Ansuz

 

“Welcome back, SG-1,” General Hammond said as his flagship team came down the ramp.  “I take it the mission was a success?”

“In a matter of speaking,” Doctor Daniel Jackson muttered under his breath.

“Yes, General, it was,” Colonel Jack O’Neill said, looking pointedly at Daniel

Daniel glanced sideways at Jack and then looked away.

“And we’re all present and accounted for,” Jack added.  “That’s a success in my book every time.”

 

“In my book, too, Colonel.  I look forward to your reports.  Debriefing at 1400 hours.” Hammond said.  “Report to the infirmary.”

“Yes, sir,” Jack replied.  “Okay, kids.  Hey-ho, hey-ho, it’s off to Doc’s we go,” he sing-songed as he ushered his team out of the gateroom.

Hammond caught Jack’s eye and nodded towards Daniel.

“We had a little trouble, sir, but everything’s fine,” Jack whispered in a low voice.  Yep, everything’s peachy-keen.  I just made Daniel destroy possibly his only chance of ever getting Sha’re back.  What could possibly be wrong?  Crap.

“Very well, Colonel,” Hammond acknowledged.

Hammond watched his second escort his team to the infirmary.  SG-1 hadn’t been together long, but if he was a betting man, he’d bet some pretty heavy stuff went down on Cimmeria, and Dr. Jackson was smack dab in the middle of it.  Hammond liked and respected the young archaeologist, but he was a civilian, and if Dr. Jackson was causing problems he would not hesitate to remove him from the team.  He’d had enough trouble accepting an alien on the team, and not just any alien, but one who entered this very facility, killed good men and kidnapped an officer who later met her fate because she wasn’t good enough to be turned into a host.  Then this brash young civilian who had been living on another world insisted on being part of a military unit.  Hammond shook his head, but there was an indulgent smile on his face.  Momma never told me there would be days like this.

“Daniel!  Daniel, the infirmary is this way,” Jack said, snagging the archaeologist's arm.

“I just want to drop this off first,” Daniel said, indicating the rune Kendra had presented him with.  “I don’t want to lose it.”

“Rules are rules, Daniel.  Infirmary first,” Jack said patiently.  “And speaking of rules,” he added, when Sam and Teal’c were well out of earshot, “when we come back from a mission and General Hammond asks a question, I do the answering.  Understood?” 

Daniel stared at Jack with a look bordering on loathing. 

“Perfectly…sir,” he replied and spun away to catch up with Sam and Teal’c.

“For crying out loud,” Jack muttered as he watched Daniel speed down the hall.

Jack knew Daniel was pushing his buttons, and maybe he had a legitimate excuse, but there was still such a thing as protocol.  If it were anyone else Jack would put them on report for insubordination, but Daniel Jackson was a different kettle of fish.  There was something refreshingly honest and likeable about his teammate that oftentimes had Jack looking the other way when it came to disciplining the impetuous young scientist.

                                    **************

Daniel generally looked forward to briefings and de-briefings.  It made for a captive audience or, in the case of Colonel Jack O’Neill, a usually bored, but still captive audience.  Daniel knew the colonel was a lot savvier than he let on and, in spite of his ‘on camera’ antics, he did listen and he did retain information.  Daniel often wondered if he’d ever really know Jack O’Neill.  Sometimes he wondered if he even wanted to know the man. 

Daniel looked over at Jack who seemed to be sharing a joke with Teal’c.  The sight angered and confused him.  He was angry because Jack had forced him to choose between Sha’re and Teal’c.  Teal’c was a warrior and the ex-prime of Apophis.  He could have survived in the Labyrinth on Cimmeria for months, probably years; certainly long enough for Daniel to find Sha’re and give her the chance she deserved.  Anger he could understand and accept even if it was unfair to Teal’c.  The confusion was harder to understand.  Why did Jack make him destroy the hammer?  Any one of them could have done it.  Jack was the commanding officer.  Shouldn’t it have been his job?  Jack knew what Sha’re meant to him.  Why would he put her fate in his hands?  Why make him her executioner?  These were questions Daniel didn’t want to think about.

Daniel felt a nudge on his arm and jumped.  He glanced sideways at Sam who was looking at him with concern.  She gestured to the table, and he looked down at his hands.  They were clenched around his pen so tight his knuckles were white.  He relaxed and looked up to see everyone watching him.

“Dr. Jackson, is there a problem?” General Hammond asked quietly.

“Uh, no, no, sir,” Daniel replied, automatically glancing at Jack.

“Then answer the general’s question, Daniel,” Jack said.  “Do you think Kendra will be willing to share her knowledge of Goa’uld technology with us?”

“Right.Um, yes, yes, I do,” Daniel said, getting his mind back on track, “but her friendship, and that of Gairwyn and the others, is much more valuable to us than their knowledge of technology.  Kendra spent several horrific years under the control of a Goa’uld, but she never gave up fighting her captivity,” he explained, “or her hate,” he added quietly.  “She is living proof that something of the host survives, and she now devotes her life to the people of Cimmeria, and to the teachings of Thor.  The Asgard had placed Cimmeria under their protection.  I…we’ve, um, interfered with that protection by destroying Thor’s Hammer.  However, according to Teal’c, the Goa’uld and all Jaffa avoid the planet like the plague, and as long as they hold to that Cimmeria should be safe.  In any case, the Cimmerians do not hold our actions against us and they welcome our friendship.    As primitive as they may be, at least by our standards, I believe their potential as friends and allies to be enormous and maybe one day through our association with them, we, too, will meet Thor and the Asgard.”

