Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: PG
Category: Episode-based, ER
Season/Spoilers: Major spoilers for Maternal Instinct and Crystal Skull
Synopsis: Daniel deals with his trust issues.
Warnings: none, except for the above mentioned spoilers.
Length: 67 Kb



Daniel’s angry. At first I assumed, or hoped, he was deep in thought. His head’s gotta be on the verge of exploding after deciphering all that cryptic Buddhism, Zen, monk, crap. But after a few minutes of walking in dead silence, I know for certain that’s not it. Daniel’s mad... at me. Apparently, Kheb is not the all-perfect, mythical Emerald City it was cracked up to be.

Daniel did seem a little lost. Crap, he practically wandered out of the compound without his gear or his shoes, so he’s not exactly 'fine'. Heading back to the Stargate, I realized he still hadn’t caught up so I sent the other’s on ahead and went back for him. It only took a minute to come face to face with him. He looks disheveled, carrying his jacket in one hand and his backpack in the other. He brought books, so I know his pack weighs a ton. His shoes are loosely laced and one of them is completely undone. I’d love to take some of the weight from him and bend down to tie his boot, but if the look on his face is any indication, that probably won’t go over very well.

What happened inside the temple between Daniel, the monk, the alien *Mother Nature*, and the Harsesis is anyone’s guess. I was a little busy worrying about motherships and death gliders. Technically, if anyone has a right to be angry here, it’s me. I gave him more time than I should have, putting all of our lives in danger. I am going to mention that to him, it needs to be addressed, just not here, not now. I wish he’d tie the damn shoe. Watching the laces flop around, waiting for him to trip is driving me to distraction.

Let’s recap. I gave Daniel so much time in there it almost got us all killed. I let him play along with the monk and learn a few neat, new parlor tricks. Wonder if he can still move objects around with his mind? That would certainly spice up our lives. Personally, this old heart can’t take much more spicing. I also came back to fetch him, to give us a few minutes alone before the debriefing. I thought I was being supportive, that he’d be grateful. As is often the case,I thought wrong.

He wanted the baby. I get that. I’d never admit this to him, but secretly I’m relieved he’s not bringing the kid home with us. The thought of finding the Harsesis excited him. And Daniel, being Daniel, planned on keeping and caring for the child, living happily ever after no doubt. He referred to the baby as 'Sha’re’s baby'. I was quick to amend... Apophis and Ammonet’s baby.

The two of us taking care of an infant? What the hell was he thinking? A child that possesses all the knowledge of the Goa’uld, no less. Poor kid. I wouldn’t wish that fate on my worst enemy much less an innocent infant. And what about Sha’re? Knowing Daniel, the child would be a constant reminder of his perceived failures as far as his deceased wife is concerned. No, this is for the best. I’m sure of it, even if Daniel’s not. I’m also sure it would be best to keep this opinion to myself.

He seemed okay with the 'glowy light thingie' taking the child. I did ask him if he was okay. ‘Yeah’, was all he said. Course, that means absolutely nothing.

“Need a hand?” Ignoring the anger seems like the best bet, at least until I figure out the reason behind it.

“I’m fine.” Ah, Daniel at his predictable best.

It’s obvious he’s upset. I desperately want to touch him, to let him know I’m here for him. We haven’t been 'together' very long. It’s hard enough working out all this communication stuff at home, it’s impossibly awkward on missions. Eventually, we’re going to have to figure out how to deal with it all or we’re not going to like each other very much.

“Daniel, why are you mad at me?” I opt for the direct approach.

We stop walking, the silence stretches so long I’m about to give up on getting an answer. Daniel is studying his bootlaces. Not tying them, mind you, just studying them.

“Because you didn’t... care.” He finally looks up with accusing eyes.

My concern is quickly turning into major annoyance. Daniel can have that affect on me. Maybe humor will lighten the mood. That last statement doesn’t deserve a serious answer. “Hey, I care. I said the gun trick was cool, didn’t I?”

“Forget it, Jack.” His face falls in disappointment at me.

I guess humor was a bad idea. “I’m kidding. You know I care. Since when do I have to prove I care?”

