Slash: Jack and Daniel involved in a loving and committed relationship, which usually involves sex.
Rating: R
Category: ER, angst
Season/Spoilers: None
Synopsis: Jack's world gets rocked when an old friend's son joins the SGC.
Warnings: None
Length: 125 Kb  Notes: This fic was originally written for a zine for Judy and is dedicated to her.

"General O'Neill?"

"What?" Jack roared at the airman who had the audacity to appear at his door. He shouldn't be roaring, he should get up and close the damned door. People kept stopping in, greeting him, catching up, and congratulating him. It was annoying.  He was in from Washington for his final trip to the SGC for his retirement bash and nothing irritated him more than tentative, timid airmen.

"S-sorry to bother you, sir," the kid stammered. "General Landry asked me to remind you to be ready in one hour."

"Yes, well, fine," Jack mumbled. 

A twinge of guilt surfaced when the kid actually blushed after the painful delivery. Kid was an understatement. If this boy, this child, was old enough to be an airman and patrol the halls of the SCG then Jack was certain he had hung on too long.

When the airman didn't immediately scurry out the door with relief at his acknowledgement, Jack testily asked if there was anything else.

"No, sir. It's just... it's an honor to meet you, sir." 

Hero worshipping, stuttering, runny nose newbie airmen were nothing new to O'Neill but something about the voice gave Jack pause. He glanced up at the uniform but he was too far away, or too close, to read the name on the fatigues. Damned eyesight, he was definitely getting old. Maybe if the kid stood out in the hallway a few doors down he could make it out.     

"What's you're name, Airman?" Jack waited impatiently while the kid shuffled and fidgeted. Why would the SGC assign a youngster this nervous to its ranks? Newbies were generally uneasy around him but this was ridiculous. Maybe he'd talk to Landry about it. 

"I asked you a question, son." Jack cringed at his choice of words. Son? That was a Hammond phrase, not a Jack O'Neill, scourge of the SGC, phrase. 

"Kawalsky, sir. John Kawalsky."

"Johnny?" Jack's stomach lurched at the name. It couldn't be that Johnny Kawalsky. That Johnny was eleven or twelve years old. Although, admittedly that was eleven or twelve years ago.

"Yes, sir."

Jack stood up and looked at the kid for the first time and recognized the familiar features.

"It's John now, sir. I stopped using Johnny the day my dad died." The kid stood proudly at attention. 

"You, you joined the Air Force?" This time it was Jack who was stuttering and asking stupid questions in an effort to buy time to better digest this startling bit of news. "How old are you?"

"Twenty-two, sir," Kawalsky answered. "I graduated first in my class. My goal has always been to join the Air Force and then to work at Cheyenne Mountain."

The kid didn't bother adding 'just like my dad' but he might as well have. This seemed impossible. It was difficult for Jack to come to grips with the reality standing before him. The last time he'd seen Johnny the boy had been running around the backyard tossing a football around with his father.  Jack closed his eyes for a second to push down the memories. He couldn't afford to go there. The room suddenly felt small and confining, as if there wasn't enough air to breathe.   

"Your father was a good man," Jack said coolly. "I need to get ready. You're dismissed."

The airman didn't move. Jack decided this younger version of Kawalsky wasn't as timid as he first appeared.  He had probably just been anxious about their first encounter. 

"Sir, I joined the SGC because this is where I want to serve but I also joined because I want to know how my dad died."

The painful declaration was like a punch in the gut but Jack was a master at covering his emotions. He didn't want to talk to Johnny about this. It was too painful to recount his own sins. He should have stayed in touch. He had called Beth, Kawalsky's wife, a few times after her husband's passing and had asked about Johnny and Kimberly, their children. But Beth had immediately packed up the kids and moved back to New York to be closer to her family and with his schedule at the mountain, they had quickly lost touch.

A rational, handy excuse to ease his conscience.

Another, more pertinent reason Jack hadn't pursued the friendship was because it hurt too much to be around Johnny. The boy was only a few years older than Charlie had been and not only had they known each other and played together, but they'd been friends. Best friends. The realization that this could be Charlie standing before him, a grown man, an airman just starting out, his entire life stretched out before him open to endless possibilities and adventures, was almost too much to bear.

"Were you with him when he died, sir?"  

