Taste of Glenmorangie, The
by Julie Fortune
THE TASTE OF GLENMORANGIE
Author's note: thanks to Starlet, as always, for getting me through. Also, I don't condone consuming large quantities of alcohol to drown your troubles. But, hey, sometimes ...
Colonel Jack O'Neill had a pragmatic view of life. You lived, you did your best, you died. Somewhere in between you hoped to accomplish something important. Although right at the moment, he wouldn't have minded skipping right to the dying part, because this was turning into one of the most painful things he'd ever had to witness.
He was watching a member of his SG-1 team -- no, his friend -- come apart at the seams in slow motion, in public, and he couldn't do anything to stop it. Not without making things that much worse.
"So," Daniel Jackson's clear tenor voice was saying, in that hyper-caffeinated way he got when he was nervous, "you can clearly see we have a huge opportunity here. All of the intel says that Apophis is at his weakest yet, he's lost most of his Jaffa, he's lost support among the System Lords ... we'll never have a better opportunity to strike. Sir, if you'll look on page 17 of the materials, you'll see ... um ... the best analysis we have of where the guard barracks are in relation to the Stargate ..." He was standing, shifting from one foot to another as if he wanted to pace and was barely able to control it. It made the hair stand up on the back of Jack's neck.
General Hammond didn't turn the page. "Thank you, Dr. Jackson, I get the picture. Opinions?" He tried to spear Jack with a look, which Jack avoided. Hammond gave up and turned his attention to Teal'c. Teal'c -- poor offworld bastard -- didn't know any better than to obligingly stick his head in the lion's mouth.
"It is true that Apophis is greatly weakened by our victories," Teal'c said. He looked impassive -- hell, he always looked impassive -- but Jack could tell he was picking his words carefully by the tight little line that formed just above the gold serpent emblem on his forehead. "And that he has many fewer troops with which to defend himself."
None of which really confirmed or denied anything.
"See?" Daniel pointed at Teal'c as if the Jaffa had given him a blanket seal of approval. "It's time, General. Right now. The faster we move, the more we can accomplish."
Hammond sent another look skimming toward Jack, who kept his head down to study the paper-clip sculpture of Gumby he was assembling. But lack of eye contact wasn't going to save him this time. "Colonel?" Hammond asked, and sat back with his hands folded across his rounded stomach. "Any thoughts from you on this?"
A hundred responses flashed through Jack's mind, from, _Why sir, it's a fucking milk run, nothing to it!_ to _Please, don't make me the bad guy_. But the first one was too sarcastic even for him, and he was going to have to be the bad guy, because clearly Hammond wasn't going to do it. Privilege of command.
He sighed, let the paper clips fall back on top of Daniel's neatly typed mission plan -- Daniel's team suicide note -- and looked up to meet Hammond's gaze.
"I think we should wait," he said, and felt the full burn of Daniel's incredulous attention. "We don't have enough hard data on where Apophis is, he could be in any of four residences, and the odds of getting through the Stargate and making it to the right one with a large enough force -- not good, sir. Not without better intel and a whole lot more information about what the other System Lords are doing."
"The System Lords won't protect him!" Daniel shot back. "Jack -- "
He held up a hand. "I know, they're not his biggest fans, but I'll bet they like pesky upstart Earthlings even less. We already know they can send warships any time they want, and we still don't have a viable planetary defense. Rocking the boat -- not a great idea just now."
"So you don't recommend Dr. Jackson's plan," Hammond said.
_Rub it in, why don't you, sir?_ "I can't, sir. I want to, but I can't."
"No, Jack -- Jack, you know we can do this! You know we can!" Daniel lunged forward and leaned over him, staring down with fury and desperation in his face, in every clenched muscle. "Come on, Jack. Please. You owe me."
The least he could do was not look away as he said, very gently, "I'm sorry, Daniel. I don't owe you the lives of every person on Earth."
Daniel pushed back as if Jack had shoved him, came in contact with the wall at his back, veered off to confront the others
She kept her gaze down on the table, and shook her head.
And the tension kept singing, louder and louder, in the silence that followed, until Hammond leaned forward in his chair with a creak of metal and wood. "Well," he said carefully. "I appreciate your initiative, Dr. Jackson. And it isn't that your plan's not viable, just not right now -- "
"No, wait! It is viable! It's viable now!" Daniel was moving too fast, talking too fast, and the shine in his eyes was so bright it looked suspiciously like tears. He reversed course and walked back around the table, heading for Hammond. "All you have to do is just commit to it! But you won't, will you? Because it's my plan, not Jack's, is that it?"
