Not a Bad Day at All
by Maureen Thayer
Categories: Angst, Hurt/Comfort, Friendship
Content Warning: Mild Profanity
Spoilers: Stargate: The Movie, Children of the Gods, Fire and Water, Cor-ai, Within the Serpent's Lair
Author's Notes: There have been quite a few missing scene and tag fanfics written for Within the Serpent's Lair, but I've noticed that virtually all of them focus almost exclusively on Jack and/or Daniel. Very few give much "screen time" to either Sam or Teal'c, delving into the thoughts and emotions that they were experiencing. Therefore, I decided to write one. Of course, this has plenty of Jack angst, too.
Jack gazed up at the breathtaking vista of the Earth. Funny how they had just finished traveling across all those light-years, past countless thousands of stars and planets, yet it was the sight of their own homeworld that filled him with awe. But it was a bittersweet feeling. Since realizing that their ships were too damaged to fly, they had been sitting there, waiting for the moment when either Earth's gravity pulled them to their deaths or their life support gave out, whichever came first. They had tried to contact Earth, but had gotten no response. They could only assume that their communications equipment was too damaged to transmit. There would be no rescue this time.
They had spoken very little during this time of waiting. Jack knew that the others were likely thinking of the same sort of things that he was. None of them had spoken of Daniel. It wouldn't be much longer and the rest of SG-1 would be joining him in death. On Apophis' ship, Jack hadn't liked the idea of "going down with the ship", but, now, he wasn't so upset about it anymore. He was greatly saddened by the thought that Sam and Teal'c were going to die, but, in regards to his own death, he felt strangely calm and at peace, hoping that, very soon, he'd get to see Charlie again . . . and Daniel.
'I hope I'll be seeing you again soon, Danny,' he silently said to his friend. 'Maybe you, me and Charlie can get together and spend some time with each other, that is if they allow that sort of thing in the afterlife, or heaven, or whatever it is we have waiting for us. I know Charlie will like you. You can be sort of an uncle to him. How does that sound?'
"It's going to be a beautiful sunset, sir," Sam commented.
Yes, a beautiful sunset and really not a bad way to die, when you think about it. "You know, Captain, this wasn't such a bad day after all," Jack responded.
"Not bad at all."
"We die well, Teal'c," Master Bra'tac stated solemnly.
"More than that, old friend," Teal'c answered softly. "We die free."
Just then, Jack caught sight of something approaching them. Hardly able to believe what he was seeing, he blurted out, "Or not."
The glorious vision of the Space Shuttle Endeavor rose fully into their line of sight. Well, what do you know.
The next few minutes were spent talking to the crew of the shuttle and discussing how they were going to get the gliders into the cargo bay. Endeavor's crew then got to work on preparations. Unable to do anything except watch, the occupants of the gliders sat and waited.
"This is so amazing," Sam said after a while, watching the shuttle, the splendor of the Earth as its backdrop. "Daniel would—" Her voice broke off abruptly, followed by a tiny noise halfway between a gasp and a choking sound. Jack closed his eyes, feeling that little noise spear right through his soul. All at once, the thought of what they had lost hit him full force. For a long, terrible moment, there was silence.
"He's really gone this time, isn't he," Sam whispered, her voice barely audible.
Jack swallowed the painful lump that had suddenly formed in his throat. "Yeah," he confirmed, not quite able to keep the pain out of his voice.
"Oh, God," Sam choked out.
Jack looked over at the other glider and could see that his second in command had turned her face away. It didn't take a genius to figure out that she was crying.
Jack felt his eyes begin to sting and silently berated himself. No, dammit! He was not going to do this! He was a colonel in the United Stated Air Force. He'd lost men under his command before, good men, friends and companions, guys he'd served with for years. He'd gotten through it before, and he'd get through it again.
So why did his heart feel like it had been blown apart along with Apophis' ships? Because, this time, he'd lost more than a friend and comrade in arms. This time, he'd lost his best friend and the man who gave him back his soul.
How could he have known two years ago, when he first laid eyes on Daniel Jackson, that the long-haired, allergy-ridden geek would bypass all his defenses and get lodged deep in his heart? How could he have known then that the quiet, gentle archeologist would turn out to be one of the most amazing human beings he'd ever had the honor of meeting? And how could he have known that a day would come when losing Daniel would tear a chasm the size of the Grand Canyon in his heart?
