Jack questioned the decision to leave Daniel alone the very moment he stepped out of the room and pushed the door to an almost close. He left a small crack in order to hear if Daniel called for him.
Returning to the dining room he pondered his friend’s hurried retire to his room. Jack knew something was bothering Daniel. The fact that he wasn’t allowed to help with the translation of the data chip from PQX-830 had apparently brought up the thoughts from that first night in the infirmary. Their friendship was strong, but talking and other such touchy-feely aspects of friendship had never been Jack’s strong side. He needed Sam’s help on this one even if he was quite sure he was still going to have to be the one doing the actual talking in the end.
“Can you stay for a bit?” he asked her when he entered the dining room and slumped down in his chair.
“Of course,” was her response, the mirror image of his concern for their shared friend evident in her voice. She wasn’t about to leave him to deal with this on his own, especially since she was familiar with his fluidity in sensitivity.
Jack fixed them some coffee and they retreated to the living room, the sofa being both more comfortable and further away from Daniel’s room. Jack didn’t want him to hear them talking about him as it would probably only make him less inclined to talk when it came time for that. Turning his cup in his hand and taking a sip of the hot beverage Jack decided to dive right in.
“Something’s up with Daniel.”
Sam nodded, taking a sip of her coffee as well.
“I know he wants in on the translation, but Janet said he should rest. Besides, the pile of linguists piled into my lab should at least be close to matching the amount of knowledge crammed into his brain. They’ll figure it out, and he can focus on getting better as the doctor ordered.”
Her joke about the resident language genius of SGC fell flat, a worrying measure of how concerned Jack was.
“I don’t think this is just about the translation,” he said, “or him actually adhering to the doctor’s orders for once.”
“You think there’s something else?” Sam sat up more straight. A slight crease of worry wrinkled her brow.
Jack took another thoughtful swig of coffee before he answered her.
“I’m afraid so. You know we had an argument that first night after we got back?”
“Yeah, Daniel told me he yelled at you.”
Jack gave a crooked grin. No problem being honest when it comes to accepting blame.
“I guess he did. Did he tell you what he said?”
“No, he just said he yelled and told you to go away. And that you did as he asked ‘for once’.”
Jack cringed at the quotation. Daniel’s words were painfully apt. It wasn’t often Jack did as he asked, and now he’d picked going away as the one request to adhere to. He sighed.
“Guess in hindsight that wasn’t my smartest move, but I didn’t know what to say to make him feel better. I’ve always been more of the doing type, so that’s what I did. Went and did something.”
“You did the right thing, sir, convincing me to try healing him. If you hadn’t insisted I might not have dared to try and he’d be a lot worse off than he is now.” Sam was trying to comfort him, but Jack remembered Janet’s warning about the penny dropping for Daniel.
“I know. But the things he said that night stuck with me, and they’ve been grating at my mind. Or maybe not the things he said but rather how he said it, and what they expressed.”
“What, Jack?” Sam leaned forward, protocol completely forgotten in the face of the solemnity in Jack’s voice. Obviously he had been thinking about this quite a bit and come to an unsettling conclusion.
“He said he wouldn’t be much use to me as a recruit for the hockey team. But I’m pretty sure he wasn’t only referring to the hockey. If that was all it was about he wouldn’t have been as upset as he was. Sure he was starting to like it, but his face…it was like he meant he wouldn’t be any use at all. Like he felt useless without his legs.”
Jack’s words were certainly worrying, but there was one thing she needed to clarify.
“Wait a minute,” she said, “hockey?”
“Yeah, I convinced him to try it after we watched a game together and he actually found it interesting.” Jack smiled warmly at the memory but sobered quickly. “Not the point though, Carter, I am actually worried about him. He was so angry, and…Fraiser even warned me about what might happen if he isn’t going to be completely restored. You know how much SG-1 means to him. Who knows how he’ll react if he can’t be on the team anymore.”
That brought Sam’s mirth down as well.
“I have an inkling,” she muttered and shuddered at the recollection of Daniel’s face when she had come to him to suggest using the Goa’uld healing device. “You didn’t see him before I healed him,” she told Jack, not quite able to keep the reproach out of her voice. It wasn’t entirely fair, but Jack hadn’t seen what she had. “It was worse than after Langara. He had actually given up, I think.”
Her choice of words had just the effect she had intended. Jack knew as well as her the amount of Daniel’s tendency to give up. The colonel fell back in the sofa with a grunt.
