I glance furtively around the room before I reposition myself on the couch. Using my hands for leverage, I slide my ass back against the cushions and cautiously maneuver my casted, right ankle onto the center of the pillow which rests on the coffee table.
Daniel's voice carries from the kitchen into the living room and lands heavily on my lap. "I'm fine," I yell back, my voice tinged with a hint of nastiness, the irony of our shifted roles not lost on me.
"Don't move around so much, Janet said to stay ..."
"In one place, with my foot elevated. I know, I know."
"I know you know."
I look up at Daniel standing before me, two plates balanced on open palms and an infuriated expression etched across his face. He's enjoying this. Oh, not me injured, not that. He's reveling in the reversal of roles. Daniel's lapping up the mother hen bit, fluffing pillows, dispensing pills, and cooking ad nauseum. He hovers with an intensity that would do Doc Fraiser proud and with a consistency that sets my teeth on edge.
"I just had breakfast, Daniel."
"A piece of toast hours ago ..."
"I'm not hungry."
He puts the plates down on the table and my stomach betrays me by grumbling loudly at the proffered odor emanating from Daniel's luncheon. I want to wipe that smug smile off Daniel's face, the 'I told you so' smile. The one I usually wear when I'm doing the mother henning and Daniel is the recipient of my caring, thoughtful actions.
"Wait," he says before disappearing in the direction of the kitchen. I reach for the remote, turning on the TV to the 24 hour sport channel. Daniel returns with my afternoon medication ... pills, and the prerequisite glass of water. He watches as I down the offering before handing me the lunch plate, and I never even look at him. I don't allow my eyes to wander away from the thrilling game of curling taking place on the television screen.
My plate is in my lap, taste buds smiling as I chew. Did Daniel outdo himself with lunch? Damn right he did. Will I tell him? Not a chance in hell. Anger at my dependence on him prevents me from making civil conversation. Daniel sits on the floor, his plate on the coffee table, his back against the couch, close but not touching my uninjured left leg. Daniel pauses between bites and makes futile forays to engage me in conversation. He finally gives up talking and his lunch simultaneously, pushing his plate away, eventually moving closer to me, resting his head on my left kneecap. Do I want to gain comfort from his closeness, card my fingers through his hair? Yes, more than anything. But I steel my resolve and pick up the overflowing hoagie instead, hiding my need behind silence.
Solitude turns to snarky comments as the day wears on. The hurt and anguish that flash over Daniel's features when he believes I'm not watching just adds fuel to my anger. Daniel is confused, hell I'm confused, but I'm unable to help myself. My latest retort has pushed him to the dining room table, I'm within sight and calling distance, but he's removed himself from the line of fire. Laptop open, he feigns working, believing I don't see the surreptitious glances over the rims of his glasses he's shooting my way.
For someone who is limited in his tactile ability, Daniel's touchy feely expressions towards me since I was released from the infirmary just confirms how close he came to losing me, how close I came to dying on that planet.
I don't remember anything truly remarkable about PX0818 with the exception that the natives had a problem dealing with Colonel O'Neill as I wore out our welcome in less than 6 hours. Words were exchanged, Daniel played peaceful explorer to the hilt, but my next memory is of waking up under Fraiser's care with an exhausted, bruised Daniel sitting vigil.
So we are home, and aside from the fading bruises and my right ankle encased in plaster, all other injuries have been relegated to an entry in my medical chart housed in Fraiser's cabinet drawer. Dealing with the mental backlash is quite another thing. I've been confronted with something that has always been over the horizon, an ideal that I've always had the ability to laugh at ... my own mortality.
I'm not afraid of dying ... I just don't want to die. I can't even explain the difference between those two statements because I don't understand it myself ... but the majority of my confusion now sits at the dining room table. I just know that I don't have trepidation on meeting what awaits me on the other side, my fear is centered on leaving what I've discovered here. Happiness, and as sappy and as nauseatingly sentimental as it may sound, a little bit of heaven on earth.
My irritated reaction to Daniel is multi layered ... I hate being dependent on anyone, I dislike being injured and I hate the control that Daniel has on my life. Little by little, Daniel has stepped in, stepped around barriers and without a word, though he would adamantly deny otherwise, he has controlled how I view life. And I love that ... and I love him. And I hate that ... and I hate him.
"Daniel!" I bellow.
"Hmmm," he mumbles around the pencil he's gnawing on. I drum my fingers in staccato annoyance against the arm of the chair. It appears I've now lost the ability to have Daniel jump at my every whim.
I yell out Daniel's name for a second time and I can feel an evil little grin spread across my face as Daniel jerks his head in my direction, dropping the pencil in surprise. "Jack?" He hurriedly pushes his chair back. "Are you okay? Do you need ...?"
I wave the TV remote in his direction and then towards the thermostat for the AC. "Raise that, will ya?"
Daniel's arms are locked against the table top, his body is frozen between sitting and standing, and I can't help but laugh at the mask of disbelief on his face. "You're warm?" he asks incredulously.
