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Fanfiction: The Letters Trilogy - Part II

For disclaimer and author's note see Part I.

 

Part II: Opened

Dear Teal'c,

I've heard so many times the story of how you coaxed Cassie from the bushes where she was hiding, how you took her hand and brought her to safety. I owe you my daughter, Teal'c, and it is a great comfort to know that you will be guarding over her when I cannot.

I have never thanked you for the times that you were simply there for me; for Cassie. I think you know you are the rock on which we all lean. They will all need you and I know you will not falter.

It has been a great honour to be your friend.

Your "Doctor Fraiser"

Teal'c heard the front door open and shut softly. The quiet fall of footsteps padding down the hall gave away the identity of the late arrival. Teal'c had been waiting for him. He roused himself from his study of the letter Doctor Fraiser had written for him, sliding the single page into the envelope with care. He placed it into his backpack and snuffed out the single candle he had been using as a light. He made his way to the kitchen.

As he suspected, the late arrival was O'Neill. His friend stood illuminated only in the soft light of a lamp Major Carter had switched on earlier. He was pouring a glass of water from a bottle from the refrigerator and staring out of the glass doors at the figure of the Major in the garden.

Jack cast a look over his shoulder as though noticing Teal'c's presence for the first time. 'How long has she been out there?'

'Almost one hour.' Teal'c replied.

Jack placed the bottle on the counter and lifted the glass to his lips. 'The letters?'

Teal'c inclined his head. 'Cassandra Fraiser was angered and tried to destroy her letter. Major Carter prevented her from doing so. Cassandra has been sulking in her room since dinner. It has been most trying.'

'Daniel?'

'He departed the house shortly after General Hammond and he has not made contact since.' Teal'c informed him briskly. He did not ask where O'Neill had been but the question with its overtones of accusation hung between them regardless.

'I took Dixon out for a drink.' Jack grimaced as he swallowed down a gulp of water. 'He was singing when I left him. I had to promise two nights of babysitting.'

Teal'c raised an eyebrow. 'You will require back-up.'

'Yep.' Jack's eyes strayed out to the garden again.

'You should collect Major Carter before the night becomes too cold for her to remain outside.' Teal'c instructed gently.

'Yeah.' Jack did not argue. He slipped out and Teal'c watched as he sat beside the Major and began to talk with her.

He knew of O'Neill's feelings for the Major; of her feelings for O'Neill. They had both decided to place the mission first rather than pursue them. Teal'c could not argue with their choice. He had made a similar decision when he had left his wife and son to fight the Goa'uld. But he felt for them nevertheless, especially since Major Carter had begun a relationship with another man.

Teal'c resisted the need to frown heavily; to glower at the thought of Detective Shanahan. The police officer was not worthy in his opinion of a warrior such as Major Carter. The fact that he barely knew the man, beyond a brief acquaintance while they waited for an ambulance to transport her and the injured detective from the scene of capturing Osiris, did not factor in Teal'c's mind. He had taken one look at Shanahan and made his determination. He was looking forward to the day when he would expressly warn the detective against harming Major Carter.

Not that the Major had been in contact with the detective during the time the team had stayed with Cassandra Fraiser. It was a source of relief to Teal'c. He knew O'Neill was hurt by the idea of the Major seeing another man despite O'Neill's own refusal to pursue her or challenge the detective for her. The absence of Shanahan was preferred.

Outside in the garden, O'Neill pulled Major Carter into a one-armed hug; her blonde head resting on O'Neill's shoulder. The last time he had seen O'Neill comfort her in such a way, they had almost lost the Major to a super soldier sent by Anubis to hunt her and prevent the completion of the only weapon that could stop it. They had saved the Major then; they had failed to save Doctor Fraiser in their most recent battle.

Teal'c felt again the great sadness that had engulfed him on first hearing the news of her death. The petite doctor was a warrior in her own way and Teal'c had held her in the greatest of respect; the warmest regard. She had saved his life countless times. It had been Doctor Fraiser who had tirelessly worked to keep him alive when his team-mates had been kidnapped by Hathor; who had saved his life when he had been shot by a Jaffa weapon. The latter injury was far too close to the one Doctor Fraiser had sustained; the one that had led to her death.

He had been too far away to prevent her from being shot; too far away to take revenge on the Jaffa who had taken her life. In the end, he had only been able to ensure the safe evacuation of the life Doctor Fraiser had saved. He remembered the words she had written to him in the letter and pledged again to care for those who grieved in the wake of her death.

He stirred as O'Neill helped Major Carter to her feet and they started back. She shivered violently as she walked into the heat of the house.

'Would you care for some hot chocolate, Major Carter?' Teal'c asked solicitously.

'Warm milk.' O'Neill said decisively, clapping his hands.

'Warm lactose is not pleasant.' Teal'c said firmly, moving to guard the refrigerator.

