Betaed by the amazing Annie, as always. Thanks, sis.
Epilogue for Need.
“Courage is doing what you’re afraid to do. There can be no courage unless you’re scared.”
- Eddie Rickenbacker
Daniel was back in the isolation room now, but mercifully, due to his exhaustion, no longer restrained. Janet had sedated him heavily again though before caving in to Jack’s insistence that she get her own injuries checked out. He wasn’t surprised to see her back on duty an hour later, looking pale and drawn, arm supported by a sling.
She held up a hand when Jack opened his mouth, apparently guessing he was going to protest. “I’m fine,” she said firmly. “A little sore.”
“You look like you’re about to keel over,” Jack grumbled. “Let Warner handle this till tomorrow.” He glanced over at Daniel. “He’s resting, probably will be for hours.”
“I’m hoping till morning,” Janet replied. She walked over to Daniel’s bedside and checked the monitors, nodding approvingly. “Looks good. His vitals are improving and his blood chemistry is continuing to approach normal.”
Jack made a shooing motion. “So go already. I got it covered.” He held up a magazine and indicated his mug of coffee. “See, all settled in.”
Janet smiled. “I’m glad you’re happy to stay with him, Colonel. I’d say you’re the first one he’ll want to see when he wakes up anyway.”
“What’s really bothering you, Doc, besides the fact that Daniel’s in the infirmary again?”
Fraiser sighed. “I should have seen it coming, sir. I’ve dealt with my fair share of crazed addicts before now. I should have realized it was going too smoothly.”
“Line starts behind me,” Jack said tiredly. “I turned my back on the security cameras. How’s Airman Jacobs?”
“Not good. Daniel beat him up pretty badly.”
“How about we keep that from Daniel for a while when he wakes up,” Jack replied. “He’ll never forgive himself. You know Daniel, our own little peace-nik.” He sighed and shook his head, knowing already that no one would be able to convince Daniel anyway that none of this had been his fault.
“I intended to,” Janet agreed. “I don’t want to hinder his recovery any further than it has been already.”
“So, he’s gonna get over this? Make a full recovery?” Jack clarified.
“I think so, yes, but there’s still so much I don’t know about the effects of the sarcophagus… other than what we’ve already seen. The signs are promising though,” she added when Jack frowned. Daniel stirred in the bed, muttering sub-vocally and she leaned forward, stroking a hand through his hair, murmuring a soft reassurance to him. “I’m going to give him another dose of sedative. I want to keep him under this time until his vitals are fully back to normal.”
Jack nodded, forcing back the horrifying memory of Daniel attacking him, holding a gun on him. “Works for me. I’m betting Carter and Teal’c are hovering outside. Okay if they come in?”
“Of course. I’ll ask them to keep it brief though.” She stroked a hand across Daniel’s brow. “He needs his rest.”
Carter came through the door first, closely followed by Teal’c. “How is he, sir?” Carter asked. She reached out and took Daniel’s hand in hers, squeezing it gently.
“Getting better, the doc says.”
“That is good to hear,” Teal’c said. He stood at the foot of the bed and looked as though he was ready to take up sentry duty over his friend.
“Fraiser said to only stay a minute,” Jack said, giving them both an apologetic smile.
“If you wish, I can remain with Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c offered.
“Nah, it’s fine, T, I got it covered. You go kel-no-reem.”
“If you need a break, sir…” Carter added. “Janet said he’ll probably sleep all night.”
“You two will be the first I call,” Jack promised.
Teal’c inclined his head in agreement then gave Daniel a last look before turning to leave. Carter leaned forward, and just like Jack knew she would, pressed a kiss to Daniel’s forehead. “Hang in there, Daniel,” she said softly. She straightened and wiped at her eyes. “Sorry,” she said.
“Nothing to apologize for,” Jack said sincerely. He didn’t tell her how close he’d come to losing it himself when he’d held Daniel in his arms in the storeroom. It had been too close to home. He hadn’t been lying when he’d said he knew what it was like. The difference was that Daniel had his team to support him. They were family now. Jack had already pushed away anyone who’d cared about him long before he hit rock bottom. In fact, it had been Daniel who’d finally gotten through to him, who’d made him care once more.
“Don’t forget,” Carter said, “if you need us—“
“Got you on speed dial.”
