“We were heading back to camp when two Jaffa patrols ambushed us. There were twelve of them. Carter and Teal’c went one way; Daniel and I went the other way. Well, the whole damn lot of them came after Daniel and me. We took out four, but they got us in the end. I remember they laughed, like it was all just a game. Daniel tried talking to them of course. That earned him a zat blast. I, in turn, objected and got my own zat blast. When I woke up I was in a room, tied to a chair, guarded by two Jaffa. Daniel wasn’t with me, but I could see him. I was positioned right in front of a TV monitor, or their version of one, and there was Daniel. He was hanging from the ceiling, his feet barely touching the floor. There were two Jaffa with him.”
I press ‘stop’. I hate tape recorders. I used to hate them because I thought I sounded funny. Then I hated them because I always wanted to change what I said. Make it sound better. Make me sound better. But nothing compares to the hate I feel right now having to record what happened to us on P7V-164, or more correctly, what happened to Daniel. The general thought my report was a bit lacking. I was leaving things out. Hell, of course I left things out. Some things don’t belong in a report and I told him so. He said if I couldn’t talk to him, then talk to a recorder. It was either that, or McKenzie. Well, the recorder won. No contest. I also thought this would be easier than talking to George. Less personal. Quicker. Then I can forget. Right. Yeah, like I’m really going to forget. Daniel’s in the infirmary under twenty-four hour watch because Doc’s afraid of blood clots from all the internal bruising. In spite of all that, Doc says Daniel will be fine. Fine. Now there’s an overused word if there ever was one. She wasn’t there. Daniel is not going to be fine for a very long time. Neither am I. I’m getting way too old for this shit. I pop some more aspirin and hit the ‘record’ button.
“As I said, they had me tied to this chair. I was slowly working on loosening my wrists, but I had to be careful. If I drew too much blood they’d notice. Even though they were absorbed ed with what was happening to Daniel, they still kept a close watch on me. Unfortunately, they wanted me to watch too. If I looked away, the blunt end of a staff weapon in the stomach or a backhand across the face would bring my eyes back to the screen. I don’t know what they used on him. It looked like a pain stick, but it didn’t make light shoot out of your mouth and eyes. It sure as hell hurt though. That was pretty obvious from the way Daniel would jerk and gasp whenever they touched him with the damn thing. They were doing a real number on him, but I was doing okay. You know, going to that place I learned so well in Special Ops. And then he screamed. I’ve never known Daniel to scream; not like that. I don’t know what’s worse: watching a teammate being tortured, or hearing a teammate being tortured. It’s a moot point because I got to experience both. It’s even worse when the teammate’s your best friend, and you can’t do a damn thing to help him.”
I press ‘stop’. This is getting harder and harder. I get up and walk around the room. I know Daniel’s alive, and I know he’ll recover. I won’t settle for anything less, but it’s hard, damn hard, to talk, never mind think, about what they did to him. I should’ve just talked to Hammond. This is too impersonal. Daniel deserves better. I sigh and hit ‘record’.
“After the third scream, they grabbed Daniel’s hair and yanked his head up. He looked right at me and I knew the bastards just showed him the camera. I couldn’t look away. At first, he looked confused, but then his eyes widened in horror and understanding. Although he couldn’t see me, he knew I could see him. He looked away and never once looked up. No, that’s not true. He did look up once more, but that comes later. He also stopped screaming. He still cried out, but not like before. He bit his mouth and tongue until blood dripped down his chin. I remember thinking, ‘Christ, Daniel, don’t do it for me’. I knew he stopped screaming because he wanted to spare me. There was a time, so long ago it’s not important, when I would’ve suspected he’d try not to scream because he’d think I’d see it as a sign of weakness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Not then, not now. It’s a release. That’s why I scream bloody murder when I’m hurt. I’m pissed that I got hurt, I don’t like pain, and I’ll damn well let everyone know. At least, I used to be that way. Still am sometimes. It depends who’s within earshot. Now, I try to hold it in, just like Daniel. Why? Because I don’t want people I care about to feel any worse than they already do. Now, after seeing Daniel fighting so hard, I know what false comfort that really is. Knowing someone you care about is in pain, and they’re doing their damnedest not to let you know they’re in pain, just makes their pain and yours all that much worse. I could’ve happily killed every damn one of those bastards and not looked back. Sorry, Daniel, but I really could.”
