Title: Heroes' Resolution
Summary: Missing Scenes for Heroes, Part II—Jack needs to overcome his emotional lethargy to help Daniel through his grief.
Spoilers: Heroes II
For CB, whose disappointment with the lack of Jack/Daniel interaction in Heroes II knows no bounds…
Disclaimer: This story is solely for entertainment purposes, and no copyright infringements were intended. The characters and situations are the property of Gekko Film Corp., Sci-Fi Channel and MGM Television. They're not mine-more's the pity.
Sam sat at the table in her lab, the room silent but for the hum of the computer and the occasional hitch in her own breathing. She pressed her fingers firmly into her eyes as the despair washed over her once again.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
They weren't supposed to lose their own.
Not for real. Not for good.
Not this way.
The quiet beeping no longer registered on Daniel's conscious mind. At first, he had found the noise comforting, a constant reminder that this body lying in front of him still contained life, was still fighting, still holding on. He wasn't alone. Not yet, anyway.
As the time wore on, however, the sound was covered over by the screams in his head. His own screams, remembered, relived. He could feel his heart race as the memory threatened to overtake him even as he sat there, and he struggled to push it aside, tuck it away, contain it. His hold tightened fractionally on the limp hand clasped within his own. He felt the warmth, too much warmth, but still better than the alternative, and he squeezed gently, providing an anchor.
Exactly who was anchoring whom, well, Daniel wasn't quite sure he wanted to know that just yet.
God, she hated to cry. Hated everything about it, from the red-rimmed, puffy eyes to the dripping nose, to the headache that followed every crying jag without fail.
The headache, well, at least she could do something about that. She got up slowly, feeling the buzzing in her ears, and she held on to the edge of the table until the feeling passed. Moving slowly, Sam pulled open the top drawer of her desk and rummaged within it for the bottle of Excedrin. Her hand fumbled across it, and she pulled it out, noting the lightness of its weight. Given it a tentative shake, she nearly started to cry again when there was no answering rattle. 'Empty. God.' She hurled the bottle across the room, uncharacteristically giving vent to her feelings in a manner very reminiscent of her commanding officer.
Though her eyes were drying, the pounding in her head was increasing, and she knew she had to get something soon, before this escalated. She knew where she could get something for the pain, but...she wasn't sure she was ready to face the infirmary just yet.
The reminders would be everywhere. That was Janet's place. Her very life. Dr. Janet Fraiser had been the heart and soul of the SGC infirmary, the one person SG-1 had always relied on to pick up their pieces and put them back together.
Sam knew that just by walking in that room, the memories would assault her. As much as she wanted to avoid that for a while, she also knew that two people she cared about very much would be down there right now.
One hopefully resting comfortably.
The other maintaining a silent vigil.
With a sigh, she stuffed a few spare tissues into her pocket, squared her shoulders, and headed out the door.
Daniel didn't look up from where he sat next to Jack's bed as Sam entered the room. She crossed over to him and laid her hand on his shoulder, gently massaging the tired muscles of this man who was more like a brother to her than her own flesh and blood.
"Sam," he replied, rising from the stool he sat upon and pulling her into a hug without hesitation. "You doing okay?"
Sam felt the moisture gather in her eyes again even as her arms went around Daniel and she laid her head against his shoulder. For several moments she was silent, unable to speak even if she wanted to as she lost herself in the comfort being offered her.
She sniffled as she pulled away, wiping her sleeve across her eyes. "Not really," she admitted.
Daniel didn't say anything; he merely nodded in understanding and empathy before grabbing a second stool for Sam and resuming his earlier position.
Taking a deep breath, Sam worked again at getting control of her emotions. "Has he woken up yet?" she questioned.
"No. Uh...Dr. Warner said that the Kevlar in his vest kept him from being killed outright, but...he's, uh, not totally out of the woods yet." The archeologist's voice was low, his gaze remaining on the man in front of him as he clasped his hands together in his lap.
Sam turned to study Daniel for a moment, noting the rumpled clothes, the tired eyes, the way his shoulders slumped in defeat.
"You know how stubborn the colonel is, Daniel," she sought to reassure him. "He's going to come through this, you'll see. He'll be his normal, irritable self in a few days, no doubt driving Janet..." she caught herself, placing a hand to her mouth as if to stop the words, and turned away before the tears returned.
