I stand in the doorway of my office contemplating a sight I've seen too many times. The character's positions may be different, but the scenario of hurt and comfort plays out before me.
I grimace as my heels echo in the quiet of the early morning hours of the dimly lit infirmary. Daniel jumps at the sound, but doesn't turn around to acknowledge me. To Daniel, my arrival signifies another night in which Colonel Jack O'Neill has spent in a coma. Another night in which Daniel has sat, not moving from the Colonel's bedside. His lover's bedside.
We dance a little dance, the three of us. A game. They know I know. I know they know I know ... Don't ask, don't tell. I'm their doctor ... I know their bodies as intimately as they do. They didn't hide it from me ... I didn't force them to reveal their love for each other.
On base, the military man and the archeologist are the epitome of friendship ... they conceal their true relationship in plain sight. But here, in the infirmary, I see. I can't help but see the truth. The pain, the fear, emotions are closer to the surface. The extra look, the unrequited desire to touch ...
Daniel looks up at me as I record the printouts from the monitors that surround the Colonel's bed. Even though Daniel's face is mottled with the bruises he received on PX7463, he is ashen under the kaleidoscope of colors.
I am hopeful after checking the Colonel's vitals and I let Daniel know. A hint of a smile appears and disappears. He shoots me a glance of barely contained anger at my next statement. "I need to examine you again, Daniel."
I explain it in plain and simple terms, that 'no' is not an acceptable answer. Daniel had endured a vicious beating on the planet. The Colonel coming to his aid is the reason the situation is not reversed. Daniel still refuses the examination more adamantly this time. He only acquiesces when I threaten that he will be separated from Colonel O'Neill if I am not permitted an examination.
He jumps up on the empty gurney next to the Colonel. I do not need medical equipment to see how exhausted Daniel is. The only new symptom is the low grade fever Daniel is running. I'm chalking that up to mental exhaustion, don't even comment on it, and give him an injection of an antibiotic. I draw blood as a precaution.
Daniel has not left the Colonel's bedside. The meal that Teal'c and Sam brought remains basically untouched on a tray resting on the bed table. The empty cups scattered on the tray measure Daniel's coffee intake.
The horrid orange, plastic chair is pushed to the Colonel's bedside, Daniel's head is resting on the mattress, pillowed on his right arm. From my angle, as I adjust the Colonel's oxygen intake, I note Daniel's left hand resting by the Colonel's forearm. Daniel's thumb tracing small circles on the Colonel's exposed skin the only touch Daniel will permit himself here on base. The blue eyes are open, cloudy with fatigue and worry, as Daniel waits patiently. I am embarrassed, feeling like I have stumbled upon an intimate moment ... meant only for them to share. I am an intruder ...
My shift is over ... I stand in my office doorway contemplating a sight I have seen played out many times before. The Colonel has awakened, his right hand, with IV tubing dangling, is cupping Daniel's chin. Daniel's head is nodding in silent agreement to something said. The Colonel begins to gently trace the bruises on Daniel's cheeks.
For an iota of a second, I experience a hatred of the obvious love that they share. A feeling of jealousy ... pure and simple. A harsh intake of breath, and reality washes over me. The Colonel and Daniel will spend their lives waiting. Waiting ... marking time. They are honest with themselves ... they just need for the world to be willing to share in their honesty. Until that time ... they must wait.
I stand in the doorway, the steaming cup of coffee for Daniel warming my hand, the steam tickling my nostrils and driving my own sense of desire. I promise myself that as soon as I am done in the infirmary, I will fulfill my need for caffeine.
Daniel hasn't moved from the Colonel's bedside since we returned from PX3569 over 48 hours ago. Wait, I'm wrong ... Daniel debriefed, showered and changed his clothes ... that's it. I'm as worried about him as I am about the Colonel.
The times I've tried to relieve Daniel, to get him to sleep, I was met with resistance and anger so unlike Daniel that I consulted Janet about it, but she wasn't much help. She understood my concerns, but dismissed them with a shrug of her shoulders.
I know Janet is worried about him too, hell we all are. The Colonel, well he is in the best hands possible ... medically, there is nothing more that can be done for him. Like Daniel, we are all playing a waiting game. It's all we can do.
I'm starting to believe the best part of Daniel is lying in that bed. God help him ... and his friends, if the Colonel doesn't make it this time. I don't think his psyche can handle another loss, especially this loss.