"Okay, now you're just hurting my feelings," Jack said, and held out a hand to slow Daniel's progress. "C'mon, Daniel. Sit down, let's -- "
"It's a good plan, General," Daniel interrupted. He was making an effort to sound reasonable, and that was the scariest part, because right at this moment there was nothing reasonable in Daniel's body language at all, he was as strung out as a PCP freak on a caffeine high. "It'll work. We can pull this off, bring down Apophis -- "
"And get back Shau're. I understand." General Hammond's foghorn baritone was muted, deliberately gentle. "Dr. Jackson, I know how important it is for you to feel we're doing something to recover your wife. I know how hard this is for you -- "
Daniel cut him off with withering sarcasm. "Oh, really. Do you?" He rounded on Jack. "Jesus, Jack, help me! How many times does my wife have to be raped for us to make her a priority?"
Jack winced. "Daniel -- "
Hammond knew it was getting out of control. "That's enough, Dr. Jackson. I've listened to your plan. And I'll take it under advisement."
"Under advisement?" Daniel laughed, but it half-sounded like a sob to Jack's ears. "Why don't you just say no and skip the bullshit? For God's sake, you're willing to sacrifice my wife and you have no intention of trying to get her back, why don't you just say it? Apophis got her pregnant once already, what makes you think he's not doing it to her again right now?" He took another step toward the General. "If you think I'm just going to ignore that and pretend it's not happening -- "
"Daniel!" It was time to crack the whip, and Jack came out of his chair, got right in Daniel's way, and barked it like the order it was. "Let's slow down. Take a deep breath."
God, those eyes. Jack had rarely seen fury like that, except in combat; Daniel was boiling over with the need to hit something, hard. "Get out of my face, Jack," he warned.
"Or?" He watched Daniel's shoulder, not his eyes, and when he saw the muscles tense he moved just enough to let the punch slide past his face. He grabbed Daniel's arm and got him in a quick, efficient lock. Applied enough pressure to keep him from twisting loose, but not enough to do any damage. "Easy. Settle down." A little more pressure -- and pain -- because Daniel was still fighting. His knees gave way. Jack eased him to the carpet, still in the armlock. "Relax, Daniel. Just relax."
Next to him, Sam and Teal'c were on their feet. General Hammond had stayed in his chair, looking grim as death. Jack felt Daniel's clenched muscles quiver and jump under his hands, then slowly loosen.
"Okay," Daniel said. His voice was shaking. "I get the point. Okay. Fine."
Jack eased up on the armlock, let his hands go gentle as he released the pressure. "You know we want to help. Think about it."
Daniel stumbled to his feet, opened the door, and escaped. Running from his demons more than any of them. Jack watched him go, then turned and looked at Teal'c. Teal'c didn't need more than the silent eye contact to know what he wanted, and left at a walk to follow Daniel out into the complex.
Jack winced at the steel in General Hammond's voice. He sucked in a breath and squared his shoulders to a deeply unhappy superior officer.
"Sorry, sir. Look, it's been coming for days. He took it too calmly in the beginning. Delayed reaction."
Hammond rested his forehead against his palms then wiped his palms over the shiny dome of his head as if he could wipe away his thoughts. "Colonel, you know damn well I've given Dr. Jackson every courtesy, especially lately. The man has never had much military discipline, but this is over the line. If he's no longer fit to be a member of SG-1 ..."
"Just a little more slack," Jack said. Not quite a plea, but close enough. Sam Carter shifted her weight enough to draw Hammond's attention.
"Sir, I agree with the Colonel. Daniel's -- having some trouble coping. But he'll get through it."
"Doesn't appear to me he's improving, Captain. And if I see another display of temper like that, you know I will damn well pull Dr. Jackson from SG-1 and confine him to quarters, under Dr. Frasier's supervision." Hammond's jaw worked as he chewed on words he was swallowing. "I cannot send a man in his condition out on missions, Colonel. And I can't have SG-1 on the sidelines much longer."
"No sir," Jack agreed. "End of this week, we'll be back on rotation, with or without Daniel."
