There's nothing simple about their adventures, nothing easy or quick or painless. No, theirs is a story with many facets.
It's a story about how sometimes in life, you don't have a choice.
Behind them, the clock is ticking away the seconds, the last minutes of their lives.
"There's nothing like dying to save your planet, is there?" he asks sardonically.
He should know, he's done this at least as many times as she has.
They ran out of options half a day ago, and are slowly running out of oxygen now, too. But they're together, and as far as deaths go, this one isn't so bad.
"So, what do you want to do?"
Usually, he asks that question when they're about to head out for a team night, or when the guys invite themselves to her place unannounced. The fact that he's saying it in the same tone of voice now, so close to the end, makes her feel weirdly comforted. Some things just don't change.
"I don't know."
She gave up trying to fix the ship around this time yesterday, and only after he insisted she do.
"Well, we've got a deck of cards, we could play Poker! ... But I have to warn you, there's no King of Hearts." At her questioning glance, he adds, "T took it. He thought it was unfair all the other Kings got to have moustaches, so he wanted to paint one on. Never gave it back to me..."
There's a laugh trapped somewhere in her chest, but for all the surprisingly positive things she's feeling right now, laughter is a little out of her reach.
"Nah ah. Don't, Carter!" he says, as if to distract her. "I can see the numbers rattling in your head. You're trying to figure out how to beat me, now that you know there's no King of Hearts. Not a chance."
That, finally, makes her smile. He knows her, and that, of course, is no surprise. But sometimes it surprises her how much things like this don't surprise her anymore. There are some people you'd give your life to be with, and some you cannot be with to be able to give your life, and she has never been sure which group he belongs to, for her. Maybe both, maybe neither, or maybe it doesn't even matter anymore.
She looks out at the stars, her only other constant in life.
"Do you ever regret it?"
The question slips out uncensored, and dammit, she's better at this usually.
"Regret what?" he asks, and it's not a deflection.
"This. All of it. Giving up so much. A normal life, a chance at... so many things."
They both know what she's talking (and not talking) about. He might know her better than anyone else, but she's gotten pretty well at reading him, too.
It doesn't sound like a proper answer, but she thinks she understands. Sometimes, yes, in moments like this, when their luck has run out, and she allows herself to think about the things she's missed. But even then, she's sure she wouldn't have given it up, or expected him to do the same. They're part of something greater, now. Something the Room is far too small for.
"Yeah, me too."
He looks at her then, like he doesn't look at her often, only when he's about to say something profound. She holds her breath.
"It never goes away, does it?"
Breath rushing out, she just shakes her head. Saying anything more than they already have would be too much, too close, would mean they were really giving up. And if there's one thing they never do, it's that. So she locks her eyes with his, like they've done it so many times in the past years.
Behind them, the window glass starts to crack.
It's a story about how everything comes at a price.
"It's Atlantis, Jack!"
Daniel isn't sure how else he can spell it out. It's been my dream ever since I started this whole thing. Before that, even. City of the Ancients.
"How can I not go?"
"Easy," Jack deadpans. "You just stay."
"That's not what I signed up for, and you know it!"
He came here to find his wife, first and foremost, then to learn new things, meet new people, and later, much later, he stayed to get some modicum of control back over his life after Sha're was taken from him forever. And now… Now he doesn't know anymore.
"No," Jack hurls the word at him. "You signed up for SG-1. Not the Atlantis expedition, not Explorers'R'Us. You signed up to be part of this team. And this team stays. We don't just abandon each other, or our mission."
The glare that follows is enough to get Daniel's anger surging again, but Jack continues before he even gets a chance to interrupt.
"Plus, you always say that there's so much out there that you haven't seen yet. If you think you can't do your part anymore, fine. Leave. I won't stop you. But you're not going to Atlantis. Not now, anyway. Later."
"Later is too late!" Daniel throws back at him. Because it is too late, because who knows what might happen. Weir and her expedition might never come back. They might be trapped in Atlantis. They might die. (Maybe that's another reason why Jack won't let him go.) Daniel thinks about arguing all the things he could learn there, all the knowledge he could bring back that would benefit SG-1 along with the rest of the SGC, but Jack has never been receptive to that line of argument. Then, for just a second, he considers the military argument, finding weapons and defence technology, but he's not desperate enough to argue against his own beliefs. Not that Jack would fall for that, anyway; he would see right through him.