“I look forward to that day, Dr. Jackson.  Thank you,” Hammond said.  “You’ve given us a great deal to think about.  Colonel,” he said, looking at Jack, “SG-1 is on stand down until your next mission.  I want you all to take a well-deserved few days off.  Dismissed.”

“Thank you, General,” Jack said.

“Colonel, would you please stay behind for a few minutes,” Hammond requested as the rest of SG-1 gathered their reports and filed from the room.

“Of course, sir,” Jack said, resuming his seat.

General Hammond got up and closed the door.

“More coffee, Colonel?” he asked as he topped up his own mug.

“No, thank you,” Jack said, feeling uneasy.

Hammond sat down and sipped his coffee.  He placed his mug down and picked up the colonel’s report, his keen eyes scanning it quickly.

“I have some concerns about Dr. Jackson,” Hammond said gravely, looking directly at Jack.

“Daniel, sir?” Jack replied, feeling his unease go up a notch.

“I’ll be frank, Colonel.  I don’t like to interfere in my officers’ commands, but do you think it was wise to have Dr. Jackson destroy the hammer?”

“I had my reasons, sir,” Jack replied, wincing at the sharpness in his voice.

“I’m sure you did, but are you prepared for the consequences?” Hammond asked.

“I don’t follow you, sir,” Jack said, shaking his head.

“I find that hard to believe, Jack,” Hammond said.

“General, if you’re referring to the fact that Daniel’s self-proclaimed purpose for being on SG-1 is to find his wife and by destroying the hammer he essentially destroyed the only way we know of that could’ve destroyed that snake in her, then yes, I follow you,” Jack said.

“If the only way to get Teal’c out of the Labyrinth alive was to destroy the hammer, why didn’t you do it yourself, or have Captain Carter do it?” Hammond queried.

“It had to be Daniel, sir,” Jack said firmly. 

Hammond studied his second in command intently. 

“Colonel, has Dr. Jackson been giving you cause to doubt his loyalty to SG-1 and the SGC?” he asked evenly.

Jack, uncomfortable with the question, fidgeted with his empty coffee mug.  It was a concern that had hung over the civilian archaeologist like a cloud since day one, but one Jack no longer worried about.  He looked up into the general’s clear blue eyes.

“Daniel has never done anything to cause me to question his loyalty, sir.  I trust him with my life, and with the life of my teammates.”

Hammond nodded approvingly.

“I’m glad to hear that, Colonel.  Dr. Jackson is a good man.”

“Yes, sir, which is why I had to do it,” Jack said quietly.

“You did it for Dr. Jackson’s benefit?” Hammond queried.

“Sir,” Jack said, collecting his thoughts.  “Daniel’s the kind of guy who always blames himself for any mishaps.  Sha’re and Skaara were abducted because he opened the Stargate.  They were abducted because he unburied the Stargate.  They were abducted because he got so wrapped up in showing me the map room on Abydos.”

“I get the picture, Colonel,” Hammond smiled.

“So if I had destroyed the hammer, or Carter, Daniel would never know if he’d have had the strength to do it.  He’d look at it as another failure.  Another case of he can’t be trusted.”

“I see, and what about Teal’c?”

“Teal’c, sir?”

“You know the Jaffa better than anyone,” Hammond explained.  “Here’s a man who chose Dr. Jackson’s wife and brother-in-law for Apophis.  Now, to save Teal’c, Dr. Jackson had to destroy the only means we had to free his family of the Goa’uld.  That’s quite a burden for both men to carry.  It’s also half your team.”

“I understand and appreciate your concern, General,” Jack said.  “I know SG-1 hasn’t been together long, but I can assure you what happened on Cimmeria will not be detrimental to the team,” Jack said firmly.

“Very well, Colonel,” Hammond said, satisfied with his second’s explanations.  “I have complete faith in your judgment.”

“Thank you, sir.”

                                    *************

“Carter, have you seen Teal’c?” Jack asked as he poked his head into Sam’s lab.

“I think he’s still in the gym, sir,” she replied, looking up from her notes.

“Okay, thanks.”

“Uh, sir,” Sam said, getting up from her chair and halting Jack’s departure.

“Captain?”

“It’s about Daniel, sir,” Sam said.

“What about Daniel?” Jack sighed.

Sam stiffened slightly at the colonel’s tone.  She wasn’t quite sure if she was stepping out of  line, but she felt she owed it to Daniel.  She had been annoyed with Daniel on Cimmeria and without reason.  She’d been impatient with Kendra and her ramblings on the wisdom of Thor, and miffed by Daniel’s absolute trust in the alien woman.  The fact that Daniel had been right to trust her only served to make Sam feel worse.  Daniel didn’t rub in the fact that he’d been right.  He didn’t have to because she could do that very well on her own.  Besides, it was not something Daniel would ever do; it was not in his nature.

“I’m worried about him, sir,” Sam said.  “You didn’t see him when Kendra explained how she freed herself from the Goa’uld.  He was, well, I’ve never seen him so excited or hopeful.  I think he really believed he was going to be able to save Sha’re.”

“He still might, Carter.  Nothing says that’s the only hammer out there, or there aren’t other ways,” Jack explained.

“I realize that, sir, but we’ve never been this close before,” Sam pressed.

“So what are you saying, Carter?  That I should’ve left Teal’c trapped on that planet?”

“Of course not, Colonel,” Sam said, bristling at the implication.

“Ah, so you’re just questioning a command decision?”