"Fine. Consider yourselves dismissed." Hammond went back to rubbing his temples. Jack and Sam gathered their folders and moved out. "Colonel," Hammond added, just before the door closed between them. Jack propped it open with an elbow and looked back in. "You and I have both seen post-traumatic stress before."
"Seen it and lived it, sir."
Hammond nodded, and his eyes met Jack's just for a few seconds before he looked down at the thick folder in front of him. "Do something. Help him through it. We owe him that much."
Jack eased the door shut, looked at Sam and said, "Well, that went better than I expected." She shot him a wide-eyed look. "Kidding, okay? Kidding."
"Obviously," she said, and clasped her hands behind her back, the way she did when she was walking and thinking. Sam was the only woman he knew who truly looked comfortable in fatigues; somehow, she carried her femininity with her, despite olive green camo, standard-issue boots and the occasional automatic weapon. "That was ... painful. He really set himself up for it. I know you tried to tell him, but -- he just wouldn't listen."
"I could've shut him down," Jack said. "Should've."
"Maybe not. I think it was important that he at least -- try." She shook her head. "God, I can't even imagine how hard it is for him. You were in there during the debrief after Abydos. You heard."
They turned left down another concrete hallway decorated with color-coded stripes -- maintenance visual cues that seemed more and more to Jack like lifelines. He always wanted to follow the red, himself. It went on the longest. But then there were times, like today, when it looked like a trail of blood left by a crawling, gutshot man.
He shook himself out of the past. "Yeah, I heard. I also heard him telling it like it happened to somebody else."
"Exactly. Too cold. It's taken him this long to really start dealing with what happened to him there."
"Them," Jack corrected her. "It happened to Shau're too. And we were busy getting hunks of metal hung on our chests instead of being there with them."
She accepted it in silence. That was something he liked about Carter; she was capable of slinging the banter, but she knew when to let the silence grow. He didn't talk about feelings. Neither did she. It had made for a very comfortable superior-subordinate relationship, and it let them consider each other as friends. Granted, friends without depth, without attachment, without vulnerability. Which was really the only way it could be, Jack knew, between a man and woman who worked so closely, who had to be prepared to sacrifice each other for the greater good. Military friends. He wondered sometimes if Sam found that as empty and unsatisfying as he did.
Another thing among thousands that they didn't -- and would never -- discuss. He shrugged a line of tension out of his shoulders and the two of them just walked in silence, thinking separate thoughts.
The red line drew them past Medical; Dr. Frasier was at the computer, but she raised a hand to wave anyway. They waved back. Jack thought about Hammond's not-so-veiled threat to have Daniel psychiatrically confined, and fought back a shudder. The doc wasn't scary, but she could be ruthless when medical reasons called for it. And really, he just didn't want to think about Daniel suffering enough to need it.
Sam finally came out with what she'd been mulling over. "Sir, I don't know, but it seems like -- nobody's really listening to him. Not even you."
"Not you, too. Give me a break, Sam. I listen. I'm a sensitive guy."
Sam didn't quite laugh, but he saw it in the smile she aimed ahead of them, down the hallway. "Point taken, sir, you're a real new-age soldier. So maybe the problem is that he hasn't been doing enough talking."
"Well. Yeah. There's that." Which, in retrospect, was unusual; Daniel was usually the first one to spill what was bothering him. Another black mark in Jack's command book ... he should have worried about the change, not just taken it as God's gift.
Sam shrugged. "So it requires the old-fashioned approach."
He eyed her suspiciously. "As in?"
"He's been trying to handle this like, well, a member of SG-1. Like we would if it had been you or me back there on Abydos, faced with the same choices. But we're military, he's not, and it's not just business for him. It's personal, it's painful, and he's our friend, and we need to act like his friends for a change. Maybe he just needs to let off steam. Loosen up enough that he feels he can talk to us."
He stared at her for so long he almost ran into a corner. "Sam, are you seriously suggesting we take Daniel out and get him drunk?"
She missed a step in cadence. "Well, that's one interpretation, sir. Although, if you don't mind me saying so, kind of a guy way to look at it."
"I'm a guy, Carter. Sensitive, but still a guy."
"God help us all, yes sir, you are."
He muttered under his breath, "Get him drunk. For crying out loud ... next thing you'll be suggesting we get him laid."
She did him the favor of pretending not to hear it.
