1. Meridian semi-“Missing Scene”, which means writing in the scene and explaining thoughts.
2. During and Post-Meridian.
…that which is held dear…
Jack sat across from Daniel, startled at how white the scrubs looked against Daniel’s tanned skin. The I.V.s looked surreal, mostly because the situation itself was surreal and hard to accept.
Daniel suddenly grimaced.
“Pain?” Jack asked.
“Um, not right now, no. Nausea. Really bad nausea. Not all the time. Comes in waves, but I feel like I have to throw up when it does. Janet told me to hold in the feeling and not to give into it.”
After a long, silent moment, during which Daniel kept looking up at him, waiting for something that Jack couldn’t figure out, Jack wondered if Daniel thought he was gonna yell at him. Instead, he asked, “It’s gonna be bad, isn’t it?”
“Yeah,” Daniel told him, swallowing.
Daniel wouldn’t keep eye contact with him for long as he went on to describe just how he was going to die. Jack wanted to shut him up — except he really needed to know. Daniel finished by telling him that there was no way to prevent what was about to happen to him.
Jack stared back. “Maybe not that we know of.”
“Jack, we don’t go running to our offworld allies every time an individual’s life is at stake. And don’t go telling me that this is any different because my life is no more valuable than anyone else’s.” Daniel looked down at his hands after he said it and Jack stared at him, puzzled, wondering where on Earth this lack of self-worth was coming from. He also knew that Daniel was holding everything in, putting on a brave face, trying not to show his fear — especially in front of the cameras. The least Jack could do was back him up.
“What happened?” he asked him.
“That doesn’t matter,” Daniel dismissed.
“Yes, it does,” Jack told him emphatically and sighed with astonishment when Daniel gave him a look of futility. “You didn’t try to sabotage anything.”
Daniel gave him an appreciative smile. “There was…an accident.”
I knew it, Jack told himself.
“I guess the scientists would figure the government would hold them responsible. I guess they figured it was easier to blame me.”
“And you’re okay with this?” Jack asked, knowing damn well Daniel wasn’t.
“No, but there’s not much I can do about that.”
“Yes…there is,” Jack told him, deadly serious.
Daniel took in Jack’s expression and loved the man even more. Jack’s defiance was an intense comfort to him, especially knowing that there was nothing he could do–and that even that fact wouldn’t stop him from trying. “If they really wanna blame me, denying it isn’t gonna change anything.” He paused as they exchanged long looks and Jack knew that arguing with Daniel wouldn’t change anything, either. “Now, ten thousand years ago, a Goa’uld tried the same experiments that they’re trying, and he nearly blew the entire planet to bits. Now, I tried telling them that, they wouldn’t listen. They’re going to build that bomb and nothing we say is going to stop them.”
Silence greeted that statement for a minute or so, then…
“You’re going to be put in Iso Room Four,” Jack told him.
“Yeah, I know.”
“There won’t be any privacy. You know how I am in front of cameras.”
Daniel waved at the room. “Like now?”
“Yeah, sort of.”
A wave of nausea hit Daniel’s stomach again and he winced. Jack winced with him. He could accept what was going to happen because he had no choice, but damn if he wasn’t going to do all he could to make Daniel feel better. If that was possible.
“Hang on,” he said, getting up and going over to the wall phone. “General Hammond, please. It’s Colonel O’Neill.”
Daniel frowned with confusion at him.
“General, I’d like to…” and he cleared his throat, “…have the cameras in Examination Room Two shut off for ten minutes.”
“What for, Colonel?”
“Sir, I want to say goodbye to my best friend and I’d like to do that without sending a report to the Pentagon or NID.”
There was a pregnant pause.
“Anything I need to know, Jack?”
“Officially, no, sir. And…not any more. I simply wish to say goodbye to Daniel before he dies. And without an audience. Is that too much to ask, General?”
“No, Jack,” Hammond had said after another long pause. “I understand, believe me. I’ll call security.”
