Summary: Jack makes a last minute confession
I couldn't find Daniel.
Somehow as the evening progressed, I had lost track of where everyone was. It wasn't as though we were having a wild party. I wish. The night was sedate, even leaden as we gathered at my place to mourn.
SG-1 was no more.
The presidential edict had come earlier that day; before that, there was no warning we were going to be split up. Word from on high said we just had way too much experience in one team. Well, that's what the official reason was according to Major Davis. Between the four of us, we think it has to do with us. We're too dangerous together, and by dividing us, the NID or whoever the hell wanted SG-1 dead could have their way at the SGC.
I was now Brigadier General O'Neill, a promotion I didn't expect and I sure as hell didn't want. Generals don't exactly go out into the field, and I wasn't looking forward to some desk job. I'd gone through the Stargate on my last mission, and I hadn't even realized it.
Carter now had her own command, a scientific team whose designation wasn't really known yet. Details were forthcoming, she was told. She wasn't thrilled, either. She wasn't getting a promotion with her new team, and she was also being taken out of first contacts and everything that usually entails.
Teal'c was welcome to stay with the SGC as long as he chose to remain. I suspected he would go with Carter, but he was still undecided. If she asked, Teal'c would stay. Since Imhotep's little charade a few months back, the Jaffa weren't really doing anything except wandering around aimlessly for the moment. I bet Teal'c would bide his time until the next opportunity came along.
None of us knew what to say to Daniel. No one could deny the importance of Daniel's knowledge and skills to the SGC, especially as a linguist and a diplomat. But he had the reputation of being the biggest pain in the NID's side, next to me. He also had the ear of most of our allies, and he wasn't sympathetic to the "younger" impulses which drove our government.
So they'd decided to reassign him to Area 51, effective immediately.
I remembered how Daniel's face paled at the news, even as I leapt to my feet in loud, belligerent protest. Fine, kill the team, but why the hell should Daniel be forced to leave? And that wasn't even leaving! He was being exiled to a place where he could be supervised and kept out of annoyance's way.
But the president wouldn't budge, no matter how many times Hammond called him. I even tried once, but I didn't get very far. The decision was written in stone, and Daniel was set to depart ASAP.
He took it gracefully. Once he realized his fate was set, he ranted a bit in his office before the three of us and came just short of resigning in spite. I wanted him to, actually. Daniel didn't deserve this treatment, and as a civilian, he wasn't bound by the decision. He could turn in his papers and fuck off into the sunset.
Daniel brought me back to reality. Where would he go? Even if six or seven years had gone by since his lecture which brought his career to shame, Daniel told me his chances of getting any decent employment were basically nil. He also didn't fancy the idea of switching fields or even careers. He would wait this out, and hopefully the foolishness would be reversed sooner rather than later.
So bright and early at 1000, I was going to drive Daniel down to Nevada and help him set up shop in his new apartment.
We still had gloomy faces, and we were joined at my place by other SGC members. We held a wake in honor of SG-1. Lots of food and drink, but no joy. People stood around, murmuring and letting things sink in. The breakup of the team was the end of an era; we were the only team still with its original members. I know some regarded us as almost legendary, something which amused Daniel to no end. I just shrugged and let it go.
When I realized Daniel was missing, I looked around the room. The crowd had thinned out since 2100, leaving just a stalwart few lingering around my living room. I could see Teal'c and Carter talking with Hammond, Feretti, Griff and others, but Daniel was gone.
I went searching for him. He wasn't in the bathroom or the kitchen, and none of the bedrooms revealed his presence. His car was still in the driveway, though. One small relief, since I'm sure I saw at least one or two beers going down his throat. I went back to the kitchen, wondering where Daniel was hiding when I noticed the back door was ajar.
I let out a sigh and collected two mugs of coffee before heading out there. The air wasn't too chilly just yet. I carefully climbed the ladder, cursing softly as a bit of coffee spilled out and burned my fingers. Daniel was sitting on the bench, curled up knees drawn to his chest as he stared up at the sky.
"Here," I said softly as I approached him. I handed over a mug. I noticed he hadn't jumped when I appeared, so I guess I was making enough noise to alert him. He accepted the coffee with a smile before turning back to the stars. "Coffee for your thoughts."
"That's a new one." He didn't say anything else. He also didn't drink the coffee.
"Hey, I'm into bartering if it's worth my time." I watched him for a few moments. "It's a lot to take in, huh?"
"Yeah," he sighed, and finally took a sip. "I had to come out here. I was looking up at the stars when it hit me. I'm never going back out there."
Oh, I knew the feeling all too well. "Makes you wish you really appreciated the last ride."
"You could say that."
"Shit happens," I added.
"Literally for others," I quipped.
I saw a wry smile in the darkness. "True."
