TIES THAT BIND
BLOOD TIES BY PHOENIX
the close friendship between Jack and Daniel.
Scene. Episode Tag for 'Secrets'.
Spoilers for 'Secrets', 'Stargate the Movie'.
lost his way. Can Daniel help him find himself
Originally completed early 2000.
The ribbon of highway
snaked across the sphere of his headlights, a beckoning
enticement undulating before him, calling him farther and
farther into the black night. Jack was on automatic
pilot, driving with practiced detachment, the vehicle cleaving
through darkness as profound as his thoughts.
the hell was it about Abydos? Nothing that started out
with that place ever turned out right.
broken body, bouncing off the car flying through the air
like a discarded toy.
Trying to help
– looking into those accusing eyes
“You did this
– you son-of-a-bitch.”
blood all over his hands.
“You did this…”
The blood of the
marked and betrayed staining his palms.
“You did this…”
Jack didn’t know
how long he'd been driving. They'd come back through the
Stargate after the firefight on Abydos and he'd booked.
He hadn’t known what the hell had been going on in Daniel's
old stomping grounds and frankly hadn’t stuck around long
enough after gating home to find out. He'd just walked
out, hit the gas and gone.
Daniel’s foster world
had been crawling with Goa'ulds. You couldn’t swing a
freakin' dead cat without hitting one. Maybe it was some
sort of package deal. A group rate or something.
Shoot this guy, hide from this guy and look there!
Amonet makes three. Goa’ulds and Jaffa and Daniel, oh
Daniel was supposed
to have been visiting the in-laws for cryin’ out loud.
Not getting bashed around by tall, bald and scary.
Leave the kid alone for half a day and what the hell does
he get himself into – again. Crap, crap and crap.
Jack didn’t have the energy or the inclination to figure it
Yeah, he'd seen her.
Sha’uri or Amonet or whatever the hell her name was now.
Well, why shouldn’t she have been there, half the Goa’uld
universe seemed to want to pick that particular day to
take a tour of scenic Abydos. And Jack was sure there
was a really nifty story to go along with it, but truth
be told, he just didn’t give a damn.
Daniel had given
him – the look - but for once in his life Jack had hardened
his heart and just walked away.
The impromptu shoot
and greet party he and Carter had walked into had taken
his mind off things for a bit, but the distraction had
been temporary. The way he was feeling he just wasn't up
to dealing with Daniel or anybody else for that matter.
Didn’t want to hear about it, didn’t want to know. He'd
gone back to his quarters, divested himself of everything
even remotely military, put on the first thing he owned
neither issue nor green and had just gone.
He'd taken only one
thing with him ‘issued’ to him. A small black box
with a piece of metal in it no longer meaning anything to him
because of what had gone down in Washington before it had
been given to him. It was sitting on the dashboard, a
silent little mocking box. He brought it because he had
some thinking to do. This was as compact and as neat a
representative focus for his contemplation as he could
think of. As well as an apt symbol of hypocrisy.
Jack wasn’t sure
where he was going, he just drove. At first he had given
serious consideration to finding some roadside watering
hole to toss back a few cold ones in, but then thought
better of it. The mood he was in he would very probably
end up picking a fight with some poor, unsuspecting slob,
and the last thing he needed to do right now was drag another
innocent into this mess.
No, there had been
enough of that already.
There was more than
enough blood on his hands.
Jack O’Neill had
been a soldier for a very long time. Almost his entire
adult life he'd given over to the service of his country,
and he'd done so proudly. He'd never known a time when
he'd not been proud to wear the uniform, proud to call
himself a soldier, proud to bear the responsibility of
the rank he'd achieved and the privilege to serve it gave
He'd been damned
proud to be exactly what he was.
Now he felt ashamed
to even admit he'd given one minute of his life to an
organization that had used him so completely to murder a
man in cold blood.
Simply to keep a
He knew what Hammond
had said to him. How could he have said anything else?
How could the general have admitted to such a terrible
thing? Owned up to or not it had happened, and what was
even worse, Jack had been made a part of it without his
knowledge or volition. All in the line of duty.
Since when did ‘doing
his duty’ include allowing himself to be used as a Judas
Goat? But that's what they'd done to him. Used
him. And he'd helped them. Just doing his duty
like a good little wind-up tin soldier. Sir, we have
a problem. Keeping you apprised. Just doing my duty.
What? Still not enough? Oh, you want me to go out
there and point him out to you so the problem can be dealt
with. Sure, I'll finger the sucker for you. No
problem. Just doing my duty. My duty.
