I know Daniel is out here somewhere. I heft the snowball between my left and right hand, seeking retaliation for my archeologist's improved aim. I had gone out to get more wood for the fireplace, and was halfway across the yard, when I felt the impact of a snowball against my fleece covered back. A triumphant "Yes!" echoed in the stillness of the late afternoon.
It had been a good day ... no, a great day. Daniel was relaxed, I was relaxed, Daniel and I were relaxed together. 'Together' being the key word here. After months of fighting the inevitable, our relationship just fell into place, pulling us along for the ride. What a ride it was turning out to be.
Tonight is Christmas Eve, the first time since Charlie died that I can actually say I'm looking forward to the holiday. The freshly cut spruce is standing tall in the living room, waiting to be decorated by our friends and family who are joining us later. The presents are wrapped, ready to be placed under the tree, and dinner is cooking in the oven. The present from Hammond is the best, though ... SG1 is on vacation until the 2nd of January. Time together for Daniel and me to ... well, just time together.
"Daniel ... I know you're out here."
Daniel stands from his hiding place on the back deck, his hand ready and waiting with ammunition to hurl at me. He takes a step back, catches me in his sight ... and begins to crouch under cover at the exact moment I send my hard packed snowball in his direction. The snowball, my snowball, is aimed to make contact around his shoulder, but because he bends down, it takes him out with a blow to the head.
"Shit ... Daniel." I'm on the deck and up the stairs in a matter of seconds. "Stupid, stupid, stupid," I keep reiterating to myself.
Daniel is kneeling on the snow covered deck when I reach him, his hand pressed against his right eye. I can feel bile rising in my throat at the blood that coats his hand and has begun a slow drip onto the snow. "Let me see, Daniel." I gently tug at his hand, when he refuses to show me. Already the eye is swollen, the bottom and top lid puffy to the point of closure. Above and below the eye Technicolor shades are already blooming.
The blood is slowly flowing from a laceration in the soft tissue under the eyebrow where his glasses ... I look around in a panic. I realize that glass from his lenses could be behind the swollen lids. On my hands and knees, I frantically search the deck, trying to locate Daniel's glasses. Finding them under the picnic table, I just pocket them, I don't have time to examine them because I am distracted by the retching sounds Daniel is making. I catch him just before he lands face first into the vomit and blood mixture gracing the ground in front of him.
Fraiser stands in my kitchen, yelling at me. I called her, as soon as I was able to maneuver Daniel into the house. No questions asked, our doctor, arrived at the doorstep medical bag in hand, and checked her military "don't ask, don't tell" at the door.
She pointed in the direction of the living room. "You go talk some sense into him, colonel. He's refusing to go to the hospital ... or the infirmary. At the very least, he has a mild concussion, I gave him seven stitches in your bathroom. A bathroom. I think he has an orbital and quite possibly a cheekbone fracture. He's nauseated and dizzy, he needs x-rays and a CAT scan. Never mind the headache he won't admit to having."
"From a snowball?"
"Yes, from a hard packed snowball, thrown with enough power, Colonel." There is venom in her voice at the following statement. "Don't ever call me again for an injury that should be taken to a hospital or the infirmary. Don't ever call me again in the hopes of circumventing military protocol by having me make a house call. Don't ever call me again, don't ever use me again to protect your relationship with Daniel. This is and will be the final warning."
Is this what I did? Did I really endanger Daniel to protect our standing at the SGC? To protect our collectives asses ... my ass? I take a fleeting glance towards the living room, a distraught voice from my subconscious warning me that maybe I don't have my priorities as straight as I thought I had. For a stupid injury, no one would have questioned this, but I panicked at people thinking we were "together."
"I'm truly sorry, Doc. He ... Daniel was really in no position to make a decision. I should have known better."
"Yes you should have, Colonel. But I'm positive that an incident such as this one, will never happen again." Fraiser poured herself a mug of coffee, and motioned towards the living room with a tilt of her head. "Talk to him, Colonel. I would rather not force him, but I will if I have to. He needs x-rays and scans, and I can't do that here, obviously."