Jack started awake as the hand clasped firmly in his grasp twitched then pulled away. He straightened as Daniel shifted slightly in the bed and uttered a soft moan that quickly progressed to a keening wail.
"Damn!” He’d been hoping that Daniel would sleep till morning. The grip of the sarcophagus addiction was a hell of a lot more tenacious than any of them had realized. Still, the nightmares and screaming were becoming less frequent. Surely, they had to be near the end. “Daniel?" Jack leaned forward in the chair and moved his hand up to stroke Daniel’s fever-hot forehead. "Shh. It’s all right. Go to sleep."
He reached for the cloth submerged in the bowl of tepid water and wrung it out one-handed then stroked it across Daniel’s pale face, over his chest and down each arm. The cooling moisture caused Daniel to shiver slightly as it evaporated on his hot flesh and Jack pulled the thin hospital sheet further up over Daniel’s shoulders.
"Hurts." Daniel’s eyes were open now and he squinted at Jack against the bright beam from the overhead lamp. Jack maneuvered the light so that the glare was moved out of Daniel’s face.
"I know, buddy. Want me to get the doc?"
Daniel shook his head and began to fretfully rub at his abdomen. "She can’t help me," he whispered hoarsely.
"Sure she can," Jack murmured reassuringly, his other hand reaching for the call button. "She’s got the happy juice, remember?"
Daniel stayed his movements. "Nothing helps, I told you. It never stops," he said harshly, his hand once again straying to rub his belly and ribs. “I told you already! Why won’t you listen to me! You don’t know what it’s like.”
Jack leaned in so his face was just inches away from Daniel. “Yes, I do, Daniel. I told you that. You saw me on Abydos the first time. If anyone knows what you’re going through, it’s me.”
A solitary tear welled up from beneath one eyelid and overflowed to dribble down Daniel’s cheek. He wiped it away impatiently. "Sorry," he said.
Jack shook his head. "Nothing to be sorry for, Daniel. The sedatives are working. You’ve been asleep for most of the night. You just have to hang in there a little longer.”
Daniel nodded tiredly as his eyes drifted closed once more. "Don’t know if I can." His eyes snapped open suddenly and he grasped Jack’s hand. “Let me go back, okay? Just once. That’s all I need, Jack, I swear, just to take the edge off and then I’ll be fine.”
“The sarcophagus was killing you, Daniel!” Jack ground out. “It doesn’t fix things, just makes them worse. Just a few more hours and you’ll start feeling better, I promise.”
Daniel tore his hand from Jack’s hold and shifted onto his side with a small groan. “Easy for you to say,” he muttered.
“You don’t know how much I wish it was me lying there instead of you,” Jack murmured. He reached out and squeezed Daniel’s shoulder gently.
“I know,” Daniel huffed out. “Thanks for staying with me. You can go if you want. No need to sit and watch me sleep.”
“Got reports a mile high on my desk,” Jack replied. “Trust me, Daniel, I’d rather be here.”
Jack could just make out the small smile that upturned Daniel’s mouth for just a brief moment.
“You really know how to make a guy feel good, Jack,” Daniel said.
Jack felt himself relax just a little. It was the first sign they’d had that Daniel was coming back to them. “Just go to sleep, okay? You talk too much.” He continued to stroke Daniel’s sweaty brow, murmuring reassurances as Daniel shifted occasionally in his sleep, calling out for Sha’ré and mumbling incoherent apologies to his friends.
Jack moved stiffly in his seat as the door opened and Doctor Fraiser walked in.
“You’re looking better,” she said brightly, and Jack wondered if he should suggest she get her eyes tested then realized she was looking at Daniel, who was staring at Jack, a small smile on his face.
“What? Did I drool?” Jack asked, straightening in the chair and forcing himself not to wince as pretty much every muscle in his body protested the small movement.
“Now that you mention it…” Daniel waved away Jack’s mock glare. He still looked like death warmed over, hollow-eyed and pale, but that small, familiar Daniel smile was the best thing Jack had seen in a long time.
“I don’t drool,” Jack said.
“You snore though,” Daniel added.
“Pot-kettle,” Jack shot back with a satisfied grin.
“Looks like you’re definitely back to normal,” Janet said as she checked Daniel’s monitors. “Both of you.” She nodded approvingly and jotted down figures on Daniel’s charts. “Right, Daniel, time for some more blood tests, I’m afraid, and time for you, Colonel, to get some rest.”
