The Gift of Tears by iiiionly
“Well, Dr. Jackson?” Captain Janet Frasier, Stargate Command’s Chief Medical Officer pocketed her pen, pulled the clip board to her chest and turned her steady gaze on her patient.
For a moment, Daniel Jackson merely stared back, then with a blink and a shake, as if her words had only just registered, the shaggy, dark-blond head cocked appraisingly, but there was no reply.
Dr. Frasier waited.
“Am I done?” he inquired finally.
“Why aren’t you sleeping?”
Instead of wrapping across his chest, as she had become accustomed to seeing, the long-fingered hands wrapped around the edge of the bed so tightly his knuckles went white. And that, Dr. Frasier knew, was a difficult thing to accomplish given the pliability of the mattress.
This young man was way too tense.
The blue eyes blinked at her, blinked again, and slid down to study the floor beyond the booted feet propped on the lowered bed railing. As if of their own volition, the arms crept up over his chest, fingers tightening over the sleeves of the too-large BDU jacket.
“I’m fine. You just said everything’s normal. Can I go?” The lean jaw clenched tight. “They’re probably waiting for me by now.”
“I said all your test results are normal. This . . .” Dr. Frasier lightly tapped a white-knuckled finger with her pen, “. . . this is not normal. What’s up with you?”
“Nothing.” His gaze slid back up with just a touch of defiance.
Confrontation on any issue regarding Jackson’s personal life was usually met with retreat; a coping mechanism Dr. Frasier guessed had been in place for a very long time. She knew a little of his history and while there was a measure of understanding, she had no qualms about grounding him if he was a liability to himself or his team.
But because Janet Frasier was an excellent and compassionate physician, she also saw the cost to him, and tried to soften her tone. “I said your test results were normal,” she repeated, “I did not say you were fine. I’m not releasing you for Gate travel in this condition . . .” she trailed off, glancing up as the door to the infirmary swung inward.
“Hey, Doc? What’s the hold up?” Colonel Jack O’Neill stiff-armed the door as it swung back at him. “Gate’s open; Carter and Teal’c are waiting. Come on, Dr. Jackson, get the lead out!”
“Colonel, you’ll have to postpone the mission, or get another fourth today. Dr. Jackson won’t be going.”
Dr. Frasier registered a shocked gasp from the occupant of the bed and a surprised ‘what’ from the patient’s C.O.
“You heard me correctly, Colonel. Dr. Jackson won’t be going.” She gripped the edge of the curtain and gave it a tug. “You, young man, may get undressed and get into bed.”
“What?!” “Doc?” The pair said simultaneously.
“Captain?” Colonel O’Neill prompted. “You want to tell me what the heck is going on here?”
“On issues of medical concern, Colonel, I have ultimate jurisdiction. Dr. Jackson is not fit to be off-world and I will not allow you, sir, to intimidate me into changing my mind.”
“Oh, for cryin’ out loud,” O’Neill scowled. “I’m not questioning your decisions; but I heard you tell Daniel all his results were normal. Now you’re telling me I can’t have him and telling him to get in bed? Why?”
Between them, Daniel closed his eyes. “She thinks I’m not sleeping.”
“And? So? What else is new? He hasn’t slept since Sha’re was taken.”
Dr. Frasier blinked at the tall, unsmiling Colonel. “Sir,” she made an effort to choose her words carefully, “the human body can’t survive without sleep, but if what you say is even remotely true, all the more reason I would be criminally negligent if I cleared Dr. Jackson for Gate travel.”
The Colonel eyed their civilian archeologist, who rolled his red-rimmed eyes.
“Does this look like a man you want to deprive of Gate travel? Do you want him to go postal on us, Doc? The sooner we find his wife, the sooner he’s gonna sleep. So how ‘bout it? Let me have him today and as soon as we’re back, I promise I’ll march him right back down here and you can wave you magic wand over him to make him sleep. In the meantime, I’ll take personal responsibility for him.”
“He’s not going off-world in this condition. Do you have any idea how much sleep deprivation slows your response time? Sir, the time it takes him to draw his weapon could be compromised worse than if he were drunk! He’s a liability to you in the field.”
“Yeah, well, have to tell you, Doc, we don’t really rely on Daniel to be much of a weapons expert in the field,” the Colonel drawled. “He does other important stuff, like getting our asses out of tight situations chatting up the natives and figuring out what all those tiny little squiggles mean before we blow ourselves up. Those kinda things don’t usually require response time, if you know what I mean.”
Dr. Frasier sighed inwardly. There were days she could swear a certain Colonel had a blind streak a mile wide when it came to SG-1’s civilian linguist.
Trouble was there was no fall back in this job. The smallest mistake could have far reaching consequences and she had nothing to go on but instinct.
A month ago SG-1 had brought home an alien virus – an alien virus – one that spread like wildfire through the SGC. O’Neill had tried to rearrange Jackson’s face while under its influence. Captain Carter had attacked her commanding officer as if he were a prime sexual candidate for her breeding program.
Although Dr. Jackson had seemed at first to have some kind of immunity, he, too, had succumbed while lost on the dark side of P3X 797. Out of the entire base personnel only the Jaffa, Teal’c, whose symbiote protected him, and Dr. Frasier, herself, had remained symptom free. The key to solving the seemingly unsolvable puzzle had been her own immunity, in combination with Dr. Jackson’s initial resistance, and ultimately, the correlation of massive doses of antihistamines.
