Title: Cry for a Shadow
Season/Category: Short that takes place between "Homecoming" and "Fragile Balance." Part Six of the Broken Dreams; Shattered Memories series.
Spoilers: Meridian, Fallen/Homecoming/ References to Legacy, Need, The Light, Abyss, Full Circle
Pairing/Character: Jack/Daniel (friendship)
Summary: As the memories begin to overwhelm Daniel, Jack is there to support his friend and to try to correct his own mistakes of the past.
Disclaimer: Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and all of its characters, titles, names, and back-story are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, SciFi Channel, and Showtime/Viacom. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be printed anywhere without the sole permission of the author. Realize this is for entertainment purposes only; no financial gain or profit has been gained from this fiction. This story is not meant to be an infringement on the rights of the above-mentioned establishments
Look, Daniel, I know things have been, well, a little off lately. I'm not too sure what to say about it or anything. Damn, I am terrible at this sort of thing. But I think you know what I mean. It's about us, all of us. You know, me, you, Teal'c and Carter. We haven't been seeing much of you lately. I'm thinking—I know it's partly my fault. Our arguments and such. I didn't mean—Hell, I don't mean to be so condescending. I don't know what's wrong lately. I guess what I am trying to say—Did you want to grab a beer and catch a game?
The delivery could have been better. Maybe I should have hired a speechwriter. But the thought's all that counts, right? Plus, I knew it would sell. I can be oh so smooth.
That's what I had planned to say, anyway. Right after that last mission. I had rehearsed. I had stood in the mirror for an hour, looking like an idiot, practicing being all soft and sentimental so I could get through it. But what had happened when the time came? Those words had gotten stuck like honey in my throat. I just couldn't talk.
I had stared and he had walked away, mumbling something under his breath. Okay, I had decided, I would try again tomorrow. Or maybe the next day. There was always next week…
Why didn't I say it?
Damn, the guy was lying on his deathbed. Daniel, why'd you have to try to play the hero? Even while he was falling apart, I could barely speak. All I had been able to mutter…I had grown to admire him? That's it? I should have said that years ago. What I should have said, right then and right there, was that I had grown beyond admiring him. Hell, I had admired him by the end of our first mission. Though, I had never wanted to admit it. Feelings and things…just aren't me. But I try and recognize it in my own way. He'd helped keep me sane.
The guy took a staff blast for me. How could I say? How do you thank a guy? Pat him on the back and yell, hey, nice job?
That big head of his had helped us out of so many jams. Yeah, so the linguist had a funny way of getting himself into trouble. So did I. Carter for that matter. Teal'c is trouble. Thing is, with Daniel, is that he'd almost always be able to come out with the enemy being his best friend. Guy sure had a way with words.
I might have not liked him at first, and even he would have to admit he can be annoying, but that doesn't outweigh what he's capable of doing. He made the Stargate program happen. He taught people the value of life, even when we all turned our heads and stuck our fingers in our ears. He wasn't afraid to speak his mind, to tell off a senator or a major general. Or a stubborn wise-ass of a colonel.
Above all, he'd turned into my friend. Somewhere along the line, and I'm not sure when it happened. Maybe it was that first mission to Abydos. Or maybe it was that year of retirement that I spent alone, my child gone, my wife gone, as I stared into space wondering what was going on up there. He must have been happy, I had often thought, as I toyed with my telescope. Was it when I was sent to retrieve him? Or sometime later? I don’t know. It doesn't change anything.
Daniel died and I just didn't do enough to stop it. He'd asked for it. Asked for it!
He wanted to die. Why? I know why. I should have seen it coming. You send a civilian out in the field, exposing him to years of battles and stress. He'd lost his wife, his ex-girl, his innocence. All he'd gotten back in return was fatigue and a sense of jadedness.
I still don't like to think about it, especially since I know the truth runs much deeper.
I'd lost my best bud and got a part-time glowworm instead. Oh, he seemed happy, sure, but I couldn't give him that pat on the back and tell him nice job.
I'm energy now, he said.
Energy my ass.
I knew Daniel more than I had wanted to admit. I had thought so, anyway. I had kept telling myself he couldn't possibly like being some godlike flashbulb. He likes the action. He liked the learning more than the action, but Daniel hated not getting involved. Nope, he had that overwhelming sense of morality and there was no stopping him once he got going.
