Daniel heard the worry in the voice calling his name, but he really didn't want to answer it. He knew the repercussions if he remained mute, but the draw of the window's view was too big an enticement to answer just yet. He pulled the blanket closer to his shoulders for warmth and repositioned his legs to fit better on his perch.
"What are you doing out of bed?"
He didn't turn towards the concerned voice, but instead pressed his hot cheek to the cool pane of glass. "Watching."
The pain in his throat permitted nothing more than a whispered response.
Sure, strong hands adjusted the blanket, tucking it under his body and around his feet. Daniel accepted the kiss to his forehead with a smile.
"You really shouldn't be up. The doctor said bed rest ..."
"I'm not tired, Mom." Daniel used the corner of the blanket to clean a section of the window that was fogging over, hoping his mom would be distracted by his actions and miss the stupid, raspy quality of his voice. Honestly, he did feel sick, but he really wasn't tired, so what possible difference could it make to anyone if he felt lousy in lying in bed or sitting up?
"You're very stubborn," Claire laughed.
"Is that a good thing or a bad thing? 'Cause you call Daddy stubborn all the time." Daniel tried to hide not only a yawn but the rebounding grimace of pain down under the blanket.
"Back to bed, little man."
"Hey!" Daniel rubbed his throat, his loud exclamation of protest hurting more than he really wanted to admit. "I'm not little anymore," he pouted. "I'm seven."
"Yes, you are seven, but you know something ..." Claire squirmed her way into the corner of the window seat, "you'll always be my little man."
"Always?" he squeaked. "Even when I'm like really old like ... umm, like twenty eight?"
"Not only will you still be my little man at twenty eight, but I'll still love you."
"And Daddy? Will Daddy still love me?" Daniel bowed his head, hiding the tears that he was too big to shed.
"I'm sorry I got sick." Suddenly going back to bed was a good idea, better than having his Mom look at him with that expression. He realized, though the lure of the bed was strong, the desire to be comforted was stronger and he crawled into his mother's lap, dragging the blanket in his wake. He settled in, past caring if being in his mother's lap wrapped in a blanket made him a baby.
Daniel tugged at a loose strand of Claire's hair, wrapping it around his index finger, smoothing it down with another, a comforting habit that Daniel believed he had given up along with sucking his thumb and his fear of the dark. She kissed the hand that held her hair. "Care to explain why you think your father wouldn't love you?"
"He's angry 'cause you're here with me and not at the university lecturing."
She kissed his head and smoothed the blanket over his body. "You heard us this morning?"
Daniel nodded. The lump forming around the ache in this throat made speech impossible.
"We were loud, weren't we?" To Daniel's imagination, the pat to his head seemed obligatory and empty of warmth.
"Arguing. Over me." He could only hope that maybe he had heard wrong. Raised voices, mention of his name and not even a kiss goodbye before his Dad had stomped off.
"Yes, over you."
Daniel blinked repeatedly, his vision as blurry as the rain-slicked window.
Daniel didn't understand the laughter in his mother's voice and he suddenly began to doubt the validity of how much she loved him, too. He wouldn't cry. After all he was seven ... and seven year old boys didn't cry.
"We were fighting over who was going to stay with you at the hotel today."
"I could have ... I would have stayed by myself." The battle to be brave was lost and Daniel began to sob. The idea of existing in a world where a mother and father wouldn't love him was incomprehensible. "You could have gone to lecture with Daddy, I would have been good. I would have stayed in bed." He gathered up the blanket and had one foot over the side. "I'll go back to bed right now," he managed to say before his mom grabbed him and seemed to effortlessly pull him back into her lap.
"Where you running to, my little man? Huh?" Daniel could feel the hardness of her glasses' frames as she smothered his face with kisses. Despite his sadness, he giggled. "What's going on in that overactive brain of yours? Imagination working overtime? Hmm ... let's see, you were thinking that Daddy and I were fighting over your being sick."
She tapped his temple. "Bet you were thinking that we were arguing over who was staying with you."
Daniel nodded again, the whimper of emotion dying in his throat. He tugged a corner of the blanket up to cover his mouth to mask the sounds of any other pathetic sounds his body produced.
His mom kissed him again, one kiss, different than the shower of little kisses she had rained down on him before. "We fought out of guilt because we dragged you half way across the world for something we wanted to do. We yelled at each other because we both wanted to stay here and take care of you. Your dad stomped off without a goodbye, because he knew if he had to say goodbye, he wouldn't have been able to leave you and speak at the university. There's no reason for you to be sorry, none at all, Danny Jackson. We should be asking you to forgive us."
Daniel dropped the blanket and pulled himself up, using his mother's shoulders for leverage. He kissed her cheek, breathing in deeply of the smell that was so uniquely hers. "I love you, Mommy."
She squeezed him tightly. "Both Daddy and I love you. Always remember that?"
This time Daniel's nod was vigorous. "Always ... no matter how loudly you yell?"
Claire laughed. "No matter how loudly we yell, promise." Using her hand, his mother rubbed an area of the window clean. "Want to show me what you were so busy looking at that you couldn't stay in bed?"
As one they leaned forward, and Daniel pointed downward at the people on the street, bustling around on their lunch hour, sidestepping puddles, hiding under awnings, and opening umbrellas to avoid the torrential downpour. "Rain." Daniel's voice was filled with awe. "It's raining."
"It is," was Claire's simple reply.
"Why aren't they enjoying it?" Daniel kneeled on the cushion of the window seat and used the blanket to widen their viewing hole.
"Because rain isn't special to the people who live here. It occurs almost daily. That takes away the specialness."
"That's very sad, you know." Daniel yawned and blinked away the tiredness that seemed to come from nowhere.
"Are you sure you're only seven?"
"Eight ... soon I'll be eight," he replied sleepily.
Claire pulled him back into her embrace, cleaning off a portion of window at Daniel's lower eye level. "What is it about the rain that's so sad?"
Daniel shrugged, and he began to rock back and forth in sync with his mom's slow, measured movements. "Not the rain. The people ... they don't appreciate it. Hurrying all around. Not taking time to play in it." Daniel's thoughts and his mouth were slowly starting to disconnect as sleep began to take over. "Are we going home soon?" Even huddled under the blanket, dressed in unfamiliar flannel pajamas and wrapped in his mother's arms, he was cold down to his bones. He missed the warmth of the dessert sun, though playing in the rain was an tempting thought. "Can I capture some rain ... to bring home?"
"After your nap, how's that? We'll put some rain in an empty soda bottle to take home ... you can play with it."
"Sounds good, but I'm too old to nap," Daniel managed to correct his mom before he fell asleep.
"Go 'way." Daniel batted ineffectually at the hand shaking his shoulder. He yelped in protest and made a futile attempt to grab at the blankets that were jerked from his body. He cracked open one eye. "You have a death wish I don't know about?"
"Nice voice," was the answering giggle from the thirteen year old girl standing on the side of the bed. She batted her eyelashes and lowered her own voice an octave. "You sound so sexy, Daniel."
