Keeping the Promise

Summary: Sometimes life gets in the way of good intentions. A follow-up to my story 'Promises to Keep'; post Icon

Spoilers: Icon, minors for Nemesis and Stargate, The Movie

Disclaimer: This story is solely for entertainment purposes. No copyright infringements were intended and no money is being made. The characters and situations are the property of Gekko Film Corp., Sci-Fi Channel and MGM Television. They're not mine--more's the pity.

March, 2005

**********

Sam took a quick head count, making sure all of her men were ahead of her, before stepping alongside Daniel and slipping her arm through his as they walked along the tunnel in this underground bunker. She squeezed tightly. "Missed you," she murmured.

Daniel's eyes lit at the warmth in her voice, and shaking off the lingering regret after his conversation with Kane, he placed his free hand over top of where hers rested on his arm, returning the squeeze. He contented himself with the simple gesture, knowing there'd be a hug from his self-appointed sister sometime in the near future. "I missed you guys, too. I'm glad I'm going home. Definitely glad."

He smiled at her, suppressing a small shudder as he recalled his thoughts at being stranded off-world. Though he'd slept through a fair amount of time at the beginning of it, as awareness returned and he took stock of his situation, he hadn't been able to help the feeling of desperation that overtook him. Sitting at that radio day after day, hoping against hope that he'd manage to find that brief window of time when the gate was open and he could make contact with the SGC. Hearing the disbelief in Jack's voice as he finally answered had been sweet music to Daniel's ears.

Not for the first time, Daniel compared his recent 'vacation' to Jack's experience being stranded on Edora several years back. He now had more of an understanding of what Jack had gone through, though the situations hadn't been entirely the same. While Jack had reluctantly given in and begun to embrace the simple lifestyle of the people there, Daniel had held himself apart, believing he was only a visitor among these people. Jack had thought going home was just no longer an option; Daniel, however, firmly believed he'd make it back to earth--it was only a matter of time.

The difference between their views had been Daniel's knowledge that Jack O'Neill was the one looking for him. And Daniel knew, without a doubt, that as long as there was a chance he was still alive, Jack wouldn't allow him to be left behind. Their midnight conversation a few months ago in Daniel's living room had been a reassurance to Daniel during the long nights since that Jack would do whatever it took to bring him back home.

He'd been right.

Sam gave his arm one last squeeze before removing her hand and stepping away slightly as they approached the gate and came to stand next to Teal'c. One of the marines from SG-3 approached the DHD to start dialing home.

Teal'c bowed his head in Daniel's direction. "DanielJackson. You are well?" he asked, his tone clearly indicating that the answer had better be yes or there would be hell to pay.

Daniel smiled again. Damn, but if he just couldn't stop. "I'm fine, Teal'c. I'm good. Really."

"That is good to hear. You have once again been away from us for far too long. It is time to get you back where you belong."

"Amen to that," Sam echoed.

Daniel shifted his weight from foot to foot, watching the symbols on the DHD as they were depressed and one by one lit up. "So, guys...anything happen while I was gone?" He eyed them somewhat anxiously, knowing they knew what he was really asking.

Sam offered him a sympathetic grin. "Oh, you know," she bluffed, "same old, same old."

Daniel grimaced slightly. "That bad, huh?"

Sam's face lost all trace of humor. "Oh, Daniel, you have no idea. The colonel lost it..."

"Ah, crap," Daniel responded, shrugging lightly. "Well, I'll let him hover over me for a..."

"No, you don't understand," Sam said, turning serious and lowering her voice conspiratorially. "I mean he *lost* it. Honest to God, Daniel. In *front* of us... We were in his office, and I was trying to explain why we hadn't been able to make any radio contact, and he just... I don't know how to explain it..."

Daniel waited impatiently for her to finish. "What, Sam?" he prodded.

Sam took a deep breath. "Nothing. It just--you know the colonel. He never lets that kind of emotion show through."

Daniel didn't need any further explanation. He knew exactly what Sam referred to.

Sam watched the emotions displayed on Daniel's face and sought to encourage him. She laid a hand back on his arm. "It wasn't that big a deal," she backtracked, "but he was pretty upset, Daniel. At the time, we weren't even sure if you were still alive."

"O'Neill believed that you had survived, DanielJackson, as our past experience with you has led us to expect such a thing. He did not give up hope, but it is as ColonelCarter has said--he was indeed upset."

Daniel offered up a tight smile. He had hated the thought of what his friends had been going through during his disappearance, having been through the same thing himself after his appendix burst and the rest of SG-1 had been stranded off-world fighting the replicators. In fact, they'd all been through that experience with each other at one time or another, but with the bonds between them as strong as they were, somehow it never got any easier for the ones left behind.