I see the bleakness of the undecorated tree and my heart sinks. For as special as this Christmas is for me ... I've had other Christmas holidays surrounded by family ... Daniel hasn't ... and that is why, as lousy as he feels, he wants to be with family. But at this moment, I'm not family. I'm someone who's afraid. I'm terrified that in our life, I have just delegated Daniel's status to one of fuck buddy. I've done him a horrible injustice.
My job, my work, my life is not sitting on the couch in the living room. With a shock accompanied by a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, I realize it's the decorations and medals that sit on my uniform. I need to face up to what I've done ... what I've done to him. Daniel is sitting on the couch, feet on the table, ice pack resting on his leg. His facial discoloration looks even worse indoors. He's so silent and still, it looks like he's sleeping. "Daniel?"
"I'm not going, Jack. I wasn't going when Janet asked me ... I'm not going because you're asking me."
"Don't bullshit me, Daniel. I was wrong not to take you in the first place. I was ..."
"Ashamed? Figured Janet would sweep it under the rug for you? For us?"
"No ... don't twist my words, Daniel."
"Don't lie, Jack. I'm not stupid. I heard what Janet said ... and what you didn't say. That's enough for me." There is heartbreaking finality to those words, a shattering of something unfixable. "Just let me go to the infirmary," he whispers quietly.
"Infirmary ... Fraiser will agree to that."
I stand and extend my hand towards Daniel. He tracks my hand, looks at the tree then back at me. "Don't come Jack, Janet can drive me. You stay ... we ... you're having a lot of people over ... don't disappoint them. I'll be fine." And I let him go. On Christmas Eve, I let the man I thought I loved walk out. Though there is guilt, there is a larger sense of relief in knowing that I didn't have to pretend tonight, in front of our friends and commanding officers that Daniel and I were anything more than buddies.
The only thing I remember, that I am sure will haunt me this evening, is the disappointment and hurt, physical and mental, apparent on his expressive face as he said goodbye.
By the look on Janet's face, the fluorescent lighting is doing nothing to downplay the severity of the bruising on my face ... the swelling of the eye feels worse to me. I gently touch my fingers to the livid discoloration. "I can't leave?"
"You won't be leaving tonight." The good doctor begins to rattle off the injuries I incurred with my chance meeting with the snow ball. "Corneal abrasion ... double vision?" She continues to prattle, not leaving me time to answer either yes or no. "Mild concussion, hence the nausea and vomiting." She pats my arm "... technician wasn't too thrilled when you threw up on him. Twice." Janet opens my chart and continues. "Slight fracture to both orbital and cheek on the right side. Ophthalmologist will be in to see you to make sure there is no permanent visual damage."
"Cause I might need glasses?"
"You're lucky, you don't need a seeing-eye dog." Janet is angry, annoyed. I realize the time ... realize it's Christmas Eve. Realize Cassie is home ... alone ... family ... Jack's house.
"Sorry, Janet. I didn't meant to ..."
Impatient with me, with the situation, Janet doesn't let me finish. "Sleep, Daniel. Dr. Warner is on call. I ordered you pain medication ... use it if you need it."
Janet checks on me one more time before leaving. She gently shakes my shoulder until I become aware, SOP with a concussion patient. The usual questions are asked, and I guess I respond well enough to satisfy her. I want her to leave, I crave solitude.
"I'm sorry I had to keep you overnight."
I shrug my shoulder in response, closing my eyes. Hoping that she will get the hint. I'm starting to believe that something more than my eye was injured with the throw of a snow ball. Friendships strained, lovers gone.
I wonder how much of a fool I appeared to Jack, hell even to Janet as I sense her hovering about. Embarrassment and hurt are treading hand and hand through my heart. I had hoped that Jack would've ignored my denial in not wanting his companionship to the infirmary. I needed him ... wanted him. The fact that he let me go with Janet, without a backward glance shows how much of a fool I am ... I've become. In my desire for a relationship with Jack, I misread the signals and am now paying the price. The emptiness of my life is suddenly very apparent to me.