"Laryngitis," he huffed, coughing into the crook of his arm. "Now can I have the blankets back?"
"Bronchitis, mom said." She waved the blankets like a matador, stepping backwards with each flick of the wrist. "Torro, torro."
"Give 'em back." Daniel flung his pillow, catching her squarely in the face.
She dropped the blankets, picked up the pillow and descended on Daniel with a menacing look on her face. Daniel met her attack head on and the two of them struggled for dominance until a number of loud staccato clapping of hands drew their attention.
"Jodi, back away from that expensive feather pillow and you, Daniel ... pick up that costly hunk of plucked feathers, the blankets and get back into that bed." Daniel's foster mother stepped over a pile of books on the floor, picking up a teeshirt along the way. "Remind me again. Just how old are the two of you?"
Properly chastised, the two teenagers did as they were instructed. Daniel stuck his tongue out at his adversary as soon as his foster mom's back was turned, taking a moment or two to hack up a lung for his effort.
"One of these days, Daniel, your maturity will catch up to your intelligence," Jodi replied, crinkling her nose at him.
"Children, children, children." Michelle adjusted the blankets around Daniel's legs and gently pushed him down onto the pillow. She waved her daughter in the direction of the attic stairs. "Go, Dad's waiting in the car with the boys."
"Awww Mom, why do I have to go ... why can't I stay home with Daniel? It's just a stupid kid's party at that indoor party place ... I'm way too old."
"Zip it ... and Daniel would be going if he hadn't gotten sick."
"I think I feel ill, Mom." Jodi threw a hand up to her forehead.
"That's nice, honey, now go and tell Dad I'll be right there."
Daniel watched the smile on Michelle's face widen at Jodi's mumbling as she stomped down the stairs. "Teenagers." Michelle shook her head as the back door slammed shut.
"Are you going to be okay?"
"I'll be fine, honest." Actually, Daniel relished the idea of an empty house on a rainy day. "I have a book ..."
"A book?" Michelle's gaze swept the room filled to capacity with books and other paraphernalia. "I'm guessing there's more than one book to hold your interest here."
The sound of a honking horn carried up to Daniel's bedroom. "Andy's calling." Another coughing fit arrived without warning and he gladly accepted the glass of water from his bedside table that Michelle offered him.
"Are you sure you're okay?"
"Positive," he squeaked, coughing yet again.
Michelle checked her watch. "Your medication is on the counter, take it with lunch." Daniel wasn't fast enough to avoid Michelle's heat seeking, temperature registering hand. "Take two more Tylenol at 1 o'clock. Your lunch is in the fridge, or if you want ..."
Daniel shooed her off with a wave of his hand. "Go. Now. I'm fine."
"We won't be late," she apologized.
"It's okay if you are." He cleared his throat and pasted what he hoped was a convincing look on his face. "The boys have been looking forward to this ... Just go." Daniel ordered, harsher than he meant, but his eyes burned and his throat and chest felt tight and he just wanted to alleviate those symptoms in peace.
Daniel watched from the window by his bed as the van pulled out of the driveway. He sat there long after the taillights disappeared down the block and way after his breathing and coughing fogged over the space he had cleared.
Daniel slid back under the covers, considering his options, tossing each of the ideas aside as quickly as they entered his mind. He didn't want to read, he certainly didn't want to clean his room and he was too lazy to even go downstairs and lay on the couch. Right now, he was content to stay in bed, close his eyes and listen to the rain pelting the windows and the roof right above his head.
Once again Daniel batted at an insistent hand shaking his shoulder. He turned, coughed and squirmed away from the persistent annoyance. He even tried to bury his head under the blanket to escape from the voice repetitively calling his name.
The sound of thunder forced his eyes opened. It took him two attempts to produce a coherent "hi" to Michelle.
"Move over and sit up," she ordered, muttering something about missed lunch and medication, topping it off with some remark about fevered geniuses. "Why didn't you tell me you felt so bad?" In quick succession Daniel downed two Tylenol, an antibiotic, a spoonful of cough medicine, a large glass of apple juice and soothing bowl of red Jello, while listening to Michelle admonish him about responsibility.
Their attention was drawn to the window when the next rumble of thunder seemed to shake the house. "It's really storming out there." Michelle pivoted around the room, shaking her head at the partly-open window at the far end. Without a word she walked over and slammed it shut, picking up a discarded towel to sop up the pooled water.
"Good towel, Daniel," she nagged with an exaggerated sigh. "I was wondering what happed to the other one. Now I know."
Daniel coughed out an apology and then cocked his head at the ghostly silence that followed the thunder. Though his bedroom and sanctuary was in the attic, this house was always filled with noise and the quietness was almost unsettling. "Where is everyone?" He sneezed twice in quick succession and Michelle moved forward and exchanged the empty bowl for a box of tissues.
"Everyone's still at the party."
"Why aren't you?" Daniel rested his head against the wall as he studied Michelle's puttering with the tray filled with the empty bowl and cup. "You didn't come home for me, did you?"
Michelle shook her head. "Not for you," was her sharp answer. "I had a headache, too many kids, too much noise, and I hitched a ride home with someone who was leaving early."
Daniel waved towards the tray Michelle now held in your hands. "You didn't have to do that. I would have gotten up."
"Yeah, you would have, eventually, but you needed to take your medication, and the Tylenol."
"You didn't have to bother."
Michelle walked towards the stairs and turned towards Daniel before taking the first step. "I'm going to take an aspirin and nap. You should try to get some sleep."
Seven years he had lived with Michelle and Andy. They had taken Daniel on as a little boy who had been filled with emotional and physical scars from his parents' death and his first horrific foster home experience. Subconsciously, Daniel's hand crept towards his right shoulder to touch a minute scar, a souvenir from his first disastrous placement.
Over the years, three more children had entered this house in his wake, all of them eventually adopted, all of them calling Michelle and Andy Mom and Dad, while Daniel still referred to them by their first names. There were many times when Daniel hadn't been sure if Nick refusing to give him up had been a blessing or a curse. Was he jealous of the other kids, or grateful that he never had to make the choice of calling them Mom and Dad?
Michelle and Andy had given him a home, a family and maybe in the seven years he had lived under their roof, a warped sense of security. Andy had built him this room in the attic so Daniel could escape when life became too much for him to handle. They had learned to accept all of his idiosyncrasies and he had accepted all their well-meaning actions. The three of them had fallen into a pattern of co-existence that had suited Daniel quite well.
But that was all going to change, because in a few months he would be leaving. Graduating almost two years before his peers, colleges lining up vying for his acceptance and Michelle and Andy had stepped to the sidelines and allowed the choice to be his, and he had chosen a school far from the security of this home. A choice, his choice, the one time he had felt in control of his own destiny, and it had been a new and enlightening feeling, but now, in this room residing above the rest of the house, with the rain beating a staccato rhythm on the roof, Daniel was hit with the mind-numbing realization that he had never, in seven years, thanked Michelle or Andy, and for that, he was ashamed.
