Daniel walked. Rather, he shuffled about aimlessly, his hands shoved into the deep pockets of his denim jacket, his head bent downwards so he could watch the pools of dead leaves gather at his feet. The sky was as clear a blue as was possible to obtain, the few clouds that could be seen stood in sharp, white, puffy contrast. The chill in the air was just enough to carry the smell of the season, but not enough to make him uncomfortable. He hesitated as a particularly strong gust lifted the leaves before him in a small whirlwind, and within it he looked for the face of a child, and a disturbing thought entered his head. I'm going mad. I must be going mad.
The leaves settled once again, and the wind cycled on through the trees. A more gentle breeze tagged along, giving Daniel's hair a playful ruffle. He stood still, listening to the whisper of nature as one season slowly drifted into another. And in his mind, a voice spoke.
You can feel the change as the wheel slows. You can feel the heaviness as the world you know falls asleep, and the life force changes.
"No." Daniel shook his headand winced, looking back at his feet
You can not deny the change.
"No." This time the voice carried resignation rather than rejection.
Then why do you fight it?
He pressed his hands to the sides of his head. Mad, he thought, going insane. The question lingered in his mind as he rubbed his temples and started to walk again, not caring where he his steps led him. The park was pleasantly crowded, just enough to not feel alone while not having the privacy of your thoughts compromised. He resumed shuffling, hands back in pockets, his shoes dampened by the mulch buried beneath newly fallen leaves. The lake sat in a hollow towards the east side of the park and he stopped, watching the ripples flow from one side to the other. There were a few ducks happily bobbing at floating white bits in the water, much to the pleasure of a man sitting alone on a bench. His grey running suit was familiar, as was his black knit cap and the muscular build of his body. Daniel's face relaxed and he jogged down the slope to see his friend.
The Jaffa looked up, his eyes shining pleasantly"DanielJackson. I did not expect to see you here." He shifted his position on the bench. "But I welcome your company."
Daniel sat, marveling at the way the man could make him feel so comfortable with few words. "I could say the same for you. Feeding the ducks?"
"I am. They seem to be most taken with the variety of bread served at the commissary."
"I suppose you found a good use for it then," Daniel remarked wryly.
Daniel flashed a smile and settled back to watch, one arm slung over the back of the bench. He often found the large man's presence to be very calming, probably because Teal'c was very careful to present only a calm demeanor about himself. He had seen his friend's feathers ruffled a few times, not a pretty sight. It was rare to see the Jaffa truly angry, and for that he counted his blessings. At the moment all was well, and Daniel found his tangled thoughts smooth into a linear stream of coherency. Maybe he was crazy, but at least he knew it. It didn't help his problem, but the thought made him better able to cope, or better yet, to shove it aside completely. He could feel Teal'c's intense gaze on him, and had to allow a quick, darting glance
The Jaffa could read men, and DanielJackson was an easy subject. His casual pose was unsuccessful in concealing the stiffness in his shoulders, and his face was carefully schooled but Teal'c could just see where the man's tongue was worrying his inner cheek. It was the classic something's-up-but-I'm-not-telling look, as O'Neill called it. It was the look that plainly saidhis friend had something troubling on his mind. He remembered Daniel's offer to talk during the ordeal with Shau'nac, and had been appreciative then, but unfortunately the following events left little time for chat. Then Daniel Jackson left them. Became of the Ascended, touched the Ancients. And Teal'c had felt an emptiness unlike anything he had ever experienced. He suddenly missed the sincerity, the offers of friendship, the simple understanding. He hadn't realized how much he had taken for granted.
Now his friend had returned, under circumstances that still were unknown to him. Not only that, he helped to free Ry'ac and Bra'tac from the mines, thus putting Teal'c in his debt. Of course there was another time when his friend had come to him, in his ascended form, when Teal'c was deathly ill. He had guided him through a rough time. He had saved him. Teal'c felt he owed this man more than he could possibly repay, and the constant fretful expression Daniel now wore ripped at his heart. He was a man who felt deeply, as did Teal'c, yet he was not good at hiding it.
He saw his friend's quick glance in his direction, and saw the gaze return to the water. Teal'c seized the opportunity. "We have been through much, Daniel Jackson."
Daniel blinked, startled by the remark. "Yes, yes we have."
"You know I think of you as my brother."
