Sunday, May 16
Daniel stretched and blinked. He sat up and looked around him suspiciously. It was the infirmary, but was it home? Had that all been a dream? He'd had enough dreams of waking up at home to be uncertain.
There was Jack, lying on the second bed, snoring gently. It still wasn't proof. The gay Jack had promised to stay with him till he awoke. That could be him, waiting. He looked over at the other man, contemplating. He reached out and grabbed the tissue box on the bedside table. He tossed it across so that it hit Jack in the chest and slid off onto the floor.
"Wha –" Jack sat up and blinked at him. "Yes, Daniel?"
"Do you want to kiss me?" Jack's eyes narrowed and he made a sound expressive of disgust. "Good."
"Was that a test of some kind?" Jack asked blearily.
"Did I pass?"
"Can I go back to sleep now?"
"Sure." Jack lay back down and Daniel laced his fingers together behind his head, feeling extremely satisfied. Then a thought occurred to him, and he sat up again. "Jack!"
Jack sat up again and looked at him sourly. "What?" he asked.
"Do you not want to kiss me because you know I'm not your Daniel, or am I really home?"
Jack stared at him for a long moment and then got up. He crossed to Daniel's side. "You are home, Daniel." He reached out and took Daniel's hand. "Really and truly, you're home." Daniel felt his eyes fill with tears and he pulled his knees up and hid his face. "Daniel? Daniel!" There was a pause and Daniel waited for Jack to go find Sam or Janet or someone to help him deal. A moment later, he felt the bed shift and Jack's arms closed around him. "It's okay, Daniel, you're home."
Daniel relaxed into the embrace and let himself cry. All the pent up fears and worries, the terror he'd had to suppress even when in the second reality, flooded through him. He turned and wept into Jack's chest, and the older man murmured reassurances. Finally, the storm of tears was over . . . for now . . . and after a silence during which Jack didn't move away or ease his hold, Daniel said, "I'm sorry."
"What for, space monkey?" Jack asked.
"I don't usually get like this."
"You've been held prisoner for more than a month, and then the people who rescued you turned out not to be who you thought they were. I'd be a little worried if you were calm and normal."
Daniel snorted. "No, that I'm not going to be. Not for awhile." He sighed. "Is there any chance I can get out of here, wander a bit, verify that things are where I think they should be?"
"Sure, but I thought you didn't want to be alone."
A surge of panic went through his gut, and he spoke more forcefully than he intended. "I don't!" He took a deep breath. Pushing himself to speak calmly, he added. "I would welcome your company, but I want to decide where we wander."
"Sure," Jack said easily. He squeezed Daniel tightly and then let go. "Let me go get Fraiser."
Daniel nodded and got off the bed. He went to the bathroom and when he came out, Janet and Jack were having a heated conversation in low voices.
"– twenty-four hours of observation. We haven't reached that point yet."
"He needs to get out of this room and feel like he's free, doc." Jack shook his head. "He's had enough of being cooped up, and I don't blame him."
Daniel walked forward. "Honestly, Janet, I feel fine, and I won't go anywhere alone. If I start feeling odd or wobbly, Jack will bring me right back to you." He looked at Jack. "Right?"
"Right," Jack said instantly. "Come on, doc," he added in a wheedling tone.
Janet, looking very put upon, sighed. "All right. Get a shower and get dressed. Go." She looked up at Jack. "And be sure you bring him back before you leave the base."
Jack was about to reply when Daniel beat him to it. "You know, Janet," he said acerbically, "I am here, able to hear and fully capable. Don't you think you should be addressing remarks about my health towards me?"
Fraiser flushed and gulped. "I'm sorry, Daniel. I just . . . I'm sorry."
Daniel dropped his eyes, then looked up, clearly embarrassed by his outburst. "I'm sorry, too. I think I'm just a little sensitive about control issues right now."
