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Title: Colony Atlantis
Author name: Icarus
Author email: icarus_ancalion@yahoo.com
Count:
Category: Slash
Sub Category: Angst
Rating: R
Pairing: Jack/Daniel
Summary: This is what happens when Weir begins to build her vision of a utopia.
DISCLAIMER: The characters and universe contained in this story are Copyright MGM, Showtime, Gekko, Double Secret. No infringement on their copyright is implied. Copyright ©2006 All rights reserved. This story may not be reproduced in whole or part without the author's explicit permission. Ask, guys. I'm easy to reach and usually quite generous.
Author notes: Thank you to Grey Bard, Stellahobbit, and Lerah99 for their generous time spent beta reviewing, making suggestions and helping me with this story. I've never had a story go through such radical changes, and I listened to you all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~


Colony Atlantis
By Icarus

Once the Wraith were beaten back, Atlantis was open for colonization. That is, for people who had the clearance to know the Stargate even existed. Which, fortunately or unfortunately, she wasn't sure, severely limited the possible colonists.

Dr. Elizabeth Weir looked up from her first draft of the Atlantis Constitution. Stained glass windows poured colored light into her office.

The various Earth governments had seen fit to make her the governor of this colony. They, apparently, had decided she was someone who was impartial enough to represent the interests of Earth and Atlantis, instead of just the United States. It was quite the compliment, considering. She had the complete backing of the U.N. and Atlantis was called a territory of Earth.

Elizabeth stared down at the sheaf of papers in front of her. She understood now how the framers of the Constitution must have felt, that pull towards social engineering, hoping to create a utopia through her words alone. She knew it was impossible, that in reality she was only creating her own idea of utopia. But it was the only frame of reference she had. With one stroke of the pen she hoped to do away with many injustices she'd seen on Earth and on other worlds.

Elizabeth smiled. She also had to think of the present, and build in reasons for people from the SGC to want to come here and live, rather than just do research and return.

Luckily, sometimes those two aims intersected. Alongside provisions that would make a scientist weep with joy, she happily obliterated the legal basis in Atlantis for Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

~*~*~

"General," Jack smiled, offering him a beer. General Hammond demurred with a gesture, settling his hat on his lap. "You sure?"

" I'm fine, thank you."

Jack bounced onto the couch and popped off the lid of his beer, sending the cap flying across the room. The weather was nippy but Jack had built up the fire earlier, and the embers still carried a nice warm glow.

"So what's up?" Jack asked. "I didn't even know you were in the neighborhood."

General Hammond took a hesitant breath. "This isn't a social call, Jack. Much as I'd prefer that it were." He leaned forward and toyed with the hat between his hands. "I don't know how to tell you this, but I suppose it's best I just get right to the point."

Jack cocked his head warily.

"Jack… several nights ago in Washington I was intercepted at a restaurant. I thought the gentleman was a reporter or a lobbyist and sent him on his way. But when I arrived home, I found a video tape in my doggie bag."

"And I bet your dog doesn't even like that movie," Jack joked.

But Hammond didn't laugh. "I imagine not." He took a deep breath. "There was a message on my answering machine that suggested I watch that tape. I brought it for you, if you'd like to see it." He extracted a VHS cassette from the chair next to him. Jack had been wondering about the tape since Hammond arrived and had kept an eye on it.

"The contents of that video tape are disturbing, to say the least."

Jack nodded for him to continue, eyes narrowed as he took a sip of beer.

"It's clear to me that this video recording could easily be bogus. Certainly the technology exists to create such a thing."

Jack cut to the chase. "What's on the tape, George?"

George finally met his eyes. "It appears to show you and Dr. Jackson in a… rather intimate situation."

Jack paused. Then continued to sip his beer.

"Quite intimate."

"N.I.D.?" Jack asked casually.

George nodded. "Most likely. They've tried these sorts of tactics before." He shifted uncomfortably. "Now, if someone were to ask me, I would tell them that this sort of documentation could be faked. Those could be actors for all we know." The fire snapped in the silence.

"But…" Jack prompted. He could hear the 'but' hanging in the air.

"This would be pretty elaborate, even for the N.I.D." Hammond shook his head. "These days they're a shadow of what they once were, strapped for funding and facing an unprecedented amount of governmental oversight. I doubt they have the resources to expend, especially on something that's so easily dismissed."

"Could it be that 'Firm,' or 'Trust' or whatever our new problem is called?"

"It's possible," the General acknowledged. "But it just doesn't… smell like them."

