A Tag for... you guessed it...Heroes. Therefore, there be spoilers
for Heroes, along with Meridian, Fire and Water, and a few other Season Six-Seven
Jack stared at the ceiling. It was still gray. Just as it had been five minutes ago, and ten minutes ago, and twenty minutes ago....
He sighed. With Doctor Fraiser's death, the infirmary wasn't running as smoothly as it usually did. While the nurses and physicians at the SGC were quite capable of carrying on without their former chief, there was an air of gloom to the place. The nurses didn't smile as easily, and everyone was far too quiet.
He raised his head when he heard footsteps and saw a passing nurse. "Yo!" With a grunt, he sat up. "When can I get out of here."
The nurse stopped and turned to look at him. "I'll ask the doctor," she said mechanically, then turned away and resumed her trek.
Jack frowned and gave another sigh. The place didn't feel the same. Nothing had felt the same for a long time, actually. They'd had too many losses. They'd faced death so many times. Not so long ago, it was Daniel they'd been mourning, but miraculously they'd gotten the archeologist back.
Maybe that was the problem. They'd had too many miracles, and it was hard for him to believe that, this time, there wouldn't be another miracle. This time, death was permanent. Janet Fraiser would never walk the SGC halls again or spend another Christmas with Cassie, or berate him for making himself a nuisance in the infirmary.
His team was affected by her death. He'd only seen Carter cry a handful of times, and he hoped it'd be a long time before he saw her do it again. Teal'c had been scarce, though he had stopped by to say hello, in his own Jaffa way. Daniel....
Jack frowned. The archeologist had been MIA for a while. He hadn't stopped by the infirmary, which was unusual. He'd heard enough to know the basic details of what had happened on the last mission. Daniel had been with Fraiser when she'd died. Apparently, the whole thing had even been caught on tape.
He took a deep breath and, with a grunt, sat up. He looked around, spotted another nurse, and raised his hand. "Hey, you seen Jackson anywhere?"
The nurse, a young brunette that looked barely old enough to have graduated high school, shook her head. "No, no, s-sir," she stammered.
A doctor -- Doctor Camphrey, if Jack remembered the new arrival correctly -- appeared, apparently hearing the conversation, and walked up to the bed. "Someone saw him last night. Apparently, he spent a few hours in one of the rooms here...where he, uh, died, someone mentioned." He shook his head. "This is an odd place."
Jack nodded. "Thanks." He chewed at the inside of his cheek, then straightened. "Can I be discharged, or what?"
The doctor nodded. "All right, but you're on restriction for the next 48 hours. Nothing but rest here on base. And come back tomorrow so I can check up on you."
Jack nodded and, with a grunt, swung his legs over the side of the bed. "Thanks, Doctor." Before anyone could make the new physician change his mind, Jack bid a hurry exit out of the infirmary.
For the most part, he felt pretty good...considering. He just had a twinge every now and then, but he knew the painkillers were still in his system. He told himself not to get too cocky until the drugs wore off, or he might regret it in the near future.
He headed for Daniel's office and, upon arrival, knocked on the closed door. When he got no answer, he used his access card and pushed the door open. It was dim inside, and he looked around but saw no sign of the archeologist.
He moved inside and did a brief sweep of the office and confirmed his initial suspicions. Daniel wasn't in the office.
Next, he tried Teal'c's quarters and, after knocking and receiving permission to enter, he opened the door and peeked his head inside. "Hey, you seen Daniel lately?"
The Jaffa bowed his head slightly. "I have not. I believe he is mourning Doctor Fraiser's death in his own way."
"Right," Jack nodded. "Withdrawing, you mean."
"I believe he has sought out solitude, but I regret I have not had the opportunity to speak with him." He tilted his head. "It is good, O'Neill, to see you are well enough to be released from the infirmary."
Jack managed a smile. "That new doctor's a push-over." He swallowed hard at that comment and all it implied, then stepped back. "Thanks, Teal'c. I'll talk to you later." Closing the door, he turned and took a moment to rest by leaning against the wall.
