o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
"It's no use reminding yourself daily that you are
mortal: it will be brought home to you soon enough."
-- Albert Camus
o o o o o o o o o o o o o o o
It was a dark and stormy night. Jack had driven for more than an hour in the pouring rain
- well, driven was probably an exaggeration. He'd spent twenty minutes holed up at a corner of the intersection because of
a traffic accident, although he couldn't exactly see out of the window to check. The sounds of his windscreen wipers were
imprinted onto his brain; he could hear them even as he got out of the car outside the house and promptly got drenched in
the search for the housekeys.
He'd felt really bad about leaving the mountain, and Daniel, but Janet had made up her mind.
The small doctor was adamant that he, Daniel and Carter all left the base and went home. She was certain that Daniel would
be okay if he spent the weekend in his apartment with no medics surrounding him, no work and nothing else to distract him.
Part of the withdrawal process, she'd told Daniel's team-mates, was being able to build up the barriers again yourself in
order to prevent there being a next time. Something like that. Honestly, Jack hadn't paid much attention at that point. He'd
been staring across the infirmary, watching Daniel watch the ceiling.
The young archaeologist had drawn his knees up against his chest, arms wrapped as tightly
around himself as humanly possible, and he'd had his head right back against his shoulders. Rocking backwards and forwards
a little and just staring up at the ceiling. It had been all Jack could do not to shiver. It'd only been three days since
all four members of SG-1 had returned from Shyla's planet - for good. Jack had seen him through the worst of the withdrawal
from the sarcophagus, felt it was his duty to help him, partly because of the whole CO thing but also because Daniel was a
friend, and Jack knew what he was going through. Anyway, he'd told Janet he'd drive Daniel home, keep an eye on him, and had
left him under Janet's watchful eye to go and get his jacket and keys from his office. When he'd got back down to the medical
wing, one of the nurses said she'd signed him out. Apparently Daniel had insisted he was fine enough to make his own way home.
The nurse remembered Daniel's exact words because he'd mumbled something to her about an Animaniacs marathon on television
over the weekend before trudging out of the infirmary.
So no sign of Daniel in the SGC. And the weather outside had been truly awful, according
to the sergeant at the gate, who had also reported Daniel's car was gone. Jack had left the base himself, and had driven through
the rain first to Daniel's apartment, to check on him. He'd got no answer from knocking on the door several times, yelling
through and even asking people in the neighbouring apartment if they'd seen him. The only response he'd gotten from their
door were groans, screaming and even a couple of headboard-banging-against-wall noises, and back on the other side of the
corridor the only conclusion he'd come up with was that Daniel didn't want to see anybody right now. So back outside into
the pouring rain and into the car, practically flooding it in the process. About ten seconds down the road and he'd hit the
intersection with the car accident.
On the driveway Jack finally located his keys and managed to get inside the house before
he was soaked completely to the skin. It was a close call, though, he thought, closing the door securely behind him. His clothes
felt as though they were stuck to his skin - shirt, pants, socks, underwear, the lot. Jack shook himself a few times, trying
to get some of the water off him, but it didn't work. He grunted and moved away from the door. There was a light on in the
bottom half of the living room, and instantly Jack's guard was up. Sodden wet clothes forgotten, he moved straight through
the house silently, kicking off his shoes as he went.
The closer he got to the source of the light, Jack realised it was coming from one of the
small lamps he kept either side of the sofa. Just the one of them switched on, otherwise the light would have been brighter.
No sound that he could hear, although...
Jack stilled completely, stopping dead against the wall separating him and the living room.
Breathing. He could definitely hear the sound of someone breathing, although it sounded laboured, but kinda paced and even
at the same time. It rattled Jack slightly. It wasn't the sound a burglar usually made, but he wasn't going to take any chances.
He slowly reached out for the baseball bat that was propped against the wall next to him (those things got everywhere), and
holding it up in front of him he burst into the living room.
"Oh no..." The baseball bat fell to the floor. Jack stared, shocked, at the scene in front
of him. The liquor cabinet that stood in state in the far corner was open, and even in the dim light, Jack could make out
the three bottles of scotch, vodka and whiskey which were missing from the front row of alcohol he rarely, if ever, touched.
Two of the bottles were lying on the floor, both empty. The third...
There were brown whiskey stains pooling out across the carpet, and the bottle itself was
flat on the carpet, threatening to roll out of Daniel's grip at any second. Daniel Jackson was unconscious, lying sprawled
along the floor. His glasses were crooked on his face, part squashed between his head and the floor.
Jack moved forwards and knelt on the floor, ignoring threats of protest from his knees. He
removed the empty whiskey bottle gently from Daniel's grip, leaned over above him and put it upright on the coffee table.