And it got him. Got him good. He was annoyed when I started to confront him about it. Hell, I was annoyed that he took so long to listen to what I'd been telling him. Partly selfish on my part, but I still think I was right. But really, he'd been gone for so long…
He couldn't stay away. The guy had started bending the rules just so he could keep an eye on us. That sense of loyalty…had I really deserved all this? Just to have him sacrifice all over again?
I get so uncomfortable thinking about it. And to think, all those moments, they could be lost forever. I'll never have the opportunity to thank him.
Because he can't remember.
Jack approached the locker room, hesitating before stepping inside. What was that he heard?
He poked his head around the corner cautiously, surveying the area quickly. The locker room was pretty much a wasteland around this time. Since it was well after any debriefing or long before any deployment, he'd figured no one would be in sight. Well, except for…
Daniel was standing alone, hunched over a sink, his head bowed, his hands gripping the corners. What was he doing alone? Hadn't Fraiser told them to make sure he had company at all times? Damn, wait a minute. It was his shift.
Cursing at himself, Jack went to make some wise crack when he realized something was wrong with Daniel. He appeared to be shaking, or laughing. Crying?
Immediately, Jack stepped into the locker room, overcome with anxiety. Part of him wanted to rush over and check on his friend, like he had done early on in their relationship. But then there was the other part of him, the part that had grown weary and disillusioned, still too hurt to reach out to the fumbling man.
He decided somewhere in the middle would do.
"Hey," he called, shifting to the left to sneak a peek at Daniel's reflection in the mirror. Damn, he couldn't see it.
"Hello," Daniel answered, sounding distracted.
"Make it a habit of hanging out in the locker room?"
"Not like I have anything better to do," he said sadly.
Nothing better to do? With all the stuff waiting for him in his office? Granted, he was still trying to get adjusted…
"I've read all the mission reports," Daniel said, interrupting him. He still did not move from his hunched position. "I've read everyone's, including Jonas' reports. I read my journals." He paused. "SG-1 seems to be a rather tight unit."
"More than just a unit," Jack commented, offended by Daniel's lack-luster tone. "Like family."
His voice sounded so lost.
"So it's true, then, that SG-1 is a strong unit. They never leave anyone behind."
"We never leave anyone behind, yeah," Jack replied, stepping a little closer. "You know that, right?"
He didn't reply at first, causing Jack more concern. "That's what I have heard and read." He turned his head slightly, as if he was trying to catch a glimpse of Jack. "I still don't remember much, aside from the few flashbacks I've had. Or the feelings and impressions I get. And what I do remember, I'm not sure if it's real or just imagined. Reading the reports have helped, but…it's like I am reading about someone else's life, some other person."
Not another person. You, Jack thought, rocking on his heels thoughtfully. Would Daniel ever remember? Or would he only remember some things and become just a shadow of his former self? Jack shuddered at the thought. What were these flashbacks doing to him?
He'd agreed to let Daniel accompany Jonas onto Anubis' ship. Throw him into the action and he'd be sure to remember it, right? What good would it do if they hid him from his memories? Then, at the same time, common sense dictated not to let an amnesiac onto an alien ship. Wouldn't it make sense to allow Daniel to spend time thinking and reading, to recall the memories on his own?
Jack was no shrink. This was just all too messy. He just wanted Daniel back. They all did.
"It'll all come back," Jack said softly, reassuring him. Reassuring himself? "Look at all that you've remembered already. Pretty impressive, right?"
Daniel said nothing, his head sinking lower.
The mission to thwart Anubis had been a success. Daniel and Jonas had returned safely and things appeared to heading back to normal. Daniel had gained a few scattered memories, here and there, which was encouraging, and had stopped calling him Jim, which was more encouraging. He'd even started to have flashbacks that were more vivid. They might be a little disconcerting to experience, but it was significant. Now, hearing the distance in Daniel's voice nearly erased all that hope.
"Sam has been telling me about myself," he said at last. "It seems I used to be a very passionate and vocal person."
"Not used to be. You are."
"Also, I was a pain in the ass."
"You still are."
He heard him chuckle. Good, laughing was good.
"People tell me we were good friends," Daniel said quietly.
"Yeah…" Jack frowned, his instincts flaring a warning at him. He fought back the initial shock and pain of the comment, refusing to acknowledge that things might never be the same. Not were, they are good friends. He wouldn't accept anything less.
