You’d Forgotten Love Could Mean This

BY: Delilah

EMAIL: delilah_miranda@yahoo.com

 

 

~Jack~

"Jack, you’ve got to come see this."

You frown in Daniel’s direction. "Is it worth it?"

"Worth …" You can almost hear the beans rattle as he shakes his head.

"Yeah, you know, I’m just starting to get a hang of this reading with my fingertips shit. Do you know how hard it is to find your place again?"

There are footsteps and then the Braille reader is removed delicately from your hands, like the expensive piece of equipment it is. You know this due to the lecture Hammond gave you when Daniel tried to requisition this one after its predecessor’s unfortunate demise.

"If you’d use the slider to turn it off, it would automatically save your place."

Daniel clucks a moment, probably studying the device, then, with an "aha!" places it back in your hands.

"See?" Warm fingers draw yours to the reader’s side, guide them to slide the plastic bar upward with a click. "Next time you can start up just where you left off."

"See?" you echo sarcastically. ‘See’ is a taboo word in the bowels of Cheyenne Mountain. That Daniel says it so effortlessly, so patently unaware of its power over the rest of the SGC staff, is one of the things that’s kept you going this long. For you really can see. There’s a very small amount of vision in your left eye. A well lit room translates as a blob of lighter gray.

In a contest with a staff weapon, anything as fragile as retinas loses rather spectacularly.

You are, in fact, visually impaired with cherries on top. The only way you get more visually impaired than this is to sever the optic nerve and, frankly, you can’t imagine it would make much difference.

"Come ‘ere."

You expect to be towed to Daniel’s treasure trove from P5X-eighty-something-or-other. Instead you’re wrapped up in your favorite archeologist’s hug and fall into its warmth like a heat-seeking missile.

Daniel is your eyes now. He’s the one who’s supposed to be on the lookout for dead giveaways to your current relationship -- like full body hugs in front of plate glass windows. Not for your protection, but for his. You don’t want him taking the blame if some jarhead decides it’s Danny’s fault you just now embraced your inner bi-ness. You’re aware of the vague feeling that this particular lab has just such a plate glass window, but the hug is warm and tender and Daniel is your eyes now. If he doesn’t see it, it’s not there.

If Teal’c suddenly opens the door and coughs pointedly, you can look like the innocent blind guy. ‘Window? What window?’

"Hi, Teal’c."

Your relationship with Teal’c since the attack has been a bit … difficult. A Jaffa with a serious guilt complex takes a lot of patience.

"Danny’s about to show me his--"

You realize you actually don’t know what he was about to show you. Well, you do, but Teal’c’s arrival has sadly put an end to that.

"Cuneiform tablet."

"Yeah, one of those." You reach out, taking a few tentative steps. "The things just fascinate me."

Daniel turns you a full ninety degrees starboard and lets you latch a hand on his arm, which is not exactly the part you’d most care to be gripping right now.

 

~Daniel~

You could say I didn’t know jack about Jack. Okay, actually that’s what Jack said, because it’s an obvious O’Neillism, but twenty years in the military and maybe twenty years before that of hiding behind one façade or the other is bound to make you pretty well trained at personal concealment.

Funny thing, I was the one who thought this would break him. But then I didn’t know jack about Jack. I should have. I should have learned something from Sha’re and all the other losses we’ve suffered. If you win the struggle to survive the death of your child, what’s a small thing like losing your sight?

Wasn’t just me. I don’t think Sam or Janet expected him to be here ambling around the complex making his usual snarky remarks, all the time holding that thin white cane like a prop.

Which is not to say that it doesn’t come out. It does. One rather expensive, hard-to-requisition Braille reader was the latest casualty of what Janet likes to call his occasional tantrum phases. I think before that it was an innocent coffeemaker and the general’s favorite putter. But it’s a lot better than any of us expected after that day on Merseger.

Sam still can’t believe I call it that, but it’s hard to work up animosity toward the planet that stole Jack’s sight when you have to call it P3S-486. Merseger was the goddess of the Necropolis at Waset. She specialized in striking blind those who disturbed her realm. I like to think there’s symmetry in the universe. You get the name you earn.

 

~Jack~

Broccoli does not taste better just because you don’t see it. And no matter what he thinks, Danny is not fooling you when he substitutes the stuff in the blue packets for the sugar in your coffee.

You’d forgotten love could mean stupid little stuff like that.

That it could mean stealing the covers back from your comforter-hugging bed partner. Or that it meant enduring the speaking alarm clock, even though you have nowhere to go, because if you didn’t get up, Danny never would either.

"Rise and shine, Doctor Jackson."

You’re not sure if "mffph r’ ong" is some new Goa’uld dialect or if it’s just how "leave me alone, Jack" comes out in a pre-caffeinated partner.

"You’ve got gate-call at o-nine-hundred."

A moan, then an irritable, "Jack, you’re retired, can’t you just say nine a.m. like the rest of the world?"

Yep, you’d forgotten love could mean stupid stuff like this.

 

~Daniel~

I’m still waiting for it to feel right going through the gate without Jack. I relish the few minutes before reality sets in -- when we’re all together in the gate room and, if I ignore that Jack’s wearing a dark tee and khakis and I’m in full BDUs, I get a few minutes of normalcy. At least until Jack starts checking to see I’m fully packed out the only way he can – with his hands.

Sam grins at me as straps are pulled and my holster tightened to military perfection. I send her a look that says if she keeps it up, I’ll send him her way next. Colonel Rinehart tends to look the other way at such moments. And Jack is careful never to give her advice. Some kind of mutual agreement that they’ll ignore each other entirely that seems to work fine, though I’ll never understand the military mind. I would have sworn that if command of SG1 were ever taken away from Jack they’d have to ban him from the mountain to keep him from killing whoever took over. But, surprise, surprise, she calls him "Jack" and he calls her "Colonel," and if he sits in on our briefings he gives grief to everyone but her.

His face lights up as we ascend the ramp and he bobs on his toes, hands in his pockets, looking every bit of twelve. "Bring me back a present, kids."

I wave at him though he doesn’t know it.

 

~Jack~

When Daniel and Sam are gone, the choice of who to pester is greatly simplified.

"Quiet in here, doc. Nobody sick enough to torture?"

"Very funny, Colonel."

Her voice sounds oddly muffled.

"Jack. They won’t let me wear my little birds anymore, so you have to call me Jack." There’s a couple muted thuds. "Uh, doc? Whatcha doing?"

"Damn oxygen valve is stuck." Metal clangs, things rustle and Janet Fraiser suddenly sounds closer. "We’ve got no oxygen getting to bed two."

"So you majored in bedside manner and pipefitting? Why don’t you call maintenance?"

"They’re all huddled out in C2 with Siler talking about some power surge. Said they’ll get here when they can. I just don’t like a bed being down with One out …"

You don’t get many of these uncomfortable pauses with the doc.

"Sorry, Jack."

"That’s okay. Everybody else can’t say ‘see’ or ‘blind’ or ‘look’. So you think you can’t say the ‘team-voted-most-like-to-come-back-on-stretchers’ in front of me, I’ve learned to deal."

Weird thing is that Danny can say them all. He was in denial the longest and out of awkward conversational pauses the quickest. Truth is that you really didn’t need that reminder that he’s out there somewhere. Under someone else’s command. And you’re in here trading witticisms with Fraiser.

"How’s the pain?"

Ah, the pain. Anything else you’ve managed to put out of mind the doc could possibly remind you of?

"You had to say it, didn’t you?"

A hand wraps around your arm. "Come on. Sit down. Let me take a look at you."

The phrase ‘take a look at you’, you’ve learned, has a very specific Janet Fraiser meaning. It means you’re plunked down on a rolling stool, your chin is held very firmly and a light is flashed in your eyes making no difference at all to your vision – except the gray blob on the left grows a little grayer. Oh, and the ache pretty much becomes all you can think about.