Fraiser put her hands on his shoulders. "I can't imagine why," she said dryly. "Go, get showered and changed. That will help, I'm sure."
He nodded and, taking the small stack of civilian clothes with him, he went into the bathroom. Jack looked down at Fraiser. "We're going to have to be careful around him for awhile, I think. Any hint of restraint or domination will be . . ." He couldn't find the right words. 'Poorly received' seemed inadequate at best.
"I understand," Fraiser said hastily. "But don't be too careful. He won't thank you for babying him either."
"I just love that balancing act," Jack said.
"Well, you enjoy yourself, then," Fraiser said with a sympathetic grin. "I've got some patients who are actually injured or sick, so I'll get back to my duties."
"Back in his own rooms. He said that the constant beeping was interfering with his kelnoreem."
"And you bought it?"
"And I had a choice? I don't know anything about Jaffa rituals."
Jack snorted. "I know what you mean. Don't worry about Daniel, doc. I'll take good care of him."
"See that you do."
With that directive in mind, Jack set about his own ablutions so that he'd be ready when Daniel came out, which he did in fairly short order, wearing brown pants and a shirt with a plaid pattern in blues and browns on a white background. "Much better," he said. "I feel like a person with an existence outside the military. There's nothing quite like being told you have no legal existence to make you feel . . . I don't know . . . helpless . . . powerless . . . screwed."
"No legal existence," Jack repeated, shaking his head.
"Well, their Daniel Jackson was legally dead and buried. I was . . . I don't know what I was. People clearly knew I was there, just . . ." He shuddered and turned to Jack. "Did you like the me that came here? Was he nice? I know he was competent."
"Yes, I liked him. Yes, he was nice. How did you know he was competent?"
"The second task they gave me was something he'd been in the middle of when . . ." He shook his head. "So I saw what he'd done, and it was more than competent. He had some things more on the ball than I did."
"No one could ever replace you, Daniel," Jack said, suddenly understanding the abrupt change in direction the conversation had taken. "He was nice, but he wasn't our Daniel." Daniel looked marginally convinced, so Jack decided to change the subject. He had visions of having to repeatedly tell his friend that he wasn't replaceable, no matter what that Hammond might have said to him. Or that Jack. "Shall we go?"
"Sure," Daniel said, and he led the way out of the infirmary. He didn't exactly wander. It was more of a directed exploration. He checked out the room that had been a records room in the gay Jack reality, looked in a couple of other rooms, then headed down to the storeroom that had been his prison for so long in the other reality.
He stood in front of the door for several minutes. Jack stood with him, wondering what he should do. Was this a good idea? Did he have any right to stop him? Assuming he had the right, would it be wise to try?
Reaching forward abruptly, Daniel opened the door and walked in. Jack followed. The room was wall to wall shelving units, all piled with things like paper and pens and other office type supplies. Jack looked around it and was appalled anew by just how small a space it was to live in for a month.
At the back of the room, there was another door Jack had never noticed. Daniel threaded his way back there and opened it with Jack close behind. Inside was just more storage. No sign of plumbing, nothing. Daniel walked into the middle of the room and turned around in a circle, looking at the walls and the shelves and the stuff. Jack wondered what he was seeing.
"This doesn't look like a bathroom, does it?" Daniel asked after a moment or so. "It doesn't feel like one either."
"No, it doesn't."
"The tub was here." He gestured along the wall to the right of the door. "The sink straight ahead with the toilet next it, just there." Jack looked where he pointed. Daniel turned around to face him. "I have no idea where the other suite of rooms was, because I never left it."
"I know where it was," Jack said. "Maybourne told us," he added to answer Daniel's questioning look. "But there's nothing there to see."
"Are there rooms?"
"Just one, big and echoing, like a warehouse."
Daniel shook his head. "He was utterly without conscience," he said. "He wasn't interested in anything beyond alien technology and his own importance."
"Hammond?" Jack asked.
