Youd Forgotten Love Could Mean This
"Jack, youve got to come see this."
You frown in Daniels direction. "Is it worth it?"
"Worth " You can almost hear the beans rattle as he shakes his head.
"Yeah, you know, Im 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 predecessors unfortunate demise.
"If youd 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 readers 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 thats kept you going this long. For you really can see. Theres 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 cant imagine it would make much difference.
You expect to be towed to Daniels treasure trove from P5X-eighty-something-or-other. Instead youre wrapped up in your favorite archeologists hug and fall into its warmth like a heat-seeking missile.
Daniel is your eyes now. Hes the one whos 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 dont want him taking the blame if some jarhead decides its Dannys fault you just now embraced your inner bi-ness. Youre 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 doesnt see it, its not there.
If Tealc suddenly opens the door and coughs pointedly, you can look like the innocent blind guy. Window? What window?
Your relationship with Tealc since the attack has been a bit difficult. A Jaffa with a serious guilt complex takes a lot of patience.
"Dannys about to show me his--"
You realize you actually dont know what he was about to show you. Well, you do, but Tealcs arrival has sadly put an end to that.
"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 youd most care to be gripping right now.
You could say I didnt know jack about Jack. Okay, actually thats what Jack said, because its an obvious ONeillism, 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 didnt know jack about Jack. I should have. I should have learned something from Share and all the other losses weve suffered. If you win the struggle to survive the death of your child, whats a small thing like losing your sight?
Wasnt just me. I dont 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 doesnt 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 generals favorite putter. But its a lot better than any of us expected after that day on Merseger.
Sam still cant believe I call it that, but its hard to work up animosity toward the planet that stole Jacks 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 theres symmetry in the universe. You get the name you earn.
Broccoli does not taste better just because you dont 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.
Youd 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 didnt get up, Danny never would either.
"Rise and shine, Doctor Jackson."
Youre not sure if "mffph r ong" is some new Goauld dialect or if its just how "leave me alone, Jack" comes out in a pre-caffeinated partner.
"Youve got gate-call at o-nine-hundred."
A moan, then an irritable, "Jack, youre retired, cant you just say nine a.m. like the rest of the world?"
Yep, youd forgotten love could mean stupid stuff like this.
Im still waiting for it to feel right going through the gate without Jack. I relish the few minutes before reality sets in -- when were all together in the gate room and, if I ignore that Jacks wearing a dark tee and khakis and Im in full BDUs, I get a few minutes of normalcy. At least until Jack starts checking to see Im 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, Ill 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 theyll ignore each other entirely that seems to work fine, though Ill never understand the military mind. I would have sworn that if command of SG1 were ever taken away from Jack theyd 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 doesnt know it.
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 wont let me wear my little birds anymore, so you have to call me Jack." Theres a couple muted thuds. "Uh, doc? Whatcha doing?"
"Damn oxygen valve is stuck." Metal clangs, things rustle and Janet Fraiser suddenly sounds closer. "Weve got no oxygen getting to bed two."
"So you majored in bedside manner and pipefitting? Why dont you call maintenance?"
"Theyre all huddled out in C2 with Siler talking about some power surge. Said theyll get here when they can. I just dont like a bed being down with One out "
You dont get many of these uncomfortable pauses with the doc.
"Thats okay. Everybody else cant say see or blind or look. So you think you cant say the team-voted-most-like-to-come-back-on-stretchers in front of me, Ive 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 didnt need that reminder that hes out there somewhere. Under someone elses command. And youre in here trading witticisms with Fraiser.
"Hows the pain?"
Ah, the pain. Anything else youve managed to put out of mind the doc could possibly remind you of?
"You had to say it, didnt 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, youve learned, has a very specific Janet Fraiser meaning. It means youre 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 wont be tempted to rub your eyes. If they were still capable of producing tears youd 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."
"Surgery may help. Theres still no reason we cant see if performing an orbital enucleation wont 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 dont work, you dont 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, youve 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 docs dead-set on there only being one solution.
"Uh uh." You wave a finger in what youre pretty sure is Fraisers direction. "I was born with these eyes and I plan to die with them."