“Why not?” Daniel drops his gear; his hands are on his hips, his eyes blazing. “I have to prove myself to you every time we’re out here.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Maybe starting this conversation wasn’t such a good idea. God, he’s so angry. He tries to walk away but I grab his arm and spin him around. Like I said, if anyone has a right to be angry here, it’s me.

“Tell me.” It comes out sounding like an order from a pissed off CO, which is exactly what it is.

“Bra’tac put his weapon down before you did. You figure it out.”

Wasn’t expecting that. Give me a break here, Daniel. He knows how hard it is for me to part with my P-90, especially with Jaffa in our face. Not to mention, he was standing out in the open, barefoot and unarmed... completely vulnerable. Does he have any idea how difficult it was for me to give that order? He would have been the first one to go down.

‘Jack, if you’re ever going to trust me on anything, now is the time.’ That’s what he said. Goddamn him. It had nothing to do with trust. It had everything to do with survival, his as well as ours. I didn’t care? I always care when it comes to you, Daniel. Always. If he doesn’t believe that... where does that leave 'us'.

“For cryin’ out loud, Daniel, you have to admit that was pretty unconventional reasoning. You’re actually pissed because I needed a few seconds to process what you were saying?”

He pulls away from me and puts his jacket on despite the heat. “Bra’tac,” he says accusingly. Without looking at me, he picks up his gear and resumes the hike back to the gate.

I’m watching Daniel’s back, following a few safe feet behind when it hits me that Bra’tac and trust aren’t the issues at all. It’s a smokescreen, a diversionary tactic to keep me off the trail of the real problem. Not bad, Dannyboy, but this is me you’re dealing with. You’ll have to do better than that.

Daniel stumbles but rights himself before I have to lean in and grab him. The almost-tumble isn’t cause enough for him to stop and do up the laces. It takes all of my will power not to order him to tie the damn things. I’d swear he’s doing it intentionally to irritate me, but he’s not. This is Daniel, and Daniel has more important things going on in that brilliant, messed up head of his than his boots. If I could just figure out what the hell it is. I’m hoping the debriefing will shed some light on what I’m missing.

It’s going to be a long night.

“I’m a little confused, Dr. Jackson. Did you actually speak to this alien?” General Hammond is having a little trouble following Daniel’s interpretation of events. Daniel’s tired and it shows.

“No, not in words, but we did communicate. She was the one with all the power, she was the one who lit the candle, started the fire, and moved your gun, Jack.”

I give him a sympathetic nod. Sharing this kind of stuff usually excites Daniel no end. Tonight there’s no hint of enthusiasm. He sounds weary and exhausted. The bulk of the debriefing is on his shoulders; no one else was in the temple for any length of time. And none of us met the glowing alien or the Harsesis baby.

“So, you were right, Sam. I didn’t have any powers at all.” Daniel smiles that little, self-depreciating smile designed to cover his own pain or embarrassment. The smile doesn’t fool me. I hate that look. It’s all I can do not to jump up and shout, ‘that’s it, this debriefing’s over. I’m taking my archaeologist and going home.’

Carter gives him a gentle smile. She would never gloat, not where Daniel’s concerned. She never did subscribe to his theory of training the mind to move objects at will. Come to think of it, she didn’t want to lower her weapon either. She definitely thought we should get the hell out of there. She agreed with me every step of the way on this mission. So why isn’t he pissed off at her?

Daniel is systematically checking off the events. “I was holding the baby in my arms. He appeared to be in excellent health, well cared for and very alert. He was just a baby, but his eyes...” His voice trails off and I have my answer. Daniel felt a bond to the child, even in that short amount of time. It hits me like a ton of bricks...the child is Daniel's last true connection to Sha’re.

He’s almost finished. “I ran out when I heard the staff weapon fire and saw the monk or curator, go down. That’s when I realized what happened to the dead Jaffa we saw on our way in. I told Jack we should lower our weapons immediately and, and we did.”

Daniel’s eyelids are drooping. He periodically glances downward and shuts them tight without losing his train of thought. That’s what he does when his eyes hurt. I don’t think anyone else notices. He’s stammering slightly too, searching for the right words. Another sure indication that he’s beat.

