|Slash:||Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.|
|Synopsis:||Jack finds out why Daniel has a suitcase in his office.|
|Warnings:||Sentimental at parts, but other than that, none.|
"Daniel, you 'bout ready to go here?" Jack opened Daniel's office door. "Time's a'wasting. We're supposed to be leaving at 0600."
"I'm coming, Jack," Daniel's voice floated out at him from behind some boxes. "I needed this." Daniel held up a thick volume as he emerged from the stack.
"Uh huh," Jack eyed the book and estimated its weight. "I certainly don't want to hear any whining about how heavy your pack is after we've been hiking for a couple of hours."
Daniel looked up from putting the book in his pack. "I do not whine. Besides when have I ever asked you to carry my pack?"
"There was that time on P2D-441. I carried that damn pack for fifteen klicks," Jack grumbled.
"You volunteered, as I recall, Jack." Daniel lifted his pack. "I was perfectly willing to carry my own pack."
"Yeah, yeah," Jack grinned. "I guess it would have been a little hard with a sprained shoulder. Anyway, next time, you can take that. Give you plenty of room for all your books." Jack pointed to a battered suitcase sitting by a filing cabinet.
Daniel ignored him, flipping off the lights and leaving his office.
"Daniel?" Jack asked as he caught up to the other man, who was making up for lost time by practically running to the Gate room. " And why do you have a suitcase in your office anyway? It's not like you take it on missions." It had been there as long as Jack could remember, and he'd always thought it kind of quirky. He'd forgotten it was even there, maybe Daniel had too.
"The ruins on P2A-668 look quite fascinating, Jack. Did I tell you that they appear to be a combination of Incan and Polynesian cultures?" Daniel was saying as they arrived at the Gate. "Oh, hey, Sam, Teal'c. Sorry I was running a little late. I couldn't find a book I needed." Daniel moved further away from Jack talking nearly nonstop to Carter and Teal'c.
Jack looked up at the control room and caught General Hammond's eye. He gave the signal that SG-1 was ready to go. It was only as they stepped through the Gate that Jack realized that Daniel had never answered his question.
"The elders say that the children will be well cared for," Daniel reported to Jack and the others. The archaeologist looked down at the boy and smiled as he gave the child a gentle hug.
SG-1 had found the three children on their hike from the Gate to the small village. Teal'c had heard the crying long before any of the others and had taken off through the underbrush towards the sea, his teammates following him closely. Sam's best guess was that the children had been on their own less than a day. There was no sign of the parents, although Jack and Teal'c's searching had turned up some wreckage of what appeared to be a canoe.
The oldest, a boy Daniel estimated to be about three, had crawled into Daniel's lap as they offered the children food. The other two children were girls, barely past the toddling stage. The boy had attached himself to Daniel, whimpering when any of the others tried to take him from the archaeologist. The girls seemed content to be passed from Teal'c to Sam to Jack and make the rounds again. Daniel smoothed back the black hair from the boy's forehead. None of the children had spoken since being found, a fact that scared Daniel. He had a horrible feeling that they had seen their parents die. He hoped that if it were true, time would erase the memories. That this new life would be the only one they'd ever remember.
Daniel handed the boy to one of the village women. The elders had explained that her own child had died of a fever during the rainy season. She was a good mother, they had assured him. He let his hand linger on the boy's soft hair a moment longer. The woman caught Daniel's hand and pressed a kiss to it.
"Thank you," she whispered shyly. The girls laughed and clung to her legs.
"Take good care of them."
Daniel swallowed a lump that had appeared in his throat. No reason for it really, he tried to tell himself. He could see the children of the village were loved beyond reason. His observations over the last few days had soothed his anxiety. Although children were recognized as being born of certain parents, the relationships were flexible. When SG-1 had eaten the noon meal with the local chief, a few children, none of them related to the man or his wives, had wandered in and were welcomed, fed and otherwise treated as one of their own. Despite all that, it still hurt. Daniel hadn't wanted it to.
Daniel listened to Jack saying farewell to the elders, taking leave of the chief. He closed his eyes, steeling himself to leave. "Don't look back, don't look back," He whispered aloud using the words as a mantra on the trek back to the Gate. Daniel heard a child crying and turned for one last glimpse, only to see the boy crying and reaching out for him. "I'm sorry, I can't." Daniel shook his head and turned resolutely back to the path, watching Teal'c's back ahead of him. 'Please forget me,' he pleaded to the spirits of this world. 'Please let him forget.'
Jack was close enough to hear Daniel's anguished whisper to the boy. The colonel gritted his teeth as the child's cries grew louder momentarily, watching the archaeologist's shoulders hunching slightly with each wail.
Daniel knew there was no choice in the matter, dammit. He knew it was the only solution. Jack reached out a hand to place it on Daniel's shoulder. THe other man must have sensed the movement because his stride lengthened and he moved out of Jack's reach. Jack closed his hand in a fist and let it drop uselessly by his side. Right now, Daniel was screaming 'leave me alone' without using any words at all. 'This is bad,' Jack thought darkly, 'very, very bad.'
