And Angels Sing

by Winterstar
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He would miss the simple things.

He would miss the stupid things. He would miss Jack, and the rest of his team. A tremor racked his body and he clenched his fists against its rising tide. He fought against showing fear, and weakness. But in these last hours, why did it matter, why should it matter?

He lay cruciform and strapped to the table. He couldn’t turn his head because of the rigid restraint about him. He could only stare up at the brilliant surgical lights above him in the white sterile room. When they led him into the room, shackled wrist and ankle, the surroundings reminded him of an operating room. It was when Daniel saw the table that his knees almost gave out.

The guard, an older woman with kind eyes, caught his arm and guided him to the table, helped him to sit on it and accept this fate. The guard – he’d never been introduced to her – stood to the side of the table. He never had to ask her to stay with him in these last hours. She understood just by his glance that he needed something, someone to be with him when the injection came.

He would miss the simple things.

He wished Jack was here with him. To have his team gathered about him to support him in this his last action would have given him the strength to face this room. But he requested that the government of Kelowna not permit them in the room. He couldn’t tell them not to observe from the rooms surrounding this one. He wanted to know they were here in some capacity and he swore at his weakness in this regard. Daniel should have told them not to come; he should have made that his request. He cursed his cowardice.

The doctor walked up to him and attached the intravenous line. It only hurt a bit as the needle pricked his skin. The doctor told him that it was only saline solution at this time; the paralytic would be added at the appropriate time. When the hell would be the appropriate time? He shivered involuntarily and the doctor gave him a squeeze of his upper arm. A sorrow existed in his eyes.

“Try to think of something else,” the doctor whispered.

He looked away from the doctor then, closed his eyes. Who the hell did the doctor think he was? Giving him false support, false comfort? Another chill overcame his body and he bit down on his lower lip, tasted the rust of blood. A tear drop found its way from the corner of his eye and he stilled his breath. Maybe the doctor was right, maybe he should think of something else.

He would miss the simple things. Like the thrill of translation – finding just the right cadence of a language and following it to its logical yet poetic end. Like the smell of coffee right before the first taste on his tongue, and the harsh sweetness of dark chocolate. Like the camaraderie of his team – exploring new worlds with Sam, Jack and Teal’c and trying to understand the complexities of foreign cultures together. He smiled a bit. He would miss the team outings, the simple things.

He recalled his reaction to Jack’s suggestion that they take their vacation together – all of them – and go camping. He nearly dropped his coffee mug. As it was, he spilled a good amount of it all over his report for the briefing he had to give to the General.

“You’re joking right?”

Jack played with a paperclip, working it into a miniature hockey stick. “Nope – got the perfect site all picked out.” He had a small balled up piece of paper and started to bat it around the briefing room table with the impromptu stick.

“I would not be opposed to a team gathering,” Teal’c said as he slid his chair in.

“It’s camping Teal’c as in no hot water, no facilities,” Sam said.

“No electrical outlets for computers,” Jack snickered. “He shoots he scores!” Jack laughed and scooped up the tiny ball as Hammond walked into the room. “Ever hear of a place called Camp David?”

“We’re camping with the President?” Daniel asked.

Jack shook his head. “Nope but near there.”

“We’re flying all the way to Maryland to go camping?” He said. “You have got to be kidding.” Turning to Sam he asked, “Tell me he’s kidding?”

Sam only shrugged and Hammond called the meeting to order. It would be days until the nefarious plan Jack decided upon all played out. But they had all boarded a plane a week later and ended up in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland. He hadn’t wanted to go but the pathetic boyish pout Jack gave him and the pleading look Sam offered him convinced him to at least try it out. It couldn’t hurt. He camped all the time with the team off-world, a few days on Earth with them in the woods couldn’t be horrible.

His reverie was interrupted as the doctor nodded to his assistant. The young man came forward and unbuttoned the overalls they’d assigned him to wear to bare his chest. Without ceremony the doctor started to paste leads onto Daniel’s chest and his forehead. It felt sticky and the doctor’s hands were cold. The doctor wasn’t meeting his gaze and the young assistant couldn’t keep his hands from shaking.

Daniel swallowed hard and something in his chest felt as if it dropped like a lead cannon ball. He stifled a groan. He would not cry out. He would accept this fate with dignified silence.

The doctor laid a cool hand on his bared shoulder. Glancing down at him, the doctor said, “Almost time now.”