“I rested,” Jack protested. “I snored! Ask Daniel.”
“Doctor’s orders,” Fraiser said, managing to make Jack feel like he was back in grade school.
Jack had to admit he was feeling better after a couple hours shut-eye and a hot shower, though no way in hell was he going to tell Fraiser that. The doc already knew she had far more authority over the entire base than even Hammond did.
He dressed in casual clothes and headed down to the mess hall to grab a cup of hot coffee and something to eat. He couldn’t actually remember the last time he’d eaten – the muddy water they’d been given in the mines certainly didn’t count as nourishment – and his stomach grumbled right on cue as though to remind him. “Eggs and bacon coming up,” he promised his protesting innards.
He paused at the internal phone on the wall by the mess hall doorway and forced himself to walk past it. Carter and Teal’c were sitting with Daniel and they knew better than not to wake him if something happened. By the time he piled a plate with food and headed over to a vacant table, he was salivating at the aroma that wafted up from the steaming food. He sat down and sipped at his coffee, closing his eyes for a moment in bliss, then lifted his knife and fork and dug in.
“Colonel O’Neill, to the infirmary.”
“Shit!” Jack shot up out of his seat, almost depositing his breakfast in his lap, and ran for the elevator.
“I’m fine. You can’t keep me here if I want to leave.”
Jack recognized Daniel’s voice right away, though it was a far cry from his normal calm, reasoning tone. He slowed to a walk and pushed though the door into the room. “Hey,” he said with a forced brightness. “What’s up?”
Janet turned from Daniel’s bedside and rolled her eyes at him. “Doctor Jackson is insisting he be allowed to leave.”
“Because I feel fine,” Daniel said firmly.
Jack approached the bed and gave Daniel an assessing once-over. “I’m no doctor but you don’t look fine.” In fact, Daniel looked worse than he had that morning when Jack had left. His face was pale, his eyes bloodshot. His hands were fisted, arms crossed over his chest as though he was fighting to hold something in.
“He heard about Airman Jacobs,” Janet interjected softly.
“Aah.” Jack nodded sagely. “So, Daniel, how is you getting up and falling on your face gonna help Airman Jacobs?”
Daniel glared at him then looked away quickly. “I almost killed him,” he whispered hoarsely.
“But you didn’t,” Janet replied soothingly, placing a hand over his. “He’s recovering well.”
“Doesn’t answer my question,” Jack said.
Daniel didn’t answer for a long moment then he spoke without looking up. “You think I’ll go back.”
“No. The doc says you’re pretty much back to your annoying self.” He earned a small upward glance at that comment and went on. “But she’s the boss where your wellbeing’s concerned and if she says you’re not up to leaving yet then that’s it.”
“I just need some time alone,” Daniel replied, “to sort through everything that happened. Not just here but back on the planet. You and Sam and Teal’c… all of you could have died because of my weakness.”
“You came to your senses.” Jack didn’t allow the ‘finally’ to be spoken aloud.
Daniel looked at him then and gave him a grim smile with no warmth in it. “Finally.”
Jack shrugged. Okay, at least that little problem between them was out in the open. Now they could move on, get Daniel back on his feet and past all the crap that Shyla and dear ol’ Dad had caused. He looked over at Fraiser. “He up to getting out of here if he has someone with him?”
She nodded slowly. “That would be something I’d consider.”
“What? I don’t get a say in this?” The anger was back in Daniel’s voice and Jack sighed inwardly. He was beginning to wonder if his half-formed idea was such a good one.
“You want out of here or not, Daniel?” he asked in an uncompromising tone.
Daniel continued to glare at them both for a moment then his fury seemed to dissipate and he nodded and lay back against his pillows. “Please don’t tell me we’re going fishing.”
Jack gave him a mock look of disappointment. “You don’t like fishing? Okay, how about I fish and you watch?” He turned back to Fraiser. “Couple of days at my cabin, fresh air, nice and quiet, no interruptions from pesky intercoms and alarm sirens…. What do you say, Doc?”
Janet nodded, a mite too quickly, Jack thought. Still, he didn’t blame her. Daniel’s constantly swinging moods were enough to try the patience of a saint.
“Good.” Jack rubbed his hands together, already anticipating an unscheduled few days off in his favorite place. “Pick you up in a couple of hours.”