"Yeah, well... It's all I can give you."
Daniel deflates. He knows when he's beat, and for all his desire to see the wonders of Atlantis, they both know he won't abandon his team. Not in a million years.
"We've all made sacrifices. That's the price you pay," Jack adds quietly, almost as an afterthought, and walks away, leaving Daniel to his demons. The truth is... it's not just about Atlantis. No, this is just the last in a string of moments leading up to the inevitable argument.
Daniel knows he's at least partly right, as much as he's loath to admit it, but he also remembers. He remembers his wife, remembers Sam's dad, remembers Martouf and the Tollans and Hathor and Antarctica. He remembers all the people they've saved, and all the people they've lost, prices so much higher than not getting permission to go to Atlantis. And he remembers that sometimes... sometimes the price is too high to go on.
It's a story about how losing someone doesn't equal seeing them die.
Cam's arms are around Vala's waist, and he's trying his hardest to drag her away from the explosion.
"Let me go!" she yells, aiming kicks at every part of him she can reach, her fists drumming on his body.
He calls out for Teal'c, and thankfully, he's there in an instant. With combined forces, they haul Vala through the Gate and into the wormhole that will bring them to an ally planet.
On the other side, Vala crumbles in his arms just as the Gate shuts down, and it takes all his strength to even keep her upright. He can see Sam shaking, and Teal'c putting his hand on her shoulder to steady her. There's a tear running down her face, and he can see it glisten even from where he's standing.
His attempts to guide Vala towards a mossy tree stump nearby prove futile; she merely clings to him in a way nobody has clung to him in a long, long time. They're not going anywhere for a while.
After what feels like hours (from the weight of his arms, from the heaviness of his friend's death on his shoulders), but what cannot have been more than a few minutes, Vala starts mumbling things against his jacket, and he pulls back a little to hear what she's trying to say.
"He shouldn't have- we can't- this isn't how it's supposed to be!"
They've had a similar conversation before, but it had been different then, Daniel had been alive still, they had a body to monitor, a voice to talk to, even if the words coming out weren't that of their friend. There is nothing now.
She's sobbing out whys and hows and long, drawn-out nos now while Sam and Teal'c still hold each other, too, and he so desperately wants to help her, help them, to make it all go away. Until now, he's never had the feeling of really fitting in himself. All the history between Sam, Daniel and Teal'c, and then there's Vala who has somehow made it her mission to get Daniel to like her, but now, as he examines his own feelings, he realises he hurts just as much as the rest of them.
"I know, shhh," is all he says, because he does know, now, and there's nothing else he can say that will make the tiniest bit of a difference.
Eventually, the sobs turn into sniffling, and he can see Sam trying to distract herself with the new tech they got from the planet (the planet that they left Daniel on to d-), and he can see Teal'c checking the perimeter, and he can see the base from where he's standing. It's time to go, time to move on, if not figuratively (not for a long while, not ever), at least literally.
He still holds Vala close all the way to the compound.
Five days later, Daniel returns, and after countless hugs-Vala barely lets go long enough of him for the others to get their turn-Cam catches her eye, grinning wildly, and she returns his smile.
It's a story about how once in a while, it's okay to need somebody because maybe, just maybe, they need you, too.
Sam is sure it isn't supposed to hurt like this. No, actually, she is sure it has never hurt like this before.
It's not her first staff weapon wound, nor the worst injury she's ever had (not by far), and yet. Janet has effectively taken her off active duty for at least three weeks, and she's already bored to death, less than four days in. The guys aren't even off-world, but somehow, sitting in her lab by herself doesn't feel right. Her leg twitches against the table, and the pain shoots up her spine, muscles tensing in places she didn't even know she had.
She sucks in a breath, suddenly, because the alternative would be screaming, and she doesn't do that. Instead, she tells herself it's not all that bad. It can't be. She sees the injury every time Janet changes the bandages.
Somebody behind her clears their throat, and it makes her jump even though she already knows it's Daniel, not another assailant. The movement makes the pain worse, and her knuckles turn white on the edge of her desk.
"Anything I can do?"
He doesn't even bother asking if she's alright. They all think she isn't. She shakes her head, doesn't trust herself to speak yet.