We fell into companionable silence, and while I'm not sure about Daniel, I was definitely realizing this was another one of those last times. There would soon be a state or two between us; who knew how often we would get to see each other. If ever.
I hated this.
All the things we wanted to accomplish which would never be. All the things I wanted to do but would never have the chance. I don't know what was worse. Knowing about never traveling to another world, or knowing I'd never be close to Daniel like this again.
I'd never know what it was like to kiss him...
"Daniel?" My mouth was dry as I spoke. The coffee I slurped cautiously didn't help.
I didn't know how to work this. I shuffled closer so I could see him clearly. Everything felt clear and sharp around me; I could see the stars reflected in Daniel's glasses and even in his eyes. He watched me carefully, not wary but curious.
"This is one thing I'll miss," he said a moment later when I still didn't have the right words.
"Oh?" I felt grateful for the interruption. "Me, too."
"I don't want to go there, Jack," he sighed. "I know this probably sounds stupid, but it's like I'm a kid again. I'm being shuffled from one foster home to another because no one wants to deal with me."
"Hey." I didn't like the sound of that. I brought my arm up to sling across his shoulder, bringing him close for an almost hug. "Believe me, I want to keep you."
Daniel let out a soft laugh, and I caught a glimpse of a rare smile in the weak light. "Thank you."
I squeezed him gently. "There's a lot of things I'm going to miss, too."
"Oh, us bitching at each other. The missions. The Stargate. Discovery. Carter's technobabble, Teal'c doing weird Jaffa things I still don't understand, and you being snarky as hell one moment and then sweet and innocent the next." I leaned my head against his. "Missions used to get me out of bed in the morning. I don't know if a desk job could do the same. You know?"
He nodded. "I think you'll find that a lab job has a similar effect on a person."
"We're being put out to pasture, Daniel," I sighed.
"Well, maybe you are. I'm being shipped off because I'm somehow inconvenient to the status quo." I detected the very bitter tone to his voice. "Do you realize there are no more civilians in active roles on the SG teams? I was the last one to go. The entire operation is run by military personnel now, Jack."
"I know," I said softly.
"Doesn't that strike you as being... deliberate?"
"Yeah, but no offense, Daniel, I really don't want to think about work anymore. Not right now." I wanted to savor these last few hours. "But, um, I'll look into it. I promise. Got to use my new star for something, right?"
He let out a sigh. "Thank you."
"For you, anything." And I meant it. Why was it that bad news and changing circumstances force us to see things clearly? Or to really understand what it is we're going to be losing? "Things are going to be dull without you around, you know?"
"Probably a lot more quiet," he said. "No one left to argue the other side."
We fell silent at that. God, I didn't know what to say, and the conversation had me feeling... worried and chilled. I moved closer to Daniel until our arms, shoulders and hips touched. I listened to him breathing, and I sipped at my cooling coffee. I felt a funny churning in my stomach - anticipation, nervousness, determination.
Now was the time, so I tried again.
I looked at him and saw him turn my way. "Yeah?"
"Do you mind if I... um..." Hesitation is not my style. Daniel knew it. He looked at me intently, waiting for me to get the thought out in the open. "There's something I've always wanted to do. Something I've never had the, uh, chance or the guts to try. Now, I think it might be too late."
His brow furrowed. "What's that?"
"This." I shifted on the bench. Setting the coffee on the seat, I leaned across the short distance between us and gently brushed my lips against his. Nothing too much, and just suggestive of what I really wanted to try. This would do, I thought. Close and clear enough to say what I wanted to tell him. I hoped he would understand.
Daniel leaned back slightly when I withdrew. He still had the frown, but his eyes were closed. My eyes were drawn to his lips. I could still feel their softness and warmth. But those lips didn't move. They were slightly parted, but Daniel didn't speak or even smile or frown further. I slowly looked up to meet his reopened eyes.
"Jack?" I knew that tone. It meant he was curious, touched and a little amused. This was a good thing.
"Surprise?" I offered.
"That's one way to put it," he agreed. He searched my face, for what I don't know. One corner of his mouth twitched up in a faint smile. "I am surprised. Um, how long have you...?"
"Wanted to do that?" I shrugged. "A while. Never could. The team, and regulations..."
"Oh. I, um, understand." I caught his gaze again, and Daniel blushed slightly. "Why now?"
"I might never have the chance again," I said bluntly.
He snorted. "So, what? Kiss me and it means nothing? We'll see each other again. I'll be insulted if you don't visit me in Hell."
"I prefer purgatory, myself."
"So I can be redeemed," he nodded, a wry smile directed my way. "Like a coupon."
"Ah, I'm thinking 'get out of jail free,' actually."
"My hero," he laughed. The humor didn't last long. He ducked his head and let out a long sigh. He was contemplating his coffee, but I knew his mind was whirling about everything. "God, I hope I'm not there long."
"I'll come for you," I promised. "As soon as we can get you out of there, you'll be back here, where you belong. With me."
