Mildenhall Air Base, United Kingdom, 1990
Jack liked England. A lot. If it hadn't been for Charlie, he would have requested a transfer to Mildenhall in a heartbeat.
He toyed briefly with the idea of requesting the transfer anyway. He knew Sara would never leave her job and her family, but, as he sat in the pub waiting for the waitress to come back with the drinks, Jack imagined how it would be if he and Charlie moved here. Charlie could go to English schools, the kind where they learned history and literature and stuff instead of how to make weapons out of plastic spoons. Jack could fly planes and train RAF and USAF recruits. When he had leave, he and Charlie could go to France and Switzerland and places, and Charlie would end up as one of those cosmopolitan ex-pat kids who appreciated America more than most of the little shits who grew up there.
It was a nice thought, but Jack knew it was only that. With the way things had been going lately, Sara would sign the divorce papers and probably be glad to see him go, but hell would freeze over before she'd let him take Charlie. And Jack would never leave Charlie behind.
"Here you are, lads." The waitress smiled and set the drinks on the table. As she did so, she leaned over in front of Jack, giving him what he knew was a not-so-accidental view of some pretty astonishing cleavage beneath her neon pink blouse. Jack winked at her, because he knew that was what he was supposed to do, then picked up a beer.
"Drink up, Jack," said one of the RAF officers, the one Jack thought was called Dave, but he was always getting him mixed up with "Biggles", which was a nickname Jack didn't want to know the origins of. "And mind you savour it. This isn't that American piss."
"Hey, there's nothing wrong with American beer," Jack replied. "At least we serve it at the right temperature." He swallowed a mouthful of warm beer and reached for his cigarettes.
"Bollocks," Biggles, or perhaps Dave, snorted. "We invented beer. You're the ones who arsed it up."
Jack laughed and flicked his lighter as someone said, "Actually, the Egyptians invented beer."
Jack glanced over his shoulder, to see a young man with long blond hair and glasses sitting at the next table, a book in front of him and a half-pint glass at his side. Out of long habit, Jack surreptitiously flicked his gaze down as much of the man's body as Jack could see. It wasn't much: a baggy black NYU T-shirt and dirty jeans. Probably a student backpacking across Europe, Jack guessed. The kind of guy General Hollings back home would call a "draft-dodger" even though, to Hollings's never-ending disappointment, there hadn't been a draft to dodge in fifteen years.
"Legends say that it was the god Osiris who taught them how to brew it. I don't know about that, but there is solid archaeological evidence the Egyptians used bread to make beer and probably flavoured it with date juice or honey." The man pushed up his glasses.
Jack raised an eyebrow. "Gee, thanks, Sherman. Did Mr. Peabody teach you that?"
He knew the English pilots wouldn't get it, but Phil Kazowski--a USAF major who'd been here for years, had married an Englishwoman and had the confusing habit of spelling "colour" and "honour" with a "u" in dispatches--snorted. Sherman himself frowned a little and looked back at his book.
It may have been warm, but English beer was as hard on the bladder as the American stuff. After four pints, Jack stubbed out his second cigarette and said, "I'm gonna take a leak." He left them making Welshmen jokes and headed for the door marked "Gents."
The bathroom was empty. Jack went up to one of the two urinals and unzipped, looking at the incomprehensible number that followed "For a good time, call Sheila" and wondering why Europeans couldn't use a sensible seven-digit telephone system like they did back home.
He was nearly finished when he heard the door open behind him. He glanced up and saw Sherman coming in.
The man raised an eyebrow and said, hesitantly, like he thought Jack might be criminally insane, "Hello." Sherman stood at the only other urinal, which put him a little closer than Jack would have liked but there wasn't anything he could do about that. He wasn't about to stop midstream and head for the stall.
Jack smiled tightly and fixed his eyes back on the wall. He didn't feel bad, exactly, about the Mr. Peabody crack, but the guy was a fellow American, and that had to mean something, right?
"You from New York?" he asked.
"Among other places," Sherman answered.
"No." Jack shook off the last remaining drops and tucked himself in. "I'm doing a semester at Leeds University," Sherman continued, as Jack zipped up.
"Ah. A student." Jack had thought so.
"Visiting professor, actually."
That got his attention. Jack looked up at the man, who couldn't have been older than twenty-five. "Really. You seem kind of young."
Sherman shrugged. Jack turned the old-fashioned metal tap and rinsed his hands in the cold water that appeared. "I guess you're from Mildenhall," Sherman added, which surprised Jack a little. Jack was in civvies, and Sherman didn't look like the type to know about air force bases.
"Just visiting," Jack replied. Much as he would have liked to stay.