"Doc!" You hit blindly at where you think the offending torture device is. But as usual, Fraiser is quicker, drawing her light pen safely out of the way.

"Your photosensitivity seems to be increasing."

"Only when you do *that*," you point out through gritted teeth, clasping your hands tightly between your knees so you won’t be tempted to rub your eyes. If they were still capable of producing tears you’d be crying buckets. You end up putting drops in twenty times a day to avoid permanent corneal damage, which is basically a fucking laugh ‘cause corneas are irrelevant if your retinas are fried.

Janet tilts your head back and wets your aching eyes. "I want to run some more tests."

"No!"

"Surgery may help. There’s still no reason we can’t see if performing an orbital enucleation won’t stop the pain."

An orbital enucleation, you discovered last time the subject was brought up, is every bit as horrible as it sounds. And, even though they don’t work, you don’t want Janet Fraiser yanking your eyeballs out and depositing them in one of those little kidney-shaped trays. It gives you the creeps. Thinking of Daniel seeing you looking like that guy in The Mummy goes past that and gives you serious shudders.

In trying to talk her out of it, you’ve learned, unfortunately, that the burns and the no-tears thing makes just clipping the optic nerve pretty much a no-go as far as Janet is concerned. She concedes it would help the light sensitivity, but basically your eyes are still gonna hurt and the doc’s dead-set on there only being one solution.

"Uh uh." You wave a finger in what you’re pretty sure is Fraiser’s direction. "I was born with these eyes and I plan to die with them."

"Colonel …"

Great, it’s serious if she’s back to titles. And there’s the sigh. Fraiser is only known to sigh for two reasons – either Cassie is being disobedient, or you are.

"I believe it will help."

"No. My morning routine is not going to become shower, shave and stick my eyes in. Got it, Doctor?"

~oOo~

Daniel’s office smells like … Daniel’s office actually. But it’s as close as you’re gonna get to the guy when he’s two-hundred-twenty-five light years away and you’re forbidden to go through the big ring that folds space.

You become one with the worry chimes, roll them on the desk, switch them in rhythm in your palms. Occasionally you try to juggle the pair of them and then get to spend some quality time on your hands and knees searching the floor. The fact they chime isn’t helpful once they’ve stopped rolling.

Daniel leaves them in your ‘toy box’ along with a yo-yo (which helpfully lights up -- you told Danny he shouldn’t waste his money on that -- besides you *asked* for the one with *sound*) and the musical puzzle box (which he also shouldn’t have wasted his money on as the only way you know to get it open is to throw it really hard against the far wall). The Sound-Around Hula Hoop that he bought after reading "Choosing Toys for Children with Vision Challenges" got taken home and put to a much more adult use than the article ever dreamed of.

Just overnight is way too long, even for a ‘gate trip.

 

~Daniel~

I’m convinced they must teach them that ‘what the hell has the civilian done now’ look in colonel school. The expression on Rinehart’s face is the exact one Jack used to get when I stood bleeding all over the DHD because I’d put my hand somewhere I shouldn’t have. As I brilliantly did just a few minutes ago, poking fingers into some cubbyhole to steady myself while I wiped a couple hundred years of dirt off some truly interesting variants of Mayan glyphs. I don’t think even military training would have caused me to suspect the cubbyhole harbored the equivalent of a two-hundred-year-old mousetrap -- still set to spring.

Jack would be proud to know I have apparently finally mastered a proficient level of swearing in Goa’uld. Teal’c’s eyebrow went almost over his head. My fingers are mangled, but not life-threateningly so -- unfortunately Rinehart defers to Sam on medical matters. And Sam defers to the light-years-away but still effectively threatening presence of one particularly protective ex-colonel. In other words, I’m dialing home while everyone else gets to stay and video the ruins I could otherwise be slowly dripping my life fluid on. I can bleed and translate at the same time. It’s not like I haven’t had practice. Jack would never even have to know. I mean he has adapted incredibly, but he is still blind. I can do things one-handed for a couple of weeks.

Sam rolls her eyes and points commandingly at the ‘gate.

I got it Sam. I got it. Dripping, bloody civilian goes home and faces the wrath of ex-colonel. Just wait until you want to borrow our fondue pot again, woman. I have a long memory.

 

~Jack~

Hammond has come to understand that if off-world activation sounds and SG1 is out, he might as well wait for you at the door. Apparently he’s seen you slide blindly between twelve automatic rifles and the gate once too often.

"Who is it?"

"It’s SG1." A firm hand holds you back in case you have any delusions of command left. There’s the familiar whoosh of the looks-like-water, sounds-like-water, definitely-ain’t-water of the wormhole horizon.

One of the tech’s voices rings out over the PA. "Power grid seems okay now, Sir." And Hammond gives back his usual polite Texas "thank you." You have no idea what they’re talking about, nor do you really care. But then there’s a weird kind of whine and, for a second, you’d swear the doc was back at it with her light ‘cause the gray blob glows with a vengeance.

"What the --?" begins George. You can hear the gate re-establish, whooshing again.

The PA clicks back on. "Everything’s nominal again, Sir."

"Daniel?" Your voice sounds small and drowned in the retreating rush of the wormhole. You wanted him back, but six hours is too soon. *Way* too soon for there not to have been a crisis and now if the fucking ‘gate’s acting--

"Dr. Jackson?" Hammond doesn’t tell you he’s starting forward which leaves you looking like a stumbling fool as you’re tugged after him, but you could care less as the general sounds like he expects an answer and that implies a breathing, coherent linguist is there to reply. "Where’s the rest of the team?"

"Doing what they’re always doing!"

Uh oh … well, so much for you not worrying. "Daniel?"

"Don’t say it, Jack! Just don’t say it. I don’t need the gloating."

There is a rush of air past your face as Daniel stalks down the ramp. You turn slightly. "General?"

George’s breathing is a little fast and seems loud in your ears. "You know what that was about?"

"No, Sir."

"But you’re going to find out."

"Oh, I’d definitely say ‘yes, Sir’."

The general’s beefy hand slaps lightly on your shoulder. "Good man."

 

~Daniel~

I’m stammering. Jack hasn’t made me stammer -- I mean not like this -- in years. I’d say years. It’s been years. It’s not the yelling. I’m used to the yelling. If you’ve seen Jack have a fit because he’s mistaken a bottle of Jones’ Peachy Keen for his microbrew, you can stand yelling. Yelling is Jack’s way of keeping his blood pressure from popping the top of his skull off.

No, I’m stammering because while he’s been yelling – about what I’m admittedly really not too clear on – he’s also been fixing me with a jaundiced stare that a year ago would have withered me in my tracks. Only a year ago, Jack could see.

 

~Jack~

"He okay, doc?"

You’ve successfully loitered until Fraiser comes to see what you’re up to. Actually you’re brilliant at loitering. Loitering is an indispensable tool if you’re missing one-fifth of your five senses. Loitering gives you time to eavesdrop, and if you’re caught you can just look confused and claim you forgot to count your steps. Nobody accuses the helpless blind guy of anything nefarious.

"I’ve seen better dispositions on Goa’ulds."

Gee kiddies, that’s encouraging. "No clue what’s going on?"

"Well, he’s in one pissy mood, but other than that – MRI was clean, blood work is normal, says he didn’t hit his head. And that, Colonel, makes him all yours."

Among the things Daniel has taught you is it’s possible to love somebody very, very deeply and still not want to have to retrieve them from Fraiser’s infirmary.

 

~Daniel~

"Uh, Jack?"

A deep brown and impatient gaze jerks toward me that says clearly I’m in deep shit and I’m bleeding on his paperwork.

