Time didn't exactly fly by. When he couldn't deal with counting the years because years took so damned long to get through, he broke it down to months. Sixty months. They went a little faster. Two hundred and sixty weeks. Faster still. One thousand, seven hundred, and twenty-six days. Well, they passed pretty damned quickly but there were one fuck of a lot of them. Forty-one thousand, four hundred and twenty-four hours. Two million, four hundred and eighty-five thousand, four hundred and forty minutes. One hundred and forty-nine million, one hundred and twenty-six thousand, four hundred seconds. Whoops, cross off another one! But that was getting silly.
Mostly, he worked in days.
On day three, he told Carter. Reminded her of Orlan.
"But Daniel chose this, sir. He chose to ascend. " She blew her nose and glared at him over the edge of the tissue. "Why would he chose to come back?"
"Because I asked him to."
She stared at him for a long moment, brow furrowed, then that brain the size of planet kicked in and she connected the dots. Her eyes widened. After a moment, she smiled and said, "When?"
"Not for a while."
Not point in having them both obsessed with the myriad ways five years could be forced to pass more quickly.
Teal'c took one look at his face and nodded, a three day old tension leaving the set of his shoulders. No words -- no numbers -- necessary.
On day eight, Hammond assigned Jonas Quinn to SG-1. Carter and Teal'c together dragged him aside to remind him of how he'd said they'd judge their new teammate on his own merits. That Daniel wasn't being replaced because Daniel couldn't be replaced.
"All right, on his own merits, Jonas Quinn is a lying coward and he dresses funny!"
"Plus, he's already betrayed his own people -- and the fact that his own people are megalomanical shit-bags is irrelevant here -- so what makes anyone believe he won't betray us?"
"It has been said that a man who will cheat on his wife will also cheat on his mistress."
He looked at Carter and together they turned to looked at Teal'c.
Under pressure from the Pentagon, Hammond refused to budge.
Cassie had the best response. She folded her arms, looked thoughtful for a moment, then said, "I think Sam should start dating him." Janet was appalled but he took *their* daughter out and bought her the very expensive leather jacket she'd been lusting after.
On day ten, Jonas Quinn suited up with the team.
He opened his mouth to tell the weasel what he thought about this, felt a breeze touch the back of his neck, and closed his mouth again. Yeah, that time it could have been the ventilation system but maybe it wasn't…
He comforted himself by knowing there was no way the smarmy son of a bitch could last.
On day forty-nine, Daniel had to drop in and save their collective asses.
And again on day seventy-seven.
And again on day one hundred and twelve although this time the ass in question was specifically his…
"So, how's the little white cloud biz?"
"It's… interesting. Took me a while to get the hang of it but I think I've got it now. How's…" Still a brilliant, heat rending smile for all it was just in his head. "…things."
"Well, considering what you just pulled me out of, I'd say interesting pretty much covers it. The SGC's not the same without you though. We had to hire four linguists, two archeologist and a cultural anthropologist to replace you. Washington wants to know why you didn't tell anyone you'd perfected the thirty-two hour day. And we all miss you. Carter's playing all by herself in the genius sandbox, Teal'c keeps trying to discuss the philosophy of power with me, god help us both, and I…" He hesitated for half a heart-beat, then shrugged and said it, no bullshit in the way. "I just miss you. A lot."
The familiar three vertical lines between the eyes. "Jack, I'm doing some amazing things…"
"I know. Jacob told us about Shazam."
"Shamash. Babylonian sun god."
"Whatever." He rubbed at his left knee, the one that had taken the brunt of the fall, glad that he hadn't taken the pain into this -- whatever the hell it was; hallucination? -- with him. "That wasn't an attempt to guilt you, Daniel. I just wanted you to know how I felt."
It was but before the words could sting he was back in his body again and his knee hurt like fuck and then it didn't because he was enveloped in glowing white… Daniel.
And that was enough to get him through a couple hundred more days.
Quinn lasted twenty-two missions then was reassigned. The man sucked at first contact.
Days passed. Sg-1 went out into the field with a variety of civilian consultants, a few military doctorates, and on one never to be forgotten occasion a career diplomat. He tried to shout less and explain more but they still didn't stay long. Carter took out the diplomat before he got the chance.
On day nine hundred and ten, Janet held a high school graduation party for Cassie. Cassie's extended family, some of her friends from school, one hell of a lot of food -- they were all out in the yard having a good time and suddenly, between one "remember when" and the next, massive thunderheads rolled in and the first few quarter sized drops of rain splashed down.
