Daniel squinted at the computer screen. The words had a halo to them. He closed his eyes and opened them, repeated it, then took off his glasses, dug into the side drawer, and withdrew the lubricant drops. He put several drops in each eye, then kept his head back, eyes closed. Each time he did this, he’d become aware that his nose felt plugged up. He blindly grabbed a few tissues from the box on the desk and blotted, then wiped with the back of his hand. Typical Jack timing, he heard the sound of his bootsteps approaching. He could tell by the gait.
Jack took a few steps into the office. He was silent for a two-count, then said, “Hey.”
“Hey,” Daniel said, and sniffed, unable to help himself.
“Isn’t as bad as all that, is it?”
Daniel let out a weary half-laugh. “You’d be surprised.” He wondered if he’d just done that on purpose. He realized this would be a classic case of misunderstanding. He couldn’t help but revel in it.
“Need any help or …?” Jack began.
“No. Nothing I can do. Well, not nothing, but I’m handling it.”
“Doesn’t sound like it. I can always …” Jack cleared his throat.
At that point, Daniel began to, well, not giggle precisely, since that’s the word used for women—and by the gods, wasn’t that a perfect example of entrenched sexism—but, he giggled. He looked down blearily at his desk and picked up the eyedrops bottle and held it up.
Jack looked at it, looked at the tissues, then let out a sound that was half a sigh and half a sound of exasperation. “You little …”
Daniel kept giggling. “You call me easy.”
Jack sniffed. “So, just came to ask if you wanted to go get a bite. I don’t feel like cooking.”
Daniel cleared his throat, absurdly pleased with himself, and checked his watch. It was nearly half-past six. “Holy crap,” he said, and stood up. “I didn’t realize the time.”
“Color me surprised,” Jack said.
Ignoring the jibe, Daniel turned off the monitor, grabbed his fatigue jacket, and slid it on. Jack was eyeing him. “What?” he asked wearily, pausing amid straightening the shirt.
“You wanna talk about what happened with that lunatic?”
“No,” Daniel said instantly. He wondered why Jack was asking and did a mental deduction. “Sam talked to you, huh?”
Jack shrugged. “She’s my XO in all but name, so yeah.”
“Do you want to talk about what happened?” Daniel countered.
Jack’s eyes narrowed. “Teal’c?”
“Teal’c,” Daniel confirmed as he finished straightening his collar.
“Not really,” Jack said diffidently.
Daniel held his hands up in a ‘there you are’ gesture.
Jack smirked. “Where do you want to eat?”
They exited Daniel’s office and he locked it. “Why do you ask when you already have a place in mind.”
“Yeah, well, okay,” Jack allowed. Nearly to the elevator, he asked, “But if you really do want to talk …” He cringed when Daniel looked at him. “Childhood trauma can bite you in the ass. That’s all I’m saying.”
“Backatcha,” Daniel said, then grimaced back. “Only yours wasn’t … oh, you know what I mean.”
“Yeah,” Jack grinned, swiping the card reader.
“So where’re we off to next?”
“Dinner?” Jack asked, brows arching.
“No, I meant mission-wise.”
“Oh,” Jack said, grimacing. “Naquadah hunting. Pentagon wants us to ignore the rest until we find places to mine.”
“Oh great,” Daniel said. “Why do you need me then?”
“Don’t do that. You know why. Gotta pay the piper, Daniel. You know how this works.”
Daniel sighed. Yeah, he knew how it went. “Well, here’s hoping it’s a cakewalk.”
Daniel sat in bed in the dark. He took another dose of cannabis extract under the tongue and stared into nothing. He’d made sure it was Indica, not Sativa. He did not want to get high. He needed to relax his mind enough to let him sleep away his medical downtime. He didn’t want to do anything but eat and sleep. They were literally the only things he could muster enthusiasm for because for the third time in his life, Daniel found that his libido had altered as a result of alien influence and sabotage.
Janet had informed him that it had been worse for him due to his prior two exposures to the sarcophagus’ effects but he didn’t care about this particular fine point. What mattered was that he’d injured his teammates, his friends, his lover. He could’ve gotten them all killed. Jack was still mad at him, but not for being under the influence, but for helping the abuser go through her own withdrawals.
“Leave her to fend for herself. She knew better.”
“I don’t think she was in her right mind,” Daniel had countered.
“She damn near got us all killed by fucking with you. Let her twist in the wind.”
Sometimes Daniel wished his empathic side would take a powder, but it just wasn’t in him to let other people suffer who didn’t deserve it. He’d helped Shyla. And then said goodbye because she simply creeped him the hell out. The sarcophagus may have screwed up her ability to make rational decisions, but she was also the conqueror’s daughter. A spoiled brat with a death complex. A dark part of him said he should’ve let her jump. Disgusted, Daniel put out the joint and slid down under the covers to go to sleep.
