Obsequy

*Part One: Pain and Rage*
"He's okay out there, Carter. Trust me, he's happy. Much better off than if Jacob had partially healed him."
Goddamnit, if I hear those words one more time from one more person, I'm going to lose it. Trite, meaningless platitudes intended to help but they only add to the wounds. The numbness of shock is gone, replaced with hurt. I ache. So much and so deeply I don't know how long it's going to take to get over it. Never. There's a hole still in me from so many losses - Mom, Martouf, Narim... This is another, and I'm not certain now the hole isn't bigger than the solid part of me. Happy. Better.
"Yes, sir," I whisper, walking from him. I need to not be here. In this place that killed my friend and tore my heart out yet again. "I know."
"Carter..."
"I'm fine, sir. I'm going home, if that's okay," I lie. I can't go there, not yet. My home is my refuge away from the craziness of life at the SGC, but it can't give me the hug I so desperately need. My friend Daniel is dead. Dead. Unthinkable. Wrong.
"Call me if you need anything."
"I will, sir." I won't.
The colonel clears his throat uncomfortably as I get further down the hall. I know he must be hurting as much as me. Hesitating for a moment, I turn around to find him gone from sight. I don't know how he does it sometimes; how he manages to handle everything and make it look as though he isn't feeling much of anything at all. Sometimes I wonder if he actually *isn't* feeling anything. That can't be right. It can't. It isn't. The colonel was at his full-guns-blazing best trying to clear Daniel's name just a few hours ago. This new deficit of emotion is so contradictory to that, I can't understand. Daniel could explain it to me. God, Daniel. I have to leave now as the hurt manifests itself, bile burning up into my throat.
Swallowing the bitterness, I stumble onto the elevator and try to contain my emotions. Be the good little soldier I know people expect me to be as much as I expect it from myself. Only with Janet, Cassie and Daniel...Daniel. How the hell am I supposed to get over this?
I manage past all the checkpoints but as I climb into my car the tears break free. Damnit, I can't even make it out of the fucking parking lot. I savagely wipe my face dry and blink rapidly in a vain attempt to prevent new tears from forming. Choking in a raspy breath, I start the car with a shaky hand and leave the cold grayness of the mountain behind and drive. I have no idea where I'm going, the rhythm of the wheels soothing me. Like when I was a baby, according to my father. But it's not enough to ease the pain and emptiness, merely cloak it in minor, artificial comfort.
What I need right now is the one thing I can't have. I keep seeing Daniel over and over, unconscious and unrecognizable beneath all those bandages. Each image becomes more and more clear, crystallizing indelibly in my mind. Trapped forever. I don't even know if he heard me when I said my goodbye, tried to tell him how much I love him. Tears well hotly again, the road blurs in front of me and I know my knuckles are white on the steering wheel. Static in my ears transmutes into the wail of a siren. Reflexively, I check my rear view mirror and spot the cherries of a Colorado Springs police car flashing furiously at me. I slow and pull over to allow it to pass me, taking the granted moment to rub my hands down my face.
The siren has stopped; it didn't whiz by me in pursuit of some delinquent driver. Confused, I look in the rear view mirror again to see the cop has pulled me over. Shit. Could this day get any worse at all? For some not too surprising reason, I start crying again as I roll down my window. I know the cop is going to think I'm just trying to get out of the ticket I'm about to get for the offense I didn't realize I was committing. How I wish that were the case.
"Do you know why I stopped you, ma'am?" the startlingly young looking police officer asks as he leans down to peer in at me.
"To be honest, no," I tiredly sigh, brushing away an errant tear. Now that he's here, the waterworks thankfully dry up.
"You were going about twenty miles per hour below the speed limit. Pretty much everyone has been passing you and honking. You're telling me you didn't notice that?"
I blink and fight the urge to giggle my head off. Daniel always thinks...thought he couldn't keep anyone's attention and here he's making me oblivious to everything even though he's not here. The laughter sucks right out of me; the void grows. Staring up into the concerned face of the cop, I shake my head. It's all I can do.