'I'm fine.' She smiled at both of them weakly. Teal'c could see the trace of her tears on her pale skin; the redness of her bottom lip where her teeth had worried at it. 'I'm just going to bed.' Her cold hand briefly clasped Teal'c's forearm before she shifted past. He watched until she disappeared from view. She seemed as fragile as glass such a contrast to Cassandra who burned with fury.

Teal'c turned back, unsurprised to find O'Neill stood staring worriedly in the direction the Major had disappeared in.

'I will watch for Daniel Jackson if you also wish to retire O'Neill.' Teal'c agreed solemnly.

Instead, Jack reached for the water he had previously discarded. 'You know I keep forgetting to ask: how are you doing with…everything?'

'I will miss Doctor Fraiser and I grieve for her loss.' Teal'c replied honestly, appreciative of the question. 'But others are in far greater need than I of comfort.'

Jack sighed. 'Cassie's a mess.'

'She has suffered much loss in her life.' Teal'c murmured, placing his hands behind his back.

'Too much.' Jack brushed a hand over his face, his hand catching on the stubble along his jaw. He pushed away from the counter. 'I'm going to hit the sack.'

Teal'c nodded and followed him out. O'Neill peeled away to head upstairs for the spare bedroom Major Carter had insisted he use because of his injuries. The Major was using the small study with its pull-out sofa bed. Everyone avoided the master bedroom that had belonged to Doctor Fraiser. Teal'c made his way back to the den and set out the sleeping bags that he and Daniel Jackson were using.

He used the downstairs bathroom before making a final circuit of the house, checking the windows were secured; the doors to the garden. He cocked his head at the sound of a car pulling up outside. It was Daniel Jackson.

Teal'c returned to the den, knowing that his friend would lock up when he entered. He lit the candle again and settled cross-legged on his sleeping bag. He waited patiently as he heard Daniel enter. He tracked Daniel's path to the bathroom, to the kitchen, and was prepared when the door opened and Daniel slipped inside of the den.

'Sorry, Teal'c.' Daniel apologised.

'You have no need to apologise.' Teal'c said, careful to keep his voice low so not to disturb those who slept.

Daniel sank onto the comfortable sofa and placed his hands in his head. 'I bailed on you earlier.'

'Your assistance in dealing with Cassandra Fraiser would have been appreciated.' Teal'c agreed calmly. 'But it was not expected.'

'I know how she feels.' Daniel said, removing his glasses and rubbing tiredly at his eyes. 'I don't want to read the letter the General gave me either but…' he sighed and crossed his arms tightly over the rumpled green checked shirt he wore. 'I keep thinking it's Janet's last words to me and that it's what she wanted.'

'Then you have read the letter?' Teal'c asked carefully.

'No,' Daniel laughed weakly, 'I just drove around for hours and thought about it.'

'You should read it when you are ready to hear her words.' Teal'c pressed his lips together briefly. 'Major Carter gave this advice to Cassandra Fraiser.'

'It's good advice.' Daniel shifted, placing his glasses carefully on a coffee table and began to undress.

Teal'c uncoiled and did the same. They stripped down to their underwear and climbed into their sleeping bags without talking. Teal'c reached over and blew out the candle.

'I went to see Simon Wells yesterday.' Daniel murmured into the darkness.

Teal'c clasped his hands over his chest and looked up at the ceiling. Daniel's friendship with the young Airman Doctor Fraiser had saved was clearly a source of comfort for him.

'His wife had a daughter.' Daniel continued. 'They've named her Janet.'

'It is a good way to honour the woman who saved her father.' Teal'c said.

'I don't have a daughter.'

Teal'c raised an eyebrow. 'Perhaps in the future you will have a child of your own.'

'Maybe.' His tone gave away how unlikely he considered the idea.

'For many years I did not believe that I would have a child. Now Rya'c is himself almost a man.' Teal'c offered.

'The baby isn't important. I mean, she is but it's more important that Wells is alive to see her grow up, you know?' Daniel answered, his words soft but fervent. 'It gives…it gives Janet's death meaning.'

Teal'c felt that was true. 'Indeed.'

There was a long silence but Teal'c knew Daniel hadn't gone to sleep; his breathing was too erratic.

'Jack's pissed at me, isn't he?' Daniel asked eventually.

Teal'c debated what to say and decided on the blunt truth. 'He is concerned that you blame yourself for the death of Doctor Fraiser.'

'Oh.' Daniel waited almost a full minute. 'He might be right about that.' There was a weary acceptance in his friend's tone; a sigh weighted down with guilt.

'It was not your fault.' Teal'c said firmly. 'No more than it was Major Carter's or O'Neill's.'

'Or yours?' Daniel rejoined, not missing how Teal'c had left himself out of the litany.

'Or mine.' Teal'c said reluctantly. 'Doctor Fraiser's death should not have occurred. Her insert should have worked as O'Neill's did.'

