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Cold Comfort

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I transfer the six-pack from under my right arm to my left hand so I can knock on Daniel's door. Not sure which one of us needs this more after that last effed-up This Is Your Life headtrip of a mission. Two six-packs should be enough to get us drunk and start the process of forgetting.

Daniel grimaces rather than smiles when he answers the door. He looks like hell and smells like he's already a few drinks ahead of me.

"Jack?" His long hair nearly covers his eyes and his buttoned shirt is open, revealing his chest underneath. The top button of his pants is unfastened. The rumpled look is good on him.

"Hey." I hold up one of the six-packs. "Thought maybe you could use one of these."

Daniel snatches at something just next to the door. He dangles a glass with about a finger of amber liquid. I had no idea Daniel would hit the hard liquor. "Got a head start." He smiles sardonically.

"Figured." I lean close and inhale. Underneath the bourbon Daniel smells surprisingly good. I can't place the smell but it reminds me of Charlie's baby shoes and high school math class—the unerringly bipolar nature of Daniel Jackson.

Daniel staggers back two steps and turns. "Shut the door."

I'm not sure if it's really an invitation, but I step inside anyway and shut the door as requested. I leave one of the six-packs on the table and take the other with me to the couch. Daniel's already collapsed into the armchair, his head lolling back on the oversized cushion. His bare feet are propped on the coffee table and his near-empty glass sways from his fingertips.

I shuck my leather jacket, toss it on the other end of the couch, and toe-off my shoes. I pry the cap off a bottle of beer and attempt to catch up to Daniel.

I can only imagine what he’s been through in the past twenty hours. I know the memory the Gamekeeper pulled from my mind wasn’t my fondest, but Daniel had to watch his parents—his parents—die over and over and over. Somehow he still functioned during the debriefing. Didn’t choke up, shut down, grunt responses—he was Daniel on a normal day, like everything was perfectly ordinary.

Of course maybe it was ordinary for him. I shift, cocking my head to the side and glance at his lost expression. He stares in the direction of his bookshelf, but it’s obvious he’s not seeing books. There are days when I replay Charlie’s death over and over, why shouldn’t Daniel replay his parents’ deaths with the same morbid fascination?

I take a swig of my beer and massage the tight muscles in my neck. I’m a dumb ass. He was eight years old. That’s why he shouldn’t replay the scene ever. I was an adult; I could have done something to prevent Charlie’s death, but Daniel was a kid. He was helpless, innocent. I forget that he isn’t now. Wide-eyed? Curious? Yes. Helpless? Innocent? No. The man has experienced enough to have lost those luxuries.

Daniel pushes his glasses up from his face, pinning back his long hair. He closes his eyes and rubs at them. I don’t envy him.

"Why are you here?"

The beer sloshes to the halfway mark of the bottle when I flinch. I finish my drink, a long pull, that gives me time to size up every half-true response. I finally land on, "Figured you could use a friend," and leave out the bits where I feel like I want to kill myself so I can't imagine how he must feel. Colonel John Michaels was a good CO—and a friend—but he wasn’t family. The one thing I'm thankful for in the whole Gamekeeper Fiasco is that I didn't see Charlie's death on Repeat-O-Vision. I stretch my neck to hide my shiver.

Daniel snorts, and then raises his glass. He stares at it for a long time. "Why would I need one of those?" he mumbles before knocking back the glass.

I literally chug the rest of my beer—I can't stand that I'm more sober than Daniel is. "You got any more of that?" I nod my head toward his empty glass.

Daniel hands me the glass. "It's a good substitute for grief."

"And food," I mildly joke. I grab his glass and head into the kitchen. It's a little disconcerting to see two bottles of bourbon on the counter. Only one has been opened but it's half-empty. I cough, my throat suddenly constricting.

"Danny, you drink all this tonight?" I pour two tall glasses from the half-empty bottle; Daniel's glass is slightly less full than mine.

Daniel grumbles, but I don't catch anything resembling words.

I place Daniel's glass on the coffee table with a thunk. "You been drinking long?" I ask again.

Daniel pulls himself toward the coffee table, latching on to the armrest with both hands. "Yeah." He rubs at his eyes. He rests his forearms on his legs and leans heavily on them. He glances up at me through a squinted eye. "Surprised?"

I set down my glass, lick my lips. "Not really. More surprised that you're not giggling madly."

Daniel’s head hangs between his shoulders for a moment. "Can't handle beer." He sniffs, raises his head defiantly. "Bourbon." He lifts his glass and takes a gulp. "Bourbon is good."

For a brief moment, Daniel looks hideous. His unbuttoned shirt and unfastened pants look sloppy and unkempt rather than intriguing and—did I just think intriguing? I squint at the bourbon. Obviously this stuff is harder than I thought.