"This is so wrong," Sam said, the anguish in her voice bringing Jack out of his thoughts. "It shouldn't be this way. Not Daniel. Not him. He should be here, more than any of us."
"I know, Sam," Jack murmured. God, how he knew.
"He saved us all. He saved Earth."
"Yes, he did."
"I wish. . . ." Sam's voice caught. She took a deep, shuddering breath. "I wish everyone could know."
Jack closed his eyes again at the thought that the Earth might never know how much it owed to Doctor Daniel Jackson. "Me too." Jack turned his gaze to the glowing sphere above them. "He won't be forgotten, Sam. He'll never be forgotten."
"Daniel Jackson's courage and sacrifice will forever be remembered," Teal'c stated with conviction, the pitch of his voice revealing his sorrow. "Long after the day when the Goa'uld have been vanquished, his deeds will be spoken of and revered. Daniel Jackson was a man of great strength and courage, a man whom I was honored to call Friend."
"It was an honor for all of us, Teal'c," Jack told him softly.
Silence filled both cockpits as the surviving members of SG-1 remembered and grieved for the friend and teammate who was now gone.
By the time the crew of the space shuttle managed to get the two gliders into the cargo bay of the shuttle, it had begun to get cold in the cockpits, their life support failing. But they made it. They were alive. They had survived against all odds. And, now, they were going home. But, for the surviving members of SG-1, it was a bitter victory, its cost too terrible for their hearts to accept and move on.
For all of her adult life, Sam had dreamed of being on the space shuttle, yet, now that she was finally here, it held no interest for her. She could think of only one thing, and it was getting harder and harder not to let that thought consume her. One of the female crew members of the Endeavor had seen the look in Sam's eyes and understood why it was there. She and her fellow crew members had gathered from remarks made by SG-1 that one of their team had died. Guessing that Sam might like to be alone for a while, she showed the Air Force captain to a little cubbyhole. Thanking her, Sam curled into the little space as best as she could in the weightless environment.
Alone at last, Sam could no longer hold the grief in, and she was soon sobbing. How could it hurt this much? How could the pain be so deep? She had known him for only a year, a mere twelve months out of her life. How, after so short a time, could it feel like her heart was being crushed into powder? How could he have come to mean so much to her? Yet he had. Almost from the moment they met, he had touched something deep inside her. In Daniel she had found a kindred spirit, a man whose intellect was equal to her own, someone who shared her passion for knowledge and discovery . . . somebody who had looked past the uniform and seen into her soul.
"Sometimes, I forget you're not military," she had said to him not all that long ago. Looking back on it now, Sam wondered how she could ever have forgotten that simple fact. Daniel's nonmilitary status was so very plain to see. It was not just because of his haircut or the lack of military training. No, it was something much deeper than that. There had been so much compassion and gentleness in Daniel, things that spoke of a man who would always seek peace over war, preserve life rather than take it, a man who would offer friendship even to an enemy. Ironically, it had been the very things that marked him as not being a soldier that also showed him to be far braver than many warriors, for how much more courage did it take to offer your hand in friendship to one who might kill you than to take a gun and slaughter that same person? How much more strength did it take to forgive those who had done you harm than to hate them? So many people did not appreciate that, but she had, and she had admired and respected Daniel for it. She had come to love him for all the things that he was and for the happiness that he had added to her life.
And, now, he was gone. There would be no more hours spent in his office or her lab, putting their heads together to solve a problem. There would be no more late nights over cups of coffee, delving into the mysteries of some piece of technology or alien artifact. No more laughter or smiles shared by two people who had so very quickly bonded to form a friendship unlike any Sam had ever had the joy of knowing. In the span of twelve all too short months, Sam had found her best friend and then lost him, and, from this day forward, there would be a hole in her life and her heart that no one else would fill.
Bra'tac approached his former student. Teal'c was doing his best to maintain the position of Kel'no'reem despite the weightlessness, but the old Jaffa could tell that the younger man was not achieving the desired state of meditation.
