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10 February 2014 @ 07:03 pm
O is for Observance  
O is for Observance
Rating: Teen and Up
Category/Genre: Gen, friendship, angst
Word Count: ~2300
Beta Thanks to: Zeph
Characters: Jack, Daniel, Sam, Teal'c
Summary: An important date causes some worrisome changes in Daniel's behavior.
Notes: Set late June, 2001, loosely around the beginning of season 5 (the air dates don't work absolutely perfectly, but I think we can assume the first two eps of season 5 happened a lot closer to the end of season 4 than air dates would indicate!).

Written for On-World Alphabet Soup.

O is for Observance

Jack hated Orientation weeks. They were even worse than the scientific survey missions where he was essentially nothing more than a glorified gofer. Barring galactic emergencies, SG-1 was always pulled from the active mission schedule to lead the presentations. Jack supposed it was one of the hazards of working with the most valuable members of the command. No introduction to their enemy was effective as Teal’c (and Junior, of course). Carter knew the base tech inside and out. Daniel was not only The Man Who Opened the Gate, but provided context to all the things they would be likely to encounter.

And Jack... well, Jack gave the standard military talk: base SOP, chain of command, what meals to skip in the mess. But mostly, he spent a lot of time holed up in the office he liked to pretend he didn't have, because General Hammond seemed to consider these weeks excellent opportunities for Jack to catch up on his paperwork.

He glared at the numerous requisition forms and staffing evaluations and budgets threatening to collapse his desk. After a moment’s thought, he reached past all of those to pick up the orientation course evaluations for the previous day’s presentations. That had been all Daniel and Carter; these would be a breeze. The only negative those two ever got was overusing geek speak. He could sign off on these in short order and head to lunch with a (mostly) clear conscience.

He picked up the first form, eyes skimming quickly almost to the end before stopping abruptly and rereading several sections in consternation. With a mental shrug, he put that paper off to the side and grabbed the next one, this time reading carefully from the start. A frown crossed his face, and he turned the page over as if looking for the April Fool’s sign. Of course, it was June, but there had to be some explanation for the out of character remarks, and suddenly moving backward in time wasn't entirely out of the question.

Jack thumbed through the next several evaluations, which were all substantially the same, with a sinking heart. There went his quiet lunch. What the hell had Daniel been up to yesterday?

Sighing, he pushed back from his desk and headed out to find some answers. First stop was the Orientation Briefing Room, where Bill Lee had managed to send about half the newbies into a stupefied daze. Jack didn't understand why, but Daniel and Carter often sat in on these things voluntarily. Not today, however. It wasn't a total loss, though as a ripple went through the audience when those who were still alert noted Jack’s presence, straightened up, and elbowed their neighbors. Bill gave a pleased smile at the renewed interest and continued with increased enthusiasm.

Jack continued on his way, heading for Carter’s lab first. If he was lucky, Daniel would be there, and they could have a friendly, non-confrontational chat... with witnesses. If he was really lucky, he could get Carter to do it for him.

He found Carter was alone in her lab, glued to her microscope. Jack cleared his throat and waited until she looked up before saying, “How’s it going, Carter?”

She grinned before glancing down to make some notes. “Pretty good, Colonel. It’s great having some dedicated lab time.”

He nodded and looked around the lab aimlessly, reaching out to poke at a new doo-dad sitting on the lab table.

“Is there something I can help you with, Sir?”

Jack withdrew his hand. “Yeah, well, I was just wondering if you’d seen Daniel lately?” Her expression tightened a bit and she put down her pen.

“I haven’t seen him since yesterday, Sir.”

He stared at her, waiting. She and Daniel had breakfast together most days, especially days where they weren't likely to see to each other due to their divergent departmental responsibilities.

She winced as she admitted, "We had a disagreement."

“A disagreement?”

"Well, I guess it was really more of a fight, Colonel. He was kind of, well, mean."

Mean? Daniel wasn't... Jack reconsidered. Okay, Daniel could be pretty brutal when he wanted to, but being mean to Carter? That usually meant some kind of alien influence. Before he could say anything else, Teal'c appeared in the doorway.

“Teal’c,” Jack greeted him. “Come on in. We were just discussing what’s wrong with Daniel.”

