Something had been niggling on the edge of Daniel's consciousness the entire day. Not only had he woken up late, but he'd woken up with the feeling that he'd forgotten something. Something important.
The feeling hadn't gotten any worse or better as the day progressed. It was just there, and by the time he got home from school, he was frustrated and annoyed at his inability to grasp whatever the hell it was.
"Okay." His dad put a hand on top of Daniel's. "Even I know you don't want that much ketchup on your fries."
Daniel looked down at the fries he'd drowned in a river of red. "Oh."
The ketchup bottle was removed from his hand and placed out of reach. "Want to talk about it?"
Daniel sighed and tried to find a fry that was salvageable. "Yes."
His father brightened and sat back in his chair, ready.
"If I knew what it was, yeah, I'd talk about it." He managed to find one fry and ran it along the edge of the plate, wiping off the excess ketchup.
"Nope." The feeling hadn't changed through eight periods today. At one point, Daniel had actually hoped that he'd forgotten a test or something inconsequential like that. "Not school."
"Definitely not Alexandria."
Okay, they were going to be here for hours. Daniel took pity on his father and decided to put the poor man out of his misery. "Not soccer. Not the coach. Not you. Not Grandma. Not Teal'c, Sam, Janet, Cassie, General Hammond, the SGC, the Goa'uld, or Terminators. Not the Connors. Not..." Daniel threw the uneaten fry into the mountain of ketchup-covered ones. "Nothing."
"But it's something, isn't it?"
Daniel sucked in his lips and just nodded.
"Do you want to talk to Liz..." His father let the rest of the sentence trail off.
"No!" The word shot out in a burst of sudden anger, last thing he wanted was to spend an hour staring at the psychologist. "No, I don't need anyone picking through my brain."
"Just trying to help, Icky."
Deflated, Daniel offered his father a one-shoulder shrug with a slight smile. "I know." Hopefully, the 'sorry' was understood.
"Would you like some more fries with your burger?"
The exchange was ended. Message received. His dad was there if he needed him. "Sure." Daniel strained his neck trying to check out the counter. "There's more?"
His father got up, took two steps then backtracked, snatching the ketchup off the table. "Yeah, there's more, except you're going to have to eat them naked."
Memories were funny things. They had the ability to snatch your breath away, make you cry, laugh out loud, or scare the crap out of you. Triggered by visuals, smells or sensations, memories were pretty damn powerful. And considering his head housed almost a lifetime and a half of memories, Daniel pretty much thought of himself as an expert.
But even an expert could forget how the simplest of things, like a shower before bed, could trigger a moment in time.
"We're going to be late, Danny." With a tolerant smile on her face, his mother held the pristine white towel with the hotel's logo invitingly open for him.
He stretched his arms towards the heavens, letting the shower's warm water sluice over his body. "Shower." The word felt awkward on his tongue and way too regular for something as great as this. Water at the touch of one's fingertips. Warm water. Cold water. Clean water that he didn't have to share with anyone.
"That's right," his father said with a chuckle, reaching around to turn the knobs. "Shower."
Daniel tried to move the magic knobs again, only to feel himself being lifted by a pair of strong arms up and over the edge of the bathtub. His protests where smothered in the towel's thickness.
His mother pulled down the edge of the towel so Daniel could peek through. "Enjoyed that, did you?"
"Can I take another one when we get back? And before I go to bed? And tomorrow morning?" He glanced expectantly at his mother who turned towards his dad with the tiniest of grins.
"I don't know. Melbourne, do you think…"
Horrified, Daniel stared at his mom. "Oh no, the showers get turned off at a certain time? Like no one can use them? Will we leave the museum…" Shocked, wide-eyed, he stared at his dad who just shook his head and rubbed the towel against Daniel's wet head.
"You mother was only pulling your leg."
She pushed back his bangs and kissed him gently on the forehead. "Only kidding. I'm sorry, the shower is ours for as long as we stay in this hotel."
"Can we stay here forever and ever?"
"Forever until a week from Saturday/i."
