TITLE: Telling Catherine
AUTHOR: Matt Nov 05 - Jan 06
SUMMARY: Jack O'Neill visits Catherine Langford after returning from the first Abydos mission (Stargate: the movie.
DISCLAIMER: Characters are property of MGM et al, but they never wrote this.
NOTE: The first line is taken from the movie when Daniel remains on the alien planet. However, in Torment of Tantalus, Catherine is not surprised to discover that Daniel is alive. She is surprised to find he's back on Earth. It got me to thinking about why she might have reacted to that piece of news instead of the being alive thing. Out of that was born this.
THANKS: As always to Allie, and also Rodney this time around. Both came up with some great ideas.
"Tell Catherine, this brought me luck."
And because of that request, Jack O'Neill found himself standing on Doctor Langford's doorstep. He almost hoped she wasn't home. She wasn't too fond of the military, not that he could blame her. During Jack's time off-world, General West had ensured every last civilian was removed from the Stargate Project - including Catherine Langford. Scuttlebutt said she'd not gone easy; after all, the artifact was technically hers. Her father had been the one who discovered it in Egypt.
The door opened, and a gray-haired woman looked out at him. "Oh, it's you," she said, her disdain for him obvious. "What do you want?"
Jack stuck his hands in his pockets and glanced down briefly at his shoes before looking back at her. He was thankful he wasn't in uniform, but he'd put that away and hopefully for good. "May I come in?"
For a moment, Jack wasn't sure that she wouldn't slam the door in his face. But then she took a step back and ushered him inside. He waited for her to close the door and then followed her down a short hallway and into her living room. "Tea or coffee?" she asked, gesturing him to take a seat on the couch.
He shook his head. He didn't plan on imposing any more than he had to. "I've come to tell you about the mission."
Doctor Langford's eyes rolled. "Please, Colonel, there's no need. I got a brief report from General West. 'Mission parameters met,' he wrote, whatever that means. And he reported one civilian casualty."
Jack nodded. He knew it was possible she might have been told of the mission's outcome, although he'd considered it unlikely. "It means…" He paused. "You don't have the whole story."
"I'm a civilian, Colonel O'Neill," she reminded him scathingly. "I'm not allowed to have the 'whole story.'"
She was right, however unfair her statement might be. But he had to tell her, tell her the real story of what happened on Abydos. Otherwise she'd never accept Daniel's message. How could the medallion have brought him luck if he was as dead as the official report stated he was?
But first, he had to get himself on equal footing with the imposing woman seated opposite him. "I'm retired," he stated.
"Call me Jack. I retired as soon as I came back."
"But why? Not that it's any of my business, of course."
He wanted to bite out that it wasn't any of her business, that she hadn't earned the right to pry into his life, but he resisted. Catherine Langford thrived on research; asking questions was her specialty. Instead, he shrugged. "It was coming."
"Well, I'm sorry to hear that, Jack." She smiled for the first time. "But if you've retired, then how is it you're here? Shouldn't the military have sent someone else?"
Jack nodded. "Yes, ma'am, except they don't know I'm here."
Her eyebrows rose and she looked at him inquisitively.
"They don't know what I'm about to tell you," he said. "And hopefully they never will."
"You've got my interest," she said.
He took a deep breath and dropped his bomb. "Daniel Jackson's not dead."
The reaction was immediate. Doctor Langford's jaw dropped. "I beg your pardon?"
"Daniel's alive and well and living on Abydos."
"The report said…"
Jack nodded. "I know what it said. It's what my team and I decided to say in the debrief." He paused and looked down at the carpet. What he had to say next, well, he wasn't proud of it. "The original mission involved blowing up Abydos. Daniel was only supposed to get the rest of the team home. I was to stay behind and blow up the gate from the other side."
The woman paled. "A suicide mission?"
He nodded. "I was picked because of where I was in my life. I'd been deactivated due to… some stuff."
She nodded, but did not pry. A fact for which he was thankful.
"But when we realized there was a whole race of people there…" He shook his head. He couldn't recall exactly when he'd decided to shut down the bomb. Possibly his subconscious had made the decision when Ska'ara had sought him out and begun to emulate him.
"You couldn't do it," she said gently.
It was bad enough that Charlie was dead; he didn't think he could have lived knowing another kid's death had been by his hands.