He brushed some of the still-damp hair back from Daniel's face, and pulled his glasses out. They weren't bent or broken, they
were just in an awkward position. Jack placed them up next to the empty bottle.
Okay... and now for the tricky part. Jack levered his arms underneath Daniel's shoulders
and chest, and gently began to lift him up from the ground. It took some doing, especially from this angle, but eventually
Jack had him up on the sofa, lying right along the length of cushions. And now that Daniel was up at a more equal level with
Jack, he could tell just how much alcohol the younger man had drunk. His breath stank of the missing liquor from the cabinet,
and Jack was worried because he couldn't remember exactly how much he'd had left in each bottle up until that evening. He
pulled himself up off the floor, switched on the lamp at the other end of the large sofa, and sat down in the seat directly
opposite Daniel. The most likely thing that had happened here was that Daniel had blacked out from excess alcohol, and Jack
knew full well that this kind of thing rarely lasted very long - certainly no more than fifteen or twenty minutes in most
cases. The only other thing was that Jack had no idea of how long Daniel had been out cold on the floor, although the whiskey
stains in the carpet still looked a bit damp. So not too long. Hopefully.
And so the waiting game began. Jack stayed in his seat, watching Daniel sleep off the alcohol,
and outside the storm continued. At one point, a rather spectacular looking bolt of lightning coincided with the lamps in
the living room flickering a couple of times before one of them extinguished altogether, followed quickly by the other one.
Jack quirked an eyebrow at one lamp, then the other. Huh. That was melodramatic. And further proving his suspicions of said
melodrama, Daniel chose that precise moment to moan quietly. Jack was by his side in an instant, but before he could say anything...
"Wha - what happened?" Daniel mumbled into the cushion. He started tossing and turning, face
now firmly buried in the cushion.
"Hey - hey!" Carefully, Jack pulled on one of Daniel's shoulders and twisted him around so
that they were face-to-face. "Daniel?"
"J'ck?" Daniel mumbled, peering out into the darkness. "What're you doin' here?"
"I live here," Jack replied lightly, trying to hide the sudden clenching feeling in his gut.
"What are you doing here?"
Daniel blinked owlishly at him a couple of times before reaching out with his arms and trying
to push himself upwards into a seated position. "Trying" being the operative word here. His arms didn't seem to do what he
wanted them to, and after a couple of seconds' effort, Daniel let out a strangled sob and slumped back face down on the sofa
"Come on, Danny," Jack soothed, trying to help Daniel get into some sort of comfortable position.
Finally Daniel was lying on his back on the sofa, although he kept trying to roll over away from Jack. He soon gave up, the
effort too much for him.
He came to a stop on his back and stared up through the darkness. "Head hurts."
"I imagine it would, given what you've had to drink this evening," Jack replied, staying
crouched beside Daniel. Although his knees were beginning to ache.
"Why aren't there any lights on?" Daniel asked.
Jack grunted and pointed to the window behind the sofa, where the storm could still be seen
and heard, but mostly heard now that the lightning seemed to have stopped. "Storm's cut the power. We're on our own, Dannyboy."
Daniel winced, put a hand to his head and groaned. "Don't call me that."
Jack watched him for a moment before replying. "What should I call you then?" he asked, mindful
to keep his voice down. Daniel's head rolled down so that he was looking at Jack from his horizontal position, although without
his glasses he seemed unable to focus entirely on Jack's face. He closed and opened his eyes a few times before finally settling
for open and staring at Jack with red, blood-shot eyes. For the moment Jack decided to make little of the fact that Daniel
had ignored his question altogether. He instead opted for the slightly more idiotic route. "How are you feeling?"
"Like a Stargate crashed on my head," Daniel said sarcastically. He rubbed his eyes a couple
of times, and almost comically his hand stilled right inbetween his eyes, about an inch away from the skin. "Uh, where are
"Over on the table," Jack said, making no move whatsoever to get them.
Daniel stared right at him. "Well, can you get them for me?" he asked, sounding snippy.
Still Jack didn't move. "They won't do you any good, Danny," he replied brightly. "Like I
told you, the power's been cut. No lights."
With one last, really quite theatrical-sounding groan, Daniel let himself fall back down
onto the sofa.
"So, you wanna tell me what's going on?" Jack continued, still keeping up the light tone
as best he could. Instinct was now yelling at him that any answers he could get, he wasn't going to like them. No, Colonel.
Daniel mumbled in response. It could have been a few words slung together with slurs. Then
again it could just have been a groan from a man just beginning to realise how much of his best friend's liquor cabinet he'd
consumed. Jack however was betting that it was the first option, because after about two seconds Daniel repeated the mumble,
only it came out louder and that bit clear. "Wanneta forget," he mumbled.
