|Slash:||Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.|
|Category:||Angst. Drama. Hurt/Comfort.|
|Synopsis:||A visit to an alien world has Daniel remembering the losses in his life.|
|Warnings:||My usual sentimental stuff.|
Jack O'Neill woke up cold, the familiar warmth and weight of Daniel, snug in his sleeping bag his back against Jack's, missing. Daniel must have gotten up early to take over Carter's watch. Jack lay in the darkened tent, listening to the murmur of voices around the campfire. 'May as well join the party, ' he thought and pulled on his boots and jacket, fingers fumbling with the cold. He opened the flap of the tent, Daniel had forgotten to zip it again, and paused. Carter and Daniel were by the fire, Daniel's arm around Carter's shoulder. Jack saw Carter nod once before bringing up a hand to wipe at her eyes.
'Okay, maybe I should wait awhile.' Jack retreated to sit on his sleeping bag. Carter hated for her CO to see her crying. He remembered the visit to the hospital where MacKenzie had taken Daniel after being infected with Machello's bugs, the awful drive back to base made worse by Carter's little caught breaths as she tried to keep herself from crying, the one person, other than Janet Frasier, who would understand her tears locked in a padded room.
He heard a small laugh from outside and figured it was safe to join them. Daniel was standing, pulling Carter up. Jack saw Carter give Daniel a quick, shy hug and a kiss on one cheek.
"Carter, you okay?" Jack asked as he joined them by the fire.
"I'm fine, sir." She attempted one of her usual sunny smiles, the tears in her voice betraying her . "I'm going to turn in." Carter gave Daniel's hand one last squeeze.
"Thanks for listening," Jack heard her whisper. He saw Teal'c at the flap of the tent he always shared with Carter and heard Teal'c's low voice asking a question, Carter's voice as soft in reply.
"She okay, Danny?" Jack asked Daniel as they settled by the fire. "I need to know if she's not."
"I know that, Jack," Daniel said as he poked at the fire with a stick, watching the sparks fly into the cold night air. "And yeah, Sam'll be okay. It's just...today is the anniversary of her mom's death. This is the first time we've ever been offworld on that day. Sam usually tries to visit her mom's grave around this time of year and, with everything that's been going on lately, she hasn't had a chance."
"I'll request some leave for her when we get home tomorrow." Jack decided and caught Daniel's grateful smile.
"Just make sure she doesn't know..." Daniel started to warn.
"For crying out loud, Daniel, as if I didn't know. I'm sure General Hammond will be able to come up with a good excuse for Carter to have a few days off. Now, pour me a cup of coffee." Jack smiled and held out a mug.
Jack held his wrist up in the air and tapped his watch. Across the garden, Carter caught the motion and nodded her head in understanding. She pointed towards a small stand of trees and motioned that she would tell Teal'c it was time they were leaving. Jack nodded back and started off to find Daniel, not that it would be hard. He knew Daniel would be in the small temple in the center of the garden talking to J'lezia, the priestess of this village.
Breathing deeply as he moved along the path, Jack enjoyed the smell of the lush foliage after the afternoon rain. As he walked, he thought of how well this mission had gone. SG-1 had been in fine form. Carter had come back from her week off well rested and looking far happier than she had in months. Teal'c was somehow more centered, having spent days in meditation.
Daniel was excited having a new world, a new culture to immerse himself in. Jack had been treated to Daniel's new discoveries each night on this planet, N'tal, the native called it. Last night, Daniel had trudged up to the room he was sharing with Jack, hair dusty, ink smudges on his fingers, utterly exhausted and he'd still managed to talk for an hour about what he'd found in the ancient texts in the temple library.
Jack smiled as the rain dripping from the higher branches of the trees landed on the tiny bells that were hung from much of the foliage making a small clear tone. He could hear Daniel's voice ahead, J'lezia's laugh and then her voice speaking low. Jack rounded the last curve and saw Daniel sitting on the ground at J'lezia's feet, his head tilted back, absorbing all the priestess was telling him with intense interest. As he watched, the old woman held up a hand and one of the emerald green birds that were native to this planet fluttered down to her finger. She appeared to whisper something to it and lifted her hand higher, the small bird winging away. She leaned towards Daniel then, saying something so low that Jack couldn't hear. Not that it would have done any good, Jack knew, he hadn't been able to learn much more than hello, please and thank you in the N'talan tongue. Whatever it was that the priestess said had Daniel nodding solemnly.
"Daniel," Jack called as he entered the grassy area. "It's time we were getting back to the Gate."
Daniel looked towards him and nodded, but Jack could see the disappointment on Daniel's face. Daniel stood and said something to J'lezia before bowing low. The priestess smiled at him and took his face between two gnarled hands, pulling Daniel's head close to place a kiss on his forehead. Daniel straightened and then bowed again, lower than before.
