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Fanfiction: Mortal Wounds

Fandom: Stargate SG1
Series: Aftershocks
TAG to Episode: S5 Meridian
Rating: PG-13
Author's Note: Daniel/Team friendship.  Daniel/Sha're.  Mild Daniel/Janet UST.  Mild Sam/Jack UST. Some bad language.  Character death.
Disclaimer: No copyright infringement intended.  Written for entertainment purposes only.

 

Mortal Wounds


There was only the light and for a brief moment he wondered if he had made a mistake; if all he'd done was die...
 

o-O-o


Jack O’Neill kicked the door behind him and heard it slam shut. He stood momentarily in the hallway of his home as though uncertain why he was there. His mind was a blank. He shook the stupor away. He had driven himself home as soon as the impromptu debriefing on Daniel Jackson’s demise had finished, wanting – needing – to be out of the mountain.

He didn’t want to think about what had happened or the impact it was going to have to SG1, to Samantha Carter, to Teal’c, to himself. His jaw firmed; his lips thinned. He wasn’t thinking about it. He looked down at the brown bag in his arms. He marched down into the den. He froze at the sight of a chess board set up ready. He had made plans with Daniel just before the mission to play a game when they returned. He swept it off the table, uncaring when the pieces tumbled to the floor. He set the bag on the coffee table and walked over to the stereo to shove a CD into the player. He pushed the volume up to loud.

Opera boomed out of the speakers. It was rich and violent; passionate and powerful. It filled his senses; kept his thoughts from drifting back to the events of the past few days, to the final hours. Jack ripped at the bag and snatched one of the cans of beer he’d bought. He pulled the tab quickly. The warm liquid gushed down his throat and he swallowed rapidly, coughing. He sat down with a thump and gulped back enough to drain the can by half. He leaned forward, almost hunched over in half as he closed his eyes and let the music fill his head.

His hands tightened around the aluminium and he drank without thinking. He wanted to get drunk; wanted to drown out the thoughts that hovered on the edges of his mind, numb the grief and loss that would come if he acknowledged that Daniel was dead. The thought had him draining the can until it was empty and he reached for a second.

Daniel wasn’t dead, Jack argued with himself; Daniel had Ascended. He’d moved onto a higher plane of existence. Jack pulled a face and snorted out loud as he lowered the can. If anyone had been a candidate for that, it was Daniel. The guy never thought twice about sacrificing himself for others. That was the goddamn problem, Jack grumbled inwardly. That self-sacrificing streak had gotten Daniel killed.

Jack’s head lowered and his hands fisted around his drink. Jonas Quinn had been the one to tell them the truth about what had happened; how Daniel had saved the Kelownans from a massive explosion. He had saved millions of lives including those of his team-mates. There was no doubt that the blast would have taken out the city which the rest of SG1 had been busily touring as part of their diplomatic, fact-finding mission.

Diplomatic, fact-finding waste of fucking time, Jack thought darkly.

He should have been with Daniel.

The thought stung enough that Jack raised the can again and drank down the beer without tasting it. He should have been with Daniel but instead he had been making nice with some government toady and suffering through some idiotic tour. It had been his call as SG1 leader to let Daniel go back to the testing facility to talk with Jonas.

I think I can get through to him, Jack.’

I’m telling you it’s a waste of time. They’re going to build that bomb, Daniel; trust me on that.’

Blue eyes pleaded back at him.

OK.’ It was a sigh. ‘Go. Talk. Do your thing.’

A slap on his arm was his thanks.

He’d let Daniel walk right into a mess, unprotected and without back-up. He should have gone with him. Hell, Carter had requested to go with him – she’d been fascinated by the experiment and the naquadria – and he’d knocked her back with some lame quip that if he had to suffer the tortures of the tour, she was going to have to suffer it right alongside him. The thought that he had almost caved to her begging look sent a shiver down his spine. If she’d been with Daniel…would he have lost them both? Or her? Was it bad that he was slightly relieved that it had been just Daniel? And hell, he had no right to think that because it was screwed up but, damn it, he loved Carter. He wasn’t supposed to and wasn’t supposed to favour her at all, and the idea that he might have, that he might have kept her beside him because he wanted her presence instead of sending her along to protect Daniel, had guilt rushing through his veins. It curdled uneasily in his gut and he chugged down more beer. Jack crumpled the aluminium and tossed it, uncaring where it landed. He picked up another and opened it.

It wasn’t as though he’d made a choice between them, Jack thought insistently; he hadn’t. It wasn’t a case of picking someone for a mission that had gone wrong. It had been an accident. An experiment had gone wrong. Daniel had understood the dangers and gone in; had stopped the device so it couldn’t explode and kill them all. If Jack had been with him…he should have been with him.

A hasty swallow of beer almost went down the wrong way and he coughed, tears springing into his eyes. He blinked them away angrily. He wasn’t going to cry. He tilted the can but it was empty. He reached for another.

The truth was that Jack hadn’t been with him. He hadn’t even spared Daniel a thought until the communication had come in for them to get to the facility. He closed his eyes. He’d failed to protect Daniel and Daniel had taken a lethal dose of radiation.

The past couple of days had been hell.

They’d slowly watched Daniel dying. He’d been in pain; so much in pain. Jack was crap at that sort of thing. He hated it. Hated watching his friend slowly mummified. Hated not knowing what to do; what to say.

I’m really bad at this.’ Jack confessed, knowing Daniel would understand.

