Daniel began to shut down somewhere after the entrée and before the dessert. The answers became curt, short. His hands began to fiddle with the silverware, twirling his fork, banging the spoon against his cup, agitated movements that were setting my nerves closer to the edge. SC1's scientists were injured and exhausted, I was just tired, and Teal'c, well, the big guy simply looked miserable. Obviously, this lunch had been one of Daniel's less than brilliant ideas. So there we were, forty minutes into our lunch date, the only occupants of the commissary, with gaping holes in our conversation big enough to drive a truck through.
I'm not too sure what fast one Daniel pulled with Fraiser, but I know she's not blind and maybe, just maybe, the doc realized that being home and far from the SGC would be the fastest way to push that haunted look from Daniel's eyes.
"Sir?" Sam's smile is sweet and indulgent, and it isn't until I follow the track of her eyes that I understand. Daniel is sleeping, one hand wrapped around his coffee mug, the other hand holding a fork dangling loosely.
In silent unison, Carter and Teal'c slide their chairs back and Teal'c picks up both trays to carry away our dirty dishes. Carter walks to stand by Daniel and hesitantly extends her uninjured hand to adjust the glasses perched at the edge of Daniel's nose. She stops suddenly before contact and tucks her hand under her sling in embarrassment.
"It's okay, Carter," I assure her, ignoring the shining brightness of unshed tears.
"Daniel Jackson is safe again," Teal'c states tersely, coming up to her right side, almost daring either of us to disagree with him. But we won't because he is -- home and safe, and we will appreciate what we have at the moment and not look towards a future or a past which features Super Soldiers, Anubis or greedy Central American kidnappers in possession of Goa'uld artifacts.
"Thank you, Colonel," and I turn my head, allowing her a moment of privacy to touch Daniel so she can confirm he is real, here and whole.
"No, thank you, Carter." I stand and salute her, acknowledging the success of her command.
"Thank you, Sir," she whispers, and then glances around the room, her blush deepening at the beaming service people standing behind the counter.
"SGC is a universe unto it own. News travels fast."
"Very fast, Sir," she agrees. "Tell Daniel we're glad he's home safe."
I walk behind Daniel, ready to catch him as we traverse the corridors of the SGC. There is no conversation, just the normal everyday sounds that exist under the mountain, and the thumping of his crutches. Daniel's gaze is fixed downward and it's solely by rote that he manages his way up and out of the complex. He stands dazed in the parking lot under the warm sunshine, blinking rapidly as if he had suddenly awoken from a dream.
I grab him under the elbow, guiding him towards the truck. "Come on, Daniel, let's go home."
The drive to my house is silent, Daniel scaring me with his complacency. He allows me to take charge, to buckle his seatbelt, adjust the temperature, to play the CD of my choice. All of this is so unlike Daniel, who constantly comments over the majority of every action I make, that I begin to wonder if maybe that Goa'uld artifact had left a residual gift behind.
Since Daniel had gotten back to the SGC, I had one intense desire, a desire born out of worry, akin to the feeling I had when Charlie first came home from the hospital. The need to count all ten fingers and toes, to check to make sure they had told me the truth, that all the parts were present and accounted for.
Daniel sits patiently at the edge of the bed, while I kneel before him. I slowly remove his glasses, fold them and place them on the nightstand. My thumb gently grazes over the marked cheekbone, the bruise faded to soft yellow. Languidly, each button of his shirt is undone and I stare at the bruises and burn marks that pepper his upper body.
"I'm sorry," I whisper as I gently touch these reminders of his last mission.
"Me too," he sighs, jerking back as I examine a mark a little too roughly.
I chastely kiss the offending bruise in apology and Daniel pulls me towards him, bending awkwardly to rest his head upon mine. We are both in uncomfortable positions -- my knees, his leg -- but he holds me tightly and I hear the comforting rhythm of his heart against my ear. So by unspoken consent, needing this contact, we ignore our mutual discomfort.
I look down, staring at his slumbering form, the stress of the past week finally catching up to him. All his promises of staying awake for me must have tumbled away when I trekked to the bathroom. I spoon up behind him and replace his hand resting atop his leg injury with mine. Daniel whines in protest, but I ignore him, tugging him closer, protecting him in sleep.