He wiped his hands on a paper towel and looked at Sherman. He wasn't Jack's type, not by a long shot, and anyway, he hadn't risked anything with a guy since before Charlie was born, six years ago now. "See you around, Sherman."
"I doubt it," Sherman replied, as Jack let the bathroom door swing shut behind him.
Cheyenne Mountain, United States, 2004
"So where's the picture of SG-1?" Daniel asked, as he unpacked a photo of a much younger Jack with two guys Jack could barely remember.
"I see you guys every day. I don't need a picture." Jack wasn't actually comfortable displaying any of these pictures in his office. Who the hell wanted to come in and see a million photos of him, anyway? But George had told Jack he needed something to make the place personable, and since Jack didn't have any grandchildren to show off, he had to make do with showing off himself.
Daniel put the photo down on the desk and reached into another box. Over the weekend, he had helped Jack empty his garage of thirty years of assorted career crap: medals, awards and pictures he could use to make his new office "personable." Jack was glad Daniel had been there. Left to his own devices, Jack knew he would probably have gone to Wal-Mart, bought a few picture frames, and left in the photos that came with them.
"What's this?" Daniel asked yet again, this time as he pulled out a bronze eagle on a wooden base.
"A thank you gift. I did some work at Mildenhall Air Base in England." And they'd thrust that at him as he left. Jack was about as proud an American as it was possible to be, but he still wished they'd picked something a little less...useless. Like a six-pack and a carton of cigarettes.
"April 1990?" Daniel read off the plaque beneath the eagle. "That was right before I got fired from Leeds University."
"Too controversial for them, huh?" Jack picked up a framed picture of him and Charlie, taken after Charlie's first Little League tournament. He wasn't sure if it was a good idea having that here or not. He'd had a picture of Charlie in his locker for a while, but he'd taken it down when it got too hard to look at. But things were different now, and Jack liked to think Charlie would have been proud of him for making it this far.
"Too arrogant and pushy, more like," Daniel replied. "I did a lot of travelling while I was there. I remember seeing Mildenhall." He smiled. "I wonder if I saw you."
"I think I'd remember, Daniel." He didn't, nor had he had any kind of déjà vu when he'd met Daniel years later.
"Still, it's kind of an interesting thought, Jack." Daniel took out two leather bound books and set them on a shelf. "We might have met before we met."
Jack doubted it. Daniel was memorable like that. He shrugged anyway. "I guess. Maybe." He looked at the assorted memories Daniel had unpacked and arranged around the room. Old planes, old friends, old experiences, old memories. Daniel was right; Jack needed something a little more current.
Reaching into his pocket, Jack pulled out his camera phone and said, "Hey, Daniel." Daniel half-turned and Jack snapped a picture. "Perfect." Daniel's mouth was slightly open from the exertion of carrying boxes, and his cheeks were slightly flushed. "I'll get Carter to print that one out for me."
"Jack." Daniel frowned, looking, Jack thought, as irritated as Sara had whenever he'd snapped a less than flattering picture of her.
"You're the one who wanted me to put up a picture of you."
"Not just me. That'll look suspicious."
"I'm the general, Daniel." And that didn't mean he and Daniel could start sashaying through the Gateroom hand-in-hand, but it did mean that a little of the immediate pressure was eased. Just a little. Jack still didn't want to think about what would happen if he and Daniel were ever exposed as "more than friends."
"So? What if someone says something?"
Jack looked at Daniel, surrounded by Jack's memories, fitting right in with the F-16s and the certificates of merit and the pictures of old buddies and old rivals and Charlie. Jack couldn't help himself. He reached out and touched Daniel, just briefly, on the shoulder. "I'll tell them it's a picture of a guy I met in England."
Daniel shook his head and went back to arranging Jack's things in the new office. As Daniel hefted the ugly eagle---making a less-than-subtle face as he did so---Jack remembered how close he'd come to trying to get a transfer to Mildenhall. If it hadn't been for Charlie, Jack would have gone, and who knew what could have happened after that? He might not have gone to Iraq, or at least not with Frank Cromwell's unit, the one that left him behind. He might not have been called up for the Stargate mission. He might never have met Daniel.
"Weird how shit works out, huh?" Jack said, because he didn't know how else to tell Daniel how lucky he felt. About everything.
"Yeah," Daniel agreed. Jack watched as Daniel pulled the engraved nameplate out of another box and ran his hands over the letters Jack had spent a lot of time staring at, too. Brigadier-General J. O'Neill.
"Come on," Jack said, after a minute. "Let's get this done and go for a pizza or something."
"Sure, Jack." Daniel looked up at him, and Jack knew he understood. About everything.
He smiled, and Jack wondered why he'd never noticed how much Daniel looked like that kid in the Mr. Peabody cartoon
|Summary:||Jack and Daniel, past and present.|