"I think it’s happened again."

The very familiar face takes on a very familiar look of consternation. I’m good at eliciting consternation from Jack. It’s my specialty.

"The mirror thing. P3 … P ..." A photographic memory and the coordinates of my second-most-hated planet deserts me.

"P3R 233," he snaps. This is *definitely* not my Jack.

"Yeah, P3R 233 - the mirror thing. I’m pretty sure -- no, I’m *totally* sure--I’m not the particular Daniel Jackson you were expecting."

 

~Jack~

Over the past months you have found you have some kind of innate Daniel-locating sense. So even when Janet leaves you in the middle of the infirmary something tells you to go left and not right. You’d say third bed. She usually puts anyone from One out of the main path since having the other three of you there usually tends to block things up. You knew you were getting too close to the team and you’d make some kind of fatal mistake eventually. Thank God the only person you wound up hurting was yourself.

You step up to the bed with a smile. "Clean bill of health."

You get a disinterested ‘uh huh’ in return. So you shove your hands in your pockets and try again. "So, you want to tell me what’s going on?"

"Why would you care?"

You really, really wish you could see something more than the achy gray, blurry blob caused by the bright infirmary fluorescents that even your favorite shades can’t dim.

"Danny," you say cautiously.

"Oh, like you don’t see!"

The venom in Daniel’s voice is starting to scare you.

"No, I don’t see," you agree quietly.

"Hell, Jack. I’m tired of being used like some kind of military punching bag. If you’re not going to respect me, how the hell do you think I’m going to get the rest of them to take me seriously?"

"Uh, Daniel." Whatever connection got you this far without tripping over anything seems suddenly to fail and you find yourself groping the bed to figure out how far you have to go to find the hand you expect will be waiting. The hand you find isn’t there. There’s only the frightening hush of the mattress as Daniel pushes away.

"You really can’t see."

You’re marching right out and dragging Fraiser back in here – just as soon as the room stops spinning. You grip the bedding with both hands, trying to ride out the black bucking bronco.

"Oh, thanks for that newsflash, Daniel. You know, I’m starting to really think Janet’s little once-over missed something big … like brain damage. You come back through the gate, majorly pissed. Over what, I can’t begin to determine."

Your hand goes to the cane folded and hanging from your belt. You’re pretty sure if you try to find Fraiser without it at this point, you’ll end up ass-over-teacups in the floor.

"You can’t see. You …"

The panic in his voice sounding freakin’ authentic. Which you definitely do not need.

"Danny?"

 

~Daniel~

Oh boy. I’d forgotten what it was like to deal with Colonel O’Neill, scientist-hater extraordinaire. And this is Jack at his most irritable. The Jack who said I was flaky -- on my good days. Who called me ‘plant boy.’

God, I hated that Jack.

Okay, so I take that back. I never hated Jack.

I just hated myself when I let him get away with that crap.

I’m pathetic. Five years of figuring out Jack-the-colonel, one year of learning a hell of a lot about what happens when Jack can’t be that Jack so easily anymore, and I get one pissed-off, sighted version of him and revert to type. So, what do I do? I do what I always did when I’d had my butt roasted by his highness -- I go to find Sam. I’ve almost reached the lab door when I remember that the mirror Sams we’d so far met all tended to have the same taste in Air Force colonels that I have.

"Daniel!" It’s a startled major I meet coming out of the door. "I thought you weren’t back until tomorrow."

While it’s not obvious yet, my "I’m not back" is a perfectly honest answer.

Sam raises an eyebrow. "Does the colonel know you’re here?"

"Oh, I’d say so."

My universal sister-in-crime gestures back toward her equipment strewn workplace. "Come on in."

 

~Jack~

"You certainly seem to be taking this well."

You know with a sickening, sinking-in-the-gut kind of feeling that he’s not referring to the cataclysmic screw-up in Daniels caused by Siler’s accidental power surge to the ‘gate.

Anger that Daniel, your Daniel, keeps at bay by seeing the warning signs and providing the necessary misdirection – don’t look too deeply in there, Jack, come over here and play touchy-feelie with this exquisite sculpture from P-God-knows-what – is suddenly there and real, and God-help-you, completely overwhelming.

"What, that I can’t see? You don’t get it, do you? How can you be *him*? You think I’m okay? You think I’m calm in here? No. It bugs the fucking hell out of me. Scares me shitless. I’m alone and it’s dark and it’s a fucking bitch!"

 

~Daniel~

I don’t understand what Sam finds so startling about me and Jack. Jack and me. Us being a "we." Nobody in our universe acted the least bit surprised. Well, as Jack says, they were surprised that we really hadn’t been doing the nasty the five years before he lost his sight.

"You and *the colonel*."

She keeps saying it over and over again, at the oddest times. Like, if she repeats it enough it will start to make some kind of sense to her.

"Yes, Sam, me and *the colonel* -- who’s not a colonel any more. At least not where I come from."

To say it bothers me that this Jack walks around *seeing* and then constantly bitching about what he sees, is like saying the Grand Canyon is a nice furrow. Serious, serious understatement. If a Jack O’Neill had to go blind, why couldn’t it have been this one instead of *mine*?

"I still can’t …" she just stops, speechless. "You and *the colonel*?" she asks again, still trying to wrap her scientific mind around the concept.

"Because he’s blind …" she offers, thinking she’s finally gotten it. Like that makes any difference. Don’t think I haven’t been down the ‘is it pity?’ path myself. Jack sure as hell wasn’t going to let me get away with that. It cost me dearly – but I didn’t do the hovering thing. If he didn’t take my arm himself I didn’t helpfully offer to guide him and, no matter how much I wanted to, I didn’t ever pull a Hammond and safely escort him from point A to point B.

If Jack wanted to cook, he cooked – if it burned, it burned. I wasn’t going to let him torch the whole house, but pork chops are expendable. If Jack wanted to mow the lawn, (and god knows why, but he did) then he mowed the lawn. They’re his baneberries, if he’s willing to accidentally decapitate them, the landscaping service can always bring more.

"Actually, I think it would have taken less time if Jack hadn’t been hurt."

Sudden-realization-at-the-sickbed makes a good romance novel, but, frankly, all that stress is hell on a burgeoning love life. At least Jack’s timing was good. He’d come to me before we left for Merseger. I’d wondered which one of us was going to crack first. Not that I actually got what he’d come for, for the first thirty minutes or so.

You gotta know that Jack plays the dumb-colonel card to the hilt. It’s pure strategy. While you’re guffawing at the rube in uniform he’s snuck around you and disabled your entire planetary defense system.

So we talked about hockey – which I could care less about. We talked about the Super Bowl – which I could also care less about. We talked about *NASCAR* which threw me, as I had no idea Jack even knew what ‘toed-in’ means. Then somewhere between rhapsodizing poetically about racing on the beach at Daytona and the degree of banking at Bristol, he kind of slipped in that he’d just come from making a nice, long apology to Sam for leading her on to keep from admitting where his feelings really lay. And that he thought he’d better tell me before he showed up at my front door on Saturday night with a bouquet and a box of Godiva. Then he told me Tony Stewart’s stats for the last three races.

 

~Jack~

The general was less than shocked when you … well, basically, *confessed* that the reason you were constantly hanging onto a certain archaeologist’s arm had very little to do with your need for a guide dog and everything do with your need for Danny. You’d really expected a little more… surprise. Maybe even condemnation ‘cause if it had been Hammond who suddenly left skid marks from a sexual one-eighty you’re not sure how you would have handled it. Actually, if George did make a sexual one-eighty you’d have Janet check him for Goa’uld, but that’s because there’s something so basically and hopelessly wholesome about the guy, you really never did figure out how he got two stars.

"Sit down, Jack."