Daniel's gaze was compassionate, and he tactfully ignored her lapse, choosing instead to focus on her belief in Jack's ability to heal, a hope he had latched onto constantly in the last several hours. "I know he'll make it, Sam," he resolved. "He has to. Because I'll be damned if we lose Jack too. He'll make it."
As Sam wearily sat down on the stool next to him, ready to join the vigil, she wondered absently if her friend realized the truth behind the words he'd just spoken-Daniel Jackson would indeed be damned by the loss of Jack O'Neill.
They'd been sitting together in silence for some time when a noise at the entrance of the infirmary caused them to look up as one in time to see Teal'c's large form fill up the doorway.
"DanielJackson. MajorCarter," Teal'c said in greeting, bowing his head in his familiar gesture of respect.
"Hey, Teal'c," Sam replied, rising from her stool. "We were wondering when you'd get back."
"The situation on the planet is now under control. The fighting has settled down and we were able to overtake the remaining Jaffa."
"I'm just glad you're okay," Sam answered, meaning it with all her heart.
"How is O'Neill?"
Daniel spoke up from where he sat, his hand idly resting on Jack's still arm. "Warner was just in, says he's holding his own and the prognosis is pretty good, they think. Now we just need him to wake up."
"Wouldn't have to wake up if you all would manage to keep it down a little," a voice from the bed croaked.
"Colonel!" Sam's voice held her obvious relief.
"Hey, Jack," Daniel said soothingly, rubbing Jack's arm. He closed his eyes briefly, relaxing slightly as some of the tension left him. He had honestly wondered if this would be the time that Jack wouldn't wake up, if this would be the time when his luck had run out. "Nice to have you back with us."
"Indeed, it is, O'Neill," Teal'c added, moving to the foot of the bed to stand next to Sam.
"Can I get you anything, Sir?" Carter asked, already antsy to be doing something.
Jack fought to open his eyes the rest of the way, the brightness of the infirmary lights increasing the pressure inside his skull. As he took in the anxious faces of his team, it distantly registered that he must have done a number on himself once again to earn those looks of fear. "A little water?" he requested groggily.
Carter made to reach for the cup by the bedside, but Daniel beat her to it, raising the straw to Jack's lips and supporting the back of the other man's head as he struggled to drink.
"Easy," Daniel reminded him.
"I know how it works," Jack shot back, regretting it when he saw the shuttered look drop onto Daniel's face. He reached for the other man's hand and lightly grasped it as Daniel slipped it out from behind his head. "Sorry...Daniel..."
''S'okay," Daniel responded, knowing he meant it. "We all know what a lousy patient you are."
"We were beginning to think you were going to sleep for the next week, Colonel," Sam said a little too brightly.
"Not likely," Jack growled, his voice still sounding full of gravel, "what with Fraiser around here waiting to stick me full of holes. Where the hell is she, anyway?" he asked as he noticed the lack of her presence. "Normally any time I get shot up, she's hovering around me like a humming bird on steroids."
Daniel's face went deathly white, and Sam found herself turning away as the tears suddenly returned.
Jack took in their reactions and looked questioningly to Teal'c. "What?" he asked slowly, suddenly afraid he wouldn't like the answer.
Teal'c gazed at him, assessing his condition and his strength before making his reply. Apparently feeling that O'Neill was capable of handling the truth, he spoke. "Dr. Fraiser was on the planet assisting in treating the wounded. She was struck by a staff weapon blast." He hesitated. "She did not survive."
Jack felt the air leave his lungs in a whoosh. "Sonuva..." He tried sitting up, only to have a wave of dizziness force him to remain still. "How did...when...aw, hell." He looked at each of them, from Teal'c's stoic expression, to Sam's tears, to Daniel...it was on Daniel his gaze rested and remained. Something else was going on there, he just knew it.
Jack felt his own eyes begin to burn as he thought of Janet Fraiser, of how often she'd cared for him, of how many countless times she had been there for him, and he felt incredible guilt that he hadn't been there for her the one time it really mattered. He slowly raised his hands and scrubbed his face, ignoring the pain in his gut. "Look, I, uh..."
"You want us to leave you alone, sir?" Sam asked knowingly.
