Friends, Death, and Taxes
by GateGremlyn

Jack straightened his tie and sighed. He never liked being in his dress uniform because it usually meant some inane formality. Today he had even less desire to wear it.

“Are you ready?” he asked. Beside him Daniel stood staring at the mirror, unblinking. “Hey, I asked if you’re ready?”

“Sure,” Daniel said absently. “I’m ready.”

“Your tie’s crooked.” Jack took Daniel by the shoulders and turned him around to straightened the black silk tie. It stood out starkly against a gray shirt, both of which stood out against Daniel’s almost white face. When he was done with the tie, he let his hands rest on Daniel’s shoulders. “You going to be okay?”

Daniel stepped back on the pretense of adjusting his suit jacket. “Sure. Why not?”

“No reason,” Jack said to an already empty room.

~oOo~

The burial was quiet and brief, the SGC ceremony having taken place the day before. In accordance with Janet’s wishes, only General Hammond and Cassie watched as SG-1 lowered the coffin into the ground. General Hammond spoke a few words, Sam and Jack saluted, and Daniel held a sobbing girl in his arms. After the burial, they gathered at Sam’s place for dinner, where all of them laughed and smiled and remembered the woman they loved.

After, the two men made the drive to Jack’s place in silence.

As they stood again in front of the mirror, both suit and uniform hung in the closet, Jack asked, “Okay?”

“Can we skip this part,” Daniel replied, “where you ask if I’m okay and I lie and say yes? I’m not sure I can handle it tonight.”

“What if I want an honest answer?” Jack asked an again empty room. He sighed.

~oOo~

On his way to the rooftop, he grabbed a couple of beers out of the fridge.

Not having the knees to sit cross-legged on the deck like Daniel, he eased himself into the lawn chair by the telescope. He tapped Daniel on the shoulder with a bottle.

“Here.” Then he stretched his legs out and took a cold swallow of beer. “It’s all part of the deal, you know. A … what do you call it? A rite of passage?”

“I know what it is, Jack. I’ve been to funerals before.”

Jack didn’t answer. He watched Daniel tilt the bottle back to drain the last drops and didn’t say anything about how fast the beer had disappeared. The two of them
watched the moon rise and disappear behind a bank of clouds. The empty bottles sat beside the chair.

“I should be going,” Daniel said without moving.

“Stay.” Jack didn’t look down; he kept his eyes on the north star.

Daniel agreed without a fight. “Okay.”

Jack didn’t say anything as Daniel quietly gathered up the beer bottles and climbed down the ladder.

~oOo~

“I’m going to take a few days off; let these ribs heal,” he said as Daniel came into the kitchen the next morning. He didn’t say “doctor’s orders.”

He poured two mugs of fresh coffee and placed one in front of Daniel. “Are you blaming yourself?”

“Are you?” Daniel asked.

“No.”

“Good, then.” Daniel drained his first cup of coffee with as much alacrity as he had the beer the night before and poured himself another.

“Okay,” Jack said, which wasn’t an answer to anything. “You wanna go out to the cemetery today?”

“Too soon,” Daniel said. “Once the dirt’s settled.”

“Okay.” Jack was getting tired of that one little word spoken into emptiness.

~oOo~

The gravestone went up and the dirt settled. They helped Cassie pack up the house and moved her in with Sam. They divvied up possessions among friends and family, taking a few mementos for themselves. They went on.

The noise brought Jack on the run. “Daniel?” He entered the living room, seeing the shattered glass sparkle on the hearth. The smell of whiskey that wafted up from the shards. “You okay?” he asked Daniel who leaned against the mantle.

“You keep asking me that.”

Jack took the empty glass from Daniel’s lax fingers. “You keep avoiding the answer.”

“Yeah.”

“So you wanna tell me what happened here?”

“I wanted to toast Janet and I think the bottle slipped.”

“You think?

“Okay, no, it didn’t slip; I threw it.”

“At the fireplace?” Jack went to the cabinet and grabbed a glass for himself and another bottle of whiskey. “Why?”

“I have no idea,” Daniel said.

“You weren’t trying to throw the glass into the fireplace,” Jack asked as he poured them both another drink, “and got the glass and bottle mixed up?”

“No.”

“So let me ask again…. Are you okay?”

“Are you?”

Jack refrained from the childish “I asked you first” and told the truth: “I’ve been to funerals before, too.”

“So…” Daniel raised a fresh glass “… neither one of us is okay.”

“I think that’s a given,” Jack agreed and brought his glass up to meet Daniel’s. “What do we drink to?”

“‘To Janet’ seems pointless. ‘To lost friends’ seems cliché. ‘To a fucked up situation’ seems a little harsh—although it’s true. So?”

“How about ‘To friends, death, and taxes’ because that about covers it all?”

Daniel snorted, started to make a reply, thought better of it, and then nodded in agreement. He clinked his glass against Jack’s and they drank. “Taxes?”

“One of life’s inevitabilities,” Jack explained.

“Right,” Daniel said. “Like death.”

“And friends,” Jack insisted, “another inevitability. So I ask again…”

Daniel held out his glass for a refill. “Friends, death, and taxes,” he said. “The constants in life. I’m okay, Jack.”

“Good,” Jack said. “Me too. Now drink up and then go get the broom.”

 

The End

Author’s Note: The prompt for the challenge was “routines.”

 

 

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