"Forget what?" Jack asked, leaning in a little closer. That sneaky feeling he had about not
liking the answer was getting bigger the longer this dragged out.
Instead of answering straight away, Daniel reached out with one hand, groped blindly in the
air until the tips of his outstretched fingers brushed Jack's face. Daniel worked his hand around Jack's now still head until
he had a firm hold on the back of his neck, and in one surprisingly swift movement, pulled Jack right in up close. The smell
of stale whiskey assaulted Jack's nose, but he made no attempt to move; he had to lean heavily on the side of the sofa just
to keep the same position without moving too much. For his part, Daniel somehow managed to manoeuvre himself so that he was
on his side, under the support of his other arm, and moved his own head forwards so that he and Jack were practically nose-to-nose.
"I wanted to forget that my life sucks," he said very slowly, exhaling great big puffs of alcohol-stinky breath with each
word. "And I wanted to forget that I could ever remember."
Even in the darkness, there was something in Daniel's eyes that scared the hell out of Jack
- it was the same something he'd seen back in the storage room in the SGC when he'd been staring down the wrong end of a gun
in Daniel's shaking hands. And it was the same something he'd seen in Daniel's eyes when he'd been parading around like a
ponce in the underground mines back on Shyla's planet. Yeah, it did scare the hell out of him. He wasn't ashamed to admit
that, even to himself.
Jack swallowed and tried not to blink under Daniel's intense scrutiny of him. He didn't know
what to say, didn't know if anything he could say would make any difference, would do anything at all. And it was as if Daniel
could somehow see the hesitation in Jack's eyes, because his next words were, in fact, "See? You don't have anything to say
to that, do you, Jack?" His words were becoming clearer and less slurred the more he spoke, although the stink of whiskey
did not abate one little bit. Daniel let go of Jack's neck and fell back onto the sofa, rubbing his eyes with the palm of
Jack watched him for a moment. Then he tapped Daniel lightly on the shoulder and, when he
had his attention, got to his feet and offered Daniel his hand. "Come on, Danny."
The confusion was obvious, even from this distance. "What?"
"Come on," Jack repeated, bending down a little, so that he was closer to the sofa. "Let's
get you to bed. I promise you you'll feel better after some sleep and a good hangover."
Daniel didn't move. He mumbled something else, but it wasn't quiet enough that Jack couldn't
hear it. "Say that a bit louder?" he asked brightly. "Didn't quite get it."
"What if I don't want to feel better in the morning?" Daniel asked him, staring up through
the dim light at Jack. "What if I don't wanna feel better?"
"You have to want to feel better," Jack replied quietly, "else you would've stopped at some
all night store and gotten smashed in the privacy of your apartment. You're in my house, therefore at the moment, you're my
responsibility. I also promised Doc Fraiser I'd keep an eye on you this weekend. So..." he trailed off, still holding out
his hand to Daniel.
The archaeologist stiffened at the mention of the doctor. Almost reluctantly, he reached
out again and Jack felt Daniel's hand grip onto his own. Carefully, he pulled Daniel first to a sitting position, then all
the way to his feet. Daniel held onto both Jack's shoulders to keep himself steady before staring intently at Jack again.
"You're not gonna tell her about this, are you?" he asked quietly, suddenly sounding nervous.
Jack shook his head. "Not as long as I don't have to," he said vaguely, his words sounding
more reassuring than they were intended to be; Daniel simply nodded, and leaned heavily on Jack's arms as he was led out of
the living room and towards the stairs. Jack took it slowly, both out of mindful respect for Daniel's inebriated state, and
also because the power was still out, making it very difficult to see where they were going. They got to the stairs, and this
time Jack positioned himself behind Daniel and keeping a firm hold on him, started to get him climbing the stairs, one step
at a time. A couple of times Daniel swayed around, nearly losing his own balance and sending Jack back to the ground floor
in the process, but eventually they reached the landing. It was still pitch-black everywhere, and occasionally the silence
was broken by rumbles of thunder outside. It had also started raining again after a brief lull in that particular department.