Daniel nodded and closed his eyes, seeing that last camping trip with such clarity he almost gasped out.

He would miss the simple things.

He stood to the side of the campfire, watching Jack in the flickering light, watching the moon as it rose over the mountains. These mountains were round, soft, undulating curves of Mother Earth not jagged ridges of rock biting the sky like the Rockies. Bits of ash and smoke rose up from the firelight, the black smoke melted into the darkened night sky. Daniel felt the twigs and dry leaves from the autumn crunch under foot as he stepped to the log next to Jack. His friend lounged, long lean legs stretched out toward the fire. They’d hiked during the hottest hours of the day much to his protests, ended up at the Cunningham Falls. The surreal look of the waterfall relaxed the tension that had been building all day in his shoulders, the pounding of the headache growing at his temples. They all settled around the Falls then, talking softly. It was the off season and the middle of the week, so no one else was in sight. They had all of nature to themselves. He only felt that way off world, on deserted worlds, devoid of sentient life but not the burden of life.

Jack sat near the fire that night, smug to a degree in his knowledge that the camping trip was going over well. Sam was curled up by the fire, a book in her hand that she never opened up. Teal’c was actually humming to himself and just the thought of that gave Daniel a loopy feel overall. He remembered chuckling as he listened to Teal’c hum the tune to Gilligan’s Island……

The doctor uncapped the syringe and told him that he was giving him a sedative.

“I don’t want one, please,” Daniel whispered.

“It would make it easier son, if you were asleep.”

He tried to shake his head but couldn’t in the restraints. Instead he looked at the doctor directly and said, “No.”

The doctor nodded and peered at the assistant. The young man pulled back the curtains to the observation windows. The officials were lining the windows closest to where Daniel lay. He knew them all, they stood with stone faces. His mind went blank as he studied their features, what were their names, who were these people watching him?

The images of them insisting that he come to Kelowna to receive an award of gratitude for saving them, for dying to save millions of them plagued him. Things went wrong quickly, he’d been immediately taken into custody. They hadn’t been armed when they stepped through the event horizon. Why would they be? They were meeting friends. There hadn’t been a trial, just a sentence. That was just two days ago.

He coughed and felt the restraints cut into his wrists. His vision blurred as they took his glasses off and he stared at the light above the table. He didn’t want to glance around and look for his team members. He knew he would be able to recognize them even without his glasses on. He knew them that well, they were part of him. Even with his spotty memory, there was one thing that felt right about the universe and that was SG1, his family.

Jack had insisted on the camping trip as a way to ‘get his memory back in gear’. He couldn’t argue that there were those big gaping holes in his brain that sometimes made it feel as if he’d lost his glasses permanently forcing him to travel blindly through life. By the firelight the look of his team became a calm reminder of why he lived, why he died. He fell asleep tucked into a sleeping bag under the stars. He never did that off world. They were not allowed to sleep outside the safety of the tents.

In the morning as the dew gave the brightening day a glistening glow, Daniel blinked and unzipped his bag. Jack was no where to be found and Sam was busy with the coffee. Teal’c fried sausages on the open fire. He hoped Sam didn’t burn the coffee. How she always managed to do that off-world still perplexed him and why he remembered that particular tidbit and not his middle name made him stumble as he walked about on the uneven ground. She just looked up at him as he steadied himself. Her smile was vibrant as the heat of the rising sun. He waved to her and Teal’c then went into the woods to relieve himself.

When he finished, he stole by the camp site and poured himself a tin mug of coffee then he went toward the water. From this distance he could hear the rush of the waterfall. Waterfalls were mesmerizing. Cunningham Falls was not grandiose or legendary like Victoria Falls or Niagara Falls. The voice of Niagara roared across the landscape and muted all else. The constant rain of spray from Niagara kept visitors wet, even in the deepest days of a Western New York winter. A ride on the Maid of the Mist boat to the foot of the Falls pulled your heart out of your throat and stopped your soul all at once. Cunningham did not have that power; it was small and one might say pretty. A gush of water over smoothed rocks, nestled in a forest. It was serene and beautiful yet paled in comparison to the great falls – yet it held its majesty as all waterfalls did. Within the sanctity of its wash, there was something sacred about it.

Jack had come up to him and stood watching the water. As if to read his thoughts, his friend said, “The other Falls, they’re all over done. You know? Like some overdressed hooker.”