Teal’c inclined his head slightly. “I too would like to know. He has avoided two training sessions with me this week.”

Jack blew out a breath. Strike three. “Yeah, definitely sounds like someone should go talk to him.” He nodded and looked toward the others, hoping to see a volunteer.

Teal’c stared back at Jack. “I believe that team morale falls under the team leader’s responsibility, O’Neill. I would not want to tread on your lower digits.”

Carter’s lips twitched slightly. “What he said, Sir.”



Jack paused in the doorway to Daniel’s office. Daniel hadn't noticed him, staring fixedly at something on his desk, although Jack wasn't sure he was really seeing much of anything. He had that lost in thought aura about him, not the one that signaled a great breakthrough, but the frustrated one, the one that said Daniel had hit a wall in his own mind and couldn't find the way through.

After tapping lightly on the door frame, Jack called Daniel’s name and stepped into the room. A quick movement of Daniel’s hands and whatever it was that had Daniel so intent disappeared under a stack of paper by the time Jack neared the desk.

“Daniel.”

“Jack?”

“So...” Jack rocked back on his heels. “You've got some people worried about you, you know.”

Daniel sighed. “Is this about Sam? I know I need to apologize to her.”

“Yeah. And maybe to Teal’c, too.”

“Teal’c?”

“You’re blowing off training. I think you hurt the big guy’s feelings.”

Daniel sagged a little more in his chair. “Damn it. I just needed some time. It has nothing to do with Teal’c.”

“I also heard that you lost your temper in Orientation yesterday.”

At that Daniel bristled. “Well, if they had shown even the slightest respect for what I do...”

Jack cut him off. “They’re no different than any other group of newbies we've gotten in.”

Daniel sighed huffily, but didn't argue, so Jack continued. “Daniel, you know we have a good cop / bad cop thing going. You and Carter are the good cops. I’m the bad cop. And Teal’c is the scary cop. After your performance yesterday, all the newbies think you’re the bear and I’m the cuddly one. Now, we can’t have that, can we?”

Daniel didn't even crack a smile. “God, Jack, we’re supposed to be getting the best of the best here. What’s it say when they don’t know the first thing...”

“It says that Daniel Jackson, peaceful explorer and patient teacher, is going to help shepherd them along. Just like you have every other group we've brought through. And successfully, I might add. So what’s different this time?”

Daniel’s eyes showed a dangerous glint of defiance, so Jack grabbed the chair next to the desk, pulled it over near Daniel’s and sat. “Look, Daniel, you don’t have to talk to me about it. You don’t have to talk to anyone, except maybe to apologize to Carter and Teal’c. But... we’re here. That’s all I’m saying.”

Daniel stared at his keyboard for a minute, then looked up at Jack. “You know it’s my birthday next week, right?”

“Yeah.” They’d been planning a typical SG-1 birthday celebration: dinner out with the doc and Cassie, then the team would head back to Jack’s for a night of drinks and ‘deep’ conversation that would never be repeated in the light of day.

Daniel was silent again, and Jack wondered if he had been expected to glean some explanation from that fact. He was just about to admit that he didn't have a clue what Daniel was saying, when Daniel extracted a glossy pamphlet from the papers on his desk and handed it to him.

Jack’s eyebrows rose when he looked at it. It was a brochure for a cemetery. Daniel was turning 36. Not a birthday that typically called for a large degree of fuss or introspection or morbidity. unless... He looked at Daniel. “Um...”

“It’s where my parents are buried,” Daniel offered, and Jack relaxed a bit. “I've never been since... you know.”

Jack’s relief at Daniel not being ill segued right into discomfort. One of the things Jack really liked about his team was how good they all were at the whole repressing feelings bit, but every now and then, something would break through. He really should have sent Carter.

But he was here now, and Daniel was talking, so he really had to see it through. “Never?” Jack asked.

“No.” Daniel shook his head slowly. “I guess, at first, I was just adjusting to foster care. I didn't really feel like I could ask to go, although maybe... I’m not actually sure it ever occurred to me to ask. Then later, I didn't even want to think about it. I started picking up extra classes in high school, studying, building on everything I’d learned growing up on digs, in museums. Finally found the love they’d had for archaeology, but just when I’d have wanted to share it with them...”

