Jmas Fan Fiction

Title: The Gift
Author: Jmas
Email: jmasg1@bellsouth.net
Status: Compete
Category: Snippet, angst, first person(Jack)
Rating: PG-13…because it’s first person Jack….
Archive: Stargate Fan, Heliopolis, Belle’s Place, The Place of Our Legacy
Disclaimer: Characters are property of MGM, etc….
Spoilers: None really, slight reference to events of COTG, Secrets, and it definitely takes place after Forever in a Day.
Summary: Gifts are more than just packages….
Author’s note: A bit of holiday angst, my gift for all of you who have been so kind.

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I’m going to kill that kid.

Not really.

I guess…

But what the hell was he thinking driving out here in the middle of nowhere in the worst storm of the century in the middle of the night in the double-blasted highest mountains in the great state of Colorado?

Calm down, O’Neill.

Yeah, right.

Thank God he had that cell phone Carter got him for Christmas. I’ve been after him for months to get one. I’m glad she’s quicker to take a hint than Daniel.

He sounded kind of strange on the phone. Distant. Probably figures I’m going to chew his ass out when I get there. He’s probably right, I will. *After* I make sure he’s okay.

There’s the mile marker.

Where the hell is Daniel’s car?

It’s hard to see much of anything in this stuff, the wipers can barely keep up with the load of snow that’s piling up on the windshield. If it weren’t for the guardrails it would be damn near impossible to figure out just *where* the road is. I just hope Daniel figured it out…

If he’d wrecked, he would have said something…wouldn’t he?

Lately, it’s hard to figure out *what* Daniel would do. He’s been doing pretty well as far as accepting the fact that Sha’re is dead. He’d even getting on with life as we know it in the SGC. Maybe he’s been a little more distracted, a *lot* more withdrawn…but better. Considering everything that’s happened this year, I’m just amazed he’s holding it together as well as he is.

What the…?

There’s Daniel, balled up in a huddle on the side of the road like he’s trying to keep warm. Wonder how long he’s been sitting there like that? He’s nearly covered in snow. I’m starting to get a seriously bad feeling here….

Pulling my watch cap lower over my ears and setting the emergency brake, I jump out and run over to him.

“Daniel?” Nothing. He doesn’t hear me or …

I move closer and pull his head up.

Oh, my God…

His face is bloody and far too pale to suit me. The blood still flows sluggishly, but the edges of it are encrusted and frozen. He’s pretty out of it. Must’ve passed out after he called me. I send a psychic wave of thanks to Carter, if Daniel hadn’t had that phone…

I’m getting a little scared here, Daniel’s still not showing any inclination to wake up. I tap…okay, I slap…his cheeks. He needs to wake up. *I* need him to wake up.

“Daniel? C’mon, buddy…”

His eyebrows twitch, drawing up into a frown of pain, and his eyes open a little, squinting in the glare from the headlights. He gives me a long, slightly perplexed look… like he’s trying to figure something out.

“Jack?” He has to make a couple of tries at it, but at least he gets the name right…That’s gotta be good.

“Yeah, it’s me.” I smile at him, trying to put on my best reassuring tone. *Guaranteed to work in most all-purpose emergencies.* “What the hell happened?”

Daniel’s still got that thinking look on his face. It’s obviously not that easy a question, so I’m guessing concussion…maybe hypothermia…maybe both.

I try an easier question. “Where’s your car, Daniel?”

The eyebrows do that little squinchy thing again. Okay, maybe that wasn’t easier.

“Gone, just…gone…”

Daniel’s voice sounds strange, like it’s coming from a different part of his brain than usual. Something has definitely shaken things up inside his head. I can’t find any other visible signs of injury so I figure it’s okay to go ahead and move him. We sure as hell can’t stay where we are and, besides, it would take hours to get an ambulance up here.

As carefully as I can in the blinding snow, I lever Daniel up and wrap his arm around my shoulder. It gets a little iffy for a minute, but he manages to stay on his feet and moves when I tell him to. He bites down on a gasp of pain as I help him into the Jeep, one hand aimlessly reaching for his chest…which tells me he’s hurt worse than I thought. I buckle him into the seat belt and reach over him to crank the heat up full blast before closing his door and running around to get in.

We’re a long way from nowhere and in this blizzard it’ll take twice as long to get there. SGC is thirty miles behind us and Colorado Springs is another ten beyond that. I remember a sign a few miles back advertising a mountain inn five miles ahead, that would put it less than three miles from here so I make that our destination. I don’t think Daniel’s injuries are life threatening…I hope…but I need to get him someplace warm and dry ASAP and that means we go forward. Thirty miles might as well be 300 in this stuff, in four- wheel drive it would take hours to get back to base.

