They'd chatted for ten minutes, Jack idly turning a warming bottle of beer in his fingers, letting Daniel's voice lull him into relaxing, the way it always did, when Daniel paused, cleared his throat, and Jack jerked alert.

Should've known. He'd read the mission report, after all.

Daniel had made a habit of calling him after he left the SGC and moved to Washington; more often than Jack had expected, to be honest, and at weird times of the day and night. Jack was on office hours now; not quite nine to five, no, but close enough. He slept in a bed every night; wore clean clothes every day; ate food that didn't burn a hole in his gut and hey, no one had shot at him in months. He was wrapped up in normal.

Daniel used to call him in the middle of the night and just start talking, picking up conversations Jack was sure were years old, needling him, nagging him, sometimes boring him. Jack tried to fall back into the routine they'd polished of exchanged insults and put-downs, but the rhythm had been lost somewhere in the move, or maybe he was just tired, and Daniel must have noticed because that sort of call stopped abruptly and for a while the conversations were painfully polite before they cautiously began to work their way back to a place where they could be silent without anxiety, though it was one hell of an expensive silence.

He hadn't been rude to Daniel in way too long.

"Jack --"

"Still here."

"You heard about Colonel Emerson…"

Jack closed his eyes. Yeah. He'd heard.

"Hell of a thing," he said awkwardly. "Good man."

"I used to -- sometimes, you know, I used to think, wish --"


"Wish it was you in charge still, you know? The good old days…"

The painfully obvious quotation marks made Jack wince but he knew what Daniel meant.


"And now I don't."

"You don't?"

"You'd be dead."

"Better men have tried. Uh… who are we talking about here?"


"He's not a better man. He was a nobody." Jack permitted himself a little scorn. Hell, it was Daniel; he could brag a little around him and not have it taken the wrong way. "Now, take Apophis…"

"You would be dead."


"If you'd still been with us, you'd be dead."

"Daniel --"

"No. Let me talk."

"Your dime."

"They came for Sam. You'd have been with her and what would you have done?"

It wasn't hard to answer that one. What did he always do? "Mouthed off, distracted --"

"Exactly. And so did he." Daniel made a huffing sound that wasn't close to laughter. 'Well, I don't suppose he insulted them, that's your tactic, but he put himself between Sam and the enemy."

Damn straight. "So?"

"And they took him with her. They'd have taken you."


"And he ordered her -- Jack, he made it an order. Don't help them. Don't do it."

"Well, he had to, Daniel. You know that." Civilian. It'd been a long time since he'd thought that in connection with Daniel.

"It's what you would have done."

"Really not seeing where you're going here."

"He did everything you would have done. Everything. And he was shot in front of Sam. Gunned down. Bam, bam, dead."

"Daniel, you just stop, okay? Calm down and --"

"I am --"

"No, you're not. You're really not. What the hell is --?"

"We die, Jack. We die and we get tortured and we get…"


He heard a hiss of breath and then Daniel said calmly, "Hey, Jack, how've you been?" and Jack pressed the cool plastic of the phone to his forehead and started to work out how long it would take to shuffle meetings and deadlines and get his ass back where it belonged, for a day or two, at least.

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