"There was no joy Pierce knew like the joy of finding himself freely chosen by the object of his desire, no joy even remotely like it. The astonished gratification of it, the sudden certainty, as though a hawk had chosen to fall out of the sky and settle on his wrist, still wild, still free, but his. Who would, who could, compel that?" ---from the novel AEGYPT, by John Crowley
Sometimes it all seems a dream, this thing between Daniel and me. I've lived with it for four months now, I come home to it--to him--every evening. But even so, it strikes me at odd moments how strange it is, to have taken my best friend as lover--to have become so intimately familiar with the endlessly fascinating terrain of his body, to immerse myself more and more in the complex, bewildering, frankly wonderful labyrinth of his beautiful mind.
I never believed in the concept of soul mates, always scoffed in mild disgust whenever I heard people gush like idiots about their significant other being the missing half of their soul. Even with Sara, as much as I loved her, I never thought of her as some matching,long-lost part of myself. She was just Sara, a complete individual who allowed me to share her world for awhile. But with Daniel it's different, so different. Sure he's an individual, his own distinct person; but with Daniel I can only look down, abashed, and figuratively circle my toe in the dirt as I admit somewhat sheepishly that he DOES complete me in some indefinable way. With Daniel I truly do feel I've finally come home, finally found a soul that speaks to my own on a level deeper than thought, deeper than words.
So that makes it hard, really hard, to deal with situations like this; as I slump here against this post, the ties around my wrists the only thing keeping me upright, I find myself fretting at the knowledge that Daniel must be worried sick right about now. He'd tried to hide the ghost of apprehension darkening his eyes when we found out I'd be going on this mission with SG-4, filling in for a wounded team member who couldn't make the trip; God knows it's no fun being separated from my own team for any length of time, having to acclimate myself to another team's idiosyncracies and way of doing things. But this was to be a short mission, a mere matter of a few days to polish up the final details of an exchange treaty with the inhabitants of this oh-so-lovely forested planet. Funny, how the helpful, eager-for-trade natives forgot to mention their not-so-friendly brethren just over the rise; THOSE guys have some serious issues with off-worlders, it seems. And by some strange quirk of fate, they seem to be the ones actually in CHARGE around here; our duplicitous little treaty partners took advantage of their bosses' temporary absence at some tribal war council affair to cook up their own deal, misrepresenting themselves and conveniently declining to mention to us that they actually had no permission to form ANY treaties with anyone.
So. Instead of knocking back a few slugs of some vile home-brewed liquor, making nice-nice for a few hours with the inebriated, exuberant new allies and then gating home to some of Daniel's unbelievable cooking (and even more unbelievable cuddling and kissing), I find myself trussed up to this smelly, splinter-filled post, my whole body one big bruise from the repeated contact of angry fists against my flesh. If and when we make it out of here, I'm sure Daniel is definitely going to have some choice words for yours truly. Doesn't matter that it was all beyond my control, nothing I could've done; his intense worry and the relief at having me back with him again will be just the catalyst he needs to go off sick on me. Oh, well; at least there's the make-up sex to look forward to, as soon as my body heals enough to do more than whimper at the least physical touch.
It's been about four hours now since my last 'interrogation'--how's that as a nice euphemism for 'my last, brutal beating'. Sigh. From where I'm tied up here, I can just see the rest of SG-4, can catch enough of a glimpse of them all to tell that they're all still alive but not in much better condition than I am. We've all tried our best to placate our angry captors, to offer up profuse apologies and lame explanations that they quite obviously don't want to hear. I have no idea what their ultimate plans for us are, but I just pray a rescue party comes through before the party goes too far. Daniel will never forgive me if get myself killed here.
God, I need to pee, but I don't even want to; after having countless fists do a rapid tattoo against my kidneys, taking a leak is bound to be an exercise in exquisite agony for the next little while. But I can only persevere so long; eventually I'm gonna have to piss, whether those goons untie me or not. How demeaning would that be, to have a rescue party show up and find that brave Colonel O'Neill has peed himself like a two year old? Geez, I'm sick of standing here, my whole body's going numb except for my damned bladder...and just what the hell are they conferring about now, those fricking yahoos with their ugly 70's hair and the nose rings from Hell? Looks like a bunch of shit-faced MTV castaways got lost on their way to The World's Worst Music Video Festival. Gah, I'd gladly take another beating if those bastards would just UNTIE me long enough for me to relieve myself...
