A Christmas Wish

 

 “Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the rain?”  Doctor Daniel Jackson muttered, peering at Colonel Jack O’Neill through rain-spattered glasses.

“Many times, Daniel.  Many, many, many times,” Jack emphasized with a martyred sigh.

“Just so you know,” Daniel said moodily, stomping into a puddle with more force than necessary.

“At least it’s not cold,” Jack said, trying not to laugh at Daniel’s demeanour.

“It was supposed to be hot and dry,” Daniel huffed.  “That’s what the UAV indicated.  Does this look dry to you”, he asked, indicating the rain pouring off the brim of his boonie.   “I can’t believe no one packed us raingear.  Not even a poncho for God’s sake.  What are they, a buck a piece?  They give us condoms but not ponchos?  What the hell are we supposed to do with condoms anyhow?”

“Didn’t you learn anything useful at school?” Jack queried with a raised eyebrow.  “Oh, for crying out loud, Daniel, lighten up,” he said in response to the withering glare aimed his way.   “You’re making me depressed.”

“Sorry,” Daniel muttered.

“What’s bugging you?” Jack asked.  “You’re usually oblivious to the weather.”

“That’s when there’s something interesting to do,” Daniel clarified, scowling as his boot squelched thickly in the mud.

“Oh, well excuse me if I’m boring you,” Jack groused.

“It’s not you, Jack,” Daniel sighed.  “I don’t know why I feel so…so…”

“Crappy?”

“Yeah, crappy.”

“I do,” Jack smiled.  “There’s only five shopping days left until Christmas.”

“Oh, God, is it that time of year already?” Daniel moaned.

“You really have to get out of the SGC more,” Jack chirped, slapping Daniel on the back.

“What I need is, ow!  Damn it!” Daniel cried as his ankle turned over on a rock hidden in the mud.

“Easy!” Jack said as he grabbed Daniel’s elbow to keep the younger man from taking a nosedive.

“This is just great,” Daniel gasped, leaning heavily on Jack, and wincing as he extricated his foot from the mud.

“Come on, let’s move over into the trees there and take a look at the damage,” Jack said.

“This day keeps getting better and better,” Daniel grumbled as he wrapped his arm around Jack’s shoulders and limped over to the trees.

Jack frowned at his friend’s odd behaviour.  Sure a sprained ankle wasn’t any fun, and everyone had their bad or ‘off’ days, but he sensed something else was upsetting Daniel.  Was it Christmas?  Daniel had some rough times with the holiday season after losing Sha’re, but over the years he’d come around and looked forward to it.  This year would be their first Christmas since Daniel’s de-ascension.  Was that it?  Was he having second thoughts again?  What did he do last Christmas when he was among the Ascended?  Would he rather be doing that again?  Or, was it the whole Abydos thing?  Abydos was essentially gone and Daniel no longer had a home up there in the stars.  Jack had a hard time himself wrapping his mind around that whole ‘beam them up’ thing.  It wasn’t that he wasn’t happy for Skaara, Kasuf and the others, but when you came right down to it, what was the point?  Why bust your balls and strive for enlightenment by sacrificing yourself over and over again like Daniel had when a whole damn civilization could be ascended at someone’s whim?  Daniel gave up his life to save the people of Kelowna, not to mention SG-1.  He earned ascension the hard way.  The people of Abydos were granted it for being in the right place at the wrong time, or whatever.  Why did they deserve it versus any other civilization facing annihilation by its enemies?

“Jack?  Jack!”

“What?” Jack said, surprised to see Daniel’s arm clasping his forearm.

“Are you okay?” Daniel asked, his brow wrinkled in concern.

“Hey, you’re the one who’s limping and almost did a face plant,” Jack responded.

“You seemed a thousand miles away,” Daniel said quietly, “and why are we going deeper into the woods?”

Jack suddenly realized they were well into the trees.  “Actually, it was light-years and this is far enough.  How’s the ankle?”

Daniel looked at Jack oddly, but thought better of probing any further.

“It’s not broken, and I think it’s better if I keep walking.  I have a feeling it’s going to swell up like a balloon once we stop,” Daniel grimaced.

“Ouch,” Jack said sympathetically.  He pulled up his sleeve and looked at his watch.  “We’ll never make it to the Stargate before nightfall.”

“I think the rain’s getting heavier too, if that’s possible,” Daniel sighed.  “If I remember correctly, we should come across those caves pretty soon.  We could camp there and at least dry out,” he suggested.

