Debra Fran Baker

"The kid never had a chance, Daniel." Jack didn't bother to look at the man entering the room. He knew his footsteps as well as he knew Sam's or Teal'c's, if not better. Anyway, he had the lights off. There was just the glow from his computer screen, endlessly forming twisting tubes of dull color.

"I know."

"Stupid bugs. They had no right to make a child and then use him up like that."

"No." He could feel Daniel move closer. He thought about doing something. Standing up, moving away, turning on a light. He sat there.

"He was a good kid, too. Smart. I know he's still alive, but he'll be changed. He'll be a different person."

"Yes. I know." Daniel's voice was soft. Of course, Daniel's voice was always soft, always gentle. So was his hand. His hand that he'd placed on Jack's shoulder. Jack let it stay there.

"Stupid, stupid...we didn't have any *time*." Damn. His eyes were wet. "It's not like I knew him all that long."

"You knew him long enough." He heard a chair being dragged, and then the pressure on his shoulder changed for a moment as Daniel sat down.

"Long enough?" He twisted around to look at Daniel, all shades of dark gray in the gloom of the office. "Long enough for what?"

He dipped his head. "To make him part of you. To put him in here." He put his other hand on Jack's chest. It was also gentle and soft and warm. "Next to everyone else you've ever loved."

"Not long enough. It's never long enough, Daniel. Not for him. Not for...not for either of them." He bit his lip, grateful that the gloom hid his leaking eyes. Maybe Daniel sensed something, because he removed his hands and stood up.

"I'm sorry, Jack. I shouldn't have intruded. I'll go."

"Thank..." Did he want him to leave? "You don't need to run away, you know. I don't think gloom is catching."

Wordlessly, Daniel sat down again, and reached out. This time, he wrapped his arms around Jack. They were soft and warm and gentle, too. Like his hands, like his eyes, hidden in the darkness, like the man himself. And, like the man himself, there was steel beneath the softness, the warmth, the gentleness. Jack stiffened for a moment, and then let himself, for once, be supported by that steel. He let his arms slip around Daniel and hold him tight.

"You're in there, too, you know." He said those words to Daniel's shirt.

"I'm glad. You've been in my heart for a long time. You and Teal'c and Sam."

"Yeah. Except..." He pulled away and tried to see Daniel's face. Too close for his eyes, for the gloom. "Maybe...your place is a little...different. A little bigger." He quickly buried his head again, allowing Daniel's shirt to absorb the moisture there.

Daniel's arm's tightened. "I love you, too, Jack."

Those word hung in the air, soft and warm and gentle and backed by steel, and Jack let Daniel's arms sooth some of the hurt of that day away.

Copyright 2000 Debra Fran Baker and NightRoads Associates

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