Jack stepped closer, cocking his head, still unable to catch a glimpse at his friend's face. "We work well together." He grinned. "You've always been the stable one."
"Stable?" He chuckled again, but this time there was something off about his voice. "Are you just saying that or do you really believe it?"
"Excuse me?" Jack intoned, jerking his head.
He heard a nearly inaudible whimper, and witnessed a shake to his friend's frame. Jack exhaled nervously as he noticed Daniel's knuckles turn white while he clutched the sink.
"I remember…I see images of a padded white room. All these orderlies holding me down."
"Daniel, for that, there is a perfectly logical explanation." Jack paused. "You were possessed by alien technology."
Another nervous laugh. "You call that logical?"
"What did you expect me to say? That you're really nuts, but hell, we'll keep you on the team anyway? Always good to have a schizo as our contact person." Jack cringed, wishing he could bite his tongue sometimes. "Look, we go through a Stargate and travel to distant planets. This should not seem weird to you."
"I was insane. My grandfather was insane."
"You, no. Your grandfather…maybe." Jack sighed. "The point is that you didn't lose your mind, something influenced you to look and act like you did. You read the report, you should know."
"No one believed me." His voice was hollow.
Shit. Jack rubbed his face, trying to think out his words carefully. This wasn't easy. "If you think that we just dumped you into a cell and left you to fend for yourself…" No, that wasn't any good. "We fought hard to keep you out of there. Carter, Teal'c and I, we all knew you hadn't lost it. There's always an alternative, as someone I know always says, and we were trying to find it. But in the meantime, before the alien bugs did any more harm to you, having you put under protection seemed like the best alternative. I hated it. Immensely," he stressed. "But after you jumped me, it had to be done."
"So I wouldn't hurt you."
"No, so you wouldn't hurt you. If you thought I was a Goa'uld, who knows what the hell you thought you were."
The other man was silent. Jack relaxed a little, taking another cautious step toward Daniel. Though his friend was quiet, he could still see that he was clutching the sink tightly. This wasn't over yet.
"And look at it this way. Even though you were locked up, you still were able to figure out what the hell was happening. That is leaps and bounds over what I did."
"What did you do?" Daniel asked curiously.
"Sang to myself while I hit my head and rocked on the floor. Don't expect the album to be out in stores anytime soon."
Ah, now that was more like it.
"That's noble of you, Jack."
He frowned. "What? That I haven't made an album?"
Daniel was quiet.
"What? You're still not convinced?"
"I nearly committed suicide," he said, his voice barely audible.
Jack froze, his mind desperately trying to keep up with the linguist. Which memory was this now? Though, he had a sneaking suspicion.
"When?" Jack asked cautiously.
"I can see a balcony and—"
"Okay," Jack interrupted, flinging out his arms. "That's more alien tech again. Ah-ah! Before you even try and finish that thought, listen. We were all under the influence of that damn light so don't say a word. It wasn't your fault. No, you couldn't see it coming. And no, you couldn't have done anything to stop it."
Daniel was silent again, though his knuckles were no longer white. Jack watched him carefully, noting his fingers had begun to drum the sides of the sink. What, was he actually trying to prove himself worthless or something?
"How about the sarcophagus?"
"How 'bout it?" Jack asked in reply, annoyance entering his voice. "Or have you not been paying attention to the theme of this conversation?"
"What is the sarcophagus?" Jack asked, irritated.
"It's a Goa'uld device for—"
"Device, right. And what are the Goa'uld?"
"Humor me, Daniel."
"They're parasitical aliens who—"
"Right, so that would like, I don't know, make it alien technology?"
Daniel was silent again, but Jack noticed the tension building in his muscles. Good, he thought. Let him suffer if he wants to ask stupid questions.
"Have you always been so subtle?" Daniel grumbled, still not facing him.
"Oh, there we go. Snappy comeback time. Really, Daniel, I expect so much more from you."
"How can you say something like that?!" Daniel spun around, the anger pulsing in his temples, his face red and worn as evidenced by the dried tears that clung to his façade. Surprised, Jack took a step back, staring back at the livid man.
"What?" Jack asked at last.
"How much more do you expect from me? I've done all I can!"
Now it was Jack's turn to be silent. He hadn't a clue what Daniel was saying. He didn't even know if Daniel knew what he was saying. Maybe this was another flashback? Or maybe not…
"What are you trying to say?" Jack asked darkly.