"There was a ruler there, called himself Ra."
"As in the Egyptian sun god?"
Jack wasn't familiar with Egyptian mythology, except for what he'd gleaned from the archeologist on the mission. But it sure had been sunny on that desert planet. "Yeah."
"From what Daniel said, it sounds like the guy had kidnapped a load of people from Earth and brought them to this planet as slaves."
"Alien beings? On Earth?"
Yeah, she was probably thinking he was a fruitcake. "Look, I know it sounds improbable…"
"No, no," she interrupted him excitedly. "You don't understand. This is what Doctor Jackson believed, that the Egyptians didn't build the pyramids… that aliens did."
"You're kidding, right?" Now it was his turn to perform the jaw dropping act.
She shook her head. "Unfortunately, many of his peers didn't accept his theories. The day I met him, he was lecturing to a room that grew increasingly empty by the moment." She looked distant for a moment. "I was the last one left. He'd been kicked out of his apartment for not paying his rent and he had everything he owned in just a few cases. It was the saddest thing I ever saw." She smiled brightly. "At least he's had his theories validated."
"And then some."
"So, what happened?"
"We persuaded the locals to rise up and rebel, and we blew up Ra on his ship. The report we gave stated we blew up Ra, we just didn't state where. General West thinks we blew up the planet and the gate with it. He thinks Daniel stayed behind to activate the bomb."
"So, if he's not dead, why did he not come back with you?"
Jack laughed and ignored the strange look he received. "He got himself a wife."
"The local chief saw the amulet around Daniel's neck and presumed he was someone important. So, he presented his daughter to him as a gift."
"And he accepted?" she asked, aghast at the notion.
"He didn't know what he was getting at first," Jack replied with a smile. "But once he realized, ah, he was pretty well smitten."
"Well, I never," she exclaimed.
"I know. He figured he had nothing going for him, so he stayed. I told him to bury the gate at their end so Earth wouldn't be able to check up on our story."
"You didn't decide to stay with him?"
Jack shook his head. Had he felt as he did before the mission, he might have opted to make a life for himself on the planet, but there had been Sara. Somewhere on the mission he'd decided to make a concentrated effort on his marriage, only to come back and find out it was too late.
"Had a wife," he murmured.
"We're, ah, separated."
"Recent, I take it?"
He nodded, unwilling to say more.
Doctor Langford stood up, surprising him. "When was the last time you had a home-cooked meal?"
"If you've not noticed, Jack, it's late. I'm about to cook dinner, and I think there's enough for two. Would you do me the honour of joining me?"
Well, this was something he'd not expected. "Uh, sure."
"Good. You can come with me to the kitchen and help me." She strode out of the room, living a dumbfounded retired colonel to follow after her.
Dinner proved to be a turning point in their time together. As they chopped vegetables, Jack told Catherine of the food they'd had to eat, and how Daniel had offered up a chocolate bar as a way of greeting the village elder. As they ate, he told her how Daniel had been adamant on resurrecting Shau're after she'd been shot by the alien warrior.
Finally, they discussed the future of the Stargate project. Both were clueless on how it would proceed, or if it even would.
"I have a friend in Washington," Catherine confided. "She can't tell me much, but she and a team have been looking at the possibility that the Stargate goes to more than one place."
"It depends on the funding, but so far she doesn't think it's likely."
"So, no more traveling among the stars," Jack said with regret. "Guess it's back to dreaming with a telescope."
"You enjoy astronomy?"
"When I have the opportunity."
"It's a worthwhile endeavour. You're a lucky man, Jack O'Neill. I'd have given anything to go with you."
She shook her head. "It's not your fault. You were under orders; I realise that."
"No, Jack. I understand. We can't control the way the universe works, especially now we know we're not alone in it," she added with a smile.
The evening drew to a close. Reluctantly, Jack had to head back to his empty house. As he put his hand into his jacket pocket, he touched something solid and drew it out.
"My amulet?" Catherine asked, seeing it in his palm.
"Yeah. Daniel said to tell you it brought him luck." He pressed it into the woman's hand.
"I guess it did." She nodded. "Somehow, I don't think we've heard the last of Daniel Jackson. What do you think?"
Jack chuckled. "Wouldn't surprise me in the slightest."