“Good idea.  I want to take a look at that ankle of yours, too,” Jack said as he pulled out his radio.

“Carter, Teal’c, do you copy?”

“Copy, sir,” Carter replied a second later.

“What’s your progress, Major?” Jack requested.

“I think we’re just an hour away from the Stargate, Colonel.  We’ve made good progress in spite of the weather.  These ponchos sure came in handy.”

“What?” Daniel cried incredulously.  “Sam, you and Teal’c have ponchos?” he shouted into Jack’s radio.

Jack batted Daniel’s hand away and missed Sam’s response.

“Say again, Carter,” Jack requested.

“I said that explains why Teal’c and I had two ponchos each.  Supply must have mis-packed yours and Daniel’s,” she said.

“Peachy,” Jack growled, envisioning heads rolling in Supply.  “Listen, I’ve got a really grumpy, wet archaeologist who also twisted his ankle, and we’re still hours from the Stargate.  We’re going to hole up in a cave not far from here and sit out the night.  You and Teal’c go to the ‘gate and call in from there.”

“Yes, sir.  Sorry about the ponchos, Colonel.”

“Not your fault, Major.  O’Neill out.”

“They got two each?  I can’t believe it,” Daniel said, wiping his fogged-up glasses.

“Mistakes happen, Daniel.”

“I still don’t see why we can’t pack out own field kits,” Daniel groused.

“Ah, yes.  I can hear it now:  ‘Jack, do you have any extra toilet paper?  I seemed to have forgotten mine.  Jack, did you bring water?  I can’t find mine, but I do have ten field books and twelve cameras.’”

“Ha, ha, don’t give up your day job,” Daniel muttered.

“You know who you remind me of?” Jack asked smiling, yanking Daniel’s boonie down over his eyes.

“Who?” Daniel sighed, pushing up his hat.

“Charlie.”

Daniel looked up in surprise.  Jack rarely mentioned his dead son.

“I took him fishing this one time, just him and me.  Sara went to visit her mother, and she wanted Charlie to go, too, but he insisted on going fishing with Dad.  We got to the cabin and it was pissing down rain.  He griped and complained until I threatened to feed him meatloaf,” Jack grinned.

Daniel, although pleased and touched by the comparison, frowned and asked, “What’s your point?”

“No point,” Jack shrugged.  “Sometimes, I just really miss him,” he added quietly, shaking the water off his cap.

“Are you going to threaten me with a dry cabin and hot meatloaf?” Daniel asked wistfully.

“How about a warm, dry cave with hot MRE’s and hot coffee?” Jack offered.

“Are you trying to seduce me, Colonel O’Neill?” Daniel asked coyly.

“In your dreams, Jackson,” Jack laughed.  “Come on, let’s pick up the pace before you seize up and we lose the light.”

The lure of imminent dryness and hot coffee lifted Daniel’s spirits immeasurably, and he happily hobbled back into the rain.

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

“Colonel, do you copy?”

“Yeah, Carter, go ahead,” Jack replied, keeping his voice low so as not to wake Daniel.

“We’re at the Stargate, sir.  Do you want us to set up camp and wait for you and Daniel?”

Jack glanced over at Daniel who was wrapped in a blanket and curled beside the fire.  He smiled and turned back to his radio.

“Negative, Major.  You and Teal’c ‘gate home and report to General Hammond.  We’ll be home tomorrow.”

“It’s no trouble to stay, sir,” Sam said, both she and Teal’c hating the thought of leaving their teammates behind.

“That’s an order, Major.”

“Yes, sir,” she acquiesced.  “Good luck.  Carter out.”

Jack stripped off his own clothes and hung them beside Daniel’s.  It felt good to finally get them off and feel the warmth from the fire on his wet skin.  His first priority had been to get a fire going and then tend to Daniel.  Once Daniel was settled, Jack had explored the cave.  It was better than he could have hoped for.  It was large, airy and full of dry wood.  It must have been a popular spot at one time.

Jack pulled out his own blanket and wrapped it around himself as he sat cross-legged beside Daniel.  He looked critically at his teammate.  The twisted ankle had taken more out of Daniel than the latter was willing to admit.  His sudden collapse of exhaustion after undressing had been a dead giveaway.  Jack reached over and felt his friend’s brow, pleased to feel only natural warmth.  He had been afraid what with the rain, the sprained ankle, and Daniel’s propensity to not get enough sleep that the younger man may have developed a fever.

