A single day consists of twenty-four hours, but all days are
not created equal. A few are unforgettable, for better or for worse,
they stand out. The day I met Daniel Jackson was one of those days. So
was the day he died, and the day he came back to me. That's three right
there, three that revolve around Daniel.
Other memorable, life changing moments include my wedding day;
Sara and I were impossibly young, and blindly, naively in love. The
miracle of Charlie's birth on May 10, 1984 came next, followed all too
soon by July 8, 1994, the day the world, as I knew it, splintered into
a million pieces. Poor Daniel, the day Charlie left this earth also
happens to be his birthday. Daniel has never had much luck with
traditional things like celebrations and parties and cakes. Luckily,
those things don't seem to bother him much. Daniel's life lends
credence to the old adage, 'you don't miss what you never had'.
Some days are destined to make the top ten; they come planned
with plenty of advance warning. My wedding day, Charlie's birth, it was
easy to grasp their significance beforehand. As a general rule, the
planned days tend to make better memories. The truly horrific ones
sneak up with the stealth of a Goa'uld mothership, disguising
themselves as ordinary, right up to the moment they rip your heart
clean out of your chest.
Today was supposed to be a perfectly good day, not top ten
material, but good nonetheless. Daniel's been off world for three days
with SG-15. He was scheduled to return home today. Yesterday I went to
the supermarket and picked out perfect, red ripe tomatoes, some
peppers, and an onion to make his favorite Italian sauce. I'm Irish, I
hate making sauce. I did it for him because he loves my sauce, and I
love him and miss him, and like to prove it as often as possible. As
further evidence, I bought Breyers coffee ice cream and Hershey's
This morning the sun was shining spectacularly in an
incredibly blue sky and I drove to work whistling tunes from the
sixties. So it's is my own damn fault. This morning held the same
deceitful beauty that lulled me into complacency on the day Charlie
found my gun. A few white, fluffy clouds and brilliant sunshine, a
carbon copy of the fateful afternoon we left for Kelowna . Ironically,
it was a gorgeous day on Kelowna as well. The universe coordinates and
conspires against me.
Will I ever learn? A single shot still pierces my nightmares
with the same dream. Charlie and I are sitting on his bed; I know it's
his because airplanes are flying effortlessly across the navy
background of the comforter. We're playing Russian roulette with my
gun. I'm terrified. Before I can take action a bullet explodes from the
chamber and lodges into my precious son's skull. There are variations,
but no matter how many times I dream this dream, we play and Charlie
loses. Sometimes, I hold the gun to my own head and systematically pull
the trigger again and again, counting off the hollow clicks. When I'm
positive it's empty I set the gun down, then Charlie picks it up, holds
it to his head and unbelievably, it fires. It always fires.
Charlie's not the only ghost. Carter haunts my dreams as well.
"There's been an accident." Her voice quivers as she says it. "It's
Daniel, sir. He's been exposed to radiation."
During the controlled, frantic trip back to the Kelowna lab it
takes a few minutes to gather every ounce of military training and
personal courage I possess to utter three simple words. "How much
"It's a lethal dose, sir." She looks away, but it's too late,
I've already glimpsed her eyes. "It's a lethal dose, sir." In the
dream, she repeats that phrase over and over. I order her to stop, but
she doesn't, not until I see Daniel. He's never whole in the dream, his
skin is already blistered and marred and he begs me to help him, to
save him, but I can't, and he deteriorates before my eyes. I can't save
him anymore than I could save Charlie.
What brought this on? SG-15 missed what amounts to three
check-ins and we've been unable to establish radio contact. It could be
nothing, or it could be something. I'll admit that since Kelowna , I
have trouble dealing with this particular scenario.
On the upside, I've yet to hear the blast of a gun or any life
changing words from Carter, so it's not too late. I'm determined this
day will not be deemed worthy of cracking the life altering top ten
list. We'll find Daniel and SG-15 safe and sound and be home in time
for pasta and ice cream. Today will take its rightful place among the
mundane. That's the plan and I'm sticking to it.
Whatever the problem, Daniel doesn't need 'Jack' preoccupied
with his own demons. He needs the cool, calculating, detached Special
Ops Colonel at the top of his 'A' game, and that's exactly who he's
going to get. A few deep breaths and years of experience get me to the
place I need to be.
Carter and Teal'c join me in the locker room. Teal'c expresses
little emotion, his presence and ever-stoic demeanor, even if feigned,
is a comfort. Carter's having a tougher time. Daniel died in our care,
on our watch; we're both military and it's difficult to set that aside.
I've recently observed that the little lines around her eyes and mouth
become a bit more pronounced when she's under stress. Hey, none of us
are getting any younger.
"What do you say when we find Daniel holed up in some fascinating
abandoned ruins, you guys help me kick his 'oh so curious'
ass?" The casualness of my sarcasm surprises even me.
"Is that what you believe has delayed Daniel Jackson's return,
O'Neill?" My words are worthy of a raised Teal'c eyebrow.
"Maybe, maybe not, but something like that." Vagueness is a
specialty of mine.
"I don't think that's the case, sir. SG-15 would have found a
way to check in." Carter's skeptical, but she's coming around. At least
now she's thinking logically with her brain rather than wasting time on
useless worry of the heart.
"They could be out of range or have radio problems," I offer
indifferently. "Let's go find out."
"Yes, sir," she says almost cheerfully. The little lines fade
with the forced smile. My flippant attitude works wonders.
Confidence is restored. Optimism abounds. Mission
Damn, I'm good.
Trees, plants, birds, P2X-722 is reassuring in its mind
numbing, boring similarities to dozens of planets we've visited over
the past years.
"Beautiful day, sir." Carter is at my side.
"I guess." Careful, Carter, don't let that fool you. I bite
back a 'remember Kelowna ' rally cry. Personally, I'd feel a hell of a
lot better if it were raining. The real question is which direction did
Daniel and friends head off to explore. I close my eyes and try to
think Daniel-esque thoughts...
Like that's ever going to work. "Carter, any ideas?" It's like
asking if a bear shits in the woods. She never lets me down.
"Well, sir," she starts slowly. "Daniel says when there are no
obvious clues it makes the most sense to head south of the Stargate."
"Indeed." Teal'c adds his agreement.
"South?" Funny, I don't remember him saying that. Ah, but
she's not finished.
"Unless there's a river or similar body of water, then it's
best to head downstream. Or if the trees appear to be clustered at
It's suddenly obvious why I don't remember. "Ack! Enough. Cut
to the chase, will ya? Which way?" Even I cringe at my unintended
"Yes, sir." She stops prattling immediately, readjusts her
backpack and points behind us. "My best guess would be this way,
Crap. The lines reappear as her thoughts go back to worrying
about Daniel. Her eyes tell me I've sufficiently crushed any hint of
optimistic enthusiasm. It's nothing new. I've caused that exasperated,
defeated look before, mostly on Daniel.
"Sorry, Carter. Lead the way."
"I'm worried about him too, sir."
I must have caught her off guard with the rare apology.
"As am I, O'Neill."
We've known each other too long.
"Yeah, I know. Let's go find him."
Two hours later we're standing on the outskirts of a village.
By all appearances, the simple farm implements, the surrounding
buildings and the rudimentary hovels, suggest a sleepy, backwards,
primitive community. It doesn't fool me. ‘Appearances can be deceiving'
was voted the all time favorite SGC cliché for a reason.
“O'Neill.” Teal'c spots something through the binoculars.
I have a brief, heady moment of relief when I look through the
lenses and spot Major Blackburn, Lieutenant Collins and Sergeant Reed.
The relief is short-lived when I realize my guy is not with them. Big
surprise there, did I really expect him to be? Studying the remaining
members of SG-15 gives me hope, they don't look upset enough for
something to be horribly wrong.
I opt for the direct approach. We ready our weapons and march
into the heart of town. No one approaches or bothers with us.
Blackburn is a little stunned to see me. “Sit rep,” I demand,
not wasting time on pleasantries. He's a good guy, but lacks
“Dr. Jackson's inside.” He points at a stone structure across
the dirt road.
“Inside?” Oh, I so don't like the sound of that.
“He's taking part in some type of purification ritual so he
can enter the sacred ruins and read their ancient writings.”
“Why?” Purification ritual? 'Hate' would be a better word. I
definitely hate the sound of that.
“Why? Well, sir...” Blackburn 's voice flutters and loses a
little confidence as it dawns on him that I'm not here for a social
visit and I'm not particularly pleased with his decision-making skills.
A vision of his next performance eval is probably dancing in his head.
“He wanted to get a glimpse of the sacred caves and it was
only allowable if he was, well, purified.”
“And how exactly is he being purified?”
“I, uh, I'm not sure, sir. Dr. Jackson said it wouldn't take
long.” He hesitates. “He's been in there for hours. We were going to
check in just as soon as he's finished. The natives appear friendly,
but Dr. Jackson said none of us are allowed to leave the village or go
inside the temple until the ritual is completed.”
“Dr. Jackson is not in charge of your team, is he, Major?” All
of my fears and frustrations rise to the surface.
This is actually becoming a huge problem. Since Daniel's
demise and miraculous return, the SG team leaders have treated him with
a reverence and respect that borders on blasphemy to the one true God.
They assume that since Daniel ascended and descended, a rough
equivalent of rising from the dead, he must be all-knowing and
all-powerful as well. They hate to argue or contradict him. Perhaps I
need to send out a memo stating that Dr. Daniel Jackson is still a
curious, overzealous, entirely too-trusting, fearless scientist who
needs to be reined in and watched over for his own safety and well
being. Then again, who reads their memos?
“It didn't look dangerous, sir,” Blackburn stutters. I concede
him a few brownie points for maintaining eye contact.
“It never LOOKS dangerous,” I snap, unable to stop myself from
adding, “if it LOOKED dangerous, any idiot could do this job.”
In the end, Teal'c, Carter and I storm the temple like
paratroopers on D-day. We startle three very old men sitting around a
table playing with brightly colored, shiny beads.
“Where's Daniel?” They don't understand English, but they have
no doubt who we're looking for. I'm guessing they don't get many
visitors in these parts.
Their surprise vanishes and one of them points a bony finger
towards the far door while the other two protectively scoop up the
The room isn't very big and there's no furniture in it.
There's an altar of sorts in the front with a guard posted on each end,
apparently to watch over the gifts of fruits, vegetables and flowers
that line the perimeter. Daniel is sitting cross-legged on the floor
reminiscent of Kheb. He's shirtless with some type of weird pinkish
cream smeared across his chest. His glasses are nowhere to be seen and
he squints up at the sudden intrusion.
“Are you okay?” The relief at seeing him alive and whole slams
into me, but the tone of the question comes out sounding more like
“Yes." Daniel gracefully rises to his feet. "What are you
doing here?” The movement causes the two guards at the altar to stir
and take a few steps towards us. I'm not concerned. They're carrying
crude spears that look more like long sticks with hand-whittled,
sharpened ends. I'm shouldering the P-90.
What am *I* doing here? “Are you being held prisoner?”
“No, of course not.”
Of course not? As if it's never happened before. As if being
held prisoner is such a far-fetched notion he can't believe I'd even
bring it up. The guards back off, more concerned about the gifts on the
altar than about any of us.
“I'm supposed to be meditating, repenting for past sins,
asking forgiveness, promising to do better, making myself worthy...
that type of thing.” He's wearing his tolerant, patient, peaceful
explorer smile, the one that alternately gets him in and out of
shitloads of trouble.
It's obvious he's volunteered to undergo this purification
thingy. Keeping down the sarcasm won't be possible after all. All this
worry so he can take a look at some meaningless squiggles in a cave.
It's time for an overdue reality check.
“Oh, Daniel,” I singsong sweetly. He looks up with those
innocent eyes. “Is there any Goa'uld technology on this planet?”
“No.” He immediately sees where this is heading and gives me
I ignore it and forge ahead with my litany of condescending
questions. “Any sign that the Goa'uld have EVER been to this planet?”
He folds his arms, bows his head slightly and stares up at me.
Even without his glasses ‘the look' has an effect on me but I'm
irritated enough to resist his natural charms. Safety first.
“No, they haven't,” he concedes. But once you start the
ritual, it's important to finish it. It's completely harmless.”
“Harmless, you say?” My idea of harmless and Daniel's have
never graced the same volume of Webster's.
“Yes, Jack. I had to agree to meditate for twelve hours before
they would take me to the ruins.”
“Twelve hours!” I finally blow. “You've tied up SG-15 and made
us come back here and track you down and now you want the six of us to
sit around for twelve hours in hopes that you'll see some caves that
are of absolutely no significant value to the SGC.”
“There are only four hours left.” He's so damn stubborn and
“Sir, if I may?” It's Carter. I almost forgot her and Teal'c
were in the room.
“No, actually, Major, you may not. Go help Blackburn gather up
the gear. Teal'c, you stay here in case there's any trouble. Daniel,
wipe that crap off your chest and get ready to move out. We're going
Carter looks shocked, but complies. I'm not sure what she was
going to say, but I know for a fact she was going to side with Daniel.
That goes without saying. Teal'c's with me on this one. I can tell he's
more than ready to grab our archaeologist and go.