Sam took a deep breath and released it slowly.  She was treading on thin ice.  She’d only been under the colonel’s command for six months and she barely knew the man.  Daniel had told her the colonel was not an easy man to get to know.  Sam hadn’t even known the colonel had been married or had a son until Daniel had told her.  That was another thing that irked her, irrational as it was.  The colonel and Daniel had a history and because of that there was a bond between them that she could never hope to achieve.  On Cimmeria, the colonel had told Teal’c he was part of the family which made her part of the family, too.  And yet, there was still something different between the colonel and Daniel; something special.  And as much as she hated it, Sam was envious and maybe even a bit jealous.  But damn it, she liked Daniel…a lot, and he had looked clearly shell-shocked when the colonel handed him Teal’c’s staff weapon.

“No, Colonel.  I’m just concerned how Daniel must be feeling,” she said wearily.

“I appreciate your concern, Carter,” Jack said, relaxing his own guard, “and I will talk to Daniel.”

“Yes, sir,” Sam acknowledged, feeling better about the situation.  “Thank, you, sir.”

“Oh, and Captain,” Jack said, pausing in the doorway..  “I may have appeared a bit short, but in the future, if you ever have any concerns or worries about your teammates, I do want to hear about it.”

“Understood, Colonel,” Sam said, smiling inside and out.

                                    ***********

Jack watched Teal’c savage the heavy bag.  He couldn’t call it hitting or punching.  It was more like mauling.  He expected the stuffing to burst out any second.

“Teal’c!  Easy on the equipment.  It’s government issue; it’s got a shelf-life,” Jack explained as he walked up to the dark-skinned warrior.

Teal’c lowered his arms and looked balefully at Jack.

“You wish me to stop, O’Neill?”

“Yeah, I want to ask you something, or rather, is there something you want to ask me?” Jack rephrased.

“’Do you wish me to stop,’ I believe, is what I just asked,” Teal’c said.

“For crying out loud, Teal’c, I’m not talking about that.  I’m talking about Cimmeria.  Is there something that happened there that you want to ask me about?”

“If you are referring to Daniel Jackson destroying the hammer to free me, I do not,” Teal’c said, turning and striking the bag with astonishing force.

“Okay,” Jack drawled, “so clearly, you don’t have a problem with Daniel destroying what may have been his only chance to free his wife from a snake; to free her from the bed of your former God.”

“I have said no such thing, O’Neill,” Teal’c said, clenching his fist and preparing to deliver another punch.

“No, you haven’t,” Jack said, stepping in between Teal’c and the bag.  “But I’ll bet you anything you’ve thought about it.”

“Indeed, I have,” Teal’c said, staring into Jack’s eyes.

“And?”

“And I would advise you to step away from the bag, O’Neill,” Teal’c said dangerously.

“Great,” Jack smiled, “now we’re getting somewhere.  You really want to take a swing at me, don’t you?”

Teal’c blinked slowly before answering.

“I have indeed envisioned myself doing you great bodily harm, O’Neill.”

“Great bodily harm,” Jack murmured, nodding.  “Not just bodily harm, but great bodily harm.  Okay, this is good.”

“How is this good, O’Neill?” Teal’c inquired.

“Well, I’m still standing.  That’s a good thing.  At least from my point of view,” Jack amended.

Teal’c cocked his head and stepped away.

“You Tau’ri are very difficult to understand.  I thought Daniel Jackson was your friend?”

“He is my friend, Teal’c,” Jack insisted.  ‘And so are you.  Sometimes,” he corrected, wincing at Teal’c’s less than friendly look.

“Then why did you force him to choose between me and his wife?” Teal’c asked.

“Because it’s what he needed me to do, as his CO and as his friend, even if he doesn’t know it,” Jack explained.

Teal’c regarded Jack for a long moment.  He lowered his eyes and inclined his head slightly.

“You are wise, O’Neill.”

“Sometimes, Teal’c,” Jack said, relieved at the Jaffa’s understanding.  “Sometimes.”

                                    ***************

Okay, last stop.  Daniel.

Jack knocked on the archaeologist’s door and entered.

“Hey, Daniel,” he said cheerfully.

Daniel glanced up from his book.

“Jack.”

Okay.  Not overtly friendly but not hostile either.

“You doing anything tonight?” Jack asked, checking out objects on Daniel’s shelves.

Daniel watched what Jack was doing and then turned away quickly when he turned around.

“Well?” Jack aside, leaning against a shelf and crossing his arms across his chest.

“I don’t know.  I haven’t really thought about it,” Daniel replied, wondering where this was headed.  “Nothing special, I guess.  Why?”

“Just thought you might want to come over for dinner,” Jack said, shrugging.

“Why?” Daniel asked in genuine surprise.

A flicker of hurt passed over Jack’s face.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said hastily.  “I didn’t mean ‘why’ as in why would I want to, but ‘why’ as in why would you think I’d want to.  No, I don’t mean that, either,” he frowned.  “Hell, I don’t know what I mean,” Daniel mumbled.

“It’s okay,” Jack said, waving his hand.  “I’m not being very clear.  I thought that maybe we should talk about what happened on Cimmeria.”

“A lot happened on Cimmeria,” Daniel said evasively.

“I was thinking about the part where you destroyed Thor’s Hammer,” Jack said, carefully gauging the younger man’s reaction.

Daniel stiffened and looked away.  The enormity of his actions on Cimmeria momentarily paralyzed him, and then he felt his face flush as his anger at Jack resurfaced.

“You didn’t give me much choice,” Daniel said evenly.

“You had a choice, Daniel,” Jack corrected.  “You knew I’d have blasted that thing if you hadn’t.”

Daniel stood up and glared at Jack, his eyes blazing.

“And what if I hadn’t, Jack?  What if I had refused?  Where would I be now?  You sure as hell wouldn’t let me stay on SG-1,” he said angrily.

“Who are you really mad at, Daniel?” Jack asked.  “Me?  Teal’c?  Or, is it yourself?”