'If I had kept watch…I should have kept watch.' Daniel berated himself. 'I just…I was so focused on Wells and that damn camera.'

'He was recording a message to his wife.' Teal'c countered. 'You kept his mind occupied, provided him with a focus while Doctor Fraiser stabilised him. You helped her save him.'

'At the cost of her life.' Daniel remarked bitterly.

'I believe Doctor Fraiser would have given her own life many times over if it saved her patient.' Teal'c pointed out.

It was something that Daniel Jackson couldn't argue against. Teal'c heard his friend sigh and turn over in his sleeping bag restlessly. The conversation was over.

Teal'c repressed the urge to sigh himself. He feared that just as Daniel Jackson was not ready to read Janet Fraiser's last words, his friend was also not ready to hear the truth regarding her death. Just as Cassandra was not ready to accept that there was anything but her anger. It did not matter; Teal'c would be there for them when they were ready. Satisfied with his last thought, Teal'c closed his eyes and let himself sleep.

o-O-o

Dear Jonas,

After writing my letters for Sam, Jack, Daniel and Teal'c, it didn't feel right not to write you one too. I remember you telling me once that you wanted to make a difference, and I tried to tell you that you already had. But I don't think I tried hard enough to say what I really meant.

What I really meant to say was that you saved them. I know you blame yourself for Daniel, for the loss they – we suffered, but the truth is that Daniel made his choice when he Ascended. When you joined SG1, you healed them by being you, and by finding joy in everything you did, you helped them rediscover it – even the Colonel.

And you helped heal Cassie, which brings me onto the other reason for this letter.

The truth is that SG1 will always be on the frontline. I don't want to think it but I have to face the possibility that they won't make it one day and if I die with them, I need you to be there for Cassie. You'll be all that's left of her family, Jonas. She's going to need you. And if by some bizarre twist of fate I go and they survive, she'll still need you. You perhaps understand her better than any of us. Never doubt that and never forget you make a difference every day.

It has been a pleasure to be your friend.

Janet Fraiser

Jonas tucked the letter back into its envelope and placed it in his pocket, ignoring Teal'c and Daniel. He didn't need to look at Daniel to know the other man's face was alive with curiosity over the contents of the letter. Jonas could already feel his own curiosity stir at the idea of what Janet had written to each member of SG1. He doubted that anybody was going to share though. He knew he would have difficulty sharing her words for him with anyone else.

He looked out of the conference room window at the Kelownan city, the one recently adopted by the Langaran Council as the central seat of the joint government. It had been his home all of his life except for the one year he had spent on Earth with SG1 and, if he was honest, the months since he had returned. His doomed relationship with Kianna Seer before the revelation that she was possessed by a Goa'uld had helped him gloss over the isolation of his position for a time. Langara needed his knowledge and expertise but very few trusted him; befriended him. The weeks that had passed since Kianna, free of the Goa'uld, had transferred from his projects to others had shown him that.

Loneliness suffused him. His colleagues respected him but there was a cautious distance between them. Apart from Errold, his young aide, who viewed him with something closer to hero worship that simply made Jonas feel uncomfortable. He was no hero. He was just trying to atone for his mistakes and that meant staying on Langara and helping the Council build a world that worked together. Even if Langara was the last place he wanted to be; even if his family was a whole other world away.

And Doctor Fraiser – Janet as she had requested he call her off duty although he'd never quite had the nerve – had been right; SG1 and Cassie were his family.

'You OK?' Daniel's patience had apparently expired.

Jonas turned away from the window to look over his two guests. He could see the evidence of lack of sleep and grief in the tension they carried; Teal'c's stony visage which told a story of its own, Daniel's shadowed eyes. Guilt curdled in his gut but it was washed away by a rush of resentment.

After Jonas had delayed his return to Langara a couple of times to visit with members of SG1, the Council had determined Jonas was too close to Earth to represent Langara objectively in the negotiations for an alliance between their two worlds. Teal'c had sent word of Janet's death with the Langaran negotiator but Jonas had been refused permission to travel to Earth himself and had only been granted leave to send a message via the same route. He doubted Teal'c and Daniel would have been allowed to see him if it hadn't been for Teal'c's glowering insistence.

'How's Cassie?' Jonas asked evading Daniel's question.

Daniel shot him a look. 'Not good.' He removed his glasses and rubbed at his eyes. 'She's so angry.' He gave a half-hearted smile. 'I can't say I blame her.'

Jonas perched on the edge of the polished conference room table. 'What happened?' He asked plaintively, crossing his arms over his beige Kelownan tunic. 'Leron only told me that Doctor Fraiser died in the line of duty.'

Daniel flinched and moved away. He stared out of the window.

Teal'c cleared his throat, drawing Jonas's attention. 'SG13 found ancient ruins on were attacked by a Goa'uld probe. Unfortunately the probe sent a communication, and SG13 and SG3 were ambushed by Jaffa. We believe it was Anubis.' He paused. 'SG1, SG5, SG7 and a medical team including Doctor Fraiser were deployed to assist.'

