Author: Karen T
Disclaimers: Not mine, any of them.
Classification: Future, Gen
Feedback: Always appreciated.
Notes: Thanks to Jojo and Michelle for the betas and licks. Thanks to nanda for the discussion about Eliot which may have influenced the underpinnings of this story. Thanks to the apocalypse challenge over at Stargate100, which inspired me to write this. And thanks to Eliot for those memorable lines everyone knows.
This is the way the world ends:
Teal'c, adorned in full battle armor, his staff weapon in hand, turns and bows his head to those in the gateroom before running through the shimmering wormhole towards Chulak. Mars explodes an hour later. Earth two hours after that.
Or Jack, on bent knee, steadies his P-90 against the chiseled edge of a rock and screams at his team to leap through the waiting wormhole. He doesn't see the staff weapon that's residing in his blind spot, much like how those in the SGC don't see the coordinated Goa'uld attack until it's too late.
Or Daniel finishes translating the final strand of glyphs on the wall and exhales loudly before looking up into Jack's awaiting eyes. He doesn't have to say anything for Jack to know they're all fucked.
Or Sam, her eyes absorbing line after line of Goa'uld code, her fingers flying all over the ship's console, swears as the monotone Goa'uld voice informs her over the PA system that the mothership will impact Earth in four ... three ... two ...
Or SG-1 stands on the twenty-eighth floor of an almost abandoned SGC. Jack cocks his head to the left and stares at the inactive gate before them. "Hey, guys? Is it me or does it seem like all of this is kind of ... well ..."
"No, Jack, it's not a whimper," Daniel says, exasperation tingeing his words.
"I never said it was a whimper." Jack turns and glares. For old time's sake, at this point. "I just ... Did any of you think this was how the program was gonna go out? I guess I always imagined more fanfare. Maybe some fireworks. At least a bit more ... oomph."
"It's not like the world's ending, Jack. The world's just fine, remember? That's why they're closing the Stargate program in the first place."
"Yes, I know, Daniel. And I never said the world was ending, if you'd only listen--"
Sam interrupts with a laugh. It's light, unfettered, and Jack likes how it sounds. He also likes that he's heard it more often since the Goa'uld were annihilated and that ever-present outer space threat disappeared. Sure, lives were lost as the final showdown with the Goa'uld was particularly bloody, and they'd all mourned and participated in more memorial services than Jack had ever imagined possible. But now the bitter pain of losses has dulled and they're still standing.
Daniel's right: the world is fine, maybe for the first time in centuries.
"I'm going to miss this place when I'm back in Washington," Sam sighs.
Jack's smile flattens. "You're still gonna go there?"
"I'll be in charge of all remaining scientific Stargate studies. It's a great opportunity." Sam's staring at him, her eyes almost pleading, and he puts her at ease by smiling and nodding.
He knows her decision to return to the Pentagon was a difficult one. They'd spent a long evening together in her lab when word had trickled down from the White House that the president wanted to close the program, move all scientific studies from the SGC and Area 51 to the Pentagon, and place Sam in charge of it all. He'd help her compile a list of pros and cons, and he still likes to believe that the pro reason of 'I like it here in Colorado. It's ... comfortable.' carried more meaning and weight than she'd let on to him.
"It's a fantastic opportunity, Colonel," Jack assures his newly promoted second-in-command, and doesn't lie to himself about why his eyes are growing so moist. "What about you, Daniel? Still sticking around here, right?"
"Think I'd let you go off into the sunset alone without anyone to beat you at chess and mock your choice of beer?" Daniel teases good-naturedly.
Jack snorts. "You mean the beer you can't handle?" With promises of ten additional research assistants from some of the most prestigious universities on Earth, it hadn't been difficult for the president to convince Daniel to stay and create an anthropological program studying all the different cultures they'd stumbled upon during their years of gate travel. It's exactly what Daniel has wanted to do for years. "And you, Teal'c? Your plans?"
"I am to return to Chulak tomorrow to ensure the freedom of Jaffa everywhere."
Jack's aware of this -- has known all their plans for weeks now -- but just can't seem to stop himself from asking the questions, just like he can't stop himself from nodding his head to their answers. He continues to bob his head up and down, the gate creeping in, then out, of his sight.
In. He'll officially be retired from military service the minute Teal'c has returned to Chulak in the morning. Out. The SGC will unofficially be closed after Teal'c's departure, only a limited staff remaining on the premises in case of any unforeseen emergencies (and to open the iris for Teal'c's promised visits). In. Sam will fly to D.C. tomorrow night. Out. They -- he and his team -- will have their futures and their golden years. A part of him never expected this would happen. Ever. But he's glad that it has.
His team has fallen quiet, and Jack studies each of their faces before saying, for one last time, "Anyone feel like some food?"
Daniel perks up at the suggestion. "You know, I could really go for a steak right about now."
"McKenzie's?" Sam offers.
Teal'c lifts an eyebrow in agreement and gestures toward the door.
This is familiar. This is nice. And Jack's missing it already.
As they begin filing towards the door, with Daniel once again explaining to Teal'c how a steak should always be cooked rare in order to be appreciated, Jack places a hand on Sam's arm to hold her back.
"Don't tell Daniel I said this," he whispers, moving his head close to hers, "but ... this is kind of like a whimper, isn't it?"
Sam's eyes widen in surprise, her gaze flitting over his shoulder to the resting gate, and then back to him. Her eyes are moist. "A little. But it's a good whimper, sir."
"Yeah." Jack contemplates this for a second before breaking out into a grin and draping an arm over Sam's shoulders. "Hey, Daniel," he calls ahead. "You're buying, right, buddy?"
In a way, the world -- his world, their world -- is ending. But that's fine.
This is the way the world has always meant to end.