I can see Hammond study SG1 as we sit around the briefing table. I am positive it is obvious, even to Hammond's untrained eye, that something had happened on that planet, something not one of us seems willing to divulge. I am concerned by the way Hammond's brow furrows as he takes in the way our three pairs of eyes keep sneaking Daniel furtive glances. Daniel, whose hands hold a coffee mug in a death grip, is oblivious to our scrutiny.
"Colonel O'Neill, your opinion?"
I exhale loudly, ripping my eyes away from Daniel and turning my attention to General Hammond. "Complete success, Sir. The Carnens gave Earth everything we asked for. They are willing to deliver the treaty signed and sealed and the best part, Sir, Daniel didn't even have to marry the native girl."
Honestly, my stupidity astounds even me sometimes. Though Daniel never raises his eyes from the depths of his mug, Carter's tensed body gave off a chill that could be felt throughout the room.
The news is in direct contrast to the mood that permeates this table, leaving Hammond thoroughly confused at the state of emotional affairs. I can see in his eyes, for the benefit of SG1, he is going to get to the bottom of this before it begins to fester. He pushes his chair away from the table. "Congratulations, SG1, for a job well done. Seventy-two hours downtime commencing upon receipt of mission reports. Dismissed."
We turn as one, watching Daniel leave the table without his customary conversation. I sigh inwardly, knowing I'll be spending the next seventy-two hours picking up the emotional remains of my archeologist. I pivot to face Hammond and catch him looking at Daniel's recently deserted chair. I think our General knows that he probably won't be receiving Daniel's mission report before SG1's civilian leaves the base.
I watch Carter and Teal'c take off after the errant team member, but Daniel is fast, and he'll likely beat them out of the mountain before they make it to the first checkpoint. I should know, I've had plenty of experience in this department. They lack an intimate understanding of Daniel's need for privacy and his flight instinct when emotionally distraught.
I don't bother to leave, I know what awaits me and yup ... here it comes.
"Colonel O'Neill, may I see you in my office?"
Our General is very predictable with regard to the care and feeding of his flagship team. We enter his office and I take the seat opposite him. I don't even wait for my commander to ask the question, I blurt out, "There was a slight problem on the planet, Sir."
"With Dr. Jackson?"
"Well, not exactly with him ... he just encountered a situation that was rather, shall we say ... awkward."
"Care to be a bit more specific, Colonel?"
"The high councilor's daughter bore a passing resemblance to Sha're, Sir." Lie number one, the daughter, Jonra, was an exact replica of Daniel's wife ... hair, eyes, build, skin, down to the lilting accent ... obviously Ra had scattered Sha're's family's DNA throughout the universe via a long forgotten distant relative. "Daniel was slightly uncomfortable, General." Lie number two, the adverb 'slightly' in this situation, was a gross understatement to Daniel's state of mind for the four days we were on the planet. Daniel started with disbelief, moved to shock and progressed to total lack of communication with Carter, Teal'c, and me, his commanding officer and lover.
After a few hours of Daniel's cold shoulder on the planet, I had approached him. "Daniel ... I want ..."
He never looked up from his writing, never made eye contact. "Jack, I don't want ... Not now, maybe not for a while."
Those were the last words Daniel exchanged with anyone on the team for four days. I presumed he slept somewhere, though not with me, and he ate. All meals on this planet were communal so I saw him eat, and breathe, and finish the treaty agreement. I saw him maintain outward control, I saw him breaking apart inside every time she was near. I saw that. I saw him say goodbye to Jonra and walk through the event horizon. What I didn't see and needed to know, was how far Daniel was going to bury his emotions this time.
"But the treaty, Colonel?"
"Like I said, signed, sealed and delivered. Daniel's conduct was exemplary throughout the mission."
"I never doubted that Colonel, not where Dr. Jackson is concerned." General Hammond places his hands palms side down on the desk, leaning in, glancing at the overhead security cameras. He whispers to me conspiratorially, "Jack, the earth has again benefited from the actions and hard work of Dr. Jackson. And ... all Daniel has received ..."
"I know, Sir, I truly know."
Hammond looks at me with a sense of deep understanding. Under all his bluster and military awards, General Hammond holds a special place in his heart for Daniel. "Dismissed."
I smile, knowing that I've been dismissed with the unspoken order to find Daniel taking precedence over the General's needing to read my mission report.
"Thank you, Sir."
His blue eyes are clear and unblinking as they meet mine. "Please tell Dr. Jackson, when you see him," General Hammond takes a deep breath and pauses, "... tell him ... well just tell him thank you."
"I will, Sir. See you in 72 hours."
Before I leave the mountain, I check in with both Carter and Teal'c for a situation report, but as I suspected, Daniel has easily slipped through their fingers.
I try not to speed through the dark streets en route to Daniel's loft. I check the dashboard clock, shaking my head in alarm, noting that it has been almost two hours since the General had dismissed SG1 from the debriefing. Fate is on my side as I maneuver my truck into a spot directly in front of Daniel's building. I wave at the doorman, who greets me with a nod. He opens his mouth to address me, but I dash towards the waiting, working elevator ... both of which are rarities in this building.
"Daniel?" The apartment is dark and quiet, which just serves to increase my anxiety. I search through the rooms, repeatedly calling out his name. I pause and use Daniel's home phone to dial his cell phone, which switches me to "voice mail" mode. I slam the phone down in frustration ... and proceed to check the balcony doors. I release a breath I am unaware I'd been holding when I find them locked. The fish tank ... something about the fish tank. Fresh flakes still float on the top of the water, the satiated fish swimming in circles. Daniel has been here ... I am ninety percent positive I know where he went.
