TITLE: Beyond The River - Claire
SPOILERS: Too many to count
SEASON/SEQUEL: End of 3rd
CONTENT WARNINGS: None
SUMMARY: Reflections on the living by someone who isn't.
DISCLAIMER: I do not own Stargate SG-1. Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Showtime/Viacom, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. I have written this story for entertainment purposes only. No money has exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This story may not be posted elsewhere without the consent of the author.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Lems, Lex -- big thanks for betaing this story. It's greatly appreciated!
It is so beautiful here.
I thought that the area around the River was indescribable, but this place is absolutely breathtaking. Whatever can be imagined as paradise exists here.
My idea of paradise?
Melbourne and I are on an eternal archaeological dig in a land that rivals the majesty and mystique of Egypt. Our exploration takes time, but we do make incredible discoveries. Ancient pottery, remnants of houses, the occasional hieroglyph revealing forgotten truths and mystic rites are scattered around. Every grain of sand I brush away from a buried artifact is a movement that sweeps away time and allows me to delve into a history I long to bring alive again. I feel the excitement, the thrill of seeing that which time has buried for centuries.
The only thing missing is what I miss the most -- the unending questions of my brilliant, curious, blue-eyed, mop-topped son. Danny would have thrived on a site like this, both as a child and an adult. But as a child....
Danny loved the desert from the moment of his birth. Mel and I were investigating a site for a possible excavation south of Cairo when I went into labor a few weeks early. Melbourne was by my side every moment and, between the two of us, we brought a squiggling, screaming, miraculous bundle of energy into the world. His first breath was desert air, and he released that breath in his first loud, healthy cry. We were so proud but a little surprised at his early appearance. Mel had seemed a bit preoccupied of the exact time of Danny's arrival. Melbourne tried to keep the secret from me, but he was never very good at it. He and some of our diggers had bets on the moment when Danny would be born. I never did find out who won, but I have a feeling it was either Kasem, our foreman, or Aba, our cook. Shortly after Danny's birth, both men were sporting new shoes.
We arrived at the hospital the next day where Danny was declared fit and healthy. I could have told them that. Danny was my miracle. The doctors had told me that my chances of having a baby were astronomical. We tried for years, but we never conceived. We tried to adopt a child but were told that our constant traveling and lack of a permanent home address made us poor candidates. Then, when we finally accepted that having a baby wasn't going to happen, when we stopped making such a concerted effort, I realized I was pregnant.
I don't know who was happier, Mel or me. He actually tracked down Cuban cigars to pass out to our excavation team. He worried and fussed over me, always making sure I was comfortable and in the shade. When I studied artifacts before they were removed from the ground, he would erect tents over each one to keep me out of the sun.
He didn't just dote on me. Every night in our tent, he'd sing to my rapidly expanding tummy. He had read that an unborn child can hear noises outside the womb, and he wanted the baby to know his voice. The funniest time was when Mel was reading aloud baby names from a name-your-baby book a friend mailed to us. When he reached "Daniel", the baby started kicking. Mel announced right then and there we would have a boy, and it seemed the little tyke liked the name Daniel. So did we. Not long after that, I was holding my little Daniel Jackson, my little miracle.
I've never understood why the adoption agencies were worried about the effects of travel on a child. Danny loved it. He was a constant companion to us, to our team. If he wasn't tagging along with Mel or me, he was chasing after one of the teams while they were working. He seemed to learn everything so quickly! I had no idea how fast his language skills were progressing until, at the age of 18 months, he asked for a drink of water in four different languages! My miracle was a true gift.
We were with him for eight beautiful years, and every year brought more surprises. Yes, he could learn different languages at a startling speed, but it was the everyday things that caused me to smile the most. His first trip to London when he rode a bicycle for the first time, his first trip to a museum, his first airplane ride.... he enjoyed life so much!
The first time I saw my little boy truly unhappy was when he met Nick in London. Granted, my father and I never had a good relationship, but I was hoping for more for Danny. Who wouldn't love his own grandson?
Nick Ballard, that's who.
In front of Danny, Nick said he was a mistake, that he should have never been born. We left Nick's house, and I swore that I'd never go back. Mel was furious. Danny became very quiet and withdrawn.
We flew to New York immediately to set up our Egyptian exhibit. To take Danny's mind off what Nick had said, I told him everything we'd see and every place we'd visit as soon as his dad and I got the exhibit constructed at the museum. Mel promised to take him to ride the Staten Island ferry. I think we cheered him up a little, but we couldn't erase Nick's hurtful words.
He livened up a little more at the museum. He was running from exhibit to exhibit until we started to place the cover stone. He came over to watch, and, even now, I can still hear his words.
"Mom.... Dad.... the stone's moving."
We should have listened to him.
Why were we both standing under a heavy stone? We should have known better. Why didn't we realize the dangers? I remember hearing the fall, the crack, Danny screaming....
Then we were there, across the River.
As archaeologists, both Mel and I had studied ancient belief systems about the afterlife. Who would have expected what was actually here? It was too beautiful for words, so different from what I expected.
Actually, I don't know what I expected.
I know it wasn't this.
I wasn't expecting the version of Heaven that Michelangelo painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, but I know that waiting by a River wasn't anywhere in my imagination.
