Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG
Category: ER, Angst
Season/Spoilers: None
Synopsis: Daniel has a difficult time accepting the outcome of a mission gone wrong
Warnings: None
Length: 33 Kb



I’m whistling. No particular song, just tuneless whistling. More than one person has told me it’s an annoying habit, but I enjoy it, so until Hammond tells me to stop, everyone else will just have to put up with it.

I have a secret. As a matter of fact, it’s the biggest, best kept secret in the universe. No, it’s not the Stargate. In my book, the word ‘secret’ is a misnomer with regards to the Stargate. The Russians have known about it for years. The Chinese, the French, and the Brits, heck an old man in a bar in the Artic mentioned it to me. Not to mention the Asgard, the Tok’ra, the Nox, the Tollan. Well, you get the idea. And that doesn't even include the list of snakeheads that know we have a Stargate. My point is, even though the average Joe on the street is ignorant of its presence, the Stargate is not the big, bad, top secret, secret it’s cracked up to be. My secret is much bigger, much badder and definitely more hush hush than the Stargate itself.

My relationship with Daniel is my secret. We’re not just best friends; we’re not even best friends having sex. We’re best friends in love, making love, and that fine line makes all the difference. It's the kind of love that can cause a cranky old soldier to whistle in his office while buried under mounds of paperwork. No one in the universe knows about us. None of the afore mentioned countries or alien allies and certainly none of the damn snakeheads. Carter and Teal’c are still happily clueless, General Hammond is in the dark, and even the scourge of the infirmary, good ol’ Doc Fraiser is still, mercifully, unaware. She’ll probably find out sooner or later, but as of now, our secret is safe.

It’s been three months and I still have to periodically pinch myself to be sure it’s true.

The blaring of the klaxon signaling an off world activation jolts me back to reality as I jump up and make a run for the control room. The elevator doors open and I find myself face to face with my soul secret.

“What’s going on, Jack?” Daniel is anxious and pale and it takes me a second to understand. He has spent the last five days and nights, to my complete frustration, hunched over his computer with a stack of books and a pile of photographs for companions. He has been working on translating the correct protocol for SG-7 to meet with an odd race of people residing on P2X... something or other. SG-7 left early this morning to attempt to put Daniel’s findings into practice. They are the only team off world and their scheduled check-in is hours away.

“I’m sure they’re fine, Daniel.” His only response to my attempt at reassurance is to pound a fist against the wall of the elevator urging it to go faster than its normal capability. When the doors finally open on the 28th floor, he bolts out at a dead run, leaving me jogging after him.

General Hammond is already in the gateroom room along with Carter and Teal’c.

“SG-7?” Daniel is breathless, staring at the shimmering event horizon.

“Yes, it is,” Hammond confirms nervously.

Daniel’s face lights up in hope as SG-7 emerges through the wormhole. The hope fades just as quickly as it sinks in that Major Jeffery is carrying his civilian archaeologist over his shoulder.

Daniel is in the gateroom before any of the medical staff. “Is he alright? What happened?”

I don’t have to ask. I’m a CO, and the Major’s body language tells me everything I need to know.

The soft spoken, well-liked Major turns on Daniel. “No, he’s not alright. He’s dead, Dr. Jackson. You tell me what happened.”

“Come on, Daniel.” The gateroom emptied out a while ago except for my secret lover, who seems to be lost in his own thoughts. My soft words have failed to rouse him.

“Time to go.” This time I grasp his shoulder firmly and squeeze.

He pulls away from me and brings his index finger to his lips. “I’ll figure this out, Jack. I’ll figure it out and I’ll go back there myself. I’ll straighten this whole thing out.”

“No one’s going back there. Hammond’s taken it off the list.”

The blue eyes flash and then plead with me. “No. He can’t do that. Talk to him, Jack. I’ll figure it out. Otherwise, Kiner’s death... otherwise, it’s all for nothing.”

“Come on, Daniel, let’s go home.” Grabbing his elbow, I steer him towards the door. I don’t think he’s aware I’m leading him until we’re in the corridor.

As soon as he breaks out of his trance, he pulls his arm out of my reach and announces he’s not going home, he’s going to his office. His stiff back and rigid body language leave no room for argument.

