"The champagne was a nice
touch," I comment as the wormhole shuts down with deflating finality
behind the Atlantis expedition team. Before I have a chance to decide
quite how I feel about this, Jack elbows me lightly in the ribs and
jerks his head towards the stairs. I don't mind indulging him, just
this once. I hate to cry in public.
Apparently, I'm not indulging him enough, because as we reach the top
of the stairs, Jack's hand closes around my bicep and he begins to tow
me towards his office.
"Stop pouting," he orders me in a low, complaining tone. "There's
nothing to think about on this one."
I don't know if he's asserting this or asking. He sounds oddly
"You could've asked me," I tell him stiffly. "Instead of just saying no
to me. And for me." According to Dr. Weir, anyway.
It's not exactly a betraying admission of guilt, but Jack lets go of me
then and lets me at least walk into the office under my own steam. I
take a seat as he closes the door behind us, watching as he walks
around to hop up on the corner of the desk close to me.
It's so wrong to be here without George Hammond's steadying presence,
to be without his strength and his insight. He's maybe the best man I
know and I miss him.
"Do you want to go?" Jack demands pugnaciously.
"It's Atlantis, Jack," I sigh. "Atlantis. Of course I want to
"This has been made abundantly clear to me, along with the fact I don't
appear to have any choice in the matter or to have been deemed
important enough to actually consult at any stage of the
decision-making process." It's foolish to expect Jack to back down on
any level, but I'm tired and a little heart-sick, and I don't want to
fight with him. "Why, Jack? Why wouldn't you even ask me what I wanted?
What I felt?" After all this time and all the ways we've known and
trusted each other. "Just tell me why."
I look up, he looks down, we stare and the silence holds.
I hope I don't have to ask him for the truth. I need him to have enough
respect for me to give it.
"I." Jack clears his throat and suddenly jerks up his head to glare at
the wall. "I need you. Here."
I sit back in my seat, disappointed he won't give me more than the
generic refusal he trotted out to Dr. Weir at the Antarctic outpost.
Ironic that she wasn't even talking to him about wanting me for
Atlantis. At least, Elizabeth thought so when she filled me in. She and
I had already had that conversation. Had it more than once, in fact.
Not that Jack would know. He didn't think to check with me.
He nudges me in the shoulder. "I," he says gruffly, prodding. "I – er."
He goes a bit red. "You're my, er. You're."
I have no idea what I am, so it's no good him glowering at me like this
– whatever this is - is my fault.
"What? I'm your what?" I'm bewildered.
"Friend," he grits out resentfully in the general direction of the
wall. "You're my friend."
It sounds more like an accusation than a confession. I have no idea
what I'm supposed to say to him in response to this, and, well, not to
put too fine a point on it, I'm getting a bit red too. This was about
the last thing I expected him to own up to!
Jack prods me again, possibly for the hell of it, then folds his arms
magisterially across his chest and gives the wall attitude.
I think Jack just admitted, I mean, I think he, um, he needs me.
As in, needs me.
Wow. I – um. Wow.
"That's nice." That's lame. That's so damned lame I can hardly believe
it came out of my motor mouth. And I thought I was embarrassed before.
"Nice?" Jack echoes incredulously.
It's lame! I know! Leave me alone!
It's beyond my ability to look at him. I just got turned inside out and
I find it's not wholly unpleasant. Face burning, I mumble my way
through the only response I have.
Jack relaxes, ruffles my hair and invites me over for beer.
I wonder if he heard what I said.
Food and beer, he amends.
Should I tell him again?
Food and beer at his place.
I do tell him again, with more difficulty than before.
His hand comes down to rest on my shoulder. We sit together in an
office that doesn't fit us, each staring at opposite walls, and say
I guess he heard me just fine.
His hand never moves.
I look up.
"The ball is not your friend." Solemnly, Jack takes his favourite
beat-up old baseball from me. It's his fault I have it. He's hiding the
oranges from me.
"I should have started with the food," I comment knowledgeably. I know
this. I generally do know things with hindsight. I know it now because
I want the ball back.
"I know," Jack agrees amiably, sitting down next to me and making
Jack is my friend. Jack is nice and warm. He can keep the ball.
"The steaks are almost done."
I have difficulty wrapping my mind around this announcement. Steaks?
"You cooked?" I ask hesitantly.
"You cooked and you cleaned?" For me? Since when? "You're scaring me."