And he had. There had been a glimmer of humour along with the pain in the eyes that had blinked back at him. More in his voice as Daniel replied. ‘Yes. You are.’

Another can was tossed across the room.

At least he’d been able to ensure that Daniel’s name was cleared. He’d talked with Jonas when he’d taken the damn letter Hammond had written to the Kelownan government. Personally, he hadn’t given a fuck about the magic element. He appreciated Carter’s view that it could be important but stuff wasn’t important – truth was. He’d learnt that from Daniel.

He laughed bitterly and leaned back, resting his head against the cushion. He took another sip of beer. The point was that Jonas had listened and he’d told the Kelownan government the truth about what had happened. Maybe – just maybe – the guy had found some balls. Jonas had stolen the naquadria and brought it to Earth when he realised his government would use the bomb. He couldn’t go back and had apparently asked for sanctuary on Earth.

Jack didn’t much care. Maybe Jonas wasn’t directly responsible for what had happened to Daniel; maybe Jonas wasn’t directly responsible for the story the Kelownan scientists had cooked up about Daniel sabotaging their experiment and smearing Daniel’s name. Maybe he wasn’t directly responsible but Jack couldn’t shake the feeling that Jonas deserved to take some responsibility for what had gone down.

Daniel probably wouldn’t have agreed.

Tears stung the back of his eyes again and he blinked them away, took another sip of beer. Damn it. At least, the side trip to Kelowna had meant that he had felt he was doing something. Something other than sitting and watching his friend die. They had tried the Asgard and the Tok’ra seemingly to no avail and it was too risky to get to the one known sarcophagus. Jack had considered it anyway; considered defying Hammond’s order and going after it with Carter and Teal’c in the newly repaired cargo ship parked out at Petersen. But Carter had worked out they would never have made it there and back before Daniel died and Jack figured the time was better spent being with Daniel even if they couldn’t do anything for him. Carter had tried to heal him with the Goa’uld device but she hadn’t been able to make it work. She felt guilty about that; Jack knew she did especially when Jacob had finally turned up and had been able to use it. He’d seen it in her eyes.

‘…my life is no more valuable than anyone else’s.’

Daniel’s words filtered through the buzz in Jack’s head. He’d been wrong about that, Jack mused sadly. So wrong. Jack reached for the last can and sipped it without thinking. He didn’t think Daniel would have been offered the whole Ascension deal if Oma hadn’t seen what everyone saw in Daniel; that sense of good, of right.

Jack’s hand crept to his shoulder where the shadow of Daniel’s touch remained. He closed his eyes, remembering the sense of dislocation and the jarring feeling of being in two places at the same time. On one level he knew his body had remained in the infirmary room watching Jacob healing Daniel yet on another he knew he had been in the gate room with Daniel.

Please, Jack; tell Jacob to stop.’

How could Daniel have asked him to do that? Jack clapped a hand over his face and fought to breathe against the tight feeling in his chest. How could he have asked Jacob to stop healing Daniel?

It’s what I want.’

What about they wanted? Teal’c was quietly grief-stricken and Carter was devastated. She had barely looked at Jack during the debriefing when he had explained Daniel’s request to him, and the one time their eyes had connected, Jack had seen the unspoken question there; why hadn’t Jack fought for Daniel to stay with them?

Jack sighed heavily and opened his eyes. Tears blurred his vision and he swiped at them. He could have argued with Daniel; could have told him all the reasons why he was needed right where he was…the problem was Jack figured Daniel already knew. Not to mention Jack knew how badly Daniel was struggling with everything. He wasn’t a soldier; he hadn’t trained for war. Maybe Ascending; getting away from it was the best thing for Daniel. It would keep him safe.

I think I can do more this way.’

Daniel had so badly wanted to make a difference – even if it had killed him, Jack thought with irony. Jack curled up on the sofa and closed his eyes. He hoped Daniel could find what he was looking for wherever he’d gone because the truth of it was he’d left them behind and they would all have to face living without him; being SG1 without him. And the sooner they did the better in Jack’s view; it was Jack’s final pained thought as he slid into sleep where he could forget that Daniel was gone and he had let him go…

o-O-o

General Hammond stood looking out at the gate room below. The personnel below moved without their usual verve and talked in hushed tones. The entire base was suffused with sadness. Daniel Jackson had been well liked, popular. More he and the rest of SG1 held almost iconic status in the corridors of the SGC. His loss was being felt on every level of the base.

Hammond breathed in deeply. He would have to watch morale, he mused, pursing his lips thoughtfully. He couldn’t deny that his own was rocked. He believed in SG1 as a team; believed they were vital to Earth’s safety. He wasn’t certain how Earth was going to survive without the full team. He wasn’t certain SG1 was going to survive.

They’d been hit hard. Teal’c’s stoicism had wobbled in the debriefing; his stern exterior showing a glimpse of how shell-shocked the Jaffa truly was underneath his impassivity. The Major had tried to keep the tears out of her eyes but she hadn’t managed it and her CO had worn a mask of military bravado that Hammond had admired and despaired of in the same breath.

They’d been hit hard and so had he. He’d lost men before but he could admit if only to himself that some losses were felt more than others. He had been truly fond of Daniel Jackson. There had been a lot to admire in the young man; a brilliant mind, an endless compassion and a strong sense of justice. There would never have been a Stargate programme without him, and Hammond could feel the ground beneath them trembling with his death.

