"Forgive me Father for I have sinned; it's been seven weeks since my last confession."
I reel off my sins almost by rote and the priest actually sounds a little more interested than most. I guess the sins of a soldier fighting a war no-one can know about are a little different from the usual suburban coveting thy neighbour's wife's ass. Normally the SGC's Chaplain is my confessor, the sanctity of the confessional aside, national security's a bitch. Carefully edited confessions full of unnamed people and places just seem to be missing the point, at least to me they are. This time though I need a real church even if I do have to be so much more careful; I need the peace I've always found amongst the stone and the stained glass and the candles. I kneel before the altar and do my penance and the familiar words are comforting for what I know lies ahead. Silently I ask God for forgiveness that my confession was incomplete, not just in detail but in content. This is something I can't confide in any priest, no matter how good, there are too many dangers and too great a possibility for disaster. This confession is for God alone.
After a few minutes I stand and light a candle for the absent friend who has been most in my thoughts lately. I hope you've found some peace in Heaven Charlie, I know life didn't give you much down here. I choose a seat in a corner next to one of the huge stone pillars that support the roof and let my eyes close as I breathe in the cool air and incense. The hushed sounds and occasional clink of glass or gold as people go about their business wash over me. I know some people find it odd that after all I've seen and done I've still managed to hold onto my faith, but I've always found church soothing.
I was raised a devout Catholic, almost inevitable for any Italian-American, but that initial devotion has changed over the years. I've changed, sometimes because of things I've seen, things I've done, but mostly I think because of the people I've known. I joined the Air Force because I wanted to do some good in the world, these days I can only laugh at how naïve I was then. At the same time though, all the questionable things I've done have led me to this place, this assignment, and for the first time I know for sure that I'm doing what I first set out to do. But it's taken me a while to reach this point and I probably never would have, if not for the friends I made along the way.
I was burning out young in Special Ops; it makes people hard but it makes them brittle too. No-one comes out unchanged, but a few make it out still human. I don't think I could have been one of those few after most of my unit was wiped out in a spectacularly blown mission. I guess that's one of those 'mysterious ways' people talk about. I would never have chosen for that to happen; they were my friends and my team-mates, and even if I wasn't really close to any of them, they were people I trusted my life to. But if it hadn't happened I would never have been reassigned to Major Wallace's unit.
Wallace was an uptight asshole that I could really have done without at that particular point in my life. But in that unit I found my guardian angels and they'd both probably choke if they could hear me call them that. Well, Charlie I guess you probably can hear me, but I'm not going to take it back so you can just deal with it. I'm not sure either of you knew how close I was to crashing when we met, but you turned me around pretty quickly. Captain Charles Kawalsky and Captain Jonathon O'Neill.
We met when I joined the unit, we talked a few times, but we didn't share anything personal, just the usual kind of buddy-buddy stuff. Wallace was the kind of asshole who didn't give an inch and trauma was no excuse for falling apart, in fact it just guaranteed he'd be twice as much of an asshole to you. Still shaken from the loss of my unit, I was the prime target, until Jack O'Neill came along. As much as Wallace hated weakness, he hated smart-mouths more, and ones who were more popular than him... At the time I thought it was just one of those things, now that I know Jack better I'm not sure it wasn't deliberate in some way, even though he may not have known it at the time. I've seen him do it consciously in the field, drawing attention away from others, buying time and opportunity with his own blood.
Jack never quite crossed the line into insubordination, but I think he had more latrine duty than anyone I've ever heard of, he probably still holds the record too. I watched Charlie back him up, take some of the flak from Wallace and... I don't know, maybe I was just desperate for someone to relate to or something, but I did the same. I think my volunteering threw them a little, but they got over it quickly enough and included me in their own personal unit. It opened me up to more grief from Wallace, but this time I had backup and nothing he said or did could touch me where it mattered most. I had their loyal and unconditional support just as I had given them mine. Captains Kawalsky, Ferretti and O'Neill, the despair of the USAF. Eventually Wallace washed his hands of us and left for a desk job. He was replaced by Frank Cromwell and the rest, as they say, is history.
With Charlie and Jack I found a friendship I'd never had before, a sense of loyalty and compassion that seems incredibly strange given the work we did. It was because of them that my beliefs first changed. Up until then I'd never really had call to question some of the things I'd been taught as a child, despite the things I'd seen in Special Ops. But one day, a couple of months after Jack's promotion, we all had leave. Jack was going off to meet Sara's parents so I understood why he was a bit antsy, but I didn't understand why Charlie was, if anything he was worse than Jack. I think Jack was a bit unnerved by Charlie's behaviour too, but he seemed to understand it - I didn't and so they told me.
I would never have pegged Charlie as gay, it had honestly never occurred to me. My gut reaction was everything I'd been taught to believe, but if nothing else, Special Ops teaches you self-control. Of course they were Special Ops too so I don't think I fooled them, but they didn't say anything. They took it in turn to explain everything to me and I surprised myself when they got to the end of it and I offered to cover for Charlie while Jack was away. I knew these guys; we'd fought and bled together, stuck up for one another throughout, I literally couldn't imagine not doing that now.
