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For disclaimers and author's note see Part I.

 

The Descending Trilogy

Part III: Falling


The diner was busy.

It was the first thing that hit Daniel as he entered. The booths were filled with people of all shapes and sizes. One man sat in the corner reading a newspaper and eating waffles. A couple of old women took up another, drinking coffee and knitting.

Daniel frowned and hesitated on the threshold, assailed by the noise and chaos, the smell of peach pie and strong black coffee.

Oma caught sight of him and waved him forward. She ushered him into a booth, snagged a pencil from above her ear and smiled at him as she readied her notepad. 'So what'll it be today?'

'I, uh...' Daniel shot another look around the busy diner, wondering who the other customers were – people Oma had Ascended or the fabled Others themselves?

'Don't worry about them.' Oma said quietly, her expression becoming serious for a moment. 'They won't acknowledge you.'

'So they're...' Daniel let the end of his sentence dangle enticing like bait.

'Others.' Oma nodded and he caught the flicker of nerves in her sherry brown eyes. She pinned on a smile. 'So, you were saying you wanted...'

Daniel shifted on the leather seat, uncomfortably feeling like he was the floor show. He cleared his throat. 'I'd like to go home.'

The diner went quiet.

Oma stared at him and he saw genuine surprise skate across her features before she schooled them into her usual calm mask. 'I thought you said,' she began.

'I did.' Daniel confirmed. He held her gaze and ignored the silence. 'I'd like to,' he made a diving gesture with his hand, 'go back.'

Oma shot the customers around them a look to mind their own business and a hum broke out across the diner, a whispered hush. Oma slid into the booth opposite Daniel and set her pad down on the table.

'Have you really thought about this?' Oma asked seriously.

'I've thought about nothing else.' Daniel gave a pained smile. 'I thought,' his throat closed up suddenly on a wave of unexpected emotion, 'I thought I wanted this more than anything.' He waved his hand around the diner. 'I mean, what could be better than knowing the meaning of the universe?' He took a breath and looked at her. 'But all I've ever really wanted is to make a difference. Maybe I thought I could do that here but I can't.'

Tears stung the back of his eyes as he continued to look at her, needing her to understand his decision. 'I want to help my friends.' He said passionately. 'I want to stop the Goa'uld from hurting people.' He stabbed the table with a finger. 'I want to make a difference.'

Oma clasped her hands on the table. 'And you think you can do that by Descending?'

'I can't do it if I stay here.' Daniel shot back. 'I have no power here, not really.'

Oma looked away from his intent gaze; from the truth that he spoke.

'There are consequences of Descending.' Oma said softly. 'If you go back...I can't guarantee that I will be able to help you Ascend again.'

'I realise that.' Daniel said. 'I wouldn't ask you to.'

Oma pressed her lips together. 'There's more.'

'More?' Daniel raised his eyebrows.

'You haven't been Ascended long enough to Descend on your own.' Oma said. 'I would need to help you.'

'Is that a problem?' Daniel asked, surprised. If she wouldn't help him...maybe Morgan would.

Oma waved a hand at him. 'It means that you wouldn't be able to keep any of the knowledge you've gained during your Ascension.'

'Knowledge?' Daniel questioned tentatively.

Oma licked her lips briefly. 'Your memories of your Ascension, everything you have learned here would all be erased.'

'All of my memories?' Daniel winced at the sound of his voice rising.

'Your brain wouldn't be able to handle the information.' Oma said implacably.

'Like Jack when he had the Ancient information downloaded into his brain.' Daniel realised.

Oma looked momentarily confused before she seemed to understand his reference. She nodded slowly. 'Something like that only more.'

'More?'

She smiled enigmatically. 'One is an ocean; one a lake; one a garden pond.'

'So, humans are pond life?' Daniel said amused.

Oma's lips twitched. 'Your race is young.'

Daniel felt something loosen inside of him at her words; his race. 'So we've been told.' He dragged his mind back to the subject. 'So I'd lose my memories.' Which would mean he couldn't save Rya'c and Bra'tac, he realised. He wouldn't remember that they were in trouble. And he wouldn't remember the truth about Anubis.

Her eyes narrowed on him. 'Some memories may come back to you in time.' She tilted her head. 'If you deemed them important enough.'