"I think I get the picture, guys," he hastened to reassure them. "Thanks for the heads-up. I'll make sure I tread lightly when I get back. I'm sure I can expect the full-court mother hen treatment for a good long while."

"I believe you are correct. No doubt the general will excel to levels only previously imagined."

Daniel winced, not liking the sound of that. He felt Sam squeeze once more in a silent show of support before removing her hand. The wormhole was open, awaiting only the three of them to follow the others who had already stepped through.

"Don't worry, Daniel. We'll watch your six, just like always."

Daniel snorted good-naturedly before heading up the ramp. "Ah, if only that were enough, Sam…but I appreciate the thought."

****************

Jack stood impatiently at the bottom of the ramp, his anxiousness only betrayed by his habit of rocking back and forth on his heels, his hands stuffed into his pockets. His entire being was focused on the event horizon. Any airmen unfortunate enough to be on duty in the gate room made certain they were at least a good ten feet from where the general stood. Keeping your distance was a well-known matter of survival when he was in a mood such as this.

Teal'c came through and stepped onto the ramp, turning back to the wormhole expectantly.

When Daniel came next, Jack found himself releasing a breath he didn't even know he'd been holding. Seeing the younger man in one piece put his apprehension to rest. He'd been secretly harboring the fear that after finally making contact with Daniel, his archeologist would end up falling during the battle plan he'd so carefully conveyed during his message. It simply would have been typical Jackson luck. Or lack thereof.

He vaguely registered Carter coming through next as the remainder of SG's 3, 6 and 12 pushed by him, but his gaze never left Daniel. "Ah, the good Dr. Jackson, I presume," Jack called out, his tone deliberately nonchalant. "Always a pleasure, Daniel."

Daniel continued on down the ramp, flanked closely by Teal'c and Sam. He came to a stop in front of Jack, and for a brief moment saw something pass over the older man's face. He wondered with some trepidation if he might not be in for another horrifically embarrassing 'spacemonkey' display. That one had taken him months to live down. And he'd hated it. Really. He had.

The moment passed, and before he could figure out if he were disappointed or not, the other man was giving him the once over. He decided to head things off at the pass. "Hey, Jack--nice to see you too. New haircut?"

Jack eyed him suspiciously, but there was a twinkle in his gaze. "Nope, nothing new here. You might think about getting one, though."

Daniel smiled, recognizing the game for what it was. He stood there silently while Jack continued his inspection.

"Looks like you have a few new scars to add to your collection," Jack commented, indicating the fading light pink marks on Daniel's face.

"Yeah, nothing much. Just a few souvenirs from the explosion…" Daniel cringed even as he felt the word slipping from his mouth, desperately wishing he could pull it back.

"Explosion?" Jack echoed, his voice becoming dangerously quiet. "Do tell."

"Yeah, uh…" Daniel made a conscious effort not to squirm. "It was, um, back when they had the bombing raid on the city. Jared Kane and I managed to escape from the bunker where they had the stargate, but we ran into a bit of trouble once we got out into the city. It was no big deal, Jack. Really."

"Uh-huh." Jack answered, skepticism clearly written on his face. "Any other 'souvenirs'?"

Daniel gave a heartfelt sigh. Oh, well, in for a penny, in for a pound, he thought to himself. "Nothing big, Jack. Banged up my arm--a few scratches here and there--my vision even returned within a couple of days--not a big deal, really."

Jack merely raised his eyebrow. Daniel knew that look, knew there would be a long, detailed conversation in his future as Jack extracted every single aspect regarding his recent injuries, but even with the thought of that looming ahead, he couldn't stop the happiness he felt over just being back home.

"Daniel?"

"Jack?"

"Infirmary. Now." Jack's tone was patient, but clearly meant business.

"Jack, I'm fine. It was weeks ago--I'm completely healed," Daniel protested.

"Daniel?"

"Yes, Jack?" Daniel replied, sighing again.

"Induuulge me."

Daniel glared at him, shaking his head. "Psychopathic health monger…" he muttered under his breath as he walked away, keeping his smile to himself.

"Daniel?" Jack called after his retreating friend, his own smile well hidden. "Something you want to share with the rest of the class?"

"No, Jack," Daniel spoke loudly as he walked out the gate room door, waving a hand without turning back. "Nothing the class doesn't already know anyway…"

At that comment, Jack's smile would no longer be denied, and he breathed a sigh of relief at having his wayward archeologist once again home where he belonged. He turned and caught Carter staring at him, an indulgent smile on her face. "What?" he scowled.

Sam schooled her features as she relinquished her weapon to a nearby airmen. "Nothing, sir."

"Uh-huh," Jack said, clearly disbelieving.

"Is it not your intention to accompany DanielJackson to the infirmary and do your customary hovering and pacing while he is being examined, O'Neill?" Teal'c asked benevolently.