George is always firm but gentle as he manhandles you around. He’s the only one that gets to besides Daniel, who won’t -- one, because he knows it’s decidedly unfair to the blind guy and, two, well, Daniel likes description. He practically jumps at the chance to explain exactly what he’s going to do, what you’re going to do and just how many people are going to watch you do it, all in minute detail.

You once had to stop him in a restaurant while he was in mid-lecture regarding the number of tables, the shape of the tables, the various sizes of the tables, the exact wattage of lighting coming from the candles on the tables, the look on the hostess’ face while she waited in vain for him to finish describing the tables …

Danny doesn’t get that *had* you seen them, basically all you would have thought was "gee, there’s tables."

George is always helpfully taking charge and placing you where he thinks you’ll be safe. If, God forbid, things were reversed and it was Danny hiding behind dark shades, you can imagine you’d be exactly like Hammond – to the power of something astronomical.

"I need to tell you something."

Daniel broke it to Carter and Teal’c, but for George this had to come from you.

 

~Daniel~

General Hammond is his usual steadying presence, taking it all calmly while Jack paces a seven-step wear pattern in his office carpet. Not like I haven’t done this multiverse thing before. Yes, I’ll tell them what I know about the Goa’uld. Yes, we know about the Abydos cartouche room. No, I didn’t come back with Jack when we left Abydos the first time.

Seems it was their Daniel who got the whole of the Ancient’s knowledge downloaded into his brain, something their Jack still doesn’t seem to have forgiven him for. I’m beginning to get this whole Jack-Daniel dynamic. I stayed a narrow-minded academic and Jack stayed an even narrower-minded colonel. Pity for both of them.

 

~Jack~

Daniel’s having a problem with Hammond, which is amazing considering both of them are the gentlest men you have ever have had the pleasure to meet. You can’t remember any time except when he was under the effects of the damn sarcophagus that Daniel ever had anything but the utmost respect for your commanding officer. Now as for *his* own commander …

The worry of Daniel being trapped with the you who had turned *your* Daniel into the prickly, paranoid version you have now, is vast and indescribable.

"What can I do for you, Jack?"

A general with an open-door policy is a rare, treasured thing.

"I was wondering if we could talk?"

The squeaky wheels of George’s chair screech on the floor. You brace a little. You’re about to get another taste of the general’s helpful method of getting his blind ex-subordinate safely across the vast no-mans-land of his rug. One day you’re going to have Danny secretly bring you in here so you can count the steps to the nearest chair and beat George to the punch. Danny … shit … you can’t take care of one of them for thinking about the other.

"Jack?"

The helpful hand is unusually tentative. You wave off the concern.

"I’m sure you have a more recent update than I do," he apologizes, recovering to again tow you like a tug in port.

The fact that you been haunting Carter’s lab at all hours trying to find how close they are to getting the right Daniel back, is pretty much known base-wide.

"Wrong Daniel," you advise, fumbling for the sharp arms of the chair before you settle into it and spend a couple of minutes communing with the gray blob. It’s a bit brighter in the general’s office than the rest of the base. The glare starts up the headache that you’ll later swear to Janet is minor and it’s not really necessary to give you the hard, hard drugs, just a little something to take off the edge.

"Uh … Daniel … not *Daniel*, *not-Daniel*," you pointlessly clarify. Even linguistically two Daniels is one too many Daniels to deal with. You start over again. "The Daniel currently pouting in our Daniel’s office. He says you won’t give him permission to access our Daniel’s computer."

You can hear George settling his hands together on the desk. "I felt it would be best if we control what he sees, at least to some extent."

"For cryin’ out loud, this is *Daniel* we’re talking about here."

But not Daniel. Not-Daniel. The Daniel-who’s-not-Daniel. Sub-Daniel. Yours is the Uber-Daniel. Maybe, Meta-Daniel. The Plato’s-form-of-Daniels. Now *that* would impress the smart guy you love. You know Danny thinks you fake this ditzy stuff, but this is really the way your mind works.

 

~Daniel~

They’ve got a Teal’c. Just as grave and formal and seriously anti-Goa’uld as our own. He wants to talk about Ra and Apophis. I want to talk about Jack. Okay, worse than that, I want to *fix* Jack. Somewhere in there lurks the Jack that risked court-martial to teach a little girl about being a kid. The Jack that finally figured out being a geek didn’t make you a bad guy. I don’t think buried anywhere in there is the Jack I kissed goodbye two days ago, but I expect there’s only one of that version. And I really, really want to get back to him.

 

~Jack~

Success. Not-Daniel’s now got access to all of Danny’s hard drive. He can’t play in the base network, but if he’s anything like the one you know well, he won’t get past the five-quadrillion giga-something-or-others of hieroglyph thingies Danny’s got stored in there.

It’s news you really want to deliver, but the twenty minutes in the general’s office has sent the little guys with the ballpeens out for a good day’s pounding on your head. Should have left the sunglasses on, but you’ve still got enough airman in you to doff them for your superior.

Crap. Assuming they haven’t been rearranging the walls, you’re just a little unsteady here. Okay, only a few more feet to go. Eleven actually – of yours. Ah, there. One door to one pseudo-Daniel’s office.

"Daniel?"

"Hey. Hey… hey …" That’s your boy in any universe, never at a loss for words. Arms wrap around your waist as you tilt precariously. "Come sit down."

Even the relatively dim lights of Danny’s office add to the general clanging of the brain hardware. Hands fumble at your jacket, moving your nearly shaking ones out of the way.

"For God’s sake, Jack. Put your glasses on."

He perches them on your nose, the gray blob diminishing slightly.

Raising a preemptive hand, you stop him before he starts. "You’ve got access. Not to the base stuff, but anything on the hard drive is yours to play with. Just don’t lose anything. He forgets to back up … even *I* back up. Okay, I have Sam back up. But I’m covered, you know."

"You need to go to the infirmary."

Lifting your head causes wincing as even that tiny bit of extra wattage on your eyes multiplies into a chorus of pile drivers.

"On my way, this was just a stop."

Yes, they have little white pills waiting there with your name on them. At least you think they’re white.

"I’m going with you."

"No you’re not."

"Yes, Jack, I am."

Your head is hurting too badly for the two-hundredth rendition of the infamous debriefing act.

"There are rules, Daniel. Jack-and-Danny rules. One of them is that unless I’m about to walk into an open elevator shaft, I get to go anywhere I want on my own."

It’s a rule, true. It’s a rule you’d eagerly suspend if this were your Daniel kneeling, a worried hand kneading your knee. Of course, if this were your Daniel and you showed up moaning like this, he’d be on the phone to Fraiser and you’d be drugged and curled up under the covers in one of the VIP rooms in five minutes flat. Which is precisely why you make yourself scarce whenever the light-induced-migraine-from-hell hits.

Forcing bad knees to lock and snapping the cane open, you find an unshakable hand under your elbow and frankly, at this point, if he just wants to get you to the door, you’ll let him.

 

~Daniel~

"Come in."

Jack takes a minute to look up from his keyboard. One scarred eyebrow raises itself in a way I realize I haven’t seen in over a year. I suddenly wonder how many other expressions of Jack’s were stolen by Merseger and how I’d failed to notice.

"How may I help you, Dr. Jackson?"

Ah yes, the wonderful robotic tone that is Jack precisely following orders to be polite to off-universe visitors.

"I … I …" I will not stutter, dammit. "I seem to sense some tension between you and … me."

"You and *me*?" he repeats frowning.

"Well, not exactly you and *me*. I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to make a bad impression on you, so it must be you and *me*."

There is Jack acting clueless just so he doesn’t have to bother thinking. There is Jack acting clueless so you’ll think he’s not thinking and then there is Jack really being clueless. Unfortunately, the three states look almost identical. It took me years to get the subtle differences.

