?

Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Fanfiction: Lonely at the Top

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S8 Lockdown
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Sam/Jack UST. Mention of Sam/Pete. Jack/Team friendship.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended. Written for entertainment purposes only.

Lonely at the Top

The stack of folders on his desk was depressingly high.

Jack O'Neill was certain that he had never seen a stack of folders that high when the desk had belonged to George Hammond, not even on the odd occasion that Jack had temporarily stepped in during one of Hammond's rare absences. His CO had made running the SGC look easy, simple.

It was anything but.

It had been two weeks since the Air Force Chief of Staff had pinned stars on him and confirmed Jack was the SGC commander. Depressingly, for most of that time the SGC had been in lockdown. It wasn't exactly the illustrious start to his command that Jack had secretly wanted.

Damn snake, Jack thought irritably. Not that Anubis was a snake anymore; no, Anubis was some dark cloudy wisp of evil that belonged in a comic book, capable of possessing people regardless of his non-snakey body. He glared at the stack of folders as though they were responsible.

He could blame Elizabeth Weir, Jack decided, for the folders – not for Anubis. Walter Harriman had noted that some of the procedures and processes had changed when she'd taken over from Hammond. Obviously Elizabeth's brief stint in charge had sadly broken apart the smooth running machine that Hammond had created.

It had nothing to do with Jack.

Nope.

Jack sighed and checked his watch. He was supposed to have been at Teal'c's an hour ago. The thought made Jack smile because it was Teal'c's first home on Earth outside of the base. Jack had managed to get the approval through on a wave of gratitude after saving the world. The Jaffa had stopped by the office and formally invited Jack earlier that day to a small gathering including their SG1 team-mates, Daniel Jackson and Samantha Carter to 'heat his abode.' Only Teal'c had said it with his dark eyes twinkling so Jack knew Teal'c knew the right term was housewarming.

He looked down at the folder. Something to do with potatoes. Why potatoes, Jack thought morosely. Why not apples or bananas? Maybe a nice problem with beef? Why did it always have to be potatoes and why the hell was this his problem? He scrawled 'use your best judgement' over the top of the memo, finally gave into the urge to add 'and stop asking me about potatoes unless you want to be tossed through the 'gate,' and set it on the smaller pile of folders he had finished.

He rubbed his forehead with the heel of his hand. Screw it, Jack thought decisively. He was never going to finish the stack of folders even if he stayed until midnight. He pushed his chair back, rising to his feet…

The phone rang.

The red phone.

The important one. Jack sighed and picked up. 'O'Neill.'

'General.' Hammond's jovial Texas drawl warmed Jack's spirits and had him sitting back down.

'General Hammond, sir.' Jack felt a desperate hope and a faint dread creep into him. 'Please tell me you've decided to come back.' He would be so relieved if Hammond did he might kiss the man, although he would be disappointed deep down at having failed.

Hammond laughed. 'You're doing fine, Jack.'

Damn.

'I don't think the Joint Chiefs and the President agree.' Jack winced. He hadn't meant to say that out loud or to sound so whiny.

'It's been a difficult couple of weeks,' Hammond said diplomatically, 'I would have done exactly what you did, Jack. I told them that.'

Jack felt better despite not wanting to admit he'd needed the reassurance. He leaned back and enjoyed the squeak of leather as his weight settled on back cushion. 'I might have known the sneaky snake would come back to bug us.'

'It's unfortunate.' Hammond admitted grimly. 'Obviously Anubis' semi-Ascended state gives him an advantage that couldn't be foreseen. We couldn't have anticipated that he would somehow manage to get into a Russian cosmonaut and hitch a ride on Colonel Vaselov to the SGC.'

'Vaselov was a good guy.' Jack murmured. He might never have let the Russian officer join SG1 but he had no doubt that the guy deserved all his plaudits. He had made his death meaningful – had saved Jack's life. He'd told Colonel Chekov that when he'd spoken to the Russian liaison.

'The Russians appreciated your comments and your invitation for them to send a team rather than an individual to the SGC.' Hammond replied. With anyone else there would have been an astonished tone because Jack's view about working with Russians was well known in the programme, but Hammond's was respectful.

'I didn't do it to…' Jack began.

'I know, son.' Hammond said mildly. 'You don't play politics which is exactly what Chekov said when he was asked by his superiors if this was your way of trying to appease them.'

Jack froze for a moment before he forced himself to move, picking up his pen and twirling it absently in his hand. 'He actually said that?' Because Chekov saying anything positive about him at all had to be a red letter day.

'He did.' Hammond gave a small laugh. 'He knows you're not politically motivated.'