For almost twenty five years, we were there on the shore, waiting for..... something. We never knew what we were waiting for though. Once we arrived, we were told that if we wished to see our loved ones, we could look in the River. For twenty five years, we watched our little boy, my precious intelligent, happy child become the self-effacing, somewhat sad person he grew into. We saw Nick abandon him, saw Nick waste all those years chasing a crystal skull when they could have been shared with his exceptional grandson.
Instead, Danny was sent to foster homes. We watched him at every one. Most were good homes, some were adequate, but there were a few that were horrible. My heart cried for him so many times, but I couldn't protect him anymore. Mel would watch.... he was so angry at the cruelty and loneliness Danny was subjected to, but, like me, he was helpless to do anything more.
We watched him transcend all the setbacks. We watched him become archaeology's brightest star. We watched as he discovered the basis for human history by realizing that civilization was much older than originally thought. Our exceptional little boy grew into a brilliant young man.
Then we saw him achieve his greatest triumph. He opened a doorway to the universe, and on the other side, found the other half of his soul. The only thing a parent wants for their child is for them to be healthy and happy. Sha'uri made Danny happy, and she was only a universe away. We were so happy for him. For both of them.
We had a reason to be happy for ourselves as well. Right before Danny deciphered the Stargate, a little ray of sunshine came into our lives in the form of Charlie O'Neill. Aken, the sometimes-working-ferryman-who-sails-souls-across-the-River-when-he's-not-asleep, brought him to us. Here was an eight-year-old without parents given to parents who had been separated from their eight-year-old son. Aken believed we needed each other.
He was right.
We weren't exactly foster parents to him, no one needs foster parents at the River, but we became companions to a little boy that needed them. He would sit by the River with us and watch his mom and dad as we watched Danny. We were surprised when Charlie's dad and our Danny met, but maybe we shouldn't have been. The River can show glimpses of the future as well as the present, but we didn't want to spoil any surprises by looking ahead. We wanted to watch everything as it happened, not know in advance. Aken must have known that by bringing Charlie to us, we would have a common bond. We could watch our loved ones together. And Charlie? He was his dad's biggest fan. Every time something bad happened to Danny, Charlie would tell us that his dad would take care of him. Jack O'Neill was a sarcastic, not-too-overly military paradigm of bad jokes and mangled cliches and the best friend our Danny could ever have. O'Neill proved time and again that he was a good man, that he'd always be there for our son. We saw brief glimpses of Danny on the other side of the River a few times, but we knew it wasn't his time. He would always return to land of the living where I knew Jack O'Neill would be there to help him. If we couldn't be there, at least O'Neill was.
I remember the day that Mel and I were told that we could Go Ahead, that we could leave the River. Our time to wait was over, and that was the only explanation. We weren't told why we were waiting or what we were waiting for, only that our time to Go Ahead had come. All of our eyes were tearing up when Charlie hugged us and left. I don't know where he went or where he was sent. I think that maybe he didn't need us as much anymore and could go on to wherever he had to go. We were so grateful to have had him with us as long as we did.
That very day, we got to meet someone who we'd only seen in the River: our daughter-in-law, Sha'uri. We had been able to watch her from the beginning throughout her imprisonment by the Goa'uld, and like Danny, we couldn't help her either. We couldn't rescue her from her nightmare. We watched in agony as Amaunet tried to kill Danny only to see the horror of Teal'c stopping her. As hard as it was for us to watch, we knew that it was harder for Danny to live through it and forgive his friend. We couldn't help him, but maybe we could help Sha'uri. Unfortunately, our time together would be very short since her first day at the River was to be our last. When she asked us why we had to leave so suddenly, I could only tell her that our waiting time was over. I think that we've all been waiting for different reasons. For us, maybe, we only had to wait until someone else arrived to take our place. It was Sha'uri's turn to watch over Danny.
It was so hard for us to leave her. We talked when she first arrived. She told us about Danny and their life together, his courage, his never-ending search to free her from the demon Amaunet. We told her about Danny's childhood, about the River. If there were one person in this world I could choose to love my son, it would be Sha'uri. I like to think that we would have been friends if we had met before. If we had lived.... if we had been able to have the life that a cover stone stole from us.... if we could have been the family that Danny deserved to have....
If, if, if.
So many ifs but no answers.
We had to say our goodbyes and left the River. We were led to a place where we could no longer see the water. It was a sad day. Neither of us could hold back the tears when we realized that we wouldn't be able to see Danny anymore, but we had the comfort that Sha'uri was there, waiting for him. When he arrived, he wouldn't be alone.
We were brought to this paradise where anything you can imagine can exist. The ancient Egyptians believed in the realm of the fields of Yaru where grain grew 12 feet high and existence was a glorified version of life on Earth. I don't know if that's where we are now, but it is paradise. For us. We live on a desert covering an ancient city. There are pyramids and obelisks on the horizon. There is an ancient temple with strange hieroglyphics covering the walls that we're trying to decipher. We can excavate for an eternity if we'd like. When we wish for a change, all we have to do is imagine sailing down the Nile or strolling down a London street, and we're there. Whatever we can imagine, is.
Yes, for us, at this time, it's as close to paradise as we can imagine. The only thing missing, what I miss most is the sound of unending questions from my brilliant, curious, blue-eyed son.
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