Jack considered taking the offer gratefully. It was what he wanted. He needed time for this to register. Needed to try and make some sense out of this, needed time to get himself together before he faced anyone, before he could be the leader they were so obviously looking for right now. Pulling his hands away from his face, his gaze was once again drawn to Daniel. The other man was in full self-hug mode, arms wrapped tightly around his chest, his gaze not meeting anyone's. He looked as if he were getting ready to bolt. And Jack knew without a doubt that Daniel shouldn't be alone right now. He might be stuck in this hospital bed, struggling to stay awake, but there was still something he could do for his team.
"No," he answered. "Stay..."
Sam darted a quick look at Daniel, seeing her own surprise mirrored on his downcast face. Her concern for their archeologist and what he had witnessed had almost overshadowed her own grief at the loss of her friend, and it came to her swiftly what was behind the colonel's request, even if he couldn't possibly know the reason why it was so important. Apparently, he knew something was off with Daniel simply by looking at him, and that was enough. Shooting him a grateful look, she squeezed his hand before resuming her seat.
The atmosphere in the SGC remained subdued over the next couple of days. Jack had been moved to a private room, and while he was grateful for the peace and quiet, it left him with way too much time to think. Sam had stopped by often, filling him in on Cassie and how she was dealing with yet another loss in her young life. If it hadn't been for the girl's needs, Jack doubted his 2iC would have left the base at all. He knew Hammond's request for her to speak at Janet's upcoming service was weighing heavily on her mind.
Teal'c had been by as well, but Daniel had been scarce. Jack thought of all the possible explanations for this, and he didn't like the options. He'd been surprised to see the man he'd once called his closest friend waiting at his bedside when he'd woken up. Time once was, it would have surprised him not to see Daniel there, knowing the archeologist would have sat beside him no matter how long he'd been unconscious, just as Jack would have done for him.
Times had changed.
He slowly made his way down the empty hallway, feeling his stomach muscles burn with each step. He'd been working as hard as he could at his recovery, nearly desperate to get himself out of the infirmary and back home, get somewhere where he could let down his guard for a while, get away from the oppressive feelings of the base.
When he saw Daniel approaching from the opposite end of the corridor, he stepped back without thought into the shadows, allowing the younger man to enter the infirmary with Jack unseen. As he stood there in the hallway, he wondered exactly when it had come to this-this point where he was avoiding his own team member, his own friend. If he were honest, the best friend he'd ever had. Yet now...
Things were different. Things had changed. They had changed, both of them.
And he didn't know how to get things back to the way they once had been.
Jack stood there in the dimly lit hallway for many long minutes, unable to go in after Daniel, yet unable to walk away. He wrestled with himself, his own emotions, his own needs at the same time as he wondered what it was that Daniel needed. If he needed anything at all.
Jack heard a muffled sound from the infirmary. It took him only seconds to recognize it. It was the sound of grief.
The thought of Daniel sitting alone, quietly crying in that darkened infirmary was all he needed to propel his thoughts out of his own self-preservation and his feet into action. As he moved out of the shadows, he saw Bregman walk through the infirmary door, and Jack paused. He held back, waiting, ready to move in if this guy so much as looked at Daniel cross-eyed.
After a moment, he heard Daniel call out to the reporter, the echo of tears evident in his voice. "Over here."
"Oh, I didn't..." Bregman replied. He began again. "I was told that you might be in here, Dr. Jackson."
"Yup." The word was subdued, but there was no apology in it for the emotions it contained.
"I just came by to give this back to you...I'm not going to use it."
Though Jack couldn't see what was going on, he could figure out that Bregman was referring to the videotape of Janet's death, and he waited, listening to the silence, wondering how Daniel would react.
"Wait..." Daniel's voice was low, hesitant. "I want you to."
Jack listened in as Daniel told the story of his death and ascension to this stranger who had been imposed on their lives, could hear the vast gratitude Daniel felt towards Janet, who had done everything she could to save the young archeologist until there were no longer any options left to them. O'Neill was unable to repress the chill that ran down his spine as he thought of that dark day which suddenly didn't seem so long ago.
"I owed her. A lot more than I ever gave back...I thought a lot about what you said about Kristofsky...I think this shows what Janet Fraiser was all about." Daniel finished simply.