You know what I hate ... right now at this point in my life, standing in this doorway, holding this Styrofoam cup of coffee ... I hate the military. I hate the military trappings and their belief of the "don't ask, don't tell" ideal.
I know about Daniel and Colonel O'Neill. You couldn't be as close as the four of us are, and not know. I'm angry that the military holds me back from saying to either of them, "I understand." Because dammit, I do understand. What I don't understand is their inability to trust me.
I guess that is the crux of it ... they don't trust me. I know they think they're protecting me from the fallout, if the proverbial shit should hit the fan ... but I perceive it as lack of trust, not so much from a military standpoint ... but from a friendship standpoint. And that hurts, it hurts me terribly, horribly and to my core.
Trust is a funny thing ... we've learned to trust each other to watch our sixes and to trust our sixth senses. We've learned to trust Daniel, the civilian; Teal'c, the alien; me, the female; and the Colonel, the special ops hardened military man. We trust each other with our lives each time we step through the event horizon. Every decision that is made, is based on trust of character. I trust these men, my family, with my life. And they trust me with theirs. But they won't trust me with their secret.
And with a heavy heart I know why. Because it's their secret. Something so personal and fragile, that sharing with others who are not ready to hear or acknowledge may shatter it into thousands of pieces.
Because of what we do, love should be locked up and held close to one's heart. To bring it out in the open, tempts the gods, the Goa'ulds, and the fates. The Colonel and Daniel are right ... if they don't speak about what they have, if they don't share it with others ... if they keep it a secret ... their silence will be rewarded.
As I walk towards Daniel, the need on his face to touch the unconscious man in the bed overpowers me. But Daniel is strong, and silent as he keeps his secret close to his heart ... and waits.
Eyes opened, slammed shut against the lights ... Harsh lights ... infirmary-harsh lights. Home ... starched sheets, uncomfortably stiff ... sensations indicative of my being alive. Smells ... sounds. Movement of my hand brings it in contact with something incredibly soft, definitely familiar. I edge my lids open ... Daniel. On folded arms, his head is resting on my infirmary bed, my fingers weaving through his hair. His breath is deep and even in sleep, and so not to awaken him, I cautiously inch my hand down to his stubble-lined cheek.
Even in this state, Daniel is conscious of my touch. With a slight exhalation of breath, he moves to my ministrations. His face is warm with a slight fever, the heat becomes a source of comfort in my chilled hands.
It must be the pain medication, emotions close the surface type of thing ... my vision wavers with the moisture that pools in my eyes. My refusal to blink keeps my sight blurred ... I will not shed tears over what happened on that planet.
The bruises that Daniel wears stand accusatory in the brightness of the fluorescent lighting. Failure to protect him on this excursion through the Stargate weighs heavily on my conscience. My team member, my archeologist, my best friend, my lover.
This trip, Daniel has the honor of the infirmary chair ... by the look of him, he has been seated in that abomination for hours ... days. Next trip, our roles may be reversed and the chair will be mine to keep warm. The time after that ... one time too many, we may tempt fate and only one of us will return. The chair will stay empty ... our lives will be as empty as before.
Why do we wait? I have no answer to that. If something happens to either of us, we will curse our patience and go to the grave questioning our reasoning. Who do we wait for? For the world to accept us ... honestly not in our lifetime. Which of us is waiting? If one of us would say the word, a sigh of relief would be issued and the military would be left behind.
Both of us are afraid of this consuming emotion we have. Body and soul ... sappy words for a hardened, military man. Truthful words. Daniel and I are afraid to let go and lose ourselves ... in the depth of ourselves ... and because of that, we will wait. Until we are stronger to deal ... we will wait.
My eyes drift shut, my hand sliding off the plane of Daniel's cheek to rest again on the cool stiffness of the sheets. I hear the echo of Fraiser's shoes, and sense a change in the air as she approaches the bed. The pull of the IV tubing ... I drift further away from this reality. Unshed, pooled tears finally lose their hold, tracking down my cheeks.
I feel a familiar touch on my arm as I hover on this precipice between sleep and wakefulness. I wait for more, a voice calling my name ... but for now, there is only the warmth of fingers tracing a pattern on my exposed skin ... and it will be enough.
Out of the Mouth of Babes - Cassie's POV
I'm trying to balance the food and the bags, while using my pinky to ring the doorbell. I pause, listening to the raised voices within. Shouting, angry voices ... I look to my mom for guidance - but she is a brave woman and motions me to ring the doorbell.