He nearly spat out the coffee. “Excuse me? Overdressed hooker?”

“You know big long nails, red nails with little trees painted on them.”

“Little trees?”

“Yeah and big red lips with long eyelashes. Overdone with big boobs.”

“That,” Daniel said. “Is really profound, Jack.”

Jack sipped his coffee, then raised the tin mug to him. “That is what camping is all about Daniel. The simple things.”

He smiled then, because it was true. The simple things. Cunningham Falls in all its simplicity lent him something that the celebrated Niagara could never do, peace of heart.

“Oh and don’t look now,” Jack nodded to him. “But there’s a copperhead at your feet.”

Even the simplest thoughts escaped him now as Daniel sought out the comfort of his friends, his family. His gaze went to the observation windows, searching out the solace of his team. Faces greeted him, stern, cold, unfriendly. These were the diplomats and dignitaries of Kelowna. His spotty memory failed him and he found himself stumbling over their affiliations. He couldn’t blame his descension for his inability to place names to places and places to nationalities. Afterall he knew these details not two days ago when he stepped through the event horizon to raised guns.

It must be the room.

The circumstance.

Where was his team? He ignored the frowns, the silent disdain from the groups huddled close to the windows to observe these last moments. Instead he wanted to see his team, wanted to share a last smile. He would smile for them, this one last time. It felt like an arrow through the chest; it felt like someone dug out his soul through his lungs when he realized they were not there. They were not there. He was alone.

Alone.

He mouthed for air but none came. Gasping he pulled in a breath but still his lungs refused it. The doctor came over and placed a hand on his shoulder. Though it was not a soothing gesture, he focused on the utilitarian touch rather than admit his team had abandon all hope, abandon him.

It was their right. How could he ask them to watch yet again? How could he ask them to watch him die? How could he ask them to watch his execution? He’d made them suffer through so much already, forced them to rescue him, forced them to tolerant him, forced them to watch him die.

How could he ask them to witness his execution at the hands of those he chose to save?

“Damn it Daniel.” Jack had said as he leaned over Daniel’s leg during what seemed now like that far distant camping trip. “I was just joking about the snake.” In his memory he saw the stark etching of anxiety streak his friend’s face. “I was joking.”

“Doesn’t feel like a joke to me.” Daniel fell back against the tree, the ache of his leg throbbing up to his knee. “Looked like a snake.”

“It was a stick, Daniel, a stick.” He gently pulled the elastic of Daniel’s sweats up and hissed at the reddening bruise on his ankle. “I think it’s probably sprained.”

“Copperheads are poisonous, Jack.” He pushed fingers into his eyes and saw stars; it helped take his mind of the fact his tendons felt torn, loosened and ripped. “And are native to Maryland, why would I think you were joking?”

“You know snakes, Goa’ulds, the whole nine yards.” Jack huffed then called out, “Teal’c, Sam need your help.” He turned back to Daniel and said, “Which is something I never really understood. If it is ten yards for a first down in football then why is it the ‘whole nine yards’, why not the whole ten yards.”

Daniel rolled his eyes as he reached down to hike up his pant leg further and see the damage his little two step to miss the fantasy snake had caused his ankle. “It isn’t a football saying but actually a Nautical reference about ships with sails.”

Jack glanced up from his ankle and said, “You don’t say?”

“I do say.”

Sam and Teal’c walked up to them. “Sir, what happened?”

Jack shook his head. “Carter, it is Jack when we’re not on duty.”

“Sure sir, when you call me Sam instead of Carter,” she said and knelt down by Daniel’s foot. “This is going to be a nasty sprain if we don’t get some ice on it.”

“Daniel Jackson may I inquire how you became injured.”

“You may,” he said but did not elaborate. “Sam that hurts, stop twisting it.”

“I kinda might have caused Daniel to think that stick or root over there or whatever it is was a snake,” Jack explained.

“A poisonous snake,” Daniel interjected as he batted Sam’s hand away from his swelling joint.

“And he jolted and tripped and ended up twisting his ankle.” Jack shrugged. “It was a joke.”

Teal’c glowered at Jack and noted, “I do not find such a statement funny O’Neill. Your sense of wit has declined of late.”

“Hey, enough with the comments about my sense of humor.”

“Actually Jack I think Teal’c was making a comment about your lack of intelligence,” Daniel said.