"Rise and shine, Jack."
I slide onto my back and look up at one dressed, showered, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed archaeologist, leaning on crutches as he looms over me. I glance at the clock. "God. What the hell are you ... damn it! Are you okay?"
His smile of reassurance doesn't reach his eyes, something isn't right. Something isn't okay or even fine. Something has been off since our flight back to the United States.
"Hey!" I protest when he flings the covers off my toasty warm body.
"I want breakfast."
"Your favorite cereal is in the cabinet," I grouse.
"No. I want a warm breakfast. Pancakes, eggs, bacon ..."
I rub my hand over my stubbled face and yawn, but when I drop my hand down, there is no guilt evident in Daniel's face for having awoken me. "Give me a second and I'll make you ..."
"No ... a diner breakfast," he demands.
Okay, here is the first clue of the something that is niggling away at Daniel, but if I question why we're up at 0700 hundred hours on a day off to get breakfast in a diner, I'll never find out. So, I get up, stretch, and smile when he leans forward on his crutches to kiss me. "Morning breath," he complains, laughing as I kiss him again while breathing heavily into his minty-fresh breath mouth.
"I got out of bed early on a day off, the least you can do is be appreciative and finish your breakfast."
The plate in front of Daniel holds a meal barely touched, and he's paying absolutely no attention to my complaining. Daniel's concentration is focused on an impossibly young couple in the parking lot arguing over the machinations of one of those new fangled strollers.
"Someone you know?" I tap the window with my index finger.
In sotto voce, I whisper, "Are you okay?" My mind is again wondering about the long reaching effects of the artifact Daniel and Lee uncovered.
Daniel looks genuinely surprised at my question. "I'm okay."
"You barely ate."
He ducked his head. "Sorry. I guess my eyes were bigger than ..." He pats his stomach and shrugs.
"Finish your juice, at least." I wag a finger at him. "Don't tell me you're hungry in an hour from now."
"I won't mom, promise." He ducks the crumpled up napkin I toss at him in retaliation.
I've finished paying the bill by the time Daniel maneuvers to the cash register and we're almost to the truck before he speaks. "Ummm, can we go to the mall?"
"Yes, there's a bookstore there ... never mind." He hobbles awkwardly to the door, waiting patiently for me to open it.
"Mall's fine," I acquiesce, totally confused.
We hit the bookstore, the music store, clothing store, and Daniel has stopped and gazed at the items on display at all the kiosks. He had been exceptionally chatty to the salespeople who were enamored with his smile, blue eyes and accompanying crutches. I stood back and watched what I knew to be superficial emotions on his face, and still I was unable to comprehend what he was doing. But I chalked it up to Daniel's perverse way of dealing with what had happened to him and kept my mouth shut.
We're sitting on a wooden bench drinking exotic coffee from one of those specialty shops. I'm watching Daniel watch the people, studying them so intently his coffee is sitting still untouched in his grip.
I gently knock his elbow with mine. "Ready to go home?"
Daniel finally takes a sip of his coffee as he contemplates my question while checking his watch.
"Daniel? You have a date?" I joke.
He takes another sip of coffee, a sigh of appreciation slipping out. "Do you think we could go to the movies?"
I'm thinking subtitles, boring and incomprehensible plot, and talking Daniel into renting a DVD instead, but I'll give him the benefit of the doubt. "To see ..."
He takes two more gulps of coffee in quick succession before making a suggestion. "The new Lord of the Rings?"
"Sure." Now he's talking. We had spent a rainy Saturday last month watching the first two movies. Well, we watched the first one, had sex and then watched the second one -- a much better way to spend a rainy day than I was used to.
I deposit both our cups in a nearby garbage pail and hand Daniel his crutches. "Come on," I offer, giving him a hoist up and wait for him to settle in. "Let's go get a paper and we'll check out the movie schedules."
Four hours later and I'm watching Daniel watch the movie. I sat him in an aisle seat, the crutches were tucked under our chairs and his leg was stretched out into the aisle. For the past fifteen minutes or so I've caught him rubbing his hand along the injured area.
I peel back the wrapper on the Twizzlers and smile in the darkness at Daniel's annoyed, "Shhhh."