Forever until a week from Saturday. The phrase bounced around in Daniel's head, opening up what he hadn't remembered. Six words were the key to what he'd forgotten.
Today was the anniversary of Claire and Melbourne Jackson's deaths. And he'd forgotten the sound of their voices. How much they'd loved him. And how much Daniel Jackson had loved them until now.
Daniel turned off the water, stepped out of the tub and wrapped himself in the big white bath towel that didn't bear the name of some fancy New York City hotel with the best shower in the entire world.
"I remembered." Daniel stood by the recliner, wearing a threadbare pair of sweats.
His dad marked the page of the book he was reading with his glasses then closed the book. "All the stores are closed so don't tell me it was something that you needed, had to have, are going to fail if it's not in your possession by tomorrow type of thing."
"I know, son. You said that already." His dad put the book on the coffee table, slid it towards the middle then patted the edge. "Sit."
"Wanna tell me what you remembered?"
"Today was the day Daniel's… my parents… todaywastheanniversaryof… New York… museum… his…"
Thankfully, his father connected the dots. "Today was the day your parents died?"
"The other Daniel's parents."
"No," he insisted, "I'm not that Daniel."
"No." Daniel adamantly shook his head. "I'm not him. You keep telling me I'm not that Daniel." He smacked himself in the chest. "I keep telling me that I'm not that Daniel."
"Okay," his father said slowly, drawing the word out. "You're not him. You're you."
"Right. I'm me. Not him."
"Yup, I got that."
"It's been a long time. Almost half a century."
"Long time," his father agreed, fighting to keep a smiling from forming. "Half a century is like forever," he deadpanned.
Forever and a week from Saturday. "If I'm not him," he stated softly, picking at a stain on his sweats with his thumb, "and fifty years is, well," he shrugged, "a long time, then why does it hurt so much?"
"They were your parents, Daniel."
"You're my father. You've been my father longer than," why was the lump so damn hard to swallow around, "longer than he was."
"Time is not a deciding factor on who's the better father or which child you love better."
Quickly, Daniel did the math in his head. Charlie. What an asshole. "I'm sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean anything. I'm sorry."
His dad brushed away his apology with a wave of his hand. "I just wanted you to understand…"
"Before," Daniel pointed down the hallway, "I had a flashback of the morning in the hotel before we went to the museum." Daniel closed his eyes, drew a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "I'd forgotten." He opened his eyes when he felt a gentle pat on his knee.
"No, it's not. I never think of them. Not anymore."
"Cut yourself some slack. You got a lot of memories in that head of yours."
"I'm sure the other Daniel thought of them all the time. He must've. Because you know, they were his mother and father. And they died. And… and… he saw them die and things like that affect a kid."
"Really?" His dad leaned forward, rested his elbows on his knees and steepled his fingers. True listening mode.
"Really." Daniel began to tick things off on his fingers. "Every time you close your eyes you see the coverstone falling. And the screams you hear weren't the bodies being crushed but yours because you know things are never going to be the same. You don't cry. You can't. Maybe you never do. Some things hurt too much to cry over."
"You're crying now."
Daniel touched his cheek, pulled his fingers back and examined the moisture on the pads. Quickly, he wiped the evidence away on the legs of his sweats, leaving behind dark streaks.
His father stilled his actions. "Maybe it's time to mourn."
"They promised, you know. Forever until a week from Saturday. They lied." His father's image wavered behind a curtain of tears. "They left me behind. No one wanted me. Not Nick. Not the foster care system."
"I want you."
The sleeve of his sweatshirt caught the moisture dripping from his nose. "You want me, no one wanted him. Growing up… he was so alone. And lonely. I hate them for what they did to him."
"They died. It was an accident. I know from the bottom of my heart, they never wanted to leave you."
Daniel got up and walked away, ending up in the kitchen, staring out the back door into the night.
"You're confusing me, you know." His father's reflection in the glass was full of worried concern. "Two different timelines but there's only one Daniel."
Daniel swiveled around so he was facing his dad. "I don't want to remember. Not that."