Sam had a meeting with some scientist about wormhole warp theoretical energy manipulation, whatever the hell that was. Jack parted company with her at the elevators, stopped in at his quarters to pick something up and continued on, looking for Teal'c. As he'd expected, the Jaffa was staked out near Daniel's room. Teal'c -- at obvious parade rest -- was in a secured area, but nobody in their right mind asked what he was doing there.
"O'Neill," Teal'c greeted him. "He went to his quarters and has not come out."
"Ah. Well, that figures."
"You believe Daniel Jackson may be in emotional difficulty."
"No! Ya think?"
Teal'c had subtle expressions, even to his friends, but Jack identified the small twitch of his lips as a smile. "His behavior toward the General was clearly not typical."
"Everybody blows a fuse now and then. Question is, will that do it for him?"
Teal'c wasn't the kind to rush into anything; he considered for so long that Jack wanted to whap him on the back of the head to jar something loose. "No. A simple display of temper will not. Nor do I know how to help him, although I would wish to do so. This sort of behavior occurs rarely among the Jaffa."
"So what do you do when it does?"
Teal'c continued to look bleakly amused. "The Jaffa in question are punished."
"Great," Jack sighed, drawing it out. "Guess the concept of mental health never cut much ice with you guys, then."
One of Teal'c's almost-invisible eyebrows quirked. "I assume you have a plan, O'Neill."
"Kinda." Jack stared at Teal'c -- specifically, at the gold serpent emblem embedded in the Jaffa's forehead -- but his mind was racing elsewhere. "Follow my lead."
Teal'c gave him a look, one that read _don't I always?_, and Jack hesitated over a comeback that would be utterly wasted on the man anyway, gave it up and continued down the hallway. It was good having Teal'c along for this. He and Daniel were capable of sparking off each other, sometimes to the point of losing sight of the argument, but Teal'c never got personal, or distracted.
And Jack had the feeling this was going to get very, very personal.
Daniel didn't answer the door, but then Jack hadn't really expected him to; he opened it himself, knocked after he did, and came right in. As he'd figured, Daniel was lying down on the cot, reading. Or pretending to read, anyway. He was still in Base casual wear -- black t-shirt, camo fatigue pants -- boots on, and he didn't have the look of man getting ready to relax. More like a man waiting for some signal to move out for action.
"I didn't say you could come in," Daniel said. He kept the book propped open on his chest and turned a page, but his eyes weren't following the words; they were just focused on an empty spot near the spine. Jack dragged over a metal chair and sat on it backward, arms folded on the rounded top. "I didn't say to sit down, either."
"Good reading?" Jack asked mildly.
"Since when did you join Oprah's book club?" Daniel's capacity to focus had always been unsettling, but now it was downright eerie. His eyes kept boring a hole on the page until Jack was sure it would burst into flame. "What do you want, Jack?"
Teal'c had taken up an at-ease position at the door, looking vaguely menacing, but then he could look vaguely menacing in his sleep -- in fact, Jack had seen him do it. But the frown on Teal'c face was extra special concern, no question about it.
"Daniel Jackson," he said, and his deep baritone rumble sounded cautious. "We came to see if you are all right."
"All right?" Daniel let the book flop down on his chest and craned his head off the pillow to look at Teal'c. Behind the protective coloration of his eyeglasses -- which Jack happened to know he didn't need most of the time -- Daniel's intensely blue eyes were red-rimmed. Bloodshot. "Why wouldn't I be?"
Jack folded his arms across the stiff back of the chair and said, "You just had a meltdown in the briefing room. You took a swing at me. Any of this ringing a bell?"
"Screw you, Jack." Daniel swung his legs off the bunk and sat up, hands gripping the mattress on either side of him as if he intended to rip it apart. "I had a plan. Hammond needed to hear it. If you hadn't gone against me -- "
Teal'c interrupted. "Colonel O'Neill did not go against you. We all had doubts about this plan. Two weeks ago you told me you thought it was little more than suicide, and yet today you proposed it as a viable solution. That is not logical."
Daniel froze, staring down.
"Is that what you want, Daniel?" Jack asked quietly. "You want us all to go out in a blaze of glory so you can feel better about losing Shau're? Me, Teal'c, Sam? Anybody else you'd like to toss on the funeral pyre?"
"No." His knuckles were white where he gripped the mattress. "It isn't suicide. We've played the odds before."