Daniel stirred gently under Jack’s hand, but did not wake up.

Jack smiled and pulled the blanket up snug around Daniel’s neck.  He shook his head fondly.  Seven years later and the archaeologist could still look so damn young.

“I’m glad you came home, Daniel,” Jack whispered, patting his friend’s shoulder.

Jack quietly rummaged through their packs for food and utensils.  He figured it wouldn’t hurt to get the water boiling, and if Daniel was still sleeping he’d set it aside until he awoke.

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

Daniel woke with a jerk.  He opened his eyes and squeezed them shut as the firelight hit them.  He blinked rapidly to clear his vision and then looked guiltily at Jack.

“Sorry.  I must’ve fallen asleep,” he said sheepishly.

“So much for my seduction technique,” Jack quipped good-naturedly.  “It’s okay.  It’s been a long day and you needed the rest.”

“It’s not okay, Jack,” Daniel said sitting up and rubbing the sleep out of his eyes.  “The day’s been just as long for you.”

“Still crabby, are we?”  Jack asked.

Daniel sighed, but had the grace to blush.

“Coffee before we eat?” Jack asked with a raised eyebrow.

“Yes, please,” Daniel said enthusiastically while flexing his ankle cautiously.

“It’s not a balloon, but it’s definitely a baseball,” Jack said sympathetically.  “You really could use some ice, but I’ll re-bandage it tight before we leave.”

Daniel nodded and got stiffly to his feet. 

“Not too bad,” he said, wincing as he hobbled over to check their clothes. 

The clothes were still damp, and he rearranged them on the makeshift line.

“Have I ever told you how much I hate the rain?” he asked as he limped back to his warm spot.

Jack fixed Daniel with a baleful eye. 

“Just for that you can make the coffee,” Jack grumbled.

“Glad to,” Daniel said, opening the container and inhaling the rich aroma.  “Mmmm, they should really make this into an air freshener.”

“Never at a loss as to what to get you for Christmas,” Jack grinned.

“Don’t remind me.  I guess you’ll be going to your folks for Christmas,” Daniel said as he spooned out a generous amount of grounds.

“Nope.”

“No?  Why not?” Daniel asked in surprise.  “Are they going away?”

“No, I told them I needed to stay here.  Well, not here,” Jack corrected, gesturing to the cave, “but in Colorado.”

“Oh,” Daniel said, concentrating on his chore.

Jack watched Daniel and saw the little furrow of confusion crease his brow.

“You do know why, don’t you?” Jack asked quietly.

Daniel looked up.  “I, uh, no,” he shrugged.

“I’ll give you a hint,” Jack said.  “Can you guess when my worst Christmas was?”

“The first one after Charlie died,” Daniel replied without hesitation.

“Right.  And the second worst?”  Jack prompted.

Daniel blinked and looked into the firelight.  “The second Christmas after he died?”

“Guess again,” Jack said.

Daniel chewed his bottom lip, but didn’t respond.

“Last year,” Jack said.  “The first Christmas after you died, or ascended,” he clarified, waving his hand.

Daniel looked at Jack with wide eyes.  He swallowed hard and glanced away.  He didn’t know what to say.

“Did you think you wouldn’t be missed?”  Jack asked.

“I, uh, just figured…you know,” Daniel shrugged, concentrating on the coffee.

“Life goes on?” Jack guessed.

“Something like that,” Daniel said softly.

“Yeah, it does, and sometimes it really sucks,” Jack said

Daniel looked up, tears shimmering in his eyes from the desolation in Jack’s voice.  

 “Do you know what I did last Christmas?” Jack asked.

 “No,” Daniel whispered.

“I shut myself up in my house for three days and read your journals.”

“My journals?”

“Every damn one of them,” Jack said.

Speechless, Daniel turned away and poured them both a mug of coffee.  He handed Jack his, looking at him curiously.

“You missed me that much?” he asked.

“I missed you that much,” Jack echoed softly.

Daniel silently sipped his coffee, the usual rush of warmth insignificant compared to the warmth conveyed in Jack’s words.

“Nothing was the same after you left,” Jack continued.  “And Jonas,” he added, clenching his mug.  “You may have forgiven him, Daniel, but I haven’t.  Not for what he did and not for what he was willing to do.”

