JD-DIVAS: STARGATE SG-1 JACK & DANIEL FRIENDSHIP FICTION BY PHOENIX E

CONQUERING NEED PART TWO

INTERLUDE - DANIEL   BY PHOENIX E


Gen:  Fiction Featuring the close friendship between Jack and Daniel.
Rating: PG-13
Category: Angst
Season/Spoilers: Season 2.  Spoilers for Need.
Synopsis: Daniel begins a new life.
Warnings: Intense emotional situation. 
Length:  60  Kb

 

“Don’t hold your breath waiting…”

As soon as the words were out of his mouth Daniel wanted to take them back.  Not saying them in the first place would have been even better, though.   Too late.  The damage was already done.

Add this to the refuse pile of regrets littering the path of his life.  The ‘if only I hads’ and the ‘I should have knowns’ and the ‘why wasn’t I smarter, faster, stronger or braver?’

Once again he'd lost someone who was dearer to him than his own life and once again it was his fault.  As much as he regretted the harsh parting words he'd thrown at Jack, Daniel knew why he'd said them.

It was just easier this way.  Easier for Jack to make a clean break and walk away.  Jack had to hate him now.  How could he not?  How could Jack have finally learned the real truth about the friend he only thought he knew and not hate him now because of it?

Daniel knew how much he hated himself for what he had done.

Oh Jack, just for once, why didn’t you listen to me?  Why didn’t you leave it alone?  That way only one of us need ever have known.

There was no way out, no way to take it back, nothing to be done now except to live with what was left.  Daniel curled himself up into a small ball in the sleeping bag, giving quiet vent to his grief.  A small indulgence he would allow himself this one time, in honour of the enormity of his loss, but in the future there would be no time for such luxury.  He would watch the night with the man who had just walked away and left him in darkness inside and out, and then in the morning, Daniel knew he had to find a way to go on.

Without Jack.

What other choice did he have?

Daniel didn't consider himself to be a particularly brave, clever or extraordinary person.  He was what life had forced him to become.  A survivor.  One thing he did know how to do was deal.   When you have no one to turn to, nowhere to go and no resources with which to cope with whatever life throws at you except what you carry inside you, you learn things. How to do what you have to do.  How to get around by yourself, how to make do on almost nothing, how to come back from stuff people figure should knock the stuffing out of you.  Permanently.

What it always came down to was one simple truth.   No matter what life threw at you if you wanted to live - which he most assuredly did - you got on with it.  By finding a way to get through whatever was required of you. One moment at a time.

You just shut up and did it because no one else was going to be doing it for you.

It had worked for him in the past.  No reason to suppose it wouldn't work this time.  So that's what he was doing.   Whatever he needed to do. One moment at a time.

Daniel ploughed resolutely forward, getting through the night and the following morning by using his desperate focus on the immediate requirements of the moment to stave off the surreal fog of misery coating his thoughts.  So far, so good.  He was doing it.  He was getting through it.  One step at a time.

He was completely unprepared for the shock of being blasted out of his coping trance by the realisation he was tromping merrily down the steep and winding trail from the site to the Stargate, right at Jack's side.  Very close to Jack's side. Awareness of Jack’s unexpected proximity startled him; he had no memory of having fallen into step beside the man.

Was the impulse to be near Jack that in-grained, that automatic, that unconscious?  Daniel made a mental note for Jack’s sake he was going to have to break himself of the habit.

That was when Daniel stumbled.

Stupid – he should have been paying attention to what he was doing; the ‘path’ was actually a deeply eroded channel cut into the hillside by what had obviously been a flood in the past.  The ground they were covering was rough and uncertain, and littered with stones and clumps of loose earth.

Daniel put his foot down on what had appeared to be solid ground, but actually must have been a large, dirt-covered stone.  It tilted alarmingly when he put his weight on it, shifting treacherously under him, pitching him forward.  He barely had time to realise he was about to do a swan dive face first when Jack grabbed him firmly by the upper arm, pulling him back, steadying him not only with his hand, but with his touch.

As he always did. As he always had.  From the very beginning.

Daniel didn't understand why a simple touch of Jack's hand said 'safe' to him, but it did.   He didn’t even know if Jack was aware of the effect he had on him.  He might not get the why of it, but it didn't stop Daniel from enjoying the comfortable feeling he got from Jack's touch.  And he didn't even have to ask or reciprocate.  Which was good; Daniel didn't find it easy to reach out, to touch other people. It was just the way he was.  He didn't bother them - they didn't bother him.  The one exception to that rule being Jack.

Jack 'bothered' him on a daily basis. Sometimes it made him crazy, but most of the time it was an intrusion Daniel welcomed.  Very few people in his life had made as concerted and consistent an effort to get past his walls as Jack had.  To touch him.  Jack barged in where few had dared to tread.  He'd made a difference in so many ways it was difficult for Daniel to find a part of his life Jack hadn't impacted upon, but right now, the most important way - contact.

All Jack had to do was touch him.  Nothing big, nothing major.  A squeeze of the shoulder in passing, a pat on the arm, a slap on the back.  And it was just – better.  Just like that.