Eight hours later Daniel is still holed up in his office. The inevitable briefing has been postponed until tomorrow morning to give Jeffery and his team a chance to recover.

Daniel has sought refuge from his feelings and misplaced guilt in his sanctuary on the 18th floor. Predictably, he’s sitting in the dark, staring at his computer screen, no doubt searching for answers and absolution.

I’m standing in his doorway waiting for an acknowledgement, not sure if he’s intentionally ignoring me or is simply oblivious to my presence. My mind is racing, using these few silent minutes to figure out what to say to convince him to come home and get some rest. This will probably get worse before it gets better with the funeral just a few days away.

Though the sorrow of a loved one’s death is no more or less emotional for a civilian family than for a military family, the stunned disbelief is a little more pronounced with the civilian families. The percentage of archaeologists who die working in the field is a relatively small number. That percentage greatly increases for archaeologists working for the SGC. None of the families are aware of the occupational hazards.

As if reading my mind, Daniel’s head jolts up. “I have to go. I have to inform Kiner’s family.” The bright blue eyes are tinged with sorrow.

“The Air Force will do that, Daniel.”

“I’m his supervisor. I’ll do it.” He switches off the computer and I let him. It’s at least a start. I turn on the small desk lamp or we’d be in total darkness.

“Eight hours have passed. Major Jeffery has already done that.” The slump of his shoulders tells me he considers this another failure on his part. “Ready to go?”

He doesn’t bother answering me. Daniel is very expressive and the look he shoots me conveys exactly what he thinks of my idea. His eyes turn to the blank computer screen but before he can switch it back on I position myself behind him and rest my hands on the tense, knotted shoulders.

“Don’t, Jack.” The pleading in his voice is not a tone I’m familiar with. “I need to do this.”

“I know, but it’s late and you need to rest too.”

“I suppose I could take it home,” he concedes, as he pops out the disk and starts gathering up books he might need.

I’ll be damned if I’m going to let him sit up all night torturing himself over this but I’ll agree to just about anything to get him off the mountain. I don’t have the heart to tell him no matter what he figures out, or what went wrong, it won’t change the fact that Stewart Kiner is dead.

Somewhere between CNN and my shower I lost track of Daniel and I find him staring once again at the computer screen. Getting him to bed is not as easy as I had hoped. His insistence turns to annoyance, which in turn sets off my own anger at his stubbornness.

I close my eyes, count to ten and try again. “Hey, what do you say we call it a night?” I’m beside him but not touching, doing my best not to crowd him.

“Don’t, Jack.” His answer is the same as it was this afternoon in his office.

“Don’t what?”

“Don’t touch me.”

“I wasn’t touching you.” And I wasn’t. My hand was at least an inch from his shoulder.

His anger blazes at any hint of perceived kindness. “And don’t tell me to call it a night,” he suddenly yells. “If you would have left me alone last week I wouldn’t have fucked this up!”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” I’m stunned at the accusation.

“You know exactly what it means.”

“No, I don’t. Explain it to me.”

“Okay.” He stands up to face me, folding his arms across his chest. “You practically dragged me to bed every night last week. Obviously, I missed something because of it.”

The anger surging through me is so strong I don’t trust myself to speak. After mentally counting to twenty I manage to spit out, “Fine, sit at the damn computer all night.” I have every intention of walking out of the room, but something snaps before I reach the doorway.

“You wanna blame me for Kiner’s death, that’s fine, Daniel. I can take it. It makes about as much sense as you blaming yourself. If it makes you feel better, then you go right ahead.”

His arms are still folded in front of him, but his head is bowed, averting his gaze. He forces himself to look up, the anger of a few seconds ago is completely gone, replaced by a faint blush of shame. “No,” he says quietly, obviously regretting his outburst. “It’s my fault. I must have missed something.” He runs a hand through his hair. “I’m sorry.”

He needs to work this out on his own. I want to help, but the best I can do for now is to stay out of his way. “It’s okay,” I mutter, my own anger dissipated in the wake of his awkward apology.

Making Daniel coffee is about the only thing I can come up with to show him how much I care without pissing him off, so that’s what I do. I return with the steaming peace offering and kiss the top of his head goodnight. I’m rewarded with a weak smile and a soft, “Thank you, Jack.”