“Goddamn you, Jack,” Daniel muttered, as he looked away, and his mind raced in every conceivable direction.  “Why are you doing this?” he asked, looking back at the older man sadly.

“It’s my job,” Jack replied, “and…I care,” he added gently.

Daniel didn’t expect that admission, and he felt his anger ebb, and his grief return.  He sat down in his chair, feeling spent and empty.

“She’s my wife, Jack,” he whispered.  “I chose her captor’s life over her own.”

Jack winced at the crack in the younger man’s voice.  He walked over and placed a heavy comforting hand on one stooped shoulder.  He knew words could not help so he just squeezed his hand and tried to convey through touch that Daniel’s anguish was not unknown, and that he wasn’t alone.

“You chose to save a friend who needed you then,” Jack said.  “You did the right thing.”  He let his hand drop and walked quietly to the door.  Daniel had a lot of issues to deal with, and he didn’t want his presence to be a hindrance.

“Jack?”

His name was a mere whisper, but in the silence of the room it was very clear.

“Yeah?” Jack asked, looking back from the doorway.

Daniel looked up from his desk, a tentative smile on his face.

“Am I still invited?”

Jack felt his throat constrict at the sadness in his friend’s voice.  He smiled and nodded. 

“Yeah, you’re still invited.  Seven, okay?”

Daniel’s eyes brightened, and he nodded.

“Great, I’ll see you tonight,” Jack said and left the room before his own eyes betrayed his emotions.

Daniel sat at his desk for a long time without moving.  Something more than destroying the hammer transpired on Cimmeria.  Daniel had passed a test, as unplanned as it was.  A very important test.

“Then why do I still feel like crap,” he murmured, his vision blurring with tears.

                                    **************

Daniel stood outside the door, unsure of his motives for being there.  The sound of heavy booted feet rounding the corner spurred him to action.  He rapped twice and waited, his arms tightly wrapped around his torso.

“Come in,” a deep voice boomed from within the room.

Daniel lowered his arms and opened the door.  He blinked a few times to accustom his sight to the dim candlelit room.

“Daniel Jackson, I am pleased to see you,” Teal’c stated, inclining his head slightly.

Daniel flashed a hesitant smile and entered the room, closing the door behind him.

“Hi, Teal’c.  Is this, um, is this a bad time because I can –”

“It is not, Daniel Jackson.  Please, join me.”

Thank you,” Daniel said as he lowered himself gracefully to a cross-legged position.

“Can I, uh, just sit here for a few minutes?”

“Indeed.  When you wish to speak, Daniel Jackson, please feel free,” Teal’c offered as he closed his eyes.

Daniel nodded even though Teal’c could not see him.  His eyes scanned the Spartan quarters and then settled on the dark, still figure of his teammate; the man who plucked Sha’re and Skaara from his life.  Teal’c, the man who turned his back on his own family to help the people of Earth fight a mortal enemy, his former God, so that all Jaffa would one day be free.  Daniel’s brow creased in thought.  Did Teal’c really care about the Tau’ri, or were they just a tool to be used to free his own people and then discarded? 

Daniel closed his eyes and centered his breathing.  His dark thoughts were debilitating and shameful.  Daniel remembered Cor-Ai and Teal’c’s insistence that he be judged and punished for his former life as the First Prime of Apophis.  Daniel remembered thinking that Teal’c actually wanted to be killed and that in death he could somehow help atone for the grief he had imposed upon hundreds, maybe thousands of people during his servitude to Apophis, and none more than Daniel himself.  Daniel had fought to the best of his abilities to exonerate Teal’c, not because it was his duty as a member of SG-1, but because the Teal’c he knew was a good man and was his friend.  Daniel hadn’t lied when he admitted he tried to hate Teal’c for depriving him of his wife and his happiness.  He hadn’t lied when he admitted to the participants of Cor-Ai that he did not hate Teal’c, nor did he blame him for what had happened on Abydos and Chulak.  Teal’c was a victim, like the rest of them.

Daniel opened his eyes and focused once again on his teammate.  That the man sitting before him would sacrifice his life in an instant to save Daniel, and those he loved, he had no doubts.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel whispered.

Teal’c’s eyes slowly opened, and he gazed at Daniel.

“For what, Daniel Jackson?”

“For my hesitation on Cimmeria,” Daniel answered.  “I thought of the hammer as a means to save Sha’re and Skaara, and in doing so I relegated your life forfeit.  I ask for your forgiveness.”

“There is nothing to forgive, Daniel Jackson.  I would gladly have stayed in the Labyrinth if it would have brought them back to you,” Teal’c said solemnly.

“I know, and I thank you,” Daniel acknowledged with a small bow.

Teal’c regarded his young teammate thoughtfully and bowed his head also.  He looked up and smiled.

“At least we know it can be done,” he said.

Daniel smiled at hearing his own words.  “And we now know of a benevolent race that even the Goa’uld fear.”

“Thanks to you, Daniel Jackson.”

“Thanks to SG-1,” Daniel corrected.

“Indeed,” Teal’c obliged.

Daniel smiled and closed his eyes.

                                    *****************

Jack looked out the window for the fifth time hoping to see Daniel’s jeep.

“For crying out loud, it’s only a quarter to seven.  This is Daniel, remember?” he chastised himself.

Jack went back into the kitchen to check on his spaghetti sauce.  The dinner was simple, but tasty and filling: Caesar salad, spaghetti with his special homemade sauce, and garlic bread.  They’d reek the next day, but that was everyone else’s problem.  He added a bit more red wine to the sauce and breathed in the rich aroma.  He spooned a sample and tasted it.

“Mmm, perfecto.”