“We did, Sir.” I take over for my weary archaeologist. I can finish up from this point on. “Daniel was right. The alien left us alone and fried every Jaffa in the courtyard. It was quite a spectacle.” I mop up the details. We’re almost finished.

General Hammond has a few last questions. “If Apophis arrived by ship, why didn’t you take the opportunity to escape through the Stargate before the Jaffa were on top of you?”

Excellent question. George is no fool.

“That was my fault, sir...” Daniel starts quietly.

I cut him off. “My decision, sir. Our mission was to find the Harsesis. We needed a little more time to accomplish that goal. I weighed all the options and decided it was worth the risk.”

“I wasn’t questioning you, Colonel, just curious. Obviously, it worked out fine. You’re all here in one piece,” he says warmly. “Just worrying you might have cut it a little too close for comfort.” He gives us each a fatherly smile.

It’s late and we all look like shit. “I’ll save the rest of my questions until after I’ve read your reports and you’ve had a little time to rest. Take tomorrow off and I’ll see you back here on Thursday, 0900. Dismissed.” He sounds as happy as the rest of us to be getting out of here and going home.

It’s a miserable night, cold and rainy. Daniel’s so quiet on the ride home I keep glancing over to make sure he’s still alive. He is, I can see the window fogging up where he’s breathing on it. The rain is pelting the glass in the darkness making eerie shadows dance across the solemn face. It’s not an uncomfortable silence; we’ve known each other too long for that. I’m concentrating on the road, anxious to get us home safe and sound.

We finally hit a red light so I take the opportunity to reach out my hand and gently rub his thigh working on the right thing to say. “It’s for the best.” Daniel stiffens beneath my hand. Oops, wrong thing. Too late to take it back.

“It’s for the best? That’s your idea of support?” Daniel removes my hand in disgust and turns back to watch the raindrops.

At least I’m trying, I want to shout. My tongue hurts from biting down on it to keep from snapping off a sarcastic reply. Despite what he thinks, it is for the best. Taking care of a child is a huge responsibility. One that couldn't possibly fit in with our jobs and the hours we keep. Apparently, Daniel’s not up for hearing that particular truth just yet.

We went to Kheb under the guise of needing the child for the defense of earth. That was true enough. Who knows what the kid could have eventually told us? But he was a baby, in Daniel’s mind, Sha’re’s baby. I was under no illusion where Daniel expected the baby to end up.

Okay, now it’s an uncomfortable silence.

Daniel finally breaks it. “You didn’t want the baby, Jack. You’re glad I left him.”

The hostile tone of the accusation shocks me. “I never said that.”

“You didn’t have to say it.”

The truth in Daniel’s statement has me a little thrown, but I’m not about to concede the point. What I lack in conviction I more than make up for in volume and sarcasm. “I gave you more time in there than was prudent. I gave you every available second to make your decision. Way past the point of what was safe. I did that for you, Daniel. It was your decision. It had nothing to do with me.”

The fact Daniel is right about me not wanting the baby has no bearing on my answer. My archaeologist may be a genius, but he doesn’t have the ability to read people’s minds and I’m positive I’ve never expressed that sentiment out loud. And it’s not that I didn’t want the baby, it’s just not feasible. And what if the kid had problems or worse yet...powers? What if the NID came calling? I’m being realistic, Daniel’s thinking with his heart.

“You’re right about that,” he spits back at me. “The decision had nothing to do with you, and you had nothing to it. We never talked about the baby. You were happily uninvolved.” Daniel wraps his arms tightly around himself and leans his body heavily against the door getting to get as far away from me as possible.

I’m just as glad. Having this conversation in the car, with my eyes on the road instead of on Daniel is just too difficult. The blue eyes and body language always reveal as much or more than the words. It’s hard enough for me to read Daniel’s thoughts and motives without the added pressure of doing it while driving through a torrential downpour. It doesn’t take any brains or concentration to read Daniel’s body language now. It’s silently screaming, END OF DISCUSSION -- LEAVE ME ALONE. For once, I decide to listen.

As soon as we pull into the driveway Daniel jumps out of the truck and runs into the house. I take a few minutes to open the rear door and gather up some belongings. Once inside, the Colonel in me goes room-to-room, doing a perfunctory check of the house. A habit I can’t seem to break. By the time I start upstairs, the shower’s running. Daniel isn’t wasting any time. What I wouldn’t give to strip off my clothes and jump in there with him, throw my arms around the familiar chest and soap up the fine, fair hair. No point in fantasizing. I'm sharp enough to realize sharing a shower would not go over well with my guy tonight.

My usual MO in these situations is to ignore the problem completely. Wait for it to go away and cover it up with intense, hot sex. It’s odd, but Daniel never calls me on it... he not only allows it, he encourages it. For all his talk about open communication and emotional support, well, let’s just say Daniel doesn’t always practice what he preaches.

When he emerges from the bathroom, I waste no time hustling in there to take care of my own needs. Exhaustion quickly overwhelms me.

By the time I get back to the bedroom, Daniel’s curled up in the sheets on his side of the bed. He’s fully clothed, albeit in sweats, with his back to me. The linguist actually speaks twenty-four languages if you include body language, which is always loud and clear. Even I can translate the not so subtle ‘don’t touch me’ that he’s silently shouting right now.

It’s hard to understand. Daniel’s the linguist. He’s usually the one with the big ideas on sharing feelings and the value of words. But when it comes right down to it, he’s the one who’s curled up in a ball refusing to look at me, much less speak to me.

I climb in beside him, my hand hovering restlessly over his stiff form, afraid to touch him. I wish he understood that I don’t want to lecture him; I don’t even want to console him. All I want to do is hold him.

Sara comes to mind. She would try so hard to get through to me, to get me to talk to her, turn to her. Countless times I laid in bed with my back to her just like Daniel is doing now. Refusing the barest of comfort. Sara would eventually give up. She’d wait a few minutes until she thought I was asleep and then she'd lightly place a hand on my shoulder. At first, I took it as an act of defiance, her way of achieving a small victory against my impenetrable defenses. But eventually, I would feign sleep, waiting for that gentle touch, desperately needing it before I could relax enough to doze.

One of our last nights together, after Charlie, I had quit talking completely, all night I laid awake waiting for a gentle hand that never came. I knew right then that it was over.

Another thing I’ve learned from those sleepless nights with Sara is that this isn’t really about me, it’s about him. Daniel has a lot of demons. Someday, I want him to be able to turn to me and share every last one of them. Willingly allow me to hold him, and comfort him, trust me with the pain. Someday.

We’ll get better at this, I promise myself, as my hand wanders over to rest lightly on his shoulder. He stirs slightly in his sleep. I can only hope my touch offers him some comfort.

In no time at all, I drift off beside him.

What the hell? Daniel’s awake and... kissing me. Passionately. All over. I have the presence of mind to glance at he clock, 3:16. He must be desperate. His mouth makes its way down to my belly, his lips lingering just above my sudden erection.

“Love me, Jack,” he pleads.

The sad hesitancy is all it takes and I’m all over him. Comforting, kissing, touching. We make love, intense and passionate for what seems like hours until we both fall back to sleep, satisfied and sated. Daniel turns towards me in sleepy contentment, his hand reaching out for mine. Once he grasps it, he gently kisses the palm and places my hand on his shoulder, snuggling in for what’s left of the night. “Thank you, Jack,” he whispers drowsily. The harsh words, the cold silences, and the Harsesis temporarily forgotten.


I take a second to glance up at my audience. For once, my power point lecture seems to be keeping everyone’s attention. The Crystal Skull has that kind of hold on people... I should know.

“The skull Nick discovered in Belize was unique.” I’m just getting to the good part.

“Nick?” Jack interrupts.

“Uh, yeah, the uh, great explorer, the not so great grandfather, Nicholas Ballard, he preferred being called Nick even when I was a kid. Was a... anyway... uh, the point is...”

