CONQUERING NEED PART
INTERLUDE - DANIEL BY PHOENIX E
the close friendship between Jack and Daniel.
Spoilers for Need.
a new life.
hold your breath waiting…”
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
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?’
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.
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
knew how much he hated himself for what he had done.
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.
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.
choice did he have?
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.
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.
shut up and did it because no one else was going to be doing
it for you.
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.
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.
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.
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.
when Daniel stumbled.
– 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.
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.
always did. As he always had. From the very beginning.
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
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.
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.
what was happening right now.
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.
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.
here and now, before he lost his nerve.
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
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.
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.
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.
it away. Get through this first. That’s all that matters.
The next moment.
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.
in the infirmary now. This wouldn’t take long.
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.
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
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
quite a spectacular wimp in those days.
Jack had stepped between them, and stopped it.
had ever done that for him before. No one had ever stood
up for him, or stood between him and a beating.
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
Jack had turned that one around too.
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 –
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.
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?
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.
Jack looking back at him.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
only he could get his heart to go along, everything would
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.
end of the First Interlude~~
Back to Unfinished Business / On
to Interlude Jack