Jack smiled in satisfaction and placed the spoon down.  He glanced at his watch at the same time as the doorbell rang.

“Five to seven,” Jack murmured.  “Daniel early?  My heart be still.”

Grinning at his joke, Jack hurried to the door and opened it.

“Hey, you’re…what the hell?  Daniel, did you rob the liquor store?” Jack asked as he quickly divested his teammate of two six-packs.

“I, uh, didn’t know what brand you liked so I bought a few different types, and I, um, didn’t know whether to bring red or white so I, uh, brought both,” Daniel explained, smiling sheepishly.

“What, no blush?” Jack asked.

Daniel’s face blanched.  “Oh, I’m sorry.  I can go back and—”

“It’s a joke, Daniel,” Jack grinned, ushering the younger man inside.

“Oh, right.  Ha, ha,” Daniel said, entering the house.

“This is great,” Jack enthused, checking his bounty.  “Cabernet,” he murmured, holding up the bottle of red.  “Perfect.”

“Do I smell spaghetti sauce?” Daniel asked, sniffing the air.

“My very own,” Jack said, beaming.

“Smells good,” Daniel said.

“Make yourself comfortable.  I’ll bring you a drink.  What would you like?  Beer, wine, something stronger?”

“Maybe just a ginger-ale for now,” Daniel requested.

“Sure.  One Canada Dry coming up,” Jack said.

Daniel shrugged out of his jacket and slung it over the arm of a chair.  He didn’t quite know why he was here and that made him a little nervous, to say the least.  He figured he knew Jack better than anyone, but in the great scheme of things was that saying a hell of a lot?

“Sit down and relax,” Jack said, entering the living-room carrying a tall glass of ginger-ale and a bottle of beer.

“Thanks,” Daniel said, accepting the drink and sitting down.  “I’m, uh, not really sure why I’m here?” he said a little nervously.

“You’re here because I invited you.  Where’s the mystery?” Jack asked, eyeing Daniel over his beer.

“So, this isn’t about Cimmeria?” Daniel asked, sipping his drink and avoiding Jack’s eyes.

“Not if you don’t want it to be,” Jack replied easily.

“You remind me of my psychology professor,” Daniel said with a small scowl.

“I think I’ve just been insulted,” Jack grumbled.

“No, no, he was a good man,” Daniel said quickly.  “He just had this annoying habit of getting you to look inward.”

“Annoying?” Jack asked, hiding a smirk behind his bottle.

“Exceedingly,” Daniel replied, hiding his own smile.

“Cool,” Jack murmured and looked at his watch.  “Bread should be ready.  Give me a hand with the salad?”

“I’d be glad to,” Daniel said, gulping his drink.

“Easy on that stuff; it’s imported,” Jack teased.

“I think I can handle it.  In fact, I think I’m ready for that wine,” Daniel said.

“Great,” Jack said, standing up.  “I’ll open the Cabernet and let it breathe.  In the meantime you can grate the cheese.”

“Grate?  You bought real cheese?” Daniel asked in surprise.

“Only the best for my friends,” Jack said over his shoulder as he walked to the kitchen.

Daniel felt a funny sensation in his chest.  It was that same feeling he got when Hallmark commercials used to catch him off guard.  God, maybe I shouldn’t have any wine.

                                    ******************

Daniel had second helpings of everything, much to Jack’s delight.  There was no better compliment to the chef.

“God, I’m stuffed,” Daniel moaned as he leaned back in his chair.

“Did I forget to mention tiramisu for dessert?” Jack said, as he topped up Daniel’s wine.

“Tiramisu?” Daniel said, his eyes widening.  “I haven’t had that in years.”

“How about we give our stomachs a couple of hours to recuperate?” Jack suggested.

“And my head,” Daniel said ruefully, eyeing his wine.  “You wouldn’t be trying to get me drunk, would you?”

“Crap, where’s the challenge in that?” Jack scoffed.

Daniel giggled and sipped his wine.

Jack smiled.  Definitely sloshed.  His brow furrowed as Daniel’s expression suddenly grew serious as he stared at his wine.  What dark place are you going to, Danny?

“”Let’s get these dishes dealt with first,” Jack said, reaching over and picking up Daniel’s empty plate.

“Oh, um, of course,” Daniel said, jerking slightly.  “I’ll wash.”

Jack put away what little was left over and dried the dishes Daniel had stacked up.  While the younger man’s back was turned he surreptitiously drank most of Daniel’s wine.  He wanted his teammate loose and relaxed, but not wasted.

“Go sit down,” Jack said.  “I’ll just put on some coffee.”

“Okay, I’ll just finish my…”

“Daniel?”

“Nothing,” Daniel said absently.  “I just didn’t think I drank that much,” he mused, frowning at the almost empty glass.

“Do you want more?” Jack asked.

“God, no!  I mean, no, thank you,” Daniel murmured.

“You don’t have to finish it,” Jack said.

“I think I can handle it,” Daniel smiled and swallowed the last of the wine.

Daniel washed, dried, and put away his glass while Jack prepared the coffee.  Together, they went into the living-room while the coffeemaker did its thing.

Daniel leaned back on the couch and watched Jack poke around in the fireplace.  Soon there was a nice little blaze going.

“I miss it,” Daniel said.

“Miss what?” Jack asked curiously, looking back at Daniel.

“Campfires,” Daniel said with a sad smile.  “On Abydos we…,” his voice trailed off and he shrugged.  “We haven’t had a campfire off-world for a long time.”

Jack felt a sharp stab of pain for what Daniel had lost.  He remembered their last campfire on Abydos, and Daniel’s heartbreaking departure from his home and family.

“You’re right.  I’ll have to see what I can do about that,” Jack said, sitting down.