He stayed there only a few seconds, then pushed away, stifling a grunt as his injuries flared in protest, and moved to the phone at the end of the hall. He dialed the front gate, confirmed that Daniel hadn't left the base, then dialed the PA system and paged Daniel
Only a few minutes later, the phone rang, and he grabbed the receiver. "That had better be you, Daniel."
"Hi, Jack. How are you feeling?" Daniel asked, his voice flat.
"Peachy. Where are you?"
"On base, doing work."
"How 'bout narrowing it down?"
"Because I miss you terribly. So, where are you?"
"In Fraiser's office. Sam and I have the honor of going through Fraiser's things and deciding what's personal and can be released and what's classified."
"Oh." Jack swallowed. He'd had to go through a similar unpleasantness after Daniel's death. "I'll meet you there."
"I'm done for now. I'm heading back to my office." The words were mechanical.
"Is there something you wanted to discuss?"
"What? You don't miss me, too?"
There was a silence that went on far too long, and Jack cleared his throat. "You still there?"
A sigh. "Yes. I'll see you in a few minutes...at my office."
The connection ended, and Jack pulled the receiver away from his ear and gave it an accusing glare, then hung it up. He shook his head. Daniel was obviously having some issues, and apparently he'd done so good a job of sequestering himself that no one bothered checking in with him. Carter was dealing with her own grief. He'd been too busy
lying on his back in the infirmary. Hammond was no doubt busy writing condolence letters to the families of the fallen soldiers. And Teal'c...Well, Daniel knew how to evade and hide when he really wanted to, even from a Jaffa. He was always the first to seek out others in need but the last to ask for help when he needed it, unless he needed such help to help someone else. Yes, Daniel was all about helping.
A few minutes later, Jack was at Daniel's office door. He knocked tentatively and heard a muffled, "come in." Pushing the door open, he stepped into the dimly lit office and found Daniel hunched over his desk, a small lamp lighting his workspace. He seemed engrossed in a book, pencil in hand, scribbling furiously on a notepad.
"Hey." Jack walked up to him and leaned against the desk.
Daniel didn't bother looking up. "How are you doing?"
"Fine. Just fine," he frowned, concerned that Daniel was avoiding eye contact, "I guess I can use to having only one eye."
Daniel's head shot up, and Jack was surprised at the pale exhaustion in the younger man's face. Daniel's eyes went wide momentarily, until he realized that Jack had been joking, then they narrowed with a hint of anger, and he looked back down at his book. "That's not
"It got you to look at me." Jack grabbed the pencil from Daniel and twirled it in his fingers. He studied Daniel's hunched figure, wondering when the archeologist last slept.
With a sigh, Daniel looked up again. "What do you want, Jack?"
"It seems you've been MIA lately. I just thought I'd check on you. See how you're doing."
Daniel dropped his head again, apparently studying the book. "I'm okay. I wasn't injured."
"I know you didn't get hit," Jack leaned forward, "but I heard what happened. You were with Fraiser when she died. It was a messy situation. Don't tell me you've moved past it all, already."
Daniel swallowed but didn't look up. "She gave a lot to the SGC. We took her for granted."
Jack nodded. "Yes, we did," he whispered. He waited, hoping Daniel would go on, but as the silence continued, he took a deep breath. "Are you okay, Daniel? Really?"
Daniel leaned back and looked up, but his eyes focused on some point past Jack's head. "I'll be okay."
"Yeah, you've got the coping thing down, I know." Jack shifted his weight on the desk. "Do you want to talk about it?"
Finally, Daniel looked at him, but his eyes were flat. "What's there to talk about? We were on a battlefield. She got hit. She died. That kind of thing happens all the time around here. She knew the risks when she signed up, right? It doesn't matter that she left Cassie behind, or that, a couple of feet in the other direction, and it would've been me instead of her. Or that I could've been doing more to cover her instead of trying to get a man's last words on tape. Or --"
Ooookay. Bingo. "It wasn't your fault." Jack leaned forward again. "You know that."
