Jack sat down on the porch and rested his arms behind his head, just waiting. He had nothing important to do, no planet to save, just waiting. It was a warm day and he was going to sit on his porch and enjoy the view for once.
He glanced to his left, certain he saw something, but there was nothing there. He sighed and shook his head. He was jumpy at the best of times, had to be in his line of work. Still, sometimes he wished for the days before the Stargate, before he’d met Daniel Jackson, before Abydos, before Charlie…
Anyway, there was nothing he could do to change the past and the honest truth was he liked what he did. Sometimes it was a major headache and he could really do without all the paperwork and torture. Really, someone should just outlaw both of them. He’d have to talk to Thor about that the next time he saw him. But he really did love being a part of the SGC and traveling to new planets and being a defender of his own.
He stretched out his legs and closed his eyes. He was on vacation and he didn’t have to think about anything he didn’t want to think about. That was what a vacation was for. He was long overdue for one, his whole team was. It had been a very long year and he was fairly certain something big was about to happen. It usually did this time of year, it was almost like clockwork. So he was taking his vacation and he’d actually convinced the rest of his team to take it with him. They weren’t fishing, upon Teal’c insistence, but they were at Jack’s cabin.
Sa- Carter and Teal’c had gone into town to drop off Jonas who had been with them for the first couple of days, but had been asked to assist at a dig on P3X-459. It sounded absolutely dreadful to Jack but it was the kind of thing Jonas loved. It was endearing and annoying all at the same time and all it did was remind Jack of Daniel, even though Daniel was ten times worse than Jonas. Jack was rid of that level of enthusiasm at least. At least. Better not to go there, though.
He wasn’t sure how long he’d been dozing when the sound of tires on the gravel hit his ears and his hand automatically reached for his sidearm. Even on vacation, it never left his side. Funny how the many ridiculous abductions by the NID, supposed protectors of Earth, made him feel unsafe, even on his own planet.
Carter shut the car door and shifted some groceries in her arm.
“Carter, cut it with the sir bit,” Jack grumbled. “We’re on vacation. Away from work. Capiche?”
“Yes, s- uh, yes, O’Neill? J-Jack?” Carter said slowly, saying the words like they were physically difficult.
“Better yet, let’s just not refer to each other at all,” said Jack. “Make it a lot easier.”
“Sure thing. Hey, you, you been sleeping long?” asked Carter.
Teal’c’s left eyebrow did his version of laughing out loud and Jack rolled his eyes.
“Just get inside,” he said grouchily, reaching for some of the groceries. “How’s the leg?”
“I’m fine,” Carter insisted, smiling at him, and he wished he knew how to smile back in a way that didn’t communicate all kinds of wrong and restricted signals.
That was a whole different kettle of fish he was not prepared or even allowed to cook.
They worked to get dinner in companionable silence and it was odd how so many missions could make them so in sync with each other. It had been a rough year and they were finally back on their feet, complete with new addition in tow. Jack was almost ready to accept that fact. What it boiled down to was they were practically graceful when preparing a meal.
Once they sat down, there was a silence and Jack coughed, knowing they were waiting for him to start. Even on vacation he had to take the lead apparently. Stupid chain of command was always there to bite him in the ass.
But they all knew what they were there for and they all knew something had to be said, so he might as well say it.
He lifted his beer and tried to inject some kind of enthusiasm into his voice.
“To Daniel Jackson.”
Carter lifted her beer in response and Teal’c soon followed, lifting his glass.
“To Daniel Jackson,” they repeated.
Jack put his drink down and waited for the inevitable onslaught of memories and thoughts to overtake them. It didn’t take long and he was on the verge of being actually emotional. Something he tried to avoid unless it was that most wonderful of emotions, anger.
A warm wind blew in from the window and Jack smiled, it felt comforting somehow. It had been blowing like that since they got there and it reminded him of something, though what, he couldn’t remember.
“It is hard to believe that it was one year ago today that Daniel Jackson left our company,” said Teal’c.
“Sometimes it feels like yesterday,” said Carter.
“Or like it never happened,” mumbled Jack, thinking back to his little experience in Ba’al’s stronghold.
“I know what you mean,” said Carter. “I mean, it was only recently for me that I saw him. It’s like he’s dead, but he’s not dead.”
“He’s not,” said Jack strongly. “He’s Ascended, whatever that means. Pretentious, I call it.”
“Daniel Jackson always had great aspirations,” said Teal’c, “and now he has achieved them. I believe we are to be pleased for him.”
“I am pleased. As punch,” said Jack. “But I mean, when a guy is being tortured, he wants a little more than company.”
