By Gil Hale —

Disclaimer: Characters from Stargate SG-1 belong to Showtime and Double Secret Productions, and are used without permission but with no intent to defraud.

Spoilers: Meridian and Revelations

Warnings: Contains a small amount of bad language.

Author’s Notes: This was something I wrote in haste (though it’s been cleaned up) after the Season 5 finale.

Downtime. That was a hell of an appropriate name for it. Jack hadn’t wanted to face this moment, when the action was over and the debriefing finished, and there was time to think.

He’d managed to avoid thought pretty well so far, all except the focussed sort of military thinking that shut bleaker images out. Going for consistency, he’d managed to avoid quite a lot of other things as well, like accepting what had happened, or doing the talking thing with Sam. Thank God for George Hammond. He’d managed to be what Sam needed. Jack couldn’t have done that, even if he’d wanted to try. Sam was loyal and brave and compassionate, and probably deserved better, but at the moment he had just two options: ice or water… and he wouldn’t be a lot of use to anyone as a puddle.

Teal’c got that okay. Teal’c lived the way of the warrior, the ‘let’s get straight back into action’ stuff. The day Teal’c told him they needed to talk was the day he looked for a Machello-style personality transplant. But he was avoiding Teal’c as well except for when they were kicking Goa’uld ass, because he just couldn’t get enthusiastic about the higher plane of existence crap. He wasn’t going to say how wonderful it was that Daniel had been ‘elevated,’ even if every Jaffa warrior on Chulak lined up and told him it was the best thing since sliced… whatever.

Maybe he just had the wrong sort of mind for appreciating higher planes. He could accept that ‘wherever it was’ might be full of all the knowledge of the ancients and a kind of ‘philosophers R us’ series of chat rooms, but would Daniel be happy there? Jack hadn’t exactly seen any certainty in Daniel’s face as they said that painful goodbye in the embarkation room. Plenty of light there, sure, but that wouldn’t necessarily stop it being a cold or lonely place. The Arctic could be full of light. And extremely empty of people. Who’s going to be there if you need them, Danny? Can’t see Oma giving you a hug…

He jerked back from the thought, tuned in to what was being said about Thor. In a coma? That wasn’t good, even for little grey guys with big minds and advanced technology. He hoped Thor would make it; there weren’t too many people in the universe he could manage to care about at the moment, but Thor was okay. Getting him back and helping out the Asgard had still seemed worth doing. Anyway, it had stopped him from thinking about Daniel for whole minutes at a time, maybe more if you counted being gassed.

Travelling there hadn’t been so good of course. The novelty of the cargo ship had worn off a long time ago, and anyway, Teal’c always seemed to have first dibs on the interesting bits. Jack hadn’t had enough to do. Only so many times you can clean a pristine gun, especially when you’re not actually seeing it in front of you, you’re seeing your best friend…

Shit. He wasn’t going there, especially not with Sam and Teal’c and General Hammond standing next to him. Hammond was pleased with them: they’d come back ‘mission accomplished’ and with no one showing any visible damage. He hadn’t lost anyone else… His team had done good. That was the way to think. They’d been way under par, hell, they’d been hurting, and they’d still come through and sent the latest Goa’uld megalomaniac off with a bloody nose.

Trouble was, he knew they were still hurting. Teal’c was doing it Jack’s way: impassive, who’s got feelings? Sam was more generous or honest or female or something. But when you came down to it, neither way did much to ease the pain. They probably weren’t looking forward to the downtime any more than he was. They probably deserved a CO who took some sort of a lead…

Jack took a deep breath. There wasn’t a lot he could do for them. He couldn’t take away their grief. He couldn’t give them the chance he’d had to say goodbye face to face. But he could be there and stop the fragmenting going any further. Maybe in a way that would be one thing he could actually do for Daniel, just like he wasn’t looking for the ‘glorious death in action’ option, because if he did he’d be going back to the man he was before Daniel came along.

It made a sort of sense, because Jack knew Daniel. Daniel might be on some higher plane, might be fighting the good fight better where he was or whatever. Jack didn’t know about that, but he knew that the one thing guaranteed to make Daniel feel bad in any existence was Jack, Sam, and Teal’c hurting. It was as good a reason as any for Jack to pick himself up and try to show them a way to go on. That and saving the Earth of course, but he could practically do that with his eyes shut these days.

He’d start with something simple. Suggest they go for a meal, no pressure. He did it almost too laid back, but he could see as he looked at their faces it was a step towards what was needed. Yeah, good call, Jack. Leading the way for Sam and Teal’c was something he could still do, for the team, for what they’d still got, for Daniel… He just wished it didn’t make the gulf in his own heart threaten to open up wider and swallow him.

Then, as they turned to go, and he wondered how he’d find the strength to carry this through, he felt something. It came with unlooked-for grace, as Daniel had first come into his life, and with no more fanfare than the soft whisper of a wind, and he felt the unexpected lightening of that almost intolerable weight of loss. Then, though he wouldn’t have said he was exactly quick at these things, he knew. He knew who was close. The others looked uncertain, feeling something but unsure what. Maybe he was somehow tuned in by those last few minutes with Daniel as he left, or maybe they were just unready… at any rate they didn’t seem to recognise as he did the unmistakeable presence of a friend. The hope was too fragile, too close to the despair he’d just felt for him to say anything. He stood and waited as they went ahead.

He wasn’t sure what he was hoping for, but the sense of closeness deepened. The breeze brushed over him with a beginning of healing, ruffled him with the warm intimacy of a blessing, best of all touched him with the heart and humour of a friend. He found himself grinning with sudden relief and affection. He knew that touch, and he hadn’t really expected ever to feel it again. That was his Daniel, defying the logic of despair and somehow still managing to be there when he really needed him. Maybe he could go on finding the strength to do this after all.

He moved to follow the others to the surface.

Maybe there was some sort of future after all.

~ End ~