So he could try and hold onto the information about Bra'tac and Rya'c, Daniel mused. Could he risk it? Risk going back and losing the opportunity to just to drop in on Teal'c and tell him? But what if he was stopped from doing that? Wasn't it better to go back and try to help them rather than run the risk of not being able to help them at all?

'Nothing is without risk, Daniel.' Oma murmured.

'I'm getting that.' Daniel muttered. He pulled a face. He had to go back; he had to try to save Rya'c and Bra'tac. He had to make sure he remembered them somehow.

'You really want this?' Oma murmured.

There was a catch in her voice that surprised him into looking at her closely. Her face was calm; whatever feelings she had were hidden.

But he nodded and gave her a half-smile. 'I do.'

Oma breathed in deeply. 'Then we will do it.' She rose from the booth, changing form; her waitress outfit giving way to the white suit that she usually wore in human form.

The bell tinkled and Oma stiffened. The diner went silent again.

Daniel didn't need to look behind him to know who had entered. He stood up anyway to face Anubis.

The Goa'uld wore the form of Jim, the pudgy human man that he had taken on his previous visit to the diner. There was a smirk playing across his reddened features. He clapped his hands. 'Rumour has it that you're on your way back, Danny-boy.'

Daniel felt the hairs stand up at the back of his neck. An atavistic warning to fight or flee. He straightened his shoulders and stared down the Goa'uld. 'I'm going back where I can stop you.'

Anubis laughed. 'Give it your best shot.' He grinned. 'No human can touch me.'

'No, I can't touch you as an Ascended being.' Daniel said firmly. He took a step toward Anubis. 'And that's what you counted on at Abydos. You knew someone would stop me.' He took another step forward in the tense silence, his footstep echoing on the tile. 'Because everyone here is so intent on letting you exist to punish Oma for trying to do the right thing, which, by the way,' he turned to say to the on-looking customers, 'is unfair to a good person who was only trying to do a good thing, and really unfair to the rest of us.'

Anubis's cold eyes glittered at him dangerously as Daniel's gaze returned to him.

'But when I'm human again...' Daniel smiled; his own blue eyes hardening in determination. 'I will find a way to stop you and nobody here will be able to stop me.' He took another step forward almost toe to toe with the Goa'uld. 'Because they don't interfere with the lower planes.'

Anubis's face darkened; a purple flush staining his florid cheeks and neck. 'I'll destroy Earth like I did Abydos.' His hands fisted by his sides.

'You can try.' Daniel said calmly. He folded his arms around his torso. 'Of course, you've tried to destroy us before and...' he gave a half-smile, 'we beat you. SG1 beat you. And we'll beat you again.'

They stared at each other for a heartbeat.

Anubis tore his gaze away from Daniel to glare at Oma. 'I hope you put your boy somewhere safe, Oma.' He smiled nastily. 'I'll be waiting for him.' He turned around and walked out.

The diner broke out into a cacophony of noise.

Oma placed a hand on Daniel's arm as he breathed out, trying not to show how much the confrontation had shaken him.

'There's somewhere I need to go first.' Daniel said as their forms began to disintegrate; their energy mingling.

Oma simply smiled. 'I know.'

And Daniel knew she did: they were going back to the beginning for him, back to Abydos; it wsa time to say goodbye.

o-O-o

'It was a shame Jonas couldn't stay.' Cassie said as she helped her mother clear the table.

Sam sent an amused look Janet's way and her friend rolled her eyes in response. 'You didn't mind me bringing him along?'

'It's cool.' Cassie gave a shrug but her eyes gave away her pleasure. 'He's OK.'

'I'm glad you think so.' Sam said dryly. She remembered a time when Cassie hadn't been that fond of the Kelownan.

Cassie handed another plate for her mother to load into the dishwasher. 'So why'd he have to leave?'

'He's working on an important project right now.' Sam picked up her glass and took a sip of diet Coke. The project that still wasn't getting anywhere despite the hours Jonas was putting in. She'd finally dragged him out of the mountain to have lunch with the Fraisers. She and Cassie had a standing arrangement that they played chess on Saturdays when Sam was Earthside, and she had hoped that the young woman wouldn't mind him gate-crashing. As it was, Cassie had seemed much more excited to see Jonas than she had to see Sam. Sam suspected a crush. Her lips twitched.

'So no hot date?' Cassie probed less than subtly as she cleared the last of the plates.

Oh, yeah, Sam thought, controlling her expression with difficulty; huge crush. 'No hot date.' Sam said lightly.

The doorbell rang.