"No," Jack agreed.

"It's too personal and, might I say, petty."

Jack snorted. "Yes. You might say it. It's the N.I.D. for sure."

A log shifted in the fireplace and Jack wondered if he should get the poker out. He thoughtfully drank his beer instead. General Hammond folded and stared down at his hands. Those watery blue eyes glanced up.

"You haven't denied it, Jack," Hammond said gently.

Jack swallowed.

He tried to lie, but the words just stuck in his craw. He couldn't do that to General Hammond. They'd started out with Hammond catching him in a lie about Abydos, and Jack didn't want to go there again.

"I'm a God-fearing man, Jack," he continued in that soft, concerned, but firm voice.

At that moment, with a jolt, Jack knew that his career was on the line. George Hammond was a Christian with a capital 'C' and he wasn't the type who'd go to church every Sunday if he didn't mean it.

~*~*~

The next day, Jack broke it off with Daniel.

"We've gotta cut it out," he said cryptically in Daniel's office.

Daniel didn't ask what he meant. "Okay," he replied breezily, brushing Jack away from a pile of dusty ceramic tiles that Jack was trying to reassemble like a puzzle (messing up careful hours of work). "Whatever you say, Jack."

This wasn't the first time Jack had broken off their relationship. In fact, it wasn't even the thousandth. Early on, Daniel had fought and argued with Jack every time he did this. But Jack could hold out in a verbal siege a long time.

Eventually, Daniel had learned that just accepting Jack's nonsensical decisions shortened their "breaks," as Daniel termed them ("Breaks" as linguistically distinct from "break-up," which they weren't, by virtue of the plural. A "break-up" was singular and therefore permanent. Elizabeth Taylor hadn't married the same man three times: she'd taken three breaks in a continuous relationship). When Daniel was patient, he found he didn't constantly fight Jack, and therefore didn't give Jack ongoing reminders of traits that Jack didn't particularly like. As a result, said "breaks" lasted weeks instead of months.

It wasn't always Jack who broke it off, though it was always about Jack's career.

The make-up sex was invariably sordid and spectacular, what one might expect if the world was about to end. So, perversely, Daniel found he'd started to look forward to whenever Jack broke it off with him; a little smile would start that always made Jack look away in an effort not to laugh.

But the best part was later, when Jack would wrap his arms around Daniel in vise-like grip, his forehead pressed to the back of Daniel's shoulder. And Daniel would know Jack was his, murmuring, "I'm not going anywhere."

"Stop me from being stupid next time, will ya?"

"I can't stop you from being stupid." Then they'd both chuckle.

Daniel knew that what they had was good. It was good for Jack, which meant it was good for the team, which meant it was good for the SGC, which-in logical progression-meant that it was good for the whole galaxy. Even Thor thought Daniel was "conducive to O'Neill's well-being." And he was right. When they were together, Jack was lively and playful. The burden of command didn't seem to weigh on him as heavily, Daniel didn't know why.

As for Daniel… well, he was happier, sure, but empirical evidence showed he gained weight when he was with Jack, was less tired, drank less coffee (though mostly from Jack pulling it out of his hands) and yet, somehow, got just as much accomplished. Which made no sense at all because Jack was a constant buzzing distraction. It was good, and it was typical that an advanced civilization like the Asgard might see that, while their own backward government could not.

But Daniel knew to let these arguments stay in his own head. Jack had to come around in his own time, and in his own way.

"We need to talk. Later," Jack said, and Daniel nodded. Heartfelt discussions were part of the routine.

Over a steak at Shaunessy's, Jack began in a tense if almost bright tone of voice. "Hammond paid me a visit."

And then all of the sudden it wasn't routine anymore.

~*~*~

General Hammond continued. "Now I'm not one of those who think that they have the right to pass judgement on other people. That's God's responsibility, not mine, and I for one am glad of that. It seems a rather heavy burden."

Between one breath and the next Jack thought that only George Hammond would have empathy for God. He waited for the other shoe to drop.

"But Jack, do you know why the N.I.D. had to go to the extreme of threatening my granddaughters to blackmail me several years back?" George asked. He spread his empty hands. "It was because they had nothing else."

"As the commanding officer of the SGC you have to be beyond reproach. Or else you put the entire Stargate program at risk by your actions. Are you prepared to do that?"

~*~*~

Returning to Daniel's house, Jack stepped inside to explain. "We just have to stop. No pussyfooting around this time."

Daniel looked up at him, the hall lamp illuminating his face. "I realize that, but think, Jack. How good is our track record on that?"

