"So, that's it, huh?" Jack looked rather disappointed.

"That's it." Daniel watched the street signs pass. He'd never really paid attention to the sheer quantity of useless advertisements and propaganda that crowded the already-packed streets. Must be one of the effects of going off-world, he thought.

"All's well that ends. Well . . . " he smirked at his lame joke, "here we are." He pulled to the curb and looked up at the apartment complex. "You kids have fun."

"I don't know that I'd consider Kel'Noreem fun. But it's relaxing." Daniel had his hand on the door handle, ready to open the door, and was going to open the door. Had full intention of opening the door.

Jack was apparently ready for him to. "Problem?"

Daniel's head tilted in thought. "Jack. . . why you?" Inquiring blue eyes met Jack's. "Why was it that when I was trapped and, honestly, thought I was going to die. . .again. . . why did I think of you? Why did you come to me and not Teal'c, or Sam, or even Sha're?"

"Or Oma?"

"If Oma had shown, then I would know I was in serious trouble." His smile flashed.

Jack actually thought about it. And shook his head. "Honestly? I have no earthly idea. Or otherwordly, for that matter. But. . . I meant what I said." Jack picked at the steering wheel. "I'm glad it was me." He looked up briefly as he offered a sincere, if self-conscious, smile.

Daniel lowered his head as an unexplainable emotion took hold. He let it flow over him without too much thought. "Yeah, me too." He looked up and clapped Jack on the shoulder. "Teal'c's driving me home. Should be able to drive in another week, I hate you guys having to tote me around. But I appreciate it."

"Well, you know. It's that whole friend thing." Jack put the truck in gear, keeping his foot on the brake. "Now get outta here before we have an angry Murray on our ass."

"Thought Teal'c gave up that name?"

"Out!"

"Yeah, okay." Daniel slid out of the truck, and gave Jack a smile as he closed the door. He watched as his friend drove off, with a wave in the rearview mirror and a honk of the horn.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Teal'c was busily setting candles around the room as Daniel slowly opened the door. "Helloo?"

"Welcome, Daniel Jackson." Teal'c beamed and grasped his friend's arm in greeting. "You rode here with O'Neill."

"Yeah, I'm gonna get spoiled, you guys taking me everywhere. Who needs a car?" Daniel watched as the large man carefully and meticulously placed candles around the room.

"Did you talk to General Hammond about the Tekani?"

"Yeah, I did." Daniel shifted, casually putting his good hand in the back pocket of his jeans. "He seems to think I did the right thing."

"It was a difficult situation. I concur with his decision, and yours. And I am relieved to be rid of that planet."

"Really." Daniel frowned, studying Teal'c through his lenses.

"I prefer to keep you in one piece, Daniel Jackson. The Tekani did not. Therefore I have no use for them."

It was such an absurdly dedicated statement. "I, uh. . . thank you." Daniel nodded, his lips pressed together as he continued to watch. "Can I help?"

"You may prepare our refreshment in the kitchen area, if your arm will allow it."

"Oh, I think I can manage that." There was something about Teal'c's demeanor that was offsetting him. He seemed well enough, but. . . heavy. Like something was weighing him down. His request for companionship during this session was as much of a plea as the Jaffa allowed himself to express. Daniel wasn't worried, but he was damned curious.

Twenty minutes later, the snacks were prepared, for both men always came out of an extended session drained and needing to eat. The candles were lit, and both were sitting still, eyes closed in assiduous concentration.

Teal'c seemed calm. But Daniel's face was tense.

He could feel the beams trapping him. He could feel each struggle for breath, and he absorbed his panic. He allowed himself to relive his fear and accept it, as Teal'c had taught him, so he could let go. No more worries. Take things as they come. One day he would die, and it would be real, and final, and that was okay. But as long as possible, he was going to continue to do his job.

Teal'c felt his own pain. His own grief. His own realization that he had nearly lost his friend, again, and that there was no comfort from the finality of death. There was no god to pledge his allegiance to, no serenity in belief, no real master to command him. Therefore, he would command himself. If Daniel's ascension taught him one thing, it was that while his own world of possibilities had been demolished, he was free to pursue new ones, new avenues of thought. There was much more out there than even he, in all his years, never experienced. There was cause for hope. And that hope came in the form of his friend, who had shattered his old world, and admittedly replaced it with one much more fascinating. He had been released, as had his friend.

xxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Jack pulled up to his house and turned off the ignition, and just sat. He allowed his thoughts to drift. He could just see the back deck from his driveway, and remembered Daniel's comment that night, and the once he'd made earlier that evening. He hadn't allowed himself to express his deepest thought, not to Daniel, not to himself. But deep inside, he was touched. More than touched. He was warmed by Daniel's apparent need for him. Over the years they had seen more trouble and cause for pain that anyone should be allowed to see. And yet, they still talked. Trusted. Confided. And it was evident that when times were desperate, he was Daniel's salvation. Jack O'Neill. He was the one Daniel turned to when Oma whisked him away. And he was the one he turned to now, even after his tenure as an enlightened being, which made Jack wonder just how enlightened he really was. He grabbed his Mexican take-out and headed inside. Too much thinking. Bask in the glow.

Sam was still confined to the base. She was reading the report for a third time, annoyed as hell that she didn't get to help, but relieved that all had worked out in the end. And inside, in that little place she hated to acknowledge, she knew they had done it without her help. Without her science, her theories, her designs to save the situation. And while it was annoying, to say the least, in a sense it was an uplifting thought. She had never allowed herself to think they could get along without her, her very nature was to fix things, whether it was work-related or messing with a relationship. She felt responsible. The sobering realization that she wasn't, came almost as a relief.

Hammond stared at his drink. He was feeling the burden of command all too easily these days. He missed fishing. He missed his artwork, being able to take the time to draw, and not worry so much, all the time, about what was going to happen. The red folder lay open on his desk. His eyes drifted over the paper before him, and he nodded. It was time. Time for a change, one that would lead to his retirement.

And freedom.