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nightspear ([personal profile] nightspear) wrote2010-03-02 07:46 pm
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Journeys: Epilogue

Title: Journeys (Table of Contents)
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: Nothing you recognize is mine. I gain nothing of material value from this.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V

Epilogue: Beginnings

28 January 2005; O'Neill Residence, Earth; 2300 hrs

(17 months later)

"There are no repeating patterns of pi," Carter declared loudly.

"No," Jonas insisted, pointing a finger at her. "Sam, you just haven't tried it in base eight."

Carter stuck out her tongue at him.

"Ah-ha!" Daniel said, holding up one finger. "I get it! See? Pro-cla-ru-sh! Ta-o-nas! You see?"

"That's where we just went," Jack said.

"Not just, sir," Carter said, shaking her finger at him. "We went there...about...a month ago. You just got frozen in between."

"Can I get frozen next time?" Jonas said.

"No, guys, that's not the point," Daniel said. "We should rename all of the planets like Proclarush Taonas. It's the only thing that makes sense."

"That has nothing to do with pi," Jack said.

"Ah, but what about a naquadria pie?" he answered.

Jonas made a face. "What?"

Daniel looked confused. "I dunno. What?"

"I had a dream about naquadria pie once," Carter said.

Jack snorted. She would.

A shadow loomed past Jack's line of sight and plucked bottles away from Daniel and Jonas. "You have consumed enough alcohol," Teal'c told them. He reached for Carter's next, but she hung on more determinedly to hers. "Very well," Teal'c conceded. It was probably the wiser decision; her aim almost seemed to improve, instead of worsen, after a few beers.

"Ah-ah, don't even try it with me, big guy," Jack said. He took a sip of beer and watched Daniel try to balance an orange on top of the bottle in Carter's startlingly steady hand. "You guys are so much more fun this way," he said. He nudged Daniel with a foot. "If you'd turned twenty-one sooner, we could've done this legally more often."

"I'm not the one who made up my ID for this planet, General," Daniel said. He caught the orange as it rolled off and tried to bounce it once on the ground. "General," he repeated, then made the somewhat scrunched expression he always made when he was trying not to laugh.

"Watch it," Jack warned him.

"I'm going to miss the colonel," Jonas said.

Jack spread his arms. "I'm right here!"

"But you're not the colonel anymore," Jonas explained.

"I'm the colonel now," Carter said. "Well. Light colonel."

"That's right," Jack said. "You tell 'em, Sam."

She sighed happily. "Look at that," she said, pointing at the stars. "Aren't they beautiful?"

"Ooh--shiny stars," Daniel said, and Jack couldn't tell if he was teasing her or just moving rapidly toward drunkenness. Then he leaned back against the house behind him, looking in the direction of the telescope, and said, "I miss my room here."

"Want it back?" Jack asked. "S'not like I kicked you out."

"No," Daniel said. "It doesn't make sense anymore," which apparently made sense of some kind in his head.

"Hey," Jack realized. "I have an idea. Daniel and Teal'c should get an apartment."

"The Pentagon would love that," Daniel said.

"Nyan still has to check in with the SGC, and he doesn't know security codes," Jonas pointed out. "You want to get permission for Teal'c the shol'va and Daniel I-used-to-be-Ascended Jackson to live off-base?"

Daniel frowned at Jonas. "Is that what you call me in your head?"

"I don't care," Jack said. "Jonas, you've been living off-base for a few months and no one's compromised security."

Jonas blushed, though he couldn't seem to control the dopey grin taking over his face. "I haven't...actually moved in or--"

"You just sleep over at Jacquie's lot," Carter said, poking him.

"How is Captain Rush?" Teal'c asked him.

The question seemed to stump Jonas's famed intellect, and he was reduced to scowling. The expression looked so out of place on Jonas's face that Jack laughed.

"I hear Pete Shanahan's back in town," Jonas said abruptly, as if in retaliation. He made a fist and did something that Jack suspected was supposed to be a friendly punch but ended up missing Carter's shoulder by almost an inch.

"So?" Carter said grumpily, though she didn't seem surprised about the news.

"Perhaps I should visit Detective Shanahan before returning to the SGC," Teal'c suggested, his tone saying that the visit would be more than just a friendly visit if Carter so much as implied that she'd want that.

But, of course... "Don't you dare," she said, shaking her finger threateningly at the Jaffa looming over her. "He didn't do anything wrong. You know, if I could've just told him--"

"Carter," Jack said. She'd never complained about it aloud before (while sober), even after Shanahan broke it off--apparently, detectives didn't much like puzzles they weren't allowed to solve--but Jack wasn't an idiot and knew she'd been unhappy with the situation. "Rules are rules. You know that. In've gotta be the enforcer now and keep these kids in line."

She looked at him, and he knew they were both thinking the same thing, if from different sides. This had been Jack's team--first Carter and Teal'c, and then Daniel, and then Jonas, and then all of them--and now it wasn't anymore. "I don't know if I want to be the colonel," Carter said.

"You are well-deserving of your rank, Colonel Carter," Teal'c said.

Carter sighed heavily and sat back against the railing, the telescope above her head. She let her legs fall straight out in front of her, one foot pressing against Jack's and the other leg tangled with Daniel's. "I don't mind being promoted to Lieutenant Colonel," she explained. She took a sip from her bottle--or tried, since it was empty--then stopped and squinted inside it. "Actually, I kind of like that part. But now I have to be the colonel, and I don't know if I want to."

"Well, I don't know if I want to be the man," Jack offered.

"I don't know if I want to do more paperwork," Daniel grumped, scowling at Jack, as if Jack had done something horribly wrong by finally making him the head of Social Sciences on paper as well as in practice.

They turned expectantly to Jonas. Jonas shrugged and flopped backward to land on Teal'c. "Don't look at me," Jonas said, settling comfortably with Teal'c's feet as a pillow. "I'm happy."

"You're always happy," Daniel said without looking at him.

"I'm compensating for you," Jonas answered with a grin.

Daniel bit into his orange. He wrinkled his nose (probably at the taste of the peel he'd forgotten to take off) and said, "Whatever you say, probie."

Teal'c jerked, which knocked Jonas off his temporary cushion. "Probie?" Jonas echoed, lying flat on his back. "What's that mean?"

"Probationary fireman," Daniel said matter-of-factly.

"What," Jack said lazily. That didn't make sense, even for Daniel.

"Don't be ridiculous," Sam said. "We're not firemen."

Daniel blinked. "Huh. No, I guess not."

"Teal'c, have you been corrupting the children with television again?" Jack said.

"Indeed I have not," Teal'c said. Something in his tone made Jack squint at him through the moonlight, but the Jaffa was staring at Daniel. It didn't matter. Jack had given up on trying to decipher their alien inside jokes a long time ago.

"Is Anubis really gone?" Jonas said a moment later.

"Yep," Jack said.

"Are we sure?"

"Nope," Daniel said.

"What about Fifth?" Jonas said.

"I don't know," Carter said.

"Oh," Jonas said. "That sucks."

"Indeed," Teal'c agreed.

Daniel sighed. "Everything's changing now," he said.

"Aw," Carter said. She scooted around and wrapped an arm around his neck. "Not everything. I can still kick your ass in the gym."

"Oddly," Daniel said, in the careful way he sometimes spoke when tipsy or on morphine, "that is not very comforting."

She squeezed him tighter, then grabbed Teal'c's leg with her other arm and managed to loop Jonas somewhere in between. "Well, you're still my favorite guys ever."

"Hey," Jack said. "What about me?"

"Can't reach, sir," she said, but she made an approximation of a hug with her feet around his ankle.

"Perhaps it would be wise to relocate," Teal'c suggested, his leg trapped between her arm and Jonas's back.

"Why?" Daniel said, and promptly began to slip backward off the ladder leading up to the roof. Teal'c grabbed him and pulled him back. "Huh," Daniel said, frowning at the ladder. "How did that get there?"

"Relocate away," Jack declared, pointing at the door going inside, and fell on his ass somewhere on the way in.


It was the next afternoon before Jack woke up.

Teal'c was outside, in the back, doing a basic martial arts drill that Jack recognized from the Jaffa's training sessions with Daniel. Just looking at it now made his head hurt. Jack crawled out of a pile of sheets on the floor that he'd apparently used as a bed--god, he was going to be sore--and detoured past a still-sleeping Sam and Jonas to find Daniel staring at a mug at the kitchen table.

"Not thirsty?" Jack said. His head throbbed lightly in time with his voice.

"Mph," Daniel said. "Coffee seemed like a good idea at the time."

"Daniel logic," Jack said, easing into a chair. "If it can't be solved with coffee..." He waved a hand, too muzzy to find a good way to finish the sentence. "Suck it up."

"Your pep talks are terrible," Daniel said.

"Well, you don't have to listen to 'em anymore," Jack said, jerking a thumb toward Carter. "That's her job now. You think you guys are gonna be okay without me?"

Daniel didn't look at him. "Are you gonna be okay without us?" He peeked upward.

"I'm not the one who's going to be running around on alien planets," Jack pointed out.

"Exactly," Daniel said. He rubbed his eyes, then looked up again. "Every version of SG-1 has included you, Sam, and Teal'c. Now it's different. And I've tried leaving it behind and never lasted more than a year or so."

"Okay, first of all, going glowy and then getting kicked out of the club doesn't count," Jack said, "and're young. I would've had to get out of the field eventually, before I became more of a liability than an asset--"

"Jack," Daniel sighed. "You're--"

"When you've got as many years of combat in your joints as I do, then you can tell me I'm not that old," Jack said.

Daniel made a face but didn't argue. None of them, old or young, was a stranger to injuries. Jack knew that all of them--with the possible exception of Teal'c--had lingering aches from injuries that were tolerable but would probably never go away completely, at least not soon. Carter had dislocated her shoulder twice after that time she'd crushed it falling headfirst out of a wormhole. Jack knew that the arm Daniel had broken just before his Ascension still ached after long missions, and Jonas joked that he was still a little prophetic, because the bullet hole in his leg could predict the weather (but not as well as the weather channel).

For himself, Jack didn't even want to think about the number of problems he'd had with his knees and any number of other limbs; the last thing he wanted was to be some idiot who didn't realize his body had had enough. He wasn't there yet, but the day would come, and then he would only be holding his people back.

"Besides," Jack added, "I'm in charge. I can still go through the 'gate whenever I want."

"Better you at Hammond's desk than someone who doesn't know what he's doing," Daniel said eventually. "And better Hammond in Washington than someone like Simmons or Kinsey."

"Thanks," Jack said. "Your pep talks suck, too."

"I'm just saying it could be a lot worse," Daniel said. "You can choose to be encouraged by it or not."

Jack rolled his eyes and regretted it when his head reminded him of the evils of alcohol. "You just don't want some general who won't listen to you."

"True," Daniel said, not denying it. "Speaking of listening to me--"

"Still a 'no' on Atlantis, Mr. Jackson," Jack said.

"You know, Elizabeth Weir really wants me on--"

"Well, then it's a good thing I'm your commanding officer, not Weir."

"How come Rodney McKay gets to go?" he said, sounding annoyed. "I might not be a physicist, but I'm much more qualified than he is to work with Ancient culture, not to mention the physical aspects that are necessary for any field excursion--"

"It gets McKay out of our galaxy," Jack pointed out. "The answer's not gonna change."

Daniel sighed. "It's the city of the Ancients, Jack. You don't think I should be there to help assess and set up, at least?"

"I need you here, period," Jack told him, not bothering to add that there was no way he was sending Daniel to another galaxy before they knew it was sustainable or that the expedition had a way home. "They've got McKay for setup, remember, and whatever else he is, Carter says he's good at what he does. Are you getting restless already?"

"I just want to see what it looks like," he said wistfully. "It must be amazing."

"Oh, no, I know you--you'll see what it looks like, and then you'll push a button and end up looking at it for the next five years and pretending you don't hear me yelling at you to get your ass back home. Nuh-uh. You're staying"--Jack pointed at the floor--"right here."

Daniel raised his eyebrows and looked around the kitchen.

"On Earth," Jack clarified.

"I spent so many years traveling," Daniel said. "I don't mean just SG missions--I mean moving. Really moving, looking for new things. I thought...maybe...this could be what I was looking for."

For a time after the Descension and the attack on Abydos, Daniel had seemed oddly content as he was, aside from brief bouts of enthusiasm about some new discovery, most of which had, as usual, ended up being a bust, anyway. And while Jack had been just fine with the way things were, Daniel was a person for whom routine missions to alien worlds could actually be considered a sort of complacency, if a sort that was filled with constant but familiar uncertainty. The prospect of Atlantis had stirred that fire again, and Jack found himself both relieved to see the wanderlust still there--it was such an integral part of who Daniel was--and terrified that Daniel would leave again and not come back this time.

"There are other ways to do that," Jack finally said. "You'll get to see Atlantis someday. Maybe eventually we'll clean up the Goa'uld and...and you can get yourself reassigned there," he made himself add. "But not now. I need you here now."

And Daniel nodded, still looking disappointed, but understanding. They'd just blasted Anubis out of the sky and the Goa'uld were scattered, and if they were going to make a move toward squashing the Goa'uld once and for all, this was their chance. More than that, the SGC had nearly been torn apart by Kinsey and had barely been held together by, ironically, the new civilian commander they'd been so worried about, and now Jack had to step in and fill some very daunting shoes. The SGC and the human efforts against the Goa'uld needed SG-1 right now--all of them--and so did Jack.

"One day," Daniel added, and Jack knew the itch was back now, suppressed, but just waiting for a chance to explode and propel Daniel somewhere new and exciting. "Before, I always had something specific I was trying to do. I don't know what to think now, sometimes."

"There's more to this job than quests and grudges," Jack said.

"It gives you something to aim for, though."

"All right--you want something to aim for? Look outside."

Daniel stared at him for a moment, then looked out the window, quickly scanning across everything he could see. As much as he played the part of the person who focused on non-military aspects, there were things one learned growing up the way Daniel had, and he had expanded that part of his role with Jonas on the team. Jack had no doubt that Daniel had unconsciously mapped out the scene outside, at least enough to be able to act if someone suddenly ordered him to move or find cover. "This isn't reconnaissance," Jack said.

Startled, Daniel said, "I'm not...what..."

"Just look where I'm pointing."

He looked and said, "They're your neighbors, Jack. And, unless their family has quadrupled in size since I lived here, it looks like a lot of their friends are visiting them."

"You've fought for them," Jack told him. "Probably saved their lives at least a few times, even traded your life for them. Maybe you should meet a few of the people you're fighting for."

Daniel's brow wrinkled. "It doesn't matter who they are. They're people who...who have lives, and that's enough."

Jack felt his lips twist. "Did we drill that into your head?"

But Daniel's answering glare was defiant. "I don't need the United States Air Force to tell me that people deserve to live."

"Yeah, well, maybe we forgot to mention that you deserve that, too," Jack said. "And I don't mean just survival. You've missed out on a lot, being at the SGC. You can still catch up on some of it. Now, I know this doesn't seem like much, but believe me, it'll be a lot newer than it sounds. Here's what I'm thinking. You and Teal'c find a place to live, and I'll convince the Pentagon that you can keep each other in line--"

"Wait, wait, wait," Daniel said, squeezing his eyes shut and holding up a hand. "What?"

"You weren't that drunk last night," Jack said, fully aware that they might have been pretty damn tipsy and maybe a little more than that, but alcohol had only been an excuse for their rare chance to relax so much without thinking about ranks or battles or responsibilities. The recent months had been hard on all of them--probably harder for the rest of them than for Jack, who had mostly been asleep in a stasis pod--and none of them except Jack seemed to understand the concept of occasional relaxation. "You heard me."

"About living off-base?" Daniel said. "You were serious?"

Jack shrugged. "You interested? I know you wanted to stay at the SGC until you got your memories settled, but it's been over a year. You guys deserve a life. It's the least you deserve."

Daniel straightened. "Are they going to let us? I mean, Jonas has Captain Rush to help fill in his story, and I'm pretty sure I could manage with a cover about being a foreigner, but Teal'c doesn't exactly try very hard to blend in."

"He's not gonna get arrested for mixing metaphors and wearing old-fashioned hats," Jack pointed out. "We'll work on it with him. Besides, Junior's gone now, and we can make something up to cover his tattoo and everything."

"Teal'c lost his symbiote a long time ago, Jack."

"Y'think? I've been a general for five days. I'm working as fast as I can."

"I don't mean..." Daniel said. "I know you've done a lot for Teal'c and my status here--"

"So what's the problem?" Jack said.

Daniel looked past him, as if to check that the others were still sleeping or out of earshot, then said quietly, "Do I just replace one homeworld for another?"

"No, god," Jack said, knowing better than that. Whatever Daniel did or didn't remember about Abydos, he was still adamantly loyal to the place, and he fiercely, if quietly, cherished the memories he did have left. He still introduced himself as Abydonian, and Jack wasn't about to be the one who tried to change that. "Look, we can't get back what you lost, but we can do our best with something new."

He nodded but didn't answer.

"So?" Jack said. "Whaddya think? Yes or no?"

"Well...yes, I suppose," Daniel said slowly, then actually smiled a little. "Yeah, Jack, that would be really...nice. Thank you. I'll talk to Teal'c. Uh. I don't know how one usually looks for a residence, but--"

"We'll give you a hand," Jack said off-handedly. "Well, it'll probably be assessed for security first, and if they want to run a credit check it'll run up against you might not get much of a choice, actually, but I promise it'll be an okay place."

Daniel turned his smile downward at his mug and finally took a sip of coffee. Jack decided that meant all was well. "I've seen a lot of a lot of planets," he said.

"Welcome to Earth," Jack said. "Time to start exploring something other than Cheyenne Mountain and the roads between there and this house."

"I've been some other places," Daniel said. "I went to Chicago twice. And Honduras."

"You were blindfolded for half of Honduras," Jack said dryly. He was never sending Daniel and Jonas alone to a South American jungle again.

"And Egypt. And Minnesota."

"Anyone who lumps Chicago and Minnesota with Ancient Egyptian ruins and the Fountain of Youth has some major exploration to do."

"And I went to a Department of Motor Vehicles building when I got my license."

"Okay," Jack conceded, "that's pretty alien to everyone."

Daniel cupped his hands around his mug. It was actually his mug, Jack saw with a pang of nostalgia, the one Rothman had given him that said 'When I Grow Up, I Want To Be An Archaeologist'--Daniel must have left it in this house years ago and never taken it back to base with him. It had been hard to get used to a quiet house after Daniel's Ascension, but dealing with the extra baggage he'd brought back from the higher planes--especially the baggage he couldn't remember--had been hard enough without having to worry about whether or not they were being objective enough about each other. Now that Jack wasn't SG-1 anymore, it was only going to get harder.

"Uh, Jack?"

Jack raised his eyebrows. "Daniel?"

"I don't know what people do," Daniel said, then grimaced. "I mean. The SGC has been my life for...well, almost literally for as long as I can remember these days. What do people do outside of that?"

For some reason, that particular thought had never occurred to Jack. "Sure you know," he said, confused. "You've seen people living lives everywhere in about a thousand different ways. I bet you could write a really boring report on how people spend their free time."

Daniel opened his mouth but didn't seem to know what to say. It was a while before he said, sounding awkward, "It was always...theoretical then. Part of the job."

Jack scratched his head. He would always have regrets about the way Daniel had been treated, both by them and by circumstance. People new to the Stargate program thought Daniel was a little off mostly because of the chunks of normal life he didn't remember; Jack thought most of it was actually because they were all a little off, and Daniel's upbringing in a front-line facility in a war just made him a little more so than others. Maybe, though, they could fix some of it now.

"You look constipated," Daniel said. "You're about to impart wisdom, aren't you?"

Jack gave him a dirty look. Daniel returned an expression that he would have called 'innocent' eight years ago. "You betcha," he said anyway, and Daniel stilled and paid attention when he said, "Here goes. You've done a lot in your life. Well, and death. Deaths."

Daniel snorted. "I only count the one, personally. The others were temporar--"

"Shut up and listen, all right? You're a highly decorated employee of our military at twenty-one. The hardest things most people can've had worse done to you. There's nothing out there"--Jack waved a hand in the direction of the nearest window--"you can't handle. You can...go explore a library and talk to neighbors, I dunno. Maybe meet a pretty girl who hasn't known you since you were fourteen and pimply."

"I was not--" Daniel started, then cut himself off, shaking his head. He laughed. "It's been a wild ride, hasn't it?"

Jack spread his arms. "And your life's just beginning. You should start actually living it. Tell you what: that's your next big mission. Integrate into Earth society and have some fun."

Daniel squinted at his coffee.

"That's an order," Jack added. "For what that's worth."

Daniel smiled. "All right, General." He looked up again, and, despite the uncertainty that hung constantly over their lives, there was pride shining clear in his eyes. "Jack, I don't know if I ever said 'congratulations' on your promotion."

"You did last night, around when Carter started singing the digits of pi," Jack reminded him.

"It''s really--"

Jack brushed an imaginary speck of dirt from his shirt. "An honor to follow my command?"

"Well, I don't know if I'd call it an honor," Daniel drawled, but he was still smiling.

"This is how it goes," Jack said. "Things change."

Once upon a time, Daniel had been wide-eyed and gangly-limbed, and they'd watched carefully to make sure he didn't get himself killed. Now, he deferred to more experienced officers, but plenty of officers were willing to defer to him, too, as someone who could be translator, diplomat, fighter, spy, or researcher when the situation called for it. Jack had been afraid of molding Daniel into their SG officer, but now that it had happened, there was also a sense of pride in it--and maybe that was wrong or a little crazy, but they lived in a crazy world.

The four of them on the new SG-1 would work the way only a team who'd been together so long could do--the alien-speak shorthand Daniel and Teal'c had shared since the beginning had developed into an almost sixth-sense awareness of each other; Carter and Daniel's trick of finishing each other's thoughts had turned into a complicated and frightening triangle of brainpower with the addition of Jonas; and Teal'c had a way of always knowing when to put his knowledge and muscles firmly behind Carter's lead and when to be the friend and leader for them all to draw on. It wasn't like any crack military team Jack could imagine, but there was no question they were the best.

"I guess you're right," Daniel said. "We'll be fine. You trained us well."

He smirked. "I did, didn't I?"

"Don't get too full of yourself, or I'll lock all your files in your desk, and you know perfectly well that you'd never get the desk open without having to ask Sam to pick the lock."

Jack frowned. "You have keys to Hammond's desk? How come I didn't get keys? It's my desk."

"You did," Daniel told him. "You dropped them while juggling my stuff, Jack."

"Well, give 'em back!"

"Oh, admit it--you're not planning to open a drawer, anyway."

Jack started to give some indignant response--it was the principle of the thing--but shrugged and let it go. He was probably right, and Walter could deal with it if it turned out to be a problem, which it probably wouldn't, anyway. "Whatever. I trust you."

"I'm...kidding," Daniel said, looking surprised at the acquiescence. "I put the keys in my desk. I was going to give them to you when you eventually realized you couldn't open your drawers."

"Well, I did realize already," Jack pointed out, then admitted, "But I figured it wasn't important." Daniel shook his head. More seriously, he said, "Forget the drawers. I'm...probably gonna need to lean on you for a while."

"I'm...trying to figure out which definition of the word 'lean' you're--"

"I need someone who'll tell me when I'm wrong," Jack said.

Daniel was quiet for a while. Then he looked out the window, where Teal'c was still training, and nodded in the direction of the living room where Carter and Jonas were, presumably, still sleeping. "Do you doubt we would?" he said.

"Carter's got her job to worry about."

"She knows you won't bring her up on charges for disagreeing with you."

"But it's still always going to be an issue," Jack said, shaking his head. "I need someone who'll stop me in the halls and yell at me if...not that you should do that," he added quickly, though he wasn't too worried. Their arguments had become legend around the base--they did sometimes use hallways, elevators, the infirmary, and the briefing room for heated debates--but aside from a few glitches in the first years, Daniel didn't directly undermine his authority in front of allies, enemies, or people sharing their chain of command. Decorum wasn't red tape when it had real and important consequences. "You know what I mean."

"Yeah," Daniel said. "You know I'm with you, Jack. We all are."

"I can't officially give you guys rank--except Carter--but people listen to you, anyway," he went on. "I mean, you aliens have practically taken over SG-1, Kearney follows Teal'c's lead in any and all security matters, and I just gave you social sciences, so...and even that was because some higher-ups consider you more Earthling than alien."

"We're aware that we'll always be aliens to Earth," Daniel told him. "We don't need rank, and we certainly don't need the brass getting paranoid about aliens suddenly stepping into positions of power in a very sensitive military organization. It's okay; we all know it, and we don't care. We're with you, that's all."

"Not that I couldn't do it on my own," Jack had to add. "I'm a general now."

Daniel snorted. "Yeah, they gave you a star and everything. Just try not to drown in your own bullshit, Jack."

Jack feigned indignation. "That's 'don't drown in your own bullshit, sir' to you, Jackson."

He never tired of hearing Daniel laugh.


"This is it," Carter said, once the alcohol had made it through their systems and a little bit of dignity had been recouped.

"The end of an era," Daniel said.

"And the beginning of a new one," Jonas put in, having falling easily into his half of the pessimist-optimist game the two of them often ran together.

"Ah, you guys'll do fine without me," Jack said.

Daniel raised his eyebrows. "I was talking about Hammond, really, but we'll miss your command in the field, too, Jack."

"Smart-ass," Jack told him. "It's gonna be a relief not having to deal with you in the field anymore."

"I am certain that Colonel Carter will fill your footwear adequately," Teal'c said, wearing a little smirk that told them he was joking.

"Not physically," Jonas said. "Your feet are bigger, General."

"And having dealt with the general's footwear in the wash a few times," Daniel put in, "I suggest that Colonel Carter not contaminate her feet."

"Hey!" Jack said, but Carter was grinning happily at her team. "If you guys mutiny, I'll fire you," he said, though he knew if there were to be any sort of mutiny at the SGC that involved these people, he'd probably be in on it.

"Because our careers are what we'd be worried about if we chose to mutiny," Daniel said.

Jack gave him a suspicious look and got a blank 'what-did-I-do' in return.

"Sir," Carter said, attempting to bring some sense of decorum back, "thank you very much--"

"For the beer?" Jack said.

"Among other things," she said. "We'll do you proud."

"Good," Jack said, "because there's a meeting with the brass tomorrow morning, and I expect you all to be there."

"Uh..." Jonas said. "Why?"