"Yeah. I met, to talk to, only seven people there. Their Jack, Kowalski, Samantha, General Hammond, Dr. Warner, Major Coburn, and a nurse whose name I didn't learn. I saw Lt. Berman, Airman Solomon, and several nameless airmen." He knit his brows. "Actually, I talked to one of the nameless airmen and to Solomon. Solomon got me out of the tub when I'd fallen asleep, and the other guy was in there the second time I was drugged, to keep me from doing anything too crazy, I think."
"The second time you were drugged?"
Daniel nodded. "The first time was when they took me for the surgery." He made an odd sort of gesture, reaching under his left arm. After a moment, Jack realized what he must be doing, touching the place where the incision had been, and rage threatened to overwhelm him. "The second was when they changed my accommodations. I'm not sure if they were worried that I'd make a fuss, but I know that Hammond saw it as an opportunity to demonstrate his complete power over me." Daniel gulped. "It was very effective."
"Well, he's dead now, so he's not in charge over there. He can't ever do it again."
"And Jack won't, I don't think. He was regaining his grip on reality there at the end. He was asking questions, like what you were like and how did our relationship work."
Jack looked at Daniel's face and took a deep breath. This wasn't going to be easy. "He's . . . he's not going to be doing much for awhile, either, so I'm told."
"They didn't arrest him, did they?" Daniel asked, concern showing in every line of his face. "He's not in prison?"
Jack shook his head. "No, he's not. He's . . . he's catatonic."
Daniel's jaw dropped at he stared at him. "What? Why? Was it the drugs? What happened?"
"Apparently it happened immediately after he killed Hammond." Daniel started shaking his head, eyes wide with dismay. "They'll help him, Daniel. I'm sure he'll be –"
"It was because I died," Daniel said. "He was so distressed over the whole idea of me dying that when I did, it must have snapped him."
Jack nodded. "It didn't do me any good, either," he said. "Daniel, there's nothing you can do."
"But there is!" Daniel turned desperate eyes on him. "I can go back, and show him I'm not dead. That might make it easier for him to come out of it. It might make it possible."
"No." Jack shook his head. "Absolutely not. You are not going back there."
"Jack, you don't understand. He's a good man who was driven insane by drugs and unbelievable pressures."
"He beat up on his Daniel regularly, and you can't tell me that was only because of the drugs because Samantha as good as said it wasn't."
"It wasn't, but it takes two to create a relationship like that. Danny was as much to blame for it as he was."
"What?!" Jack stared at him. "How can you possibly blame the other Daniel?!" He stared at his friend in shock and amazement.
"Jack, what do you think I would do if we came back from a mission and you slugged me because I'd put myself in danger?"
"You'd . . ." Jack shook his head. "I thought I knew."
"Tell me what you thought."
"You'd go to Fraiser and see if there was something wrong with me. You sure as hell wouldn't put up with it."
"Damn straight. It takes the victim of the abuse accepting it and not doing anything to stop it to allow that kind of relationship to continue."
"That doesn't even make sense. If some jackass is smacking you around, why would you not stop it?"
"Because it doesn't start that way, Jack. It starts with subtle things, like . . ." Daniel shook his head. "Say we came back from a mission where I did something you'd call stupid –"
"I can easily imagine that," Jack said, pursing his lips.
"Good," Daniel replied, raising an eyebrow. "Glad to hear that your imagination isn't atrophied. Now, you're angry because I scared you, and you grab my arm hard and shake me a bit. What do I do then?"
Jack stared at him. "I'd never do that."
"No, I know," Daniel said, his patience with an obtuse and obstinate pupil extremely evident. "That's not the point. Do you think I'd go to Fraiser then? Particularly if I felt a little guilty for scaring you?" Jack didn't like the direction this was taking. "And maybe I thought I'd done something stupid, too, so when you grabbed me and shook me, I thought 'he's entitled to be upset.'"
"Daniel, you're not serious," Jack protested.