"Great." Jack folded his arms and shrugged, leaning back against the door. "When you were Ascended."

"Actually, uh, not on my end." Daniel scuffed his feet and looked at the hall rug. Jack gave him a quizzical glance.

"Well, I don't remember much, but I vaguely recall that I spent a lot of time hanging around you." Daniel coughed. "I think if I could have used my powers to pull a sliver out of your hand, I would have."

Jack let his head fall back against the door. "We are so screwed."

~*~*~

The Atlantis Stargate engaged with a roar. Dr. Weir's IDC code was recognized and the gate lowered.

"She's back," Rodney grinned. He trailed Sheppard as they trampled down the stairs to greet her after the big U.N. meeting. She stepped through the gate smiling, which was a very good sign.

"So?" Sheppard prompted, as eager as a puppy. "How'd it go?"

"There were some eyebrows raised…." she said.

"I'll bet."

"And a lot of revisions."

"Of course," Sheppard bobbed his head with an air of 'come on, hurry it up' impatience.

She stopped and clasped her hands together, all but bouncing in place. "We have a Constitution."

Sheppard's mouth fell open. Then, a slow, lop-sided smile spread across his face as he nodded. "Well, I'd say that calls for a party."

"I'd say it calls for a yearly holiday," Weir corrected.

Rodney pressed forward. "Did you include all the ideas I gave you? The footnotes I think were particularly insightful…."

"They were very helpful and… extensive," she said, meeting Sheppard's glance over the top of Rodney's head.

Rodney stared off into the distance, eyes suddenly vague and dazzled. "I helped write a Constitution. In addition to all my other accomplishments."

"Of course you did," Sheppard said.

"I'll be memorialized forever." Rodney broke his reverie. "Do we all get to sign with quill pens? I've been practicing."

~*~*~

Daniel's gaze was intense. Or more so than usual. "I have a solution, but… it's not ideal."

Jack rubbed the bridge of his nose. "The whole situation's 'not ideal,' Daniel."

Daniel sat down on the arm of the couch, folding his arms and balancing there. He chewed his lower lip, then said in a rush, "Let me go to Atlantis."

He shut his eyes, knowing the reaction.

"No." Jack didn't even miss a beat.

Daniel opened his mouth but Jack cut him off. "We need you here."

"No, you need me here. But need me to not be here even more than you need me to be here."

Jack frowned at him before spreading his arms. "In what universe does that even make sense?"

~*~*~

In retrospect, Elizabeth should have been less surprised that among the first wave of applications for Atlantean residency, under 'J' was the highly qualified Dr. Daniel Jackson, Ph. D.

She signed and stamped that one right away, before he escaped or General O'Neill found out. She braced herself for a fight with the SGC even as she inwardly crowed over their coup. This was exactly the sort of thing she'd been hoping for.

~*~*~

"Jack," Daniel raised his hands in a quelling gesture. "You can follow me when you're ready."

"No." Jack's tone was flat and dead certain.

"I've already filled out the application."

"You what?" Jack paced. "You son of a bitch! You can't even wait till Carter makes General?!"

"What?"

"So I can hand over the SGC to Carter!" Jack repeated.

"Is that what you've been waiting for?"

"Yes!" Jack glowered at Daniel, inches from his face. "I suck at this. Or haven't you noticed?"

Daniel said into the kiss, his lips and breath moving against Jack's, "Yeah, you kinda do."

~*~*~

Jack bowed his head. Of the all the ways to be caught out, this gentle talk from George Hammond was not what he'd expected. Yet it was somehow worse than even his worst-case scenarios-more than one of which had featured him being shot.

"General… off the record?" Jack said at last.

"This is all off the record," George assured him.

"What if it's something… what if it's not a matter of willingness, and more a matter of, say, ability? You want to, and you've tried. A lot. But you just can't."

"I don't believe that's true, Jack. Or else I wouldn't be here."

"I know you don't."

"You have a choice. Your lifestyle is a matter of personal choice. It's as simple as that."

Jack swung the beer bottle between his fingertips, unable to look George in the eye. Finally he said, "Would you be disappointed in me if I couldn't?"

"You were my first pick for this job. I'm certain you have it in you." George sighed. "But Lord knows, I can't make you do what you don't want to do, Jack. I've learned that on many an occasion over the years. If you honestly believe that you can't, then, if I were you, I would resign."

~*~*~

Half-awake in Daniel's bed, it dawned on Jack that he hadn't even held out for an hour. Damn it!