'Jack, Teal'c and Sam were trying to secure the gate with the SG teams and Dixon.' Daniel added, without turning around. 'Janet and I went to help Simon Wells who'd been injured. She was…' he shook his head, 'she was brilliant. She got him stabilised. We were just about to move him and there was a freak shot…' he lifted a hand and made a vague gesture, 'it came out of nowhere and…' his voice cut off on a choke.

'Doctor Fraiser was hit.' Teal'c concluded. 'Her vest failed to absorb the blow and she died instantly from her injuries.'

Jonas swallowed around the lump of emotion that had settled into the back of his throat. He pushed off the table and went over to Daniel. 'I'm so sorry. I shouldn't have asked…'

Daniel waved away his apology. His blue eyes were shining with unshed tears. 'It's OK. Well, not OK OK, but you know…'

Jonas placed a hand on Daniel's shoulder and squeezed comfortingly.

'No matter how many times I've told the story, it doesn't feel real.' Daniel admitted, blinking hard and tilting his head up to the ceiling.

There's nothing Jonas could say to make it better. He glanced at Teal'c who gave an imperceptible nod of understanding.

'Is there, uh, a bathroom near?' Daniel asked suddenly, whirling around.

'Sure, down the hall.' Jonas said.

Teal'c stepped forward when Daniel did.

Daniel froze and frowned at the Jaffa. 'I think I've got this.'

'O'Neill was most specific regarding the matter of you being alone while off-world on Langard.' Teal'c said mildly without backing down.

Jonas hid a smile. He could guess that the Colonel had told Teal'c that Daniel was never to be left alone. Given that Daniel had died saving everyone on Kelowna from a naquadria explosion the last time he'd been left alone on Kelowna, Jonas could appreciate why. He gestured at the guard at the door.

'Officer Braken, can you escort Doctor Jackson to the visitor's bathroom and back, please?'

'Yes, sir.' Braken looked expectantly at Daniel.

Daniel shot Jonas a grumpy look but headed off with the young guard at his heels.

Teal'c waited until the heavy wooden door was closed behind his team-mate before he sagged. To anyone else, the Jaffa's expression barely altered but Jonas knew his friend. He could see the minute changes that altered the weight of his gaze, the shape of his mouth.

'Teal'c?' asked Jonas gently.

'It is the first time I have heard Daniel Jackson speak of what occurred.' Teal'c said. 'He has refused to do so on every other occasion. I believe he has only spoken about it to General Hammond and the investigator sent by Senator Kinsey.'

'Really?' Jonas snapped his mouth shut. He wasn't certain what he was most shocked about; that there had been an investigation that he'd known nothing about or that Daniel had opened up to him rather than the other members of SG1. 'Sometimes it's easier to talk with a stranger than someone you're close to.'

Teal'c inclined his head in agreement.

Jonas's eyes raked over his friend again. 'It can't be easy for any of you.'

'It is not.' Teal'c allowed. He held Jonas's gaze. 'It is a most difficult time.'

'Sam?'

'She is devastated and feels guilty that we survived where Doctor Fraiser did not.' Teal'c confirmed. He frowned. 'O'Neill feels guilty for not deploying more men to guard Doctor Fraiser.'

'And you?' Jonas pressed, unable to stop himself from asking.

'I also feel guilt that I was elsewhere on the battlefield.' Teal'c acknowledged, tilting his head so the light bounced gently off the smooth dark skin. 'But our guilt will not return Doctor Fraiser to Cassandra.'

'Cassie blames you all.' Jonas guessed.

'Indeed.' Teal'c accepted.

Jonas sighed and stepped away to stare out of the window again. 'I wish I could have attended the funeral or the memorial but…'

'Ambassador Leron explained that your presence was needed on Langara.' Teal'c assured him, moving to stand beside him. 'We understood.'

'I don't.' Jonas grimaced at his reflection. 'I mean, I do, and it's all politics. They think I'm too close to you guys.'

Teal'c's face darkened with anger. 'They are preventing you from using the Stargate.'

'Yes.' Jonas admitted. He reached out a hand to calm Teal'c. 'They have a point, Teal'c. I shouldn't be involved with the negotiations; I am too close.' He shook his head, his hair falling into his eyes. He swept it back. 'And unfortunately, we don't have the power capability to keep dialling the Stargate for me to make personal trips.' He gestured. 'I'm working out a way to use the naquadria core we've established as a power source but frankly the instability worries me. I'm hoping once the treaty is established the Council will let me work with Sam and Rodney on it.'

'Why is Doctor McKay involved?' Teal'c asked brusquely.

Jonas held up a hand as though to ward off Teal'c's bad temper. 'Rodney's worked on both the 302 and 303 engines. He has the most experience with naquadria calculations outside of myself and Sam.'

'He is most disagreeable.'