"I am." Daniel looked at him soberly. "Have you ever been in an abusive relationship?"
"Of course not!"
"Well, I have, so I know what it feels like from the inside. I just got out of mine quickly enough and early enough that it didn't warp my expectations. I don't think either that Jack or that Daniel did."
"I can't – when were you abused?"
"What makes you think I was the victim?" Daniel asked, sounding a little offended.
Jack shook his head. "Daniel, don't be a doofus. When?"
"That's not really relevant," he said defensively. "The point is, that both of them worked together to build that unhealthy situation. You can't lay it all on . . . on that Jack."
"Regardless, you're not going back there."
"Jack, he's catatonic." Jack steeled himself against the appeal in Daniel's voice. "Just imagine what that's got to be doing to Samantha." That was a low blow, but Jack crossed his arms and hung on. "Those are the two people closest to her in the world. Her father's dead, I didn't hear her speak about her brother once, her Daniel's dead and her Jack is catatonic." Jack grit his teeth. "You have no idea how much she helped me get through that horror. Without her, it would have been ten or twenty times worse." Those eyes were just not fair. Daniel was gazing at him imploringly and Jack felt himself start to waver. "If I can help, I need to try."
"We'll see what Hammond has to say," Jack said finally, knowing that he could count on Hammond not to be affected by Daniel's puppy dog eyes.
"Then let's go talk to him," Daniel said, and he marched out of the storeroom past Jack with urgency in his stride.
"Daniel!" Jack called, following him. "Daniel?" The other man did not pause until he was forced to wait for the elevator. "Daniel, this is crazy. They have their problems, we have ours. We don't owe them anything."
"I owe Samantha a lot," Daniel said flatly. "She made that hell bearable."
"I get that, Daniel, but . . ." He shook his head. "Damn it, Daniel, it's another flippin' reality! You don't owe her anything. She participated in your kidnapping. She owed you!" Daniel was standing there, his arms crossed, looking at the elevator doors as if willing them to open. "That's how it worked. That's how she viewed it, I know it is."
The doors opened, and they started forward into the empty elevator. "Cut it out, Jack. You said we were going to let Hammond decide."
"I didn't say I wouldn't keep trying to persuade you that you don't need to do this."
"I need to reassure Samantha that I'm okay, too. She hasn't seen me, and the last she could possibly have heard about me, I was unconscious and undergoing treatment for withdrawals from my second trip to the sarcophagus since the last time she saw me, less than a week ago. And, if I understood correctly, the last time she saw me was on a video monitor, dying of an exploded heart. Somehow, that's not the way I want her to remember me."
"Why do you have to be so stubborn?" Jack demanded.
Daniel shrugged. "I'm guessing, from what I've heard, that it's a trait of Daniel Jacksons everywhere. You might as well ask why the sky is blue or why grass is green."
"Fine, then. Why is the sky blue? Why is the grass green?"
"Because it's their nature."
The doors opened, and before Jack could frame a response, Daniel strode forward again, not waiting for him. Jack followed after, pushing his way past those who wanted to enter the elevator to keep up with him. "That's an evasive non-answer!" Jack called. Daniel didn't respond. "Daniel, this isn't reasonable."
"Yes, it is," Daniel said with absolute certainty.
"No, it isn't."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it isn't."
"Yes, it is."
"No, it isn't."
"Glad to see you two back to normal," said Feretti as he came abreast of them. Jack glowered at him. "Hi, Daniel. You are our Daniel, right?"
"Oh yeah, Lou," Daniel said with a grin. "It's me. It's good to be back."
"We missed you," Feretti said. "Where are you two headed?"
"To Hammond's office," Daniel replied.
"Well, then, I'll see you later. Deirdre will want you to come to dinner soon, so let me know when would be good."
When Feretti had walked away, Jack felt as if his momentum had gone. "Daniel, this –"
"You already said it was up to Hammond, Jack," Daniel said, sounding a little weary. "Let's leave it that way."
