Enjoying the View
SUMMARY: Sometimes you need help to look past a fear.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Out of the blue, I remembered the off-hand remark Daniel made about fearing heights (blanking on which episode he said it in at the moment) and always wandered if he was truly serious or if it just an off-hand comment, normal fear lots of people have about falling. This is a serious look, I guess, and cure (and little bit of a philosophical Jack, well, as philosophical as he could be g ). Enjoy :).
DISCLAIMER: The characters mentioned in this story are the property of Showtime and Gekko Film Corp. The Stargate, SG-I, the Goa'uld and all other characters who have appeared in the series STARGATE SG-1 together with the names, titles and backstory are the sole copyright property of MGM-UA Worldwide Television, Gekko Film Corp, Glassner/Wright Double Secret Productions and Stargate SG-I Prod. Ltd. Partnership. This fanfic is not intended as an infringement upon those rights and solely meant for entertainment. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author.
Daniel Jackson was afraid of heights.
Which didn't make his current situation any easier. Perched on the edge of a cliff with only enough room to barely fit his feet. If he looked down he could see his toes hanging off the ledge. That and the one hundred and fifty foot plummet to the bottom.
He wasn't about to make that mistake again.
Instead he clutched the cliff as best as he could - back straight to it, trying his very best not to move one muscle.
Jack's voice. The fact that it came from above him did nothing to calm his slowly fraying nerves. He swallowed and looked straight ahead, afraid to fix his gaze anywhere else.
"You okay? Anything broken?"
Only his confidence, which when it came to heights he didn't have much of. But it had gotten better.
"No." One word sentences meant no accidental moves that could send him sprawling over the edge. Surprisingly, it wasn't the fear of death that overwhelmed him. If only it was that.
"Hang tight. We're working out a plan to get you back top."
It was that. That he had to wait, perched on the very edge of a cliff side for help. Rescue meant nothing when he had to use every ounce of his being to swallow the thoughts of looking down. Of course, he only had himself to blame when it came to his current predicament. He'd been examining a rock close to the drop. It had been etched and Daniel thought it might be a clue to why SG-1 had, as of yet, found no people living on this planet. Then, he hadn't even realized he was so close to the edge. He had shifted to get a better look at the artifact, when he lost his footing, got a glimpse of the fall that awaited him, and found himself tumbling down a rocky cliff side.
He had grabbed on to the first thing his hands found. A slender rock slab directly in his path. But even then, he could only maintain his grip for a matter of seconds. That's when he slid, skidded over some sharp rock, and found his descent stopped by a shallow platform, that at its deepest could only be ten inches wide.
Sustaining only what would amount later to a multitude of bruises he was sure, Daniel should have been relieved that his luck found him a temporary safety net, giving Jack, Sam, and Teal'c time to figure out the best way to remove him from his present situation.
Instead, he concentrated on not having a panic attack on the side of a mountain millions of miles from Earth and safety.
Funny thing was he wasn't always afraid of heights. Quite the opposite in fact. When he was in Egypt with his parents, more then once, did he scale tall objects to get a better view. He almost fell off a large structure once, and would have, if his father hadn't grabbed him a second before he tumbled. Even that incident was not the one that deterred him from heights.
It happened later, after his parents were gone. He'd been through five foster homes during his withdrawn period - a period during which he spoke very little and spent many hours wishing his parents back to life, all while clutching a tattered giraffe that had been a birthday gift back when he still lived in Egypt.
That giraffe accompanied him to family number six and for the first time, he looked forward to an opportunity to find a new family. He knew now that wishing for his parents to return was hopeless and that Nick had come and gone so quickly that Daniel had little time to attach himself to the man. This time, he had told himself, he would push aside all his feelings and look for some happiness. That he wouldn't be difficult. That this time, they'd want to keep him because he was such a good child, not depressed in the least.
The social worker introduced them. Mr. and Mrs. Parks. They had no other children and welcomed him with warm smiles. Immediately they told Daniel he could call them Greg and Linda. This time was going to be different, Daniel knew. He had his own room here. Greg was a lawyer and spent most of the day at work, but Linda didn't work and always spent the entire day with Daniel.
"Greg and I can't have children," she told Daniel one day. "We tried for a long time."
Daniel nodded, taking in the information, as he helped Linda wash the dishes. He was the dryer - a very important job, Linda had told him. Daniel dried each plate very carefully; afraid if he dropped something Linda might get angry and bring him back. Like the Kiells did when he'd broken an expensive antique lamp.
"Yep. And then we figured that we could still have kids. Just in a different way." She handed Daniel another plate. "You're the first, you know," she confided. "That makes you very special."
Daniel stopped drying to look at her. Special. No one had called him special. Not since his parents did and that seemed like forever ago, when in fact, in had only been a year. He didn't know what to do.
Linda turned to him, saw his look, and immediately stopped washing. "Daniel," she said, pulling him into a hug, wet hands and all. He cried and she let him. That night she and Greg took him out to dinner, where at desert he got chocolate cake and begged for a taste of Greg's coffee. Greg laughed when Daniel said he didn't know which he liked better.