The voices hush seconds after the doorbell rings and moments later, Daniel opens the door. I am not prepared for how tired and upset he looks, pale against the bruises still visible on his face. Mom had explained to me that both Jack and Daniel had been injured, and that Jack came very close to dying.
I remember sitting around the table at home, mom being totally honest with me about Jack's health ... and feeling very adult as she confided in me about how injured he was.
"Daniel?" My mom can ask a million questions in one word. Believe me, I'm an expert on that ... but the only thing I'm picking up in the use of Daniel's name is concern.
A wan smile crosses Daniel's face as he acknowledges our presence. Reaching across the threshold to help alleviate our burdens, I can feel Daniel stiffen as Jack's voice rings through the house.
"Who the hell is at the door, Daniel?"
Daniel grins in gratitude as mom shouts, "It's us, Colonel. Dr. Fraiser and Cassie." We put the bags on the kitchen counter. Mom turns to Daniel and he seems to know what she is asking without any words. "He's not sleeping great, he's uncomfortable and he hates being dependent on others ... no matter who they are."
Daniel smiles at mom's remark that this recovery is no different than any other and that the Colonel's bark is worse than his bite. I begin to unpack the bags that we brought, listening to Daniel protesting our generosity.
"I took the liberty of inviting Sam and Teal'c over for dinner ... thought the company would do ..." mom offers up apologetically, thinking that maybe she may have crossed her boundaries ... not her house ... sheesh ... sometimes she is such an easy read.
"Yeah, it would ... he feels very cut off and he's ..." Daniel remembers that I'm in the room and halts the conversation with an apologetic glance in my direction. "Sorry," he mumbles, blushing.
I grit my teeth in frustration ... why is it that sometimes it's okay to treat me like an, adult and other times ... it's like I'm still in elementary school? It's confusing and annoying and "Oh shit!"
"Cassie! Language ... please."
I notice the smile that Daniel tries not to advertise to my mother and right then, I make a mental note to ask him, the next time he is alone, how to curse in Goa'uld. "Sorry, Mom. But look ..." I shake out the last bag. "No dessert ... the checkout girl forgot to pack the cake ... the chocolate cake."
"Chocolate?" Daniel asks, his voice tempered with disappointment.
"Chocolate mousse cake." I reiterated.
"How about Cassie and I take a ride and get some dessert, Janet? It's the least I can do." I see Daniel make a motion encompassing the food laden counter. "After all you did ..."
"Daniel ... did you forget ..." Jack's annoyed voice floats from the direction of the den.
Neither my mother nor I miss the look of exasperation that graces Daniel's face. Actually, I'm also 100 percent positive that it's an exact replica of my expression when my mom does something so incredibly stupid while out in public.
"I was getting him lunch before ..."
"Go, Daniel ... I'll get him lunch ... you get dessert."
"No, Janet ..."
"Go ... it's okay."
"Thanks, Janet. Come on, Cassie ... take a ride?"
Already preoccupied with preparing a tray for Jack, she nods absentmindedly and dismisses me with a wave of her hand.
We stand on the front walk of Jack's house, the door closed behind us. Daniel slides a glance over to me, a conspiratorial gleam reflected in his eyes. In one fluid motion, he flings his car keys to me-which I catch with ease.
I unlock the passenger door, then the driver side door and comfortably slip in behind the wheel. Driving this car, learning to drive this car was Daniel's reward to me after getting an A in Global History for the marking period.
When on Earth, Daniel would spend two hours early Saturday morning tutoring me at the library. His teaching me to drive his car had become a carrot that he would dangle when I become tired, bored, and argumentative. I learned that Daniel could become angrier and complain more than I did early on in the tutoring sessions when I refused to pay attention. My eyes were more interested in trying to maintain eye contact with the cute boy two tables over rather than studying the book in front of me.
"Cassie ... I don't need to be here ... and, right now, I don't want to be here. Being in a nice warm bed holds a heck of a lot more appeal for me than sitting in a library teaching you something you have no desire to learn."
I remember I didn't have even a moment to beg for a second chance ... to promise it wouldn't happen again ... he just got up and walked out, leaving me with my books and the cute boy two tables down whose girlfriend just walked in.