'I realise he almost got you killed,' Jonas conceded, 'but from an intellectual point of view, I would have agreed with his initial conclusions that your pattern would be degraded beyond viability after forty-eight hours.'

Teal'c stared at him.

'Sam's theory that the gate crystals didn't conform to the properties of other crystalline structures was guess work. Brilliant guess work but guess work.' Jonas said with an unconcerned shrug. He liked Rodney despite the other man's strident personality. There was no pretence around Rodney. 'And you know Rodney's never been part of a SG team. He doesn't understand the bonds that develop. Before I got my place on SG1, I didn't understand it.' He sighed. 'The Council don't understand it either that's why…'

'Perhaps we should explain it to them.' Teal'c said. 'I would appreciate your presence on Earth during this difficult time.'

Jonas felt humbled; the Jaffa barely asked for anything for himself but he was asking for Jonas to return with them and Jonas knew he couldn't refuse his friend. He'd work something out; he had to.

Teal'c cocked his head abruptly, his gaze shooting to the door. Jonas wasn't surprised when it opened and Daniel walked back in.

Daniel paused inside the doorway and waved a hand. 'Sorry, Jonas, but we have to head back.'

Jonas nodded understandingly. 'I know.'

'Will you be returning with us, Jonas Quinn?' Teal'c asked bluntly.

'I need a day to organise things but I'll be with you day after tomorrow at the latest.' Jonas said firmly.

Daniel sighed and his shoulders dropped. 'That's good.' His lips twisted. 'Maybe Cassie won't be angry with you.'

Jonas wasn't sure about that; he figured Cassie was angry at the universe for taking her mother away from her after everything else she had lost. He walked them out to the Stargate and watched as they disappeared into the blue. He turned toward Dreylock's office with a set jaw.

Dreylock's aide made Jonas wait for almost an hour before he was ushered into her office. Jonas wasn't surprised to find Leron already there.

The tall blond Ambassador smiled at Jonas smoothly. 'Professor Quinn.'

'Ambassador Leron.' Jonas lifted an eyebrow at Dreylock stood behind her desk, looking smartly elegant as always in a green dress. 'I take it you're anticipating my intention to request a return to Earth.'

'Then you don't deny that's what you're here to do.' Leron said, amused. He folded himself into a visitor's chair and smirked at Jonas.

Jonas ignored him and focused on Dreylock. 'A good friend of mine died. Her daughter was like a younger sister to me when I lived on Earth and I understand from Teal'c and Doctor Jackson that she needs all the support she can get. They need all the support they can get and they are in many ways the only family I have. I want to take a week's leave and spend some time with them.'

'Jonas…' Dreylock began regretfully.

'I realise this is a purely personal visit.' Jonas continued, holding her gaze. 'But I can go through with Ambassador Leron when he returns to Earth to continue the negotiations in two days' time so this won't use additional power. My projects can all be delayed a week.'

Dreylock sat down and clasped her hands on top of the desk. 'You say that as though it were that easy.'

'I haven't asked for anything since my return but I'm asking for this.' Jonas said forcefully.

'And if you had asked, what makes you think we would have given anything to you?' Leron countered before Dreylock could speak. 'It's your fault that we were attacked.'

'I saved this planet from blowing up not so long ago.' Jonas argued. 'And if the Kelownan government had told the truth and honoured Doctor Jackson's sacrifice, I would never have left. If they had agreed to stop working on the naquadria bomb, I might not have left.'

Dreylock sighed, her expression shifting into sympathy. 'Jonas, your continued interaction with your former team only serves to worry people about your allegiance. Don't you see that?'

And Jonas could see her point; he really could as much as he didn't want to. He sighed. 'What do you want in exchange?'

Dreylock threw Leron a look.

Leron brushed imaginary dust from his pants. 'If you take this week, when you return you will not travel to Earth for two of our years.'

Jonas supressed the wince and the accompanying hurt. They were asking him to self-exile. He'd be alone apart from any fleeting visits Teal'c and the others could arrange. 'One year.' He offered.

'Let's say one and a half.' Leron conceded with a smile that told Jonas that had been his aim to begin with.

Jonas glared at him. 'Fine.' He crossed his arms. 'If that's all, I have some arrangements to make…'

Dreylock gestured for him to wait. 'Leron, leave us for a moment, please.'

Leron stood and swept from the room.

'I'm sorry, Jonas,' Dreylock said as soon as Leron was out of the room, 'I wish this wasn't necessary.'

'It isn't.' Jonas pointed out bitterly. 'But don't let that stop you.'

'Jonas.' Dreylock sighed and took a deep breath as though reconsidering what she had been about to say. 'Have you considered that the reason why you struggle to find a place on Langara is because of the hold Earth has on you? Perhaps if you take the time to properly say goodbye, you can move forward with your life here.'

'Perhaps.' Jonas said diplomatically. He motioned with his entire body towards the door.

