Rating: PG-13
Category: Gen.  Angst.  Friendship Fic.
Season/Spoilers: Season 1.  Set immediately before Thor's Hammer.
Synopsis: Both Daniel and Jack have learned the true cost of commitment and of friendship.
Warnings: None.
Length: 39 Kb

Even if he hadn't had the address, Jack would have known this was Daniel's apartment from the silence.  Music or TV was blaring out of every other door in the building.  Sometimes both.  In or out, the residents used noise to deter intruders.  Jack might not be an anthropologist, but he knew the people who lived here, the kind who couldn't afford to replace a loss.

He hadn't even seen the apartment yet, but he was sure his unexpected friend Dr. Daniel Jackson didn't belong here.

Jack knocked politely.  "Open up, Daniel, it's your Avon lady calling."

"Jack?" a soft voice called in surprise as a reassuring number of locks and bolts were undone.  The door opened, revealing a barefoot Daniel, in Jack's Blue Dawgs hockey shirt and old jeans that were ripped across the right knee.

"I lied about the Avon lady thing," Jack said cheerfully.  "But I do come bearing gifts."  He waved the bag of beer and pizza temptingly, smoothly insinuating himself into the apartment.

"It's Saturday night," Daniel reminded Jack as he carefully locked and bolted the door.  "Don't you have something better to do with your time?"

"Don't you?" Jack retorted, nodding at the laptop and the formidable heap of reference books and notes spread out on the kitchen table as he passed to set the bag of takeout down on the ugly Formica kitchen counter.  At first glance, the whole apartment was ugly and small and he was mad as hell he'd let Daniel snow him this long that he was hunky dory, don't you worry about me, I'm A-OK, Jack.

Daniel took in the stiff set of Jack's shoulders, wondering what he'd done to set the man off this time.  "Can I help you with - um…"

"You can clear the table," Jack said tersely, looking around the apartment as Daniel tidied away his work.

Closer inspection of the sparsely furnished apartment didn't make Jack any happier.  Daniel had trashed the linoleum, leaving bare boards.  The wooden floors were orange with their ancient veneer. Looking at them, Jack couldn't imagine what state the linoleum had been in.  The walls were painted a soft blue-grey, presumably because of its camouflaging qualities.  He could see patches of damp spreading black blotches here and there beneath the paint.

There were two glass doors to his left, each with cream fabric draped behind the glass.  Daniel's bedroom was the nearer, he presumed.  The other door had to be - he shuddered at the thought - the bathroom.  The only good thing was the late evening sunshine flooding the apartment with light and warmth through the large windows that ran the length of the wall behind him.

Jack fished out the pepperoni and meatball pizzas, and the six-pack of beer, then carried them over to the table.  He deliberately took the chair adjacent to Daniel's.  "Why didn't you tell me?" he asked as he sat down.

Hands stilling on the pizza box, Daniel looked at Jack, puzzled.  "Tell you what?"

"That you were living like this," Jack snapped.  "I loaned you the money to rent a place but…"

"I paid you back!" Daniel interrupted heatedly, going red with mortification.  "As soon as my salary came through from the government."

"It's not about the money, Daniel," Jack apologised.   He looked at his friend, gentle, refined.  Innocent.  A thoroughly nice, naïve, romantic do-gooder.  A good man.  "You don't belong here," he said definitely.

"I've lived in worse places," Daniel replied dryly, relaxing.  "Much.  After three months in the Yucatan Peninsula, I…"

"Don't snow me, Daniel!" Jack snapped.  "You got your back-pay, you paid me back, you bought a car.  Clothes.  Pans.  Stuff.  Fair enough."  Looking around, Jack could see where some of the money had been spent.

Everywhere in this bleak little apartment that he could see, Daniel had a presence, had tried to make a small, necessary difference.  The abstract prints on the walls weren't picture box pretty.  If pushed, Jack would say they - flowed.  They were warmth and colour.  There were a couple of smart new appliances, looking ridiculously out of place.  Gleaming steel kitchen tools and few good copper pans hung from hooks in the ceiling, vivid ceramic jars lined up neatly on the cracked Formica counter, pots of fresh herbs basked on the window sills.  A narrow book case stood between the bedroom and bathroom doors.  There was even a utilitarian navy couch.

The whole place was - what was that his Nana used to say?  Making do?  That was it.  Daniel was making do.  This was strictly temporary.  Even Jack could see that.

"Exactly!" Daniel flared.  "I've had some expenses," he said witheringly, tugging at the hockey shirt he still didn't have enough clothes to be able to replace.  "It isn't easy coming back from the dead.  It took six weeks to get my bank account re-opened, longer than that to get credit cards."