Great, its serious if shes back to titles. And theres 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?"
Daniels office smells like Daniels office actually. But its as close as youre gonna get to the guy when hes two-hundred-twenty-five light years away and youre 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 isnt helpful once theyve stopped rolling.
Daniel leaves them in your toy box along with a yo-yo (which helpfully lights up -- you told Danny he shouldnt waste his money on that -- besides you *asked* for the one with *sound*) and the musical puzzle box (which he also shouldnt 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.
Im convinced they must teach them that what the hell has the civilian done now look in colonel school. The expression on Rineharts face is the exact one Jack used to get when I stood bleeding all over the DHD because Id put my hand somewhere I shouldnt 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 dont 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 Goauld. Tealcs 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, Im 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. Its not like I havent 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.
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 hes seen you slide blindly between twelve automatic rifles and the gate once too often.
"Who is it?"
"Its SG1." A firm hand holds you back in case you have any delusions of command left. Theres the familiar whoosh of the looks-like-water, sounds-like-water, definitely-aint-water of the wormhole horizon.
One of the techs 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 theyre talking about, nor do you really care. But then theres a weird kind of whine and, for a second, youd 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. "Everythings 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 gates acting--
"Dr. Jackson?" Hammond doesnt tell you hes starting forward which leaves you looking like a stumbling fool as youre 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. "Wheres the rest of the team?"
"Doing what theyre always doing!"
Uh oh well, so much for you not worrying. "Daniel?"
"Dont say it, Jack! Just dont say it. I dont need the gloating."
There is a rush of air past your face as Daniel stalks down the ramp. You turn slightly. "General?"
Georges breathing is a little fast and seems loud in your ears. "You know what that was about?"
"But youre going to find out."
"Oh, Id definitely say yes, Sir."
The generals beefy hand slaps lightly on your shoulder. "Good man."
Im stammering. Jack hasnt made me stammer -- I mean not like this -- in years. Id say years. Its been years. Its not the yelling. Im used to the yelling. If youve seen Jack have a fit because hes mistaken a bottle of Jones Peachy Keen for his microbrew, you can stand yelling. Yelling is Jacks way of keeping his blood pressure from popping the top of his skull off.
No, Im stammering because while hes been yelling about what Im admittedly really not too clear on hes 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.
"He okay, doc?"
Youve successfully loitered until Fraiser comes to see what youre up to. Actually youre brilliant at loitering. Loitering is an indispensable tool if youre missing one-fifth of your five senses. Loitering gives you time to eavesdrop, and if youre caught you can just look confused and claim you forgot to count your steps. Nobody accuses the helpless blind guy of anything nefarious.
"Ive seen better dispositions on Goaulds."
Gee kiddies, thats encouraging. "No clue whats going on?"
"Well, hes in one pissy mood, but other than that MRI was clean, blood work is normal, says he didnt hit his head. And that, Colonel, makes him all yours."
Among the things Daniel has taught you is its possible to love somebody very, very deeply and still not want to have to retrieve them from Fraisers infirmary.
A deep brown and impatient gaze jerks toward me that says clearly Im in deep shit and Im bleeding on his paperwork.
"I think its happened again."
The very familiar face takes on a very familiar look of consternation. Im good at eliciting consternation from Jack. Its 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. Im pretty sure -- no, Im *totally* sure--Im not the particular Daniel Jackson you were expecting."
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. Youd 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 youd 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 whats 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 cant dim.
"Danny," you say cautiously.
"Oh, like you dont see!"
The venom in Daniels voice is starting to scare you.
"No, I dont see," you agree quietly.
"Hell, Jack. Im tired of being used like some kind of military punching bag. If youre not going to respect me, how the hell do you think Im 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 isnt there. Theres only the frightening hush of the mattress as Daniel pushes away.
"You really cant see."
Youre 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, Im starting to really think Janets little once-over missed something big like brain damage. You come back through the gate, majorly pissed. Over what, I cant begin to determine."
Your hand goes to the cane folded and hanging from your belt. Youre pretty sure if you try to find Fraiser without it at this point, youll end up ass-over-teacups in the floor.
"You cant see. You "
The panic in his voice sounding freakin authentic. Which you definitely do not need.