"You aren't?" I answer innocently.
Daniel looks down at himself then at me, expressive hands plucking at the sweatshirt he's wearing. "No, Jack. Obviously, I'm not warm."
His name, followed by a shake of my head, and a strategically placed hand on my injured leg and I've managed to convey to Daniel 'yeah that's nice, but I'm warm and I'm the patient and I want the AC on higher'.
A quick, false smile graces his face for a second. "Sure ... no problem." I hear Daniel mumble something under his breath about hot chocolate in August followed by thermal underwear.
I turn my head around the back of the chair and am rewarded with a fine view of Daniel's ass filling my vision as he adjusts the thermostat on the opposite wall. "Were you saying something, Daniel?"
Whatever Daniel was going to answer is swallowed up by sudden darkness. Complete, total, can't see your hand in front of your face, darkness.
"Don't move, Jack," Daniel commands, his footsteps sounding extremely loud in the blackness. Knee jerk reaction causes me to jump at the crash emanating from the dining room, and withhold a chuckle at the immediate string of expletives that follow.
"Daniel?" The humor quickly dies as seconds pass with no response from Daniel. "Damn it, Daniel, answer me," I order.
"Fine." He hisses.
"Daniel ... what the ..."
"I'm okay ... fine ... shit ..." I hear Daniel's fingers on the keyboard of the laptop, a noise that is usually covered up by other activities within the house. I don't even have to strain to hear frantic tapping, followed by pounding, and mumbling which contains words like battery backup, power surge, and lost notes interspersed throughout. The sound of the laptop clicking shut echoes in the quiet of the house and then a resigned but definitely pissed off "fuck" rings out clear as a bell.
"Daniel, you checked your computer before you came to see if I was okay?" I feign hurt, pouting ... though with the lights out, the pout may not be achieving the sympathy I was looking for.
There is no laughter in his voice as he counters, "Jack, I have my priorities."
Daniel is leisurely cleaning up after a simple dinner. The kitchen is aglow with strategically placed candles but the majority of light comes from an oil lantern on the counter, to the left of the sink. The house is hot and still and Daniel's back faces me as he washes the dishes, a fine sheen of sweat visible on his bare torso. His elongated shadow, compliments of the lighting, dances on the opposite wall.
Daniel had dug out the battery-operated radio from its shelf in the garage and it now sits perched on the table, providing background music from a local rock station, Daniel's choice, not mine. We had listened as the announcer informed the general public this state-wide blackout was being caused by a trickle down effect of overused, outdated equipment trying to compensate for a two week heat wave.
I play with the medication that Daniel has placed before me, rolling them around the table, spinning the capsules, stacking the tablets, shooting them against the water glass. Without turning, Daniel lectures me about ingesting the meds, not playing with them. I hate that Daniel can see me without seeing me. Misplaced, displaced anger, whatever you want to call it, takes residence in my gut and I slam my hands over the scattered pills, hard enough against the wooden table that the radio station jumps and the kitchen is filled with annoying static. A few seconds go by before I acquiesce and turn the radio off. The room is filled with a silence so deafening that my ears seem to ring. Daniel must be experiencing the same sensation because he raises his bare right shoulder to rub his ear.
I take the medication and drink just enough water to wash the pills down. My eyes never leave Daniel, boring a hole in his back. Earlier, he had stripped down to only boxers and the snide remark is out of my mouth before I can stop it. "Guess you're warm enough now."
He says nothing, but his silence is not lost on me. Daniel wipes his damp hands on a towel, balls it up and angrily flings it onto the counter. He grabs a candle and heads towards the door to the backyard.
"Where ya going, Daniel?"
"Outside, it's stifling in here."
I latch onto his hand as he walks pass, tugging it until he looks down at me. He's right, the house is stifling. We had kept the house shut against the heat from the outside, soaking in the remains of cool air-conditioned air. Within the past hour, the air within these four walls has become unbearable.
"I can't breathe in here, Jack. Please."
I release him and anchor my hands around the tepid glass of water still on the table. "I'll be out in a few minutes."
Daniel's hot sweaty hand lies heavy on my shoulder. "Need help?"
I shake my head no, tightening my hold on the glass as he sighs heavily and leans the Fraiser issued cane against the table for me before he strides out the door.
God, I want to touch him, bury my face in his neck, inhale and fill my nostrils with the essence of him. The depth of my feelings scares me ... I'm terrified of losing him ... of leaving him ... of empty arms and hollow hearts. I'm frightened of going back to what my life once was and at the same time I'm furious that my black and white world now contains shades of Daniel. I wasn't prepared for any of this.
"Reminds me of Abydos."
I'm shaken out of my reverie by his simple statement. The candle has since blown out, but the blanket of darkness which covers our immediate world has been thrown back as night stars shine brilliantly in the sky and a quarter moon provides natural light onto the back deck. Daniel is standing, hands clasped behind his back, and his head is tilted uncomfortably upwards, searching for the unobtainable.