He caught a glimpse of his image in the window; at the frown that lined his face, the redness in his cheeks and across his bald pate. He looked as tired and shaken as the personnel in the gate room. He needed to do better if he was going to lead them through this. He turned away and stalked back into his office.

He sat down at his desk and reached for the first report on the pile but although he set it in front of him, he didn’t open it. His mind was still on the events of the day. He wondered how they explained Ascension on a death certificate – he’d have to talk with Janet Fraiser, get her view on that. Then there was the matter of whether to hold a memorial service…did they do that? Was Daniel really dead? He sighed heavily. He’d get Colonel O’Neill’s view on that.

The Colonel’s story was incredible; the archaeologist taking him to some other plane of existence, or into some dream; the request that Jack let him go and then the Ascension itself. Hammond had witnessed that himself; seen Daniel’s body turned into pure white energy; brilliantly bright. He had felt warmth and friendship; felt the goodbye Daniel Jackson had given them. But had he felt it? It seemed so bizarre in the aftermath; so surreal. Hammond wasn’t a man given to flights of fancy and he put it down to the emotion of the moment.

It had been some moment.

‘George.’

Hammond’s head jerked automatically to the office doorway. Jacob Carter stood there, looking as worn as Hammond felt. Hammond gestured him forward.

‘How is she?’ Hammond asked as Jacob came to stand in front of his desk. Jacob had been with his daughter.

Jacob rested his fingertips on the polished wood. ‘Not good. She’s gone home finally.’ His dark eyes gleamed with concern. ‘I haven’t seen Sam this way since her mother died.’

‘You know how it gets in a team, Jacob.’ Hammond said mildly. ‘She’s lost one of her closest friends.’

Jacob nodded sharply and drew himself up. ‘I need to return to the Tok’ra.’

‘Now?’ The word came out sharper than Hammond had intended. He had assumed Jacob would stay and help Sam through her grief. He saw Jacob flush.

‘We have bigger problems to deal with than the death of one man.’ Jacob said bitingly.

‘That’s pretty cold, Jacob.’ Hammond shot back.

‘It’s the job.’ Jacob retorted. ‘And you know that as well as I do.’ He shuffled under Hammond’s insistent gaze. ‘Sam understands we need to get back.’

Hammond wondered if Sam understood it as much as Jacob wanted to believe that she did since she was conspicuously absent and she usually said goodbye to her father at the gate.

‘I’m afraid I need to leave immediately.’ Jacob said firmly.

‘Then we won’t keep you.’ Hammond stood up and led the way to the control room where he ordered the gate to be dialled. They made their way to the gate room and stood side by side by the metal ramp as the gate spun.

‘George.’ Jacob sighed. ‘If I could stay I would but there’s not just me in here,’ he tapped his head, ‘and we have duties with the Tok’ra that I can’t just ignore.’

Hammond allowed himself to unbend a little. ‘I understand that, Jacob.’ He glanced at his friend. ‘And I appreciate that you came at all given the circumstances.’ He sighed. ‘It’s been a rough day.’ It was as much of an apology as Jacob was going to get.

Jacob nodded.

The wormhole engaged.

Hammond shook Jacob’s hand firmly but found himself caught when Jacob held on when Hammond would have pulled away.

‘Look after her for me, George.’ Jacob said.

‘I will.’ Hammond promised solemnly.

Jacob let go. He turned and walked up the ramp without hesitation, disappearing into the blue puddle. Hammond sighed heavily and wondered just how he kept his promise.

o-O-o

He was alive. He could feel energy running through him; all around him; he was energy. It was exhilarating. And scary. There was so much power…he had never been so scared. A presence reached out to guide him…Oma…

o-O-o

The open road was ahead of her and Sam pressed down on the accelerator and leaned low almost pressing her body into the motorbike as she zipped over the black asphalt faster and faster. The wind smacked her in the face, unrelenting and cold. Her breath hitched as she fought for breath and to keep the bike steady at the insane speed it was travelling.

She didn’t want to think; didn’t want to think about anything but the bike. It demanded her focus as the road began to curve. She should brake; she accelerated. Pushed it through the bend and opened the throttle up further as she hit the straight. The road in front of her stretched out, empty and flat; the scenery blurred either side of her. It didn’t matter.

All that mattered was the road, the bike and her control. She could feel the pull of the air around her, tugging on her leathers and rasping across her cheeks. She would have wind burn. It felt good. It reminded her she was alive…unlike Daniel.

The bike wobbled beneath her.

Her focus was gone.

She fought hard; eased up slowly, there was a squeal when she applied the brakes and she lurched to a hard stop. Her body jolted forward and her long legs frantically aimed for the ground to keep the bike and herself upright. For a long moment, there was nothing but the pounding of her heart and the ragged edge of her breathing.

Sam yanked the helmet from her head, uncaring at the carnage it had done to her hair. She stuffed it on the back of the bike and climbed off. Her legs weren’t quite steady as she kicked the stand into place. She almost fell to the ground as she ripped off her gloves.

Her face was already wet with tears when she covered it with her hands. She sobbed. She couldn’t catch her breath and finally turned to throw up in the bush. She sat back, trembling. She found a tissue and wiped her mouth clean of vomit. She reached for the water bottle strapped to the bike and swilled her mouth out, spitting the residue into the bushes. She thanked her luck when her hands closed on some gum in her pocket. She stuffed it her mouth and tasted the clammy mint flavour. It removed the last taste of her throw-up.