Jack turned to glare at him. "I," he stated importantly, "have far too many things to do to have time to baby-sit Daniel during his med-check. Many things. And I'm going to go do them. Right now. This very minute." He turned to make his way back to his office. "Carter?"

"Yes, sir?"

"Have Brightman call me the minute she finishes with him."

Sam stifled a giggle. "Yes sir."

*************

Daniel rubbed the towel briskly over his head before tossing it in the corner of the locker room. He dressed quickly, pulling on his BDU's and black tee, fully expecting company at any moment. Years of sharing a locker room with Jack and Teal'c had curbed his innate sense of modesty, but it hadn't disappeared altogether.

As he sat on the bench to put on his boots, he was surprised at how good it felt to be back in his 'own' clothes. He never would have believed prior to that first mission to Abydos how comfortable he would feel in military dress, but that wasn't the only change over the years. He now felt comfortable, period. There was a time when he hadn't, no matter where he was. It had never been a good thing to be Daniel Jackson. He was an outsider, a stranger in a strange land, from the time he'd come to America. Once he lost his parents, that feeling had only intensified. Except for that brief time with Sha're, it was all he'd known.

Until Jack, Sam and Teal'c had come into his life. They'd done more than become his family--they'd given him a place to belong. A home. Few people could truly understand the value of that simple word unless they had a time in their lives without one. And fewer people still could appreciate it unless they'd been given a second chance. As Daniel had.

He heard the door open behind him and stood, knowing who was coming before even turning around.

Jack came into the room, his hands still shoved deep within his pockets. His gaze ran over the locker room, threat assessment clearly on his mind. "Hey."

"Hey," Daniel answered, eyeing his friend.

Jack's gaze stopped on Daniel's face. "You alone in here?"

"Yep. Brightman sent me down after she released me. That's the first decent shower I've had in weeks."

"No showers in Rand?"

"Baths."

"Aahhh," Jack answered knowingly. "Sweet."

He came forward then, removing his hands from his pockets and wrapping his arms around Daniel, pulling him in for a warm hug. Daniel responded in kind, resting his chin on Jack's shoulder and simply enjoying the feel of the other man's friendship as it washed over him. They stood there in silence for a few moments, each taking and giving and feeling the better for it.

For his part, Jack relished being able to give the tactile side of his personality free reign. He released a slightly ragged breath. "One word, Daniel. One word for you--GPS."

Daniel heard him and did his best to keep quiet. He tried, really, he did. But it was too good an opportunity to pass up. "Um, Jack?"

"Yes?"

"Technically, GPS isn't a word. It's an acronym."

"Daniel."

"Yeah, and see, while I know where you're going with this, technically, it wouldn't work. Because GPS, the acronym, stands for Global Positioning System. Which, therefore, implies that it would only work, you know, *globally*. As in, on earth. It's, uh, it's satellite-based, and I don't think they made it with off-world travel in mind."

"Daniel."

"So, like I said, it's a good idea. But it won't fly."

Jack released him somewhat reluctantly and stepped back, leaving one hand resting on Daniel's bicep. "Be that as it may, I still fully intend to contact Thor and see if there's some sort of Asgard tracking technology that we can have implanted in your body. Surely they have something. Or, lacking that, we can simply put a bell around your neck. Whatever it takes to keep you from getting lost. Again," he added pointedly. He squeezed Daniel's arm before releasing him altogether.

"I didn't do it on purpose, Jack," Daniel said, turning more serious.

"You never do, Daniel," he answered, giving Daniel the benefit of the doubt and of Jack's own selective memory.

"Yeah, I know. But I just wanted to make sure you knew it too..."

"Daniel..."

Daniel kept going, ignoring Jack. He was determined to be heard, to lay this fear of Jack's to rest. "I have every intention of keeping my promise to you. I'm planning to stick around. You know that, right?"

"Daniel."

This time he looked up, noticing the intensity of the older man's gaze.

"I know," Jack reassured him. "Relax, alright? I know you didn't mean to get stuck off-world. Sometimes things just happen--not your fault. I really am okay with this--scout's honor." He held up two fingers in a boy-scout sign.

Daniel studied Jack's features, searching his face for the truth. It was there in the depths of the brown eyes gazing back at him, a knowledge that no matter what had happened in the past, no matter what choices Daniel had made, Jack firmly believed that this time, he was here to stay.

Daniel felt himself relaxing, glad that despite what Sam and Teal'c had warned him, Jack seemed to have a better handle than expected on his recent disappearance. Daniel had once again given him cause for concern, but Jack hadn't given up on him, just as Daniel had believed he wouldn't. This was much more in keeping with the Jack O'Neill that Daniel proudly called his best friend.

"You were so not a scout."

"Was too," Jack insisted.

Daniel sighed in mock exasperation. "It's three fingers, Jack, not two."