I turn on the dome light to get another look at Daniel. The blood’s flowing a little freer now that he’s thawing out. I pat at Daniel’s pockets, finally locating the handkerchief I know will be there and tie it around his head. Daniel winces slightly at the pressure but doesn’t give any other reaction. Turning the light back off, I put the Jeep in gear and aim it up the mountain.

I keep my eye on the odometer, gauging the distance I *think* should bring us to the inn. Just before the third mile clicks over, I see it and pull into the parking lot. It’s one of those *quaint rustic charm* places…likely as old as the mountain itself.

Shit!

Closed for the season?

Would somebody tell these idiots that people come from all over the world to Colorado just for the *snow*?

Great.

Now what?

Daniel moans beside me, stirring a little. “Mmmm…Jack?”

I turn the dome light back on. He’s blinks at the light, but looks a little more lucid than the last time he opened his eyes.

“Daniel? Y’okay?”

Duh, Jack. Does he *look* okay?

“Ummm hm…” He’s blinking a lot more now, giving me that look that’s supposed to convince me he really *isn’t* as out of it as he seems.

Been there.

I really don’t think he’ll understand, but I lay out the situation for him anyway. He seems to take a long time to think about, then looks at me…sort of. His eyes seem to be having a little trouble focusing.

“Jack…I just really need to lay down somewhere….”

Tell me something I don’t know, Danny. So what to do? Try getting back off this mountain to base? Or break into the inn?

Base?

Inn?

A look at the Jeep’s gas hand makes the decision for me. Just over a quarter of a tank. In normal conditions that would be plenty. Bulldogging it down hill in a blizzard for thirty miles … a little more of a risk than I want to take with an injured man aboard.

I pull the Jeep up to the doors of the inn…padlocked. All the easier to break in. I tell Daniel to sit tight…like he’s able to do anything else…and get out with every burglar’s friend…my tire iron. The lock snaps at the first pull and I go back to get Daniel.

He’s moving slightly steadier than he was before…which isn’t saying a whole lot…but I feel his hand digging into my shoulder telling that he’s hurting more than he wants to let on. Daniel’s kind if funny that way, holds stuff in. Me, I’m a great believer in vocal expression of pain…some kinds of pain anyway.

I hit the light switch on the way in, hoping they haven’t had it disconnected for whatever season they’re closed for. Guess so. I click on my flashlight. Rustic charm alright. Big timber beams, overstuffed leather couches, huge stone fireplace…rustic. I put Daniel down on the sofa nearest the fireplace, making a fire the first order of business. Everything’s laid out already, all I have to do is light it. Nice.

Daniel’s out of it again, so I do a little recon while I wait for the heat to take the chill out of the room. I gather up some candles, pots, coffee and canned food from the kitchen. The bathroom yields a first aid kit…definitely need that. Upstairs, I find blankets, linens and some complimentary bathrobes. Back downstairs, I take two of the pots outside and fill them with snow…one for cleaning Daniel up and the other for coffee.

The room’s warmer now, so I light some of the candles and go try to figure what kind of damage Daniel’s done to himself this time. I slip his arms out of his coat, trying to move slow and easy, but he inhales sharply when I raise him up to get it off.

“Sorry, Daniel…” He nods a little, guess he’s not as far out of it as I thought.

I empty the pockets of his coat onto the coffee table before hanging it near the fire to dry.

Daniel’s wearing that sweater thing over a tee shirt, both of them are going to have to come off over his head. He must realize it too, because he reaches out a hand for me to help him sit up. We manage it, but he doesn’t open his eyes and has to lean against me for support. He’s shaking by the time we get them off and I apologize again, cutting off mid-sentence when I see his ribs. His chest and right side are black with bruises. I run my hands along the ribs, feeling a grinding give in a couple of places, I lay a blanket over him while I tear one of the sheets into strips. Daniel’s no stranger to the pain of broken ribs…neither am I…he knows what’s coming, but he also knows it’ll feel better after I bind them up. When I’m ready he sits up, holding onto my shoulder…make that digging into it…. while I wrap his upper body firmly with the strips, apologizing every time he gasps. By the time I tie it off, he’s looking even whiter than before, but takes a cautious breath, sighing when it doesn’t hurt. I help him put on the bathrobe and lay him back down. I reach for his shoes, they’re soaked too. He looks at me strangely, but nods when I point out that his pants are also wet. Those prove easier than expected and pretty soon I’ve got him bundled under a bunch of blankets…but not before I see a bunch more bruises along his right hip and thigh.