“Et tu, Teal’c?”

The banter went on about him as he sank against the rough bark of the tree. He half closed his eyes and listened to his friends as they teased and tossed jokes at one another. He only clenched his fists once against the pain as Sam wrapped a cold compressed – T-shirts cool and wet from the river – about his ankle.

“I think we should go back, sir. Daniel needs to have this x-rayed and checked over to make sure there isn’t a fracture.”

“You’re right. We’ll break camp and head on down.” Jack was in full military mode.

He squinted and opened one eye to stare up at them. “Nope, don’t think so.”

“Don’t worry Daniel, Teal’c will help you.”

“Most assuredly I will Daniel Jackson,” Teal’c confirmed.

“I’m not talking about that. I just don’t want to leave yet.” The sun was heating the patches of ground all around him. He could only think about curling up in one of those sunwarmed areas, and doing his best impression of a cat all day. “I think I’ll just stay here.” He shifted and as he attempted to move, Teal’c knelt down and assisted him toward his destination. Crystalline sunlight – so bright it hurt his eyes just to be outside – burned across the landscape and he just wanted to soak in it.

“Carter?” He heard Jack confer with her.

“Daniel?” She turned to him for some verification of his health.

“It’s a sprained ankle. It isn’t going to kill me. I just want to lay here, listen to the rush of the waterfall and get a tan.”

“You want to get a tan?” Jack said.

“Yes, that sounds good.”

Soon his whole team agreed and they slipped in around him into the light of the sun, the morning growing warmer and more brilliant in its aspect. It was the first time since his descension he felt normal again, like he had a family again as they all lay out in the sun in the woods.

He would miss the simple things.

The doctor approached the table again and Daniel knew it was starting. He held a single syringe in his hand. He spoke lowly as he asked, “Do you have any last words, anything you’d like to say?”

The world spun and imploded. How can a linguist compress all the words of all the languages into a short phrase or two to express the profundity of life, the uselessness of death? Of how he would shoot that glass wall again, tumble through its shards and save the people of Kelowna all over again – even if it meant he would die of radiation poisoning again, even if it meant they would sentence him to death again for the very deed of saving them.

He nodded and said, “Tell my team, tell SG1, I admire them.”

The doctor lifted the syringe. “This is a paralytic reagent. I’m going to give it to you first. You won’t be able to move after I give it to you. It’s called pancuronium bromide I believe on your world.” The doctor began injecting it into the port on the iv line. “After it has taken effect I will administer the potassium chloride.”

The killing agent. Daniel said nothing to this information, wasn’t sure why he needed to know this last bit of information before he died.

From the corner of his eyes, Daniel caught the glimpse of a movement. Taking his gaze from the morbid fascination with what the doctor was doing he strained to see what flickered on the edge of his vision. In the observation room, someone struggled, fought with one of the other occupants. He wanted to say something but his mouth felt dry and he suddenly wanted to cough.

Something else moved, but the restraint around his head kept him from turning but he heard the crash and a sound strikingly like a zat gun being charged. He heard stumbling feet and then the assistant came into view his hands up and his face ashen white.

“Anybody here want me to leave?” Jack came into view, a zat gun swing toward the doctor. “You put that syringe down. If you don’t I’ll make sure you get one just like it.”

“The guard is secure, O’Neill.”

A sigh of relief bubbled up in him but it stayed, held tightly in his paralyzed chest.

“Carter, get that line out of him.” Jack directed then came into Daniel’s view. “Just hang in there Daniel. We’re almost there.” He keyed his radio. “Ferretti, you got the dim wits?”

“Affirmative, Colonel.”

Jack glanced up at the observation window and gave the unseen Ferretti a thumbs up. Without a second’s twitch or any other indication, he spun around and shot the zat once at the doctor and then again at the assistant. Both crumpled to the floor. “Carter?”

Sam leaned over him, pulling the leads from his chest and head. Her round blue eyes held the depth of his emotions. She squeezed his hand and spoke softly to him, “You’re partially paralyzed Daniel. I’m going to get these restraints off of you then Teal’c is going to pick you up. Don’t be surprised if you feel numb, your heart races, your lungs spasm. These are all effects of the paralytic agent.”

“Carter, for Christ’s sakes we don’t have time for this. Plus you’re probably scaring the shit out of him!” He turned to the door then and mumbled, “I know you’re scaring the shit out of me.”