I lean over and whisper in his ear. "Remember what we did the last time we watched the Lord of the Rings?"
Daniel gets shushed from the surrounding patrons as his loud burst of laughter occurs at an inopportune time in the movie.
"I can't take you anywhere," I answer innocently, secretly pleased at the first natural reaction I've gotten all day.
Twenty minutes later the lights come on and we sit blinking in the sudden brightness of the theatre. There are lines of pain on Daniel's face that hadn't been there when the movie started, and I really would like to get a painkiller into him. He shrugs at my offer of dinner.
I go for the guilt. "I'm hungry."
"Pffft ... you had candy and that huge box of popcorn." The container sits empty on the floor and he gives it an evil glance. "I have no idea how you can be hungry."
Daniel gets up slowly, using the back of the seat in front of him for leverage. I hand him the crutches and he accepts them with a tight smile, pivoting, waiting for a break in the flow of people before he moves in and limps along.
I left the dinner choice up to Daniel, hoping, hinting that we would go for take out, but he opted for Chinese and insisted we eat in. We have a back booth in our favorite place, and Daniel's leg is stretched out to my side of the booth, leaning comfortably against my thigh. Three cups of hot tea, a bowl of soup and now Daniel is just picking at his main dish. Lines of fatigue have joined the lines of pain on his face and he's close to hitting bottom. And I'm sad to say, I'm no closer to uncovering what he's been working so hard all day to attain.
"Fraiser's gonna be pissed."
"Why? Cause I didn't finish my Moo Shu Pork?" He smiles lamely at me.
"No, because I'm pretty sure you were sent home with orders to take it easy, weren't you?" I chastise.
Daniel has the decency to avert his eyes, signaling the waiter for the check.
The ride home is completed in nerve-wracking silence. Daniel's focus is on the passing cars and scenery, studying them as he does an artifact he hasn't quite been able to decipher. Searching. He sighs deeply when I pull into the driveway. A sound overflowing with resignation and disappointment, of allowing something imperative slip through his fingers, some clue he was unable to ascertain.
"I need to go to bed," he says the minute the crutches assist him over the threshold.
"Yes, you do," I sympathize. Daniel is slumped forward on the crutches and I'm positive that along with his leg, aching shoulder and back muscles can be added to his litany of unspoken hurts. I cup the back of his head and kiss him on the lips. A quiet, chaste, and caring touch that Daniel responds to by resting his head on my shoulder. "I love you," I murmur before kissing his temple. Even his nod of acknowledgement is slow and tired.
I reach around and rub his back, maybe as much as for him as for me. "Go. I'll be in with a painkiller."
As Daniel thumps to the bedroom, I know I've failed Daniel yet again. First, by my delayed rescue in Central America and for a second time, right here, today, in Colorado Springs.
Daniel is just exiting the bathroom when I enter the bedroom with a glass of water in one hand and a pill in the other. I shadow him to the bed, place my items on the night table and take the crutches from him when he sits. He motions for me to put them by the chair and then swallows the pill and drinks the glass of water. I pluck the empty glass from his fingers and return it to the night table.
He hands me his glasses and with painstaking movements, maneuvers under the covers. I crawl over to where he is lying and touch his exposed shoulder, and he's still awake enough to understand my signal. With a grunt of discomfort, he turns onto his stomach.
Daniel's head is pillowed on his crossed arms, his eyes follow my every movement as I slide down until we are facing each other. His breathing is full of unhappy sighs and hitches as his eyes fill with each of my gentle caresses along his profile. But Daniel is a stubborn SOB and refuses to blink, so the tears stay their position until his breathing slows and his eyes finally close from exhaustion. As the tears are released from their prison, I track their descent as they stain the pillow. I softly wipe the remaining moisture from his lashes before kissing his sleeping visage goodnight.
Daniel's hands awaken me as they roughly tug me to his bare chest. My hand reaches around and surprising makes contact with his bare ass. Naked and aroused, he's already two steps ahead of me as his engorged cock grinds against me.
"Easy, one minute," I placate him and hurry to remove my boxers, jumping when he yelps in misery as my hand accidentally brushes against his leg wound.
