Jack looked up from his magazine at the bedraggled figure standing in front of him. "God,you look awful, " he blurted out without thinking.
"Thanks, Jack," Daniel sighed as he put down his luggage. "I'm really glad to see you too."
Jack jumped up and grabbed Daniel's bags, batting Daniel's hands away when he reached to take them back. "Rough flight?"
Daniel just nodded. Jack juggled the two bags and reached out a hand for Daniel who was starting to walk with his eyes closed. "Wait 'til we get to the car to sleep, buddy, okay?"
"Yeah." Daniel seemed to pull some small bit of energy from deep inside and straightened up. "I think the whole country is having stormy weather."
Jack made a sympathetic noise. Daniel didn't enjoy flying at the best of times. He'd once told Jack he considered it a necessary evil. The phone call last evening from a Daniel stranded in Chicago's O'Hare airport had warned Jack that his arriving Daniel was not going to be a happy camper when he finally got home. Daniel had to change his flights and wound up getting a commuter flight to Colorado Springs from Denver which made for a bumpy ride this time of year.
Once Jack got Daniel settled in the car, the archaelogist proceeded to bunch up his jacket against the window and fall asleep before they'd even left the parking lot. Jack kept stealing glances at Daniel as he drove, the bluish light from the radio casting shadows on Daniel's face, and sighed. He was beginning to wonder if he was ever going to see Daniel happy again. He couldn't remember the last time he'd heard his lover laugh. Sometimes he wanted to just pull Daniel close and never let him out of his arms, wanted to absorb all the pain and sorrow and crap Daniel had endured lately and take it into himself so that Daniel could be happy and laugh.
'It's enough, 'Daniel would say. 'It's enough that you care, Jack.' But it was never just what he said Jack had learned. Daniel never really finished a sentence when it came to matters of the heart. 'It's enough that you care' really needed the addition of, 'No one's cared in so long.'
Jack reluctantly shook Daniel's shoulder. Daniel opened his eyes and looked around, confused.
"Jack? Why are we here?" Daniel asked, his voice still rough with sleep.
"Because I live here, Daniel," Jack said, beginning to open his door.
"I wanted to sleep in my bed." Daniel winced as he realized his voice bordered on a whine.
"Daniel, you're barely functioning. Do you seriously believe that I'm going to let you on your own for a night?" Jack handed Daniel a bag.
"Gee, I don't know Jack. I was able to manage on my own for a whole week, imagine that." Daniel stood waiting for Jack to open the door of the house.
'Yeah and I can see you took real good care of yourself,' Jack thought. 'I don't know why you do this to yourself every year, Danny.'
He dropped the bag inside the door and went towards his kitchen. "What do you want to eat, Daniel?"
"I'm not hungry," Daniel said as he sat down at the table.
"I think chicken noodle soup sounds good too, " Jack said, ignoring the comment by opening a can, dumping the soup in the bowls and placing them in the microwave. He'd bet his last paycheck that Daniel hadn't eaten a decent meal the entire week and spent last night curled up in a chair trying to get some sleep and failing miserably.
Daniel let out a sigh but reached for the glass of water Jack put in front of him and drained it in a few long gulps.
"So, Daniel, how was the conference?" Jack asked after he watched Daniel eat about half his bowl before pushing it away.
"Fine," Daniel said looking down at the table.
"Truth, Daniel, " Jack prodded and sat back to wait.
"Same old, same old," Daniel's hands were fidgeting, sure sign that something unpleasant had happened.
Jack cleared the table, giving Daniel breathing space and heard him softly whisper, "Dr. Devlin was there."
"Devlin?" Jack asked, still busying himself with the few dishes.
"He was my dad's mentor. He, um, he..." Daniel's voice faded and then came in a rush. "I knew him a long time ago. We visited him once when Dad spent a summer teaching in Vermont. I called him Grandpa Dev. He was at the conference to get a lifetime achievement award. Anyway, he said he wondered where I've been all these years. And then he remembered he'd seen me at the last lecture...well..you know...when Catherine offered me the chance to come here. He said it was probably good my dad and mom were dead. That Dad would have been ashamed to have me spouting off my crazy theories," Daniel broke off, studying the floor intently.
Jack let out a curse and slammed the glass he was holding down so hard it broke. He turned back and squatted by Daniel's chair. "Devlin is an idiot. I don't know him, but believe me he is an idiot. Daniel, you didn't...Look at me, dammit." Daniel's eyes met his finally, and he knew that Daniel had for a time at least believed what an old retired idiot had said to him. "Daniel, I never met your parents except through you and I want to tell you that I know that your mom and dad would be proud of you. They loved you, you were theirs."
Daniel ducked his head after a moment, "Yeah, I guess. Dr. Devlin is old, Jack. He probably didn't know what he was saying, really." Daniel ignored Jack's frown at those words.He fought back a yawn and knew he had just hit the proverbial brick wall. Daniel knew he shouldn't have sat down, should have insisted Jack drive him home, or at least call a taxi.