"Are you all right, ma'am?"
Snorting, I find my voice at last, hiccups of pain included. "Not even close. B-bad day. Really...bad."
"I can see that. You look like my little girl after I told her the family dog died," he comments conversationally. "I'll just give you a warning. Get where you're going and take it easy, okay?"
Oh, God. Bile rises again. I frantically undo my seatbelt and lunge for the door handle in one motion. Slamming shoulders with the officer, I stumble around my car and vomit all over the side of the road. There's not much in my stomach, dry heaves comprising most of the violent action that doesn't want to stop. I fall to my knees, wishing the purging went soul deep. The ache is still with me, worming through every ounce of my body and mind.
A tissue floats in front of my face hauntingly, like a ghost. Batting at it to make it go away, I'm thwarted by the police officer squatting down next to me. I snatch it and brush my lips, closing my eyes to block out the concern of a complete stranger. He won't go away, now upping his involvement by patting my back in an awkward circle.
"Hey, are you okay now?"
This guy is brilliant. I bleat out a sobbing laugh and look to him at last. The kindness of his face stills the ungratefulness roiling in me and I nod. "I'm fine. Really. I'll get myself in c-control in a minute and be on my way."
"I didn't mean to make you upset."
"You didn't. I just..." I swallow loudly. I don't know if I should say it. I don't know if I can. I can't pretend or hide from it forever, and maybe saying it will help. "I lost a very good fr-friend of mine today."
The words don't have the healing touch I'd hoped for, hanging almost visibly in the air around me as though I've blasphemed Daniel in some way. It's silly and unfounded, but I can't ignore the betrayal. My friend Daniel is really gone. Gasping, I struggle to my feet.
"I'm so sorry. God, no wonder you reacted the way you did. Where are you headed? I'll give you an escort, just to be on the safe side," the cop offers, voice taking on the thick, sympathetic tone I was partially running from.
"That's not necessary, but thank you."
"Ma'am, I insist. You may not want to hear this, but you're in no shape for driving."
"1152 Mainland Street," I blurt. That's where I need to go.
"I know just where that is," he says warmly, giving me an assessing look. I apparently don't meet up to his standards, as he shakes his head. "Can you leave your car here? I can have another officer pick it up and drop it off at that address."
Crinkling my eyebrows, I stare at him suspiciously and catch my reflection in his dark green eyes. Even the tiny images are enough for me to see I look like hell, a madwoman on the run from something big and scary. It shocks me enough to agree with him. Numbly walking back to my driver's seat, I switch off the still-running car and hand him the keys. He takes them without a word, leading me to the back of his squad car. I panic for a second, wondering if he's really going to cart me off to some hospital's psych ward.
"Don't worry, ma'am. I'll have you there in a jiffy."
Relaxing into the seat, I close my eyes again and snap them open when Daniel's bandaged face makes its scheduled reappearance. I stare unblinkingly at a crack in the glass divider between me and the friendly police officer, eyes drying as a result of my avoidance measures. He doesn't say a thing for the entire twenty minute drive, though on several occasions I catch him surveying me worriedly. I try to smile and fail.
We pull to a stop outside the apartment building, a wave of doubt flushing coldly through me. This can only make it worse. My door opens with a gust of cool air, and I start. Quickly regaining my composure, I step out of the car.
"Thank you, uh, what's your name?"
"Brian."
"Thank you, Brian."
"If you'll tell me the apartment number, I'll have the officer ring you when she comes with your car."
"Oh, uh...eight - three."
"Okay. You take care of yourself now," Brian clumsily says. I hear the words he doesn't say. *Your friend wouldn't want you to be in pain. Live for him.*
I nod at the spoken and unspoken messages, but I can't help the way I feel. It's too soon. It'll always be too soon. Life will go on. Duty will call. I will function again. But the pain will never lessen. I can't let it, can't forget the reason for the pain. Can't forget Daniel.
"I will. Thank you again," I murmur and turn to face the challenge I've set up for myself.