"Me too," the other man agreed.
There was firm resolve in Daniel's voice. "I want other people to know."
There were a few more moments of silence before the sound of footsteps warned Jack that one of them was leaving the infirmary. Bregman nearly ran into the officer as he turned the corner, and made to speak.
Jack held up his hand and shook his head, indicating his desire to keep his presence unknown. Bregman caught his eye, and looked as though he would ignore the colonel's wishes, then for some reason decided against it and simply walked away.
After waiting several moments to see if Daniel would follow the reporter, Jack dug his hands deeply into his pockets, feeling the twinge of pain as it rippled through his aching abdomen. Ignoring it, he steeled his shoulders and walked into the room.
Daniel heard the noise and looked up, fully expecting to see Bregman had returned. His surprise upon seeing Jack was written plainly across his features, and he straightened slightly.
"Hey, Jack." The younger man gazed over from the place where he sat in the shadows with his back against the infirmary wall. He took in the careful way Jack was holding himself. "How you feeling?"
Jack shrugged, instantly regretting the movement. "Tired. Stiff. Sore. Crotchety, cranky, crabby."
"So...more like yourself again, huh?"
Jack saw the smile in Daniel's eyes, and felt his own lips twitch in response. He meandered over to where his teammate sat and stood hovering over him, gazing down but remaining silent.
Daniel swiped a hand over his face, hoping that there were no traces of his tears still lingering. It didn't seem to matter how long he'd known Jack-he still hated to show any form of weakness to the man. Though he mostly felt he'd proven himself to Jack and the others as a valuable member of SG-1 long ago, those tendencies died hard. He remembered all too well what it had been like in the early days of their friendship, that constant feeling of never quite measuring up, especially by military standards. It had taken years for him to feel comfortable around here, and despite the fact that feeling had been tested on many occasions; he didn't want anything to destroy it if he could help it.
"I kind of thought you'd leave the base as soon as they sprung you," Daniel continued.
"They haven't officially sprung me yet," Jack corrected. "I'm just out doing my laps-you know-recovery stuff."
"Yeah. Been there, done that."
"Bought the T-shirt," Jack finished for him. He carefully lowered himself to sit beside Daniel, leaning his head back against the wall and closing his eyes for a moment.
"You, uh, you anxious to get back to duty?" Daniel queried, feeling an awkward need to keep the conversation rolling.
"Um, that would be...no."
"Really? Usually you're chomping at the bit."
Jack lifted his head and managed to look offended. "I do not chomp."
"Actually, I was thinking I might take a little time off-let myself heal up a little more than the usual patch and go job this time."
Daniel glanced at him sideways, concern not very well hidden in his gaze. "You're hurt more than you're letting on, aren't you?" he prodded.
"No. Yes. Well...no, not really. It hurts, yeah, but-I don't know. Just seems like a good time to take off for a bit. I'm sure you guys will muddle through just fine without me."
"So you're just going to sit back and let us go through the gate without you?"
Jack considered giving a flippant reply, shrugging the question off with humor as was his custom, but he decided this time to give it the weight it deserved. "If it came to it, yeah, I would. You guys have gone off-world alone before-you're not going to have any trouble doing it now. SG-1 doesn't need me to go with them every time you walk through the gate."
Daniel stared at him incredulously, not certain what to make of what he was hearing. "What the hell are you talking about? You're our team leader! Why would we start going off-world without a leader now?"
Jack was silent for a moment, giving his words, and Daniel's, careful thought. He cleared his throat somewhat nervously before speaking.
"You're right, Daniel, I am the leader of SG-1, and I'd like to think that over the last seven years, I've done exactly what a leader is supposed to do-not just lead, but the develop the individual members of the team so that they can move on ahead. I mean, face it...how we've managed to stay together for so long is something of a miracle in its own right, with the amount the Air Force usually shuffles its personnel around. No unit I've ever been with has lasted together this long. Figure it's probably got something to do with the nature of the work."
He returned Daniel's gaze steadily, but where there was confusion in the other man's eyes, his own held resignation. "I'm just reading the writing on the wall, my friend, which I thought, by the way, was supposed to be your job."