I take the rest of his things and hang them up by the fire, bringing back one of the pots of melted snow. Using what’s left of the sheet, I wash off as much of the blood as I can. Daniel just closes his eyes tightly, only moaning once when I get to the actual gash across his right temple. I use the antiseptic and bandages from the first aid kit, taping a two by two over the cut.

“All done, Danny…” I say by way of apology. It had to be done, but that doesn’t make me feel better. I don’t know how Janet does it. I *hate* causing Daniel pain, the kid’s had enough of that to last a lifetime…a couple of lifetimes…

He looks small and vulnerable under the blankets, the white face looking even paler now that the blood’s gone. I know I should let him rest, but I’d really like to know what the hell happened to him in the three hours between the Christmas party and the time I found him.

“Daniel?” I say it softly, experience tells me Daniel’s not going to appreciate loud noises for awhile.

His eyes flutter open and he blinks at me again. “Jack? What’s wrong?”

What’s *wrong*? Now isn’t that the question of the day.

“I was hoping you could tell me that…?” I offer gently, indicating his head…and chest...and legs…

“I didn’t..?” I can see the confusion take hold in his eyes again.

“Tell me? No, Danny, we never quite got around to that part…”

“Oh.” He blinks a little more, his eyebrows trying to meet each other in the middle as he concentrates. “I, uh, I was going…somewhere…” He has to stop to think again. “I gave someone a ride…”

Okay. Now I want to strangle him. How many times do I have to tell him this ain’t Abydos, you don’t pick up strangers in the good old USA anymore. Despite my first impulse, I manage to keep my voice low, “Who was it, Daniel?”

“Guy…kid, really…looked safe. It was cold, snowing…” Got to do something about that Galahad complex of his…. “Drove awhile…then he pulled a knife…”

Shit.

“Guess that explains where your car is.”

Daniel starts to nod, decides against it. “Yeah…made me get out. Did a U-turn, hit me..”

I feel my blood boil at that. It’s bad enough to steal a guy’s car and strand him miles from nowhere in a blizzard, but the perp tried to run him down. Must’ve gotten scared that Daniel could identify him later. Even without the injuries, Daniel wouldn’t have survived the night out there.

“I get the picture. So look at me, Danny. How many fingers?”

“Mmm…six?”

Well, that’s one more than I’ve got on my hand and a whole lot more than I’m holding up. Not that I had any doubt, but concussion’s a pretty safe bet at this point. I tap out a couple of the aspirin from the first aid kit, and help him swallow them with a little water.

“Just get some rest, Daniel.”

He makes some sort of noise, but I know he’s out again. I go over and poke at the fire, mostly because I just need to poke something. Damn. Bad stuff seems to dog Daniel like a persistent, and particularly malicious, shadow. It’s not like Daniel goes out looking for this stuff, most of what happens to him results from his best intentions which generally backfire…sometimes quite messily…on him alone. It’s a wonder he keeps trusting anyone….but I’m glad he hasn’t let the garbage change him too much; I hope it never does.

So…now I know *what* happened. I just wonder *why* he was up here in the first place. He said he going ‘somewhere’. What the hell else is up here? A couple of little towns, then the National Park. What was so important he had to come out here on Christmas night?

I spot Daniel’s stuff on the table. Cell phone…battery’s dead now, wallet, house keys, and a little gift-wrapped box. I pick it up, feeling a little guilty. It’s wrapped up in gold paper with one of those string bows and there’s a name tag on it, the fancy folded kind. I start to look, but hesitate…But, hell, being nosy is a job requirement, I’m sure I signed something when they made me a colonel.

Looking down at the name on the card, I find I have to sit down…

‘To Sha’re.’

Daniel seemed like he was doing pretty well at the Christmas party on base. I know from experience that holidays are the worst times to feel alone after you’ve lost someone. Daniel and Sha’re didn’t have Christmas memories to share, but still it’s a time when you miss what could have been as much as what was…

I’d caught him looking kind of bleary-eyed a few times, but managed to talk a smile out of him each time. He smiled at Teal’c’s gift…some sort of cartouche-rock thing. He hugged Carter and promised he’d keep the cell phone with him at all times. He actually laughed at the purple heart lapel pin that Janet gave him, vowing not to earn another any time soon…blew that one in record time. He gave me a hug for the CD’s I got him, a bunch of stuff I know he likes and doesn’t already have. Then, he’d cut out early…assuring me he was fine, just tired.