There was no mystery to solve here; her patient was suffering from sleep deprivation. She knew he was worried sick about his wife and brother-in-law, but even if O’Neill was exaggerating wildly, to have gone two months without the rejuvenating effects of sleep? Just imagining the things that could have gone wrong had her pushing back the envelope of disquiet she’d lived with since acquiring this job. How could she have missed something so blatant? How in the world could she have let him continue traveling through the Gate in this condition? And how could she possibly help him deal with the psychological effects of having his alien wife kidnapped by another alien posing as a god!
With a shake of her head, Dr. Frasier centered herself and turned a pointed glare on the Colonel. “He is not going off-world in this condition.”
“Come on, Doc.” That gentleman offered his rather charming smile to sugarcoat his next words. “He’s not gonna sleep here unless you drug him and he’s gonna fight you tooth and nail on that, so you may as well let him go with us. I swear, as soon as we’re back I’ll put him straight to bed and sing him lullabies if I have too. I need him today.”
Frasier watched as O’Neill snagged the linguist by the back of the jacket and yanked, encouraging Dr. Jackson to facilitate his plan by rising.
It didn’t help when the young man stumbled as he rose.
The Colonel jerked him back on his feet, keeping his own gaze focused on the CMO, his smile fixed and pleasant, while clearly trying not to hiss at Jackson.
Dr. Frasier swallowed a smile of her own.
“No.” She could do the broken record endlessly if necessary.
“Captain,” O’Neill sighed impatiently, “we’re headed to a place we know is inhabited. It’s imperative we have Daniel this trip out.”
Daniel looked back at the CMO.
Who sighed as well. “No, Colonel.” Dr. Frasier stood her ground. “I would be responsible if I let you take him off-world and anything happened to any of you.”
“But, Doc . . .”
Doctor Frasier re-crossed her arms over the chart she held against her chest, enduring the hard-eyed stare without flinching. It was her job to protect the men and women of Stargate Command, and protect them she would, even from themselves when necessary.
O’Neill sighed again. “Then we’ll have to postpone the mission. I’m not going without Daniel. And I may as well take him home and put him to bed rather than you’re making him stay here. Not that’s he going to sleep either place,” O’Neill muttered under his breath. “I’m sure you don’t want the rest of SG-1 cluttering up your infirmary and if you keep Daniel we’re just gonna come down here and keep him company. So can I have him?”
“I promise you, Colonel, he will be sleeping. It won’t be necessary for any of you to keep him company.”
“Not the point, Doc. And isn’t it against that hypocritical oath thingy to drug a patient against their will? You might be able to put him to sleep, but it won’t do any good.” O’Neill slid his earpiece in place and palmed the radio clipped to his vest. “Carter? Teal’c? Tell ‘em to shut down the Gate, we’re not going anywhere. Then report to the infirmary.” He flipped the earpiece out again, not bothering to wait for a reply.
“Dr. Jackson, will you please let me help you?”
The object of their discussion ducked his head and his arms tightened around himself. “There’s nothing you can do to help, Dr. Frasier. Jack’s right, it won’t do any good to drug me. I’ll just have nightmares. And then I won’t be able to wake up from them.”
“You know, I can treat some of the symptoms of this. Medication would help your depression at the very least.”
The archeologist snorted. “Oh yeah right,” he quoted his mentor, matching the Colonel’s inflection and emphasis as if they were twins, “drugs might treat it; finding my wife and brother-in-law would cure it in a heartbeat.”
“I just want to help. Your whole body reacts negatively to stress like this. Just in the few short weeks I’ve known you, you’ve lost more weight than you can afford. You’re not eating, you’re not sleeping; you’re making yourself a liability to your team.”
Still behind the archeologist, Colonel O’Neill cleared his throat. “I think he got the subtext, Doc, no need to ram it down his throat.”
“I want Dr. Jackson to understand the seriousness of the situation. He’s not just endangering his own life, he’s endangering yours, and Captain Carter’s, and Teal’c’s. I’m sorry; I won’t allow that to happen.”
Frasier glanced over as the infirmary doors swung open again, admitting the remainder of SG-1.
“What is the issue, O’Neill?” Teal’c inquired, staff weapon clasped in one massive fist.
“You okay, Daniel?” Captain Samantha Carter, MP-5 still slung around her neck, shoved the gun down to her side and reached to pat her teammate’s arm.
“Apparently I’m a terrible liability to your on-going health and wellness, Sam,” Daniel murmured.
“What? Who said that?” Captain Carter glared at their C.O.
O’Neill raised both hands. “Wasn’t me.”
Carter turned her glare on the petite doctor. “Why? And why would you tell him that?” she demanded.
Dr. Frasier had already witnessed the protective stance this team took toward the civilian in their midst. Since she was drawn to the young man herself, she understood their defensiveness; however, her role as C.M.O. made it imperative she look at the big picture and the big picture loudly and clearly stated this young man was an accident waiting to happen.
“I didn’t mean anything derogatory by it, Sam.” She touched the Captain’s arm, much like Sam had reached out to Daniel.
The two women had become good friends in the short time Dr. Frasier had been on base, bonding not only because the feminine gender was still poorly represented, but because they held many synchronous views of their Air Force service and had discovered they shared the same dry sense of humor.
“Please don’t misunderstand me; I’m not denigrating Dr. Jackson’s skills, or his commitment to the team, but I won’t allow anyone as sleep deprived as he is to compromise themselves or the others on their team. Gate travel is hazardous enough without adding more complications. Against my better judgment, I’ll let you take him home this time, Colonel. And I will tell General Hammond I’ve put your team on stand down until Monday morning.” Frasier switched her glare to the linguist. “But if you don’t come in here looking rested and better fed when I see you again, there will be serious repercussions. Dr. Jackson, do we understand each other?”