When his comment failed to get a chuckle out of Daniel, Jack sighed and laid his cards on the table. "The time is coming for me to think about getting out of the field."
"What are you talking about?" A small coil of fear took root in Daniel's belly, and there was an unmistakable edge to his voice.
"I'm getting older, Daniel. I don't quite bounce back from these little trips to the infirmary the way I used to. Maybe it's time to do something else..."
"I don't know. I tried the retirement thing before; not sure I want to go that route again. Maybe the Air Force will let me learn to fly a desk."
"Baloney!" The word shot forth from Daniel's lips.
"You heard what I said."
"You said 'baloney.'"
"And you know what I meant."
"I can safely assume we're not talking about lunch meat here?"
Daniel glared at him in barely concealed exasperation. "Jack, you are the best damn field commander I've ever seen. I've been off-world with nearly every SG team there is, and no one handles things the way you do. No one can. I know you like to play dumb, for whatever reason, and I know Sam and I let you get away with it. We're used to the fact that you don't want to know about naquada generators or ancient civilizations unless they pertain directly to the mission."
Daniel caught his breath before plunging on. "But I also know that you're a lot smarter than you let on-and the one thing you excel at is leading this team. Being able to read people and situations to see if they pose a threat to us, or to our missions. I don't want to think about how many times we've had ended up dead if you hadn't seen trouble coming and taken the steps necessary to prevent it."
Jack took a minute to ponder this sudden outburst from his teammate. "How many more times," he corrected quietly.
"How many more times we'd have ended up dead. Seems to me that we...well, scratch that, you especially, have ended up dead quite enough, thank you very much."
Daniel shook his head, unable to stop the chuckle. "Yeah, well, you know what I mean."
"Yeah, I do, Daniel." Jack stared at his hands awkwardly, rubbing them together repeatedly. "Thank you for saying that."
"It's the truth."
They sat in companionable silence for several moments, each contemplating the words spoken and the words left unsaid.
Daniel glanced briefly at Jack, and when he saw the openness on the other man's face, something drove him to ask what he'd been wondering for so long. "Don't you ever miss it?"
"You know-miss the way things used to be, way back when? Back when it was just the four of us against the world? Back when no matter what else happened in your life, you knew you could count on a member of SG-1 to be there with you? Back when we were...friends."
"We're still friends, Daniel," Jack said, though his voice lacked conviction.
Daniel gazed at him, long and hard, not saying anything. The silence grew, nearly taking on a life of its own, and it spoke volumes.
Jack was not at all sure he wanted to get into this right now. They'd done more talking in these past five minutes then they'd done in the past five months, and the part of him that resisted any attempts at emoting struggled for control. But he ignored it and forged ahead.
"Daniel, when you were gone, that year we had with Jonas...well, when you were ascended or whatever-I knew you were out there somewhere, I guess. But it didn't really matter-it was like you were dead, because you weren't here. With us, where we needed you." He shot Daniel a wry, sideways glance. "Longest you've been dead since I've known you."
Daniel's lips twitched in response, an action so familiar it caused an ache in Jack's throat.
"When we found you on that planet, Vis-whatever-it-was, I felt like I'd been given another shot, you know? A chance to make up for some of the crap I've given you over the years. A shot at becoming your friend again. But when we got back here..."
Jack paused, feeling the anxiety build within him whenever he was faced with discussing his emotions. He was beginning to wish he'd never gone down this touchy-feely path, and he almost backed off. He was within a hairsbreadth of dropping it, telling Daniel to never mind, it didn't matter...
Except it did matter. It mattered a lot. For whatever reason, he'd been given yet another chance to make this right, to make this friendship work. And he wasn't going to blow it now.
Drawing a deep breath, he continued. "When we got back here, you were...different. Totally different...oh, for cryin' out loud, who am I trying to kid," he muttered almost to himself.
"When you first signed on at the SGC, you were a completely different person from the man who's sitting next to me now. You needed me back then. You couldn't even tie your own boots without me making sure you didn't trip on them going up the ramp, much less keep yourself from getting into trouble every time we stepped through the gate. But now...now..."
"Now, what, Jack?" Daniel prompted; hoping against hope that maybe this time they could finally get whatever had come between them out in the open.
