AUTHOR: Eleri McCleod

EMAIL: elerimc (at symbol) lycos. com

STATUS: complete

CATEGORY: drama, Jackfic Monthly Challenge response for 'Embark'







SUMMARY: He'd given everything for his world. He wasn't prepared for the world to turn its back on him.

DISCLAIMER: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret productions. No copyright infringement is intended.

FILE SIZE (kb): 29k

ARCHIVE: Jackfic, Gateworld, FF. net, any others please ask

AUTHOR'S NOTE: And yet another one that's been sitting on my hard drive forever. Thank you, Cokie, for the late night beta. I always dump things on you at the last minute and you always come through! This fic is a challenge response to the Jackfic Monthly Challenge for January 2005, minimum 1,000 words. As always, any and all feedback is appreciated.

"Uh, he's right. It's the 'Gateroom."

"Well, what I'm sure many of you don't know is that officially it was known as the 'embarkation room' because that's where the SG teams 'embarked' from."

Holding back a smirk at the tour guide's overly cheery rebuke, Jack followed his own tour guide around the corner and through the blast doors. In the brief glimpse he'd had of his former teammates, they'd looked good, both of them. The Aschen's anti-aging drug had certainly done its job. Hand twitching to scrub at his hat-covered silver hair, he let a sigh escape. The old bitterness bubbled back up with just that one thought. No one had backed him up. Not Hammond, not Teal'c, not Daniel, not even Carter. Absolutely no one. And now look where the human race was: right where he'd been afraid they'd be heading by joining the Alliance.

The too perky tour guide released her tourees to look around at the fake 'Gate and the 'Gateroom. He refused to call it by that ridiculous name, no matter the insistence shoved at him. Making his way up the ramp, he wondered how to approach his old team. He'd seen the resentment in Carter's eyes when he'd sent her away not even a day ago. But he just couldn't say yes so quickly. Anger had stayed his mouth, making him curt. After all the years and lack of faith, he'd been surprised she'd even come to him. Had he been so predicable years ago, so puppy-like in his loyalty that she'd just assumed he'd jump to help them fix their mess? The mess they would have never been in if they'd only listened to him for a second instead of brushing him off like an annoying bee buzzing in their collective ears.

Completely closing down that train of thought, he let his hand scrub over his face, knocking his hat askew. Righting it absentmindedly, he watched Daniel and Carter break off from the main group and head up the ramp toward him. Did he let them see him? Did he make them stew a while longer? A sigh eased out as they slowly came closer. When had he become such a wishy-wash?

"I'm telling you this isn't something we want to do!"

Jack's enraged cry echoed in the sudden silence of the briefing room. Every eye bored into him as he stood stock-still, surrounded by the people who had always supported him, contradictory opinions and all. The past week of negotiations had negated what he'd thought of as never changing. Something all the undercover missions, all the cracks about rocks, scientists and trees, all the disagreements and bumps and misunderstandings hadn't been able to destroy: their faith in him and his gut instincts.

"Colonel, this decision has been made at a level far above us," General Hammond's voice cut authoritatively though the stillness. "It's already been made. It's time to accept it."

Eyes traveling from one person to the next, Jack's heart simply crumpled. Hammond was right. It was over. He'd lost. Not only the fight to make them hear, but he'd lost his team, his friends, his family. Teal'c met his eyes solidly, regret darkening the deep brown. Daniel couldn't even meet his gaze and Carter? Carter's skittered away only a split second later. Just like that it was over. But that didn't mean he had to accept their terms. He still had one decision left, one option he'd held in reserve with the hope he'd never have to actually use it.

"No," he stated quietly. "No, I don't have to accept it. Because I'm done. I won't follow the human race down this road. I won't follow something I know to be wrong." He watched Hammond's face, knew when the other man realized what he was about to do. "You'll have my resignation within the hour." He turned stiffly to leave, a bitter smile taking over his face. "I'm sure Kinsey will throw a party in my honor."

An unnatural hush followed him down the metal stairs, the heavy clank of his boots the only audible sound. Even Daniel had nothing to say after Jack's pronouncement. The bitter expression stayed as he realized that for the first time, he'd shocked the archeologist into silence.

Jack was yanked from his trip down uncomfortable memory lane when they finally caught sight of him at the top of the ramp. Forcing out a sarcastic, "And we're walking," he hid the unease, the hurt, the vulnerability, and kept moving. The shocked expressions on their faces almost started to make up for the lost years. But it was only a drop in a five-gallon bucket that could never be filled. If they succeeded, none of the last ten years would have happened. None of the betrayal, the hurt, the anger, the loneliness, the confusion, the indecision. None of that would have happened and that bucket would simply never be. If they succeeded.

Pausing briefly at the far blast doors, he watched them examine the 'Gate, whispering among themselves. What was he doing here, he could almost hear them ask. Why had he changed his mind? And that was the one question even he was having trouble answering. Why was he there? For the chance to make it all go away, to return things to the way they should have been? Was it because of pride, to rub it in that he'd been right all those years ago? Or was it because of her, of Carter? Was it somewhere, lurking in the back of his mind, that if they did this she wouldn't end up with the suit, that so-slick ambassador? The question lingered as Daniel and Carter pretended to ooh and ah over the 'Gate replica. Maybe he'd even answer himself one day.

It was pathetically easy to get into the briefing room. As he slipped quietly up the stairs to the big table still holding reign in the center of the dusty room, Jack couldn't help the feeling of déjà vu. The last time he'd stepped foot in it was the day he'd handed General Hammond his resignation. He'd left the familiar office and walked right past former teammates, still waiting there, stunned, after his outburst, without a word. Silence surrounded him now as he pulled papers, schematics, zats and a GDO, both of which he'd swiped on his 'tour,' from a backpack he'd stashed before going up the ramp. With the supplies spread out before him, he calmly continued his notes in a thick black marker, patiently waiting for them to join him.

The clatter of two people hurrying up the stairs heralded their arrival. Even though he'd committed himself to being there, to helping them, he couldn't stop the sarcastic words from leaving his mouth. "Hey. Thanks for showing."

"We decided to take the last tour of the day."

Hearing the defensiveness in her voice as Carter made her way around his chair held his tongue better than any rebuke could have. Daniel sank into the seat next to him, strangely silent in his Dick Tracy-like conspicuousness. Jack felt her eyes on him as he refused to look up, staring intently at the pen in his hands. Had he thought they'd just fall back into old habits? That the years would simply melt away in the face a mission?

"So. When did you decide against getting a dog?"

"I'm still thinking about it." Finally, he chanced a quick glance at her, unprepared for the warm smile focused in his direction.

And suddenly the years did melt away, all three falling into their old places as Walter, the former 'Gate technician, swung his leg over the rope barrier to confront them. Jack couldn't stop the warmth from spreading inside his chest as they spun the man a string of partial truths, working as seamlessly as if they'd never been separated.

Watching Walter retreat with a final reminder of, "Thursday," a tiny grin tugged at Jack's mouth. Maybe old habits didn't die as quickly as he'd thought. Whipping back into his seat, Jack felt whole for the first time in years.

They were still SG-1. They had a plan.

And maybe he hadn't lost after all.