Belonging by Alanna
[Reviews - 2] Printer
Category: General
Genres: Friendship, Hurt/Comfort, Smarm
Rated: All Ages
Warnings: None
Series: None
Summary: An entry to the 'Smarm Challenge' issued a few months back on the Ancient Obsessions list, Daniel and Jack reconnect in the aftermath of Daniel's descension.

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Author's Chapter Notes:
When it comes to writing it, smarm isn't second nature to me...so I hope this isn't TOO lame; it's kind of a first all-smarm-all-the-time
kind of fic for me...ah, well. I tried. =P

As usual, this story is unbeta'd, so all mistakes are mine!
Amazing, how something so simple could stir such joy, such grateful relief, such...utter sappiness. Jack O'Neill scrunched up his nose and abandoned his train of thought, settling for a simple, inane, "Hi."

Sappy or no, Jack couldn't believe his eyes--even a few weeks after Daniel had returned from the ascended plane, it was such a rush to be able to walk into the organized chaos of his office and not have to imagine Daniel hunched over his desk doing something of utmost importance to him or find the archaeologist in one of his old haunts. And now, almost a month after his descension, he'd found his way to the safe haven at the top of the mountain, overlooking Colorado Springs, curled into an upright ball, knees tucked into his chest. The man in question started a bit before those much-missed, warm blue eyes looked up at Jack and a shy grin lit up the naturally solemn features. "Hey."

Jack returned the grin and edged a bit closer, motioning to the empty ground beside Daniel. "This seat taken?"

"It is now." It was a gentle, amused version of the old biting wit, but it warmed Jack with its old familiarity. He sat down immediately, copying Daniel's position, arms folded on top of his knees, chin resting on them. "What're you doing up here?" Daniel asked curiously. "I thought you'd be gone home by now; it's been a few long weeks."

Jack shrugged lazily. "I dunno--needed some quiet, some time out...and the company can't get better." It had only been a few days since his mini-me experience, and while Jack would have liked nothing better than to go home and knock a few back, there was a strange pull for companionship that had led him up here instead of to his truck.

Daniel smiled, slightly self-depracatingly. "Are you sure I'm the one with memory troubles?" he teased lightly, avoiding the potential awkward silence that could ensue from this line of conversation, but Jack nudged him deliberately with a shoulder.

"I'm serious," he said, finding it strangely easy to open up when he normally kept the 'mushy stuff' to a bare minimum. "It's nice to have normalcy back."

"Old routines just not the same the past little while?" Daniel surmised.

"You're not making this easy, are you? I missed this. Me and you, I mean." Jack grinned and tousled the light hair that was a little more unruly, a little more rumpled than it had been before Daniel's ascension--a sort of throwback to happier times, Jack thought--before his ascension, it seemed Daniel had done his damndest to assimilate into the military regimen, body and soul, and he'd grown more aloof, and ultimately they'd grown apart. Jack gave in to sappiness and let his hand rest at the nape of Daniel's neck for a long moment. "I missed this because I missed you," he said quietly, then repeated himself with certainty, pushing all his conviction into the words. "I missed you."

Daniel turned to him, uncertainty warring with hope and happiness. "Me too," he agreed.

Jack pretended to be affronted. "You missed you too?" he asked. "Glow-osity's done wonders for your ego."

Rolling his eyes, Daniel smiled fondly. "Jack--"

"I know." Jack slid his arm around Daniel's shoulders and they sat in silence for a while, before he admitted gruffly, "I'm proud of you, you know."

"Hm? For what?"

"For coming back with us. You had the chance to live out your life in complete na´vetÚ; you didn't have to come back and remember all the shit that you've gone through. It was uh...pretty brave of you to give up that chance."

Daniel chuckled. "Well you were all so damn convincing," he said, and Jack tightened his arm a bit. "That, and I'd never be able to live like that," Daniel admitted. "I was going nuts not knowing who I was. It was frightening." He allowed himself to slump into Jack a bit, letting himself go when the other man made no move or comment. "I'm glad you guys found me."

"So are we. Believe me, so are we. Things haven't been the same without you, y'know."