The building looms above me as I tilt my head to locate the apartment from the outside, seeming to sway sickeningly. I can do this. I have to do this. I take the first step, through the door and past the doorman. He frowns at me, likely aware Daniel's not home right now. God, and he never will be again. I can do this. The doorman doesn't stop me, apparently comfortable enough in his recognition of me to let me up.
Depositing me on the eighth floor, the elevator opens with a despondent wheeze so representative of the state I'm in I answer it with a low moan. Even before I reach the door, it feels as though I'm invading where I have no business being; an uninvited visitor. I push past my unease and slip the key into the lock. I've never felt unwelcome in Daniel's home. Rather, it's been a haven of comfort for me. I hope that still holds true. If it doesn't, I don't know what that'll do to me; my need is so great.
Pushing into the empty apartment, I'm overwhelmed by the feel of Daniel clinging to every square inch of the place. He's in every book, every artifact. He's in the air. I relax into the sensation, relief flowing. I'm okay here. Plopping my keys down on the counter, I step into his living room area and simply take in all it offers. I make a slow circle of the room, touching everything as if to confirm the reality and solidity of it all. And for a minute, the therapy works.
Only a minute, then the pain returns as intensely as ever. Daniel's things are here. He's not. The reality and solidity of that fact assaults me and reverses the small amount of comfort I've just managed to glean. This is real. Daniel's gone and he's not coming back. Damnit.
Suddenly, I'm angry. Storming to Daniel's couch, I snatch up a pillow and fling it across the room. Unsatisfied by the dull thump it makes when it hits the wall, I stomp into the kitchen and knock down his pots and pans, reveling in the clatter they make as they crash onto the floor. Rage feels good. I'm mad at everyone. Oma Desala for not just healing Daniel. Myself for not being able to do anything. The colonel. Teal'c. General Hammond. Damnit, I'm even mad at Daniel. How could he? How could he choose to leave us? To leave me? Grief is a selfish beast, rearing its ugly head to eat away at my insides.
"Damn you, Daniel. I really hate you, you know that?" I whisper, a lump in my throat nearly blocking my voice. As soon as the words cross my lips, I'm ashamed. "No, I didn't mean that. I'm sorry. I don't. I don't hate you."
Staring at the carnage I've inflicted on the hapless cookware, I blink back tears again. The volley of emotions playing out inside me is unbearable, the sight of my loss of control unacceptable. I shuffle from the kitchen, making my way to yet another room in the apartment. It's here. What I need is here; I just have to find it.
The bedroom door is ajar. I nudge it open with my foot and poke my head in. Oddly disappointed when I find the room unoccupied, I enter it and look numbly around. More so than the rest of Daniel's home, his bedroom carries his spirit. I can't count the number of times he's let me sleep in his bed while he crammed onto his sofa. The best sleep in Colorado Springs, he always says...said. Damnit. He was right.
I tiptoe deeper into the room, not sure why I'm being so cautious. Reaching his stereo system, I finger the knobs and buttons and move my gaze down to his CD collection. Though I've looked through it countless times, the voyeuristic feeling comes back. Turning away, I catch sight of several plain jewel boxes. I've never seen them before, and curiosity wins. I pull them out and find a woman's flowing handwriting decorating the stark white covers, red ink vibrant and strong.
Cassie's. There are only three, labeled 'Pain and Rage', 'Melancholy and Solace' and 'Truth'. She must have burned these for Daniel. Embarrassed, I shove them back in their slots, watching as a piece of paper floats slowly to the floor. The message springs out at me.
//Daniel, you've broadened my musical horizons! Thank you for the CD - I love it. I've made some of my own for you. Hope you find them as helpful as I have! Music is the best soul soother in the world, isn't it? Luv, Cass//
The lighthearted words are a knife to my already torn insides, blurring before my eyes. Cassie. I haven't even thought what this will do to her. Even as the belligerence of being a teenager rises, I still see the tender spirit within her. I wonder if Daniel fully realized just how many people would miss him; how many people's lives he impacted. The ache surges, and Cassie's words return. Music is the best soul soother.