It had been pretty much a silent trip all the way to the cabin, and while Jack would normally have been grateful for the respite from constant Daniel chatter, the absolute quiet was making him antsy. He’d thrown out a couple of generalized comments about the great weather, the free run on the highway, and received a couple of monosyllabic answers in return. Sick of feeling as though he was talking to himself, uncomfortable with thinking that Daniel considered he was being subjected to the worst form of torture by Jack insisting he accompany him to one of the most beautiful places in the world, Jack reached out and turned on the radio….
Daniel shifted in his seat and glared at him. “Do you mind?” he asked.
“Don’t like the station?” Jack replied. “No problem. You know, I’ve got no idea what kind of music you like. Country?” He shook his head. “You’re not the type. Simon and Garfunkel, maybe.” He paused when Daniel just stared at him. “Please don’t tell me you don’t know who Simon and Garfunkel are.”
“I’m tired,” Daniel said, his tone bordering on whiny.
Jack opened his mouth, ready to make a sarcastic rejoinder then saw the genuine exhaustion etched on Daniel’s face. His own nerves were still wound a fraction too tight from all that had occurred in the previous few days. With what Daniel had endured, he had every right to feel pissy. “Sorry,” he said instead. “We’ll be there in about ten minutes. You can grab some sleep then.”
Daniel simply nodded wearily and turned back to face the window. Jack shuttered out the wishful image of Shyla and her father slaving away in their own mines and concentrated on driving.
“Morning… or should I say afternoon,” Jack said brightly as Daniel walked out onto the back deck, still looking somewhat sleep-addled and disheveled. “Thought you were going to sleep the day away.”
“It’s too nice a day for that,” Daniel replied around a yawn. He stretched and gazed around, a small smile upturning his mouth. “Nice place.”
Jack shrugged and poured them both a glass of lemonade. “I like it. Somewhere to escape the hustle and bustle, the drag of work….”
“The demons?” Daniel asked as he sat opposite Jack.
“Wish I had somewhere like this,” Daniel said, tracing a finger over the condensation on his glass.
“Everyone should,” Jack said. He took a sip of his drink and leaned back in his chair. “Especially when you do what we do, see what we see.”
Daniel simply nodded and both men stayed silent for a while, soaking up the peace and quiet of their surroundings. Finally, Daniel spoke. “I don’t know what you want me to say about what happened with Shyla. I know sorry isn’t enough.”
“It’s more than enough, Daniel,” Jack replied. He shifted forward and clasped his hands together on the table. “I don’t know how else to tell you it wasn’t your fault.”
“Did you believe that, after Charlie died, after you started drinking yourself to death?” Daniel asked, staring at him resolutely.
“No, and despite what you think about what you did, what happened to Charlie was different. He was a child. I should have made sure he couldn’t…” Jack sighed. “It was my fault.”
“And leaving you and Sam and Teal’c to die in that mine wasn’t mine?” Daniel asked.
“Not with what Shyla did to you,” Jack replied evenly. “You came to your senses, got us home.”
Daniel nodded. “I think we should go back.”
“What? Are you nuts?” Jack pushed back his chair and stood, glaring at Daniel, his eyes narrowed in concern. “Maybe Fraiser shouldn’t have let you leave after all. Why on earth would you want to go back?”
“Not for the reason you’re thinking,” Daniel replied. He stood as well and walked over to the edge of the deck, staring out at the lake. “What about all the other people they have imprisoned in the mines? Don’t we owe them the opportunity to be free?”
“Sure, I’m down with that,” Jack agreed. “So we’ll send in another team, make sure they have control of Shyla and her old man first, before she hurts anyone else.”
“She didn’t mean to hurt me, Jack,” Daniel said softly.
“Like hell she didn’t!” Jack snapped.
“No, she was desperate, that’s all.” Daniel turned and looked at Jack, unshed tears glinting in his eyes. “Can you imagine what it must have been like for her to live like that, with a tyrant for a father, no friends, no family?”
“So she was lonely,” Jack said sarcastically. “Way to win friends and influence people.”
“I think I can convince her to stop, to make changes, free her people.”
“And if you can’t?”
Daniel shrugged. “Won’t be the first time we’ve failed, but I think we have to try.”
Jack stared at Daniel then scrubbed a hand over his face in frustration. “I’ll think about it,” he said. “Now, there’s still some daylight left. Any chance we can get some fishing in before dinner?”
