TITLE: Beyond The River - Melbourne
SPOILERS: Quite a few
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: This little story was helped along by a group effort. Lems, the wonderful beta. Lex and Sanna, the alphas who helped me hammer out the idea, and lots of other kind souls who gave me a kind word and a gentle nudge in order to get it finished.
I love sand. I love the feel of it, the smell of it, even the sight of it. The desert has a life and a soul you can only appreciate if you live under its influence and by its rules. I love the desert. It's home.
It was in the desert where I met my wife, where I held my newborn son for the first time, where I discovered long-buried truths the academic world would never admit to. I've spent a great deal of time looking at artifacts buried in the desert sands, pitching tents on sloping dunes, sheltering from sand storms, even picking sand out of my food or sweeping it from my sleeping bag.
It's gritty, everywhere and annoying......God help me, but I do love it.
When I first received my degree, I had no desire to be a field archaeologist. I was what was called a book archaeologist. I sat safely in the hallowed halls of universities studying the history stored on library shelves instead of digging it up with my own two hands. As a historian, I knew the stories handed down for generations through antiquity. I could quote ancient texts, letters and poems unearthed by archaeologists and translated by scores of linguists. Publicly, I supported the safe answers about history, the generally accepted historical principals that most scholars agreed on and wrote about in their books. Privately, I scoured the books in a never-ending research to learn the origins of civilization -- not that I would ever tell anyone that I had misgivings about other historians' beliefs. I had a theory that civilization was older than was originally theorized.
I didn't understand how anyone could get enthused about digging each individual artifact from the ground. Then I met Claire Ballard, and she opened my eyes on a brand new world.
I had been asked to join an archaeological excavation that had uncovered a site that predated the known history of Egypt -- my specialty. I had been on excavations before and had found them rather boring, but after I met Claire, I had no desire to return to the antiseptic academic pursuit of history. She showed me the harsh reality of hands-on excavation, removing a small piece of the past from the sands that had held it captive for centuries. I lost my disdain for excavating. I also lost my heart.
Claire was amazing, but she was still very much a mystery to me. At the time, I supposed that she had been born with this love of the past. After all, she was the daughter of Nick Ballard, the famous archaeologist. I thought that maybe she had grown up on her dad's excavations, but that was before I knew that she had seen Nick on maybe a dozen occasions. They weren't close, and she refused to discuss him or his work. Her love of archaeology was her own, absolutely independent of her father's influence. She could get lost in a project and not notice that hours or even days had passed. I would occasionally be able to pry her away from her work with a meal and the promise of good conversation. She would discuss everything except her personal life. The one thing I did learn is that her passion for archaeology went beyond an intense devotion.
She also held a similar theory that civilization was much older than originally thought. She had found several sites that predated the earliest known settlements. She would spend days piecing together a single clay tablet and translating the inscriptions, trying to discover its origins. She never mentioned her theories to anyone, not even me, but I knew what she was trying to do. She was determined to prove to the world that history was older than anyone had ever imagined. When we discussed her theory, my rather antiseptic academic background would lock wills with her long-buried fact-based discoveries. She showed me new truths that no archaeologist had ever admitted in public. The truth was there, just hiding right under our noses. She was right.
God, but I loved her.
We had very animated historical discussions. As the old saying goes, one thing led to another and we ended up married. I gave up academia to pursue the truth you can only find buried under layers of rock and sand. Kasem, our foreman, used to joke that between myself and Claire, we knew everything about the past. We didn't know everything, but what we knew aided us well in our pursuit of the past. We pushed the envelope by publishing our theories that questioned the exact ages of the pyramids. We never came out and said that history was older than we first thought. That would have ruined our careers. We did ask the questions though, something very few people had done before.
Our first few years together were exciting. We found several buried cities that had never been heard of before. We found ancient texts that Claire loved to translate. Our findings prompted sponsors to invest in our research. It was reassuring to know that we didn't have to beg for grants anymore. Life was good.