“You said youself, si-” Carter began, then caught herself. “You said yourself he saved you.”
“Well, he says he didn’t,” said Jack. “False modesty and all that with our Daniel.”
“It was like that with me,” said Carter. “I mean, when I got separated from the team on PX5-421 and my leg was broken, he says all he did was talk to me, but…it felt like so much more than that. I spent two days in a rough cave with what little fire I could make but somehow I never felt cold. There’s no way I wouldn’t have gotten ill but I can’t tell you how he did it. I mean, I was just sitting there, desperately trying to figure out how to get home and then…he was right there and he told me stories and talked to me for two days until you guys got there.”
“Daniel Jackson’s words are promises honorably kept,” said Teal’c. “I, too, benefited just from hearing him speak, just from his presence. I firmly believe he saved me when Bra’tac and I were waiting for rescue.”
“He doesn’t seem like that kind of a guy,” said Jack, “but…he grows on you, like a fungus.”
“It’s not just us,” said Carter. “Janet says he waited with her while she was worrying about Cassie being out at night.”
“The last time I checked in with Skaara, the numbskull had gotten lost in a sand storm,” said Jack, almost reluctantly. “He swears Daniel got him home.”
“He cares about people, he always has,” said Carter. “He was always the first to right a wrong, on every planet we ever went to.”
“Kid’s got a savior complex,” said Jack, knowing in his heart that it was one of the things he admired most about Daniel, and knowing that it was the loss of the truly important people Daniel hadn’t been able to save like his parents and Sha’re that had driven him as much as his good hearted nature and passionate belief in right and wrong.
Jack could understand that better than most.
“O’Neill, you do not often speak of your encounter with him,” said Teal’c, tilting his head in the way that Jack hated because it meant Teal’c was about to get stubborn.
“No,” Jack said, trying not to think about it. It wasn’t exactly pleasant being so alone and confused and in pain and absolutely frustrated when your Ascended friend wouldn’t kill you even when you asked nicely. “But I will say it was the only slightly pleasant thing about that particular episode in my life.”
“That’s almost sweet,” said Carter, gently teasing.
“Then I take it back,” said Jack.
They laughed, or rather, Carter laughed, and Teal’c mouth twitched. He did laugh, Jack had heard him and wasn’t anxious to repeat the experience so he was glad that Teal’c was able to contain himself around Jack’s laconic wit.
“I just wish it didn’t have to be like this,” said Carter wistfully. “I mean, knowing he’s watching out for us is great and I’m happy for him but I miss him a lot. Don’t get me wrong, having Jonas is amazing and he does a wonderful job and he’s a friend, but…I always kind of feel like there’s something missing.”
“I have noticed Daniel Jackson’s absence every day,” said Teal’c.
They both looked at him.
“Don’t look at me,” said Jack. “I asked him to come for Christmas and he refused. Stubborn idiot doesn’t remember holidays are the time for family. Even when you are all white and float-y.”
“Do you think the stories of angels were simply Ascended humans like Oma Desala?” asked Carter. “Powerful beings of light who did good and carried good messages?”
“Depends on what you believe, I guess,” said Jack. “But clearly they’ve been around a lot, Daniel could probably tell you better than I could.”
“Daniel could do a lot of things,” said Carter. “One day maybe it will be different.”
“One day,” said Teal’c.
“Uh, sure,” said Jack, who wanted nothing more in the whole universe unless it was his son back and for some alternate dimension where people in the military could fraternize all they wanted.
But for right now, Jack was okay. Sure, today was a bit of a rotten day, but he had his team with him, and Daniel was alive…just out there, somewhere, annoying some other part of the universe.
The breeze wafted around him again and Jack put his attention toward eating, a far more sensible task than languishing in the past.
Daniel smiled, the appearances of humanity still rooted within him deeply. He watched Jack and Sam and Teal’c eat their meal and reminisce and was reminded that even though he was content, he still missed that aspect of his past life. It was true, what he’d told Jack, he could never want to be anything else than what he was. Still, his journey had led him to this place through these people and, if anything, he was in their debt.
He pondered letting them know he was there, but ultimately decided against it. There were rules against that and he flitted on the edge of those boundaries too often. He couldn’t seem to help himself, but he had learned when to hold back. Besides, it was their time now and it would be selfish of him to intervene. Their love and acceptance of him flowed in and around them like a tangible cord and he could see it even if they couldn’t. That was enough. The time was coming when choices would be made and sacrifices given, but until that point he would never give up his post of guardian over SG1, over all of his friends and family. Even if he couldn’t communicate that to them, at least they could experience it in times of danger and communicate it to each other, and he could witness it.