"Now it's different. You're different. You don't need me any more, Daniel. You can face the world on your own two feet, boots laced up, weapons ready. I mean, look at you-it's almost like you've turned into a soldier after all." He shook his head in self-castigation. "They used to ask me back then if I wouldn't rather have a real soldier on my team in your place. My answer was always the same...I didn't need another soldier. I needed a heart. Now, SG-1 has both. You're capable, competent, confident, cocky..." He let out a wry chuckle. "You can even bench press more than I can. I swear, you're getting more and more like..." Jack stopped himself.
"More like who?" Daniel gazed at him intently. 'Say it, Jack. Say it. I'm more like you.' He willed him to put it all together.
He witnessed the exact moment that Jack did. Daniel watched the transformation, saw the older man's gaze turn in his direction, a questioning look in his eyes, unsure if he could believe where his mind was taking him.
Daniel sat next to him and slowly nodded, his eyes never leaving Jack's face. "Did you ever have a hero when you were growing up?"
Jack's brows drew together in confusion, not certain where Daniel was heading in this conversation. "Yeah..."
"What's the one thing every kid wants when they have a hero? What's the one thing every kid says when they figure out who their hero is?"
Jack shook his head slowly, not sure he trusted his voice right now.
"They say, 'I want to be just like him.' You know what, Jack? I just pick my heroes a little closer to home."
Jack turned away, staring at the floor, unwilling to believe what he was hearing.
Daniel continued. "It's you, Jack. I wanted to be like you. From the moment I met you, I knew you were the one person I could believe in. It never mattered what situation we got ourselves into. I always knew you were going to get us out. Sam and Teal'c and I knew we could rely on that no matter what. You never once let us down. That hasn't changed. And that makes you a hero. It does in my book, anyway."
Jack kept his gaze glued to the floor, his hands clenched together in his lap. He could feel his face starting to burn. He'd rather be facing an armed squad of Jaffa with no one but the Tok'ra to back him up than having this particular conversation. He sighed.
"I don't want to be anybody's hero, Daniel. There is no reason for anyone to make a hero out of me with all the things I've managed to screw up in my life." His voice was barely more than a whisper.
"Yeah, see that's the funny thing-you don't always get to choose your heroes. Sometimes it just is what it is. I do know this, though-whatever mistakes you've made in your life, they don't make you less of a hero. They just make you more human. That's not a bad thing. Because, truth be told, I don't always need a hero. Most times, maybe, but not always. But I will always need a friend." He held out this olive branch, hopeful.
A friend, Jack thought. He needs a friend. All at once, he felt a great weight being lifted off his chest. Daniel still needed him. In a different way, maybe, but he still needed him.
"A friend, huh?" Jack risked a glance at Daniel, saw the tentative hope in the other man's eyes, and felt himself begin to relax. "I can do that, Daniel. I'd like to do that."
Daniel responded to the warmth he saw in the other man's gaze, and he smiled, but something lingering on his face caught Jack's attention.
"What?" he questioned. "We've come this far, c'mon-out with it."
"Daniel." The archeologist said his own name with just a twinge of disgust.
"What?" Jack asked, perplexed.
"Daniel. You called me Daniel. You call me Daniel-I can't even think how long it's been since you called me 'Danny.'"
Jack shrugged. "You're not a kid anymore."
"I never was, Jack," Daniel responded dryly, glancing sideways at him.
"True." Jack had to concede on that point. "Besides, you always hated it when I called you that."
"Yeah. Well...not always..." he revealed. "Sometimes..."
Jack was silent, taking a moment to reflect on this unexpected glimpse into his teammate.
"Daniel...what you did just now...giving Bregman the tape..."
Daniel glanced over at Jack, uncertainty plainly visible in his eyes.
Jack raised his hand and placed it comfortably on Daniel's shoulder, comforted himself by the old familiarity of the movement. He squeezed gently. "It was good. Real good. It was...I think it's what Janet would have wanted. Certainly what she deserved."
Daniel continued to stare at his friend, gratefully acknowledging the words while struggling fiercely against the gathering tears that had never been far away as they made their presence known once again.
"She..." his breath hitched, and he paused. "We, we were just sitting there, talking to Wells, taking care of him. She was telling him he'd make it. Just like she's told me a hundred other times. And then..."