"Not 4 to 1. Not when we've had a choice about doing it." Jack hesitated then took the plunge. "Why this burning need to go after him now, after all this time? It's not like Shau're is in any greater danger than she ever was."
Daniel's shoulders heaved once, a jerk as if somebody had stabbed him in the back. He exploded off the bunk and started pacing again, and every once in a while Jack caught sight of his eyes. They were no less disturbing than they'd been in the briefing room -- damp, glittering, feverish with passion.
"Get out," he said. He went up to Teal'c -- who didn't move -- and darted around him to open the door. He held it open, head down. "Both of you. Leave."
Jack watched his friend for a few long seconds, seeing the trembles in his arms, the fury radiating out of him. He nodded to Teal'c. "Go," he said.
Teal'c gave Daniel one last, unreadable look and left the room. Daniel waited.
Jack waited too.
"You too," Daniel said.
"You want me to leave? Make me."
At which Daniel slammed the door hard enough to send a shockwave through the concrete floor, slammed the side of his fist against it, then again. Hitting the door because the alternative was hand-to-hand with Jack O'Neill, and they both knew how that would end.
When he stopped beating the door, Jack said mildly, "You finished?"
"Maybe." Daniel took a step back from the door and turned to face him. Tears in his eyes. "Ah, God, Jack, maybe I am."
Jack watched him for a long few seconds before he said, as gently as he knew how, "Sit down before you fall down."
Daniel stumbled back over to the bunk and crawled up on it, put his back against the wall and his boots on the blanket. Hugged his knees against his chest and stared out at nothing, or at whatever nightmare continued to run over and over again in his head.
Jack reached inside his jacket and pulled out what he'd been carrying -- carefully concealed from view -- and said, "This is fifty-six year old Glenmorangie single malt scotch. Well, okay, technically, it's eighteen year old Glenmorangie that's been in my family for thirty-eight years, but whatever. My father gave me two bottles when I graduated from the Academy. I told him I'd save it for an emergency."
Daniel blinked and looked down at the bottle in Jack's hands. "I don't drink."
"Well, this is a good time to start. Know anything about whisky?"
"Started being put in bottles around 1860. Before that, you had to get it by the cask, or in a pig -- five gallon jug." Jack broke the seal on the bottle and managed not to wince at the atrocity he was about to commit. "Scots started making it around Glenmorangie around 1703, or at least that's the first evidence in writing. But it was being distilled in Scotland at least back to the early 1500s."
Daniel watched him silently. If he thought there was anything odd about this lecture, he didn't say so. Jack held up the open bottle, looked at the fine amber color, and toasted the air. "Slinte."
He took a mouthful of it, savored the warm smoky burn, and let it slowly trickle down his throat.
And then he held the bottle out to Daniel. Who stared at him with that same haunted, empty stare. Jack held it until his arm started to get tired, then shrugged and took another drink. Daniel was eyeing him like he'd gone insane. "Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't O'Neill an Irish name? And this is Scottish whisky?"
"Sue me, I ran out of Tullimore Dew." He held out the bottle again. "Here."
Daniel reached out and took it, held it as if he didn't quite know what to do with it, and talked to the bottle. "Aren't you supposed to drink this in glasses? With water or something?"
"God, yes, with fine Cuban cigars and good looking women lighting them for you. Now shut up and drink."
Daniel raised it to his lips and took a gulp, swallowed, sputtered, coughed, and looked astonished. Pearls before swine, Jack moaned inwardly. But at least the man was paying attention to voices outside his head for a change.
"'S good," Daniel choked. He started to hand it back, hesitated, then took another swig. This time he didn't sputter. "Fifty-six years old, huh?"
"Yeah, that's right, it's older than me."
"I wasn't going to say it." The third swallow put a flush in Daniel's face. Ah, the power of alcohol. Jack leaned forward to reclaim the bottle and caught up.
"This is your brilliant plan? Get me drunk?"
"Hey, it wasn't my plan."
"Teal'c thought of this?" Daniel was plainly astonished. "Christ. I must have you guys scared."
"Actually it was Sam, and yeah, we're all pretty freaked out." He took a deep breath, sucked down another mouthful of Glenmorangie's history, and felt his brain starting to glow. Low tolerance, these days. He hadn't been in training for serious drinking, not since ... as always, his brain veered away from the subject.