Daniel shouldn’t be slovenly—or depressed. He should be that same silly giddy drunk that sat in my living room on his first night back from Abydos. I understand that he doesn’t want to be silly or giddy—and that this is about controlling one thing and getting exactly what he wants—but I miss that other drunk.

Daniel hasn’t moved from his hunched state. I don’t want him to be hunched over like that. I want him to be Daniel again. I feel my eyes widen slightly. What if this is Daniel? I mean, the real Daniel. What if what I see every day is just fake Daniel—Daniel trying to hold it together—but this angry, hurting man is Daniel.

I suddenly want to hold him—not hug him, hold him. God, I just want to make all his pain stop.

Daniel inhales deeply and straightens his back. He blinks a few times and then looks down. His cheeks flush and his hands slowly move to his shirt. He buttons three buttons, starting in the middle and misaligning them. He tugs at the hem and tries to smooth his shirt. In this state, his shirt is confusing him as much as an unfamiliar language on an ancient ruin.

I smile and choose: this is the real Daniel.

I alternate between drinking and breathing, trying not to confuse the two. As I near the bottom of the glass, it's getting harder to tell the difference and I exhale into the glass, watching as it slowly fogs under my nostrils.

Daniel's glass is only half drained. I'm pretty sure I'm almost caught up to him. Which means we can begin a meaningful dialogue.

"The Keeper sucks." The words tumble out and I realize that I am definitely drunk.

Daniel snorts. He pushes on his knees as he stands, and then picks up his glass and takes a swig. "I'll drink to that."

Daniel shuffles past my legs and nearly trips. His right hand hits the coffee table where he leaves his glass, and Daniel plops next to me on the couch. "Jack." He looks at me and then drops his head back, eyes rolling so that he seems to be looking at the glasses perched on his head. I pluck them off, setting them on the coffee table, behind his drink. His eyes follow my movement and I fight a blush, which could be from the attention or the alcohol.

"Jack." He waits until I'm sitting again. I mirror his position, leaning back my head and turning to face him. Our arms are slack by our sides. "The Keeper sucks."

The laughter bubbles out of me quietly.

"You saw your friend?" His eyes are big and I can feel the concern—it's palpable. Daniel's capacity for compassion is incredible.

I nod. "You saw your parents."

His eyes darken and I feel something in him close off. Damn it. "Yes," he hisses.

"Hey." My voice is soft—it's the voice I reserve for dogs, scared kids, and crying women. My fingers drag my hand toward his. They wrap around his fingers and I squeeze, trying to reassure him, trying to tell him that it wasn't real.

His eyes tell me that it was entirely real and that I'm a dick if I deny it.

"You like watching your friend die?"

The question is a sucker punch and I have to remind myself that Daniel's drunk. That apparently he’s a pretty mean drunk.

"His name was John." I turn my head and stare at the ceiling. The pockmarks in the ceiling look like constellations. I pull my hand away, but Daniel shifts and grabs my fingers, entwining them with his own. I should be freaked out by this, but it's comforting, not sexual, just—a hand.

"He was your Jack." His voice is quiet and Daniel stares at me in this knowing way that strips me. I don’t like feeling so naked—completely vulnerable—in front of anyone. Feeling like this before Daniel is even worse.

"No," I say.

Daniel flinches, like a lie detector.

"Sort of." I swallow. "John was—I trusted him. He—he was a hero. I guess I don't believe that now—but I did then. And I just wonder...."

Daniel squeezes my hand and shifts closer to me. "He was your Jack."

I lean my head closer to him. "Yeah," I admit softly. "I liked that someone watched out for me."

Daniel nods and sniffs. "I like it, too."

I snicker and squeeze his hand. "You wouldn't admit that if you weren't drunk."

Daniel grins. "I wouldn't." He shifts his entire body closer. His knee brushes against mine, my pinky touching his thigh.

The air between us sparks. I lean closer and lick my lips. My brain clicks off and I’m speaking on instinct. "He wasn't really my Jack. Not like—" Daniel's eyes are bright, blue, and glassy. I know his eyes are dynamic, but I've never really seen them before, never really looked. I now understand what the female SFs were whispering about—they're so blue.

"Not like?" Daniel's eyes flick down and then lock with mine again. He licks his lips and they glisten.

"Not like me and you," I breathe. My head is dizzy. Daniel is making me dizzy with his licking and his smell and his eyes and his soft skin massaging my fingers. My pinky twitches and I stroke the outside of his thigh.

Daniel sighs and his eyelids close. "Jack." My name has never sounded more peaceful.

I breathe and feel my hot breath reflected back at me. Daniel is in my space and I can't imagine why he hasn't been in my space like this before. I lick my lips again because I am suddenly completely dry. My teeth graze over my bottom lip. This is what I do before I kiss someone. I'm going to kiss Daniel. I mentally shake my head, trying to stop the internal narration of my slurred behavior, trying to remember that I shouldn't be okay with kissing Daniel.