"I tried so hard. I tried," Daniel muttered, his voice cracking with anger and pain. "I trained hard. I studied military tactics. I tried to look at things from your point of view. I tried and I tried. But it was never good enough. Never. God, I lost myself and it was never good enough."
Jack was stunned. Was Daniel talking about the time before his death? When nothing seemed right?
Daniel had far more issues and inner demons than he'd thought. He wanted to shout back and tell him how he was wrong, how he was misguided. No one had ever forced Daniel to change. No one had required him to be something different. If he couldn't keep up with them…
Grumbling, Jack refused to follow his train of thought. He wouldn't go there. He hadn't done anything wrong. He was a good leader. He supported and valued his team. Hell, he never left anyone behind.
Jack swallowed hard, staring at the emotionally battered man in front of him.
Look, Daniel, I know things have been, well, a little off lately…It's partly my fault…
Damn. Suddenly, Jack felt small.
"Look? Look?" Daniel's facial muscles tightened as he glared at him. "Do you see what I see?"
It sure isn't pretty, Jack sighed to himself. Where was the rest of Daniel? Where was his irritating sense of wonder and fascination with everything, his need to explore and make Jack's life a living hell? This…is this all they would get back? Damn those glowing jellyfish.
Would that be the only thing he would remember?
If that were the case, Jack felt like losing all hope now.
He shook his head, his eyes brimming with tears once again. He tore off his glasses. "This," he said, pointing to himself and shaking his head. "This is what I come back to? This is who I am?" He shook his head. "I don't want to be this person!"
Now that comment rattled him to the core.
"What?" Jack asked, trying to remain calm. Flashes of Daniel lying on his deathbed threatened to overtake his mind. He struggled to push them aside. "Who do you want to be?"
"I don't know!" Daniel shouted, his hands shaking. Then, suddenly, he groaned, bringing his right hand to his head.
Concerned, but still a little cautious, Jack took a step forward. "Daniel?"
"Another headache," Daniel answered.
"I got some aspirin somewhere," Jack mumbled, fumbling through his pockets.
"Have you read my reports?" Daniel asked suddenly, wandering off toward the lockers.
Jack watched him carefully, following the linguist, as he continued to search for the elusive bottle. "Of course. I am in charge."
"That last year, there was no more enthusiasm in my writing. Did you notice that?"
"How the hell would I notice that from typed pages?"
Daniel shook his head, twirling his glasses absently in his hands. He suddenly seemed so far away. "I can tell."
"You're the one that wrote them," he muttered. He fumbled around in his other pocket.
"You just don't get it, do you, Jack?" Daniel retorted bitterly.
"What? What don't I get?"
"I don't know," Daniel said quickly, pacing as he flung his hands in the air. "I don’t know. I don't know."
Jack could only stare at his friend dumbly. Daniel continued to pace, muttering to himself, a slight glassiness washing over his eyes. Cringing, Jack prepared himself for another one of Daniel's flashbacks, but it never seemed to come. Instead, the linguist continued his mantra, his fists curled as he walked.
Jack had no idea what to say, what to do. Daniel could barely keep a thought and though Jack was concerned, he was also angry that he had chosen him as his punching bag. What the hell? They had been on an emotional roller coaster since Daniel's death and now Daniel was turning this on him? He didn't think so.
"You know, maybe if you'd stop acting like a nut, I could take you more seriously."
"Oh. Oh, I see now," Daniel snarled angrily. "A few minutes ago, I was the sane stable one and now I am crazy."
Jack shook his head. "No, don't you be twisting this around and putting words in my mouth."
"You are too."
"I am not."
"Yes, you are."
Daniel banged a locker with his free hand and glared at him. "Jack, why do you always do that?"
He flung out his arms again. "Act dumb. We know you're smarter than that."
"What? Don’t you make this about me. This isn't about me. This is about you."
"Oh, that's just like you! It's always about you!"
"You know," Jack began, waving a finger, "I think you remember a lot more than you're telling us."
"So, what? Now you're accusing me of being dishonest?"
"Hey, I'm not the one who said it."
"God, Jack, why? Why? Why?"
"Why what? Why are you picking a fight with me?
"I don't know!" Suddenly, Daniel began to sob, his entire façade broiling with a mix of emotion. With wild eyes, he turned away, pressing his forehead against one of the lockers. "I don't know," he whispered.