"Daniel?" Jack asked, coming beside him. "Can you explain to her that we must leave? That it's time for us to return to our world."
"Already did, Jack," Daniel stated. He turned his attention back to J'lezia who was whispering something to him.
Whatever it was made Daniel frown and Jack heard him say, "I understand," in a low voice.
J'lezia labored to her feet, holding on to her ornate walking staff for support. She looked to Jack with her piercing black eyes. Jack bowed as low as Daniel had and managed to say 'thank you' in the N'talan language. J'lezia spoke to Jack in the melodious language of her people and then looked to Daniel once more, waiting for him to translate.
Jack turned to Daniel, raising an eyebrow.
"J'lezia asks that you keep the promise you have made in your heart." Daniel said, his voice rising at the end in question. He opened his mouth to ask J'lezia a further question but was stopped by Jack's hand brushing lightly against his.
"Tell her I will. That I have no intention of ever breaking it," Jack said.
Daniel nodded and provided the translation watching in amusement as J'lezia reached up and patted Jack's cheek. He sighed deeply as he followed Jack from the garden, willing himself not to look back.
"Danny?" Jack was frowning at him in concern as they began the walk to the Gate. "You okay?"
"Yeah, " Daniel nodded, the words J'lezia had spoken echoing in his mind. "Yeah, I'm fine." And he knew as soon as he said them that Jack didn't believe him for one minute. So he did what he'd learned worked best a long time ago, he changed the subject, steering it away from himself, from the old hurt that still sometimes hit him full force.
"Did you know that the N'talan language has no word for goodbye? I think it's because..." Daniel let his words flow, allowing the knowledge he'd gained in the temple scrolls to fill the empty space beginning to spread from his heart.
Jack nodded politely, watching the younger man trying so desperately to hide behind words. He'd come to know this particular trick of Daniel's very well. And right now he wanted nothing more than to pull Daniel close and say, "I know, I know you're hurting, Danny. I don't know why, but let me in." But of course he couldn't and wouldn't, at least not now. It would have to wait until the safety of Jack's house. It still amazed Jack that Daniel, the man of so many words, had so few when it came to talking about himself.
He and Daniel had been lovers for almost two years, best friends for four before that, and Daniel still needed time to make sure in his own mind that whatever he shared about himself with Jack, those small glimpses he gave Jack of his childhood, of his life before the SGC, that it was safe. That Jack wo uldn't somehow judge him. Jack had learned to become a very patient man, at least with a certain archaeologist. Hell, six years and Jack still had no idea just how many foster homes Daniel had been in after his parents' deaths. Jack smiled faintly. He'd play the game for now.
Jack woke up just as dawn was beginning to send early light into the bedroom. He reached over to pull Daniel close and sat up when he realized there was no Daniel there. Daniel's side of the bed was cool which meant Daniel had been up for awhile. Jack hurriedly got dressed, noticing Daniel's sweats were gone, as were his sneakers. He wasn't exactly worried. On rare occasions, when Daniel was working through some sort of problem, he'd been known to get up and go for a run. Jack pulled on his own sneakers and shivered as he walked out his back door into the chill of an early spring morning. He decided to check out the roof, the other possibility. Got it in one, Jack congratulated himself as he climbed up the ladder and saw Daniel sitting on one of the deck chairs, head tilted back, sound asleep.
'Well, at least Daniel had had the sense to bring up a couple of blankets,' Jack thought as he approached the sleeping man. He bent down and placed a soft kiss on Daniel's lips. Daniel's hands came up, holding Jack close for a moment longer, letting the kiss linger.
"I like that wake up call," Daniel murmured.
"I aim to please, " Jack smiled, grabbing part of the blanket covering Daniel's legs and sitting on the deck in front of Daniel. "How long you been up here?"
"What time is it?" Daniel yawned and stretched.
"About 0600," Jack answered, checking his watch.
"Then about two hours," Daniel answered. "I couldn't sleep. I didn't want to bother you." His voice grew distant, and he tilted his head back once more, looking at the brightening sky.
Jack sighed and settled back against Daniel's legs. He felt Daniel's hand come to his head, Daniel's long fingers absently stroking his hair. "Jack?" Daniel's voice drifted to him.
"Yeah, Danny?" Jack leaned back further, tilting his head back on Daniel's knees and looking up into a troubled face. "What is it?"
"Did you...?" Daniel took a deep breath and started again "When Charlie died...did you get to say goodbye?"
Jack closed his eyes, a moment in time crystallizing in his mind. Daniel's hand stopped its movement in his hair, and Jack reached up to take the cold hand in his, alarmed at its trembling.
"I'm sorry," Daniel whispered. "I had no right. Just forget it."
"No, " Jack said, tightening his grip. "No, it's alright, Danny. And yeah, yeah, I did get to say goodbye."
