He had never wanted to do it, but at the end of the day who else was there to ask?
Jack couldn't fault Hammond's logic. There was no way that he could argue with the sense that it made that the remaining members of SG-1 should be the people to clear out Daniel's apartment. After all, who knew what Daniel had squirrelled away there over the months since his return from Abydos? And who else was close enough to take responsibility for a man who had, as far as anyone knew, no family?
But that didn't make stepping into the other man's apartment any easier to deal with.
The lock stuck slightly, as Jack turned the key, the reluctance an echo of Jack's own hesitation. Finally the door opened.
An empty apartment.
Somehow Jack felt that he would turn around and Daniel would be there, smiling that half-smile of his, offering coffee, like last time he had visited.
As long as he didn't look round, could he keep that thought, that hope, alive?
No. Jack knew it to be a lie. Daniel had died on another planet, wrapped in flames and calling out to him, and yet...
This is wrong, Jack thought. We should just shut this place up, like one of those tombs Daniel was so fond of, leave everything just as he left it.
Could he walk away? Turn and order Sam and Teal'c to leave, shut the door on the place that was the only thing that held Daniel so firmly in the present, preserving all that was left of the other man on this planet?
Jack shook his head, knowing he had a job to do, much as he might loathe it. In some ways, this was worse than the act of telling a loved one of their loss, something he was all too familiar with. This felt more like desecration.
His eyes roamed across the mantelpiece, recognising some of the things that lay there, intrigued by others. Sometimes it seemed as if they bred in the silence of the anthropologist's apartment, multiplying in secret while he was away.
How else could it be explained?
Daniel had only been back on the planet for a few months, and what little he had taken to Abydos the first time around had stayed there when he returned.
Jack found himself there on Abydos once more, seeing the lost expression in Daniel's eyes and the determination too. Even as he had made his later promise to help him, a promise he would move heaven and earth to keep were it in his power, Jack had seen that Daniel would never give up. That tenacity would come to serve him well as the months passed.
He could hear Carter and Teal'c's careful footsteps, but Jack was lost once more. Mesmerised, he reached out to touch the photo frame, his fingers brushing the wood, as he stared at the face of a Daniel he had never known. This one was smiling, perched precariously on the back of a camel, the pyramids clearly delineated behind him.
This other man, this other Daniel, had been full of life, some remnant of which remained, to be rekindled by a woman he had barely known, on a planet half a galaxy away. That fire had been almost quenched by the ridicule his peers had heaped upon him, but somehow the embers had survived it all.
Jack picked up the photo frame, looking intently at the face of the Daniel portrayed there.
Sorry, Daniel, he thought. I made the wrong decision when I persuaded Hammond to let you be part of things. How could I know? All I could see was that you needed to be involved... That I needed you to be...
Carefully, Jack replaced the picture on the mantelpiece and was about to turn away. Something white caught his eye, his name a dark scrawl on the front of an envelope.
Something cold twisted inside him.
Jack knew what it was, without a second thought. He had never expected to find it here, amongst the chaotic life that was the archaeologist's apartment.
He had done it himself, taken the time to put the words he had always planned to say on paper before the missions from which he had never expected to return. The final time, when he had left for the mission to Abydos, had been the first for which that ritual had not been enacted.
Because he had no intention of returning.
And because I wasn't sure that Sara cared to hear those words any more... Jack admitted to himself.
He glanced round, to discover that he was unobserved. Carter was over by the bookcase, her hands moving slowly over the collection of journals that Daniel had amassed, her fingers reverent. Teal'c was nearby, his eyes intent on the captain's movements.
Why me? Jack thought, as he picked up the envelope.
His eyes fell on the photo once more, the grinning face of Daniel Jackson seeming to mock him.
Jack folded up the unopened envelope and shoved it into his pocket.
Not today, he thought. Some time soon, Daniel, but not today...
~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
The front door slammed hard enough to make the windows rattle.
From where it had been lying, on the kitchen counter, the piece of paper floated to the floor, joining the screwed-up envelope there.
Even as the spilled beer soaked into the paper, it took a few moments before the words were obscured, the ink spreading to make the words illegible.
This isn't the way I wanted to do this, Jack. I hoped to have time to tell you myself, but I guess that isn't the way it worked out...
~ The End ~
Disclaimer : Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is written for entertainment purposes only - no money whatsoever has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. The original characters, situations, and story-line are the property of the author - not to be archived elsewhere without permission.