I hear Janet sigh before she leaves me. Her footfalls fade into the distance. The infirmary, hell all of the SGC, is uncharacteristically quiet. And me ... I'm where I always am on Christmas Eve, alone.
So here I am, alone again. Tree decorated, food eaten, friends departed, presents opened ... well almost all the presents opened. The packages that Daniel and I had bought for each other still sit under the tree partially hidden by the strewn wrapping paper.
My thoughts are as scattered as the wrapping paper. Weighing my happiness against my military mindset. I'm confused and more than a little drunk. Part of me wants to jump in my car and run to Daniel, part of me finds it hard to comprehend that I've found happiness in the arms of another man, harder still to understand that I was willing to throw it all way upon fear of discovery. I am disgusted at how fast and how far I ran from Daniel. By no stretch of the imagination do I consider myself a man who is easily frightened or intimidated. But now, I'm sitting in the quiet of my house, alone ... and afraid.
Afraid that my career and life as I know it are over if my relationship with Daniel is exposed. Afraid that I love Daniel enough not to care about my career if our relationship is exposed. Afraid that the man who has become my life will not forgive me for the tactical error that was mine tonight. My fear is running in his favor ... more afraid of losing him, than losing my career. My medals don't keep me warm at night nor do they make me smile, or stimulate my mind or other body parts. The medals will go back in the drawer, my love that I was hiding even from myself, is ready to be shared with Daniel.
I am not sober enough to drive, so I make a call to the infirmary. Dr. Warner answers, and my heart drops when I am informed that Daniel is sleeping. Painkiller sleeping ... won't rouse for hours. The doctor informs me the ophthalmologist will be paying Daniel a visit in the morning. Even though Fraiser had informed me of Daniel's injuries, I still inquire as to what the scans showed and a sick feeling washes over me ...
The airman driving me home is annoyed that he's spending Christmas morning chauffeuring an injured Dr. Jackson. To be honest, I am annoyed that I am not permitted to drive, and have to rely on someone for transportation.
"Do you need any assistance, Dr. Jackson?" He asks with forced politeness as he pulls up at my building's entrance.
"No ... thank you," I reply and wave him off.
The airman speeds away barely before I have the door closed. I rub my temple, the headache that began as the ophthalmologist examined me is now developing in earnest. I trudge through the lobby, grateful that the doorman is not on duty, catch the elevator and push the button to my floor. I look at my watch. Well, Teal'c in on his way to visit Ry'ac, Sam is going to play auntie for the week and Jack ... I really need some painkillers, as the ache in my head consumes all of me.
My loft is quiet and empty ... and not holiday prepared at all. For the moment, it is perfect ... and it is home. The thought of food and even coffee sets my stomach churning. Sleep is what I crave.
"He's left? You let him leave?"
"Colonel O'Neill. I will repeat again ... the ophthalmologist examined Dr. Jackson extremely early this morning. Declared him fit to be released and an airman drove him home about an hour ago." Dr. Warner taps his pen against the open folders that litter the desk. "I co-signed the release, sent him home with instructions and medication."
Dr. Warner drops his head and again begins work on the charts before him. I realize that I've been summarily dismissed and take my leave.
I practice my apologies on the drive to Daniel's house. I stop off at a 24 hour convenience store and purchase coffee for my archeologist. Apologies always go better when accompanied by caffeine.
The coffee Daniel accepted readily, the apology he seems to be having a problem with.
Sans glasses, due to the swelling, Daniel looks younger than his years. His body language and gauntness of his features telegraph that he is tired, spent, and if possible, irrevocably hurt. We stand in his kitchen ... Daniel leaning against the counter, the Styrofoam cup held tightly in his hands. I stand opposite him, arms crossed, body supported by the refrigerator. Two fighters in a ring, opposite each other, but strong in their defense.
I'm trying to get through his thick skull ... to convince him that I have seen the error of my ways. Daniel is not budging in either expression or body stance ... and I am getting angry. It isn't that I expected him to forgive me ... a little begging, groveling, I would've understood that. I don't understand this silent treatment. He is looking down his nose at me ... the early Daniel Jackson, holder of multiple PhD's is making an appearance. Daniel is condescending in his belief that he knew that my disavowing any knowledge of our relationship was an expected thing ... that he expected this of me. I am not sure if it hurts that he thought so little of me ... or that he was right.
