Summary: Claustrophobia and Memory Problems plague Daniel six weeks after coming home. He also misinterprets memory snippets from the past that lead him to the wrong conclusions.
Daniel looked at his combat watch, set to military time. 1734 hours. Close to dinner time. If he wanted to get something decent to eat he had better get a move on. He donned his olive drab fatigue jacket and made yet another mental note to ask about checking out one of the Air Force sedans so he could go clothes shopping. He didn’t have that kind of thing in the storage locker Jack had rented. At least, that’s what Jack had told him. Apparently “tossed out a bunch of crap” meant his clothes. He could only imagine what else was tossed. But on the bright side, sort of, was that he couldn’t remember what he used to have. Had no clue what his old apartment looked like, other than the word “loft” came to mind. And something about soft sheets and glistening skin.
Before leaving his office, he checked on his new extended family: the fish tank that Jonas Quinn had set up and that Daniel had improved upon. He wasn’t a stranger to fish tanks. He’d had one in his apartment, and it was one of the first things he’d remembered a week after Jonas had left. He’d been feeding them and his mind conjured Flash Card pictures of another tank. It had been one of the few large items in his old apartment that hadn’t been labeled for storage after he’d supposedly died by fire, an illusion caused the alien Nem. Daniel hadn’t known that. He’d read it in his own words in SG-1’s mission history for that particular event. He’d made notes in the margins.
Note to Self: Keep a plan for apartment storage in plain view, maybe next to the fire extinguisher.
And . . .
Note to Self: Jack needs to be taught how to pack Other People’s Things. The man’s a bull in a China shop.
His fish tank now had ten extra gallons and a plethora of reef marine life. If there was one thing he excelled at, it was creating miniature biospheres. He thought his next project should be an above-ground ecosystem. AKA, a terrarium. Possibly Northern Forest or Rain Forest.
Standing at the fish tank, watching the tangs and angelfish perform fly-bys of the gobies and blennies burrowing in the substrate, he flashed on a childhood memory. He’d been in the woods somewhere, catching tadpoles to take home to his terrarium. When they had grown into adults, he’d taken them back to their little pond in the middle of the woods. It was an oddly bittersweet collection of memories because not all of his foster homes let him do his own thing.
Back in the present, Daniel took out the food for his new friends and was thankful that they weren’t crazed to eat. That would lead him to believe that there was a problem. Well, in a sense, there was. These were fish who no longer did their own thing in the open ocean. They wouldn’t know that they would never be eaten. If they could feel self-aware, they’d crave the freedom they couldn’t have.
Like himself. He too was craving freedom . . . the freedom to breathe fresh air. Mountain air, about 4,254 feet over his head. And a two-minute ride in the SGC’s freight elevator if he could conjure up the chutzpah to ask Hammond for permission to go up to the base camp they’d built for evacuations and training exercises. By himself. Late at night. Or at least at sunset.
Daniel paused. Chutzpah? He hadn’t used that word since his return and yet it had come easily to his mind. It seemed there was nothing wrong with his language skills, knock on wood. Knock on wood? It seemed as if there was an ongoing litany of utterances, spouting aphorisms, idioms, axioms, maxims, adages, euphemisms, catchwords, and superstitious slang terms that he consciously didn’t think about but they popped up into his mind anyway. Doctor Fraiser had said it was normal—although normal was subjective.
After leaving his fish family well fed, Daniel headed for the cafeteria—wrong, mess hall—and he wondered if he could just casually on accident step into that freight elevator not too far from the base locker rooms. So he swerved to take the righthand corridor and ran into Colonel Reynolds.
Daniel grimaced. “Sorry, Colonel,” he said, intending to go on his way but Reynolds held up a hand as he stepped aside.
“No problem,” Reynolds said. “How’s the head, Doctor Jackson?”
Daniel raised his right hand and waggled it. “So-so. I’ve been experiencing a deep sense of claustrophobia though. It feels . . . new. Doctor Fraiser said she’d never known me to experience it. Anyway, don’t let me keep you.”
Reynolds wasn’t the dullest tool in the drawer. He gave Daniel a sly smile. “You need a key card and authorization from General Hammond.”
“The elevator. I figure that’s where you’re going—and the fact that this corridor doesn’t go anywhere else. It’s the base’s loading zone and it’s on every floor.”
“Makes sense,” Daniel said, deflating. He turned away to head for the mess hall then stopped. “Thanks, Colonel.”
“Sure thing. You heading for the mess?”
“If you mean the mess hall, yes.”
“I’ll walk with you.”