Daniel stopped talking, and his gaze flickered to Jack briefly, then dropped to the book. "I know that. It was the fault of the Jaffa who shot her."
"Okay, so you know it. Do you believe it."
Daniel took a deep breath, sounding suddenly very tired, and his shoulders slouched. He closed his eyes. "I don't want to do this now, Jack. Please...just go."
"You can't blame yourself for this?"
Daniel's head snapped up. "I'm not, okay. Despite what I said, I know it wasn't my fault. Things happen. Can't I just mourn the loss of a friend alone?"
Jack hesitated before speaking, taking some time to collect his thoughts. Finally, he took a breath. "You were there with her when it happened. I know what that's like, Daniel. I know all the things going through your head. I know you're wondering what you could've done to change the outcome. I know you're wondering why it was her and not you. I know you probably see it all over again every time you close your eyes."
Daniel lowered his head again, his eyes on the book.
Jack continued. "If you want to talk, I'm right here."
Daniel stayed quiet a moment longer, his eyes still on the book. "I got it all down on tape, recorded for posterity. I didn't even know I still had the camera in my hand. It all happened so fast." He took a breath. "Staff shots were going everywhere. We had one man down on
the ground, working on him. He asked me to get his last words on tape for his wife, so he could tell her he loved her. I thought for sure he was going to die, but Janet...She didn't give up on him." He shook his head. "One minute, she was talking to him, the next, she
was down." His voice got quiet. "At least it was fast. That's something." He closed his eyes. "But it should have been me. I don't have anyone to leave behind."
A dozen responses went through Jack's mind, but he didn't know which to choose. He sometimes managed to forget that Daniel no longer had anyone to call family, especially after Anubis destroyed what was left of the Abydonians. The only real living family he had left was Nick Ballard, and no one knew when or if the old man would return from his 'exchange' program with the "giant aliens."
Finally, Jack said the only thing he could think of that wouldn't be an empty platitude. "You've died too many times on me, Daniel."
Slowly, Daniel raised his head. His eyes were puffy, with a hint of tears.
"You're life's not less valuable because you're not married or don't have children." Jack leaned forward. "When you died, you left us all behind, and believe it or not, we missed you."
A tiny smile lifted Daniel's lips, but it looked sad. "I wasn't fishing."
"I know, and that's what really worries me. This place needs you, Daniel."
"It needs Janet, too."
Jack nodded. "Yes, it does."
Daniel shot out of the chair and turned away from Jack, going to the bookcase and leaning against the corner where it met the wall. In the dimness of the office, he was barely visible.
Something in Jack's chest twisted as he squinted to make out the archeologist's huddled figure. "Daniel?"
"This shouldn't have happened. Cassie's already lost two parents, she shouldn't have to lose another." He took a deep, shuddering breath. "I know what that's like." His voice wavered. "I don't wish it on anyone." He went quiet for a moment, then whispered, "It
*should* have been me."
Jack kept his station near the desk, knowing Daniel needed his personal space. "It shouldn't have been either of you. This place needs you both."
"You could replace me. Who can replace Janet for Cassie?"
Jack sighed, feeling too old.
"What's going to happen to her now?" Daniel asked.
Jack shook his head. He didn't have any solid answers. "I don't know, but I'll make sure she's taken care of. We'll find another home for her."
"With the classified information she's got in her head, she's not going to end up in the foster system, right?" Daniel sounded almost hopeful.
"NID's not getting near her."
"Damn straight they're not."
"She's closest to Sam, but...."
"I know." With her position and having to leave on lengthy missions, Carter was in no position to care for a child. "We'll figure out something for her, Daniel. I promise." He just didn't have any idea what, at the moment.
"We should ask her." His voice got quiet again. "Too often, people forget to ask children what they want. She's old enough now to have a say."
Jack winced inwardly at the pain he heard in Daniel's voice. How many homes had the kid lived in? How many times had he been transported from one place to the other like cargo?
