the awkward young man plow through the botched translation it had taken a team of similarly over-educated nerds two years to get so wrong, Jack had very grudgingly revised his opinion. Something still remotely interested in the rest of the human race in Jack had realized there was more to the skinny Ph.D. than met the eye.

Jack looked over at the Ph.D. in question; not so skinny-looking anymore, having picked up a little more muscle tone during his time on Abydos and his association with the military types he worked with. Actually Daniel wasn't nearly so scruffy-looking either, Jack had to admit, though he knew the independent-minded archaeologist/anthropologist/linguist would never fit into the military notion of spit and polish. Daniel was still allergic, but it had been a long time since Jack had called Daniel dweeb, dork or nerd, even in his thoughts...

Jack’s present thoughts were interrupted by that low, gentle voice that had so subtly and irrevocably become such an immutable, and almost apologetic, presence in his life….

// The only thing the villagers worried about was the boy’s curiosity always seemed to lead him far from home…and usually into danger… //

Jack smiled at the irony. That sure sounds familiar….

Jack stared in fascination at Daniel sitting there spinning an Abydonian tale for Dr. Fraiser's adopted daughter Cassandra as both of them swung their legs in the crystal water. Daniel's expressive hands were in constant movement, emphasizing and illustrating his tale. Jack knew from long experience that Daniel's hands could speak just as eloquently as his words. Jack smiled to himself as he watched Cassandra's already large eyes grow even wider with Daniel's every word, her sweet face a study in rapt attention as Daniel's soft voice modulated subtly to heighten the suspense.

//The boy would often go missing for days…inevitably having followed some mystery far from his home without realizing it. His friends and family were afraid for him… afraid that some day the boy would fail to return home, that one of his mysteries would lead him so far away he’d never be able to come back…. //

Looking past Daniel and Cassandra, Jack could see that the little girl wasn't the only one engrossed in Daniel's story. Teal'c was as focused on Daniel as he would be on an advancing enemy. Carter was listening from her place at the table, her hot dog poised but forgotten on its way to her mouth. Even General Hammond was as caught up in the story as any of SG-1, his usual military facade melted away in the glow of the perfect day and the story that Daniel was bringing to vivid life for their favorite little girl. Further beyond his team and his commander, Jack could see others falling under the spell of Daniel's voice as his tale gradually unfolded. It was hard not to be drawn into the magical web of sound and motion that was Daniel at this moment.

Jack realized this scene must have been a lot like Daniel's life on Abydos. Through his work translating ancient writings, Daniel had become teacher and story-teller to the Abydonians. Daniel had explored and learned, then helped put the people back in touch with the history and heritage they had lost due to Ra's interference. Jack remembered the gentle honor the Abydonians had treated Daniel with, the love they had demonstrated so eloquently in the tender benediction they had shared before parting. It had revealed to Jack better than anything else could have just how much Daniel had lost.

Sometimes it was easy for Jack to forget this side of Daniel; it didn't get much practice in the rush-from-crisis-to-crisis that was all too often life with the SGC. The simple fact was, Jack realized, Daniel didn't let this gentler side of himself out to play very often. Daniel didn't let himself relax often...

Jack remembered the time, several weeks following Daniel’s return from Abydos, when he’d returned home to find his then housemate collapsed on the front steps. Needless to say, Jack had panicked and taken the unconscious Daniel to the ER only to find that his new friend was suffering from neglect…of his health. That had been Jack’s first introduction to life according to Daniel Jackson, a world that Daniel tried very hard to meet head on. Occasionally though there were detours into the realm of avoidance aided by caffeine in all its forms. Jack learned very quickly that when things got too heavy, Daniel ‘forgot’ things like food and sleep…and just generally himself. Jack had finally wheedled a confession out of Daniel that he’d hardly slept, or eaten, at all since his return to Earth. Jack had reacted rather badly that time, earning him his first encounter with the now-infamous ‘Doc Jackson lost puppy look’, but he had learned a few maneuvers since then to keep it from happening too often.

