The problem, Jonas Quinn soon discovered, was that he was doing the whole thing backwards. It wasn't his fault, really (except it was his fault, at least part of it, and he was never going to be able to work hard enough or save enough people to—), but he couldn't do anything else.
On Kelowna, they had a certain set of ceremonies that were enacted after a death. As far as he could tell, the rituals here on Earth were more or less the same. He found the similarities in burial structures (tombstones of a type were universal, and somehow that absolutely didn't surprise him) particularly fascinating, and he'd spent some time on them during the endless hours of research that made his days now.
Tombstones. Semantics. Research. He'd always done that when he was upset; hid behind the details, the logistics. It was easier to think about tombstones than to think about the reason for them.
Death. Funny, how he used to think about it in such theoretical terms, like it was an interesting intellectual problem. Not so abstract any more.
See, the thing was, when death happened, it was supposed to go in order. You knew the person, and so you grieved over them when they were gone, and then you learned to remember the good things and move on with your life. That was how it had always worked for Jonas, and it was the process he was beginning to undertake with the memories of his fellow friends and scientists that had died from the radiation.
When Daniel Jackson died, things didn't quite work out that way. Jonas found himself in the weirdly untenable position of doing all his grieving first, and only just beginning to know. And what memories did he have, really? He'd only known Doctor Jackson for three days, and even a photographic memory only gave him so much to work with. He remembered the other man's good humor, his blazing intelligence, the hard, impenetrable look on his face when he shattered through that window and-
Jonas had no idea, no idea at all, which of the parts of Daniel Jackson that he'd seen were the good ones, and which were the bad or the imagined. How could anyone know that, without understanding the situation? And Jonas couldn't begin to explain it well enough to get those answers from anyone who'd known...who knew Daniel. He remembered it all anyway.
And so all of a sudden Jonas woke up to his second full week at the SGC (Ten days, his brain told him at the same time it asked, Where is this?) and rubbed the restless, dream-filled sleep from his eyes, and realized that he was going to have to try. If he was going to be anything here-any use, any help, any kind of person at all—he had to figure out a way to get over this.
No, not get over it. Get through it.
If he was going to spend the rest of his time here under the shadow of Doctor Daniel Jackson, then he needed to know this man that he would never measure up to. To an alien (Literally? Figuratively? Both, he supposed) without any current purpose or goal or mission, the decision was a relief.
So Jonas began his quest to know, in the only way he could think of. He read every mission report on file. And then he asked questions. At first people were hesitant to talk to him, of course. That was to be expected, really—who was he, except the guy that had gotten Doctor Jackson killed?-but eventually people started warming up to him, after they realized that he wanted to listen. This was a ritual unto itself, as time-honored as gravestones and funerals.
Bit by bit, they started to talk: SF's, nurses, majors, scientists, the guys who cleaned the hallways. As they did, Jonas began to see Daniel Jackson the way the SGC had. Everyonewho'd really known him called him Daniel. And they called him other things. Brilliant. Kind. A little spacey. Funny, addicted to caffeine, a workaholic, a dedicated scientist, a decent soldier for someone who started as a geek (that was from the military guys, and he was pretty sure it was a compliment). A pain in the neck, stubborn, willful, hard-headed. A friend. And most of all, very human, in a way few other humans were.
Jonas believed it all, and his own memories were rounded out a little, and put into the context of the man.
It seemed like every other sentence, he heard someone else say, "Doctor Jackson's gone", like they were trying to convince themselves. But that wasn't really true. The more time he spent here, with these people, the more convinced he became that Daniel Jackson wasn't gone at all. Jonas saw him every day, now that he knew what to look for.
Daniel was in Major Carter's lab, of course. There were a couple framed pictures of her and the others, placed on tables and counters, more prominent now that Sam picked them up to stare at them so often. The one that got picked up most (not just by her, but by General Hammond and Teal'c too, which made Jonas wonder what exactly they-) was of Major Carter, Colonel O'Neill, and Doctor Jackson sitting close together on the edge of someone's patio. They were all smiling-something that Jonas had never seen in real life, and so found fascinating—and both of the guys had an arm around Sam's shoulders so their hands framed her face in the middle of the picture. They were all tilted a little to the left, as if they'd lost their balance, and the colonel had his other arm flung out to hold their weight long enough for the photo to get taken.
When he was holding that picture, standing quietly with the major while she worked on something, or talked about whatever experiment she was running, or just tried her best to be friendly to him, Jonas felt Doctor Jackson the scientist in the cadence of Sam's speech, in the choreographed places where she paused and waited for him to contribute. He sparkled in the way Sam still managed to smile at things, and the way she stopped herself from sitting at one particular end of the table, near the door. Daniel was especially present in the way she looked at the colonel, like she was waiting for him to either explode or dissolve into the floor at any second. Her grief was sharp and bright, all edges and spaces and picture frames.
With Teal'c it was more subtle, a kind of feeling more than any physical momento. The easiest way to find Daniel around Teal'c was when he settled into kel'no'reem. Jonas was at ease there with Teal'c in a way he couldn't be anywhere else. The Jaffa simply accepted him for what he was, no shadows or strings attached. There were whole evenings where Jonas just sat in Teal'c's candle-lit room and read, or even tried to meditate, content with the comfortable silence that Teal'c's calm presence allowed him.
It was during these times that Jonas came to recognize Daniel, the philosopher and intellect, in a particular solemn dip of Teal'c's bald head, and felt the weight of his memories in the way he paused to breathe into the stillness sometimes, like the thoughts were escaping into the air. A sadness, deep and present, like the water giving life to planted roots.
