Small Victories, Big Understanding

"...This...big", The Colonel looks around and, finding himself back at ground control, drops his
hands.

Sam rebuffed his look of discontent at being cut off mid-stream. He'd done it to her PLENTY of
times and, despite their taste in food the likes of which have never before been found outside a fast
food restaurant, the Asgard rocked as far as Sam was concerned, their disinterest in fishing was
just an added bonus.

The room they'd beamed into was full of personnel, all of whom were currently looking their way.
Some, no doubt, wondering what had happened, a couple probably contemplating where she'd
come from, but most quite obviously thinking, 'what the fuck?'

Sam opened her mouth to explain their sudden appearance, but before she got a chance to say
anything a very excited someone broke the silent confusion. Daniel was running toward them and
made a sudden uncontrolled stop just short of Colonel O'Neill.

Out of breath from the exertion, he asked, "What happened?"

The Colonel was the first to respond, after all three had looked over the shabby state of him. No
one had failed to notice the way Daniel was standing, leaning to the side slightly, attempting to hide
the fact his little run had aggravated his side with the stitches.

"Thor."

"Thor?" Daniel's raised eyebrows and wide eyes indicated he was aware of THAT much and was
looking for more detail.

"Yep." Jack matched Daniel, look for look.

Daniel looked fit to burst; every breath he took came in shorter and sharper than the last. That's
when Sam stepped up, worried he'd forget to breath altogether if they left him hanging any longer.
"We managed to destroy the Replicators before they reached the Asgard home world and made it
back just in time." She explained to both Daniel, and Janet, who had walked over as soon as she
saw Daniel running. Apparently he wasn't supposed to be doing that yet, Sam stood by and
listened while Janet read him the riot act. Daniel studiously managed to ignore her.

"Well... that's good." Daniel said.

"Good, yes." The Colonel appeared completely disinterested. "I might actually get to go fishing
now." He groused much more animatedly.

Everyone stared at him, it wasn't the fact that this was probably THE most inappropriate time to talk
about fishing, but no one could believe he was still harping on about it. Before he could continue
Major Davis approach them, standing on Daniel's left he said, "Colonel O'Neill?"

"We're fine Major." Jack reported succinctly.

Sam studied the underlying frown. She didn't know how long he and Teal'c had been under attack
on the sub, but she could see the Colonel was not going to offer anything further. He hadn't spoken
of the last incident that had lead to their isolation, despite having nine days to contemplate while the
gate was made operational again, so she really didn't expect anything different now.

Major Davis appeared to have caught the same signals she had, and sharply turned toward her.
"Major Carter?"

Sam smiled at the Colonel, the folly of being 2IC, and left with Major Davis to fill him in on what
brought her here to rescue the Colonel and Teal'c just in the nick of time.

Daniel watched Sam leave with blurred vision, carefully lifting his hand he felt the cool metal
frames resting exactly where he thought they should be on his nose. Right. So, exhaustion
maybe? Daniel continued to contemplate that thought until he saw Janet was watching him, then
swiftly pulled his hand away and refocused on the room at large.

"Well if no one is injured..." Janet's eye raked Daniel's person, before she left the group with an
obvious promise to Daniel she'd be watching him closely.

"Well, General Hammond will want a report." Jack said.

Daniel wanted to say something, anything frankly, but it seemed whatever was affecting his eyes
was obviously effecting his vocal cords too because although Daniel knew his lips were moving he
didn't hear anything come out. So he dazedly stood by and watched Jack land a camaraderie pat
to Teal'c's shoulder, before departing stoically towards the communication area where Sam and
Major Davis had gone. That left Teal'c with Daniel.

Daniel was now sure he was missing something. First he'd stood by as Sam left with out a word
and now Jack. Daniel didn't take his eyes off Jack until he disappeared behind the crowd of
technicians hovering around the computer equipment and got absorbed into a coloured blob.

Daniel then turned back to Teal'c.