The boy's anxious, hopeful, impossibly young face snapped Jack back to reality. Nope, he definitely couldn't do this. Not today. Maybe never.

"Do you have clearance for that?" Jack coldly snapped off the question, already knowing the answer.

"No, sir. Not yet," Kawalsky answered.

"Then you're dismissed," Jack said firmly. "When you get clearance, you can read the mission reports." There, that should put an end to it. The kid wasn't stupid, hopefully he'd take the hint.

Maybe not, since Kawalsky hadn't moved from the doorway. Jack could only hope the boy wasn't as stubborn as his old man had been.

"I said dismissed, Airman. You graduated first in your class, I assume you understand how to obey orders. And close the damn door on your way out."

Crap, he knew that was harsh but what was the kid expecting... hey, buddy, it's Uncle Jack. How've ya been?

"Yes, sir," Johnny replied, not bothering to hide his disappointment.

After the door closed, Jack sat down on the chair beside the bed, ran his hand through his hair and let out a sigh.  Little Johnny Kawalsky was old enough to fight bad guys and save the world? That didn't seem possible but the proof had just exited his quarters. 

This was supposed to be a happy day. He was getting the gold watch, the brass ring, the big prize.  After today he was free to do as he pleased. He could stay up all night watching baseball or hockey, he could sleep in, he could drink as much beer as he deemed prudent, and wonder of wonders... Daniel could move in with him.  The last thought helped him set the shock of seeing Kawalsky, who looked strikingly like his father, aside.  He had a retirement party to attend, his friends and colleagues were waiting for him and there would be cake. He had asked Carter and she had confirmed it.

The soon-to-be retired general took a deep breath, plastered on a smile and headed for the gateroom.      

Jack was at the sink washing lettuce and various vegetables when Daniel walked through the door and threw his jacket over a kitchen chair. "Hey, Jack, guess who works at the SGC? You're never going to believe this."

Jack resisted the urge to pick up the jacket and hang it up in the hall closet. He resisted because he didn't need Daniel accusing him of being anal. Especially since the accusation had some merit. Before retirement, Jack had considered himself neat but not extraordinarily so, since retirement, he had to admit he was bordering on anal. Ignoring the jacket was good practice for him, unfortunately, there was no way to ignore where this conversation was inevitably heading.

It had been close to a month since his retirement party and the chance encounter with Kawalsky junior. Jack had stayed quiet and hoped the kid would take his advice and read the files about his father and leave well enough alone. It was rude and unfair but he had no desire to face the youngster a second time. Seeing Johnny was like tearing open scars on old wounds and watching them bleed. 

Maybe Kawalsky had read the reports and Daniel was just relaying an interesting tidbit of information. Either way, there was no point in playing dumb.

"John Kawalsky."

"Why didn't you tell me?" Daniel seemed genuinely surprised.

Yes, why hadn't he? 

"Doesn't matter," Daniel continued when Jack didn't immediately answer. "Landry called me into his office this afternoon to inform me that young Kawalsky has been cleared to review all the files relating to his father's work at the SGC, including his death."

"That's nice." Jack's stomach clenched at the words.

"That's nice?" Daniel was giving him an odd, studying look.

Jack decided he'd better be careful or in a matter of minutes he'd be getting the archaeologist's version of the third degree which was never pleasant.  

"I invited him over tomorrow night so we can sit down together and talk. Maybe, we could throw some steaks on the grill."

Jack gritted his teeth and tried not to growl.

And retirement had been going well. Far better than he had dared to hope. He jogged every morning then showered and read the newspaper. He whipped up a hearty breakfast of bacon and eggs, or pancakes and sausage, and then worked on the crossword puzzle and the Sudoku while he ate and drank coffee some time around eight-thirty as opposed to five-thirty.  He consulted with the Air Force two days a week, more if necessary. For relaxation, he mowed the lawn and tended the garden, and best of all, he had wanton sex with an extremely sexy archaeologist.  

Daniel. The man standing before him was the real reason retirement was so peachy. The archaeologist had kept his old apartment but only to keep up appearances and to use as a storage facility to house his artifacts and other priceless junk. The really important stuff, like Daniel's toothbrush and razor, were settled comfortably in Jack's bathroom.   