Both of them had come a long way from that first mission to Abydos and it was a hell of a lot more than just time or distance. Jack had never intended to return from Abydos, had counted on it in fact. His grieving heart had hoped against hope to die on that distant world, thus relieving him of his pain. Jack remembered with a twinge of guilt the surge of unreasonable…and admittedly unfair…anger he’d felt toward Daniel after they’d separated at the Abydos gate. Jack had returned home to find his wife gone, the divorce papers laid out on the kitchen table silently demanding his signature. It had taken Jack many long quiet months to defeat the anger born of intense jealousy. Sara had been the only reason Jack had returned to Earth. Without her in his life, Jack had found it increasingly difficult to maintain an interest in anything except the stars that he now knew held so many secrets…

Jack had taken to tracking the small yellow sun that warmed the sands of Abydos. Too often during that year he had found himself seeking out that faint star, wondering what was happening to his friends there. There was always the memory of Daniel; in Jack's face, on his nerves, cutting through Jack's don't-tread-on-me attitude. There was also that little point about saving Jack's life, Daniel had died saving Jack. Jack still had trouble understanding it, although he had come a long way toward accepting that part of his friend...the part which took chances for no other reason than it was the right thing to do. Jack had come to accept as a fact of life that, just like the sun rose in the east, Daniel was going to take that extra step for his fellow man...or whatever...without regard for his own safety. Over the many months of that year, Jack had found his way to forgiveness in the stars…as well as the knowledge that he’d been so wrong to blame Daniel for the course his own life had taken.

Jack recalled numerous occasions over the nearly three years since Daniel’s return when his young friend had nearly given him a heart attack after pulling what, at the time, had seemed like foolish stunts. Things like jumping between weapons and probable enemies, or, risking his very life to deliver a child conceived by his wife and his greatest enemy. As often as not Daniel’s seemingly irrational and dangerous moves proved to be right…or at least the right thing to do…no matter how personally painful they might be. Jack's decidedly Earth-bound experiences had not fully prepared him for the myriad of strange situations he had encountered along with his team and nothing on Earth, or any other planet, would ever get Jack to admit that he had learned a great deal from Daniel's capacity to accept that strangeness. Jack wondered if Daniel’s background had something to do with the flexibility Daniel so often exhibited. Growing up at the mercy of the court system and foster care had to have taught the younger man a great deal about rolling with the punches life dealt with impunity…and yet…

You won't catch me leading with my heart like Danny does...

Glancing back toward Daniel and Cassandra, Jack reflected that it wasn't such a bad way to be. It just seemed like, as often as not, Daniel got his too-giving heart shoved right back down his throat. Jack felt that, over time, he'd begun to get pretty good at reading that pained expression Daniel got when people just didn't act reasonably. It seemed to Jack that he'd seen that look in Daniel's eyes far too frequently lately. Jack hated to see the light of trust in those intense blue eyes die little by little, he hated the fact that the universe didn’t seem to care that it was slowly eroding the goodness and the heart from one of the best people he had ever known.

Daniel smiled, laughing softly at some quiet question from Cassandra. Daniel’s unselfconscious smile was a rare and often fragile thing. Jack wasn't generally given to a lot of overt sentimentality, but he thought he knew Daniel well enough by now to understand him...at least a little...and Jack knew that all too often Daniel's smile did not reach his eyes. There was a lingering sadness in those intense blue eyes that only seemed to deepen over time...an old-soul maturity that was at once reassuring and painful to see. Jack recognized the simple fact that Daniel was one of those people who just knew, had probably always known, the universal truths that made life worthwhile. Jack was learning, but Daniel knew. It was something Jack had discovered was all too rare in the universe and something too precious to them all to lose. Jack had made a vow to himself after Oannes to protect it…and Daniel…with every ounce of energy he could muster.

Jack smiled at the memory of those first days on Abydos, the joy and fascination reflected in Daniel's every move…but always tempered with that shy reserve. Then came those precious few hours when Jack had returned to find Daniel firmly and happily ensconced among his adopted family. It was the first, last and only time Jack recalled seeing Daniel truly happy, truly at ease with himself and others. Jack wondered if he'd ever see his friend look that way again. It seemed to Jack that occasionally, just occasionally, he could see a brief flash of that former joyousness in Daniel's eyes, before the shadows remembered and returned.

Jack’s thoughts turned darkly to Daniel’s birthday only a month before. Knowing that Daniel was still reeling from the ‘reunion’ with Sha’uri, Jack and the team had gone all out to make the day as light-hearted and carefree as possible. Everything had gone incredibly well, the gifts had been chosen with care…nothing to bring to mind Abydos…and the dinner at their favorite restaurant had been perfect. Daniel had laughed more than Jack could have hoped and they’d all been glowing by the time they were ready to leave. Unfortunately they’d encountered a young, dark-haired woman on the way to the parking lot…a woman with an infant in her arms. Jack recalled the look in Daniel’s eyes at that moment, a look of such utter defeat that Jack found himself cursing the ambiguousness of fate more than ever before.