I can't decide which to listen to, so I put them all in Daniel's player and start with 'Pain and Rage'. An agonized voice blares out of the stereo, cutting straight through me and yet I find it strangely comforting. Rubbing my runny nose with the back of my hand, I gently slip the note in between the CD cases and stumble to the bed. Collapsing onto it, the smell of Daniel fills my nose as the feel of soft cotton embraces me. I wrap myself around a pillow and in the comforter and listen to the music flow through the room. It mirrors my pain.
Enveloped in my own misery, I barely register the words as each song blends together. I'm only attuned to the anguish being shared until a soft, plaintive guitar snares my attention. It segues to an ethereal but crystalline voice that speaks directly to me, issuing a gently fierce warning.
//Hold on, hold on to yourself, for this is going to hurt like hell. Hold on, hold on to yourself - you know that only time can tell. What is it in me that refuses to believe? This isn't easier than the real thing.//
I sob openly, allowing the tears that had sporadically threatened all day to finally unleash with all their torment. I know Daniel's not dead, dead. I know better than anyone exactly what his ascension truly is. But that doesn't make it any easier. It's unfair to stay in this realm of misery and grief, both to Daniel and to everyone else. I understand that, but I can't move past it. I want my friend back.
//Hold on, hold on to yourself, for this is going to hurt like hell.//
Oh God, I miss Daniel.


*Part Two: Melancholy and Solace*
My attempts to achieve Kel No'reem in the scant hours since Daniel Jackson's...transformation have met with complete failure. I am pleased my friend is not dead, though in truth I feel his absence as keenly as if he were. Nothing could have readied me for the feelings coursing through me now, even self-preparation for an event precisely such as this. For five years I have served at the sides of the Tau'ri, a valiant but so fragile species. Death could have occurred on any number of missions. I knew this, accepted the likelihood it would one day come to pass for one or more of my friends.
Now it has, and I do not know what to do.
When a loss breaks through strict emotional discipline, it is customary for a Jaffa to retreat into seclusion for a period of time, to use the solitude as a means to rein in feelings and regain control. I find myself at once needing to be alone and to locate Major Carter. Of my friends, it is she whom I believe feels Daniel Jackson's loss at a level equal to my own. Greater, even, for she lacks even the modest regulation of emotion my training has allowed. She has experienced much pain in the past several years, and I fear this will only serve to shatter her.
Rising from the floor, I quickly extinguish my candles, collect a hat and jacket, and depart my quarters. On the other side of the door, I find O'Neill standing poised to knock, left hand raised in a loose fist. At my appearance, his hand drops aimlessly to his side and neither of us speak for long moments. His face is impassive, eyes as unreadable as I am struggling to make mine.
It has been difficult of late to understand O'Neill, particularly when regarding his relationship with Daniel Jackson. I know the two to be friends, yet there have been occasions in recent history in which there has been no indication from either man such a bond exists. If I place myself in the shoes of an outside observer, I would find it difficult to believe there is even a remote kinship between them. It has been a source of concern for some time, and it makes O'Neill's distance now all the more troubling.
"Goin' somewhere?" O'Neill speaks at last, his voice gruff and loud in the silence. He points to the jacket I have balled in my fist.
"I am."
"Where?" As he asks, I realize I do not know. Major Carter may still be at the SGC. "A night on the town?"
His words are lightly spoken, inappropriately so in my mind. He cannot really mean the words as a suggestion on how to deal with the death of a friend, though I sense that this is somewhat the case. He wishes to forget. I do not.
"No."
"Well, ah, okay then," O'Neill awkwardly fumbles, taking a step away from me. "I think I'll just go home, too."
Before I can register what he has said, he is retreating. Frowning at O'Neill's slumped shoulders, I wonder if perhaps I have misjudged him. His actions to aid Daniel Jackson's reputation spoke of great emotion, but I cannot glimpse any of that now. It cannot have disappeared completely, and have a brief insight that perhaps I should follow O'Neill to ensure his well-being. I shake my head, uncertain yet again on what my course of action should be. No course of action, in going to Major Carter or O'Neill, will truly change anything. I allow my feet to lead, to take me to the elevator and out of the mountain while my brain contributes nothing to the journey. The briskness of cool evening air awakens me enough to realize I cannot leave the facility alone. Cannot walk to Major Carter's home, where I now know she is.