Daniel smiled. It wasn’t the full-fledged grin Jack wanted to see but it lifted his spirits anyway, giving him hope that Daniel was on his way back. “How about you fish and I’ll…” Daniel waved his hands in the air then snapped his fingers. “I’ll read.”
“Deal!” Jack said, heading inside for his gear. “Hurry up and get your book before the sun goes down already.”
“No! I can’t! I’m sorry!”
Jack was already out of bed and running down the hall before Daniel’s shouted words were complete. Swinging into the doorway, he swore as he slammed into the closed bedroom door. “Shit!” He rubbed at his stinging nose and fumbled for the doorknob then pushed the door open, striding across to the bed, grateful for the small sliver of moonlight showing through the window. “Daniel? You okay?”
Daniel was sitting up, his knees pulled up, and his head slumped onto his chest. He was gasping for breath, his hair mussed and slick with sweat. He nodded slowly. “Sorry. Nightmare.”
Jack’s heart rate slowed and he sat down on the edge of the bed. “Wouldn’t have guessed,” he remarked then grimaced at the sarcasm in his tone. “Sorry,” he reciprocated. “Brain’s not in gear yet. You want to talk about it?”
Daniel looked up at him, ran a hand through his hair and gave him a wry smile. “Not really, nothing you didn’t already see on the first screening.” He took a slow breath and lay back against his pillows. “I keep wondering if it’ll ever really be over.”
“The doc said—“
“I know what Janet said, Jack,” Daniel cut in. “I’m over the addiction. That doesn’t stop the memories or the guilt.”
“Hey…” Jack leaned back against the wall. “I know where you’re coming from.”
Daniel sighed and nodded. “You said, that first night when I came back from Abydos that you can forgive yourself sometimes for what happened to Charlie but you can never forget.”
Jack nodded. “Sounds about right. I’d had a few more beers than you’d had though, so I’m going to have to trust your memory on that one.”
“Do you still have nightmares?” Daniel asked.
“Every night,” Jack said, suppressing a shudder, “along with the good stuff.”
“Good stuff?” Daniel sat up again. He rested one elbow on his drawn up knees and cupped his chin in his hand, gazing at Jack with undisguised curiosity.
“Yeah, you know. Charlie taking his first steps, the first time he said Daddy, taking the trainer wheels off his bike.” He gave Daniel a smile. “Saying his first swear word… that he heard at kindergarten, not from me, by the way. You know, the good stuff.”
Daniel’s smile faltered. “I doubt there’s anything good for me to remember in this.”
Jack swallowed past the sudden lump in his throat. “Sure there is,” he rasped.
Jack shrugged. “Getting new glasses for a start.” He raised a finger in the air. “Oh, and being able to change out of that dress! I’m sorry, Daniel, but I have to tell you that style just wasn’t you.”
“I’m trying to be serious here, Jack,” Daniel admonished.
Jack sighed. “I know, but this is me you’re trying to have a heart to heart with. I just don’t do it very well.”
“You do okay,” Daniel replied. He reached out and squeezed Jack’s hand.
“We got home,” Jack said. “That’s a good thing.”
Daniel was silent for a long moment then he nodded. “It is.” He yawned suddenly. “What’s the time? God, I’m sorry for keeping you up. Go back to bed. I’m fine.”
Jack checked the bedside clock. “Almost six. Tell you what. Let’s make a day of this.”
Daniel frowned. “More fishing?”
“No!” Jack protested. “As a matter of fact, I thought breakfast in town, they have a great café here, check out the market – it’s artsy-crafty stuff, you’ll love it.” He winked. “They even have a library.”
Daniel raised an eyebrow. “Little early, isn’t it?”
“Not when we’re hiking into town,” Jack said with a grin. He stood and waved a hand at Daniel. “Time’s a-wasting, Jackson. I’ll even let you have the first shower.”
Daniel surged out of bed with alacrity. “Now that’s an offer I can’t refuse.” He lifted an arm and sniffed his armpit then grimaced. “Oh, I smell, don’t I?”
“Well, you know me. Mr. Tact.” Jack strode to the doorway, feeling some of the weight of the past week lift from his shoulders. “This is a cabin, by the way, which means small hot water tank. Save some hot water for me.”
“Sir, yes, sir.”