I press ‘stop’ again. I can’t say what I thought at that moment on P7V. Not to George, and certainly not to some damn machine. But that was when I had an epiphany. I finally realized how much I loved Daniel, and how much I needed his friendship. More than anything, I wanted to get him away from those bastards and hold him in my arms. Tell him he was safe and loved, and I was taking him home. The physical longing to just hold and cherish him literally made my heart ache. I’m not talking in a carnal sense, but even so, it’s not something you admit to in a military installation. I take a deep breath and remind myself to keep it clinical. I hit ‘record’.
“The goons torturing him didn’t like it either. They wanted to hear him suffering, not just see it. They found out how stubborn Daniel can be. It may be wishful and selfish thinking on my part, but I like to believe that Daniel found strength in his silence. He knew he was pissing them off and that made him more determined than ever to not give in to the pain. Like I said, selfish. Seeing Daniel brutalized and trying to hide his pain brought out a long-buried urge to kill with my bare hands. I was amazed and horrified that he lasted as long as he did, but finally, Daniel passed out. I was glad because now they’d leave him alone. But do you think those fuckers stopped? Sorry, General. You think those bastards stopped? They started smacking him around with their fists. I started yelling and screaming, and questioning their parentage. The ones guarding me didn’t appreciate my input and that’s when I got whacked in the head. I figured I was out for ten minutes or so. I tried to pretend I was still unconscious, but that’s a pretty near impossible feat to achieve. They jabbed me in the ribs to confirm their suspicions. My eyes automatically went to the monitor, and damned if Daniel wasn’t awake. God, he looked like shit, but at least they weren’t doing anything to him. Well, that soon changed. One of the guards spoke into a radio and then it started all over again. That damn pain stick. The chest, the gut, back, arms, legs, and genitals. Daniel barely reacted anymore. I don’t think he could scream if he tried. They were killing him right in front of my eyes. I started yelling again. That was when Daniel lifted his head and looked into the camera, and right into my soul. Not since that gunshot six years ago, did I ever feel so scared. Daniel was saying goodbye. That’s when I saw ‘red’. I remember screaming ‘No’, and yelling his name. Then I hit the floor. I don’t know if I knocked myself over, or if one of the Jaffa did when he tried to subdue me. Somehow, I got my hands loose and I broke the bastard’s neck. The other one I killed with a staff blast. God’s truth, I don’t know how I got the weapon, but I did.”
I press ‘stop’. It’s all replaying in my mind, and I have to take a breather. The fear, the rage, and the gnawing emptiness that Daniel’s death would leave. The look of sorrow and regret in his eyes. All these emotions are flooding through me. I tell myself again that Daniel is alive and only minutes away from me. We survived and we’ll go on surviving. Crap, I need to get this damn thing over with. I press ‘record’.
“I knew where to find Daniel. The Jaffa took great delight in making sure I knew he was in the next room. Even if they hadn’t I could hear his screams coming through the wall. I almost ran right into Carter, Teal’c, SG-3 and SG-7. They were a sight for sore eyes, I can tell you. We stormed Daniel’s room. I knew my back was covered so I made a beeline for Daniel. There wasn’t a lot of blood, but he was covered in burns and bruises. I cut him down, and I remember telling him over and over again that it was okay; it was over. He was completely unresponsive. That’s when I realized he didn’t have a pulse. I started yelling at him. No way in hell was he going to die on me. I began CPR, and the next thing I know, Carter’s beside me. Together, we brought Daniel back. He started to breathe and I almost crushed the life out of him, I hugged him so close. I think Carter was scared for his safety, but she bit her tongue. She didn’t know what went down, but she’s smart and she’s got eyes. She knew I needed the contact. Teal’c spoke my name in that gentle, but urgent tone he’s got. That snapped me out of it, and I let him carry Daniel back to the Stargate. We grabbed what we could of their equipment and weapons and got the hell out of there. There were eight Jaffa left from the patrol and we had just killed four of them. We weren’t sticking around for more. We never did find out who they worked for. Maybe they were renegades out for a good time. I don’t even know what they wanted. They never asked me anything, and I never heard them ask Daniel anything. I think they tortured him because they could. He didn’t even have the option of telling them anything, not that he would. But it’s a hell of a lot easier to withstand torture if you know you’re protecting something. Daniel didn’t even have that. Anyhow, we gated home. I got a few stitches and Daniel’s in a coma.”