Daniel gazed thoughtfully at the older man and a small smile tugged at his lips. 

“I shouldn’t let that make me feel good, but it does,” he confessed.

“Just promise me you won’t start eating bananas everywhere,” Jack said.

“Bananas?”

“Don’t ask,” Jack grimaced.

Daniel smiled and took a large gulp of coffee and considered Jack’s confession.  He bit his lower lip.

“Sam and Teal’c must’ve been worried about you.”

“They never knew,” Jack replied.  “As far as everyone knows, I went to Minnesota.  This is for your ears only.”

Daniel tried to blink the tears away, but this time they fell.  He looked away and casually brushed at his cheeks.

Jack saw the tell-tale glisten of tears on Daniel’s cheeks, and his chest tightened.  He hadn’t lied about missing Daniel.  The younger man’s absence left a hole rivalled only by the bleak emptiness left by Charlie’s death and the subsequent dissolution of his marriage.  Over the years, the extraordinary man sitting a few feet away had single-handedly filled that emptiness with friendship, hope, love, and happiness.  To this day, Jack didn’t know how he’d let Daniel go.  He never believed he could be that selfless.  There had been a good chance Jacob could have saved Daniel.  What his life would have been like no one knew, but Jack knew he would have retired to care for Daniel if necessary and with no regrets, other than maybe not wringing Jonas Quinn’s neck.

“I’m sorry, Jack,” Daniel said quietly, looking back at him.  “I didn’t know.”

“That you meant that much to me?”  Jack asked.

“I knew you cared, but…” Daniel’s voice trailed off.

“Well, no surprises there.  I haven’t exactly been the best of friends,” Jack said, reaching for the MRE’s.

“That’s not true, Jack,” Daniel said adamantly.  “I could never have ascended if you hadn’t let me go.”

“Carter and Teal’c would’ve done the same thing,” Jack said, tearing open the packages with his teeth.

“Maybe, maybe not, but it was you I went to.  It was you I needed to say goodbye to,” Daniel said earnestly.

Jack leaned over and placed the bags into the boiling water.  He sat back and met Daniel’s gaze.

“I’m glad you felt you could come to me,” Jack said.

“Jack, you’ve always been the first one I go to.  Whenever I wake up in the infirmary yours is the first name I call for, the first face I look for,” Daniel insisted passionately.

“Then why did you leave, Daniel?” Jack asked, his dark eyes boring into Daniel.   “You knew Jacob was trying to heal you.”

Daniel lowered his head and twirled the mug in his hands.

“Oma Desala can be very persuasive,” he said.

“Bullshit.  You left because you didn’t want to stay,” Jack corrected.  “Why didn’t you want to stay? 

Daniel remained silent, his head bowed.

“I need to know, Daniel.”  I need to know if it was because of me.

“I didn’t have a lot of time, Jack,” Daniel said, looking up..  “She said I could go on a great journey if I’d just let go.  I thought…I thought about what I’d done here, and whether or not I even made a difference.  I thought maybe I could do more out there,” he said, gesturing over his head.

“You ran,” Jack said.  “You ran from the pain of your injuries, and the pain of your own self-doubts.”

“No,” Daniel said adamantly, his eyes dark with denial.  “Yes…maybe,” he amended, unable to look at Jack.  “Things…things weren’t the same anymore.”

“You mean, things between us,” Jack said.

“Damnit, Jack, when did you get so…” Daniel waved his hand, grasping for the word.

“Perceptive?”

“Yes,” Daniel sighed.

“Watching your best friend die does that to you.”

“But I’m here, Jack.  I’m not dead.  I never was, not really,” Daniel uttered softly.

“Which brings me to my next question: Is this where you want to be?”

Daniel took a deep breath and briefly toyed with a flippant response like, ‘Who wouldn’t want to be holed up naked in a cave with a sprained ankle and an insufferable colonel?’   But Jack deserved an honest answer which meant Daniel had to be honest with himself.  He still didn’t remember much from his time as an ascended being, but he often got vague feelings or fleeting images, some pretty bizarre, others amazing.  His strongest feelings or memories, however, were of frustration and helplessness.  There were rules and regulations even higher beings had to follow.  Daniel remembered an inability to interfere on the behalf of innocents or loved ones.  The memories weren’t clear, but they were there.  Shortly after he had returned to Earth he had tried to help Teal’c deal with the loss of his symbiote.  During this time he had visions of seeing Bra’tac and Ry’ac, imprisoned on a world of darkness and despair.  Teal’c helped him to remember more, and eventually he was able to provide information that ultimately freed the two men and countless others from slavery and death.  Teal’c had also told him about how he had visited him when he and Bra’tac were struggling to survive by sharing a symbiote.  Teal’c had insisted that Daniel had saved their lives.  Daniel did not have a clear memory of events, but again, he had feelings and images. 