"You get paid more than I do," Jack reminded Daniel pointedly.  "You can afford a better place."

"In a few…"

"Now!" Jack snapped.  This wasn't conjecture; he knew exactly what Uncle Sam was paying his civilian consultant.  Unless Daniel was into it big time with some loan sharks the security check hadn't found, then he could afford to move, right now, today.  Jack was convinced it was a case of wouldn't move, not couldn't.  If he hadn’t been sure, he wouldn't have come over here.

Refusing to be bullied, Daniel coolly picked up a slice of pizza, eating it slowly, allowing himself to savour the crisp crust, oozing tomatoes and melting cheese, the bite of the pepperoni against his tongue.  Jack wolfed down two slices of the meatball pizza, glaring at Daniel in thwarted, intimidating silence as he chewed.

Daniel took a quick, distasteful gulp of his beer.  Nursing the sweating bottle between his hands, he glanced at his friend and sometimes wannabe father.  "I'm not a child, Jack," he said as gently as possible.  "When I want your advice, I do ask for it."  He did ask, and he listened.  He needed someone and instinct took him to Jack.  Daniel glanced down self-consciously, hoping Jack hadn't noticed he was wearing his shirt.  He should replace it, give it back, this little piece of Jack he had.  He knew it was childish, but he didn't feel so alone…the shirt was a reminder that Jack was here, that he wasn't alone.  He'd been excised from his former life as if he'd never existed.  Was it any wonder he felt lost?  He clung to what felt real to him: Jack, at his back.

"Yeah, well, this time you need my advice," Jack insisted, noting the mulish set to Daniel's lips.  He kind of liked how Daniel was just about the most stubborn little scrap of humanity in the known universe, but not when he was fighting him.  "Take a look at this place, Daniel.  You're living like a student."

"You say that like it's a bad thing.  I don't see it's any of your business where or how I choose to live, Jack.  Or what I choose to do with my money, for that matter," Daniel said quietly, taking another slice of pizza.

They ate in silence for a while, Jack trying to come up with something that he could use to weasel through Daniel's defences.  He knew damned well Daniel was lying through his teeth.  He could afford to move.  This wasn't about money, but something else.  It was like Daniel wasn't letting himself have anything better.  Like he didn't deserve it or something.  Maybe some part of Daniel was ready to let go, maybe Daniel even knew it on some level, but that would make the tenacious little bastard cling even more stubbornly to this dump like his own personal hair-shirt.   Jack didn't think Daniel wanted to move on, to get settled, because if he did, that would mean - dammit, was his brain in his ass?  Daniel couldn't quit, couldn't move someplace 'nice' because that would mean admitting Sha'uri was gone.

On his best day, Jack was no Oprah, but he figured the best thing he could do for Daniel was help him realise that he was committed, to Jack, to his team, to his life.  It hurt him to force this, because he could see how Daniel ached in the stubborn tilt of his chin, the tension in the slender shoulders.  The way he couldn't sit at his ease, his hands always busy, always seeking…

"Security here is lousy," Jack said flatly, a germ of an idea coming to him.  "Even with the extra locks, a burglar could be in here in no time.  The door is too damned flimsy.  Is that your journal from Simarka?" he asked casually, looking at the small stack of books Daniel had moved to the couch so he could join Jack at the small table for dinner.  The 'Conquest and Culture in Mongol Eurasia' was a bit of a giveaway.  Along with 'Russia and the Golden Horde' and the biography of Genghis Khan.  Sitting on top of the heap - Daniel's private journals were unmistakeable with their golden brown covers and well-thumbed appearance.  Jack had watched Daniel write in them while his shiny new PC stood mostly untouched in the corner.

Hating himself just a little, feeling out of his depth, Jack went with what he knew.  Ambush.  "I'm sorry to have to do this, Daniel, but it's my job.  I'm going to have to recommend to the general that your journals and laptop stay on base."

"Wha-what?" Daniel stammered, beginning to get really angry now.  "Why  - why would you do that?  What business is it of yours!"

"I'm responsible not just for the safety and welfare of my team, but to protect the secrecy of the SGC," Jack said gently.  "You signed the same agreement."  He saw Daniel shift uncomfortably, his head dropping.

"I've been here over two months!  No one's tried to break in," Daniel argued.

"Do you really want to take the risk, Daniel?  Do you want your journals in NID hands, thanks to a staged robbery.  I could canvas the neighbours, find out how many times their apartments have been broken into, but I doubt it would make you any happier," Jack offered.  This hit Daniel hard, just as Jack knew it would.  He was sorry when he saw something close to panic on Daniel's face, realising it was capitulation.  He knew he was robbing Daniel of one of the few things that brought him solace.  He'd seen the boy reading; he lost himself in his books, his imagination.  Jack felt terrible, but unless Daniel moved some place the Air Force approved as secure, he would have to give up his journals.