Just like what was happening right now.

But Daniel knew he had to stop it.  What had just happened - lending him a hand - this had been a slip, something Jack had done automatically, without thinking.  Jack would be more wary in the future, more careful of what he did.  This was just an accident.  It wouldn’t be happening again.

Daniel knew he couldn’t rely on this comfort any more, couldn’t count on it to be in his life.  He didn't dare let himself enjoy this momentary lapse. It wasn't real, was a mistake.  He had to end it.

Right here and now, before he lost his nerve.

Daniel drew his arm firmly out of Jack’s grasp without looking at him.  He felt something inside him crack as the lingering warmth of Jack’s hand was rapidly swallowed by the chill morning air.

Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it, you’ve felt this before, hasn’t killed you yet. Any trauma you can walk away from is a good one?  Not funny, Daniel, just keep going.

Daniel set his jaw, fixed his eyes straight ahead, and quickened his pace until he had left Jack a dozen feet behind him.  And kept on blindly walking until his feet hit the ramp in the gate room.

Ah, now the ordeal was only just beginning.  Getting through what came next.  All the post-mission protocols.  Do what is expected, say what is expected, all the while making like nothing is wrong until you’ve run the gauntlet and you can then run away.  There was a time when Daniel could have put on this kind of pretense in his sleep, but it was harder now.  Much, much harder, since Jack’s friendship had so fundamentally altered the way Daniel had come to view his world.  And himself.

No! Put it away.  Get through this first.  That’s all that matters.  The next moment.

One foot after another.  Walk.  Smile at Sam as we walk down the hall.  Pretend you heard what she just said.  Laugh.  Smile.  That sounded all right.  Good, Daniel, you’re doing fine.  You can do this.  You can do this.

They were in the infirmary now.  This wouldn’t take long.

Daniel submitted to the examination marveling the numbness pervading his body didn't show up on any of Janet’s instruments.  He went gamely through the motions, put on his performance, but felt nothing. Nothing but numb.  He looked around, taking in his surroundings, watching everyone, especially Jack not particularly watching him, and with a odd sort of detachment finally realised what felt so strange.

Had this been any other day Jack would have touched him at least a half a dozen times by now.  In small, circumspect ways; a guiding nudge here, a verifying touch there, a brush of the shoulder, teasing slap on the arm.  Small, inconsequential contacts all the more meaningful to Daniel now they were gone.

He had no idea what need, if any, making these gestures fulfilled in Jack.  What he did know, suddenly, is what they did for him.  Physical reassurance.  As strange as it sounded, somehow, every time Jack touched him, he let him know he was just within reach.  That he was there.  Daniel hadn't realised this, until this very moment.  Nor had he realised just how much this assurance meant to him.  Not until it was so noticeably, glaringly, absent.

Daniel clenched his hands at his sides, barely resisting the almost overwhelming impulse to hug himself.  This was going to be harder than he thought.  But he could do it.  He could.  He had to.

Debrief now.  God, what time was it?  The sleepless night was starting to catch up with him.  Oh God, this had been primarily a site evaluation and investigation.  That meant he had to do most of the talking.  Suck it up, Daniel, and get on with this.  You can do it.

Words were coming out of his mouth and they seemed to be the appropriate ones for the situation, because no one was staring at him as if he had suddenly started spitting Goa’ulds.  In fact, no one seemed to notice there was anything wrong at all.  No one saw Jack was not looking at him and he was looking every where but at Jack.

Jack.

The first time he'd laid eyes on Jack O'Neill Daniel would have laughed himself sick if anyone had suggested he and Colonel Contemptuous would one day be friends.  The stony disdain the man had heaped upon him at their first encounter had in no way lessened, from his perspective, during the two weeks it had taken him to stumble upon the solution he'd been hired to find.  And yet, from such unlikely beginnings, they had indeed gone on to become friends.

When had he first realised he liked Jack O'Neill? He'd seen a momentary ripple in Jack's granite façade when he'd lied through his teeth to General West about being positive he could get the team home if they took a chance on him and made that first trip through the Stargate.   He hadn’t been ‘positive’ of anything except he needed to, had to go through that portal.   He still had moments of guilt about the lie and what his obsessive determination had driven him to do.  The risk he'd taken with those men’s lives, simply to satisfy his selfish need to go through that gate.  What if he hadn’t found the tablet, what if he hadn’t been able to reopen the gate?  What of those men, stranded beyond any hope of rescue, far from their homes, lives, and families, all because of him?

Well, he'd gotten luckier than he'd really deserved.  It had all worked out in the end.  But Jack's amusement with his counterfeit confidence hadn’t been the moment when his perception of the man had changed.  It had come a little later.

Right after he'd been forced to admit the lie to Jack.  That he couldn’t re-open the gate without the aid of a tablet he'd conveniently forgotten to mention, along with the fact he didn't know where it was.  After Kawalsky lost his temper and had pushed him to the ground.  Looking very much as if he had no intention of stopping there.