'You say that like it's a bad thing.' Jack noted. He fiddled with the pen before setting it down again.

Hammond harrumphed. 'It's part of the job.'

Jack sighed at the unspoken point that the political side was something he was going to have to get used to and, more importantly, learn to deal with. 'So how bad is the damage?'

'General Maynard is a fan so you didn't lose too many points.' Hammond said. 'Mostly it's not about you or the SGC. The Joint Chiefs are upset at the creation of Homeworld Security. They're arguing as an oversight body it shouldn't have command responsibility for anything under its banner.'

'Under your banner.' Jack said.

'They're not going to win the argument with the President on this one.' Hammond said, amusement finally drifting into his voice. 'The President is determined that everything remain as it is given what happened the last time he took things out of our hands. He found your way of dealing with his deadline to be…creative.'

'But?' prompted Jack because there was always a 'but.'

'But the Pentagon is making waves and Anubis managing to lock us down for as long as he did has meant that the President has had to make a concession.'

'He's not coming to visit?' Hope started to build again because ever since Jack had gotten the call from the President's Chief of Staff informing him that the President wanted to personally stop by the SGC and thank them for their hard work, Jack had been hoping it was a bad dream.

'Not exactly. He still intends to visit but he has agreed to cancel if you fail the secret test he's going to put you through.'

'Secret test?'

'The one he very strictly told me not to tell you about,' Hammond commented dryly, 'while handing me his phone and telling me he's stepping out for a few minutes to talk to the British Prime Minister.'

'Ah.' Jack sighed. The President was being forced into doing something by the Pentagon so he wanted Jack to have every advantage. He almost liked the guy.

'He's going to send someone in to do a review but undercover as you're not supposed to know about them.' Hammond continued. 'They'll arrive on Monday.'

'Great.' Jack leaned back and closed his eyes. Just what he needed; someone looking over his shoulder and monitoring everything he did; every decision he made. He was going to fail abysmally and embarrass Hammond, and that thought made him feel slightly nauseous.

'My advice for what it's worth is be yourself.' Hammond said. 'You're a good commander, Jack. Unorthodox but it works for you.'

'Thank you, sir.' Jack only hoped he could live up to Hammond's belief in his abilities.

'One other thing,' Hammond added, almost apologetically, 'you need to send SG1 back into the field. Colonel Carter's assignment as leader will not be approved until the post-mission evaluation report is filed and…' he sighed, 'frankly, it's looking strange that all other teams have resumed a mission schedule but them now the lockdown is over.'

Jack grimaced. 'It's just…' he struggled to put his thoughts into words, mainly because every time he thought about SG1 going off-world without him, it felt wrong. Very wrong. Which was stupid because it wasn't as though they hadn't gone off-world without him before. And it wasn't that he didn't trust Carter; he did. He'd trained her for the position and he was confident that she can handle anything. But they would be off-world without him and he would be the one sending them. It was…wrong.

'I understand, Jack,' Hammond said with enough emotion in the words that Jack got that his CO really did understand, 'and no doubt their expertise has been invaluable to you this past couple of weeks but it's time.'

'I shot Daniel.' Jack pointed out. And he did feel bad about that; he really did. 'He's still wounded.'

'Then get the Colonel to heal him.' Hammond said briskly.

It took Jack a moment to realise the 'Colonel' referred to was Carter and not himself. General, he reminded himself briskly, he was a General. He sighed. 'Yes, sir.'

'Call me George.' Hammond ordered lightly before saying goodbye.

Jack set the phone down. For a long moment, he stared at it and wondered whether he'd survive the President's test – if he wanted to for that matter. Right at that moment the only thing that made him want to succeed at all was Hammond's faith in him. He rubbed his hands over his tired face. He checked the time again. He was late, very late, for Teal'c's thing. But late was better than never. He left his office and closed the door on the stack of folders.

o-O-o

Teal'c's apartment was located on the edge of a nice part of Colorado Springs and a part with one of the worst crime records in the city. Jack had tentatively tried to get Teal'c to consider somewhere else but Teal'c was set on it and Jack had relented in the face of Teal'c's enthusiasm and the increasing stack of folders on his desk.

He walked up to the main door and followed an elderly woman through. The security was lax, Jack mused, but Teal'c could take care of himself and he wouldn't appreciate Jack commenting. He made his way up to the right floor and knocked on the door.

Teal'c answered and smiled a welcome at him. 'It is good to see you, O'Neill.'

Jack repressed the urge to smile at Teal'c's Star Wars t-shirt declaring him a Jedi knight. 'Sorry I'm late.' He gave an exaggerated shudder. 'Paperwork.'