"I think you need a new chair. This one can't be comfortable."
His tone suggests normalcy, as if the only thing that's wrong is that's she has a stiff neck from sitting in front of her laptop too long. As if she hadn't been captured, beaten, and almost killed. She wants to be angry now, wants to lash out at somebody. He will do.
"Is there anything you need?" she asks, venom in her voice.
When she doesn't reply, she whips around to face him, ignoring the new surge of pain in favour of the sharp insult on the tip of her tongue. But when she sees him, standing comfortably two steps into her lab, his hands deep inside his pockets, something inside her deflates and collapses.
"I'm sorry," she murmurs, and lets her fingers unclench slowly.
He doesn't give any indication he's heard her, or maybe he just doesn't mind being yelled at. Or maybe he knows what it's like, to be in this place. To be trapped in a memory that's made up entirely of agony.
"Anything I can do?" he repeats his question.
She almost shakes her head again, but catches herself before she can.
"Grab the blanket inside the—"
He moves before she has time to finish the plea. She suddenly remembers all the times she has woken up covered with the very same blanket after falling asleep on her work. She always assumed it was Teal'c because he's never not on base.
A soft sigh and a smile later, she has settled a little more comfortably on her chair, her leg propped up a little. And Daniel is still there.
"Do you want to talk about it?"
She knows she probably should. She has spent enough time in the military to know all about the psychological trauma of severe injuries, but somehow, that isn't all there is to it.
"You know, I got shot on Abydos once," he starts. "It was an accident; one of the kids got their hands on a weapon, and before I knew it, I was out cold. Sha're told me I was unconscious for several days. It hurt like hell once I woke up, and I still have the scars." His hand automatically goes to his right hip, but she doesn't think he's noticed. "Recovery was... less than pleasant. And even though I knew it was just an accident, I kept dreaming it wasn't. I had nightmares for weeks, about being stuck somewhere, about being shot and never being able to go home."
"I knew I'd get out of there," Sam interrupts. "That you would come back for me."
"Of course we would. We always will. That doesn't mean you weren't scared."
She sighs, "No, it doesn't."
"We were scared, too. We were terrified we'd get back there and you'd be dead."
There's something in his eyes now, something dark and dangerous that she has never seen before. But he smiles and it's gone, and she can't help but wonder if she didn't imagine it.
"Looks like those Jaffa had no idea how much of a threat you'd be. Otherwise they'd have gotten rid of you when they still had a chance."
It's her first smile in more than a week. She still remembers the last one, when Teal'c had made her laugh right before they had run into the trap, but it feels like that was months ago, so her face aches with the effort. But it's worth just to see his eyes soften.
He moves closer, wraps an arm around her carefully, and just holds her for a while. She would be ashamed of how much she's clinging to him if he wasn't Daniel and she wasn't Sam. But he knows, that's enough.
They all think she isn't okay. And she slowly realises that maybe she doesn't have to be.
It's a story about how the smart thing and the right thing aren't always the same.
"No, Teal'c!" Jack yells over his shoulder, breathing hard, "We've been through this. We need to leave now before more Jaffa get here."
Jack can see the other man open his mouth to argue, but he cuts him right off.
"Don't! You know we won't survive if we stay here now. If we go back, we might have a chance. These people might have a chance. We need to get reinforcements."
They're at the Gate now, Daniel dialling frantically and Sam providing cover fire while Teal'c stops running. Jack hasn't taken his eyes off him, so he realises what his friend is about to do and is at his side in an instant. Grabbing Teal'c by the uniform, he yells.
"I said no! Do you want to get killed?"
"If we leave now, they will die. Men, women, children."
Jack tries to shake some sense into him.
"And if we stay, we will all die! You will, and so will Daniel and Carter. And every single person in this village."
"Then I shall die defending these people."
"The hell you will," Jack shouts, and then motions for Carter to come closer. If he has to, he'll try to drag Teal'c back through the Gate with them. Realistically, he knows even with Carter's help, Teal'c is too strong once he really sets his mind to something, but he still hopes Carter can talk some sense into him.
Carter runs up to them, and from the look in her eyes he can already tell she knows what's going on. He takes over cover fire for her, but it only takes her a long look at Teal'c and a few silent words he can't make out over the sound of his P-90. Something changes in Teal'c's stance, and while his shoulders never sag, they seem a little more tense than is normal in a situation like this, and his eyes look darker.