'Won't that be Dominic?' Janet interrupted the exchange, looking at her daughter pointedly.

Cassie's eyes went to the clock on the wall and she gave a surprised huff. 'I'm late!' She hugged Sam hard before she whirled away to plant a kiss on her mother's cheek. 'See you later!'

Janet sighed as her daughter rushed out, the front door slamming behind her to punctuate her departure. She glanced over at Sam who refused to hide her amusement any longer. Janet wagged a finger at her. 'It's not funny!'

Sam slid off the chair, smoothing the wrinkles from the skirt she wore and walked over to stand beside Janet by the counter. 'You have to admit it's a little funny.'

Janet grimaced. 'She talks about him all the time.'

'She's still dating Dominic.' Sam pointed out, trying to reassure her friend.

'Yes,' said Janet dryly, 'and she mentioned how immature he is compared to Jonas just the other day.'

Sam laughed. She handed her empty glass to Janet. 'If she's going to have a crush on someone, Jonas is a good choice. He's a nice guy.'

'I know.' Janet sighed and closed the dishwasher. She pointed at the coffee pot and Sam nodded. 'I just wish you'd forewarned me you were bringing him.'

Sam winced at the subtle reprimand. 'Sorry.' She waved a hand at Janet. 'It was a last minute thing.'

Janet filled the machine with water, efficiently adding a filter and freshly ground coffee before setting it to work. She leaned back on the counter. 'It was a good thought.' She admitted, crossing her arms over the pale green sweater she wore. 'He needs to get out of that office occasionally.'

Sam regarded the concern in Janet's eyes with a frown. 'You think he's working too hard.'

Janet paused as though considering her words carefully. 'I think he's under a lot of pressure for someone who had brain surgery less than a month ago.'

Sam pulled a face; Janet had a point.

'I know your Dad and Selmak helped to accelerate his healing so he was fit for duty sooner than normal but...' Janet sighed, 'I can't help feeling that he should be taking things easy rather than having the weight of the world on him at the moment.'

'You're probably right.' Sam agreed gently. She turned away from the counter to stare out at Janet's backyard. The patch of lawn seemed vibrantly green in the sunshine. 'But we don't have a choice since Daniel...' she stopped abruptly.

For a second, neither woman spoke.

'I meant to tell you that I'd told Cassie about Daniel turning up.' Janet said softly.

Sam shook her head, remembering how the teenager had fired question after question at her. Was he OK? Did he seem happy? Did he miss them? 'It's just...,' she struggled for an accurate description, 'hard,' she said finally. 'As great as it was seeing him on Abydos, we don't know if he's OK now.'

Janet reached over and squeezed her arm gently before moving away to check on the coffee.

Encouraged Sam shifted to look at her friend fully. 'I just wish if he is OK that he'd show up and let one of us know.' She grimaced and crossed her arms. 'Not that he'd probably choose me for that.'

Janet looked at her sharply.

'Sorry,' Sam muttered, 'it's...everyone saw him but didn't tell me.'

'I didn't see him either.' Janet said, raising her hand. 'And I'm sure the reason why the others didn't say anything is probably a combination of uncertainty and,' she gestured vaguely, 'you know...'

'Not wanting to upset me?' Sam nodded. 'Teal'c said as much when I asked him.' And it made sense. She hadn't asked the Colonel but she figured his reasons would be similar and given when she believed the Colonel had seen Daniel – during his time with Ba'al – she could understand him not wanting to talk about it.

'It's OK to be hurt that they kept it from you.' Janet observed astutely. 'I'm not thrilled myself.'

Sam flushed but nodded. But that wasn't the only thing that hurt. It hurt more to think that Daniel had chosen to appear to the others but not to her. She sighed heavily at Janet's sympathetic look and figured her friend had guessed at her thoughts anyway. 'I know it's stupid to be jealous that he showed up to be with the guys and not with me but...'

'I understand how you feel.' Janet said. She smiled. 'I didn't get a visit either, remember?'

Sam nodded, feeling more than a little foolish. 'Like I said it's stupid.'

'And natural to feel left out.' Janet countered. 'I know I do.' The machine beeped and Janet moved swiftly to pour out two mugs of coffee. She handed one to Sam and kept the other before she led the way back to the dining table.