Teal'c bowed his head, silent as always, he gripped Daniel's upper arm tight before leaving in the
opposite direction to Jack.

That left Daniel.

Still out of breath, not from exertion, but from the sheer fear of what very nearly happened. Daniel
remained, unable to move from the spot in which he stood in case any movement on his part
caused the picture before him to smash like a glass mirror and for reality to come crashing down
on top of him. His body shook and Daniel thought it might not ever stop.

*

Jack didn't smile when he spoke with General Hammond, he reported that all was well, the
Replicator threat had been eliminated and added that he intended to go fishing the minute the
briefing was over and done with. Placing the phone back on its receiver Jack pushed back and sat
perched on the table edge. Time to go, he thought. If Major Davis was at his normal efficiency
there would be a plane waiting to transport them back to the mountain in less than 20 minutes.

Jack breathed. It felt like it was the first time he'd done nothing but that in a very long time. Nine
days. It didn't sound like such a long time, now it was over, but being out there, with seemingly no
end in sight, it felt like they would be gate hopping for a life time. Looking around the dockside
command centre he could see Teal'c with Doc Fraiser, and Carter stood behind her, both
examining Teal'c's injured shoulder.

"Colonel, you are good to go, there's a 737 waiting for you at MacArthur." Davis smiled and
handed Jack his papers.

"Thank you Major." Jack responded in kind. He wasn't a moody bastard on the outside, unlike
someone he knew that couldn't keep anything hidden, Jack by his nature new how to fake
pleasantries and put up a front.

He strolled past Carter, Teal'c and Fraiser, flashing them the folder and saying, "ten minutes and
we outta here." All three understood what that meant and set about packing up loose ends.

Jack moved around... and around, yet he didn't come across Daniel. He didn't know where the
hell the little shit could have gotten to. It wasn't as if the plane would leave without them, but they
would have to wait for another flight window and that only served to delay Jack from his fishing trip.
Jack past around the back end of the enclosure again, looking in every nock and cranny available
just in case Daniel had found a comfy spot and fallen asleep or something ridiculous. Kid had no
business being out here in the first place, Jack chastised himself for even letting him come, didn't
need him here, not really. He stopped dead in his tracks and sighed. That was unfair. It was when
Jack looked up from his contemplation of the floor that he caught sight of a small corridor leading
off to the left. He followed the route like a trail of breadcrumbs and in the end found that he was
looking up one small flight of metal steps.

It was pretty clear from where he stood, looking through the half glass door that enabled entrance
into the small, dark and quite obviously long abandoned office, that Daniel was crying - not all out
sobbing - but a small amount of tears were running down his cheeks.

Why he was crying shouldn't have needed to be asked. Jack should have known. Had known, just
at the time hadn't wanted to care. He'd held in his mind that Daniel not being trapped along with
them on board Thor's Replicator infested ship was a good thing, he was safe. At least if their plan
hadn't worked with the stealing gates malarkey then Jack would have had that knowledge, and
Carter and Teal'c had been with him in that so logically Daniel should have seen it the same way. It
was them that had had it hard, he, Carter and Teal'c had the right to be grumpy or touchy, but
Daniel didn't, he was safe the whole time. So why the hell was he standing out here watching the
man fall part...?

Jack busted the door open in anger. He wanted to order Daniel to grow the hell up, remind him that
shit happens sometimes to people you care about. Live with it. But then Jack realised he couldn't
keep it up. The anger that is, the madness inside him was something he had no rein on. Daniel
was living with it already, every day of his life since 1974. A harsh lesson for a small boy to learn -
and today the past very nearly repeated itself.

"Daniel" Jack said flatly.

Daniel had been startled by Jack bursting through the door and was quickly wiping away his
meagre tears on his shirtsleeve. "Hey" he replied eventually.

Jack walked into the small beige room - proud owner of one coffee pot - and closed the door shut
behind him. "Been looking for you." Jack stood next to him and realised there was nowhere to
actually sit. Daniel sat amongst several stacks of folders, that had until recently been leaning neatly
next to the wall.