“Sure,” Daniel said, feeling even more awkward. He wondered if Reynolds felt some sort of responsibility for him, given he was the first to see him as Daniel had exited the stick woods. He could sort of see it, but he doubted Reynolds was feeling the sensation of walking on pins and needles in a desire to get upstairs. But given that he couldn’t go, food would have to suffice. By the time they reached the mess hall, the pins and needles had faded to the background, making room for his other necessity.
He grabbed a tray from the beginning of the buffet line and moved down it almost absently. He grabbed a mug for coffee, a glass for iced water, filled both at the next station, followed by slowly moving toward the refrigerated display case that held fruits and fruit bowls, veggie bowls, and desserts. Seeing a plate with something resembling apple crisp, he put that on his tray then turned to peer down the line to see what was for dinner. He was delighted to see that it was taco casserole night. He didn’t know how the civilian cooks did it but the corn tortillas never managed to get soggy. Unless they used Tostitos. That would make—
“Daniel!” Jack called.
The man already had a heavy tray and jerked his chin toward the back of the hall. Daniel nodded and eventually followed Jack until they came to a table where Teal’c and Sam were already eating. Suddenly, Daniel’s claustrophobia came back and he felt a tremendous urge to turn in his tray and sprint to the closest elevator. He needed permission. So who was in charge of the base when the General was gone?
“What?” Daniel asked, as if coming out of a dream state, and damn near spilled his coffee. He’d been sipping at it when the phobia had taken over his active mind. “Oh, crap,” he said, picking up one of the napkins to dab the side of the mug.
“Daniel?” Jack repeated for the sixth time.
“What?” Daniel repeated with emphasis.
“Where were you?” Jack asked.
Daniel worked his jaw a moment, catching Sam’s and Teal’c’s attention. Jack raised a brow. These three people were his friends. He may be slow to remember his life, but he knew what that friendship meant. He leaned over the table slightly and murmured to all of them, “I’ve been feeling claustrophobic. It’s getting worse.” He held up his hand, palm down. It was shaking slightly. “I gotta get some fresh air.” He sat back and set his coffee mug back on the tray. “I have to. I’m gonna go mad. But I need permission and a key card to use the freight elevator to get to the mountain air.”
Jack half-smiled at him, then looked at Teal’c and Carter. “You guys feel like having our team night at the top of the mountain?” They were all in . . . after dinner, of course.
“Don’t we need permission?” Daniel asked.
“Sure,” Jack said with a smirk. “I’ve just given it.” When Daniel’s brows went up, Jack added, “Rank hath its privileges, Daniel.”
The moment the exterior door opened and the cold mountain air hit his face, Daniel closed his eyes, took a deep breath, then exhaled with relief. Jack, Sam, and Teal’c moved ahead of him. They knew where everything was and all Daniel could do was stand there and watch. He walked away, feeling useless, which pretty much summed up everything that had happened to him since falling onto that planet from wherever he had been. Memory. His own memories were returning in a disjointed, haphazard manner, and they showed him scenes that lacked context, but even so . . . some stuff didn’t need much context.
“The whole friendship . . .” Daniel heard himself say. And then Jack’s voice, “Not much of a foundation there, eh?” Daniel knew there was more to it, that he was only seeing part of the picture. It wasn’t the only mystery scene. There was another. Jack’s angry voice. “I don’t like most of what you say. I try to resist the urge to shove you through a wall.”
“Hey, Daniel,” Sam said, touching his arm. She flinched when Daniel jumped in surprise. “What’s up?”
“I, uh,” Daniel began, closing his eyes. “Have a confession to make to you guys.”
“Uh oh,” Jack said, light sarcasm in his tone. Sam looked at Jack and they met each other’s gaze. Her expression was serious and Jack’s smirk quickly died. “Daniel?”
Daniel turned around and stuffed his hands in the pockets of his green fatigue trousers. He looked down at his boots, worked his jaw a little, then looked up. Sam hadn’t left his side and he wished she had. It would’ve left him an easy “walk out” escape down the clearly marked dirt path to his right. It wouldn’t be a righteous walk out but you couldn’t have everything.
“Not all of my memories have returned. And the ones I have are piecemeal, lacking context. It, uh, makes me feel that maybe I shouldn’t have come back.”
“What?” Sam breathed. “Why? What do you need context for?”
And then . . . several disjointed scenes flooded his forebrain. He and Jack kissing. Passionately kissing. Skin against skin. Rolling in bed, desire having fully taken over both of them. Daniel scowled, blinking rapidly as he tried to push those memories away so that he could focus on them later, in private, to find out when that had happened and why Jack acted like they’d never . . . but they had! They had! And . . . and . . . and . . . blood rushed to his head and he bent forward, hands on his knees, and breathed. Sam reached out and soothingly rubbed his back. “Daniel? What’s happened?”