Teal'c stepped back so Jack could enter the apartment.

Jack looked around with a frown at the bare walls and minimal furniture. It was to be expected; Teal'c had lived in a single room on base; he didn't have enough belongings to fill an apartment. Give him time, Jack mused. A lonely fern sat atop the mantelpiece – he guessed it was a housewarming present from Carter. The television was on and Jack had watched the move enough times with Teal'c to identify it as Star Wars.

Daniel was sleeping on the couch, sprawled along the entire length with his good arm trapped underneath him and his other trapped in the sling tucked up against his chest protectively. Carter was in the chair next to the sofa but had risen as soon as Jack entered the room. His stomach knotted; he'd so hoped she'd stopped doing that. He waved Carter back into her chair with a pointed look. She grimaced apologetically but subsided, curling back down into the chair, tucking her legs underneath her.

Jack dipped his head in Daniel's direction.

'Painkillers.' Sam said succinctly. 'He fell asleep five minutes after the movie started.'

Jack sighed in understanding and tried hard not to feel guilty. He'd shot Anubis not Daniel, he told himself. At least he hadn't killed Daniel in the process. His eyes slid to Carter for a moment before he shook off his thoughts and turned back to Teal'c. He presented him with the present he'd picked out when the approval had come through. 'Here you go, T.'

Teal'c bowed his head. 'Thank you, O'Neill.'

'You haven't seen what it is yet.' Jack glanced around for somewhere to sit. There was another sliver of foreboding skittering across his mind, one that said he didn't belong there, wasn't part of the team any longer. He pushed it aside and focused; Teal'c could sit on the floor and he'd take the second chair, he decided.

'There is pizza in the kitchen, O'Neill.' Teal'c informed him before gesturing for Jack to follow him through, aborting Jack's move to sit down.

The kitchen wasn't as empty as Jack had anticipated. A colourful set of mugs were set out along the counter along with a top of the line coffee machine and a blender.

'You have everything you need?' Jack asked, trying not to show how concerned he was.

'Indeed.' Teal'c said. He set a pizza box out in front of Jack on the breakfast bar along with a plate that Jack recognised as one of Carter's – maybe she had given them to Teal'c and bought new? – and a linen napkin.

'Fancy.' Jack noted, sliding onto a bar stool and not arguing with his friend about eating in the den. The scent of tomato and cheese assailed him as he opened the box and he realised there was a full pizza. They'd ordered one for him, he realised, recognising one of his favourite toppings. He was suddenly ravenous.

Teal'c opened a bottle of beer and set it on a coaster next to the pizza box. Jack gestured his thanks with a large slice of pepperoni, chewing gratefully.

The Jaffa turned his attention to his present. He unwrapped the gift slowly as he always did any present. He inched out the photograph frame. It was silver; a double frame with a hinge in the middle which allowed it to be closed or opened out. One side was filled with a picture of Teal'c, Bra'tac and Rya'c at the SGC, all of them in BDUs, matching black t-shirts and green pants; the other was an old photo taken of SG1 at a barbeque at Hammond's with them all in civilian dress, Cassie and the late Janet Fraiser pictured alongside the team and Hammond. Both pictures would be OK on show; both showed Teal'c's family.

Teal'c's fingers drifted over the frame reverently. 'I will treasure this always.'

Jack sketched his 'you're welcome' with his pizza as his mouth too full to reply. He took a gulp of beer to chase the pizza down. 'Carter got you the fern.'

Teal'c inclined his head.

'So what did Daniel get you?' Jack asked. His eyes strayed to the coffee machine.

'Daniel Jackson gave me a statue of an African God meant to convey good wishes on the dwelling in which it resides.' Teal'c informed him briskly. 'He believed it would help provide authenticity for my cover story.'

'Ah.' Jack shoved more pizza in his mouth.

'I believe it may help provide a theme for decorating.' Teal'c continued.

Jack's eyes snapped to the Jaffa's to check he was teasing. Teal'c it seemed was deadly serious. 'Decorating, huh?'

'I have begun researching the topic.' Teal'c said enthusiastically. 'Cassandra has told me there is a television channel dedicated to the topic and many books.'

'Right.' Jack wondered how he got the Jaffa off the topic of decorating and belatedly how they'd even gotten onto the topic at all. Daniel's present, he recalled. He might have known Daniel was to blame. He pushed more pizza in his mouth because it was good pizza and it saved him from having to talk about decorating. He didn't begrudge Teal'c the topic though; after seven years of living on base the guy deserved to be a little enthusiastic about having walls he could paint if he wanted to.

