Content Warning: None.
Season: some time in season 7
Summary: No matter how many times he had to face it, for Jack O'Neill this particular anniversary never got any easier. For Daniel it was about accepting that sometimes just being there really is enough.
Acknowledgements: drdanieljacksonsgc who writes Daniel in our RPG. We talked about how Jack might handle certain difficult anniversaries which probably sparked the idea for this little story, so thanks DJ!
Disclaimer: The Stargate characters, storylines, etc aren't mine. I am unfortunately not associated in any way with the creators, owners, or producers of Stargate or any of its media franchises. All publicly recognizable characters, settings, equipment, etc are the property of whoever owns them. Any original characters and plot and anything else I made up are the property of me, the author. No copyright infringement is intended.
Copyright (c) 2010 ShaViva
This is just a little something I wrote a while back in response to a word challenge on my RPG group site ... I thought I'd share it here. I'll tell you what the challenge was at the end.
"The risk of love is loss, and the price of loss is grief -
but the pain of grief is only a shadow when compared with the pain of never risking love."
Hilary Stanton Zunin
Colonel Jack O'Neill looked at his empty bottle with something akin to surprise. Sure, he'd been drinking the contents pretty steadily but for some reason its state of emptiness had crept up on him unexpectedly. Still, there were plenty more where the last one had come from.
Squinting at his coffee table where he'd placed the previous eight bottles he'd consumed Jack laughed but it wasn't a happy sound. Instead it was bitter with an edge ... not anger or grief or pain - no, the edge was literal ... the cusp of a dark well that once crossed he'd never emerge from. The well he'd looked into full force the day he'd held a gun to his own head. He'd hovered that day ... and wasn't sure even years later that he wouldn't have fallen but for the timely interruption.
He'd laughed because subconsciously he'd arranged the empty bottles into a pyramid ... four in the first layer, three on top in the second and one at the very top to complete the shape. Not that he didn't like pyramids ... but today of all days they reminded him of things he'd rather not think about - loss, suicide missions, glowy eyed aliens with god complexes, and big ass bombs.
Looking askance at the empty bottle in his hand Jack leaned forward and carefully placed it on the top ... like the star on top of a Christmas tree. Not that he cared for Christmas any more than he did pyramids.
Hand already on the next bottle of his second six pack, the knock at his front door came as an unwelcome although not unexpected interruption ... because Jack knew exactly who it would be and that his chances of avoidance were slim to none.
"Door's open!" he yelled, staying exactly where he was.
O'Neill looked up to see that he'd been right. "Daniel," he returned as blandly as the original greeting.
"What're you doing?" Daniel asked with his usual tone of academic interest. Jack saw through him though - Daniel knew exactly what he was doing - that was the reason he was there.
"Nothing much," Jack replied casually, leaning back with his feet on the coffee table and squinting up at his friend. "You?"
"Oh, you know, just passing by, saw your truck in the driveway," Daniel stepped over Jack's legs and made himself at home on the other couch.
Nodding, Jack said nothing, twisting the top off his new beer and flicking it across the room to land by the other nine. "Beer?" he finally offered after taking a generous swallow.
"I think you're ... euphoric enough for the both of us," Daniel returned, eyeing the evidence of how Jack had spent his evening so far. Obviously the other man had started earlier than usual ... he usually got there before the first six pack had been polished off. "Do you want to talk about this?" he offered lightly.
"No," Jack's voice was both stark and repressive, the keep out signs gathered like a forest surrounding him.
"You know that drinking isn't the key, right?" Daniel persisted, deliberately blind to the warnings.
"Dude, there is no key," Jack said with a sarcastic smirk firmly in place. "There's just beer and ...," he made a play of thinking for a moment before shaking his head. "No, that's it, just beer."
"You could actually deal with things," Daniel suggested pointedly. "Allow yourself to feel something ... even shed a few tears. Did you ever do that Jack?"
"Once ... pepper grenade, close quarters," Jack smirked again. "Nasty."
"Right," Daniel sighed, looking closely at his friend. It was all there, behind the eyes. You just had to know where to look to see the man who contrary to popular opinion felt too much rather than not enough. It was there, buried under the weight of other disappointments, other losses. Before he let it rest for another year, there was one last thing Daniel had to do.
"Give me that beer," he held out a hand, waiting for Jack to comply. When he did, Daniel mirrored the Colonel's actions, popping the top and tossing it to join Jack's collection. Holding the bottle aloft he waited until Jack met his eyes and then spoke. "To Charlie." His voice was determined, respectful, and full of care for what he knew his friend was going through. "Happy birthday."
"To Charlie," Jack made himself smile, tapping his bottle to Daniel's and then draining the remainder in one go. There were memories there, a lot closer to the surface than Daniel might have expected ... Charlie opening a gift, that wide smile of delight, eyes sparkling, the baseball glove held aloft triumphantly.
Possibilities ... ambition ... the future that could have been and the one that was.
A two edged sword ... the joy of having something as wonderful as Charlie had been and the pain of loss no parent ever got over.
He wouldn't give back Charlie's time for anything ... despite being an unknown distance along the road that represented his future without his son. Grief was a small price to pay for the memories he held close. Grief mixed with the guilt of events you could never forgive yourself for.
Jack had drunk nowhere near enough yet to dull that edge. "So, how about those Black Hawks?" he said, deliberately changing the subject as he reached for another beer.
Daniel played along as he did every year, sticking around until Jack was drunk enough to switch off his brain, again as he did every year.
It was the mark of true friendship - knowing when to speak and when to keep silent, when to push and when to let the matter ride even though you knew it wasn't really in the other person's best interests. He'd been marking Charlie O'Neill's birthday with Jack the same way for seven years and he expected to be doing it for a good many years to come.
It was in his nature to want to do more, to actively help Jack find peace in a way he hadn't so far achieved, but Daniel was a realist too. He knew that sometimes you had to be content with just being there.
And so he was.
It wasn't what Jack wanted but it was what he needed ... and in the end that was all that mattered.
Challenge acknowledgement to Penelope Adams. Theme - Drunk ... on booze, love, or even your own power, it's completely up to you, but drunk is the context. Words to be used: Dude; Key; Pepper; Star; Pyramid; Euphoria