“Too many memories all at once,” he said, not quite lying.
“Still out of context?” Jack asked, now standing in front of him. He reached out and took hold of Daniel’s left biceps. “Come sit down. Talk to us.” There were four wooden benches around a fixed metal firepit and they each took a side. “Here,” Jack said, and handed Daniel a long straight bamboo wand with a sharpened end.
“What’s this for?”
“Wow, you really have forgotten,” Sam said.
“Roast things over this fire,” Jack said in a tone that said Daniel should’ve known that.
“Sir,” Sam admonished and Jack glowered at her.
“Here,” Jack said, turning the glower into another smirk as he fished in a bag and withdrew a handful of marshmallows. He held them out for Daniel to take. He did.
“Where is my bag?” Teal’c asked.
Jack grinned and tossed him one unopened bag. He then handed Sam a handful before he focused on feeding the fire to an acceptable level where they’d get some decent fiery coals to roast their dessert.
Daniel laid the stick across his lap and stared at the fire Jack was building. “I don’t know how this’ll seem.”
“Just get it out in the open,” Jack told him. “We’ll explain.”
The fire wasn’t ready for the marshmallows but Daniel stuck one on the end of the bamboo wand and held it high over the fire so that the flames just barely licked at it. It was almost mesmerizing.
“Memories are funny. Sometimes you remember them clear as day. Other ones have fog around them and a veil that makes them blurry.” He quickly glanced at each of his teammates before sinking his gaze back to the marshmallow, which was now a pale golden color. “That was what it was like before I died and ascended. I’ve never had perfect memory and there are times where I’m glad I don’t. Like that moment my foster parents died. The moment Sha’re died. And . . . I wish I wasn’t getting those back. But I am. Other memories, with you three. They’re like video flash cards. No context.”
He went quiet as he didn’t bother trying to search for context. Who would want to given the level of anger aimed at him from Jack. He couldn’t understand it. He finally said, not to Jack but to Teal’c and Sam, “Jack told me I never backed his play. Not a disjointed memory but six weeks ago. But ever since then, the pieces of memory that surface are about how much he can’t stand me.”
Jack blinked. “Excuse me?”
“I’m sorry if that sounds accusatory. It isn’t. It’s what these snippets make me think. As I said, the memories lack context. And given that I never backed him up—”
“That’s not true,” Sam argued.
“Yes it is,” Jack said solemnly. “Right up to the day he died.”
“And every action I took when I went my own way caused you guys pain.” He held up a hand for emphasis. “I see . . .” His gaze shifted back to the now-blackened marshmallow. “I’m sitting on something in a corridor. Doctor Fraiser is seeing to a wound in my head. And I’m saying, ‘I don’t think she meant to hurt me. She just didn’t like what I was saying.’” He cleared his throat and began to say, “And Jack said, ‘I don’t—‘”
“I know what I said,” Jack interrupted.
“As do I, sir,” Sam said. She didn’t say it in her usual subservient tone, junior officer to senior officer, but in a reprimanding one.
Jack swallowed, and out of his peripheral vision caught Teal’c watching him. He didn’t look at him directly. He said to Sam. “It was the anniversary of Charlie’s death and I took it out on Daniel.”
Daniel said, “Charlie’s death” at the same time Jack did. He blinked wonderingly at all three people. “I remember.” Then to Jack, he said, “Context,” and nodded, but a new frown covered his features.
“What now?” Jack asked.
“There’s something. I came to see you,” Daniel said, dropping the marshmallow into the fire and setting his stick down. He couldn’t meet Jack’s gaze fully but managed to glance at him a few times as he spoke. “You were at home. I was upset but I don’t remember why. I came to talk. And you ended our friendship instead. Even without context, if I pair that with the other statement about putting me through a wall, I’m forced to come to the conclusion that you really don’t like me. So . . . why in the hell were you even glad to see me?”
Jack kept their gaze for a few seconds then looked away, busying himself with the fire, using the marshmallow stick. If it weren’t made of bamboo, it would’ve snapped. “Two weeks later, after that incident, we had what my mom used to call ‘a knock-down-drag-out’ at my house.”
“You did?” Sam asked.
“Indeed,” Teal’c finally said. “O’Neill told me that he and Daniel Jackson had a fight but it led to reconciliation. They remained friends.” Jack nodded.
Daniel abruptly saw and felt the kisses again. The rolling around in bed, making love. “I think I . . .” he began, but when Jack’s head snapped toward him, he lost his voice. The look in Jack’s eyes. What did that mean? Shut up? Daniel didn’t sense that but he’d been wrong before. Even five minutes ago.
