by elfin

Huddled in his leather jacket, dark glasses protecting his sore eyes from the bright early morning sun, Jack stood in his drive and stared at his truck.

The furthest he'd been in the last five days was the bottom of his garden.  The house was pristine.  He'd not seen nor spoken to anyone - he'd had his groceries delivered with instructions for the guy to leave the bags on the doorstep. 

Now the five days of mourning were over and he was expected in a briefing at 0700.  The continuing search for a weapon to use against the Goa'uld, for fuel that would power the secret glider they'd built, for anything the military or government could use to their own advantage.

Daniel had despised it all.  He'd only stayed with the programme because they were his family, because the Stargate was his life.  Now Jack was seeing it all from a different angle and he understood how Daniel had felt.

Finally unlocking and climbing into the truck, he backed out of the driveway onto the road.  But he didn't head out to Cheyenne Mountain.  Instead he drove in to town.

Daniel's apartment was quiet, but in his absence he'd obviously had uninvited guests.  Uninvited by him anyway.

His journals were gone.  Into storage at the SGC, Jack could only hope.  Hammond would have taken care of it, would have made sure.  Because however much it felt like Daniel was dead, they all knew he wasn't. 

Anything that even hinted at the existence of the Stargate was gone.  Even photos of them.

One remained, a snapshot taken at a BBQ at Jack's place almost a year ago.  He and Daniel side by side, beers raised in a 'cheer's gesture.  It was pinned to the fridge door with a pyramid magnet, and Jack removed it, carrying it through to the bedroom.

For a long time he just stood, staring unseeing at the unmade bed, the clothes strewn between the bedroom and the en suite, dropped carelessly.  He looked at the dark polished wardrobe and noticed the trunks stowed away on top of them.  Two old, brown sturdy trunks that he recognised.  When Katherine had first brought Daniel to the SGC he'd had everything he owned - his whole life in those cases.

Jack reached up and grabbed them, dropping them to the bed and opening the catches.  Both were empty.

He dropped the photo from the kitchen into one them before crossing to the drawers and opening the middle one first, then the bottom one, finding the heavy cream-coloured, jumper that had been - that was - Daniel's favourite.  It went into the trunk with the photo.

He checked every drawer then, taking things that were personal.  A small photo album the military hadn't cared about, full of faded memories.  A neatly tied bundle of Christmas cards.  Jack recognised the one on top - he'd given it to Daniel the first Christmas after his return from Abydos, sitting in his lounge next to an open fire surrounded by sweet things to eat, half-empty glasses of eggnog and a whole raft of presents.

Jack found other items in the lounge - gifts he knew had been from Carter, Teal'c, Hammond and Daniel's other friends and colleagues.  He took books that looked old and rare, checking every one and packing all with personal inscriptions.

It took him over an hour to fill both cases.

Finished, he closed them and put them next to the door.

Then he returned to the lounge and squatted down in front of the fish tank.  The fish all came to the glass, starving, Jack guessed, and he opened the door of the cabinet on which the tank was sitting.  Finding the food, he sprinkled some flakes over the surface of the water and watched as they were consumed in seconds.


He turned, almost losing his balance in the crouch and rising to his feet, heart pounding.  There was no one behind him.  No one in sight.  He took two steps forward and checked the front door that was still closed.  The bedroom and bathroom were both empty.  There was no one in the apartment with him.  Yet... he'd heard his own name spoken close to his ear.

Hadn't he?

"Daniel?"  He asked the impossible in a voice filled with self-doubt.  There was no answer but he knew there wouldn't be.  Daniel was... gone.  Out there, somewhere, doing what he felt he needed to do. 

Like he hadn't given the universe enough of himself already.  He was making the difference he apparently needed to make.

Shaking his head, Jack returned to the tank, pulling out a small pile of booklets from the cabinet.  Dropping his ass to the expensive rug on the floor, he leafed through the booklets until he found the one he was looking for - 'Care of your fish'.  He read it, cover to cover, in half an hour.

Then he looked again until he came across the specifics of Daniel's tank.

Taking both booklets with him, Jack looked around once more before grabbing the cases and leaving, making sure he locked the door behind him.

Jack's next stop was the aquatic centre.  Once he'd flashed his American Express Gold card and declared he didn't much care about the cost, the salesman had answered every one of his questions and happily sold him everything he needed to know to start up a tropical tank's environment. 

Jack bought a tank that matched the specs of Daniel's but was a couple of feet longer.  He was advised on the best fish to buy in order to ensure the water was safe for the other fish he was looking to transfer in, and the salesman even explained about seeding the new tank with water from the established tank.

Jack thanked him, assured him he would be back and headed home with a truck full of fish tank and accessories.

There were five messages on his machine when he got in and he deleted them all without listening to them. 

He put the tank and all the stuff in the lounge, put Daniel's cases into the spare room and then went out to the garage, retrieved his toolbox from the top shelf and his handgun from the locked box he'd kept it in since Charlie. 

Loading it with ammo from a box in the kitchen, Jack checked the safety and left it on the table next to the front door, which he locked and bolted.

Then he put on a pot of coffee and started to rearrange his furniture in order to give him somewhere to put the seven-foot tank.

The first three interruptions were his phone ringing and finally he unplugged it at the socket, deleting the new messages. 

Half an hour later, there was a knock at his door. 

It wasn't unexpected and Jack straightened, admiring his own handiwork with the black wood cabinet on which the tank would stand.  He dropped the screwdriver and wiping his face on his sleeve, he went through to the hall and took up the gun he'd left there.

Peering out through the spy-hole he had a small fish-eye view of two SFs standing on his doorstep.  Smiling to himself, he opened the door.

"Hi."  He backed up the greeting with a smile that didn't come close to his eyes.

"General Hammond sent us, Sir," the first one managed, jumping into a salute and looking straight past Jack at nothing at all.

Jack waited.

"We have instructions to escort you back to the mountain, Sir."

Of course they did.  Jack had a moment of deja-vu, suddenly remembering the last time, what, where, and who it had led to.  The grief was as painful at that moment as it had been the day Daniel had died.  Ascended. 

But Jack was out of tears for the time being at least.

He brought his right arm around from behind the door, tapping the barrel of the gun against the wood, clearly making his point.

"Tell General Hammond I'm resigning, as of now.  If anyone asks, I won't tell, he can trust me on that.  He knows he can."

The SF nodded, and to Jack's surprise they saluted again before leaving.  They seemed more than happy to be out of there.

He closed, locked and bolted the door and took his gun with him into the lounge, leaving it on the coffee table within easy reach.

Pouring himself a mug of lukewarm coffee, he went back to the task at hand.