This is the ‘really being’ kind.

"You and the me that’s your-me."

"*Your-me*?"

"Your Daniel Jackson," I clarify. "I don’t know what’s gone wrong, but Jack and I, well it took some time to work out our differences, but it’s been more than worth the effort. See, disparate points of view can actually contribute to decision making if the—"

"Your point, Dr. Jackson?"

"I just think you should get to know your Daniel. It would be … good. For him, for you, for the team."

"Dr. Jackson and I have an acceptable working relationship."

"Ah, see there … ‘acceptable’. Acceptable is not good enough, Jack. Trust me on this one."

"So you think you … know me. Do ya, *Daniel.* I assume *he* calls you Daniel?"

"Among other things."

"Well, *Daniel,* I head a team. A team that goes to other worlds. Because of that, I have a linguist. Now, he’s a hell of a linguist – if he wasn’t he wouldn’t be here. But that’s where his decision-making stops. If the O’Neill in your universe has decided otherwise, well, I can only assume he had his reasons. And I have paperwork do to." He nods toward the door. "If you’d be so kind."

 

~Jack~

Janet is not amused and despite your token protests – down deep even you know this one is past needleless recovery -- insists on hauling out a syringe. Still, she’s very careful giving you the shot. Guess, Hippocratically speaking, patient-in-pain trumps right of pissed-off doc to say she told-you-so.

"Jack …"

Well, maybe not quite *trumps*.

You must look shitty ‘cause she just sighs. "Come on."

She knows how you hate the infirmary, but she also knows you won’t make it to the suites before the happy-juice kicks in. "Want the cot in my office?"

 

~Daniel~

I stand in the corridor and stare at Jack’s closed door, feeling stupid. It took five long years for Jack to crack and show up at my door babbling about sporting events and premium chocolate and I was thinking, what, that this misanthropic version would succumb to my do-it-for-the-team speech? When he calls him "Dr. Jackson"?

And poor Dr. Jackson doesn’t know what he’s missing. When was the last time somebody called him Danny or Danny-boy? I think about Jack huskily calling me Babe or – this was a great one -- his meatum veneris. Who knew Jack learning Latin could be so erotic?

Oops. The door opens full of irate colonel wanting to know why the fuck I am standing outside his office giggling.

Well … colonel, sadly I don’t think you’ll ever know.

 

~Jack~

"Fraiser thinks she can help you."

Goddamn busybody not-Daniel. Should have been suspicious when you woke up in Janet’s office with a hovering archaeologist doing cot vigil. Were they identical in all versions of the universe? "You talked to Fraiser – about me?"

"Jack, she says you’re in near constant pain because--"

"Because a Goa’uld with a staff weapon had better aim than Teal’c had that day and I was too stupid to duck?"

"Well, she was a little more precise about it. Something about changes to the structure of your retina that causes the retinal-opsin molecular geometry to react like you’re staring directly into a 100,000 candle spotlight."

"It’s a million." You shrug when you feel not-Daniel staring in your direction. "I’ve heard it before. I listened."

"Does Daniel know you’re in that kind of pain?"

"I haven’t exactly mentioned it, no." And no, you wouldn’t have darkened the real Daniel’s office door looking like that. You’re blind, not stupid. "And Fraiser’s not supposed to – although obviously she can’t be trusted."

"There were … extenuating circumstances." You don’t have to see him to recognize the sound of the patented Jackson-selfhug-and-pace method of venting anger at a certain ex-colonel. "Jack, what would possess you to suffer needlessly?"

"Do I look blind?"

The pacing abruptly stops. "What?"

"I said ‘do I look blind?’. Like ‘do I not even need the sign and pencil cup for you to get it’? I know the plastic surgery didn’t fix all the scars because I can feel them. But nobody mentions …" You gesture wildly at the now unknown country that is your face.

"Wait a minute. You sleep with your Daniel Jackson and you’re asking *me* this?"

"I’ve asked Danny."

"So what did he say?"

Being blind does not negate the need to seriously study your shoe tops at certain chosen times. "He said ‘I’m beautiful.’" Your head snaps up and you can feel the burn of the blush, so you fall back into Jack-the-sarcastic. "Which is helpful -- *not*."

"What makes you think I’d be objective?"

"’Cause you’re him – before all this. I trust … you."

"And you don’t trust him."

"Oh yes, I most certainly do. With everything except this."

"You look fine."

"Daniel." You drag the name out in a warning growl. "Honesty, remember? The thing I count on from you?"

"Okay. There’s some scarring." Well-known calloused digits wrap yours familiarly, lead them to the crisscross of ridges you’ve spent many a morning fingering in the dark before the mirror. "The coloring’s mainly faded."

He draws your fingers across a particularly worrisome patch under your right eye that feels like your skin’s been buffed with steel wool. "This is almost white but it’s only the size of a thumbprint. Your sunglasses cover it up."

You remember Danny’s dislike of you hiding behind the wraparound shades, but you’d always known he was lying.

You swallow convulsively but you want to know what Daniel sees. "And my eyes?"

"They’re brown."

You frown. "Pointed in the same direction?"

"Yes."

"And that direction’s not toward the tip of my nose or something?"

"Uh, no. Actually you seem to be looking a little to the left."

"That would be where the gray blob is."

"Gray blob?"

"Yeah, if the room’s not too dim there’s this fascinating gray blob I get to look at."

 

~Daniel~

It’s an Expedition, not an F150, but when we fail to make even one unfamiliar turn I start to think that there are some universes just a little too close for comfort, that maybe I did something, or didn’t do something, which one day led to Jack being a hair too slow when a Jaffa raised his staff on Merseger. I obsess over it as we drive past the convenience store that’s Jack’s favorite stop for beer. Past the pizzeria that makes his favorite deep-dish. Was it something innocuous that I never even realized that was the turning point where universe split from universe? Maybe it was simply the moment when this Daniel handed Sha’re back to her father and followed his Jack through the Abydos gate. I start to weigh the impossible trade – having Sha’re beside me for a year compared with Jack spending the rest of his life blind.

This Jack seems to expect the silence. There’s no prodding and poking. No "what ya doin’, Daniel". He glances over at me every now and again, a monitoring Jack now does by feel – a hand on my leg when I’m driving. A hand on my arm at the base. Even asleep there’s almost always some contact. My first indication it’s morning is usually Jack gingerly disentangling himself so he can start the coffee.

The house feels wrong though. Empty. Sterile. The beer tastes odd and watery. I’m not sure why I’m here, except he asked and I wasn’t about to say no.

Jack tips the bottle up and takes a deep swallow. "I suppose you’ve seen me at my worst."

"Well, I think it’s probably that Jack and I have seen each other at our worst."

He shakes his head like he thinks I’m not getting it. "You’ve seen him blind."

"And he’s seen me stoned out of my mind with a gun in my hand."

From the nod, I’m thinking this universe had a Shyla and I doubt it ended with Dr. Jackson in a comforting embrace.

"So he’s accepting?" He says the word like he’s spitting poison.

"Ah, no, ‘Jack’ and ‘accepting’ are two words I probably wouldn’t use in a sentence together. ‘Coping’ might be the better word. We’re all coping."

Jack takes another slug of beer. "Does he still have a weapon?"

I nod hesitantly. Jack still has a nine millimeter we keep locked up in the desk drawer.

"You might want to take it away from him."

"Jack’s okay."

"You said he’s *coping*." There’s bitterness in his voice. "I’ve coped a couple of times myself. Take it from me, you might want to hide the bullets."