As worried as he was thankful for the reprieve, Daniel glanced up briefly in acknowledgement, shifting his gaze immediately back to the floor.
Every time his body managed to shut down his mind, he’d been jerked back to awareness by the awful knowledge that a parasitic worm now controlled his beautiful Adydonian wife’s body. She had looked at him with such disdain, such haughtiness; had stepped in front of the Goa’uld, Apophis, without an instant’s hesitation when Jack had automatically raised his weapon.
Teal’c believed nothing of the host survived, that Sha’re was gone. Daniel refused to accept it. He desperately wanted to believe Sha’re still lived inside her own mind, but it left him sick with horror at the thought of what she was enduring trapped like that.
And then there was the whole issue of Skaara, his young brother-in-law.
Captain Carter unclipped her MP-5. “I have plenty to do in my lab, sir. I’ve wanted to spend some time testing that stone we were able to bring back last week, now would be the perfect time. Teal’c, want me to take your staff weapon back to the armory as well?”
“I will accompany you, Captain Carter.”
“I’ll let the General know the two of you will be leaving
the base shortly and the team is on stand down,” Dr. Frasier said,
sliding the curtain back against the wall.
“Stop back by on your way out, I’ll scrounge up some sleeping medication that might be strong enough to stop the nightmares, okay?”
O’Neill gave her a two-fingered salute and snatched another fistful of too-large BDU jacket when the archeologist swayed alarmingly. “I’ll make sure he comes back by.”
“I’ll have the meds ready.”
Dr. Frasier watched as the Colonel towed the archeologist toward the exit, the rest of his team following in their wake.
“We’re not doing this again, Daniel,” Colonel O’Neill stated calmly, as their teammates split off to head back to the armory. “Frasier’s dead serious; she’s not going to let you off-world if you don’t start sleeping. I expect you to come back down here, pick up whatever pills she’s got for you, and take them as necessary.”
Miserably aware all of them had reason to be unhappy with him, Daniel only nodded. He was thankful Jack trusted him enough to let him go back alone and wasn’t going to baby-sit him every step of the way.
In the locker room, he changed quickly, unconsciously sighing as he pulled on jeans and slid into a button-down shirt, pulling a heavy wool sweater on over top.
He was constantly cold here on Earth. Abydos had quickened many of the imprinted memories buried beneath layers of insulation. He’d adjusted swiftly to the desert climate, his body responding to those faint memory patterns stamped into him during his formative years under the hot Egyptian sun.
Life had been different on the alien planet. The Abydonians lived intimately with nature, the rhythm of their lives closely followed the cycles of the land. Though they lived simply, existence for them was a matter of daily toil, scratching a meager subsistence from the sandy soil by the sweat of their brows and the strength of their backs.
Daniel hadn’t minded one bit. He’d worked as hard as the rest and spent his evenings either with his gifted bride or as time allowed, exploring through the old ruins. That is until he’d come upon the map room and then every spare moment he could snatch had been dedicated to translating the incredible find.
He pulled his coat from the locker and shrugged into it, warm for the first time since he’d gotten out of bed. “Meet you up top?” he asked, glancing over at his C.O.
“Yeah,” Jack said, sitting down on the bench to exchange his combat boots for hiking boots. “Don’t get sidetracked, okay? You’re going to the infirmary and then up to the top. No stops at your office on the way. You’re not taking anything home this weekend. You’re planning to spend the entire time sleeping and eating, right?”
Daniel only huffed his annoyance. Really, he didn’t need a keeper. He’d been taking care of himself since he was eight. He’d managed, somehow, to survive to the ripe old age of thirty. Staying with Jack was easy, and safe, but he was no longer eight, or even eighteen. Maybe this weekend would be a good time to start looking for a place of his own.
Jack smiled at the departing back. The kid was such an easy target. Needling him was taking on the proportions of a whole new sport - like alligator wrestling, without the risk of losing your hand. Not that he would ever take it to such lengths; he’d learned what was too far with the archeologist, when it went over the line from play to pain, very quickly. Daniel wasn’t easily frightened, but the scars over his multiple wounds were tender and Jack, though he would deny it with his last breath, was a natural nurturer.
The fit was perfect, like a hand in a tailored glove, and some part of both of them recognized the friendship for what it was and held it tenderly despite their gender, though without acknowledgement.
Daniel signed out at the surface, pulled on his gloves and drew in a deep breath before shoving the door open. The wind caught him the moment he stepped beyond the sheltered portico and tried its best to whip him sideways. He planted his feet and leaned into it, only taking a step forward when he was sure he could combat the forces of nature.
‘No different from a sandstorm,’ he thought miserably, ‘except for the cold.’ Which was already seeping into his bones.
Snow swirled in miniature funnel clouds, dancing like devil dervishes all around him, limiting visibility to no more than a foot or two. They’d parked clear across the lot this morning, expecting to be gone for several days on an extended mission. He knew Jack always left the close-in parking spaces for the folks who had to come and go in this mess regularly, though it hadn’t been snowing like this when they’d arrived.
The welcome sweep of the truck’s headlights cut a swath across his path and Daniel simply stopped and waited until the dark green door presented itself for his convenience. Brushing snow out of his hair, and dusting it off his clothes, he stamped his feet on the running board and slid into the passenger seat.
“Thanks,” he offered, thankful indeed that he hadn’t had to fight his way to the truck and the heat was turned up full blast.
Little things like that said more than anything coming out of the Colonel’s mouth.
They drove home in silence, Daniel expecting every moment to be the recipient of a well-deserved tongue lashing.