I go back inside and ask the guard to arrange transportation, which he does only after confirming with General Hammond that my departure is acceptable. Grateful General Hammond does not question my intentions, I climb into the military jeep provided as my coach and supply the driver with the address. I gaze out the window as we travel, feel the chill of air seeping into the jeep through poorly constructed windows and doors. It fills me, replaces all my warmth. Here, I am not alone, yet am more alone than I have ever been. And the solitude does not fulfill its purpose, does not allow me control, instead turning on me with vengeance.
Daniel Jackson is gone.
It is as though I am only now realizing this, and my emotions plummet from the strange disbelief I have unknowingly been in to utter, wretched misery. This is not right. Isolation is supposed to give me strength, not weakness. Slowing my breaths, I transfer my gaze up into the dusky sky, to the spattering of stars painting the deepening blue canvas. They give me no comfort. There is no comfort in loneliness.
"Please stop the vehicle," I murmur.
"Sir?"
"Please. Stop the vehicle," I repeat with more conviction, and the driver responds immediately by veering onto the road's shoulder and allowing the jeep to idle.
I climb out, continuing to stare at the stars as if they have counsel to bestow. I know they do not. Inhaling the scents of coniferous trees, dust and exhaust fumes swirled into an almost nauseating conglomeration, I fight to swallow down the unexpected voracity of my sadness. In Daniel Jackson, I saw strength of which I can only hope to one day achieve. When confronted with darkness, he fought past it for the good of the many. For the good of me, even. I have been unable to battle my own dark demons with such proficiency, a fact that shames me now. Much was to be learned from my friend, so much more could have been. There is nothing but emptiness in me, a void created simply by understanding the depth of this loss.
I need to fill it. I want Daniel Jackson back to guide me. I might never receive either of these desires, and know they are selfish in nature. Knowing, however, does not make them less legitimate or less intense. I want to bellow into the darkness closing in around me now, fill the hole with noise that will accomplish nothing, save an insignificant amount of false relief. Suddenly I know there is only one thing that will come even close to fulfilling my need.
"Sir? Are you all right out there?"
The voice startles me and I realize I have not moved more than one pace from the open automobile door, am actually leaning on it as if I require its support. The answer to the question would likely prompt the airman to return to the SGC, or at the very least make an attempt. I am not all right, but going back will not alleviate the problem. Going back is no longer even possible.
"I am fine," I inform him as I return to my seat.
I give him the new location to which he is to take me, internally apologizing to Major Carter for choosing to forego aiding her in favor of selfishly assuaging my own needs. I do not think she will hold me in contempt, and I know that to better help my friend I must first come to terms with my own feelings. I fear what I will find in myself as much as I anticipate it, but am nearly certain what I seek will truly be found in the place I now know I need to be. Daniel Jackson may yet be able to assist me. A new sense of calm comes over me, easing the hollowness to a more tolerable level. Nevertheless, it remains. Clearing my mind of everything, I stare out the windshield blindly. I see nothing of the houses and cars I know are passing by until the jeep turns the final corner.
My eyes instantly lock onto it, and any doubts fade. Major Carter's car is parked in front of the apartment building. I manage the barest trace of a smile at our like-mindedness. I should have anticipated she would seek comfort here as I do, even if that comfort is different for each of us.
Thanking the airman, I instruct him to leave and am through the entrance of the building before he travels ten feet. The elevators are consistently slow, so I simply walk by the doorman to the stairs. He does not say a word to stop me. My sense of urgency is startling; it is as though I am driven by an outside influence that is telling me to hurry. As I enter the apartment, I begin to understand a bit more. I feel Daniel Jackson's presence here, and the feeling of emptiness filled. Though we were fortunate to know him as more than a scientist and co-worker, I believe there was always something he withheld from us. In visiting his home when he was present, I saw a little bit more of his true self and that existence somehow cushions me now.