“Holy Hannah. What’d he think; that we were just gonna kick him out and move on? Yeez, Daniel!” He uttered the name of his favorite annoyance in a frustrated hiss.
Sam resisted the urge to scoot closer. Instead she put all the reassurance into her voice that her arm around his shoulders would have conveyed.
“It’ll get better. He’ll get better and return to work, and he’ll see there’s always a place for him at the base – and that we’ll be his team, his friends, no matter if he’s on SG-1 or not.”
Jack sighed and straitened up a bit, putting his cup down on the sofa table. Gathered his thoughts and courage alike.
“I hope so. Either way, I have to talk to him before he digs himself into a hole of despair again. Thank you for coming over, Carter. And thank you for…” He made a vague gesture to the living room, or perhaps to the two of them sitting in the sofa. Sam understood and gave him an encouraging smile as she rose.
“Any time, sir.”
Zipping up her jacket she walked to the hall and retrieved her helmet from beside the door. Her hand on the door handle, she turned to him and said, “Good luck.”
Jack simply nodded and locked the door after her. Gathering a bit more courage he headed for Daniel’s room and hesitantly pushed the door open. Daniel was lying as he left him, staring at the ceiling like he did a lot in his bed.
“Not much else to do,” he had told Jack when he commented on it just the same morning.
“You are supposed to be resting, recuperating, healing. Sound familiar?” Jack had half seriously scolded him, and gotten a succinct retort – worthy of Teal'c, the king of conciseness himself.
“Gallingly,” Daniel had muttered with a slight hint of bitterness.
I should probably cut him some slack and allow him a book at hand, Jack thought as he cleared his throat and entered the room.
Daniel did the lying down equivalent of stepping back; tilting his head up against the headboard and shrugging his shoulders. His hands flew across his face like a pair of panicked ferrets, swiping at his eyes and cheeks. Wrapping his arms around himself in his patented self-hugging gesture he pulled himself together. The kid is way too good at that, Jack thought but let him do it anyway and silently sat down on the edge of the bed. For several minutes he just sat there, searching for the words to begin. Daniel looked back at him, the defensive wall just behind his eyes as firmly in place as ever. With Jack it was also as ineffective as ever, and even if he didn’t know exactly what was going on in that brilliant brain of his Jack recognized the emotional pain shining through the cracks that only he could see in the wall.
“Daniel, we need to talk,” Jack began, tiptoeing around the frail edge of the sensitive subject. Daniel most certainly knew what was coming up, because he immediately reinforced the barrier that was almost physically visible on his face.
“Yes, Jack?” he responded warily.
“I know something’s going on, so just talk to me.” Jack all but pleaded to him. Daniel turned his head away, directing his eyes to the wall on the other side of the room.
“There’s nothing to talk about.”
“You know that I know that is a lie.”
Daniel sighed and turned his gaze back to Jack as a flash of anger swept across his features. Fine¸ Jack thought, at least you talk when you’re angry.
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“But we’re going to regardless. You need to talk about it and I need to know what’s going on so I can help.” Boy, is this a flip change of roles! I remember when he was the one who insisted on me dealing with my feelings. Saved my life then – right after he’d done it literally. I guess it’s my turn.
Daniel huffed and turned his head away again, not even trying to hide his anger anymore.
“Go away, Jack.”
“That is not going to work this time. It’s sharing time.” Jack tried to stay away from the temptation of joking, but the slight humor of his sardonic statement was lost on Daniel anyways.
“Well, what do you want me to say?!” Daniel snapped his head around, his electric blue eyes shooting lightning sparks.
“How about how you feel?” Jack retorted. “What is it exactly that you don’t want to talk about?”
Daniel turned his head away yet again, with another sigh that sounded a fair bit defeated.
“I might not get better,” he ground out eventually, still avoiding Jack’s eyes. “Janet tried to tell me but I didn’t listen. Guess I was just so happy to be getting better I didn’t want to listen to her. The physical therapist told me too, but I’ve just sort of been denying it. I might not get getter, Jack.” Daniel’s voice cracked with emotion and he struggled to keep the tears in. He had a lot of training so even though his eyes filled to the brim his cheeks remained dry. Jack inwardly cursed whoever had taught him that lesson.
“I know.” He held his voice sas gentle as the hand he laid on Daniel’s arm. To his relief Daniel didn’t pull away. He let Jack lightly stroke the arm and loosen one of his hands to slide his into it. For a while they sat quietly, hand in hand, Daniel apparently consumed by his thoughts. Jack waited. He knew that this time Daniel would talk when he was ready.