"Sorry, you need me for something?" Daniel quickly put his glasses back on and started to stand.

"No, no, just...looking for you." Jack said pushing Daniel back down at the same time as he
crouched down beside him. Conscious of the time, he still couldn't bring himself to ignore this, not
for his fishing pleasure at any rate.

"Why?" Daniel asked confused, Jack frowned and raised his eyebrows. "Oh...Well... I... I'm fine.
Really-"

"Hey," Jack said. "Knock it off. Even I can see you're shaking." Jack made his point by grabbing
one of Daniel's jittery hands and holding it high for them both to see.

Daniel looked earnest for all of a few seconds, Jack couldn't tell what he was trying to accomplish
but he watched Daniel blink a few times and then settle... or so he thought.

"I thought you were going to die." Daniel blurted out with downcast eyes; he immediately slapped
both hands over his eyes and slid them up over to clasp the back of his head.

Jack watched this display with growing concern. There weren't many options open to him, with a
plane to catch and his own baggage, Jack forgot about keeping a straight professional edge and
chose to be honest.

"I know. Me too"

Jack touched the top of his head lightly and Daniel fell against him so hard he feared he may tip
them both over, but Jack was strong and held him tight. He'd watched them die before and for a
few minutes he thought it was going to happen all over again. It wasn't fair and it wasn't right.

"Are we leaving yet?"

"You ready?"

"Oh, hell yeah" Daniel didn't mean to push him away, but getting up was inevitable. "Jack I'm
sorry, I think..."

"I know you do, way to much, but you have the whole plane ride home so let's skedaddle while we
can." Jack yanked on his sleeve, pulling Daniel out the door.

Daniel trailed after Jack and remained quite. His vision was the same and the shaking wasn't
improving much either, despite the quick hug Jack had dished out as some sort of peace offering.
Daniel tried to keep his focus on one thing and as they walked down and out the narrow corridor
into the main enclosure Daniel settled on keeping track of Jack's feet. They were joined by a
second pair, women's shoes very small, had to be Janet's.

"Everything okay?" Janet enquired, Daniel didn't answer Jack did.

"Everything's peachy, you guys ready? Good - let's go!"

*

General Hammond sat behind his desk, waiting. He'd just received word that SG1 had landed and
would be on route for the officially debriefing. George didn't know what to do with himself, he
pulled out a report and opened it to the first page, everything was out of order and he was seriously
behind on his work. The last fourteen days had been the worst the SGC had experienced in a long
while. Gate's going missing, teams MIA, archaeologists causing trouble in more ways than one.
He had to laugh at that one. He remembered sitting like this in his office just a day after the gate
had disappeared.

Everything required to be done was being done. Sergeant Siler was working at fast as he could so
George could do nothing more except leave them to it and hope for the best. He tired to read the
report from SG-11; George read the first paragraph again, and again, but the report still didn't make
sense. So instead he had decided enough was enough, packed the file away and left to stretch his
legs.

"Son, you should be in the infirmary." George admonished upon walking in the briefing room to find
Daniel leaning, nose practically touching the glass peering down to where the Stargate should have
stood.

Daniel didn't turn. Even George couldn't penetrate the barrier of concentration he was exerting in
just trying to focus. The reality that his friends might not be coming back was one Daniel seemed
to be unwilling to face.

"The beta gate will be arriving shortly, we'll know for sure soon enough."

Daniel didn't show any sign that he'd heard.

George had just walked over to join him when Walter the 'gate technician appeared at the top of the
stairs. "General, Sergeant Siler is ready to test the generators."

"Thank you, Sergeant." George said kindly, dismissing him.