Jack was certain if he turned back that Daniel would be standing at attention, a snappy salute in place. Instead, he gave his friend the finger and strode out to the kitchen.
It had been a good day, the best so far, Jack decided as he headed to bed. He’d almost had to drag Daniel away from the markets at day’s end, and even then, something would catch Daniel’s eye and before Jack knew it, he’d been wandering off again, exchanging pleasantries with a stall holder, oohing and aahing over a piece of pottery or a secondhand book.
By the time they’d made it back to the cabin, they were stuffed to the gills with delicious home-made fare, a little tipsy from the beers they’d had at the local inn, and weary from the walk back.
They’d opted for a sandwich in front of the TV and an early night. They only had one more day left here before they had to head back to the SGC, back through the gate, and Jack couldn’t stop the small twinge of concern at what they might run into the next time around.
“I’m fine,” Daniel said, apparently reading his thoughts. “I’ll be prepared the next time… if there is a next time.”
“I know.” Jack set his plate down on the coffee table. “You know me, Jack O’Neill, father figure of SG1.”
“I’m not about to take your car on a joyride, Jack,” Daniel said with a grin.
Jack gave him a mock frown. “You sure? Because if you do, sonny….”
“I’m grateful for your concern,” Daniel said. “More than that. I know I screw up more often than not.”
“You do tend to take more than your share of risks,” Jack agreed.
“I can’t promise I won’t keep doing that, but I will try to be more careful, to think things through—“
Jack snorted and Daniel gave him an aggrieved look. “What? I’m trying to do the right thing here, Jack.”
“When hell freezes over,” Jack retorted. “Next mission, I bet you fifty, you’ll be barging in to fix the problem just like you always do.” When Daniel didn’t reply, he leaned over and squeezed his hand. “That’s not a bad thing, Daniel. Not a criticism. I’ve just kinda got used to having you on my team. I don’t want to go looking for new recruits.” He screwed up his nose. “Just be my luck I’d get Makepeace.”
“Well, I’ll have to make sure that doesn’t happen.” Daniel rolled his eyes. “I know I have a habit of acting first and thinking about the consequences later.”
“Just try to remember who’s in charge, okay? Save my ego taking a beating when we get back home. You have a good reason for doing what you’re doing, I’ll back you one hundred percent.”
“Do you realize how often you don’t listen to me? How often the military advantage takes precedence over learning about what’s out there? I wonder sometimes if you realize that knowing our enemies and our allies might go a long way to stopping us from blasting anything that’s alien to us to kingdom come,” Daniel said plaintively. “God forbid, we assume there are people out there who want to help us!”
“Like Shyla and her old man?” Jack snapped back sarcastically. “Yep, great buddies they were.” Daniel glared back at him but there was sadness back in his eyes… and guilt and Jack cursed himself for putting it there. “Sorry,” he said. “You’re right. I don’t trust anybody on first spec but I’ve had damn good reason not to so far.”
“Seems like we’re back to the same old argument we always have,” Daniel said with a scowl. “I wonder sometimes why you bother to keep me on the team!” He stood and strode over to the window, staring out at the encroaching darkness.
“Because I need you, all of you!” Jack said. He joined Daniel. “Because each of you bring something special to the team, you, Carter, and Teal’c are the best of the best, Daniel, and you’re the only team I want.”
“Even when I piss you off and go against your orders?” Daniel glanced at him, a small smile upturning his mouth.
“Well, as you’re so fond of reminding me, Daniel, you’re not military.” Jack gave Daniel a grin back. “Not that that hasn’t worked in our favor from time to time.”
“Good point. I wasn’t going to leave or anything, you know, but thank you.” Daniel stretched and yawned. “Think I’ll call it a night. How about we put this conversation, and ourselves, to bed?”
“I’m down with that,” Jack agreed, catching Daniel’s yawn. He rested a hand on Daniel’s arm then pulled him into a hug. “We got through this, didn’t we? We’ll do it again.”
Daniel hugged him tightly then pulled back and smiled at him, unshed tears glistening in his eyes. “Just like we always do.”
Jack stiffened at the sound of someone moving furtively through the cabin. He waited a moment then grinned as a muffled shout of pain and a string of curses followed a dull thump. He raised an eyebrow. He was going to have to get Daniel to teach him a few of those phrases. Could come in handy.
"Daniel? Is that you?" he asked in a stage whisper, grimacing at the idiocy of his inquiry.