Jack sat up. He'd talked to the General only, what? A day ago?

They'd fallen asleep with the lights still on. Daniel was sprawled naked half under the sheets, his head slumped to the side. He stirred, soft eyelashes fluttering. "Jack…."

That sleepy voice awoke warm places in Jack that he barely even knew existed when Daniel wasn't around.

Daniel gave a low grunt as he leaned up on an elbow, the motion groggy and uncertain. He sniffed a little, squinting as he always did when he was waking up. His eyes looked very bright without his glasses. "Jack. Have you thought… maybe Sam doesn't need your help?"

Jack wondered if that was taking the coward's way out.

~*~*~

Then Elizabeth got to 'O' for "O'Neill, Brig. General J.," and stopped.

The name on the form was "Jonathan" but the alternate name was listed as "Jack." There were a lot of skipped questions and parts were illegible. Still, it didn't matter; she'd recognize that scrawl anywhere. She had the general's Bon Voyage note framed in her office.

Wondering what this meant, she signed it, and radioed Sheppard. "John." She heard him grunt in response, obviously busy. "I'd like you to give the grand tour for the next batch of immigrants."

"Can't someone else do that? I really don't have time to mess with a bunch of guests." He said the word like it meant "cockroaches."

"Oh, I think you'll want to do this one," she smiled, and debated whether she should warn him or let him be as shocked as she'd been.

~*~*~

The Stargate whooshed to life. John Sheppard hovered on the edge of the platform, nervously shifting between standing at ease to swinging his arms, looking for all the world like an eager schoolboy.

The general staggered through, a simple Air Force dufflebag slung over his shoulder. His white head turned as he glanced back at the wormhole almost accusingly.

"It didn't feel any different," he said in a tone of amazement.

Dr. Jackson emerged beside him, carrying way too much stuff. Four or five straps criss-crossed his shoulders in addition to the laptop and a suitcase in his hand.

"It was a whole galaxy. Shouldn't it have felt different?"

"Huh?" Dr. Jackson said. He dropped his bags almost immediately to tie his shoelaces. "You went to the galaxy of Aida when we met the Asgard." He glanced up at the general and squinted. "You tell me."

"I don't remember that," the general admitted. He waved to John then, seeming way more relaxed than John had ever seen him. Of course, the fact that he was in BDUs instead of a full dress uniform inspecting a base probably helped. "Hey! You must be the welcoming committee. Sheppard, right?"

"I am, sir," John grinned, rocking back on his heels. Until he remembered his manners. "Can I help you with your bag?"

"Nah." He gave John that familiar tight smile as he hoisted the dufflebag a little higher. "But I think we need a full train of pack mules for Daniel here."

"I got it, I got it…." Dr. Jackson waved him off as he stood. "Oh hey, the klaxon's different."

"Yeah, I noticed that." The general frowned around at the gateroom. "Isn't it kinda dark around here?"

"Well, it's still early Atlantis time. We dim them at night to-" John began.

All the lights abruptly brightened. Startled technicians sat up in their chairs, clicking readouts to see what had gone wrong.

"Ah," the general blinked and stood straighter. "That's better. Thank you."

John stared at him in confusion. He hadn't done anything.

"So." The general clapped his hands together. "I hear you've got an ocean. Where's the beach?"

~*~*~

John had never met anyone who had an ATA gene as strong as his own. Watching the general walk through Atlantis, waking things up that usually only responded to him… well, it was a little like having your dog suddenly happily play with a stranger. On the one hand it was nice, but on the other hand, you felt like Hey…that's my dog. Though it was pretty funny watching him jump at ordinary things.

"Last stop," John announced, opening the door to the general's spacious one-bedroom suite.

It had a larger than average living room, a little kitchen and extra den. Plus, there was a balcony off the bedroom with a perfect view of the water. John considered it a good choice. Boxes of the general's stuff were already lined up against one wall and the general started picking things up and putting them down at random. A wall panel lit at his touch. He blinked, startled, and it quickly shut off again.

"One of the best rooms in the house," John said, adding, "if you don't mind a bit of a walk to the transporters."

Dr. Jackson dumped his bags with a tired sigh and sagged against the door.

General O'Neill watched interestedly, his eyes alight, as John revealed and explained the holographic climate control panels. He didn't seem nervous about this part. Of course, they'd remind any pilot of a heads-up display.

"Huh," he said. "Can you play video games with these?"