Daniel had moved in and never looked back. That had been the plan after his retirement but Jack had always assumed he'd somehow manage to screw it up, or Daniel would come to his senses and change his mind. Unbelievably, it had come off without a hitch. When the archaeologist wasn't off-world, he came home every night for dinner and they talked and laughed and argued and ate and did some unspeakable things in the upstairs bedroom, in all the rooms actually. Jack couldn't help wondering if the newness would eventually wear off and it would become routine. So far, Daniel's arrival every evening was still a pleasant shock. Shock because Daniel was Daniel and he was just, well, Jack.

Daniel was brilliant. No one disputed that.

Hell, everyone who worked at the SGC was smart, there was no doubt about that, but Daniel was exceptional. His mind worked in mysterious ways. He thought, he puzzled, he resolved, he brokered peace treaties and trade agreements. He ended wars. His spirit didn't just sing, it soared. His ideas weren't lofty, they were noble. Everyone that had the honor of meeting Doctor Daniel Jackson was better from the experience.  No one walked away indifferent or unaffected. Hearts beat faster in his presence. His star shined a little brighter.

Despite his occasional act to the contrary, Jack didn't consider himself dumb but he knew he was nowhere near brilliant. His mind worked in concrete, practical ways. When in doubt, he'd shoot first and ask questions later. His ideas were often selfish, or at the very least, self-serving for planet Earth. People who met him often walked away shaking their heads in confusion. No one's heart skipped a beat at his appearance, and if he had a star, one would need the Hubble Space Telescope to see it.

Jack sighed deeply and wondered what characteristics made him attractive to Daniel. He was tall and he was in good shape, but then again he was grey and he liked to eat junk food. He was protective but that seemed to be more of a nuisance to Daniel than a selling point. He was good in the sack. That had to be it, Jack decided smugly.       

The major downside of retirement was waiting for his exceptional archaeologist to arrive home when he was off-world. It gave Jack a whole new appreciation for Sara and for all the wives or husbands or partners or parents who waited at home for loved ones. Aside from that, life was incredibly good.

Until now.

Daniel was looking at him expectantly and Jack had no idea how to distract him into giving up this incredibly stupid 'let's get together and dig up old ghosts' idea.

Going on the offensive seemed like the best bet. Jack shut off the cold water that was beginning to wilt the vegetables and turned to face his determined lover.

"Are you crazy?  Did you forget that you're living here?  What if he puts two and two together and figures out that we're more than just friends? I may be retired but I don't need everybody at the SGC talking and knowing our business."

Daniel scoffed at that. "He's young, Jack. Most young people don't care about that stuff anymore."

"They don't?" Shit, that had been his best argument.

"No, they don’t," Daniel said confidently.

Jack supposed he should be happy about that fact but he didn't have time to be grateful. It was obvious that as a tactic, that dog wasn't going to hunt. He needed to throw Daniel off the track and avoid a visit from John Kawalsky, newbie airman from the SGC, son of Charlie K, best friend of Charlie O'Neill...

"What's the point? What am I going to tell him?  That his father was snaked and died a painful, horrible death? Is that what you think he needs to hear?"

When the blue eyes blazed, Jack was certain he was not only going to lose this argument but he was going to get an earful as well.

"He wants to know about his father. You must know that any kid would want that. I honestly don't understand your objection, Jack. As painful as it is, I thought you'd be happy to talk to him. He deserves to know. Besides, it doesn't matter now, it's a moot point. I've already invited him over."

"Well, I'm not happy about it. And you should've asked me first," Jack grumbled, turning back to the sink to pull out the remaining veggies. "But it's fine, I'll go out. You knew Kawalsky, you can relay all the gory details." That could work. He'd just go down to the local watering hole and let Daniel and the kid stroll down memory lane and spend a few miserable hours together rehashing the horror of Kawalsky's death. There was no reason he needed to be a part of it.

"Jack! I'm sure he wants to talk to you. Would you stop with the lettuce and look at me?" When he complied, Daniel continued. "What's the matter with you? Kawalsky was your best friend."

It was difficult coming up with nifty, logical retorts but that didn't stop Jack from trying. "No, you're my best friend." Hah, Daniel couldn't argue with that one.

"You didn't even know me back then," the best bud in question answered irritably.   

"Yes, I did." Jack could keep this up all night if need be.

"Okay, you did," Daniel conceded. "But not for very long. We had just met."  