An hour later, he sat bolt upright in the dark, panting and sweating from feelings of fright and horror, and there was a deep pit in his gut that made him wrap his arms over his stomach and bend over. In the dream, he’d been a psychotic tyrant, inflicting pain and torment, recreating his real-life actions and making them much, much worse. Clearly, they were echoes from the sarcophagus. The joint had gotten him to sleep. But it hadn’t stopped the nightmares.
He put his hands to his eyes and let out a few frustrated half-cries of anger. He’d have to go back to the dispensary and ask for something that would kill nightmares. Just knock his ass out. With an angry whipping aside of his blanket, he went in search of alcohol. Fuck the hangover.
. . .
He was stupid drunk, sitting against his headboard and a stack of pillows, cradling whiskey and coke number five, and singing to himself as his phone played music. He paused the playlist to switch to another when he heard the distinct sound of a key in the lock of his front door. He groaned and debated hiding under the covers or locking himself in the bathroom. That last made him start to giggle, but it transformed into a grimace of anger instead.
“Go away, Jack!” he yelled. Muttering to himself, he added, “I’m busy feeling sorry for myself.”
“Not anymore,” Jack said softly, stopping in the doorway of the bedroom. “I’m here to help you through the nightmares.”
Daniel scowled at him. Jack was a black silhouette amidst a grey background. “How do you know I’m having nightmares?”
“Because withdrawal does that, even after you’ve kicked the DTs.” He paused. “Dammit. You’re not supposed to be drinking.”
“I can’t sleep without nightmares. I need to get some fucking sleep!” He yelled the last bit. “Alcohol should do it. Hopefully. I’ve never gotten blackout drunk, but I’m trying.”
“You’re a lightweight. You’ll puke first,” Jack said. He’d brought pills with him. Anti-psychotic meds that would knock Daniel out. But he couldn’t take them now that he was drunk. “Shit.”
“Exactly,” Daniel said, slurring the word so it sounded like he said ‘eggs.’ “Wait, what?”
“I have meds,” Jack said, sitting down next to him. He saw the phone and picked it out Daniel’s hand. “What’re you listening to?”
“Nothing,” Daniel said, ripping it out of Jack’s hand and tossing it across the bed. It slid onto the floor. “Shit.” He wobbled forward to crawl after it but Jack grabbed hold, taking the glass in one hand and Daniel’s arm in the other.
“You’ll slide off the bed, hurt something, then probably puke on the floor.” Jack set the glass on the nightstand.
“So? Let go.”
“Goddammit, go sleep in your own bed. Why are you in mine? We’re not fucking, now or in the near future distant. Or something. My drives’re so dead, they’re haunting me.”
Jack started to laugh but arrested it. “C’mere.” He leaned against the pillows and pulled Daniel’s back against him.
“Why’re you here?”
“I don’see how.”
“One, pills. But your drunk so that’s out.”
“Shit. I don’t want chemicals.”
“You’re drinking them, dummy.”
“Two, I can share some stuff. Maybe it’ll help.”
“I doubt it. But I’ll prob’ly forget it and you’ll be safe.”
“Stop being an asshole.”
“Make … no, never mind.”
Jack took a deep breath. “You remember what happened in the storage room?”
“Vaguely,” Daniel lied and began to blush with shame and humiliation. It came back to him in technicolor. He sat forward then turned to look at him. “That’s it. You said you know what this is. Was. Is. Whatever.”
Jack nodded. “Iraqi prison. Was hooked on heroin.” Daniel’s mouth dropped open. “Technically, it was opium. Same difference. The trade is a big deal over there.”
“Yeah. Escaped, but it was in my system. Had withdrawal in the desert.” Memories twisted Jack’s gut. His swallow was audible, breaking the silence of the bedroom. “Found some people. Good people. They helped, but it was hard.”
More silence for a while. Daniel couldn’t bring himself to interrupt.
“I’m not gonna rehash what happened in prison. But I wanted you to know about the addiction part so you’ll know I understand.” He sniffed. “You need a shower.”
“I’m sorry, Jack—”
“No,” Jack said gently. “We’ve already gone through that part. I know you didn’t mean to do any of it. Period.” He squeezed Daniel against him. “I know.”
“I know. Why I’m here.”
The silence was starting to feel awkward to Daniel. “So tell me what happened after you got dry.”
Jack did. It involved Sara, baby Charlie, and Kowalsky. Jack was beginning to go into how truly amazing Charlie was when he was two years old when he felt a soft snore against his chest. He held Daniel close and dozed, and eventually fell asleep. He’d be there for the alcohol-fueled nightmare and the sober ones after that. And eventually, he knew that Daniel would heal. The guilt, however, would never let him forgive himself. Jack knew about that, too.