"Well no, though-" At that moment another, bluer hologram dropped down from the ceiling and the lights dimmed. The numbers were in Ancient, but the targets were fairly clear. John forgot his earlier jealousy because, hey, video game! "Cool!"

"I've got the blue… things…" the general said, pulling up a box. John grabbed the other one.

Dr. Jackson looked between them helplessly. "I'll be, uh… never mind." He popped open the bathroom door and disappeared.

As John proceeded to totally kick the general's ass, O'Neill leaned over and asked, "Can we get beer out of this thing?"

"I tried that." John pursed his lips, turning his head as he took out two more of the general's blue blobs. "It didn't work."

The general nodded sagely. "It's never a perfect world."

~*~*~

By the time John had completely slaughtered the general at this new game, he'd worked up the nerve to ask the sixty-four thousand dollar question. Dr. Jackson was opening boxes and unpacking dishes carefully wrapped in newspaper. John stared at the newsprint, evidence of a faraway world. They had email newsletters but no newspapers here.

"So. What brings you to Atlantis?" John said it lightly, but the entire original expedition team was puzzled. They had a million theories, ranging from General O'Neill taking over the base command (Rodney's very disturbing idea), to his looking for a place to retire and surf (Carson's thought, though it was a little hard to imagine the general surfing).

"I confess no one was surprised that Dr. Jackson wanted to come, but there's been a little curiosity about what you're, ah, looking to do in the Pegasus galaxy."

"Oh. I dunno…" General O'Neill said, letting out a breath as he leaned his elbows on his knees. "I thought I'd just… have a look around. See what's out here."

His head jerked up, attention caught by something across the room. "You said there are windows in the bedroom?" He didn't wait for an answer but made a beeline for them.

John stared after him, bemused, and wondered if the general himself knew what he was doing here. He stuffed his hands in his pockets, thinking out loud, "He's gonna seriously get in my hair, isn't he?"

Dr. Jackson wrinkled his nose and nodded, "Yeah. I'd count on it."

John reached for one of Dr. Jackson's bags. "Can I help you find your quarters? They've gotta be on the chart somewhere."

Dr. Jackson squinted at him with a too-piercing look. "Um." He licked his lips. "These are my quarters, actually."

He didn't take his steady eyes off John's face.

John knew it was rude, but nothing could scrape his jaw off the floor. It just kept hanging open every time he tried to shut it. "A general?!"

O'Neill returned, wind-blown and enthusiastic. "Daniel, there's a helluva view out there!"

His eyes shifted quickly from Daniel to John and back again. His shoulders drooped. "You told him."

"What am I supposed to be, a secret?" Dr. Jackson said a little testily.

O'Neill ran a hand over his face in a frustrated gesture. "It's no one's business."

"Um," and John was proud of the fact he had finally managed to close his mouth, "I've gotta tell you that if this is supposed to be private…" John was at a loss for words. "Atlantis is a big place, but it is an island."

"It's all right," O'Neill waved off his warning, though he looked very far from all right. He rubbed his eyes. "I've been in the military a long time, Sheppard. It'll be all over the place in a day."

"Try an hour." John arched his eyebrows. "This is Atlantis, sir. It's like a small town-only smaller."

~*~*~

General O'Neill and Dr. Jackson successfully made their way to the mess hall, something that John made everyone do on their own, sort of as a little test. If they didn't show up for lunch, he knew they needed a refresher on the transporter system.

They looked… quaint, actually, staring around like tourists as they slowly found the trays and joined the chow line. The general actually sniffed one of the desserts and John heard a distant "what the hell is that?" as Dr. Jackson rolled his eyes in patient embarrassment. Jackson hovered protectively over General O'Neill, and John wondered briefly who was top and who was bottom.

He abruptly wiped that thought from his mind. He so didn't want to go there. It was weird being military in Atlantis after Weir had instituted her policy. There were a surprisingly high percentage of gay Marines. John had expected more Navy guys, to tell the truth, given their reputation.

The general spotted John and steered towards his table. Apparently the argument had continued the entire way. "Jack, it's another planet. Didn't you think they'd have different food?"

"No…" General O'Neill said petulantly. Though John noticed he'd picked the dessert in question, which was a good sign. Some people left because of the food.

"So, how's it going your first day?" John asked, waving to Rodney whose tray was already overloaded.

"Strange," O'Neill replied with blunt honesty. "Very strange. Glowing steps. Weird… food," he seemed reluctant to use the term. He leaned over the table and said in a stage whisper, "And everyone keeps looking at us."

