My heart constricts, an unfamiliar tightening in my chest with unshed emotion as I stand watching my former lover, recently descended, Dr. Daniel Jackson. Leaning against the doorframe of Daniel's lab, it is an actual physical ache I'm experiencing as Daniel wanders around his lab ... touching things ... looking ... opening books ... closing them. I realize that Daniel is lost, searching ... trying to find a place in a world that he had left over a year ago.
Abydos. A year away, finding what he couldn't have on Earth ... a family and a sense of belonging.
Ascension. A year away, traveling with Oma, fulfilling Daniel's insatiable search for discovery and knowledge.
Returning back to the planet of his birth, both times against his will.
God, I need to convince Daniel there was a difference between the two. At this point in time, Daniel is returning to an earth that harbors both friends and family who loved him then and love him still, and me, who feels that he has been missing the better part of himself for over a year.
From my vantage point, I note Daniel's self-depreciating hug ... Oma may have been able to rid Daniel's body of the radiation, his need for glasses and his countless allergies; but of her power didn't give her the ability to make Daniel whole. I'm hoping that he'll let me do that.
I move towards him. "Hey."
He turns in my direction and nods at my presence. My heart shatters as Daniel repeats a conversation from a time that seems not so long ago. "They don't know what to do with me," he draws a shuddering breath before continuing, "and I don't know what to do with myself."
I place myself in his personal space, something that Daniel hasn't sanctioned any of us to do since his descension less than 48 hours ago. Inwardly satisfied that he has not moved I permit myself to touch him, rubbing his arm. He stiffens under my touch, but doesn't step away.
"Come on ... let's get outta here."
I am not sure if I read fear in his eyes or gratitude at the chance to escape. And an escape it would be ... I'm not proud of the way the military has treated Daniel. Basically making him a prisoner in the mountain, as they pick and prod both his mind and body.
The fact that this may not have been such a great idea occurs on the drive to my house. The sensations of being out among the "living" have assaulted Daniel's whole being. Eyes closed, he is swallowing convulsively. Daniel has physically and mentally shut himself off from the sensory overload he must be experiencing. Daniel links his fingers behind his neck, pulling his head downward, straining against the seatbelt.
I so want to reach out and touch him, but I'm a coward and fear rejection. In true Jack O'Neill fashion ... I go in through the back door. Reaching out in a different way, putting on a CD that had become Daniel's favorite his last weeks before he ... well before he left for higher ground. Songs that I have listened to countless times in an effort to feel closer to Daniel. I lower the volume ... breathing deeply, trying to loosen my tense body. The strains of an old rock opera fill the cab of my truck, songs more of my generation than of his.
Very slowly, with much trepidation Daniel unwinds his fingers, placing his hands on his lap. I can see Daniel's brow furrow in concentration, searching through his memory. The moment he recalls coincides with the barest hint of a smile. "Butterfly Ball?" Never taking my eyes off the road, I nod my head in silent agreement.
By the time I arrive at my house, Daniel is sleeping. I maneuver the truck into the driveway, turning off the ignition. The street lamp affords me enough illumination to study Daniel. The shadows under his eyes have only manifested themselves since his restoration. Reminiscent of his return from Abydos, sleep offers him little or no refuge. With stark realization, I believe that this is the first time Daniel has been relaxed enough to sleep. I hate waking him, but the temperature is dropping and in our haste to leave the mountain, he is clothed only in a tee shirt and fatigue pants.
I call his name ... and I feel my throat begin to close as I'm slammed by the knowledge that this name is now attached to flesh and blood, not an apparition, not a figment, nor a belief. Someone I can touch, who is warm, who can touch me, who can warm me.
I step down from the truck and walk over to the passenger side. The opening of the door, the blast of cold air is enough to make Daniel first stir, and then awaken. He scrubs his hands over his face, a look of complete confusion overtaking his features.
I let him take the lead as we proceed up the walk to my front door. I shove my hands deep into my pockets, to ward off my desire to touch. Daniel is not comfortable with physical sensations yet.
Daniel is sleeping silently in the dark room and I sit on a chair with my stocking feet on the bed, observing him ... a voyeur. He is in my bed, yet his closed off persona did not offer me position to join him. Not being able to lay with him yet not wanting to leave him, I chose this chair, to be close. In the solitude of the room I hear only his breathing and I am comforted ... that Daniel has come home. I drift off to sleep, the first time in a year, without missing Daniel.
The sound of breaking glass wakens me, totally disoriented, thinking I am on a mission, I reach for a gun that isn't there. Heart pounding, reality filters back, enabling my heart to resume its normal rhythm.
The bedroom is still cloaked in darkness, the clock's numbers indicating late evening hours. Daniel is no longer in the bed, the covers are thrown back, the pillow creased where he had lain ... but he is not there. "Daniel?" I jump up as I call his name. The bathroom light is a beacon in the murkiness of the room. Daniel's name dies on my lips as I absorb the scene within the bathroom. His back is to me, the clothing he slept in thrown haphazardly over the sink. Daniel is standing naked amidst the shattered remains of my full length mirror.