Jack let that one slide, allowing Daniel a moment's victory. So he hadn't been a boy scout. Sue him.

Daniel turned back to his locker, pulling out a green shirt and shrugging into it. "Thanks for waiting until we didn't have an audience before...you know."

"Hugging the crap out of you?"

Daniel grinned. "Yeah, that."

"I am capable of some restraint."

Daniel looked at him skeptically. "Oh? So you did learn something new while I was gone."

"Ha, ha. I see your sense of humor hasn't improved much."

"Yeah, wonder who I picked that up from..."

Jack smiled, his eyes twinkling at the thought of how Daniel's personality had become increasingly similar to his own over their many years of friendship. "So, what's next on your agenda, Dr. Jackson?"

Daniel closed his locker and moved to make his way out of the locker room. "Well, first I have this ridiculously long de-briefing with a more than slightly obsessive commanding officer who will no doubt want to know every minute detail of my time away, right down to how many times I changed my socks."

"You had socks?"

"Yes, Jack, I had socks."

Jack opened the door to the locker room, holding it for Daniel to precede him into the hallway. "How about undies?"

"Jack!"

"Well, c'mon Daniel, give it up--did they have boxers or briefs?"

"I am not answering that."

"Ah. Commando then," Jack said knowingly. He waited a moment in silence before pouncing again. "Any chafing?"

"Jack!" Daniel glared at him, torn between outrage and laughter. "Why do I even bother attempting a serious conversation with you?"

"Good question. So, after the briefing, what's up then?"

"I don't know. A ton of paperwork. And we need to make sure that the Rand and Caledonian people get the supplies they need to recover from this--food, blankets, medical supplies--I'll probably need to head back there to lend a hand.

"Hold up there, Daniel." Jack grabbed him by the arm and pulled him off to the side of the corridor. "Before you run off at 90 miles an hour with your hair on fire, keep in mind that you have been stuck off-world for nearly a month. No matter what is going on in that guilty little mind of yours, the war between the Rand Protectorate and the Caledonia Federation was NOT your fault. The whole situation there was a time bomb waiting to happen, and our arrival unfortunately managed to be the proverbial straw. I'm not going to let you wallow in misplaced guilt over this or make plans to head right back into the frying pan. You have done everything you could to right a wrong we never intended to cause in the first place."

"I know," Daniel said quietly, "Kane told me the same thing before I left."

Jack eyed Daniel carefully. "And you believed him?"

"Yeah."

Jack's gaze narrowed.

"Eventually," Daniel hemmed.

"Well...good!" Jack took a deep breath before continuing to walk towards the elevators, Daniel at his side. "Now. It's Friday afternoon. The world is safe, at least for the moment. Another galactic injustice is on the way to being righted. Once the debriefing is done, I think everything here can continue on without us, at least for a few hours. So," Jack's voice became increasingly persuasive, "I was thinking maybe afterwards, we could head over to O'Malley's?"

The very mention of his favorite restaurant stopped Daniel in his tracks. He felt his taste buds kick in at the thought of ordering one of everything on the menu, and knew any argument he made would be a losing one. "O'Malley's?" he asked, trying not to appear overly excited. Well, pathetic might be a better word.

Jack knew from the tone of Daniel's voice that he had him, hook, line and sinker. "1900 hours?"

"Sam and Teal'c will be there?"

"Of course! You know how testy T gets if we leave him behind when there's food involved, and this is just NOT the right time of the month to piss off Carter, if you know what I mean. Reservations are already made. Just waiting on you."

Daniel knew Jack meant more by that simple statement than was obvious on the surface, and he nodded willingly. "Okay," he walked up to the elevator and pressed the down button, "but I need to stop home first--see if any of my fish actually survived."

"Daniel, I'm hurt. Do you actually believe I wouldn't take care of your fish for you while you were gone?"

Something in his tone caused Daniel stare uneasily at his friend. "You were taking care of them?" he asked quietly.

"Of course!"

"Oh, God. You didn't actually even remember until I made that remark about feeding my lorsaki, did you? How many, Jack?"

"Daniel..."

"How many died?"

"Daniel..."

"Jack?"

Jack sighed and squirmed. "Only three. And they were the really ugly ones. Kind of a new record, huh?" he asked, obviously proud of himself. "And you can relax, Dory is doing fine."

"Dory?"

"The blue one."

Daniel shook his head and stepped aside for the airmen exiting the arriving elevator. "You are one strange individual, Jack."

"But you love me anyway," Jack answered, smirking.

Daniel snorted and stepped into the empty car ahead of Jack, pushing the button for the briefing room floor. "If you say so."

"So how strange does that make you?" Jack stepped in beside him.

"Jack?" Daniel asked as the doors began to close.

"Yes, Daniel?"

"It's the company I keep."

~End~