Daniel was talking again. "Then how come it isn't Sam in here with the bottle?"
"Because I'm your commander and Sam's not as stupid as I am. Ah, hell. Shut up and drink already."
It took some steady, silent drinking to get to the talking stage. Daniel clearly wasn't a professional boozehound, but he was making a brave attempt. _Oh, we're going to be sorry tomorrow_, Jack thought, but the truth was he didn't care anymore. Tomorrow was already on the other side of a golden haze of numbness.
"It's me," Daniel blurted. The bottle was three-quarters empty. Jack couldn't remember how long it had taken to accomplish that, but it didn't strike him as exactly a long time. No food, too much stress, a bottle of whisky. Yep. Tomorrow was going to be a real peach of a day. "It's not Shau're. It's me."
Jack hesitated. "Okay, I need another hit. I almost understood that."
"No, listen." Daniel scooted closer on the bunk to Jack's chair with that clumsy grace of someone already drunk and not drunk enough to know it. "Jack, when I saw her standing there in her father's tent ... God, I was so ... happy."
Jack reached for the bottle. Daniel bogarted it and took another drink.
"Why couldn't I be happy?" he asked. "All I had to do was be happy to see her, and I couldn't even do that."
Jack rescued the Glenmorangie and put a healthy portion in his mouth for safekeeping.
"I mean, all I could think was that she -- she'd been -- " Another gesture that turned into a reach for the bottle. Jack thought about keeping it then reconsidered. "She'd been unfaithful. Unfaithful to me."
Daniel seemed to want a response.
"Yeah." Jack sat back and rested his head against the wall. It was way too comfortable. "Well, it sucks when that happens."
"No!" Daniel took a gulp, put the bottle down and leaned over. "No, see, she wasn't -- she didn't have a choice. But when I saw Shau're ... God, she didn't even -- Jack, I blamed her for being raped. How could I do that?" Daniel's voice cracked. "I walked away and I left her crying. She needed me, Jack. All this time, I've been throwing myself into one mission after another, not even thinking about what was happening to her. And now I can't stop thinking about it. I close my eyes and I think about her crying, and me walking out -- and she's with Apophis now because I didn't make the right choice -- "
Jack felt his skin tighten in reaction. He knew the overwhelming pressure of trying not to think about what was gnawing your soul away. You threw yourself into work or conflict or alcohol or whatever would make it stop, even for a few moments. Oh, yeah, he knew that place, and it was dark and sweat-hot and had the metallic taste of despair.
"Listen," he said. "You're obsessing about five minutes of your life when you acted like a guy. You know what? Guys are idiots. You saw the woman you love, the woman you've been longing for all this time, and whoops, she's pregnant with somebody else's kid. You had a reaction, you walked away. The important thing is that you walked back."
"And if I hadn't walked away at all, that five minutes might've gotten Shau're through the Stargate. She would have been home, with me. Here." Jack heard the scrape of the bottle being lifted off the concrete floor, heard Daniel's throat work convulsively.
Jack tried to put it in perspective. "Well, it wouldn't exactly be hearts and flowers. She'd still have a Goua'uld inside of her. Call me crazy, but I think that's a dysfunctional relationship."
Daniel didn't hear him. "But I fucked it up, and it's my fault. My fault she's lost again."
"Danny -- " Jack paused and checked himself. When had he started calling him Danny? Shit. Didn't matter. "Believe me, you haven't lost her. Expert on losing wives, here, remember? That's not something that happens all of a sudden, it's dying by inches, by years. I lost Sara even before Charlie ..."
Ah, God, no. He jerked away from that and stood up. The room did a drunkard's reel. He bent down, picked up the Glenmorangie and applied another medicinal dose to his pain. The problem with relaxing was that things snuck up on you, dark things you thought you'd put down for good.
He tried again. "You didn't lose her, she was taken. If you'd managed to get her out of there ..."
"Jack -- "
"No, shut up and let me talk, I'm your commandering -- commanding officer."
Daniel shut his mouth and collapsed in slow motion until he was lying on the bunk. "Okay. Sure."
"If you'd made it you'd be with her right now. You love her, you'd forgive her, she'd forgive you. Difference between you and me." Dammit, he was coming too close. He took the last mouthful of whisky from the bottle and didn't taste it, didn't feel the burn.
When he wandered back past the bunk, Daniel was staring at the ceiling, blue eyes wide and unfocused. "How do I get past this?"