Now Daniel was glaring as he folded his arms across his chest. Never a good sign.

"But I had a feeling we'd be best friends," Jack weakly insisted, clinging to the ridiculous banter in an effort to avoid the real issue.   

"What is this, junior high?" Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose and looked exasperated. A sure sign Jack was winning the argument or at least keeping his best friend off balance.  

"I'm just saying," Jack muttered in his defense.

"I'll be right here with you. We can both explain. You haven't seen this kid in years. Kawalsky's kid. I would think you'd want to see how he's doing, talk to him..." Daniel unfolded his arms and pushed up his glasses.

"I saw him last month just before my retirement party. Which, by the way, put a damper on it." 

"A damper? You're upset because he put a damper on your retirement party? I don’t believe you, Jack!"

Now Daniel was bordering on true anger and Jack supposed the damper comment might have sounded a tad cold.

"I know Kawalsky was your best friend." Daniel was admirably struggling to be reasonable and maintain his cool.  Jack smirked when the linguist paused and hastily added, "before me," before continuing.

"Kawalsky was John's father. And as much as it hurts you to think about the loss of your friend, his son deserves to know the truth about what happened to him and you're the best man to tell him, but if you won't, I will. Even if I have to talk to him by myself."

Jack shrugged. There was no way to dispute that bit of logic.  Daniel didn't understand and Jack wasn't sure he could explain it even if he wanted to.

"I'm going to take a shower before dinner," Daniel announced abruptly as he turned and headed up the stairs, leaving Jack to wonder if the conversation had left the world-renowned linguist with a headache.

After finding a colander to set the vegetables in, Jack made a split second decision. He wasn't going to allow the past to interfere with the present, or the future. Not with his relationship at stake. Daniel deserved his honesty no matter what the emotional fallout. 

He went upstairs and when he heard the shower running in the master bath, he shed his clothes and quietly slipped into the bathroom.

"Mind if I join you?" With the words, Jack stepped into the shower stall behind Daniel and risked embracing his partner from behind while allowing the warm water to wash away some of the day's tensions.

"It seems you already have."

To Jack's relief, Daniel's response sounded more amused than annoyed.

While kissing Daniel's neck, concentrating on the spot just below his hairline, Jack unburdened himself, softly whispering in his lover's ear. It was easier than being face to face.

"Johnny Kawalsky and Charlie were friends. Best friends. It's a little difficult for me, that's all. But you're right, he deserves to know and we'll tell him. Both of us." Jack trailed a few kisses down the smooth skin on Daniel's right shoulder. "Tomorrow." He resumed kissing, heading south toward the small of Daniel's back.

It was obvious the moment the implication of Jack's words registered with the naked genius.    

"I'm sorry, Jack. That was so stupid of me, I'd never even thought of that. I didn’t think..."

Daniel attempted to turn around to face him but Jack gripped his shoulders to hold him in place. "No, don't turn around and don't apologize." Jack reached around to put a finger to the linguist's luscious lips to shush him. "I want you, Daniel. Right now. Just like this."

Jack gripped his lover's biceps. He was hard now from the closeness and he allowed his cock to poke at the perfect ass before him and then listened for the gasp of consent that escaped his lover's throat. Jack spotted the bar of soap and released Daniel's arms so he'd be free to lather it up between his hands. When it bubbled to his satisfaction he reached around Daniel's torso to soap his lover's chest, lingering on his nipples. When Daniel gave a squeal of delight, Jack moved down to his belly and then reached down to give his lover's balls a gentle, soapy squeeze.    

Daniel groaned loudly and urged him to hurry. Grabbing the lube, Jack greased up a few fingers and loosened the panting man before him. Daniel was relaxed and completely opened to him. His legs were slightly apart, his palms flat against the white ceramic tile. Trusting and vulnerable. Jack's eyes stung with unexpected tears at the sight and he wasted no time slicking himself up and entering his lover. Daniel bucked and moaned as Jack came hard and fast, murmuring and moaning his pleasure.

When he was spent he leaned against Daniel's back for support and realized the younger man was still hard and aching so he reached around his lover's hip to stroke his cock. It was all Daniel needed and he came at the touch, panting, with Jack along for the ride, still buried inside of him, draped over his back and whispering his love.  

They lingered in that position, neither wanting to break the connection until gradually the water began to cool so Jack reluctantly slid out and Daniel finally turned around to face him.