"No, not guess, Daniel, an absolute certainty." Jack smiled briefly in reassurance and nodded. "Besides, you were right about everything Devlin thinks you were wrong about." He gave a quick squeeze to Daniel's hand before standing. "You're exhausted, Danny. Come on, let's get you to bed."
"No," Daniel said stubbornly. "Not bed. I need a shower."
Jack sighed. Daniel had an annoying habit of being unreasonable when he reached the exhaustion stage. The man who could stand on an alien world and converse in languages unspoken for centuries on Earth, the man who argued his ideas on base with passion and conviction was, when he was tired and doped up on Dramamine, worse to deal with than a small child. Jack pulled Daniel up and guided him towards the bathroom, Daniel deciding once again to walk with eyes closed. Jack gave him a gentle push into the bathroom and closed the door. Jack stood listening as the shower started. He took a deep breath trying to let go of the anger he felt towards an old professor he didn't even know. Daniel was probably the bravest, most resilient person Jack had ever known. It was never the big things that seemed to throw Daniel for a loop. Daniel just plowed through the trouble and did what needed to be done. The little things hurt Daniel. Jack still remembered the hurt in Daniel's eyes when he'd told his best friend that their friendship had no foundation, and he'd vowed that he'd never hurt Daniel like that again. And how like Daniel to explain away Dr. Devlin's rudeness with an excuse. "He's old, he didn't know what he was saying." Jack frowned as the shower continued to run, hearing none of the splashing sounds that indicated Daniel was in there.
"Daniel?" Jack knocked. When there was no response he opened the door a crack and let out a small laugh. Daniel was sitting fully clothed on the toilet, one shoe off and a sock in his hand sleeping soundly. "What am I going to do with you, Dr. Jackson?" Jack muttered as he tapped Daniel's cheek. Daniel opened bleary eyes and roused just enough for Jack to lead him to the bedroom and push him down to the bed. Jack grinned as Daniel hugged a pillow close, his face innocent and worry free in sleep. Tomorrow, Jack decided, General Hammond was getting a request that SG-1 get an off world mission to some planet filled with plenty of ruins. Daniel needed a vacation.
"Daniel?" Jack spoke into the radio clipped to his jacket. "Come on, time for din-din." He caught Carter's smile when there was no answer.
"You did tell him he could work until it got dark, sir." Carter said. Jack rubbed a hand through his hair.
"And since this planet has two moons, both of which are full, it is not technically dark, O'Neill," Teal'c added helpfully.
"You know damn well Daniel knew what I meant," Jack retorted, knowing they were both right. And he didn't mind, not really. Daniel was slowly coming back to them, his conversations around the fire each evening filled with the joy of his new discoveries. Jack had caught Carter's and Teal'c's eyes during Daniel's excited ramblings and saw the renewal of their spirits too. "I'll go get him. Don't burn supper, Carter."
"I wasn't the one who burnt it last night," she said. "And you made us eat it anyway."
"I heard that, Carter. Put yourself on report," Jack called over his shoulder. He heard Carter laugh, Teal'c's voice questioning her and then Carter explaining. The ruins of what Daniel had decided was the marketplace weren't far from camp, less than a five minute walk just over a small hill. Jack grinned as he approached Daniel who was scribbling notes while he inspected a wall.
"Hi, Jack," Daniel waved vaguely in Jack's direction. "I'm almost done." Daniel frowned in concentration as he finished writing one last sentence, then closed his notebook and smiled at Jack.
"So what's all this stuff?" Jack moved closer peering at the wall.
"Actually, it's graffiti." Daniel smiled.
"Graffiti?" Jack reached out and brushed his fingers over some writings. "Like this says, what? For a good time call Trixie?"
Daniel laughed. "Well, actually that one <<is>> advertising the services of a certain woman in town."
Jack laughed in return. "What do the rest say?"
"Most of them are advertisements of some sort or another. A few are warning you not to shop at Lucien's because he uses unfair weights. This one," Daniel gestured to Jack's right, "is a marriage proposal."
"And what's this one?" Jack moved to the furthest end of the wall, Daniel trailing behind him. "Daniel?"
Daniel had grown quiet, his smile fading. "That one is a poem." He stood close to the wall, his fingers tracing the writing as he spoke: "The sweet sound of your voice, the sun of your smile, the warmth of your touch, I will never forget, I will never forget."
Daniel's voice had faded to a whisper.
"Danny?" Jack covered Daniel's hand with his. "You okay?"
Daniel looked up from the writing, "Just thinking, Jack. You do forget, you know. No matter how much you want to remember, you forget what their voices sound like, what it felt like to be held by them. I only have one picture of me with my parents. I can't even remember it being taken. I was only three." Daniel met Jack's eyes. "I don't want to lose them forever, Jack, I had them for such a short time."
Jack nodded and put his arm over Daniel's shoulders, drawing him close. "I know, Danny, I know." Under his arm, Daniel took a deep breath and looked at him with a wry smile.
