Post season finale. Jack and Daniel friendship. Jack POV.
Jack finds the letters again quite by accident one day when he’s moving boxes around in the attic with the full intention of getting rid of all the detritus of his previous life that he no longer needs. Intention is one thing though and action another and as he looks around the attic to take stock of his progress he’s made painfully aware that the “dump pile” is still significantly smaller than the “keep pile”. He grins as he remembers his teasing Daniel about a tendency towards hoarding when Catherine Langford died and left her not inconsiderable collection of artifacts to Daniel. “You’d have a field day teasing me back if you could see this now, Daniel,” he says out loud then urges himself mentally to be a little stricter about what he actually *needs* to keep rather than what he *wants* to keep. But then he opens just one more box before consigning the rest of the clearing out to the next morning or more likely maybe the next week and he finds the letters. They’re wrapped in a neat pile with a heavy rubber band. The pages are yellowed and ever so faintly musty and for a moment he can’t believe he’d forgotten about them but then he reminds himself that he forgets more than he remembers these days. On that note, he decides that rereading them now will be like reading them for the very first time, and his back and knees are aching and he really could use a beer so he picks up the letters and leaves the “to dump pile” and the “to keep pile” and the myriad still to be explored boxes behind for now and makes his way carefully down the steps to the kitchen.
Daniel had started writing letters to him whenever circumstances kept them apart for a long stretch of time. He’d given the first batch to Jack when they’d arrived back on Earth after returning from Chulak, leaving Sha’re and Skaa’ra missing in the vastness of the galaxy. Jack had asked him, with a small grin, why the hell he’d chosen to write letters he couldn’t post to a man he wasn’t even sure of seeing again and Daniel had replied that it had been a way of helping him to stay connected to normalcy. Writing was a big part of his work, had been for years, and writing to Jack had seemed somehow more comforting when he was in the early, unsure days of his life on Abydos than writing in a diary would have been. Jack had known even in those early days of their friendship that Daniel didn’t exactly have a lot of friends or family to keep in touch with. In fact he was pretty much Daniel's first, last and only port of call friendship and family-wise apparently.
Jack sits down at the table after pulling a beer from the fridge. He checks the time and decides he has plenty of time to do a little reading and reminiscing before his company arrives. He removes the band on the first batch of letters and opens the first one, smoothing out the yellow notebook paper. Daniel had told him he’d actually rationed his notebooks and when he inevitably ran out of those he used the blank pages of the books he’d carted across the galaxy with him. When his pens ran out, he made ink from a beet like plant on the planet and fashioned quills from the chicken-like animals the Abydonians raised. That referencing memory made Jack laugh out loud but he pushed the memories of being on Abydos the first time to the back of his mind for now and focused on the letter.
Well, it’s been a couple of days since you and Feretti and the other guys left Abydos and I’m still having a little trouble believing I’m here for good. Don’t get me wrong! There’s nowhere else I want to be but while as an archaeologist I was used to traveling all over the world, I never expected to find myself across the other side of the known galaxy! It’s kind of daunting in a way knowing that this is my life now, that there’s no going back to Earth and my old life even if I wanted to.
The people here have been nothing but kind and welcoming and Sha’re gets more beautiful with every day we’re together. Skaara keeps us all laughing with his antics and the tricks he plays on everyone (especially on me). Kasuf is kind of like the father I never really had. He insists I call him ‘good father’, which is considered a high honor among Abydonians to allow such a liberty to a stranger so you can tell I’m in good hands and finally have the family I always really wanted. Hopefully in the not too distant future Sha’re and I will have children of our own too and that will make me feel as Abydonian as if I’d been born here. Sha’re says if we have a boy we will name him “Jack” because not only did you save her people from slavery but you brought me to her from beyond the stars. Yeah, Jack, I can hear you laughing as you read that.
Anyway, I have no way to send these to you. Pretty sure there’s no intergalactic postal service on Abydos but hey, when I write to you I feel as though my connection with Earth isn’t completely severed and it’s kinda cool for a nerd like me to be writing to a tough guy like you, and feeling like we’re friends. We are, aren’t we?
Sha’re’s calling me. She’s going to teach me to grind flour. I hope they’re not relying on me to keep the village in flour. We’ll all starve at that rate. Gotta go, Jack. You know what they say, “Happy wife, happy life”.
Oh, I found something really cool this morning but I’ll tell you about that next time I write.
Of course once Jack led the first mission back to Abydos they soon found out what the something cool was. Daniel’s discovery that there were possibly hundreds of stargates linked throughout the known galaxy and maybe even beyond had changed both his and Jack’s lives forever. It had also led to Daniel losing both Sha’re and any chance of having those children with her that he’d seemed to want so much. Jack tamps down the guilt he still feels over that. If only they hadn’t gone back to Abydos, if only, if only… He folds the letter up carefully and puts it to one side. His life is made up of too many if onlys and Carter would tell him there’s a reason for that if she was here. All those parallel and alternate universes… He’d been kinda happy to know that at least one of them included him living a life on the seas, as a charter boat captain.
