TITLE: Forever And Counting
SPOILERS: Quite a few
SEASON/SEQUEL: End of 3rd
CONTENT WARNINGS: None
SUMMARY: Daniel's grieving after Sha'uri's funeral
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 story began as an attempt to write a 2,400-word story. Unfortunately, it didn't quite make the mark when it was counting in at 3,200 words. Instead of trying to deflate the story to meet the criteria, I added words and made a short story of it. Gotta thank Judy for all her help, otherwise it might never have seen the light of day.. A big thanks to Lems for betaing these stories for me. You two are the best!
The V.I.P. room was quiet except for the slow tick-tocking of the clock counting off the seconds. The second hand was the only source of sound or movement since the lone occupant of the room sat silent and still. Daniel wasn’t interested in anything at that precise moment. He didn’t want to be interested in anything. No one was there except Daniel. People seemed to be avoiding him since...
A condolence card from Siler rested on the bedside table beside a bag of chocolate walnut cookies. Both were supposed to give some comfort, both were a means of expressing sympathy when the giver didn't know what to say, but both left him feeling empty. There shouldn't have been a need for them.
Still, the ticking clock was the only sound. The second hand slowly spun around as time passed second by second, each adding more time between the moment she had left his life forever and now. Finally unable to watch any longer, Daniel dragged his eyes away from the clock and looked down at the tray in front of him. He knew he should eat -- he hadn't had any food since before the funeral, when? Yesterday? He'd been a widower for how long now? 76 hours. 4,560 minutes. 273,600 seconds and counting.
Doctor Fraiser had been reluctant to release him from the infirmary, but Jack had pulled rank on her. Daniel was going to Abydos to bury his wife and no one, not doctor, general or even President would stop him. Jack wouldn't let them. What did it matter if Amaunet almost destroyed Daniel’s brain with a ribbon device? He had been subjected to one enough times to build up a small measure of immunity to them. True, he was hurting, but not so badly that he couldn't lay his wife to her final rest. Janet finally agreed to let Daniel go, but she let the colonel know in no uncertain terms that it was against medical advice.
The trip to Abydos through the Stargate was difficult on his already queasy stomach and aching head, but Jack had him by the arm and kept him standing upright. Jack stood by him through the funeral ceremony as much for moral support as to catch Daniel should he fall. Listening to Kasuf say the words over Sha'uri's grave seemed to take forever but was over in an instant. It was either the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning. All Daniel felt was the dark yawning maw of loneliness dragging him back into its depths.
Alone. Lonely. Those were two words he understood well. He'd been alone most of his life but he'd felt the loneliness for the last three years. Having friends like Jack, Sam and…yes, even Teal’c was rewarding. These were people who would risk their lives for him and cared about him in a way he had not been cared about in a long time, but it wasn’t the same as the relationship he had with his wife. There was a connection, a sense of belonging he had yearned for since… As he watched the sands reclaim his love, he knew he was looking at a lifetime of unfulfilled dreams and empty days, long stretches of lonely hours and a hole in his heart where Sha'uri had once lived.
His grief was so profound that he didn't pay attention to his own physical state. He was running a slight fever, but ignored it. He couldn't save his wife, but he would be there for her for the last few moments the suns would ever shine on her again.
Then she was gone, buried beneath the sands, never to run, laugh or love again. Never to hold her children that would never be born, never to grow old with Daniel, never...
No one would let him stay on Abydos. Kasuf was concerned that Daniel was too ill for the local healers to help, and he didn't want to lose another child. He insisted that his good son return to Earth for medical attention. Jack agreed, so did Hammond and Fraiser. Daniel was too immersed in his own dark thoughts to argue.
So, there he sat in a V.I.P. room-- Jack had convinced Janet that Daniel needed privacy which couldn't be found in a bustling infirmary -- staring at a tray of food he didn't want, listening to a clock ticking away the seconds as his lonely new life passed slowly by.
He'd promised Janet that he would eat -- but he'd also promised her that he'd sleep. He had tried, but his fever had him tossing and turning for hours, wide-awake. The antibiotics weren't taking hold yet, and his fitfulness consumed him. He'd tried to think of pleasant things to lull himself to sleep, and amazingly enough, meals were foremost in his mind.
He'd never been one for fancy meals. Food was just a necessity to stay alive. Elaborate meals were for entertaining the big money people so they'd consider his grant applications. Until he found his home on Abydos, he didn't know the feeling that comes from meals that are shared family time. Most evening meals on his adopted home were either communal or family events -- loud, too. How many times did he, Sha'uri, Skaara and Kasuf spend time eating, talking, sharing stories, sharing their lives? They were times to connect, to be together.