He felt hands unbinding the leather restraints around his wrists, his ankles, his chest. Her warm fingers touched his forehead as she worked the bindings strapping his head to the table. “Almost there Daniel,” she whispered her voice like an angel’s. She disappeared from his line of sight and he tried to force a sound from his lips but all that came out was a low moan.

“Major Carter, Daniel Jackson has successfully emitted a sound.”

“That, that should be impossible,” Sam said and reappeared. She leaned over him, checking his pulse and saying, “Daniel can you try again?”

He moaned in response, a pitiful sound reminding him of a beaten dog’s cry.

“Carter!” Jack yelled then ordered, “Teal’c get him up. Ferretti, you have the Llangarians in hand?”

The tinny voice over the radio answered, “We do and SG7, 8 and 9 have the way to the gate cleared.”

“Sir.”

“Not now, Teal’c let’s go.”

Sam shifted out of his sight and Teal’c bent down over him. His mass encompassed Daniel and he smelled of steel and leather mixed with ozone – the smell leftover by zat blasts. “You may experience some discomfort Daniel Jackson and I ask forgiveness.” Without awaiting a reply, Teal’c pulled him into a sitting position, and flipped him over his shoulder in a fireman’s carry. Involuntarily a moan issued from him and Teal’c grasped him harder. “Please forgive my roughness, Daniel Jackson.”

His mouth hung open, drool pooled in his cheek and smearing down the side of his face. Tears obscured his vision but his attempts to communicate with his team failed. He needed to hold them, to touch their faces and ask them if they were real. Had he fallen into a dream state before death? Or had all that he wished for come true?

Before he realized it, they were running down corridors, flanked by other SGC personnel. Blasts and gunfire ricocheted about him. Burst of concrete exploded off the walls, hitting him in his face, stinging his eyes. He tried to cough but his trachea rebelled and his throat constricted in spasms. Blood rushed into his arteries, his temples throbbed as his heart skipped hard against his chest. The pounding steps of Teal’c booted feet slammed into his brain with punishing power.

Jack was screaming for Teal’c to follow, ordering Sam to take point, telling Ferretti to watch their six. He heard cries of pain, saw someone stumble, fall and be picked up by another SGC marine. Forces came up on their flank and Jack spun to meet them as Teal’c laid Daniel against a corner then went to help their defensive position. The echoes of bullets died and dimmed out; the singe of blast weapons quieted. Smoke drifted with slow swirls about them. Sam stepped back, her P90 raised as she squatted down near his position.

“Colonel,” a voice called out.

“Quinn?” Both Sam and Teal’c covered his view.

“You don’t have much time, the way is clear but it won’t be for long.”

“Teal’c get him up. We’re out of here.” Jack called and suddenly Teal’c seized him again, lifting him like a rag doll.

“Jonas, thanks,” Sam said. “Take care of yourself.”

“Hurry now, I have to put on a good act to make them believe you got away.”

They were off again, racing down stairs to the room where the stargate was. Unconscious guards lay at the foot of the DHD. “Dial us out, Carter.”

The distinct sound of chevrons activating filled the room and then the eruption of the wormhole enveloped his senses. A shuddering relief racked his body but then Jack yelled out, a painful cry cutting the air and slicing through his heart.

“Teal’c!” Sam called out and flung herself toward their pursuers. Her P90 littered the room with volleys of bullets. Abruptly Teal’c dropped him to the floor and ran to Jack’s crumpled form. “Get him through the gate.”

“Daniel Jackson?” Teal’c asked as he hoisted the limp body of their team leader upon his shoulder.

After a second round of suppressing fire, Sam shook her head and told him, “Go, we’ll handle it.” Ferretti and his team swarmed the area, covering both his unresponsive body and Sam.

“Go Major,” Ferretti directed.

She moved to his side, slung his arm over her shoulder and with a strength he didn’t know she possessed, took on his weight and her own. Even as explosions and battle fire detonated around them, Sam marched without flinching toward her target. A bullet whizzed close to her face but she didn’t react, only set her sights on the shimmering surface before her. He longed to tell her to go, to leave him to his fate but his muscles failed him, his mouth a mass of drool and dull sensations.