My heart returns to normal rhythm when I notice Daniel's car in my driveway. I do a quick run through of the house to satisfy my own curiosity, but I know he's not there.
"Daniel?" I call as I climb up the ladder to my observation deck. I stand still, just looking at him for a moment. He is leaning back on the Adirondach chair, eyes closed, beer bottle pressed up against his temple. Numerous beer bottles line the wooden deck and it becomes obvious to me, what kind of trouble Daniel can get into when he sets his mind to it. "Started the party without me, Daniel?"
He nods his head and opens bleary, blood shot eyes in my direction. I pull the second deck chair up right next to him so the arms of the chairs are touching. So our arms are touching.
He closes his eyes again, whispering, "I couldn't find it, Jack. I looked and I couldn't find it."
"Find what, Daniel?" I take his free hand, unnerved by the coldness in the limb.
"Abydos, Jack. I came here to find Abydos."
I pull the telescope towards me, locate the stellar constellations that I believe would be in the area of Abydos. "Daniel, it's there. Wanna see it?"
He nods yes, and I position the telescope, telling Daniel where to look. Before leaning in to peer through the eyepiece, he lifts the beer bottle to his lips with shaking hands. "You've had enough, Daniel. Come on." I see his eyes fill in the light of the moon, but he refuses to relinquish the bottle. He places the now empty bottle amongst the others on the floor.
"I'm sorry, Daniel."
"For what, Jack?" Daniel hiccups.
"I'm sorry she wasn't Sha're."
Daniel has again leaned back in the chair, eyes closed. I'm beginning to believe that he's fallen asleep. "I'm sorry she wasn't Sha're," I say a little more forcefully.
"I'm glad that girl from PX 7831 wasn't Sha're. When I first saw her, I was actually ... afraid."
"Afraid that if she was Sha're, I would have to choose."
"Choose ... oh, Daniel," I sigh, realization finally dawning on me. I grab his hand and hold it tightly. "I would have understood, Daniel."
He turns toward me, his eyes full of pain. "But Sha're wouldn't Jack. Sha're wouldn't understand why I would choose you. Choose you over her. My life here over Abydos. I loved her, Jack."
"I know you did, Daniel."
"But, at this point in my life ... I love you more."
Silence ... I think even the night sounds have halted in the wake of Daniel's proclamation. I don't answer, I can't answer.
"I loved her on Abydos ... but the person who loved her isn't here anymore. I'm different. What I want from my life is different. Who I want in my life is different. The person I want to share my life with is different." Silent tears slide down his cheeks.
With startling clarity, I suddenly know why Daniel spoke to no SG1 team member on the planet. He was overwhelmed with guilt. Guilt that he had gone on with his life. Feeling accused by Jonra's mere presence. Guilt that Sha're was lying in a grave on her home world light years from earth. This isn't about his inability to stop her from being "snaked" or from dying ... this is survivor's guilt.
I stand and extend a hand to Daniel. "Let's go inside, hmmm? It's getting cold out here." He accepts my hand, and I pull him gently out of the chair, grabbing his arms as he sways. "A little too much to drink, huh Daniel?"
My heart constricts as he turns to face me sadness reflected in his expressive eyes. "Not enough, Jack. " I pull him into a tight embrace, his arms hang limply at his sides. He doesn't return my affection, yet he rests his head on my shoulder, his breath warming my neck.
Daniel shivers in the warmth of the kitchen, his body needing a minute to adjust to the temperature change. I place a cup of coffee on the table in front of him, he eyes slowly travel first to the coffee, then to me. "Sometimes it's hard to say 'I love you' and not think of her, think of what my life could have been," he says quietly, before lowering his eyes to the table again, tracing the grain of the wood lazily with his fingers.
Sitting across from Daniel, I'm finding it hard to keep my emotions in check. I place my hand gently atop his. "I love you, Daniel."
He offers me a ghost of a smile. "And sometimes, those words are hard to hear, but I realize now the worst times ... the worst times are days I don't think of her at all. I forget who I was then, and how much she taught me about love ... being able to love. How strong Sha're was ... and how I was able to pull from that strength to get past what happened to her. I am who I am today because of her ... and yet I wouldn't choose her to spend the rest of my life with. How ironic is that, Jack?"
Daniel has lost the battle to maintain any semblance of control. He gets up to leave, but for once, I'm faster, and I grab him, holding him close. "That wasn't Sha're Daniel. Sha're is home on Abydos ... you don't have to be afraid, and you don't have to choose." The numerous beers he's consumed has knocked down Daniel's usual brick façade protecting his emotions, and I can feel his body vibrate with sobs. I card my fingers through his hair, inhaling him, loving him. "Sha're would be glad you found happiness, Daniel. She loved you enough to fight Ammonet to say goodbye and she loved you enough to give you the strength to move on. You don't have to think of her everyday, because Sha're is part of you ... you carry her love in here ..." I pause and place my hand gently over his heart.
I make Daniel drink water and take aspirin before I put him to bed. I'm sure it won't alleviate the hangover that he'll have tomorrow, but hopefully it will take the edge off. I sit with him, talking until I feel his breathing even out. I call his name softly for confirmation. When I receive no response, I get up, stretch, and kiss him softly. In his sleep, he rewards me with a true smile, the first that I've seen from him in almost five days. We have 72 hours to work on this, 72 hours to make him smile again.
And now, I'm sitting in Daniel's place of honor on the observation deck, the telescope pointed at Abydos. I need to thank Sha're for passing Daniel on to me ... for letting me complete the circle of love that had begun on Abydos six years ago.
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