He gave a mirthless chuckle. “I knew too much by then. I can tell you in great detail about how dozens of cultures handle their dead; I can tell you why it’s important to the family unit, to society at large, that there be some agreed upon ritual. But in spite of that... no, because of that, the idea of pursuing any of those rituals offered nothing to me.”

Jack indicated the pamphlet Daniel had given him. “But now something’s changed?”

Daniel nodded. “On Wednesday, I’ll be older than my father ever was.” His brow furrowed. “I guess technically, I already am, but... Once I realized, I just started feeling like I should, like I, I want to...”

Jack pursed his lips, watching Daniel fumble for the words, as his own thoughts circled round inside his head. Jack couldn't speak to the import of those rituals on society at large, but he knew their significance in his own life. It had taken several years before he could visit Charlie’s grave, and it wasn't until he did that the slow road to healing had truly begun.

Daniel took the pamphlet from Jack’s hand and looked at it with equal parts fear and longing.

Jack was already mentally rearranging their schedule for the next week as he asked, “So, you want some company?”



The trip to New York was tedious, with delayed commercial flights and a too-small rental car. Daniel’s company was spotty at best, and he grew increasingly quiet as they neared their destination.

They walked to the gravesites together, but then Jack dropped back to give Daniel some privacy, choosing to stand in the shade of a nearby tree, angling himself so that he was looking across the slightly unkempt graveyard. It was beautiful, in a wild way. Natural. He thought Daniel’s parents would probably appreciate that, rather than the immaculately manicured lawns and sterile look of more modern places.

He kept Daniel in his peripheral vision, just in case. He stood there for a while just looking at the gravestones. Eventually, he lowered himself to sit cross legged between them. Jack could see him speaking quietly every now and then, but mostly he just sat in silence. Not the tense silence that had been present before they arrived, Jack was grateful to note, just a thoughtful kind of reflection. Every now and then, Daniel even smiled.

Finally, he stood and, with a soft touch to each of the granite stones, he turned and headed over to Jack. With a quiet nod, they fell into practiced step as they headed toward the car. Daniel let out a deep breath as he settled into his seat, already seeming much more like the old Daniel.

“Thank you. I’m glad I came,” Daniel said softly. “I don’t know if what I got out of it was what I’m supposed to, or not, but...”

“Doesn't matter. It’s whatever works for you.”

Jack pulled out of the cemetery and started heading back to the highway. Daniel was quiet for a while before he spoke again. “You know, my parents had no great love for the military. But I like to think that maybe they would have been proud of what I’m doing.”

“I’m sure they are.”

“‘Are?’” Daniel repeated. He looked over at Jack. “You believe in an afterlife?”

Jack kept his eyes on the road. With as many times as they had all been presumed dead, come close to death, even actually died, what happened after wasn't something they had ever really discussed, at least not when Jack had been around.

“I have to,” was the only reply he trusted himself to give.

“Oh. Of course,” Daniel said softly. He nodded and fell silent again, staring out the window as they neared the hotel.

Jack started speaking after a moment, trying to keep the silence from getting too awkward. “So, we can hang around here for a few days, go into the city, hit the museums if you want. In which case, you should know that Carter and Teal’c will be flying out as soon as they finish up the last round of show and tell. Or we can head back to Colorado to the not-quite-surprise birthday celebration I’m sure you know is waiting for you.”

Daniel leaned his head back against the seat and closed his eyes. “Yeah, let’s go home,” he said with a smile. “I’ll probably come back another time, but it wouldn't really feel like my birthday without Teal’c letting Cassie beat him at darts, or Sam and Janet having their ultimate eight ball competition, or what passes for beer at your place.”

“I knew you liked that beer!” Jack smirked at Daniel’s mock glare. “Home it is, then.”

~end~
 

This entry was originally posted at http://magickmoons.dreamwidth.org/21075.html.
 
 
 
nymaerianymaeria on February 11th, 2014 03:51 am (UTC)
Oh I really like this! Really thoughtful and sweet.
magickmoons: DanielBWmagickmoons on February 15th, 2014 04:52 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'm still working my way through the anthology (I think I've read two, eep) and looking forward to reading yours :)