Dreylock's lips thinned with annoyance but she nodded her dismissal and Jonas walked out. He didn't stop until he reached his lab. He closed the door and sat abruptly on a stool, heedless of the scattered projects with their multitude of paperwork stacked up around the benches.

The pain of what he had agreed to swamped him for a breathless moment. One last visit and then…

No more Earth.

No more team nights playing team chess.

No more family.

Jonas closed his eyes and shook himself mentally. He could indulge in his self-pity later. He carefully extracted Janet's letter from his pocket and reread her words.

His family needed him and he would be there for them. Everything else could wait.

o-O-o

Dear Daniel,

There's so much that I want to say to you and so much that I think would be incredibly unfair to say when I'm not there anymore to deal with the consequences that I don't know what to write.

Let me start with the easy stuff: I love that you're my friend. I missed you when you were gone. I'd come to rely on you to listen to me when I was down; to hold my hand through parenting decisions; to be there if I needed someone to talk to. You've been there for me in ways that I never expected but I've always appreciated. I know you'll continue to be there for Cassie.

The rest I struggle to say because is it fair to tell you that I hated that you left, that we weren't enough for you? Is it OK to say that if I also tell you that I'm so glad you came back?

Because I think you know that I loved you as a friend and that sometimes I wished for more than friendship. But I don't want you to feel guilty or sad about that. It just wasn't meant to be. I know you love Sha're but I hope you find someone else to share your life and your heart with, Daniel.

Remember that our friendship was special to me and I cherished it.

It has been a great joy to be your friend.

Janet

Daniel brushed the tears from his eyes and slipped the letter into his jacket pocket. He picked up his glasses from the grass beside him and nudged them back into place. He blinked as the cemetery came back into focus. The rows of monuments and gravestones went from fuzzy to clear; the scent of grass and dirt filled his nostrils; the sound of a mower on the far side disturbed the reverent silence and the heavy air of grief.

He shivered. It was sunny but cold. Too cold to be sitting cross-legged on the ground beside Janet's grave. She'd wanted to be buried in Colorado Springs because that was where she and Cassie had built their home; where the rest of Cassie's family was based. Loose flowers covered the turf that had been laid over the fresh grave; roses, freesias and carnations. Their perfume drifted over Daniel and made his sinuses hurt. He gazed at the blinding white marble.

Janet's name was simply inscribed with 'loving mother' and the year of her birth and death. She'd been a few years older than Daniel. Nothing substantial. They'd spent too many hours debating the music of their youth and old TV shows they'd caught as teenagers for Daniel not to know that. Too many evenings of dinner and helping Cassie with her homework or lending an ear to Janet while she debated some aspect of motherhood; too many lunches caught with Janet in her office or his office or in the mess with everyone.

'I'm so sorry.' The words were out of his mouth before he was even aware that he was speaking but it felt right to talk to her so he continued. 'Everybody is telling me it's not my fault but I was right beside you and I should have done…something. Saved you.' His hand reached out and rearranged a flower stem gently into perfect alignment. 'I'm sorry.'

The silence was almost more than he could bear.

'I've been avoiding…everyone.' Daniel murmured. 'Well, apart from Simon Wells because he was right there with me and I…I wanted, needed to make sure he made it. He called his daughter Janet, did you know that? I hope you know that.'

A breeze caught him by surprise, cutting through his jacket and chilling him to the bone.

'Cassie's so angry with all of us.' Daniel continued gruffly. 'We're all hoping she talks to Jonas when he arrives – and thank you for whatever you said to him because it made him arrange to come and she needs him, I think.' Because Cassie blamed them for not saving her mother and SG1 were no longer her heroes.

'I knew.' The confession sounded loud in the silence. 'I didn't know I knew but I knew about…' He waved his hand rather than expand on the thought. 'I thought about it, us, sometimes. You were never the reason I didn't…you were a beautiful woman, Janet. It was just…I wasn't ready.' He wasn't sure he would ever be ready to move on from Sha're; to love another woman.

He stayed beside the grave for a long while despite the cold, letting the silence soak into him. It was soothing, sitting there, pretending that he had no other place to be; nobody else to care about. The sky was beginning to turn colour when he finally pushed off the hard ground and got to his feet. He turned for the path and stopped at the sight of Jack sat on a bench a couple of hundred yards away.

Daniel wanted to be pissed about being tracked down but guilt smothered any hint of anger. They were all ignoring the fact that they'd almost lost Jack on the battlefield too. But looking at Jack's tired impatient face as Daniel closed the gap between them, Daniel could see the etched lines of pain; the forced rigidness in the way Jack held himself. Jack didn't get up and Daniel sat down beside him. Jack made an abortive move to turn and Daniel frowned as Jack grimaced.

'Are you OK?' Daniel asked, concerned.

Jack shot him an astounded look.

'OK, so no; not OK.' Daniel said with a short laugh. 'God, that was a stupid question.' He shook his head. 'None of us are OK.'

