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).
"I expect to pass through this world but once. Any good thing, therefore, that I can do or any kindness I can show to any fellow human being let me do it now. Let me not defer nor neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again"
-William Penn, British religious leader (1644-1718).
Daniel Jackson stood with Dr. Elizabeth Weir, watching the buzz of activity around them in the control room of Atlantis. This room was always busy, but today, as they were preparing to open the gate to Earth to send the regularly scheduled report, it was even more so. To conserve power, reports were performed as quickly as possible. The report was already prepared, and would be sent as a burst transmission. This particular communication, however, was going to prove to be longer than usual.
"How are the translations going?" Weir queried Daniel, her eyes not leaving the panels before her while they waited for the gate to finish the dialing sequence.
"Just fine. Of course there's always something new and interesting - this time the syntax is a slightly different variation than what we've encountered on other..."
Daniel was interrupted as the gate whooshed open and settled.
"Excuse me," Elizabeth said and opened her coms system mike to the SGC.
"Stargate Command, this is Atlantis."
"Hello, Atlantis," General Landry's voice answered her.
Weir glanced at Daniel, surprised that Landry answered instead of Sgt. Harriman. "Hank? This is unexpected."
"Yes, Elizabeth. I've been waiting for your call. I need to talk to Dr. Jackson."
Daniel, who was also wearing a headset, patched himself into the system. "I'm here, General."
"Dr. Jackson, General O'Neill has returned to Earth and would like to see you. You need to come back now while the gate is open."
"Ah," Daniel stuttered. "Now? Right now? I've only been here a short time, and I'm in the middle of something important," Daniel started to think about Jack's abrupt departure, or "retirement," from the SGC, a few months earlier, right after his promotion to Major General, leaving Daniel no explanation. He was still angry with Jack, and now his voice became angry. "And I really can't just drop everything..."
"Daniel," Landry interrupted, his voice insistent but turning softer. "Yes, you do need to come right now."
Daniel? Daniel wondered. Landry never called him by his first name.
"Jack's in the hospital."
Daniel felt his mouth go dry as a surge of shock and fear rush through him. He was momentarily speechless, his mind racing with a thousand possible scenarios. He turned to Elizabeth, "Ask somebody to pack up my things, will you?"
To Landry, Daniel said, "I'm on my way." And with no further hesitation, he pulled the headset off, tossed it onto the console next to him, and rushed for the gate, only slowing just a step before he entered the wormhole.
Seconds later, Daniel Jackson re-materialized on the ramp in Stargate Command. He glanced around, quickly finding Landry looking down on him from the control room above. "What's going on?" he asked.
Landry leaned forward and spoke into the mike, "My office, Dr. Jackson."
SG1 SG1 SG1 SG1
An hour later, Daniel was walking through another door, the entrance to the hospital at the Air Force Academy, still reeling with shock at Landry's revelation. Jack was sick - cancer - and had been sick for a long time. Jack's sudden "retirement," which had so angered Daniel, had not been a retirement at all, but an extended sick leave. And he had been living on Edora, of all places. Medical teams from the SGC had been visiting him there for treatments. And now - Jack had come home to die.
Landry sent Daniel with a car and driver, and the driver escorted him through the maze of corridors to the hallway outside Jack's room. Arriving, Daniel found General Hammond and a teary-eyed Sam Carter talking softly in the hallway. Seeing him, Sam immediately came to him and threw her arms around him.
"Oh, Daniel, I'm so glad you're back! He looks so bad..." Her voice trailed off with a sob, and Daniel's heart went out to her. He held her and tried to comfort her; but in truth his own emotions were all over the scale. Mainly, he was still angry. 'Why?' he kept wondering. But he also realized that his anger should not be directed at this woman, his friend, who was seeking his comfort.
"Sam," he murmured. "I had no idea. He never told me anything."
"Me neither. I just got here yesterday from Area 51. I brought Cassie with me - she was here earlier."
"I'm afraid I must admit I was one of the few who knew," Hammond interjected, his voice soft but rough. "I'm sorry, but Jack insisted I not say anything."
