Spoilers: Set season 8 but it wanders way off canon.
Disclaimer: Not mine and no money is being made.
Feedback: siggy. Summary: Duty and honour are cold comfort.
If he sat very still, Jack could just see her out of the corner of his eye. Well, he could see her hands. He loved her hands. Long slender fingers with short well kept nails. He was tracing the length of each finger as she gripped the rod. He could almost feel the bump of each knuckle and the little scars from years of tinkering with sharp bits of metal. He kept his eyes straight ahead and on his own float as it bobbed gently in the dark green water.
The late afternoon sun was starting to sink slowly to the tree line but right now it gave everything a golden hue, so that the tips of the leaves and the ripples on the water jumped and sparkled with an iridescence that almost took his breath away. The sky had been an indescribable blue all day, now it was changing to soft greens and pinks. She'd come to him late that morning and she'd stayed, fishing with him in companionable silence.
She'd once told him about how parallel universes brushed by each other like
bolts of gossamer lace; passing so close they almost kissed. He knew she'd been
dumbing it down for his benefit but she'd made it sound so utterly plausible that
he wondered if this was what he was experiencing right now. Of course there
was always the more likely theory was that he was nuts. He didn't much care
either way, just as long as she stayed.
He wondered why she chose to visit him in this place. She'd never been here. He'd tried a dozen times to get her out to his little lake but she'd always gently turned him down. He'd decided to stay here. He wouldn't go back to the Mountain. He had everything he needed. His cabin, the lake and the woods, a store fairly near by and the 9mm in his nightstand for the day his courage ran out.
Jack heard the sound of a car approaching. He knew who it would be. Teal'c had already been to see him. He'd sat with him for a long time while they talked about Sam. He'd told Jack what a fine warrior she had been and how proud he was to have fought at her side. Jack had nodded and agreed with him while all the time wishing he would go away. He couldn't sit there and talk about Sam in the wrong tense.
The slam of a car door echoed across the water. In his peripheral vision he could see slender, denim clad legs stretched out on the wooden dock. He wished Daniel far away but it seemed his wishes weren't a high priority these days.
The sound of Daniel's voice made the woman beside him leave. Jack could smell the faint odour of WD-40 and something else that was just her.
Jack took his gaze from the water and turned to look behind him. Daniel approached still wearing his best suit that he'd no doubt worn to the ceremony. Daniel must have been worried about him. Teal'c had obviously not given him a favourable report.
"Daniel." Jack tried to keep the irritation out of his voice but he didn't succeed too well.
Daniel reached him and stood beside his chair, shuffling his feet and looking lost. He reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a small box.
"General Landry thought you should keep this until Jacob gets here." He held it out.
Jack took the box and opened it. He removed the contents; the small piece of metal felt strangely heavy in his hand. He could feel every little ridge and bump as it rested in his palm. It was there and she was not and Jack hated it. His hand closed around it and he drew back his arm.
He felt Daniel's hand on his shoulder.
"Jacob will want it when he gets the news."
"He'll want his daughter Daniel, not this."
There was a silence until Daniel squeezed his shoulder before letting go. "Yes of course he will. We've heard nothing back from the Tok'ra."
Jack nodded. He opened his fist and looked at the medal. The dull metal seemed to suck in the light from the early evening sun. The blue ribbon with its tiny yellow stars absorbed the heat from his skin.
"Why didn't you come, Jack?"
He turned to look at his old friend. "I'm retired. What the hell was the point? I know what Carter was without all that damn eulogising."
Jack turned back to watch the sun as it began to sink below the trees. "Don't bother. I know Landry asked you to persuade me to come back."
Daniel shoved a hand in his pocket. He gazed at the still water and slapped a mosquito off his neck. "We need you, Jack. Things are pretty bad."
"Things are always bad. Landry's a good man. Me being there won't change anything."
"Sam would want you to do what's right."
He could almost feel Daniel cringing as he said the words. They must want him back very badly for his old friend to start cheerleading for the military.
He wanted to be kind but it wouldn't come. "Sam's dead, Daniel. Don't try using her to appeal to my conscience." Jack looked at him. "Since when did you start recruiting for the Air Force?"
Daniel shrugged. "Oh, I don't know. Maybe since my team disappeared. You know Teal'c has left to fight with the free Jaffa?"
Jack heard a river of pain in his voice.
"I thought he might. Daniel, every man reaches his limit. Carter was mine. I can't go back. I just don't have it in me to care anymore." He couldn't help the anger leaking out of every word.
"Sam died doing her duty. You would have done the same thing in that situation."
Jacks chair tipped back and hit the dock with a clatter as he stood up to face Daniel. "I didn't want her to do her fucking duty. I wanted her to come home."
They stared at each other for a long moment. The light breeze carried the scent of the pines across the water.
Daniel stepped up to Jack and held him tight. " Oh, Christ, Jack. Me too."
He felt Daniel's tears against his neck. No one had touched him since SG-1 had walked back through the gate without their commanding officer. He tried very hard to relax into Daniel's embrace but he felt stiff and awkward. Daniel seemed to realize this and let him go. He moved back to put some space between them. Jack watched as his friend fished about in his trouser pocket to retrieved his handkerchief; he blew his nose noisily.
"This is no way for it to end."
Jack nodded. He had no words with which to comfort his friend. He busied himself putting the medal back in the box and slipped it into his pants pocket. "I'll keep this safe for Jacob."
Daniel understood that he was being dismissed. "Okay." He held out his hand.
Jack took it and gripped it firmly. "I'm sorry Daniel. I'm sorry I'm not being strong, but it's all I can do to fucking breathe right now."
Daniel squeezed his hand in return. "Keep breathing, Jack." Then turned and walked away.
Jack picked up his fallen chair and sat back down. He listened to Daniel's car pull away from the cabin. Leaving him once again in silence.
He looked out across the lake. He would wait for her. He knew she would be back, he'd taught her too well. Sam would never leave a man behind.