dragojustine: (stargate)
[personal profile] dragojustine
Title: Driftwood
Author: [personal profile] dragojustine
Summary: Daniel is always surrounded by artifacts.
Word Count: 2300
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Still not mine
Written For: [personal profile] magickmoons in the [community profile] jd_ficathon
Prompt:
1. set after Jack moves to DC (...stretched that a bit)
2. Daniel's piano
Optional Request: something happening on an off-world mission that has unexpected or continuing effects after the team returns to Earth
Notes: Did you know Daniel had a piano in The Light? I sure didn't. Thanks to [personal profile] magickmoons for making me scour every glimpse of Daniel's apartments we get-- the results were interesting, and didn't match my head-canon much at all.

----------------------------

The first time Jack ever saw Daniel’s apartment, Daniel was dead. They left four airmen out in a van and carried Daniel’s keys into the blandly upscale apartment building.

“We just, uh—we just tag and clear out,” Jack said, as the three of them stepped inside and Teal’c pulled off his knit cap.

The keys were sparse; apartment, car, a cheap gaudy Horus eye on a keychain. Inside the apartment was anything but, with every flat surface stacked deep with books and papers, every inch of wall covered in hangings, tribal art, antique weapons, foreign tchotchkes. Bronze sphinx bookends; a vase with geometric Neolithic art; scraps of ceramic with wrestlers and javelin-throwers and a Minotaur.

It must all be from before Abydos. God knows Daniel hadn’t had the time to accumulate this in the six months he’d been back. The contrast was startling. From the outside, Daniel looked like he lived the life of a monk, but the inside of this sanctuary was lush with texture and memories and personality. Jack felt more of a pang than he expected, that he hadn’t seen it before.

They moved methodically, red tag for classified, blue tag for personal, both sets to be analyzed, logged, and stored. In one corner was an overgrown fern striped with light through the blinds, already browning in the three days since it had last been watered. Across the room was a fishtank, the automatic feeder down to one last meal. Jack poured more fish food into the feeder and wondered what the airmen would do with them.

By the time they got Daniel back (that time) Daniel’s apartment was already cleared out and the landlord notified of his death, so he needed to find a new place. It was another long year before Jack ever saw that startling sanctuary again. He tried not to admit that he wanted to.

When he finally got to see it, it felt just like he remembered.

When Daniel stepped inside he visibly calmed, smoothed. He ran his fingers over the shiny scales of the dragon carving on the wall by the front door, a ritualized and steadying gesture. “Drink?” he asked, with none of the irritability or intensity he wore these days in the mountain.

The bronze sphinxes were still there, and the cracked vase, and the remarkably extensive antique weapon collection. The fish were long gone but there were houseplants still, tucked into back corners behind stacks of books. Jack wasn’t sure how Daniel was possibly keeping them alive, with the schedule of a gate team.

Daniel walked down the hall, put his bag down in the corner between an armchair and the wall, and dropped his keys—

Jack was sure the upright piano hadn’t been there, last time. It was so covered he almost hadn’t recognized it, with another plant, an ornate candelabra, a stack of books, a rough stone figurine Jack was sure from offworld, a string of bones that must have been Unas. The music stand held a journal open to half a page of Daniel’s scrawl, complete with Goa’uld symbols, and the lid over the keys was closed. There were a set of scratches on the lid; that seemed to be Daniel’s normal place for keys.

“You play?” Jack asked, as Daniel returned with a beer. He was suddenly completely overcome with a desire to see it, to watch Daniel’s expressive hands. Maybe he would sway a little. Maybe he was a foot-tapper. Maybe he would wear the same look of intense concentration he brought to undeciphered documents; or perhaps, here in this space, he would smile as he played.

“What?” Daniel looked genuinely confused until he traced the line of Jack’s gaze. “Oh. The apartment came furnished. I really have no idea why it’s there. Never touched one. Pasta?”

Jack pushed down a pang of disappointment. It didn’t last long. That evening was when he learned that Daniel was an extraordinary cook, and that his fingers were agile and expressive there too, and that he did in fact smile.