He swiped angrily as the tears broke past his reserve, not wanting to give in to them, but feeling a desperate need to share his story, to share the horror with someone who could help him shoulder the burden. "Then this staff weapon blast came out of nowhere. God, we never even saw it coming. One minute she was there, doing...doing what she does best, and the next..."
"I remember the smell. It's like I can't get it out of my head. The smell of her clothes burning, of her..." He drew in a deep, shaky breath, his words becoming quieter until Jack had to strain to hear them.
"I dropped the camera and went to her, but there was nothing I could do. I...I screamed for a medic, I think..."
Jack's hand tightened on Daniel's shoulder. He had watched that God-awful tape at Hammond's request, had heard Daniel's screams. Their tortured sound had haunted his dreams ever since.
"I held her hand. That's all I could do. Just sit there and hold her hand. I kept waiting for her to wake up, to...to look at me...anything... Oh God, Jack," Daniel whispered as he wrapped his arms tightly around himself in a gesture that was so telling. "She was...she...what are we supposed to do without her?"
As this question was torn from Daniel's soul, he could no longer fight off the overwhelming grief and guilt he felt. The first sob had barely escaped his throat before he felt Jack's arms go around him, felt the comfort of their strength, felt a hand gently push his head down to rest on Jack's shoulder. And finally, he didn't fight it. He just gave in and cried.
Jack sat there in the darkened infirmary, his silent tears tracing their path down his own cheeks. He sat there, holding his friend, both of them riding out the waves of Daniel's grief, of Jack's grief.
And he didn't feel quite so alone.
Jack lowered himself stiffly down in the chair and swiveled slightly until he faced the conference table, studiously ignoring the airman who was attaching the microphone to his lapel. He concentrated instead on the bright lights in front of them, hoping that their intensity would distract him. He'd faced certain death more calmly than he faced this interview.
The general was right-the tape that Emmett Bregman had produced was good. It was also important. It showed the men and women of the SGC in the way they should be remembered, long after they were all gone. Knowing that did nothing to calm Jack, however, and his gaze darted here and there, anything to avoid focusing on the man seated in front of him.
"Okay," Bregman said, placing his coffee mug down on the table, "first question..."
"Okay," Jack answered, finally raising his gaze and settling on the reporter, hoping the tremble in his voice had gone unnoticed. A movement at the back of the conference room caught his attention, and he looked up to see Daniel walk in and lean casually against the rear window. He raised his eyebrows in silent question.
Daniel simply shook his head and offered a reassuring smile.
Bregman continued. "So, Colonel O'Neill, tell me about..."
"Sir, hang on a second," the airman operating the camera interrupted.
"What?" Bregman asked, sounding irritated.
"Something's up with the film-the record light just went out."
"Well, did you push the button? Put the film in?" Bregman stood and walked over to take a look at the camera.
"Yes, sir, I did all of that-just give me a minute, I'll get it going."
Jack took advantage of the distraction to stand as well. He caught Bregman's anxious glance as he passed and held up a placating hand. "Relax. I'm not leaving."
The other man nodded and returned his attention to the camera.
Jack made his way to where Daniel stood. "Hey," he said quietly.
"So, nothing," Daniel answered. "I, uh, I just heard you were going to be doing this, and I thought, I don't know, I thought maybe you could use a little support. You know. From a friend." His face suddenly displayed his uncertainty.
"Colonel? I think we're ready for you now..."
Jack held Daniel's gaze for several long moments before he smiled, nodding. He clapped his hand gently around Daniel's neck, squeezing lightly as he mouthed the words 'thank you,' before moving to resume his seat.
Pausing for a moment, he turned back to face the archeologist. "Danny?"
Daniel smiled and narrowed his eyes knowingly as they once again shared this communication without words. "Yeah, Jack?"
"Dinner tonight? My place? You grab Carter and Teal'c, I'll grab some steaks..." He gazed at the other man hopefully, ready to wheedle if necessary.
"Deal," Daniel replied easily, his smile growing into one of the few uncomplicated ones Jack rarely witnessed on the face of his friend.
He nodded, returning to the conference table. Maybe things had changed. Maybe the future was uncertain. Jack knew, however, that even if he was unsure of everything else, he could face whatever life threw at him as long as Daniel was at his side.