She sat by the edge of the road and stared out sightlessly at the countryside around her. Tears gathered again but gentler this time as she allowed them to trickle down her face unheeded. She wiped her nose with the back of her hand.

Daniel was dead.

Or was he? He had Ascended. Her eyes closed on the memory. Of the sound of the machine flat-lining; of the way her own heart had skipped a beat and then the light, so bright it burned but she hadn’t been unable to look away; had kept her eyes on the effervescent form of her friend.

Had she imagined the touch of warmth and the feeling of farewell? She brushed her cheeks and pushed her hand through her wrecked blonde mop. She had seen it happen before. Orlin had gone the same way; transforming in front of her eyes. She had never wished to see it again and certainly hadn’t wished for it to happen to one of her closest friends.

He felt he could do more as one of them.’

The Colonel’s words from the debriefing came back to her. Sam’s breath hitched in her throat. She wasn’t sure Daniel could do more in his new form. From everything Orlin had told her, there were rules, strict rules. Why hadn’t the Colonel stopped him? Her father had been healing Daniel…

Only Selmak had admitted they couldn’t bring Daniel back to full health; there had been too much damage from the radiation. Maybe it was better Daniel had Ascended and there was always the chance that he would come back – that he would retake mortal form as Orlin had done.

It didn’t feel better. It felt like Daniel was gone. What did it matter if he had died or had Ascended? He was gone and it was her fault.

The rush of blame burned through her gut; it had her stomach rolling and the bile churning. She turned her face into the wind and breathed deeply.

She should have saved him. His injuries could be healed by the Goa’uld device. Her father and Selmak had proven that. She should have found a way to make it work. She had tried but she had failed. She had failed when it truly mattered. Another wave of tears spilled from her eyes and she brushed them away impatiently. She should have practised with the device more even if she did hate the way it made her feel like a Goa’uld. If she had, maybe then she could have saved Daniel.

Sam climbed back on the bike and turned it for home. She made the journey back into town on auto pilot; her mind focused on the ride. She was half-way down the Colonel’s road before she realised where her subconscious had taken her. She frowned, torn.

A part – a large part of her – wanted to take the turning to his driveway. She wanted his arms around her, holding her close, comforting her; her arms around him, holding him close, comforting him. She had seen the pain in his eyes before his mask had slammed into place. He was hurting. He and Daniel had been close; best friends in a strange way that made no sense to a casual observer and every sense to anyone who knew their history. They had a bond that transcended the usual idea of friendship. They had made the first trip through the gate together and had saved each other and the Abydonians. It was a bond that preceded SG1; one that she and Teal’c didn’t share with them and she respected that. She knew Jack well enough to know that behind the mask he wore he would take Daniel’s death personally and hard. And she knew he wouldn’t welcome her comfort.

Besides, Sam mused swiftly, allowing the turn-off to pass, the Colonel had made it clear that he had disliked that she hadn’t backed him up on the naquadria. He had hated the idea of going back to the Kelownans, to make nice with them after their accusations of Daniel sabotaging the experiment, just for some element. But Sam knew in her gut that the naquadria was too important. It was going to open doorways to them; she could feel it. The energy it was capable of producing was incredible. She hadn’t liked the idea of Daniel’s name being smeared unjustly anymore than the Colonel but getting the naquadria, making use of it...that meant that Daniel’s death would have meaning. She figured the Colonel didn’t see it that way and was pissed at her for focusing on the naquadria and not Daniel. Daniel had understood but then he had always understood she focused on her work when she was upset because he did the same.

She shivered. She had focused on Daniel eventually but it had been hard. Too hard. He had been dying in front of their eyes. She had wanted to be there for him but it had hurt seeing him in so much pain and slipping away, inch by inch. But it seemed he had been slipping away before Kelowna and she just hadn’t seen it.

Sam angled the bike for her own neighbourhood. She kept her speed legal as she took the turns and twists to her house. She parked behind her car and made her way inside. It was deathly quiet.

Too quiet.

She should call Janet and see how Cassie had taken the news…no; she would wait until the next day when she was steadier. She had hoped her father would stay around but hadn’t been surprised when he had left. Duty always came first. Like always. Sam felt a surge of anger. Screw that, she thought furiously. Look what duty had gotten Daniel: killed.

She tugged her leather jacket off and threw it on the floor. She felt furious as tears filled her eyes again. Why couldn’t she stop crying? She scrubbed her face with her hands as she made her way to her bedroom and crawled on top of the bed. She closed her eyes tightly.

Her mind returned to the debriefing. The Colonel had indicated that Daniel had been thinking of leaving, questioning his place, before Kelowna. That maybe that had tipped the scales to his deciding on Ascension. Why hadn’t he talked to her about it? She had known something was wrong; why hadn’t she pressed him to talk with her?

She turned to lie and stare up at the ceiling. She guessed she hadn’t been much of a friend to him. The past year had been rough. The Colonel had made it clear he had moved on from their once mutual feelings and she had found the shift painful and horrible. She had retreated inside herself, pulled away because she hadn’t been able to talk to anyone about it, not openly. She sighed and wiped her eyes absently.

And then there had been all the deaths, all the losses; Orlin, Narim, the Ambassador to the Aschen, Lantash and Elliot…Daniel. It seemed as though she was losing everyone around her. Everyone she loved, left. It was inevitable. She had learned that lesson when her mother had died. She shouldn’t be surprised that Daniel had gone, had left her.