“The next day,” Jack continued, “we went on the mission to Kelowna and a week after that, you were hit with radiation poisoning and three days after that . . .”
“I died,” Daniel said. So the sex had been a one-time thing? Not the beginning of a relationship. With a bunch of negative feelings surrounding him at that time . . . “What with one thing and another . . . no wonder I chose ascension.” He abruptly got up and walked away, taking the dirt path that led into darkness.
Sam got up to follow but Jack held his hand up to stop her as he too rose. “No, Carter. It’s something we have to fix. He and I. His memory problems aside. Why don’t you guys head back in. We’ll try this again tomorrow.” He was happy to see them comply.
Daniel pulled out his phone and tapped the flashlight. Even now, with it only being a year and a half since he’d . . . been gone . . . died . . . the usefulness of phones still amazed him. The flashlight completely lit his way with just a tad bit of orange from the grill fire behind him. The path itself was smoothed from years of use with only thin, elongated tree roots to disturb the even earth so he didn’t have to worry about stumbling in the shadows.
“Daniel, wait up.”
For reasons he couldn’t put to words, the sound of Jack’s voice made him stop. He turned and watched the man approach, carrying a mini flashlight—because of course he was. Jack the boy scout, but a scout with an edge. Daniel swallowed hard because this might be the moment. He had to tell Jack that he didn’t mean what he’d just said. He wanted to live. He wanted the dream in his head, the momentary happiness they’d had. And it didn’t make any goddamn sense.
“I have another disjointed memory,” Daniel said as Jack slowly drew closer. His hands felt clammy and he rubbed one against his thigh. The clamminess of his other hand made him drop the phone. It landed face down with the flashlight aimed upward, lighting the trees. Jack was a shadow. “It’s you and me. Loving each other. I don’t remember why and I don’t remember what happened after. Was it a one-time thing?”
“Yeah.” Jack’s voice was almost a whisper.
“Would there have been more times like that?”
Jack slowly came into the light. He had such emotion in his eyes. “I don’t know, Daniel. We didn’t make any promises except not to treat what we did as something to be ashamed of. Or to have regretted it.”
“I’m sorry I don’t remember all of it,” Daniel said, his intuition guiding his words. “I can only imagine what you’re going through. I really wish I remembered. But what I can’t remember, I still feel.” He tapped the center of his chest. “I remember the words I love you. I was going to say it and something stopped me. What stopped me?”
“A phone call from the SGC. We were to report at 0800 instead of 0900. I left before midnight.”
“Because . . .” Daniel began, speaking slowly as the memory opened up. “You were at my apartment and we didn’t know if we were being watched. And even though we didn’t do anything wrong, it’s still against regulations.”
He closed his eyes and breathed in the night air. He turned away from Jack and opened his eyes to look up through the trees and at the partially hidden sky. He heard Jack’s footsteps. Saw the trees go dark as Jack picked up his phone and shut off the flashlight. Then they were fully in the dark. Jack came closer and put both hands on Daniel’s shoulders. He pulled him against his chest and bent his head to whisper to him.
“I missed you for many reasons. But this,” he said, squeezing his upper arms in strong fingers. “I had so many dreams, so many nightmares. I only just got to the point where you weren’t in my dreams every night.”
Daniel swallowed and turned in place. Jack reached up, bumped the fingers of both hands against Daniel’s jaw, then slid his fingers into his hair as he bent his head slightly to kiss him. It was meant to be chaste but the moment their lips met, that idea disappeared. Daniel opened his mouth and breathed in a sharp breath as Jack responded with heat, sliding his tongue into his mouth. Daniel wrapped his arms around him and held him tight, kissing him back with all the pent-up desire he’d been feeling for weeks. This was it. The air he needed to breathe. When they came up for air, they rested their foreheads together.
“Now what?” Daniel asked.
Jack smiled. “Did you forget how while you were all glowy for a while?”
“Like riding a bike,” Daniel quipped. “But you know what I mean.”
“I don’t know what’s next, but I’ve got a good feeling. How’s that?”
Daniel nodded. He then kissed Jack again. And again. Finally, they parted. “We go back in?”
“Probably best,” Jack said.
Daniel made a face, even though Jack couldn’t see it. “Pity. I’ve never done it in the pitch-black wilderness,” he said, only half joking.
“You’re joking,” Jack scoffed. “All that time as an archaeologist on Earth?”
“Yeah, I was joking. But not about us. Is there a future? Because believe it or not, I suck at relationships.”
Jack suddenly took his hand, firmly, meaningfully. “Not anymore.”
Daniel took in another breath and let it out slowly and pulled Jack to a stop. “Show me.”
Jack squeezed his hand. “I promise.”