Jack blew out his breath. "You don't, idiot. It's like -- getting your leg cut off. You don't get past it, you learn to -- crawl better." Hot in here. Jack swiped his forehead with the sleeve of his uniform jacket; then gave up and stripped the jacket off. Ah. Better. He kept walking.
"You don't say his name."
"Charlie. You don't say his name much."
Twelve steps from one end of the barren room to the other. "No."
Twelve prowling, unsteady steps back. "You know."
Daniel considered that with the gravity of the truly, deeply drunk. "Do you still feel guilty? 'Cause it was your gun?"
That slashed like a razor, all the way down, cutting open scars that bled poison. Jack fell into the chair, put his head back against the wall, and swallowed the taste of scotch and bitterness. "Yeah, I feel guilty," he said wearily. "Don't get past that, either."
"Jesus, I'm sorry. Shouldn't have said that." Daniel put out a hand and patted Jack clumsily on the knee. "Sorry."
Jack shrugged. The bottle was empty, and that was painful in ways he couldn't even comprehend. His remote, humorless dad, handing him the Glenmorangie, saying _celebrate something good with them, Jack, don't just sit around and drink yourself stupid with your friends._ Which was ironic, because that was exactly what he was doing.
Your gun. Your gun. Your gun. The words kept echoing. Wasn't like he hadn't heard them before, hadn't spent months thinking about it, months hearing his ex-wife saying it in everything from sobs to screams. Damn stupid, for an officer to leave an unsecured weapon lying around, but he'd thought Charlie knew ...
Daniel was still talking. "Shau're's baby. Don't even know his -- " A hitching breath from him, like a drowning man. "Don't even know his name."
Ah, there was something to think about, something other than the words rattling in his brain. "Shau're didn't name him?"
"Didn't have time. By the time I had him in my hands ... she was gone. Shau're was gone. Her Goua'uld doesn't care about names. The baby was just -- flesh. Something to use."
Nothing to say to that. Jack had a vision of Daniel holding a bloody newborn in his hands, watching his wife turn into a thing. A monster. A god. A murderer. What could you say to that?
"She didn't want to have the baby," Daniel said. "I kept telling her to push, but she didn't want to. She wanted to -- to hold on -- stay with me -- "
He stopped talking. Jack reached over and put his hand on Daniel's shoulder, felt the silent shudders racking him. He hadn't said any of this in the debrief, nothing but the bare facts. No wonder Daniel was going nuts, holding all this in. Jesus.
Hard to think with all the Glenmorangie soaking his brain, but instinct told Jack what to say. "So name him something."
"The baby. Name him something."
Daniel sucked in a shuddering breath. "He's not my son."
"Screw that. Make him your son. It's not like Apophis's going to send him birthday cards and teach him baseball." Jack retrieved the bottle from the floor and was surprised -- again -- to find it was empty. "Name the kid already."
Daniel put his hands over his face and scrubbed hard. "What do you know about it?"
"Had one. Lost one," Jack said. "All by myself, no help from any Goua'uld. Only mine isn't off getting rocked to sleep by his grandfather, Daniel. Mine's dead. You want to talk about being at fault, bring it on, 'cause I guaran-damn-tee you I win. Name the kid, Daniel. Do it."
He was so tired. So damn tired. That was the problem with the whisky; it sucked all the will out of him, left him weak and vulnerable and remembering. Being drunk was supposed to help you forget, but it didn't, it hadn't, it never had. The taste of Glenmorangie brought it all back.
"Jack." Daniel was staring at him with some bright drunken idea blazing in his eyes. He sat up, overbalanced, caught himself with an arm against the wall.
"What if I name him Charlie?"
Glenmorangie. The taste of scotch in the back of his throat like bile. Gun in his hand. Charlie. "Don't you fucking dare," he snarled, and was out of the chair before he could think what he was doing. It went flying, slammed into the wall, hit the floor and skidded sideways. "Don't you fucking dare, Daniel!"
And now Daniel was up, too -- not too steady, but on his feet and within hitting distance. Only this time it wasn't Daniel on a hair-trigger, no, Daniel was calm and drunkenly, stupidly unaware of what he'd said. "Why not?"