"I need to work, Jack," Daniel whispered.

"Why?" Jack asked gently.  This, he remembered.  Evenings stretching away from him, jumping out of his skin, his mind skittering…he'd do anything, anything to fill his time and his mind, to exhaust his body.  He'd fall into bed, leaden and numbed and still his mind would race, and he would remember…

"I need - I - "  Daniel shook his head helplessly, glaring at Jack, his eyes huge and wounded.

"Too much goddamned time on your hands," Jack said, his voice rough with unwilling empathy.

"I have to work, Jack, I have to."  Daniel laid his hand on Jack's, close to pleading.  "Jack."  He had to make Jack understand.  He could only lose himself in the work, in his books.  Sometimes it felt like he could only think with his pen stuttering over the page, pouring into words what he couldn't - it hurt too much to feel, he had to channel, to distance himself.  Had to.  He could take anything but the strained silence and his racing mind.

The images, the memories he couldn't let go of and couldn't afford to hold onto.  Sha'uri, her laugh and the sound of her voice, her quick, light footsteps.  The oil she rubbed into her skin, even her thick, rarely washed hair…The taste of her, the giving heat as he moved inside her, her fingers clawing into his buttocks, pulling him into her, deeper, harder…her guttural cries as she came and the salt tang of tears.

Ammonet, cold and proud, ready to die for her lord and nothing of Sha'uri in her.

Nothing he could see.


"It hurts," Daniel whispered.

"I know," Jack said simply.  "That's why I try to forget."

"I can't.  Sha'uri is out there, Jack.  I can't let go of her, I can't.  She needs me.  She trusted me, they all trusted me."  Daniel's voice broke.  "It was my fault."

"Because you took us to the cartouche?" Jack snapped.

"Because I opened the gate.  I couldn't leave it alone, Jack," Daniel confessed, his voice harsh and choked with his misery.  He looked around at his journals, his books.  The passion of half his life, stronger than the passion in his marriage, stronger than anything.  He could never know enough, he always had to learn more, see more, he ached for it, like he was aching for his wife.  The thrill of discovery was greater than his guilt.  It had cost him his wife and he took pleasure in it.  It was who he was.  How could he not hate himself for that?

When Jack stood, pulling Daniel to him, he went blindly, shivering convulsively, clinging to Jack's heat and solidity.  Jack hugged him and said nothing, went on saying nothing, letting Daniel shake and shiver like it was perfectly fine.

"I can't be afraid all the time, Jack."

Jack just caught the words breathed into his shoulder.  "It's all about firsts," he sighed.  "First time I slept through the night."

"I can't."

"It comes," Jack promised, his hand rough with affection at Daniel's nape.

Daniel pulled away suddenly, clumsily taking off his glasses to dash a trembling hand across his wet eyes.  Suddenly awkward, they each looked away, taking an abortive step or two.  There was really nowhere to go, nothing to do but sit again at the table and pretend Daniel wasn't raw.

Jack tossed back the rest of his beer, then started grimly on another.  "Spit it out," he ordered brusquely.

"I know to the minute how long it was the first time I smiled," Daniel said dully.  "Since…you know.  The first time I laughed.  The first time I forgot Sha'uri and just…"  He looked across at Jack and found understanding if not reassurance.  "Stayed in the moment."

Jack understood better than Daniel knew.  There was a terrible symmetry here.  The first time Jack had been shocked into feeling anything after Charlie died because of him was when Daniel Jackson died for him.  It tore him apart, opened him up, hating it, hating himself.  The risk he took trying to take out Ra, Jesus, he knew he had no chance, but he hadn't cared about the lives of his men, or Daniel, he was in the moment, he was ready to die.  Fear, fury, guilt…in the hours he huddled with his men, he'd felt alright.  He shook and shook and hated Daniel Jackson for taking his life like that.  Hated him more for seeing right through him, for seeing everything and caring.  In the long months after he left Daniel behind on Abydos, there had been so much Jack needed to forget, just to get by, but he'd remembered Daniel and those memories got easier.

"You want to know what I learned after - well…"  Jack rolled his beer bottle between his palms, staring blankly out the window.  "Not being happy isn't the same as being unhappy.  Not being happy is doable.  It's doable every damn day.  I fucking hate it," he hissed with quiet venom.

