Title: The End of All Things
Category: Jack/Daniel, Angst
Word Count: 1700
Summary: An alternate ending for the episode 2010. No note went through the gate; the mission failed.
Notes: Thanks to Denny ( ancientmuse dennydj) for the beta!
Daniel adjusted the suitcase in his hand. It didn't weigh much because it held only a change of clothes and a toothbrush. Everything else he'd left in his prison cell. As the door slammed behind him, he resisted the urge to turn and bang on it, begging to get back in. He waited for the echo to fade before he threw the suitcase against door, shoved his hands in his pockets, and walked away. He really didn't care if he died without brushing his teeth.
Jack met him six blocks out of town. He pulled up beside Daniel in a rusted and noisy pickup truck from another age and pushed open the passenger-side door. "You gonna walk all the way?"
Daniel got in. He slipped the top two buttons of his shirt, adjusted his collar, and sighed. "I wasn't planning on walking anywhere. I was just going to walk until I couldn't walk anymore and then stop."
"Yeah?" Jack put the truck in gear. "Well it's a good thing I came along, then."
"Yeah." Daniel closed his eyes.
When they stopped hours later, Daniel didn't know where they were... or where they were going.
Jack read his mind. "Cabin's about 12 maybe 14 hours away if we drive straight through."
"Good." He used the restroom while Jack got coffee and some snacks.
"Oh, god," Daniel said as he sipped the hot liquid, "this is worth getting out of prison for."
"You've been ruined if you think gas station coffee is worth an orgasm. Damn waste, if you ask me." He sniffed at his cup and grimaced. "Disgusting."
Daniel snapped his fingers. "Hand it over."
Daniel slept again until the coffee went through him and they had to stop. It was the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere. Daniel took five steps from the truck, relieved himself, and staggered back. Jack kept the engine running.
"Do you have an iron bladder?" Daniel asked, leaning in the driver's-side window.
"Nah. I just don't want to leave the truck empty. It's not really safe."
"Yeah." Daniel got into the truck, taking the spot behind the wheel as Jack slid out the other side. He walked five steps, relieved himself, and came back. When Daniel put the truck in gear, Jack leaned his head against the window and slept.
By morning they'd had a burger and fries from some greasy-spoon drive-thru, and Daniel had had four more cups of coffee. Jack just rolled his eyes. They'd switched off, sleeping and driving. Jack didn't ask if they wanted to stop. There was nothing to stop for. By noon, they were only a few hours from the cabin. They'd left Minneapolis, now almost deserted except for Aschen troops, and gone north. The fields were near harvest and spread out in a tapestry of gold and green. They passed wheat, corn, sunflowers, and a multitude of other crops Daniel couldn't identify.
"I came, you know," Jack said.
"Yeah?" Daniel stared longingly into the bottom of an empty Styrofoam cup.
"I was too late."
"Carter... Sam asked if I'd come and it took me too long to make up my mind. By the time I got there, it was all but-"
"Doesn't matter anymore, Jack."
Jack sighed. "I guess not."
Daniel rolled down the window and stuck his head out. His hair, longer now than when Jack first knew him, blew across his face.
"I wonder if it would have made a difference if I'd been 15 minutes earlier."
"Jack. It doesn't matter anymore. Nothing matters anymore."
"It might have mattered to Carter."
"Maybe," Daniel agreed. "But I think she's better off dead than living to see this." He didn't mean the spreading fields covered by the sweep of his hands.
When they pulled up to the cabin, Daniel stayed in his seat. Jack cut the engine and sat beside him. The lake, dotted with reeds by the shore and loons farther out, sparkled under the afternoon sun.
"Does it look different?" Jack asked.
"No," Daniel whispered. "It's just like I remember it."
"Remember? You've only been here twice."
"I remember it," Daniel said.
After a few more minutes, Jack opened his door. "Come on in. I'd ask you to unpack your suitcase and stay awhile, but you don't have a suitcase."
"I threw it away. End of the world, you know."
"End of the world, eh?"
"Looks like it."