"I’m sorry, Jack. You should have told me this was about Charlie. I would have understood."

Daniel was hovering. Hovering meant one thing.

"Hey, would you stop with the guilt already. You're right, the kid deserves to know about his father. I was being selfish."    

Daniel gave him a weak smile and reiterated his promise to be supportive and at the ready if he faltered or needed any help.

Young Kawalsky had been delayed at the SGC so the steak dinner was off but the reminiscing was still on. He arrived a little after nine wearing jeans and an Air Force tee shirt. After they made themselves comfortable in living room the kid relayed some incredibly good news. He had read the mission reports the night before, thus sparing them the painful task of rehashing every detail of his father's death.      

"I read the files so I know the facts," he said solemnly. "I was hoping you could fill in some personal details. Like what kind of man my dad was. What kind of officer and leader..." Johnny blushed faintly. "What kind of friend..."

"The important things." Jack smiled at the young man before him. This he could do. Daniel had a glass of wine, Jack had a beer and Kawalsky's kid was drinking ice tea while they recounted Kawalsky senior's best attributes and his contributions to the SGC, the country, and the world.

"The first time we went through the gate on a mission it was to Chulak," Jack recalled.

"Yeah, my dad went with you, he was the leader of SG-2," John chimed in with obvious pride.

"Yep." The kid had definitely read the reports. But some things weren't in reports.  "Major Samuels was still briefing us on the way to the gateroom. He informed us, in his usual tacky way, that if we didn't check in within twenty four hours, SG-2 was to scrub the mission and leave without us. Your dad ignored that order completely. Without missing a beat he piped up, 'Not going to happen, Colonel. SG-2 won't leave without you.' He didn't care if Samuels heard him or not. That's the kind of man your father was. That's the kind of friend he was. He had your back. He'd be there. I always trusted in that. We trusted in each other."

Sometimes it was still hard for Jack to believe his friend was gone. 

It was after ten when the conversation began to wind down. Daniel had retreated to the kitchen, either to neaten up, or to give them some privacy which Jack didn't think was necessary.

When Johnny stood up, Jack did the same, thinking the young airman was going to say his goodbyes.  

"Uncle Jack, there's something I'd like to show you."

It had been a long time but the old endearment flowed from Johnny's lips so naturally, Jack wasn’t sure the kid was aware he'd even said it.  Uncle Jack. Uncle Charlie. Charlie K, as Sara had called him. Sara, Beth, Kimberly and Johnny. And Charlie. His Charlie. He closed his eyes and for a moment they were all there, still with him. He and his best friend were flipping burgers on the barbecue in the backyard as their wives laughed and conspired against them, while their kids giggled, rode bikes, tossed around the football and traded baseball cards. He could see them clearly and for a minute it was as if time stood still and the last eleven or so life-changing years had been nothing more than a dream.    

When Jack opened his eyes, the faces faded and disappeared.  Kid Johnny, friend of Charlie's, was gone, replaced by this adult John, an airman who worked at the SGC. It wasn't fair that John was here all grown up, while Charlie was still eleven years old. Forever.

Daniel. Where was Daniel?

Jack ended the heart-wrenching trip into the past and forced himself to breathe slowly and concentrate on Johnny. John.    

John's head was bowed and when he raised his eyes, they glistened, making it difficult for Jack to swallow before he summoned the courage to nod his consent for the man to continue.

The airman slipped a chain off of his neck, and for a second, Jack thought he was removing his dog tags. Instead, he opened his hand to reveal a silver medal. It was beautiful, an intricate shamrock surrounded by a perfectly woven circle of Celtic knotwork and forming a small Claddagh at the top. Jack recognized the Irish symbols but stayed quiet. 

"Charlie and I bought these our last summer together, right before school ended. It's real silver. We saved our paper route money. That summer you and dad took us up to your cabin for a 'guys only' camping trip. Remember?"

Of course he remembered. Jack's throat went dry at the thought of those happy times he'd shared with his son. Memories he hadn't dared pull out and examine since the accident. He didn’t trust himself to speak, so again he nodded his acknowledgement.