"Sorry, Jack," Daniel said. "I didn't mean to get maudlin."
"Don't be, Danny." Jack smiled back. "You're allowed. Twice a year, that's it, though."
Daniel laughed out loud and gave him a look of relief. "So, what did Sam make for supper? It's got to be better than last night's meal."
"You know, with all the insults to my cooking, I think you and Carter can be in charge of meals from now on." Jack tugged at Daniel to urge him along. "And if we don't hurry, Carter is going to be pissed off because she'll have burned whatever it is."
"Like you did last night?" Daniel teased and ducked out from under Jack's arm to jog ahead.
"Just for that crack, you owe me dinner tomorrow night." Jack called to him as he jogged after Daniel, feeling a sudden need to just be with his team.
Jack knocked on Daniel's door three times before Daniel answered. He took in Daniel's sweat pants, T shirt and bare feet. "Newest dining out apparel, Daniel?"
Daniel looked down at his clothes as if he were surprised to see that he wasn't wearing a suit. "Sorry, Jack, I got kind of busy." He crossed over to the phone, tossing it to Jack. "Call an order in to China Palace. I want Kung Pao Chicken. You can get what you want."
Jack followed Daniel, bemused by the distracted behavior. Daniel was sitting on the floor by his couch, a brown shipping box open beside him. "What's all this?" Jack's gesture took in the photos and papers.
"You're not going to believe it," Daniel said quietly, " It's from Dr. Devlin's son."
"Devlin, the guy who was at that conference last month?" Jack sat down on the couch at Daniel's nod.
"It's...well, evidently my dad sent lots of letters to Dr. Devlin. Anyway, Dr. Devlin's son found them when he was cleaning out his dad's attic." Daniel looked up at Jack and gave a brilliant smile. "They're photos, Jack. Photos my mom and dad took of us. Of our family!" Daniel's voice had raised and he was starting to talk faster, his joy spilling into his words. "Dad must have included photos with every letter he sent. Look," Daniel held up a photo of a smiling woman holding an infant. "that's my mom and me. And look at this one. I remember this Jack, I was afraid of the horse because it bit me and my dad held me and told me it would be okay." That photo was of a young Daniel being held securely in his father's arms, a small hand reaching out to touch the horse's nose. "And these are all from a winter we spent in England because Dad got some special grant." He handed Jack some more photos. "These are from that summer in Vermont." Jack smiled at one photo, Daniel and his mom at a fair evidently, sticky cotton candy on Daniel's face as he grinned at the camera. "And there are all these letters, Jack," Daniel continued. "I used to watch my dad writing letters. I haven't seen his handwriting in so long, Jack, and I recognized it right away. Did you know familiar handwriting is one of the things we remember most? Anyway..." Daniel stopped for a breath, suddenly realiziing that maybe Jack wasn't as moved by the photos as he was. "I'll get this stuff put away, Jack. I'm not being very polite."
"It's fine, Daniel." Jack slid to the floor to sit beside Daniel, smiling. "How about you tell me about some of these pictures?" The way Daniel's face lit up at his comment made him realize that it would be worth all the stiffness he'd have after spending the evening sitting on the floor with Daniel.
Jack moved his legs cautiously and eased Daniel's head off his lap. Daniel mumbled something under his breath and sighed deeply before turning over. Thank God they'd changed to sitting on the couch a few hours ago or Jack knew he wouldn't be able to move at all come morning. Jack padded silently to Daniel's room, grabbing two blankets and a pillow. He went back to the living room and covered Daniel with one of the blankets. Folding Daniel's glasses, Jack placed them on the coffee table. Daniel was smiling even though there were still traces of tears on his cheeks. It had been the letter announcing his birth that had done it. All the photos, the letters of a proud father and loving husband relating his family's adventures, and it had been the shortest letter, a note really, in the stack that had broken Danny's defenses. Jack took it in his hands to read it once more.
"I'm a dad. I can't believe it. Danny's such a little scrap of a thing, although Claire assures me that 8 pound 11 ounce babies are not little. I loved him before he was born, but seeing him, holding him, has been the singlemost amazing moment in my life. Danny is perfect, I know all fathers say that, but he is. I never knew what love at first sight was until the moment I saw my son. I love him, and I hope I never forget to tell him that every day."
"I'd forgotten that, Jack," Daniel had said after passing the letter to Jack in a daze. "He did tell me every day. He'd wake me up by saying, I love you. Even that last day, both of my parents told me..." Daniel had choked back tears. "I missed that the most, I think. Not hearing it anymore. I don't think I heard it again until Sha're. Not said the way they said it at least." He leaned into Jack, tears finally falling, a mix of grief and joy.
Jack knelt by the couch a moment more. "I love you, Danny," he whispered before brushing a kiss across Daniel's lips. It might take the rest of his life to get Daniel caught up on the "I love you's." but Jack figured it would be time well spent.
|Genres:||Angst, Drama, Hurt/Comfort|
|Summary:||Keeping memories alive.|