"You took a bomb to Abydos." I say it non-judgmentally. I couldn’t do that to start with, be nonjudgmental. I couldn’t imagine there being enough pain for anyone to do that. Wouldn’t have dreamed I’d one day coolly take an M-16 to a hatchery of the Goa’uld’s children. Before I held Sha’re in my arms, before I woke with Jack wrapped around me, there was nothing that could have convinced me I could take life or want to crawl away from the pain so badly that I’d forfeit my own.

He nods silently. I reach out and place my hand over his.

Which turns out to be the wrong move.

I’m so used to Jack touching me that I didn’t think… I mean, that was usually my job. The whole foster parents thing and all. I had ‘don’t touch me’ down to a science – but from the start Jack had no shame when it came to poking and prodding and just the general laying on of hands.

The rest of the night is spent in awkward Goa’ulds-I-have-known conversation complemented by more watery beer as I know better than to think there’s any Jones soda for me in the fridge.

 

~Jack~

Sam is muttering about negative energy density and monopolies. Okay, probably something that just sounds like ‘monopoly’ but if you ask her to repeat it, she inevitably would and a second rendition is not going to, in any way, get Danny here faster. You’re pretty sure you’re still in line with the door – something else that if you ask, will only move Carter’s mind from the Danny-problem. The where-the-hell-did-they-move-the-door problem is getting to be an old one and you can handle it on your own.

After all, that’s what six fucking-horrible weeks of mobility training was for – to make you ‘independently mobile.’ God, what Daniel could make out of politically correct blind-speak. They spend a lot of time working on making you

‘independent.’ And every time one of the eager and earnest rehabilitation counselors would utter the dreaded i-word, Danny would lean into your ear and whisper in his snuffly little Hermie-elf voice, "Hey, what do you say we both be in-de-pen-dent together?"

Being privilege to the private information that Danny-double-PhD-Jackson memorized both the Egyptian Book of the Dead (non-Budge edition) and the soundtrack to Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer is seriously in the top ten on the Reasons-to-love-Daniel list. "Making love" wavers between one and two depending on how hungry you are for his lasagna.

"Allow me to help you, O’Neill."

Found the door. Screwed way up on counting the steps to the elevator, being distracted by memories of pasta and other things. You’re actually fine on your own with sixty-one inches of thin, white, telescoping metal – you just look a little lost as thoughts of bubbling cheese and supine Daniels drive out all notion of keeping track of things.

"Hey, Teal’c."

Teal’c will not grab and tow you. Instead he treats you like great-aunt Nell’s china tea service. You’re handled very gently and with extreme care. His voice, which is admittedly damn beautiful, rings out solemnly in the corridor. "You may take my arm."

Every time you get stuck with a Jaffa guide dog, you think you really shouldn’t have turned down that nice German shepherd. Frankly, you wouldn’t have if Daniel hadn’t nearly gone into anaphylactic shock from the dander.

 

~Daniel~

The night sky encircles me as I stand in the familiar confines of Jack’s back yard and look at the little observation tower he’s built on the back of the house. Ours is still there, too. We climb up it and Jack fiddles with the telescope and I report what I see. Once in a while we point it toward Abydos and try to make out the faint blur of the Abydonian sun.

"Jack has a telescope, too."

"Hmm. Not much use to him, is it?"

I suddenly feel utterly homesick.

 

~Jack~

"You can read Braille?"

He sounds impressed. Danny not only insisted you learn to read Braille – he put sticky tape on the back of the set of Braille tiles and had you decipher what Daniel body part they were spelling. If you missed you could always just feel what they were stuck too. You know the letters E, I, N, P and S exceptionally well. When he switched to Turkish you added A, D, H, J and R to your well-remembered repertoire.

"If you don’t ask me to speed-read."

Besides, reading was pretty much a necessity if you were going to get to continue to haunt the mountain. Danny couldn’t spend all his time supporting the illusion you were really a consultant on ‘gate matters. He had his own work to do. Hammond couldn’t very well pay you if you didn’t do *something*. So now you pretty up mission reports before they go to DC, putting in all those little distracting items that will keep the boys in blue from looking too closely at the budget or asking how the hell we’d crashed three EVAs in the course of ten weeks.

He kidnaps the reader, clearly as fascinated as Danny was with the dotty code.

"Is it difficult?"

You shrug. Danny made it fun. It probably was about the damn hardest thing you’d learned in a long time, but you didn’t get a chance to notice ‘cause Danny was standing there with tiles dripping off his nose and yelling at you to hurry before he lost the ‘e’. Like you hadn’t gotten the ‘e’ a long time ago – it was the damn back of the alphabet that was the problem. Poor Danny had to resort to Dutch slang to get the ‘z’ and ‘klootzak’ is way too many tiles to fit on your balls.

There is truly no way to reconcile Danny with not-Daniel and not end up with a headache. The pissy, seeing-you better be taking damn good care of him.

You’re in the process of explaining that what not-Daniel is currently rubbing his fingers over are the ever-exciting words ‘atypical soil sample’ when the door slams back to shudder metallically against the wall.

"I got it! I can reverse the Daniels!"

You hug her within an inch of her life. Thank God for brainy, naquada-obsessed majors.

 

~Daniel~

In the SUV there is no distracting yourself with watery beer. We’ve discussed every Goa’uld I can think of and I’ve started speculating on whether they should be worried about the replicators, seeing as no one has heard from the Asgard here since they dropped this universe’s Daniel back into the wormhole. It’s pretty much a conversation of one but I only slack off when the phone rings. The thought of driving all the way back to base in complete silence is more than I can handle.

Jack snaps the cell shut and leans into the gas.

Seems somebody with SG1’s code just fired up the ‘gate, sent through a MALP and inquired if they had a Dr. Jackson they’d like to trade.

 

~Jack~

He’s poised and tense in your arms, the way Danny was to start with, when you first started hugging him. Doubtful he’s been hugged by anyone but his Sam in a long, long time. You worry who touches him, who knows that if you run a tongue along his inner thigh in just the right way, you’re rewarded with a quivering heap of blissed-out linguist. You worry more that nobody knows this. Even him.

Hammond disengages you from Daniel’s side. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Jackson."

"General." You hear him shift, locating Carter. "Thanks, Sam. I’ll get the notes to … Sam."

Her "good luck" reverbs in the confines of the gate room.

"Colonel."

"Jack," you correct. You raise a hand in farewell. "Bye, Danny."

"Bye." You hear the timbre Daniel’s voice takes on when he smiles, but Hammond is ever-cautiously moving you behind him, away from any possible interaction with the whooshing gate.

You damn well better get a happy, healthy Daniel back in return or you’re liable to throttle your other-universal self with your cane.

 

~Daniel~

Feel a little smug that it’s our Sam who worked out the problem, not that their Sam isn’t almost the spitting image of our own – except she seems to have something going with Teal’c I’m not even going to attempt to explain. Well, maybe to our Sam ‘cause she said to tell her that "once you go Jaffa, you never go back." I’ll just take her word for that one. She seemed close to working it out herself, mumbling about quantum energy distributions along the event horizon only a few seconds before the klaxons sounded.

I’m getting used to these awkward meet-thyself moments. This one is even weirder since he’s wearing my clothes. And I’m wearing his.

"Dr. Jackson." I’m surprised to hear Jack’s voice behind me. I hadn’t expected him to be part of the welcoming committee. Daniel looks startled as well. "You okay?"

It’s a far cry from the enthusiastic hug I’m hoping for when it’s my turn to clang down the ramp, but I can tell it’s a step. Maybe a big one.

"I’m fine. Uh, thanks." Daniel shuffles his feet. He waves a piece of paper. "I’ve got instructions so we can get their Daniel back."

Sam steps up and gives him the exact same sisterly hug that I can expect. "Hand them over." She wrinkles her nose when she gets to some equation that doesn’t look at all like Greek to me. "Monopoles. Damn." Then she’s off.