"He's always been such an ass." Daniel could not help it, his anger bubbling over - Jack told Hammond! I thought we were friends! Why didn't he tell me?
As if reading his mind, Hammond continued, "At the time of his promotion, we didn't know he was sick. One of his first trips to the Pentagon, he had developed a cough, and I ordered him to get it checked out..." He trailed off, shook his head and continued. "We hoped he would recover. When he decided to leave, well, he just didn't want to burden anybody." Hammond looked back and forth from Sam to Daniel, his eyes begging their forgiveness. "I'm sorry."
"I guess that explains why he left so soon after his promotion," Sam leaned her head back against Daniel's shoulder for a few moments, then she slowly withdrew herself from Daniel's arms, but kept her hold on him. She studied his face, her eyes flicking back and forth between his, and seeing the anger there, said earnestly "Daniel, I know how you feel, but we don't have long...go talk to him. You need to make peace with him."
Daniel stared back at her, then reluctantly nodded acceptance. He looked to Hammond briefly, then turned to Jack's room, opened the door and walked in. First he saw Teal'c sitting in a chair, unlit candles on either side of him. Seeing Daniel enter, Teal'c rose and came to greet him.
Then Daniel saw Jack. He was lying in bed, the head raised to almost sitting. A nasal cannula was strapped to his face. He was completely bald, very thin, and his skin had an ashen tinge to it. He seemed to be asleep.
Daniel wrapped his arms around himself as Teal'c came to stand by him. Teal'c said nothing, merely laying one hand on Daniel's shoulder, giving him a nod of the head, then exiting the room, leaving Daniel alone with Jack. Daniel remained there motionless for a long while. Flashes of memories filled his mind.
"They don't know what to do with me, and I don't know what to do with myself." And Jack invited him to stay in his own home, where he lived for several weeks, until he found his own apartment.
Being embraced in a Jack O'Neill bear hug. "Space monkey!"
The sad, but serene, look on Jack's face leaving Abydos the first time. "I'll be seeing ya around, Dr. Jackson."
Antarctica, and the sorrowful look on Jack's face. "Aveo, amacus."
Daniel slowly went to the bed and sat down on the edge. The movement caused Jack to stir, and he slowly opened his eyes, catching sight of his friend.
A hundred emotions vying for release at once, Daniel grabbed Jack by the upper arms and stared at him. "Oh, God, Jack!"
"Ya know, Skaara was right, all those years ago...smoking is bad," Jack murmured softly.
Daniel felt himself tearing up, but didn't want Jack to see; so he pulled him into an embrace, burying his head against Jack's shoulder. His voice rough, he demanded, "Why didn't you tell me, you son of a bitch?"
Jack huffed and slowly brought his arms up around Daniel to return the embrace.
"Where'd you learn language like that, Dr. Jackson?"
"Some military hardass," was Daniel's muffled reply, his voice still ragged.
"Didn't I tell you not to hang out with a crowd like that?"
Daniel couldn't suppress the sob that came out at that one. "No, as I recall you kinda encouraged it." He took a minute to compose himself, and slowly pulled himself away so he could look Jack in the face. Gulping to steady his voice, he asked again, "Why didn't you tell me?"
Jack studied his face, and slowly replied. "This is gonna be a long story."
"I'm not going anywhere."
Jack smiled a small, grim smile. "Captive audience."
Daniel couldn't help but return the smile to his friend. Sitting up a little straighter, he kept one hand on Jack's forearm. "Tell me."
Jack's eyes flicked away. He coughed slightly and cleared his throat. Daniel looked around, and finding a water glass, offered Jack a drink. Jack took a small sip, and shook his head. Leaning back against the pillows, he closed his eyes briefly, and then opened them, focused on Daniel.
"The short answer is, I didn't want you to give up months of your life to sit around watching me die. And don't tell me you wouldn't have done that."
Daniel looked away for a moment then back at Jack. "Yeah, guess not."