"This craft is pathetically primitive," Bra'tac complained as he tried to control his movements. He was not used to floating in the air like a feather. It was irritating and disconcerting.
"Indeed, it is. Yet, if it were not for this ship, we would now be dead," Teal'c answered wisely.
Bra'tac made a small noise in his throat. "I would rather have the controls of a tel'tac under my hands."
Teal'c said nothing in reply. Bra'tac studied his fellow Jaffa's face for a long moment, seeing things there that most would be unable to discern. "You grieve for the scholar."
Teal'c met his eyes. "He was my teammate and my friend."
"He was not a warrior."
"No, he was not, not as you and I are, not as O'Neill and Captain Carter are, and yet, in a way, he was more a warrior than any of us."
"He had a warrior's soul, not in that he sought to do battle against others, but in that he battled against evil, and hatred, and injustice. He fought these things with courage, nobility and perseverance that never wavered, never faltered, no matter what the cost to himself. Daniel Jackson had a soul that, though gentle, was strong beyond measure . . . and a heart that could forgive even me."
"What do you mean by this?"
"It was I who chose Daniel Jackson's wife to be presented before Apophis as a possible host for his queen."
Bra'tac stared at him for a moment, then nodded. "Yes, of course. It would have been your duty as First Prime. Daniel Jackson knew of this?"
"And he did not demand retribution?"
"No. He gave me forgiveness. More than that, he gave me his friendship."
Bra'tac was silent for a few seconds, absorbing that information. "I would not have done the same in his place."
"Nor would I. Nor would many men. Do you remember the planet Cartago?"
"Yes. Apophis took many from that world to act as slaves and hosts."
Teal'c nodded. "SG-1 traveled there some months ago. One of the people of the Byrsa recognized me as the man who slew his father. I was put through Cor-ai, what the Tau'ri call a trial, but my guilt was already known to the Byrsa and to myself. The punishment was to be my death. I was prepared for this. I welcomed it as just punishment for my crimes, not only against the Byrsa but against other innocents. Yet my teammates would not accept this. They became my advocates in an attempt to save my life. At the Cor-ai, Daniel Jackson stood before the Byrsa and allowed the pain of his wife's fate to be bared before all. He told them that I was no longer the same man who had taken his wife to become a Goa'uld. He told them that I was his friend. Later, as O'Neill and Captain Carter returned to Earth to gain assistance from General Hammond, Daniel Jackson spoke alone in my defense. He could have stood back and allowed me to pay for what I had done to his wife, yet he did not. He tried with all his might to change the minds of my accusers and save my life. And, though, in the end, his words alone were not enough to sway them, his actions humbled me, for I knew that, in his place, I would not have had the strength and goodness of heart to do the same.
"Daniel Jackson was my teacher. He taught me about the Tau'ri, their history and culture, how to read their language. Whenever I was confused, he sought to guide me to understanding. He helped me feel less isolated among those around me, never failing to show me the same courtesy, care and compassion that he gave to so many others. He offered his knowledge to me freely, never asking anything of me in return, not even my thanks. He showed me honor and respect by seeking my knowledge of the Goa'uld. He was not trained as a warrior, yet he fought beside us, facing our enemies and the dangers we encountered with courage and determination, never once letting fear or pain stop him from doing what needed to be done. He showed me that the greatest strength does not lie within the body but within the heart and soul.
"For all these things I have told you and more, I owed him a great debt, one that, now, I will never be able to repay. I can only hope that, someday, I will be able to free his wife from the Goa'uld and return her to her people. It will not be enough for what Daniel Jackson gave to me, but it is all there is left in my power to do."
Silence followed Teal'c's last statement.
"You are right, my friend," Bra'tac said at last. "He did have the soul of a warrior."
They were almost home. That fact should have overjoyed Jack, but all he felt was pain. He had spent most of the trip back in silence and self-imposed isolation, trying to shove his feelings down deep into the same dark corner where he kept his grief over Charlie . . . and failing miserably. Outwardly, no one would have been able to tell what was going on. All anyone would have been able to see was an emotionless mask. But, inside, he was filled with anguish and guilt. He had left Daniel to die alone, alone in the bowels of an enemy ship, a charred hole in his chest. Jack could only pray that Daniel had died quickly, that he had not suffered for long. The thought that the archeologist may have lain there all alone in torment during those long minutes before the bombs went off was almost too much to bear. Jack could not even stand to think of the possibility that a Jaffa might have found Daniel and hurt him even more.