OH, GENTLEMEN; HEY, YOU UGLY JERKS! MY BACK TEETH ARE FLOATING OVER HERE, HOW'S ABOUT A POTTY BREAK...
Oh, great, O'Neill; you just had to open your big yap, didn't you, just had to call attention to yourself again...Daniel would not be proud of you, most definitely not...And whoops, here we go again, does it really require FIVE of them to untie me, to drag me and throw me down and kick me, over and over while I squirm helplessly on the muddy ground and try, try not to...
Shit. Fuck. Sorry, Mommy, I just couldn't hold it any longer...guess I'll never live this one down, wonder if SG-4's even noticed their fill-in guy has just pissed all over himself, here...Oh, well, no mind. They're doing a real first-rate job on me this time, the pain's so exquisite it's almost comforting as I feel the blackness descending over me...
And all I can think at the last is, I'm sorry, Daniel, so sorry...
"Serenity. Now you could wish for that, naming no conditions; a permanent inner vacation, escape made good. To somehow have this motionlessness which he drew in with the sweet air he inhaled for his inward weather, always."---from the novel AEGYPT, by John Crowley
When we come into the village and I find him there, lying in a limp heap in a squalid, goopy puddle of viscous mud, I feel as if I can no longer breathe, can no longer remember how to suck oxygen into the stunned, starving tissues of my lungs.
It's only a matter of moments, using our weapons to subdue and intimidate the natives into compliance, into surrender; but in those endless seconds of not being able to go to Jack, of being unable to assure myself he's still alive, I die a thousand deaths inside. I watch grimly, numbly, as Teal'c and Carter round up a none-too-happy group of natives and prod them at gunpoint into one of the central buildings of the small village; I watch as members of SG-6 close in and check on the unconscious and barely-conscious figures of SG-4 still tied to stakes. I want desperately to run to Jack, to be doing something useful; but Sgt. Murphy holds me back, mindful of Hammond's directive to 'keep Dr. Jackson in reserve for diplomatic purposes,' if applicable. Dammit, I can shoot a gun just as well as they can, can hold my own down there; and if they simply insist on holding me here, why in God's name can't one of them at least move across the compound to check on Jack?
"They'll get to him as quick as possible, Dr. Jackson," Murphy murmurs to me now, apparently reading my expression only too well. His own features are drawn into a frown of resignation at being relegated to 'babysitting' SG-1's wayward archaeologist, and suddenly I decide it's time to relieve him of his onerous duty. Before he can draw breath to protest, I'm ripping free of his lax hold on my arm, charging to my feet with gun held ready as I make a mad dash to the place where Jack lies so still.
I can hear Murphy's dismayed cry behind me, am aware of Sam and Teal'c and the others in the rescue party raising startled faces to track my progress across the filthy compound. None of it matters; I could care less how angry Hammond might be with me for breaking the rules, for not following his orders. Some part of me knows that certain factions might use this disobedience against me, might try to make the accusation that I've allowed my 'dependence' on Jack to cloud my jugdment and endanger others around me. But that's bullshit, and we all know it; I SHOULD be right where I am now, should be joining the rest of my team in coming to the assistance of our captured people.
"Jack...! Jack, can you hear me?" Unmindful of the gluey mud sticking to my shoes, I wade into the thick of it and kneel next to Jack's limp form, the mud making obscene sucking noises as it closes around my knee caps. Breathlessly, fearfully, I roll Jack over, vaguely cognizant of the stiff spikes of mud drying in his hair, the solid, stinky coating of it covering him pretty much head to toe. It's hard to tell anything about his possible injuries under all that mud, but as he gives a low, guttural groan, I at least know he's still alive.
"Jack! Open your eyes, Jack, give me a sign," I murmur to him as I fumble for my canteen. Quickly I cast my eyes around me, assuring myself that the rest of the rescue party has everything under control; confident that I won't be ambushed from behind or the side, I concentrate now on cleaning as much mud as I can from Jack's face, rinsing it gently from his mouth and nose as he gasps and chokes and mutters vile curses.