Daniel got up slowly and dressed, slipping on a pair of jeans and a ratty old sweatshirt over his tee and padded quietly down the stairs. He followed the soft sound of music into the sunroom and located Michelle sitting on the wicker couch, staring through the glass walls into the rain soaked back yard. She turned at the sound of his coughing.
"Are you okay?"
Daniel nodded, fidgeting from foot to foot. "Can I join you? I mean with the headache and all. I don't want to disturb you."
"The headache is down to a mild roar and I could use some company. As long as you promise not to yell or cry like a banshee." She slid down to the end of the couch and patted the cushion by her side.
"No yelling, or crying, I promise."
"Good, then come on down, Daniel."
Daniel couldn't help but smile at her poor game show announcer imitation. "Don't leave your day job," he kidded.
"Don't be obnoxious," she ordered, giving him a light punch to his forearm.
"I'm sorry," he blurted out.
"Sorry? I wasn't insulted by --"
"I'm sorry I couldn't be the son you and Andy wanted."
"Oh, Daniel. I'm sorry we couldn't be your parents."
"It was Nick ... he really ..."
"No, Danny ... it wasn't Nick, honey, it was you. We were always willing to be your parents, it had nothing to do with custodial rights or any document. It had to do with you allowing us into that special place. And you didn't." Michelle tucked a strand of Daniel's hair behind his ear. "But we loved you and wanted you with us and were willing to do whatever it took to give you a semblance of family, home and parental love." Michelle sniffed back tears. "Even if you didn't feel the same way."
"That's not true," Daniel protested.
"Oh, don't get me wrong, in your own way, as much as you are able, you loved me and Andy. I know you love Jodi."
Even in light of the seriousness of the conversation, he couldn't help but snort at Michelle's sentence.
"You do, Daniel, and you love Matthew and Tyler."
Daniel couldn't dispute the truth of Michelle's words. This was a home and a family, just not his home and family, and it wasn't anyone's fault but his own. "I'm going to miss you when I leave for college."
"And we'll miss you, and I'm sorry we couldn't give you what you wanted, be the parents you needed or atone for all the wrongdoings. We tried ..." Michelle shrugged and Daniel pretended not to see the single tear hover in the corner of her eye. "I guess we failed," she said softly.
"You didn't fail. Upstairs, now, in bed ..." Daniel rubbed the heel of his hand across his forehead, willing away the congestion headache. "God, I'm going to miss all of this. It just took me seven years and the knowledge that I'm leaving here to realize how important you and Andy are to me. And I wanted to thank you for loving me even when I wasn't able."
"Oh, in so many ways you're wise beyond your years." Michelle tugged at the strand of hair she had just placed behind Daniel's ear and he couldn't help but smile at her gesture. His smile faded as her hand slid along his neck, shoulder and arm, eventually falling dejectedly into her lap. "And in other ways, you're still that lost, frightened nine year old boy. I know you may not understand this now, but I want you to know, our door is always open for you, and so are our hearts."
Mortified, Daniel turned towards Michelle. "You make it sound like when I leave for college, I'm never coming back here."
"You were never here, Daniel." She tapped his temple, and there were no hiding the tears in her eyes. "Maybe this part of you lived with us, but this ..." her hand moved to his heart and he watched as Michelle patted his chest. "This part of you never took up residence here. This was a house, and we were people, this was never a home to you, nor were we your family."
Daniel wanted desperately to dispute Michelle's words, argue that she was wrong, but he couldn't. "I'm sorry," he whimpered, his head falling onto her shoulder. "I wish it would have been different."
Once again her hand came up to stroke his too-long hair, following it up with a kiss to his temple. "I wish it would have been different, too, but I promise you, one day you will find the place that's a perfect fit for you, a home and a family. Just don't be so busy searching for it, that you miss it."
"Damn, damn, damn." Daniel slammed his fists against the steering wheel. In the scheme of things, today had to be up in the top ten of worst days of the year. It wasn't bad enough he'd had to endure the lecture Dr. Jordan had decided to bestow upon him in front of teaching assistants, or the fact that he felt like shit and had neither the time, money or inclination to visit the clinic. And now? Now the car had given a mighty shudder, coughed and died. At least Daniel had been able to pull over to the side of the road, possibly the only silver lining in today's storm cloud, because it was pouring raining, he had no jacket and it was at least a six block walk home.
By the time he had climbed the last flight of stairs to his apartment, he was soaked to the bone, his hair was plastered to his head and Daniel had removed his glasses one block from the car, because he had nothing left on his body on which to dry them. What he wanted was a warm apartment, warm shower, warm bed, Sarah's warm body and maybe a shot of whiskey to warm his insides. What he got was four out of five items on his wish list, not a bad percentage considering the day he'd had so far.
Daniel sat on the bed, pillows shoved behind his back, luxuriating under a pile of blankets as he twirled the amber liquid around in a neon blue plastic cup. That's a one for the shot of whiskey, two for the shower as he carded his fingers though his wet hair, three for the warm apartment and four for the warmth of the bed. Daniel downed the contents of the plastic cup, grimacing as it burned a path down his throat and sloshed heavily in his empty stomach. Angrily he flung the cup across the room, annoyed when it just bounced off the dresser and rolled the length of the floor right back to the side of the bed.
Daniel rolled his eyes heavenward. "Ah, a sign from above." He leaned over, picked up the cup, grabbed the bottle off the nightstand, and with shaking hands, poured himself another glass. He was looking forward to drowning his sorrows tonight, making it the perfect ending to a perfectly shitty day.
"Damn it!" Daniel yelled as the weight of the filled cup, the angle in which he was leaning and the smooth texture of the plastic all worked against him and it slipped from his fingers, hitting the floor and splattering its contents every which way. He slammed the bottle on the nightstand, threw back the covers and gingerly got out of the bed, avoiding the biggest of the puddles.
As he held onto the kitchen counter for support, he realized that maybe a cupful of whiskey hadn't been the smartest thing that he had ever done, especially on an empty stomach, but it just sort of fit into the scheme of today's agenda. His head hurt, his stomach rolled. The headache could wait, the stomach couldn't -- it bordered on the 'not sure if it needed to eat or vomit feeling'. Daniel thought a moment, deciding that feeding was higher on list of preferences than vomiting and began to scrounge through the cabinets for anything edible.
Special K was far from his favorite cereal, it was Sarah's, but it was fairly fresh and fast, the only two things Daniel cared about at the moment. He shoveled the first bowl in at breakneck speed and then paused to start the coffee maker and drop two slices of bread into the toaster. His stomach had stopped complaining but his head hadn't, so Daniel reached into the cabinet to get the aspirin bottle.