Pain tumbled over her, through her, and Sam sobbed out loud. Why had Daniel left? Why had he gone? Didn’t he know how much he meant to them all? Why did everyone who cared for her leave?

She closed her eyes tightly at the sharp sting of grief and turned her face into the pillow as she let the hot tears run down her face again.

o-O-o

Janet closed the door on Cassie’s room slowly. Her daughter had taken the news of Daniel’s death badly. Cassie had already lost so much in her young life; her biological parents, her homeworld. She had cried herself to sleep. Janet wandered down the stairs and wondered whether anyone would notice if she did the same.

Her feet took her into the kitchen and she made her way to the refrigerator. She pulled out a bottle of wine, looked at it and put it back. She headed for the study and poured herself a whiskey instead. She sat on the den sofa and nursed the whiskey between both hands, staring into the amber depths.

She was tired. She and her team had worked tirelessly to keep him alive, to keep him comfortable, ever since Daniel had arrived back from Kelowna. She had known the reality of what would happen to Daniel as soon as Sam had told her the radiation dose. There was just no way to avoid it. No treatment or way of reversing the damage with the limitation of man-made medicine.

She sipped the whiskey and pulled a face at the deep peaty taste. She bent her head until it rested against the hard crystal. She had felt so helpless, useless. All she had been able to do in the end was watch him die. The grief shot through her and tears sprang to her eyes.

Damn it, Janet thought angrily. She would not cry. She was a goddamn doctor. She lost patients all the time…but some patients got closer than others. The truth of it had her stumbling from her angry thoughts and into a deep sadness.

Daniel had snuck under her radar. She had liked him. He was an incredible man; good, passionate and caring. He had become a friend without her even knowing how it had happened. But there was more, Janet considered, refusing to deny herself the truth just once…she had been an inch away from falling in love with him.

She closed her eyes.

She knew better. She wasn’t supposed to fall in love with a patient and she had resisted the attraction she had felt for a long time because of her ethics and more, because it was so painfully obvious that he didn’t feel the same.

Janet opened her eyes and took another gulp of her drink. It burned the back of her throat and she coughed. She had always known Daniel was in love with his wife, even long after Sha’re had died. There had been a light in his blue eyes whenever he spoke of her; a quiet joy in his voice. He had never looked at her the way he had looked at the pictures of his wife.

The jealousy was bitter and foul, and she downed the rest of her drink to wash it away. She didn’t want to be jealous; how could she be jealous of the young woman who had been taken as a Goa’uld host? Who had lost her life trying to save her child? Janet blinked back tears.

Daniel had been attracted, Janet thought sadly. She was experienced enough to catch the odd moment when he had looked at her as a woman rather than as his doctor. But he had never acted on it and neither had she. He had cared about her too; Janet had felt that. He had cared about her as a friend, had always provided her with a shoulder when she needed to lean on someone, an ear when she needed to talk to someone. She had thanked him for that in the end; for the gift of his friendship.

She swiped at her cheeks and reached for a tissue to blow her nose. Regrets were useless. She couldn’t rewind time and tell him how she truly felt; he was gone. She couldn’t find out if she’d had the courage to approach him if he would have been open to something more between them. What ifs were so cruel…

Janet got to her feet. She left the glass where it was and made her way back up the stairs. She opened Cassie’s room a crack and peeked inside. The dog raised his head in curious inquiry, and gently wagged his tail. He lowered his head back to the bed when Janet didn’t approach. Cassie was sleeping but the tracks of her tears were evident even at a distance. She closed the door again.

Her own bedroom was just down the hall and Janet walked inside it without conscious thought. She sat down on the end of the bed and lowered her head into her hands. She’d have to call Sam and see if she could come over the next day; Cassie had asked for her. Janet had managed to convince Cassie to leave it a day. Sam was grieving too. Janet had seen the pain in her friend’s eyes as clearly as though she had been looking in a mirror.

A pang of guilt ran through her. Janet had pushed Sam into trying the healing device. She knew Sam would never have tried it without the push. Sam didn’t like being reminded that she had the ability to use Goa’uld technology because of her experience with Jolinar. She’d only had few successes with the healing device and she had been unable to help Daniel. That would weigh on her, Janet thought. They would have to talk about it. Sam had to see she wasn’t to blame.

Janet sighed heavily. She undressed and got ready for bed almost absently. She climbed beneath the covers and switched the light off. The room was plunged into darkness. She lay there in the dark.

Was Ascension death? Or was it another life beyond the physical plane? Janet didn’t know and she didn’t care. She had been so shocked when Jack had told Jacob to stop.

It’s what he wants.’

Why would anyone choose to leave all that they knew, all that they loved, behind? Janet couldn’t explain it. Cassie would demand answers and Janet knew she didn’t have them to give her. She didn’t understand it herself.

Her bedroom door opened and Cassie stood in the doorway.

‘Mom?’ Cassie’s voice trembled with fresh tears. ‘Can I sleep with you?’

Janet flipped back the blankets and Cassie crawled inside the bed, snuggling up to her. She had slept with her a lot during the first few months she’d been on Earth but she hadn’t needed the reassurance for a long while. Janet tucked her closer and smoothed Cassie’s hair away from her face as the dog jumped up to lie on the end of the bed.

‘I miss him already.’ Cassie sniffed as she cuddled her mother.