Jack stared fiercely out of the window of the jet that was flying them to the base. The reflection looking back at him showed a sight that he recognized from only a couple of years ago, eyes that were cold and dead, the pain having burned the light out of them. One year, one lousy year, and that stubborn, opinionated, way-too-smart dweeb had gone and done what Jack had sworn he'd never let happen ever again. He'd gotten into Jack's heart and made him . . . love him. Being honest with himself, Jack would have to admit that it started long before the day he returned to Abydos, that these feelings began to form on that very first mission, when Daniel threw himself in front of a staff weapon and sacrificed his life for Jack's, a man he barely even knew. By the time they went to Oannes and the false memory of Daniel's death was implanted in Jack, Sam and Teal'c, Jack had already come to care way more for Daniel than he should have. That time, they got him back, but not this time. Daniel wasn't a captive on some distant planet. There would be no rescue for him this time, no happy ending.
Daniel Jackson had been the conscience of SG-1 and the SGC. In a very real sense, he'd been their heart and soul. He had become Jack's moral compass, the one who helped keep him from being nothing more than a hard-ass soldier on a mission to kill the enemy. From now on, every time he went through the gate, it would be without the passion and wonder that Daniel had brought with him. There would be no more impassioned pleas to explore some ruins, no more gentle voice explaining to the natives that they were peaceful explorers, no more nights at Jack's place with beer, pizza and a hockey game or quiet talks where they shared little bits of their lives with each other. It was all gone, left on the deck of a ship that was now nothing more than tiny fragments floating in space, fragments that would be turned to ash as they plunged into Earth's atmosphere . . . right along with a big piece of Jack's heart.
'I should have stayed with him. I should have told the others to go on without me. God, why did I leave you alone, Daniel? How many times have I said that nobody gets left behind? After what happened with Nem, I swore to myself that I'd never leave you behind again, and I did it anyway. How can I ever forgive myself for that?' Jack knew that he never would.
Jack's attention slowly returned to the others. Teal'c and Bra'tac were talking quietly, the older Jaffa saying that he needed to return to Chulak as soon as possible to help with the rebellion. Jack had to wonder if Bra'tac would even be allowed to leave or if he would be trapped on Earth, prisoner of a decision that should never have been made? Needing to know, he went up to the cockpit and called the SGC.
"Colonel O'Neill, I'd say that congratulations and thanks are in order," Hammond said happily. "How's your team? Were there any injuries?"
Jack's throat closed up for a moment. "Daniel's dead, sir," he said in a low voice, remembering that other time when he'd spoken those same words. This time, though, it really was true.
There was nothing but silence on the other end of the line. Not wanting to hear Hammond say he was sorry, Jack quickly got to the main reason for his call. "Sir, Bra'tac is with us. Without him, we wouldn't have succeeded in the mission. He wants to return home as soon as possible. Will he be allowed to?"
"Yes, he will, Colonel. Taking into consideration what just happened, the president has reversed the decision to close down the program. He realizes now, as we all do, that this program is far too important to put an end to. Tell Bra'tac that he can go home."
"Thank you, sir. That's good news. We'll be at the base soon."
"We're looking forward to it, Colonel." There was a pause. "And, Jack? There's a big welcome home waiting for you."
After the plane had landed, a military sedan took Bra'tac and SG-1 the rest of the way. As they entered the base, people they passed smiled at them, their faces showing the joy of victory, of being alive. Seeing that, Jack knew that he should be happy, too. They'd saved Earth. Billions of people would go on living because of them. In the grand scheme of things, it really had not been a bad day. Most would say it had been a very good day. Jack could not say that, but, for the sake of Daniel's memory, he would appreciate all that they had gained this day, for it was Daniel's triumph as much as it was theirs, even more so since it was because of him that this victory had been made possible. Jack hoped that, somehow, Daniel knew this, that somewhere out there, in whatever kind of afterlife there was, Daniel could see what he had achieved and was happy.