“Thank you, sir.”
Jack hung up the phone and waited.
“Jack?” Daniel asked, his eyes wide with surprise. “What are you doing?”
Jack held up a hand, telling Daniel to wait, too. His eyes travelled around the room as he pushed away from the wall. He stuffed his hands in his pockets and pretended to look around, as if he were having difficulty talking to Daniel. Or so that’s what he wanted the camera tape to show. When his eyes passed one camera by the far door, he saw the green light turn to red…then black.
Immediately, he looked at his watch, marked the time, then moved over and shut and locked the doors, and pulled the curtain around Daniel’s bed to isolate them even further.
“Thank Hammond for me later,” Daniel told him as Jack sat down, put his arms around him and buried his face in his neck.
“I will,” Jack told him. He ran his hands over Daniel’s back and stilled them. Daniel was already running a temperature and his body was very warm. Jack wanted to touch him, to lie with him, to make him feel pleasure one more time. But the radiation was quickly zapping what was left of Daniel’s vitality — and they both knew that Daniel wouldn’t be able to come. They’d run out of time.
Jack lifted Daniel’s chin and kissed him softly. “I’m going to be distant in the iso room,” he said, his lips against Daniel’s, not wanting to move them.
“Yeah, I figured,” Daniel whispered back, his fingers fumbling with Jack’s collar, stroking his neck. His eyes, bloodshot and dark blue, stared into Jack’s, noticing how pained they looked. Exactly like a man who’s run out of choices. “I’m sorry, Jack.”
“Shhh, don’t start that.”
“Please try not to be mad at me for too long, okay?”
Jack frowned and pulled back slightly. “Mad at you for what?”
Jack sighed and rubbed his nose to Daniel’s. “I wish…”
“Let me say it.”
Daniel blew a soft puff of breath against his lips and he pulled them together again. “Go ahead.”
“I love you more than anything, even if you are a royal pain in the ass.”
“Certainly in yours,” Daniel quipped.
Jack smiled. “Never, ever, a pain there, Daniel.”
“That’s good to know.”
The light banter abruptly died as the air thickened around them, their moment together dwindling.
“I’m so sorry.” All the apologies for heated arguments and foul behavior came out in Jack’s tone.
Daniel’s arms tightened around him. “It’s okay.”
“You’re leaving me,” he whispered, kissing his face.
“Don’t,” Daniel said, bringing his lips to Jack’s. “Don’t. Just do me a favor before the nausea gets worse?”
Their kiss was sweet, bitter, and desperate. And much too short.
Jack felt a hand on his shoulder and looked to his left. He blinked. “Daniel.”
“Yeah,” Daniel said.
Jack stared at him, then at the ethereal woman on the gate ramp. He furrowed his brow, confused. Wasn’t he just in the iso room? Looking back at Daniel, he asked, “Did you want something?”
“Yeah,” Daniel told him, and Jack noticed he spoke with difficulty. “Tell Jacob to stop.”
“Why?” he asked, and didn’t know why he asked. Was he dreaming?
“Because I’m ready to move on.”
Jack frowned further. He understood, but yet, he didn’t, and he became irritated with both himself and Daniel.
“You just…givin’ up?” he asked, the words seemingly appropriate.
“No, no,” Daniel told him, shaking his head and smiling slightly. “I’m not giving up, believe me.”
Jack wasn’t sure why he should believe that, but he did.
The ethereal woman distracted them, transforming herself, becoming light. Jack recognized that light but for some reason, he couldn’t place it. The gate activated but with only the event horizon, and Jack was reminded of the time they had saved Teal’c.
Taking his eyes from the gate, Daniel gave Jack an ironic smile before looking back at the light. “You remember Oma?”
Jack took his curious, puzzled eyes from the gate. His lover looked sad and Jack’s confusion increased.
“Sure,” he said, and wondered what she had to do with anything…and was he still dreaming?
“I think I can do more this way,” Daniel explained, his voice thick with emotion.