Teal'c regarded him fondly as though he was aware of both Jack's discomfort with talking about decorating and his willingness to listen to Teal'c anyway. 'I must thank you again, O'Neill, for enabling me to live outside of the SGC.'

'Well, Daniel did say I was going to be able to anything I wanted.' Jack said lightly. Of course, Daniel had lied because Jack had actually gotten to do very little he wanted as General. When he reached for another piece of pizza he realised Teal'c's gaze had sharpened on him. 'What?'

'I remember my first days as First Prime.' Teal'c replied, shifting to his usual stance; legs a little apart, hands behind his back, his face impassive.

'Ah.' Jack said again. 'I don't suppose Anubis gave you trouble, did he?'

'Anubis was considered dead at the time.' Teal'c said calmly. 'Ra was not.'

Jack almost choked on his pizza. He rarely thought about Ra, the first Goa'uld he'd encountered the first Goa'uld Jack had killed – along with Daniel and Sha're.

'He was most vexing.' Teal'c continued. 'For five days, I was unable to subdue his troops in battle.' He paused. 'On the sixth day, Apophis informed me that if I did not defeat Ra's forces by sundown then I would no longer be First Prime.'

'So you beat them.' Jack concluded, wiping his fingers on the napkin and taking another pull of his beer. The sound of a space battle drifted through from the den.

'I did.' Teal'c confirmed. 'I sacrificed two hundred Jaffa.'

Jack winced. He sometimes forgot just how ruthless Teal'c had had to be as First Prime, possibly because sometimes he liked to forget that Teal'c had been First Prime of Apophis.

'You are in an enviable position.' Teal'c said. 'You are not alone.'

He could sense the promise in Teal'c's words that Jack wouldn't be without his team but as much as Jack appreciated the sentiment, he knew the reality would be different.

'SG1 will go back on rotation.' Jack pointed out gently. 'There'll be a mission sooner or later.' And I'll left behind. The words whispered through him.

Understanding flashed through Teal'c's dark eyes. 'But even then you will not be alone, O'Neill.'

'I know.' Jack sighed. And he did; he knew that the rest of the SGC would be right there with him; that Hammond would be on the other end of a phone. But it wasn't the same as having his team. 'You know Daniel lied to me.' He stabbed a finger at Teal'c accusingly.

Teal'c's eyes gleamed with amusement. 'As you were aware when you accepted the position.'

OK, Jack felt like a chastised school-boy because Teal'c was right; Jack had known that Daniel's 'you can do whatever you want' hadn't been true. But he'd also known that it had been true enough that he'd get certain concessions if he asked for them quickly. Things like Teal'c's off-base living approval, Carter as SG1 leader along with a number of other personnel assignments, and a dozen or so other small things like Siler's requisition order with every tool he had ever wanted on it or Brightman's hire of a genetics specialist called Beckett although Weir had immediately snaffled him for the Antarctica project.

'I just didn't realise it was going to be this difficult to send you guys out without me.' Jack confessed.

'You will be missed.' Teal'c concurred.

His eyes flickered behind Jack suddenly and Jack turned to find Carter standing in the doorway.

She smiled uncertainly. 'Sorry to interrupt but,' she waggled her empty glass by way of explanation.

'No apology necessary.' Teal'c said, smiling at her warmly. 'May I get you another diet coca-cola, Colonel Carter?'

'Still with the diet, huh?' Jack joked, lifting his beer. She definitely didn't need to diet, he mused, hiding his appreciation of the way she filled out her jeans and sweater by taking another gulp of beer.

Sam walked over and handed her glass to Teal'c. 'Still prefer the taste, sir.'

'See, I don't understand that because…' Jack began.

Her cell phone rang and played some modern rap thing that had Jack's eyebrows shooting up.

She rolled her eyes at him and mouthed 'Cassie' as she answered.

Jack nodded in understanding. Cassie was always playing with his cell phone too.

'Cassie, hi - what? What's happened?' Sam said urgently.

Jack immediately went on alert and he noticed Teal'c moved up to stand beside Carter. She had the parent tone; the one that was used when their kid was in danger or trouble.

'Cassie, it's OK. Stay there. I'm on my way.' Sam said firmly. She ended the call and turned to them, her blue eyes hard and determined. 'She and a friend got invited to a party. It looks like someone attempted to spike their drinks. They need a ride.'

'Let's go.' Jack said, getting off the stool. 'We'll take my truck.'

Sam frowned; her fingers white as they clenched around her phone. 'I can handle it, sir, and someone has to stay with Daniel.'

'You might need back-up.' Jack said stubbornly.

'I will remain here.' Teal'c conceded unhappily.