Daniel decided it would do neither of them any good to say most of his life was 'doable'.  Being happy, being wanted, loved - belonging…he couldn't even touch that, not now.  Not Abydos.  He felt the need, though.  He was no one's husband, no one's good son or brother.   All that feeling - it hadn't been enough.  He unburied the gate, he needed to have possibility in his life, the chance to be part of something greater than himself, to connect not just with other worlds and other people, but with the past, and with himself.  With Jack.

Glancing up at his friend, Daniel admitted to himself he hadn't been able to resist the lure of friendship.  Jack understood Daniel in a way no one had.  No one, not effortlessly, not without words.  He trusted Jack in a way he'd never trusted anyone, not since his parents.  Jack's friendship - it was part of who Daniel was.

When Daniel slumped in his seat, Jack relaxed and took some more pizza.   He still felt crappy about the tough love thing, but he honestly believed Daniel needed to move on.  Jack bitterly regretted his arrogant, impulsive promise to find Sha'uri.  Not that he thought Daniel should forget about her or that they wouldn't do whatever they could for her.  Daniel couldn't live on what if and coulda-woulda-shoulda.  He needed to deal with what his life was now, needed to know he was already committed, to Jack, to SG-1, to his friends and his work here.  Daniel needed to live, not exist.  "It gets better, Daniel.  With time."

Daniel looked at him then.  "I don't want time, Jack," he said simply.  "I want my wife back.  Every time I go through the gate, I'm hoping - not that I'll see her, that's…"  Daniel pulled a face.

Romantic, Jack thought.

"Three months with nothing," Daniel said softly, hanging his head, his hair falling forward over his face.  "I forget," he confessed.  "I get excited," he admitted self-consciously.  "About the work - the people we meet, the cultures I've only experienced vicariously, only imagined."  Try dreamed.  Even talking about it, Daniel was lighting up.

"I - er  - I notice that.  From time to time," Jack said lightly.  It was the innocent vulnerability, that child-like openness of Daniel's that the parent in Jack responded to, time and again.  "You can't just exist, Daniel.  You can't close yourself off.  If you did, you wouldn't be the man Sha'uri knew, the man who might reach her.  It's okay to live your life, to love parts of it.  That isn't taking anything away from Sha'uri.  It's about you.  It's human."

"Sha'uri doesn't have that choice, Jack," Daniel said bitterly.  "I don't know - they said nothing of the host survives, that it's only her body, a shell.  I can't believe that!" he said passionately.  "I can't!"  He had to have hope.  To balance out the guilt, and not just for unburying the goddamned gate he'd needed more than his wife in the first place.  He had to believe there was something left of Sha'uri to save, for her sake and his.

He needed that belief for the times he would suddenly remember Sha'uri, his excitement seeming suddenly obscene in light of her suffering, his passion, his work dimmed by loss and something too close to resentment.

It - it had to be hard on him.  He couldn't understand this, but he did feel it.  Deeply.  He needed it to be hard because the further he moved into this life and engaged with the people around him, his friends - his team - the more he loved it.  "It fits," he said softly.  "I don't - I - I want to believe Abydos is still home, Jack."

"I know."  Hearing the pleading note in his friend's voice, Jack wondered if he was being selfish, trying to get Daniel to commit to what he had, to focus on the here and now, not on what ifs and maybes.  He just couldn't bear to see Daniel hurting and not try to fix it, not when he was further up this particular learning curve.  "Look around you, Daniel.  You need to move on, part of you is trying to do that.  The answers you need are on the other side of the gate.  You need the team.  You need us."

Jack looked at Daniel's face, his bleak, wordless pain.  He realised then that Daniel knew it all.  He knew the cost of commitment was Sha'uri and Skaara.  All Jack knew was that Daniel's joy at exploration touched his friend as deeply as his love for his wife, and that Jack knew better than anyone the cost of closing himself off.

"If it will help, I can lend you the money for the security deposit on a new place," Jack offered woodenly, not looking at Daniel.  "A more secure place.  Somewhere you can work."  He'd already forced Daniel into a choice he wasn't ready to make.  He owed it to him to ride this out with him.

Daniel understood that Jack wanted the best for him.  Sometimes, though, Jack's affection for him hurt.  Jack took the power and responsibility of a parent, but it wasn't softened by a child.  Charlie was dead, and Sara was gone, and part of Jack would never move on.  Oddly, it comforted Daniel that Jack shared this, that he didn't have to talk or explain.  He was so tired of fighting and Jack needed him to lean so badly - it was his faith in Jack the parent in his friend responded to.  Maybe he could lean.  A little.

"I'll help you look," Jack offered.  It was way too much to expect gratitude, but Daniel surprised him with a small, tentative smile.


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