Dr. Jackson sighed elaborately. "They're not looking at us for any particular reason, Jack, except maybe that we're new. That kind of paranoia is just a normal psychological reaction to-"

"Ooo, gay general! Who knew?" Rodney plunked his tray next to General O'Neill's and was already eating as he sat. "I bet the Air Force is really pissed at you."

John stared at him, open-mouthed. At the general's cold glare he spread his hands and mouthed: I didn't--!

Dr. Jackson blinked rapidly and finished his sentence. "-of course, I could be wrong…."

Rodney stopped chewing for a moment, catching John's impatient look. "Oh, it's okay, Colonel. The general and I go way back to the good ol' days at the SGC, eh?" He grinned.

"Rodney," General O'Neill growled. And he did seem to know McKay. "You know, I forgot you were here." He said it like this would be a good reason to go back to Earth.

Then it hit John. If people knew about the general and Dr. Jackson, they couldn't go back. He was floored by the gamble the two had taken. Suddenly it didn't seem so far-fetched that the crotchety old general and this over-eager academic had been two of the first through the Stargate, back when they weren't even sure the thing worked.

They were insane. They didn't even know if they liked it here.

"Does this mean that Colonel Carter is available?" Rodney was saying. "Because I always got the sense that she had the hots for, ah, you know…." He gestured meaningfully with his spoon at the general.

"She's married. And not to you." The general took a bite of his dessert.

"Ah well, I'll just wait for the inevitable divorce then." Rodney leaned on the table and stared off wistfully into the distance. "I bet she's a hellcat."

Weir found their table and was positively beaming.

"Hello, and welcome to Atlantis!" She settled her tray next to John's. "I heard about you two. That's wonderful news, exactly what I wanted for Atlantis: freedoms not found anywhere else," she breathed.

Uh-oh, John thought. Here we go….

"The Althosians don't make any distinction in their wedding customs. It's a beautiful ceremony. I've already officiated at several."

Her smile broadened. John had been learning over the last month how she loved to 'stick it to the man' with dramatic public gestures.

Barely audible, the general mumbled, "This is not happening…."

Dr. Jackson cringed in his direction and said, "We, uh, were planning to be a little more… low-key."

"A lot more low-key." The general glowered at them.

Carson found their table. "I heard the good news. I think it's lovely," he said with soft eyes and that even softer Scottish burr. "Much better than surfing."

Dr. Jackson gave him a funny look, and John quickly explained, "We, uh, had a bet on why the general here was coming to Atlantis."

"Oh."

"Who won?" the general asked them, digging into his lunch.

"Um, no one actually. You caught us pretty much by surprise."

Zelenka slipped into the seat beside Dr. Jackson and briefly introduced himself. "Dr. Jackson, we are so glad you have come. We have number of translations that are beyond hopeless." He turned to the general. "And you have this ATA gene, yes?"

Rodney looked up from his plate. "No he doesn't-oh. Wait. He does!" His eyes widened and glazed over with the possibilities. "I forgot, he defended Earth from the chair in Antarctica!"

Zelenka nodded briskly, stabbing into his vegetables. "Before you are becoming too busy we have many, many needs for you. After lunch, my lab, yes? Rodney will show you where."

"I don't have time to play tour guide," Rodney complained.

"You eat and you talk. It is inefficient. I will finish before you."

"Yes, but-"

"You are going there anyway!"

Rodney caved, tipping his head. "True."

"Now see," General O'Neill pointed at Zelenka, "this guy I like."

"Trust me, General," Weir said with an expansive smile. "We can keep you very busy in Atlantis." She included Dr. Jackson in her gaze. "Both of you."

~*~*~

"Jumper three, coming in for a landing," Sheppard radioed.

Jack piloted it through the skylight, coasting to a gentle stop into the nearest jumper bay. With the inertial dampers they barely felt a thing. Which was disappointing; Jack missed the Gs of an F-14.

"Well," Sheppard said with a raised eyebrow, "that was almost as if you'd flown one before."

"Almost as if," Jack said in an arch tone. He decided not to mention the one they found in their galaxy, because Sheppard seemed a little… perturbed. Jack gave the machine a playful bump forward, something a rookie might do by mistake, but Sheppard looked at him with suspicious eyes and wasn't buying it.

They gathered up their gear and shut the jumper doors behind them. Sheppard turned around and walked backwards a few steps. "By the way, I need your report from M36-703. And the last two planets before that, if you don't mind."

Ah, sweet revenge. Jack observed casually, almost as an afterthought, "I outrank you. By a lot." He kept walking.