Oh boy. Id forgotten what it was like to deal with Colonel ONeill, 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.
Im pathetic. Five years of figuring out Jack-the-colonel, one year of learning a hell of a lot about what happens when Jack cant 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 Id had my butt roasted by his highness -- I go to find Sam. Ive almost reached the lab door when I remember that the mirror Sams wed so far met all tended to have the same taste in Air Force colonels that I have.
"Daniel!" Its a startled major I meet coming out of the door. "I thought you werent back until tomorrow."
While its not obvious yet, my "Im not back" is a perfectly honest answer.
Sam raises an eyebrow. "Does the colonel know youre here?"
"Oh, Id say so."
My universal sister-in-crime gestures back toward her equipment strewn workplace. "Come on in."
"You certainly seem to be taking this well."
You know with a sickening, sinking-in-the-gut kind of feeling that hes not referring to the cataclysmic screw-up in Daniels caused by Silers accidental power surge to the gate.
Anger that Daniel, your Daniel, keeps at bay by seeing the warning signs and providing the necessary misdirection dont 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 cant see? You dont get it, do you? How can you be *him*? You think Im okay? You think Im calm in here? No. It bugs the fucking hell out of me. Scares me shitless. Im alone and its dark and its a fucking bitch!"
I dont 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 hadnt 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* -- whos 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 ONeill had to go blind, why couldnt it have been this one instead of *mine*?
"I still cant " she just stops, speechless. "You and *the colonel*?" she asks again, still trying to wrap her scientific mind around the concept.
"Because hes blind " she offers, thinking shes finally gotten it. Like that makes any difference. Dont think I havent been down the is it pity? path myself. Jack sure as hell wasnt going to let me get away with that. It cost me dearly but I didnt do the hovering thing. If he didnt take my arm himself I didnt helpfully offer to guide him and, no matter how much I wanted to, I didnt 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 wasnt 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. Theyre his baneberries, if hes willing to accidentally decapitate them, the landscaping service can always bring more.
"Actually, I think it would have taken less time if Jack hadnt 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 Jacks timing was good. Hed come to me before we left for Merseger. Id wondered which one of us was going to crack first. Not that I actually got what hed come for, for the first thirty minutes or so.
You gotta know that Jack plays the dumb-colonel card to the hilt. Its pure strategy. While youre guffawing at the rube in uniform hes 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 hed 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 hed 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 Stewarts stats for the last three races.
The general was less than shocked when you well, basically, *confessed* that the reason you were constantly hanging onto a certain archaeologists arm had very little to do with your need for a guide dog and everything do with your need for Danny. Youd 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 youre not sure how you would have handled it. Actually, if George did make a sexual one-eighty youd have Janet check him for Goauld, but thats because theres 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. Hes the only one that gets to besides Daniel, who wont -- one, because he knows its decidedly unfair to the blind guy and, two, well, Daniel likes description. He practically jumps at the chance to explain exactly what hes going to do, what youre 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 doesnt get that *had* you seen them, basically all you would have thought was "gee, theres tables."
George is always helpfully taking charge and placing you where he thinks youll be safe. If, God forbid, things were reversed and it was Danny hiding behind dark shades, you can imagine youd be exactly like Hammond to the power of something astronomical.
"I need to tell you something."
Daniel broke it to Carter and Tealc, but for George this had to come from you.
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 havent done this multiverse thing before. Yes, Ill tell them what I know about the Goauld. Yes, we know about the Abydos cartouche room. No, I didnt come back with Jack when we left Abydos the first time.
Seems it was their Daniel who got the whole of the Ancients knowledge downloaded into his brain, something their Jack still doesnt seem to have forgiven him for. Im 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.
Daniels 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 cant 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 Georges chair screech on the floor. You brace a little. Youre about to get another taste of the generals helpful method of getting his blind ex-subordinate safely across the vast no-mans-land of his rug. One day youre 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 cant take care of one of them for thinking about the other.
The helpful hand is unusually tentative. You wave off the concern.