“Go! Go! It’s a charge!” Ferretti screamed and they were shoved forward into the event horizon as the rest of the SG teams hurled to escape the explosive bomb. The last thing he heard was the quiet din before the pop and the momentary void before the blast of the attack. His body plummeted to the ramp, his eyes closing as he heard General Hammond command the iris closed.

There was a low beep keeping time in the room as he drifted to consciousness. He heard people talking, their voices remained distant and he did not climb toward them but remained a part in the fog of half sleep.

“Seems the doctor didn’t give him the total dose of the paralytic,” Sam was saying.

“God damned sadists.” Jack, Daniel smiled, sounded pissed and if that was true then it meant that Jack had survived his injury.

“I am unsure why the medical personnel would not give Daniel Jackson the entire dose of the paralytic agent.”

“They wanted him to be able to scream,” Jack cursed, then explained to Teal’c. “Not giving him the entire dose of the muscle relaxant left him the ability to make sound.”

“This is true, O’Neill. Daniel Jackson did possess the ability to moan.”

“When they administered the potassium chloride, the killing agent, Daniel would have been awake and able to cry out from the pain. When he suffered a fatal heart attack, the damned Llangarians would have been able to stand there and listen to him suffer as he died. It wasn’t enough they killed him once with radiation poisoning but they had to watch him suffer through another death.” Jack stopped and then added, “God damned it, they didn’t even give him a sedative.”

“They offered me one.”

“Daniel? You’re awake?” Sam shifted and grabbed the rail to his bed. He cracked his eyes open and saw that Jack lay in the bed next to him with his lower left abdomen wrapped.

He nodded to Sam and reached for the water. She handed it to him and he sipped the cool liquid, feeling the burn of thirst ease. “The doctor offered me a sedative Jack. I don’t think they wanted me to suffer.”

“Believe what you want to Daniel. Those people were sons of bitches. You know it, I know, hell the Goa’uld know it. Pretending that they aren’t doesn’t change it.”

“Maybe I don’t want to believe it because I need to believe they needed to be saved.”

“I do not understand Daniel Jackson.” Teal’c stood with his hands clasped behind his back, his face a grimace but kindness brimming in his eyes.

“I don’t want to believe I died for a bunch of SOBs.”

The weight of his statement anchored them to the moment, refused to let them go until Jack nodded and said, “The doctor must have made a mistake, you know, didn’t figure on the right dose or something.”

“Yes sir.”

“I believe you have made a correct conclusion O’Neill.”

Daniel didn’t laugh; how could he smile when he’d just escaped a death chamber. He remembered lying on the table spread out ready to die like some sacrilegious offering. His mind revolved around those moments, thinking he’d been abandon, lost, forgotten in that white sterile room. Glancing at his team, shame rose to a warm rush on his cheeks. How could he believe that? Why would he believe that?

“Daniel?” Jack asked as he winced.

“Jack?” He left his thoughts even though they continued to plague him. “You okay?” He raised his chin to indicate the bandages covering his mid-section.

“So the doctor tells me,” Jack said.

“Good enough to go camping?”

“What?” Sam jumped out of her seat, a frown marring her features.

“I think we should go camping again,” Daniel said.

“Camping?” Jack grinned.

“I believe the medication administered to Daniel Jackson during his recent encounter on Kelowna may have damaged his brain.”

“You’re telling me,” Sam huffed.

At that Daniel laughed but his smirked did not stop him from planning their next outing. It would take weeks before they could schedule the camping trip. Sam mumbled under her breath a lot about the trip, talked about how they needed her at area 51 but in the end reluctantly agreed to go. Teal’c remained impassive about the trip, commented on the peculiarity of humans and their philosophy on relaxation and recreation but he too decided to go. Strangely it was Jack that took the most convincing. Jack made several excuses yet none of them stuck. In the end it was General Hammond that told Jack to go. Daniel didn’t like the idea of forcing Jack to join them but if there was only one way to get Jack to go then Daniel was happy to take it.

So, on the ghost of a morning, one month to the day Daniel had been taken into custody and sentenced to death by lethal injection, his team settled in on their campsite. The wash of the river and the falls silenced them as they set about organizing the site. He kept quiet allowing the tranquility about him to pervade the marrow of his bones. Jack stayed his distance and Daniel watched him, observed how the man functioned. His movements were still stiff from the blast to his side, but he kept pace and directed how the camp should be set up.