'Glad you realise it's not just you.'

Daniel settled back against the hard wooden slats and pushed his hands deep into the pockets of his coat. His fingers grazed the letter. 'I deserve that.'

'Look, Daniel, we know you got a shitty deal here.' Jack bit out caustically but Daniel heard the sympathy regardless. 'You were with her. There was nothing you could have done to save her. It sucks. It sucks big time. But Cassie needs all of us right now…'

'Cassie blames all of us right now.' Daniel shot back.

Jack sighed exasperatedly. 'She needs to know we're not that easy to push away.' His gaze snagged Daniel's and didn't let go. 'You need to know that.'

Daniel yanked his gaze away from Jack's. Trust Jack to deliver a sucker-punch, Daniel mused, hoping the chill breeze could be blamed for his reddened cheeks.

'I let you get away with it after Sha're.' Jack said quietly.

And Daniel had chosen to Ascend. He wanted to defend himself but Janet's words were fresh in his mind.

'I hated that you left, that we weren't enough for you…'

Jack was right, Daniel mused; he'd pushed everyone away after Sha're's death, walled them out in a futile attempt to stop them from getting too close because he'd hurt from loss too many times in his life and he hadn't wanted to lose them. Hadn't that been part of it, Daniel thought bitterly. Better to push them away – to choose to isolate himself – than to be with them and risk being hurt when they left anyway?

And here he was doing it again – only Jack had decided Daniel wasn't being allowed to do it again. He knew Jack's presence was as good as a declaration; Daniel had been given space – two weeks of it – but that was over.

'I read Janet's letter.' Daniel said.

Jack remained silent and Daniel got the message; it was up to Daniel to talk.

'I never realised…' Daniel waved a hand vaguely out toward the grave, 'Janet had written letters.'

'Most people don't write them.' Jack said, hunching against the sharp bite of the wind.

Daniel sent him a questioning look.

'Used to.' Jack answered. He shrugged, wincing when the movement pulled at his sore body. 'One for Sara. One for Charlie. Got rid of them when I retired the first time.'

Daniel blew out a breath and searched for a change of subject. 'You know I sometimes thought about asking her out.' They both knew the 'her' was Janet.

Jack looked at him with raised eyebrows. 'Really?'

'We were friends,' Daniel said, 'and sometimes, just sometimes, I could imagine it being…more, you know.'

'Yeah, I know.' Jack said softly.

'I wasn't ready.' And suddenly Daniel wondered if that was the reason why Jack had never pursued Sam; maybe Jack wasn't ready. He felt blindsided. He'd never considered that in all the times he'd wondered about the two of them. But it made sense because the last time Jack had been seriously involved, he'd lost his whole family. Maybe Jack didn't even know he wasn't ready; that he was holding back because he was as scared as Daniel was about moving forward.

Daniel's brow creased. 'I missed my chance.'

'If you're not ready, you're not ready.' Jack said firmly. 'What's worse? You feeling slightly regretful you didn't ask the doc out or you asking the doc out and ruining your friendship because you couldn't make it work?'

Daniel stared at him.

'Don't look at me like that.' Jack snapped. 'This isn't about…' his hand weaved in the air, 'this is about you and the doc.'

'Right.'

Jack shifted on the bench. 'She's with Shanahan now.'

'Is she?' Daniel asked pointedly. 'Because I haven't seen him around.' In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he was wondering where the hell Sam's boyfriend was. Sam was grief stricken over Janet. Shouldn't Shanahan have at least checked in with her? Although, maybe he had and Daniel had missed it. He hadn't exactly been around much.

Jack made a huffy sound and stood up. 'Come on. Teal'c will give us the eyebrow if we miss dinner again.'

Daniel didn't argue. He glanced back one final time at the grave and followed Jack out of the cemetery. It didn't surprise him that Jack's truck was parked next to his car. Jack motioned for Daniel to lead the way.

The Fraiser house seemed quiet when they pulled up. Both of them got out of their vehicles and paused at the bottom of the path. Jack straightened his shoulders, winced, and waved Daniel forward. They stepped in to the welcome heat and shucked off their outerwear, pausing to pet the dog who greeted them with a happily wagging tail. The fragrance of Chinese take-out wafted through from the kitchen.

Teal'c sat alone among a small army of white cartons. He was using chopsticks with great dexterity plucking beef out of the carton he held.

'Hey.' Jack picked up the nearest carton, peeking inside it like a kid with a Christmas present. Evidently it was one he liked because he reached for chopsticks.

Teal'c glowered. 'You are late.' He lowered the chopsticks. 'There was…a disagreement.'

Jack paused, chicken dripping with some sauce balanced precariously in the hold of his sticks. Daniel froze, hunched down and in the middle of scratching the dog's head.