While he liked and respected Jack immensely, the man did tend to treat him, occasionally, like a wayward child. He could live with that since he’d discovered, under the turtle shell hardness, Jack O’Neill was a man well worth the effort of getting to know. He liked Jack’s unfailing optimism; it called to the kernel of optimism the universe had never quite managed to snuff out of him, despite repeated tries. He enjoyed matching wits with the acerbic, tongue-in-cheek, occasionally irascible Colonel, and had found, unexpectedly, a chess partner that could actually make him sweat.
Right now, though, he was too tired to worry any longer about whether O’Neill was going to tear him a new one for causing them to have to postpone the mission. He leaned his head against the window and zoned.
Colonel O’Neill was busily making his list and checking it twice as he hustled the drooping archeologist from the garage into the house. He nudged the thermostat up several degrees on their way past, having turned it down expecting to be gone the entire weekend. Though well insulated, the house had cooled considerably.
“Here’s what I’m thinking.” He clapped his friend on the shoulder and steered him toward the kitchen, hoping Daniel wouldn’t realize it was deliberate. “Lunch and then maybe the combination of Frasier’s pills and a hot bath would relax you enough to let you sleep for awhile. Will you at least give it a try?”
In theory it sounded good, though Daniel doubted there was any possibility of restful sleep. It wasn’t something he was actively fighting . . . at least not very hard anymore.
“Sure,” he sighed, sinking down at the table, unconsciously giving over autonomy to his C.O.
A half glass of wine and the sleeping pills were placed in front of him.
“Just to give it a head start,” Jack offered. “Under any other circumstances I wouldn’t encourage you to mix alcohol and medications, but I think in this instance it won’t hurt you.”
Obediently, Daniel downed the pills with the wine, slumping over the table to rest his head on his arms. With nothing requiring his immediate attention, nothing to focus on to keep the weariness at bay, exhaustion was seeping inexorably through his veins.
Much as he would have liked to get food into the kid, Jack figured sleep was definitely the highest priority. He wondered briefly if he should let him sleep sitting here at the table. However, as he didn’t think sleeping at the table was conducive to the kind of rest Frasier was expecting, he wrapped a hand around the back of Daniel’s neck, squeezing lightly.
“Hey, I know my cooking’s not great, but falling asleep before I even get it on the table, now that’s an insult. Come on, if you can’t stay awake long enough for me to feed you, how ‘bout you head for the tub?”
Sliding back from the table, Daniel rose, and had to grab the back of the chair when the room suddenly tipped and spun crazily.
“Whoa there.” Jack reached to steady him. “Straight to bed?”
“No.” Daniel waited for the room to right itself before he let go. “Even with the pills, I won’t sleep long, if I manage to fall asleep. Maybe a shower instead of a bath though.”
Jack didn’t argue, just kept a guiding hand in the small of Daniel’s back as he steered him to the back bathroom with the larger tub.
“I’ll run the water; you take care of getting undressed.”
“Daniel, you’re big enough I’m not gonna worry about you drowning if you fall asleep in the tub. On the other hand, I’m not so sure you can stay on your feet in the shower. So if you don’t want me keeping you company the entire time, you’ll settle for the tub.”
Daniel pulled the sweater over his head and tossed it in the corner, willing his suddenly trembling fingers to stillness as he popped the first button on his shirt. Too tired his brain flashed . . . incapable . . . no longer . . . connecting . . . synapses . . . his hands dropped like stones. He tried to force them back up to the buttons, and made a valiant effort to push back the blackness, but overwhelming exhaustion crashed down on him like a ton of bricks.
“Jack . . .”
He eased the younger man down on the floor in a recovery position and checked his pulse. Slow and steady. That was good at least. He wondered briefly if he should call Frasier, decided not, since she would almost certainly demand he bring Daniel back into the Mountain and he was equally certain it would do the kid no good to be in the infirmary.
He was glad, though, Frasier had insisted they postpone the mission. If Daniel had collapsed on them off-world, nobody would have been happy; least of all, the archeologist.
Sighing, Jack laid a hand on the cool cheek. The tub was still better; he didn’t think unconscious equaled relaxed. And while he couldn’t open a vein and drain the tension out of said archeologist, he did think the combination of heat and drugs and alcohol might do the trick.
So, instead of trying to rouse him, Jack let the tub fill while he stepped over his unconscious friend to pull towels out of the linen closet. Finding some emergency candles in the back, he pulled those out too and set them on the counter. He had to rummage for matches, but eventually found a matchbook from O’Malley’s and lit the candles.
The scent of chlorine and warm wax tickled his nose as he bent over his friend once more.
Daniel murmured something unintelligible and curled into a tighter ball, arms wrapping tightly over his chest in that ever present self-hug.
“Come on, you need to wake up long enough to get in the tub.” Jack patted him lightly on the cheek and was rewarded with fluttering eyelids. “That’s good; let’s see those baby blues. There ya go; knew you could do it. Come on, sit up and let me help you out of these clothes.”
Eventually, with much coaxing and cajoling, Jack got his out-on-his-feet burden undressed and into the tub, where Daniel immediately slid down to chin depth, knees bent to accommodate his height, and promptly fell asleep.
Working like a charm, Jack reflected, dousing the overhead lights as he mentally checked the next stop on his to-do list; bedroom where he turned on the electric blanket to warm up the bed, then headed back to the kitchen to make some lunch.
This operation required precise timing. Leave the archeologist in too long and the water would cool; pull him out too quickly and the beneficial effects could be nullified.
Jack spent a few minutes, while eating himself, clearing growing things out of the fridge, and trying to remember the last time he’d been grocery shopping. It was often easier with only a few days between missions, to stay on base, especially with all the prep work both Daniel and Carter were doing to familiarize them with where they were going.