Jack had pleaded
ignorance in the face of the accusation but that poor, dumb
shit had been right. He was responsible. No one
but him. He wasn't the one behind the wheel, but he
might as well have been.
He had done that
He was a bastard.
Ignorance is no excuse.
Jack tightened his
grip on the steering wheel as if the device had suddenly
become slick and slippery.
Slick with the blood
staining his hands.
Jack became aware
of his surroundings with a start. Wait a minute. He'd
been driving without purpose or direction but it seemed
as if he'd come full circle in spite of himself. He'd
given the truck its head and it had brought him home.
Jack pulled into
the driveway to find it already occupied by another car.
Oh, Daniel, you
shouldn’t have come. Not here. Not tonight.
You don’t want to see me like this. I don’t know what I
Jack reached for
the hated box, thrusting it into his jacket pocket as he
turned off the motor. He searched for his nemesis as he
got slowly out of the truck. It didn’t take him long to
spot Daniel, sitting on the step, waiting. Jack stood
by the side of the truck, not willing to get any closer
to the man he was going to do his damndest to get rid of.
“What are you doing
here, Daniel?” Ah, that sounded suitably hostile and
definitely unfriendly. Well done, Jack.
“Waiting for you,”
came the mild and slightly redundant response.
Leave it to Daniel
never to miss an opportunity to state the obvious.
“I’m really not in
the mood for company tonight,” Jack warned. Take
the hint you nosy little shit and piss off. Jack does not
want to play the 'I'm fine you're fine, we're all so fucking
fine' game with you tonight.
“That’s exactly why
I’m here, Jack,” Daniel returned in a mild voice laced
with steel. Every syllable screaming 'you'll have to
kill me to get rid of me' with as much annoying clarity as
the set of Daniel's jaw and the determined glint in his
Killing? He could
do killing. Daniel got in his face tonight he might get
a lot more than he bargained for.
Daniel was getting
up, starting to walk over. Don’t do it, Daniel.
Keep your distance and keep on going. I want you
to leave. Now. Don’t push it – don’t push
me. I push back and I push hard.
“Sam told me what
happened in Washington, Jack,” Daniel's face was a
conflicting study of determined sympathy. He was going
to offer Jack a shoulder to cry on if he had to shove it down
his throat to get him to take it. Not taking no for
an answer, huh?
This could get ugly.
“Did she now?”
Jack snapped back. “Well maybe I should tell her she
should mind her own goddamned business. And so, for the
matter, should you.”
Daniel? Still walking forward, fearlessly, like your namesake,
into the lion’s den? Still as thick as the day you were
born? Well, don’t say I didn’t warn you.
“I hope you're coming
over here to get into your car and leave,” Jack growled.
“What do you think,
Jack?” Daniel replied softly.
“I think you're gonna
get your head handed to you in a minute if you don’t get
out of my face!” Jack threatened as Daniel continued to
close the space between them until he came to a stop only
a few feet in front of him. Stood there looking at him
with those damned eyes…
Daniel crossed his
arms and waited. Jack glowered back at him. After an
agonizing span of unrelenting silence and even more implacable
staring Daniel sighed and let his shoulders slump.
"Listen," he said kindly, "If it would make you
feel better to take a poke at me, well then by all means, be
Jack glared at him,
trembling, fists clenched in rage. For several long,
crackling seconds he stared furiously at the man standing
calmly before him. Offering himself up as an outlet.
Then with a howl of frustration Jack tore his gaze away,
whirled and smashed both his fists down on the hood of
Oh my, that was going
to really hurt in a couple of minutes.
Jack snarled as he
turned and charged at Daniel. Who calmly stood his
ground watching him, not moving to defend himself or back
away. Jack put the brakes on just in time, bringing
himself up short only inches from Daniel's placid face.
“Dammit – you would
– wouldn’t you?" Jack bellowed at him.
"You’d just stand there and let me punch your
Daniel sighed and
placed a hand on his shoulder. He locked his fearless
eyes with the furious ones of the man before him and smiled.
“It was all right,
Jack. I knew you wouldn’t.”
Jack felt the rage
in him beginning to drain away at the touch of Daniel’s
hand. “I’m not so sure I was,” he grated, knowing,
even as he said the words, there was no way he would have
- could have. No matter how angry he was. No way.
The smug bastard
damned well knew it too.
“Yeah, you were,”
Daniel slid his hand behind Jack’s neck and his arm followed
it to come to rest around Jack’s shoulders. He then
used it to begin to steer his suddenly tractable friend toward
“Come on Jack, let’s
go inside. It’s getting chilly out here.”