Later, he'll ask Carter what she said to Teal'c, and after that, he'll have to have a long talk about following orders with the guy himself, but for now, he tells them to get moving. Daniel sees them move towards him again and jumps through the event horizon, Carter only a few seconds behind.
From the corner of his eye, he catches Teal'c risk one last glance at the people they're leaving behind, and then they're swallowed by the wormhole. The haunted look is still there in his eyes when they re-materialise on the other side, and it's the first time Jack can remember that Teal'c doesn't wait to be dismissed before heading to shower.
They never hear from P4X-623 again.
It's a story about how grief isn't often linear.
Janet could have been buried in Arlington. She should have been, deserved to be. But Sam knew that she wouldn't have wanted it. Janet wouldn't have wanted to be half a country away from home, from Cassie, from her. And nobody at the SGC would've wanted her to be, either.
She doesn't visit her friend's grave often enough, but whenever she does, Sam feels more at peace afterwards. Janet still has the same effect on people she had in life, and that amazes Sam more than anything.
Fort Logan is nice enough a cemetery, as far as cemeteries go, but in the end, it doesn't really matter where Janet is laid to rest. Teal'c told her, once, that when you can't lose somebody you love. "You will miss them," he said, "and you will cry. And you will never forget the pain, but it will get better, and after sufficient time has passed, you will think of them and smile. But you will always carry them with you." And then he hugged her, and she cried.
Now she doesn't cry much anymore. She still misses Janet, still thinks she would give almost anything to have her back, but every year, it gets a little easier to visit her grave, and every day, it gets a little easier to breathe.
The bouquet of flowers in her hands feels heavy even after she places it next to the tomb stone.
"Cassie says hi! She wanted to come with, but she hasn't been feeling too well. When I told her to stay in bed or else she'd have to do the dishes for the rest of the month, she growled something about me being exactly like you."
She smiles at the memory, but she feels her shoulders sagging. "Maybe you are not yet ready to let go, Colonel Carter," she can almost hear Teal'c's voice. He was the one she went to after Janet's death, because everyone else was either hurt or grieving in their own way.
"We miss you, Jan."
Whenever she says it, the weight on her shoulders gets a little lighter.
"Do you remember the first time we took Cassie to the zoo? We talked about that last night. It was—there was this documentary on TV, and Cassie brought it up. And we ended up looking at old pictures of the two of you, and of the guys. She calls us 'her weird little family'."
A sob forms in her throat, but she swallows it down. The impression is still there, though, the phantom of a feeling lodged in her chest, and she can't stop herself.
"I just wish—" you were here. you hadn't died. you could have ascended.
She doesn't finish her sentence because it's already too painful to even think of all the possible things she could say.
"Love you, Jan."
Sam turns away.
Speaking to her friend like this, even if it's really a monologue and she knows Janet can't hear her, often lifts some of her burdens. Today, though, when she gets back into her car, she doesn't feel better. There's still a long way to go.
It's a story about how fate can bring two people together only for destiny to tear them apart again.
"Are you alright, Daniel Jackson?"
"Hmm?" Daniel looks up from the piece of paper he is supposed to be making sense of, but has only been staring at blankly for what must have been at least half an hour now.
"Sorry, Teal'c, I was just thinking."
Teal'c only nods that understanding nod that he often does, but this time, it makes Daniel sigh. When he doesn't explain why, Teal'c goes out on a limb (as far as he ever does, anyway).
"Has it not been several years since you lost your wife?"
Daniel's no longer surprised by Teal'c's uncanny ability to know exactly what he (or anyone else on the team) is thinking at any given time. Then he remembers that they're coming up on the anniversary of Drey'auc's death, too, and suddenly, it's not far-fetched at all.
"Yeah, it's been a while..."
The Jaffa inclines his head slightly, but doesn't speak. It's enough of a prompt to keep talking, and once the words start pouring out of him, Daniel realises how much he's needed this. Somebody to talk to. Somebody who understands. For all the loss Jack's had in his life, they can't quite relate to each other in the way he and Teal'c can. He's almost surprised it's taken him so long to see the connection. Or he will be, later, when the nostalgia is over and the sadness has abated somewhat. For now, he tells Teal'c of all the little moments he and Sha're had, all the things—mundane and extraordinary—he misses most about her every day.