Now, he sat alone in a V.I.P. room with a tray of commissary food staring back at him and the damn clock ticking on the wall. It was a big difference.
It was too much.
He had to get away from it all.
Daniel stood, feeling only slightly dizzy -- a side effect of the ribbon device. He saw something on the chair that he'd forgotten about, Jack's leather jacket. Daniel vaguely remembered not being able to get warm after they returned from Abydos, and Jack had brought him the jacket once he was settled in the V.I.P. room. It was warm and weatherworn, soft and comfortable. He'd wrapped himself up in it until the shivering stopped, then tossed it on the back of the chair and promptly forgot about it. Some inner voice reminded him that it was autumn, and the mountain air was already chilly. He picked up the jacket and walked out of the room, down the hallway, past the guards and into the elevator.
No one stopped the ailing, grieving man or asked where he was going.
"What's Doctor Jackson's condition?" Hammond asked Janet as he watched his
CMO pace his office.
"Not good, sir. His fever has been spiking all day. He still has the dizziness and weakness associated with the ribbon device. He’s not eating or sleeping, so he's exhausted and his immune system is weaker." Janet stopped pacing and stood in front of the general's desk. "Sir, we have to find him soon. This attack is by far the worst he's ever suffered, and we just don't know enough about the physiological effects of the device on --"
"I know, Doctor," Hammond did know. He'd seen Daniel when he was carried back barely conscious to the SGC after the attack. He saw the despair and the sadness, the loss of hope, the loss of family. When the general’s wife died, he'd closed himself off in his house for a few days and did nothing but stare at old photographs. Doctor Jackson only had one photograph of Sha'uri and his memories which were fewer than they should have been. There would be only a small measure of comfort found there. "SG-1 is already searching for him as well as a few volunteers from other teams. Colonel O'Neill believes that Doctor Jackson will return to his apartment eventually, and we've got people watching it. Perhaps it would be advisable for you to set up an emergency medical triage there."
"Thank you, sir."
1:38 a.m. (82 hours. 4,920 minutes. 295,200 seconds.)
Checking his watch and keeping count of the passing moments were two of the few activities Daniel was consciously pursuing as he allowed his thoughts to turn over and over. He shouldn’t have left the base. Jack was probably looking for him by now. Janet might already be threatening to sedate him and strap him to a bed in the infirmary, but he didn’t care. Each moment, each step was taking him farther away from … what? The place that reminded him of his failure to protect his wife? The place that housed the people who held some responsibility of what happened? The base itself was just a reminder of what he failed to do. He had to get away, stay away…
It was easy enough. Pick one foot up, swing it forward, put the foot down, repeat the process with the other foot. It was an act he performed daily without ever giving it one moment's thought or consideration. He walked from office to office. He walked over strange planets. He walked to help collect his thoughts or clear his head when life became too difficult.
Why wasn't it helping now?
Life had just become more difficult.
He just kept walking.
Life had always been difficult. He'd been alone since he was eight. He learned to like the solitude. If no one cared about you, and you didn't care about anyone, then no one could hurt you. He'd risked everything else -- his life, his career, his reputation -- but he had never risked his heart until Sha'uri came into his life.
There were some wounds that would never heal.
He didn't notice the rain drizzling down, didn't feel the cold autumn winds chilling him. He just kept walking. Perhaps, he hoped, if he kept walking, he could leave the heartache behind, but he knew he couldn't. He'd lost his reason for...living? No, he wasn't ready to die yet. Working? There was still too much to do. What had he lost? His wife. His hope. His heart. Part of his very soul.
And still he walked.
Night's moonless darkness didn't stop him. The blackness matched his mood. How could Teal'c have done it? How could he have killed her? Why did he take the time to raise his staff weapon and fire when he could have used that time to rush Amaunet and knock her down or shoot her with a zat gun? They could have captured Amaunet, taken her to the Tok'ra and removed the symbiote from his wife. Sha’uri would be alive and free. Now, she was free, but she was dead.
Daniel was alone again. Yes, he was surrounded by friends and teammates he'd give his life for, but he was still alone.
The dead were separated from the living by an impenetrable veil that the living cannot breach, no matter how much the heart is breaking. Did the dead feel the loss of separation from loved ones? Did they feel the heartache of being torn away from their family? The dead didn't feel exhaustion or cold or pain...
Pain. His head hurt where Amaunet tried to destroy him with the ribbon device. He'd been attacked with that device so many times before that he'd unconsciously learned how to deal with the pain. Ignore it for the moment and suffer horrendous, mind-numbing migraines later. The headache was a pale moon shadow of the heartache he felt...would feel....