Okay, so the smug
and sneaky bastard had talked his way into the house.
That didn’t mean anything. Didn’t mean he was going to
talk to him or listen to him or – well, it just didn’t
mean anything. So there.
Jack O'Neill was
a past master of the stone-cold, silent routine.
Just ask his ex-wife.
Jack threw himself
on the couch in a satisfyingly petulant gesture of defiance.
Daniel ignored him and started to walk toward the kitchen.
“I think I need some
coffee," he called back over his shoulder.
"How about you?”
Jack grumbled as he viciously eyed the magazine on the coffee
table. One of Daniel's magazines. What the
goddamned thing was doing on his coffee table pissing
him off - the crappy thing had about as much right being
there as its owner had being in his damned kitchen. And
if he had a spine he'd be telling Daniel to take his fucking
magazine and his interfering ass out the door. Pronto.
"You know where it
is,” he sneered at the man in the kitchen.
“Ah, ever the gracious
host, “ Daniel laughed. “So was that a yes, or a
Jack heaved an annoyed
sigh and kicked the coffee table, just because it was there
and just because he could.
“Yes or no WHAT?”
He hurled the reply back.
“Yes or no do you
want some coffee?”
“I don’t care.
“Hmmm, “ Daniel’s
amused voice floated back to him. “Welcome to another
episode of ‘Men Behaving Badly,’ starring the one
and only Jack O’Neill.”
“My house,” Jack
grunted. “ I can behave as badly as I want. You
don’t like it, you can LEAVE.”
And your little
sound of glass breaking was the next thing Jack heard.
Something had just gotten smashed. Apparently.
Into a great many little tiny pieces. Probably.
Daniel's voice sounded chagrined. "Ahhhh -
Jack?” he ventured.
Jack threw his head
back and wiped his eyes with a weary hand.
– WHAT?” he groaned.
He was just going
to go mad. Any second now, stark raving loony toons.
“Did you have any
serious emotional or sentimental attachment to this coffee
“What coffee mug,
Daniel?” Give me strength!
Where was his gun?
As soon as he found it he was going to blow his brains
“The one that said
‘Dickhead’ on it.”
That was it. If
he'd done it on purpose, it couldn’t have been more
But he hadn’t. Daniel just wasn’t that devious.
Jack leapt up from
the couch, loped up the stairs and into the kitchen. Before
Daniel even knew he was behind him Jack grabbed him by
the shoulders and slammed him back into the fridge. Not
really hard, just enough for effect. Restraining his
shoulder in an implacable grip Jack jammed a forearm against
Daniel’s neck and under his chin, levering it roughly up,
pinioning him in place like a butterfly to the mounting
board. Again, not hard, just enough to make sure Daniel
wasn’t going anywhere. He held Daniel there, keeping his
gaze cruel, watching as Daniel’s eyes widened in shock,
becoming tinged with just the slightest edge of disbelief.
wasn’t quite so sure of himself. Good. Just what
he was going for.
Jack held him there
for a few moments longer. Saying nothing, not letting
his gaze waver.
finally said in a slightly tremulous voice. “It was
only a coffee cup…”
about it, it was my coffee cup!” Jack replied slowly
in a low, menacing voice.
Wait a minute, there
was just the slightest hint of a smile curling around Daniel’s
mouth. Those blue eyes had a definite glint in them now.
replied, the laughter in his voice barely suppressed.
“I had no doubt of that.”
They both burst out
laughing at the same time. Jack let him down with a
disgusted snort, smoothed out the front of Daniel's ruffled
shirt and slapped the side of his face with rough affection.
“Aw, you’re no fun
any more," Jack chided as he unkindly mussed Daniel's
hair for good measure. "I can’t fake you out no
Daniel flashed him
a wry smile as he continued on his way to finish dealing
with the coffee. “Been hanging around you too long, O’Neill.
I've pretty much seen all your tricks.”
“That’s what you
think,” Jack complained as he ambled back to the couch.
“A good operator always keeps one or two tricks up his
“Uh, that may be,”
Daniel murmured, following shortly afterwards with two
mugs of coffee. “But we’re talking about you now, Jack,
“Don’t start with
me, geek boy!” Jack grumbled, taking the mug Daniel
extended to him. “The night is still young. Many
quality bashing hours still remain to us.”
expression quite eloquently conveyed how intimidated he
felt by the comment. “You’ll have to catch me first, old
They said nothing
for a time, simply sitting in silence on the couch, sipping
coffee, neither man looking at the other. Jack took another
pull from his mug, set it down, fished in his jacket pocket
until he found the box and then flipped it at Daniel.
grunted as he threw himself back into the couch, crossed his
arms and stared up at the ceiling. “Present for you.
