“Comfort Food”
by marzipan77
GEN
Rated K+
Tag for Moebius Pt 2, end of season eight.
It feels like the end.

 

Sam and Daniel looked up from their game of chess when the cabin door squeaked open to let in the late Minnesota afternoon.

“Any bites, Jack?”  Daniel let his gaze linger a moment on the pail swinging from his friend’s hand, obviously empty.

“I keep telling you people, it’s not about the fish, per se, it’s about the act of fishing, the gestalt if you will,” Jack’s hands made wide expressive gestures, pail and all, while behind him Teal’c quirked one eyebrow and scratched at a raised red bump on the side of his neck.

Sam snorted and met Daniel’s eyes with a smile.  “Hard to cook gestalt, sir,” she pointed out.

“It’s not very filling, either,” Daniel nodded, attention returning to the game board in front of him, missing Teal’c’s decidedly dirty look.

“Indeed.”

Returning the Jaffa’s glare, Sam smiled sweetly.  She and Daniel had retired to the comfort of Jack’s Minnesota retreat sometime after lunch, having had their fill of lazing under the clear sky and the general’s moody insistence on silence when they’d tried to relieve the boredom with chatter.  Whether or not the point of fishing was actually catching something to eat for dinner, apparently any talk that did not include the discussion of sports scores or the merits of Mary Steenburgen as an actress disturbed the Zen of an afternoon spent in a canvas chair with a rod propped between your knees.  It wasn’t their fault Teal’c chose to stay outside for the duration.

Jack carefully tucked the fishing equipment into a closet next to the door and stomped into the kitchen, muttering something about ingratitude and dues that had yet to be paid, but stopping to sniff appreciatively at the fresh, sweet scent in the air.  He followed his nose to the two insulated carafes next to the stove and quickly unscrewed the top of the closest one.

“Mmmmm.  Hot chocolate, Daniel?”  He poured himself a mug and held the container out to Teal’c in an obvious invitation.  At the slight bow he received in return he turned and poured out a second, adding a few marshmallows to each from a nearby bowl before screwing the lid down firmly to keep the few steaming drops hot.

Daniel took a sip from his own mug, closing his eyes for a moment to appreciate the rich flavor.  He shrugged.  “It just seemed appropriate,” he answered.

After handing Teal’c his drink, Jack stood for a moment at the counter, gaze drawn through the small window over the sink to focus on the tiny white-tipped waves lapping at his pier stirred by the cool breeze that rose as the evening descended.  He understood just what Daniel meant.  Now that the sun was setting, now that the day’s relaxation was at an end, he, too, craved comfort, the feeling of something warm and familiar.  Coffee was for late hours working towards a discovery at the mountain, or for mornings around the fire on an alien planet – it was for beginnings, for excitement, not for… this.

He blinked and took another sip, letting the taste of the high-end chocolate curl through his mouth and rest for a moment on his tongue until the rush of flavor had faded and all that was left was the warmth and the memory.  Turning, he set one hip against the counter and looked over the group now seated at his kitchen table.  They’d come a long way.

It was hard to remember them as the raw team he’d led through the ‘gate to The Land of Light all those years ago.  Teal’c had been so alien, so much an unknown quantity, even if Jack had trusted him with his life from almost the first moment and had been repaid for it many times over.  Carter hadn’t known whether she was a scientist or a soldier, hadn’t yet found her footing as a 2IC that sometimes had to be both.  And Daniel – Daniel had been so lost himself, yanked from his idyllic life on Abydos into one he’d never imagined, where he had to become a soldier and fight both aliens and, too often, his own team so that he could continue his ill-fated search for his lost family.

“You’d think I’d have learned by now.”  The dramatic sigh of Lieutenant Colonel Samantha Carter cut through his musings and Jack watched the blonde woman tip her King to the smirking linguist’s ever-superior chess skills.  She snatched the board from its place between them and slid the remaining pieces into the waiting box before replacing it on the table – this time between herself and the Jaffa seated next to her.  “Checkers?”

Daniel looked up in time to catch Jack’s eye before the general turned back to look out on the gathering dusk.  A warm presence at his side a moment later brought a smile to Jack’s face.

“Gonna offer me a penny for my thoughts?”

“Oh, I think I can save my money,” the linguist’s voice replied.  Something, some depth of emotion peeking out from the carefully neutral tone made Jack shift to watch the play of light across his friend’s features.  The hair was shorter, the shoulders were broader, but the glimmer of intelligence and compassion in Daniel’s blue eyes was – somehow – just as bright as it had been when he’d first stood beside a chalkboard and had, for the first time but not nearly the last, changed how everyone, everyone thought.  He waited.