‘Me too.’ Janet said gruffly, her voice tight with the tears she was suppressing. ‘Me too.’

o-O-o

Focus; he had to focus. He knew that. It was just so hard in the maelstrom around him. So hard to make sense of where he was; what he was; who he was…he focused on one thing: Sha’re…

o-O-o

Teal’c gazed up at the stars. The sky at night was always a wonder to him; a dark carpet with the stars and a pale full moon, all in formations so different from Chulak. After the departure of his team-mates from the base, he had made his way to the top of the mountain. He had needed the air on his face; to fill his lungs. The dull fog of loss hung over the corridors inside.

He had stayed in the sunshine and meditated, heedless of the cold prickling his skin with goose-bumps or the way the rock dug into him. He had watched the sun go down beyond the horizon and thought only of Daniel Jackson. He was filled with sadness.

The loss of his friend cut deep. He had once thought that the archaeologist would never be his friend – how could he? Teal’c had been instrumental in the kidnap of Sha’re. More he had chosen her to be infested by the Goa’uld Ammonet. He had done it with the best of intentions; to try and stop the deaths of young women refused by the Goa’uld. But he had taken Sha’re from Daniel Jackson and he believed that when the young man had spoken to him of forgiveness that it would never come. He had been wrong.

Daniel Jackson had forgiven him for all he had done and still, further, he had forgiven him again when Teal’c had killed Sha’re in order to stop the Goa’uld Ammonet from killing his friend. Teal’c had never known anyone with so much compassion or generosity of spirit. He was unsure he would ever know someone like Daniel Jackson again.

He would be missed. Already, there was a hole in Teal’c’s life. He would have spoken with his friend about their team-mates and how to help them through their loss. O’Neill hid much behind his façade as a warrior as was needed but Teal’c knew he would feel the absence of Daniel Jackson keenly. For all their differences, the two men shared a precious bond of friendship and camaraderie. Major Carter’s upset had been evident during the debriefing; tears shining from her eyes. She had been unable to hide her distress. She and Daniel Jackson had an affinity for knowledge and learning; they shared a bond of geniuses, an understanding of what it was to be brilliant. More, they understood each other when others did not. Samantha Carter would miss all of that but more she would miss Daniel Jackson as a sister missed a brother. She would mourn him.

Teal’c was uncertain of his approach; how best to comfort her or O’Neill. They had departed to their homes and perhaps for that night it was necessary. All of them needed time and space to come to terms with what had happened before they came together again. But he would be there for them when they needed him. He swore on the memory of Daniel Jackson that he would be there for their team-mates as he believed the archaeologist would have been in his place.

Perhaps in time O’Neill and Major Carter would also come to see the joy in Daniel Jackson’s Ascension as Teal’c did, he mused. Ascension was at the heart of the Jaffa belief in the afterlife – indeed, it was the afterlife. Jaffa had travelled to Kheb for centuries seeking to learn the required knowledge for their souls to be transformed and move onto that higher plane of existence; to become more. How many Jaffa had actually achieved the goal was unknown; how many had travelled and failed equally a mystery. But there was still the belief in every Jaffa heart that it could be achieved and with it a redemption that burned away past sins.

He had long since given up hopes of achieving such a goal himself. Teal’c knew he had too much blood on his hands; he had taken too many lives in the service of evil. No matter how much he did to even the scales of what he had done, it would never be enough. He knew that. He could only fight for those who stood against the evil for his remaining time and hope that it would be enough to grant a return to a good life on his death.

That Daniel Jackson had achieved Ascension filled Teal’c with a proud joy that mixed uneasily with the sorrow. He had lost his friend but his friend had achieved greatness and he had been acknowledged for his goodness, for his compassionate spirit. How could Teal’c not rejoice about that? How could he only wish that Daniel Jackson was still alive? Because Teal’c acknowledged with a heavy heart, deep down, selfishly, he wanted Daniel Jackson alive. He wanted his friend – his brother – by his side. He wanted SG1 to remain whole. He wanted something he could not have.

The Tau’ri had many rituals when someone died. Teal’c did not know which they would use given the circumstances. Perhaps a memorial…if they did so, Teal’c would request to speak. He wanted others to know of the man Daniel Jackson had been and of the friendship he had offered so freely. There were other rituals that he wanted to observe too…he wondered again if his team-mates would join him or if they would only want to grieve in their own way.

The chill of the night air finally seeped through Teal’c’s oblivion and he stood swiftly in a smooth move that belied his formidable size and signalled his training as a warrior. He walked inside.

There was an unusual quiet in the base; respect and grief combined, Teal’c deduced. He observed the solemn nods from the men and women he passed, the cautious hesitation in some as they considered whether to acknowledge it or not.

Teal’c focused on getting to the mess. His stomach growled hungrily reminding him that he had not eaten for many hours. He filled a tray with a substantial serving and paused momentarily to search for a table. His dark eyes settled on one in the far corner.

It was already occupied by a single man. His light brown hair was swept back in the manner of the Kelownans but he was dressed in the SGC BDUs. Jonas Quinn, Teal’c surmised. He had been informed of the Kelownan’s arrival on Earth. Jonas looked uncomfortable and scared although he was attempting to hide both emotions with a careful studied show of indifference. For a second, Teal’c felt anger rise in his gullet. Jonas Quinn had been witness to Daniel Jackson’s heroism on Kelowna but had stood by and allowed the archaeologist to be accused of sabotage. He had eventually told the truth and had betrayed his government to bring Earth the naquadria although Teal’c believed that his main motivation had been guilt.