Maybe you can find a use for it. It's just a piece of
crap to me”
Daniel held the box
in his hands for a moment, turning it over once or twice.
He looked at it some more and then cast a deeply worried
look at Jack he pretended he didn't see. Then Daniel opened
“Jack,” Daniel said
in a hushed, disbelieving voice once he'd registered what
he was looking at. “This - this is – your - your medal!
You can’t – I can’t – I can't take this!”
“Yeah, you can,”
Jack found himself unable to look at Daniel as what he'd
just that minute decided suddenly came out of his mouth.
“You can take everything that goes along with it as well,
as far as I'm concerned.”
Geez Daniel, don’t
look at me like that, I can’t take it when you look at
me like that. Maybe you should just go. I want you to
No – wait…
don’t. Don’t go…
“What are you saying,
Jack?” Daniel's eyes desperately searched his face for
clues as he clutched the box with fingers going bloodlessly
white with the pressure they were exerting.
The kid was scared.
It was written all over him.
Funny, that made
two of them.
“What are you saying,
Jack?” Daniel prompted again in a barely audible voice.
Look at his face.
I guess I shoulda punched him after all. It would've
“What does it sound
like I’m saying?” Jack hunched forward, clenching
his fists in his lap. “I’m resigning my commission.
Retiring. Packing it in. Blowing this gig off.
Those murdering bastards will never use me to kill an innocent
Daniel moved closer
to him, starting to reach out to him in a convulsive movement,
immediately thinking better of the impulse. He jerked his
hand back before replying.
You’re right. Good boy, but sometimes it scares me how
well you know me.
“You don’t know
that, Jack, not for sure – “
Jack spat out an
angry reply, cutting off the rest of Daniel’s attempt at
“Get real Daniel,
where the hell are you from, Never Never Land? This
world eats people like you alive. Haven’t you figured
that out yet? Get your head out of the clouds and
look at the facts. You’re smart. Put it together for
yourself. I report a serious breach in security.
Like the good little soldier boy I am. I'm sent back out
– I think – to get more information. More fool me.
“So, I go back out.
Good little wind-up Colonel O’Neill Action Figure, fighting
the good fight for God and Country. All dressed up,
pretty as a picture. The next time – the very next
time I talk to this man - whom I have dutifully reported
as said security risk; this same risk is conveniently
eliminated by an extremely convenient ‘accident’.
Right before my eyes. Problem solved. So neat.
So tidy. Good boy, Colonel O’Neill. Here’s a medal
for ya. Just shut up, do our dirty work and believe every
dirty little lie we tell you."
Daniel didn't move.
Didn't speak. He knew Jack wasn't finished. Damned
right he wasn't finished. Finished with the Air Force,
maybe, but not finished with recounting the enormity of
his own involvement in the whole shameful business. He
wasn't going to spare either one of them that. Not now.
He'd warned Daniel, but Daniel hadn't listened. Daniel
wanted to know? Well, Daniel was going to get it. Every
single last, sordid little detail. Right between the
eyes. He'd started this. He had it coming. He was
going to get it all right.
“He died – right
in front of me.," Jack choked, the words getting
thicker in his throat with every syllable. "Looking right
at me. These hands – “ he unclenched his fists and
thrust them at Daniel “- his blood was all over my hands.
Do you know what he said to me before he died? Do
Daniel’s eyes were
huge with painful empathy. His face white. He said
nothing, simply shook his head.
“You did this.
That’s what he said to me. You did this.” Jack
let his open hands fall to his lap and looked away from
Daniel’s shocked, pale face. Part of him knew it
wasn’t really true, but suddenly all he thought he could see
in his friend's eyes was accusation and blame.
“He was right…
I killed him…”
Now it’s time,
Daniel put a hand
on his shoulder.
“You did nothing
wrong, Jack,” he said softly. “It wasn’t your
fault. Even if everything you said is true – about the
way it happened, I mean - you still did nothing wrong.”
Jack wearily shook
his lowered head. Daniel patted his shoulder awkwardly
for a moment, then removed his hand, his voice low and
gentle as he continued to speak.
“So, suppose we say
it's true. That it happened exactly the way you say it
did. That somewhere, someone gave the order to have that
man killed. So say you leave and walk away because of
it. It might make you feel better for a little while,
but in the long run it'll mean we'll all lose and the bad
guys will win.”