Forgive Teal'c, Sha'uri had said. Find the boy, she had begged. Yes, he would search for the baby. He had been the first person to hold him, to hear his cry. His was the first face the child had looked upon. Daniel had loved the child as his own from the beginning. It wasn't the baby's fault how he was conceived. He was a true innocent, and Daniel had loved him as his own from the moment he first saw him. The child was just as lost to him as Sha'uri was.
He kept walking in the same direction although he had no idea where he was going.
“I understand,” Teal’c said as he shut off the cell phone. The reports were not good. The personnel at the base had been calling the local hospitals, buses and taxi companies for hours without any success.
“No luck?” Sam asked as she turned her car down another street.
“No one fitting Daniel Jackson’s description has been reported.”
“We’re already ten miles from the base. He was on foot. How far could he have gone in his condition without catching a ride?” Sam wondered aloud.
“I am distressed that he did not wish to speak to either you or O’Neill before he left the base.” Teal’c’s voice was steady but full of emotion as he changed the subject. “It is unlike Daniel Jackson to act in such a rash manner.”
Sam glanced at her friend, seeing the stoic visage around the eyes that were continually scanning the area. “Daniel’s not one to talk about what’s bothering him, Teal’c. You know that. Right now, I wouldn’t expect him to be acting logically. He’s hurting, and until he can come to terms with what’s happened, we have to be there for him.”
“I should not have killed Sha’uri,” Teal’c stated bluntly.
“You didn’t have a choice. Amaunet would have killed Daniel if you hadn’t fired.”
“I should have found an alternate solution.”
“In the two seconds it took for you to assess the situation, aim and fire?” Sam clasped Teal’c on the arm, trying to convey some sympathy. “Sha’uri didn’t want to be a host. She would rather have died than be one or hurt Daniel. And don’t forget that Daniel forgave you. He knows there was nothing else you could have done. He’s grieving.”
“Perhaps. On Chulak, if I had killed the mate of another Jaffa, I would be challenged to a fight to the death. The Tau’ri do not follow this custom, but I am honor bound to surrender my life to Daniel Jackson.”
What? “Daniel would never ask you to do that,” Sam said quickly.
“Indeed not. However, it is now my duty to protect his life despite the risk to my own. I have no other honorable means by which to atone for my actions.”
Sam didn’t know what to say. Instead, she turned down another street as they kept searching.
6:12 a.m. (87 hours. 5,220 minutes. 313,200 seconds.)
The rain started falling harder. The leather jacket was little protection, and
he was shivering again. His fever was back, full force, but as before, he paid
it little attention. He just kept his head down to try to stop the water from
falling into his eyes, but a sign on the side of the road caught his attention.
In the light of the breaking dawn, he could read the words. "You are now
leaving Colorado Springs. Come again soon." He stared at the sign for a
moment. He'd walked that far? He looked back and could see the city behind him.
He'd walked from the base to the city limits? Reluctantly, he turned and walked
back the way he came.
Despite the clear brightness of the sunrise, his thoughts were still as dark and as sad as before.
Clichés said patience was a virtue, but Jack O'Neill was low on such virtuous aspects. How could he have been so stupid? The moment they had returned from Sha'uri's funeral, Jack should have escorted Daniel back to the infirmary and placed a guard outside the door. But, no. He'd listened to Daniel's "I'll be fine in the V.I.P. room, Jack. I just...I need to be alone." Right. He'd wrapped Daniel up in his leather jacket and left him alone. Bad idea. The guards saw Daniel go topside, sit by a tree and stare off into space, then walk down the path. That was the last time anyone saw him.
Teal'c had followed Daniel's trail to the access road. Finding the occasional footprint in the dirt alongside the pavement was easy since Daniel was making no attempt to hide his tracks. He was heading for the main highway. Once there, Teal'c lost the trail.
Carter, Teal’c and SG-2 were searching the city in cars. SG-5 and 7 were on foot. No one had seen him. It had been over 15 hours since Daniel disappeared. The night had been cold and rainy, and at last report, Daniel wasn't dressed for cold weather. They were hoping it was a case of “no news is good news.”
Once Janet had arrived at the apartment, she began monitoring all the radio traffic among the searchers and briefing everyone on the after effects of ribbon devices. Daniel could be suffering from disorientation, loss of equilibrium, migraines, tunnel vision, an entire host of other maladies brought about by the Goa'uld technology. All care was to be taken with Daniel when he was found.
Found. Yes, he'd be found. No one wanted to think that Daniel was capable of doing anything rash, no matter how dire the circumstances. He'd been through so much before; surely he could weather this storm.