“Guess that answers my question,” Jack said dully.

Jack’s voice snapped Daniel out of his reverie.

“What?  No, no, this is where I want to be, Jack.”

Jack smiled sadly and said, “I don’t think so, Daniel.”

“Why would you say that?” Daniel asked, stricken with his friend’s look.

Jack opened his mouth to respond, but changed his mind and pulled their meals out of the pot. 

Daniel watched Jack divide up their suppers and silently accepted his portion.  He enjoyed the warmth of the bowl in his hands, but he had lost his appetite.

“Jack, why would you say that?” Daniel repeated.

“It’s just something you once told me,” Jack said vaguely.  “It doesn’t matter.  Eat your dinner.”

“You have to give me more than that, Jack, and yes, it does matter.”

“You want more?” Jack said, pinning Daniel with his dark eyes.  “Okay, how about: ‘I can’t imagine doing or being anything other than who I am right now’, or words to that effect.”

Daniel stared at Jack and then violent images flashed in his mind.  His stomach lurched, and he felt light-headed; he was going to be sick.  Daniel quickly put his bowl down and lurched to his feet, forgetting about his injury.  He stumbled and heard a soft curse, a clatter, and then Jack’s strong hands supporting him.

“Easy, Daniel, easy,” Jack soothed as he gently lowered the trembling man to the ground.

Daniel shrank from Jack’s touch and shook his head violently.

“Daniel?” Jack said softly.

Daniel shook his head again and moaned deep in this throat.

“Hey, come on, you’re scaring me here,” Jack said, rubbing Daniel’s back.

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Daniel whispered brokenly.

“Daniel, I don’t know what you mean,” Jack said carefully.

“It was real.  It happened.  Oh, God, I thought it was a nightmare from…from before,” Daniel murmured.

“Daniel, look at me,” Jack said.  “What was real?”

“Why didn’t you tell me?” Daniel asked, still not looking at Jack.

“Tell you what?”

“Baal,” Daniel choked.  “God, Jack, I let him torture you to death.”

“Oh, crap,” Jack muttered.  He wasn’t prepared for this. 

“No, you saved me, Daniel,” Jack stressed.  “Yeah, that bastard tortured me, but if you want to know the sick, twisted truth I’m glad it happened because up until that point I was afraid I’d lost you forever.  I wasn’t sure if you really were still around.  Are you listening to any of this?” he asked, shaking the younger man gently but firmly.

Daniel reluctantly looked up at Jack, his face tear-stained.

Jack released Daniel and sat back, giving the younger man some space.

“Daniel, I’m glad Baal tortured me because it brought you back into my life.  You were still my friend.  You still cared,” Jack explained.  “You were part of something I can’t even begin to imagine, but you dropped everything and came when I really needed you.”

“I couldn’t let him destroy you,” Daniel said.

“And you couldn’t interfere, but you still found a way to save me.  I know damn well Carter and Teal’c didn’t come up with that plan on their own,” Jack smiled.  “You gave me another option just like you always do.  Now, come on,” he said, cuffing Daniel lightly on the side of the head, “let’s go back to the fire.  Our food’s getting cold.”

Daniel allowed himself to be guided back to his spot, still shaken by his memories.

“Here, you need to eat,” Jack said, placing the still warm bowl into Daniel’s hands.  “You’ve got a year’s worth of eating to make up for,” he teased.

The joke fell flat, but Daniel dutifully spooned the food into his mouth.

Satisfied that Daniel would eat his meal, Jack picked up his own hastily discarded bowl and began to eat.

“Things haven’t improved much in a year,” Daniel murmured, looking sideways at Jack.

Jack grinned, delighted that Daniel was joking with him.

“Well, they do have quite a shelf-life,” Jack said.

“So does sawdust,” Daniel grunted.

“And you point is?” Jack smiled.

“My point is, I don’t think I missed much in the culinary department,” Daniel replied, swallowing another mouthful.