Turning his attention to Daniel once more George felt like he should do something. It wasn't healthy
to be stood watching nothing day after day. He'd allowed Daniel to hang around during the incident,
but it was going to take days before the replacement 'gate could be made operational and as much
as he wanted to appease George couldn't let Daniel get in the way of any progress. Unfortunately
he also couldn't think of anywhere else for the young man to be. Years ago, when the shoe was on
the other foot, George had told Jack that they were probably the closest thing to family Daniel had.
So when Major Davis announced that SG-1 were most likely casualties in front of Daniel George
shot him down with his most killing look, even the Major's effort to quickly retract that statement
didn't cut it. In George's view it was tantamount to denouncing Santa's existence to his
granddaughters.

A hand carefully placed on Daniel's shoulder was enough to pry him away from the glass, but not
enough to tear him from the room completely. Luckily George had had other ideas. Jack was
usually the one to take care of any problems, and with him gone someone had to pick up the slack.
He wasn't getting very far with his own work anyway. George graciously guided Daniel by the arm,
walking him into his office and pushed his pliant form into the chair without one word uttered.

George moved around the desk and sat down opposite him.

"You know Jack has a hard job around here." Daniel didn't react, so George continued. "His team
mean the world to him, playing the Father is never easy. I much prefer being the grandparent; they
get all the good stuff without any of the tantrums and hardships that come with parenting."

Daniel was still sat with his head down, focus on his hands, seeming to struggle with keeping
everything from over taking him completely. Obviously not taking any notice of what the General
was trying to tell him.

"I'm a grandfather, my granddaughters mean the world to me and I'd do anything to keep them
safe."

"I like your morals, Sir." Daniel spoke unexpectedly. "Nick never did really embrace the role. I
was more of a hindrance, until I was old enough to understand the work he did. Even then I think
he did little more than tolerate me."

George listened to the whisper soft voice and wondered if Daniel realised he was actually talking
aloud. This sounded much more like something Daniel would only say to himself. That way no one
could tell him how very wrong he was. Even despite knowing the history Daniel had with his own
Grandfather, he could see Ballard had some affection for Daniel.

That wasn't so important now though, Ballard had left, Jack was missing and he was the only
person Daniel had right now. "Son, everyone here cares about you. I know Jack would want you
to be safe."

"You're trying to tell me that no matter what happens, Jack wasn't disappointed I wasn't with him."

George smiled, Daniel was a smart boy and even in his half docile state he understood what the
people around him where trying to tell him.

Daniel looked up for the first time and faced the General. His eyes widening and looking around as
if he'd only just realised where he was. He covertly pulled his shirtsleeve over his hand and
brushed his eyes with the back of it to wipe away any trace of a reaction.

George smiled again, only this time sadly and handed Daniel some of the chocolates that he kept in
his bottom draw, for emergencies just like this.

That had been only ten days ago, and now George had a whole host of new problems to deal with.
The report lay in front of him, opened to page one, just as he was about to consider getting stuck in
before SG-1 showed up for the de-briefing someone knocked at his door.

"Come in." His said tiredly.

Jack poked his head around first then strolled on in. "General" he greeted with a smile. Walking
further in to take a seat Jack noticed the trash can by his desk. "Sir, it looks like you've had Daniel
camping in your office." Jack commented jokingly examining all the candy wrappers stashed
covertly in the bin, the general must have grown a sudden sweet tooth.

Jack looked back over the desk and saw that the General was not laughing.

George eyed him carefully.

"This is because you've had Daniel camped in your office isn't it?" Jack stated succinctly.

"It was the best place for him, considering no one could get him to so much as leave the control
room while the Stargate was being put in place."

"Oy." Jack processed that while slipping down into the vacant seat.

After a few minutes contemplative silence on Jack's part the General finally spoke up. "Did you
want something Jack?"

Not missing his queue Jack spoke up. "My leave Sir, I'd like to have another go at actually leaving
this time."

"Granted Colonel, take the time you need. You've certainly earned it."

"Why thank you sir." Jack got up, but was hesitant to leave. He turned back to the General.
"About Daniel..."

"He's all yours Jack." George spoke before Jack could say anymore.