"Im 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 Carters 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. Its a bit brighter in the generals office than the rest of the base. The glare starts up the headache that youll later swear to Janet is minor and its 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 Daniels office. He says you wont give him permission to access our Daniels 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* were talking about here."
But not Daniel. Not-Daniel. The Daniel-whos-not-Daniel. Sub-Daniel. Yours is the Uber-Daniel. Maybe, Meta-Daniel. The Platos-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.
Theyve got a Tealc. Just as grave and formal and seriously anti-Goauld 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 didnt make you a bad guy. I dont think buried anywhere in there is the Jack I kissed goodbye two days ago, but I expect theres only one of that version. And I really, really want to get back to him.
Success. Not-Daniels now got access to all of Dannys hard drive. He cant play in the base network, but if hes anything like the one you know well, he wont get past the five-quadrillion giga-something-or-others of hieroglyph thingies Dannys got stored in there.
Its news you really want to deliver, but the twenty minutes in the generals office has sent the little guys with the ballpeens out for a good days pounding on your head. Should have left the sunglasses on, but youve still got enough airman in you to doff them for your superior.
Crap. Assuming they havent been rearranging the walls, youre just a little unsteady here. Okay, only a few more feet to go. Eleven actually of yours. Ah, there. One door to one pseudo-Daniels office.
"Hey. Hey hey " Thats 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 Dannys 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 Gods 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. "Youve got access. Not to the base stuff, but anything on the hard drive is yours to play with. Just dont lose anything. He forgets to back up even *I* back up. Okay, I have Sam back up. But Im 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 theyre white.
"Im going with you."
"No youre 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 Im about to walk into an open elevator shaft, I get to go anywhere I want on my own."
Its a rule, true. Its a rule youd 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, hed be on the phone to Fraiser and youd 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, youll let him.
Jack takes a minute to look up from his keyboard. One scarred eyebrow raises itself in a way I realize I havent seen in over a year. I suddenly wonder how many other expressions of Jacks were stolen by Merseger and how Id 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 dont think Ive 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 doesnt have to bother thinking. There is Jack acting clueless so youll think hes 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 thats your-me."
"Your Daniel Jackson," I clarify. "I dont know whats gone wrong, but Jack and I, well it took some time to work out our differences, but its 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, hes a hell of a linguist if he wasnt he wouldnt be here. But thats where his decision-making stops. If the ONeill 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 youd be so kind."
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, shes very careful giving you the shot. Guess, Hippocratically speaking, patient-in-pain trumps right of pissed-off doc to say she told-you-so.
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 wont make it to the suites before the happy-juice kicks in. "Want the cot in my office?"
I stand in the corridor and stare at Jacks 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 doesnt know what hes 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 dont think youll ever know.
"Fraiser thinks she can help you."
Goddamn busybody not-Daniel. Should have been suspicious when you woke up in Janets 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 youre in near constant pain because--"
"Because a Goauld with a staff weapon had better aim than Tealc 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 youre staring directly into a 100,000 candle spotlight."
"Its a million." You shrug when you feel not-Daniel staring in your direction. "Ive heard it before. I listened."
"Does Daniel know youre in that kind of pain?"
"I havent exactly mentioned it, no." And no, you wouldnt have darkened the real Daniels office door looking like that. Youre blind, not stupid. "And Fraisers not supposed to although obviously she cant be trusted."
"There were extenuating circumstances." You dont 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 didnt 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 youre asking *me* this?"
"Ive 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 Im 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 Id be objective?"
"Cause youre him before all this. I trust you."
"And you dont 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. Theres some scarring." Well-known calloused digits wrap yours familiarly, lead them to the crisscross of ridges youve spent many a morning fingering in the dark before the mirror. "The colorings mainly faded."
He draws your fingers across a particularly worrisome patch under your right eye that feels like your skins been buffed with steel wool. "This is almost white but its only the size of a thumbprint. Your sunglasses cover it up."
You remember Dannys dislike of you hiding behind the wraparound shades, but youd always known he was lying.
You swallow convulsively but you want to know what Daniel sees. "And my eyes?"
You frown. "Pointed in the same direction?"
"And that directions 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."
"Yeah, if the rooms not too dim theres this fascinating gray blob I get to look at."