At first, I was furious ... then I ended up just sitting and reading the textbook for a while before I also got up and exited the library, thinking that my mom was going to be pissed at Daniel for making me walk home from the library. But there was Daniel in the car, parked illegally in the front of the library. When I slid into the passenger seat, he handed me a chocolate donut and a vanilla latte in apology for losing his temper and walking out and I reciprocated with a smile and an "I'm sorry."
We sat in the car and he questioned my reluctance to let him tutor me.
"This was my mom's idea ... not mine."
"I know ... but you are a great student except for this subject ... why?" Out the passenger window, I watched the cute guy leave the library with his girlfriend ... amazed that I had even thought he was attractive.
"This isn't my world, Daniel. What they hell do I care about their history?"
I'm shocked when Daniel laughs at my revelation ... "When I came to America, I refused to study American History ... wasn't my country ... I wasn't going to live here forever ... so what ..."
"Do you need to learn about a place that wasn't going to be your home?" I finish the sentence for him, matching his knowing smile with one of my own.
We reached an understanding that afternoon in the car ... and by the following week ... Daniel and I made the deal regarding his teaching me to drive the car.
I drive the Thunderbird with the ease and confidence of someone who has had a patient, wonderful teacher. I pull the car into the lot that adjoins the local Baskin Robbins. "Ice cream for dessert?"
"For dessert ... cone for now ... come on, my treat," Daniel offers.
Daniel and I end up sitting in a back table, sundaes instead of cones ... my treat, instead of his, from money earned babysitting. Weeks of Saturdays spent in the library have made us comfortable with each other and has enabled Daniel to be comfortable with my friends who had occasionally joined us for tutoring sessions.
This particular ice cream store is what my mom would call "a hang out" and a number of my friends stop by to say 'hello' to me and Daniel.
Daniel follows my gaze as I watch one the school's "popular" couples stand at the counter placing an order. Their PDA's run rampant both here in the store and in the halls at school. They're almost like a car accident ... you know you shouldn't be looking or watching ... yet your eyes are drawn to them all the same.
"What constitutes true love?" I blurt out after they leave the store. I can feel the blush rise in my cheeks as soon as I ask the question. Daniel eyes my over the rim of his glasses, his spoon poised halfway between his mouth and the dish. The spoon slowly finishes along the path to his mouth ... I can't take back the question ... and Daniel contemplates his answer while the ice creams dissolves in his mouth.
See ... this is what is so special about Daniel; he doesn't brush me off with a "you're too young" or a "you've got plenty of time."
"True love, when you're young, is easy to define. It's the person that makes you want to spend hours doing nothing but talking and thinking about them. Not being able to live unless you are with each other or in contact with each other twenty four hours a day. When you are in love, only now matters ... not tomorrow or the next day. And touching ... you need to touch ... touching becomes like breathing."
"As you get older, though, you realize true love takes on a whole different set of meanings. It is the person that has become a part of you ... the need to touch is still important but the person is so ingrained into your very soul that they are with you even when you aren't together. It's the person who sees you at your very best ... when you've won the award, gotten the raise, made the discovery. It's the person who sees you at your very worst ... when you are angry, when you are hurt ... whether your hurt is physical or mental. They take a rag to your head when you are sick and throwing up ... are willing to clean up your vomit ... clean you up ... and is still willing to share your bed with you. It's the person who kisses you when you're sick ... not afraid of catching germs ... and kisses you just because you need to be kissed and kisses you even when you don't."
"True love makes going through the mundane occurrences of everyday just a little less mundane. The bad days are still bad ... and there will be times your hatred of the person who is your true love will blind you from remembering how much you love them. The good days will be better ... making you forget you ever had an ounce of dislike for this person. True love is not based on how beautiful someone is in the here and now ... because the here and now is not forever. Looks don't last forever ... goodness of heart does ... Remember that."
Daniel is thoroughly embarrassed when he finishes. The melting ice cream in the plastic dish holds enormous fascination for him ... and his skin tone has taken on a definite reddish quality. "Sorry ... I, ummm ... kinda got carried away."
The next question I ask is because I have yet to learn to think before I speak ... hopefully it is a teenage thing and I will outgrow it with age. I would hate to think that it was a personality trait of mine that is going to stay with me forever.
"Is that how you and Jack feel about each other?"