Until I come upon disorder I know has not been wrought by Daniel Jackson's hands.
Pots and pans, once hanging, are now strewn haphazardly on the kitchen floor. Evidence of Major Carter's presence, and her state of mind. Bereft and forlorn after a violent assault, the utensils portray my own inner feelings precisely. I am suddenly compelled to straighten them. I must. Their appearance is upsetting to me, causing the emptiness to return and then mutate into something more massive and unnamable. I work with feverish efficiency, snuff out my rising feelings of distress with every implement I put back into place. Halfway through my task, I understand the irrationality of my actions and I stop to simply stare at the remaining scattered pans. Making everything appear all right on the surface will not dissolve the reality that everything is not.
I am tempted to bat at the newly righted pots, scuttle them once again onto the floor. I raise my arm, ready to give into the impulse when I hear it and remember. Soft, heart wrenching music floats toward me. I am not alone. Destruction will not help either, and it is not the reason I am here. I must find Major Carter. I already know where she is. Following the music, I climb the stairs and prod the already open bedroom door further back. The only light comes from the CD player, casting a greenish tint over the contents of the room.
I now hear shuddery breaths accompanying the music, the breaths of someone in intense pain. I hesitate for a moment, knowing Major Carter has come here in search of solitude, much as I have. But there is no comfort in loneliness, I needlessly remind myself. I take a step into the room, closing the door so a mere crack of light cuts into the dark. She is shrouded in Daniel Jackson's bed, and I do not believe she is aware of my presence. Her sobs break through my own wall of misery, and I know I must help her. I do not know how. Around us, the music swells both melancholic and strangely soothing, guiding me.
//One part of me just wants to tell you everything; one part just needs the quiet. And if I'm lonely here, I'm lonely here. And on the telephone, you offer reassurance.//
I walk to the bed and sit next to the huddled figure, sense Major Carter stiffening. Saying nothing, I wait for her to make the first move. If she pushes me away, I will honor her wishes on this day and offer succor only when she is ready to receive it. For her sake as well as my own, I hope she will accept it now. I came here seeking aloneness but I need more. I need her.
"Teal'c?" Her voice is tear-thickened and heavy.
"Yes," I simply state, the music again voicing what I wish to say. Does she hear it, too?
//How can I hold the part of me that only you can carry? It needs a strength I haven't found, but if it's frightening, I'll bear the cold. And on the telephone, you offer warm asylum.//
"Please..."
I fear she is asking me to go but I do not move, instead let my hand fall upon her leg. Giving it a slight squeeze, I rest it there. There are faint reverberations running through her and into my hand, muted by the thick comforter she is swathed in but still very evident. She has been here a long time, suffering so much. Any words I may say will not truly help, so I do not speak.
"Teal'c, I... I want it to go away," she brokenly says, shifting around and withdrawing her leg from my grasp. I feel its loss instantly, feel the emptiness grow again. "Will it?"
Uncertain what she is really asking, I do not know what to say. Major Carter is an intelligent woman, she knows the pain will not fade soon, if ever. If she is asking me to lie to her, I cannot. "You know it will not, Major Carter."
"Oh, God. I know, I know."
Her voice is more muffled now, as though she has her face buried in the pillow. Seeking artificial comfort there? Not artificial at all. I feel Daniel Jackson in this room more potently than any other place in his apartment, perhaps because it is so intimate. We cannot continue to draw comfort from objects and things that were his, as the memories contained here will blur and fade. The real source of solace will come from each other. With this knowledge, I feel my melancholy dissipating. Our friend would not want us to become isolated from each other because of him. The music fills the air when neither of us speak, stronger now and more certain.
//To crawl inside the wire and feel something near me, to feel this accepting that it is lonely here, but not alone. And on the telephone, you offer visions dancing.//
Quickly removing my boots, I hesitantly crawl onto the bed and take up position directly behind Major Carter. I do not know how she will react to my sudden need for tactile reassurance, but I cannot stop. She freezes momentarily as I wrap an arm around her and draw her closer to me, and then relaxes with another quaking breath.