Sam sat down and wrapped her hands around the mug, letting the stinging heat warm her palms. She breathed in the rich scent and took a scalding sip. She set the mug down gently on a coaster. 'On one level, I get why he appeared to the guys: they were in trouble, alone and he was there for them. And I understand that I was never in such an extreme situation as they were.'

'You know Cassie's determined to believe that dream she had of Daniel telling her it wasn't her fault about Nirrti was really him paying her a visit.' Janet commented.

'Maybe it was.' Sam acknowledged.

'So maybe,' Janet theorised, looking at Sam over the rim of her mug, 'maybe Daniel visited you, maybe even me, in a dream; we just don't remember it.'

Sam grimaced. It was certainly better than thinking he hadn't cared enough to look in on them as he had done with the others. And that was unfair to Daniel, Sam mused. Daniel cared about them all; she knew that. If anything his problem was that he cared too much; wanted to make a difference too much. She recalled what the Colonel had told him when he had debriefed them after Daniel's Ascension; of Daniel's unhappiness, of his belief that he could do more as an Ascended being.

Guilt bubbled up inside her again. Sam couldn't help but feel that she hadn't been a good friend to Daniel the year before his Ascension. She had been so caught up in her own problems and issues before the incident on Kelowna, she thought tiredly.

'I just hope he's OK.' Sam murmured. 'He broke some pretty big rules to help us.'

Janet studied the depths of her coffee intently. 'Do you think they'll punish him by sending him back?'

It was a thought that had occurred to Sam. Part of her wanted Daniel back – a selfish part that simply wanted her friend back in her life. Part of her knew Daniel had Ascended for a reason and didn't want him back if it wasn't what he wanted.

'Sam?' prompted Janet with a laugh.

Sam looked over at her ruefully and shrugged. 'I don't know, Janet. If he comes back...' she gave a sad smile, 'I'd rather he came back because it's what he wants, not because he's being punished.'

Janet nodded. 'Me too.'

Sam was relieved as Janet changed the subject and they began to discuss the latest about the device SG8 had found on P9Y745 which Sam had discovered was some kind of medical scanning device similar to a MRI but pocket-sized.

But as Janet enthusiastically recalled the latest experiments, Sam's mind wandered back to Daniel.

Was he OK? He had seemed so angry with everything when he had told them to give Anubis the Eye; so determined to save Abydos. All the revelations about the Ancients being Ascended; about Anubis being partially Ascended...there had been disappointment in his tone.

Maybe Daniel would want to come back, Sam thought; her hope rising in a way that it hadn't done for a very long time. Maybe knowing the truth would make him decide differently...

'Sam?' Janet waved a hand in front of her face and Sam jerked back into the present.

'Sorry.' Sam smiled apologetically and her mind searched for the last thing she remembered Janet saying. 'So they think they might not be able to replicate the power source?'

Janet looked at her knowingly but she continued to talk. Sam took a sip of her coffee and continued to think about Daniel.

o-O-o

Daniel stood in front of Sha're's grave. Oma stood some distance away, waiting patiently. He stooped and gently rested a hand in the sand, his heart and mind full of memories. He blinked hard against the tears that sprang up, shivered despite the warm air.

Sha're's death had hit him harder than he had ever wanted to admit, Daniel realised. Losing her; losing his search for her had left him untethered and drifting. He'd been looking for somewhere to belong; a new mission. He'd gone looking in the wrong place; travelled such a long way to find that his destination was where he had begun: SG1. What had Oma said to him once? That if he immediately knew the candlelight was fire the meal was cooked long ago? Well, maybe he'd just worked it out.

Of course there was the snag that he was going to lose that knowledge when he went back to his human form. And he would lose the memory of saying goodbye to Sha're one last time. It was important. Too important; he hoped he could hold onto it.

'I love you.' Daniel whispered in Abydonian. 'I always will.'

There was a faint breeze that caressed his cheek and he closed his eyes briefly, wondering if he could scent the perfume Sha're had worn; the brush of her fingers against his skin.

He opened his eyes again. 'Goodbye, Sha're.'

Daniel straightened and looked over to where Oma stood. She was clothed in white robes similar to the ones he had assumed when they had appeared on Abydos. As though his mind had conjured them up, Skaara and Shifu shimmied into being beside his Ascended mentor.

Daniel walked over and came to a halt in front of them.

'You have discovered your destination, Father.' Shifu said approvingly. His young eyes gleamed with a wisdom beyond his age. Daniel wondered if the young boy had always known where Daniel would end up.