“This…”  Daniel cleared his throat.  “It started with the end of Anubis - the last Goa’uld threat – and then the destruction of the Replicators, Jacob’s death, and now Catherine, the person who started the entire Stargate program…” Daniel paused, still staring out on the wind-whipped lake.  “No matter how much we all want to deny it - this is an ending.”

“And I guess I’m wondering,” the linguist continued, finally turning to face his friend, sorrow giving his face a familiar child-like appearance, “if you’ve brought us all here to say good-bye.”

Jack couldn’t help reaching out for Daniel as he had so many other times, needing some kind of tactile connection to communicate what his words never seemed to say.  He laid one hand on his shoulder, but before he could open his mouth in reply the sound of gravel crunching under tires outside lifted his mouth up into a smile.  He squeezed once.

“Never let it be said that Jack O’Neill let his friends go hungry.”  He spoke loudly to the room, but held Daniel’s gaze a moment longer, silently promising that the conversation was not over before he hurried towards the front door.

“I was unaware that pizza could be delivered so far from any civilization.”  Teal’c rose and stepped close behind his civilian teammate, dark eyes revealing his complete awareness of the undercurrents within the rustic cabin.  Sam walked towards the sink as if all she wanted was to rinse out her empty mug, while one hand brushed comfortingly across Daniel’s arm leaving the remaining members of SG-1 anchored solidly against the chill that swept in through the open door.

“Well it’s about time!  I think you might want to rethink your career as a delivery boy.”  Jack grabbed two of the large paper sacks from the man’s clutching fingers and led the way to the table.

“If the directions I’d been given had been a bit longer on accuracy and a bit shorter on instructions like, ‘turn left where the big stump used to be’ I’d have been here some time ago,” came the exasperated rejoinder.

“Sir!”

“General?”

“General Hammond.”

Arms suddenly reached out to help settle bags and boxes on the long wooden table before happy greetings were exchanged.  General George Hammond finally shrugged off his coat and handed it to his gloating former 2IC.  “I hope you all don’t mind if I crash the party?”

Jack’s voice drowned out the instant denials.  “Can’t crash a party you were invited to, George,” he insisted, raising one finger in the air.

“Especially since you brought dinner, sir,” Sam added, opening a Styrofoam container and inhaling the aroma of homemade fried chicken that wafted out.  “We were afraid we’d have to rely on General O’Neill’s fishing skills.”

“Watch it there,” Jack’s low warning slid past other grateful responses.  “Teal’c, grab some plates,” he threw over his shoulder as Daniel set a handful of silverware next to a large pile of napkins.  “Please don’t tell me you forgot the…” his eyes slitted in an eager gaze as Sam pulled a foil wrapped package from the bag.  “Cornbread!”

Hammond chuckled.  “Wouldn’t think of it, Jack.”

“Wow,” Daniel looked at the feast that was spreading out before them.  “This is amazing.  Where did you get all this, sir?”

“You’d be surprised what the diner in town is willing to do when two Air Force generals put in a request, son,” Hammond smiled fondly at the young man.

~---~

“You gonna eat that or catalogue it?”  Daniel was startled from his intent stare at the plate before him when Jack’s amused question cut through the sudden silence.  Empty plates and golden crumbs were liberally sprinkled over the coffee table in the cabin’s main room, a warm fire sending up intermittent sparks in the stone fireplace nearby.  He set his almost full plate down at his feet, as if to hide his lack of appetite, and looked up to a sea of watching eyes.

“Sorry,” he smiled quickly, linking his arms around his bent knees.  “I guess – I guess I’m just waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

Hammond and Jack exchanged a glance before stacking their own plates on the table.  Sam uncrossed her legs, unconsciously sitting straighter in her chair as if to better absorb a blow while Teal’c shifted his weight to move an inch closer to the archaeologist who sat on the floor at his feet.

“If I may?”  Surprisingly, Hammond looked to Jack for permission and received a quick nod.  “I don’t know if you remember, but eight years ago I was well on my way to retirement when I was put in command of a dead project that sat at the base of Cheyenne Mountain.  It was a typical assignment for a short-timer.”  His pale blue eyes lit with remembrance.  “Turned out to be not quite so typical after all.”

The weight of memory pulled each of them under for a moment before they managed to find the surface and swim back to reality.

“I was lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time to work with some damned amazing people,” his gaze lingered on each of them, “and see some damned amazing things.  I was able to answer the call of a president, and had an opportunity to lead some of this nation’s finest into battle against one of the world’s greatest enemies.  And I’ve had to word final good-byes to too many good friends.”