Jack jerked up his
head and peered at him suspiciously. “I don’t get you,”
Daniel smiled ruefully
at him and shook his head. “Yeah, you do. The
very reason you want to quit is the best reason you should
stay. Any organization with as much power as the
military is only as good as the people wielding it.
Don’t you see, Jack, it’s men like you, men with
integrity, men with honor who keep those other men who have
none of these things from using the power against all of us.
If you leave, Jack, who is going to oppose them?
Who is going to keep the rest of us safe from the next
unspeakable thing they try to do? Who is going to care
enough about all of us to make them do the right thing whether
they want to or not?”
I’m looking at
him right now. Oh Danny, it almost makes sense when you
say it but I don’t know…
Daniel had shifted
over until he was sitting close enough to Jack to lean
against his shoulder. He was staring at the box he was
holding, his hands restively twitching in his lap.
“I – I would really
miss you," he sighed. "You know that.
But if you think it's what you really have to do - I’m not
going to sit here and try to talk you out of it. Or try
to tell you what to do, period. Whatever you end up deciding,
just make sure it's the right thing. For you, and
nobody else. 'Cause you're the one who's going to have
to live with it. "
Daniel fell silent,
his eyes fixed on the small box he was absently stroking.
He suddenly put it on the coffee table and then hunched
forward as if an oppressive weight had abruptly been applied
to his shoulders.
death," he frowned as he stared at the box, "I don't
blame you for feeling the way you do. I know how hard it
is…what it feels like…to be responsible…to have it to
face it and find a way to deal with it. Even
worse, when you know you've done it with your own
hands… in cold blood…”
Jack started at the
totally absurd incongruity of Daniel’s last statement,
made even more so by the way he'd said it. With complete
and utter seriousness and conviction.
“Daniel, what the
hell are you talking about?" Jack protested.
"What do you know about killing somebody in cold blood?
You won’t even swat mosquitoes, for crying out loud!”
Suddenly Daniel was
on the extreme other end of the couch, as far away from
Jack as he could possibly get without actually jumping
off it. Daniel was doing the other thing too, drawing
himself up into a little ball, wrapping his arms around
his bent legs. What was this all about now? This wasn't
a good sign. When Danny went fetal there was something
big and bad rolling around in his brain.
Then Daniel's head
came up from where it had been resting on his knees and
Jack saw his eyes. They were terrible with memory. Not
good memories, either.
“You don’t even know
what I'm talking about, do you?” Daniel said from far
“No, I guess I
don't,” Jack stared at him, helpless.
“You were there.
You watched me do it. You don’t remember. But I
Jack started to move
toward him but Daniel hugged himself tighter and vehemently
shook his head.
Okay, Danny, I’ll
keep away. For now, anyway.
“Daniel, I’m not
a mind-reader here. You’re gonna have to give me a
“Abydos. The first time. The chamber in the pyramid.
You were telling me to go back through the Stargate and shut
down the Earth gate, and you were going to stay behind
and blow the place up. The Jaffa came out of nowhere.
Shot Sha’uri… killed her…”
Jack‘s jaw dropped
as memory came flooding back. He'd forgotten. He was
remembering now. It hadn’t made much of an impact at the
time; all the incident was to him was just another bad
guy in the way who no longer was. Just another obstacle
needing to be removed and it had been. By another soldier
doing his job and taking care of business.
Except Daniel wasn’t
a soldier. He was just a poor Joe Civvy Schmuck, pulled
off the street and thrust into a situation he'd never in
his wildest dreams thought he'd ever find himself in and
for which he had no training or preparation whatsoever.
He was also a man who'd just watched his wife shot to death
right in front of him.
“The staff weapon
was in my hand," Daniel murmured. "I just pointed
it at him and fired. Didn’t even stop to think,
didn’t hesitate. Just – just did it, like it was
nothing. I killed a man in cold blood, Jack. In less
time than it has taken to tell you about it.”
“I know, Daniel,”
Jack said gently. “I remember now.”
Daniel looked less
haunted. He'd faced it. He'd said it. He'd
admitted it. He turned to gaze unflinchingly at Jack and
his blue eyes were alight with a sad wisdom Jack had never
seen in them before.
“Yes, I did it.
I killed a man in cold blood. I might not have had
his blood on them in the literal sense, but these hands are
every bit as stained. More so, because my offense
against the man I killed was deliberate. That qualifies me
to comment on what you've said to me. Qualifies me to
tell you what this has done to me and how I've tried to
put it right. For what it’s worth.”
It’s worth plenty,
my friend. I’m listening.