Jack sighed, and then nodded. "Right. Thank you Sir."

Smiling politely Jack left the office quietly. Once outside he leaned his forehead against the back
of the door as he shut it close. It had been a hard couple of weeks, but thankfully all over and done
with now. Just the de-brief to get through and he could be off base within the hour. Blearily looking
around he pulled away from the door. Someone was stomping up the stairs coming to a sudden
halt.

"Daniel." Jack said his tone neutral not giving a hint of anything he and the General had just
discussed.

"Um, sorry, didn't realise anyone was still up here." Daniel fidgeted on the spot looking back over
his shoulder to judge that no one else was actually present.

Jack smiled wanly, taking great pleasure in the usual nervous gesture. The quiet time on the flight
back from MacArthur had enabled him to release some of that pent up anger and process the
events of the last two weeks. It had all begun with Daniel puking his guts up at Jack's house during
a BBQ. Carter had insisted that Daniel deserved some team time after Nick abandoned him for a
second time and Jack was never one to turn down an opportunity to char grill raw meat. However,
without having eaten or drunken anything more than half a beer Daniel was in the bathroom up
chucking everything his stomach had to offer. Luckily Janet Fraiser was already present at the
gathering and had immediately diagnosed Daniel with acute appendicitis. Days she said he must
have been feeling the symptoms and not a word. He could have killed him then if it wasn't for that
fact he was already suffering pretty badly. And that's how Jack's two weeks of hell had begun,
ending with his own near death experience aboard a Russian sub covered in Replicators, with
Daniel watching the whole thing on camera.

When Jack didn't speak Daniel got nervous. They'd not exactly reconnected since SG-1's return,
things seem a little stifled between them. Daniel felt excluded, like because he wasn't with them on
this world saving mission he couldn't understand and he wondered if this was how he treated them
after he went to the alternate reality and watched the world die around him.

"I - I'll come back." Daniel stammered, looking as uncomfortable as always when the unexpected
happened. Daniel didn't move so much as fidget on the spot again, and then upon looking up and
seeing Jack looking at him said, "Jack are you okay?"

"No, actually I'm not." Jack spoke confidently, in his deep commanding no nonsense voice.

"Oh." Daniel was momentarily taken back by not only the bluntness, but also the lack of a joke
'that he was fine, considering'. "Well if there's anything I can do, you know, if you want to, that is to
say if you'd, well maybe... basically talk, then I'm, I'll...listen."

It was said with Daniel's usual eloquence when it came to words without purpose and it made Jack
smile again. A very big smile. He was sad and he knew exactly what would make everything
better. Jack advanced on Daniel and grabbed him tight, forcing Daniel's head to rest on his
shoulder.

"Jack?"

Jack heard the hesitant questioning of his name, Daniel sounded a little self conscious, obviously
had never realised the hugs where not always for Just for his benefit. Jack needed the tactile
reassurance Daniel was in one piece just as much as Daniel needed the comfort half the time. On
this occasion it was all Jack. He needed this. Jack heard a disgruntled squeak of acceptance and
felt Daniel relax in his arms, the once ridged body melting into his like neglected putty.

Daniel held himself together for as long possible, chewing his bottom lip, flexing his fist, everything
to stop it, but the tremors built up slowly taking his body by storm. Jack needed this and apparently
so did he.

Jack felt the change in Daniel and instinctively knew his moment was over. By inadvertently
helping Daniel to relax he'd lowered his defences, and now the gates where open and all that built
up fear and anxiety snatched its chance to escape.

"I'm sorry." Daniel said.

Jack turned him around and sat him down in one of the empty briefing room chairs.

"Nothing doing. I'm sorry." Jack said.

Daniel eyed him suspiciously.

"We've been gone for nearly two weeks, without you knowing whether we were alive or dead." He
clarified. Daniel opened his mouth, but Jack beat him to it. "Ah! You've been scared! I know it,
you know it, and Carter, Teal'c, Hammond and Fraiser know it too." Jack paused, adding more
calmly, "And I'm sorry."

"You were glad I wasn't there?" Daniel asked haughtily.

"Yes." Jack agreed without a doubt in his mind. That appendicitis seemed traumatic at first, but
Jack decided fate had looked after Daniel just this once.

Daniel winced at the sharpness of tone. Jack wasn't kidding. He only had two tones, the joking
tone and the other one - the one that meant business, that was the tone being used now.

"I get in your way?" Daniel summarised, adding a little chuckle on the end so it didn't sound too
self-deprecating.

"No Daniel." Jack allowed a smile at that one, Daniel never understood. "I knew you were safe."

"I could have helped."

"I know."

"I should have been with you."

"I know that too. But I'm not going to regret that on this occasion you got left behind."

Daniel gazed into Jack's eyes trying to see the truth behind the words, it was there, well hidden, but
there. 'I love you and want you safe'. Daniel could live with that. He didn't have a problem with
anyone wanting to love and protect him.

"You really do, don't you?" Daniel asked out loud, he needed to know. He needed to know it
wasn't just him getting too overly attached to something that was once such a pipe dream.

"Do what?" Jack looked confused, but Daniel knew if he kept up the stare long enough he'd get
what he was asking.

Yes, Jack had insisted from the beginning they were teammates, and after that mission to destroy
Apophis he knew he had friends, but the kind of feelings he'd had while the rest were off saving the
Asgard/fighting the Replicators were in the 'I can't live without you' area of the spectrum. A feeling
he'd not had for anyone in his life if he was honest, although that might just be a cumulative thing.
He'd lost his parents, his wife, and his grandfather all before the age of thirty. One more loss was
not something he believed he could live through and come out in tact.

Jack studied Daniel carefully, his eyes had that concentrated glazed quality to them, and he had a
feeling just what it was Daniel was asking him. 'Do I care about you?' Of course he did, how could
Daniel think otherwise? Why did he need to ask? Is this the attitude Hammond had to put up with?
'Of course it was Jack'. He could imagine Hammond leaning back in his chair and folding his
hands across his chest right now. And then Jack put two and two together, he knew why Daniel
was asking, another loss and Daniel was done - with everything.

"You've been giving George hell while I've been gone."

Daniel leaned back a little, gaze dropped. "No."

Jack sat down in the chair next to him. "That's not what I hear. Even Major Generals aren't
imperious to your powers."

Daniel raised his eyebrows, was Jack kidding? One look told him Jack was deadly serious.

"I guess I may have made a pain of myself." Daniel turned away from him again, finding a focal
point somewhere near the window.

"Uh huh." Jack mirrored Daniel's action, looking out at the Stargate.

"A little. No big deal, I - I knew you were coming back, you know, it was just..."

"Just?"

"Just well...*cough* umm, I - I wanted to be...here. When you ...did."

"I did think of you, while we were trapped. I knew you'd be working your way into a frenzy. Kind of
took it out on Carter at one point." Jack admitted, this being the first time he'd said anything about
those nine days exile.

"Why?"

"Oh, well, not just her, Teal'c too. They said they hadn't told you where they were going because
we were supposed to be coming back and didn't want to worry you."

"Yeah, that's the story I got too."

"So you can imagine how well I took it upon hearing it on our first night on PY7 845."

"Oh."

"I apologised. Eventually. I just hated to think of you here all alone not really knowing what had
happened."

"You're right, I was scared." Daniel said it quickly before he thought too much. He needed to be
more honest with his friends. Especially since, as these last few weeks have proven to him, you
never know what might happen next.

Jack smiled, still looking dead ahead at the Stargate. "I know, and Daniel? Of course I do. Always
will."

Jack glanced to his right and saw Daniel immediately duck his head in embarrassment. Liking the
small smile he could see gracing Daniel's features he quickly ruffled Daniel's hair, letting go just in
time as Sam and Teal'c joined them for the official debriefing.

Fin.

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.