He remembered the doctor talking to them, Sara crying and pale, looking at his own shirt and thinking that it was his son's blood covering the fabric, hearing the doctor's explanation. He remembered the exact moment his dreams had died. It had been the hardest thing he'd ever done, saying goodbye to the child lying motionless in the bed. Jack had taken one small hand in his and told his son that he loved him, that Charlie was a good boy, and that Daddy wasn't mad at him. He remembered standing at a gravesite two days later, the weather exceptionally lovely on a day when the heavens should have opened up with cascading rain to take the place of the tears Jack couldn't allow himself to shed.
"I did say goodbye, Danny. I've always been grateful that I could."
There was a long silence from Daniel. "Did I ever thank you for bringing Sha're back so that I could take her home?" Daniel didn't wait for an answer. "That meant a lot, being able to put her to rest."
"I know it did," Jack said. He twisted around to finally face Daniel. "What's going on, Danny?"
"I've just been thinking." Daniel said, looking everywhere but at Jack.
"About what?" Jack asked. "Is there something wrong with you? Did Janet find something at your last physical?"
Daniel shook his head quickly to reassure Jack. "No, no. Nothing like that. It's just...well, stuff. Sam told me about her mom's funeral, and when we were on N'tal, J'lezia told me that I needed to embrace my past and then release it, and I got to thinking about some things."
"Ahh," Jack nodded. "Your parents?" he guessed.
"Jack, I was angry," Daniel said in a choked voice. "I was mad because I wanted to help and Dad said no. And Mom backed him up. They always did that." Daniel gave a small laugh and a weak smile to Jack. " I never could trick them with trying to get something out of the other one if the first said no."
"Charlie used to do that to his mom and me all the time." Jack smiled at Daniel. "That's normal kid stuff."
"I know, but Jack, I was mad. I wanted to help and I couldn't understand why they wouldn't let me. I yelled at my dad and mom and then the coverstone fell and...Jack, I never got to say goodbye," Daniel finished in an anguished whisper. "They died thinking..."
Jack put a finger on Daniel's lips. "Don't do that, Danny. Don't go there. They died. They didn't want to leave you. It's not your fault. It was an accident."
Daniel nodded. "I know that, Jack. I've had almost thirty years to tell myself that. But sometimes, I just...you know. I wish I could go back and change my last words to them."
"I know, Danny." Jack pulled Daniel into an embrace. "But let it go. I think that's what J'lezia meant. It's time to let it go." He felt Daniel draw in a deep breath and Daniel's head nod against his shoulder. "It's hard, Danny. I know it's hard. And it's okay to still miss them."
They sat there a long time, Jack leaning against Daniel's legs, Daniel once again stroking Jack's hair with one hand. They watched the sunrise, Daniel drawing in frequent shuddering breaths. They didn't speak, but Jack had a tight hold of Daniel's other hand, giving it an occasional squeeze and being rewarded by an answering squeeze in return. Jack tilted his head back once to see Daniel watching the sky and a hawk flying high overhead.
"The N'talan's believe that birds carry the messages from the living on Earth up to the heavens," Daniel said in a low voice. And then minutes later, Jack heard him whisper to the sky. "Mom, Dad, I'll always love you. I always did."
"Hey, Daniel," Jack said a long time later, "how about we go down and get some breakfast? I'm getting stiff here."
Daniel straightened up abruptly, his movement nearly knocking Jack over. Jack looked up to see a smiling Daniel gathering up his blankets. Jack smiled back. Daniel looked at peace, his eyes no longer troubled.
"Jack?" Daniel asked as they sat in the kitchen drinking coffee. "What promise did you make in your heart?"
"Huh?" Jack frowned in confusion as he took another sip of coffee.
"J'lezia. She said you were to keep the promise you made in your heart, and you told her that you had no intention of ever breaking it. You didn't let me ask her what she meant. You acted like you understood what she was talking about," Daniel said patiently. "So what promise did you make in your heart?"
Jack smiled. "I did understand what J'lezia was talking about. I made a promise to hold yours."
"Hold my what?" It was Daniel's turn to look confused. Jack decided he could be a little more clear. After all, Daniel was only on his first cup of coffee.
"Hold your heart in mine," Jack said, reaching out to grab Daniel's hand still warm from the coffee mug. He tugged a little.
"Oh," Daniel said almost absently, and then a moment later, "oh," with growing understanding and the slow smile Jack loved best. "So, umm..."
"How about I show you just how well I can keep my promises, Danny?" Jack smiled back.
"You might have to show me a couple of times, Jack." Daniel teased. "I don't give my heart to just anyone, you know."
'I know,' Jack thought as he followed Daniel to the bedroom, 'that's why its so utterly, utterly amazing that you gave it to me.'