It was on the way home that things changed. It had started raining and the roads were slippery. They were driving across a small bridge, when a car in the opposite lane swerved. The car turned abruptly, Linda cried out, Greg cursed, and in the back seat, Daniel tucked himself into a ball.
The next thing Daniel knew, were the voices coming from outside the car. When he opened his eyes, he found his door wide open, creaking in the rainy wind.
"Linda," he said, his voice shaking. His arm hurt, his head pounded, and he heard no response from his foster parents. Slowly he sat up and peered over the seat. Greg was slumped over the steering wheel, head bleeding. Linda ... all he knew was she wasn't moving.
Red was bad. He knew that from his parents deaths - all he'd saw then was his mother's arm, blood creeping out and covering the floor.
He sat back and immediately the car shifted an inch, causing his door to creak again. Where was he? That was when he looked out and saw that half of the car was off the bridge. That was when he leaned too far and his beloved giraffe - the one he took everywhere since his parents' deaths - fell making a long drop before splashing loudly in the water below. That's when he stayed that way for the next half-hour while firefighters, policemen and paramedics worked to get him out. That's when he heard the negative tone in one policeman's voice when asked about his foster parents.
That's when he got his fear of heights.
And almost twenty-five years later, that fear remained. And surfaced, especially when Daniel found himself in situations like the one he now faced.
He swallowed again and felt his heart begin to race. No, he told himself, not going to panic. Gotta keep it together. Jack'll come soon. Jack or Sam or Teal'c. Then you won't have to be near this damn cliff - or this damn planet, for that matter - ever again.
At that second he heard moment not too far above him. "Jack?" he called. A second later, Jack appeared next to him, suspended by some sort of rope system.
"Right here. Carter rigged up some kinda pull system. Something about right angles and, well I -" Jack reached out a hand to touch Daniel's shoulder while he was speaking. The archeologist flinched at the touch. "Daniel?"
"You know that fear of heights I once mentioned?" He closed his eyes.
"Just need to get out of here." No need for Jack to know. No need. But Daniel knew he already knew and erasing it wouldn't be easy.
Jack looked a little unconvinced, but brushed it off. "Okay. Basically, you're gonna latch on and Teal'c and Carter are going to pull us up. So we get to be nice and cozy for a few minutes. I promise not to try anything," he weakly joked.
Daniel gave him a small smile. "Better not. Can we go now?" Anything to get away from the drop.
It only took another few minutes, but for Daniel it was an eternity. He thought back to the anxious minutes when the firefighters tried to reach him without tipping the car. Small amount of time. When Jack and Daniel finally touched ground again, the linguist let out a breath he didn't realize he was holding in. Almost immediately Sam reached to check Daniel for injuries.
"I'm fine, Sam. Just some bruises," Daniel insisted, afraid some of his anxiety would creep into his voice. Concerned, Sam looked at Daniel, then at Jack.
"Heights," Jack simply responded, and helped Daniel up. "He's okay. Well, campers, I think it's time to head out." He picked up Daniel's pack from its place next the rock that had started all the trouble in the first place. Daniel reached for it, but Jack shook his head. "Bruises or not, it's mine till Fraiser checks you out."
Daniel rolled his eyes at Jack's over protective attitude, but was secret grateful for his gesture. His body was finally beginning to feel some effects of his fall. The four headed back toward the Stargate in silence. Daniel walked a bit behind, not wanting to feel worried eyes on him. His was a mess, with his clothes torn in places and his head was covered in dust, he was sure. At the moment, his body hated him, as aches awakened fully, and in addition, Daniel could feel a trickle of blood down the back of his right leg. Thankfully, the Stargate was only a short distance and it was same old, same old as he found himself lying stomach down on an infirmary bed, while Janet Fraiser stitched up a long cut on the back of his leg. Jack stood off to the side, playing with a bag of saline - something he tended to do when waiting for Daniel in the infirmary.
"So, what's the verdict?" Daniel heard Jack's voice and turned toward it.
"Stay still Daniel," Janet scolded. "And Colonel, you break it, you bought it." Jack lowered the bag and walked around to where Daniel could see him without turning. He smiled.
"So? He good as new?"
"He's very lucky, sir," Janet answered as she finished the last stitch. "X-rays came back negative. Just some minor scraps, some very deep bruising, and some angry abused muscles. And this," she gestured to her current task, "of course."
"So he can go?"
"All long as he follows instructions, yes. I had Cathy fill his prescriptions. There's on the table over there." She finished bandaging Daniel's leg. "You can get up, Daniel. Slowly." She took the bottles from Jack's hands. "This is an antibiotic for your leg. This is a muscle-relaxant for the bruising - believe me Daniel, it will hurt for a few days. And finally, this one is your allergy medication. The one you've forgotten to pick up all week."
"Sorry," he mumbled.
Janet just shook her head as she signed off on his file. "And before you go..." She picked up a syringe and an alcohol swab as she spoke.
Before Daniel could respond, she swabbed his upper arm and stuck him.
"Ow. What was that for?"
"Muscle relaxant. So I know you took at least one dose." She disposed of the needle. "You're free to go."