Jack patted his arm. Sam led the way out, snagging her coat from the back of her chair on the way. Jack had to hurry to keep up with her but he didn't argue. If someone had tried to get Cassie drunk without her knowledge, he understood her urgency – hell, he agreed with it because it meant Cassie wasn't safe. He just hoped his truck was still parked where he'd left it.

o-O-o

Jack couldn't help but glance pointedly at Carter's tapping fingers. Her long elegant tapping fingers with her beautifully manicured but short fingernails which were beating out an impatient rhythm against the blue denim that encased her right thigh.

She saw his look and stilled. 'Sorry, sir.'

'We won't get there quicker if we get pulled over for speeding, Carter.' Jack pointed out, knowing why she was impatient. He didn't add that he was actually doing ten over. He would bet money she knew exactly how fast he was going.

'It's just…' Sam cut herself off before she could express the worry that had to be eating her.

'It's Cassie.' Jack supplied. 'I know.' And he did know. He knew exactly what was going through her head because it was going through his. Was Cassie OK? Was the person who'd tried to spike Cassie's drink going to try something else? Why couldn't they just teleport themselves to her side? Of course, Jack fully expected that Carter was designing said teleport in her head rather than simply thinking about it like Jack.

He glanced over at her again. She was staring out of the windshield with an expression he recognised all too well.

'This would have still happened if Janet was alive.' Jack said firmly, shifting his own gaze back to the road. It had begun to rain. He clicked on the wipers and turned the heating up. Carter was looking at him; he could feel the intensity of her glare.

She sighed and he heard her shift in her seat. 'I know but I keep thinking I'm screwing up anyway.'

'Every parent does.' Jack commented. He felt his thoughts slide to his late son, Charlie, and dragged them back. The night did not need him falling down that particular rabbit hole.

'But I'm not…' Sam stopped and he could practically picture her biting her lip contemplatively even though he kept his attention on the wet road. 'I don't think she wants me to be her parent. Every time I do something parental she hates it.'

'Every kid her age hates their parent doing something parental.' Jack responded. It was the law of being a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. He had driven his parents nuts enough that they'd shipped him off to his Mom's folks. It had been the best decision they'd ever made.

'I didn't.' Sam said.

Jack shot her a quick look; an unspoken question.

'Dad wasn't around much,' Sam began to explain with a touch of awkwardness, 'so when he did something parental it was…nice.' She tugged the lapels of her leather coat until it was wrapped around her.

He turned the heating up again despite being too warm himself.

'But if I back off, she hates that too.' Sam said, returning to her issues with Cassie rather than saying anything else about her issues with Jacob – a change in subject for which Jack was immensely grateful.

'She's a teenager, Carter, not a doohickey. She's not supposed to make sense.' Jack winced inwardly at the level of exasperation in his own voice and he saw Carter react to it badly too; her body stilled. 'Sorry,' he said sighing as he pulled up at a set of lights, 'long day.'

Sam nodded and her shoulders dropped an inch. 'How's it going?' She smiled shyly. 'You know, being the Man?'

The teasing note told him he was forgiven. 'It's about as much fun as I expected it to be,' Jack replied, turning to gesture at her sardonically, 'which is to say none at all.'

She laughed and the tension that had sprang up eased back even more.

'And General Hammond keeps asking me to call him George.' Jack complained incongruously to throw her off track that he really, really wasn't having any fun as a General. 'I can't think of him as George.'

'I had the opposite problem when I started working with him. Do you know how long it took me to stop thinking of him as Uncle George?' Sam asked, amused.

'See, now I'm going to call him Uncle George and it'll be all your fault.' Jack noted. He checked the street name. 'He wants you to heal Daniel, by the way.'

'Makes sense,' Sam murmured, 'if we're going back on mission rotation?'

Jack nodded briskly. 'You are.' He didn't want her to know about his fears about being the one to send SG1 out. She didn't need to be bothered by his insecurities before her first official mission as leader.

'You know Daniel doesn't blame you for shooting him, sir.' Sam said.

Jack looked at her, knowing his disbelief would be written all over his face.

'OK, so he may technically hold you responsible for the direct cause of his injury but he understands why you did it.' Sam expanded. She smiled at him. 'He told me he would have shot you if your positions had been reversed.'

Jack huffed out a laugh despite himself. He motioned at her. 'What's the address again?'

'Lomington Avenue.' Sam said. 'It should be the next right.'

He didn't question how she knew but trusted that she did. He made the turn. It was easy to see which house had the party going on. There were two police patrol cars outside the house, blue and red lights on which cascaded over the front lawn where a gaggle of young people were congregating.

