Jack seemed to have been in a foul mood ever since he had got to the SGC. Monosyllabic was the kindest word anyone could find to describe him, with most of the epithets used being far less repeatable.
At least Sam, still smarting from an encounter with the colonel, had thought to warn Daniel before he walked into a potentially friendship-threatening confrontation.
So, instead of World War III breaking out, now everyone was walking around Jack O'Neill like they were treading on eggshells. A collective sigh of relief had occurred when the end of the working day had come and the colonel had left for home.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
I must be crazy, Daniel thought, as he rang the doorbell.
It was clear Jack was at home, his jeep standing in the driveway, but whether he wanted company was another matter altogether. After what seemed like hours, the door opened slowly.
"Come on in," Jack said, his voice resigned. He turned, leaving Daniel still on the doorstep, clearly expecting him to follow in his wake.
One look had been enough for Daniel to see that things were still the same. Being at home hadn't eased the colonel's frame of mind - if anything, he looked worse, struggling with some emotion that Daniel was unable to categorise.
Walking into the lounge, the scene laid out before him told a tale in itself. Jack was slumped on the sofa, his feet on the coffee table, surrounded by an escort of empty beer bottles. He cradled another in his hand, clearly watching the condensation drip down its side, almost oblivious to the fact that he was being observed.
"Beer's in the kitchen, Daniel," Jack said, without looking round.
Ignoring that attempt at hospitality, Daniel sat, still watching the colonel, his concern for Jack deepening as every moment passed.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
"What's this all about, Jack?" Daniel had asked, when his concern became too much to hold in any more.
He sucked in a breath at the darkness he saw in Jack's eyes when the other man raised his head and looked at him. For a moment, he thought that Jack wouldn't answer, that he would avoid the issue, change the subject, maybe just stonewall, but not this time...
"I forgot." Two words expressing an entire universe of grief.
"I forgot what today was," Jack said. "Even when I looked at the calendar yesterday, I didn't think about what today was."
Daniel thought furiously for a moment, trying to think what might possibly be the significance of this day. When he realised, it seemed so obvious, that he was amazed he had not considered it before - there was no-one else left in the SGC who might think about it, Daniel knew that now.
He had only seen the aftermath of Charlie's death, the way that grief had almost destroyed Jack the first time around. No-one else here had even known he had a child until the mission that brought them into contact with the Unity crystal.
"How could I forget, Daniel? How could I ever forget?" Jack's head bowed, his voice lowering as he looked down.
"Forgetting what today is, being happy, doesn't mean you've forgotten Charlie," Daniel said. "You can only grieve for so long - after a while, if you don't begin to allow yourself to heal, to move on, grief can destroy you. Trust me, I know what it's like..."
"And I should let it..." Jack muttered, almost under his breath.
"How can you say that?" Daniel snapped, his former compassion now tempered with anger. "You, who wouldn't let me give up ? When you've pulled me back from the edge so many times I think I'm starting to lose count! What gives you the right to just curl up and die now?"
"I killed him," Jack said, the words cold.
"It was an accident. Shit happens. It wasn't your fault."
"I keep telling myself that, Daniel," Jack said, with a smile that made the archaeologist shudder slightly at its coldness, "but it doesn't help."
"What would help, Jack?" Daniel looked appraisingly at Jack, who held his gaze for a long moment. His breath caught in his throat at what he saw there, the naked emotion laid out in a way that was so alien for the usually self-contained colonel. "Seems like everything you're trying is just making things worse. Worse for you and everyone else round here."
Jack frowned, his eyes dropping then. He sat up slightly, pulling his feet back from the coffee table and settling deeper into the couch's embrace, before resting his head in his hands.
"Guess I owe Carter an apology," Jack muttered.
"She's not the only one. That little black cloud has been following you round all day, Jack."
There was silence, each man locked in his own thoughts, almost as if they were comparing the things they had lost along the way.
"Don't do this to yourself," Daniel continued, inching closer to where Jack sat now, as if emboldened by the quietness between them. He reached out a tentative hand, resting it gently on the tenseness he could feel corded there in Jack's shoulders, feeling the warmth leaching into his hand.
A warmth that was echoed in his own body, Daniel realised, no matter how he tried to deny it, tried to suppress it.
Jack was rigid for a moment, solid stone under Daniel's fingers as they rested in silent assurance of understanding and concern.
"Can I do anything, Jack?" Daniel asked quietly, the words almost tumbling over themselves in his nervousness. "What do you need?"
Jack was silent, a silence as eloquent as any words could have been, telling Daniel more than he ever needed to hear about the other man's frame of mind. Normally so independent, so self-reliant, could Jack admit now that he needed someone else?
Taking a deep breath, but proud of his temerity, Daniel reached out, his hand sliding across Jack's shoulders, coming round, pulling the other man towards him.
Momentary resistance at first, then sudden compliance, Jack's body moving towards him so fluidly, almost crumpling against his chest. Jack's head came to rest cradled gently against Daniel's throat, his neck wet now with the colonel's silent tears.
"You know what I need..." Jack muttered, so softly the words were almost imperceptible. It was only that they echoed through Daniel's skin, soft puffs of air brushing his throat, that he knew he hadn't imagined them.
Daniel's other hand came up to cradle Jack's head, his thumb gently wiping away the tears as Jack fell silent once more.
"Just a distraction?" Daniel asked, his voice breaking slightly on the words. He almost hated himself for voicing his thoughts, but he had to know. So desperately needed to know. "Just something to make you forget?"
Jack moved then, pulling away slightly, Daniel's hand trailing down his face to rest on his collarbone, rising and falling with each breath the other man took.
"And if I wanted more than that?" Jack asked quietly, looking away.
Daniel's hand rose once more, long fingers cupping Jack's chin and turning him till their eyes locked.
"That would be better," Daniel said, leaning forward and kissing away what remained of the colonel's tears. "That would be much better."
Disclaimer : Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is written for entertainment purposes only - no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story-line are the property of the author - not to be archived elsewhere without permission.