"I'm okay," he hisses, but the moment he was striving for is lost in my clumsiness.
"You're not okay."
"I will be, give me moment to catch my breath."
And I do. And a moment becomes two and then three, moving onto four and still he is struggling to bring his breathing under control.
"Sorry." His voice is tight and clipped.
"What are you sorry for ..." my hand inches toward his now flaccid cock which lies against my thigh. "My fault." Daniel's cock hardens at my touch and he descends on me, smothering me with his heat. I answer by slithering out of my boxers.
"Lose the shirt," he growls, kissing me as his hands raise the shirt to my armpits. He allows me to break the kiss to pull the tee up and over my head before capturing my mouth again. Daniel makes a valiant attempt, but suddenly his breath catches and his head drops heavily on my chest.
"Cramp," he utters.
"Breathe through it," I command gently, adding my hand to his, to rub the affected area.
His body relaxes as the cramp passes and his embarrassed apology is buried in my chest. My left hand still lies with his along his leg, and with my right I pull up the blanket that has slipped off our bodies.
My hand captures his as it slides towards my cock. "Third time's the charm," he whispers.
"No, I'm thinking more along the lines of three strikes you're out." I grip his hand tighter and tuck it between our bodies. "I'm not even going to ask how you got Fraiser to release you. Hell, I'm not even sure you shouldn't be in the infirmary. It's okay to tread slowly," I finally advise.
He doesn't object, or plead or even whine that I'm wrong, but instead says nothing. My sense of having missed something fundamentally important deepens.
0-three hundred hours, the digital clock announces in the blackness of the bedroom, and I slip on my boxers and tee shirt to find why my bed is missing one archaeologist.
"I'm sorry if I woke you," he apologizes the second I step foot into the living room. Daniel is stretched out on the couch, covered in the afghan, watching some form of music channel that I think is geared towards Cassie's age group. I sit my ass on the available portion of the couch by his stomach.
"Wait, I'll sit up."
"No, it's okay." I lay a hand against his chest. "Stay down." Even with the grayness of the TV for illumination I can see he looks horrible, and though he's going to adamantly object, he and Fraiser are going to get up close and personal today no matter what he says. His skin feels too warm to my touch, a more than likely hint of forgotten doses of antibiotics. Daniel looks haggard and old, almost as if he has suddenly aged, and I reach out to swipe a lock of hair off his forehead, convincing myself that my eyes are betraying me.
"I'm alright, Jack," he reassures me. I hate when he reads my mind like that. Daniel listlessly points the remote in the direction of the TV. "Don't you wish you could be like that?"
"No." In exasperation he jerks his hand, clicking the button on the remote, flipping through the stations. "Look. What do you see?"
"I see someone selling a product that no one needs but tons of insomniacs are buying right at this moment."
"Don't you see!"
"See what?" I grab his hand and pluck the remote from his grip. I turn the TV off and fling the remote to the other end of the couch. "Run me over with a friggin' clue bus, Daniel. Please," I beg.
"Like the people in the mall, in the movies ... like the couple in the diner parking lot."
"Okaaaaaay." He's giving me the numbers and the dots, but when I connect them I still don't see the picture, so I take a stab in the darkness. "You want to be 'normal'?"
"Close." Daniel's laugh is bitter and his next words are muffled in the arm he has draped over his face.
I tug his arm down, expecting to see tears, but there is anger and hardness in the depths of his eyes. "What do you want?"
"I want to be oblivious, unaware ... of what's out there ..." I know with the sweep of his hand what, or rather who, he is referring to. "... And what's here ... on Earth. Alien artifacts that don't belong here. Machines that perform the unimaginable ... men who do the unthinkable. Goa'uld that live in my own backyard. Damn it, I'm tired ... I'm sick and tired, of all of it!" He shouts at me, the words seem to echo in the stillness of the sleeping house. "I'm afraid," he continues in a hushed voice, surprised and shocked at what he has revealed to both of us.
"After what happened to you, Danny ..." His eyes widen at a nickname I haven't used for more months than I'm comfortable admitting. "... It's normal to be afraid." I nab his warm hand and hold it tightly between mine. "I was afraid we wouldn't ... that I wouldn't get to you in time. Or get to you at all."