Although it had been nearly three years, Jack knew Daniel still grieved. Perhaps if there hadn't been any contact with his wife or Skaara, Daniel might have started to let go a little. Seeing his wife and brother-in-law again had only reestablished for Daniel the connection to all he had lost, reopening wounds that had barely begun to scab over. Jack knew Daniel was enormously enthusiastic about and satisfied by his work with SGC and Jack was pretty sure Daniel had made the transition to regarding SG-1 as a surrogate family. They all had. But the wound was still there; better hidden, better controlled ... sometimes too controlled, but definitely there…and as far from healing now as it had ever been.

Jack heard Cassandra giggle sweetly as Daniel performed some odd gesticulations describing some mythological Abydonian creature. Jack wondered if this creature was another example of what Daniel termed "fact-based myth"...

See, Jack thought haughtily, sometimes I actually do pay attention to what he says...

// “…what if you become lost?” the villagers asked.

“I will never lose my way home,” the boy replied.

“But what if you go so far that you cannot return?”

The boy smiled and answered, “I could never go that far.” //

Out of the corner of his eye, Jack saw that Carter's hot dog had been laid to rest on her plate and Teal'c had settled at the table beside her, his dark eyes reflecting an almost child-like wonderment at Daniel's words. All around Daniel and Cassandra people had settled into attitudes of relaxed, rapt attention. Jack smiled as he realized, as usual, Daniel was unaware of the attention he could garner with just his voice, the respect he could and had earned with his forth-right way of dealing with people, the affection he fostered through his kindness and uncanny ability to put even the grumpiest people at ease...

People like me... Jack thought ironically.

Jack recalled the unfamiliar sympathetic impulse he had felt when he'd seen Daniel standing there alone in the SGC corridor that first night back from Abydos. He wasn't necessarily in the habit of inviting people into his home, especially at that point in his life; he'd become used to his solitude after the death of his son and the separation from his wife. Daniel had just looked so...adrift, alone with nothing to anchor him on this world he'd had no choice and no desire to return to. Jack had never thought to question the desire to invite the displaced young man home, had been slightly shocked to find himself talking to Daniel about stuff he'd tried never to think of, much less put into words. The odd kinship that had been born under fire on Abydos and rekindled in the aftermath of Daniel’s loss had taken Jack by surprise. This guy was practically a stranger…and yet he wasn’t. There was something about Daniel that Jack felt at ease with, something that didn’t require him to be on constant guard, something that understood and accepted him. And something in Jack responded to that in ways that still surprised him.

A sign of things to come....

Over the nearly three years they had served together, Jack knew that he'd come to rely on Daniel's friendship as much as Daniel had his. It wasn't easy for either of them to admit they valued the other...they were both used to standing alone, Daniel even more so than Jack. Jack's self-isolation had begun with his involvement in Special Ops, the resulting necessity to maintain secrecy had set up a strain that his marriage had never entirely recovered from, Charlie's death had merely hastened the inevitable. Daniel's isolation, on the other hand, had been nearly lifelong. Jack knew from the time Daniel became orphaned, the boy Daniel had been had learned not to depend on the strangers who became his parents...the security he had once felt as a part of a family was gone. Even as an adult Daniel still had difficulty accepting he was a part of a family, perhaps not by blood but nonetheless a group of people who cared about him. The trust had returned to a great extent on Abydos, but had fled when, once again, he had been painfully ripped away from another family.

They had somehow learned to look after…and out for…one another. Their wounded souls found an empathetic mirror each in the other which forged a bond that seemed so easily accepted they forgot to question it. It had been almost reflexive from the very beginning to trust one another, not that they agreed on many other things. Daniel was, in Jack’s opinion, still too trusting and talked more than was entirely necessary. But he also possessed an amazing capacity to care, an instinctive talent for knowing what to say, a frighteningly vast store of knowledge, and a conscience that encompassed all he came into contact with. Those talents had saved them all on several occasions, and affected them constantly. Jack knew…even if Daniel did not…that his team would never have become the caring, cohesive unit it was without the civilian scientist. The isolation they had all experienced in their lives had gradually faded over time, becoming less and less painful under the influence of the man who was perhaps the most isolated of them all.

At least he knows he's got us now, Jack thought with sigh, looking back toward his best friend.

// The boy looked at his village, his family, his friends…then at the windswept dunes and towering walls that sheltered them all. He was quiet so long the villagers were sure he’d begun to realize his words made no sense. Finally the boy smiled, speaking softly… //

Daniel's story had reached its climax and now every eye was on him, not that he noticed. Cassandra was looking at him with an open-mouthed expression of pure fascination...an expression shared by all of the soldiers and technicians of the SGC. Jack was amused and a little awed by the power his young friend so unwittingly held over some of the most world-weary, battle-hardened soldiers he'd ever known. Jack tried not to laugh as he watched Makepeace, that big tough marine, staring open-mouthed at Daniel, caught up in the tale just as deeply as Cassandra.