Jack took another step forward, wincing as he watched Daniel continue to cry. He really had no idea what kind of pain his friend could be experiencing, and he knew he would never want to have to go through it himself. But he could relate to one aspect of it.
He shook his head. "I'm so confused."
"Have you had any more flashbacks? The real vivid kind?"
With a sigh, the younger man nodded.
Damn. Flashbacks. It was like being on a bad acid trip.
"I've had them myself. They aren't pretty. But you got to get through them."
Daniel peeked at him over his shoulder as he continued to use the locker for support. "When you were—"
Daniel sighed, wiping his face before putting his glasses back on his nose. "The first ones I had were nice. Well, I use the term 'nice' loosely. But it was better than just waking up and knowing a name. And they were better than the feelings and impressions I get."
Jack sighed as well. How were they supposed to know anything if Daniel never said a word?
"Why aren't you telling us any of this?"
"Because it's none of your business."
"Oh, here we go."
"Can't you even listen for just one moment?"
Jack shook his head, his lips tightening. "Well, what is it, Daniel? You gonna open up or not?"
"I don't know."
"Is that all you're going to say? I don't know? That's getting real old, real fast."
Daniel turned away from the locker and stood in Jack's face. Grinding his teeth, Jack held his cool, willing himself not to deck Daniel while he was obviously in the middle of something.
"I. Don't. Know," Daniel spelled out, nearly spitting on him.
"Real mature, Daniel. Real mature."
"Good, now that I'm on your level, maybe we can get somewhere."
Jack chuckled angrily, taking a few steps back and shaking his index finger. "Pushing it, Danny. Pushing it."
"Don't call me that," Daniel growled.
"Why not? Now that we're down to my level…"
Jack swore, darting back, nearly the recipient of an unexpected blow. Shocked, he gawked at Daniel.
The man had just swung at him.
"What the hell?"
Daniel stared blankly at him, his mouth open. Quickly, he shut it, his face turning red and he glanced away.
"Go away, Jack." His voice was breaking again. "Go away."
"I don't think so."
Jack stormed over to Daniel, quickly matching the distance between them. His jaw set, Jack prepared himself as Daniel reared again, the younger man's fist coming fast and hard, attempting to connect with Jack's jaw. The military man easily dodged it, and grabbed Daniel by his arms and shoulders, pinning him against the row of lockers. He slammed him hard, once, twice, just so Daniel would get the point.
"Let me go!" Daniel yelled.
"Not until we get this out of your system."
"I don't know what you're talking about." His eyes were filled with such anger and hatred; Jack nearly went speechless.
Did Daniel despise him that much? Daniel?
"What do you remember? What have you seen? What are you seeing? You've got to work with me here!"
Daniel bared his teeth and tried to fight back, but to no avail. Jack had him fully restrained, and he wasn't going anywhere.
No one had better say I'm too old for this, Jack thought, holding the younger man in place.
"What other flashbacks have you been having?"
"I'm not going to talk about it with you. I don't want to talk to you."
Jack shoved him again. "You always try and get other people to talk about their feelings. You're always there for support and to lend a hand. And while that is very valiant of you, Daniel, you can't always play the hero. It's selfish."
"Selfish?" He laughed, exasperated. "How is that selfish?"
"Because you end up shutting everyone else out of your life."
"I don't need anyone!"
"Yeah?" He shoved him again, knocking Daniel against the locker door. "You think so?"
"How is that selfish? Huh? Because I try to be the good friend? Why is that so bad?" Daniel retorted, his voice rising.
"When you shut us out, it's selfish, Daniel. You may think you don't need anyone, but dammit, ever think people might need you?"
Finally, silence. Maybe he had finally gotten through the other man's deranged reasoning.
Daniel stared at him, his mouth agape, his body sliding against the cool metal locker door as Jack held him by his jacket. He blinked a few times and Jack was afraid the tears would return at any time.
"I know you don't remember everything. I bet your mind is pretty much like Swiss cheese right now. But you've got to believe me when I say you've got good stuff to go along with all the bad stuff you're feeling."
"I don't believe it," Daniel mumbled.
"What exactly brought this on, anyway?" Jack relaxed his grip. Slightly.
Daniel sighed, nervously averting Jack's gaze. "I can't-I can't remember the two of us ever being close," he admitted, his small voice cracking.