He slithers against the couch, giving me room to adjust my body.
"Did you find what you needed today?"
Daniel shrugs. "I still knew what was out there. Always in the back of mind ... on the other side of the iris in a locked box in the lab ..."
"Are you telling me you want to leave the SGC? No one will fault you or judge you if ..."
Daniel is quick to reassure me. "No, leaving isn't the answer. Maybe, I just need time."
"Time I can do. Vacation, sick ... whatever you need ..."
"I sometimes wish I never remembered any of this."
I don't respond and all it takes is a moment's hesitation before his remark registers.
"Oh ... I didn't mean that ... honest ... I'm just ..." He smiles in apology.
Daniel nods in agreement.
"I know you didn't mean that." Apology accepted.
"But sometimes I would like to forget."
"I know. Me too. All the bad stuff," I admit. "There are times from the ashes, hope arises."
"Sha're, Charlie," he whispers.
"Yes, and others. People lost along the way. Where there is fear, it should always be balanced with hope. The hurt with the comfort." I kiss him and his tongue traces my taste after we separate.
I push the table away and move off of the couch, kneeling on the floor, facing Daniel.
"Jack? What are you doing?" Daniel's quizzical expression slides to one of comprehension when my fingers make contact with the thin material of his boxers. I push the afghan to one side and slip his boxers down to just below his balls, I don't want to risk hitting the bandage on his leg.
I kiss his balls and then, bury my face in the warmth of his body, moving my lips back and forth in his nest of pubic hair.
"Tickles." He snorts. God, I love that I can make him laugh.
"Good!" I say before my mouth pounces on his semi erect penis.
Daniel lifts his hips up in response as my tongue sweeps and lathes the length of his shaft. His deft fingers find purchase in my hair and he groans out my name, and if I listen very closely, there is the huskiness of tears in Daniel's voice. But I concentrate on pleasuring Daniel and by the way he is writhing under my hands, I seem to be doing a decent job. He grunts in displeasure as my mouth slides from his cock, his soft "No" blends right into sounds of pleasure as I lap up his pre-come and allow my tongue to travel languidly over his cock.
In self preservation, before Daniel rips the hair from my head, I extricate his fingers from amongst my short strands and guide him down towards my own demanding, engorged cock. He maneuvers around the elastic of my boxers and I moan appreciatively as his warm fingers caress me.
"Now," he pleads as he raises his hips to tease my mouth with his erection. One handed, he manages to stroke and massage me and the groan of enjoyment I reciprocate with hums along Daniel's penis. I get an exclamation of some undecipherable word before he comes. I swallow and I begin to rock in sync until his ministrations lead to my own orgasm.
I kiss my way up his body, never forgetting the bruises and burns hidden under his tee shirt. I nuzzle his neck, licking up the sweat just below his jaw. Gently, I lower my upper body onto his chest, burrowing my head in the crook of his neck. Daniel releases my cock and brings his arm up to lay across my back.
"Are you wiping your hand on my shirt?" I tease, nipping at his earlobe. My body bounces up and down with his chuckling. He purposely swipes his hand along my back.
"Now I am." Daniel relaxes, maybe for the first time since returning from this mission, hell maybe since his descension, and he seemingly sinks lower into the depths of the couch, pulling me with him.
Post orgasmic high is a good look for him and I dread bringing reality back into the living room. "My knees ..." I place a hand on either side of his body and lever myself up, pausing while I examine his face. Under heavy lids, he returns my scrutiny. "Thank you," he whispers.
"The rescue ... pffft, that was nothing."
"You liked playing soldier, saving the archaeologist in distress?"
"Archaeologists, plural ... two scientists and a guide, don't forget the guide."
"I love you." Daniel very rarely says those words. He reverts to them when his linguistic capabilities are unable to convey what he needs or means, and I have a sappy tendency to remember each and every time and place he has uttered them.
"I know you do." I gaze at him and I understand his "thank you" wasn't for rescuing him but for allowing his mind to forget, even a moment or two, the evil that is out there, or the monsters hiding here on Earth. "We can do this, you know." And he agrees with a nod that we can, as lovers, teammates, friends, and part of the SGC. Together, we can prevail.
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