At last they entered the gate room to be greeted by smiles and applause. The conquering heroes had coming home.
"Not bad at all," Jack murmured. 'We did good, Daniel. You did good. Wish I could tell you that to your face.'
Jack paid attention to what followed with only a portion of his mind. As Bra'tac left and General Hammond turned back to SG-1, Jack focused more fully upon his C.O., expecting the man to ask about what happened to Daniel.
"SG-1, there's someone who'd like to see you," the older man said instead, a pleased expression on his face.
Jack froze in place. 'No. It couldn't be.' He felt his chest tighten up, his heart begin to race. 'Oh, please, please let it be.'
The general turned back to the people gathered in front of the blast doors. Someone was making their way through the crowd. Jack's fervent prayer was answered as Doctor Daniel Jackson stepped free of the crowd, alive and well.
"Daniel," said the happy voice of Sam, but Jack could spare no attention for her. As his heart filled with boundless joy, the biggest grin that had graced his face in a long, long time spread from ear to ear. Not hesitating a moment, he stepped forward and engulfed his best friend in a tight embrace, laughter bubbling up from the well of his soul.
"Space Monkey," Jack murmured, his face almost hurting from the width of his smile. He pulled back and gazed at the features he had thought he would never see again. "Yeah!" Daniel grinned back at him.
Knowing that there were others who needed to touch Daniel, to assure themselves that he was really there, Jack reluctantly let him go. The archeologist was immediately gathered into the arms of Sam, whose face was glowing with joy and sporting a huge grin. Nearby, Teal'c stared at the archeologist, an expression of disbelief on his face.
As Daniel pulled away from Sam, he looked at the fourth member of SG-1. "Teal'c," he said quietly.
That one word succeeded in breaking the stoic mask that was on the Jaffa's face. The closest thing any of them had ever seen to a full smile spread across his features. He stepped forward and clasped Daniel's arm.
"Daniel Jackson. It pleases me greatly to see you alive," he stated in a deep, sincere voice.
"Thanks, Teal'c. It's really great to be alive." He looked at his other two teammates, who were both grinning like idiots. Sam reached for him again, and he went back into her arms for another hug. He then turned back to his other teammates, Sam's arm around his waist and his draped over her shoulders, soaking up the feelings of joy and friendship that surrounded him.
"How did you do it, Daniel?" Jack asked. "How did you get here?" He ran his eyes over his friend's body. "And all in one piece."
"Well, right after you left, it suddenly hit me."
Jack stilled in shock, then guilt assailed him again. "God, Daniel. I never even thought of the sarcophagus. I should have thought of it. We could have taken you to it."
Daniel shook his head. "You wouldn't have had time, Jack. You needed to get over to the other ship."
"But one of us could have gotten you there and waited for you to be healed. Then we could have met up with the others," Sam said, also feeling guilty.
"Indeed. I, above all, should have thought of the sarcophagus," Teal'c said, shamed at his failure.
Jack shook his head. "You and Carter didn't even know the whole situation with Daniel until we were on the other ship and I told you. By then, it would have been too late to go back and get him, then stick him in that box."
"We could have tried, sir," Sam insisted, "instead of—"
"Guys, guys!" Daniel nearly shouted. His teammates all turned to him. "Just stop, okay? I'm here, I'm alive, I made it. When I thought of the sarcophagus, I didn't even know if I'd be able to make it there without getting caught. I was almost spotted once. The only reason they didn't see me was because I was . . . well, um, kind of . . . dragging myself along the ground." Daniel regretted his words instantly when he saw Jack wince, the older man's face tightening into a grimace of guilt.
"Oh, Daniel," Sam murmured, a look of distress in her eyes.
The archeologist put his arm back around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. "It's okay, Sam. I'm all right," he assured her quietly. He was rewarded with a tremulous smile.
"So, how did you get off the ship?" she asked.
"Through the Stargate."
"But I thought it wouldn't work," Jack said, confused.
"Of course!" Sam exclaimed. "The ships were close enough to Earth by then that you could use it as the point of origin! Why didn't I think of that?"
"Well, I didn't think of it before either," Daniel told her. "I guess I was just desperate enough there at the end for it to come to me. You know me. The more pressure I'm under, the faster my brain works."