I listen to the soft whir of the tape recording dead air. I can’t let it end like this.
“I want it on record that Doctor Daniel Jackson is the strongest, bravest man I know. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with him, and an even bigger honor and privilege to be his friend.”
I pressed ‘stop’, ‘rewind’, and ‘eject’. I didn’t want to play it back. I had the damn thing memorized as it was. I know Hammond’s not going to be pleased with my actions. It’s never a good sign when you can’t remember what went down. No doubt it will all come back to me, but at this point I really don’t care. I need to see Daniel.
Why is it that a hospital or infirmary can turn the strongest, meanest-looking bastard into someone who just looks lost and helpless? Then you take someone like Daniel, who doesn’t have a mean bone in his body, and it’s just, I don’t know, obscene. Crap, look at him. He looks so innocent. So vulnerable.
“Colonel O’Neill, Daniel’s going to be fine.”
There’s that word again. Fine. Raw silk is fine. Bone china is fine. Your best friend, battered and lying in a coma is not fine. I know Fraiser means well, but I wish she’d get a new script. I don’t look at her because I don’t want to see her sympathy.
“His internal bruising is extensive, but fortunately, the bleeding was minor.”
“They were very good at what they did,” I say acidly.
“Daniel’s very strong, Colonel. I know it doesn’t look like it, but the coma is helping him heal. I think he’ll be back with us very soon.”
Yeah, yeah. Sing another tune, Doc.
“Has he moved?”
“He stirred for a moment, but no, he hasn’t moved.”
I watch my fingers gently trace the length of a bruise down the side of Daniel’s neck. His head is turned away from me, and I can see that the discoloration extends down below the collar of his gown. I know what’s under the gown. I witnessed the damage that was done. I close my eyes in anger and sorrow. I tell myself again that Daniel is a survivor. We are both survivors. I open my eyes and caress his cheek with the back of my fingers, and that’s when I have my second epiphany. I didn’t just love Daniel Jackson. I was in love with Daniel Jackson. This sudden enlightenment doesn’t scare me, or even really surprise me. It just is. I want Daniel in my life. I want to care for him and protect him. I want to know him and to understand him. I want to love him, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I want it all. I want him. What do you think of that, George? Your second-in-command is in love with his archaeologist. His male archaeologist.
Doc’s got that tone. That worried, but she’s not quite sure why she’s worried tone she gets. Both Daniel and I are good at bringing out that tone. I reluctantly withdraw my hand.
“Call me as soon as he wakes.”
“Of course, Colonel. You’ll be the first to know.”
I almost smile. I can hear the relief in her voice. The colonel’s not going to cause a scene. I look at her and nod my thanks. I don’t know what she saw, but I know it gave her pause. Don’t think about it too much, Doc. It’s out of your hands. I look back at Daniel and shake my head slightly. Get all the rest you can, Daniel, because I’m about to turn your life upside down. Our lives. My ego hasn’t allowed me to consider that fact that Daniel may not reciprocate my feelings. His arm is lying outside the blanket, giving the nurses unhindered access to his IV line. I lightly stroke the bandage around his wrist then I gently squeeze his hand and walk away, avoiding eye contact with Fraiser and anyone else in the room.
Thor’s timing couldn’t have been worse. I’m fond of the little guy, but I was madder than hell when he ‘beamed me up’. Three days. Three long and excruciating days on an Asgard ship smoothing the ruffled feathers of Yu. Thor said if I hadn’t insulted His Snakiness I would’ve only been gone one day. That didn’t make me feel better. What the three days did give me though was time. Time for my brain to catch up with my heart. What the hell was I thinking falling in love with Daniel? No, that’s not right. I didn’t ‘fall’. He’s meant something to me for a long time. I just ‘opened my eyes’. Now, just because I’m ready to get naked and wrap myself around Daniel in carnal bliss sure as hell doesn’t mean that he’s ready, or even willing. Hell, or even interested. What the hell was I thinking, for crying out loud?
Now, as I’m hurrying to the infirmary, I’m listening to Carter and Teal’c tell me that Daniel woke up only hours after I left. Thanks, guys. I don’t need to hear that. I mean, it’s great that he’s awake, but damn it, I wanted to be there.
