Title: Stars
Author: Fai
Status: Complete
Spoilers: None
Category: Hurt/Comfort, Bit-O-Smarm
Pairings: None
Season: Any with a Major Sam
Rating: PG
Content Warning: Team bonding ahead.
Summary: Jackís thoughts on his team after a disastrous mission.

Authors Note: Just a small bit I did for the H/C Zine a while back.  Feedback is always appreciated, begged for, thanked for, printed, framed, shown to all friends and loved ones and pretty much just really loved.  Adoration is great, constructive is cool, flames will be used for campfire cookouts.

                                                       ~~ * ~~

Colorado's cool springtime breeze swirled around him, whisking away the dampness caused by the exertion of the climb.  Normally, this might cause a chill, but tonight it only warmed him through and through.  Alive.  He was alive, his team was alive, and for the moment, that was enough to make his world right.

Jack O'Neill sat on his rooftop in the crisp night air, the stars twinkling brightly like the universe was winking at him with its own private joke.  This time, the laugh was on it. They had made it home.

Barely.

Jack felt the stubborn little twinge that wouldn't bend to the will of the painkillers radiating from the staff wound on his calf. Fraiser would never hear this from his lips, but the ground still did the occasional loop-de-loop as well.  He'd surely taken harder knocks to the head, but he couldn't say when.  If he was being honest, he was glad he'd been out for the worst of it. The one thing harder than not being able to protect your crew was watching them suffer because of it.  He could hear snatches of conversation taking place in the living room below and clutched the solace that came from the sounds to him.

Another man might have wanted to stay close, immersion in the familiarity of friends giving him strength and reassurance.  Not him. Jack admitted freely he was not a man of words.  He knew his team knew how he felt and he in turn knew how they felt about him.  They would give him the time to clear his head, and then they'd hunt him down and pull him back into the fold.

Daniel.  That's who'd come find him first; it always was.  Daniel was a man of words, only in his case, it was everybody else's words except his own.  Jack had watched the young man beat himself up enough in the past to know Daniel would somehow sense the precise moment in time his self-reflection would turn to self-recrimination.  And since Jack was starting to think he had no right to take comfort in the sounds of his team's safety, he figured he'd see the man any second.

Ahh, yes, there it was.  The soft huffing sound as someone with several broken ribs and fingers clumsily made his way up the ladder.  Jack found Danielís timing to be both damn uncanny and oddly comforting.  He also felt a bit guilty for not getting off his backside and saving his friend the climb, but it was too late now.  Besides, it was a beautiful night and the view was heartening.  Maybe it would have the same salve-like effect on Daniel as it was having on him. 

He turned just in time to see the familiar head pop up into view, obviously working hard at not looking down. Daniel was fine when up high as long as he was sure-footed; it was the precarious process of getting there he had a problem with. Even in the dim light of stars and quarter moon, Jack could see the set of Daniel's jaw as he finished the ascent and moved over to lean against the rail, trying for nonchalant, and failing miserably.

Soon enough, however, Jack saw the calmness of the night wash over his battered friend, his stance becoming more relaxed.  They sat in silence, Daniel with arms crossed, watching the sky above, Jack watching him. No remnants of the shaggy-haired dweeb he'd watched unlock the secret of the Stargate were left, except for the eyes.  The unadulterated wonder that shone in them as he'd stepped into the event horizon that first time still occasionally made an appearance, like tonight.  The wrapped fingers and the way he held one hand protectively over the left side of his abdomen were the only giveaways to the hell they'd just been through. If Jack was forced to choose one thing about his friend that he admired, it had to be the man's ability to marvel despite all the crap that had been thrown at them over the last few years.

Finally seeming to notice he was being scrutinized, Daniel met Jack's eye. 

"Nice night."

"Yeah."

Daniel looked down at his feet for a minute and Jack knew he was trying to decide which tack to take, heartfelt or bottom line.  He saw Daniel shooting him a tentative look before beginning.

"You planning on coming back inside?  You know, Teal'c worries if you're gone too long."

Ooh, great call.  Bottom line followed by heartfelt sprinkled with humor and a teensy dollop of guilt.  The boy was improving, but of course he had been learning from the best the last few years, if he said so himself.

"And you wouldn't want any of us to panic and call Janet.  I don't think she'd be too pleased to find out you've been climbing ladders with leg and head injuries and while on painkillers."

Maybe he'd learned a little too well.  "Daniel.  That's blackmail."

"Yes," the archeologist stated matter-of-factly, batting his eyes at him in mock innocence.

Pushing Daniel off the roof seemed a little extreme, although the thought did have some appeal.  If he went back inside at least he'd have a cane to whack him with.  Fortunately for the young man, Jack expected visitor number two to make his appearance soon, which may take his mind off revenge.  He didn't know if it was concern for his mental well being or if Tealíc figured left alone too long Jack and Daniel would most certainly get into trouble. Either way, the Jaffa was never too far behind the archeologist in seeking him out.  In fact, right now Jack could hear the groan of abused wood as Teal'c made his way up to them.

Jack always felt the size of the warrior was at odds with the tiny platform, but Teal'c was as taken with stargazing as he.  The large man had no visible signs of injury, but Jack knew the exact number of stitches he had around his symbiote pouch.  Seemingly unbothered by the wound, Teal'c nodded to his two companions before moving his eyes to take in the sparkling canopy above.  In a moment of utter purity, the wind whispered around them as they soaked in the majesty of the night sky, and Jack remembered why he had been called to come up here in the first place.  It suddenly hit him that they needed Carter.  She was late by her standards and he wanted his team whole and together and he wanted it right now.  He turned to Teal'c just in time to see the reprimand on his face that went along with his words.

"O'Neill.  I believe you and DanielJackson should move back to a ground level location.  I do not believe DoctorFraiser would approve of your activities."

It figured Tealíc, unlike Daniel, would bypass heartfelt and go straight for the big gun.  Jack had sworn on many occasions the good doctor was a gremlin; all little and sweet looking, but there was no question she could tear you to shreds in an instant if she deemed it necessary.  Tealíc was obviously well aware the wrath of Janet Fraiser was the ultimate threat and had gone directly for the verbal kill.

"Teal'c, why don't you tell Doctor Fraiser to kiss my-"

"Sir?"

The major stepped onto the landing, joining her teammates like he had known she would.  In this light, the bruising looked more like shadows dancing across the fine features, the split lower lip nearly blending away.  Too bad he knew differently.  She'd actually come out the best of the bunch on this one, but would still take a while to get back to whole.

"What are you guys doing up here?"

Oh yeah, she was nearly as good as Daniel at playing the innocent card. He was supposed to say nothing and head down to the area that she had deemed 'safe'.  God he loved his team.

"Nothing, Carter.  Why don't we head back down?"

"Oh, hey, look!"  Sam was pointing just behind them.  They all managed to turn in time to catch the tail end of a shooting star lighting its way across the black canvas.

"Is it not Tau'ri custom to proclaim a desired outcome upon the viewing of such an occurrence?"

Jack knew Teal'c had just played the alien card for effect but he went along anyway.  "That's 'make a wish,' Teal'c and yes, it is."

He glanced again at the fading trail that glittered through the night sky before looking back at the smiling faces of his team.  He could tell them his wish had already come true; that he'd found a family in them and sharing nights like this was all he wanted.  He could, but he wouldn't. Jack was not a man of words. 

With family, he didn't need to be.

~Finis
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