Jack pulled up down the street. Sam got out heedless of the rain and he followed her. She was already dialling Cassie again but Jack spotted their girl by a police car and touched Carter's arm lightly. Sam hurried over and Cassie hugged her.

'Are you OK?' Sam said, pushing Cassie back enough to examine her face.

'I'm good.' Cassie said.

Jack made his own assessment; she was pale and her lip looked half-bitten to death; her hands were trembling. He nudged Carter aside and hugged Cassie himself. Cassie huddled into him. Jack glanced at Sam who was talking in a low soothing voice to Cassie's friend, an arm around her shoulders.

'Someone called the police to complain about the noise.' Cassie murmured into Jack's shoulder. 'As soon as I saw them I came out of the bathroom.'

Jack rubbed her back and kept a tight hold on her. 'You did good.'

'Do you know who tried to spike the drinks?' Sam asked bluntly. She looked over at a group of young men hovering on the lawn who she had clearly singled out as the culprits. Jack wasn't sure if Cassie identified them he was going to be able to stop Carter beating the crap out of them. He wasn't sure he could stop himself from joining in.

Cassie lifted her head from Jack's shoulder to shake it at Sam. 'Can we crash at your place?'

'Sure.' Sam said immediately, her attention back on the girls. Her face fell a moment later as something occurred to her.

'What?' Cassie asked, shifting in Jack's hold. 'Pete's not around is he because…'

'No, Pete's in Denver,' Sam waved a hand, dismissing her boyfriend as unimportant – and Jack could so get behind that sentiment – before she turned to Jack apologetically. 'I was Daniel's ride, sir, and my car's at…' her eyes flickered to Cassie's friend, 'Murray's.'

Cassie rolled her eyes at the pseudonym for Teal'c.

Jack shrugged. 'So, I'll drop you guys at your place, swing by Murray's and pick up Daniel to drop him off on my home. Murray can pick you both up in the morning in your car.'

Sam nodded her acceptance of the plan.

Jack squeezed Cassie and kept an arm wrapped around her as they made their way back to his truck. Sam followed with the friend. The girls took the back seat; Sam climbed back in the front and gifted him with a bright easy smile, one he hadn't seen for a long time. Jack felt it warm him all the way through as he shook off the rain that clung to his skin. So who cared if he would have to spend the next hour and a half being a taxi service, Jack thought breezily; it was so worth it.

o-O-o

Daniel had woken up by the time Jack swung by Teal'c's to get him. The archaeologist was drinking coffee in Teal'c's kitchen and eating what was left of Jack's pizza.

'Sam called us.' Daniel explained, waving the pizza at him.

'Good.' Jack said, sinking back onto a barstool as Teal'c wiped up crumbs from the counter. 'She fill you guys in on the plan?'

'We have an alternative suggestion, O'Neill.' Teal'c said, frowning at Daniel as he rubbed his fingers against the t-shirt he was wearing instead of the napkin Teal'c had provided.

'Not really so much a suggestion so much as…' Daniel motioned at Jack expectantly.

'Plan B?' Jack supplied.

Daniel nodded enthusiastically. 'I stay at your place; you give me a ride in the morning. That way Teal'c only has to pick Sam up in her car.'

It would save both Teal'c and Jack a trek over to Daniel's apartment, Jack surmised. He nodded his assent. 'OK by me. Are you ready to leave?'

Daniel frowned. 'You want to leave now?'

Jack pointed at the clock on Teal'c's wall. It was the only thing on Teal'c's wall. 'Some of us have an oh-seven-hundred call about the President's visit with the White House Chief of Staff.'

'Seriously?' Daniel's nose wrinkled. 'Maybe I should stay here.'

'You are more than welcome, Daniel Jackson, but I do not yet have a bed.' Teal'c said. 'I had planned on using the couch until such time as I secure one but…'

'No, no.' Daniel forestalled Teal'c's attempt to offer it to him. 'I'll go with Jack and get up at some insane hour of the morning.'

'Hey, blame the President!' Jack said. 'I would be perfectly OK with him not visiting.' He stopped abruptly. 'Actually, if I didn't attend the meeting then…'

Daniel gave a hefty sigh and interrupted him. 'Come on, Jack.'

Jack allowed himself to be swept out of the apartment again. It had stopped raining, he noticed gratefully. He gazed up at the building briefly. Teal'c had his own place. It felt good. He gestured for Daniel to get in the truck.

The drive was quick. Daniel curled up in his seat and closed his eyes and Jack was pleased with the quiet. He pulled up on his driveway relieved to be home at last. Daniel struggled a little with the door and undoing his seatbelt but Jack didn't offer to help him. He headed for his house, opening the door and making for the kitchen and a beer.