“He’s asked for you a lot, sir.”
What am I supposed to say to that?
“We told him where you were and you’d be back as soon as you could.”
I glanced at Carter and nodded.
“Has he talked about what happened?”
“No, sir. He seems reluctant to talk about it, and Janet doesn’t want to push him.”
“We believe, now that you are back, O’Neill, that Daniel Jackson will feel more comfortable about relating his experience.”
I acknowledge Teal’c’s statement, but I don’t think ‘comfortable’ is a word you can use in this situation. What happened to Daniel on P7V-164 was wanton brutality; cruelty at its worst.
My mind is buzzing with what to say to Daniel when I hit the proverbial brick wall which, in this case, is in the shape of Doctor Janet Fraiser.
“I’m sorry, Colonel O’Neill, but you can’t go in there.”
“I can’t go in there?” My voice is incredulous, bordering on anger, and my jaw goes rigid. My hackles are up. I feel Teal’c move slightly, a physical buffer ready to intervene if necessary.
“Janet? What’s wrong?”
Thank you, Carter. Yeah, Doc, what the hell’s wrong?
“Daniel’s had a little setback. He became…agitated. I’ve just got him settled and I don’t want him disturbed.”
“Setback,” I say quietly. “What kind of setback?”
Fraiser looks at all of us and says, “Come into my office.”
I can’t fucking believe it. Setback, she called it. A mild allergic reaction to your meds is a setback. A bad dream is a setback. Watching yourself being tortured is not a setback. It’s a travesty beyond words. How the hell did that tape get mixed up with Daniel’s mission tapes? General Hammond said it was an honest mistake, but he was just as livid as me. He’d seen the recording from P7V-164. I wanted it destroyed, but he said it was evidence of Daniel’s ordeal. Shit, who needs evidence? You just have to look at him, for crying out loud. But I knew what Hammond was saying, and I hated myself for agreeing. What if Daniel ‘cracked’ under pressure in the future because of what happened on 164? The video would be evidence of ‘just cause’. I hate this. I really hate this. Teal’c looks like he wants to do serious bodily harm to someone, and Carter looks like, well, hell. We’re all hurting and we take what little comfort we can in our solidarity.
I tell Fraiser I was there. I saw it live and in living color and surround-sound, and I want to see Daniel now. She doesn’t object. I don’t think she ever intended to keep me from him. She just wanted me to be prepared, just in case. You’d think she’d know by now that Daniel is the strongest, most together person on this planet. I don’t even want to think about what it would take to push Daniel over the edge. Whatever it is, it won’t happen. I won’t let it happen.
So, why am I just standing here in the doorway? Daniel’s certainly not going to get out of his bed to come to me. I’m hesitating because I really don’t know what to say to him. I sure as hell can’t say, ‘You’ll get through this because I love you’, at least, not in those words. Oh, crap, he’s looking right at me. Move your damn feet! Shit, he’s looking away. That gets me moving. Christ only knows what’s going through his mind, but I’ll be damned if I let him think I’m ashamed of him.
I’m at his bedside, but he’s not taking the bait. Okay, let the awkwardness begin.
“Hey.” I’m brilliant, as usual.
And Danny’s droll, as usual.
“Yeah. Just got in an hour ago.”
“I’m fine, thanks. You?”
Damned if he doesn’t chuckle. He finally turns and looks at me. I didn’t know what to expect, but not this. I didn’t think his eyes could be any bluer, any clearer, or any warmer.
“I’m glad you’re back.”
It’s a simple statement, spoken softly, and I think my heart’s going to burst out of my chest.
“So am I,” I tell him, as I pull up the chair and sit down.
He zeroes in on the stitches on my forehead and his brow creases in concern.
“They did that to you?”
I’m almost embarrassed and ashamed to admit it so I shrug and say, “They didn’t like what I said.”
He flinches and I can’t believe I just said that. Stupid, stupid, stupid.
“They didn’t ask me anything.”
His voice is barely a whisper, and his eyes are so forlorn I have to restrain myself from gathering him into my arms.
“They didn’t ask me anything either, Danny. I didn’t like what they were doing to you.”
I see the comprehension in his eyes and he nods.
“Oh,” he says. He flashes me a little sad smile and says, “Thanks.”
I smile back, but I have a hard time meeting his eyes. I did a piss poor job of watching his back.