The final thing on his to-do list, warm milk, might be a problem. Fortunately, a sniff at the container was enough to assure the milk hadn’t gone sour. He’d rather not add more caffeine to the mix, but if the archeologist refused the milk, he could always add chocolate.
By this time of day, Daniel was usually on his seventh or eighth cup of coffee. Jack had been surprised the stimulant still worked, considering the kid’s habitually abusive use.
He was determined to get the linguist to sleep, and soundly, if he had to sing him lullabies and rub his back as he’d offered Frasier. They’d done the borrow-another-linguist thing once already, when Daniel hadn’t been recovered enough to accompany them on the next mission after an off-world accident. Jack had no intention of doing it again.
He shoved the mug of milk in the microwave, set the timer, and went back to check on his charge.
Daniel had settled a little lower in the tub, but was in no danger of drowning, and seemed to be sleeping peacefully. No rapid eye movement, no tiny tremors twitching the shoulders; the water was undisturbed, which likely meant Daniel was undisturbed as well.
Sweet. With any luck this job was going to be easier than he’d imagined. Maybe it was the whole returning to the womb thing; being in the water, wrapped in near darkness, with only the candles and their reflection for illumination.
Maybe he should consider putting the archeologist to bed in the tub every night.
Whatever it was, Daniel appeared more relaxed than Jack had seen him since first stepping back through the Abydos Gate. Even in his excitement over the map room, and sharing with folks like Carter who understood the significance of it, he’d still exuded peacefulness, a tranquility that had spoken eloquently of deeply entrenched roots of hearth and home.
Jack had left behind a shy, rather diffident scholar, and come back to find a man in charge of a militia, who’d unburied the Stargate expecting the Earth contingent to come looking for him and even welcoming it.
Except in the space between one heartbeat and the next, excitement had been ravaged, and another blow struck in Daniel Jackson’s tragic young life.
Jack was well aware the oblivious base heartthrob wasn’t nearly as young as he looked. According to his file, Daniel had turned thirty while on Abydos. He was not a kid, despite the fact he still looked barely old enough to be out of school. It had been both a bane and a blessing on some of their trips through the Gate. Daniel could get away with shit none of the rest of them would have considered attempting. On the other hand, it had kept them out of a few places Daniel had been dying to investigate.
After one such encounter, Jack had overheard the science twins chattering about trying to age themselves with the nanocyte technology. While amused, he’d immediately put a stop to the conversation with a lighthearted, but decisive, “Don’t even go there, kids.”
Carter and Daniel had both glanced up in surprise. Their conversation had been conspiratorially whispered. Jack had only raised an eyebrow and gone back to his MRE. He had nothing to prove, but he was glad to have them aware very little, if anything, went on without his noticing.
Teal’c, when O’Neill glanced up again, had inclined his head in acknowledgement, allowing the merest glimmer of amusement to enter the dark eyes before returning to his own sustenance.
Shaking off the memories, interesting ones now to layer over the wallpaper of ugliness he’d lived with for much of his special ops career, Jack went to retrieve the cup. He took it to the sink to skim off the layer of cooked milk on the surface, knowing from several midnight sessions where he’d exchanged Daniel’s coffee for hot chocolate, the archeologist turned up his nose at the dense, coagulated milk.
Before he realized what he’d done, Jack had added chocolate syrup. He just shook his head. Yeah, so Daniel had gotten under his skin in a way he let few people do; so what if the kid reminded him a little of Charlie. Who’d ever know if he automatically did the little things he knew Daniel appreciated?
The sound of splashing water had him depositing the cup hurriedly on the nightstand in the bedroom and quickening his pace down the hall to his own room.
He stopped short in the bathroom door.
Daniel, slumped on the closed toilet seat with a towel wrapped around his waist and one arm slung along the counter, had his head down on his arm.
Without opening his eyes, he slurred a single word. “Cooked,” adding a nearly incomprehensible, “n’gy.”
“Ahh, no energy is a good thing,” Jack replied, satisfied his plan was working well. “I’ll bring you some sweats.”
He didn’t want Daniel wandering the cool house in just a towel, the dry heat wicking the moisture from his body and cooling him at the same time. He wanted to keep the archeologist warm and toasty and out of energy. Hopefully that meant no energy for nightmares either.
Neither lullabies nor back rubs were required. Jack maneuvered the younger man out of the bathroom back down the hall to the bedroom.
At the bed, Daniel flopped down gratefully, his rubbery legs refusing to cooperate, so he picked up one knee at a time, twisted awkwardly, and fell face first into the pillow.
He didn’t feel Jack straighten his uncomfortably bent limbs, never knew the covers were pulled up over his shoulder and lightly tucked in, wasn’t aware of the hand lingering briefly on his forehead, or the quiet benediction spoken over him.
“If he has to dream, it would sure be nice if they were pleasant for a change.”
Retiring to the living room, Jack hunted up the remote and turned on the television. The Weather Channel was forecasting snow, snow, snow, and more snow. He’d give it a couple hours, make sure Daniel was past the stage he usually woke with nightmares, and go fight the blizzard conditions to bring in supplies for the weekend. Except the boring fare offered up when he clicked through the rest of the channels quickly lulled him to sleep as well.
He woke with an unusual headache, chased down a couple of aspirin with a bottle of water, and went to check on the archeologist.
Daniel was buried in the nest of covers like a hibernating squirrel, deeply asleep from the sound of his breathing, and still undisturbed. With any luck he’d stay that way at least through the night, though miracles on that scale were about as likely as being raised from the dead by the Nox – a once in a lifetime occurrence.
Retreating quietly, Jack palmed his keys from the hall table, shoved his cell phone in his pocket, and went to the closet for a coat.
The archeologist was safe in the arms of Morpheus for another hour or two, enough time to make it to the corner grocery store, as long as they weren’t out of milk and toilet paper. With the extended forecast calling for blizzard conditions the entire weekend, it wouldn’t be unusual to find the store stripped to the bare walls of staples; in which case he would have to venture further afield and he wasn’t sure he wanted to be gone that long.
However, as they’d had no plans to be home and the MRE’s intended for their weekend meals were still in their packs buried now under several feet of snow, as well as the several million tons of rock and steel that was the Mountain, it was either make the trek to the commissary over at Peterson, or find a grocery store that still had supplies.
Jack was relatively certain the Doc wouldn’t consider canned soup and stale crackers ‘better fed’ any more than she’d consider sleeping at the table ‘rested’.
He was half way back to the Base before he found a store that still had milk.
Then the check-out lines were clear to the back of the aisles and the trip home was a nightmare of downed power lines and felled trees, not to mention roads too icy to be driving without chains. He’d been able to follow a sand truck for a good portion of the way, but the all-news station was saying the county trucks couldn’t keep up with the icy conditions, nor could the power company keep up with the power outages happening all over Colorado Springs.
He’d had to circumnavigate the neighborhood just to get to his own street. At two of the entrances to the subdivision, swarms of neighbors had been busily hacking with axes and chain saws at large downed trees, one of which had gone over into a home.
With a groan, Jack flipped the remote back onto the dashboard when the garage door failed to open. He slid the gearshift into neutral and set the parking brake.
The house was shrouded in a snowy, mid-winter afternoon darkness, the sharp corners and angles softened by the oblique curtain of precipitation that pelted him with stinging needles of ice as he got out of the truck, grabbing several bags of groceries in each hand.
He won the wrestling match with the wind for the right to close the truck door, but by the time he’d waded through the drifted snow from the driveway to the front door, he was winded too. As he pulled the key out and turned the door knob, the door slammed back against the wall, sucked open by the draft whooshing through the house.
Jack stood for a moment on the threshold, registering the freezing cold indoor temperature. Even if they’d lost power, the house shouldn’t be this cold; he’d only been gone a few hours. He grabbed the door and shoved it closed behind him.
Three steps into the hallway he identified the source of the freezing cold chill.
He dropped the grocery bags on the kitchen table, uncaring what was in them, and strode through the wide open sliding glass doors onto the back deck.
He grabbed what felt like an elbow and dragged the blanket-clad figure back into the kitchen, not letting go as he slammed the doors shut and clicked the lock.
“What the hell is wrong with you? You got a death wish or something?”
Yanking a chair out from the table with his foot, he shoved the unresisting archeologist down on it with enough force to rattle his teeth.
“You better be sleep walking or you’re gonna find I can be just as hard-assed as Frasier about Gate travel.”
He snatched a kitchen towel off the counter and swiped at the snow-soaked
There was no response and Daniel folded in half on the chair.
“Oh no!” Jack grabbed him by a handful of ice-shrouded blanket, forcefully propping him back up. “You are so not taking that route outta this, pal.”
Wincing as his knees popped painfully, the Colonel dropped to his heels without letting go of the blanket.
“Talk to me, Daniel, now, or I’m pulling the plug until you’ve had a psyche eval.”
As much as he hated the idea of replacing Daniel on the team, even temporarily, in this he was absolutely on board with the C.M.O. If there was even a hint the archeologist was suicidal he wasn’t letting him put a toe through the Gate. Jack had a lot of experience with suicidal maniacs; he knew the profile extremely well, as did Daniel.
If he’d been paying attention, the Colonel realized a moment too late, he’d have been prepared. He’d thought he had a handle on Daniel’s grief, thought he understood how deeply the loss of Sha’re had affected him, until Daniel opened his eyes.
For whatever reason, the barriers the archeologist had successfully managed to keep in place were down. Whether he was too distraught, too grief-stricken, or just plain too exhausted to keep up the facade, Jack recognized he was seeing, for the first time, the true extent of Daniel’s pain.
It literally rocked him back on his heels.
Jack knew grief. He’d buried a child; a child that still haunted his own dreams, though the sharpness of that initial grief had dulled finally to an aching sadness.
Daniel was balanced precariously on a knife-edge; on one side lay sheer madness, on the other, temporary insanity.
“Another nightmare?” Jack probed tentatively, coaxing rather than commanding.
Daniel took a shuddering breath, nearly convulsing with the effort of holding back the emotion clawing at him from the inside out. A part of him wanted to howl, to tear at his clothes and run screaming back out into the snow storm so it could swallow him up again, while part of him wanted desperately to reconcile the fierce anger wrapped around a sorrow so wounding it was embedded like a sword plunged deep into his soul.
“It wasn’t a nightmare,” he rasped, his voice barely a ragged whisper. He pulled the frozen blanket tighter around his shoulders. “I dreamt of Sha’re; but it wasn’t a nightmare.”
The dam had burst; there would be no holding back the flood it loosed.
“She’s only nineteen, Jack. She’d barely experienced liberation and now that Goa’uld has enslaved her far worse than before. Now she doesn’t even have control of her own body. She has to live with that . . . that filthy parasite in her brain, and Teal’c says she’ll have all the knowledge of every human Ammonet has ever taken as host. I’m just guessing at what he didn’t say, but that must mean she’s seen hideous things Sha’re would never have been exposed to.”
The tears came hot and fast, thawing tracks down his chilled cheeks, and Daniel let go of the blanket, bowing his head into his hands.
“I dreamt of us . . .” he wept inconsolably, uncaring if his tears embarrassed or alarmed his C.O.
‘Oh, for cryin’ out loud!’ the irritated Colonel growled inside his own heard, ‘I just asked for no nightmares, don’t ya think this was a little over the top?’
Jack thudded forward on his knees and very gently drew all that raw grief into his arms.
Daniel had seen an old well being filled once. Anything and everything that could take up space had been pitched into the hole: old rusted car fenders; time-and-exposure-rotted, barbed-wire-wrapped fence posts; rubber tires; parts from an abandoned, out-lived-its-usefulness jungle gym.
He’d stood watching, rubbing at the ache in his chest, recognizing even at the tender age of eight, the well of humanity his parents had encouraged him to tap in himself was fast filling up with debris. The rigid, impersonal reality of foster care had forced him to close over the gaping wound of the loss, not only of his parents, but his childhood as well, and tattooed several new scars, more hurtful for their deliberate infliction, over top of the barely healed old ones.
For years after the death of his parents Daniel had thought his well of tears dried up.
It had taken an incident in his early teens, with a small kitten and a sadistic foster brother, to clear the debris from the springs and reopen the well. By that point, he’d stopped caring what people thought of him, stopped worrying about anyone else’s expectations.
He wept for Sha’re now as he hadn’t allowed himself to do; for Skaara; for the double loss his good father had suffered; and the loss of the village in two of their brightest stars. He wept for what his wife was experiencing; for the desolation and despair she must be enduring; and for his own misery bottled up for so long in such a poisonous way. He wept until his well of tears was empty again; until his head ached and his chest heaved with the physical aftermath of such agonizing sorrow.
Daniel became aware, by degrees, of his physical condition. He was teeth-chatteringly cold; the only warm spots on his body – and it took him awhile to identify these – were the back of his neck where Jack’s hand rested, and his cheek against Jack’s shoulder. It was awhile more before he thawed enough to realize Jack’s other hand was soothing up and down his arm.
The hand clasped warmly around the back of his neck remained, as though glued in place, when the linguist finally gathered up the tattered remnants of what dignity he still aspired too. He sat up slowly, Jack’s hand anchoring him to the chair.
“I don’t want to go back to bed.”
A very slight smile twitched at the corner of the Colonel’s mouth. There was a lot of kid in Daniel still, despite the fact he was thirty-something, married to an alien, and had lived on another planet.
“I’m not your father, Daniel. I’m not going to make you go back to bed. However, I am the guy you travel through the Gate with, and I am your C.O. Ahht,” Jack put up a finger. “I don’t care what you want to call it, okay? And this isn’t the appropriate time or place to get into that. You’re freezing and I left the truck running in the driveway. Right now, are you capable of getting back to the bathroom on your own or do you need help? And don’t tell me what you think I want to hear.”
Daniel looked down at his bare, frozen toes, resting in a puddle of icy water where the blanket had begun to thaw and drip.
“I’m not fragile. I can make it to the bathroom.”
Jack stifled a groan as he rose, both knees protesting their long, undesired contact with the cold, hard floor.
The linguist was one of the least fragile people he’d ever encountered, but the Colonel had been a student of human nature long enough to know everyone had their breaking point.
Daniel sighed wearily. He’d forgotten what a knack Jack had for reading people.
“Even part of the way?”
Jack let the smile out, though it was rueful. “Come on.” He slid a hand under Daniel’s elbow and levered him up. “Leave the blanket, would ya, I’ll get you a dry one if you absolutely have to have one, Linus.”
He steered the hobbling linguist out of the kitchen and down the hall.
“Linus? Do I know Linus?”
“You led such a deprived childhood. Don’t you even read the comics now? Charlie Brown? Snoopy? Linus?”
“My head’s spinning, Jack. Is this a need-to-know kinda thing?”
“Right.” He deposited his teammate on the toilet seat and started warm water. “Give me your hands.” Jack turned back and held out both his own, palms up.
“Why?” Daniel shoved at his dripping hair.
“Well, let’s see. You were out on the deck, barefoot, in a freakin’ blizzard, for who knows how long. I want to make sure you don’t have frostbite.”
They were wet and cold, but even the tips of the fingers were pliable. Finger combing back the soaked hair, Jack checked ears as well, then knelt to check feet and toes. Still on his knees he turned off the water in the tub.
“I need you to sit here for a minute while I go move the truck and get the groceries inside. You gonna be okay?”
“I’m . . . I’ll be okay.”
“Good, ‘cause I wasn’t buying any of that ‘I’m fine’ crap.” Jack yanked a towel off the rack. “Lift your feet.”
Daniel obeyed and he slid the towel under them, wrapping it loosely around both feet.
“Just so you don’t get any ideas and wander off. Lift again.” For good measure he slid the small, oval bathroom rug under, an extra layer of insulation from the cold tile floor. “Back in a flash; don’t go anywhere.”
On his way out to the garage, Jack tossed a blanket he’d collected from the linen closet into the dryer and turned the machine on high. He opened the garage door with the inside switch and moved the truck, piled the bags of groceries on the counter, hunted up the largest pot he could find, and grabbed the semi-warmed blanket out of the dryer.
“All right, just so you know, you may have a little frostbite on your feet, and because we do so much walking, we’re going to do this the right way, not the fast way.”
The pot clanged loudly in the small space as the Colonel set it in the tub. While it was filling, he wrapped the blanket around Daniel’s shoulders.
“This is straight out of the cold tap,” he said, lifting the pot out of the tub and placing it in front of the towel-clad feet. “It might hurt when you put your feet in because they may still be colder than the water.”
Daniel hissed as he stuck his right foot, then the left, into the pan. It did hurt, like walking on live coals. And it hurt all over again with each successively warmer pan of water. By the time Jack let him get undressed and into the tub, it felt like a really bad acupuncturist had been practicing on his feet. He hobbled the two steps to get into the tub, grinding his chattering teeth as he slid down into the really hot water and slowly submerged.
Heaven and hell: heaven because the warmth was lovely and penetrating; hell because the warmth was prickly and penetrating. Every one of his Lever 2000 parts was making him tinglingly aware of their displeasure.
“You’re gonna be in here awhile. I want to be sure you’re thoroughly thawed before you get out. Want something to read?”
Daniel shook his head. “Couldn’t concentrate.” Plus he didn’t know if he had the strength to hold up a book.
“I didn’t mean work stuff. Don’t you ever read anything fun? I’ll bring you the comics, you can read Charlie Brown.” Jack disappeared.
Daniel sank lower in the water and closed his eyes. He was pretty sure he could still hold up the comics, but only if he had too.
“How’re the feet?” Jack inquired when Daniel padded into the kitchen an hour later, in a long sleeved t-shirt, sweats, two pairs of socks, and the blanket.
“Still a little tingly, but warm.”
“Good. You found the hair dryer too. Excellent. Sit. Carter says you should stay off them and keep them elevated as much as possible for the rest of the evening. Keep the socks on when you go to bed too.”
“Sam called? She made it home in this mess?”
“I called her. She’s still in the Mountain. Guess she’s spending the weekend there, since like us she wasn’t planning to be home and has nothing in the house.” Jack ladled stew into a bowl and put it on the table in front of the archeologist, handing him utensils and a napkin. “There’s French bread if you want, or crackers.”
With a sigh, Daniel picked up the spoon, dipped it in the stew and stirred it around. “You must have gone grocery shopping while you were out.”
“I went out to do grocery shopping,” Jack corrected, pulling out a chair across from Daniel. “Put your feet up over here,” he shoved a second chair back under the table for easy access. “Come on, your feet are as important as your brain in this job. I know you don’t want to be grounded because of a little frostbite.”
Daniel reluctantly put his feet up, which left him sliding down in the chair he was sitting on. The spoon went back in the bowl, stirred some more, but never made it to his mouth.
“Ya know, there are starving children all over the galaxy who’d be glad . . .”
Jack only chuckled when Daniel glared at him.
“Eat. You’re not leaving the table until you’ve finished it.”
Daniel swiped the back of his hand at the sweat trickling down his temple. “Didn’t you just say you’re not my father?”
“I’m not your mother either. At the risk of repeating
myself, I am the guy you go through the Gate with, and . . .” The
finger went up again. “Just a minute – you’ve
also given me the privileges of being a friend. I’m exercising
Two months later he was still sleeping in the Colonel’s guest room. Jack’s argument was not only valid, it was compelling.
Daniel began to eat. It tasted like ashes in his mouth and the smell made him nauseous, but he got it down. Sleeping pills and another half glass of wine appeared as if by magic.
“I said I wouldn’t make you go to bed,” Jack forestalled the inevitable argument. “I made no promises about sleeping. Here’s the deal – and it’s non-negotiable - you promise you’ll make every effort to eat and sleep this weekend and I won’t tell Frasier about your little jaunt in the snow.”
There was a moment of open disbelief before Daniel dropped his gaze to the table. Another moment passed before he carefully eased his feet to the floor, swallowed the pills, drained the wine glass, and rose, gathering up his dirty dishes. He said nothing, only deposited the items carefully in the sink, and padded, silent as a ghost, back down the hall to the guest room where he crawled back into bed.
Pushing back from the table, Jack rose wearily. Sometimes Daniel made him feel as old as their Jaffa teammate, minus any of the benefits of the snake in the gut. Without a word, the archeologist had telegraphed his distress more clearly than if he’d shouted his hurt and anger.
Jack put the dishes in the dishwasher, corked the wine and stuck it in the fridge, then had to move it in order to accommodate the pot of stew he wasn’t going to bother hunting up another container for. He started the dishwasher, made a tour of both bathrooms gathering up towels and blankets and started a load of laundry. Only when he had himself well in hand again did he go check on the linguist, figuring on suggesting they haul out the sleeping bags and sleep in the living room.
He hadn’t intended to make the kid go back to bed.
The street lights, trapped and magnified by glistening snowflakes whirling madly beyond the windows, lit the bedroom. Daniel lay on his back, one arm over his eyes, his other hand twisted in the blankets pulled up over his chest, asleep already.
Jack crossed the room to close the blinds, chasing the odd-shaped shadows back into darkened corners. He’d rarely seen Daniel sleep in such an open posture, so exposed. The archeologist usually slept, or at least lay in bed at night, curled up as small as a six-foot human could possibly get.
The Colonel was pulling the door partially closed when that student-of-human-nature stuff kicked in again.
There was nothing left to hide.
Daniel had allowed him inside his most sacred space and Jack had turned it back on him with a vengeance. While there had certainly been an element of coercion in his comment about not telling Frasier – he’d needed some kind of leverage to make Daniel take eating and sleeping seriously - he hadn’t meant to force him back into bed like an errant child.
Jack turned back.
It felt like the height of stupidity to wake him, but he persisted. He did not want the kid waltzing off to dreamland with yet another betrayal hanging like a guillotine over his head.