When he eventually falls silent, Teal'c still hasn't said a word, hasn't so much as moved a muscle, but the weight on Daniel's shoulders is a little lighter just the same. But he also sees the pain in his friend's eyes, hidden away like it always is, of course, though this time, something bleeds through. So he asks the question that's been on his mind almost as long as he's resigned himself to the fact he'll never see Sha're again, even though she's been gone longer than Drey'auc.
"It never really gets better, does it?"
After a moment, Teal'c shakes his head the slightest bit; a concession to his own loss that other people would've missed, people who don't know him as well as the team now does.
Nothing else needs saying, and silence descends upon them once more as they continue to sit together.
It's a story about how the people around you change you and make you the person you should always have been.
"Hey, Muscles, wait up!"
When she catches up with him, she's just a little out of breath, but to be fair, she did have to chase him through most of the mountain.
"How may I be of assistance, Vala Mal Doran?"
"You've been here a lot longer than I have, but you know what it's like to be... out there." She makes a vague gesture in the general direction of the Gate room, so he nods his head.
"What do people here do for fun?"
"I assumed you would have discovered means to spend your time off-duty by this point," Teal'c replies.
"I have. But I don't want to just spend some time, I want to have fun! What do you do when you get out of here?"
"I do not believe I can help you. I rarely find sufficient time to leave the base."
With a pout on her face, Vala playfully hits his arm.
"Come on, Muscles. I saw you and Daniel sneak out the other night. What are you up to when I'm not around to keep my eyes on him?"
"Daniel Jackson was merely introducing me to an ancient Earth culture."
A museum visit clearly isn't Vala's idea of 'fun', her nose wrinkled in disgust, but there's something in Teal'c's eyes that makes her hesitate.
"So where are you going now?"
And with that, she has him. Teal'c, being the stoic guy that he is, knows when he's beat, and inclines his head.
"I believe Colonel Carter has invited Daniel Jackson and Colonel Mitchell to dinner. I plan to join them."
"Ohhh," Vala's eyes widen with excitement, "can I come?"
Teal'c pretends to think for several moments (a few too many, perhaps, Vala already rocking back and forth on her heels, and it reminds Teal'c of his son so much for a second that something coils tight in his chest, then loosens again), but eventually nods again.
"I am sure Colonel Carter also meant to include you in the invitation."
"Excellent!" Vala smiles, and then realises all the new options on the table suddenly.
"Oh, I know what we can do! We can play strip-poker! Daniel taught me. Well, he taught me poker, but I did some reading on this internet thing, and there seems to be a variation of the game that involves... well, higher stakes. Or we could spin a bottle! That seems to be a popular pastime on this planet."
She keeps babbling on and on about earth games she's discovered recently as they round a corner, and then another, all the way to the elevator, until Teal'c declares:
"I find myself looking forward to this evening, Vala Mal Doran."
"Has anyone ever told you you say our names as if they were one word?"
Her smile is so infectious not even Teal'c is immune, one corner of his mouth twitching slightly.
It's a story about how occasionally, if you’re lucky, you get a fresh start.
"So, one year, huh?"
Sam approaches Cam from behind, a glass of champagne in her hand. Most of the others have cleared out of the mess already, the anniversary celebrations Cam insisted on drawing to a slow but sure close.
"One year. Whooo!"
He toasts her again, just like he's done it all evening, and there's no way he isn't at least slightly tipsy after all this. It makes her smile.
"It was a nice party."
"Damn right it was! But I'm sure it would've been even nicer if not for Miss I-Want-All-The-Attention over there."
He points towards the other side of the room, where Vala is obviously trying to make out with Daniel while he seems engrossed in his latest translations. Leave it to Daniel to sneak work into a party in the first place.
"Aww, don't be jealous, Cameron," Sam deadpans in her most fake-sympathetic voice, looking at him from big eyes that are threatening to give her mirth away. "You had your party, isn't that what counts?"
"I guess," he says, taking another sip from beer bottle. A drop escapes and runs down his bottom lip, but he wipes it away before it reaches his chin.
"Did you ever have one of those? Before I came?"