"You waited a long time to go to Atlantis. You deserved to go there, have some fun reading the squiggly lines..." Jack paused, licked his lips and continued. "Now the long answer... You remember, when I was on Edora the first time - Laira and I got kinda close. Well, more than kinda. Daniel, I have a son there. I went back because I wanted to spend some time with him."
"What?" Daniel was even more shocked, if it were possible.
"Laira and I - she was pregnant when I left. I didn't know until I visited her a few months later. Probably wouldn'a left at all if I'd known."
"And you didn't tell me," Daniel felt his heart sink a bit at that revelation. "Didn't think you could trust me with that?"
"It's not like that. I was worried, Daniel. I had to tell George - so he would let me go visit from time to time. I was worried that if the NID found out, or Ba'al, or some other person or snakehead I'd pissed off over the years, it would put him in danger. Him and Laira, Garan, maybe the whole planet. Edora's a good place for a kid. He's always been well off there, didn't have to worry." Jack paused, needing to catch his breath after such a long speech, and needed take a minute to regroup before continuing.
Daniel, sensing his exhaustion, sat in thought, thinking the situation through. He remembered how Jack had once told him how he liked Edora. "It's so quiet there." Quiet, peaceful... "So, Hammond was the only one who knew? And all these years you've been sneaking trips to Edora?"
Jack shook his head slightly, took a few more breaths before trying to continue. "Told Teal'c - few months later. In case something happened - he could protect him. No offense, Daniel - if he had to be moved to another planet, figured he wouldn't be safe here - maybe go to a Jaffa planet."
Daniel accepted his friend's words, but still felt hurt. The whole situation such a shock to him, he felt like he could hardly take it all in.
"And now?" he asked Jack.
"Now?" Jack snorted. "Ya know, when I got sick, they said it wasn't operable - needed chemo to shrink it, maybe then... Ninety percent chance of survival, they said. Wouldn't ya know I'd be in the top 10? Or bottom 10, I guess. Just wanted to spend whatever time I could with my son." Jack shook his head, and Daniel looked away again, not wanting Jack to see the pain he knew was in his eyes. The silence stretched again, save for the sound of Jack's labored breathing and occasional cough.
"Daniel," Jack's soft voice drew his gaze back. "I want you to look after the boy. Go visit sometimes. I want him to know my family."
Daniel's head snapped up at that.
"You're my best friend. You and Teal'c, and Sam, Cassie, George...you're my family. He'll need an education, too - Edora's kinda backward - you need to teach him - but most of all, let him know his family. Don't let him forget..." Jack's voice choked off.
Daniel's brow furrowed in worry for Jack. He said softly, "I'll make sure, Jack, that he has a good life. I won't let him forget you."
Jack nodded slightly, and closed his eyes. Daniel could tell he was still awake, just exhausted from the conversation. He watched Jack for several minutes, his own brain whirring with questions, now that the initial shock was finally receding. Why didn't he go back to Edora after he did find out that Laira was pregnant? Oh, God, where would Earth be if he had? After a while, he asked Jack, "What's his name?"
"What?" Jack's eyes opened slowly, tiredly.
"Your son? What's his name?"
"Daniel..." Jack started to respond, but his eyes slid shut.
"Yes?" Jack's mind is wondering, he thought, and asked again. "Ah, Jack - what is your son's name?'
"It's 'Daniel,' Daniel." Jack smiled and opened his eyes just long enough to see the astonished look on his friend's face. Closing his eyes again, he continued, his voice slowing and trailing off at the end. "Surprised? Shouldn' be - you're my best friend."
SG1 SG1 SG1
Jack grew weaker each day. During the next days, it seemed like every person involved with the SGC came to visit Jack. One day, all the senior team leaders visited together: Reynolds, Dixon, Ferretti, and Griff. Jack took one look, and became agitated. "Who's minding the store?" he asked worriedly, and it took a while for them and Daniel to assure Jack that the SGC was in safe hands. A sorrowful bunch when they arrived, Jack actually had them laughing by the time they left.