They sat silently as the faces slid past the barriers they’d each erected against grief.

“Now, finally, eight years later, it’s time.”  The general sighed, but it was not a sigh of regret, instead it was one of contentment after a job well done.  “Time to set aside the stars and be regular old George Hammond again.”  He smiled.  “I don’t plan on missing any more school plays.”

Sam, Teal’c, and Daniel all started talking at once and Hammond held up one hand, laughing.  “Thank you.  I can’t tell you what having the loyalty and support of people like you has meant all these years.  But the decision has been made.  As of 0800 tomorrow morning I am officially retired.”

He leaned forward, elbows resting on his thighs.  “I won’t pretend that things aren’t going to change around the SGC.  Now that the major threats in the galaxy have been defeated, and we’ve found out the Atlantis expedition is up and running and facing a huge threat of their own, resources are bound to be redirected.”  He hurried on before any of them could jump in with questions.  “However, one of the perks of having the president’s ear is that one gets to make suggestions now and then, and I made sure that my successor as director of Homeworld Security is someone who will fight tooth and nail so that Stargate Command will continue to be the first line of defense for our world and its allies.”

Sam’s eyes widened and she shifted her attention to the silent man seated to her left.  “General?”  Teal’c noticed her focus and lifted one eyebrow at the former commander of SG-1 before tilting his head in respect.  Daniel’s eyes flicked between his teammates’ and Jack’s frantically.

“What?  Jack?  In Washington?”

O’Neill winced at the astonishment in his friend’s voice just as Carter and General Hammond tried to stifle their amusement.  “Hey,” he exclaimed, hurt, “it’s not so farfetched as all that.”  He craned his neck to make eye contact with his snickering 2IC.  “I have been ‘the Man’ for almost an entire year, Carter.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam managed.

“I just can’t… you aren’t…”

“Spit it out, Daniel,” Jack growled.

“It’s politics, Jack,” the linguist finally began, “are you going to be happy spending all day in meetings trying to convince politicians that the people at the SGC actually might know what they’re doing?”  He shook his head.  “I’m sorry, I just don’t see you as a guy behind a desk.”

Jack frowned.  “Just what do you think I’ve been doing for the past year, Daniel?”

“No, I know you can do it, you have done it, I just…”  The linguist’s frown deepened and he blinked rapidly, emotions washing over his face.  “I just can’t imagine the SGC without you,” he ended quietly.

“Nor can I,” Teal’c agreed nodding to his young friend in support.

It was Jack’s turn.  He dropped his head to his chest and huffed out his breath to cover his reaction, no mood-lightening quip coming to mind this time.  Hammond came to his rescue.

“Things change, son,” he began softly, “and time moves on, no matter how hard we try to deny it.”

Daniel stretched his legs out in front of him and wrapped his arms around himself, his expression telling them all just how much he wanted to do just that.

“Who’s taking over the SGC, sir?” Carter asked, her voice carefully controlled.  Working under someone who wasn’t George Hammond or Jack O’Neill – someone who didn’t have intimate knowledge of the program and personnel, who might not appreciate the resources that she and SG-1 brought to the table made her gut clench uncomfortably and she suddenly regretted that extra helping of mashed potatoes and gravy.

Shaking his head and smiling at what he knew was going through her quick mind, Jack explained.  “Hank Landry – he’s a good man with no hidden agendas.  Don’t worry, Carter, I’ve still got your back.”

A ripple of relief soothed her nerves.  “I never doubted it, sir.”  Not much, anyway.

“But, here’s the thing,” O’Neill continued, raising his voice a fraction to make sure he captured their distracted attention.  “Change isn’t just coming, it’s here,” one finger jabbed the wooden surface in front of him, “and that makes it a perfect time for all of us to take a minute and reassess.”  He paused.  “Figure out where we see ourselves a year from now.”

His dark gaze held Sam in place.  “You want to continue to focus on off-world missions or do you finally want to have time to tinker with some of that stuff you’ve had to pass off to other scientists for the past eight years?”  She was shocked by the immediate flare of jealousy that burst through her at the thought.  It was becoming more and more difficult to pull herself from the lab for the paperwork and other necessities that accompanied leading SG-1, but she’d shied away from admitting that what she had been feeling with every base alarm and unscheduled off-world activation was more resentment than excitement.  Sam let her eyes wander to the wall behind Jack’s head.  Leading SG-1 had never really been her dream, but being the one to break up that warm familiarity, that family, that had never felt like her decision to make.

