Only Mercy

a Stargate SG-1 story

by dirty diana

Kicking the other woobie. A companion story to "Wash Away".

He prefers the crowded prison cells, and he's seen enough of them to know. Being alone gives him too much time to think. But either way they are never big enough, Jack waking up with dreams of falling walls.

It's probably why he lives in a house with more rooms than he really needs. Maybe. Jack tries not to think about that stuff.

The walls are the worst thing, worse than the rest of it. He knows how to take a beating. They teach that. He tried to teach that to Daniel, early on, when it became obvious that Daniel would need to know.

He knows how to put his head down, his knees up, how to make himself as small a target as possible. He knows how to shut it out. He knows how to disappear, to the black and white place where nothing hurts.

"Hey, who's in charge around here? I need to make a complaint. It's a bit drafty in here. And this mattress is lumpy."

In these places, moving around is important. Making noise. Getting attention. That way, at least, their focus might wander away from the others. His team.

Next time, Carter won't be able to take one more punishing blow. Her eyes will be sleepy, closing, despite Daniel's best attempts to get her to stay awake and stop scaring the crap out of them.

Daniel's mouth is bleeding, but he keeps talking, so Jack knows that he's okay. Jack needs something else to concentrate on, or he will keep staring, blood sealing dark red on Daniel's face.

"Next time, we're definitely going to Club Med instead. Hey, big guy. Yeah, you. You might want to write this down."

It won't be the worst beating he has ever received. Jack took that beating a long time ago, long before he ever stepped through a stargate. Steady blows, the time between minutes and days bleeding, indistinguishable. Just before the cavalry came, Jack never so happy to see a goddamn Marine in his life. He didn't have a lot of days left in that place. He knew that.

When he is rescued this time, he won't even blink. Once you've seen one prison cell. He was just starting to feel like he could do this forever.

Dr. Fraiser's expression gets tighter, every time that she sees him back in the infirmary. She wants to say something, but she never does. Janet gets it, better than any of his kids. Janet gets it because she has examined every bruise, and stitched together every tear.

She still worries. Maybe one day they won't bring back enough pieces, and she won't be able to help. Jack lets her worry. That's her job. Not his.

"Jack." Daniel's voice is gentle, beside his ear. "Let's go."

Jack allows himself to be helped up, a sign of just how bad it hurts. With warm steady hands, holding him up, Daniel pretends not to notice.

"It wasn't your fault." Daniel will be sure about that. Daniel is so fucking sure about everything. It's never true, but Jack likes the sound of it.

"It wasn't your fault."

Jack doesn't even bother to argue, because if Daniel doesn't understand the chain of command by now, it's not for lack of having it explained to him.

Daniel will be a blur, thanks to the painkillers. Janet gives him the good stuff. It's the only way that she can help. Daniel hustles him into his car, driving in silence when it becomes clear that Jack doesn't want to talk.

He takes Jack home, to the house that's too big. He shuts the door behind them, locks it, the outside world on the outside. Daniel will be a blur, skin scent and skin touch. Daniel will lead him to bed.

Daniel will kiss him, hard, a reminder that at least one of them is still alive. His mouth, his sad smile, his tongue against Jack's skin. These things are real. The touch of him, the taste, the weight of him inside Jack's bed. Daniel knows this, he takes it, with slow desperate kisses until the pressure swallows them both whole. When Jack breaks, when Jack shatters in Daniel's hands, sharp breaths and sticky wishes, it is the one thing that is the same as all the things that have gone before.

"It wasn't your fault," Daniel promises, in a whisper.

These things are real.