"Yeah...well--"

"I know--and I don't know how much you remember--that I wasn't making things easy coming...coming on the end there, and I just want to tell you I'm sorry. More sorry than...well, than I'd ever admit to before."

Daniel glanced up earnestly. "I remember, Jack, and I remember that it wasn't all you. I had my own hand in the battles; I know."

"If we'd stuck together, you would have stayed." Jack voiced the worry that had nagged at him from the moment Daniel had disappeared through that ethereal event horizon mere moments after he'd pleaded with Jack to stop Jacob healing him.

"Maybe not," Daniel said softly. "Do you think I really could have passed up a chance like that, Jack? Going didn't have everything to do with what was going on..."

"If you didn't hate us then why--" 'If you didn't hate me' was what had wanted to come out of his mouth, but the ego wouldn't go as far as to let the conversation get that personal quite yet.

"Jack, I didn't hate you," Daniel said incredulously. He sighed heavily, turning his attention back to the view over the city. "It's hard to explain. I could never hate any of you; I was just...I was so tired, everything was getting so..."

Jack added his other arm to the embrace and pulled Daniel closer, resting his chin on top of his head. "I know. We tried to make you something you weren't."

"We all did," Daniel corrected. "I wasn't completely manipulated. I wanted to fit in; the program was changing, we were doing more shooting than studying and exploring, and I didn't want to be left behind." He shifted a bit but didn't pull away, admitting quietly, "I really thought I could do better out there, Jack. I didn't leave because I couldn't stand to be around you guys anymore; I left because I thought for sure I could help more from up there than I could by struggling to keep up with the changes here."

"You weren't struggling--"

"I was. I don't know how obvious it was; sometimes it felt like it had to be...it's sort of pitiful, how excited I would get when something came up I could actually help with. Like the mission to Marduk's ziggurat? The mission actually depended on me to start." Daniel's throat got tight, his voice sounding like it was being forced out through a vice. "I didn't know where I fit anymore. I still don't know where--" He broke off, pulling out of Jack's embrace and straightening, face averted. "I still don't know..."

"Here."

Daniel glanced at Jack questioningly, a bit confused at the quiet, one-word interruption. "You belong right here." Jack spoke slowly, clearly, his gaze not wavering from Daniel's for a moment before, a bit sheepishly, he touched a hand to his heart. "And here. You're my best friend, Daniel," he elaborated gently. "You always have been; you always will be. I know neither of us are the greatest at actually getting into these kinds of discussions, but you are. I'm sorry I didn't notice how hard it must have been for you the past couple of years, I'm sorry I didn't make you feel like you were wanted, but I guess it takes something like...something like what happened to you to kick my ass into attention." At Daniel's continuing silence, Jack shrugged slightly. "You can say something;I'm bordering on prattling here and you know how I hate that."

Daniel couldn't say a word, could barely think past the rush of noise, the buzzing in his ears Jack's admission brought with it. His eyes burned, his throat completely closed off and his head swam. 'You belong right here....you always have been, you always will be.' "I don't--"

Jack sensed his difficulty and reached for him again, pulling him into a tight hug that was returned tenfold. "I don't know what to say to that," Daniel admitted. "I thought you'd come up here for a reason, but I didn't really expect...I didn't think I was..."

"What?" Jack demanded, not loosening his hold. "Not worth it? Not valuable enough to be missed? You are--when you dove in to deactivate that bomb we should have run to anyone and everyone we could have found to help you; your life was--is--worth more to us than you'll ever know." There; he'd said it. A year too late, but he'd said it. "So help me, if you ever do something like that again, I'll--"

"Kill me?" Daniel's laugh was accompanied by a half-sob, and Jack couldn't resist, but planted a chaste kiss to the side of his head. "That'd kind of defeat the purpose, wouldn't it?"

"Smart ass."

"You love it."

Jack tucked his face into Daniel's shoulder as the younger man shifted a bit closer, enjoying the closeness the pair had denied one another through what Jack swore would have to be a year of hell. "Yeah," he muttered.

And the sad fact was, he really did.

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The End
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