"No, Jack. It’s some redneck hillbilly come to steal your fishing tackle," Daniel’s voice came back, humor stealing the last hiss of pain. "Of course, it’s me."
"Can I get you something? What do you need?" Jack was already sitting up, swinging his legs over the side of the bed and reaching for his sweatpants and sweater before Daniel replied.
"I’m fine. Just needed a glass of water."
Yeah, right. Jack waited a moment and heard Daniel shuffle over to his usual spot and sit down with a suppressed groan. Hearing the deep sigh, he stood up abruptly and walked out into the other room. He watched from the doorway for a moment, casting a careful eye over his oblivious friend.
Daniel sat on the old two-seater couch in front of the picture window that looked out over the lake. A full moon was out tonight, casting an iridescent sheen over the shimmering, silver water and bathing Daniel’s face with an almost ethereal glow that caused Jack to shiver. Daniel had lost too much weight from his already lanky frame in the past two weeks. His skin had a more healthy pallor to it though, easing Jack’s concern a little. He sat, leaning forward, his arms wrapped protectively about his body. Dark shadows framed reddened eyes so filled with emotion that Jack caught his breath and looked away.
Their time at the cabin was at an end and Jack wished, not for the first time, that they could stay longer, make sure Daniel was well and truly well again in both body and spirit. He realized too that it was as much a case of trying to put off the inevitable, knowing that somewhere down the track, something unforeseen and no doubt, nasty, was going to rise up and bite them, or more likely, Daniel, if past history was anything to go by, on the ass. Jack knew though that the lazy, sun-drenched days were at an end and it was time to get back to the job at hand.
They’d spent long, hazy evenings seated on this same couch, a fire crackling in the hearth as they drank spiced wine or beer and talked, really talked about what had happened in the few weeks before. Daniel had not had a nightmare for two days now, nor for that matter, had Jack, though it had taken him some time before he could admit to Daniel that he too was fighting his own demons from being incarcerated in the mine.
Bitter recriminations and heartfelt confessions of guilt had been spoken, harsh, angry voices filling the air and merging with sorrow so dense it could have been carved with a knife. Until the night before, when the conversation had taken a decided turn, their voices becoming softer, gentler, with assurances of forgiveness and understanding, the atmosphere lighter and interspersed with occasional laughter and a few tears.
"Sure I can’t get you anything?" Jack asked as he moved toward the other man. "Sorry," he said as Daniel jumped and turned to look at him. He reached out and squeezed a bony shoulder. "Didn’t mean to startle you."
"It’s okay," Daniel replied, turning back to the view outside the window. "Go back to bed. Sorry I woke you."
Jack shrugged and moved to stand in front of the window. "I was awake anyway," he lied smoothly. He gestured toward the couch. "Mind if I join you?"
Daniel moved to one end and swept his legs up beneath him, waiting as Jack sank down beside him with an exaggerated sigh. The two men sat in companionable silence for a moment.
Daniel shrugged. "Just one tonight. It’s getting better."
"Do you want to tell me about your nightmare?"
Daniel shrugged. "Sort of a waking dream, really."
"Do you want to talk about it? I mean, we’re both up anyway." There was another long moment of silence and Jack began to regret his intrusion.
"Sha’ré came to me. She said she forgave me for what happened with Shyla."
Tear tracks glistened on Daniel’s face in the moonlight. "We’ve been over this a time or two,” Jack replied. “I thought I’d finally got it into that thick skull of yours. She sucked you in, got you addicted—"
"I was unfaithful to my wife, Jack. That was perhaps the most terrible thing out of the whole mess. I’ve never been able to forget that."
"Damn it, Daniel, it wasn’t your fault!" Jack blustered, not wanting to see the raw grief that was etched on Daniel’s face.
“I know that here, but here…” Daniel touched a hand to his chest.
"I know how that goes," Jack said. His memory shifted to their first night back on Earth after Sha’ré and Skaara had been kidnapped by Apophis. "I can never forgive," he’d told Daniel when they had spoken of Charlie and Sara. "But sometimes, I can forget. Sometimes."
Jack slung a comforting arm about Daniel’s shoulders, pausing to knead the tense muscles of his neck with strong fingers, smiling at the soft sigh of contentment that puffed from Daniel’s lips. Together the two friends sat, watching the first glow of dawn wash the sky in orange fire.