Jack realized that he'd become so caught up in his own thoughts he hadn't really paid attention to all of the story ...just the storyteller and his audience.

// …the boy realized the others didn’t really understand, perhaps they never would. “Home is not a place you can walk to, no matter how many days you travel. Home is not walls or dunes or fire pits. It is all of these things, and yet none of them….” //

Jack heard a small break in Daniel’s voice as he spoke the last line.

//…home is a place in the heart,” the boy said, “that can never be taken
away."

Jack shivered a little, understanding the truth of those words as they applied to himself, Daniel, his team...even, to a certain extent, the SGC.

Jack noticed people shaking themselves, breathing again as they awoke from the spell of Daniel's words. Cassandra laughed with delight, tiny tears in her eyes as the story so obviously struck her as it had Jack. Just as Daniel, Jack would be willing to bet, had intended it to. Cassandra was something of a kindred spirit for Daniel, torn away too young from the only home she'd ever known.

Yeah, Jack thought, wryly, Daniel didn't pick that story by accident.

Jack wondered whether Daniel had recognized that the moral of his story held just as true for him as for Cassandra. As if finally realizing he was being watched, Daniel turned to meet Jack's eyes, smiling that self-deprecating smile as he only then noticed he'd been the center of attention for most of the afternoon. Jack shook his head in wonderment...Daniel would never change. For all his intelligence, Daniel would never understand the many qualities he possessed which made him so special to them all.

And that's okay, Jack mused, realizing it was the truth. Through everything that had happened in their experiences together; the good and the not-so-good, the pain and the joy, the successes and the failures...Daniel, along with Teal'c, Sam and Jack himself came together to form a place in the heart that was home.

Jack laughed at the sudden revelation...laughed again at the embarrassed smile on Daniel's face...laughed again as he realized that three beers in the hot sun had made him entirely too philosophical...

Jack laughed again, louder this time, earning him a few strange looks from his team and a quizzical glance from Daniel. Jack just shook his head at his friend. Daniel stood up, stretching a bit before receiving a fierce hug from Cassandra. Jack felt his own heart tug at the moisture that welled up in Daniel’s eyes, relieved that their team ‘soul’ was still in touch with itself. Daniel snagged a beer out of the ice chest on the central table and walked over to sit in a deck chair beside Jack.

“Some story there, Daniel.”

Daniel nodded. “One of the first translations I finished in the pyramid.”

Jack remembered the painted walls full of hieroglyphs where Daniel had first read the story of how Ra had taken a human host. A human host…

Jack felt a sinking in his heart as he realized just who the boy in the story had been.

“Do you think he really found his way home…in the end?” Daniel’s quiet question affirmed Jack’s revelation.

Jack wasn’t sure he was able to give an answer, but Daniel seemed to need to hear Jack’s thoughts. “That’s a pretty tough one, Daniel. But, yeah, I think he probably did. Somewhere, beyond the snake in his head, that boy was still in there. I don’t think even the Goa’uld could take that away….”

Daniel’s brilliant smile was its own reward, flashing briefly beneath eyes that seemed to have lost their shadows, at least for this one moment in time.

“Yeah, I think so, too…” Daniel’s voice was barely a whisper, but even the soft tone couldn’t conceal the hope contained in it. “Thanks, Jack.”

Jack smiled back at Daniel, glancing once again at their SGC family. Most of the men had gathered once again around the horseshoe court, laughing and patting each other on the back as Makepeace scored one against Feretti. Carter was back at the grill, replacing her now-cold hot dog with a fresh one as she chatted animatedly with Janet and Cassandra. Teal’c was absorbing the finer points of boxing from Hammond, the general’s hand gestures growing more enthusiastic as he realized he had a captive audience of his own. All around the pool and the surrounding yard came the voices Jack knew so well from his daily life: friends, co-workers, people he hardly knew by name when they were out of uniform…and yet…they were family. Daniel’s story had simply served to reaffirm what they all knew to be true. Home was a place in the heart.

Jack looked over to see Daniel studying him with a slight smile, as if reading his thoughts. Jack smiled, nodding, knowing that Daniel understood. Today, here, now…they were home.

Yeah, Jack thought, stretching his lanky frame in the hammock. Life can be pretty good sometimes....

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

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