Jack began to grow uneasy. Daniel didn't sound up to his usual level of pushing back, and Jack was pushing pretty hard. Good reason or no good reason, it made no difference. If Daniel wasn't up to it, Jack needed to lay off. He also seemed to think he had an ace up his sleeve somehow with Hammond, and if he did, Jack was in trouble.
Daniel wasn't nearly as confident as he was portraying himself to Jack. Hammond would probably nix this instantly, but he damned well had to try. Samantha was a good person who'd been caught up in a wretched situation, and she deserved a little slack. And that Jack deserved a better fate than catatonia.
Hammond's secretary called in, and within minutes they were in the general's office. Daniel found himself dry-mouthed in the man's presence again. "Dr. Jackson, what I can I do for you?" the general asked with a fatherly smile. The expression brought him closer to ease than anything else could. The other Hammond had never once smiled at him in a way that didn't make his flesh creep.
"Daniel has an utterly preposterous suggestion, sir," Jack said abruptly as Daniel opened his mouth to reply.
Daniel saw Hammond's brows draw together in irritation as he turned to Jack. "Why don't you let Dr. Jackson speak for himself, colonel?" he said.
Daniel glanced up at Jack who shrugged and looked bad-tempered. Clearing his throat, he turned back towards the general. "Jack just told me that the other Colonel O'Neill, the one in Samantha's reality –"
"The one who kidnapped him," Jack added, as if to make it abundantly clear just who Daniel meant.
"Yes, him," Daniel said with an annoyed glance at Jack. "I gather he's catatonic, and I want to do something to help."
Hammond nodded. "I see, but what could you do?"
That wasn't a good sign, since it seemed perfectly obvious to him what needed to be done. Daniel cleared his throat again. "I want to go see him." The general's eyes widened, and Daniel hastened to explain further. "It sounds like he went catatonic because he saw me die. If he sees me again, alive and well, maybe that will bring him out of it."
Hammond's face creased with thought. "I'm not sure just how much good that would do, son," he said. "It's not as if you could stay." Jack made an impatient noise of agreement.
"I know that, but he was coming to sanity again towards the end. I think he'd understand that I had to go, and even if he didn't, I feel like I have to try. Poor Samantha's over there with her family torn asunder. Her father's dead of cancer, her Daniel's dead, her Jack is catatonic and her Kowalski is a violent ass whose redeeming qualities, I would guess, have been burned away by drugs. All she's got left is Maybourne."
The general leaned back in his chair thoughtfully. "I don't know, Dr. Jackson. You've been back for less than forty-eight hours. I'm not comfortable with the idea of sending you out again."
"Hear hear!" Jack said.
Daniel glared up at him and then crossed his arms. "It's not like I'd go alone, or like I'd be gone for long." Hammond still looked dubious. "I really feel strongly about this, sir. Samantha wasn't in on the kidnapping, just my imprisonment, and there wasn't much she could do about that, in all fairness to her." He looked up at Jack, who looked away. "What she could do, she did, and she helped get me home again sooner than one Sam working alone could have. Whatever Jack says, I feel I owe her a debt."
"You owe her nothing, Daniel!" Jack exclaimed loudly. "General, tell him."
"I'm afraid I agree with Colonel O'Neill on that, son," Hammond said, and Daniel grimaced.
Something occurred to him abruptly, another, possibly more convincing argument. "But then there's the Teal'c from that reality. He helped me without any hope of gain, without any reason beyond a sense that Hammond was a bad guy and I wasn't. Someone should make an effort to make sure he's treated well."
Hammond pursed his lips. "Though I understand your desire to help, I really don't think it's a good idea for you go back there, certainly not so soon."
"But sir, I –" Daniel broke off. The sad look on Hammond's face was enough to tell him he wasn't going to get anywhere.
