The Torment of Tantalus
Jack eyed Daniel repeatedly as the young man stood on the back deck, clearly brooding. He shook his head as he finished making two of his version of Long Island Iced Tea—substituting tequila with Jack Daniel’s whiskey. One tall glass, on the rocks, was enough. He brought them outside and handed one to the thoughtful man.
Daniel stared at the contents of the highball glass and its amber color. “What’s this?”
“A stiff one,” Jack said with a grin.
Daniel sniffed it. “Long Island Iced Tea, huh? Trying to get me drunk? ‘Cause, you know, I’m a sure thing.”
“I have yet to see you drunk,” Jack said with a warning tone, “and I don’t intend to see it now. This is just one drink. Loosen you up. You’re tighter than a snare drum.”
“And you’re using clichés today. Is it my birthday?”
“Pretty sure it’s close to mine,” Jack said, meeting the tease with one of his own. He’d never told the man when his birthday was.
Daniel gave him a mischievous look over the rim of his glass as he sipped. “I know.”
Jack eyed him again. “How?”
“I asked Teal’c.” Jack grumbled unintelligently but Daniel caught, “… last time I share with him.” He grinned.
“Now,” Jack said, recovering. “What are you brooding about?”
Daniel sighed and sat on one of the two chairs. Jack joined him. “The torment of Tantalus.”
“The who now?”
“Tantalus. Tragic Greek figure. Son of Zeus and a nymph named Plouto. Had a son named Pelops.”
“Pelops?” Jack asked, his brow darkening. The Goa’uld who tinkered with people’s lives by way of an aging fixation.
“Cue the irony,” Daniel snorted. “Tantalus’ tale is one of the oldest versions of a ‘cautionary tale’.” He made air quotes. “He was invited to Mount Olympus to sit at Zeus’ table. He stole ambrosia and nectar and gave it to his people when he went home. Zeus got mad at him for violating Guest Right and—”
“The obligation of a guest to treat the host and his other guests with civility and respect.”
“So anyway, Zeus didn’t do anything about it, or at least, the stories don’t say. But Tantalus grew jealous of the Gods. He murdered Pelops—”
“What a guy.”
“—and chopped him up into a stew. He brought the stew to Zeus’ house when he went to dine with them again. But the gods could smell it and they got pissed. Cannibalism and filicide are two huge no-nos to the gods. But before they punished Tantalus, they brought Pelops back to life and gave him an honorary seat at their table. Then Tantalus was dragged to Tartarus and placed in a pool. Above him are low branches of a fruit tree he can never reach to eat and if he tries to drink from the pool, the water recedes. Hades plays hard ball.”
“Divine justice,” Jack smirked.
“The torment of Tantalus,” Daniel said, nodding. He sipped his drink, rubbing his lips against the burn.
“And why are you thinking of this tale?”
“That’s my nickname for Ernest’s planet, with the four alien races and the astounding amount of knowledge in that work of art on the ceiling. Can’t go there again. All that knowledge, out of reach.”
“Ahhh,” Jack said, giving Daniel a sympathetic half-smile that faded. “You wanted to stay there, despite knowing you’d be trapped, likely dead before long.”
Daniel grimaced. “I’m sorry, Jack.”
Jack gave him a guarded look. “For what?”
“Disappointing you. Scaring you. Pissing you off.” He paused. “Leaving you. Even though I didn’t, I … would have. I didn’t think. That stuff … I get … blinded.”
“Daniel’s heroin,” Jack said soberly. He didn’t want to admit to him that the last bit, about leaving him, had hurt.
Daniel let out a heavy sigh. “More or less.”
“So, now we know,” Jack said, quickly dismissing the pain. “And I’ll be on the lookout for it when we come across it again.”
“When?” Daniel asked.
Jack held out his glass. Daniel clinked it with his. “It’s only a matter of time, me lad.”
Daniel barked out a laugh, then eyed his drink suspiciously. He took a longer drink and made a face. “Taste is off.”
“Whiskey, not tequila.”
“Oh,” Daniel said, then abruptly giggled. He made another face and set the drink down. “I think that’s enough.
Jack gave him a stare. The glass was still two-thirds’ full. “You really are a cheap date.”
“Lightweight. Term is lightweight.”
“Six of one …” Jack said.
“And now I’m hot,” Daniel said. “C’mon.” He got up, swayed just a tad. “Let’s go have hot monkey sex.” He started taking off his shirt as he headed back inside. “Take my mind off Tantalus.”
“Heliopolis,” Jack called after him.
“Six of one …” Daniel called back.
Jack eyed their drinks and made a note to himself that Daniel would never have a Long Island Iced Tea in the presence of other people. Way. Too. Dangerous. He then sauntered inside with a mission to complete. He might even tell Daniel how he truly felt. Just not today.