The only thing that would have made life perfect for us was a baby. Claire was never one of those women who believed that she had to have a child to make herself feel whole. She just wanted a baby. I think there was some hidden need deep inside her to love her own child in a way she hadn't been. Nick had basically ignored her, and her mother had been emotionally distant. I never did learn where Claire found her passion for life. All I ever knew is that she loved to live, and she wanted to share our lives with our child. Personally, I was scared to death of the prospect of being a father. My father and I didn't get along very well. He had little interest in my academic pursuits, and I know he had wished for a football player instead of a scholar. He was greatly disappointed in me, and my mother quietly shared his opinion. He died when I was a teenager, and my mother had passed away a few years before I met Claire. Family didn't mean the same to me as it did to her, but I knew how much having a child meant to her. I didn't tell her then, but I was worried that a baby would keep us out of the field. I know now that it was only the fear of being a parent talking. Claire wanted a baby. We tried, but the doctors told us that our chances of having our own child were not good, bordering on the impossible. No adoption agency would consider us since we didn't have a fixed address. We had all but given up hope when Claire announced that she was pregnant.
The odd thing is that I still don't know who was happier.
I was going to be a dad.
I was thrilled. And I was scared to death.
We were checking out a possible excavation site when she went into labor. I had the rare opportunity to deliver my own son. As I held the squiggling, squirming little boy, I lost my heart a second time. I felt something I had never felt before. My holding him when he took his first breath was a special moment that only we could share. We had so few special moments in the eight years we were together. My and Claire's careers demanded so much of our time that the moments we could spend with Danny were quality, not quantity. We were so lucky that he loved the desert and the excavation sites. Everyone on the crew would watch out for him, teach him, let him help with the dig, let him carry buckets of sand away from the excavated area. He even had a small brush, pick and shovel that he used to help excavate artifacts. Every night, he'd come running into our tent, covered with sand from helping with the dig. Sometimes, he would show us some small piece of pottery or jewelry he had unearthed, thrilled that he had made a major discovery. He loved it as much as I did. He would tell us everything he had seen and learned in a vocabulary that I thought was advanced for a little boy. I mean, I always knew he was smart, but I had no idea until he came into an excavated tomb where I was studying some hieroglyphs, and he read them aloud. In ancient Egyptian! He was only two years old! Very shortly afterwards, I realized that ancient Egyptian wasn't the only language he knew. English, Egyptian, ancient Egyptian, Spanish, French and Italian. It didn't take long to realize that these were the languages being spoken at the site. Daniel had learned the languages just by hearing them being spoken on a daily basis, and he also knew which words belonged to which language. Both Claire and I were absolutely astonished.
My little boy. He was everything a parent could ever hope for in a child. Healthy, happy, contented...
Maybe if I had known it wouldn't last...
Maybe if we had spent more time with Danny and less excavating artifacts...
We should have taken precautions that day at the museum. Both of us shouldn't have been under that cover stone. We should have secured the lines better. That was the day I saw my little boy's world shatter into small, unmendable pieces.
One moment, we were alive and well. The next, we were Across The River.
The River is a mysterious place that I could have never imagined. It's not like anything I've ever studied, and yet it is. Time is a little different Across The River. A moment can seem like a year, a year like a moment. So many people wait on its shores for something, no one truly noting the passage of time yet always knowing exactly how much time has passed. We found ways to amuse ourselves. Making new friends was always a good way to pass the time, and we met many people -- some we knew before or who knew Danny. Charlie Kawalsky and Charlie O'Neill were two of the more memorable people waiting on the shore with us. Little Charlie was brought to us after he arrived. Such a bundle of energy! He reminded me a lot of Danny. He was lonely for his parents, we were lonely for our son. I guess we were a match made in.....well, we were a match.
The best way to pass the time was to watch the River. When we arrived, others who were waiting on the shore showed us the magic of the River. Just by looking into the River, we could see anything. Everything. The River would hold nothing back. From the moment we came Across The River, Claire and I were Danny's silent unseen guardians. We would gaze into the water to watch Danny grow up. So many times, I would have done anything, promised anything, to go to him -- when he cried in the night from the loneliness around him, when he faced the ordinary trials and tribulations of growing up, when he needed to ask those questions that a father should answer. I saw his first heartbreak, although I knew it wouldn't be his last. I saw him climb to the top of the archaeological field, only to come face-to-face with the small-minded academicians like I almost became had it not been for Claire. They couldn't accept the truth, and Danny's career suffered from his discoveries. I saw him alone in the world, and there was nothing I could do.
Then came the Stargate.
It was no surprise that Daniel was able to do in two weeks what the military couldn't do in almost seventy years. I always knew he was smart.