But before anyone actually got wet, the rain stopped, the clouds cleared, and the sun came out. For an instant the light spilling down from a brilliant sky seemed to touch Cassie specifically, gilding her hair, her face, her smile. A few tears. She spread her arms and softly said, "Thank you, Daniel."
He was the only one close enough to hear. And spent the next few days feeling irrationally jealous.
On day one thousand, four hundred and sixty-one, four years down and one to go, he had one of his black nights. When hope wasn't enough and he didn't think he was going to make it.
He'd just got himself wrapped all nice and warm in self-pity when Carter and Teal'c showed up, took him out, got him drunk, and reminded him that he wasn't waiting all by himself. He could have done without the Karaoke bar but, damn, it was good to have friends.
On day one thousand six hundred and six, SG-1 got caught in the crossfire between two System Lords too intent on destroying each other to even notice a small group of Tauri who'd wandered in where they shouldn't. It took them three days but they fought their way out over the kind of crap terrain that gave crap a bad name.
His knees got him home. But only just.
On day one thousand six hundred and twelve, he was officially grounded.
Not even four months to go but he needed the gate, just in case, so he didn't retire. Took the desk. Knew Hammond wanted to retire, knew he'd pissed off way to many people to get the promotion, crossed his fingers and kept waiting.
Carter made Lieutenant Colonel and took command of SG-1. Washington wanted to make it permanent, she insisted on temporary. Teal'c made noises about heading off to help the Tok'ra but didn't.
On day one thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six, he carried two cups of coffee up to the rooftop deck, set one down on the small table, cupped the other between both hands as he sat and watched the stars.
It felt like someone had driven steel spikes through his knees and he had a pretty good understanding of why Janet had expressly forbidden him to climb those stairs. Tough. It was just past dusk and he didn't expect anything to happen until almost midnight but this was where he'd started waiting and this was where he'd finish it.
One way or another, he wouldn't be waiting tomorrow.
The sky darkened. Stars appeared. The pain in his knees dulled to the familiar ache. The second cup of coffee cooled.
He stretched out his legs, crossed them at the ankles, and watched the stars. There were three things in the whole goddamned universe he was absolutely sure of.
And if it turned out that Daniel wasn't as sure of him, he'd spent some of that time waiting memorizing gate addresses, deciding what to pack, and planning the best way to get off world. Jacob had turned out to be remarkably sympathetic although he wasn't sure he liked that whole "Danny" thing the man had going. He also had a feeling Carter's "temporary" and Teal'c's "heading off the help the Tok'ra" was part of the plan.
He didn't even notice when the little white cloud showed up. One minute, he was alone on the deck, the next there it was. He set his empty mug aside, got slowly to his feet, and tried to sound like his whole life wasn't hanging in the balance when he said, "Well?"
It pulsed there for a moment or two, as though it was studying him, and then the world went away in a blinding flash of light.
When he could see again, his knees didn't hurt, the mug of coffee on the table was steaming, and Daniel was standing less than an arm's length away. He was still a little sparkly around the edges, and he couldn't seem to decide on how long he wanted his hair, but it was Daniel. Not an image stuffed into his head. Not a feeling. Not a memory.
He took the first breath he could actually remember taking in five years as he reached out a hand and touched warm, living skin. He had the weirdest fucking thought of the Grinch's heart growing three sizes, had the strangest pain in his chest, and then he slid the hand on Daniel's cheek around to the back of his neck -- the hair had settled in at very short -- and bent to capture his mouth.
He'd waited one thousand, seven hundred and twenty-six days for that kiss and he knew there was no way it could live up to his expectations.
So it surpassed them instead.
When oxygen deprivation finally forced them apart, he asked, not because he didn't know but because he had to hear the answer, "Are you sure?"
"Yes." Blue eyes gleamed. "Because I am exactly selfish enough to think that you and me being together is more important than anything I can do out there alone.
"Love has to count for something, Jack."
He couldn't stop smiling. His face was starting to hurt.
Daniel scooped up the mug, took a long swallow of coffee, and grinned at him almost shyly over the rim. "What are you thinking?"
That this is the first day of the rest of my life. That loves counts for everything.
"That we should call Carter and Teal'c."
Daniel's smile suddenly wasn't shy at all. "Tomorrow."
Tomorrow. Day one thousand, seven… no.
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