"Maybe he never dealt with—"
"Well, that's just too bad. He had thirty years. I don't need his baggage. I have enough of my own." Daniel tried to push past his dad, who would have none of it, grabbing his arm and pulling him around.
"Listen to me, Daniel Jackson, no one has the ability to pick and choose which memories they drag with them through life. Me, I'm getting a second chance with you. Just like you're getting a second chance with me. That doesn't mean I should forget Charlie. Whether the memories are good or bad, his presence helped make me the father I am today. Part of who you are, your inquisitiveness, your love of learning, your ability to think outside the box, you owe to Claire and Melbourne Jackson."
His father knocked, waited a second and before Daniel could even say 'enter', the door opened.
"This isn't one of those times where I just let you walk away."
Daniel closed the math book and leaned back in the chair. "Dad," he said slowly, glancing at the clock in the right hand corner of the opened laptop, "I walked away over thirty minutes ago."
"Yeah, well, I shouldn't have let you. You have a tendency to walk away…"
Daniel's eyes widened.
"Okay. Okay," his father quickly amended. "We both walk away when the heat in the kitchen gets too much."
His dad waved away Daniel's confusion. "Heat. Kitchen. Stand…"
Daniel had no idea.
"Never mind, before your time."
"Whatever," Daniel said, tapping the cover of the textbook.
"I let you leave. Before things get too much, I let you walk away. Not only now, but other times." He pointed a finger at Daniel, cutting off his words. "I'm no better, leaving is easier than talking. Easier than facing what you don't want to see."
"What don't I want to see?" He didn't bother tampering down the sarcasm.
"That to go forward you have to go backwards. You have to own up to the first three decades of your life. That that Daniel Jackson was you." His dad sat at the edge of the bed. "You won't be him, but he was you."
"That doesn't make any sense."
"It does. I'm sorry I don't have Teal'c's words of wisdom or Carter's PowerPoint presentation ability to drive this point home. He provided the foundation…" His dad rolled his eyes. "Listen to me, I'm talking like you're two separate people."
"We are!" Why couldn't his father understand? He wasn't that Daniel.
"You're not and you know that you're not."
They'd never see eye to eye on this. Never. "Walk a mile in my memories and then we'll talk about this."
"If you don't believe you're that Daniel," his father slapped his knees and stood, "then there's no one left to mourn for Claire and Melbourne."
Daniel slammed shut the cover on his laptop. "I never said that."
"Ah, you didn't have to. You see. You're not that Daniel, therefore…"
He flipped open the text book. "I have a lot of homework." He swiveled in the chair, effectively cutting off the rest of his father's conversation and he didn't turn around again until he heard the gentle snick of the of the door being closed.
"I hate you," he whispered to the door.
By midnight he gave up trying to sleep. Fear of images lurking behind closed lids was enough to make his bedroom enemy camp. He rose cautiously, slowly, slipped down the hallway, avoiding all the creaks of the wood floor. He'd expected peace and quiet in the den, what he hadn't expected was his father sitting in the recliner watching an old movie with the sound turned off.
"There's no sound on the TV."
His father shrugged. "I sorta know this one word for word."
"Just watching it for the action?" Daniel settled into the worn couch, sliding down until his head rested on the back cushions and his legs were stretched out on the floor in front of him.
"Sometimes actions speak louder than words."
Daniel guffawed. "A little cliché, don't you think?"
"Hey, I use them when I can get them." His dad smiled at him then turned his attention back to the screen. "Can't sleep?"
Even though his father couldn't see it, Daniel shrugged.
"Yeah, I know the feeling," his dad answered without even looking at Daniel.
Daniel watched his father's eyelids grow heavier, watched his breathing deepen but he didn't speak until the first honest to goodness snore. He leaned forward, pulled his legs up and rested his elbows on his knees. "I never told you how much I hate our white bath towels, did I? Well, I do. Now I know why. They remind me of the towels from the hotel we stayed in when we came to New York. Imagine," Daniel snorted, "a little kid and I was more excited over the shower than I was over the tall buildings. Or the promised burger and fries. Or FAO Schwarz. Strange, huh? My dad literally had to drag me out of the shower because they didn't want to be late." Daniel sighed. "I wish we'd been late." He flopped backwards and stared at the ceiling. "What's that cliché… if wishes were fishes?" He stopped. "I can't remember. I guess I need you for stuff like that.