I look at my mirror image. "Jack okay?"

I’m not altogether reassured by the way my double bites his lip. "Actually that’s something I want to talk to you about."

 

~Jack~

You’re thinking maybe you should give Davis a break and quit breathing down his neck. Sam says there’s not a damn thing we can do over here. They have to overload the ‘gate at their end.

"Come on, Jack. I’ll buy you a cup of coffee." George doesn’t even do his usual yanking on your arm. You probably look freakin’ fragile standing there, blinking at the dull gray blob.

Sam finally takes your hand, placing it on the general’s elbow. You feel the warmth of their bodies. Their unspoken support surrounds you, closes in around you and buoys you in the darkness.

 

~Daniel~

"So?"

"Um, well …" Doctor Jackson looks around the gate room uncomfortably. "Maybe we should go to my office."

"Is. Jack. Okay?" I grind out, seeing why Jack can get so irritated over my diplomatic foot-dragging.

"Uh, yeah, Jack’s as good as ever. I didn’t mean to worry you." He looks over my shoulder at the Jack still lurking by the door to the corridor and a frown creases his forehead. "Colonel? Is there something you need from me?"

"Me?" Jack looks as surprised to find himself still there as the other me does. "No, I just wanted to make sure you were okay -- don’t need to go to the infirmary, that sort of thing."

"N ..no."

"Well, okay then. I’ll be in my office if you need me."

I’d be delighted by this polite awkwardness if I wasn’t in worry overdrive from my double’s inability to answer my question with a simple ‘yes.’

"What’s wrong with Jack?"

He shakes his head, still staring at the door. "I dunno. Did he act weird the whole time I was gone?"

"*My* Jack."

"Oh. It’s nothing serious, really. I just think that since we’ve got a few minutes, we ought to talk."

 

~Jack~

"So we just … wait?"

Because you are absolutely no good at waiting.

"I’m afraid so," Carter pushes the promised mug of coffee against your palm. You cup it, letting the fragrant steam rise. When you start to set it down, untouched, George captures your hand and guides it safely to a coaster.

Then there’s nothing more to talk about. After a while, Hammond rests his hand against your wrist.

 

~Daniel~

"Spill it." If this is the way I act, I don’t know how we successfully negotiated as many treaties as we did.

"Jack’s fine. It’s just there’s something he doesn’t want to tell you and, if it were me, I’d really want to know."

I pinch the bridge of my nose and attempt to decipher this for a few seconds before I give up. "What? What is it you think you should tell me?"

"Jack’s in pain."

"I know that, god dammit!"

Confusion flits across the good doctor’s face. "You … know that."

"Of course I know that. He thinks he hides it, but the man is *blind*. He doesn’t have the advantage of knowing when I’m watching. Of course I know he’s in pain. There’s practically no light bulbs in the entire house so nobody can accidentally turn them on. I keep the blinds drawn at all times. I had the damn truck windows tinted."

"And Jack doesn’t realize this?"

My muscles are so tense it hurts to shrug. "I don’t know. I’m not trying to hide it. I’m not flaunting it, either."

"Well, do you think maybe you should *talk* about it?"

"He will, if and when he’s ready."

"Fraiser wants to perform surgery."

Okay, that one got me. I sink down against the side of the desk. "That one I *don’t* know."

"Jack isn’t agreeing."

"Okay … uh, well, I still say it’s Jack’s decision. Losing your sight is this horrendous loss of control. In the past year Jack has lost … god, he’s lost practically everything except his need to protect and he’s – hell, it’s to my surprise – but he’s managed to give up every fucking bit of it. Not necessarily gracefully, I’ll admit, but it’s been with strength and honor, and if he wants to pretend a while longer that he’s protecting me, I’m not going to blow his cover."

We posture with our arms folded identically. He’s picked up the rising inflection of my voice and tosses it back to me.

"Oh, I think he’s doing a much better job than you imagine. I don’t think you understand how bad it really is. Fraiser’s been keeping a syringe with his name on it for months now."

"No, I would know if it were that bad."

"Not if he’s good. And he *is* good … but I think he’s getting tired."

I squelch the worry that threatens. "Well, why wouldn’t he tell me? Why the hell tell *you*?"

Great. Jack’s in pain and I’m whiney ‘cause the *me* he admitted it to was the wrong version.

"I’m not his lover."

"Shit." I have to sit down. I really, really have to sit down. "There better not be some kind of universal don’t-ask-don’t-tell here, because I already got the whole homophobic treatment from the ‘colonel.’"

There’s undisguised horror in his voice. "You came on to him?"

"What? God! No! I touched him – on the *hand* -- and he nearly went through the ceiling. And what does you not being *me* have to do with—"

"You won’t tell him how he looks."

"How … he … looks." I repeat, trying to process this. "He looks gorgeous. Same as he always looked."

Jack in jeans and a leather jacket. Add that shit-eating grin that can totally disarm you, and he’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen of any age or gender.

"He said you said that."

"So …" I’m not understanding this. "He knows I think he’s gorgeous."

"What he knows," Doctor Jackson corrects, sounding superior, "is that he knows he thinks you’re lying."

"Wh …*why* would I be lying?"

"He can feel the scars. The scars nobody mentions – especially you. He’s got this idea there’s something hideous behind those shades that everyone’s just keeping from him."

"Well, I hope you told him!"

I’m furious – at not being there, at Jack somehow being forced to share something so intimate with some substitute-me who’s not equipped to understand what the last year’s been like … for all of us.

"The only way to stop all the pain is to remove …" Even he can’t say it. He just flutters his hands toward his face.

If I believed in fate or karma or *anything* I would have something to rail against.

"We nearly lost him."

I try not to think about that – that it was bad, so bad even the Tok'ra and their healing devices could only do this much. That by the time they opened the gate from the other side he had a temperature of 103 from a drug-resistant infection courtesy of some unknown bacteria and that they thought he’d probably remain comatose. I don’t give a fucking damn what his eyes look like. Or if they’re even there.

"They thought he’d be vegetative." I clear my throat, trying to sound less choked. "Then when he started to show signs of awareness to pain, they changed it to ‘maybe just paralyzed, blind and deaf’ – in which case I was planning to pull a Dr. Kevorkian ‘cause I knew Jack wouldn’t want to live like that. Want to know what the first thing he said was?" I blush too damn easily, but I can’t help it. "He said ‘Danny’. He heard me reading to him and said ‘Danny.’ So, no, I don’t give a flying fuck about his scars. I do, however, give a flying fuck about his pain. And, no, you’re not the one I should be telling this to."

He bites his lower lip, nodding. I can see him drawing into himself. Losing what Jack had probably coaxed out. The hug-thing is an old, old habit from when I was small and four-eyed and geeky -- rather than large and four-eyed and geeky and allowed to love Air Force ex-colonels.

"What about yours?"

"My?"

"Jack." I thumb towards the door. "The cranky one whose eyes still work. You need to touch him."

Hmm … so that’s what Jack used to call my deer-in-the-headlights look. "T..touch him?"

"I’m not saying it needs to be sexual – unless you both want it to be, but he’s got ‘failure-to-thrive’ written all over him. Somebody needs to hug him on a regular basis. And I’m thinking you’re the only one with a chance of getting within twelve yards of him."

"Me …"

"Yeah, you. Trust me; this one’s got no chemistry with Carter. She’s not going to do anything more than salute him." I chew on a nail for a second. "That leaves you."

He looks mortified.

"Jack hug you while you were there?"

"Huh?"

When under stress I really am practically language-disabled – monosyllabic and stuttery. Little wonder I was being drummed off the podium when Katherine found me in New York.

"Did Jack hug you?" I enunciate.

"Uh, yeah. A couple times."

"Nice?"