Dry swallowing three, he began to gag and hurriedly turned on the faucet, cupping his hands under the flow. He slurped the water, grimacing at the taste the dissolving tablets had left behind.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
Surprised, Daniel lifted his head, cracking it on the opened cabinet door. "Ow." His hands flew to his head, rubbing away the ache. "Last time I looked my name was still on the lease." With slow, calculated movements, Daniel poured a large mug of coffee and then turned to face Sarah.
She pointed her chin in the direction of Daniel's head. "Are you okay?"
"You surprised me," Daniel admitted, taking a sip of coffee. "I didn't expect to see you back here." A little flame of satisfaction flared at Sarah's obvious discomfort.
"I didn't see your car, so I assumed that ..."
"The car broke down, I walked home."
"In this rain, I can't believe ..."
Daniel sighed, utterly exhausted. "The 'Dear Daniel' letter precluded you from caring, Sarah. Just get to the point."
"I didn't expect to find you home."
"You said that already." The toast popped up and Daniel put his coffee down and went about buttering the toast, making a point to ignore Sarah.
"Why are you doing this?"
He threw the butter knife into the sink, glad that Sarah jumped at its loud clatter. "Doing what? Having breakfast at night? It's raining, I don't have a car and I'm hungry." Daniel ripped off a piece of toast and shoved it into his mouth for emphasis.
"You know very well what I mean," Sarah said.
"Sell my soul down the river." He shoved the other half of bread into his mouth and swallowed a mouthful of coffee to wash it down.
"I'm not asking you to do that." Sarah began to pace. "But the car breaking down ... and I know you don't have enough money to even call for Chinese takeout. It's about making a living, Daniel."
"Damn it, just say it. You got balls enough to say just about everything else ..."
"Well, someone had to have the balls in this relationship."
"According to you, Sarah," Daniel spit the name out, "there isn't any relationship, it's, and I quote," Daniel tore the paper from where it was stuck to the fridge with a magnet, "time for us to move on because our ideals are too far apart to even build a bridge over, end quote." Daniel tossed the remaining toast in the garbage. "I will never be the person you want me to be and if you believe I would be happy acquiescing to mainstream thought, then you never knew me as well as you thought you did."
"And you, Dr. Jackson, obviously never loved me as much as you claimed you did. Because survival is important to me."
"Admit it, money in the bank is what's important to you. Car, house, all the trappings that Stephen is shoving in my face, and don't forget that all important, prestige. Just get what you came for and go, okay?"
"Jealousy doesn't become you," Sarah huffed.
"Jealousy?" Daniel snorted, "Not exactly what I would call it. Pity maybe, but not jealousy. I feel badly that you wasted a good year betting that Dr. Jordan's protégé would come to his senses, sorry to let you know you backed the losing team."
"I didn't come here to be insulted."
"No? Funny, that's how I've felt the past few months, insulted, degraded and right now you can add foolish to the top of the list."
"I'm sorry, I really am," Sarah whispered.
"You really aren't, I know it and you know it. You're glad that's it's over."
"You never used to be so cynical."
"I never used to feel like an asshole."
"You better get used to it. Once you present your outlandish theories about the age of the pyramids ..."
Daniel raised his coffee mug in a mock salute. "Touché." He took a drink of the now tepid liquid. "I think it's time for you to leave, we've said all there is to say."
"Going now. Just let me get the two books I forgot." She got as far as the kitchen doorway and then turned. "This is why I wouldn't have returned if I had known you were here."
"Yeah, you said that already."
Sarah left Daniel alone in the kitchen only to return moments later with two large books in her arms.
"I got what I needed."
"Fine." Daniel refilled his coffee mug.
"Daniel, I didn't want this to turn into a name calling incident."
"A little late for that, isn't it?"
Sarah smiled sadly. "We were good together, weren't we?"
Reluctantly Daniel smiled back. "Yes, once upon a time, we were."
Shyly she stepped forward, kissing Daniel on the cheek, her lips lingering while she rested the back of her hand against his forehead. She shook her head. "You're si --"
Daniel gently touched his index finger to her lips. "Don't say anything, I know."
Her fingers tugged at his hand, pulling is down, pressing something into his palm. "Remember to take care of yourself."
She turned abruptly, tripping over a chair in her haste to leave, fumbling before righting herself.
Daniel dropped heavily into the chair when he heard the front door close, the headache returning with a vengeance, his stomach back to doing somersaults. He opened his hand, knowing what the object was but still he picked it up and studied it like an artifact, turning it over, rubbing his thumb against the metal. He tossed the apartment key onto the table, watching it slide along the wooden top.
He threw a few towels on the floor to absorb the mess. The bedroom smelled like a distillery, but Daniel was too lazy, too tired and way too mentally exhausted to make a concerted effort to clean up the spill.
Daniel would deal with it all tomorrow, the car, Dr. Jordan, how sick he felt and the fact that only his name was now on the lease. He got into bed, sliding under the covers, and turned to gaze out of the French doors in the bedroom, remembering with a tight smile that those doors and the minute balcony was the reason Sarah had insisted on this apartment. He rubbed his temple in a futile attempt to massage away the headache.
Sarah's leaving had pushed Daniel's decision to the forefront. All day he had toyed with the idea of backing down and forgoing the idea of presenting his ideals to academia, battling internally, distracted enough to earn a lecture from Dr. Jordan.
Sarah was right, she obviously knew him better than he knew himself. Sarah may not have believed him but she believed enough to understand that Daniel had no choice than to be true to himself. Anything less than that and Daniel would have died inside. Was that selfishness? Was it stubbornness? Or was pushing the envelope and thinking outside the box akin to shoving people far from him? Time would only tell.
Daniel settled in for the night, arranging the pillows in the now too large and empty bed. The opened curtains allowed the soft glow of the street lights to illuminate the rain as it batted against the glass. He pulled the blanket closer, his hand petting the vacant space by his side. "Goodbye Sarah," he whispered, and as an afterthought added a soft, "thank you."
Abydos was a desert planet, a place where he had felt fairly safe from irritants. He had been dead wrong and ended up spending the last two days in bed; hot, coughing, bleary eyed, headachy, and just plain scaring Sha're to death, as well as pissing her off.
He just wanted to die in piece and ride this out. He knew the routine, drink plenty of fluids, take Tylenol for the fever and call the doctor if he had trouble breathing. Daniel dragged himself off the bedroll and took a sip of the water that his wife had left by his side.
Sha're had wanted to do it all for him, hovering over him until he had actually barked at her to go do what needed to be done and leave him alone. Now he could add guilt to his many other symptoms.
The tent was sweltering in the mid day sun and Daniel prayed for night when the temperatures would finally cool down. He was already stripped down to his boxers and tee, lying spread eagle on the blankets. He missed home. He wanted a bed, a shower at his disposal, tissues, medication, coffee, and cold water. Daniel hated that he was feeling sorry for himself and hated even more the feeling of being trapped with no hope in sight.
He heard her hesitant approach and evened out his breathing, concentrating on not coughing, hoping to fool her into believing he was asleep. A cool cloth passed over his face and Daniel was unable to suppress a moan of appreciation. He opened his eyes and grabbed her hand. Sha're gasped in surprise but she held her ground.