"Daniel," Jack began.He'd been trying to talk to Daniel about what had happened on 441 for the past two evenings. Daniel had managed to avoid him on base, busy with briefing four teams preparing for off world missions. Efforts to discuss it at home in the evenings were equally as futile. Hell, tonight he hadn't even been able to launch into his, 'I think you need to talk' spiel. Daniel was one step ahead.
"There is nothing to talk about, Jack." Daniel stood and started scraping the plates. "I mean, it's not as if I could really do anything about the children anyway. I knew they had to stay on their home world. How could I be a father anyway? I don't really think my job would be conducive to fatherhood. It's fine."
"Daniel," Jack grabbed the next plate out of Daniel's hands.
Daniel took in a deep breath and held it a moment before snagging the plate back. "It is fine. I told you, there's nothing to talk about."
"Yeah, it's fine, but the point is, you're not." Jack countered.
"What time did you come to bed last night anyway?"
"Do I have a curfew now, Jack?" Daniel asked, arching his eyebrows. "Maybe I haven't made it clear to you, but I am fine. And forgive me if I felt a little paternal towards the children."
Jack held up his hands in a placating gesture. "Okay, you're fine. I'm wrong. You've dealt with whatever shit that last mission brought up."
"Don't patronize me, Jack." Daniel's voice was chilled. He closed the dishwasher door with a little more force than necessary.
"Daniel, I'm concerned," Jack tried one more time. "I know you, Danny. Hell, finding those kids all alone on that beach disturbed me. Knowing that if we hadn't found them..."
"They saw their parents die," Daniel whispered. "I know they did." He studied the dishwasher controls intently.
"Ah, shit, Danny."
"I have some work to do, Jack. I thought I'd get it done on base today but I kept getting interrupted. I have to send a report to Major Clement tonight. His team goes off world at 0300 and they need some cultural information on the Mayans." Daniel's voice trailed off as Jack's arms came around him. He leaned into the embrace for a moment, closing his eyes, wanting to stay there forever and knowing he couldn't. 'Stop it,' his inner voice said. 'Deal with it.'
Jack felt Daniel relax for an instant before his body went stiff in his arms. Daniel seemed determined to fight whatever demons the mission had brought up alone. But the anger was good, Jack reminded himself. Daniel was close to opening up. He just had to wait a little longer.
"Jack," Daniel said softly, warningly.
"Yeah, Danny," Jack released him, "I know." He allowed himself one quick kiss onto Daniel's hair.
Daniel settled at the table, opening his laptop, immersing himself in work, losing himself in language. Jack piddled around the living room for a while, listening to Daniel's fast, furious typing at first. But then the typing grew slower as if Daniel had worked out some of his anger on the keyboard.
Jack wandered into the kitchen again, pulling out a beer from the fridge. "Hey, Danny, I'm going to go up to the roof for a while."
Daniel nodded and muttered something. At the computer, Jack thought, not at him. Jack placed a fresh cup of coffee at Daniel's hand and was given a brief flash of a grateful smile before Daniel turned his total attention back to Major Clement's report.
"Want some company?" Daniel's soft voice pulled Jack out of a half doze.
Jack smiled as Daniel approached. "Now when would I ever turn down that offer, Danny?"
"I...uh...I'm sorry, Jack. I've been a real ass." Daniel leaned in for a kiss.
"It's okay. It's okay," Jack whispered. Then he noticed the small basket and thermos Daniel had placed on the floor. "Whatcha bring me?"
Daniel pulled back the napkin covering the basket. "Brownies." He held up the thermos. "And milk."
"Brownies?" Jack smacked his lips dramatically. "I didn't know we had the stuff to make brownies."
"We didn't." Daniel handed Jack one of the warm treats. "I found them in the freezer and nuked them."
Jack bit into the fudgy brownie and sighed after he downed it in three bites. "My mom used to make the best brownies. She even gave Sara the recipe when we got married. Whenever we'd have an argument, Sara would bake brownies." Jack reached for a second one. "Charlie loved them. We used to have brownie eating contests."
Daniel leaned back against Jack's legs, resting his head on Jack's knees. "Nice memory."
"Yeah, yeah it is." They were silent then, enjoying the rest of the brownies and the ice cold milk, watching the stars twinkling in the sky. Jack slipped his hand into Daniel's hair, loving the silken feel of it as he stroked it. Daniel's eyes closed and he let out a sigh as Jack began a slow massage.
"One of my foster families owned a bakery," Daniel's quiet voice broke the silence. "I lived with them for two months, and then my caseworker decided that I shouldn't live there because I burned myself when I was helping them in the bakery. She said it was too dangerous."