'Thanks for the help.' Daniel called out dryly as he closed the front door and eased out of his jacket.

'Would you have accepted help if I'd offered it?' Jack shot back. He raised his beer questioningly.

'Probably not,' Daniel admitted with a yawn and shook his head at the beer. 'I don't know why I'm tired.'

Jack opened and passed Daniel a bottle of water instead. 'Brightman has you on the good stuff.'

'Right. I knew that.' Daniel blinked at the water but obediently drank down half.

'Don't worry,' Jack said, leading the way into the den, 'I've authorised Carter to heal you. You'll be right as rain within a day or so.'

'So, we're going back on the mission rotation.' Daniel deduced as he sat beside Jack on the sofa. 'That's a surprise. I didn't think you wanted us heading off-world.'

Jack glanced at him with a scowl. 'You were about to head off-world when I shot you.'

'With SG11.' Daniel shot back. 'You haven't exactly been keen on us, and by us I mean SG1, going anywhere.'

Jack couldn't help tensing up at Daniel's observation. He had thought his old team had been OK at sticking around and helping him out as he settled into his new role. 'We've been on lockdown, Daniel, or didn't you notice?'

'I wasn't referring to the lockdown and you know it.' Daniel retorted. 'I just don't see what the big deal is. It's not like Sam hasn't been in charge of the team for the last couple of months anyway with you being, you know.' He waved up and down Jack's sprawled form.

'Frozen?' Jack offered dryly. He took a long gulp of beer.

'That.' Daniel agreed.

'I guess I hadn't thought about that.' Jack admitted. In truth, he had actively tried not to think about the month he had spent in the deep freeze in Antarctica. 'And it has nothing to do with Carter leading.'

'OK, because there's a rumour going around that the reason why you've held off putting a fourth on the team is because you offered Cameron Mitchell a place on SG1.'

Jack's eyes snapped to Daniel's across the sofa. He lowered his beer bottle. 'Who told you that?'

'I can't reveal my sources.' Daniel said lightly but his gaze was searching. 'Is it true?'

'When I went to see him at the hospital, the kid said if he had his choice of assignments he'd pick SG1.' Jack didn't see the point in denying it. 'Honestly, I think it was the morphine talking; he was barely conscious.'

'Uh-huh.' Daniel said.

Jack ignored the blatant disbelief and sighed, gesturing at Daniel with his bottle. 'It'll help him get through his recovery to focus on a goal.'

'So you did promise him a place.'

'I think my exact words were 'we'll see.' He's got a long way to go before he'll be in any shape to be assigned anywhere let alone to an off-world first contact team.' Jack pointed out.

But he really needed to talk to Carter about what he'd done with Mitchell. He didn't think she'd have a problem with Mitchell joining her team, they were old friends, but SG1 was her team and he needed to run it by her, especially since if Daniel knew it was all too likely she knew too since there had been little for the SG teams to do during the lockdown except sit around and gossip.

'If we are being allowed off-world then…'

'No.' Jack said firmly, reaching for the TV remote. 'You're not going to Antarctica.'

Daniel sighed heavily as though Jack was the worst kind of party pooper. 'They've got the structure stabilised now and they've started to make headway into hacking into the Ancient database.'

'I know, Daniel.' Jack parried back as the television flickered into life and he tried to find a channel they could watch. 'I have a conference call with Elizabeth every day and then there are all those reports that keep finding their way onto my desk.'

'You don't read those.' Daniel said accusingly.

Jack did but he wasn't about to admit it.

'If we go off-world Sam will have to stop working on the ZPM research.' Daniel tried another angle.

Jack shot him an annoyed 'this isn't going to work' look as he settled on an old black and white film. 'She's going to be gleeful at not having to talk to McKay.'

'But…'

'Daniel,' Jack said sharply, 'there is no but. Carter needs an off-world mission to confirm her assignment as leader.'

'Yeah, explain that to me,' Daniel said snappishly, setting his water on the coffee table with a thump, 'because I've never heard of that before.'

'It's checks and balances, and it does happen. It has happened before with some of the team lead assignments but you've never had a need to know.' Jack replied evenly. 'Hammond and I have been her CO for a long time. Hammond is a family friend. They're making sure there's no favouritism in her assignment.'

Even if there was a little, Jack thought tiredly, Carter deserved the place. He was going to have watch himself though; going to Teal'c's housewarming and giving Daniel a room for the night could be seen as favouritism and breaking the fraternisation regulations, although he figured everyone assigned to the SGC would understand his closeness to his former team.