“Jack, what do you think you're doing?” Daniel's still
“What am I doing? That would be... my job! I'm the Colonel,
Daniel. I'm giving orders, taking charge, that kind of thing.” It's
rare, but some days I want to shake him more than I want to kiss him.
“Someone has to do it,” I mutter childishly. “Gear up.”
“Fine,” he spits out as he begins to wipe the exotic, erotic
balm off of his chest.
‘Fine' is the only four-letter word capable of making me
cringe. The dictionary definition of fine is okay, all right,
excellent, well done. Even though Daniel's a world-renowned linguist,
I'm fairly certain he's never used that particular word in its correct
The two hour trip back to the ‘gate is a real treat. If body
language and the silent treatment mean anything, and they always do,
Daniel's not happy with me. Carter is more subtle in her annoyance, but
she's walking with Daniel and if I were a paranoid person, I'd swear
they're whispering about me. Major Blackburn is subdued. I'm sorry for
dressing him down in front of his men and I'll apologize for that part
of what happened, but that's the only part. Collins and Reed aren't
exactly pleased with me either; no doubt unhappy with the tone I took
with their CO. I don't take it personally; team loyalty is essential in
this line of work. Besides, they'll all get over it. I'm the 2IC of the
SGC, it's not like they have a choice. Being a Colonel has its perks.
“Beautiful day, isn't it, Teal'c?” I bravely duck behind my
“Indeed it is, O'Neill.”
No top ten, earth-shattering material here, nothing but a
primitive, lazy society with not a whole heck of a lot going on. The
planet wasn't a total waste of time. I've discovered that Daniel looks
incredibly good lathered in pink frothy stuff. I wonder if he'd
consider meditating in whipped cream when we get home. Probably not, if
his current mood is any indication, but hey,, a guy can dream, can't
Ah, home. Pasta, ice cream... despite my troops views to the
contrary, it's a very good day.
It's official, Daniel's pissed. Not at Carter or Teal'c, oh
no, he's actually grateful to them for the 'rescue'. Hey, aren't you
forgetting someone, buddy? Carter throws her arms around his neck and I
hear him apologizing for worrying her. Teal'c gets the super cool,
Jaffa secret handshake along with a heartfelt 'thank you very much'.
The pissy attitude is reserved for yours truly.
"Hey, what about me?” He's not amused. He brushes past me
without a word. Apparently, I get squat. That's not entirely true, I
did get the cold shoulder and the evil eye, not exactly the body parts
I was hoping for this evening.
The briefing is a bit uncomfortable, but we muddle through it.
I catch Blackburn in the hall and set up a meeting for tomorrow
afternoon to go over the error of his ways in a more professional
manner. I've already decided to cut him some slack in my official
report. After all, it is Daniel we're talking about. The same Daniel
who draws up favorable trade agreements with hostile worlds and makes
friends with Unas. The inexperienced Major never stood a chance.
The ride home is a tad tense. I resort to telling Daniel that
he was wrong and he knows it.
Predictably, he disagrees with my professional assessment.
When we get home he heads straight for bed. I remind myself
how I had felt this morning and what I wouldn't have given for a result
like this one. Despite the pissiness, Daniel's home, he's safe and
we'll eventually make up and forget all about this completely
After I set the alarm system and do what Daniel refers to as
my obsessive-compulsive nightly security check, I climb under the
covers beside him. I'm half hoping he's asleep.
“Jack, tell me again why this is my fault?”
No such luck. He doesn't give me a chance to answer.
“Isn't it my job to communicate with the natives and learn as
much as I can about their history and culture?”
“You missed three check-ins,” I say for probably the third
time today. It's my best argument.
“I misinterpreted the time it would take to complete the
ritual,” he explains. “I translated the number twelve as the number
two. I made a mistake. When I realized my error it was too late, the
ritual had begun.” He's already shared this at the briefing.
“ Blackburn should have sent someone to the ‘gate to check in.
None of the natives would have stopped him,” he adds this time.
“You told him not to.” I hate that we're in the same bed and
he's not touching me.
“He's the boss. He didn't have to listen to me.”
I can see that Daniel's sincere. He doesn't get it, so I spell
it out for him. “You are the great and powerful Dr. Daniel Jackson,” I
say simply. “He felt you knew best.”
I don't miss the exaggerated sigh. “The circumstances had
changed. He should have...”
Daniel stops mid sentence when he realizes what he's saying.