Daniel's left hand had moved to his thigh and he was unconsciously rubbing in a small circle. It wasn't a scar from an oven burn. Jack knew what was on Daniel's leg underneath his jeans. Scars from five cigarette burns. Jack had first seen them after bringing Daniel home from Nem's planet. They'd almost made it to the Gate before Daniel began violently vomiting and complaining of a severe headache. Jack had been with him in the infirmary, Daniel sitting on a gurney, half asleep, leaning against Jack. The gown had ridden up slightly on Daniel's thighs and Jack's gaze had been drawn to the almost compulsive rubbing Daniel had been doing. Not sure if Daniel had been injured, Jack had gently taken the hand and seen the old scars.
"Danny?" He'd whispered.
Daniel had opened sleep-dazed eyes and a strange mix of panic and embarrassment had flitted across his face. "It was a long time ago, Jack. Forget it." And he'd closed his eyes and fell asleep.
Jack had never asked about the scars; Daniel never volunteered. It was the only place Daniel didn't let him touch, but all the same, Jack reached down and captured Daniel's hand.
Daniel looked at the hand covering his and took a deep breath. He gave a slight shiver. He really didn't remember starting to rub the marks. "This was what I got from my next foster mom. Guess the bakery would have been better, huh?" He curled his fingers into a fist; wanting to rub the scars away, knowing Jack wouldn't let him. "Lucky I wasn't there long." He thought he'd purged the nightmare of those six weeks from his mind for good. Guess not, he thought ruefully.
Jack leaned forward, folding Daniel into his arms, his breath warm and chocolately as he murmured Daniel's name.
"Twenty-three," Daniel whispered, his throat closing around the pain, "twenty-three foster homes. Twenty-three languages."
Jack's arms tightened around him, giving him courage to continue, but even then Daniel couldn't help trying to lessen the horrible sense of failure.
"Good thing Mackenzie didn't have me in Mental Health much longer. He probably could have found some deep significance in the symmetry." Daniel gave a harsh brief laugh. He stopped as he felt damp warmth trickling into his hair.
Jack gave a cough before a rough, "Danny," came out.
"Please. Please, Jack," Daniel pleaded. "It was a long time ago." Daniel tried to dismiss it, not wanting Jack to hurt for him.
"It's why you have the suitcases, isn't it?" Jack ventured. He was stepping into dangerous territory indeed. Jack nearly held his breath, the sudden clarity frightening.
"Suitcases?" Daniel froze, all his muscles tightening in Jack's loose embrace.
"The one in your office on base, the one in the spare room closet." Daniel's heart was pounding under his hand, and Jack knew the truth. "They're packed, aren't they?"
Daniel ducked his head, studying his bare toes. He finally gave a tiny nod, giving in to Jack's persistence at breaking down the walls Daniel'd so carefully built over the years. "I never knew, Jack. I never knew when I'd be leaving. It was just easier that way." Easier to never unpack, to let himself think that maybe finally he'd found a place to belong. He twisted in Jack's arms so he could look at Jack. "I can take the one here back to my apartment."
Jack placed a hand on his lover's cheek, tilting Daniel's head so he could give a slow lingering kiss, the kiss a delicious combination of Daniel, chocolate, coffee and milk. "No," he said against his cheek, "but you belong, Danny. Believe me, you belong."
Daniel pulled Jack's head down for another kiss, need mingling with desire. Jack's tears lent salt to the chocolate taste of Jack's mouth. Some small part of his brain registered that fact. Jack was crying. Jack was crying for him, for Daniel. Daniel caught his breath and pulled at Jack's hand. Wiping his hand over Jack's cheek, Daniel had trouble finding his voice. "Thank you, Jack."
After all the missions they'd been on over the years, Jack thought Daniel would have learned to be quiet. He woke up at the first muffled curse coming from down the hall. Jack rolled over to look at the small clock on the bedside table.
"03:37?" Jack grumbled. "What's he doing at this hour?" But the bed was warm, especially where Daniel had been, so Jack moved over and put his head on
Daniel's pillow. Jack drifted off again, only to open his eyes when Daniel came back to the bedroom. Jack opened his mouth to say something and shut it when he saw what Daniel was carrying. The battered suitcase that had been sitting in the spare room closet.
Daniel started unzipping the suitcase, pausing every few seconds as if afraid of waking Jack. Jack heard Daniel's intake of breath as he slowly opened a drawer and began unpacking.
"Danny?" Jack felt the lump returning to his throat. "Whatcha doin'?"
"What I should have done a long time ago, Jack." Daniel answered, taking a small armful of clothes into the closet.
"And what's that?" Jack propped himself up on his elbow as Daniel returned.
Daniel paused in his unpacking and smiled in the dim moonlight. "Coming home, Jack. I think I've finally found the place I belong."
"Not exactly, Danny." Jack patted the bed. "Come here."
Daniel shrugged and sat down on the bed, snuggling into Jack's sudden embrace.
"This is where you belong, Danny," Jack whispered. "Right here. With me."
Jack heard Daniel swallow. When the word came, it was accompianed by a tear that fell onto Jack's hand. "Forever?" The word was whispered with longing.
"Forever, Danny. Forever," Jack vowed. He could think of a thousand ways to show Daniel just how precious he was to Jack. Ah well, it was a tough job, but he figured he was up to the challenge.