"Because -- " Tears overran his defenses, and he was so stunned he couldn't even try to stop them. Felt them burning his eyes and running cold on his cheeks. A memory blew by him, a combat instructor screaming _better let me see you jerking off before you let me see you crying, O'Neill!_ Because that's what this was. Self-centered jerking off and goddammit he would not let it happen. He fought for his voice, found it, forced it under control. "Because I don't want to remember him every time I hear a baby laugh."
"Oh God, Jack ... " Daniel looked shocked. Drunk as he was, he reached out. "Sorry. So sorry. I won't. I swear I won't. I just thought -- "
Jack hugged him. Hard. Not the back-slapping hug of buddies after too many beers, the clinging, desperate embrace of a drowning man. It went on too long, but Jack didn't care. There was comfort there. Something better than being alone.
"Okay with you if I name him Jack, then?" Daniel finally asked. Jack let go, stepped back, wiped his wet face on his forearm.
"Don't do that," he said. "Poor kid'll get teased by all the other Abyd- ... Abydo- ... kids on Abydos."
"Never hurt anybody. I got teased all the time."
"Yeah, look how you turned out."
Daniel gave him a full, delighted grin. "Yeah." The smile faded. "Hey, Jack ... you're ... okay, right?"
Jack turned, set the chair back upright, and collapsed messily into it. "Danny boy, I am drunk's a sailor on a three-day pass. You?"
Daniel fell back on the bed. "Can't feel my legs."
"So you don't mind if I name him Jack?"
Jack rubbed the last of the tears off his face. "Hell no."
They sat for a few minutes in silence, listening to nothing in particular, and then Daniel reached down and dragged up the empty bottle of Glenmorangie. He squinted at the label. "Your dad gave you two."
"You said your dad gave you two bottles."
"Got another one?"
A minefield of a question. Jack picked his way through it, waiting for the explosion of pain. "I didn't open it the day Charlie died. Or the funeral. Opened it the day I realized -- I hadn't thought about him all day." He swallowed a memory of scotch. "And when it was gone I picked up my gun."
"Jack ..." A whisper of sympathy and horror.
"Might've done it, except two spit-shined bastards showed up from General West and screwed it up. Bad timing." Jack smiled at nothing that was particularly funny. "And then some clumsy weirdo nerd screwed it up for good. Gave me a reason to live."
Not even a whisper this time, just silence. Daniel reached out with one hand and took Jack's. "Thank you," he said.
"Yeah, thank me tomorrow when you're puking your guts out." Jack pulled free. The room was spinning, but not enough that he couldn't get up and walk to the door.
"You're going?" Daniel sounded surprised. Jack looked back, found himself staring into Daniel's eyes. Just for a second there was something between them, something powerful and strange and elemental. He'd never looked at somebody that way before, down to the soul. Never imagined anybody seeing that deeply in him. God. It was -- it felt --
He blinked, and it was gone. Just Daniel. And that feeling.
"Oh, I've got to," Jack said. "Drunk. And your commanding occif -- officer."
"Oh." Daniel blinked, too. "Sam's just two doors down, you know."
"Shut the hell up." Bastard. He hadn't thought Daniel knew. He hoped to hell Sam didn't.
Daniel gave him a sloppy salute and fell backward on the bed. "Sir. Yes sir. Colonel sir."
Just a second of regret as Jack closed the door. Another second as he walked past Sam's closed door. A third when he saw Teal'c sitting quietly on a chair at the end of the hallway, waiting with Jaffa dignity intact.
Teal'c looked him up and down, then said, "Can you reach your quarters, Colonel O'Neill?"
"Oh yeah," he said, and kept walking, one hand on the wall to keep the floor from jumping around too much.
"Then I will see you tomorrow."
The hallway rippled and for a second he felt like he was in the Stargate, falling forever. Teal'c caught him and lifted him like a toy.
The last thing he heard Teal'c say, in that impassive, impartial rumble, "I think that is doubtful."
In the morning, in the brief seconds before the hangover kicked him in the head, Jack thought of two things.
The Glenmorangie was gone. That tripwire with its warm golden glow, ready to slice him to pieces ... he'd been afraid to open it, and couldn't get rid of it. And now for the first time the dread was gone. Something, finally, was finished. There was a void, but voids could be filled.
And he thought of Daniel saying, Okay with you if I name him Jack?
And even after the hangover crushed his head like an egg, it was.
If you enjoyed this story, please send feedback to Julie Fortune
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