Notes: This is set after the events of Secrets. While I wrote this primarily as a friendship piece for Jack & Daniel, it does border on pre-ship. Caveat Lector!

Daniel downed half the beer Jack handed him, hoping for numbness or, better yet, unconsciousness. He stood next to the fireplace, his eyes tracing the patterns in the stone. He heard Jack pop open his own beer as he settled on the couch behind him. What the hell was he doing here anyway? They were changing in the locker room after the interminable briefing where every aspect of Sha're's child and his origin had been discussed, dissected, and discussed again. When he mentioned to Jack that he was heading home, there had been an impatient mutter, No, you're really not, and then he was in Jack's truck and then they were here.

The amount of that sequence that was a complete blur made Jack's unilateral decision seem pretty sound, when Daniel thought about it. But what he really wanted was to curl up in the dark and lick his wounds.

"You wanna talk?" Daniel shot a look over to where Jack was sprawled across half the couch. The calculated posture of relaxed indifference was belied by the eagle-eyed intensity with which he was watching Daniel.

"About what?" he asked, shooting for flippant and falling miserably short.

Jack didn't respond. Daniel laughed bitterly as he realized that this was the time Jack picked to be patient. He swallowed against the pain building in his chest; patient Jack was so much harder to ignore than jackass Jack. Despite his near-constant fiddling and fidgeting in everyday life, Daniel had seen him on missions, waiting, absolutely silent and still, for as long as was needed to achieve the objective. And tonight, Daniel was apparently the objective. He emptied another fourth of the bottle.

"She asked me to forgive her." He closed his eyes as if it could stop the images constantly replaying in his mind, shame and guilt written across her beautiful face, pleading with him for forgiveness for Amaunet's actions, for her own rape. Overwhelmed by anger and confusion, he had walked out on her. He balled his hands into fists until they ached. He had made her think he blamed her. It didn't matter that he went back to her, that he held her and whispered comforting words, she would always feel that seed of doubt.

He wrapped his arms tightly around himself and drew in a shuddering breath, wishing it was winter and the fire was burning. He was so cold. "She was begging," his voice broke, "and the most fucked up thing about it was that I never apologized to her. I should have been on my knees." The stress or the beer or the exhaustion finally hit, and all the tension fell from his muscles. He sank onto the cold hearthstones. "It's all my fault."

"Your fault?" Jack prompted quietly.

"I'm the one who unburied the gate. I'm the one who left her alone and went off with you..." he trailed off. "My fault."

Jack didn't respond immediately and Daniel looked up, surprised at the lack of protest. He was staring down at his beer bottle, thumb picking at the label. He drew in a deep breath, then looked up with a carefully blank face, the kind he wore his emotions were all churned up but he refused to let them get the better of him.

"I understand."

Two words, spoken with that quiet voice, that bland tone carefully hiding undertones of anguish from the rest of the world. But Daniel heard it all too clearly: My gun, My son, My fault. He nodded wearily. "Yeah, I guess you do."

There was something else there too, now. Something had happened in Washington that Jack wasn't talking about, although Daniel couldn't tell if it was for his benefit or Jack's, and he just couldn't bring himself to care right now. During their medical checks, he thought Sam had said something about a reporter before Jack had cut her off with a staggeringly inventive rant about the infirmary procedures. She hadn't brought it back up.

Daniel sat silently for a while, his brain jumping randomly through memories. Sha're teaching him about life on Abydos, naming the constellations in the brilliant night sky, so different from what he knew. Holding her baby in his hands, the baby he hadn't been able to give her, even as he realized that the goa'uld had retaken control of her body, failure heaped upon failure. The mindblowing kiss she had given him in front of everyone, pouring all her love into that one moment, as if she feared that the return of his own people heralded his departure. The moment he first knew she had been made a host. Jack, help me... please.

Everything was being stripped away from him, piece by piece. He wondered how much he could lose before he was just a shell. He groaned and dropped his head into his hands, folding in on himself, rocking back and forth. It was too much now and it was all bottled up and it couldn't come out, but it wouldn't stop.

He heard the couch springs shift and Jack's measured footsteps, the creak of his knees as he lowered himself to sit alongside him. Then he was being pulled into a warm, solid embrace, held tightly, and he was so warm, and it was safe, safe again, just for a little while. He buried his face in Jack's shoulder, rubbing his cheek against the soft cotton t-shirt like a child. His hands grabbed fistfuls of fabric, pulling tightly, not letting this go too, not now, not yet. There was an awful sound, a high keening wail, that he realized dimly was coming from him.

Daniel had lost all track of time when the sobs finally subsided. He straightened his aching fingers, reluctantly letting go of his hold on Jack, and slowly unfolded to lean back against the stone wall.

Jack said, "You're staying here tonight, by the way."

Through the sliver between curtain and window, Daniel could see the darkness outside. It was late, but...

"I can't sleep," he muttered.

"You need to sleep, Daniel. What's it going to take to make that happen?"

Daniel looked at him. Jack's offer was genuine, but what Daniel needed at minimum was to be held through the nightmares that were sure to come, to wake to someone comforting and warm. While they had shared close quarters on missions often enough, he worried that asking to share a bed here, in Jack's home, and for no clear purpose, would hit buttons that Jack would rather be left untouched.

Jack was still watching him, waiting patiently. Daniel realized that Jack hadn't let go when he sat back, and his hand was still resting warmly on the back of his neck, thumb moving rhythmically. He closed his eyes concentrating on the soothing touch.

"I don't want to sleep alone," Daniel finally said, forcing himself to meet Jack's eyes, wanting to judge the strength of the surprise or disgust or quiet resignation to an uncomfortable task. But Jack was too good at this game and Daniel was too tired. He caught a flare of something, something akin to sadness or pain, before Jack smoothed it all over with a genial smile.

He stood and offered a hand to help Daniel up. "Well, then it's a good thing I've got a big bed." Dazed and exhausted by the events of the day and the crying jag, Daniel followed him down the hall into the bedroom, where Jack started digging through a drawer. He threw a pair of sweats at him and nodded to the bathroom. "You go first; you'll find extra stuff in the cabinet in there. I'll change the sheets."

Daniel wished he wouldn't but couldn't find the energy to say anything. He trudged into the bathroom, changed, brushed his teeth with the new toothbrush sitting on the shelf, glad to be rid of the taste of beer, and used the facilities. When he walked back into the bedroom, Jack was just laying the blanket back on top of the newly made bed.

Daniel dropped his clothes in a pile in the corner and then slipped under the covers, wincing at the coolness of the new sheets. He turned on his side and curled into a tight ball and listened to the sounds of Jack moving around in the bathroom. When he pulled the blanket tight up against his face, he could smell him, familiar and comforting.

He was already dozing lightly when he felt Jack's weight settle onto the bed beside him. He felt Jack hesitate for a moment before scooting closer and reaching an arm across Daniel, gently tugging him back toward the middle of the bed. Daniel couldn't stop the contented murmur as his back came flush with Jack's chest. He covered Jack's arm with his own, wrapping himself snuggly in a warm cocoon, and slept.