"You are awake, good husband."
"Go finish your chores, I'm fine."
Sha're pulled her hand from his grasp, cursing at him in an unfamiliar Abydonian word. "You are not timet ... fine ... you are not fine," she corrected herself.
"I am," Daniel insisted. "You do need to watch over me like a baby or an old man."
"A baby has more sense than you." Sha're stood and with a whoosh of her robes, left the tent, taking the rag and tub of blessedly cool water with her.
Daniel flopped over onto his side away from the tent's flap, so wrapped up in attending his pity party of one, he wasn't even aware of Sha're's return.
Daniel jerked back from the cup shoved in his face.
"No." Daniel couldn't help but sneeze at the smell wafting out of the cup to tickle his nose.
"Yes," Sha're insisted.
"You are as a baby when you whine and your stubbornness is worse than the oldest man in town."
"I am not more stubborn than ..."
Sha're nodded. "Yes, you are. But if you drink this, I promise to leave you alone for the rest of the day."
Daniel eyed the liquid suspiciously. "What's in it?"
"It is only an herbal tea."
"I would not lie to you, Dan'yel," Sha're pouted. "I am hurt that you think I would."
"I'm sorry ... here give me the cup."
In two gulps the liquid was gone and he held out the empty cup to her. "I was wrong to doubt you." He smacked his lips in appreciation. "Can I have some more?"
With a knowing smile that confused the crap out of Daniel, Sha're took the cup from his outstretched hand and patted his face. "No, one cup is enough for now."
Daniel forced open heavy eyelids and made an uncoordinated effort to grab onto the hand covering his shivering body with a blanket.
"Go back to sleep." Sha're kissed Daniel's hand and then tucked it under the blanket as well.
"'ot stubborn," Daniel protested, smiling as gentle, calloused fingers swept the hair from his forehead.
Sha're answered with a chuckle. "Would you like a drink?"
Now that she had mentioned it, Daniel wasn't only thirsty, he was parched. "Drink, yes. Tea?"
Daniel didn't understand Sha're's sigh or her hesitation when she handed him another cup of tea. She pulled it from his grasp when he began to lick the rim. She pushed his unresisting body back onto the bedroll. "Sleep."
Daniel awoke to a strange, uncommon but very familiar sound, and for a second he couldn't remember where he was. But a breeze flowing through the tent brought the everyday household smells. and it clicked, Abydos. Daniel came to awareness slowly, expecting to feel as badly as he had when he had gone to bed, and was surprised when his symptoms had lessened to such a degree that he once again felt human.
He felt the space next to him, finding only emptiness. The dim light of the lamp provided just enough illumination for Daniel to locate his glasses and he shoved them on. He checked his watch, making the appropriate calculations accounting for Abydos' thirty-six hour days.
Sha're was an early riser, but three hours before dawn was too early, even for her. Terrible images ran though Daniel's mind and he scrambled to stand, tripping over the blankets. He didn't bother to throw on a robe, and clad in his boxers and tee, he flung open the tent flap and stepped outside, taken back as his face and body was pelted with rain. Instantly his vision blurred, his glasses became useless and his hair and what little clothes he was wearing became plastered to his body.
"Sha're!" His voice didn't even seem to carry against the onslaught and he cupped his hands around his mouth megaphone style and called her name once again. He heard no answering responses and he began to run, the sand, now turned to mud, impeding his progress as he slipped and slid only a few feet.
Panic was settling in. Daniel could feel it in the pit of his stomach and in the pain wrapping itself around his heart and lungs. He stopped, searching haphazardly wouldn't help anyone. He used his hands to shield his eyes from the rain and rotated slowly, surprised that he was only about eight feet from the tent, panic and the teeming rain obviously affecting his judgment.
She was standing mere feet from Daniel, and his fear melded into embarrassment at his childish reaction when he had thought her gone. He shook his head and walked towards his wife. He was wet, muddy and the feeling of well being had all but left him. He wanted to be clean and dry, clad in a warm robe and an explanation as to why his wife would be meandering outside in this weather. Daniel was pissed and Sha're was. absolutely, breathtakingly gorgeous. "Oh god," Daniel whispered. Close enough to see her, the rain masking his approach, Sha're was unaware that Daniel was standing nearby. unaware and totally uninhibited.
He loved her. It was as simple as that. Watching his wife as she gave herself over to the rain, appreciating what was a rare occurrence it was on Abydos, Daniel couldn't believe how incredibly stupid he had been and how incredibly lucky he really was. He had been forever searching for that elusive something, keeping part of his heart in the past. Now, twenty some odd years later and light years from Earth, he was finally hit with the realization that home wasn't a place, but a state of mind.
"I love you," he whispered as his heart and cock swelled with the visuals of Sha're standing under the onslaught of water, her dressing gown fitting her like a second skin, her dark curls straightened with the weight of the water that flowed over her tresses and down her back. She must have sensed his presence and she turned, her eyes alight with pleasure, a knowing grin on her face as she extended her hand in invitation. Daniel walked forward, his feet sinking in the drenched sand and like a nervous bridegroom he took her in his arms and kissed her upturned face. And in her kiss, Daniel felt a sense of peace that had always seemed unobtainable. He was loved, he loved, and he had finally found his way home.
Daniel sat on the floor in the foyer of the abandoned building, his head leaning against the wall, just watching the rain. He was well aware of Jack's approach, but was actually too lazy to turn his head to acknowledge it.
"It's still raining," were his first words to Jack the moment his boots came into his line of vision.
"Good morning to you, too, Daniel."
"Morning," Daniel sighed.
"Why aren't you in bed?"
Daniel looked up and offered Jack a tired smile. "Bed is through the 'gate and you know I'm looking at two days' stay in the infirmary before I'm allowed a real one." Jack sneezed and Daniel patted his shoe in sympathy. "Hey, if we're lucky, Janet will give us beds side by side." He raised his arm and Jack pulled him into a standing position, kissing his forehead the second he was upright.
"Your fever's broken. Feeling better?"
"Yes ... if I answer yes can we leave today and go back to the village?"
"What's the matter, you bored? If I would have known it was going to rain on our vacation, I'd have would have brought movies and coloring books and crayons."
Daniel could only smirk at Jack's attempted humor. "Very funny."
Daniel gave into Jack's tugging at his arm and shuffled behind him into the interior of the building. He pulled from Jack's grasp when they entered the main room where they had set up camp and sat down, staring dejectedly into the fire. "Coffee?"
"How about some food first?"
Jack shrugged. "Sure, breakfast of champions, why not."
"Carter said the Rigerians informed her that based on the signs from the gods, this rain should end in a day or two."
Daniel slid the remainder of the power bar back into its wrapping and slammed his cup onto the wooden floor with such force that some of the liquid sloshed over the side. "I should have stayed there instead of running off to see what treasures awaited me here."