"An anniversary party? Not really. The first year kind of snuck up on us. I remember General O'Neill bringing it up, and Daniel and I couldn't really believe it had been a whole year already. We were just so caught up in our fight against the Goa'uld that nothing else mattered. And the second year, none of us remembered because we spent the better part of a week locked up on some alien planet."
He nods, he's read that report, like all the others they wrote over the years. Sometimes, she envies him his enthusiasm. On the far side of ten years, Sam thinks, nothing looks as rosy anymore.
"But what about after that? You can't have missed the anniversary of your first Gate trip every year?"
She shakes her head.
"We didn't. But somehow, the timing never seemed right for something like... this."
He gets what she's trying to say: Things were different before he came, entirely, absolutely, completely different, and yet, they weren't necessarily better.
"Well, you missed a hell of a lot of fun, Sam." He tilts his bottle a little towards the remaining people around them. "This is your second chance."
She smiles again, not because she has to, but because he's right.
"I guess I better use it then, right?"
Her hand lands on his arm and she squeezes, "Don't look so grim. You can always get back at Vala somehow."
"Ya," he agrees, and gets up. "To new beginnings," he toasts her again, and makes his way over to the rest of SG-1, aware that Sam is watching him every step of the way.
It's a story about how, at the end of the day, you always find your way home.
"Yeah?" Jack replies distractedly while trying to re-tie the laces on his left boot.
"Where's the Gate?"
His head jerks up, eyes wide, and the second he sees the Gate isn't where it's supposed to be, he whips around, checking the perimeter for enemies, traps, escape routes.
They both still vividly remember the first (and thankfully only) time a Stargate just... disappeared like that.
"You don't suppose..." the Colonel starts, pulling off his baseball cap.
"The Nox, sir? I don't think so," Sam retorts, vaguely pointing the hand resting on her P-90 around them. "Doesn't seem like their kind of planet."
She's right, the planet is far too dry and plain for the Nox.
"Too bad." After a few more seconds of awkwardly fumbling with his cap, he decides, "Let's go find the guys."
It takes them about an hour to get back to where they left Daniel and Teal'c, the former still running around with one of his gazillion notebooks, the latter seated nearby, surveying the surroundings.
"O'Neill, Major Carter," Teal'c is immediately at attention, until Sam smiles at him slightly and shakes her head.
"Daniel, stop your history business for a second and come over here!" Jack yells, and when they're all together, he leaves it to Sam to answer Daniel's surprised "Hey, guys, why are you back?"
"We got to the Gate, but it was gone."
"What do you mean, gone?"
"Gone," Jack cuts in. "Not where it's supposed to be. Missing. Out of sight. Nowhere to be found. Vamoose."
"But I thought the MALP data indicated there were no people living here. Who could've taken a Stargate? I mean, it's not something you just throw over your shoulder..."
"And unless they came in a spaceship, it would still have to be here," Sam adds.
"We have encountered a situation like this before," Teal'c butts in, only to be cut short by the Colonel.
"Nah, Carter has already decided the Nox aren't involved."
Daniel nods vehemently and starts babbling about the foreign symbols and wall paintings he found in the ruins behind them, until Jack holds up a hand to stop him.
"Is there anything in there that could help us?"
"That's the thing, I don't know yet."
"Well then go do your thing. Teal'c, you're with Daniel, Carter and I are going to have another look around."
And they do look around, and Daniel does try to decipher more of the strange symbols while Teal'c keeps watch, but all to no avail. The Stargate is gone, they're virtually stranded.
"Hammond probably already knows something's gone wrong. Carter and I should've been back a couple of hours ago. I'm sure he's already dialling up those damn Tok'ra as we speak."
That they might not make it back home for several days, if not weeks or even longer doesn't need to be said, they all know it. Teal'c, ever the practical one, suggests they find a place to spend the night, any sort of shelter against the biting cold and the burning morning sun.
Easier said than done; aside from the ruins and a few hills around them, there's not much there, but in the end, they come across a cave.
"Not the Plaza," Jack deadpans, "but it'll do."