“That’d be nice,” Daniel said.  “There’s something about sitting around a fire,” he murmured, gazing into the flames.

Daniel seemed lost in his own little world so Jack slipped out to get the coffee.  When he returned his friend was still staring at the dancing flames.  The light reflected off his glasses and the tears on his cheeks.

“Here,” Jack said quietly, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Daniel stirred from his reverie and accepted the coffee, becoming aware of the tears on his face.  He swiped at them quickly.

Jack braced himself for an apology, but thankfully, it didn’t come.  Nevertheless, he felt compelled to say something.

“We’ll find them, Daniel,” he said gently.

Daniel turned and looked at Jack, his eyes bright.

“I know we will.  Something of the host remains,” he said quietly.

Yeah, and I made you destroy the only means we know to free the host, Jack thought grimly.

“I talked to Teal’c today,” Daniel said, his eyes returning to the fire.  “Do you know what he said to me?”

“No,” Jack said, shaking his head, his pulse quickening.

“He said he would have gladly stayed in the Labyrinth if it meant Sha’re and Skaara could be saved.”

Jack didn’t know if he was supposed to respond.  In any case, he didn’t know what to say so he remained silent and sipped his coffee.

“I believed him,” Daniel whispered as he looked at Jack.  “What kind of a man would subject himself to that?”

Jack frowned and asked, “Is that a rhetorical question?”

“Maybe,” Daniel smiled, “but I know the answer.”

“Okay,” Jack said, raising an eyebrow.

“A man wracked with guilt,” Daniel replied.  “And a friend,” he added.  “I thought after Cor-Ai, Teal’c had learned to let go of the past.  I thought with all of his Jaffa training, and his kel-no-reeming, he’d….”  Daniel waved his hand as the words eluded him.

“Get over it?” Jack suggested.

“Or, rise above it,” Daniel said.

“You’re very important to Teal’c.  He hurt you in the most grievous possible way,” Jack explained. 

“He didn’t know me when he chose Sha’re,” Daniel said.

“But he knows you now, and he’d like nothing better than to redeem himself in your eyes.”

“He has,” Daniel insisted, “and I’ve told him that.”

“Sometimes it takes more than words,” Jack said.  “Sometimes it takes action.”

“Like destroying the hammer,” Daniel murmured.

“Yeah,” Jack said, sipping his coffee, “like destroying the hammer.”

Daniel looked back at the fire.  He closed his eyes and sighed deeply.

“God, I hated you,” he whispered.  “For that one brief instant when you handed me Teal’c’s staff, I couldn’t believe what you were asking me to do.”

“I’m sorry,” Jack murmured.

“I know,” Daniel sighed.  “I also know you did the right thing,” he said, looking at Jack.  “I wanted you or Sam to do it so I could have someone to blame; so I could sleep at night.  But that would have been the worst thing to happen.”

Jack’s pulse raced, and his heart gave a little leap.  Did Daniel understand?  Could he be so lucky?

“How so?” Jack asked, trying to appear casual.

“If I hadn’t done it…” Daniel paused and licked his lips.  “If I hadn’t destroyed the hammer to free Teal’c, I would never know if I was really a member of SG-1, and you,” he said, his eyes locked on Jack, “you would never be able to trust me.”

Jack shook his head.  “No, I knew I could trust you, Daniel, but I didn’t know if you trusted yourself,” he corrected gravely.

Daniel looked down at his mug and rolled it gently between his hands.  He glanced up at Jack and then down at the mug.

“I thought about it, Jack,” he whispered.  “For one god-awful moment I considered leaving Teal’c there.  He took my family away from me.  Why shouldn’t he suffer?”

Jack debated whether to ask if that was a rhetorical question again, but decided this wasn’t the time for levity.  Daniel was hurting and hurting big time.  He was also adding to his pain by making himself the villain.

“Daniel,” Jack said gently.

Daniel looked up at Jack.

“And then I looked at him, Jack, and I saw it in his eyes,” he explained.  “I didn’t want to recognize it for what it was.”

“Saw what?” Jack asked quietly.

“The sadness; the remorse; the willingness to remain behind if it would bring back the ones I loved,” Daniel said.  “He said it, too.  He offered to stay behind, and then you said, ‘You’re part of this family now.  We’re not leaving you behind.’”

Jack nodded, the words clear in his memory.  “And you fired at the hammer.”

“I fired at the hammer,” Daniel repeated, “and when Teal’c stepped through everything felt right, and I knew I had done the right thing.  I also knew Sha’re would forgive me.  But it didn’t really hit me until later.  Until tonight, actually,” he added with a shy smile.

“What didn’t hit you?” Jack asked.

Daniel’s eyes shone.  “That SG-1 is my family, too.  You, Sam, and Teal’c, we’ve all lost loved ones, and we’ve all been to dark places that no one should have to go.  But we have each other to help us through; to make us see the good in ourselves.  We are a team, and we are a family, and that is something worth fighting for, even dying for,” he said.

“No arguments from me,” Jack said quietly.

Daniel smiled and ducked his head, a little embarrassed by his sentiments.

Jack’s heart went out to his gentle friend.  The young man had already gone through so much hardship and pain.  What did the future hold for him?  For them?  Jack only knew that he would do everything in his power to protect his ‘kids’, and he had a feeling he’d be doing double duty where Daniel Jackson was concerned.

Daniel suddenly looked up and smiled.

Jack looked into the expressive blue eyes, and swallowed hard.  Hell, he’d do triple duty.  Some people were worth it, and more.

“I should make some more coffee,” Jack said, coughing slightly.  “I’ll be right back.”