"I'm sorry, Dr. Jackson. Come back in a couple of weeks if you still want to do this, and we'll talk again." He paused. "How are you feeling?"
Daniel shrugged. "Very frustrated," he said. "And kind of lost. And, forgive me, but like the mountain is the last place on earth I want to be."
"Well, then, Dr. Jackson, go home, and if you would like some time off, you're welcome to it."
That suggestion made Daniel realize how much work there had to be built up for him, and he was dismayed by his internal reaction. The idea of going anywhere near his office, doing any translation or interpretation or anything made him want to scream and run in the other direction. "I can leave? It's okay?"
"Of course you can leave, Dr. Jackson," Hammond said, his eyes growing concerned. "I just hope you don't mean permanently."
"No!" Daniel replied hastily. "I just . . . I want to go someplace where there are no men with guns. For awhile."
"Does that mean I can't bring mine?" Jack asked, and Daniel turned to him in surprise.
"Are you coming?" he asked in surprise.
"With the general's permission."
"Actually, that was going to be my one request, Dr. Jackson, that you keep someone with you until we're certain that there will be no lingering effects of your long residence in an alternate reality." He blinked. "In more than one alternate reality. If you are both comfortable with Colonel O'Neill staying with you, I will arrange for you both to have indefinite leave time."
Daniel looked at Jack, and then nodded. "That would be fine, sir," he said.
"Works for me," Jack replied. "As long as there's Froot Loops," he added. "We have to have Froot Loops."
"I can do that," Daniel said with a grin. He looked up at Jack and then over at the general. "I don't suppose Teal'c could come over to my place for dinner tonight?"
"I imagine that could be arranged," Hammond said. "What about Captain Carter?"
Daniel blinked. "She doesn't need your permission to leave the base, sir. I thought I'd just ask her."
"Oh," Hammond said, looked somewhat abashed. "Of course."
"Thank you, sir," Daniel said. "Thank you for not giving up on me."
The general's eyes took on a glassy look and he smiled up at Daniel. "Son, there was never the slightest chance we'd give up on you."
Daniel felt his own eyes fill, and he had to get away. He nodded his thanks and left, hoping the general would understand. Jack followed him to the elevator where Daniel stopped, suddenly realizing that he had no idea where he wanted to go. His office was out of the question. If he saw a pile of translations waiting for his attention, he'd never manage to get away.
"Why don't we head to Carter's lab?" Jack suggested.
Daniel nodded and when the elevator came, he hit the right button. Sam was bent over a keyboard, and from the image on the monitor he guessed she was doing some kind of modeling. "Just a minute," she said, then hit a couple of keys and turned around. She smiled brightly when she saw them. "Daniel! How are you?" Crossing the space between them she hugged him tightly.
"Good," he said, smiling over her shoulder. "You?"
"Glad to have you back." She squeezed and then let go. "You look exhausted," she said.
"Thanks," Daniel said sarcastically.
"No, I'm sorry, but you do."
"Well, Hammond's giving me indefinite leave," he said. "And I'm going home in probably an hour or so, but I wanted to ask you to dinner tonight."
"Sure," she said. "That'd be great."
"Good." Daniel grinned. "Well, I'd better go see if Teal'c is conscious."
"Should I bring anything?"
"A good Merlot," Jack said before Daniel could respond. "I'm going to make London broil, if that meets with your approval, Daniel?"
"That would be fine," Daniel said. "I doubt I have anything worth eating in the house. Did you . . ."
"I did," Jack confirmed. "You have a few things in the freezer, and cans in your cupboards, but beyond that, not a hell of a lot."
"Then that would be great." Daniel took in a deep breath. "So, Sam, we'll see you tonight. Will you bring Teal'c?"
"Sure thing. Should we stop and get dessert?"
Daniel glanced at Jack who seemed to have taken over planning the menu. Not that Daniel actually objected . . .
"Go for it," Jack said. "We'll let Teal'c know he has to choose a dessert."
