One more time
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Category: Episode tag, angst
Season/spoilers: Season 4 - Window of Opportunity
Warnings: A small amount of nudity
Summary: Something is bothering Daniel on his return from P4X-639
Author's Notes: Sorry, I fully intended to write a humorous story in which Daniel ended up showering over and over but the boys refused to play.
A deeply felt sense of relief surprises me as I step back into the Gateroom, knowing that the problems caused by the rogue archaeologist Malakai on P4X-639 have been resolved. The repetition of the same ten hours of time had proven to be more trying than I had, at first, anticipated. Boredom has been a rare commodity in my life until now and I was unaware of its ability to drain away the will to live. And while O'Neill was imaginative in finding sources of recreation, my Jaffa training made it more difficult for me to 'let my hair down'. As I pointed out to O'Neill at the time, my head has been shaven for so many years the concept of hair is unfamiliar, 'letting my hair down' even more so.
As we arrive back O'Neill strides down the ramp, clearly delighted with the prospect of time moving forward as it should. The Gateroom is busy with a full complement of armed security, plus General Hammond, who quickly engages O'Neill in conversation. I pull up behind O'Neill's right shoulder, ready to provide confirmation of our mission's success should it be required. It appears that will not be the case. O'Neill responds to General Hammond's enquiry in a jocular manner while, to my surprise, Daniel Jackson hurries past, his head down, clearly avoiding eye contact. Following hard in his wake is Major Carter, and I hear her call his name as he hurries through the Gateroom doorway.
"Carter?" The humour vanishes from O'Neill's voice as he turns away from the general. "Something wrong?"
Major Carter is standing in the doorway looking exasperated. She gazes down the corridor before turning her attention to O'Neill. "It's… I think something's upset Daniel."
O'Neill immediately steps forward, throwing a backward glance towards the general. "If you'll excuse me, Sir?"
General Hammond waves him away. "Official debriefing in one hour, colonel."
As I take my own leave of the general, I call after O'Neill. "I will come with you."
"Thank you, Teal'c." He doesn't slow his pace, doesn't even look my way. "Appreciate the offer but, you know Daniel. If something's bugging him a little one-on-one is probably best. Why don't you hit the showers?" He finally glances over his shoulder and raises his eyebrows at me.
I incline my head in response, despite his words being like a physical rebuke. "Very well."
He is, of course correct. Daniel Jackson is more likely to speak with him alone. The relationship between O'Neill and Daniel Jackson is often difficult to understand, but I know that underneath their many arguments and differences there is a deep bond of friendship. I once believed I could forge such a bond with these men, and perhaps with O'Neill I have succeeded. With Daniel Jackson, however, I fear the death of his wife at my hand will forever prove an insurmountable barrier between us despite his willingness to forgive.
My pleasure at returning to the SGC and finding time restored to its normal forward progress has gone. Instead I feel the weight of Malakai's grief as I leave the Gateroom. The feeling is most unwelcome, bringing with it painful memories I prefer not to dwell upon in public. With determination I push them from my mind, and set my thoughts on the immediate future - a safe haven from my nightmares.
It has been sometime since I last 'hit the showers'. With each loop O'Neill and I were returned to early morning, already clean and ready for the day. As I head down the corridor towards the locker-room I am actually looking forward to showering. I remain unconvinced by the Tau'ri custom of disguising their natural odours with the perfume of fruits and flowers, but I do enjoy bathing beneath the powerful jets of hot water produced by their showers. While not at all like the calm of Kel Nor'eem, it does produce a level of relaxation for both mind and body.
As I push open the locker-room door, I see I am not alone. A set of desert fatigues have been dropped in an untidy heap on the floor in front of Daniel Jackson's locker. It appears O'Neill will have a fruitless journey if he is seeking Daniel in his office. He is, no doubt, already in the shower, although I cannot hear the sound of running water.
Crossing the room I help myself to a clean towel from the linen closet, then quickly undress, folding my clothes neatly. Jaffa are taught to respect the symbols and attire of their god, and I cannot help but feel the same emotions towards the clothes of the SGC. To me they are a symbol of acceptance. When I wear them I am, in some way, less of 'the alien'. It is something I have debated with Daniel, who still shows his unease with all things military by his apparent inability to look comfortable in uniform.
My locker closes with a metallic click and I head towards the showers. Stepping through the archway between the locker area and the tiled washroom I pull to an abrupt halt. Daniel Jackson is standing in front of one of the sinks, staring at his own reflection in the mirror. He looks close to tears, utterly dejected and weary.
For a moment I don't know what to say. He is obviously unaware of my presence and I don't wish to intrude upon his grief, yet I can't just turn away and leave him. I select and reject a dozen possible greetings before finally asking softly, "Daniel Jackson, are you unwell?"