Jack suddenly knew the whole thing wasn’t a dream, and what Oma was. Daniel’s words now made sense. He was ascending.
No, Jack thought. You can’t go.
“It’s what I want.”
Jack didn’t want to accept that, didn’t want to let him go.
“I have to go now,” Daniel told him.
“Everything’s gonna be fine. Please, Jack,” his lover asked, the tears filling his eyes. “Tell Jacob to stop.”
Jack suddenly found his voice. “If I tell him to stop, you’ll leave me.”
“I can’t stay, Jack. Not like that. You know that’s not life. I can do more this way.”
Jack knew what Daniel was saying. He could hear the meaning in his voice, not requiring explanation. Daniel would not be healed, would not be on SG-1, would not be able to live his life the way he wants. They were the same thoughts he’d had in the infirmary thirteen hours before.
Jack reached out but Daniel took a step back, as if afraid for Jack to touch him. He glanced at Oma, his face filled with worry.
“Nothing will happen,” she told him. “It’s okay.”
Jack seemed to already know this and as her words left her, he’d already closed in, his hand, somehow heavy and hot, reaching around Daniel’s waist to pull him against him. A light almost too bright blinded his peripheral vision and all he saw was Daniel in front of him. All he could feel was Daniel against him. He felt Daniel grip the back of his shirt, holding tightly, and the need to feel Daniel’s skin against his lips overwhelmed him. He dipped his head and buried his face in Daniel’s neck.
“I wish there were another way,” he whispered.
Jack moved his open lips over Daniel’s, brushing, feeling, taking in. Before kissing him, he said, “I’m sorry.”
“Too much time wasted.”
“Don’t, Jack. Just kiss me.”
So Jack did, and it felt like kissing both heat and cold, flesh and spirit. Substance and light.
After a while, Daniel pulled away, whispering against his lips. “Tell Jacob to stop.”
. . .
Jack found himself back in the iso room, though it was as if he were watching from a dream, the edges of his vision just out of focus.
“Jacob,” he said softly, not taking his eyes from Daniel’s immobile, bandaged body.
Jacob looked at him.
Sam looked at Jack in disbelief. So did Janet and Teal’c. Hammond didn’t seem surprised for some reason.
“Are you serious?” Jacob asked.
Jack gave Jacob a sad look. “It’s what he wants.”
Jacob asked, “Someone else wanna tell me what to do?”
Janet stared at Jacob, her eyes filled with panic. Her mouth moved but nothing came out. No one told Jacob what to do.
“Just let him go,” Jack whispered.
No one questioned him, not even Jacob. The healing device was withdrawn. The silence was painful as the machine’s beeping sped up, sounding appropriately like an alarm. Then Daniel sighed. When the life-support machine blurted out the solid tone of death, Janet, kind and caring and refusing to give up even though she knew there was no choice, became a deer caught in the headlights.
It was as if this were the dream, Jack thought, as he watched Daniel’s body transform into light, rising from the bed.
. . .
Daniel stepped back, out of Jack’s arms, blinking with relief. His eyes were filled with more tears, but they wouldn’t fall.
“I’m gonna miss you guys,” he said.
Jack looked wistfully at the strongest man he’d ever known. He tried a smile. “Yeah…you, too,” he finally said.
Daniel nodded. “Thank you,” he said, and nodded again. He added a smile, an enigmatic, cherishing smile, filled with unspoken history. “For everything.” He swallowed hard to stave off the tears.
Jack took a deep breath, feeling the heat and salty water welling up in his own eyes. It took everything he had not to fall apart, and inside, he felt his heart close down, just like after Charlie. The walls began to rebuild. Daniel had been the only one to break them down, but now, they were going back up.
“So…what…see you around?” he asked hopefully.
Daniel nodded, but his tiny, pained smile changed to a frown of confusion. “I don’t know.”
So very Daniel, even now.