"And glad we all are of that, Danny Boy," Jack said with a grin, patting Daniel's cheek. He was still feeling guilty for having left the younger man alone on the ship, but all that mattered right now was that Daniel was alive and healthy. It had turned out to be a very good day after all. Just then, he remembered something that he had been thinking about earlier. "You did good, Daniel, real good. I'm proud of you."
Daniel's eyes shone into his, the young man's joy at hearing those words plain to see. "Thank you," he responded in a quiet voice that held so much meaning.
Jack gave him another smile and a pat on the shoulder. Then he looked at the crowd still gathered in the gate room. "And, now, I think it's time to go do some celebrating."
"Indeed. There is much to celebrate," Teal'c agreed. "Apophis and Klorel are dead, and this world is safe."
The Jaffa's statement immediately doused Daniel and Jack's happiness. They shared a look.
"He wouldn't have wanted to keep living as a Goa'uld, Daniel," the colonel said quietly.
"I know, Jack. I know. Skaara's free now."
They did not have time to dwell on the death of their friend. General Hammond came up to them, smiling in satisfaction. "SG-1, it's time that I gave you a personal welcome home. Congratulations. This planet owes all of you a debt that it can never repay. I am damn proud to have all of you under my command."
"Thank you, sir," Jack responded. "Soooo, I guess this means there aren't any courts-martial or prison terms in our future."
Hammond laughed. "Are you kidding, Colonel? I'd say it's more likely that you can expect medals and commendations out of this. We'd have to be idiots to punish the people who saved the entire planet."
"Sir, how did you know that we were up there in those gliders?" Sam asked.
"We heard your distress call. We responded, but, apparently, you were unable to hear us. Thankfully, the Endeavor was already in orbit on the other side of the planet on a previously scheduled mission. We told them to go fetch you."
Jack met the eyes of his C.O. "So, General, why didn't you tell me that Daniel was alive when I called from the plane?"
The older man's eyes dropped for a brief moment. "I guess I should apologize for that. I wanted the pleasure of seeing the looks on all of your faces when you found out that Doctor Jackson was alive."
Jack smiled and shook his head. "Well, I think we can forgive you for that, sir." He looked at Daniel. "I think I like the way we found out."
Hammond smiled again and nodded. "I would like to invite you to my house this evening. We're planning a big celebration party, and you four are the guests of honor."
"Sounds like a great idea, General. We've got a lot to celebrate."
The party was in full swing. Daniel could hear the sounds of voices and laughter through the walls from his place on the front porch. It amazed the archeologist that General Hammond could manage to throw such a big party at such short notice. Only a few hours ago, they were all certain that they were going to die. And, now, everyone was laughing, drinking, eating and enjoying life.
Daniel heard the sound of the front door opening.
"Hey. What are you doing out here all alone?" Sam asked.
Daniel looked at her over his shoulder, giving her a faint smile. "Just getting away from the crowd for a while."
Sam sat on the step beside him. She studied his face closely. "You okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine. Just thinking." A smiled flitted over his face. "I do that a lot, you know."
"What are you thinking about?"
Daniel was silent for a long moment, his eyes turned up toward the sky. "When I was hit with the staff blast, I knew that I was going to die. Even as I crawled to the sarcophagus, I figured that my chances of coming out of that whole thing alive were pretty remote. It wasn't until after I was healed that I really started to believe that, maybe, I wasn't going to die after all. As I made my way to the Stargate, I didn't really think about you guys and where you were. I was just focusing on running like hell and not bumping into any Jaffa. When I arrived back at the base, the general asked me where the rest of you were, and that's when it hit me. You were on the other ship, and there was no Stargate on it. There was no way for you to have gotten off before it blew up." His eyes closed. "I thought you were all dead."
Sam wrapped her arm around his waist, understanding the pain he'd felt, having experienced the same thing only a few hours ago. But how much worse had it been for Daniel? He had believed that he'd lost all of them.
"It . . . it really hurt," Daniel said in a low, unsteady voice. "I thought that. . . ." 'I thought that I was all alone again,' he finished silently.