It's not like he wants to get the Major in trouble. “I'm sorry. You're
right, it wasn't Blackburn 's fault, it was mine. Satisfied?”
“Goddamn it, Daniel! I'm not trying to assign blame or figure
out who was at fault. I just want you to understand how much weight
your opinion carries nowadays.”
“Don't be ridiculous, Jack. I'm not an Ancient, or a God, or
anything other than a mortal man, one man.”
“Ridiculous? Do you seriously think any other SGC personnel
would have been allowed in that sorry excuse of a temple, alone for
hours, without them storming the building?”
For a brief second I think he's considering my position. “You
saw the natives. Did they look scary? Did you consider them a threat?”
“No,” I answer honestly. “But I would have checked up on you
and called home.”
“Exactly. And that's the only thing we did wrong.” He doesn't
need to add ‘and that wasn't my responsibility' for me to get his
To my sadness, Daniel gets up, throws on a sweatshirt and
tells me he's not tired, he's going to work on some translations he
brought home. I let him go, hoping for better luck on settling this in
"I'm sorry, Jack." Thirty minutes later Daniel climbs under
"Yeah? Okay. Why?" Not exactly coherent, but I'm not going to
risk saying too much, or saying the wrong thing and spoil the
reconciliatory mood. “What brought this on?” I can't believe I've
finally won an argument and beat the great debater at his own game.
Before I can revel in victory and guess which brilliant insight of mine
swayed him, he shatters my illusion of mental superiority.
"You made me sauce," he sighs happily. "You hate making
Ah, sauce. The way to a man's heart... "You like it and I like
you." I kiss his hair for emphasis.
“You were worried about me?” He settles in beside me where he
“Yes.” Worried? He can't possibly be this clueless.
“Thinking about Kelowna ?” he asks, turning onto his side to
face me and resting his hand on my chest.
“No. Maybe,” I concede. He's not so clueless after all.
“I hear your dreams,” he reminds me. Daniel's up on one elbow,
his finger gently plowing back and forth through my chest hair, his
eyes seeking mine.
“Right,” I mumble the acknowledgement, wondering how much I
reveal in those nightmares.
“It's time to let it go.”
If only that were possible. “You were dead.” Saying the words
out loud causes unexpected tears.
His eyes are so intense, it's impossible for me to turn away.
“I know, but I'm here now and you can't protect me from
everything in the universe.” He softens the words by running his thumb
over my cheek to wipe away the embarrassing moisture.
“I can try.” I need to try.
“You know as well as I do that's just not possible.” The blue
eyes turn soft and fill with love.
Why won't he let me try?
“I'm afraid for you,” I confess. “Afraid for us.”
“You were never afraid before I ascended.” He tilts he head
slightly and gives me the smile that never fails to send shivers down
“Before you... ascended? I don't tend to think about that day
as the day you ascended. I think about it as the day your skin melted
and fell off and you died a slow, agonizing, excruciatingly painful
He makes a face. “And you call yourself Mr. Positive?”
I can't even muster a smile. “I didn't think I'd survive it,
Danny. It was one of the two worst days of my life.”
“I know,” he says quietly, and the compassion in those
brilliant eyes tells me that maybe he does know. “So what are we going
to do about it?”
The words hang in the air for a few long minutes.
“God, I love you.” I pull him down on top of me and
frantically lock my lips onto his. He responds immediately and the
question is temporarily forgotten as we have passionate, maddening sex
until he falls asleep in my arms.
When I wake up, the first rays of dawn are filtering in
through the blinds. Daniel Jackson, hero and survivor of Kelowna ,
sleeps safely beneath my gaze, his heart beating out a strong, steady
rhythm and I realize he's right. I can't keep him here with me forever.
As much as I hate it, I have to share Daniel with the rest of the
“You awake?” I ask as he tosses and turns, and repositions
himself beside me.
“No, not yet,” he mutters and then snuggles deeper under the
covers, wrapping his arms and legs around me.
I squeeze him tighter and realize that it's my problem too. I
need to let Kelowna go, and in turn, let Daniel go back to doing what
he does best. Daniel is an explorer of planets, of history and of human
nature; it's what drives him and makes him who he is. No one
understands that better than I do, then again, that doesn't condone
being foolhardy. There are still procedures that need to be followed
and precautions he can take to minimize the risks. He's right about one
thing... there are forces beyond my control.
“Okay,” I whisper, “not yet.”
I understand that to the universe, Daniel Jackson is just one
man; Daniel needs to understand that to one man, he's the universe.
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