Routinely, they set up a tent to shield the entrance and get their sleeping bags (they only have two, but with the spare blanket, a makeshift mattress made of clothes and the fact that at least one of them always has to be up keeping watch anyway, things are settled easily). Teal'c goes out to chop a few twigs off one of the dry tree-like... somethings outside, which they find out has a nice smell when used as firewood. It's not the first night by far they've spent off-world without the necessary equipment, and once they heat up their rations (chicken with noodles that, much to Daniel's chagrin, taste more like beef stew) and sit together like they've done it countless times before, they know that things could be much worse. It feels like somebody should give voice to the "At least none of us are alone!" that hangs between them, but they know they're all thinking it anyway, so no one speaks. When it's just the four of them, no one else there, and nobody missing, either, they don't need words.
It doesn't take long for Jack to get the deck of cards out that he seems to bring everywhere—even though the rest of the team wonder how many cards he must've lost on alien planets so far—, and then they're all playing a few rounds of poker, until Teal'c drags his sleeping bag a few feet further away to kelno'reem, and then Daniel folds and starts scribbling frantically in his notebook while occasionally murmuring to himself. When, after a few more rounds, Sam announces she's going to get some sleep, Jack's left to play patiences on his own.
Teal'c kelno'reems through the first watch that Jack takes, and their little cave is as quiet as it'll ever be, the soft light of the fire near the entrance providing just enough light to keep him alert. When he eventually wakes Sam for her shift, Teal'c keeps her company. She doesn't need it, she's just as well trained as the Colonel is, but Teal'c doesn't sleep, so they might as well spend the hours in companionable silence. It's not like Teal'c's the most talkative of guys, anyway.
She's only fallen asleep during her watch once since she joined the Stargate program, and they'd all been more than a little affected by an alien beverage back then, so nobody had blamed her, but having Teal'c by their side helps both her and Daniel, she can see it on his face when she goes to rouse him from what looks like a fitful sleep. Of the four of them, he always sleeps the least off-world, and dark circles around his eyes are more the rule than the exception. Maybe it's because he's not military, was never trained to sleep under any and all circumstances, be asleep one second and absolutely alert the next.
But he never complains (unless he's tipsy, which... has happened before—he always goes off tasting everything the natives offer), and when they exchange a few hushed words during the shift change, he smiles that smile at her that puts her at complete ease.
Teal'c speaks more to him than to Sam on these occasions, or maybe Daniel has the need to talk more than she does, so he whispers, talks about alien cultures and languages and linguistics neither of the others would ever understand or care much about, but Teal'c listens stoically, and even manages to look interested most of the time.
And thus passes another night, in the same vein many others before it have.
Some unknown type of agent must be in the air, because shortly after the sun comes up, Daniel starts sneezing and doesn't stop for half an hour while Jack looks more and more dismayed. They don't really have a plan for situations like this other than 'sit it out and wait,' but Carter says she wants to take another look around the Gate site, see if she can turn the abandoned DHD into some soft of communication mumbo-jumbo, so they break camp and slowly walk back the way they came from.
"Carter, as soon as we're home, you'll get on that inter-planetary cell phone you've talked about."
She laughs at that, knowing they're still (quite literally) light-years away from developing technology like that.
"Don't worry, Jack, I'm sure the Tok'ra will be here in no time," Daniel offers, as if that's somehow supposed to make him feel better.
But before Jack can snippily retort just how much he likes relying on the Tok'ra of all people, the air where the Gate is supposed to be starts flickering, and the loud noise they hear when the stone ring re-materialises sounds annoyingly familiar.
Collectively, they crane their necks and let their eyes wander to the gigantic spaceship overhead. Jack takes a step forward and raises his fist, shaking it toward the sky.
"Thor!! Get your skinny grey butt down here!"
Behind him, Daniel and Sam look at each other and then quickly away again so they don't topple over laughing, and Teal'c's eyebrow is raised in an angle that's all too familiar.
Jack still fuming, they dial it up and step through the wormhole together.
This is a story about how sometimes in life, you don't have a choice; about how fate can bring two people together only for destiny to tear them apart again; about how, once in a while, it's okay to need somebody, because maybe, just maybe, they need you, too; about how the good thing and the right thing aren't always the same; about how grief isn't often linear. A story about how everything comes at a price; about how the people around you change you and make you the person you should always have been; about how occasionally, if you're lucky, you get a fresh start; about how, at the end of the day, you always find your way home. But most importantly, it is a story about never being alone.