The morning briefing is a disaster. Daniel questions the remaining members of SG-7 in every minute detail of the mission, every word spoken, every voice inflection, every gesture, down to the smallest insinuation. Major Jeffrey handles it far better than I would have but the man has his limits and finally snaps.

“Dr. Jackson, my team and I familiarized ourselves with your report to the best of our ability. We’ve answered all of your questions and explained exactly how everything played out. To be honest, I don’t know if I smiled when I said ‘hello’. I don’t remember if Kiner bowed slightly or bowed at the waist. I don’t know if we did something to spark the attack or if your protocols were wrong, and frankly, I don’t care.”

Daniel doesn’t seem to understand Jeffrey’s annoyance and he tries to explain himself. “I’m not accusing anyone, Major. I’m asking questions to try and understand what happened out there. The more we go over this the more likely it is one of you may remember something else. I would think you’d want to understand the reason for Kiner’s death as much as I do.”

Daniel is pushing and I can see the anger flash in Jeffrey’s eyes. His voice remains amazingly calm. “It’s all in our mission reports, Doctor. General, are we dismissed? My team and I are flying to Massachusetts for the funeral and we need to get ready.”

“Yes, Major, take all the time you need,” the General sympathetically agrees.

At this point, Daniel started to protest and I had to jump up and run interference, grabbing his arm and leading him out of the room. The tenseness is vibrating through his body as I hustle him into to the privacy of his office.

“Let go of me!” He squirms out of my grasp and once again directs his anger at me as I close the door behind us.

“You went too far.”

“Why, because I want to find out what happened?”

“Daniel.” He stiffens at the sound of his name, determined not to accept any sympathy, especially from me. “We all want to know what happened.”

“Then why didn’t you support me in there?”

“Because you went too far. They told you everything they remember.” I stop myself from adding ‘three times’. “You were practically accusing them of purposefully omitting something.”

“I wasn’t accusing anyone of anything. I was hoping to get more details.” His arms are once again folded in that all too familiar pose that shows me how upset he is. The one that screams ‘don’t touch me’ when all I went to do is throw my arms around him and hug him into understanding.

“They have a lot on their minds.”

Daniel closes his eyes and pinches the bridge of his nose before responding. “I know that. So do I.”

“Do you want to get something to eat?” He barely ate a thing yesterday and I know we didn’t eat breakfast this morning.

“You can go, Jack. I have a lot of work to do.” He actually laughs at my suggestion before dismissing me.

The funeral isn’t much better. One minute Daniel is putting as much distance between us as possible. The next, he’s seeking me out and sticking to me like glue. It makes me nervous. Sometimes, when Daniel’s upset he forgets we’re a closely guarded secret. There’s nothing I hate more than having to remind him by backing away.

I’m not inexperienced at this. He acted the same at Rothman’s funeral. He’s angry at the Air Force and sometimes that filters down to me. At the same time, he’s desperate for a reassuring smile or the subtle, familiar touch only I can provide.

Both Daniel and Major Jeffery are speaking at the service. Daniel has adjusted his tie and pushed up his glasses so many times I’ve lost count, his nervous fidgeting a gauge that tells me exactly how he’s coping.

Stewart Kiner was not married so as Daniel stands at the podium he looks directly at Kiner’s parents and tells them we not only lost a trusted colleague, but a kind and decent man as well. Personally, I barely knew Kiner. All I know is what Daniel has told me, the archaeologist was quiet and serious, and a hard worker. From the length of the eulogy and the personal stories, Daniel knew much more.

When the service ends, the Kiners search Daniel out and Mrs. Kiner hugs him tightly in her grief. My trained eye can see the tension in Daniel, but the Kiners don’t seem to notice, they have other things on their minds. With tearful eyes they thank Daniel for the beautiful words and then invite us back to the house for a gathering of close friends and family. Time to step up and rescue my beleaguered lover. I interrupt to quietly remind Daniel he’s needed back on the base. He apologizes to the Kiners and throws me a grateful nod and then mouths a relieved ‘thank you.'

Daniel had insisted it wasn’t necessary for me to accompany him to the funeral, assuring me he was 'fine'. I ignored him and went anyway. Now I’m glad I did. Happy I could do at least one thing he needed and was grateful for.

Stewart Kiner has been in the ground for three weeks and things are slowly returning to normal. The first few days were quieter than usual, but life has a tendency to go on and Daniel has two new archaeologists to break in. Kiner’s death slowly fades to the background in the halls of the SGC.

At home, it’s another story. Daniel spends every night going over his translation and the protocols he had outlined for SG-7 to follow. I’ve given up trying to coax him to bed at a civil hour. He’s exhausted and I’m worried. He refuses to talk about it. 'I’m fine', that’s all I get from him. Daniel is in his own private hell; one he staunchly refuses to let me share. All I can do is set up the coffee pot for him and leave out an occasional donut or a comforting piece of chocolate. It’s not much, but at the moment, it’s all I’m allowed. Everything else is off limits.

I set a mug of his favorite adrenaline booster beside him and turn from the doorway when I hear him whisper something I don’t quite catch.

“Did you say something, Daniel?” I freeze in the doorframe not wanting to move and break the moment for fear he’ll shut down again.

“I can’t find it, Jack.” He swivels the chair around to face me. His eyes are red and puffy from lack of sleep and the perpetual dark circles that have marred his face for the past three weeks seem a bit more pronounced than I remember.

His voice sounds lost and far away. “It’s all there. I can’t find anything wrong. I’ve been over it and over it and the translation is flawless. Maybe Jeffrey is forgetting something. If I could talk to him again...” He balls up his fists and scrubs at both heavy eyes.

Tonight he stands to face me and I’m across the room in an instant, instinct telling me Daniel is at his breaking point. His index finger unconsciously taps his lips out of habit. “If I could interview SG-7 one more time, maybe...”

“Enough.” My finger replaces his, tapping the full lips to shush him. That he doesn’t resist the gesture is a true measure of his exhaustion.

“Daniel, listen to me.” With a concerted effort the bloodshot eyes focus on mine.

“What if you’re right and your translation is flawless?” His mind is working at my question behind heavy, guilt-ridden lids.

“Then SG-7 must have unintentionally misspoken or...”

My finger again goes to his lips to silence him. “What if they didn’t? What if SG-7 followed your outline to the letter? What if they did everything perfect?” He looks at me with a dull, wide expression, hopeful I have a solution to this puzzle that will provide the key to his self imposed prison.

Encouraged by his silence I continue, “What if the natives on P2X-708 were murdering bastards who killed Kiner simply because they wanted to? What if they killed him regardless of what procedures were or weren’t followed?”

Daniel’s eyes stay locked on mine, processing my proposed scenario. Then his chin drops to his chest and I barely hear his defeated whisper. “Then Kiner died for nothing.”

Two of my fingers go to his chin and gently lift his head. “No. Kiner died doing what he loved to do.”

Daniel slumps back down in the chair, his brilliant mind working behind furiously blinking eyes. He wants to figure this out; Daniel needs answers. I wonder if it would have been easier for him if he had made an error in the translation. His need to know is that strong.

He looks up at me, resigned. “So, there may be no rational explanation and we may never know.”

“That’s right, we may never know.” He takes off his glasses and sets them beside the keyboard and rubs again at his tired eyes. His headache must be fierce.

I decide to test the waters. My hand goes to his neck and for the first time in three weeks he doesn’t flinch from my touch. He leans into the gentle massage I’m administering to his tight muscles. When I’m finished, I reach for his hand and he supplies it willingly.

“Come on. Let’s go to bed. I’ve missed you.”

Accepting my hypothesis is not an easy thing for Daniel. He’s a genius at working out puzzles and solving mysteries. He’s not used to conceding victory to the gods of chance and circumstance, but short of going back to the planet, there’s nothing more he can do.

He’s finally reached that realization and he squeezes my hand in agreement. “Yeah, I missed you too, Jack.”

Tonight I relax and selfishly thank the powers that be Daniel was not the linguist assigned to SG-7’s ill-fated mission. Closing my eyes, I fall into a light sleep, comforted by the fact that the universe’s best kept secret is snuggled safely beside me.


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