It certainly wouldn’t have been the first time Daniel had ever had his head handed to him by the someone bigger and stronger than he was, and mad at him for some reason. After getting himself sprawled in the sand he had been preparing to handle the situation the same way he usually handled it – taking the path of least resistance.  That was to say, he didn’t resist.  Ever.  He just let it happen.

He’d been quite a spectacular wimp in those days.

And then, Jack had stepped between them, and stopped it.

No one had ever done that for him before.  No one had ever stood up for him, or stood between him and a beating.

That was the moment. That was when everything changed. Maybe that was why he'd done the same thing for Jack, just a little later.  Come to think of it, that was when he started to do a lot of standing up. Standing up to Ra, standing up to Kasuf, standing up to Jack, even.   And hell, here he was, still standing.   It had all started with an act which in an instant had changed Daniel’s fundamental perception of himself and his worth.  Someone had actually defended him. And in so doing, had shown him the way to find the pride to defend himself, and others.   That someone was Jack O’Neill.

Dannyboy.  Jack had turned that one around too.

Jack was the only one who called him that now.  Only once in a blue moon and when he did, it was very special.  There was a time when he had bitterly hated the nickname, associating it with pain and humiliation of the highest order.  The days of Albert…  God, he couldn’t even remember his last name now, the older brute son of one of the families that had fostered him during the not-so-fond days of his childhood.   He'd been what – nine?   Ten?

Albert had always called him “Dannyboy”.  Just before he pounded the piss out of him.   Which in those days has been an all-too-frequent occurrence.  Finally he went a little too far, Daniel had ended up in the hospital with a broken arm and several cracked ribs, and that was the end of that placement.  Not that the next one was anything to write home about.  Not that he’d had a home to write to.

There were too many people around.  Too many eyes upon him.  It was getting too hard to push them away, to fool them.  Have to leave, have to go…  Over?  Done?  We can go?

Daniel was so relieved the ordeal was almost over he slipped up.  Fell back into an old habit, another one he had to make a mental note to break.  In a completely unconscious action born of the subtle, inchoate need for affirmation lurking inside him, as he had so many times before, he automatically turned to the one he most looked to for that confirmation.

To discover Jack looking back at him.

Just in time Daniel clamped his jaw resolutely shut so it his mouth wouldn’t gape open with shock.  Jack’s face was an unreadable mask; his dark eyes mere slits in it. So closed and shuttered they glittered at him with the coldness of the absolute deflection of every particle of light striking them.  Reflecting everything touching them back again, unaccepted.

Jack hated him.

Daniel fled.  After sweeping up his papers and files in a panicked rush he didn’t care who saw, he hurried from the room and made his way as swiftly as he could to his office, where he threw everything on the desk, bolted from the room and fled some more.  Right up until he'd seen his worst fears confirmed he'd not been sure where he'd been going to go after the briefing.  He knew now.

He couldn’t remember a time when he hadn’t needed the safe place.  Even when times were good, when he'd been happiest, he still had one place no one knew about. Where no one could find him when he didn't want to be found.

He had such a place here.  One of the first things he'd done, once he'd been sure they were going to let him stay, was to find it.  He hadn’t had to use it very much these past few months, but he surely needed to be there now.    He couldn’t go home, couldn’t go to his room here, couldn’t be anywhere where anyone could find him.  He couldn’t chance being seen by anyone while he was like this.  Couldn’t face well-meaning questions, attempts at consolation, misguided desires to help.  Deserved none, sought none, required none.  He would hide away until it passed. That was all he needed to do. Then he would be fine.

His refuge of choice was an unused storage room on one of the less-frequented sections of the bunker.  Hardly anyone ever came here; certainly no one had used this room since he'd been here.  He made his way hastily to his refuge, and even though he knew there was no one else about, still took the time to make sure he was completely alone before he quietly opened the door and slipped inside.  Only then, on the other side of the door, locked and protected from prying eyes, did he finally allow himself to slide to the floor in a wounded, exhausted heap.

Daniel sat there in the utter darkness, slumped against the door, too weary to expend the small effort necessary to reach up to turn on the light.  He couldn’t always have done this.  Been in the dark like this.  God.  He had Jack to thank for that too.

He felt the sob begin to well up in his chest and ground the heels of his hands roughly into his eyes to forestall the tide.  No!  Feeling sorry for himself wasn't what he was here for!  It was over, it was done, and grieving was a stupid waste of time and energy.  Never did any good, never changed anything.  Never made him feel any better.  He’d managed to muddle through thirty-some years of living, never even having heard of Jack O’Neill.  He’d manage the next thirty or however many more exactly the same way.

His head was convinced.  It had seen it all before.  Nothing new here.  Nothing he hadn’t had to do before.  Been there, done that, piece of cake.

Now, if only he could get his heart to go along, everything would be…

…so terribly, terribly lonely…

Daniel wrapped his arms around himself and lay down on the cold concrete floor, softly talking to himself in a futile effort at self-comfort.   Hoping something, anything would come and take him away from this, or that he would be lucky enough to wake up and discover this had all been a very bad dream.  Sleep eventually came for him, but brought with it no gifts of either release or absolution.

~~The end of the First Interlude~~

 

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