Jack nodded, then shrugged, but his fingers hurt. He wanted to grab hold and never let go. His walls began to rebuild faster. Then Daniel turned away and walked up the ramp and Jack felt panic. Filled with the need to know, and the need to hold on one last time, he called after him. “Hey.” Daniel stopped and turned half-way. “Where are you going?”
Daniel thought a moment, then gave Jack a final, teary smile. “I don’t know.”
Jack nodded ‘okay’ and returned the smile, though he didn’t feel like smiling because it wasn’t okay. But he did it for Daniel. Daniel knew it, too. His smile widened. He turned and walked up to the gate, staring at the strange event horizon. Jack watched him, wondering what it was that Daniel was looking at. Was he hesitant or thinking? Jack couldn’t tell anymore. He wanted to ask, but Daniel stepped forward and disappeared.
. . .
Jack found his focus back in the infirmary, his eyes watching Daniel’s ascended form. He blinked rapidly, fighting the burn in his eyes as he watched the ethereal body rise higher and higher until he finally disappeared through the ceiling. He hoped the glowing form would reappear…but it didn’t. Looking down on the empty bed, on the empty clothes and bandages, he remembered the kiss. Its loss created an ache more deep than any he’d ever felt, except for Charlie.
Daniel was gone, and Jack’s lips burned as hot as his eyes.
“Jack?” Hammond asked softly as he stood hovering in the doorway of his 2IC’s office.
“Sir,” Jack acknowledged, not looking up. His throat was clogged, making him sound hoarse. He cleared it, unable to tear his eyes away from the photo in his hands. The photo he’d been staring at for an hour or more. It was a team photo, with Daniel standing to his left. Four other team photos littered the surface of his desk, but the one in his hand was the latest, taken after they’d returned from that asteroid.
Their only ‘official’ photo.
He and Sam were in their Class A’s, Teal’c in his jacket, slacks, and turtleneck, looking even more the college professor than Daniel. And Daniel, in that black suit and dark grey shirt, his eyes on Jack, his mouth in a sarcastic grin. Jack remembered saying something goading.
“You look like a hit man, Daniel.”
“Would you like me to ‘take you’ out?”
Then the light bulb had flashed just as Jack’s lips formed that crooked grin.
Jack tried to smile at the memory but he couldn’t. He set the picture down and picked up the only photo he had of Daniel that he wasn’t in. Sam had taken the picture during that second mission to Abydos. Daniel, in his Abydonian robes, sitting next to a laughing Shau’re. His eyes were on her, gazing fondly.
Both were dead now. Well, for all intents and purposes, Daniel was dead. He wasn’t coming back.
Jack hadn’t understood exactly what had gone on in the infirmary, but after sitting and thinking about it over the last few hours, he understood it now. Daniel had come to him. Somehow, Oma had made it happen. Daniel had to ascend. It was his choice. He would have died despite the healing device. Maybe not right away, but his spirit would have died a slow death, with Daniel unable to fully live. He wouldn’t have been able to accomplish anything and that would have killed him just as much as the radiation.
Sam had told him what Bra’tac had said during Teal’c’s Rite of Mal’Sharaan. “Life for the sake of life means nothing.” Bra’tac had been right. At least this way, Daniel might be able to find what he wanted, what he needed. The path that he was meant to be on.
Except for one thing.
It was a load of shit. Daniel was meant to be here, dammit. With him.
“Jack?” Hammond repeated.
Jack swallowed and finally looked at Hammond. “Yes, sir?”
Hammond took a hesitant step inside. “I wanted to ask before but…”
Jack looked down at the pictures on his desk. “How did I know?”
Hammond cleared his throat. “It was Doctor Jackson, wasn’t it?”
Jack took a deep breath. “Oma was there. I found myself in the gateroom.” He looked up, expecting to see disbelief but didn’t find any. “Daniel said he could do more good out there.”
“As an ascended being?”
“Yes, sir.” Jack swallowed. “Maybe…maybe…”
Hammond watched the tension in Jack’s body wind up even tighter. “Jack, go home.”