Daniel nodded and watched Jack leave the room.  He smiled to himself.  The colonel often exhibited a tough exterior, but Daniel knew from first-hand experience that the man inside could be gentle and compassionate.

Daniel leaned back in his chair and thought about his life.   He knew he had lost a lot, but he’d also gained a lot.   He’d lost his parents, but he gained a wife and a home on Abydos.  He then lost his wife and brother-in-law, but he still had Abydos and its people.  More importantly, he gained SG-1; a family in their own right.  He thought of Sam, the big sister he never had.   A brilliant woman he could laugh with and spend enjoyable hours in  mental sparring.  Teal’c.  Teal’c was harder to label.  Teal’c was an uncle, or maybe an older brother.  A fierce protector, but also destined to be a good friend.  That left Jack.  God, how could he label Jack?  Father; brother; friend; teacher; mentor; all of the above?  Daniel’s feelings for the older man sometimes astonished him.  When he had first met the abrasive Air Force colonel, he thought he’d be thrown out on his ear.  He could not have been more wrong.  Daniel already felt a kinship with Jack that he’d never felt with anyone.  As strange as it may seem, considering their histories, he believed they were soulmates.  There was no doubt in Daniel’s mind that their ideals would clash, and he anticipated some spectacular rows in the future, but when the dust settled, he and Jack would be standing shoulder to shoulder.  It was a comforting certainty.

“You look happy,” Jack smiled, topping up Daniel’s coffee.

Daniel jumped and blushed slightly.

“I think I am,” he said, sipping his coffee.

“You think?” Jack asked, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s what I do,” Daniel shrugged.  “I’m a scientist; we think.”

“That’s not what I meant,” Jack frowned.

“I know,” Daniel smiled, his eyes glinting in the firelight.

“Crap, it’s starting,” Jack sighed, sitting down.  “I can feel it.”

“Feel what?” Daniel queried.

“The grey hair.  The minute I saw you, I knew,” Jack sighed.

“Grey is distinguished,” Daniel said, smiling.

“No, grey is old,” Jack retorted.

“I promise, I won’t make you go grey.  Silver, maybe, but not grey,” Daniel said.

“Silver,” Jack murmured, running a hand through his hair.  “Silver is distinguished,” he said thoughtfully.  “But give me at least a year, okay?”

“I’ll do my best,” Daniel vowed.

“I expect nothing less,” Jack said, his serious tone conveying more than mere words.  “And when we get Sha’re and Skaara back, I expect you to name your first born after me.  Boy or girl, it doesn’t matter,” he said, waving his hand.

Daniel’s eyes grew moist, and Jack wondered if he’d just spoiled the evening.  Sometimes he didn’t know when to stop.  He opened his mouth to apologize, but Daniel spoke first.

“You’ll make a great godfather, too,” Daniel said softly.

It was Jack’s turn for moist eyes.

“I’m sorry,” Daniel said quickly, afraid he’d dredged up memories of Charlie.  “I didn’t mean—”

“No, Daniel,” Jack said, shaking his head and holding up his hand.  “It’s not Charlie,” he said, reading his friend’s mind.  “It’s just that no one’s ever asked me to be a godfather before.”

“So, you don’t mind?” Daniel asked.

“Hell, Daniel.  I’d be honored.”

Daniel smiled, but it was bittersweet because he knew the chances of Jack ever having to fulfill that obligation were slim to none.

“Something of the host survives,” Daniel,” Jack said gently.

“What she and Skaara must be going through,” Daniel whispered.  “God, I can’t even imagine.”

And I hope to God you never do.

“We’ll find them.”

Daniel nodded, not trusting his voice.  They’d find them, but at what price, and what would they find?  Empty shells devoid of life and character?  Two vibrant lives so tainted and haunted by their experience that they would be unrecognizable?

No, Kendra did it; they can do it, too.

“Ready for that dessert?” Jack asked, anxious to change the topic.

“It’s getting late, Jack.  Maybe I should—”

“I just changed the sheets on your bed,” Jack interjected. 

Daniel stared, wide-eyed and open-mouthed. 

“You want me to stay the night?” he asked.

“It’s either that or I have to drive you home, and I’d rather not.” Jack said.  And don’t say you can always get a cab.

“I could always…or not,” Daniel finished weakly, as Jack gave him ‘the look’.

“The room’s pretty much the way you left it,” Jack said.

“You mean you haven’t dusted?” Daniel asked in mock horror.

“Don’t tell me you’re afraid of a few dust bunnies?”

“You know what bunnies do, Jack?” Daniel challenged with a smile.

“You can sleep with my hockey stick,” Jack grinned.

“”I, uh, don’t have a toothbrush,” Daniel said.

“I’ve got extras still in their packages.  So, what do you say?”

“I say, bring on the tiramisu,” Daniel smiled.

Jack grinned and stood up.  “Throw another log on the fire, okay?”

“Sure.”

Daniel got up and picked out the biggest log he could find.  In spite of his former misgivings, he wanted this evening and the feeling of good will and camaraderie, to last.

“Put on a big one!” Jack yelled from the kitchen.

Daniel chuckled to himself and felt very blessed with his new family, even if the patriarch was a bit demanding.

After tending to the fire, Daniel sat down and pulled an object out of his pocket.  It was a rune; a replica of the one Kendra had given him.

“Daniel, what is that?” Jack asked warily, placing the two dessert plates on the table.

“It’s a rune,” Daniel replied.

“Please tell me that’s not from Cimmeria,” Jack winced, sitting down.

“I know the rules, Jack,” Daniel replied.

“I know you know the rules, it’s whether or not you follow them that worries me.” 

Daniel leaned forward and peered at the older man.  He nodded thoughtfully.  “Yes, I think I see a silver hair, Jack.”