The fruit of the brooding finally came out in a voice thick with barely held back tears.
“What if I don’t?”
Jack gripped his hand harder, bringing his other hand to rest on top and completely envelop Daniel’s.
“Daniel,” he whispered while trying to suppress his own tears. “What are you so afraid of? It doesn’t matter if you can walk or not.”
“If I can’t walk, I can’t be on SG-1…” Daniel’s voice really broke this time and he was unable to say another word. The lump in his throat felt like it was threatening to suffocate him. His breathing turned into clipped gulps for air and he leaned his head back as if it would clear his airways. Jack understood what Daniel was thinking anyway, the unsaid words confirming what he had suspected already. He leaned forward and intoned his words with assurance.
“I’m telling you, Daniel, it doesn’t matter.”
Daniel somehow regained his vocals to protest, his voice laced with bitter derision.
“I can hardly be allowed to go off-world like this. I’d be a liability, and you know it.”
Jack did know it, but that wasn’t the point, and that was what he had to make Daniel understand.
“Daniel,” he reached up his hand to clasp the younger man’s chin, forcing Daniel’s eyes to meet his. “It doesn’t matter if you can walk…” He lifted his hand to stop the protest instantly forming on Daniel’s lips. “…because you will always be my friend, Sam’s friend, and Teal'c’s. It doesn’t matter if you’re on SG-1 and going through the ‘gate, you’ll always be a part of our team. We need you. Besides, your strongest part never was your legs. Come to think of it, we should all be glad you didn’t land on your head and wrecked that genius brain of yours.”
Again, Daniel ignored Jack’s attempt at a joke, and turned his eyes to their interlocked hands.
“But you don’t need me,” he objected. Jack couldn’t believe his ears.
“Why would you say that?”
Daniel shrugged disheartenedly.
“You’ve got the rest of the linguistics department to replace me. You did fine for a whole year when I was ascended. Sam’s doing fine with the chip from PQX-830. You’ll do fine without me again.”
“Oh, Daniel.” Jack breathed the words with exasperation. “We ‘did fine’ because we had to. You were gone, not coming back, practically dead. Jonas proved to be an asset, but he didn’t replace you. And about the linguistics department, we need the whole thing to make up for you. There are probably a dozen of those guys in Sam’s lab right now to try and do over night what you would whip out on your own in just a few hours.”
Daniel swallowed hard and for the first time his blue pools of tears voluntarily met Jack’s eyes.
“So why did she say she didn’t need me?” The question was almost a childlike whine, full of every fear his wounded heart held.
Jack steeled himself to maintain eye contact and get his point through.
“Because Fraiser ordered you to rest, remember?! ‘No work’ was her precise words. You were there so I know you know that’s what she said. If the rest of the geeks can figure it out you don’t have to do this one, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need you. When you’re feeling better and Fraiser says so you can get back to work, and save us all a lot of time and trouble of dealing with the less than genius remainder of your department. Until then though, you are going to do as the doctor ordered or she might force you back to the infirmary.”
Daniel mulled Jack’s words over, his eyes searching the colonel’s face for something that would tell him he was just lying to make him feel better. He knew his friend was definitely capable of doing that, but on the other hand Jack seldom was this straightforward – even when he was lying. Even more seldom did he do the whole serious talking bit. Mostly he left the talking to what he called the more sensitive portion of the team, namely Daniel or Sam.
“I’m not good with touchy-feely stuff,” he always said but Daniel knew in reality it was more a matter of the touchy-feely making him uncomfortable. He has got to be really worried to be acting so out of character, Daniel thought, suddenly acutely aware of Jack’s hands gently clasping his. He yanked his hand away, his eyes escaping to downcast as he felt his face flame red.
“Sorry,” he mumbled into his chest. Jack caught his hand again and reenveloped it with both of his own.
“You’ve got nothing to be sorry about, Daniel. I know that you’re feeling bad and this whole thing is shit scary, but you’ve got to remember your friends will always be there for you no matter what.”
Daniel stayed silent, his eyes wandering from Jack’s hands stubbornly clasping his, to the wall, and to the roof. They went everywhere except to Jack’s face. A range of emotions played over his features; embarrassment giving way to confusion – damn it, Daniel – and finally understanding and gratefulness. The relief rushed over Jack like a flood wave when Daniel at last met his eyes again. There were still tears there but a small smile already tugged at the corners of his mouth.