He makes himself a grilled cheese sandwich and grabs a bag of chips and a second beer to accompany it then sits down at the table again and pulls out another letter, at random this time. He opens it up, smooths the pages and reads the opening lines. Ah yes, he remembers this one and the reason for it only too well. It’s the one he both hates and loves to remember.
This is probably the hardest letter I’ve ever written to anyone. Don’t think there’s gonna be any miracle pulling me back from the brink of death this time. And to be honest the pain’s enough even now that I don’t think I want there to be. I’m tired and I want nothing more than to just sleep.
This is a letter to say the things you and I never seem to say to each other. Either there’s never enough time or the time isn’t right or maybe it’s just that you and I aren’t the sort of people who say these kinds of things to each other, at least not out loud.
You’re my best friend, Jack. I think you know that already but what you might not know is how much this friendship of ours, as rough and bumpy as it’s been at times, has changed my life and my world. I’m a different man from the one you met all those years ago when I was just that annoying geek trying to translate that tablet and open the stargate. You’ve let me see wonders I’d never have believed could exist, you’ve saved me and helped me save others from unimaginable evil, you’ve been there for me when I felt I had no one left in the world who cared about me. You’ve been my friend and I just want to say thank you.
The last line is smudged with what Jack thinks are tearstains and he traces the line gently with his finger then takes a hearty swig of his beer and pushes the letter to one side. You were the one who saved me, Daniel, he thinks. Over and over again, when even I’d given up on myself.
He gives himself a firm inward shake and reminds himself that Daniel did come back. Yes, he’d ascended for a time and Jack had missed him fiercely but somehow he’d always known Daniel was still out there just waiting for the right time to come home. “And you did that way too many times, Daniel,” he says out loud. “I’m surprised I didn’t keel over years ago from a heart attack with all the worry you put me through.”
He glances at the clock above the stove and realizes he’s wasted more time than he should have, sitting here reminiscing over the letters. He picks them up and folds them all and puts the rubber band back around them. He takes them into his bedroom and puts them in the top drawer of his bureau next to Charlie’s baseball cap and the last photo of him and Sara and Charlie together. He gives the letters a final pat. He’s got all the time in the world to read them again now, he tells himself, but today he needs to get his skates on if he’s not going to be late. He grins ruefully at that and rolls his eyes as he imagines the bollocking he’ll cop from Carter if he’s even 5 minutes late for this occasion. Truth be told he’s not sure he even wants to go. It’s somehow too final for him. He’s not sure he wants to admit that after all this time it’s really over.
“It’s not really the end, you know.” The voice startles him and he only just pulls his fingers out of the way of the closing drawer when he jumps.
“Thanks, Daniel,” he grouses. “Almost lost a couple of fingers.”
“You must be slipping, Jack. I never used to be able to sneak up on you like that.” Daniel grins and Jack feels unaccountably annoyed that despite his now greying hair and a few extra wrinkles around his eyes, Daniel looks much the same as he has for the past twenty years.
“Yeah, well, just remember, everything you know about sneaking up on people you learned from me, big fella.” Jack grabs his suit from the closet and wiggles his fingers at Daniel. "Go grab yourself a beer while you’re waiting for me. I got sidetracked cleaning out the attic.”
“You know, Sam’s gonna kill us if we’re late for this,” Daniel says.
“Yeah, yeah, I’ll be quick. Hey,” he calls out as he goes into the bathroom and turns on the shower, “when did she start thinking it was okay to start bossing me around. I used to be her boss, the man, the big cheese.”
“'Used to be' being the operative words,” Daniel calls out over the noise of the water. “She’s a Colonel and you’re just a retired General now.”
“Good point,” Jack calls back.
A half hour later they’re in Daniel’s car on their way to the SGC.
“So,” Jack asks, “you ready for this?”
“Retirement?” Daniel replies. “Not really but I figure it’s time. There’s a lot I want to do and see while I’m still physically able and more or less mentally alert.”
“And there’s fishing,” Jack says hopefully.
“Yes, and there’s fishing,” Daniel says with a grin. “Do you like being retired?”
“Beats the hell out of almost being killed 5 days a week,” Jack says. “Or in your case, being killed. Hey, did we ever work out how many times you actually died?”
“Sam did once but I don’t remember now.” Daniel shudders. "I deliberately try not to think about it."
Jack nods. “Yeah, not something I particularly like remembering either. So, what are your plans for your first day of retirement?”
“Well, you’ve practically ordered me to go fishing with you so I’ll start with that.” Daniel hands their IDs to the guard at the gate and they’re waved through. He finds his space and pulls the car in then turns and looks at Jack. “So fishing then a trip to Egypt, couple of dig sites I’ve been invited to look at.”
Jack nods. “Sounds good. Just don’t forget to write, okay?”
“Okay. Thanks, Jack. For everything.”
“Hey, this isn’t the end of anything, you know. It’s just another beginning.”
“I like the sound of that, Jack.”
"Me too, Daniel, me too."