"It's okay, you're going home soon," I try to comfort him, my hands shaking as I lift him just enough to cradle his mud-encrusted head against my chest. "Got yourself into the thick of things again, did you?" I ask with forced lightness, fighting back the urge to crush him to me and run my fingers through the stiff spikes of his hair. Oh, God, Jack, they've beaten you so badly...His eyes are already swollen almost shut, his cheek viciously scraped along one side, numerous cuts and bruises and contusions covering every patch of skin I can see through the mud. I feel my throat tighten with furious tears, feel my chest heave with helpless empathy even as my stomach roils and fights down outraged nausea for what this man has suffered.
"Daniel...?" Jack's voice is a hoarse croak, his battered hands coming up to fumble at me as he tries unsuccessfully to open his grotesquely swollen eyes. "That you, Daniel?"
"It's me; I decided you've played in the mud enough for one mission, Jack. How does this sound--a nice trip back through the gate, a steaming shower, some TLC and probably assorted needles and ivs from the lovely Dr. Fraiser...and once we've all assured ourselves that you're going to live, I will most likely alternately smother you with care and scald your ears with enraged invectives concerning WHATEVER part you might have had in ending up like this. Tell me, Jack, just what did you say this time?" I sigh in conclusion, unable to prevent myself from stroking gentle fingers down the side of his face.
"Gee, I'd forgotten just how...verbose...you can be when you're beside yourself with worry," Jack mumbles sluggishly, an attempt at a rueful smile coming out a painful grimace instead through his split lips. "And who said I said ANYTHING? Just because a guy's gotta pee, for crying out loud...and if you spread it around that I couldn't hold it any longer, I won't be your friend anymore." An almost undetectable frisson of humiliated vulnerability filters past the sardonic words, and the sound of it almost breaks me.
My eyes fill up with tears as I realize what happened, as I relive in my mind and heart Jack's humiliation at having an 'accident' under the duress of being beaten half dead. I'm not sure my heart can take the anguish I feel on his behalf; I want to pull him to me and kiss his bloody, pulverized lips and weep for all that he's endured here. I can feel his shame, as illogical as it might be, for his inability to 'hold it,' to not piss all over himself; and all I want to do is get him safely home, to project the both of us two weeks into the future and wake up with him in my arms in our bed, our bodies entwined in the warm, sleepy lethargy that always fills my soul with such joy.
Grimly I vow that no one but Janet will know that Jack wet himself; the stench of the mud will cover any other smell emanating from his battered body, and I have no intention of letting anyone else but Sam, Teal'c, and myself take care of him on the way back to the gate. They too will keep his secret if necessary; they would never do anything to humiliate him or strip him of his pride.
"Daniel? How is he?" Sam's worried voice sounds at my elbow, and I look up into her anxious blue eyes just as Teal'c moves to join us. I give them both a brusque nod and mutter, "He's been badly beaten; but he's so covered in mud I can't really tell about possible broken bones."
"Let's get him out of here," Sam nods, her hand moving to her radio to give the party at the gate a heads-up on our return; as Teal'c moves to crouch at Jack's other side and help me prep our injured team mate for transport, I concentrate on keeping Jack with us, on drawing a few monosyllabic grunts of affirmation from him as I gently question him about where and how badly it hurts. I try to cloak myself in serenity for his sake, to retreat in my heart and mind to a place of slow, measured, peaceful breathing, of sunlight on water and the smell of fresh coffee brewing. I keep my hand on him at all times, give his shoulder, his arm, his face, surreptitious caresses that Sam and Teal'c can't help but notice but carefully keep such knowledge to themselves.
At long last we're moving, Jack's groaning form lying on a stretcher as I trot alongside and monitor his pulse and respiration; when the gate comes in sight I bend down close to his ear to inform him that we'll be back at the SGC in minutes. At my announcement he forces one puffed-up eye open to the merest slit and mumbles distractedly to me:
His voice is both stubborn and fractious, strained with pain and need and the irascibilitly of knowing he still has weeks of grueling recovery ahead. But as he sends me a message of love and rueful regret through the pained clutch of his muddy fingers around mine, I smile down at him and murmur softly:
"I want that too, Jack; I want you home again, with me. And you will be...soon."
This is a concept that seems graspable to him, something he can hold on to; and as we transport his battered body back through the gate, I give silent thanks for his weak, mud-streaked hand resting so trustingly in mine.