Sam wrapped her other arm around him, holding him close for several seconds. "I know, Daniel," she murmured. "It hurt so much when I thought you were dead." Sam pulled back and gazed into his eyes. "I've gone through that twice already, and I don't ever want to go through it again." She gave him a little shake. "So, no more dying, you hear me? I'll tell the colonel to make it an order, if I have to."
Another brief smile touched Daniel's face. "Well, I really didn't die this time . . . or the last time, for that matter." His gaze drifted away from her again. "Dead twice and presumed dead twice, three times, if you count the fact that everyone one on Earth except for Jack, Kawalsky and Ferretti thought I was dead during my year on Abydos. I'm seeing an alarming pattern here."
"Yeah, and it's a pattern I'm going to work like hell to see that you break, Daniel," said the voice of Jack O'Neill. Daniel and Sam turned to see him standing in the doorway. "So, whatcha doin' out here? It's cold."
"Just talking about some things, sir," Sam replied.
The colonel sat on the other side of Daniel. "Yeah? Well, Teal'c's been missing you."
Daniel stared at Jack, eyebrows raised, his lips slightly pursed. "Teal'c, huh?"
"Sure. The guy's gettin' lonely in there."
"Uh huh." Daniel's tone left no doubt that he knew who had really been missing them.
Trying not to smile, Sam stood up. "Well, I'll go on back in and keep him company. Don't stay out here too much longer, Daniel. Janet wouldn't be happy if you caught a chill."
"I'll be in in a few minutes," the archeologist told her.
After she left, there was a moment of silence.
"How are you doing, Daniel?" Jack finally asked.
"I'm good, glad to be alive, glad that we all made it back."
"Yeah, me too." Jack fell silent again for several seconds. "I shouldn't have left you."
"No. No, Daniel. After Oannes, I swore to myself, I swore that, no matter what, I'd never, ever leave you behind again. I should have thrown you over my shoulder and hauled you with us to the other ship."
"And we'd have all died because of it."
Jack leapt to his feet and strode down the steps. He spun back around to face Daniel. "But we'd have all been together!" he yelled. "Don't you get it?! I left you to die alone!" He turned away.
Daniel rose and went to his friend's side. "Jack, you did the right thing. You did what was best for the team and the mission. Stopping Apophis was all that mattered. If you had tried to bring me along, you might not have succeeded in disabling the shields in time. Then everyone on Earth would have died. Yes, you left me alone, but it's what I wanted you to do. I'd far rather have died alone than died with everyone else." He touched Jack's arm, gazing intently at the man's profile, willing him to meet his eyes. "You made the right call, Jack, as team leader and as my friend."
Finally, Jack turned to him, searching his eyes. He then pulled Daniel into his arms, holding onto him tightly. After releasing his friend from the hug, he held him at arms length, not quite ready to lose contact entirely.
"Just do me one favor, though, okay?" Daniel requested.
Daniel's lips quirked upward, his eyes sparkling. "Don't ever call me Space Monkey again."
A snort of laughter escaped Jack's lips. He tousled the younger man's hair. "You got a deal." He turned Daniel back toward the house and threw an arm around his shoulders. "Come on, Lazarus. Let's go back inside before any important bits freeze off."
Daniel rolled his eyes, wondering if Jack would ever quit tagging him with nicknames. "Whatever you say . . . Space Ghost."
Jack's head whipped around, and he stared at Daniel in surprise.
"Hey, I watched cartoons when I was a kid too, you know," Daniel told him, trying not to grin.
Jack gave a laugh and shook his head. He headed back toward the house with his friend.
"Come to think of it, though, was Space Ghost even on the air way back when you were a kid?" Daniel asked, a teasing light in his eyes.
"Hey, watch it, Buster," Jack growled. "Didn't anyone ever teach you to respect your elders?"
"Sure, Jack. Want me to help you across the street?"
Jack wrapped his arm around Daniel's neck in a mock choke hold and ruffled his hair with his fist. "Wise guy." He then released the archeologist, shooting him a fierce glare that didn't fool Daniel a bit.
They went back inside and rejoined the party. Daniel headed over to where Sam and Teal'c were. Jack stood back and watched his "kids" as they chatted happily. A contented smile curved his lips.
"Nope, not a bad day at all."