There was a knock at the door, and Jack straightened when he heard Carter's voice through the closed door asking for permission to enter.
"Come in," Daniel said, his arms rising briefly.
Jack couldn't be sure in the dimness, but he thought he saw Daniel quickly swipe at his cheeks.
The door opened, spilling more light into the room, and Sam walked in, her steps almost hesitant. She stopped a few feet inside, a\ clipboard held to her chest. "Am I interrupting?"
"No." Daniel took a breath and moved quickly away from the wall, quickly dropping into the chair at his desk. Once again, his eyes went to the book. "I was just trying to catch up on some work." He looked up at her, his face all business. "What do you want?"
Sam's uncertain gaze darted between Daniel and Jack. "Uh, I was looking for both of you actually. Teal'c said I might find you here."
"What is it, Major?" Jack prodded.
She took a breath and looked at Daniel. "I stopped by Janet's office and saw you finished the inventory, Daniel." Her eyes then met Jack's. "I need you to sign approval." She handed the clipboard out to him.
Hesitantly, Jack took it, his eyes sweeping over the list of contents. It always amazed him how, all too often, a person's life was summed up on paper by the list of material things he or she left behind. "It looks good," he said flatly. "I'm sure you both did a thorough job." He grabbed a pen from the top of Daniel's desk and scribbled his signature, then handed the board back to Carter.
She nodded. "Thank you, sir." She turned, then stopped and, after a moment, turned to Daniel. "Are you okay?"
Daniel nodded a bit too quickly. "Yes, I'm fine. Thank you."
"You look tired," she continued, her voice soft.
Daniel looked up and gave that soft smile Jack had seen too many times, and all too often in unpleasant circumstances. He wondered if Daniel had learned that 'I'll be okay, thanks for asking' smile after he'd lost his parents.
"I could say the same thing about you," Daniel replied.
Sam smiled and nodded. "Okay, touché." She nodded at them both. "I'll...see you later." She turned again and walked to the door, closing it behind her.
Coming to a decision, Jack moved away from the table, grabbed Daniel's arm, and forced the young man to his feet. "Come on."
"Where?" Daniel asked, but didn't resist as Jack led him to the door.
"You look too tired to drive yourself home, and although I'm technically suppose to stay on base, I'm dying for pizza and beer. You can crash at my place."
Daniel allowed himself to be dragged toward the elevator. "I appreciate it, but I'm not really hungry."
"When did you last eat? And candy bars and coffee don't count."
"That's what I thought. You're coming home with me. We'll order pizza for delivery on the way, and then you'll stuff your face and go to bed."
"And don't argue, or I'll turn you into the infirmary myself."
"Now, I'm giving you a choice. Pepperoni or Supreme?"
"I can't sleep." Daniel said abruptly, his voice suddenly hard. He pulled away from Jack and leaned against the wall next to the elevators, then dropped his head. When he spoke again, his voice was barely a whisper. "I see it all over gain, every time I begin to fall asleep. Her eyes...they were open. Blank." He shuddered.
*Christ.* Jack closed his eyes briefly.
The elevator dinged, and the doors opened.
"Come on." Jack wrapped his hand gently around Daniel and steered him into the elevator.
Daniel yielded like Jello. He leaned against the back wall as the doors closed and stared at the numbers on the panel as though they held the secrets of ancient Egypt.
"So," Jack cleared his throat. He didn't know the right thing to say or do, but at the very least, he knew enough not to leave Daniel alone. "Which is it?"
Daniel looked up, his brow furrowing in confusion.
"Pepperoni or supreme?" Jack clarified.
Daniel blinked. Finally, a ghost of a smile found its way to his lips. "Pepperoni."
Jack nodded and turned, taking up Daniel's study of the panel. "You can't stay awake forever, Daniel. It'll haunt you for a while, every time you close you eyes, but eventually, you'll wake up one day and realize you got a decent night's sleep."
"I know," Daniel acknowledged softly. "I've been through the drill."
"Too many times," Jack conceded.
~~~ the end ~~~
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