"Yes, sir. And I report to Weir, and since you're temporarily assigned to my team…it's my ass." Sheppard shrugged. "You did say you wanted to get a feel for the situation out here." His eyes sparkled, completely unapologetic. "Have you tried doing them right when you get back? It's like pulling off a bandaid."

Jack grunted at him. Paperwork was the universal constant. He wished he'd thought to bring Walter.

Of course, M36-703 was the time he'd joked to some natives (grass skirts, grass huts, some things were the same everywhere) that his hair was white because of the Wraith. Okay, these people were way more serious than the folks in his own galaxy. Worse even than the most stone-faced Jaffa. Sheppard had pulled him aside and explained politely, "There are certain things we don't joke about in the Pegasus galaxy." Jack had narrowed his eyes at them and felt depressed.

He'd liked the Goa'uld. There was something satisfying about an enemy you could laugh at.

They passed the stairs to Weir's office and Sheppard peeled off with a friendly wave, taking them two at a time to join the senior staff meeting. Jack twitched. Though why he'd want to go to a meeting of all things… he hated meetings. He forced himself to keep going, down the alien halls and past the busy strangers in non-SGC uniforms, with way more civilian staff than he'd ever seen at Cheyenne mountain.

He skipped his office. And Sheppard's report. What he needed was a shower.

~*~*~

Jack had the windows open, which always made Daniel complain since it blew his papers all over. But the air was fresh and clean, and the crash of the waves below made this Atlantis place feel a little bit more real.

Puddlejumpers were cool, he decided. And going through the stargate, yeah, he'd missed that. A lot. It just hadn't been the same behind a desk. Sheppard had probably guessed that "checking out the neighborhood" was really just an excuse to get out there. Though he was getting too old for missions, that's for sure, one reason he'd taken on commanding the SGC in the first….

Jack squeezed the windowsill and stopped that thought. Some things didn't bear thinking about.

"Whatcha doin'?" Daniel came up behind him, sliding his hand around to cup Jack's hip.

"Freezing my ass off," Jack answered, his arms still folded. He didn't move to close the windows, and neither did Daniel.

"Anything wrong?"

Jack took a breath and explained with a deliberate whine, "We don't have ESPN."

Daniel snorted and leaned against Jack, squeezing his shoulder. Then gave him a little pat as he left for the bedroom. They were due for some downtime. Weir hadn't been kidding around when she said she had a lot for them to do, especially Daniel. A war zone was no place to retire.

The thumping sound was a little startling though. Glancing up and all around, it took Jack a minute to place the fact that it was a knock. No one here knocked. They all used the door panel-thingys. Jack crossed the room and touched the door open. Okay, technically, he could have opened it from anywhere but call him an old dog, even after weeks he had to at least touch a door before it opened or it seemed… weird. Like the walls were alive.

"Hello, Jack."

A familiar figure waited in the hallway, holding a small white plastic bag of the sort you saw in any drugstore on Earth, and nowhere on Atlantis.

"George," Jack reeled in surprise before finally waving him in. "Just happened to be in the neighborhood-?"

Hammond chuckled. "Something like that. The Daedalus is on a diplomatic milk run between here and Earth. I just thought I'd drop by and say hello."

"Oh. Well…" Jack found he didn't know what to do with his hands. "Uh, yeah."

He realized the chairs-and most of the tables, for that matter-were largely full of Daniel's shit, so Jack started moving stuff randomly to make a space. "As you can see, I've learned to work around the leaning towers of Pisa here-Daniel!" he bellowed over his shoulder.

"Yeah?" came the voice from the other room.

"Books on the couch-priceless artifacts or just crap?"

"Put your feet on them again and you're dead." Daniel padded in irritably from the bedroom and stopped, dumbfounded as he caught sight of the General. "Oh, hi. General Hammond… I didn't-I didn't realize you were even here."

"A bit of a surprise visit."

"He's checking in to see if you haven't corrupted me yet." Jack realized he'd moved things around but hadn't actually cleared any space, so he let his hands drop to his sides. "As you can see, nothing's changed. Except…" he indicated the room, "…messier. Bet you didn't know you'd have to dig me out-Daniel, give the man a place to sit or tell me what I can move without upsetting the natural order of the universe."

"Um." Daniel studied his stacks with a doubtful flick of his eyes. "You'd better let me handle it."

"I'm afraid I can't stay long," George confessed.

"No, no, stay," they both protested at once, and Daniel scrambled to quickly clear a space, saying, "Here, I got it…."