He glanced my way, and I saw a wistful smile. "You 're a romantic."
"Hey, I can try." I elbowed him gently. "I don't do this for just anyone, you know."
"Jack..." he began, but he trailed off as he looked back at his coffee. "I mean, I appreciate this, but... now isn't good. I mean, there's all this happening..."
I placed my finger on his lips. "Hey, enough of that. This situation sucks. I think we all agree on this. The point is, you'll make it. This is temporary, I promise. And as for me... I can live with you not being okay with, well, that. I'm cool. I'm here for you whatever your decision is."
"But I don't want to decide," he said softly, lips moving slightly against my finger. I pulled my hand away. I wasn't sure what to make of those words, but I felt hopeful. Okay, I also felt like a shit for bringing this up now, and opening a whole can of worms Daniel didn't even know existed.
"Um... decide?" I had to lead him on this. I needed to know.
He turned to look at me. His hands trembled as he reached to remove his glasses. His eyes were bright, the stars reflecting in them as he met my gaze head on. We stared at each other for several moments. I watched him and studied his posture; one leg up on the bench, coffee mug balanced in his lap and his hands rested next to the cup.
"Daniel?" I whispered. What was he thinking?
A moment later, his lips were touching mine before I finished the last syllable of his name. He was tentative, short breaths brushing against my lips. His hands, still shaking, moved to rest on my shoulders. I saw him glance at me before gently touching the tip of his tongue against mine. Yes! I reached for him, grasping him closer and needing him against me.
Our tongues battled, and I just knew what Daniel was upset about. He felt the same way. He had to! But why did he keep silent about everything over the past... whenever since he realized this? Did he think the same as I did? Or what? I wanted to know, and the truth was literally within my grasp.
God... almost too late...
I clutched him closer, a sudden rush of anticipation descending to my groin and starting to drain my head of sense. An inspired plan formed in my mind. We could do whatever we wanted up here. No one would know. No one would have to know...
Daniel shifted, legs moving and a sudden crash broke through the spell. The coffee tumbled from Daniel's lap, spilling against his thigh and crashing to the deck. I jumped, and Daniel fell away.
"Oh, God, I'm sorry!" Daniel whispered. His face was pale, and he moved away to go for the ladder.
"Daniel, don't!" I called, but immediately hushed my voice when I realized this could be odd to our friends downstairs. I spotted his discarded glasses and started to hand them over. "Your glasses."
He paused, one foot on the top rung and he stared at me. Slowly, he reached for them and placed them on his face. He drew in a loud breath, and shook his head. "I... I'm sorry, Jack. I can't. This isn't fair."
I opened my big mouth. "I don't mind..."
He glared for a moment. "To me, dammit! This isn't fair to me!"
I jumped out of the chair and tried to grasp one of his hands. "Daniel! Okay, I admit it! I can wait, really!"
He glowered up at me, then sighed and bumped his forehead gently against a rung. "Jack... this isn't fair. I can't do another long distance thing. Really. I mean..."
"Hey." I crouched at the top and reached for his hand. This must have been really odd to see from the ground, but everyone was thankfully indoors and I think the neighbors weren't snooping. I kept my voice lowered. "Daniel, this was probably stupid of me, but... I needed you to know."
He sighed. "We could have worked around this."
"Yeah, probably... but I wasn't ready..."
"And I'm not ready now." Daniel finally looked up, and he looked heartbroken. I nearly stopped breathing, captivated by the sorrow in his face. "I'm sorry."
I needed to accept this. "Still friends?"
"Jack." He gave me a patient smile, but the tears were still in his eyes. "Foundation's still there."
"Good." At least I had one reassurance.
The smile dimpled. "Bring me home, and maybe the foundation will get a new addition."
We nodded at each other. Agreement, and a return to the status quo. I found I could live with that. I still wasn't happy about everything, and now with another bit to be worried about... well, the sooner we could get Daniel out of exile, the better.
I stayed a while longer on the roof, cleaning the broken mug and putting its pieces into my empty cup. Ten minutes after Daniel's departure, I went back into the house. Teal'c, Carter and Fraiser were still in the dining room, but Daniel was absent again. When I lifted my eyebrows in question, Carter pointed upstairs to the guestroom. That made sense; Daniel's apartment was empty and ready for its new tenant.
I called it an early night, but not before checking in on Daniel. I felt silly doing it, but once I glimpsed the boneless sprawl on the bed, I smiled. Daniel and I would be all right. We just needed to wait until the time was right. I'd played my cards a little too close to my chest and nearly missed my chance, but now, here we were. Emotions confessed, each other's opinions stated and known. The right time would come.
I could credit my success to blind Irish luck, but I won't. I'm glad I didn't miss the opportunity. I just had to be patient. I've never been too good at that, but guess what? I learned.