I guess when something like this surprises you, you have one of two reactions. The first is that if he's gay, he can't be the person you thought he was and the friendship is over; the second is the reverse, that if he's gay, then they can't be what you were always taught to believe. I think part of what swayed me was the trust. If I'd taken it badly Charlie could have ended up in Leavenworth and it was entirely possible that Jack wouldn't have been far behind him. They both had so much to lose, yet they still trusted me.
So I dealt with it and strangely enough it remains one of my proudest accomplishments. Although I did manage to corner Jack alone before he left to ask all the things I couldn't in Charlie's presence. That was when I left behind the trappings and teachings of the Church and realised that doing so didn't negate my own belief. I still find the trappings soothing, it's why I'm here now, but they're not necessary; Jack and Charlie's friendship was. It helped me survive a hard time in my life, it made me a better person, and if their friendship led me to question or even ignore things I had been taught in my youth, then I could only believe it would be for the best.
If you're listening Charlie, then I know I don't need to go over old hurts - your family, Jack's marriage... you know what I'm talking about. But I'm hoping this friendship thing goes both ways because right now I need your advice, there's no-one else I can talk to about this and besides, it's kind of your business.
Remember when you told me you were gay; remember making me swear not to tell another soul so long as I lived? I take my promises seriously, we all do, it's one of the things that made us the friends we are. Right now though I'm torn, I won't break my promise to you Charlie, but I'm really hoping you'll make an exception to it for me. I know you liked Dr Jackson and you more than liked Jack...
I don't know if you've been keeping up with current affairs here at the SGC, but a month or so ago Daniel nearly committed suicide. I never would have pegged him for that, but then I never would have pegged Jack for it either, now I know better. Or maybe I don't, there's a world of difference between attempting and succeeding after all.
Anyway, not many people know the truth about the whole incident, I only know because Jack told me. Apparently, it was mainly due to the effects of some weirdass Goa'uld lightshow, but near as I can tell it didn't create the feelings only magnified them. After the detox, Daniel was still on restricted duties, but Jack got sent off to babysit some scientists - theoretically an easy mission and you should know by now how those tend to go. I think Frasier would have kept him on restricted duty too if she could, but you know how he gets when he's bored, so she'd practically shoved him through the wormhole herself. Strangely enough Jack didn't actually want to go this time and I didn't even need to guess why. He left me strict instructions before he went, not that Jack doesn't trust Frasier, but... you know what he's like. So I kept an eye on Daniel for him and that's when I had the epiphany that led to this.
It's a little difficult, being on different teams, to know exactly what's going on, but I guess I'm nearer to SG-1 than most and it's been obvious to me at least that something has been going on with the team for a while now. I'm not sure when it started, maybe when Jack went undercover, maybe a little later, I don't know. Whenever it started, what it has done is almost break up the team.
Prior to this Light incident, Daniel had been getting increasingly depressed, about what I wasn't sure, but I recognised the signs from my own near-burnout. I know Jack had been finding rock-hunting missions with other teams for him, since Hammond wouldn't assign SG-1 as a whole to primarily archaeological missions. We had him once or twice ourselves, though like SG-1 we're mainly a contact team. I talked to him then; I knew going in that the only person Daniel will talk to is Jack, but I had to try anyway. I wasn't disappointed, but I did get some information by observation. As depressed as Daniel was back at the SGC, he was even more so when he was away from his friends.
Then the rumours started about Jack and Major Carter. Rumours on a base like this are nothing new, particularly about a team like SG-1, but these had a certain vicious persistence. I have no idea who started them, but if I ever find out I will personally kick their ass all the way to that Goa'uld fortress on P3X-512 and leave it there. I know Sam Carter; she's a good friend and reliable backup. I'm honestly not sure if she is attracted to Jack, I'm not a good judge of that sort of thing. But even if she is, there is no way on this or any other planet that she would jeopardise SG-1 for it, never mind her and Jack's careers. I do know that Jack isn't attracted to her, at least not beyond acknowledging that Sam Carter is a beautiful woman. He's proud of her and he'll tell anyone she's the best damn 2IC a man could have, so long as she's not around to hear it, but there's no chemistry there. The rumours got so bad Hammond called me in about it, I told him what I knew and honestly thought and I think he believed me. Gossip being what it is, nothing Jack or Sam could do would do anything other than encourage it - so I enlisted Teal'c and I think together we've just about got it stamped down now. I hope.