So what is this gift? And where did he think he was going with it?

Well, he’s too far out of it to be giving me answers to those questions anytime soon so I think dinner…really late dinner…is next on my agenda. I’m going to have to stay awake anyway to keep an eye on Daniel. I open up a can of stew, putting it next to the fire to heat up. The other pot of water is hot, so I make use of the coffee crystals. I realize I’m going to need some bowls and spoons and head back to the kitchen, trying to keep a tally in my head of what I’m using, I’ll leave money to pay for it.

As I head back to the main room, I see Daniel’s sitting up…good sign. He stands unsteadily and heads for the door…not so good sign…

I run to intercept him. “Whoa, Daniel. Where do you think you’re going?”

He doesn’t hear me, still heading for the door. I physically block his way, and he tries to push past me.

“Daniel!”

“I have to go….”

Alright, he’s scaring me now. “Where, Daniel? Where do you have to go?”

He just keeps straining for the door…so I reach out and lightly slap his cheek, seems like I’m doing that a lot tonight.. He drops as if I’d pole-axed him and I carry him back to the couch. As I pull the blankets back over him, I see the gift in his hand…he’s clutching it so tightly I can’t pry it loose.

Dammit, I think I know where he was trying to go.

And I know he can’t ever go there again.

Just like I can’t go back to…

Tucking the blankets around Daniel, I reclaim my coffee and sit on the opposite couch watching him sleep. I guess he was putting up a better front at the Christmas party than I thought. He’s still trying to find Sha’re…if only in concussion-induced dreams.

I still look for Charlie. A child’s laugh, the sound of a baseball hitting the glove…Part of me still turns to look…

Four years and I still look…

Daniel stirs a little, his hand tightening around the gift. I wonder just how long he’s been holding on to it…

That first Christmas after he came back, he holed up in his apartment. I didn’t know him that well then, but I went by with some beer and tried to get him to talk. He got a little dopey and went to bed, but he never did talk about Sha’re. Last Christmas…after he’d seen her on Abydos, he was really depressed, so we took him out for dinner. He got more than a little dopey and I wound up taking him home with me. I heard him dreaming that night, it didn’t take much to figure out what he was dreaming about…I just listened enough to hear him if he called, but he never did.

Daniel just never did talk much about Sha’re. I can understand that. Every time you say the name, it’s like picking at a scab…a sharp reminder of the original injury that makes you relive the pain. After a while, you learn to leave it alone.

It was hard enough for him when she was just *missing*, in a way I think it was worse knowing she was still out there…but so far out of his reach…

God, what a mess.

How am I supposed to help him now?

Daniel’s the best kind of friend, giving support, encouragement and shoulders to all who need them…but he sucks at taking his own medicine. What I do know is that Daniel won’t take any kind of pity, he’s like me that way.

I smell the stew now and my stomach agrees that the party food is long gone. I dish up a bowl and put the pot a little further from the fire so it’ll stay warm.

Daniel whispers something in his sleep, clutching the gift to his chest like it’s the most precious thing in the world to him. I guess it is…now.

So here we are just closing on midnight, in less than an hour Christmas will be over for another year. Tomorrow we’ll go back to life in the real world, the holiday feelings will fade for another year. If we’re lucky and work real hard at it, we could go back to pretending what we’ve lost doesn’t really tear our hearts out on a daily basis.

Right.

Daniel opens his eyes, looking around the room for a minute then at me with the first real clarity I’ve seen since he left the Christmas party. He seems to realize what’s in his hand and closes his eyes in that way he’s got of closing off his feelings.

Not this time, Danny.

“Where were you going, Daniel?”

He shakes his head, clearly *not* wanting to talk about it. I just keep looking at him; he’s not the only one who can do the puppy dog eyes. He half smiles, the O’Neill charm strikes again.

“I bought this the first Christmas after I came back…” He’s looking at the little gold box. “Kind of stupid really. It’s a…pendant. A pyramid with three moons.”

“The symbol for Abydos?”

He nods. “Home. *Her* home.”

He almost loses it then, pulling back on his emotions with a visibly painful effort. I close my eyes, the raw grief on his face is hard for me to see, then I kick myself for closing off on him.

He’s doing enough of that for both of us.

“I know it was stupid to keep hoping…”

I shake my head. “No, Daniel. You don’t give up. That’s part of who you are…one of the best parts.”