Jack said nothing. He really wasn't sure how he could answer him. He wasn't sure he could. The words stung, vocalizing his worst fears. But he stayed firm, not wanting Daniel to see him falter. If he cracked now…
"I've tried. I keep trying to remember. People tell me," Daniel continued, his voice a whisper. Staring at the floor, he still refused to look Jack in the eye. "And I have my journals…"
Jack arched an eyebrow, his curiosity piqued. Maybe he should have read those diaries when he'd had them locked up in storage.
"But?" Jack prodded, knowing he didn't want to hear the answer.
"Just because I can read it, doesn't mean I can feel it." He sighed again, he head bowed. "It's frustrating."
Frustrating was an understatement, Jack thought. Freeing one of his hands, he pushed the glasses that were slipping of Daniel's face back into place.
"All I can seem to remember is how much we used to fight. I keep seeing us argue."
"We always do," Jack told him softly. "It's what we do."
"But—" Daniel shook his head, turning his head away as he gazed off into the distance. "This is different. It's-it's painful."
Jack held his breath, licking his lips as he paused for a beat. Doc Fraiser had warned him—them—that as Daniel's memories returned and became more real, more tangible, the soft-spoken complacent man they'd found on Vis Uban could change, and probably would, into an irritable, confused and angry one.
Really, Jack couldn't blame him.
"Look, Daniel. I'm gonna tell you right now this isn't going to be like taking a walk in the park."
"I never thought it would be," he answered wearily.
"I don't know why your head decided it would be fun to remember our arguments over-" Jack choked, clearing his throat. Damn, he wished he were better at this "talking" stuff. "Over our better moments. I'm sure they'll come back, though."
"I hope so."
"So, if I let you go, are you going to punch me or something?"
With another sigh, Daniel shook his head. "No."
Jack smirked. "Just checking." He was serious again. "Bite me?"
Daniel chuckled. "No."
"Okay, then." Jack slowly released the younger man, bringing his elevated body gently to the floor. Jack straightened out Daniel's jacket, and dusted off his shoulders. "There."
In an instant, Daniel had a handful of Jack's hair clenched in his fist.
Daniel released him, a mischievous smile on his face. "Never said anything about that."
Swearing loudly, Jack rubbed his head. "I shouldn't have to say anything!" But Jack found himself smiling nonetheless.
"Now you know," Daniel stated, moving over to a bench and sinking onto it slowly.
From Jack's perspective, he concluded Daniel looked worn. From the lines of worry and frustration that wrinkled his forehead to the red puffiness that swelled around his eyes, Daniel didn't appear like he was going to make it for very much longer. His eyes were blood shot, his hair damp, and his skin clammy, a little too pale for his liking.
"What's on your mind?" Jack asked casually, though keeping his tone soft.
"I still have a headache."
"Damn. Sorry. I forgot." Jack reached into his pocket and withdrew a bottle of aspirin. With a quick jiggle and a pop, he shook out a couple of pills and handed them to Daniel. "Here."
Daniel stared at them, almost reluctantly, before he sighed and threw them in his mouth. He looked to the side for a moment, but whatever thought he had vanished, and he swallowed hard.
"I could have gotten you a glass of water, you know," Jack mumbled, noticing Daniel lick his lips. "Headache that bad?"
His only reply was a wince.
"Hey, I'm talking to you. Be honest here."
"They're getting worse, but I seem to be able to tolerate them more," he answered tiredly.
"Have you told Doct—No, of course not." Jack sighed. The man would never learn.
Mumbling something Jack couldn't understand, Daniel slid over to his right, leaving just enough room for him to sit down. Cringing as he heard his knees crack, Jack eased himself down and exhaled loudly.
"I heard that," Daniel whispered, pointing to his knees.
"Yeah, well, I'm not getting any younger." He cleared his throat again, feeling his own cheeks begin to burn. He so hated these kinds of conversations. "Um, so do you uh…"
"Want to talk?"
Jack scrubbed at the back of his neck. "Yeah."
"Is your shift almost over?"
"Shift?" Jack rolled his eyes, muttering under his breath. He wasn't going to get into another argument. He wasn't going to feed into whatever issues Daniel was having. Not again.