And it did. They'd passed maybe a handful of people on the way up here; a quiet gray-haired woman at the gas station, a man flipping burgers at the drive-thru, a truck driver who'd waved and honked, surprised to find someone else on the road. But no crowds, no families, no children. The soil bore fruit; the people did not.
"How'd you know?" Daniel asked.
"About your release?" Jack pulled down two cracked cups from the cupboard as Daniel hovered over a sputtering Mr. Coffee. "I've still got some connections."
Daniel raised an eyebrow.
"He took Sam's death hard?" It was a question but not, and Jack didn't bother to answer it.
"He's... well, 'kept it touch' is overstating it, but he called when he heard you were being let out."
"The ultimate in torture: Make you live forever and then put you in prison. Sam and Teal'c were the lucky ones."
"I suppose." Jack looked at Daniel who was holding his cup under the dripping liquid. He didn't look all that different, really. His hair was longer and graying, but his body was still fit. He had to be over 100. Jack was older still. But he'd lived long enough to see Daniel again, thanks to the damned Aschen miracle drugs.
They sat on the dock into the wee hours of the morning, getting up only to refill their coffee cups or grab some peanut butter and crackers from the cupboards. They'd even shucked their clothes and gone skinny dipping in the dark. Neither of them wanted or needed to sleep.
While Daniel made the last pot of coffee, Jack finished packing. They wouldn't take much; some clothes, food, survival gear. He packed a nine-mil in each of their packs, and put his rifle on the top. Daniel came into the room in time to see the rifle. He stared at it. Then he shifted the packs off the bed and sat down.
"Promise me something," he said.
"If I can." Jack sat beside him.
"If they come to take me, shoot me."
Jack knew he wasn't kidding. "I will. If you'll do the same for me. I don't want us to give the Aschen the satisfaction of taking either one of us alive."
"I will. Do you think they'll come looking for us?"
Jack thought about it. "Maybe, but I don't think so. As long as we stay out of the way, I don't think we're a threat. They could have killed you anytime in the last fifty years and they didn't. They could have killed me and they haven't."
Daniel nodded. "Where do we go?"
"Away from here. I don't think they're out to get us, but I don't want to be a stationary target. We move as long as we can."
"And when we can't?"
Jack shrugged. "Then it's the end of the world."
"Yeah." Daniel leaned back and stretched his out his arms. His feet hung over the side of the bed. "Are we staying here tonight?"
"I'm not sleeping with you for the first time on the hard floor of a cave."
"I've got a few bolt holes. One of them is a cave."
"Any coffee in this cave?"
Jack laughed for the first time in years. "Yeah. I managed to scrounge a few pounds for each location."
"Enough," Jack said vaguely. He leaned back as well, his arm brushing Daniel's.
"I would have kept them," Daniel muttered, "if I'd known."
"My clothes. My toothbrush."
"I packed you some clothes... and a toothbrush."
"Good." Daniel yawned. "So, are we going to sleep together or are we going to 'sleep' together?"
Jack snorted. "What are you up for?"
"Quite a bit, actually. Much to my surprise." He smiled and closed his eyes.
They slept side by side. They woke and made love; they listened to the loons. They gathered the last of their supplies and shouldered their packs.
On a yellowed sheet of paper, Jack scribbled a note and then nailed it to the door. Daniel laughed. "Will that work?" he asked.
"Sure," Jack said. "It's an age-old tradition. I leave the door open, and anyone is welcome to use the cabin as long as they leave it like they found it. Not many people left to use it, though."
They walked down the steps and Daniel stopped. Jack watched him. "I never thought we'd have this," Daniel said. "Not after all these years. I never thought you'd..." His voice faded as his eyes flitted over the cabin, the boat, the lake, anywhere but at Jack. When he finally looked, starting at the scuffed Army boots, working his way to the face, and finally the eyes, he saw not the end of the world but its beginning. "Oh."
"I'm slow, Daniel, and I'm sorry it took me so long, but I'm in this until the end of all things."
They kissed and the world stopped.
"So," Daniel said as they walked a path into the woods that only Jack could see, "just how much coffee do you have hidden?"
"I didn't say?"
"No, you didn't."