Daniel peered at him before taking to the small path into the woods toward the waterfall. He sat on a jetting rock, feeling the coolness of the night still embedded in it. A spray of water from the rush sprinkled over him but he ignored it. His thick jacket kept the cold out. He heard the crunch through the woods before Jack spoke.

“Breakfast is almost ready.”

Daniel nodded. He didn’t speak.

“Pretty.” Jack said as he came up to Daniel with two mugs of coffee. He handed one to Daniel and sipped the other. Daniel bent to take a taste as Jack said, “It’s a shame we couldn’t go out to Maryland again. That was nice.”

“This is nice too,” Daniel said. The no-name falls was deep within the woods around Jack’s cabin in Minnesota. The cold of winter barked at their skin, abraded their senses. They would eat here by the water, warm themselves by the fire but they would hike back to Jack’s cabin at night.

“I’m getting too old for this,” Jack said after a fashion.

“For camping?”

“For leading SG1, for watching my friends,” Jack paused, took a drink of coffee, licked his lips and said, “Damn, I can’t do it anymore Daniel.”

There was no reply that seemed fitting to Daniel so he remained silent.

“No one in this fucking universe is sane. They don’t have to even be snakeheads to be whacked in the head.” Jack finished his coffee.

“No they don’t,” Daniel said, placing his cup on the rock. “People are like that Jack. Good and bad and every shade in between.”

“You know, I’ve been in the military more years than I can count. I’ve lost a lot of my friends, seen them die, held them as they suffered.” He groaned a bit as he sat down next to Daniel. “Jesus this rock is cold.”

Daniel only chuckled deep in his chest.

Jack hung his head for a minute before lifting it and squinting into the day’s sunlight. “What I want to say is this.” He turned to Daniel and said, “I could have killed them all Daniel. Every single one of those idiots on Kelowna. I wanted to kill them, I wanted to feel their necks break in my hands.”

“I know,” he whispered. He hated that sometimes what happened to him caused Jack so much pain.

“I didn’t because of you,” Jack murmured. “I knew you would hate me if I killed them.”

Daniel nodded.

“I’m a better man because of you,” Jack said but didn’t look at him.

“So am I,” Daniel agreed.

At that Jack did look at him. “What?”

He shook his head and tossed a few pebbles into the rapids. “Forever, or what seems like forever I’ve always been focused on the big picture, the meaning of life kind of stuff.”

“Kind of stuff.”

“Yes,” Daniel said and then continued, “When I was laying on that table, looking up into the light, I kept thinking about that camping trip.”

“The camping trip?”

“The one to Catoctin Mountains. I remembered it like it was yesterday, so clear and bright and real. Without those memories, I think I would have been a sobbing fool.”

“I think in that circumstance, Daniel, sobbing would have been appropriate,” Jack noted.

“Probably, but because of something you taught me I was able to hold on to a shred of my dignity.” The sun rose higher and it glistened off the peaks of the waves, glinting to a near blinding white. He didn’t elaborate directly, instead he said, “You know I don’t think Angels sing about heralded events at all.”

“No?”

Shaking his head, Daniel gazed out at the waterfall then back at Jack. His vision flashed with afterimages of the diamond peaked waves. “No I think they sing about the simple things.”

“The simple things? Like camping?” Jack asked.

“Yes, like camping,” Daniel said. “The simple things because when all is said and done it isn’t about the Goa’uld or Anubis or the Ancients, it’s about the simple things.”

Jack didn’t comment, just sat there staring out into the water’s wake as if mesmerized, then he stood, brushed his pants off and said, “That one doesn’t count, you know.”

“What?”

“You can’t count that one as dying because technically you didn’t die.”

Daniel pursed his lips, suppressing a grin. “But I was sentenced to death so I think it should at least count for half.”

“Half dead?” Jack jumped off the rock and onto the path. “Daniel, you can’t be half dead, that’s like being a little bit pregnant. Ain’t gonna work.”

He clambered up and followed Jack back to the camp site. “Two more seconds and it would have been all dead.”

“Well excuse me for breaking your streak, maybe you’d like to go back?”

Daniel flopped down next to the burnt coffee Sam was making to listen to Teal’c’s latest rendition of the theme from the Love Boat. As he rested back against the tree, Jack ranted about his propensity for finding new and exciting ways to die. It seemed his creativity in that department was never-ending. Daniel just closed his eyes and listened to his friends banter about him.

The simple things.

THE END.

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