"Daniel, get out of those wet clothes," Jack ordered, reaching for the plaid blanket that was draped over the back of the sofa. "The general will kill me if I let you die of pneumonia your first day back on Earth."
Slipping off his fogged up glasses and placing them on the coffee table, Daniel replied, "I doubt your general would even notice I was gone." Hammond was quite obviously less than impressed with the civilian geek, but Daniel didn't care what the officer thought of him, so long as he let him stay on Jack's team.
Jack sighed. He didn't bother arguing with Daniel, although he looked like he wanted to.
Poor Jack. When he'd dragged Daniel home from the base, he must have thought they could get drunk, talk about how badly their lives sucked, maybe get caught up on the year they'd been living on different worlds. But Daniel hadn't been ready for that. He'd managed one beer before he'd leapt up and begun pacing.
Maybe Jack understood and knew exactly what Daniel was going through. Maybe Jack was familiar with the frustration that came with the inability to change things, sending your feet racing, and the sense of helplessness and failure that accompanied the underlying fear.
All Daniel knew for sure was that when he'd said he had to get the hell out of there, Jack had lent him a jacket and gone with him. Walking, they'd made it almost all the way around the small lake near Jack's house before the heavens had opened and deposited what felt like fifty gallons of water on their heads.
Now Daniel was chilled to the bone. Jack watched him strip off his soaking wet clothes, conscientiously folding them and placing them on the hearth.
When he was down to his boxers, he wrapped the tartan blanket around his shoulders and squatted down on the rug to stare into the fire. His shoulders sagged as if the weight of the world were resting on them.
Jack peeled his own wet chinos and shirt off and tossed them onto the pile. Clad only in clingy blue jersey boxers, he grabbed a bottle of malt and two glasses from the liquor cabinet and flopped down on the rug beside his friend.
At first, Daniel ignored the glass of smoky amber liquid that Jack set down in front of him, but it'd been a shit of a day, and right then, the oblivion that alcohol could bring was strangely appealing. From the depths of his woollen cocoon, his hand emerged, wrapping itself around the crystal tumbler.
He swallowed a mouthful of the strong liquor. "I'm not going to see her ever again, am I?" Daniel's voice sounded flat with resignation even to his own ears.
Jack took a sip of the whiskey, letting the liquid burn a trail down his throat. "Sure you will, Daniel. I promised, didn't I?" At the time, the words had been a platitude, a desperate attempt to help his friend make it through the day, but as soon as he'd made the promise, Jack had vowed to himself that he would do his best to honor it.
"I loved her you know!" Blue eyes sparkling with reflected firelight met Jack's gaze. They were open and honest, wide with hurt and loss.
He didn't need Daniel to tell him that. Jack felt his heart contract. He's seen for himself how much his friend loved Sha'uri. That intense kiss in the gate room on Abydos had been evidence enough.
"I know, Daniel. We'll get her back." He didn't know what else to say, or how to make any of it better.
Daniel reached out and placed his whiskey glass carefully on the hearth and then got to his feet, the fluffy blanket slipping from his shoulders. He stood looking down at his friend. "What if we do, Jack? Say we do get her back. What then? Her body is being used by an alien parasite. She's being forced to do things... say things...she's being.... Oh, God!"
In his misery, Daniel's legs gave way, and he sank to his knees, bringing his hands up to cover his eyes. Jack knelt in front of him, picked up the blanket and wrapped it around Daniel's shoulders. Then he reached for his friend, drawing him into a tight embrace.
Daniel buried his face in Jack's neck and let the tears come. The last year of his life flashed before his eyes. He'd never regretted his decision to stay on Abydos with Sha'uri. The cartouche room had been like a dream come true to a man like Daniel. He'd found not only a loving companion, but also his 'Holy Grail'.
And even though he would never have chosen to take a wife, his days and nights with Sha'uri had been some of the happiest of his life. It hadn't been so hard a choice to make. And when he thought about it, what other choice could he have made? There'd been nothing for him to go back to Earth for.
Jack had been going home to give his marriage another try. The incredible, glorious burst of passion that had flared between them so briefly had been pushed aside, wrapped in denial and apparently forgotten.
Jack was a soldier. It could never have worked. Yet Daniel had thought about Jack one hell of a lot over that next year. If only Jack were not military, if only both of them were free, if only...Ah, as the old saying goes, if wishes were horses, beggars would ride.
He and Jack had had one night together, in the desert under a huge silver moon. There had been more at work than simple lust that night. Something deeper and far more enduring had passed between them. Daniel was sure of that.
At least it had been that way for him. He really didn't know Jack well enough to tell if he felt the same. If only he'd given Daniel another option, but of course that was impossible. It would never have worked. Daniel had decided to stay, and Jack had looked happy for him. End of story. Or so he'd thought at the time.
Sha'uri had guessed. She'd understood on some deep level that her new husband did not love her exclusively. She would sometimes ask him if he thought of Colonel O'Neill when he lay staring up at the stars each night. He'd never seen any reason to deny it, and she'd said she understood.
Uncomplicated, free, uninhibited Sha'uri. Beautiful, intelligent and unerringly wise. His wife. Gone. His fault. All his fault.
He'd made a promise to keep the gate on Abydos buried, but his own burning desire to see Jack again had overridden his common sense. He'd opened the gate, and allowed the evil back through. His wife, her brother, so many of his people, sacrificed so that he could look into those sparkling brown eyes one more time.
As Daniel felt the guilt of it crushing him, he wrapped his arms around Jack, feeling gentle fingers combing through his hair, and Jack's lips whispering words of comfort against his ear. Daniel pressed closer, needing the contact, needing to feel alive again. His body, numb with shock since the moment Sha'uri had been taken, suddenly surged to life, and he could feel every inch of Jack pressing against him.
Jack was still a soldier.
Daniel was sure it could never work. But at that moment, wrapped in firelight and each other arms, Daniel found himself wishing fervently for more than friendship.
Jack pulled back and looked down into his flushed face. "Daniel, we'll find her, I promise."
He nodded, reality once again asserting itself. He wasn't free to feel this way, and Jack? Well, Jack was a soldier, and it could never work.