'Cassandra is out with friends from college.' Teal'c informed them briskly. 'She failed to inform Major Carter of the arrangement until after the food had arrived.' He glowered at the carton. 'They argued heatedly and Cassandra said many things regarding Major Carter that I believe she will regret later.'

Jack shoved his chopsticks into the carton. 'Where's Carter now?'

'She retired to her room when Cassandra departed.' Teal'c said evenly. 'She claimed that she was not hungry.'

Jack made to leave the kitchen and Daniel lurched upward, grabbing his arm. Jack looked down at Daniel's restraining hand and back up at him sharply.

'My turn?' suggested Daniel.

Teal'c raised his eyebrow. But his dark eyes gleamed with approval at Daniel finally stepping up to the plate.

Jack pressed his lips together, and Daniel knew Jack wanted to be the one to comfort Sam, but he waved a hand towards the door as though to say 'have at it' and sat back down. It didn't escape Daniel that it was a sign of how much Jack trusted him that he trusted him with Sam of all people. Daniel hurried through the house and knocked gently on the study door. He didn't wait for an answer but opened the door and poked his head around it.

Sam sat on the pull-out bed with her back towards the door. She was curled in on herself, crying. He didn't hesitate. He was through the door, closing it behind him, and beside her within seconds. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and tugged her into a hug. Sam went with it, wrapping her own arms around his waist and tucking her head into the crook of his neck.

'Teal'c blabbed.' Daniel said, tightening his hold on her.

'I figured.' Sam's voice was choked with tears. She managed to swipe at her face.

'You know she's lashing out at you because she loves you and knows you love her and that you're not going anywhere.' Daniel told her gently.

Sam pulled away and rubbed at her face with a tissue. 'It just doesn't make it any easier when she's yelling at me that I'm not Janet.' Her voice cracked on Janet's name.

Daniel rubbed her shoulder. 'I'm sorry I wasn't here.'

'It's OK.' Sam shifted, turning to look at him through red-rimmed watery eyes. 'I know it's been hard on you.'

'It's been hard on everybody.' Daniel commented, unwilling to let her make it easy for him.

'Daniel,' Sam touched his shoulder gently, 'it's the first time you've lost someone you cared about in the field since Sha're. We understand.'

'I lost Robert.' Daniel pointed out.

'But he wasn't right beside you when he got hit.' Sam squeezed his shoulder. 'God, when the Colonel went down…' she blinked heavily. 'I think my heart stopped beating.'

'I feel guilty.' Daniel admitted. 'I don't mean about Janet although, I mean I do feel guilty about not being able to do anything to save her, but I feel guilty because I know this…this loss that I'm feeling right now, seeing you all grieve for Janet…I know this is how you guys felt when I died, Ascended, and I can't believe I put you through that.' The tears that sprang up caught him off guard.

'Hey.' It was Sam's turn to wrap an arm around his shoulder.

'And I don't understand,' Daniel admitted, refusing to let himself cry, 'how I got offered Ascension but Janet didn't? Because if anyone deserved it, she did.'

'Maybe it happened too fast.' Sam said with unfailing logic. 'Maybe she couldn't do it.'

'Maybe.' Daniel repeated. 'I just wish…I know she left us these letters but I really wish I could talk to her again.'

'Me too.' Sam drew away from him and blew her nose.

Daniel's stomach rumbled.

'Hungry?' Sam asked, a smile lifting her lips momentarily.

'Yeah,' Daniel pointed over his shoulder, 'you coming?'

Sam looked as though she was about to refuse but he stared at her expectantly and she caved, nodding her acquiescence. They made their way to the kitchen. Daniel slid into the chair beside Teal'c, leaving the one beside Jack for Sam.

Jack nudged her arm gently. 'Duck?'

'Yeah, thanks.' Sam offered him a shy smile.

Daniel helped himself to the remainder of the beef that Teal'c had discarded and accepted the beer Jack handed to him. For the first time in days he felt the churning inside of him ease as warmth slowly spread through him from simply being with his team – his family. But he wasn't unaware of the two empty chairs at the table and he wasn't the only one.

Jack cleared his throat and stabbed his chopsticks into the carton. 'Well, this is weird.'

Daniel agreed with him. He'd only ever been in the house with either Janet or Cassie present.

'I know but Janet…she would have wanted us here.' Sam said firmly. 'For Cassie.'

'Maybe we should tackle Cassie as a team.' Daniel suggested, surreptitiously feeding the dog under the table. 'Jonas arrives tomorrow.'

'Good idea.' Jack said, pointing a chopstick at him.

'You mean stage an intervention?' Sam sighed and picked at her duck. 'I guess it couldn't hurt.'

'Indeed.' Teal'c agreed. He picked up another carton and began eating what looked like noodles.

Daniel looked around his team as they began to discuss it. He'd tried to push them away and it hadn't worked. Maybe it was time to be there for them; to be there for Cassie. His lips firmed with determination. He could do this; he would do it in memory of Janet and their friendship.

Continued in Part III.

 

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