“Yes. I got Sha’uri
back. For a little while. I saved her, but I
killed someone to do it. His life for hers. I knew
that. I see him sometimes, in my dreams. It makes
me remember what I've done. Which is as it should be.
Because I have to remember, in order to never forget, the
price I pay for having done it – is to remember."
Daniel sighed, unlocked
his arms and let his long legs relax a little before
“A death is only
senseless if you deprive it of its meaning. If you leave
it behind unremarked, unremembered. I can't undo what
I've done. Can't take it back. Can't give
back to that man what I took from him. But I can
give his death meaning. I can give to others, for his
sake. Fight for what is right, because I know I once did
wrong. Honour his existence by doing what I can to make
life a little better for the people around me. I can't
take back taking his life, but I can try my damndest to do
better from this point on, and to never take a life again
if I can possibly avoid it.
Daniel continued in a low voice. “It’s all about
meaning. That's what you have to look for in this
situation. However this man’s life was taken from him
isn't the point. He's dead. You can't change that.
You can't bring him back, but you can give his death meaning
in what you do for his sake from now on. You can make
his death count for something. I have no idea how -
that'll be up to you. His death seems senseless right
now, I know, and it'll be that way until you find out what you
need to do to give it meaning. When you find it, and you
do whatever you need to do - it'll get better. And good
will finally come of this. I promise."
Instead of tearing yourself up over it you made yourself
go out and make the universe a better place? Why should
this surprise me? When have you ever done anything less
than everything you could, not matter what you've had to
deal with? Well, if you can find a way to make sense of
Daniel heaved a deep,
tired sigh as he let himself sag back into the support
of the couch. “I guess what happened today made me think.
It's funny. On the way over here, I started remembering.
What happened before. What's happened since. Thinking
about all of it, wondering what it all means. I know a
few people think life has been – unfair to me - to a certain
extent. Maybe that's not true at all. Maybe
I've gotten exactly what I deserve. You know,
there is a certain justice in the course of…certain events.
I took a life for Sha’uri’s sake. She has been taken
from me. Perhaps she was taken to restore the balance.
To force me to make amends for what I did through my efforts
to find her. Perhaps I just have to try harder…to find
the meaning…in her loss as well… In what happened
today… Funny… Blood. All this talk about
blood. I had blood on my hands today too…”
Daniel suddenly jumped
to his feet, looking as if he was going to be sick. Just
as quickly as the expression touched his face it was gone,
and his eyes were hard and closed.
“Well, I’ve pretty
much said all I have to say, Jack, you probably have a
lot of thinking to do, so I should just go. Yeah, I think
I’m going to go now, I’ve bothered you enough.”
What the hell
is this? What's going on? Running. Daniel's running
away from something. Something he doesn't want me to
know about, or doesn't want to face? What the hell happened
on Abydos before Carter and I got there? Only one way to
Daniel had taken
three quick steps when Jack’s voice stopped him.
Jack," Daniel said stiffly, his voice as taut as his
body. " I just have to go now.”
He took another step.
Forget it kid,
not going to happen. You made me spill, now it's your
Jack’s voice was a little louder this time. “I’m
disappointed in you.”
Oh Jack, that
was a low blow. Sorry kid, playing dirty here, but you'll
thank me later. I hope.
shook as if Jack had actually struck him but he didn’t
make a sound. He wrestled briefly with something
within, then straightened visibly and took another step.
Daniel,” Jack continued, getting to his feet and slowly
walking up behind his friend, “because in all the time
we've known each other, you've never lied to me. Why are
you lying to me now?”
There was a multitude
of unshed tears in Daniel’s voice, but he wasn’t letting
one get by him.
shook his head as if to clear it. "What? What
are you talking about?”
Jack finally reached
him and stood right behind him, as close as he could without
“You told me you
were fine," Jack said firmly but kindly. "You were
“Not lying,” Daniel
replied in a barely audible voice. “Being optimistic.
Not quite there yet, but I will be.”
“Got that right,”
Jack said to him softly as he put his hands on his shoulders
and began to steer him back to the couch. “We’ve got
all night to get you there. Come back and sit down.”
Daniel allowed Jack
to motor him back to the couch. They sat there together,
Daniel close to him, his head back and resting against
the arm Jack had placed behind him along the top of the
couch. Over the course of the ensuing hours they talked,
and little by little, Jack teased, coaxed, cajoled and
pestered Daniel until he was able to pull the entire story
of what had happened in Abydos out of him.