DanielJackson. Teal'c always intoned the name without fear. He talked about Daniel often, though never lightly. And whenever he heard the way Teal'c said the name, Jonas recognized it for the honor and memorial it was.
Jonas thought he was beginning to understand, to get a picture of the man who'd died to save his planet. But it wasn't that easy. Because after everyone else, even Sam and Teal'c, after all those stories, there was the colonel.
Colonel O'Neill barely looked at Jonas, never talked to him. Even after he'd been on the base for four weeks, the other man avoided him in hallways and walked out of rooms mid-sentence when Jonas appeared. Jonas thought he understood why—he and Daniel had been close, that much was obvious, and he was the leader of SG-1, responsible and accountable to his own deep sense of team above all else.
That's what he thought, until he realized that every single story he'd heard about Daniel Jackson in the past two weeks had also included Jack O'Neill. There were half-recited pieces of conversations, jokes and laughter that seemed so foreign to the hardened military man that prowled the hallways long after everyone else went home. It was unfathomable that anyone would call him by his first name, even though he remembered Doctor Jackson doing it. The colonel everyone else talked about seemed like a different person entirely than the one Jonas met on Kelowna (except that wasn't true, was it, because there'd been two whole days before-)
And here at last, his own memory provided the details that he needed. He remembered their lightning-fast looks passed over and around his head, like he was barely present. He remembered the weird half-finished conversations consisting of a few words that spoke volumes. The odd use of names ("Jack..." "Daniel?"), the easy sparring. At the time he'd thought, These earthlings are strange, but now he correctly captioned all those little moments with, I didn't understand what it meant to them. How could I?
How could he? Until now. Now that he had the collective memories of an entire base. When Daniel was in over his head, O'Neill was the one that watched his back. When O'Neill and Carter nearly died, Daniel was the one that figured it out and got them home. There was SG-1, and then there was Doctor Jackson and the Colonel. When no one else could fix it or talk it out and the world was about to end, you looked at them, and they were looking at each other because in the end that always worked.
Finally, one late night in the briefing room, Jonas was delivered the rest of the answer in the General's quiet, thoughtful drawl.
"Daniel was the one that opened the Gate, you know, and they both went through on the team. But it was more than that. The Jack O'Neill we read about, he got left on Abydos. Something about that mission with Doctor Jackson changed him. We all thought—well, nevermind, there were orders—but as soon as I saw Jack after he'd come back I thought, 'Look at that, he's back from the dead'. And that was Doctor Jackson straight through. They were the sons of this place. I think as much as they saved us, going through that ring together saved them."
And so the next morning, Jonas finally saw it. When it came to Jack O'Neill, the loss of Daniel Jackson was in the things you didn't see.
The colonel left a space on his right side when he walked down hallways—there was nothing in it, because it was supposed to be Daniel. He didn't talk much in the mess, didn't crack jokes because their intended audience was gone. He didn't look up from the table or comment in briefings because no one held his gaze quite the same or read his thoughts from a couple words. All of the things that had come with Daniel had gone with him, as if they never existed.
Sam was wrong: the colonel wasn't trying to ignore Daniel's death or pretend it didn't happen. Teal'c and the General were wrong too, in a way: he wasn't waiting for Daniel to pop back in the door, like Ascension was a get out of jail free card.
This wasn't the colonel in control or the veteran in denial, at least not most of the time. This was the friend in mourning. He didn't talk about it because he didn't need to—surely the silence of the things now gone was enough. (The memory of Daniel's white-wrapped form on the bed, dark figure sitting hunched over him with head in hands, already mourning—)
Jonas saw Daniel Jackson in the empty spaces the colonel walked through every day, and in the loneliness of his expressions when he realized for the thousandth time that hour that there was only air where his best friend used to be. It was like searching for tears only to discover you'd been looking for them in a rainstorm. Daniel was most present because Jack, for now, was nowhere to be found, and only the colonel seemed to remain.
They'd been friends. They still were, with just one problem—Daniel was dead, and wherever Jack O'Neill turned to look or walk, parts of the world were empty where he expected his best friend to be. A bond like that was something Jonas could only imagine, could only sense in the negatives. It was friendship far beyond the word, into something like family and something like team. It was the strength of SG-1, now diminished by a fourth.
He could determine, now, how much of that Daniel he'd met was the real one. All of him. The thought hit him one Saturday afternoon as the alarm klaxons were ringing and O'Neill ran by him in the hall, Sam and Teal'c close on his heels. The surprise hadn't been that their missing member risked his life to save a planet, a people, a culture, a naïve scientist who liked to read.
The surprise was that this time, out of all the others, Daniel died. And nothing any of them could do, not even his best friend, could bring him back.
Full circle, Jonas thought. Knowing, remembering, grieving, dying, living. And someday, maybe, a moving on for all of them, even Jack. Daniel Jackson might be dead, but as long as his team and Jack O'Neill were here, he couldn't ever be gone.
Author's Note: I'm alive! Shocking, I know-this took much too long to update, and I sincerely apologize. Real life, a novel, and genuine creative struggling with this chapter all got in the way. This is far and away the hardest Best Friends installment I have ever written, and even now I'm not sure it came out as I intended it. A lot of team in here, but I hope enough Jack and Daniel to merit its inclusion in this series. I imagine many of you are surprised that I chose to do this from Jonas' point of view, and with very little actual dialogue with the characters. It's practically impossible to do justice to Daniel, but I felt the best way to try in a shoddy little fanfiction was to get a sense of him as a whole. Your comments and critiques are absolutely welcome, as always. More of these are coming, but timing is difficult, and I make no promises that I will only break anyway. Thanks for your reading-now go watch a happy episode where Daniel is alive! Cheers!