Its 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 didnt 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 thats Jacks 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 Share back to her father and followed his Jack through the Abydos gate. I start to weigh the impossible trade having Share beside me for a year compared with Jack spending the rest of his life blind.
This Jack seems to expect the silence. Theres 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 Im driving. A hand on my arm at the base. Even asleep theres almost always some contact. My first indication its 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. Im not sure why Im here, except he asked and I wasnt about to say no.
Jack tips the bottle up and takes a deep swallow. "I suppose youve seen me at my worst."
"Well, I think its probably that Jack and I have seen each other at our worst."
He shakes his head like he thinks Im not getting it. "Youve seen him blind."
"And hes seen me stoned out of my mind with a gun in my hand."
From the nod, Im thinking this universe had a Shyla and I doubt it ended with Dr. Jackson in a comforting embrace.
"So hes accepting?" He says the word like hes spitting poison.
"Ah, no, Jack and accepting are two words I probably wouldnt use in a sentence together. Coping might be the better word. Were 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."
"You said hes *coping*." Theres bitterness in his voice. "Ive 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 couldnt do that to start with, be nonjudgmental. I couldnt imagine there being enough pain for anyone to do that. Wouldnt have dreamed Id one day coolly take an M-16 to a hatchery of the Goaulds children. Before I held Share 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 Id forfeit my own.
He nods silently. I reach out and place my hand over his.
Which turns out to be the wrong move.
Im so used to Jack touching me that I didnt think I mean, that was usually my job. The whole foster parents thing and all. I had dont 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 Goaulds-I-have-known conversation complemented by more watery beer as I know better than to think theres any Jones soda for me in the fridge.
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. Youre pretty sure youre still in line with the door something else that if you ask, will only move Carters 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, thats 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, ONeill."
Found the door. Screwed way up on counting the steps to the elevator, being distracted by memories of pasta and other things. Youre 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.
Tealc will not grab and tow you. Instead he treats you like great-aunt Nells china tea service. Youre 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 shouldnt have turned down that nice German shepherd. Frankly, you wouldnt have if Daniel hadnt nearly gone into anaphylactic shock from the dander.
The night sky encircles me as I stand in the familiar confines of Jacks back yard and look at the little observation tower hes 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.
"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 dont 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 couldnt spend all his time supporting the illusion you were really a consultant on gate matters. He had his own work to do. Hammond couldnt very well pay you if you didnt 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 wed 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 youd learned in a long time, but you didnt 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 hadnt 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.
Youre 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.
In the SUV there is no distracting yourself with watery beer. Weve discussed every Goauld I can think of and Ive 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 universes Daniel back into the wormhole. Its 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 SG1s code just fired up the gate, sent through a MALP and inquired if they had a Dr. Jackson theyd like to trade.
Hes poised and tense in your arms, the way Danny was to start with, when you first started hugging him. Doubtful hes 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, youre rewarded with a quivering heap of blissed-out linguist. You worry more that nobody knows this. Even him.
Hammond disengages you from Daniels side. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Dr. Jackson."
"General." You hear him shift, locating Carter. "Thanks, Sam. Ill get the notes to Sam."
Her "good luck" reverbs in the confines of the gate room.
"Jack," you correct. You raise a hand in farewell. "Bye, Danny."
"Bye." You hear the timbre Daniels 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 youre liable to throttle your other-universal self with your cane.
Feel a little smug that its our Sam who worked out the problem, not that their Sam isnt almost the spitting image of our own except she seems to have something going with Tealc Im 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." Ill 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.
Im getting used to these awkward meet-thyself moments. This one is even weirder since hes wearing my clothes. And Im wearing his.
"Dr. Jackson." Im surprised to hear Jacks voice behind me. I hadnt expected him to be part of the welcoming committee. Daniel looks startled as well. "You okay?"
Its a far cry from the enthusiastic hug Im hoping for when its my turn to clang down the ramp, but I can tell its a step. Maybe a big one.
"Im fine. Uh, thanks." Daniel shuffles his feet. He waves a piece of paper. "Ive 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 doesnt look at all like Greek to me. "Monopoles. Damn." Then shes off.