Jack turned his pointed stare to Teal’c.  “How many times has Bra’tac asked for your help with the Free Jaffa?  How much longer do you think you can live with yourself telling him ‘no’?”

Teal’c met O’Neill’s stare easily, but Jack didn’t miss the deep longing hidden beneath the Jaffa’s stoic calm.  “I have pledged myself to the Tau’ri and have never regretted my decision,” he stated plainly.

“And we couldn’t have done it without you, T,” Jack quickly agreed.  He inched forward in his seat.  “But what if you found yourself released from that pledge?”

Dark eyes bored into Jack’s, and then raked over Carter’s sad smile before settling on the bowed head at his knee.  “The pledges of one’s heart are not so easily discharged, O’Neill.”

Hammond watched as Jack forced himself to sink back into the well-worn cushions of his couch.  The tension had grown with each word and now curled between them like a palpable thing, the ties of friendship, shared loss, and commitment entwining each one in an indestructible bond.  “I don’t think anyone in this room would begrudge you your life’s dream, Teal’c,” he commented.

“No.”  Daniel stirred and raised his head.  “No one.”  He turned and laid one arm across the cushion at his back.  “Is this what you want, Teal’c?”

The Jaffa would not lie in the face of an honest question from his teammate.  “It is.”

His frown drew a deep crease between his heavy brows, but Daniel’s blue eyes were steady, intense with purpose.  A smile touched his lips as he turned to face Sam.  “What about you, Sam?”

Her eyes met Jack’s for an instant, but now his were remote and blank.  She couldn’t hide herself behind his expectations.  “I think it might be, Daniel.”

A rush of air forced its way past Daniel’s lips as if he’d been punched in the stomach and both of his teammates automatically reached for him, but he stumbled to his feet and away from their touch.  His hands were cold where they pressed against the large picture window that, with the deepening darkness, only reflected the room behind him and his own inner turmoil.  “I guess I missed it,” he muttered with a wry laugh.

“No, Daniel,” Jack waved off the attempts of the other two and placed himself at his friend’s back.  “You didn’t miss anything.  You knew this was coming.”  He caught the widened eyes of mirror-Daniel.  “You felt it months ago when you put in your request to go to Atlantis.”

Thoughts chased themselves across the linguist’s mind and he swallowed the reflexive denial that had been on the tip of his tongue.  Had he known, instinctively, when he’d begun chasing Atlantis?  Had he felt the slipping of old bonds, the need to stretch farther, to reach for something new?  Maybe he had.

“Dr. Jackson.”  General Hammond’s voice turned Daniel around and he stepped past Jack’s comforting presence.  The Texan was on his feet, holding out a sealed envelope which Daniel’s fingers grasped before he realized he’d extended his arm.  “Dr. Weir is thrilled with the thought of you joining her command.”

The paper was cool and smooth in his hand, but instead of opening the envelope he looked up into his teammates’ proud faces.  “I guess this means the band really is breaking up.”

Jack stepped to his side and laid his arm across his shoulders.  “Yeah, I’m thinking my last official act will be to hang up our jerseys in the ‘gate room, what do you think, George?”

“I wouldn’t count on it, Jack,” Hammond chuckled fondly.

~---~

Jack swiped a towel through his hair a couple of times and minced his way across the cold floor to the bedroom, grabbing thick white socks and a heavy sweater to pull on over his USAF t-shirt and sweats.  He opened the door into the great room slowly, hoping to avoid waking the others – he could use a few minutes to himself before he faced what would surely be another round of ‘are you sures’ and ‘what ifs.’  Most of the time he was confident that heading off to Washington, that nudging his team into the directions of their dreams was exactly the right move.  But the early morning hours always brought with them the devil on his shoulder with his pointed pitchfork of second guesses.

Before the aroma registered with his sleepy senses, Jack saw the torn white envelope and the hand-written letter lying on the dark wooden surface of the kitchen table, and he felt the last binding of guilt and indecision snap apart.  He grabbed a mug, toed into his boots and stepped out onto the porch.

“Need any help packing?” he dived into the familiar banter.

“Thanks, but I think I’ve been packing in my head for months,” Daniel replied.

The two men gazed over the peaceful lake, the thin layer of morning fog unstirred by wind or movement.  Jack held his cup with both hands to inhale the sharp, tangy fragrance of his friend’s favorite dark roast before raising it.  “To new beginnings,” he offered.

Daniel smiled, clear blue eyes meeting brown.  “I’ll drink to that.”

the end (sigh)

 

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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.