It was a tale the
reluctant narrator did not easily surrender. And when
he had the whole of it, Jack was once again humbled Daniel
could have done what he had for him, when he had so much
pressing upon his own heart and soul.
But that was Daniel.
So willing to help another, so incapable of believing anyone
else would be just as willing to do the same thing for
him. So unable to understand such compassion and consideration
was available for him.
And so damned hard
to get him to take it.
Jack couldn't remember
a time in his life when he hadn't been a part of something.
The family, the neighborhood gang, the team, the Air Force.
Even during periods when he'd chosen to go it alone he'd
never known a time when there wasn't someone watching his
back, backing him up, fighting by his side or lending him
a hand. It was just a given. He'd never had to think
about it, worry about it, question it or doubt it was so
and always would be.
He couldn't even
begin to imagine what it felt like to walk in Daniel's
shoes. To have lived a life where the only certainty was
the absolute knowledge there was absolutely no one there
for you, and the only person around to get you through
every single thing that ever happened to you – was you.
that had been Daniel's reality, but it wasn't the way it
was now. Daniel wasn't alone any more, but he'd already
known too many years of the other to be sure of what was
now. The behaviors and expectations of a lifetime didn't
change overnight. The hard lessons learned from having
no hope whatsoever of the kinds of consideration Jack took
for granted didn't get put aside immediately. Danny was
getting he didn't have to go it alone any more, but there
were times when he slipped. It was to be expected. He'd
learn. It would take a lot of time and reinforcement and
maybe Daniel would never be completely convinced, but Jack
figured it was a good cause and he was more than willing
to give it the old college try.
It took a long time
before Daniel finished. It was hard on him, harder than
he wanted to admit and for a moment Jack thought he was
going to lose it. Not that there was anything wrong with
that and it wasn't as if Daniel was afraid to weep: he'd
watched the kid break down and sob at long distance telephone
commercials. Daniel wasn’t afraid to be
vulnerable in front of him, but only when it didn't
really matter. He'd done some deep breathing, had
a bad case of the shakes and had come pretty damned close, but
he hadn’t let go. Well, tomorrow was another day.
Tonight Danny had parted with just about all he was going to
let go of. For the moment. There was more stuff
down in there needing to see the light of day. They'd
get to it. Danny didn't know this quite yet, but he'd
just gotten himself someone determined to listen. He'd
make the kid talk….
Daniel might have
been the most stubborn person he had ever known in his
own life, but that was before he'd met Jack O’Neill.
Daniel finally talked
himself into exhaustion. His voice began to trail
away; his head started to nod. It happened very
quickly. One minute Daniel was slumped against the back
of the couch, talking to him; the next he was quite asleep.
Out like a freakin' light.
Jack knew he should
probably install him in the spare room for what little
remained of the rest of the night, but in truth, he
didn't have the heart to move him. The kid had been
experiencing a bout of insomnia lately; the fact he was
actually asleep, even sitting up, was something of a miracle.
Jack didn't want to risk waking him up, so he just left
him where he was, contenting himself with watching Daniel
sleep as he sat back and mentally tossed around what he'd
heard during the course of the evening.
Jack was anything
but tired. His mind raced with a myriad of emotions as
he studied Daniel's unusually placid face and listened
to the sound of his friend’s quiet breathing. He felt
aware, strangely alert and yet quite….content.
Well, what do
you know, way to go Daniel, once again, if you haven’t
gone and saved my soul.
The matter of what
had driven him to seek to forsake the life he loved was
not concluded, but it was settled. Daniel had given him
not only a reason to continue, but also the means to make
right what was wrong.
What had Daniel said
– it was all about meaning? He had to find what
would help him make sense of it all and then go where it took
him. Sounded like a plan.
You have my word,
Armand, this thing isn’t over. Not by a long shot.
They may have snuffed you out to shut you up, but they're
not going to get away with it. I'm gonna find out what
happened. I'm gonna find out the truth. And then
I'm gonna let the world know about you, and what they did to
They may have
stopped your last story, but what they did to you will
make an even better one. You’re gonna break the big story,
pal. I promise you.
That felt right.
That felt good. It worked for him and he hoped, wherever
the reporter was now, it would please Armand as well.
That felt better,
and so did something else as well. Thanks once again,
to Daniel. Jack decided he was going to pass on the early
retirement thing. He hadn’t really wanted to leave the
service but had been unable to think of a reason to stay
more compelling than the reason he felt he had no choice
but to leave. Things were right again. Things made sense.
Somehow, they always did when Daniel was around. And
there was the biggest reason of all to stay.