"See you tonight then."
They delivered the invitation to Teal'c and then went down to the parking lot. "You want to take your car or take mine?"
"We can come back for mine later if we need it," Daniel said. "I don't really want to be alone. I mean, I've got a sofa. It's not too uncomfortable."
"I know, Daniel, I've slept on it a time or two." Jack shook his head. "Come on, space monkey. Truck's over here."
They staged a quick raid on the grocery store, Jack style, zipping up and down aisles as quickly as they could go, grabbing what was needed and then heading to the counter to check out. Once at his place, Daniel fed his fish and checked his appalling load of messages. "You didn't return my videos, Jack!" he called when he'd heard the sixth message regarding his mounting late fees.
Jack emerged from the kitchen, his hands covered in meat juices. "I had a few other things on my mind," he growled. "Besides, how was I supposed to know you had rentals?"
Daniel pointed at the entertainment center. "The Blockbuster boxes should have been a good hint." Jack waved him off in irritation and went back into the kitchen. "I owe sixty-seven dollars now on this one on the Panama canal."
"You can afford it!" Jack called back. "Besides, who the hell rents documentaries? You watch documentaries, you tape documentaries. You don't rent them."
Daniel snorted and kept listening to his messages. When he was done, he had several pages of people to call and explain his absence to. That was going to be fun. He got up and wandered through the apartment. His own furniture, placed where he wanted it, his own junk on the shelves, books and papers lying where he'd left them. Windows out into the day outside. It was heaven to be home again.
"Hey, Daniel? Can you come in here and cut the carrots up for me?"
Happily, Daniel went back to the kitchen, washed his hands, and followed Jack's instructions for food preparation.
Jack watched Daniel chop the carrots and potatoes for the side dishes and smiled to himself. It was good to have his little brother back home. That was what it really felt like, he thought. He'd never had any siblings, so he didn't have anything to compare it against, but there was a special bond between them that he didn't know how to express beyond equating it to brotherhood.
Right now he wasn't sure how Daniel would react to him expressing it that way, though, not after the overbearing brother-ness of the other Jack. He was also a little alarmed by this hint of abuse in Daniel's past that he didn't want to talk about. If that had been a brother figure . . .
He certainly seemed comfortable enough with Jack, which no one had expected.
"Anything else?" Daniel said, dumping the potatoes into a pot as instructed.
"Fill it with water . . . just enough to cover them."
They worked together amicably, and Jack was glad to see him so calm and comfortable in his presence. Quite a difference from Daddy Daniel's initial reactions to him. He'd just have to be careful about getting angry in front of him for awhile.
Just as Jack was putting the meat in the broiler, the doorbell rang. Daniel rushed off to get it, and a moment later the whole team was in the apartment. Carter put her bottle of wine in the fridge, Teal'c put a white, unlabeled box in the freezer, and they all chatted happily. Jack shifted them from the kitchen to the living room once everything was cooking and they settled down on the sofas.
Daniel took a deep breath and settled into the corner of the couch.. "So, tell me, what was the Daniel who was left here like? How different was he from me? How different is his reality?"
None of them replied immediately, and Jack finally cleared his throat. "Well, one similarity we seem to have is that our realities are the only ones in which Sha're is still living." Daniel's happy expression dimmed slightly, and Jack reached out to squeeze his hand. "Apparently she's dead in most of the others."
"Then I guess we're pretty fortunate," Daniel said. "But I'm guessing, from the way you guys are looking at me that there's more to it than that."
Jack glanced at the other two. Carter looked away, flushing and Teal'c sighed. Turning back to Daniel, Jack said, "In that reality, Skaara was taken by the Goa'uld, and is Klorel's host, but Sha're had stepped outside the pyramid to see if we . . . if her 'us' were returning yet, so she escaped the snatch."