I guess I don’t tell him stuff like that enough, I still get these shocked little looks from him when I give him compliments.

He smiles again, looking back at the box in his hand.

“She’s really gone now, Jack.” He has to swallow hard before continuing. “I couldn’t figure out what to do with this. Then tonight at the party…I just *knew*…”

He stops long enough to worry me and I lean forward to see if he’s okay. There’s a tear glittering in the firelight, but he doesn’t seem to notice. I reach a hand out and squeeze his arm. He knows I understand, but sometimes I think he feels strange expressing his grief with me. I noticed it early on…the cut off sentences, the looking away so I wouldn’t notice his heart was shredding apart. But I always did.

He blinks hard, trying to fight down this tide, too…

“Daniel?”

He looks up at me, losing the fight long enough for another tear to fall. I know I should back off, his eyes are begging me to let it go…to let him bury himself back under that mountain of pain and the polite fantasy that he’s coping quite well, thank you just the same, Jack.

Uh uh.

That might have worked a few hours ago. Not anymore. I squeeze his arm tighter and he closes his eyes again, forcing out another pair of tears.

“When… it happened, “ he whispers, his voice tight and hesitant, “ I needed something *here*…to remind me…”

I can understand that…too well…

Sha’re’s grave is on Abydos, that was Daniel’s decision. The only thing he could do, really. Kasuf needed to take his daughter home, Daniel *wanted* her to go home. Once again, Daniel put others’ needs ahead of his own…

“I bought a tree, “ Daniel smiles a little. “ Planted it at the National Park. At the top of the first crest, that place where you took me camping just after… “

Just after he’d seen her on Abydos, just after he’d delivered her baby, just after Armin died so conveniently in Washington. We’d both needed some peace and quiet then….

We’d gotten the quiet at least…

“So that’s where you were heading tonight?”

Daniel nods, “I wanted to take this to the tree.” He laughs softly, not a happy sound. “Stupid right?”

I can’t let that one pass. “Daniel, nothing’s stupid if it makes you feel better about...things. It’s okay to need a connection…”

He gives me a long look, eyes so full they glow in the firelight. Finally he looks away, nodding. “A connection. It’s hard to remember her already, Jack. A few hours in three years…I’m already forgetting…”

I shake my head at that. “You might forget the little stuff, Daniel…that’s normal. But the real stuff, the stuff that matters…you won’t forget that.”

He swipes a hand across his face, shaking his head. “Maybe I should…”

“Don’t ever wish that, Daniel.” The words are out long before my brain processes them….like always. “Don’t ever wish you didn’t have the good.”

He closes his eyes nodding, “I’m sorry, Jack…”

There it is. I wondered how long it would take. “Sorry for what, Daniel?”

He throws his hand up, “I don’t know….dragging you out here…into my life…”

“What’s it going to take to get through to you, Daniel?” There goes my mouth bypassing my brain again. “You didn’t ‘drag’ me anywhere I didn’t want to go…And for your information, that was a choice I made a long time ago. I thought we were friends here. This is what friends do. Don’t ever apologize for leaning on that friendship when you need to.”

He’s doing a passable guppy imitation, mouth opening and closing while he’s trying to figure out what to say. Finally, he just ducks his head, a couple more tears tracking their way down his cheeks. “Okay, Jack.”

“We get that head of yours checked out and I’ll take you up there.”

“Okay, Jack.”

Seeing as he’s being so cooperative I decide to push my luck a little. “And you never…and I do mean never…hesitate to talk to me about Sha’re.”

He smiles again, that little half-assed thing that tells me he gets the point. Finally. “Okay, Jack.”

I can’t resist one more. “And while we’re at it…Has anybody mentioned to you that it *isn’t* particularly safe to pick up hitch-hikers anymore? Don’t be doing that.”

I get a whole smile for that one. “Okay, Jack.”

I pull the blanket up around his shoulders, brushing a hand across his forehead out of habit, and maybe something else.

“Now get some sleep.”

He closes his eyes fast enough, but no more tears find their way through. “Okay, Jack.”

He gets quiet so fast I figure he’s already asleep and go back to my cold stew.

“Jack?”

Guess I was wrong.

“Yeah, Danny?”

“Merry Christmas.”

I automatically look at my watch. Yeah, it’s still Christmas…for about three more minutes. I can’t help thinking it hasn’t been a bad Christmas at all this year. Better than last year…for both of us….and next year will be even better.

I’ll do everything I can to make sure of it.

“Merry Christmas, Daniel.”

*fin*

 

 

 

 

 

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