Jack may be my friend but he decides the beer is not and takes it from
me. "I want you relaxed, not comatose," he grumbles.
"Relaxed?" I think this is a synonym in sheep's clothing. Why am I only
ever sober and suspicious after the event?
"So we can talk."
Talk? There is no end to Jack's gall. Didn't we do this already? Aren't
the walls of his office fully informed? "I've said all I intend to say."
Problem solved, then. Gimme my beer back.
Jack smacks my pursuing hand and holds the bottle out of reach. "No,
'me too' as in that was all I could get you to say."
"You can't just tell a man completely out of the blue that he's your
friend and imply you might just kind of want him around and stuff and
expect to get anything more," I argue indignantly and a trifle
unsteadily, thanks to the beer. "It doesn't work like that."
"How does it work?" Jack is interested.
I am aggravated and uninterested in tangents, however fruitful they may
prove to be.
"Anyway, it's not a reason."
"Not a reason for what?"
"For trying to run my life."
I'm also sullen. I have no beer and no ball and my friend is a pain in
Jack sighs out my name, swallows hard and stares at his socks. "I don't
want you to go, okay?"
Heat bursts in my chest, flows. He's gentle and I'm stammering
He turns to me, soft and serious and smiling all at once. "I said?"
"Aveo." Not what he said, only what I translated. "Aveo…amacuse."
"The steak is burning."
"Friend," I correct him automatically, too used to his Pizzeria
Italiano and other motley assorted take-out translations to take
offence at this typically insulting linguistic non-sequitur. "More
precisely, goodbye, friend."
"Goodbye dinner!" Jack panics, jumping to his feet and bolting.
I look bemusedly at the empty space where he was. I hear clashing and I
keep looking. I bet his vacated spot is niiice and warm. I bet I could
just – just for a minute…
"Daniel! Shift your butt!"
Jack is not my friend.
Pressed into manual labour, I assist with plates, cutlery, glasses,
potatoes, peas and soothing the savage culinary breast.
"I like my steak well-done," I murmur comfortingly and dig in.
Jack's nervous vibrations melt into a smile that clubs me like a
"You meant it!" I haven't felt this confused since Jack marched into my
tent on Vis Uban and told me I was dead. Dead apart from being alive.
"I meant what?" His eyes are anxiously tracking my fork, which is
dangling limp and pathetically empty in mid-air.
I hastily scoop up peas.
That was for me. He was talking to me.
"I thought…" I don't know what I thought, only that Jack was gone. Gone
from me again. I felt like crying, grief burning in my throat, Sam and
Teal'c looking to me as if I had any answer for them. It hadn't seemed
right those words, that look of Jack's were only meant for me, not
right and not possible when Sam and in that moment even Teal'c needed
him so much.
Goodbye was all I said to them. I don't know why. I don't know how I
could include them and exclude myself. It's too easy for me. I don't
want to know. I've made peace with some of the choices of my life. Some.
"Friend," I say wonderingly.
Jack sits back and drinks beer like he needs it.
I'm so embarrassed the unequivocal fact of his friendship makes me so
"It's not like I'm the only one," Jack grumbles resentfully.
The heat from my chest is all in my cheeks. "Me too," I mutter
agreement as I attack my potato, which is slightly resistant, ladle on
butter and sour cream, mash vigorously, and attack again. "It's good."
"You needn't sound so surprised," Jack sniffs.
He looks as happy and hot and inside-out as I feel.
Dinner is good, beer, which I still don't like, is better, and Jack's
mood is best. The couch calls. I close my eyes for a moment and open
them again to whisky, a warm fire and Jack's shoulder pressed into
mine. Comfortably crowded, we settle and linger, not talking just now.
I don't want to think. Jack is here, my choice feels right. It's good
between us and I – I want to bask.
I want my choice to be the right one.
"Your name would've been top of my list," Jack confesses idly. "If I
was in Weir's stilettos, I wouldn't have done it without you."
In a perfect world, closing my eyes and whining would force my
attentive, confusing host to shut his yap and let me use him as a
cushion. In Jack's world, this merely results in a swift, strategic
elbow applied to my ribs and a pointed rise in volume.
"Weir pitched that
crap to you how many times while you were at the Antarctic outpost?"
Surrendering sadly to consciousness and conversation, I seek refuge in
my whisky. Even when he's an ass, Jack is no fool.
"You wanted to go, and yet?" He smiles again and sinks lower on the
couch, tilting up his head to watch the firelight flickering on the
ceiling. "You're still here."