Jack lifted his cup in sympathy. "The cupboard was bare, that happens sometimes, you know that."
"I know that," Daniel said, taken back by Jack's attitude. "I was just so intent on studying these ruins." He swept his arm out to encompass the barren room in which they sat. "I missed what was right in front of me, the Rigerians, their knowledge and lore, and I know when the rain stops and we meet up Sam and Teal'c, you're bundling my ass off to Janet no matter how much I protest." He slapped his thighs in agitation. "Talk about a missed opportunity."
"Hey, you win some, you lose some," was Jack's pat answer.
Daniel grabbed his cup and tossed the remainder of his coffee on the fire. "Are you finished with the cliches?"
Jack sighed, and that mere sound of his exasperation grated on Daniel's nerves. "I didn't mean anything ..."
Daniel stood. "Are you finished?"
Jack didn't answer.
"I take it that's a yes. I'm going to go stretch my legs."
There wasn't one corner of this building that piqued Daniel's interest in any way or form. The sightings from the UAV had looked promising, the structures, the outlay had sent Daniel scrambling to do research. He had pleaded his case to the General, and SG1 had been granted a 48 hour mission. Daniel had given a cursory 'hi, hello' to the planet's inhabitants that had met them at the Stargate, his eyes locked to the horizon, while Sam had been intrigued with the quality of the materials that their jewelry had been composed of. He and Sam had argued, and Jack had played his parental role and split the siblings up. Sam stayed in the village with Teal'c and Jack had taken Daniel to see the ruins.
The ruins had turned out to be structures that had been simply built, never occupied and stood empty, probably, Daniel had deduced, some rich guy's folly and now he was pissed and grousing that Sam had gotten the bigger piece of the pie. To add insult to injury, just as they were packing up in defeat, the monsoon-like weather had started without warning, so he and Jack had holed up in the closest building and then, to top it off, by the wee hours of the morning Daniel had fallen ill. Whatever had felled him came upon him as fast and furious as the rains and had lasted a little over 24 hours.
'Tormat somel', or as Daniel had roughly translated, 'rain fever', a fairly common occurrence on this world when the rains begin. He fuzzily remembered that particular conversation with Sam, actually he could recall being disappointed, annoyed, wet, tired and pissed as Sam and Teal'c kept them apprised of the wonders he and Jack were missing. He remembered Jack worriedly making sure that Sam and Teal'c were okay and then laughing when he signed off that at least he and Daniel were safe from those particular germs, holed up in this abandoned building.
It was soon after that particular conversation that the chills had begun then came the headache, the intense desire to sleep and the need to push away the offer of dinner. He had been unable to complete his watch, and for the first time in eight years he'd fallen asleep on duty. He had memories of Jack speaking harshly to him until he had rested a hand on Daniel's forehead, then terse words became filled with concern as Jack led him to his bedroll and got him settled. There had been one static-ridden conversation between Jack and the other half of SG1 informing them of Daniel's condition before Jack had laid down, pulling him into a tight embrace, soothing away the headache while Daniel had admonished him with precautions against alien organisms.
Daniel stomped through the building, stopping a number of times listening for the echo of following footsteps, continuing onward when he heard only silence until he found himself full circle, back at the main entranceway and staring through the open doorway, watching the rain. The sheets of water were about as interesting as the blank cement walls surrounding him. Frustrated, Daniel slid down the wall and sat, leaning his head backwards, his legs splayed out in front of him. The constant pounding of the rain on the roof was hypnotic and Daniel allowed himself the freedom of letting his mind drift, and awoke to a blanket being thrown over his legs.
"Why don't you go back to sleep?"
Bleary eyed, Daniel gazed up at Jack. "I thought I was sleeping."
Jack just shook his head at Daniel's stubbornness.
Daniel replied by throwing the blanket off his legs. "I'm hot enough as it is." He closed his eyes again, he was tired, but it wasn't a physical tiredness. It was the exhaustion of day to day failure. The feeling that something was missing, the weariness of sleepless nights trying to pinpoint what was wrong. Lately, every time he walked up that ramp and stepped into the horizon, he had been searching. Hoping the answer would be out there, because he sure as hell couldn't find it on Earth.
"I know it's me, Daniel."
Exasperated, Daniel opened his eyes and peered over his glasses at Jack. "What's you?"
"You know." Jack stuck his hands deeply into his pockets and hung his head.
"No, I don't know."
"Well maybe not me," he rocked his head between himself and Daniel, "us."
"There's no problem with us, Jack. Honest." Somehow Daniel didn't think Jack fell for the smile he flashed him.
"You're a terrible liar."
Daniel pushed himself up and walked to the door, placing his hand into the falling rain. "It's warm."
Daniel turned towards Jack. "No, it's really warm rain, shower warm. And I," Daniel peeled off his teeshirt and flung it to the floor, "stink."
"Hey," Jack said grabbing Daniel's forearm, "you've been sick. How smart an idea is this?"
Daniel pulled himself from Jack's grasp. "You know something," he bent to untie his laces, his head pounding in the upside down position, and he rushed to accomplish the task. "I really don't care how smart this is ... I want to do it." Daniel propped his body against the wall for support and toed off his shoes. His socks, pants and boxers joined the teeshirt on the floor. Naked, he stood before Jack and removed his glasses. Folding them, he stuck them in Jack's breast pocket with a little pat for safekeeping.
Two feet from the opening and the rain enveloped him like a curtain, blurring the entrance and Jack's outline where he stood waiting. Daniel lifted his face and arms heavenward, allowing the water to flow over him. He dropped his arms and rotated his neck, working out the kinks. Soap would have made this perfection, but he made do with scrubbing his hands along his body to work off the grime and sweat.
With the rain as a cushion, muting all the noises, Daniel was able to focus on only him and Jack. Jack was right, he had lied, there was a problem, and it wasn't with Jack, it was with him. Pure and simple, Daniel's problem was fear. Jack's confession, two weeks ago, exactly one year and three months into their relationship, that he loved Daniel, had started it. Feeling that way was one thing, but saying it was another. And what had been worse, was that it hadn't been in the heat of passion where one could excuse those words. It had been on a Saturday night, lying in bed, blurted out somewhere between the news and a commercial, followed up by a kiss, a cuddle and a snore. And Daniel had lain awake all night trying to decide if he had imagined those words or not. But he hadn't, as they were repeated over breakfast, and again over dinner.
He yelped in surprise when a heavy hand landed heavily on his neck. A familiar hand, one that knew his body all too well, began to massage tense muscles. Daniel scrubbed at his face, making a futile attempt to slosh away the water, only succeeding in forcing rain up his nose. Daniel sneezed loudly.
"Bad idea, Daniel, maybe you should go ..."
"Jack, please," he whimpered as he tried to skirt out from under his attention.
"Okay, then just relax," was the whispered response in his ear, followed by a light tug on his earlobe. Daniel shivered as another, yet just as familiar hand, swept across his belly, and he recognized the feel of an SGC regulation bar of soap as it moved across his skin.