The next day, Hank Landry showed up with Walter in tow, and that really set Jack to worrying. "Now I know nobody's minding the store!" and he didn't let them stay long, all but shooing them out the door. Again, just as when the team leaders had visited, both Landry and Harriman were much more buoyed when they left than when they had arrived. Daniel watched Jack with amazement as the man had talked and kidded with them to relieve their discomfort, despite the physical toll it took on him.
That same evening, shortly after Sam and Cassie left, Jack admonished Daniel "Don't spend the rest of your life with your head stuck in the rocks in your lab. Get out sometimes - love again. Sha're would want you to, believe me. You can have a family again. You don't need to be alone. Don't take as long as I did to figure that out..." Daniel was unable to reply, merely bobbed his head in silent understanding.
Later, after Jack had fallen asleep, Daniel recounted that conversation to General Hammond, who was the only other person present. Hammond nodded his head and said, "Yes, son, he's worried about you."
"Jack is worried about me?"
"Yes. He just wants to make sure you will be okay."
Daniel shook his head, amazed.
SG1 SG1 SG1
Four days had passed since Daniel's return from Atlantis, and now Jack spoke rarely; and when he did his voice sounded drawn out with a singsong quality. The night nurse that evening whispered to Daniel that it wouldn't be long. Cassie and Sam stayed late, but Jack insisted they go home. Daniel knew he didn't want Cassie to see him die, and Sam reluctantly decided her place was with Cassie. Daniel was parked, unmovable, just as he had the past few days, in a chair right next to Jack's bed; George Hammond and Teal'c were residing in chairs nearby. Because it brought some comfort to Jack, Teal'c had lit his candles. The nurse warned that fire was an explosive hazard with oxygen use in the room, and demanded that the candles be extinguished. But Jack responded by ripping the cannula off his face and said, "There! Fixed. Shut it off." The nurse and Daniel both protested, but Jack told them, "Not worried about going any quicker." They acquiesced.
A couple hours before dawn, Jack stirred, looking around the room in confusion. In that slow voice, he asked, "Daniel... how's Charlie here?"
The scholarly part of Daniel's mind immediately recalled many references he had read over the years, how, in nearly every culture, there were reports of persons nearing death seeing predeceased relatives. So although he wasn't completely surprised, he was surprised that Jack would have such an hallucination. Hallucination? Daniel thought. After all we've seen? Things I experienced with the Ascended? Why should I assume this is merely an hallucination?
"I don't know, Jack," he replied, "but I think it's a good thing."
Daniel was dimly aware of a rustling sound, as Hammond and Teal'c came to stand directly behind him.
"Yeah?" Jack asked.
Jack smiled and closed his eyes for the last time. He took a couple more breaths, then his breathing ceased. Daniel could tell the moment Jack's heart stopped beating, as he watched the blood drain away from Jack's face.
No one spoke, but both Hammond and Teal'c put a hand on Daniel's shoulders. They remained there in silent vigil for a long time.
SG1 SG1 SG1
Daniel let his eyes rove around the gate room, observing the others present. Emmett Bregman was here filming Jack's funeral - Jack would be so pissed, he thought - the "unofficial official" SGC funeral where they could really talk about him. Later on today there would be a public graveside service. Jack had wanted neither. But when you had both the sitting President of the United States, as well has his predecessor, wanting to speak, well, there had to be a funeral. Both Presidents had said their piece, and General Hammond was finishing reading a decidedly not-for-public-dissemination, highly classified summary of Jack's military career, including citations that might never be public. Daniel was surprised to hear that among them were multiple recommendations for Medals of Honor for Jack, which could not be placed before Congress until the Stargate was made public. Jack had known, and never said anything.
From the podium, George Hammond nodded toward Daniel Jackson, and stepped aside, allowing Daniel to come forward and take his place. It was Daniel's turn now to eulogize his friend. He placed two sheets of paper notes on the podium, a carefully and properly "reviewed" document, screened by protocol officers beforehand, and looked around. The brass had turned out for this one all right. Not only the two presidents, but also several cabinet members and generals. A couple of Russian officers he recognized, and some other foreign dignitaries were also here, as were Bratac and a few of their off-world allies. Of course Jack's family was here - the real one - the staff of the SGC.