I look at my mirror image. "Jack okay?"
Im not altogether reassured by the way my double bites his lip. "Actually thats something I want to talk to you about."
Youre thinking maybe you should give Davis a break and quit breathing down his neck. Sam says theres not a damn thing we can do over here. They have to overload the gate at their end.
"Come on, Jack. Ill buy you a cup of coffee." George doesnt 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 generals elbow. You feel the warmth of their bodies. Their unspoken support surrounds you, closes in around you and buoys you in the darkness.
"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, Jacks as good as ever. I didnt 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 -- dont need to go to the infirmary, that sort of thing."
"Well, okay then. Ill be in my office if you need me."
Id be delighted by this polite awkwardness if I wasnt in worry overdrive from my doubles inability to answer my question with a simple yes.
"Whats wrong with Jack?"
He shakes his head, still staring at the door. "I dunno. Did he act weird the whole time I was gone?"
"Oh. Its nothing serious, really. I just think that since weve got a few minutes, we ought to talk."
"So we just wait?"
Because you are absolutely no good at waiting.
"Im 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 theres nothing more to talk about. After a while, Hammond rests his hand against your wrist.
"Spill it." If this is the way I act, I dont know how we successfully negotiated as many treaties as we did.
"Jacks fine. Its just theres something he doesnt want to tell you and, if it were me, Id 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?"
"Jacks in pain."
"I know that, god dammit!"
Confusion flits across the good doctors face. "You know that."
"Of course I know that. He thinks he hides it, but the man is *blind*. He doesnt have the advantage of knowing when Im watching. Of course I know hes in pain. Theres 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 doesnt realize this?"
My muscles are so tense it hurts to shrug. "I dont know. Im not trying to hide it. Im not flaunting it, either."
"Well, do you think maybe you should *talk* about it?"
"He will, if and when hes ready."
"Fraiser wants to perform surgery."
Okay, that one got me. I sink down against the side of the desk. "That one I *dont* know."
"Jack isnt agreeing."
"Okay uh, well, I still say its Jacks decision. Losing your sight is this horrendous loss of control. In the past year Jack has lost god, hes lost practically everything except his need to protect and hes hell, its to my surprise but hes managed to give up every fucking bit of it. Not necessarily gracefully, Ill admit, but its been with strength and honor, and if he wants to pretend a while longer that hes protecting me, Im not going to blow his cover."
We posture with our arms folded identically. Hes picked up the rising inflection of my voice and tosses it back to me.
"Oh, I think hes doing a much better job than you imagine. I dont think you understand how bad it really is. Fraisers been keeping a syringe with his name on it for months now."
"No, I would know if it were that bad."
"Not if hes good. And he *is* good but I think hes getting tired."
I squelch the worry that threatens. "Well, why wouldnt he tell me? Why the hell tell *you*?"
Great. Jacks in pain and Im whiney cause the *me* he admitted it to was the wrong version.
"Im not his lover."
"Shit." I have to sit down. I really, really have to sit down. "There better not be some kind of universal dont-ask-dont-tell here, because I already got the whole homophobic treatment from the colonel."
Theres 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 wont 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 hes the most beautiful thing Ive ever seen of any age or gender.
"He said you said that."
"So " Im not understanding this. "He knows I think hes gorgeous."
"What he knows," Doctor Jackson corrects, sounding superior, "is that he knows he thinks youre lying."
"Wh *why* would I be lying?"
"He can feel the scars. The scars nobody mentions especially you. Hes got this idea theres something hideous behind those shades that everyones just keeping from him."
"Well, I hope you told him!"
Im furious at not being there, at Jack somehow being forced to share something so intimate with some substitute-me whos not equipped to understand what the last years been like for all of us.
"The only way to stop all the pain is to remove " Even he cant 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 hed probably remain comatose. I dont give a fucking damn what his eyes look like. Or if theyre even there.
"They thought hed 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 wouldnt want to live like that. Want to know what the first thing he said was?" I blush too damn easily, but I cant help it. "He said Danny. He heard me reading to him and said Danny. So, no, I dont give a flying fuck about his scars. I do, however, give a flying fuck about his pain. And, no, youre 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?"