“Daniel,” Jack said warningly.

“It’s a replica, Jack,” Daniel said.

Jack sighed in relief and handed Daniel his plate.

“I never got around to asking.  What does it mean?”

Daniel passed his thumb back and forth over the inscription.

“Ansuz,” he said.

“Bless you,” Jack said, unable to resist.

Daniel smiled.  “You’re a lot closer than you think.  It’s a blessing: good health, harmony, truth, and wisdom.”

“Wow, all that in one little scratch?  That’s nice,” Jack said approvingly.

“Yes, it is,” Daniel agreed.

“You did a good job for us, Daniel.  A damn, good job.”

“Thank you,” Daniel said softly, lowering his eyes.

“Sha’re would be proud of you, too,” Jack added.

Daniel glanced up into the dark brown eyes that could often convey much more than mere words.  He saw warmth and friendship.  He nodded in gratitude and looked down at the rune in his hand.  He had learned a lot on Cimmeria, and with Jack’s help he had achieved a harmony that he hadn’t realized was missing.  Daniel always thought he worked well with Sam, Teal’c, and Jack, but now he knew why: they were family and as important to him as his Abydonian family.  Did that make him doubly blessed? 

Daniel held the stone out to Jack.

“Would you like to keep this?”

Jack took the stone and rolled it over in his hand.  He looked at Daniel and smiled.

“Yeah, I think I would.  Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” Daniel said.

Jack rubbed his thumb over the symbol.

“Do you think we’ll ever meet this Thor guy?”

“I think it’s in our destiny,” Daniel replied quietly.

“Well, you’ve already impressed him so we’ve got a pretty good head start,” Jack said.

“I had lots of help,” Daniel said, shrugging.

Jack smiled and shook his head.  Getting Daniel to accept a compliment was a job in itself.  He knew that his grey hair was going to come fast and furious.  Jack had learned on that first mission to Abydos that Daniel would not hesitate to put his life on the line for others, even strangers.  He was going to be a handful, but Jack wouldn’t give up that responsibility for anything.  He had a feeling his young teammate was going to be very special to a lot of people.

“Eat your dessert,” Jack said, smiling.

Daniel’s eyes sparkled, and he reached for his dessert with enthusiasm.

“Now if I could just figure out a way to freeze-dry this stuff I could be sure you’d never be late for meals off-world,” Jack said lightly.

“Freeze-dry?” Daniel said in horror.  “God, Jack, that’s…that’s…obscene.”

Jack laughed at Daniel’s disgust and tucked into his own dessert.

Daniel shook his head in exasperation and returned his concentration to the delicacy on his plate.

Jack ate his dessert and surreptitiously watched Daniel at the same time.  He seemed happy and relaxed, but there was a sadness within him very close to the surface.  A sadness borne from too much loss, disappointment, and heartache.

“Jack?”

Daniel’s soft, concerned voice roused Jack from his thoughts.  He looked at Daniel, but said nothing.  What could he say?

Daniel’s brow creased, and he cocked his head in consternation. Understanding suddenly flared in his eyes and he shook his head and smiled.

“I know what I’ve lost, Jack,” he said gently, “but I also know what I’ve gained.  I’m going to be fine.”

Jack swallowed and glanced away from the blue eyes that looked deeper than he was comfortable with.

“Thank you for helping me on Cimmeria, and thank you for inviting me here,” Daniel said seriously.

“I’m glad you came,” Jack said quietly, looking back at Daniel.

“So am I,” Daniel said, “and not just because of the great food.”

Jack smiled and accepted the compliment in the spirit it was given.

“More coffee to go with all that sugar?” Jack asked.

“I’ll get it,” Daniel said, picking up their mugs.

Jack watched Daniel leave and then sat back and gazed into the fire.  Next mission he’d make sure they had a campfire, even if it was in the middle of a hot, sunny day.  A familiar noise from the kitchen caused him to turn and smile.

“Daniel, get away from that dessert!”

“I, um, I’m just getting some, uh, milk,” Daniel called back.

“Neither of us takes milk,” Jack replied patiently.

“I, uh, thought maybe I’d try?” Daniel said feebly, as he returned to the living-room with two mugs and a guilty look on his face.

Jack took his mug and then reached up and dabbed his finger to the side of Daniel’s mouth.

“Milk must have curdled,” he said, looking at the dab of cream on his finger.  “And I just bought that, too.”  He looked at Daniel with a raised eyebrow.

Daniel blushed and sat down.

“At least finish what’s on your plate before going for seconds,” Jack chided affectionately.

“I was just seeing how much was left,” Daniel said defensively.

“And you couldn’t resist touching,” Jack said.

Daniel smiled and shrugged.

“It’s what I do.”

“God help me,” Jack sighed, sitting back and putting his feet up.

Daniel’s smile widened, and he sat down to finish his dessert.  He licked his fork clean and glanced over at Jack’s plate.

“Don’t even think about it,” Jack grumbled, grabbing his plate and holding it protectively.

“I would have asked,” Daniel huffed.

“Go get yourself another piece,” Jack sighed.

“Thanks, Jack,” Daniel said brightly, jumping to his feet.

“Note to self,” Jack murmured.  “Tiramisu to keep a certain archaeologist in line.”

“Did you say something, Jack?” Daniel asked from the kitchen.

“Yeah, I said, ‘bring me another piece, too.’” Jack said, hiding a smirk.

“You got it,” Daniel said enthusiastically.

Jack grinned and shook his head.  He picked up the stone Daniel had given him, and closed his fingers tightly over it.  Thor, if you’re really out there, and if you ever get the chance, please bring Daniel’s family home.

 

 The end

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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.