"Jack O'Neill," Daniel began, then promptly choked up and stared down at his notes. He glanced up and around the room, somewhat shyly, and coming to a decision, he brought his head back up, swallowed hard, gave a tight smile, and began again.
"God, Jack would have hated this!" he stated, and thankfully heard some snickers from the back of the room. He glanced quickly toward Sam and Teal'c, and was rewarded by encouraging smiles, and that was enough for him. He continued, crumpling up the papers on the lectern. "Because Jack didn't do what he did for reward or praise. In fact, Jack usually deflected praise away from himself to others. Remember when he assumed command here, his speech was, what? Five lines? Then he turned the ceremony into a promotion party for Sam, er, Lieutenant Colonel Carter. He hated this sort of thing."
"If our distinguished guests will allow - Jack often used humor in a tight situation to ease the tension. I feel like I'm 'channeling' Jack," and he used his fingers to make air quotes, a move that was very much Jack. "I hope I don't offend...Oh, I guess I'm not channeling Jack after all, because he never worried about offending anyone. Just called it as he saw it. So, not channeling - following his leadership. That's what leaders do - show the rest of us how to act, how to live, how to continue on. 'Lead by example,' as the saying goes. And Jack was a great leader. The kind of leader you would follow into Hell. And, oh, ah, some of us did follow Jack into Hell."
Daniel was gratified to hear soft laughter as he spoke. This is more like what Jack would have wanted, he thought.
"Jack was obstinate, too. I'm sure that quality did not endear him to his superiors," he could hear Hammond's harrumph. "But it was a wonderful trait to have in your field commander. His obstinacy is something that helped get us home. During our first year with SG-1, he and then-Captain Carter were stranded in Antarctica. No matter how bad things got, he refused to let her think that they would not find a way out. I remember him saying to me once, 'There's gotta be another way out of here.' And he was right that time, too. Despite the impossibility of many of the situations in which we seemed to find ourselves, we always came home.
"Jack saw his role first and foremost as our protector and that was what he did - protected us all - " again Daniel's voice faltered, and he paused for moment, holding on to the lectern with both hands, before looking back up and continuing. "Even in his last few days, he was more concerned about what was happening here at the SGC than about himself."
Daniel schooled his face and became more serious. "He always credited everybody, all of us here, for our successes, even though sometimes it was, bottom line, Jack, and only Jack, who made those successes happen. When Anubis bombarded the Stargate with radiation trying to explode it, it was Jack who flew the X302, with the Stargate attached, on a one-way trip to possible oblivion. It was Jack who used the chair device in Antarctica to defend this planet - and he was the only one who could have done it at the time. And it was Jack who, in this very room, when a wormhole established to a planet being devoured by a black hole could not be disengaged endangering Earth - risked his life, shimmied down a rope to activate a bomb. It exploded into the gate, causing the wormhole to jump to a different planet. Somehow - I feel a lot less safe today.
"I read the public obituary in the paper. You know, what people outside this place will know of Jack O'Neill, and it was kind of boring."
Again, a few snickers from the crowd.
"If we didn't know Jack, and just read that obit, that's probably what we would think... he was just a desk jockey. I mean, 'Deep Space Radar? What's that? How exciting is that?' Oh, some might be impressed because he was a general. Then maybe they'd read 'no immediate survivors' and that would sound kind of sad and empty.
"But we who are in this place, we know who Jack O'Neill was, what he really did, what his legacy is to us. We know he was an honorable man who won the trust of Alien races who are far advanced beyond us - Asgard, Knox, the Retu - who only trusted Jack, above everybody else on our planet.
"So today, when you leave this place, when you go out and see our beautiful planet, the lakes, the mountains, the trees - and trees, trees, and more trees - " a choked off laugh from Sam's direction brought another pause. "When you hug your children tonight, are with the ones you love, and do the things you love to do - just stop and take a moment to take a good look around. Because all that is Jack's legacy to us - what we here will know and remember - Jack O'Neill has left us our world."
Daniel bowed his head for a moment, then left the podium without looking up.
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