Damn Jack for zeroing in on that. I hate the faint heat that creeps up my face and the hopefully undetectable stutter it causes even after all these years. I’m not a kid, I’m a grown man and I’ve left that part of my life behind. And, as of a few years ago, left Nick behind with it.

“He claimed that it possessed a certain... power.” I continue on, not looking anyone in the eye, struggling to sound confident.

“What kind of power?” General Hammond doesn’t waste any time.

I’m almost embarrassed, but it’s Nick’s theory, not mine. I lick my lips out of nervous habit and forge ahead. “That if one were to look into the eyes of the skull one would be teleported to see aliens.” There, I said it.

I’m waiting for some type of laughter or at the very least, a smart ass Jack comment. But all I see in my friends’ faces is support and assurance, Jack’s included. They may not believe the theory, but they believe in me. It takes some of the sting out of my memories of Nick. My family is right here in this room and they’re standing by me.

The next two days are a blur.

Being out of phase was unnerving. The worst part was that for the second time in my life, I was solely reliant on Nick, he was the only one who could see me. This time, though, things ended differently. This time, Nick came through for me.

He also asked me to forgive him...for not taking me in as child. I told him ‘yes, of course I’d forgive him’. Just like that. I’m an adult and that was years ago. We should let bygones be bygones, get a fresh start, leave the past in the past and look to the future. I said all the right words. And then he left me again for that damn skull, except this time, I’m secretly relieved, not at all sure I could have lived up to my noble, well-intentioned promise of absolution.

Forgiveness is a conscious act. So I consciously told Nick I forgave him. The act is supposed to free the wronged as well the transgressor. But I don’t feel any freer. I said the words, that’s all I feel capable of right now.

The endless poking and prodding before being pronounced fit by Janet is finally finished, along with the never-ending debriefing on the specifics of what exactly took place in that cavern and why Nicholas Ballard stayed behind.

I’m exhausted by the time Jack and I finally arrive home, undress and crawl into bed.

“Rough few weeks, huh?” Jack’s rubbing my arm, being sympathetic and supportive. He’s up on one elbow, resting his head in his left hand, the right hand moving to caress my face. He obviously wants to talk.

Actually, maybe he doesn’t, more than likely he feels an obligation to try. I love him for the effort, but I’m not up for any meaningful conversation. I could easily throw him off with an offer of sex if I were in the mood but I’m not interested in that right now either. I’m tired and confused and full of too much self-doubt and self-loathing to want Jack fawning all over me, whispering how wonderful I am, treating me like I’m something special.

“Jack, I’m fine. I’ve been out of phase or wherever the hell I’ve been for two days. I’m really just tired.”

“Okay.” He agrees so quickly I have to shut my mouth to stop myself from launching into my preplanned argument against conversation and sex.

Jack stretches back out on the bed. The hand that had been touching my cheek moves further down to my chest and comes to rest there. This is good. This is comfortable. Sometimes, I don’t give Jack enough credit.

“We can talk tomorrow. You get some sleep,” he orders. “And no more walking through walls,” he adds. He’s still whispering comforting nonsense when I fall asleep.

It’s bleak and gloomy, even though it’s the middle of the afternoon. It’s always dark in here. I hate it. I try to be brave, but I’m so scared. It’s almost over, I tell myself, as I clutch a canvas bag in one hand and drag the heavy suitcase in the other, making my way down the hall to Mrs. Watson’s office.

It’s almost over.

The big kids are mean to me. Last night they pushed me down hard and made fun of me. They called me a four-eyed freak. Today, one of them grabbed my glasses right off my face and stomped on them and broke them. Now everything is blurry. I didn’t cry or tell anyone because I won’t be here much longer. Pretty soon I’ll be out of this dark place and back in the sunshine with Grandpa Nick. Grandpa Nick is coming for me today. Grandpa Nick will buy me new glasses.

Maybe we’ll go back to Egypt. Nick is an archaeologist too, just like mommy and daddy. Archaeologists love Egypt and so do I. Even though I know my mom and dad are dead, because I saw the big cover stone fall on top of them, I still think I might see them, just for a few minutes, in Egypt. That’s where they’d be.