"What's a shower without soap?" The point of Jack's chin was playfully digging into Daniel's shoulder, stubble rasping across his exposed skin feeling uncomfortable against his wet skin.
'Please', his mind begged again, not willing to share with Jack the peace and solitude the rain had given him. But his body betrayed him, screaming for 'more' as the hand skimming across his chest was joined by the second, and lather was worked from his groin to his neck in continuous broad strokes. Along his ass, between his legs, a tantalizing touch to his balls, Jack's hands traveled their way up and down the length of Daniel's body, touching the intimate spots that only a lover would know. Daniel bent his head against the onslaught of water, centering on the friction of Jack's body as he glided up and down Daniel's. The sensations were too much, the water, the soap, the frisson of Jack and with a growl of anticipation, Daniel pried the soap from Jack's fingers, flinging it sideways, Jack's protests halted when Daniel guided Jack's hand to his cock.
"Patience," Jack chuckled in his ear, moving from Daniel's dick to his balls.
Angrily, Daniel stamped his foot, splattering mud and water over their lower legs, but Daniel didn't care, he didn't want to be told what to do, he didn't want Jack saying he loved him before he was ready, and he certainly didn't want decisions being made for him. He wanted control. Daniel shifted positions, his quick movement causing him to slip in the moist grass and dirt below his feet, and instinctively he reached out, and Jack latched onto his arm, and for one moment the two of them wavered before finding their footing.
"I don't want to be patient," he hissed, poking Jack with his engorged cock. He wrapped his right arm around Jack's neck and hungrily devoured his mouth, swallowing any protest Jack might have had. His left hand grabbed the swell of Jack's ass, forcing him closer, Jack's 'oomf' of surprise blended into a moan of pleasure as Daniel undulated against him.
Daniel clasped Jack's hand and pushed it downward, literally guiding and maneuvering the fingers until they were wrapped around his erection. He rocked back and forth, Jack's hand picking up the rhythmic movements, his thumb brushing across the head forcing a gasp of appreciation from Daniel. Between Jack's touch and the constant massage-like warmth of the falling rain, Daniel dropped his head and forced air into his lungs. Being bombarded by too many sensations was overwhelming, and Daniel needed to break them down. To the rain. To Jack.
Jack released Daniel's organ and bumped his own erection against him, and Daniel didn't miss the hint. "Patience," he told Jack, his long fingers ghosting the length of Jack's shaft. In retaliation Jack cupped Daniel's balls, massaging them.
Daniel closed his eyes, the strain of keeping them open in the rain, squinting into the muted light of morning, was just too hard and he gave in rather than fight to keep searching for someone to arrive unexpectedly. Offworld, they had never kissed this side of the Stargate and Daniel knew what they were doing was wrong, he knew Jack knew this was wrong and went against their unwritten law, but Daniel was in the lead and Jack was watching his six, both figuratively and literally.
"It's okay," Jack muttered, his voice distorted through the blanket of water. "Carter and Teal'c. I contacted them just before ..."
Reading his mind, always prepared, Daniel opened his mouth to protest, sputtering as he swallowed water, shaking his head at Jack's concern. He was confused at his inexplicable anger at Jack for taking precautions, for expecting this to take place, for just knowing him as well as he did.
He was thinking too much, he had come out in the storm to feel, not think. Jack was forcing him to think and that's not what he wanted to do, so with a concentrated effort he moved from thought to sensation. the rain, his aching cock, the man making love to him. Having sex was easier than dealing with the thoughts in his head and he forced Jack's hand downward, gasping when it made contact and clutched at Daniel's erection, giving the shaft a gentle stroke. "No, Daniel hissed, "harder." Rocking his body, his hand joined Jack's as it stroked him. His orgasm was fast and explosive, his balls and ass tightening and he slid his hand down, cupping it under his cock to catch the come. Daniel barely recovered before resting his head in the crook of Jack's neck, spreading his come the length of the dick still poking him. "Fuck me, Jack."
"No, Daniel, it's gonna hurt ..."
Daniel touched the stickiness slathered on Jack's dick, the rain already doing a good job of washing it away. "Under the circumstances, this was the best ..."
"Let's go back inside, in our packs there's ..."
"No, I want this." Once inside, out of the rain, something would be lost and he couldn't risk that, he wouldn't risk that, so instead Daniel widened his stance and leaned into Jack, kissing him, their tongues performing a gentle dance of seduction. His teeth tugged at Jack's bottom lip when he broke off the kiss. "Want it now ... no more waiting. I don't want to think anymore, can you do that, stop me from thinking?" Daniel challenged.
Jack swooped down, capturing Daniel's lips, their tongues no longer gentle in their exploration. Involuntarily, more an action of surprise than hurt, Daniel jumped as Jack hesitantly slid a finger into him. "It's okay," Daniel quickly said, moving his ass when Jack seemed to pause. Daniel tugged at Jack's lips and ground his hips backwards, his body gradually accepting the second digit easier than the first, the third easier than the second, remembering and relaxing.
Accidentally, Daniel's hand brushed Jack's cock and the groan he elicited warned Daniel that Jack was too close, and he pushed his hand from his body, the fingers sliding out with ease. Daniel stepped back and studied Jack, his fingers swiping the hair off Jack's forehead. In an action that was out of place in its gentleness, Daniel was disgusted with his own emotional need, and so he turned, offering his ass to Jack.
"Oh, yes." Jack was too far gone, the question of if this was going to hurt buried under the heat of the moment, and Daniel felt Jack's hands on his ass cheeks, pulling him towards him, pushing his cock into his hole with every step. Jack was right, it did hurt, the burning dryness forcing a whimper of pain that he was unable to disguise, and then the pain of heat turned to pleasure of friction as Jack teasingly stroked his prostate.
Jack's arm was wrapped tightly around his midsection, his head resting on Daniel's shoulder, and Daniel sought out Jack, awkwardly bending his head to kiss him, touching and pulling at his own cock, feeling the swell of his shaft under his own fingers, under his own control.
From the onslaught of sensations, exhaustion was setting in and Daniel was glad when Jack finally came, his heart pounding against the expanse of Daniel's back, his sweat from the exertions intermingling with the rain. Daniel arched off Jack, his orgasm as intense as his first, and this time Daniel allowed his come to drip unheeded from him.
Daniel permitted Jack to turn him around and use his hands to gently wash their bodies, sans soap. With a tenderness that brought unexpected tears to Daniel's eyes, Jack's hands traveled over Daniel's body, ending with a chaste kiss to his parted lips. Daniel stood, watching Jack hurriedly mirror the actions on his own body, with neither the tenderness nor gentleness he had afforded Daniel.
Compliant, Daniel tolerated Jack's guidance back into the building. Standing in the foyer, water puddling at his feet, Daniel blinked at the brightness of the building, the spell of the rain broken. The silence was deafening and his body tingled from the pounding rain. In the quietness of the building, Daniel was bereft. The rain was reality, the dank unwelcome building in which he now stood was the nightmare, and Daniel stepped away from Jack, back towards the beckoning water.