"You're right. It's not fair to not remember my mom and dad. They deserve better. They deserve to be remembered. To be talked about. Good and bad. But you need to understand that after all this time, abandonment still hurts. And the adult in me knows that their death was an accident, but the eight year old who watched them die, and who was terrified of showers for years will never, ever forgive them."
Exhausted, because staying up until two will do that to a person, Daniel barely made it through the day, and soccer practice was a joke. Running on empty, it took him more than a second or two to realize the coach was blowing the whistle on a play that Daniel had done, or rather hadn't done.
"Jackson!" The bellow carried across the field.
Daniel nodded, dropping his head down with each successive movement until he was eventually staring at the grass between his cleats. Properly chastised, he raised his arm, waving it in submission.
"Good. Let's try that again."
They ended up trying the play two more times.
Coach blew the whistle then checked his watch. "Third time's the charm, boys. Let's call it a day."
Daniel kicked the front door shut then dropped the mail in the basket on the table by the door. He toed off his shoes, looked down and filed away the fact that there was a hole in his right sock. Another pair bit the dust. Crap. Between socks and jeans he was going to bankrupt his dad.
His backpack found a resting place on a kitchen chair and he satisfied his hunger with a mouthful of orange juice right from the container and a cold slice of pizza, proudly covering the majority of food groups in less than five minutes.
The note on the table from his dad said dinner was going to be sandwiches, help himself, leave some turkey for him but not wait for him because he wasn't going to be home until around seven, yadda yadda yadda.
He crumpled the paper and shot it into the garbage. "He shoots, he scores… ahhhhhh."
Somewhere between Math and Global History homework, Daniel realized he stank. The moment of silence for the soap and water shower after soccer was coming back to haunt him, and add to that his stomach was beginning to growl pushed Daniel to move his butt.
No matter what his belly said, his nose won out.
Without his dad being home to scream about wasting water, Daniel started the shower first then gathered up a clean pair of well worn sweats, tossed them into the bathroom then followed them in closing the door in his wake.
Opening the cabinet door, with his glasses already steamed over due to the tropic-like conditions in the bathroom, he grabbed two towels by rote, threw them over his shoulder into the vicinity of the sweats and then began to undress.
The shower felt great, refreshing and he ignored his stomach and stood under the water, focusing on absolutely nothing but how great the water actually felt.
Finally, Daniel gave in to the call of hunger and reluctantly turned off the water, stepped out of the shower and bent down, blindly patting the floor for at least one of the two towels he'd flung in this general direction.
One went around his hips and the other… Daniel stopped and buried his nose in the second towel. New detergent? Fabric softener? Fabric sheets? Something felt… Daniel used the towel to clean the condensation from the mirror.
The towel wasn't white. It was yellow?
Frantically, Daniel cleaned the mirror. The towel around his hips was red. Bright red.
Towels in their homes consisted of white. No colors. No stripes. No designs. Snow, fuckin' blinding white.
Daniel wiped his glasses, then opened the cabinet door. Neatly folded, towels in every color of the rainbow now filled the shelves. Every size towel in every color except white.
No white towels.
His father hadn't been sleeping. Daniel had been duped into spilling his guts. He felt betrayed with a touch of anger and he ripped the towel off his waist and kicked the other one across the room.
Somewhere between threading on his socks and tying his wet hair back in a high ponytail, the anger he was trying to hold onto slipped through his fingers.
His father had gotten him to talk. His silent presence had filled Daniel with enough security he'd had no problem going all emo and getting in touch with his feelings. Maybe the fact that his father knew him so well wasn't exactly a bad thing. It wasn't a great thing, but it wasn't bad. Daniel could live with wasn't bad, though he'd never let his father know that.