I’m waiting outside the office door, sitting on the bench... waiting, packed and ready to go. I can see Grandpa Nick talking with Mrs. Watson. As soon as she opens the door I run to Nick. He puts out his arms, not to hug me as I first think, but to stop me from hugging him.

“Daniel, I can’t take you,” he says firmly.

My heart hurts in my chest, almost as much as that day in the museum. My mouth is dry, I can’t speak, I can’t swallow, I can barely breathe. Nick has to take me. He will. I’ll change his mind.

“Last year I made a huge, important discovery,” he tells me excitedly. “It’s wonderful, Daniel! It could change the world. It is so important that I wouldn’t have time to take proper care of you.”

My eyes start to blur with tears but I fight them back. “I can help you, Grandpa Nick.” I hold up the canvas bag of kid size archaeology tools that I’ve kept safely hidden under my bed. “Look, I’m an archaeologist too!”

I can see he doesn’t believe me. “You’re a child, Daniel, you can’t help. You’d be in the way and this is very, very important. My life is too busy right now. You’ll be better off here.” He pats my head. “These people are better equipped to care for you.”

My eyes sting with unshed tears. “I can read hieroglyphics,” I say softly, desperately trying to impress him. “I can help you. I know I can. I’ll be really good too,” I promise eagerly.

He pays no attention to my pleading. “Ah, Daniel, you’re too young to understand, but my discovery is going to keep me busy. Extremely busy. Maybe when I figure it out and prove to the world that I’m right, maybe then I’ll be able to come for you.” He turns to leave. “Be a good boy, Daniel Jackson.”

He’s walking out the door, leaving me here alone. All alone. My mind is frantically searching for a way to change his mind. It suddenly strikes me. “I can speak Egyptian,” I cry out. Too late, he’s out the door. Maybe if he knew that, he’d take me. “I can speak Egyptian,” I yell louder. I can see Grandpa Nick through the window, heading for his car.

“Tell him, go tell him,” I scream at Mrs. Watson who’s holding me in place as I struggle to break free of her arms. I have to chase Nick down. I have to tell him. Maybe then he’ll take me in. I can help him. “I can speak Egyptian!” I shout it as loud as I can, over and over until the car disappears out of sight.

“Daniel, wake up. Daniel.”

“I can speak Egyptian,” I sob softly.

“I know you can.” Strong arms gather me in, attempting to soothe me. Grandpa?

“Shh, I know you can, Danny.”

Oh, it’s Jack. I fight through the thick haze of sleep. Jack’s reassuring voice and warm embrace eventually bring me back to reality. “I’m okay. I’m okay.” I say it as much to myself as to Jack.

I guess true forgiveness is still a ways off.

After a few minutes of silence, except for my muted sobs, I get myself under control. Embarrassed by this crying jag, I decide to give Jack some peace. “I’m going to lie down in the spare room so you can get some sleep.”

“Jack?” He's not letting go.



“No, Daniel. You’re not going to sleep in the spare room.”

“Please.” I hate the pleading tone in my voice. I’ve never broken down this completely in front of him.

“Tell me what had you so upset.” His voice is full of concern as he gently pushes a strand of sweaty hair off of my forehead.

There are two reasons I don’t want to tell him. One is that he’ll assure me nothing is my fault, that I did everything right. He’ll tell me that before he hears all the facts and circumstances. The other reason is because of my fear. I’m afraid that sooner or later, he’ll get a glimpse of the real me and be disappointed.

“Tell me the dream.” His voice is soft and encouraging, his arms wrapped snuggly around my waist.

It’s quiet for a long time before I can answer.

“Did I do the right thing, Jack?” My voice is barely a whisper.

He’s confused, afraid to respond. The way I’ve been jumping down his throat lately, I can’t blame him.

“With the baby. Did I do the right thing?” A few more tears leak out. I hate that I can’t seem to control them.

“Yes, absolutely the right thing.” Jack assures me immediately. Except, it’s not all that reassuring coming from Jack. He’s just not objective when it comes to me.

“Not the right thing for me, Jack, or for you. For the baby. Did I do the right thing for the baby?”