'I have.' Daniel said softly.

Skaara nodded unhappily. 'We cannot convince you to stay, my brother?'

'Abydos will always mean more to me than you can know,' Daniel said passionately, 'but I can't stay here knowing that SG1 is facing danger because of what I told them to do; because of Anubis.'

He felt Oma's flinch rather than saw it but he ignored it.

'I need to be where I can make a difference.' Daniel finished.

Skaara nodded again.

Shifu moved first and Daniel wrapped the small boy in a fierce hug. He would miss Sha're's son; the son they might have had together if Sha're hadn't been taken by Apophis.

'I will miss you, Father.' Shifu's voice was thick with tears and Daniel felt his own emotions tighten his chest; clog up his throat.

'I will miss you too.' Daniel said solemnly.

Shifu moved away and Oma rested a hand on his young shoulder comfortingly. Skaara moved forward and Daniel found himself in another hard embrace.

Skaara moved back before he spoke. 'When you want to come home, our Stargate will work for you, Daniel.'

Daniel could only nod; too choked up at the gesture to speak. He knew it would be a one way trip if he did; just as much a suicide mission as Jack's that first time.

Skaara reached out and clasped his shoulder. 'Sha're...' his voice shook and he took a breath, 'My sister would have been proud of you, Daniel.'

Daniel watched as Skaara stood back and held out a hand to Shifu. The young boy took it eagerly, looking up at his uncle with a hero-worship that reminded Daniel of the way Skaara had once looked at Jack O'Neill. They transformed in front of his eyes and disappeared.

Oma stepped forward to stand beside him. 'They love you very much.'

'I love them.' Daniel said sadly. He realised it was unlikely that he would ever see them again. Maybe Abydos would be his last journey through the Stargate one day, Daniel considered tiredly; maybe.

'You can still change your mind.' Oma said softly. 'If you want to stay...'

'No.' Daniel said firmly. 'I'm ready.'

Oma's dark eyes filled with sadness. 'We've disappointed you.' Her mouth twisted. 'I've disappointed you.'

Daniel shook his head. 'You saved my life.' He took hold of her hand. 'And I'll always be grateful for the opportunity you gave me.'

'I created Anubis.'

'No,' Daniel corrected, 'you tried to do a good thing and you made a mistake.' He smiled wryly. 'I've made plenty myself.'

'If I could erase what I did, I would.' Oma said sincerely. For a second, she looked lost as though she wished she could stop him but didn't know how.

Daniel squeezed her hand. 'Maybe you won't have to.' SG1 would find a way to defeat Anubis, Daniel thought determined.

Oma's fingers tightened around his. 'Are you ready?'

'Yes.' He grimaced. 'I can't say I'm looking forward to losing my memories.'

'I will do what I can; hold onto those you most wish to remember.' Oma promised. Her dark eyes held his. 'I will ensure that you are safe, Daniel. That which you wish to remember will come back to you in time.'

Daniel nodded. His nose wrinkled. 'So how do we do, uh, this?'

Oma smiled. 'Give me your other hand.'

He placed his free hand over their clasped hands. She did the same.

'Close your eyes.' Oma instructed.

Daniel smiled at her; a last goodbye before he followed her order. His eyes shut out the bright Abydonian suns; the golden sand.

Hold onto me, Oma said in his head. I will keep you safe.

Thoughts and memories whirled in his head. Anubis, Daniel thought panicked; he had to remember Anubis: Jim! He had to remember that name. And Bra'tac and Rya'c – he had to remember they were in trouble – had to remember that! And Sha're...always Sha're...

He could feel his body start to form; it was fire, burning hot and bright around him as bone and muscle and sinew formed.

He tried to cry out but couldn't; his voice frozen in his throat.

Senses fired up, nerves alight and overloaded with feeling...he panted through the pain and agony of rebirth.

Everything was bright; too bright and just when he could not stand it any longer...

Darkness.

Slowly, consciousness filtered through the fog. He could hear his heart beating; his breaths punctuating the silence raggedly; air filling his lungs.

There was ground beneath his naked body. Every nerve tingled; every sense was overwhelmed. Smell of dirt and grass in his nostrils; he could taste iron blood in his mouth. He was cold, so cold; he was shivering violently. He couldn't see past the blur in his eyes...and in his head, a void.

He couldn't remember...there was something he needed to remember...

But there was nothing.

Not even a name...

fin.

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