At the same time the brass started coming down hard on everyone for increased technological gain, forcing the sort of priorities that are anathema to a guy like Daniel. Jack's been getting a ton of grief about this as 2IC of the SGC as a whole; I don't think he agrees with the mandate either, but he has to follow orders and he's the visible and accessible target for every disgruntled scientist on the base. Daniel tries to deflect the worst of it, I think, but he can't do anything about the pressure from above. The tension around here is becoming impossible, something's going to give and I'm afraid SG-1 are going to bear the brunt of it as they always do. And if SG-1 goes, the rest of the SGC will collapse like a house of cards. Between them, in one way or another, they manage to represent just about every faction on base, where they go we go. SG-1 as a whole is closer than family, prick one and they all bleed - then they hunt down whoever did the pricking. I guess what I'm getting at is that the external pressures are bad enough, but I know they can deal with it; it's the internal pressures added to it that might tear them apart.
Anyway, with all this crap flying around Daniel got caught in the crossfire, as a scientist on a military team, as Sam's adopted brother and Jack's best friend, and in light of my epiphany it wasn't so difficult to see why he was hit so hard by it. Daniel was in love with Jack. Maybe I'm just slow and if you have been watching Charlie, I'll bet you spotted it way back when. I should have seen it sooner I know, some Special Ops observer I am, but in my defence Daniel's pretty damn tight-lipped about things and I guess I didn't think history would repeat itself so closely.
Suddenly it all made sense, y'know, Daniel has been eating his heart out over Jack. Daniel's a pretty passionate guy, he's fallen for Jack exactly like he fell for Sha're. The 'move Heaven and Earth to be with you' definition of fallen for. He's also an honourable man; he won't risk Jack's friendship and career for his own happiness. Ringing any bells here, Charlie?
I know you're not a jealous guy, Charlie, you could never have been so nice to Sara if you were. You and I both know Jack's fine with the whole gay thing, but Daniel doesn't and I think he needs to or sooner or later he's going to end up back on that balcony again. You know what the jarheads are like for their so-called jokes and with them at least Daniel has never really lived down the geek he used to be. It's a sensitive subject and he's probably scared stupid that Jack would be just like Makepeace and given Daniel's past history in the abandonment stakes... Even if he never finds a way to tell Jack how he feels, he has to know that he won't lose Jack's friendship because of it.
I remember a conversation we had once, Charlie, where you told me about your family, about how if it hadn't been for Jack's unconditional support your own self-hatred would have killed you. Well, it's killing Daniel. You trusted Jack enough to let him make his own decision, maybe it's a military thing or maybe Daniel's just been burned too many times to risk it, but he can't make that leap of faith. He's my friend, he's Jack's friend and for as little time as you knew him I think he was yours. I may not be able to fix this, but I can at least make things a bit easier for him. If you let me...
Someone's too-loud laugh intrudes on my thoughts and I see the increased number of people hanging around at the back of the church. I have no idea how long I've been here, but it looks like there's a service shortly. I need to move anyway. With a last farewell to Charlie I make my way outside. The weather is unseasonably warm and close - I think it's going to rain tonight.
I start walking with no real destination in mind. I feel calmer after my time in Church, but my dilemma remains and my thoughts circle it like vultures at a carcass. I could tell Daniel about Jack and Charlie; I don't think I could get away with just telling him not to worry about it, he's too damn smart, but that means he's more than smart enough to draw his own conclusions from it. I'm fairly sure that would make things easier for him, knowing he isn't going to be rejected out of hand. But to do that... I'd be breaking my promise to Charlie; I'd be going against the teachings of my faith; I'd be going against the regulations of the Air Force which I swore to uphold. I guess the Air Force rules aren't really an issue for Daniel, but it could put Jack in an awkward position.
If I don't... Daniel will self-destruct despite Jack's best efforts and the way things are right now, he'd probably take SG-1 with him. I suppose I could talk to Jack about this, but like me, he's bound by Air Force rules and I can't put this burden on him. Jack's position is such that any decision he makes has to be his own; he won't let anyone be accused of influencing him and he can't bring it up because he's the CO and he won't pressure people like that. It has to be Daniel who speaks; he will if he has reason to believe he won't be turned away, the guy has more guts than smarts some days, particularly where his surrogate family is concerned.
I guess it all comes down to my promise to Charlie. I can ignore childhood teachings for the sake of my friends; I find I can even ignore Air Force regs for the sake of my friends, though it helps that I wouldn't be directly breaking them myself, but a promise to a friend, even a dead one... Yet if I do nothing... Daniel's hurting because of how he feels, Jack is hurting because Daniel is, and to a lesser extent so are Sam and Teal'c. I'm fairly sure Hammond's noticed the difference in the team; he may decide he has no choice but to split them up and that would be fatal - maybe even literally.
Thunder rumbles low and sullen and then the Heavens open. I've only got a light jacket and I don't think being soaked to the skin would be conducive to solving my problem, so I duck into the nearest doorway. For a little while I just stare at the rain, my mind blank, hoping a solution will present itself. It takes me a few minutes before I realise that what I'm staring at is the building nameplate and I almost laugh out loud. Thanks Charlie. The doorman lets me in when I buzz and at his questioning look I speak. "Lou Ferretti to see Dr Jackson in 8-3."