"Yeah, I guess so."

He *guesses* so. Jack gives the finest damn hugs in the world. I know.

"Something you’d like to try again?"

"Maybe," he concedes.

"See …"

 

~Jack~

‘Off-world activation’ have to be the two, or maybe, three, most beautiful words in the universe.

"SG1’s code, Sir." ‘Course the three words said by the technician running the ‘gate run a real close second.

And Hammond can try to put you any damn place he wants but you’re meeting Danny on the ramp.

"Danny?"

He’s all warmth and limbs. Your hand cards through soft hair and he smells like that hypoallergenic soap you’ve been using ever since he was gone so you could at least be surrounded by his scent. You want to hold on forever but it’s the friggin’ gateroom and Sam will want her turn.

"You okay?"

He nods beneath your covering hand. You want to search his face for emotion and you make a little noise of loss that you can’t see if he’s truly all right.

"I’m okay, Jack. Really. They were very nice to guests."

You make yourself let go so you won’t make a spectacle of yourself in front of three branches of the armed forces and are quickly sandwiched by the rest of the team. Hammond puts a steadying hand on your shoulder. He can do his tug-impression now. It’s okay. Danny’s home.

 

~Daniel~

Janet has to do her requisite poking under the observant ears of one impatient former colonel.

"So I was a real asshole, huh?"

Jack’s scraping his feet against the concrete floor shyly, his head ducked down in a way that makes me think the lights are bothering him.

"He was very much a colonel."

"Hey, I’m a colonel … was a colonel," he protests.

Jack was well aware that he was never going to be promoted. Hammond liked him. The Asgard liked him. He had job security, but nobody in DC was going to put a star on Jack’s shoulder.

"Think he was going for the whole constellation, Jack."

That man had lots of stars in his future. Janet hushes me so she can listen to my heart.

"How long’s this going to take?"

I take a critical look at the man I’ve been missing for five long days. Explanation number one for why Jack is in such a hurry to get out of the infirmary – he hated it before he woke up blind here, he hates it worse now. Explanation number two – he wants to get somewhere private as badly as I do. Explanation number three (which I wouldn’t have gotten to before the conversation in Doctor Jackson’s office) – his eyes are hurting.

"I’m done," mutters Janet distractedly, scribbling things on her clipboard.

I’m immediately off the bed and bundling Jack to the door. My office is private and much dimmer.

Much, much dimmer when I switch on the desk lamp, flick off the overheads and collect my proper "hello."

 

~Jack~

"Lock. Door. Jack. Mmmmmm …."

Oh yeah. You know how to stop a linguist from talking. The door’s easily secured by taking a couple steps backward and untangling your fingers long enough to hear the snick of the deadbolt. Walk him forwards five steps. Kiss deeply. Three more steps, fumble with zipper on BDUs … recoil from unfamiliar--

"Daniel, what the hell have you got on?"

Run exploring hand over front of trousers and grin wildly when you find you may not recognize the cloth, but you sure as hell recognize what’s under it.

The answer comes with a little gasp. "Corduroys."

"Very stylish."

Let’s see, you were at eight steps. Tilt head to the right and latch on to warm lips. Try not to flinch when you feel him slip off the wrap-around shades.

"I want to see you," he explains, softly kissing your cheeks and closed eyelids. "I missed you so much."

He’s pulling you now, the four remaining steps to the couch, and you follow him down. A knee between his, your hands making short work of the buttons of his shirt. You part it, your fingers skimming warm, bare skin. He’s returning the favor, hauling you out of your t-shirt, hands ghosting up and down your sides. He bucks his hips so you can divest him of Dr. Jackson’s pants.

You never got to make love to him when you could see, so your vision of his body is one cobbled together from chaste showers and pre-gate-call moments in the locker room. The warmth beneath your hands tells you he’s flushed. His breathing is short, sharp gasps. It’s been five horribly long days and there’s not going to be time for finesse. You’ll get to do that, later, in the bed at home where you can take your time and lay against him, letting your skin chart his.

He makes that low purring noise again as you wrap a hand around his cock, then draws you toward him, suckling on the skin at your collarbone. When he comes, it’s with a throaty moan that takes you with him.

 

~Daniel~

Whoa. That was – well, whoa. I mean, I think I saw stars.

"Glad you’re back," he murmurs, laughing softly against my neck, a hand stroking the side of my face, then stilling there.

The eyes he tries so hard to hide are half-open, but terribly red and a little swollen. I reach out and run a thumb just beneath the tender skin only to have him flinch and turn away.

"Jack," I think he’s not going to allow me to turn his face back toward me, but finally he relents. "Why didn’t you tell me?"

He drops his head, rolling his forehead against my shoulder and making a strangled sound. "Goddamn not-Daniel."

"Not-Daniel?" I can’t help myself – it’s so Jack.

His breath is moist on my skin, his eyes once again hidden. "What did he tell you?"

"Jack, let me look at you."

"I can’t." The normally steady voice breaks. "Danny … I can’t."

"Yes, you can. Except that they look like they probably hurt like hell, there’s nothing wrong with your eyes." I kiss his temple. "Just looks like you’ve got the mother of all allergy attacks."

He finally raises his head.

"I thought I’d lost you, Jack. I mean one day you’re over at the apartment saying you’re going to come back with flowers and chocolate and a week later you’re laying unconscious on some Tok’ra ship with Jacob shaking his head and telling me there’s nothing more they can do." I gingerly brush a finger along the scar that curves beneath Jack’s left eye. "I don’t give a damn about the scars. I do give a damn if you’re in pain."

"You know what Janet wants to do."

"I know. It’ll stop the pain. She’s sure."

"Danny …" He does something he never does when not in the throes of passion, straightening and taking my face in his hands. Fingers run lightly over my cheeks, then curl when he finds the dampness there. "Dammit."

 

~Jack~

Life without the little gray blob is pretty much the same as life with it. Joining the rare ranks of the completely-blind really isn’t that bad. And no pain is pretty sweet.

You really don’t have to stick your eyeballs in every morning, though Janet pulls the suckers off with worrying regularity, muttering something about the build up of secretions. You still couldn’t cry to save you, and Danny totes around an extra bottle of eye drops since you go through them so fast.

He vetoed your idea of trying for a more artistic eye color. You thought red would have been nifty, but Danny even turned down hazel, insisting on replicating the exact same boring brown you’d had from the start.

You’d forgotten love could mean stupid stuff like that.

"You okay, Sir?" This is a woman you’ve nearly expired in a freezing cave with, and you still can’t get her to call you ‘Jack’.

"Fine, Sam."

"Well, in that case maybe you’d like to come see what Daniel’s cooking, because frankly it’s scaring me and Teal’c."

You orient yourself with a quick brush against the porch rail and start toward the kitchen. "Daniel, please tell me you’re *not* making cibreo again."

"Patina de pisciculis." The kitchen smells ominously fishy.

"So help me, Danny, if you’re using that damn fish sauce…"

A warm, strong, and slightly fishy body presses up against yours, an arm drawing around your waist. "I was just explaining to Teal’c that liquamen was one of the basics of Roman cooking."

"It’s rotten fish runoff." You wrinkle your nose. "What the hell is patina de piss anyway?"

You can hear George in the background coughing to hide his amusement at the juvenile antics.

"Soufflé of small fishes."

"That’s it. Teal’c, light the grill. Sam, there’s steaks in the freezer. General?"

"Here, Jack." Danny releases you into the close supervision of Hammond and goes back to fussing over his two-thousand-year-old delicacy.

"Would you *please* send him to somewhere that has a Goa’uld with better recipes? Surely one of them likes to eat tacos."

Danny harrumphs from the kitchen.

Yep, you’d forgotten love could mean stupid stuff like this.

 

~end~

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