I advance with caution and place my hands on Daniel's shoulders. He jerks at my touch, but doesn't shrug off my fingers as I guide him out the bathroom, mindful of the glass. The bedroom is far from cold, but Daniel begins to shake upon leaving the warmth of the smaller room. I prop him against the wall and grab my ratty old bathrobe from behind the bedroom door. Daniel scares me with his pliability, allowing me to slip his arms and tie the faded, blue terry robe. Pushing Daniel backwards, until the backs of his knees hit the solid bed mattress and he sits.
The shot of Southern Comfort I have given Daniel quells his shaking. I pull the chair so we face each other ... our knees touching.
Fingering the robe, he tilts his head and asks, "Mine?"
I nod in agreement ... Daniel's robe, his 'Sunday morning, not on a mission, let's not get dressed, robe.' The robe became like the CD, inanimate objects that I had latched onto, bringing Daniel's spirit closer to me.
"What happened with the mirror, Daniel?"
I grab his hands, as they begin to worry the frayed belt on the robe. "Nothing to be sorry about ... it ca ..."
"Stranger." Daniel says the one word so softly, I lean forward unsure of what my linguist is trying to tell me. Rubbing his hands between mine, wanting to remove the chill from them, wondering if they were always that cold. "I looked in the mirror and saw a stranger. I don't know where I belong anymore ... who I am."
Grabing his chin, forcing eye contact. "You are Daniel Jackson ... owner of multiple degrees, friend and family to SG1 ..."
"I was Jack ... I am ..."
One of my more endearing qualities is my stubbornness, and it is that streak that helps me step right over Daniel's words and continue. "You are the brilliant son of Claire and Melbourne Jackson, you were a wonderful husband to Sha're, the good son of Kasuf, the caring brother-in-law to Skaara, the friend of one Colonel O'Neill ... the lover of one Jack O'Neill. And for the second time, the savior of Abydos."
He vehemently shakes his head. "I am none of these things. The face in the mirror ... he ... it is a stranger to me."
"Not to me. This face is not a stranger." Grabbing the lapels of the robe and pulling him towards me. His breath catches, but he doesn't resist as I kiss his lips. Hesitantly, at first, his breathing hitches, allowing my tongue to explore his mouth, my hands untying the robe. My erection strains uncomfortably against my jeans placing my hand on his groin gently kneading his burgeoning erection.
"No!" he yells emphatically. Daniel bounds up and he pushes me away with such vehemence that I fall back into the chair, the legs creak ominously with the sudden abuse.
"Daniel, what the hell is going on?" My erection an already forgotten feeling, Daniel's flaccid member within arm's reach as he stands before me, robe wide open. I lean forward tying the robe ... standing so we are within a hair's breadth of one another. Daniel's emotions, so close to the surface for the past 48 hours have taken free rein. In descriptive terms, I would say that Daniel's soul is overflowing ... there is no sobbing, no gut wrench wailing, no keening, just tears.
"Let me help you, Daniel. What can I do ... tell me."
"You can't help me."
"You will be surprised at what I can do. Try me." I lift my hand to cup his chin, only to have Daniel pull away, flinch at the attempted contact.
"Stop it, Jack. Damn it! Don't patronize me." Daniel has shored up his emotions. "Unless you can find a way to stop the passage of time ... there is no one that can help me." Leaving the close proximity of my body he begins to pace the floor.
"I don't want to forget ... can you understand that?" He sighs and closes his eyes, searching for the answer behind the darkness of the closed lids. "What I saw, and was learning ... it was incredulous. Pathways and passages to understanding ... and I only experienced this much, Jack, this much." He holds his thumb and index finger up to indicate a minute measurement.
"Daniel, you saved Abydos ... and ..."
"I know what I did ... and I would do it over again in a flash. But I am going to forget. Like I have forgotten the sound of my parents' voices, and the feel of Sha're's arms when she held me, the smell of her hair. Little things get lost ... and only emptiness remains. I have forgotten the thrill of walking through the Stargate, I have forgotten what it felt like to have you touch me ... make love to me. And soon ... I will forget my ascension and the sense of learning and the universe ... and after that ... as real life again takes over, being with Oma will seem as a dream. And it will become that ... something that I can only visit when I close my eyes. But now ... it is not a dream ... being with Oma is more set in reality than being here with you ... being at the SGC, with Sam, Teal'c ... this body ..."
"I love ..."
He steps back ... holding up his hands. "Don't Jack ... I'm not ready to hear that ... or feel that. I will be that person again ... but I'm not there yet."
I grasp what Daniel is trying to convey, I truly do. Memories are a powerful thing. I have boxes of trinkets and photographs to help prod when my remembering dims. In actuality what does Daniel have? Of Sha're ... a wedding bowl, one picture ... a family and grave light years away. Of his parents, a picture of his childhood ... of Oma ...
Daniel lets me hold him ... at this point, until he truly descends that is all I can ask for. Until his mind joins his body on this planet, I am satisfied spooning up to his warm body on this bed, in this darkened room. "Talk to me Daniel." I whisper to him. "Tell me what you saw ... what you learned. So when the memories begin to fade, I will be here with your stories in my heart and in my mind ... to remind you that it wasn't a dream ... that there was a time when you held the universe in your hands."
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