When Daniel was young, I had dreamed of all the things I would see him do. Take his first step, speak his first word, hit his first baseball, ride his first bike, go on his first date, even something so simple as his getting married. Some, we were there for. Others, we could only watch. Of all the events that were robbed from us, it was not being able to be at his wedding that hurt the most. Yet we were there in a way. We watched the official ceremony in the River. I watched as Kasuf spoke the words that officially bound Danny and Sha'uri together as husband and wife.
Claire was smiling as she watched them start their life together. So was I. Our son had a wife that loved him, a father that welcomed him into his family with open arms, a brother that hung on his every word. He had the family that had long been denied him, and we were so happy for him. Perhaps it is the wish of many parents, but even across the River, we wanted to be grandparents. A new life to bring into the family fold. We saw the look on Danny's face when Sha'uri told him she was expecting their first child, then the utter despair when the miscarriage happened.
I always knew that Danny would be a good father. He wasn't even scared when Sha'uri told him the news. The excitement he felt was what I wish I had felt when Claire told me the same news. I had felt that a child would hinder our careers, keep us from the desert we both loved so well. Daniel felt the exact opposite. A child would grow and learn at his side, studying the history that had been denied the Abydonians for so long. Daniel wanted to be a father. He knew the pain of growing up alone, of being handed from person to person knowing they were paid to care for him, knowing that he wasn't wanted as anything other than a source of income, no place to call home. No child of his would ever go through that. He wanted to be a father, and he wanted to have a child with his wife. We had hoped beyond hope that the River was wrong, that Danny would be able to rescue Sha'uri from the Goa'uld, and they could have their family.
It was hard to watch him deliver his wife's son knowing that it was not his child.
There was one thing I learned as I watched Danny grow up. You don't have to be related to someone to love them. All Danny had wanted was for someone to love him, to take care of him, to protect him as parents should. That was the one thing he never got. But when I saw him hold that little boy, I saw the light in his eyes that I know I had when I first held Danny. Even though he knew that he wasn't the father of the baby, he felt it. He felt exactly as I had that first time I cradled my son. I remember that feeling, that connection I felt as I held him when he took his first breath. There's a feeling that can't be described. He would have raised that little boy as his own. He would have loved him as much as I love Danny. All because he knew the greatest lesson most parents never think about: children just want to be loved.
We watched Danny and Teal'c take the little boy to Kasuf. Along the way, Daniel did what all parents do. He counted the little one's fingers and toes, held him close as the baby grasped his finger. They trudged across the sands toward the city, always on the alert for Heru'ur's Jaffa. The hardest thing Danny did was leave that precious little boy in the care of his father-in-law. I had watched Kasuf over the years. He is a good man, a kind father. Even he realized how hard it was for Danny to leave the baby behind, but they also knew there was no other choice. The baby had to be protected, and Kasuf could give him the care he needed.
We didn't have to worry about Daniel receiving the care he needed afterwards. Once Daniel and his friends arrived back on Earth, he walked back to his office alone, as if in a daze. His heart was breaking again. He didn't want everyone to see it. His friends let him go, but they knew what they had to do and how they had to do it. They had learned through experience. O'Neill walked into his office and sat down. He didn't say anything at first, just waited quietly. Then Daniel talked about seeing Sha'uri, delivering the baby and leaving him behind. And O'Neill listened. I never would have thought that a sarcastic soldier would be such a good friend to Daniel. He's like a big brother and best friend rolled in to one. He helped Daniel through some rough times and never once complained. With someone like Jack O'Neill there, I didn't worry as much about my son.
The day we were told that our time of waiting was over and that we were to Go Ahead, we met Sha'uri. It was only for a little while, but we talked a long time. Mostly about Daniel. We told her how to watch him in the River, and then we had to leave. We wouldn't be able to see Danny anymore. Our time of waiting was over and Sha'uri's had begun. We were told that we were going to a paradise where anything we can imagine can be. The only thing I'd want to imagine is having my family together, but that's the one dream that this place can't grant. Not yet.
Once we left the River, we went to an incredible paradise. A desert waiting for us to excavate its treasures. Its persistence in keeping the past buried is every bit as unshakable as we experienced when we were alive, but it yields its secrets to human determination. It has no choice. We have an eternity to excavate this region, and after seeing how many artifacts and cities lie beneath the sands, it will probably take that long to convince the desert to give up its ownership of the past.
But still, it's amazing here. The excavation, Claire, knowing Sha'uri is there by the River watching Danny.......
And what do you know?
It's gritty, everywhere and annoying......God help me, but I do love it.
Feedback is greatly appreciated.
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