The naquadria was something of a puzzle to Teal’c. Major Carter believed it to be important; that it would prove useful in gaining an advantage against the Goa’uld. O’Neill had been more concerned that gaining it did not dishonour Daniel Jackson’s name. Teal’c believed both views were valid. In the end, Jonas Quinn had allowed Earth to gain the naquadria and to ensure that the truth of Daniel Jackson’s heroism was on record.

A group of Airmen bypassed Teal’c and headed for a table. He saw Jonas look at the group longingly before his eyes fell back to his food. Teal’c knew what it was to sit alone, an alien among the Tau’ri and envy the camaraderie of others. He had known what it was to have acted dishonourably toward the Tau’ri and to join with them anyway. He also knew what Daniel Jackson would do in his place. The anger died as abruptly as it had risen and Teal’c walked up to the Kelownan’s table.

Jonas looked up, startled, and swallowed hastily. ‘Teal’c.’ There was a wariness in his gaze that Teal’c wholeheartedly approved of given the other man had no knowledge of his intentions.

‘May I join you, Jonas Quinn?’ Teal’c requested politely.

Surprise, relief and a quiet gratitude chased across Jonas’s open expression as clearly as though he had spoken the emotions out loud. ‘Of course.’ He gestured at the array of empty seats.

Teal’c inclined his head and placed his tray down. He pulled out the chair opposite Jonas and sat down. He sprinkled salt on his main meal and dug into the chicken pie eagerly.

‘What is that?’ Jonas asked curious.

‘It is a pie made of stewed chicken and mushrooms.’ Teal’c informed him. ‘It is a speciality of the chef.’

‘And a chicken is?’

Teal’c held up a piece of white meat. ‘It is a bird. A flying animal.’

‘Ah.’ Jonas smiled. ‘You wouldn’t happen to know what this is?’ He raised a long cylindrical object.

‘It is called a sausage.’ Teal’c said briskly.

‘A sausage.’ Jonas looked at it intently. ‘Is it an animal?’

‘It is usually made from the meat of a pig or cow.’ Teal’c said. ‘Along with much of its offal.’

‘Offal?’

‘The internal organs.’

‘Oh.’ Jonas put the sausage down. ‘Maybe I’ll stick to these until I learn more about the food here.’ He forked up some French fries.

‘A wise decision.’ Teal’c agreed, remembering some of his own early experiments.

Jonas chewed and swallowed. He picked up his water and took a sip. ‘Thank you for keeping me company.’

Teal’c looked up briefly before he continued eating.

‘I realise my presence here may not be welcome after everything that happened with Doctor Jackson.’ Jonas admitted.

‘It is likely that some will blame you for what has occurred.’ Teal’c responded carefully.

‘But not you?’ Jonas questioned, holding Teal’c’s gaze with a surprisingly forceful one of his own.

Teal’c approved of his directness. ‘If I blamed you in any way for the death of Daniel Jackson, you would already be dead.’

Jonas’s mouth fell open. He closed it with a snap and wet his lips. ‘I blame myself.’ He pushed his food across his plate. ‘I stood by and watched it happen. I should have done something. If I had acted, your friend would be alive.’

‘Perhaps.’ Teal’c murmured. ‘But you have cleared his name and provided us with something of value at considerable risk and sacrifice to yourself.’

‘I betrayed my people.’ Jonas flushed. ‘It wasn’t an easy decision.’

‘It is not.’ Teal’c agreed; he had done the same after all when he had determined to help O’Neill save the prisoners from Apophis’s death sentence.

Jonas shifted in his chair as he pushed his plate away. ‘I am sorry about Doctor Jackson.’

‘He will be missed.’ Teal’c said gruffly.

‘He was a hero.’ Jonas said quietly.

‘Indeed.’ Teal’c bowed his head. Sadness filled him again and he appreciated when the Kelownan kept quiet as though he sensed Teal’c’s need for silence to grieve again and mourn the loss of his friend, his brother.

o-O-o

Jonas watched the Jaffa across the table and felt a wave of homesickness. In hindsight, he hadn’t truly considered what he had done before he had done it. He had acted on a wave of bitter disappointment, of a sense of his government betraying him, of dashed hopes and expectations. He had believed wholeheartedly that a bomb would deter the other nations from attacking Kelowna yet what he had seen in the eyes of those elected to protect Kelowna had been an intent to use it.

Colonel O’Neill had been right, Jonas mused miserably. He had told Jonas that the only purpose for creating a bomb was to use it and Jonas hadn’t believed him until he’d seen the truth of it for himself. Jonas reached for the green shiny round fruit he had picked up and popped one in his mouth. It exploded in a juicy sweetness that Jonas couldn’t quite believe. He ate another.

He had made the right decision; he had. Doctor Jackson’s people had deserved to know the truth of what had happened, of how he had saved so many. Jonas could remember the incident with a clarity that he didn’t believe would ever leave him; the sudden blast of radiation; Tomas leaving; the imminent explosion…and Doctor Jackson pointing his weapon at the window and shooting, breaking it so he could jump through it and stop everything.

Jonas had done nothing but watch. Guilt filled him from head to toe. It should have been him. It was his planet and his facility. He should have acted not Doctor Jackson.