"Whoa." Jack stopped him with a grip to his forearm. "Where're you running to?" Keeping one hand on Daniel, Jack bent to retrieve the discarded blanket and one handedly shook it out, only releasing Daniel so he could wrap the blanket around him.
Jack snagged his teeshirt from his pile of clothes and began to dry himself with it, and Daniel watched disinterestedly. Not bothering, eyeing his own clothes with disdain, Daniel left, trailing a corner of the blanket behind him, heading back to their encampment. He didn't hesitate nor did he turn around to acknowledge Jack's annoyance at his departure.
He dropped the blanket and slid into his bedroll, the material cold against his damp, naked skin. The fire was low, and the pile of left behind building materials they had been using to keep it burning was getting lower, and he was cold, but his limbs were too heavy and unresponsive to his commands to grab the blanket.
He flung his arm over his eyes to shut out the visions of the gentleness in which Jack had touched him, trying to focus on the burning ache of his ass. Soft caresses were one thing; it was the words that followed the looks and touches that made him uncomfortable.
Daniel nodded, the movement apparently not enough for Jack, and his arm was lifted away from his body and tucked inside the bedroll. "You're freezing." And Daniel felt the brush of cool air as Jack lifted and flapped open the blanket to cover him. "Did I hurt you ... you know?"
"No," Daniel replied, his eyes popping open. "You didn't, honest ... I'm just ..."
"Tired?" Jack asked hopefully.
"Yeah, tired and sore," Daniel admitted, closing his eyes. Even without seeing, Daniel knew what was going on around him. The spit and crackle of fire indicative that Jack was feeding the lowered flame another piece of wood; static and muffled voices, followed by a hint of laugher and concern, Sam and Teal'c checking in, worry settling in around Jack at having his team separated. Daniel didn't need to see to sense Jack's disquiet. Jack's footsteps as he left the room, returned and approached Daniel, a hand to his forehead, a sigh of relief when the touch revealed no fever. The unzipping of Jack's pack, the opening of a blister pack, familiar sounds as Jack popped out two Tylenol to relieve the ache in his knees; rain, though warm, was still too much moisture for his aching joints. The rustle of paper and a groan of discomfort as Jack lowered his body down onto his own bedroll. The raspy sound of pages being turned as Jack tried to locate his place in the novel he always carried, the one he shoved in the bottom of his pack right next to the weekly Sunday crossword puzzle he was working on, and a sharpened pencil.
Jack's snoring woke Daniel up and he turned towards Jack, blinking a few times to bring focus into his bleary gaze. Jack was sleeping on his back, one finger marking the place in his book, the reading glasses that he was too vain to usually wear were balanced precariously at the tip of his nose.
Daniel sat up, pushing aside the blanket, and smiled at the pile of neatly folded clothes that Jack had place by his side, his unfinished power bar and glasses topping off the stack. Daniel ate as he dressed, ravenously hungry after he swallowed the first bite of bar. He scrounged around in his pack and pulled out a pack of mostly crushed peanut butter and cheese crackers, washing them down with a swallow of cold coffee.
He grabbed his radio and gave a shout out to Teal'c and Sam, who were overjoyed to know that he was up and about, and Daniel felt guilty for harboring the jealousy that he had felt earlier. The entrance to the outside confirmed what Sam had reiterated, the rain was slowing and would most likely be stopping by nightfall, he could see the intensity had decreased and it was funny how the rain didn't have the pull it had had just a few hours ago.
Daniel threw another piece of wood on the fire and squatted by Jack's side, slowly slipping the book from his finger, marking the place with a piece of tissue from his own pocket. He fingered the glasses, contemplated them and decided to leave them where they were. He loved Jack, he knew he loved Jack, he could admit it to himself, and for the life of him, couldn't comprehend why he was unable to say the words to him. Jack represented all that was right in Daniel's life. In their crazy hectic, daily lives, Jack was security and safety. He recognized all of Daniel's faults and loved him in spite of them. He was honest, a son of a bitch when he needed to be, and even when it was uncalled for. He was gentle and rough. He argued and screamed at Daniel, pushing him to his limits and still loved him when the smoke cleared.
Daniel looked around the structure, seeing it suddenly for more than the empty room it had been. Jack was here, with him, there was fire and food, there had been sex, laughter and comfort, it had become to some degree for a short period of time, home.
For a second time, a thirty year search had come to end light years from Earth, this time in a deserted building. Home was where Jack was, where he was loved and where he loved, a fleeting feeling he had captured for a year on Abydos and had then lost.
"I hate when you do that," Daniel said, feeling Jack's breath on his neck. He jerked his shoulder gently upward, trying to dislodge the chin implanted there.
"You hate when I do what? Look over your shoulder? I hate when you do," Jack extended his hand over Daniel's shoulder and poked the paper resting on his knees, "my crossword puzzles."
Daniel knocked the inquisitive hand away. "Pffft, too bad. You were sleeping, I was bored." Daniel paused, and then filled in a row. "Live with it," he chided, chewing on the end of the pencil.
Jack snorted and he began to mutter, checking the penciled-in answers with the corresponding number. "Mmmm, yes ... Okay ... alright."
"You're annoying me, can't you keep your comments to yourself?"
Daniel sighed, trying to concentrate.
"Yes?" Daniel wrote in the answer to twenty-three across.
"That answer is wrong."
"This one?" Daniel pointed to the one he had just filled in. "No, I'm positive ..."
"Not that one." Jack's finger reappeared, jabbing at the paper. "That one."
Daniel followed his finger. "Nope, looks right to me. A four-letter word for one's residence. The answer seemed pretty black and white."
"The answer should be h-o-m-e, Daniel."
Daniel lifted the paper, squinted at what he wrote and put it down. "That's what I answered."
"No, you put my name in those boxes."
"That's right, a four letter word for one's residence. J-a-c-k, at least, it is for me."
"But it doesn't fit in with the other words."
"But it fits for me, the name Jack and home are synonymous to me." Daniel crumbled the paper up and flung it in the direction of the fire. "I really don't care if the word belongs there." He tapped the area over his heart. "It's here that matters." Daniel hung his head. "Home is where the heart is, a wise person once said. My heart is with you, so logically, you are my home."
"Logically? Well, that's romantic," Jack complained.
"I'm a guy, that's about as romantic as I get."
"Okay," Daniel acquiesced, "you may get the occasional, 'I love you, Jack', but that's it."
"On what occasion would I get this occasional 'I love you, Jack'?"
"Would now be okay?" Daniel shifted sideways until he was facing Jack.
"Now would be perfect."
Daniel took a deep breath, his heart pounding painfully in his chest. "I love you, Jack." All the pieces of Daniel's life inexplicably fell into place in Jack's answering smile. There, in the depth of Jack's happiness, Daniel saw reflected his own feelings of home, his perfect fit and his family all rolled into one.
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