I'm not sure which one of us moves, or if we both move, but our lips touch and it's—okay.

My mouth slips open and I inhale the bourbon on our breath. My tongue darts out and barely touches Daniel's lips. His tongue barely touches my lips in return.

His thumb strokes my hand and I feel my entire body heat up. My contact points with Daniel are thrumming. There's radiation spreading through my body, originating at my lips, my hand, my knee. I press in and increase the points of contact, pushing together our shoulders, our arms, our legs. The kiss deepens when Daniel gasps and my tongue slips inside his mouth. It's a lazy exploration and for a moment I'm amazed at our drunken grace. Daniel's tongue massages mine back. I never knew he would be such a good kisser. I never thought about kissing him. I can't imagine why I never thought about kissing him. Daniel is—he's—uh—

"Honey," I murmur.

He chuckles. "Muffin?"

I groan. "Not what I meant." I bring around my other arm and touch the side of his face. The stubble under my fingertips is different. "We haven't done this before." I continue kissing him, stroking his face and neck, continuing to hold his hand.

"Were never drunk enough," he says. He grabs my arm and massages my biceps, fingers digging into my skin insistently.

"That what this is?" I don't know what's compelling me to keep kissing him. He's soft, his lips pliant and giving. I've never kissed a guy and I have no delusions that Daniel is anything other than a guy.

"Mmm. Inebriation." Daniel tilts his head, opening himself more. "It's good."

I laugh, stroking his hair away from his face. "How can you still remember a word like inebriation?" I like that he still has command of his vocabulary. I'd never admit it aloud, but academics are annoyingly sexy.

"I'm a linguist," he reminds me. "You want me to say it in other languages? Betrunken. Ivre." His voice is soft against my skin, completely seductive. He makes my skin hum.

I smile against his mouth. "Borracho?"

Daniel rewards me by licking my teeth. My stomach churns and I feel blood pulse into my cock. "Spanish," he purrs. "Why Jack, I didn’t know you cared." He finally faces me and pulls one leg up, tucking it between us.

"Sorry, my Spanish is rusty." I turn and face him as well, my leg pressing against his.

Daniel takes advantage of my new position, scooting closer and partially crawling on top of me. He's on his knees, leaning over my body. He breaks off from my mouth and whispers, "Nunca supe que deseaba esto."

The Spanish floats in my head and even though I can't remember the exact translation, I understand. He latches on to my neck and my next words exit my mouth in a breathless gasp. "I thought I was here for comfort."

"Don't you feel comfortable?" Daniel sucks just under my ear. I never expected him to be so sexually aggressive. My arms tighten around him and fingers claw into his shoulder. I feel myself leaning back and am surprised to find out that I want this, too. On some level, I'm here because I want Daniel.

I put my arm behind me and stop our slow descent.

"Danny. Daniel, wait."

He stops sucking, but stays leaning against my neck, panting. He presses his lips against my skin in a way that can't quite be described as a kiss. We sit for quiet moments. I keep trying to sort out my brain—kick it into gear. Daniel is under my command—worse, he's a guy. I've never had this problem before. I always managed to keep my brain on straight. No matter how drunk I've been, no matter how wounded, I've never woken up next to someone I didn't expect. I've never woken up next to someone I wouldn't have been with if I had been sober. But I shouldn't want Daniel. I shouldn't. This is wrong. This is wrong in so many ways, and we're taking advantage of each other. He's drunk—I'm drunk. We wouldn't want this if we were sober.

We wouldn't want this if we weren't hurting.

I grip his shoulder, and prepare myself for telling him that I need to go. I've got the number of a cab company in my mind. I know where he keeps the coffee and my brain is halfway to the kitchen, ready to start brewing it.


He raises his face from my neck and I see the need in his eyes. There's a lost boy there, but also a man. We may be drunk, but we both know what we're doing.

I sit him up straight and then lean over and grab his partial glass of bourbon. I stare at the amber liquid, making my decision. My brain won't let me do this if I'm sober.

"Here’s to getting exactly what I want," I whisper to the glass. I drain it. I set the glass on the coffee table and blink until my vision is blurred.

"Jack?" Daniel's hand on my face. I turn to his fingers and pull them inside my mouth. He has hard calluses from gripping pens, and his fingers taste faintly metallic. I could eat him.

"Shut up. Kiss me." I lean him back this time, stretching us across the couch, sliding up against him like chambering a bullet. He responds with lips and hands, exploring my mouth, face, and back with the same eagerness he effuses off-world.

I'm going to have a headache in the morning. I'm going to wake up in Daniel's arms. I'm going to wonder why I made this decision when it's a bad, bad idea. But I'm going to wake up in Daniel's arms.

It's a cold comfort, but I'll take it.