I am across the room in two strides, jabbing my finger in his chest. He is riding out my temper tantrum with a look of tolerance, which just incites me further. "Haven't you ever made a decision that you were sorry for, Daniel? An error in judgment? A choice that you wished you could take back ... do over?"
"There are no do overs in life. Do overs are for little kids who miss the box when playing hopscotch."
"Dammit, Daniel," my voice rises in frustration. "Do you believe yourself to be that infallible, that you are happy with every choice you have made in life?"
Bingo ... I've made a point as I notice that Daniel's gaze has moved to check out the interesting floor design in his kitchen. I smile inwardly and go in for the kill, I am nothing if not stalwart in my stupidity.
"Yeah, Daniel, I'm thinking that maybe your decision to listen to Shyla ... and get back into the sarcophagus for the 10th or possibly the 11th time was not exactly one of your shining moments." I cup my hand around my ear for emphasis. "What's that Daniel? You made an error and left your friends in that mine. Could that be? Can't forget the Destroyer of Worlds ... a sure sign of Dr. Jackson's omnipotence ... hmm."
"You want one, Jack? I'll give you one ... an error ... a decision to end all decisions." Daniel straightens, places the cup on the counter, squares his shoulders and, for one horrific minute, I see what I've done ... I've pushed Daniel to the limit. And it is now going to be sink or swim for us, all or nothing.
"I opened the gate on Abydos ... I rolled out the red carpet and said to Apophis ... 'come take my wife, my family, my home.' I opened the gate and have to live with that error ... that mistake in judgment every day of my life, Jack. Because after that mistake, I was right back to where I started ... alone. And after yesterday,I realized I've been fooling myself, I'm as alone now ... as I was when I left Abydos. This between you and me ... a façade ... nothing more."
At this moment, I would give anything to get back in the car and start this all over again. My hand snakes out and grasps Daniel's upper arm, the tension in his muscle reverberating into my hand. "Daniel, I'm ..."
He shrugs from my grasp, leaving my hand hanging in midair. "What, Jack? You're sorry? Sorry for what ... sorry that this ... this thing between us is embarrassing to you ... sorry ..."
Daniel is on a roll now, past the point of coherency, a combination of yesterday's events, lack of sleep, and I'm sure some type of medication, so I shut him up the only way I can think of ... I kiss him.
I am holding onto my resolve, as well as the kitchen counter, as Jack's body melds to mine. His hands gently grip the side of my face, his thumbs tracing soothing half moons on cheekbones. I grimace in pain as he touches my right side, and he abruptly breaks contact.
I am shocked at the sight before me. An expression on Jack O'Neill's face that I don't believe I've ever seen before. Fear. Unabashed, naked fear. An emotion totally out of character for Jack.
"Jack?" Now I am the one placing a comforting hand.
"Maybe 'sorry' wasn't the right word." I see Jack blink his eyes rapidly, and a skittish smile cross his face, and then falters. "After you left my house last night ... after everyone left ... like you, I realized I was left alone ..."
I take a deep breath ... "And empty, Jack."
He silently shakes his head in agreement. "I felt that way once before, when Charlie died. God, and I vowed I never wanted to feel that way or live that way ever again. But, I was going to do it again. Like leaving a loaded gun to find ... I was going to destroy us by not acknowledging what we have ..."
"Which is?" I may only get one chance in my lifetime to get Jack to say what he's building up to say ...
"I love you, Daniel. You are worth more to me than my military career, than the medals and the uniform. The military is part of me, I can't and won't deny that ... part of my personality, but you are my life, Daniel. You are the reason that I am still alive, still in the military, still believe in what the uniform stands for, still wear my uniform with pride ... You, standing in front of me. The day the military asks me to choose, will be the day I hang up the uniform permanently and close those medals away in boxes."
"Oh." I answer stupidly.