"One night in the cabin, when everyone was asleep, Charlie wrote a letter for both of us to sign. He called it a promissory note.  An agreement that we would keep forever no matter how old we were or where life took us. He was younger than me but he was incredible. You know how intense he could be. You couldn't help but like him." John's voice faded briefly at the recollection. "He wanted to do good and help people. He wanted you to always be proud of him. Remember when we were little, he always wanted to play cops and robbers or superman. Charlie wanted to be a hero. We both did. Just like our dads."

Jack's breath hitched as he choked back a sob, but he took a deep breath and it passed.

"I still have the letter."

Standing stiffly, Jack didn't dare move for fear of losing control over his fragile emotions. He concentrated on breathing in and out and keeping an impassive expression.

John stuck his hand into his jeans pocket and produced the well worn piece of paper.  "These rusty looking spots are where we pricked our fingers to seal the deal with our blood. That was Charlie's idea. He said we could never forget or walk away from our promise once we put our blood on it." 

Jack had to admit that sounded exactly like his son. 

John handed him the paper and with shaking hands, Jack unfolded it and read the words his son had written years ago.  

Wherever I go,
everyone is a little bit safer because I am there.

Wherever I am,
anyone in need has a friend.

Whenever I return home,
everyone is happy I am there.

"Robert L. Humphrey, the Warriors Creed," Jack muttered, recognizing the words and smiling through misty eyes at his eleven-year-old's lofty goals. 

"Yeah. When we first signed that Charlie told me it was the Warriors Creed but I thought he made up the words.  I didn't realize until I was older that it was an actual creed that he had copied from one of your books." 

Beneath the words were the boy's signatures and under that was the Air Force motto, "Do Something Amazing" followed by the date and the drops of blood. That camping trip had been so much fun, and then, just a few months later, his son was gone.

Jack carefully folded up the fragile piece of paper and handed it back to John.

"You keep it, sir."

Jack nodded his gratitude. "What happened to Charlie's medal?" he asked shakily.

"This is Charlie's medal," John answered, motioning to the shamrock he still held in his hand. "I searched his room the night we came over after the accident and I found it in his dresser. I slipped mine into his casket at the wake and I kept his."

Jack was numb, he felt like he was falling and realized his knees were buckling. A strong arm draped around his shoulder and squeezed, anchoring him and he realized Daniel was beside him. It was all he needed and his muscles began obeying him again.  

"I never take it off. It goes where I go," John continued. "High school, my first dance, baseball games, the Air Force Academy, the SGC, and when I finally go through the Stargate..." The man paused then regained his composure. When he spoke again his voice was strong and sure. "When I go through the Stargate, Charlie will be right there with me, sharing the ultimate adventure. We'll both do something amazing, together. Just like we promised each other we would."

 John offered the medal and Jack took it, his hand steady with Daniel beside him. He turned it over and read the inscription. Luck, Loyalty, Friendship. Charlie O'Neill. Jack closed his fist around the silver shamrock and this time when he closed his eyes, for the first time in a long time, his son appeared before him in colorful detail, whole and happy, smiling the patented, charming O'Neill grin. Jack opened his eyes and took a good look at the young man standing before him and gave him a warm smile.

"You keep it. Keep your promise." He handed the medal back to its caretaker. "Take Charlie with you, and your dad. He loved life and he valued loyalty and friendship, too. You're just like him, Johnny."  Jack hugged the young man and they clung to each other for a few long minutes.

"Thank you for remembering Charlie," Jack managed as they gradually broke the embrace. 

"I'll never forget him, Uncle Jack. You can count on that."

Jack believed him, and somehow, the thought was comforting. His father's death had inspired John to reach for the stars, who knew what this young man's contributions would be? Jack couldn't help thinking that maybe, in some small way, his Charlie could be credited, too.

And now, even after he and Sara were gone, Charlie's memory would live on in John and maybe someday, God willing, in his children, as well. 

The silence stretched on until it became awkward and when it was apparent there was nothing more to say, Daniel stepped in to lessen the emotion.  "So, how do you like working at the SGC, John? Is it everything you thought it would be?"

"It's incredible!" John enthused, his relief at the change of subject obvious. "And you guys, SG-1, are truly amazing. You saved the entire planet."

"More than once," Jack said sarcastically, grateful for Daniel's sense of timing.  

His sarcastic declaration must have put his partner at ease because at the words, Daniel lowered his hand from Jack's shoulder and winked at him. 