He licks his lips and looks away from me, and I know what’s coming.
“Did Janet talk to you?”
I know he’s talking about the damn video and there’s no way I can dance around this one.
“Yeah, I heard. I’m sorry.”
He looks up and he’s got that sad, resigned look and I brace myself.
“For me seeing the tape or for me being a headcase?”
“Damn it, Daniel.” Even though I knew what he was going to say, it hurt…a lot. He knows it too because I can see his eyes getting all shiny.
“Sorry, that was–”
“Stupid?” I offer with a raised eyebrow and a hint of a smile. I have to get him back on track and on the right track
“Well, I wouldn’t say ‘stupid’, exactly. Maybe ill-chosen.”
He says it with that little frown he often gets and my smile widens. Even lying there in a whole lot of hurt, he looks so Daniel, and so…so desirable. He’s wearing a different gown. The kind with a large V-neck, and I can see a lot of skin. Damn, it’s hot in here.
Uh oh. He’s got that concerned look now.
“Are you thirsty? Can I get you a drink?” I ask, although I’m the one that needs a drink or a cold shower.
Damn. Now he’s got that resigned, ‘you don’t want to talk about it’ look. Hell, when did I become an expert on reading Daniel Jackson?
“Sure, it’s right there,” he sighs.
He grimaces and grunts as he tries to sit up and I’m there in a flash. Once I have my hands on him I don’t want to let go. I want to feel the warm flesh beneath my fingers. I want to feel the pulse of a healthy, strong heart. I must be hurting him, but I can’t let go.
“You died,” I whisper. “I couldn’t help you. God, I’m sorry. I was so damn helpless, and when I finally got to you, you weren’t breathing.”
I’m not even looking at him when I say the words. It’s almost as if I’m in a trance. Then he grasps my hand that’s got a death grip on his arm. It jolts me back to reality and I pull my hand away, muttering ‘sorry’.
He doesn’t let me go though. Instead, he grasps my hand and he slips it inside his gown. He holds it onto his chest and I can feel it: a strong, beautiful heartbeat that brings tears to my eyes.
“You saved me, Jack. You did what you always do. You brought me home.”
I look at him through blurry eyes.
He smiles and says, “And now you’re stuck with me.”
Good old Daniel. Pushing his pain and fear aside to help me. I laugh and sniffle, and look into those uncannily wise, blue eyes.
“You’d think I’d learn, wouldn’t you?” I say, unconsciously cupping my hand over his warm skin and squeezing gently.
“I think maybe you’re just beginning to learn,” he says softly, giving my hand an answering squeeze.
There’s something in his voice and his eyes that sends shivers through me. I stare at him, at our hands, and then back at him. I’m talking about his propensity to come back from the dead, but he’s…he’s… holy crap! He knows! He knows, and he’s smiling.
I could’ve pulled a classic O’Neill and feigned ignorance, or told him he was delirious; his meds were screwing with his mind. I could’ve panicked and yanked my hand away. But I didn’t do any of those things because I remembered. I remembered Daniel raising his head and looking into the camera. Looking at me and saying goodbye when there was so much still unsaid. I have my third epiphany: Daniel loves me.
I smile back and swallow my fear. I will not screw this up. I use my free hand to cover his, to let him know I’m okay with this, and then I gently remove both hands. I sit down on the bed, trying not to get tangled in his IV lines. I take his hand and smile when his fingers automatically interlock with mine.
“Look, uh, when Doc springs you from this place, why don’t you come to my place to recuperate? I promise I won’t hog the television and maybe we could, you know, talk about what happened and, um, other stuff.”
My heart is beating so hard and fast I’m afraid I’m going to pass out, but Daniel’s eyes and face light up, and his hand closes over mine. In a voice soft, warm and full of promise, he says, “I’d like that, Jack.”
My eyes must look like a kid’s on Christmas morning because he grins and rubs his thumb along the back of my hand. I look down at our hands clasped together, and it looks natural; it looks right.
I have my fourth epiphany: I am the luckiest son-of-a-bitch in the whole universe.
|Genres:||Angst, Friendship, Pre-Slash|
|Summary:||A failed mission has unexpected revelations for Jack.|
Author's Chapter Notes:
This story was first published in Pretense 6 by Ashton Press. Thanks ever to JayEm for the beta.