"Oh ... I make this earth shattering epiphany and for all the languages stuffed in that brain of yours all you can say is 'oh'?"
"Oh ... I love you, Jack."
"Better," I nod in satisfaction.
"This is better," Daniel exclaims as he folds me into a crushing hug, covering his mouth with mine. This time, instead of holding onto the counter for dear life, Daniel holds onto me. Every time his tongue probes, tentatively at first, then deeper as I pull him closer to me, I am appalled at what I almost lost ... at what I almost let slip through my fingers.
I cover Daniel's nude, prone body with the quilt, the bedroom is warm, but not that warm. My hands and cock are aching to finish what we attempted to start before the pain medication that Daniel had taken kicked in. I slip on my tee shirt, and lean in to kiss Daniel. He smiles, but doesn't open his eyes.
"I'll be back," I whisper.
"'Kay," Daniel mumbles, shifting in his sleep, pulling the blanket tighter around himself.
My sense of smell reaches consciousness before I do. Delicious odors assail me ... finding their way into the bedroom. I sit up, involuntarily rubbing my eyes into wakefulness. "Ow ..." I murmur, my fingers touching a painful reminder on my face. Memories assault me, then sooth me as I remember ... as I remember falling asleep. 'Way to go, Jackson,' I reprimand myself. I slip on a pair of sweats before leaving the bedroom, the darkness of the room testament to the length of time I was asleep.
The lights in the loft are subdued, dimmed, but my eyes catch the holiday decorations throughout. The tree stands in the corner of the room, aglow with lights, our presents underneath the branches. This is so sappy ... something contrived, that one reads about over the holiday intending to bring a tear to the reader's eyes. Well, it worked. I stand, trying not to blink, so the tears will stay ... I worry my bottom lip grasping for self control.
Jack comes up behind me, wrapping his arms around my waist. Both hands ensconced in oven mitts. I laugh. "Before I turn around, please let me know if you are wearing an apron and pearls?"
I feel his laughter, rather than hear it. The vibration providing comfort against me. "Thank you." I shrug, the linguist in me is unable to find the words to express what he has done for me. This tree, the decorations, the presents, the obvious dinner to follow ... I feel a void within me closing just a little. The pain of Christmas past fading slightly in my memory. "So this is Christmas, Jack?"
He drops the mitts on the floor and turns me bodily so I face him. "No, those are the representations of what Christmas is all about. The tree, the presents ... the dinner." Jack licks his lips and furrows his brow in concentration ... a need to find the right words. "This is Christmas," he claims, kissing me gently on the lips. "My feelings toward you ... don't need a day on the calendar to make them special. Spending time with you ... isn't just December 25th, it's everyday ... in everything we do ... from our arguing." He pulls me closer, his hands on my ass, a smile on his lips ... "To our making up. That's Christmas to me."
"Are you purring?" I ask, elbows deep in soapy water.
Daniel is rubbing his chin along the nape of my neck, sending shivers down my spine as his stubble ripples the sensitive skin. I am washing dishes, enjoying Daniel enjoying me. He has trapped me against the sink.
"I'm never buying a dishwasher," his voice in my ear is husky with desire.
"You get off on me in an apron?"
"I get off on you washing dinner dishes in my kitchen wearing nothing but the apron ..."
I shiver as Daniel makes that impossible low purring noise deep in his throat. "Woa, watcha doing ...?"
"Just checking what Tiny Tim is hiding under his apron." His hands run the length of my cock ... now I know where the saying 'poetry in motion' comes from.
"Well, Jack, feels like Tiny Tim isn't so tiny anymore."
I lift the drain, letting the remaining water exit the sink noisily. I turn slipping soapy hands up the front of Daniel's shirt ... I glance in the direction of the bedroom. Daniel receives the signal loud and clear, grabbing my hand and leading the way. Before we reach the doorway of the room, I push him up against the wall, kissing him hungrily, his hands blindly reach to untie the apron.
"Hey Daniel," I murmur.
"Mmmm" is the only response I receive as he is nipping at my earlobe.
"Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night."
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