Daniel stared at him, face gone slack. "He still has her?" he breathed finally. "I mean, they're still together, but he's at the SGC?"
"They're both there," Jack said. "The gay Daniel said she was very supportive."
Daniel's eyes filled with tears. "That's . . .that's wonderful!" he said, but his voice was shaking. "I wish . . . I wish so much . . ."
Jack scooted over and put an arm around Daniel's shoulders, squeezing him tightly. "We'll find her, Daniel. We'll find her and bring her home."
Shortly after the news about the other Daniel's Sha're and the twins had been imparted, Daniel excused himself to the bathroom where he got himself back under control. He was glad, honestly glad for the other Daniel, but heart-wrenchingly jealous as well. Apophis had taken so much from him before he died. It wasn't fair.
Of course, it wasn't fair that the other Sha'res were dead while his was still out there, potentially retrievable. It wasn't fair that Samantha's Daniel was dead. So many things in the universe were not fair. He didn't need to waste energy bemoaning his troubles.
He was home. They would find a way to rescue Sha're from her hideous captivity. He had friends who cared about him, a job he loved. There were blessings to be counted, so he should stop wasting time on the negative.
Washing his face, he went back out into the living room to find Sam explaining to Teal'c how to set a table.
"Why does it matter where the utensils are placed?" Teal'c asked.
"That's just the way it's done," Sam replied with a hint of exasperation.
Daniel walked over to Sam. "Jaffa families have a specific way of laying out the table, you know," he said with a smile.
Sam turned towards him. "It's different?"
Shrugging, Daniel said, "Yes, but that's not the point." Sam raised her eyebrows, and Daniel saw a twitch at the corner of Teal'c's mouth. "He knows why it matters."
"Then why –" She broke off, her eyes narrowing. "Teal'c!"
The Jaffa raised one eyebrow, his small smile smoothed away to an expression of innocence. Daniel chuckled and left them to it, heading into the kitchen to see how the food for his dinner party was coming. Jack was dropping roasted garlic into the pot with the potatoes, now cooked to tenderness. He put in a dollop of sour cream and began to mash them.
"Do you need any more help?"
"You could take the green beans and the corn out to the table," Jack said. Daniel followed his instructions, and in very short order they were all seated around the table, digging in. The meat tasted heavenly, the vegetables were crisp and flavorful, and the mashed potatoes had just the right amount of garlic.
After several minutes, Jack cleared his throat and stood up. They all looked at him in startlement, and he said, "We forgot the wine. Just a minute."
"I was wondering," Sam said as Jack disappeared into the kitchen. "Merlot wouldn't go all that well with chocolate mousse pie."
Teal'c gave her an alarmed look. "Indeed it would not," he replied. "Though I still do not fully understand why that is called mousse. Is not moose the name of a game animal that is hunted and eaten?"
Before Daniel could attempt an explanation of the French derivation of the word mousse, Jack came back out with four glasses and the wine. He'd already popped the cork, and he poured them all generous glasses, placing one in front of each of them, starting with Sam and ending with Daniel. He put the bottle down and picked up his own glass. "I would like to propose a toast," he said. The others stood.
A little startled by the sudden formality, Daniel struggled to his feet. "What's up, Jack?" he asked suspiciously.
Jack didn't respond directly, but his eyes were full of warmth as he started to speak, widening his gaze to include Sam and Teal'c. "Here's to a man of manifold talents and skills who gives of himself freely to those in need, the best friend anyone could ever have . . ." He paused and then met Daniel's eyes. "Certainly the best friend I've ever had. To Daniel Jackson, a man who is truly irreplaceable."
"Indeed!" Teal'c said fervently.
"To Daniel Jackson," Sam echoed, and they all drank.
Daniel was flummoxed. It was the last thing he'd expected. His eyes filled with tears and he gazed around at his friends . . . his family, overwhelmed with happiness.
Daniel's eyes fairly glowed, and Jack smiled back at him. All was right with the world again.