Jack slumped into the odd ergonomic couch, slinging his arm across the back. A chair emerged from under the clutter as Daniel shifted a pile to the kitchen, shoving it onto the countertop with a muttered curse.

George Hammond sighed as he sat. "I can't tell you how good it feels just to sit down. I swear I've been on my feet all day."

Daniel sat gingerly on the couch next to Jack, seemingly unaware of the arm stretched out behind him.

"So. How are things working out here?" George asked.

The two of them looked at each other. "Good."

"Great."

"Never better."

What made it great wasn't an item on the menu, which killed that conversation pretty quick.

"So…" Jack said after an uncomfortable silence. "How's the new SGC commander?" He immediately winced and regretted asking.

"Fine, he's fine. But frankly, he's not as good as you were, Jack," George said. "He just doesn't have your experience."

"Good. Great! I hope he screws up royally." Jack frowned as his imagination elaborated on that scenario in technicolor detail. "In a, ah, non-lethal sort of way, that doesn't… well, anyway…." he trailed off in embarrassment.

"I'd say they certainly miss you at the SGC. We all do."

"Yeah," Daniel said with an ironic smile. "Too bad going back would involve a hearing."

"Yes," George said. "Oh, before I forget." He drew out the plastic bag from alongside his chair. "I brought you two a little house-warming gift. Better late than never, I always say."

"Beer! George, you shouldn't have." Jack wasted no time popping the caps off three bottles.

"We're drinking a small fortune here," Daniel observed, unrepentant as he took a deep swallow. "Have you any idea what beer's worth in Atlantis?"

"If it's anything like the going rate during the Korean war, I can well imagine."

"Bushels of tava beans. Bushels," Jack said with a dramatic gesture.

General Hammond chuckled again. Then gave a contented sigh, shaking his head. "I can't tell you how good it is to see you two."

A warm comfortable silence descended.

"So," Jack began, leaning forward. "How's the grandkids?"

"Yeah, and-" Daniel interrupted, scootching closer to the edge of the couch. "-what about Sam? She was working on this naquada particle accelerator when we left."

"Well, it turned out that it was naquadriah she needed… now hold on there," George took a long sip of his beer and set it on the coffee table, moving closer as well, "there's a bit of a story to tell with this one…."

~*~*~

Jack picked up the bottles in the livingroom, polishing off the last of Daniel's beer. The general had made his excuses and demurred when they offered to show him the way back to the guest quarters. It was late, so Jack was kind of glad he knew the way. Daniel did the dishes-his job, since he was never up early enough to make breakfast.

Images still hung in the air as they cleaned up. Sam's explosive attempt at the Alpha site to use naquadriah to power a stranded Asgard vessel... Teal'c's growing involvement with the politics of his people and low opinion of the Electoral College… coupled with the U.S. horror at his leanings towards Socialism… Siler was the same, an unchanging rock in the stream… Walter was overwhelmed.

The world had gone on without them.

With a clatter Jack set the plates next to the weird little sink with the waterspouts that sprayed from all directions into a basin. Daniel dipped them in the spray.

When at last they climbed into bed, Jack held up the covers while Daniel stripped off his t-shirt and tossed it-missing the clothes hamper by a mile. Jack smirked, even as he admired the view of Daniel's sculpted chest. For a man who could use a gun, Daniel never got those two points. Jack tucked the sheets over both of their shoulders.

"You okay?" Daniel asked finally. The question had been hovering all night.

Jack let his chin drop and sighed. "Yeah."

He was grateful Daniel knew him well enough not to ask if it was worth it, that George was polite enough to leave the subject alone. Of course it wasn't worth it; it wasn't what he wanted, or what he should be doing. But there were some things over which Jack had no control. All he could do was make the best possible choice, given the situation.

"You sure?" Daniel said, that little frown line appearing between his brows.

"Yeah," Jack said. "I'll be fine."

"It's not fine," Daniel said, soft and bitter enough for both of them. He understood.

"No," Jack agreed.

But there was nothing they could do about it. Instead, Jack changed the subject.

"So," he mused up at the ceiling, snuggling more comfortably into his pillow. "Teal'c's Jaffa are going to be Socialists."

Daniel snickered. "The president must be going ape-shit."

They chuckled as Daniel touched the wall to shut off the lights. Slowly his breathing evened out.

In the darkness, Daniel curled to his side and murmured in his sleep. Jack glanced over at him. Then he returned to staring up at the ceiling, wide awake, listening to the crash of waves outside on an unfamiliar world.

~*~*~*~*~

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