He sighed. He had been surprised when Teal’c had joined him. He had thought it was likely that most people around the base would blame him for the death of Doctor Jackson. He believed Colonel O’Neill did. He deserved to be blamed, Jonas argued with himself. He had stood by and done nothing; he had allowed Tomas to blame Doctor Jackson instead of recognising his heroism; he had been a coward.

Well, no more, Jonas determined. Perhaps he would be blamed and perhaps his being on Earth would not be comfortable but it was a suitable penance. He had left no one behind but a few friends and colleagues, his old mentor…but no one special, no family. He would make a life for himself on Earth; he would contribute and help them in their fight against their enemies and he would make up for his part in Daniel Jackson’s death; he would make a difference.

o-O-o

Finally, the nothingness became clear; the destination obvious – he reached with his mind and in a single thought was there…

Daniel slumped to the sandy ground as his knees – and how did he have knees in an incorporeal form? – went weak. He felt tired, exhausted. He looked down in surprise and found he was in human form again.

He almost panicked.

Oma appeared beside him and smiled reassuringly. ‘You are still Ascended, Daniel.’ She looked out at the vast desert around them. ‘You do not yet know enough about using the knowledge within you to retake human form.’

‘So why am I, uh,’ Daniel gestured down at himself. He wore Abydonian robes; he recognised them from his time living with Sha’re.

‘It is the most familiar form to you and therefore the easiest for you to assume.’ Oma explained, dropping to sit cross-legged in front of him. ‘Just as you brought us here because this was the location most in your mind and heart.’

‘Here?’ Daniel’s nose wrinkled as he looked around searching for a clue to where his mind and heart had dumped him. His gaze caught on the sky and the suns. ‘Abydos.’

‘You have a strong tie to this place.’ Oma commented, tucking her own robes around her body neatly.

‘Yes.’ Daniel admitted as he sat beside her. ‘I guess I do.’ He caught the look of concern that flitted through her eyes before she could hide it. ‘Is that a bad thing?’

‘It is a concern.’ Oma tilted her head. ‘There are rules.’

‘Rules?’ Daniel smiled. ‘That didn’t come up during the sales speech.’

Oma smiled enigmatically. ‘You are already aware of them.’ She swept a hand through the sand and an image of some ruins and a weapon appeared. ‘You have already encountered one who failed to keep them.’

‘Orlin.’ Daniel looked around as though he would see him. When nobody appeared, he returned his gaze to Oma. ‘You, uh, know about that?’

‘All is known to us as it will be to you in time.’ Oma said calmly.

Daniel sighed. ‘So, these rules…they’re about interfering, right?’ He crossed his legs, making himself comfortable.

‘We’re not allowed to interfere in the lower planes.’ Oma informed him. ‘It is our most important rule.’

He frowned. ‘But haven’t you interfered?’ He gestured at himself. ‘Helping me to Ascend and what you did with Shifu on Kheb?’

‘I walk a line, Daniel.’ Oma admitted. ‘My actions in helping some to Ascend are not approved by the Others. You will come under scrutiny.’

‘OK.’ Daniel said slowly.

Oma regarded him seriously. ‘You know how they punished Orlin but believe me when I say that their punishments can be much greater and much more subtle in method and execution.’

Daniel held up a hand. ‘I can understand their position. I mean, we’ve seen for ourselves some of the fallout when a civilisation gets advanced before its time.’

‘The rule is one of the reasons why it was important that you chose to let go of your burden, of your ties to your previous existence.’ Oma continued, her eyes scouring his.

Daniel flushed, unwilling to admit that he hadn’t considered that he would leave his friends entirely or that he hadn’t considered the rules. Perhaps some of his decision was flawed; he wouldn’t be able to help them, he realised. They existed on a lower plane of existence. He couldn’t interfere; save them with bolts of lightening, step in when things got tough. He could only watch and hope that they could save themselves.

Could he do that? He had to believe they would do fine without him. They had when they had gone on missions before without him. They didn’t need him. If he had truly thought that they did he wouldn’t have left. They were fighting a war and they were soldiers; he was not.

‘I can return you to them.’ Oma said softly as though she had read his mind. ‘It can be undone.’

He looked at her sharply. ‘No.’ He shook his head. ‘I don’t want to go back. It’s just…’

‘You are part of them and they are part of you.’ Oma murmured.

‘Yes.’ Daniel sighed. ‘Is that a problem?’

Oma considered him seriously. ‘You are the only one who can answer that.’

Daniel closed his eyes and considered the question again. He missed them already. He missed Jack with his quips and grumpy demeanour; Teal’c’s quiet strength and inner wisdom; Sam’s generous heart and brilliant mind that could keep pace with his own. They weren’t just his team, they were his family.

But he could feel the need to continue with his decision as though it was a physical hunger. This was important. More important perhaps than anything he had ever done. He needed to do this; to Ascend, to learn. His decision was made. No matter how much he missed his friends.

He opened his eyes and nodded at Oma. ‘It won’t be a problem.’

Oma regarded him evenly before she seemed satisfied with his sincerity. She glanced around at the desert. ‘This was once a beginning for you.’

‘Yes.’ Daniel agreed with a brief laugh. ‘It was.’ Abydos had been the first destination when he had travelled through the Stargate.

‘And so it will be again.’ Oma held out her hand. ‘You have much to learn.’

Daniel reached out and clasped her hand. Maybe with Ascension he had finally found his place; finally found something where he could make a difference. It was time to find out.

fin.

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