Jack's spare room was not an unfamiliar sight to Daniel; he'd spent a couple weeks here after
the second mission to Abydos before getting his own place, and in the time since then he'd spent the odd night here, usually
after a bad mission and neither man had wanted to be alone with just themselves and painful memories for company. The spare
room was just big enough for a double bed and simple storage furniture. Jack managed to get Daniel out of most of his clothes,
leaving the archaeologist in t-shirt and boxers before going over to draw the curtains, more a symbolic act of showing privacy
from outside rather than anything else, although it was probably as much to keep evidence of the storm hidden as anything
else, Jack reasoned mentally. By the time he turned around from drawing the curtains, Daniel had collapsed on the bed, pretty
much fast asleep. As gently as he could, Jack tugged the covers out from underneath Daniel's heavy form and tucked them around
his shoulders. He didn't know how much longer the heating would stay on before the power cut affected that as well - he hadn't
exactly looked at the boiler and its capacity limit or whatever a lot in the last few months.
Moving back through to his own bedroom, Jack finally stripped, getting off the previously
sodden clothes that were now nearly dry, still sticking to him and that were beginning to smell like a sewer. He made a mental
note never to wear that t-shirt again (of all the smelly clothes, it was definitely the worst offender). Much like Daniel
in the spare room, Jack kept his boxers on, although he rummaged blindly in one of the drawers for a clean t-shirt. He threw
one last, dirty look at the storm outside before crawling into bed. He had enough time to just pull the quilt up around him
and roll onto his stomach before he heard Daniel stirring in the next room over. Grimacing as his knees complained from the
constant moving-around, Jack got back out of bed again and padded through to the spare room.
He stopped by the open door and stared down at the bed, squinting and trying to make sense
of the dimly lit picture before him. Daniel was rolling around on the bed, tossing and turning this way and that, never stopping
still for more than a few seconds. He looked as if he was in the grips of a particularly nasty dream, and Jack did not envy
his friend's demons one bit. He crossed over to the bed, and as lightly as he could, placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder, using
his other to support himself on the side of the bed. "Daniel?" he whispered. "Daniel!"
There was no response, not until Daniel, still sleeping, rolled over onto his side facing
Jack, bringing his hand with him. Jack squatted on his knees to bring himself to Daniel's face level, well aware that he wouldn't
be able to keep this position up for very long. Through the darkness, he could just about see Daniel's eyes open and blearily
search his own out.
"Guess I can't sleep," he muttered, and despite himself Jack smiled. But only a little.
He pulled part of the quilt back to reveal the rest of Daniel's face. "Wanna tell me what's
going on in that head of yours?" he asked.
Daniel took his time in replying. Maybe from the alcohol, maybe even from the exhaustion,
but either way it didn't really matter. After a few long seconds, he looked back up at Jack. "Promise you won't tell anyone?"
he finally asked, sounding nervous despite everything else.
Jack nodded, wondering what exactly was going on here. "Yeah. Scout's honour," he added.
"When were you a Scout?" Daniel asked him, frowning slightly.
Jack shrugged. "I wasn't."
"Oh." Then: "You want to get in?"
Jack blinked. "Huh?"
"The bed," Daniel clarified, smiling slightly. "Your knees won't be up to keeping you there
for long, I know that much, and it's getting cold out there." He moved back towards the centre of the bed, and patted the
quilt. "Get in, Colonel."
Well, Jack knew an order when he heard one, and gratefully, he got in next to Daniel, although
it took a bit longer than he would have preferred. Having put up with the treatment so far this evening, it now felt as though
his knees had gone on strike; the joints were stiff, and Jack just knew he was going to get hell from them come morning. Experimentally
he stretched his legs out underneath the quilt, and recoiled instantly when his right leg came into contact with one of Daniel's.
The archaeologist chuckled quietly. "You ever shared a bed with another man before, Jack?"
"Daniel," Jack replied conversationally, "have you ever heard of 'don't ask, don't tell'?"
"Save that for morning, Jack," Daniel replied. "Can think straighter then."
There was a slightly uncomfortable silence, then. Jack moved around a little, trying to get
himself comfortable. Next to him he could feel Daniel shifting as well; eventually the both of them ended up on their backs
with the quilts up to their shoulders, both staring up through the black at the ceiling. Jack had his hands folded over his
chest, the fingers tightly interlinked.
A few minutes in, and Daniel broke the silence. "You promised you wouldn't say anything,"
he said quietly.
Jack nodded, although now the motion was wasted. "Meant what I said, Danny."
"Good," Daniel repeated, before falling silent again. Then, "Sorry about downstairs, I -"
"Danny," Jack interrupted firmly, "I don't give a shit about the drink. I can replace those.
Mostly for show, anyway," he added lightly. "I just want to know why."
"I was desperate, Jack," Daniel said. "I wish I couldn't, but I remember what I was like
back in that palace. God," he laughed bitterly, "I was ready to let you and Sam and Teal'c work yourselves to death and I
just didn't care. I was ready to give my whole damn life up!"
"That wasn't your fault, though," Jack pointed out. "She got you addicted to the sarcophagus."