Daniel clears his throat and I see his Adam's apple move painfully with pent up emotions.
"You okay?" I ask, maybe not really wanting an answer.
His head droops and hands are brought up to massage what now must be stiff neck muscles. A tight smile is his response to my concern.
Charlie and Sha're's Abydos-two unapproachable subjects between us. Shared, buried hurts that rear their heads occasionally. By an unspoken rule, I permit the subject to drop.
"Oh, you shouldn't be standing on that ankle." His brow furrows in concentration as he looks around the deck. One lounge chair, two men ... outside air cooler than the interior of the house. Daniel's eyes scrutinize me as if seeing me for the first time, measuring my desire to share the chair. Maybe he's measuring his place in my life. After my behavior today, I can imagine the thoughts he's harboring. Embarrassed, I drop my eyes under his inspection.
"Come here, Jack," he orders softly.
Daniel sits on the lounge chair, leaning back, his legs are spread open on either side of the cushion, feet flat on the floor. Smiling, he pats the open space between his thighs in invitation.
Hobbling, I slowly walk towards Daniel, my fear of him the source of my speed, rather than my injury. The cane is removed from my grip, placed aside and Daniel's gentle hands guide me down, until his body supports me. Folded towels miraculously appear under my cast, elevating my injury.
With trepidation, I lean back against his bare chest. Warm, sweaty fingers wrap themselves around my biceps, "I've got you, Jack," he states with no hesitation.
Daniel is 100 percent correct. He does have me, body and soul and I'm scared shitless.
"I hate you, Daniel." Daniel's fingers stay their position, only the increased rapid drumbeat of Daniel's heart against my back acknowledges my statement.
I'm stumbling here, floundering over words I never wanted to say. "I don't hate you, hate you ... I ..."
"Damn you, Daniel!" I explode, failing to squirm from his grip, struggling like a child in the throes of a temper tantrum, held firmly in place by hands that ground me.
I lay spent against him, breathing heavily. "This ... us. It's too hard," I gasp.
"It's not hard, Jack. You're the one making it hard." My thumbs finger the light hair on his legs, Daniel's thumbs trace designs on my forearms.
"I don't want to die."
A gentle kiss is placed on my neck. "That makes two of us. I don't want you to die either."
"I'd miss you."
I feel his lungs inhale deeply and a tickle crosses my scalp as Daniel's lungs explode with air. "Jack, I'd miss you too, but I'm a little clueless as to what the problem is." There is a pause, and an 8 year old in a 38 year old body asks, "Did I do something wrong?"
"No ... yes ... possibly."
"Am I supposed to understand that?"
"No, Daniel, cause I don't really get it myself."
"Do you want me to leave?"
I push off his chest and manage to rotate the upper portion of my body so we face each other for a second before I flop back into my former position. I mumble a quiet "sorry" to Daniel's "ow", as my back makes impact with his exposed chest. My hands retreat to my lap and my eyes wander into the blackness of the far corner of the yard. "No, I don't want you to leave, Daniel, but then again I don't want you under my skin like you are, I don't want to care as much as I do. And I certainly didn't expect a deathbed epiphany when I realized how much I love you."
"Oh." A pause, followed by a shaky intake of breath. "Really?" Daniel says, and for once I pray for his customary interruptions whenever I make an attempt to string more than two sentences together. But it seems that tonight, I've stunned the archaeologist sitting behind me into one word utterances. Honestly, I think I've stunned myself too, I mean, never in a million years did I expect to say anything remotely resembling these deep feelings when I got out of bed this morning.
Daniel brushes his cheek across my hair, and I can feel a smile stretch across his face. "An epiphany, Jack?"
"Yes," I answer hesitantly. "An epiphany."
"That's good, 'cause I think you're special, too." Daniel tries but he is unable to keep the laughter from his voice.
"You know sometimes you are a real bastard, Dr. Jackson. Here I am baring my soul to you ..."
A kiss to my neck and a breathlessly whispered "I love you" into my right ear and the conversation is brought to a halt. I lean back into Daniel, permitting his body to bear the full weight of mine, allowing him to support me for the first time since I awoke in the infirmary.
The silence doesn't last long and we begin inane chatter about planets, and destinations and places that we find fulfillment.
I begin to annoy Daniel and in exasperation he reprimands, "I know you're uncomfortable, Jack ... I understand that it's hot, but come on ... if you could be anyplace in the world, or offworld," he adds, "where would that happy place be?"
I wonder if Daniel would believe me if I told him that this is my happy place. Sitting on the back deck, on a hot humid Colorado night, leaning against his chest. Our bodies slick and moist against each other, my arms resting on his muscular thighs, my throbbing ankle propped up on towels folded with love ... his presence overpowering my other senses. That this is my happy place. No matter where he is, as long as we are together, is my happy place.
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