“Maybe not, but I wouldn’t trade this meal for the best meal I had last year,” Jack said seriously.

Daniel looked at the warm, compassionate eyes of his friend, and wondered how he walked away from this man.  How could he have been so selfish?

“You were right,” he sighed, putting his empty bowl down.  “I did run.”

Jack winced at the words.  “Listen, that didn’t really come out the way I meant it.  You had every reason to leave.  God knows what kind of a life, if any, you would have had if you stayed.”

“I didn’t leave because of the pain, Jack.  I’d accepted dying.  I wasn’t happy about it, but I’d accepted it,” Daniel amended.  “I left because of the endless possibilities.  All of that meaning of life stuff, and because I thought I could do more…out there,” he said, waving his hand in the air.  “Maybe make up for my lacklustre performance down here.”

“Lacklustre performance?” Jack cried incredulously.  “For crying out loud, Daniel, you’ve done more for this damn planet, hell the universe, than all of us put together.  You’re not Superman, you know.  The Green Hornet, maybe, but not Superman.”

Daniel chuckled at Jack’s attempt at levity.

“I’d rather be Kato, if that’s all right with you,” Daniel said.  “I always liked that whole ninja thing.”

“Kato wasn’t a ninja,” Jack frowned.

“He could’ve been,” Daniel countered.

“Well, he did wear black,” Jack conceded.

“And he did kick ass,” Daniel smiled.

“Yeah, he did, and so do you.  Speaking of which, let me take a look at the ankle,” Jack said, standing up and then kneeling in front of Daniel.

Daniel bit his lip, but gingerly extended his ankle for Jack’s perusal.

Jack carefully removed the bandage and gently probed the swollen ankle. 

“It’s hot.  I’ll get a cloth and some rainwater.  It should cool it down a bit.  I’ll be back in a sec,” Jack said.

Daniel leaned back on his elbows and closed his eyes.  It felt good to talk to Jack; to talk to a friend.  He wondered if he had any friends among the Ascended.  If he did, he couldn’t remember.  Of course, there was Oma and Shifu, but they were friends when he was Earth-bound. 

“You’re not going to believe it,” Jack said, coming back to the fire, “but the stars are coming out.”

“I don’t care, I’m not moving,” Daniel said stubbornly.

“No one’s going to make you,” Jack laughed.  “Here, this should feel good,” he said squatting and placing a wet cloth on Daniel’s ankle.

Daniel sucked in a breath.  “God, that’s cold!”

“Did I forget to mention the temperature’s dropped quite a bit?” Jack asked innocently.

Daniel made a face, but said, “That feels good.”

“Leave it on for a little while.  I’ll check our clothes,” Jack said, standing up and heading over to their clothesline.

“Hey, we’re in luck,” he called.  “Hot and toasty underwear, T-shirts, and socks, coming up.”

“Who needs Christmas?” Daniel said, sitting up and holding his hands out eagerly for his share.

“Speaking of Christmas,” Jack said, handing Daniel his clothes, “you don’t mind spending it with me, do you?”

“Mind?” Daniel said, horrified that Jack would even think that.  “God, no.  I was afraid…” Daniel winced and looked away.

Jack’s eyes widened at Daniel’s words.  Maybe he had been right.  Maybe Daniel’s moodiness was Christmas related.

“What were you afraid of?” Jack asked, dressing quickly.

“It’s stupid,” Daniel muttered, pulling his shorts on.

“Try me,” Jack said gently.

Daniel pulled his shirt on over his head and then sighed.

“Okay, the truth is I’ve been dreading Christmas,” he confessed.

“So that’s why you were being a pain the ass today?” Jack guessed.

“Pretty much,” Daniel murmured.

“Okay, so why have you been dreading it?” Jack inquired.

“Well, this is the stupid part,” Daniel said, colouring slightly.  “No one’s mentioned it so I thought that was because you’d all made plans to do things with your own families, and I’d be on my own again.”  Daniel winced.  “God, that sounds pathetic.”

“Well, while you were thinking that, I was thinking that maybe you regretted being here, and wanted to be back up there,” Jack said, pointing upwards.

“No,” Daniel said, shaking his head.  “I’m sure I had a wonderful time up there, but there’s so much for me right here.  There’s so much more I know I can do.”

“Ah, so you came back to do things,” Jack said.

“I came back because I missed you,” Daniel said.  “I missed my life.  I wasn’t ready to leave.  I’m surprised Oma didn’t sense that.  Or you,” he added.