'OK,' Daniel said, 'but correct me if I'm wrong; this evaluation is going to be based on what Teal'c and I report after the mission, right? So, you probably already know what we're going to say so isn't this just a giant waste of time?'

'Pretty much.' Jack agreed. He squirmed into the cushions and looked at the television; a silent prompt for Daniel to drop it.

Daniel looked at him. 'You realise you just agreed with me.'

'Yep.' Jack said shortly, hoping if he continued watching the television Daniel would get the message and stop talking.

'You agree this is a waste of time?' Daniel repeated.

'Yep.' Jack said.

'So…' prompted Daniel.

'So?'

Daniel sighed loudly. 'So why are we doing it?'

Jack wrenched his gaze away from the screen and Bogart to glare at Daniel.

Daniel glared back.

'I have orders, Daniel,' Jack repeated, 'Carter gets evaluated. Now, if you don't mind…' he pointed at the television.

'But if she didn't have to get the evaluation we could go to Antarctica.' Daniel pressed on anyway.

It was Daniel, Jack reminded himself; he shouldn't be surprised that Daniel wasn't letting a small thing like military protocol stand in the way of logic or Jack's attempt at disinterest.

'Shouldn't we be focusing on Antarctica? There may be more weapons we can use against Anubis there. Shouldn't that be even more of a priority now?'

Jack frowned. 'Carter sent him to an ice planet, Daniel. His host would never have survived the temperatures there, and what's with you and the rush to weapons?'

'He doesn't need the host.' Daniel shifted restlessly. 'I should have anticipated that.'

The self-recrimination in Daniel's voice was enough for Jack to disregard the film and turn to look fully at his friend. Daniel was clearly in pain; he was cradling his arm close, his face was white, line at his lips and around his eyes.

'Daniel, this wasn't your fault.' Jack said firmly.

'I should have…'

'Remembered?' Jack interjected. He held Daniel's gaze. 'If anyone should have remembered, it should have been me. I had the Ancient knowledge downloaded into my head. Maybe I should have known the weapons wouldn't have killed him.'

'I'm not sure you would have known.' Daniel said slowly. 'The database only holds the knowledge of the Ancients before they Ascended not after.'

'So not my fault or yours.' Jack said simply.

Daniel didn't reply.

'I'm only going to say this once more, Daniel; it's not your fault he's still lingering around like a bad smell.' Jack repeated briskly. 'Let it go.'

Daniel sighed again but nodded slowly. He frowned at the television. 'I think I'll head to bed.' He stood up and looked back at Jack. 'I'm going to expect coffee when you wake me up at six o'clock.'

Jack smirked. 'I don't think so.'

'Oh, I think so. You shot me; you owe me coffee.' Daniel said cheerfully. 'Night.'

Coffee, Jack grumbled under his breath. He guessed he could stretch to coffee. He had shot Daniel. Well, Anubis as he kept reminding himself but the Goa'uld had been wearing Daniel's body at the time. He glanced at his watch. He should hit the sack too. He switched the television off with the remote, throwing it onto the sofa haphazardly. He pressed the heel of his hands into his eyes.

He knew Carter would heal Daniel's arm and there would be no more excuses for keeping them beside him. He'd have to face the President's secret review with them off-world, and he wasn't sure he could be General O'Neill without them. One thing was for certain, Jack decided abruptly; he'd resign before the President could fire him if only to save Hammond the political embarrassment.

He sighed and got to his feet. Bed, Jack ordered briskly. He was tired and some, any sleep would help. He hadn't slept well for days and when he did his usual dreams of Joe the barber had taken on a sinister turn with Joe's marriage in crisis. No guesses for what his subconscious was trying to tell him there.

Sleep, Jack thought determinedly, turning the lights off and making his way down the corridor to his bedroom, ignoring Daniel's soft snores already emanating from the spare room. After all, he had his stack of folders to look forward to in the morning.

fin.


Comments

( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
kaycross
Oct. 9th, 2011 10:33 am (UTC)
Well done! I'm so glad to see that you are continuing with the Aftershocks series. This piece had so many points that made me smile. I particularly love the note about Joe the barber!! Fabulously subtle :)

As always - you have captured these characters to a T. They live and breathe off the screen here - brilliant!
rachel500
Oct. 9th, 2011 09:12 pm (UTC)
Thank you! Glad you're still enjoying the stories. :)
psychomonkey_29
Oct. 10th, 2011 06:38 pm (UTC)
Yeah an update! Should be sleeping but reading your new chapter is more important. :)

Thanks for posting and will gladly go sleepless for this series.
rachel500
Oct. 15th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
Who needs sleep anyway? LOL! :)
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

Profile

NewRachel500
rachel500
rachel500

Fiction

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow