Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only and no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author(s).
Title: Relinquishing Command
Author: Charli Booker
Category: Vignette; angst; drama; POV
Content Warnings: N/A
Summary: It's time for Jack to relinquish command.
Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only, and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
Author's Note: The house, the truck, the bike . . . why was Jack so willing to part with it all? This is just one little 'because.'
'There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.' Louis L'Amour
* * * * *
Once again, I left them speechless. But for a vastly different reason this time. Usually, it's because I've been an ass at the most inopportune moment. Or because I've been the only one in the room who'll say what's really on all our minds. 'Brutal honesty,' that's what my mother labeled it so long ago that I hate to think about everything that's transpired since, where the years have gone, and the fact that I'm older now than she was then.
Thanks to some buddies and to some Nox and to a couple of sarcophagi, I've lived a lot longer than I should have. And even if I survive what's facing me back East, I know that at least half my allotted time has passed me by, and I'm on the downhill side of a Double Black Diamond run.
That's been my life - a slippery slope dotted with moguls I never saw coming. I've caught some air and I've caught an edge or two, but right now I'm schussing - headed straight downhill in a full tuck position on a slope where even an old pro like me is doomed to wipeout eventually. I'll count myself lucky if I can limp away under my own power. Battle-scarred and weary.
And therein, ladies and gents, lies the crux: battle-scarred; weary. That's me.
And that's why I did it.
At least . . . that's why I told them I did it.
For the first time since I've known him, Teal'c seems perpetually mad. At Hammond. At Washington. At the worlds - all of them. Even a little at me, I think. But it's okay. I understand. It's not anger he's feeling - it's loss. Loss starts with just a little hole inside you, and it eats away at you. If you don't shore it up, fill it with something substantial and permanent, it'll consume you from the inside out. I should know. Been there; done that. So, I've encouraged him in his work with the Free Jaffa. They need him, yes, but right now, Teal'c needs them more.
Carter . . . ah, Carter is a totally different story. She was so excited, so focused on getting out there and doing something new and exciting that I doubt she even realizes this is for keeps. And you know what? I'm glad. I'm proud of her. And I hope to God that heading up Research and Development at Area 51 keeps her happy as a clam for a long, long time. I really do. The last thing I want is for her to wake up a year from now and suddenly regret testing her wings. Suddenly wishing things hadn't changed. Because change is inevitable, and SG-1 had a damn good run. Longer than I'd ever anticipated. Longer than any military unit in which I've ever been a part. Hell, longer than most marriages nowadays.
And speaking of civilian institutions, I think Daniel is taking it the hardest. A product of change, he despises it as an adult. I keep telling him D.C. isn't that far away. I'm still going to be around, keeping my finger in the pot and my ear to the ground. If he touches anything he's not supposed to, I'll be one of the first to know. Trust me. Besides, I'll be checking in on him from time to time. Watching out for him. Still, he swears that won't be the same. And he's right. It won't be.
Sitting here now at the head of the briefing room table, listening to him babble on about the significance of the Yada-Yada Ruins on the next Planet Dirt Wad he can't live without exploring, I have to smile. The Boys in Washington have no idea that I was inoculated against fast-talkers years ago when a long-haired archeologist swore to General West that he could get us home from Abydos.
I cough softly, and shift in my chair to ease a now familiar ache. Landry catches my eye and queries me with a raised brow, but I ignore him. For the past week, I've been easing him into the routine. Easing him behind that desk in the next room, complete with the chair with the squeaky wheel and the overhead vent that blows cold in the winter and hot in the summer. He's a good man, and I know I'm leaving my people in the best hands possible.
Glancing down at my own hands, I suddenly realize Daniel is finished and they're all watching me, waiting for a sign from me. I look around the table at the people sitting here, and I'm struck with the knowledge that I'm going to miss them more than they'll ever know. Clearing my throat, I thank Daniel and tell them to break for lunch.
As the others leave, Landry sits across from me and together we watch Daniel slowly gathering his papers. I know my archeologist, and I know he's stalling for time. Finally, perhaps realizing the two generals bracketing the ends of the table aren't leaving, Daniel glances at me.
"I hear you sold your bike, Jack."
There's an obvious question buried in the statement. I shift my weight once again, really needing to stand. Instead, I force a smile and nod. "Yeah."
Daniel stops what he's doing and looks at me. I mean, really looks at me. "You love that bike."
He's right. I do love that bike. But, it'd be stupid to hang onto it. Denial ain't just a river . . . . "Loved, Daniel. I loved that bike," I respond, stressing the tense.
He snorts softly. "Just like you loved your house and your truck."
"Just like," I agree. When he turns back to his research, I allow him a moment to himself before adding, "They're just things, Daniel. It doesn't mean anything."
"Doesn't it?" His voice is so soft, I'm pretty sure he didn't mean for us to hear him. He picks up his books and his papers; his shoulders slump under the weight of something much heavier. "I still don't understand. I mean," he looks at me with an earnestness I haven't seen in Daniel for too long a time, "you'll hate it there."
I will. But not for the reasons he thinks.
"You could just tell them no, Jack. You could . . . you could tell them we need you here. And we do. Besides, you're not cut out for Washington. You'll piss them all off before the glue on your nameplate has dried." When I smile at his joke, he winces. "I just . . . I don't understand."
Landry is silent, and I'm pretty sure Daniel's forgotten the man is our witness. I scrub a shaky hand over my forehead. "We've been over this."
"Yeah." Daniel nods. "Yeah. They want you there. You're needed. But what about what you want? What you need? Haven't you given enough? Can't they just leave you alone?"
I really need a break. I need to stand up. I need to take a pee. But I won't move until Daniel leaves, so instead I sigh, resigning myself to the same old argument we've rehashed for the last five weeks. Daniel thinks that because we've defeated the Goa'uld, I shouldn't have to fight any more battles. I tend to agree with him. "You know it doesn't work that way. And I can do more there than I can here." With sudden insight, I grin. "Consider it a quasi-ascension."
"That's not funny, Jack."
He may be right, so I shrug off the joke. "And as for my stuff-"
"Yeah, I know. You're tired. You need a change."
Poor Daniel. He has no idea how tired I am. And if he did, he'd be devastated. I nod in the direction of the door. "Get some lunch, Daniel."
With a single glance in Landry's direction, Daniel leaves. He has no sooner disappeared down the open staircase than I'm rising from my chair. It takes everything I have to get upright and to limp to the spotless pane of bulletproof glass which allows me to look down on the stargate. A fierce, throbbing pain settles in my hip, right next to the ache in my gut and not far from the reflection of General Landry who has quietly assumed a place beside me. Together, we watch a silent, empty gateroom.
"Why don't you just tell them the truth, Jack? Don't you think they deserve it?"
Siler enters the room below us and toolbox in hand, he disappears behind the gate. "No," I tell him, "they don't." They deserve better. We all do.
The silence surrounds us. If it weren't for the pain, I'd feel completely insulated.
I see Landry's reflection turn toward my own. "When do you start chemo, Jack?"
With a half-dozen words, he's effectively perforated the protective seal around me, and I stare past the eyes looking back at me in the glass. My voice is wooden. "Next week. Wednesday." I force a smile and glance at the man who's replacing me. "Hump day." And although there's probably a colossal joke in all this somewhere, I'll be damned if I can find it.