Daniel looked down, knowing such a strong sentiment was a firm commitment from a Jaffa. "I. . .feel the same, Teal'c." He managed to meet the comment with a tiny half-smile, a hint of confusion in his eyes.
"You have helped me many times."
"Yeah, Teal'c," he scratched behind his ear self-consciously, "what are you getting at?"
"I simply wish to know why you will not tell me what had been troubling you these past weeks."
"Oh. . . OH." Daniel turned to him. "Teal'c, it has nothing to do with not trusting you." He winced, realizing that in his statement he had just admitted to having a problem.
"Then why will you not come forth?"
"It's. . .it's not that easy, Teal'c , look, I'm fine, really. Just have things. . ." he tried hard not to say 'in my head', "on my mind. Work stuff. Cataloging. There is this whole box of artefacts from P3x-599 that I haven't seen yet, it's floating around the base somewhere. . ."
Daniel snapped back. "Yes?"
"I just want you to know," Teal'c paused and searched for the words, "if you ever need to. . .talk. . ."
Daniel swallowed as his words, spoken many times, were hurled softly back at him. His train of thought not only derailed, it plummeted. He licked his lips and responded nonchalantly, "Thanks. I'll let you know."
Teal'c eyed his friend for a moment. "General Hammond has informed me of your desire to return to Kehb, where the Harsesis was found. What do you wish to obtain there?"
Daniel frowned. "Since when does the General find it prudent to discuss my private conversations?"
"He merely wanted to ascertain the risk pending your return. The Goa'uld. . ."
"The Goa'uld are afraid of Kehb."
"Yet they found us there."
"Because of the child."
"And what is to keep them from searching again? They do not know what events have transpired since."
Daniel pressed his lips together in a tight line. "So what did you say?"
"I stated that there was indeed a risk, although it was a minor one, and if you were to return I would be happy to accompany you. Which brings us back to the question of your desire to go."
"Those writings. I want to study them."
"Did Oma Desala not teach you everything you need to know?"
"If she did, I don't think I listened very well."
"I would find that difficult to believe." Teal'c glanced down at his bag. The bread was gone. The ducks hovered at the water's edge, voicing their discontent before flapping across the lake in frustration.
"What, that I don't listen? That I can be too full of myself to pay attention?" Daniel gave a self-depreciating grin.
"I do not believe that statement worthy of you, DanielJackson."
"Oh, take off your rose-colored glasses, Teal'c. Maybe I'm not who you think I am."
Teal'c noticed the sudden change in his friend's demeanor. "Your behavior concerns me. Perhaps we should walk. . ."
"No, Teal'c. I'm fine. Really. I-I'm sorry." Daniel sighed and stood. "I've just got a lot on my mind, and a lot of work to do. I came here to take a break, but I really should get back." His hands hid in his pockets once again. "I'll see you later, okay?"
"As you say." Teal'c gave a slight nod and watched Daniel walk away, his back hunched against the thoughts that plagued him. The dark face turned back to the water.
The ringer on the phone was too damn loud, but Jack was too lazy to adjust it. At the moment it was just as well because he was in the process of steadily banging pots and pans around while in search of a skillet. He snatched the receiver to his ear right as a pan clattered to the floor. "Dammit! HELLO?"
"Teal'c?" Jack nearly dropped the boiler he was holding. "That you?"
"Wow." Jack leaned against the counter. "This is a first."
"I have held conversations in this manner before, O'Neill."
"Yeah, but you've never called me out of the blue before. So what's up?"
"I am concerned about DanielJackson."
Jack's grip tightened involuntarily. "Why, what happened to him?"
"He is in good health. There is no emergency."
"Oh." Jack grip relaxed but his puzzlement grew. "So. . .what's up?"
"He seems troubled."
"This is Daniel we're talking about. Of course he's troubled."
"I believe it is something more."
"Like. . ."
"I am uncertain. I wish to help, but I am unsure as to how I should proceed."
There was another loud bang followed by a muffled curse. "Sorry. Why don't we go over to his place. Better yet, you go. I'll drive you."
"Would that be wise? He expressed the desire to be left alone."
"Which in Daniel-ese means bring the beer."
There was a hesitation. "I am not familiar with. . ."
"Dammit Teal'c, stop that. I'll pick you up in an hour. That way it's not too late, but you don't have to stay long."
"I would like that, O'Neill. Thank you."
"Hey, don't thank me. I gotta get out and buy a new skillet anyway."