"Yeah, but I went along with it," Daniel countered. He sighed audibly. "Shyla made the offer,
I made the decision to use the sarcophagus when I didn't physically need to."
"Daniel, one piece of advice for ya." When there was no reply, Jack ploughed on. "Quit blaming
yourself for everything. There are people out there who deserve the blame much more than you will ever do."
"I couldn't stop it."
"You didn't start it," Jack countered. "Don't beat yourself up over it."
Daniel mumbled something in response, something that sounded suspiciously like, "Easier said
than done," but Jack let it slide. He did, however, hear the next sentence loud and clear. "It scares me sometimes."
Jack looked over at Daniel, trying to make out his face in the darkness. "What does?"
"That sometimes I forget the reason I'm still hanging around with you and the SGC," Daniel
replied softly, and once again his words caused the hard-as-nails colonel's stomach to clench.
Now he understood. "We will find her, you know."
"Yeah." But Daniel no longer sounded so convinced about that. "But each time I think we're
getting closer, something happens and I wonder why. Amaunet, the Touched, Anteaus -"
"The Nox," Daniel replied. "The one who said we were still young children."
"Oh, him. So," Jack prompted. "Ant..."
"Anteaus," Daniel corrected, the tiniest hint of amusement in the reply, "Ernest's planet,
Nem... it goes on, right up to Shyla. Every time something happens to me some part of me wonders what I'm doing, why on earth
I'm doing it, and what'll happen the next time I do something just as dumb. There isn't a sarcophagus around every corner,
Jack. The next time I die, what happens? I stay dead? And then what?"
Oh God... Jack reached out to the right, and a few seconds of fumbling led his hand to Daniel's
bare arm. Awkwardly he patted it a couple of times. Doing just that felt completely stupid, so what the hell. Jack rolled
onto his side to face Daniel. He could just about make out the younger man lying in a position like Jack had just been in,
and his eyes were closed, shut tight. He reached out again, although this time the motion was a lot less awkward. "Daniel?"
he asked quietly.
Under his hand Daniel twisted around to face Jack. He opened his eyes and even Jack could
make out the glistening trails of tears running from his eyes and down his cheeks. Inwardly Jack cursed himself for letting
things get to this, even though he wasn't sure that he could have done anything about it in the first place. His earlier comment
to Daniel about getting smashed in his own apartment came back to haunt him then, and hollowly Jack realised that there had
to have been a reason for Daniel to come here - namely him. For whatever reason, Daniel had come here, so maybe Jack was the
person who could best deal with Danny's demons.
"C'mere," Jack muttered, and half-pulled, half-guided Daniel into his arms. Daniel settled
quickly, stretching himself out fully and relaxing against Jack, tucking his head right under Jack's neck. For his part, Jack
was a little more tentative in letting himself wrap his arms around Daniel, eventually settling for one arm over the archaeologist's
back, and the other over his own stomach and crossing Daniel's chest at the same time. The physical contact seemed to be all
that Daniel had needed; Jack could literally feel his friend relax onto him.
They stayed like that, silent, for a while. "Still got that headache?" Jack asked quietly.
"Bit better, thanks," came Daniel's muffled reply.
"Won't be so bad in the morning," Jack said, throwing a dirty look at the covered window,
although the storm seemed to have pretty much stopped by now. Figured.
"I know, Jack, I know," Daniel mumbled, and for a second Jack wondered what exactly he was
referring to. But in the end, did it even really matter? Tomorrow being another day, and all that philosophical crap. And
maybe in the cold light of morning, Daniel would start to feel better. There had to have been a reason for Daniel to come
here - hell, Jack had been wondering that ever since he'd dropped the baseball bat in the living room. After a few minutes
Daniel's breathing evened out as he finally fell into a peaceful sleep, although Jack stayed awake. Partly because it was
still a strange sensation to be this close to another person in bed, something he hadn't really... done since before Sara
had left. But mostly because he was still thinking about what Daniel had said to him. About being scared of losing sight of
the bigger picture. About only being mortal.
Jack couldn't help but smile at the ceiling at the internal response that last thought triggered.
If Daniel was only mortal - a theory fast coming under fire from all corners - then the likes of Jack were pretty much screwed
then, as well.
As an experiment, Jack reached over and flicked the switch of the small bedside lamp. It
flickered on instantly, bathing the spare room in a pale orange light before extinguishing of its own accord. Jack glared
at it for a second before resuming his original glare at the ceiling. Damn storm. Damn power cut.
He sighed, something which quickly turned into a full-blown yawn. And his last thought before
finally falling asleep was that wasn't tomorrow always just out of reach anyway?