“Yes. Absolutely,” he’s says again, without hesitation. His blind faith in me brings more unwanted tears to my eyes.

“How can you be so sure?” I want to believe him.

“I know you, Daniel. You believed the glowy alien could protect the baby better than you could. You'd never have turned the kid over if you weren’t one hundred percent sure he’d be safe. Never.” He doesn’t have a shred of doubt. I need to believe him.

“You can’t really know, Jack.” I’m arguing against myself, my actions.

“I can.” He kisses my temple. “I do.”

“I wouldn’t have abandoned him or handed him over to the NID like a lab rat. I wouldn’t do that.” Now, I’m defending myself to myself. Jack doesn’t require an explanation.

“Of course, you wouldn’t. No one would ask you to,” he says confidently.

I take a deep breath, before I lose my nerve. “I knew I’d likely have to leave the SGC to care for the baby, give up gate travel at the very least. And you... I didn’t know if we could survive having a baby around. So, what if I wasn’t willing to take the risk? Maybe I let all that influence me. What if it was a completely selfish decision?”

“Daniel...” Jack starts.

I don’t give him a chance to finish. “God, Jack, what if I’m just like him?” One more final revelation to air out my deepest, darkest fear.

“Like who?”

“Nick.” I hang my head in utter defeat.

Jack slips a finger under my chin and raises my head, forcing me to look him in the eye. “You can’t be serious, Daniel. Nick abandoned you. His own flesh and blood. He didn’t make sure you were safe or happy. He left you. Now if you want to forgive him, that’s your business, but don’t ever compare yourself to him. He was a bastard to do what he did.”

When Jack’s finished consoling me he pulls me closer to his chest. Tears flow from the pent up emotions of the last few weeks. First, finding the baby, Sha’re’s baby, and then losing him. And then finding Nick, flesh and blood family, and losing him as well.

“Tell me about the dream,” Jack coaxes, while his hand begins rubbing soft gentle circles between my shoulder blades.

“It’s nothing, I'm...” I stop myself from my standard reply. Hell, I’ve gone this far; I might as well get it all out. Besides, it’s Jack.

“When I was first orphaned, Nick came to see me one time at the facility. I thought he was coming to pick me up but...” My voice cracks, why is this still so damn hard? Jack stays quiet, keeping up the gentle massage, waiting for me to continue. “...but he had already discovered the skull and had his own obsession to deal with.”

Jack nods sympathetically. “And speaking Egyptian?”

“Oh, that.” I force a smile.

“Hey,” Jack interrupts. “Don’t do that. Don’t smile at something that hurts you.”

He’s right. I’m tired of pretending it doesn’t hurt. That I don’t hurt. Tired of pretending I’m over it, that I’m fine.

“I yelled that to Nick the day he left me. I thought if he knew I spoke Arabic, I called it Egyptian when I was kid, I thought if he knew that, he'd take me with him. He didn’t hear me. He was already out the door. I kept screaming it, hoping he’d hear me and turn around. He never turned around.”

Jack’s still rubbing my back, his hand warm and comforting. It feels good to get this out. I’ve never shared this with another living soul.

I’m actually feeling better. “During that first year I'd write Nick letters, almost daily, listing all of my skills, kind of like a job resume. I thought if I could prove my worth, he’d change his mind. I have no way of knowing if he ever received any of them.”

“He was an ass. If he had taken you with him, you'd have figured out that skull and he wouldn’t have wasted his life withering away in an asylum.”

I laugh at that. “I was eight years old.”

“I know. You would have figured it out eventually. Trust me.” He’s dead serious. The man’s confidence in me has no limits.

I do. I do trust him. If only I could see myself through Jack’s eyes, to see what he sees.

Jack pulls on my arm until we’re both lying back down on the bed. He starts kissing the base of my neck, asking me to say something to him in Egyptian.

I’ve never opened myself up to anyone as I just did to Jack. Not even Sha’re. My body begins to squirm, responding to the strong, familiar hands when a simple thought strikes me. The force and clarity of it produces a genuine smile and a modicum of peace flows through me.

If I trust in Jack, how can I not trust in myself?


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