Spoilers for 'Forever In A Day'

Absence
Absence doesn't make the heart grow fonder; it simply makes it easier to forget.

The dunes shifted under the moonlight, glittering waves of sand being swept away by the light breeze. Daniel sat on a hill, robe spread beneath him, watching the changing landscape. He welcomed the occasional sting of flying grains against his exposed skin when the winds shifted.

Behind him, the town offered up its muted odors and faint sounds; too much activity, too late at night. They were feasting for the dead, finding peace for themselves and Sha're. Daniel knew there wasn't anything there for him, regardless of what they said. He'd known the minute he'd looked into Kasuf's eyes and felt nothing but... nothing.

It was over. She was finally, irrevocably, dead. Although, if he were honest, she'd been dead to him for a long time. Years, in fact. So it shouldn't be this hard, but it was, for all the wrong reasons. He'd been up here for hours, trying to pinpoint the exact moment that she slipped out of his heart, or the last time that he thought of her and got something more that a faint hitch in his chest. When she was something more than a habit.

God, he was tired.

A handful of sand slowly trickled out between his clenched fingers. "I can't remember when I stopped missing her, Jack."

"I know," Jack softly replied. He was there, just as Daniel knew he would be. Watching over him, the way Daniel hadn't watched over Sha're. There was heat behind him and the press of Jack's spread fingers on his head, a silent blessing. Then they were gone with a casual ruffle of his hair.

"You loved her as well as you could, Daniel. You can't ask any more of yourself."

"Yes, I can!" He said, his voice shaking with anger.

Jack crouched beside his friend and looked out across the dunes. "You were there for her."

"No, I wasn't," Daniel was almost yelling. "Christ, do you know how many times I was unfaithful to her?"

"Daniel..."

"Do you?" and he was shouting now.

"Hathor..."

"Damn it, Jack. I'm not talking about my body; I'm talking about here," he said, thumping his hand against his chest. "God, I'm unfaithful right now. She's been dead for four days and all I can find in here is relief. And she keeps telling me-" he abruptly cut himself off.

"Are you still dreaming about her?"

"Yes." His voice was a whisper, all the rage he'd felt dissipating as suddenly as it came.

"Every night?"

Daniel nodded.

"I thought you told the Doc they stopped."

He shrugged. "There's nothing she can do. They'll cycle through on their own. The glorious aftereffects of the ribbon device."

Jack made himself comfortable on the edge of Daniel's robe. "What's she saying?"

He shrugged again and drew a random pattern in the sand with his fingertip. "Stuff."

"Like what?"

"Forgive Teal'c. Find her child. Forgive her..." The words caught in his throat.

Jack rested his hand on Daniel's shoulder and pulled the unresisting man towards him. Daniel gave a choked sob and crumpled, but refused to let the tears fall. He simply clutched silently at Jack, shaking for long moments. Eventually the tremors ceased and he tried to pull away, embarrassed.

Resisting his attempts, Jack redirected the younger man to stretch out on the robe beneath them. "Lay down Daniel, you'll feel better."

"But -"

"That's an order, Jackson."

"I'm a civilian."

Jack sighed. "Just do it for me, Danny. Okay?"

Daniel tentatively rested his head on his arm and tried to relax. The top of his head brushed against Jack's thigh.

"Just for a few minutes."

"Just for a few minutes," Jack agreed.

He closed his eyes, listening to the soft sound of the wind and Jack's breathing. Sha're whispered in the back of his mind and he shuddered.

"Shhh..." and Jack's strong hand was there again, stroking Daniel's hair lightly once more before pulling away.

Daniel caught Jack's hand before it went too far, holding it before his face. Turning it over, he inspected the hard calluses, the blunt fingertips, and the weathered skin. Slowly pressing the fingers inward until he held a fist inside his own and then holding it to his forehead, he let the warmth sink into his skin. Amazed that Jack let him.

"I'm so tired." He choked back another sob and let go of Jack's hand and swiped at his eyes. "I wish-"

"I know, Daniel. Go to sleep." And beneath the simple words was the unspoken promise to watch over him. But Daniel knew that he couldn't. Not where it mattered. Sha're continued to dance silently behind his lids, tauntingly.

Then the soft pressure of Jack's hand was back, fingers sifting through his hair, more delicate than death-trained hands should be. His fingers brushed briefly against Daniel's cheek, warm and rough and perfect.

Sha're's voice faded into a pleasant hum.

Daniel didn't dream.

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Disclaimer: These characters belong to Alliance and the author makes no claims upon them - no copyright infrigement is intended. This story is for entertainment purposes only and there is no monetary gain.