"Hey, they've gotta start getting used to you guys' being my go-to people," Jack said. He didn't say aloud that he was actually getting nervous despite himself. Jack O'Neill didn't get nervous talking to or arguing with higher-ups; it was what he did.

Except that now, he was kind of one of the higher-ups, if not the highest of the highers, and his immediate responsibility wasn't to his three- or four- or five-man team, but rather to an entire secret facility of people. Things were going to change for sure--he wasn't George Hammond and wasn't going to try to be--but it could become very difficult for him and for everyone else if he wasn't careful. He didn't like having to be careful like that. He was good at being Colonel O'Neill and SG-1 leader; commanding the base would be very different.

His team--Carter's team--knew what he was thinking, of course, and despite all words of confidence, they had to be worried, too--maybe not so much about themselves, since they'd followed her command without him before, but certainly about the SGC under Jack. They'd all had Hammond to depend on for long enough that this couldn't be a seamless transition--there were sure to be times in the near future when Jack had no idea what to do.

No one addressed it directly. Daniel, still their diplomat when the situation called for it, said lightly, "By which you mean you have no idea how to answer if someone asks you what's happening to all the funding that goes into our research and so forth."

"Exactly," Jack said proudly. "I don't want to know that. That's what I have you for."

"Of course we'll be there, sir," Carter promised. Turning to her team, she said, "Anyone need a ride anywhere?"

"I think the rest of us are going back to base," Jonas said, gesturing at himself, Teal'c, and Daniel. "We can ride with Teal'c. You're going home, Sam, aren't you?"

"Yeah," she said, bending to sort out her shoes from among Teal'c and Daniel's, nudging theirs in the right direction as Daniel tossed Jonas his jacket and accepted his own from Teal'c. "All right, I'll see you guys bright and early tomorrow, then. Teal'c, have you--"

"I have completed the weapons testing with Dr. Lee and Sergeant Siler," Teal'c assured her.


"I'll finish those MALP reports by tonight," Jonas said. "Daniel, you never returned my paper--d'you get to read it yet? I've never tried submitting anything to the...the real world."

"Right, yeah, I think it'll be fine with a couple of quick edits--I'll get it back to you before the meeting tomorrow and then we can send it off to Nyan and have him and Dr. Jordan deal with submission," Daniel said. He patted his pockets. "Does someone have my phone?"

"Oh, here, it must've fallen out," Carter said, picking it up and handing back.

Jack stuck his hands in his pockets and watched them weave around each other as they tied their shoes, tossed keys to each other, finished each other's thoughts, and then simultaneously reached the door, somehow managing smoothly not to get tangled up as they started out of his house. "See you, kids," Jack said, raising a hand.

"'Bye, sir," Carter said, smiling. Jonas waved, and Teal'c gave him a nod, this time accompanied by the smile he had taken to wearing more often these days.

"Thank you, Jack," Daniel said quietly. He gave a half-smile with one corner of his mouth.

"Yeah, get outta here," Jack told them, making a shooing motion with his hands. "All of you get some real sleep--I need you sharp tomorrow."

And he watched them leave from his doorstep, ready to save the world.


Final Notes: There have been so many versions of so many drafts of this that it's a real relief to be able to say it's finished--there are aspects of this installment that I really like and aspects that I don't like as much, but I hope it all came together satisfactorily. Thank you to those of you who have followed along this far!

With regard to this series...I planned to do a version of "Affinity" in this universe (which turns into a bit of a combination of a few S7-S8 episodes), which focuses on Daniel and Teal'c (and Jonas, to a lesser extent) on Earth, as well as an outside look into the lives of SG-1. There is actually quite a lot of a draft written, but I am having trouble making it come together and have recently been considering restarting from scratch. That, along with the fact that I'd like to write more things in the canon 'verse and not just this AU, means that "AU Affinity" may or may not be written, and even if it is, other ficlets might be finished before that one is.

Once again, thanks very much for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the ride :)