Category: Angst, Hurt/comfort
Spoilers: Major ones for Abyss, some for Meridian.
Season: Season 6 – post-Abyss
Sequel/Series Info: none
Content Level: 13+
Summary: After his return home from Baal’s fortress,
Jack realises that gratefulness isn’t the only feeling he has towards
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only, and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and
story are the property of the authors. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
File Size: 117kb
Archive: Jackfic, my site (https://members.lycos.co.uk/amandasgc/); others, please ask first.
Author's Note: This is my entry into the first annual Jackfic-a-thon. I hope this makes whoever’s plot bunny it was happy…
I only managed to do this fic due to the help and support of a whole load of people – my uni life caught up with me and gave me no time prior to coming home. Which means this whole thing was written in two weeks… and with me not being a writer at heart, that is impressive! LOL
Thanks so much to Dee for all of her support – she has been my personal cheerleader, despite writing her own fic at the same time. She’s also been a great source of help whenever I have needed something checked, or some general help.
Thanks also to my betas, Arrietty, who did multiple read-throughs, and Steph, who I drafted in at short notice and gave me a title. Plus, thanks to Dee again for the beta midway through my fic.
Also, massive thanks to Neet – who knows everything about, well, everything. And thanks for letting me bounce plot ideas off you. It was a great help!
And then for everyone who’s on my YIM friend’s list – I couldn’t have done this without you guys! I think I managed to get everyone at least once to check something over or do me a bit of research. I really appreciate it. Annie, Steph and Hoo were especially great – the constant nagging really does work! *g*
Jack closed his front door and leaned his forehead against the polished wood, taking a few deep breaths. He heard a car engine rev as the airman who had dropped him home reversed the SUV back down his driveway. For the first time in what felt like forever, he was finally home. Alone. He hadn’t had an awful lot of time to come home in between a trip to Antarctica, falling ill and getting a snake stuck in his head, having a visit with Baal and then, to top it all off, a week being stuck in the infirmary. However, he knew that everything was in order at home because Carter and Teal’c had been by at the beginning of the week to collect a few personal items for him, and had done a general tidy-up and clearout of his fridge.
Finally pushing away from the door, Jack descended the few steps into his living room, dropping the duffel bag, which contained his personal items, on the floor next to his coffee table. Sitting on the wooden table was his chess set, untouched since his last game against Daniel. He had been meaning to put it away before the mission to the Antarctic, but had never quite found the time to do it. It had been a close game, with only five of the figurines left on the board – but Daniel had managed to get checkmate first.
“I leave and look at the mess you get yourself into.”
As Jack remembered the last game he had played, he felt an odd mix of emotions - of sadness and loss mixed with feelings of gratefulness and anger. Jack scrunched his brow in confusion upon realising that the anger was directed at Daniel. Up until this point, he hadn’t realised that he was mad at his ex-archaeologist.
“…If you were really my friend and had the power to stop it, you'd stop it!"
"The hardest part of being who or what I am is having the power to change the things I want to change and knowing that I can't..."
Turning away from his living room to look out of the large picture windows that covered the back wall of the room, Jack tried to blank his mind. He wanted to relax and soak up the silence of finally being home. He didn’t want to have to think about anything if he could help it. Thinking only ever brought back bad things – pain and memories that he would much rather lock away forever.
Outside, the sun was shining and only a few clouds drifted across the pale blue sky, with a pair of birds chasing each other across the treetops. It all seemed to radiate a peace that was at complete odds to the inner turmoil that Jack was doing his utmost to ignore. He slowly made his way to his favourite armchair, and sank down into its depths. Closing his eyes and leaning his head back against the top of the chair, Jack focussed on his other senses.
He could feel a patch of sunlight through his windows as it fell across his arm and lap, warming him. The soft melodies of a saxophone could be heard in the background, as the teenage daughter of his neighbours two doors down practiced playing – the music harmonising with the chirping of the birds. A lawnmower started up somewhere in the distance, adding yet another tone to the natural orchestra.
Jack let himself relax fully into the normality of being home, where he didn’t need to think about the SGC, the Goa’uld, his team mates or Daniel.
On the brink of falling asleep, Jack’s body suddenly jerked as he came fully awake once again. He knew he was tired; that he should sleep – he had been like this for the last week – but he was avoiding sleep as long as he could.
Janet’s happy juice had got him through the first few days of his return in a haze when the withdrawal had kicked in. However, after he was in his right mind again, the nightmares had begun. Then, he truly appreciated Janet’s understanding of him. She had kept the staff around him to a minimal, trying to make sure that she was on duty whenever he was sleeping. And when he had become violent, his dreams making him lash out, she had allowed Teal’c in to help her calm him down – or to restrain him while she gave him a mild sedative. He hated the drugs, but also knew about the injuries he could cause others – and he did not want to be responsible. And while Jack hated showing weakness to anyone, whether it be friend or foe, he knew that Teal’c would be discreet about any of the incidents.
One nightmare almost left Janet with a black eye had it not been for Teal’c’s quick reflexes, pulling her out of harm’s way. At that moment Jack had decided to stop sleeping. He spent the rest of the time dozing when he was too tired to remain awake. He knew that he needed to be alone to sort through his memories from his time in captivity.
He had done this before.
He knew the score.
After returning home from Iraq, he had taken off to his cabin for a week in order to get himself back into some sort of working order. He knew that it had upset Sara, but she had also understood why he needed to go. And so, once again, he would sort himself out. He would box up all of his memories and lock them away in the far depths of his mind – along with all those other memories that he never wanted to think about again.
After puttering around the house for a while, sorting through his mail and doing a quick clean up, Jack decided to make himself something quick for dinner and then go to bed in an attempt to get a decent nights sleep. It was late Friday evening when he had been dropped off at home, and Carter and Teal’c were joining him for dinner on Saturday evening, along with Jonas. They had decided to have a ‘team bonding session’ after everything that had taken place. He had the weekend off before returning to the SGC on Monday to see Hammond and Fraiser to get the go-ahead for him to be back on duty.
Moving into his kitchen, Jack looked around for some inspiration for dinner. He opened his cabinets, examining the contents, and spied an open packet of spaghetti down the side of some tins. Pulling the packet out and placing it on the counter, he dug up a jar of pasta sauce. Grabbing a couple of pans, he set about making the simplest of dinners. After setting the water to boil for the pasta, he tipped the sauce into a pan to simmer.
Slowly stirring the sauce in the pan, he stared down into the bubbling liquid. He watched as a red bubble slowly formed, growing in size until it finally burst. The deep red reminded him of something - of blood. His blood.
Hearing Baal in the background, Jack continued to stare down at his chest, where a knife was protruding.
“What was the name of the symbiote?”
A drop of blood slowly welled up from the side of the knife, seeming to burst as it escaped his body, before soaking into the top he wore.
“What was your mission here?”
His attention returned to the knife, viewing it with an air of detached curiosity. The blade was glinting from the lights that boarded the room, giving off a deceptively warm glow. The handle was an interesting design, slightly bulging at the centre with the ends much wider and curved. The blade, he noted, had nicks in it – most likely in order to cause the most amount of damage. Especially if used in a close quarters fight where it could be pulled out of its victim again and again.
“Why did the Tok’ra abduct my slave?”
Once more his gaze drifted back to where knife and skin met. He was so tired. Another drop of blood slowly welled up.
A gasp escaped as Jack suddenly came back to himself, surprised for a fraction of a second to be standing inside his kitchen at home. He was breathing heavily, as if he had just run a marathon. His gaze skimmed across the kitchen, unable to focus on any one thing. With a start he realised that the pan with the pasta in had started to boil over, with bubbles running down the side, sizzling as they hit the stovetop. He quickly reached out and turned the heat for both pans off.
Feeling queasy, he left the pans as they were, dinner no longer having any appeal to him. As a wave of exhaustion swept across him, he knew the sleep was needed - now. After turning the lights around the house off and checking that the front door was locked, Jack made his way up to his bedroom.
Moving swiftly through his nightly routine, Jack was soon settling under the covers on his bed after pulling on an old t-shirt with his boxers. There was nothing like being in your own bed after being stuck in an infirmary bed for any length of time. The hard mattresses and starchy sheets were never very comfortable for anyone, no matter how much the infirmary itself and the staff were appreciated.
Closing his eyes, Jack once more attempted to blank his mind before allowing himself to fall asleep. It was the only way he could think of as a method of stopping the nightmares – but he knew that even that was unlikely to succeed. However, he was too tired to stay awake any longer.
Taking a few deep breaths, Jack allowed himself to slip into the realm of dreams.
Burning. Aching. Blood escaping his body.
Unable to move, held down by his own weight. By a stronger gravity.
“I don’t *know*.”
Jack woke himself up with a cry, his heart pounding madly in his chest. His forehead was covered with beads of sweat, his t-shirt damp. As he went to move his legs to get out of bed, he realised that he couldn’t; a brief swell of panic rose in his chest from the remnants of his nightmare. Looking down, he saw that the duvet had managed to get tangled around his legs, effectively pinning him where he lay. He quickly untangled himself before stumbling out of bed and into his bathroom.
In the silence of the small room, Jack managed to get his ragged breathing under control. With a shaking hand, he turned on the cold water tap and splashed the liquid over his face and neck. Glancing into the mirror above the sink, a pale face with haunted eyes stared back at him. Moving his gaze away from his reflection, Jack picked up a towel and dried his face off before padding back into his bedroom.
The alarm clock next to his bed read 02:00 in glowing red numbers. Much too early to think about staying up. Sitting down on the edge of the bed, Jack took some deep breaths before crawling back under the covers. Punching his pillow back into shape, Jack turned onto his side and stared at the patch of moonlight highlighting a corner of the carpet and the far wall. Clearing his mind and focussing solely on that, Jack again drifted off to sleep.
Hours later, Jack once more jerked awake; this time he was unsure as to what had awoken him. Glancing at his bedside clock once again, he saw that it was nearly oh-seven-hundred hours – a late enough hour for him to start his day. Rolling out of bed, he stood up and quickly stripped the sweat-dampened sheets off - leaving them in a pile on the bed – before heading off to shower.
Turning on the shower to let the water heat up, Jack quickly stripped off his nightwear before stepping under the spray. Bracing his arms against the tiled wall, he let the water cascade down his back. The warm water soothed muscles he hadn’t realised were quite so tense. Leaning his forehead against the area of wall between his hands, Jack closed his eyes and let the sensations fill his mind before straightening up and efficiently scrubbing himself down.
Several minutes later, and with a towel wrapped around his hips, Jack found himself looking into the mirror once again. He was surprised to see how bloodshot his eyes were, the haunted look was still there, as if his reflection was accusing him for not remaining strong, for nearly giving in, for wanting to die with no resurrection.
"Daniel… you have to end this."
"Jack, you just have to hang in there a little while longer."
"No. I can't go back in there. If I go back, I swear to God, I'll give Baal what he wants, I'll tell him."
Having decided that keeping himself busy was the best way not to let his thoughts stray, Jack had spent the day doing household chores and tending to his garden. He had also been food shopping to get some basics in for his team, and had gone out for a jog to make sure that he was still in shape for his return to duty.
As seventeen-hundred hours slowly rolled round, Jack did a quick tidy-up of his living room and kitchen. His team was due to arrive shortly, but Jack wasn’t sure whether he should be feeling pleased to have their company after not being with them for so long, or anxious to be around them when he knew he still hadn’t got a firm handle of his emotions. At present he was feeling a conflicting mix of the two.
As he finished wiping the kitchen counter down, the doorbell rang, announcing the arrival of his guests. Throwing the cloth into the sink as he passed, Jack walked over to his front door. After drying his hands on his jeans, Jack pasted on a grin and pulled open the wooden door.
“Hey guys. Come on in.”
Carter smiled before moving past him and heading towards the living room. Teal’c followed behind her, nodding his head regally as was his typical manner. Jonas stood just behind Teal’c, on the porch. He gave Jack a half grin, still unsure of his welcome around the Colonel. Jack simply opened the door wider, and nodded his head in the direction that the others had gone in. Jonas quickly followed the others, trailing the route they had disappeared to upon entering Jack’s house.
Slowly closing the door, Jack consciously relaxed his muscles before turning around and heading through the dining room to the kitchen. “Anybody want a drink? Beer, orange juice, water?”
“I’ll have a beer, thanks sir.” Carter’s voice drifted out from the living room.
“I shall have an orange juice.” Teal’c’s deep baritone voice was heard next.
There was a pause before Jonas asked, “Can I have a cup of tea?”
Jack, with his hand in the fridge as he reached for the beer bottles, froze as he processed Jonas’ request. His eyebrows rose as he called out a “Sure” in response. Quickly pulling the cold drinks out of the fridge, he filled the kettle and put it on to boil. While waiting for the kettle to finish, he pulled out the take-out menus from one of the drawers near the sink, leaving them on the counter next to the cold drinks. As the kettle clicked itself off, Jack made the tea, leaving the teabag in for Jonas to decide how strong he liked it. Tucking the menus under his arm and balancing the rest of the drinks in his hands, Jack made his way out of the kitchen.
As he reached the stairs down into his living room, Teal’c appeared in front of him, taking the glass of orange juice and one of the beer bottles out of his hands.
After handing Jonas his mug and settling into his favourite armchair, Jack glanced up to see Carter watching him closely. Sending a glare her way, Jack was surprised when Carter didn’t look away. Instead, she blushed slightly before asking how he’d been.
“Fine, Carter. Everything’s fine.” As her eyes opened wider in reaction to his words, he realised that he’d answered in a defensive tone. Which also meant that his team wouldn’t believe him. Or at least Carter and Teal’c would know. Softening his tone, he amended “Honestly, Carter, I’m doing okay.”
She stared at him a moment longer before seeming to accept his words at face value - a fact that greatly relieved Jack, because, as much as he cared for his team, he did not want them to go digging into his psyche.
Quickly changing the topic of conversation, Jack placed the take-out menus on the coffee table. “What do people feel like having tonight? Chinese? Pizza? Thai?”
“I’m good for pizza, sir.” Carter replied, getting nods from the other two.
As Jack called the pizza place with their order, he turned back to observe his team. Teal’c had picked up the TV remote and switched the television on, and was flicking through the channels. Coming across a programme about Egypt and the pyramids, he put the remote on the coffee table and settled back to watch.
Finishing the call and putting the phone back in its cradle, Jack saw that all of his team had turned their attention to the television. Well, Teal’c seemed to be watching it intently, while Carter was explaining quietly to Jonas why practically everything the narrator was describing was wrong and should actually be linked to the Goa’uld.
“Why are we watching this, T?” Jack inquired.
“I find it interesting to see the differences in what the Tau’ri as a whole think to be fact, compared to what Daniel Jackson has since proven to be the truth.”
“Well, okay, you have fun then. Personally, I think it’s much more interesting if we switch over to ESPN. I hear that the Wild is playing Colorado today…”
Jack’s subtle hint at Teal’c was lost as Jonas then joined in the conversation. “I don’t understand how people can have things so wrong. You’d think that generally people would be more accepting of new ideas and that they’d be smarter than that. That they’d listen.”
“Well I don’t think people are generally very accepting of things when it comes to the idea of aliens being the cause for things happening on Earth.” Carter added.
Jack stared unseeing at the television, as his mind took him elsewhere. Jonas’s ‘that they’d be smarter than that’ had struck a chord somewhere deep inside. Daniel’s voice seemed to reverberate through his head. ‘You're a lot smarter than that.’
"Come on, Jack. You think the Asgard named a ship after you because they thought it was a cool name? Now's not the time to play dumb. You're a lot smarter than that. They saw our potential in you. Because of who you are and what you've done. Humanity's potential. That's the same thing Oma saw in me."
"I am not you."
"Yeah, when has that ever stopped you from doing anything?"
What the hell did Daniel know? Okay, so he wasn’t as dumb as he liked to make out he was. But he also was not smart – not in the same way that Daniel was. Or Carter. His smarts were different, mainly street smarts, things he’d learned through experience. Granted, he also had the qualifications he’d needed to get to be able to reach Colonel – but he’d been no better at getting them than the average Joe.
And Thor had a soft spot for him. But that was simply because he’d been the first one to go through to the Asgard’s home planet and meet them properly. That didn’t make him any more special than the next guy. His job had always been to make sure he brought his team home alive. It was up to the others to figure things out. He just took their information and used it the best way he could think of to get results.
Where exactly Daniel had got these ideas about him from, Jack didn’t know. So, yes, Daniel had known him better than most people had, but he didn’t know Jack better than he knew himself. Obviously Daniel just liked to hold his friends in the highest esteem that he could.
Jack was suddenly jerked out of his musings as the doorbell rang. The noise had made him jump and his heart beat faster, but his team hadn’t seemed to have noticed anything as they continued talking amongst themselves. Having lost track of what the conversation was about, Jack pulled himself out of his seat and went to answer the door.
After paying the pizza delivery boy and sending him on his way, Jack walked back into the living room carrying two boxes. As she saw him coming, Carter called out “Mmm, pizza.”
Jack grinned as he placed the boxes down on the coffee table. “Why, Carter, I never knew you were a closet Simpson fan.”
“Well, sir, after all the times you’ve made me watch it, I think I know more about The Simpsons than the average viewer. So I can’t help it if I end up picking any Homerisms up!” Carter shot back.
“Homerisms, Carter? You’ve now started making words up too? Okay, who are you and what’ve you done with the real Sam Carter?”
Carter just grinned back at him, as Jonas broke out into a large smile and Teal’c’s eyebrow rose and a slight smile could be seen on his features.
Sitting back down in his armchair, Jack took a swig of his beer before reaching over and opening the pizza boxes. As soon as he had them both open, three pairs of hands reached across the table and took a slice each. Giving them a mock glare, Jack quickly snatched up his own slice of the pizza before taking a large bite of the end.
As he relaxed with his team, falling into their usual friendly banter, Jack realised that this was what he’d been missing. Since Daniel’s ‘death’ the team had been a little strained around the edges.
But, since his return from his… incarceration… it seemed to have changed. They’d pulled closer together, even managing to get back to something resembling normalcy. The fact that they had nearly lost another friend had probably made them realise how short life could be. And Jack was glad for that, as it helped him to once more settle into his support system and to cope.
After a pleasant evening with his friends, Jack closed the door after bidding them goodnight. While he had been apprehensive about his team dropping by, he was now pleased that they had. He had not given his time under Baal’s power any thought in the last few hours and had started to enjoy himself as the banter started to flow. While he knew that this wasn’t a magical cure, he thought that it would allow him to start to carry on with life - to move on after the latest turn of events in his chaotic life.
And he was hopeful about being able to get a decent night’s sleep for the first time in over a week.
Feeling tired, Jack glanced at the clock on the mantelpiece. It was nearing 9.30pm – a little earlier than he’d normally contemplate going to bed, but after his restless sleep the previous night he was ready.
Moving silently around his house in sock-clad feet, Jack locked up and turned off all the lights, finally making his way to his bedroom. Climbing into bed after finishing his nightly rituals in the bathroom, Jack sank back into the mattress with a sigh. A yawn escaped him as he turned on his side and allowed sleep to claim him.
"Any minute, they're gonna come. Baal is gonna kill me again. You can make it the last time."
"Don't ask me to do that."
"You can put an end to it."
"I won't do it..."
Once more jerking awake, Jack swiped his hand across his brow and then down across his eyes. Obviously, while his conscious mind had thought that he’d be able to sleep tonight, his subconscious had different ideas entirely.
Rolling onto his side, Jack peered blearily at his bedside clock.
Grunting in frustration, Jack pulled the covers up to his cheek and closed his eyes. He wasn’t planning on letting his nightmares win – he was too stubborn to just give in without a fight.
Lying quietly in bed, Jack had flashes of the time in Baal’s company running through his mind. Every time he remembered about being in the cell with Daniel, a flash of pure anger seemed to shoot through him; while the memories of Baal himself brought flashes of fear and humiliation. The mixture of emotions and memories caused Jack to toss and turn, making it impossible for him to fall asleep once more.
Finally giving up as the clock changed to 03:30, Jack rolled out of bed and pulled some sweats on. Padding downstairs in his bare feet, he made his way over to the sofa and dropped down onto the cushions. Turning the television on, he proceeded to flick through the multiple channels.
Settling on a rerun of the Stanley Cup playoffs from a few years back – 1999 he distractedly recognised – Jack’s thoughts turned inwards. He knew he’d have to get a grip on the nightmares soon, or he would not be fit to return to work. And he wasn’t going to get sent to a shrink over this; he wouldn’t allow it.
His thoughts were still surprising him however. While he had noticed when he had first arrived home that he seemed to be angry at Daniel, his anger seemed to be increasing as time moved on. Having not given his time in captivity any conscious thought, he had believed that he was grateful to Daniel for being there for him, keeping him company in a time of deep despair. But he was beginning to realise that his initial reaction wasn’t his only feeling over what had happened.
Alternating between watching the TV and sorting his thoughts out, the time slowly passed. Jack was gradually managing to put his time with Baal away in the appropriate boxes in his mind – locking them away so that he wouldn’t have to think about them again. He realised that this time was different than previous times though. Not from the method of torture – although it was different, it was still torture and he still knew how to block that. It was different because of his feelings.
"…Look, I know you don't think so. Right now, I mean I know you have your doubts, but uh... because you've been through something that no one should have to go through... I guess what I'm trying to say is, you're gonna be all right."
"How do you know?"
"You're just gonna have to trust me."
He had only felt like this once before in his life – after his return from Iraq. He had been angry at Cromwell for leaving him behind. This time, though, he was angry at Daniel for being there with him, and yet doing nothing to help. While he did appreciate Daniel supporting him emotionally, he was angry about his friend not doing anything more to actually help him get out of there.
As the new morning came around, Jack pulled himself up out of his chair, his spine popping as he stretched to his full height. Rubbing his eyes, gritty from a lack of sleep, he shuffled towards the kitchen to get himself a cup of coffee to help liven himself up. As he started the coffee maker, Jack decided to go for a run later in the hopes that the fresh air would help to recharge his brain and clear his mind.
Staring out the window as he waited for the coffee to percolate, Jack watched a bird hop around his garden as it looked for worms. The sun was rising in the blue sky, with clouds drifting into his vision every minute or so.
As the aroma of coffee filled his kitchen, Jack absentmindedly poured himself a mug full before turning from the window and heading to the bathroom. Setting his coffee on the counter top in order to let it cool as he got ready, Jack stripped and climbed into the shower. He kept the water cooler than normal in another attempt to make himself fully aware and awake.
Scrubbing himself hard, Jack tried to ignore the emotions running through his brain. He didn’t do emotions well; they did not let you have complete control over oneself, and Jack liked to be in control over his every action. Turning the hot water off completely, Jack stood under the cold spray for a while, holding his face in the direction of the shower-head.
Feeling slightly more awake than he had been when he stepped into the shower, he shut the tap off, stepping out and wrapping a warm towel around his hips. Picking up his coffee, Jack took a sip of the now tepid liquid before making his way through to his bedroom.
Moving over to his dresser, Jack pulled out a pair of sweat pants and a black t-shirt. Quickly getting dressed, he then found his sneakers and pulled them on. Not in the mood for doing any chores at that point, he had decided to go for his run straight away instead of later on in the morning.
Draining the rest of his coffee, Jack took the now empty mug back through to his kitchen. Looking around for something to eat for breakfast, Jack realised that he really wasn’t hungry as he stomach felt like it was knotted up inside him. Grabbing his keys, he walked out the front door before locking it and starting off at slow jog down his path in the crisp morning air.
Jack pounded down a path through his local park, one that wandered through a group of trees. He had set himself a steady rhythm, and was able to keep his mind relatively blank by concentrating only on continuing on at his set pace.
As he came out of the wooded area, he spotted a bench a few hundred metres ahead of him, to the left of the path. Gradually slowing down as he neared the bench, Jack saw a young girl standing by a tree, clutching a soccer ball to her chest. The girl didn’t look to be much more than seven years old. Bending over slightly to catch his breath, Jack kept a discreet eye on her, unsure as to whether she was alone or not.
As the little girl turned her face towards Jack, her brown curls bouncing slightly with the motion, he saw that her eyes were teary. Jack's heart constricted within his chest as the distress of the child seemed to call out to him. Standing up straight once more, Jack started to move in the direction of the girl. He had not taken more than three steps when he heard the name “Denise” shouted from somewhere to his right.
The little girl twisted in the direction of the call as Jack came to a halt, not wanting to interfere. A blonde-headed boy was jogging in their direction, and stopped just before the girl who had now tucked the soccer ball under one arm.
As wide, teary eyes settled on the boy, the girl spoke in a trembling voice. “I went looking for you, and you were gone.”
“I know, Dee. I’m sorry. I was only supposed to talk to Johnny for a minute. You weren’t supposed to have wandered off by yourself.” The boy answered her in sincere tones.
“But I wanted to find you. Mommy said I had to stay with you when we were at the park.”
As Jack observed the two children – apparently brother and sister – their conversation struck a familiar chord in him. It sounded so similar. It was one he did not want to remember.
"You were gone."
"I know, I'm sorry, there was something I had to do, but, I'm back now and I promise I'll stay with you 'til this is over."
By that point in time he had been killed and revived so many times he had almost lost count.
"It'll never be over."
"Yes, it will."
He had hit an all time low. Never before had he endured torture like this. Before, he had always known that if he died it would all be over. This time, there had been no way for it to end.
"Daniel. You have to end this."
"Jack, you just have to hang in there a little while longer."
There had been no way for it to end with just himself. But Daniel had been there. Daniel could have ended it.
"No. I can't go back in there. If I go back, I swear to God. I'll give Baal what he wants, I'll tell him."
Daniel had refused to help him. Every time he had asked. Had *pleaded*.
"That he loved her."
"He came back for her. He wanted to save her."
"Baal doesn't know this..."
He had been so close to giving in. So close to his breaking point. And everyone had a breaking point. Even Jack O’Neill.
"If he finds out, he'll do to her what he's doing to me. Daniel, if you don't end this... I'll tell him."
"You won't have to. It's almost over Jack."
Never before had he shown his friend this side of him. It was something he let no one see. Not if he could help it.
It was a side that he despised.
And yet Daniel had seen it. Had been witness to his near-break. Had witnessed Jack O’Neill begging; pleading for his life to be ended. Had stood by and let his friend reach such low depths and had done nothing to help.
Daniel had let him be tortured time and again.
“Please, mister? Are you alright?”
Was he supposed to be grateful to his friend for *that*?
“Mister!” This time accompanied by a tug on his arm.
Jack came back to awareness with a violent start. He stared blankly at the small hand on his forearm, watching with aloofness. Jack’s eyes followed a trail up the small hand, up the blue sweater-clad arm, to look into a boy’s worried face. Blinking, Jack recognised this as the blonde-haired brother of little Dee he had been observing earlier.
Belatedly, Jack realised that he was panting harshly and tremors were coursing through his body. He could feel sweat trickling down his spine and dampening his hair. He knew he must look a sight, making the fact that this young child had come up to him an impressive feat even as it served to embarrass him.
“Mister? Are you okay?” The boy’s question sounded slightly shaky, his nervousness showing in his voice along with a great determination to check on this stranger.
Jack started to reply, but found that his own voice came out as a croak. Clearing his throat, he tried again. “I’m fine. You’d best go look after your sister.” Glancing in the direction of the girl as he said it, he saw her eyes were now open wide in fear. The soccer ball was now down on the grass by her feet, as both hands were busy twisting her curls around her fingers before letting them loose and twisting them again.
“Are you sure you’re okay? Do you need me to get a doctor or something? You don’t look so good, mister.” The boy was still looking up at him, with a concerned expression on his face.
“I’m fine. Thank you for asking, but I’d better get going.” Jack answered in a strained voice, trying not to let the anger from his thoughts spill out onto a child.
With that, he took off at a run, leaving the boy to take a hasty step back out of his way. The anger in Jack seemed to multiply now – not only at Daniel, but at having been lost in his thoughts so much so that a young child had felt the need to check on him.
Running back at a much quicker pace along the route he had originally followed to get to the park, Jack’s knee started throbbing in time to the pounding it was taking every time his right foot hit the pavement. Using the pain as a focus point, instead of having to be in his own mind or think about what had just happened, Jack continued running until he reached his front door. Fumbling with his keys, nearly dropping them in his hurry, he managed to jam the key into the lock and swing the door open.
Almost falling through the doorway, Jack turned and slammed the door shut after entering his house. His breathing was even harsher now, great panting breaths as his body tried to take in enough oxygen to feed muscles that were running on fumes. His knee was now a constant ache, vying for his attention against the in his side.
Hobbling down the hall and into his bathroom, Jack pulled a pack of ibuprofen out of the medicine cabinet above the sink. Popping a few of the pills from the packet, he put them in his mouth before turning on the tap and swallowing a handful of the cool water. Cupping more of the liquid in his hands, Jack splashed his face to clear off the sweat before running his dripping hands through his hair. Turning the faucet off with a violent twist, Jack turned around and slid down the tiled wall at the side of the sink to sit on the floor.
His rapid breathing having finally slowed to normal, Jack leant his head back against the hard tiles behind him. He felt emotions flooding through his mind faster than he had ever experienced before. Anger, embarrassment, hatred, fear, depression - feelings about Baal; about his torture; about Daniel; about the episode in the park. It made him want to break down and sob. But he would never allow that; never allow his emotions such free control over his mind. These were the type of feelings and emotions that one kept locked away forever.
Never being one to just sit around and do nothing, Jack decided that some physical action would be the best way to exorcise his latest demons. Lurching back up to his feet as he came to a decision, Jack made his way back through the house towards the garage. Glancing at his watch Jack noticed that it was lunchtime – but his stomach felt twisted from all of the tension he was holding in for him to even contemplate eating something.
Stepping into the cooler confines of his garage, Jack made his way over to the corner that had a punching bag suspended from the ceiling. Stopping just in front of the heavy bag, Jack’s fist suddenly shot out to land squarely in the centre, sending it swinging, the momentum carrying it away from him.
It was as if a dam had broken.
Before the bag could even swing fully back into its original position, Jack’s other fist connected solidly. Again and again, fist met leather as Jack let his tension flow out of him and into the bag. All of the anger that had been building was being released with every strike.
Jack continued punching, as if his life depended on it. Nothing else seemed to matter at that moment as much as connecting his fist with the solid weight, picturing in his mind’s eye all of those who had been tormenting his mind, making him angry. He didn’t stop – didn’t notice – when his fists started bleeding, not having taken the time to strap his hands or pull on his gloves before hitting the punching bag the first time.
As suddenly as he had started, Jack stopped. Grabbing on to the bag, he jerked it to a stop before leaning slightly against it as he got his breath back. Finally noticing a stinging sensation in his hands, Jack pulled back enough to peer at them. The knuckles of both hands were bloody and bruised from hitting the stiff leather. He could also make out slight bloody smears on the surface of the punching bag.
Pushing himself to stand up straight, Jack slowly made his way back into the house. Walking into the kitchen to stand by the sink, Jack turned the taps on and rinsed his hands under the stream of water. As the water running into the drain turned from a pale pink back to its normal transparency, Jack switched the taps back off and gingerly dried his hands off with the towel he kept in the kitchen.
Finishing that task, Jack walked over the fridge and pulled the door open. Reaching in, he grabbed the six-pack of beer sitting on the top shelf. After the day he had been having – in fact, after the weekend he had had – he needed a drink.
Lounging in his armchair, Jack let the half-empty bottle of bourbon drop down to rest on his thigh. He had spent a couple of hours drinking his way through the six-pack of Guinness before deciding that he needed something a little stronger. He had pulled out a bottle of Jim Beam Bourbon Whisky that he’d had stashed in one of his cupboards, before pouring himself a couple of fingers of straight bourbon. Swirling the amber liquid around, Jack held his glass up to the light, watching as it sloshed around the inside in mini currents.
Downing the rest of the drink, Jack picked the bottle back up from his lap and refilled the glass. Putting the bourbon bottle back on the table with a slight bump, he noticed a pair of feet standing on the floorboards where his gaze was currently focussed. Jack’s eyes followed a trail up across the suede loafers, up a pair of beige pants and a cream sweater, only to come to a stop on the face of one Daniel Jackson.
Jack only stared back at the man who had been one of the main focuses of his thoughts over the weekend.
"It's good to see you."
"Yeah... you too. It's a shame you're a delusion."
"No, I'm here. I'm really here."
And once again, the anger inside him began to build up to intolerable levels.
Finally answering the man standing across from him, Jack growled back, “What are you doing here, Daniel?”
“Just thought I’d see how you were doing, Jack.” Daniel’s level gaze seemed to bore straight through Jack – as if he already knew the answer.
“So, what? You decided to see if I was alright now when nothing is happening, rather than when things were actually going on?” Jack sneered back at Daniel, his anger already starting to get the better of him. The lack of sleep, events of the weekend and alcohol had all loosened his control over his emotions – and anger was at the forefront.
“You know that’s not how it went, Jack.” Daniel calmly answered back.
“Oh, it’s not, huh? So I didn’t just spend last week dying God knows how many times while you just kept me company? So you didn’t just sit by and do absolutely squat?” Jack was speaking in an enraged hiss now.
“You know I did what I could, Jack! I was limited by the rules-”
“That’s a load of crap, and you know it! You could have helped me! What could they have done that would have been so bad?”
"Damn straight! I'd have busted you out, blown this rat hole to hell and made sure that son-of-a-bitch suffered!"
"The others would have stopped you."
"They'd have a hell of a fight on their hands."
“They’d have stop-” Daniel started to reply.
“They’d have stopped you, I know. But would that really have been anything like dying time and again, only to be revived for it to continue?”
“I-” Daniel stood with his hands in his pockets, his expression neutral as he rocked back on his heels slightly.
“So maybe blowing that stinking place up wouldn’t have been allowed… but God, Daniel! You couldn’t have helped me out? Jammed a door or two along the way?” Jack’s voice was getting louder as he continued on at his friend.
“Jack, I couldn’t interfere.” Once again, Daniel was trying to reason to him in a calm voice.
Jumping up out of his chair, whiskey glass still in hand, Jack stalked towards his friend, coming to a stop a few metres away from him. “You were the only one who knew where I was, Daniel! The others – they didn’t know. They were working on guesses; on instinct. What if they hadn’t guessed correctly, Daniel? Would you have just left me there? Refused to help me?”
“If they hadn’t managed it, you’d still have had the option of ascending. I could have helped you to ascend.” Daniel’s voice seemed to have a hint of pleading in the tone.
“Bullshit, Daniel, and you know it.” Jack’s hand tightened around his glass in response to Daniel’s statement.
“It is not, Jack! Why would I lie? You just need to have some faith in yourself!”
"I wouldn't be here if I didn't believe you could do it."
"This is me we're talking about!"
"Yes, it is. Now, please - just try to open you're mind."
"Oh... stop it, will you?"
“You just don’t get it, do you Daniel?” Jack’s voice once again rose in volume. “People like *me* don’t ascend. It’s for people like you. I’ve done things in my life that I doubt you could even imagine. And I don’t mean that in a good way.”
Daniel’s voice finally changed from the neutral sounding tone to one of exasperation. “Would you just listen to yourself, Jack? I’m not some pure, innocent person. I’ve done things in my life I’m not proud of. Hell, Jack, it took some persuasion from Oma before I was ready to ascend.”
“Just stop it, Daniel! I’ve done some damn distasteful things in my life. Things only a handful of my superiors know all the details about. Things that would probably make you feel sick if you knew. Don’t you dare compare things you’ve done to what I have done.”
“I believed my entire life was a failure, Jack. That I wasn’t worthy of ascension either. That I couldn’t do it. But Oma explained it to me, Jack – she told me that it’s not the success or failure of your deeds that add up to the sum of your life. But that you should judge yourself by the intention of your actions, and by the strength that you have faced the challenges that have stood in your way. I know you are a good man Jack.”
"You're a better man than that."
"That's where you're wrong!"
“Shut up!” With his cry, Jack let fly the glass in his hand. It went sailing across the room – through the non-corporeal Daniel – to smash into the far wall, leaving whiskey splattered along the vertical surface.
After the brief shock following Jack’s violent outburst had passed, Daniel once again stood still with his hands in his pockets, allowing Jack to continue.
“I’m not you, Daniel…” Jack stopped with an almost pleading tone. As Daniel continued to stand as he was, not replying this time to Jack’s comment, Jack took this as Daniel non-verbally admitting defeat over this issue. Or at least, agreeing to disagree.
The force of his anger seeming to leave him all of a sudden, Jack sank back down onto the sofa. An all-encompassing weariness seemed to wash over him, through mind and body, leaving him wanting nothing more than to crawl under his bed covers and forget about everything.
“Why are you here, Daniel?” His tone of voice was one of resignation. “You can’t change what happened. I can’t change what happened. We both made our choices.”
“I needed to check on you, Jack. I knew you were angry…”
Jack almost laughed at that. “What did you expect, Daniel? That’d I’d get home and just carry on like normal, as if nothing had happened? That I could just pretend I wasn’t angry with you? Pretend that I’m still not angry with you?”
Daniel had moved to perch at the end of Jack’s sofa, not adding anything to Jack’s words.
“What you did to me, Daniel, was torture in itself. You were asking me to either do the impossible or bear the unbearable. It’s not something I can just forget about at the drop of a hat. I had to choose between continuing to live through an endless cycle of torture, or to move on to a ‘higher plane of existence’. And to me – to *me*, Daniel – both choices were impossible.”
Glancing up, Jack saw that he held all of Daniel’s attention. Rubbing his hands across his thighs, Jack idly noticed that his knuckles were slightly swollen, and had started to scab over, from his earlier encounter with the punching bag.
Staring at his hands, Jack continued on with what he was saying. Not being one to normally easily verbalise his emotions, he found it easier to stare down at his now clasped hands. But Daniel having seen Jack at what was one of his lowest points and being his closest friend for years made being able to talk that much easier. “I realised yesterday that there’s only one other person I have been this angry at before in my life. And that was Frank Cromwell. I know I never filled you in on certain things in my life, Daniel, and Cromwell was one of them. But all that needs to be said was that Cromwell broke a promise I thought we had taken seriously.”
Glancing at Daniel - who was also staring at Jack’s hands - before looking away again, Jack cleared his throat. “I spent years being angry with Cromwell. I let a hatred build up inside me, blaming him for the period in my life he had been the cause of. And now I regret not being able to patch things up with Cromwell before that whole blackhole incident. I was angry, and I think I was entitled to that anger, but I guess I never realised that I would regret the rift it caused between the two of us until it was too late. It has tarnished the memories I have of him.”
Daniel’s quiet “I’m sorry, Jack” interrupted him.
With a shake of his head, Jack replied. “Just don’t, Daniel. That’s not why I’m saying this. I learned a lesson because of Frank Cromwell. I left it too late to work things out with him. We never talked about what happened – it was a time I didn’t want to remember; and we were both pretty bad about discussing our feelings.”
“I’d say you were doing pretty well here, Jack…”
“But that’s just the point, Daniel. I don’t want to make that mistake twice. You are… were… one of the best friends I have had in a long while. And you’re one of the gentlest people I’ve known. Why we got on – well, who knows. But we did. You saved me from committing suicide; gave me a taste for life again. Not many people could have done that. You’ve made me see things in a light I know I would probably not have considered before. I know I’m angry. And I’ll probably be angry for months to come. But I also won’t let that affect the memories I have of you.”
“Thank you, Jack.” Daniel’s whispered reply to Jack’s words was short, yet seemed to hold so much emotion.
Looking up, Jack saw that he was once more alone in his living room. He knew that his anger at Daniel for having stood by while he was tortured was still in him. It wasn’t that easy to just forgive someone – particularly a friend – for letting something like that happen to you. Nor was it easy to forget. But that anger was not all-encompassing as it had been earlier; it was at a level he would live with.
Slowly pulling himself up out of his chair to stand, Jack realised that his head felt muzzy – a mix of lack of sleep and too much alcohol. He knew he wouldn’t be sure in the morning if Daniel had really been here, already everything seemed distant from himself. But even if it had only been a figment of his overtired mind, it had helped to cleanse his consciousness.
Stumbling off in the direction of his bedroom, Jack knew that while he may still be haunted by the occasional nightmare, he would actually be able to sleep tonight – much more peacefully than he had in the last week since his return to Earth.
~~ Finis ~~
Time frame: Season six, an 'Abyss' or post-'Abyss' fic.
Jack feels like the visiting ascended-Daniel is just torturing him all the more. He shows up, but he won't help Jack escape. Won't even jam the door to slow Baal & co down. Daniel just keeps telling him to ascend, which Jack doesn't think he can do. Being told to do the impossible or bear the unbearable – it is torture in itself. And Daniel's convinced Jack he's real, so it's not his own mind torturing him; it really is his friend.
If it's written during, I don't think Jack can really understand why Daniel won't do anything Jack sees as helpful. And if it's written after, I don't think Jack could just shrug this off with the thought that it worked out in the end, even if he had to die horribly a few times first.