"Nope," he replied. "You got me for the whole day," he lied. Making a mental note, he decided he'd better tell Carter and Teal'c to keep their distance. He didn't need Daniel wailing on them as well. "So, you’d better start talking, or I'll start talking, and we all know I'll start talking 'bout fish, and hockey, and—"
He heard Daniel groan.
"Hey, those are interesting topics," he whined, feigning that he was hurt. "Several intelligent books have been written on those those subjects."
"You read books?" Daniel queried with the raise of an eyebrow.
"Oh, cute. Very funny."
"I thought so." He smiled weakly.
"So?" Jack started, opening his palms.
"Hey, you're the one that always complains we don't talk enough."
A sigh. "We don't talk enough. Not about what's important." Daniel's gaze became distant as he stared off into the corner of the locker room.
He was right. No, they never talked, especially near the end. Talking was uncomfortable. It made far better sense to just ignore things and have pizza. He never talked with Sara either and look where that had led them.
Feeling that uneasy feeling creeping over him again, Jack fidgeted in his seat, hesitantly reaching out to place his hand on Daniel's shoulder. Exhaling softly, Jack was relieved when the younger man didn't flinch.
"What I said back there, about you being a nut and all? I—"
He continued. "I was just angry, and—"
"I know." Daniel shot him a quick pained look before turning his attention back to his invisible focal point. "I didn't mean to try to hit—"
"Oh, yes you did," Jack said, keeping his tone light. "We do have a gym on base, you know. I'll take you down there and you can hit whatever you want."
Daniel titled his head. "Anything?"
"Except for me."
For a moment, Jack thought Daniel was going to break into a smile, but something held him back. Sighing, he bowed his head. "I'm sorry I—"
"Don’t apologize. This-this is going to take some time. Not an overnight fix, you know."
"I know, but—"
"So, you know." Jack sighed again and gazed levelly at Daniel. "Look, Daniel, I'm sorry that—" He cleared his throat again and found himself picking at the end of the bench. "You know, before you—I wasn't the most pleasant of people."
"Jack, don't apologize, either. You don't have to—"
"Ah," Jack started holding up a finger. "Don't interrupt. A sudden thought crossed his mind. "Daniel, you don't remember—"
He shook his head. "No. Not yet, anyway. I know how I died, but I don't have any recollection of it."
Thank God, wherever he was. Or thank Oma. Thank someone.
"Well, like I said, I wasn't the best person before, you know. I didn't mean for you to feel, well, you know…"
A smile? A real smile?
"I know what you're trying to say." An embarrassed smile touched his lips. "I know it's hard for you to talk. It's hard for me, too. I appreciate it."
Jack wasn't sure if they had a breakthrough or anything, but just seeing a smile on that young man's face seemed to make everything okay. Maybe they would eventually get back on track. Maybe they'd have resolution. Maybe they'd fix whatever they had made go wrong.
He held his breath, remembering Daniel's presence, staying by his side while Ba'al tortured him, finding a loophole in the rules in order to help save him. Maybe Daniel would never remember, but Jack would never forget.
He rubbed his shoulder fondly.
"Let's get out of here. I'm starting to smell like old shoes."
Daniel chuckled, but then wrinkled his nose with distain. "Yeah, I wasn't going to say anything."
Jack smiled at him giving him a quick pat on the back.
"Where we going?"
Jack shrugged, helping the younger man to his feet as he steered him toward the exit. "I got a few ideas. That is, if you don't mind spending some time with a cranky old colonel."
"Ideas meaning on the base or off the base?
Jack considered his words. "Well, no one has to know…"
Daniel shot him a warning glare. "I'm not supposed to leave the base, yet."
Grinning, he pulled Daniel a little closer. "No one has to know."
He chuckled again, but paused. "Jack?"
Eyeing him cautiously, Jack nodded, caught off guard by the sudden discomfort touching Daniel's features. "Daniel?"
"Didn't—" Daniel was frowning, his blue eyes scanning the room. "Didn't we used to have a private locker room?"
With a grin, Jack squeezed his shoulder. "Renovations. Who knows when our old locker rooms will be ready, if ever." He cleared his throat. "Plus, now that you're back and all, got to make sure they get everything right."
Jack's comment brought another smile to Daniel's lips. Now this was nice.
No way they were going to screw things up again. Not again. He knew it would take time. But they had to start somewhere.
"So," Jack began, slinging his arm around Daniel's shoulders as he guided him towards the door. "Did you want to grab a beer and catch a game?"