"Jack." I thumb towards the door. "The cranky one whose eyes still work. You need to touch him."
Hmm so thats what Jack used to call my deer-in-the-headlights look. "T..touch him?"
"Im not saying it needs to be sexual unless you both want it to be, but hes got failure-to-thrive written all over him. Somebody needs to hug him on a regular basis. And Im thinking youre the only one with a chance of getting within twelve yards of him."
"Yeah, you. Trust me; this ones got no chemistry with Carter. Shes 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?"
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."
"Yeah, I guess so."
He *guesses* so. Jack gives the finest damn hugs in the world. I know.
"Something youd like to try again?"
"Maybe," he concedes.
Off-world activation have to be the two, or maybe, three, most beautiful words in the universe.
"SG1s 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 youre meeting Danny on the ramp.
Hes all warmth and limbs. Your hand cards through soft hair and he smells like that hypoallergenic soap youve been using ever since he was gone so you could at least be surrounded by his scent. You want to hold on forever but its the friggin gateroom and Sam will want her turn.
He nods beneath your covering hand. You want to search his face for emotion and you make a little noise of loss that you cant see if hes truly all right.
"Im okay, Jack. Really. They were very nice to guests."
You make yourself let go so you wont 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. Its okay. Dannys home.
Janet has to do her requisite poking under the observant ears of one impatient former colonel.
"So I was a real asshole, huh?"
Jacks 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, Im 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 Jacks 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 longs this going to take?"
I take a critical look at the man Ive 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 wouldnt have gotten to before the conversation in Doctor Jacksons office) his eyes are hurting.
"Im done," mutters Janet distractedly, scribbling things on her clipboard.
Im 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."
"Lock. Door. Jack. Mmmmmm ."
Oh yeah. You know how to stop a linguist from talking. The doors 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 whats under it.
The answer comes with a little gasp. "Corduroys."
Lets 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."
Hes 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. Hes 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. Jacksons 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 hes flushed. His breathing is short, sharp gasps. Its been five horribly long days and theres not going to be time for finesse. Youll 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, its with a throaty moan that takes you with him.
Whoa. That was well, whoa. I mean, I think I saw stars.
"Glad youre 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 hes not going to allow me to turn his face back toward me, but finally he relents. "Why didnt you tell me?"
He drops his head, rolling his forehead against my shoulder and making a strangled sound. "Goddamn not-Daniel."
"Not-Daniel?" I cant help myself its 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 cant." The normally steady voice breaks. "Danny I cant."
"Yes, you can. Except that they look like they probably hurt like hell, theres nothing wrong with your eyes." I kiss his temple. "Just looks like youve got the mother of all allergy attacks."
He finally raises his head.
"I thought Id lost you, Jack. I mean one day youre over at the apartment saying youre going to come back with flowers and chocolate and a week later youre laying unconscious on some Tokra ship with Jacob shaking his head and telling me theres nothing more they can do." I gingerly brush a finger along the scar that curves beneath Jacks left eye. "I dont give a damn about the scars. I do give a damn if youre in pain."
"You know what Janet wants to do."
"I know. Itll stop the pain. Shes 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."
Life without the little gray blob is pretty much the same as life with it. Joining the rare ranks of the completely-blind really isnt that bad. And no pain is pretty sweet.
You really dont 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 couldnt 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 youd had from the start.
Youd forgotten love could mean stupid stuff like that.
"You okay, Sir?" This is a woman youve nearly expired in a freezing cave with, and you still cant get her to call you Jack.
"Well, in that case maybe youd like to come see what Daniels cooking, because frankly its scaring me and Tealc."
You orient yourself with a quick brush against the porch rail and start toward the kitchen. "Daniel, please tell me youre *not* making cibreo again."
"Patina de pisciculis." The kitchen smells ominously fishy.
"So help me, Danny, if youre 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 Tealc that liquamen was one of the basics of Roman cooking."
"Its 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."
"Thats it. Tealc, light the grill. Sam, theres 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 Goauld with better recipes? Surely one of them likes to eat tacos."
Danny harrumphs from the kitchen.
Yep, youd forgotten love could mean stupid stuff like this.