You know, I've heard Mom mention ... okay, I know I shouldn't have been listening ... Daniel's ability to shut down ... and I now have first hand knowledge of what she was talking about. I'd hit a nerve ... I'd hit something ... his eyes and the set of his jaw tell it all.
"Finished?" he pushes his dish away and stands up, signaling to me that even if I hadn't been done, it was time to leave. Then he begins to pretend like nothing happened, ordering the ice cream for tonight's dessert, asking my opinion, choosing toppings. I know better ... with my question, I had crossed a line.
I wait until we get into the car to open my big mouth again. I'm still permitted to drive ... I hadn't lost that privilege ... but I am suddenly poised on some type of precipice with our friendship. "I wasn't judging you, Daniel ... never ... please don't think ..."
He turns to me, his face expressionless, but I can read his eyes. A sadness so overwhelming that even at the tender age of seventeen, I feel my eyes fill in empathy. Daniel opens his mouth to say something, but shakes his head and turns his gaze to the passenger window. "Let's go home."
And then I get angry ... angry at Daniel and Jack ... angry for their closet mentality ... angry at the world that makes them to do this ... angry that two of the people who I consider heroes in the truest sense of the word are in reality, cowards. As I slam the car into gear, Daniel grabs my hand on the stick shift. He grits his teeth and warns me, "Never, ever drive a car in anger. Ever." He loosens his grip on my hand. "Turn off the car, Cassie."
I do as requested, and wait.
"If I told you that the things I said in there ... were about Jack ... would that be enough?" He faces me ... and I am blown away by the sudden awareness that Daniel, and I'm very sure, Jack, have never admitted the nature of their relationship to another living, breathing soul. I am honored by his trust in me and, even at my age, there is a fierce anger at the world that makes Jack and Daniel wait. Wait to share their love ... to let their circle of family and friends know their feelings toward each other.
"Isn't waiting hard ...? Waiting to ..."
"Cassie," He says with a gentleness and firmness that lets me know ... he has stated his piece and this conversation is now closed. "Let's go home before the ice cream melts."
Everyone has left ... plates cleared, doors and windows locked ... Jack and I sit up in bed enjoying the last of the ice cream. The clink of the metal spoons against the dishes and the background noise of some inane sport thing ... no conversation ... just us. Shoulder to shoulder, my left leg haphazardly thrown over Jack's right one.
Jack nudges me with his shoulder. "Quiet tonight ... today actually. Everything okay? I know I've been ... and I'm really sorry ..."
"No ... everything is fine." I answer a little to quickly. Quickly enough to set his military instincts into full gear.
He hands me his empty dish and I place the two of them on the nightstand. Jack's lips meet mine as I return to my position on the bed. His tongue invades my mouth ... the cold taste of his mint chocolate chip intermingles with my fudge brownie. Jack moans in frustration and unfulfilled desire as my hand unconsciously slides down towards his groin. He stops my hand's forward motion ... "Soon." He mumbles.
We separate and I force a smile, beating down my own desires to a more tolerable level. "Thank goodness the injury wasn't a little more to the ..."
"Oww ... this was bad enough."
A quick and horrific vision of sitting by his bedside for days flashes through my mind and Cassie's question prods to the fore ... I have been burying that thought for quite some time. "Why are we waiting, Jack?"
"Oh for crying out loud, the doc said the stitches, the injury to my lower back and ..." the expression on my face must have made it finally click that this wasn't what I was referring to. "Daniel?"
"Why don't we just leave ... retire ... say goodbye? If anything should happen to you ..."
"Or you, Daniel. But we wait ..." He touches my face in quiet understanding ... in unspoken thoughts.
"Stargate. It defines us ..."
"Is a part of us ..."
"More important than us?"
"No ... but right now ... there are other things to consider. Do you want Sam and Teal'c to go up that ramp and through the Stargate without us ... being by their side ... supporting them ... watching their sixes? Are you ready to give up discovery ...?"
"I hate the military trappings. The selling of ourselves to get what we need ..."
"Daniel ... do you want to? Look at me and tell me honestly ..."
I look at Jack and I see in his eyes the words that are reflected in my heart. "We wait."
"I know." Jack pulls me toward him and I feel his body relaxing, compliments of his nightly pain pill. His head lolls comfortably to rest on my shoulder and in sleep, he sighs against me ... all the stress gone from his body. As I hold my partner, my best friend, by team mate in my arms. .. I realize the truth to the age old adage that good things will come to those who wait.
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