He does not have to sound so smug about this. I know I didn't fight. I
wanted to go and I wanted to stay, I needed Atlantis and I needed – I
I didn't talk to him and he didn't talk to me and I find I can't be
angry about it any longer.
Some things between us are no longer left unsaid and it's not – we're
not the same. Even when it's cost him, Jack has respected my choices.
He let me die at my choice and I realise I don't know what that cost
him. I don't know what I meant to him or even what he meant to me, only
that the weight of it all was crushing me. There was only doubt.
I have no doubt now, though I do have questions. Could Jack not stand
to hear I would go to Atlantis if I could? Could he need me so much?
It's a good feeling, warm and sincere and uncertain.
"Daniel?" Jack pauses, glances at me, gulps down some whisky and takes
the plunge. "Why are you staying?"
It's awkward too.
I couldn't leave you is the first thing that comes to mind. I'm no good
without Jack and he's no good without me and I have no idea how to
express this so it makes sense to either of us. It – it just is.
Sam and Teal'c need Jack but Jack needs me. I'm the only one he can let
in and I have no idea how to tell him this either. I have to kick his
ass to make him talk on a good day and on a bad day, when he's
pig-headed and wrong, when he hurts himself and everyone around him,
who else will make him talk? Who else can make him listen?
Who else can make me?
"I've found my place," I offer inadequately.
"So you're compromising?" Jack isn't sure this is a good thing.
I don't totally get what’s driving him to push us so hard but I realise
all he wants to hear from me is certainty. It's hardly reasonable but
then Jack rarely is. For now, he wants unequivocal and nothing in life
is that. Not for us. Not even death.
"Yes, I'm compromising," I reply steadily enough. "It isn't simple,
Not for me. I'm the one who can't leave it alone. Deconstructing
'truths' about writing systems, crackpot theories about the
cross-pollination of ancient cultures, the pyramids as landing sites
for alien spacecraft, opening the Stargate to Abydos and then to other
worlds, the 'good' gods and aliens, the universal language…
My own list of follies goes on and on and on and with them, the
I never see them so well as I should. They're never so real to me as my
researches. I don't mean it to be this way but how can I see the place
another person has made for me when I don't always see myself? I'm too
small. I live too much inside my head and the past is too often more
real to me than the present. Things happen to me. People happen.
I think too much. It's my world. I never realised how passive that made
me until I surrendered all sense of the visceral and all possibility of
engagement. More than that, any hope I had of effecting change was
taken from me. I had dreams of doing more, I committed everything I was
to those dreams and I found I could do nothing. Nothing.
It became everything.
I made a choice to descend, to engage, to effect change. Part of that
change had to be in myself. Taking responsibility, taking action,
realising needs outside of the intellectual, all reactionary for sure,
but it's focused me more in the here and the now than ever before.
Focused me in people. Even in myself.
I do have an impact on other people and they do have places for me in
their lives. Dying is not the easiest way to learn not only the value
of those connections but my own need for them. Jack and the others – I
took them to heart. I never could wholly let them go and in the end, I
had to come back to them.
It's far from perfect, in fact, it's often goddamned painful, but I
have some kind of centre now. Some measure of perspective.
When I look around, Jack is staring at me, his face softening. I think
maybe he understands. There was a time I would've been consumed by
Atlantis, blinded to everything but realising the truth of it. A time
Jack would've needed to intervene.
When I smile at him, a wide, blinding, blinded smile, Jack reaches out
to me, his fingers slow and trembling, heavy on my cheek. I turn into
his hand and then don't know what to do with all the feeling.
"Stay," Jack asks intensely. "Stay with me."
I close my eyes, lick dry lips. Why is he asking? He knows I can't
refuse him. Doesn't he?
I haven't told him.
I haven't said, haven't given him the certainty he's asking of me. It
scares me that he needs the words.
I look at him and do the only thing that feels right. I put my arms
around him and hold him. He freezes up, shaking under my hands,
searching my face with desperate eagerness and then happiness is
bursting from him.
My heart thuds painfully and for a moment, I'm sick with fear and
gratitude all at once. I've never seen this look in Jack's eyes, on his
face. I do know what it means. I know what I mean.
"I love you too," I tell Jack clearly. It’s what he wants, what he
needs. I only want to be close and I want to be certain. I feel
certain. I want to kiss him, and I do.
The ties we have are binding. My place is here. Home.
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