-----------------------------

P3Q-593, another year after that, was a hellishly impassable world of vertical cliffs, dizzying drops, and claustrophobic canyons. The DHD platform was the biggest expanse of flat ground visible from the gate. A dozen feet down the jagged slope lay their tumbled MALP, on its side and beeping sadly.

It was, all-in-all, not a great mission, featuring one rockslide, one broken ankle, and two attacks from above. At some point they realized that the haunting, howling, melodic gusts of wind were actually communications between the scattered settlements in the backs of the narrow canyons. Daniel recorded and scribbled frantically but couldn’t make any headway, and Jack’s patience with this hellhole was almost finished.

“All right, that’s it, we go,” Jack said, and then raised his voice over Daniel’s inevitable protest. “Aht! Rising thirds and a dominant seventh with tremulo. Same thing we heard about ten minutes before Mr. Green Arrow up there let loose on us the first time around.”

Daniel stared at him with an expression of blank surprise that was, honestly, a little insulting. “What?” Jack said, pulled Daniel’s arm across his own shoulders, and helped him limp along the rocky path back to the gate.

That night Jack drove Daniel’s car home and limped him up to his place. Jack used the bathroom and when he came out, the lid over the keyboard was up. The keys were old and dingy and there was a little green sticker on Middle C, just like the one Jack had used when he first learned to play. Jack blinked, didn’t say anything, and sat back down. Daniel didn’t say anything either, and they finished their beers and went back to their chess game. Jack sacrificed a knight and Daniel took it, rolling it around in his long fingers. “I was surprised today,” Daniel said.

“Mountain goats used as pack animals are pretty surprising,” Jack said.

“What did you play?”

“Violin. Sax. Piano.” Jack said. “Check.”

“I bet you were hot playing the sax” Daniel said, and then flicked his eyes to his empty beer bottle the way he always, always did when his own tipsiness surprised him.

Jack ruthlessly pushed down the flutter in his chest as Daniel’s soft lips shaped the words, and the follow-up flutter as Daniel licked those lips. He breathed. “Interacting with whatever Janet gave you,” he said. “Having a fun high?”

“I miss getting high,” Daniel said. “Blood testing every time I walk through the gate, polygraphs to retain my security clearance, random bouts of mindreading… I only get properly high now when I’m hurt. So you played piano.”

“You have pretty good job security,” Jack said.

“You didn’t answer my question.”

“You didn’t actually ask one. Checkmate.”

Daniel stood, wobbled, and reflexively reached out to put his bottle down. It went down on the keys with a discordant clang, and Daniel jumped. He swore and glanced back to Jack awkwardly, then flipped the lid down and put his beer on it. It sat on a whole interlocking set of discolored rings.

“Getting pretty late,” Jack said.

“You know we both would prefer it if you stayed.”

Jack considered the lumpy, too-short couch and the creepy mask that stared at him all night whenever he slept over. “True,” he said. He helped Daniel limp into the bedroom, cleared a set of notebooks and a heavy bronze torc from the bed. Daniel sat, lifted his arms over his head, and stared expectantly, and it took Jack a minute to understand. He took the hem of Daniel’s tshirt and drew it over his head, then knelt without lingering there to take the shoe off Daniel’s good foot.

His knee cracked as he stood again. “Goodnight,” he said, covering his wince. He would sleep under the creepy mask because he couldn’t bear to be away from an injured Daniel if he could avoid it, and in the morning Daniel’s reckless mood would have receded, and they wouldn’t talk about it.

The next week when Jack trailed Daniel through the door the lid to the keyboard was open. Jack wondered for a second whether Daniel might have been learning to play—when, what with being turned into a ghost and chatting with ancient Mayans, Jack wasn’t sure. But as Daniel walked past he reached out automatically to put his keys down on the keyboard, then caught himself at the last second and shoved them into his pants pocket instead. Left open for Jack’s benefit, then, not for Daniel’s. The music stand was covered in loose sheets of Daniel’s various attempts to transcribe the Unas language.

