1. Crown of Thorns

Ever since Paul had come into his life, Daniel had grown familiar with pain. There was the pain he felt clawing in hot, radiating spasms as wood connected with flesh, the sudden sharp sting as fingernails broke across his back and then, finally, there was the deep, penetrating ache as a thick cock pounded into him ferociously. Paul fucked him with a vicious lust, always from behind, grunting harshly in time to Daniel's sobbing cries. Once he satisfied his lustful dominance, pumping his seed in deep, he would force Daniel's face to his limp, dangling cock for him to lick it clean of semen and blood.

There was never any cuddling or fondling, no soft caresses, and never kissing. There was occasionally biting, marking Daniel for his with teeth and nail, and often there was punishment with wooden spoons or hard edged rulers to satisfy Paul's sadistic pleasure, but he never held or wanted to be held. Daniel was thankful for that; he was sure that the mocking hypocrisy of a soft caress would shatter him, shredding what little bit of purity he had left and leaving him empty as the dead. Paul would take what he wanted, tearing ever deeper wounds from Daniel's soul, and then leave.

Then there was the deep, throbbing pain that followed him for days afterwards, reminding him of what had happened every time he moved. There was the cringing pain of trying not to gag whenever he heard Paul's name or from holding back a flinch when he came upon him unexpectedly in the hallway or a conference room. He had to listen unblinking whenever Paul's merits to the program were discussed, as though he didn't want to throw up. Hardest, though, was the pain that came from facing his friends.

He saw the hurt in Janet's eyes whenever he avoided her, going to the nurse Paul had found for him when he went through the required physical exams. The nurse was a hard find but, for a price, he would turn a blind eye to what he saw, never breaking confidentiality even when Daniel needed stitches. Daniel hated the look in his friends' eyes when he begged off another get-together, the look of resigned disappointment when he told Jack he was too busy for their Friday night ritual. Even worse was when the hurt look didn't come, when people he once considered friends started to sweep right over him as though he were invisible. So far, Sam, Jack, and Teal'c at least still saw him, even if only with disappointment, and sometimes that was worse. As Paul's lust cut away at Daniel's relationships, poisoning Daniel's image, Paul's hateful, derisive words cut into him, burning into his skin repeatedly until they carved grooves that could no longer be sanded over, no longer completely disbelieved.

Daniel dealt with it. He pulled up masks as he needed them, masks well learned during the long, lonely years of foster care. There was his 'I'm fine' face, and his 'I'm enjoying myself' face and then there was his 'allergies are acting up but really everything is fine' face for when he couldn't quite manage the other two. He would be fine, the pain left in Paul's wake would heal, and life would go on. No matter how bad it got when Paul was there, eventually Paul would leave, returning to Washington to do his job. In fact, he was rarely in Colorado, and if when he was, quite often their schedules conflicted to the point where Paul rarely visited. Sometimes he managed nothing more than a quick, nearly painless fuck before he was gone. When the pain was at its worst, whenever Paul demanded his body or struck out at him, he'd break himself into pieces, shielding his soul, and pull strength from those parts Paul couldn't touch. He thought on Teal'c's solid strength, a friendship and loyalty that never wavered. He thought about Sam, about her intelligence and determination, her passionate stubbornness when it came to protecting those she loved.

He did not allow himself to think of Jack. He knew that if he let Jack in at these moments, if he let it become about him, then it could only end by breaking them both. To remember Jack while he rode upon wave after wave of pain as the reason he endured could only lead him to the conclusion, no matter how irrational, that Jack caused this, and any strength Daniel might gain would turn to bitter loss. Sam and Teal'c were safe because they weren't involved. Jack was, and if Daniel allowed himself to face that, it would breed resentment. Resentment would turn to hatred, tearing strips from his love and leaving their friendship tattered and bloody, and Daniel's very reason for living would be undone. Daniel would not let that happen.

So the pain, Paul's forceful abuse, the lonely detachment from his closest friends, all of it continued as Daniel turned slowly invisible. He felt himself draining away until one day he looked into the mirror and saw through all of his masks into the nothingness he had become. He lashed out in sudden, hopeless loss, destroying the image and leaving it in pieces on the floor.

Wanting only to be pure and clean again, to be free, he found himself mesmerized by the blood welling up from his fingers. It wasn't death he was seeking when he grasped at the broken glass, cleansing his reflection in the purity of red, but life, as though he could carve away his ugly, torn soul and be reborn, free at last from pain.