Janet watched Jack pace across the living room. It was his turn to keep an eye on the apartment, and he decided he was going to take position from the comforts inside. Every moment ticking by, every moment that Daniel shouldn't be out there alone, somewhere...anywhere. It seemed an interminable amount of time had passed before the radio crackled with static, then a voice said, "Jack, it's Ferretti. Are you reading me?"
Jack seized the radio and hoped for good news. "What have you got?"
"Daniel's just turned the corner, and he's heading for his apartment. He doesn't look good. Want me to help him in?"
Bad idea. Very bad idea. "No. I'll take care of it. Once he's in, call everyone back."
"Sir?" Janet was curious why Jack wasn't making sure Daniel WOULD be personally escorted inside.
"He's just lost his wife, Doc. He's broken up about that or he wouldn't have just taken off the way he did. Let's leave him a little dignity, okay?"
Dignity be damned, Janet wanted to say. There were times when a person's health was just too important, but she waited.
In mere minutes, a cold, wet, exhausted, bedraggled Daniel walked into his apartment. He didn't look around, didn't notice his home was occupied. He walked past Jack and Janet toward the bedroom until stopped by some unseen force. It wasn't until two hands turned him around that he realized he wasn't alone, and Jack was the unseen force stopping him in his tracks.
"Jack? What are you doing here?" His voice sounded weak and far away to him.
"We've been looking for you since yesterday." He could feel the heat radiating through Daniel's wet clothes. "Doc, his fever's back. He’s burning up."
Doc? Jack only called Fraiser Doc. Oh. Janet was there, too? He didn't want to go to the infirmary. It was too noisy, too many people...wait, wasn't this his apartment? Why were they here?
"Let's get him out of those wet clothes. Maybe he'll only have a cold and not have developed pneumonia."
A few hours and a few blood tests later, a warm, dry Daniel was lying in his own bed, unaware his reappearance had wiped out a great deal of concern, and his medical tests showed he had not developed anything worse than a very bad cold. Having been pronounced fit enough to be allowed to stay in his own home, Daniel immediately fell into the deep, exhausted sleep that had been denied him the previous two nights. Jack promised to have Daniel in the infirmary first thing the next morning, but there was no way he was going to disturb him until then. Unhappily, Janet agreed to the idea. It wasn't as if she had a choice. There were times that even she wouldn't overrule Jack's seniority with her medical privilege. She left the two men to themselves in the forlorn hope that Jack could help Daniel. As she left, she wondered if anyone could.
Four hours had passed since Daniel had taken his last dose of antibiotics. They would fight off the cold and the fever, but they wouldn't do anything against the effects of the ribbon device or current events on his friend. Jack knew no amount of sympathy, empathy or comfort would help yet because the pain was too new, too raw. Time didn't heal all wounds, but it did help one learn to live with the heartache.
Jack didn't want to wake Daniel to take the pills but Janet's warnings that his very bad cold could turn into pneumonia if left untreated was enough to motivate him. Daniel had been through enough for a while. A long stay in the infirmary was the last thing he needed at the moment.
He eased open the bedroom door. Daniel was still sound asleep, exhaustion etched deeply around his eyes. Maybe he could swallow the pills without waking up completely, but it really didn't matter. Daniel had to take his medicine. Jack shook Daniel’s shoulder gently. "Daniel. Wake up." After several attempts, Daniel finally found his way back to the waking world.
Jack helped him sit up and watched as Daniel absently took his antibiotics without expressing his usual opinions on being forced to take medications. Another sign of Daniel's exhaustion, perhaps even depression.
"How are you feeling?" Jack asked him.
Daniel shrugged. Words were too difficult to manage at the moment. He was tired and he just wanted to go back to sleep. He laid back down and pulled the covers up again.
"You know, I'm here if you need me. Carter’s already called several times to check on you. Teal'c wants to help, too, if you’ll let him. You're not alone." Jack said as he got up to leave.
Not alone? Maybe, but Daniel felt like he was. Jack understood, but nothing was going to take away Daniel's pain or put his heart back where it used to be. Time would help, but he knew he'd have a lonely life, but that didn't mean he had to be alone.
"Jack?" Daniel's voice sounded weak and far away. Jack turned back around and waited patiently.
"Thanks," was all Daniel could say.
Jack smiled. "That's what friends are for."
Jack left and closed the door after him, leaving Daniel to go back to sleep in peaceful solitude. Daniel saw the bedside clock. It read 3:22 p.m. He added up the time....
97 hours. 5,820 minutes. 349,200 seconds and counting...
Feedback is greatly appreciated.
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