Earlier when he'd
been mad at himself he'd said something stupid to Daniel
about this world eating up people like him. Well, it was
stupid to have said it like that, but it didn’t make it
untrue. The world did indeed chew up people like Daniel,
as long as people like Jack stood by and let it. Well,
it wasn’t going to happen. It just wasn’t. Not as long
as he had breath in his body. He'd fight and he'd make
damned sure Daniel got live in the kind of a world that
deserved to have him. Anybody who tried to mess it
up for him would have Jack O’Neill to deal with.
It wasn’t true –
what Daniel had said before - that the complete and
utter shattering of his life was only what he deserved.
Daniel would probably spend the rest of his life thinking
he had he had to make up for a single deed committed in
a fleeting instant of instinctive, primal rage. Not
because someone or something was making him, but because
he felt it was the right thing to do. Which more than
restored the balance as far as Jack was concerned. And
should've been all the universe needed from Daniel without
exacting the further, terrible, personal penalty.
And yet, as whacked
as it sounded, as bad as the loss had been for Daniel,
in the long run it had all worked out for the better.
In taking Sha’uri away from him Apophis had done this Earth
a tremendous service. He'd certainly had made Jack
O'Neill's life better. Jack found it a little difficult
to believe he was actually thinking this way, but there
was no way of getting around it. If Apophis hadn't stolen
Sha’uri away from Daniel he would still be there on Abydos,
living happily ever after with the woman he loved. He
would never have left her behind, never have come back into
his life, never have joined the SGC, never have been on
the mission where he ended up on the Alternate Earth and
if he hadn’t done that - well, none of them would be here
Strange to think
how one good man should have to lose everything so he could
be in the place where he was most needed in order to be
able to save - everything - for everybody else. It also
kinda made you want to kick back and rethink that whole
good / bad thing. Maybe another time. The waters were
getting just a little deeper than he wanted to wade through
at the moment. He’d done quite enough thinking along these
particular lines for one evening.
And what an evening
it had been. What a day it had been. Blood, too much
blood staining both of their lives, especially today.
Blood spilled in death calling for retribution, the blood
of passage ushering a new soul into the world, blood coursing
through the veins of a woman requiring deliverance. A crimson
ribbon of obligation winding about both of them and pulling
them forward toward – who knew what purpose? Or what
Man – he was doing
it again! He kept hanging around Daniel and before he
knew it he was going to turn into some kind of philosopher
Now there's a
pretty terrifying thought….
There was just one
more thing, though. Daniel would kick up a fuss, but Jack
was determined his friend was going to keep the medal.
He wanted him to have it. It only seemed right. If it
hadn’t been for Daniel, his resourcefulness, courage and
thickheaded stubbornness, none of them would be here right
now. The higher-ups were patting him on the back when
it really was Daniel who'd saved the world. All Jack
O’Neill had done was finally listened to him.
It was growing close
to dawn. Jack didn’t know how long he'd been sitting
there watching Daniel sleep, but he felt good and at peace
with himself, and very happy to know his friend had been
able to enjoy the respite of several hours of uninterrupted
and obviously contented slumber. That didn’t happen a
lot these days. Maybe these were small miracles, but damn,
he’d take them.
Daniel stirred a
little, then suddenly, unexpectedly turned in his sleep,
moving in close to him. He wrapped his arms around the
startled man beside him, hugging him tightly as his head
sought the shelter of Jack's shoulder. Somewhat bemused
at this development Jack looked down at the man pasted
to him, uncertain of what to do. Daniel sighed, fussed
slightly as if he wasn’t quite comfortable, and then began
burrowing his shaggy head deeper into Jack’s shoulder,
nestling closer as he sought a comforting embrace.
Daniel was a snuggler.
Oh, what an enormous surprise…
was...different. But not too bad. Ah, what the
hell. It wouldn't kill him. After what Danny had just
been through, he could cut him a little slack. Daniel
probably hadn't had anybody…to be close to…for a long
time. Come to think of it, Jack realised could say the
same thing himself.
Okay, Jack, come
clean. This is kinda nice. Just don't forget to
deny everything once the kid wakes up.
Jack reached over
to brush the hair out of Daniel's eyes to see the heavy
lids crack open just enough to allow the tiniest sliver
of the soul living behind them to shine forth.
said in a voice clumsy with sleep.
“What were you doing
with a coffee mug that said ‘Dickhead’ on it?”
“Go back to sleep,
"I didn't think
"Go back to sleep.
That's an order."
Jack smiled at the
room as Daniel sighed, closed his eyes and for once, followed
It was going to be
a wonderful day.