They ate wontons and talked, aimless and roundabout, while Daniel fiddled with a bone carving that Jack only belatedly recognized as a fertility figurine from two planets back. That night Jack went home and pulled out his old keyboard and sheet music; no point fighting the inevitable. The next morning Daniel was late into the gateroom for their next mission. “Lost my keys,” he told Sam mildly as she handed him his P-90—but he met Jack’s gaze with a slight eyebrow raise, almost a dare.

It was two weeks, a replicator attack on Earth, and a submarine suicide mission before Jack stepped into Daniel’s apartment again. Daniel smoothly flipped the keyboard lid up as he walked past and then went straight to check his answering machine, his back to Jack. Dry cleaning: overdue for pickup.

Jack cleared an engraved drinking horn from the chair in front of the piano, sat down, waited for the beep at the end of the tape, and then played. He played until he felt Daniel’s hand rest on his shoulder, feather-light and moving with Jack’s gentle sway, and he somehow managed to keep playing through that without losing his rhythm.

“Yeah, pretty hot like that. As you always are,” Daniel said. Jack made it to the end of a phrase and switched to Fur Elise, which he’d been able to do on autopilot since he was nine.

“Can’t blame that one on a high,” he said.

“Wasn’t intending to,” Daniel answered.

“Are we finally doing this? Because I’m okay if we don’t. With the pretending and such,” Jack lied, and closed his eyes so he didn’t have to see Daniel’s handwriting covering the stand in front of him.

“I’m not,” Daniel said, and leaned down to bury his nose in Jack’s hair and inhale.

-----------------

Jack had been settled in his new DC condo for a month when the delivery truck surprised him. Landry had signed off the shipping manifest, but he still called his assistant and made her call Harriman to verify before he let the package off the truck. The guys wrangled the giant wheeled case up his elevator and into his living room and left him to open it. It wasn’t a bomb or otherwise a booby trap; it was the piano.

Daniel answered on the second ring. “You know anything about this?” Jack asked.

“We went back to P3Q-593,” Daniel said.

“Hell mountain.”

“Yeah. I left SG-18 there with one of my linguists who double-majored in music theory. She’s pretty excited.”

“It’s like her birthday and Christmas,” Jack said.

“Vala wants a pet goat now.”

“Just say no. Just tell Cam to say no.”

There was a long silence. Jack waited it out while he looked around the room to decide where to put it. This place was all blond wood and right angles and spotless bare surfaces. He missed his creaky step at home and his framed jerseys and his telescope and his 20 years of National Geographics. He missed having to move a stack of papers and priceless culturally significant stone figurines and pointy bronze weapons whenever he wanted to sit down. There would be plenty of room.

“Now I need to get a stack of 17 books and some clay tablets to put on it, or it won’t look right,” Jack said.

“I don’t even know why that was stored with my stuff. It wasn’t ever mine,” Daniel said.

“I think you kept so many alien artifacts on it, it became alien by association,” Jack said. “Besides, you doodled a gate address on it in pen.” He reached out and stroked the place with his thumb; six inches from the top, on the left side, right over Daniel’s shoulder when he sat in his armchair. He could find it without looking.

“That sounds like something I would do. So you appropriated it from my landlord?”

“That sounds like something we would do.”

They were quiet again, just breathing on the phone while Jack took his shoes off. On the other end of the line, Daniel’s pots clanked and a fridge opened and closed.

“I can’t believe you forgot about this,” Jack finally said, annoyed at himself for feeling the need to say it. When Daniel descended he had gone through all the contents of the SGC storage room the held his life. He’d left the piano there with a shrug, saying he must have forgotten how to play.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said. The unfairness of making Daniel apologize for all the ways his brain was scrambled, had been disassembled and reassembled and selectively redacted by alien intelligences a couple of times over now, made Jack want to curse and apologize and hold him.

“If I get custody, does that mean you get visitation?” he asked instead.

“I’d like that. When we get a break. Or whenever.”

“I’ll figure it out,” Jack said. They stayed on the phone a while longer, while Jack sent his assistant an email asking her to check SG-1’s schedule and buy tickets. Daniel could come in two weeks—plenty of time for him to practice.
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dragojustine

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