Jack shook his head. “I can’t, sir. There’s nothing…” He couldn’t tell Hammond why he couldn’t go home. Why he couldn’t face his home, his bed, alone. “If you don’t mind, sir, I’ll be staying in my on-base quarters for a while.”
“I understand, Jack, but for right now, you need to leave.”
Jack frowned and looked back at his commander. “Why?”
“You need to get off the base, get some air,” Hammond told him. “So do I. That’s an order, Colonel.”
It was then that Jack heard the tremble in Hammond’s voice and saw the pained, watery look in his reddened eyes. He pushed away from his desk and walked to the door, putting his hand on the man’s shoulder. His pained, dark look told Hammond everything and Hammond touched his hand.
“Go take some time, Jack.”
“Yes, sir,” he said quietly, and headed for the elevators.
Jack entered the locker room and paused. He heard crying. It was coming from next door. The women’s locker room. He walked out and headed for the door but just as his hand lifted to push open the door, he paused again. If Carter wasn’t dressed…
“Fuck it,” he mumbled, pushing the door in slowly. He looked to his left and found Sam sitting on the center bench. Teal’c was sitting next to her, holding her.
Jack backed away, his jaw working. At least they have each other, he told himself as he returned to his locker room. Numbly, he stripped down, and without thinking about it, grabbed a towel and headed for the shower stalls. Closing the fiberglass door behind him, he turned on the water. The moment the hot water hit him, his emotions threatened to grab hold. Bracing his hands against the tiles, Jack dropped his head down and let the steaming hot water flow over his head, his neck and down his back. He was able to keep the tears from flowing, and instead, anger began to build. Without realizing it, he pounded his fist repeatedly against the wall.
“Goddamn you, Daniel. I can’t do this alone.”
Jack sat on the rock outcropping that overlooked one of the many bluffs on the mountain; the same one that Daniel had come to months before. The sun was just rising and no matter what Jack tried, all he could feel was Daniel’s absence. He watched the sun come up and waited until he was certain that he had control of his emotions. Strangely hyper-alert from the lack of sleep, he went back inside to start the new day.
Walking down the corridor on his way to Hammond’s office, a memory abruptly flashed before him, replaying in slow motion: They’d just left the gateroom, on their way to the infirmary. Daniel had been walking in front of him, his hair longer, darker. It had been right after coming home from the Nox planet. Jack remembered that he’d been sarcastic, asking Daniel if the Nox were the galaxy’s version of Irish fairies.
“You’re asking me?” Daniel had asked.
Jack’s mouth had twisted wryly, getting ready to score a zinger. “Well, aren’t you our resident expert on dwarves, elves…fairies?”
Daniel had turned to look over his right shoulder at him. A tiny smile on his face, an even bigger one in his eyes. “Takes one to know one, Jack.”
The expression–that look–seemed to freeze in Jack’s mind and a sound, unbidden and unstoppable, escaped from his chest. Jack swallowed quickly and looked wildly to the upcoming doorways, hoping.
Yes. A closet. Unlocked. He went inside and locked it behind him, absently wondering why there’d be a lock on the inside. He realized his breathing was ragged, harsh. If he didn’t get control of himself, he’d lose it. The overhead light became a sudden focus of growing rage and he slapped his hand angrily over the switch, throwing himself into darkness.
Leaning against the wall, he braced himself on one arm, clenching both fists tightly, wanting to hit something and hit it hard. He breathed deeply, ordering himself to calm down, but the moment he took that second deep breath, his face and eyes became hot. The burn of tears threatened again and before he knew it, his eyes welled. Bending over quickly, he covered his mouth tightly, afraid to let out a sound, refusing to let out a sound. Tears hit the floor, soundless–seemingly endless–and he made sure they fell free from his skin. For what seemed like an eternity, he remained in the dark, angry with himself, waiting for the complexion of grief to disappear.