“You don’t know what it was like, Daniel,” Jack said gravely.  “Seeing you lying there, wrapped up like a damn mummy because your flesh was rotting off your bones.  I couldn’t not let you go.  I know I can be a selfish bastard, but what she offered you was that meaning of life stuff you like so much,” he smiled.  “You had to take the opportunity even if it was just to find out you still belonged here.”

“Hell of a thing to put everyone through just to prove I was wrong,” Daniel said glumly.

“Daniel, no one is saying it was the wrong thing to do.  From a selfish point of view, seeing as what happened to me and Teal’c, we’d both be dead if you hadn’t ascended, so as much as I hated seeing you go, I’m glad you did.  But I’m so much gladder that you’re back.”

“Thanks,” Daniel murmured, ducking his head.

Jack’s heart gave a little tug at the familiar, and oh, so missed gesture.

“So, what did you get me for Christmas?” he asked.

“God, I haven’t done any Christmas shopping,” Daniel said, horrified at the thought.

“Don’t worry about it.  We all got what we wanted for Christmas,” Jack said, his eyes warm and caring.

Daniel’s heart swelled, and he smiled and bowed his head.  “So did I.”

Jack cocked his head and asked curiously.  “You really were our guardian angel, weren’t you?”

Daniel looked up, his face a mask of innocence.

“When I was in Baal’s prison I mentioned to you that I’d been Tokracized.  You said you knew.  You were there when it happened, weren’t you?” Jack asked.

Daniel smiled.  “I popped in now and then.  I hadn’t perfect that whole corporeal business yet, and I don’t really remember all the details, but yes, I was there.  I knew how hard it was for you to accept.  I wanted to make sure you were okay.”

“Just couldn’t stay away,” Jack smiled, warmed by his friend’s concern.

“And now you’re stuck with me,” Daniel shrugged.

“Then I guess there really is a Santa Claus,” Jack said.

Daniel blushed, pleased and flattered by Jack’s words.  He had no more doubts.  He truly was where he belonged.  Daniel stood up and poured some more coffee into their mugs.

“In that case, Merry Christmas, Jack,” Daniel smiled, handing the older man his mug.

“Merry Christmas, Daniel, and here’s to many more,” Jack grinned, lifting his mug in a toast.

“Is this where we start singing Christmas carols?” Daniel asked.

“Only if you’ve got rum in your pack,” Jack countered.

“Damn, I knew I’d forgotten something,” Daniel said in mock disappointment.

“Don’t worry, you’ll get plenty of singing at Doc’s house.”

“We’re going to Janet’s for Christmas?” Daniel asked.

“The plan is, and yes, we do have a plan,” Jack added as he saw Daniel’s look of surprise, “is that everyone is coming to my place Christmas Eve.  We do our thing and then they leave, you stay.  Then we lounge around Christmas Day, recovering from too much egg nog, shortbread, that sort of thing.  Early in the afternoon we got to Janet’s and stay for Christmas dinner.  Then we come back to my place and crash from too much turkey, stuffing and mashed potatoes, that sort of thing.  Sound like a plan?”

“Sounds like a plan,” Daniel whispered, overwhelmed by the news.

“Come on, I want to show you something,” Jack said, holding out his hand and pulling Daniel to his feet. 

Jack laughed at Daniel’s looks of incomprehension. 

“I promise it won’t hurt.”

Daniel followed Jack to the entrance of the cave.

“Oh, my God,” he whispered, staring wide-eyed at the sky.

“Yeah, who woulda thunk it,” Jack said.  “An alien Aurora Borealis.”

Jack and Daniel gazed up at the cosmic display, enraptured with the colours splashed across the night sky.

Jack glanced sideways at Daniel and was thrilled to see the younger man fascinated by the phenomenon although it was probably nothing like what he experienced amongst the Ascended.

Daniel looked at Jack and smiled.

“This night just keeps getting better and better.”

“Yeah, it’s going to be a great year,” Jack said as he smiled and placed his arm around Daniel’s shoulders, pulling him in tight.

Daniel automatically wrapped his arm around Jack’s waist, his eyes still glued to the sky.

“It’s going to be a great year, Jack,” Daniel said quietly.

The two men looked at each other, neither ashamed nor embarrassed by the moistness in their eyes, or the joy in their hearts.  They smiled and looked back up at the sky.

 

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.