He jumps - physically jumps. The white towel clinging precariously to his narrow hips unravels and he barely catches it in time to cover himself. "Teal'c?" He blinks at me as though unsure of where he is, then he gives a soft yet infinitely sad laugh as he fumbles with the towel. "Funny how the airforce always skimps on the important things, like towel size." His head lowered, he sneaks a look in my direction. I'm tempted to look down, but I reassure myself my towel is secure. "Not that you seem to have any problems."
He is clearly avoiding my question. "Daniel Jackson…"
"I'm fine." He cuts me off, fixes his towel back in place and then folds his arms over his bare chest. A smile flickers, taut and brittle as he finally looks at me properly, his expression almost… pleading, as though he knows I will not believe him. "Really. I'm fine."
Daniel Jackson is, without doubt, one of the worst liars I have ever met, and he should know by now I am impervious to his armoury of potentially disarming looks.
"It is my experience that when you say you are fine, you are not, in fact, fine."
His gaze slides away from me and his arms tighten around his body as he turns back to the mirror. A soft noise escapes him, but I cannot tell whether it is laugh or sob. When he speaks, though, fresh grief sounds in every word. "I still miss her."
An icy hand grips at my throat. I know of whom he speaks. There has only ever been one woman who elicited such emotion in him. Sha're. The woman I killed to save his life. I don't know what to say. If only O'Neill were here…
Daniel spins round to face me and I tense, expecting anger. Instead, though, his face is full of compassion and his words knock me off balance. "I'm sorry. I don't mean to be so selfish, so self-absorbed. I mean, Sha're's been gone for… months, whereas Sho'nac…" He hesitates, licks his lips as though suddenly nervous. "How are you doing, Teal'c?"
Such a simple question. Such a complex response. My own false denial leaps to make itself vocal, but the memory of Sho'nac, the pain of her loss is suddenly too strong, robbing me of my voice..
He is looking at me, encouraging me to speak, to be honest with him. The words of Malakai sound in my head. 'I just want to touch her face.' Such longing in his voice. I finally find the words, somehow managing to rein back my own emotions enough to force them from my mouth. "I miss Sho'nac with every breath I take."
The words are totally inadequate to describe the emptiness that has consumed me since she was murdered, but I know Daniel understands.
"I'm so sorry, Teal'c."
"As I am about Sha're."
He holds my gaze for a long moment, his expression unreadable, and then he nods sadly. "I know."
A long breath of air escapes his lungs. "You know I had the craziest thought… when I saw Malakai, saw what he was trying to do…" His eyes are bright with emotion as they search my face. "I felt like I was looking at myself, at what I might have been - an archaeologist desperately seeking one more moment…" His words trail off and he turns back to the mirror, the palm of his right hand brushing swiftly over his cheek, dashing away moisture.
"You would never become Malakai, Daniel Jackson. You would not harm others for your own ends."
"Wouldn't I?" He breathes the words softly.
"No," I say firmly. "You would not."
He turns back to me, his face thoughtful, clearly weighing my words. "Maybe not deliberately. But for one brief moment on that planet, when that machine was firing up…"
He stops so I risk finishing his sentence. "… you desired it to work."
He nods guiltily.
"You were not alone in that thought, Daniel Jackson."
Our eyes meet, and I know the grief I see in his is mirrored in my own. And in that look, in those moments of shared silence, I sense that something fuses between us. Empathy, understanding, I do not know what human word to use, but whatever it is, I believe it has the potential to grow into something good.
It is Daniel who breaks the silence. "You know, if you ever need to talk… about Sho'nac or… anything. I really am here for you."
I can see how genuine he is, and for the first time since Sho'nac's death I feel ready to speak of her loss. I know my words will seem formal, but I know too that Daniel will understand the emotion beneath them. "You are a good friend, Daniel Jackson. I would be honoured to seek your counsel."
Behind us the locker room door opens, and O'Neill's voice sounds.
The grief vanishes from Daniel's face, replaced in an instant by a neutral look. "In here, Jack."
O'Neill appears in the archway. His gaze flickers over us both. "Ahhh… so… you two okay? It's just that Carter was…" He pulls an embarrassed face that totally fails to cover his obvious concern. "You know how she gets. She was… worried. So…"
Daniel gives O'Neill a quick smile before turning his gaze back to me. "We're fine, Jack. Just fine."
I incline my head towards O'Neill in silent agreement of Daniel's words. All will indeed be fine.
Meanwhile, Daniel had turned and headed into the nearest shower cubicle, tossing his towel over the door as he closes it.
"Oh Daniel…" O'Neill begins, his gaze moving to the on/off switch of the water heater on the near wall. "Don't forget…"
A loud expletive comes from behind the cubicle door, and then Daniel's voice, his tone higher than normal. "That's cold! Damn cold!"
O'Neill and I exchange weary looks. There were some things we did not miss when looping.
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