"Well, I better get going." John moved toward the kitchen. "I hope I didn't upset you, sir.  I just wanted to talk to you. You have no idea how much this means to me."

"It means a lot to me, too," Jack assured him, offering a genuine smile.  

"And, General, I want you to know that I don't expect or want any special treatment," John added as he made his way to the door.

"That's good, because you certainly won't get any," Jack roared, trying to sound crusty and cranky but failing miserably. 

"However, I will be checking up on you and I expect to hear nothing but glowing reports." And he would check up. He and Kawalsky had made that promise to watch over each other's families if anything ever happened to either one of them. Of course, they'd been naïve and had never expected anything truly bad to actually happen. How could it when they were so young and invincible?  Like Charlie must have felt on the day he composed the letter and spilled his blood on the page.  Now Jack had a second chance at keeping his word to his friend and he wouldn't screw it up again.

"Yes, sir," Airman John Kawalsky answered, adding a respectful salute as he left the house.  

"You okay?" Daniel asked as they watched John's Jeep back out of the driveway.

"Yeah, I'm fine. Give me a minute, okay? I'm going to run upstairs and put this in a safe place." Jack held up the wrinkled letter.

"I could frame it for you to better preserve it," Daniel offered.  

"Always the archaeologist," Jack smiled. "I think I'd like that. Give me a minute," he repeated before heading upstairs.

Jack wasn't sure how much time had passed since he'd been reminiscing, reading and re-reading Charlie's letter while poring over old photographs when he swore he heard voices downstairs that didn't sound like the TV. 

"Daniel," he yelled. "What's going on down there?"

"Come on down, Jack. We have company."

Company? What the hell? It was going on midnight . When Jack came downstairs he was surprised to find SG-1 sprawled out and making themselves comfortable in his living room. "What are you guys doing here?"

"Daniel called us, sir," Carter explained. "He thought you could use a few friends tonight."

Jack glanced at the archaeologist's crooked little smile and felt a surge of love. Daniel always knew what he needed.

He plopped down on the sofa as Carter handed him a beer and sat down beside him. Daniel sat on the opposite side and Teal'c pulled up a chair to complete the small circle.

"I'm sorry, Jack," Daniel started. "I never thought about Charlie when I invited John over..."

"Don't." Jack raised his index finger. "I'm glad we met and talked. Really glad. You did the right thing." 

"I had been unaware that Major Kawalsky had a son," Teal'c stated.

"Yeah, that was my fault," Jack answered. "I should have told you guys. I felt guilty and just wanted to forget."

"I was not assigning blame, O'Neill, merely stating a fact."

Jack looked at Teal'c affectionately and knew that was the truth. Teal'c didn't have a judgmental bone in his body. And it was a large body. 

"Unfortunately, Teal'c and I didn't get to know the major very well," Carter said. "Though we did meet the parallel universe Kawalsky."

"That is true, Major Carter," Teal'c agreed. "And I also met him when the gamekeeper had us relive a significant event from O'Neill's past. I do not believe--"

"Could we not revisit all that fun just now?" Jack interrupted.

"As you wish," Teal'c answered sounding a bit confused.

"How about a toast?" Daniel suggested. He raised his glass and the others did the same. "To Charlie O'Neill and to Charlie Kawalsky, lives well lived, lives cut short, but lives well treasured and loved."

Jack looked around the room, grateful for his friends as they clinked their glasses together and drank. "One more," he proposed.

It was true, he'd lost more than most, but glancing around the room at his teammates he was forced to acknowledge that he also had more than most. Would he trade it all for a brief, shared embrace with his son? Yes, no questions asked. But that wasn't an option so he had made amends as best he could with a little help from his friends. The four of them had a unique bond that would never be broken. Jack credited their successes to the depth of their friendship and their trust in one another's abilities. He often joked about it but it was true, SG-1 had indeed, saved the planet and the galaxy from certain disaster. More than once. He silently swore his own personal oath to luck, loyalty and friendship.   

His mind flashed to snapshots of Charlie, of Kawalsky, then Fraiser, Jacob, Rothman, Boyd, Cromwell, Elliot, Astor, Benton, Graham, Connor, Mansfield, Hawkins, Barber... sadly, the list was endless. All gone but not forgotten. 

"To heroes and friends," Jack said raising his glass. "May they always be cherished and remembered." 


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