Daniel immediately felt the effects of the shot. His muscles relaxed and he had a feeling if he tried to stand, he'd fall on the floor. He heard Janet tell Jack he couldn't drive. Next thing he knew, Jack was guiding him through mountain toward his car. He knew it was only because he hadn't eaten before his fall that the medication hit him so hard, but it didn't make it any less graceful when he basically passed out on Jack's couch when he got there. The thing he was most grateful for, however was the fact that Jack hadn't said a word about what had happened off-world.
When he woke up, Jack was sitting across from him, the TV remote in hand. When Daniel stirred, Jack turned his eyes to him.
"How are you feeling?" he asked and Daniel knew that Jack wasn't just talking about physical hurt. He could read it in his eyes. Many times, their friendship needed little words.
"Better." He slowly pushed himself up, feeling his arms protest a little at the motion. He look down. "I, ah, thanks."
Jack didn't say a word. Daniel knew he needed to come clean. After all, it was Jack. Jack knew Daniel had many demons. But Daniel didn't like to share. At least not easily. But Jack had managed to pry certain things out of the archeologist at specific times. And while the colonel couldn't always get the whole story, he gained enough information to come to a logical conclusion - most of time it was right. Most of the time. And maybe it was the lingering effects of the muscle relaxant, but Daniel figured why not add one more to the mix. He took a deep breath.
"When I was about nine, I was in an accident with my foster
parents. The car skidded halfway off a bridge. My door was thrown
open. Right over the fifty foot drop to the water. I was trapped
in the car for an hour and a half." He paused for a second. "They died."
Daniel sighed. "You'd think I'd be over it by now, like I should be about ..."
"Everything else?" Jack raised an eyebrow. "No one says you need to be over anything, Daniel." A moment of silence passed between the two men.
Then Jack got up, throwing the remote on the chair, forgotten. "Come on." He offered Daniel a hand. Confused, Daniel took it, letting Jack help him up.
"Where are we going?"
"I have a telescope, Daniel. On the roof." He guided Daniel through the kitchen.
"Yes, so?" Daniel knew he had a telescope. Knew the man like to sit up there for a spell or two. But Daniel had never seen it, save for a few glance from the front of the house. A thought formed. "I don't need to go there, Jack."
"Sure you do." Still protesting, Daniel let Jack guide
him up the stairs and to the top. The night surrounded them, but
Daniel fixed his focus to the floor. "No," Jack
insisted, "Look." With a gentle
hand, he pushed Daniel's gaze toward the earth below.
"Jack -" He looked down. Jack had a view of the entire neighborhood. Lots of tiny lit houses surrounded by tree and lit cars. The world going on before his very eyes. No scary drops or endless, dark water for giraffes to fall in. Just nighttime enveloped in an outline of lights and leaves. Just life going on for miles.
It was beautiful, he realized.
"See, Daniel, sometimes heights aren't all bad." He touched his friend's shoulder for a second. "But you know what, sometimes they are. You just take your chances. Because if you don't you miss out." He shrugged.
Another silence followed before Jack spoke again.
"I was afraid of the water when I was nine."
Caught off guard, Daniel turned to Jack. "But you were nine."
"So were you," Jack countered. "Anyway, I was nine when I went in the ocean on vacation. This huge wave caught me and threw me against a rock. I wasn't really hurt, just some cuts on my arms and legs, but it was enough. After that I hated the ocean. And in turn, the lake too.
"Until I was twelve when my father dragged fishing with him. I was terrified. Big honking lake, me stuck in the middle of it in a tiny boat. My father had a hell of a time getting me to step foot in that boat. Anyway, when we got out far enough, he handed me a fishing pole and said 'look at the water.' And I did. And looking closely I could see a few fish near the surface. I thought it was the coolest thing in the world. Even cooler when I caught one." He gestured ahead. "And that's when my father said, 'see, sometimes the water isn't so bad. And sometimes it is. You just take your chances. Because if you don't you miss out.' After that, I loved the water. And fishing."
Daniel was surprised. He had no idea. "Hard to imagine you not liking fishing, Jack."
"You'd love it too if you'd just go."
Daniel smiled. "We'll see."
"I'm sure it is. If you catch something."
"Hey, I always catch something."
Smiling, Daniel turned, taking in what he'd just be took. Jack, and his father, were right. He'd always concentrated on the negative when it came to his fear. He'd forgotten the joys being up high could bring. The reason he climbed anything tall when he was younger. Because of the view. The feeling of looking down on the world below. The good feeling had been lost, forgotten, and buried when a bad experience came in. Good and bad. Didn't mean he still couldn't celebrate the good. In any experience.
He returned his gaze to his friend. Who would have guessed that Jack O'Neill, hater of clichés, would volunteer a philosophy that some may call that very thing. He smiled again, thinking of the good view and in turn, thinking of the good times with Greg and Linda. "Um, Jack ... thanks, again."
"Nothing to it, Danny." Jack turned back to the sights below. He clasped his hand on Daniel's shoulder. "Sometimes, you just gotta try and enjoy the view."
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