Daniel took out another paper plate and napkin, sliding both onto the kitchen table when he heard the Avalanche pull into the driveway.
An additional slice or two of tomato, some more lettuce, two extra pickles and after a moment's thought, Daniel went for broke and emptied the rest of the chips into a bowl. A fresh roll on each plate. The bottle of cilantro mayo for him, plain old mayo for his dad. A Snapple. A beer. Daniel ignored etiquette and tossed the wrapped cold cuts onto the center of the table.
He was already sitting down, liberally squeezing out his mayo of choice onto his turkey sandwich when his father walked into the kitchen.
He dropped his briefcase where he stood, shrugged out of his jacket, tossing it onto the nearest empty chair then shook his head as he took in the table. "I told you that you didn't have to wait dinner for me."
"I wasn't hungry until now." It actually wasn't an out and out lie and it was believable enough that his dad bought it because in one move, he grabbed a chip and pulled out the chair.
Last night's lack of sleep caught up to Daniel midway through his sandwich and he yawned hugely.
His father matched Daniel's yawn with one of his own. "Look what you started."
Daniel picked up his plate and stood. "Think I'm going to finish dinner over homework."
"Don't forget to brush your teeth before falling asleep."
"I'm not five, Dad."
Comically, his dad smacked his forehead. "Really?" he asked with exaggerated sarcasm, "I never would've noticed."
Daniel laughed. "Anyone ever have the guts to mention that you're very…"
"I was going for immature. Though if strange fits…"
"Eat your dinner. Do your homework then go to sleep, Daniel. Sleep well."
"Daniel." Annoyed, his father checked his watch then pushed his glasses to the top of his head. "The words 'go to sleep' usually refer to going to bed. Lying horizontal and staying that way."
Daniel peeled his cheek off the opened Chemistry book and sat up slowly, trying, and probably failing, to nonchalantly wipe away the string of drool hanging from the corner of his mouth down to the book. "Homework."
His dad turned his wrist over and pointed at his watch. "Late."
Squinting, Daniel leaned forward and peered at the numbers in the corner of his laptop. "Not that late."
"You got," his father tapped the corner of his mouth, "a little bit of…"
Daniel scrubbed at his mouth, finishing the job he'd started before. "Thanks," he answered sarcastically.
His father threw back the covers of Daniel's bed. "Go. Sleep. Slumber. Dream. Produce REM waves."
Peed. Washed. Teeth brushed, Daniel dragged himself back into his room. "You're still here." He stopped at the door, shocked that his father was sitting on his bed, petting his pillow. "I don't need you to tuck me in."
"I know, I'm not tucking you in. " His father rose hurriedly. "I just need to make sure that you're horizontal."
In Daniel's eyes, it was one and the same, but according to his father's logic, it wasn't. Truthfully, Daniel was too tired to argue, so as the old adage went 'if you can't beat them, join them', he decided to just grin and bear it. "Fine, if it makes you happy." Daniel took the sting out of the words with a huge smile, skirted around his dad and got into bed. "No bedtime story, though."
"Promise. Maybe a little tucking, how's that?" And the blanket smoothing began.
"Dad?" Daniel levered himself onto his elbows, undoing his hard work.
"Oh yeah, about that…" His dad looked everywhere in the room but at Daniel.
The smile was bordering on a 'father knows best' type of smirk. "You're welcome."
"Can we," Daniel tugged at a loose string hanging from his comforter, "keep a white towel?"
"Huh, I thought you said—"
"And I thought you were sleeping."
"Just one," Daniel said sheepishly, feeling totally embarrassed over this entire conversation.
"Why just one?"
His father's sigh of exasperation was deep and heartfelt. "You said that the white towels reminded you of—"
"A good memory." Daniel shook his head, correcting himself. "A great memory. Of my mom and dad. And sometimes that's all we have. A good memory. Or a great one. My parents deserve at least one white towel memory."
His father cupped the back of Daniel's head and he didn't resist when he pulled it forward and planted a gentle kiss on his forehead. "Your parents deserved so much more, Icky. They deserved a lifetime with you."