"Teal'c," she murmurs as she swiftly rolls over and into my embrace, her face tucked into the crook of my neck. Her breath and tears warm my skin and chill my heart. It pains me greatly to view her in such pain and I wish I could do more. "Thank you."
"It will be all right," I whisper, wishing I could make it so immediately.
But I know I have done all I can for the moment, and my heart warms again. I rub her back in a slow massage, truly believing my own words for the first time - things will be all right. Together, we can weather this storm. Together...
And amidst the support I have finally gleaned for myself and for Major Carter I realize we are not only missing Daniel Jackson here; my mind wanders to O'Neill. I automatically lift my head as if he is here with us, though I know otherwise. To my surprise, I see a shadow stretching into the room and I know it is indeed him standing on the other side of the door. His pain is palpable even from a distance as he stands silently, watching Major Carter and me. He makes no move to enter and I rest my head on the bed again, closing my eyes.
I wonder if he will one day be able to change his path from that of evasion to seek comfort from those who wish and need to provide it. I know O'Neill cannot be urged to do so, by myself or anyone else. It is a passage he has chosen to take on his own and while it pains me to see it and take no action, I must.
As he allowed Daniel Jackson to continue on his journey.


*Part Three: Truth*
Carter walks away from me, and it's easy to let her go. Easy to believe what I've told her is the God's honest truth. And it is the truth; Daniel is better off now, wherever he is, than he would be had he stayed. I know that. She knows it, too. But I've got something in my throat I can't quite identify, a lump large enough I feel the need to expunge it. I gruffly clear my throat, which doesn't remove the blockage and I know it will only bring Carter's attention back to me so I run before she turns around.
I'm feeling surprisingly little pain in light of what's gone down, and I hope I can blame residual shock for that. Because if I can't I really have turned into a cold-hearted bastard. A friend is gone; I need to do something. To feel something.
Hammond, Fraiser and I were in a meeting for hours to discuss Daniel and what the hell to do with that yutz Jonas. I know it was the right call to spare Carter and Teal'c that terribly quick segue into 'normal' life, yet I wonder now if I simply couldn't bring myself to face them. Either way, I'm all alone and wandering now. Alone by my own design? The thought makes me stop dead in my tracks. Poor turn of phrase, that. I swipe a hand across my mouth and look up and down the corridor to witness random airmen's eyes instantly averting to avoid my perusal. The thing in my throat becomes so big it feels as though it's bursting right through my windpipe.
I can't be alone anymore. I can't. Without realizing it, I'm walking again and my movements feel mechanically stilted. It takes my brain a while to catch up with my feet, then I know precisely where I'm going. If anyone can help me, he can. With new purpose, I navigate through the levels and corridors until I'm standing in front of Teal'c's door. Raising my hand to pound on it, I realize I don't even know if he's in there. My fist slackens as the door pops open, almost as if it and the room's occupant are intuitively answering my question. Teal'c stares down at me, and I see he's got a jacket in his hand.
"Goin' somewhere?" I ask, thinking 'Please don't be.'
"I am."
"Where? A night on the town?"
Oh, God. Did I just say that? What the fuck is wrong with me? Teal'c veritably glowers, fury terrible and hard in his eyes for a flash before they calm back down to neutrality. There is something so very wrong here.
"No," he snaps, grim and incredibly final. Conversation, if it can be called that, is over.
"Well, ah, okay then. I think I'll just go home, too," I stutter and run away from him.
Funny, I seem to be doing a lot of that. For a guy complaining about being alone, I'm doing a crackerjack job of putting myself in exactly that position. I should go home, but I can't just yet. Not until my throat opens wide enough for me to pour as much alcohol down it as is humanly possible. Feel something. That's where this all started. I need to do something to feel something. Maybe that something is to go home and get drunk. But I don't. Instead, I roam around, barely aware of the personnel scattering like flies at my approach. Barely aware, and completely cognizant of what that means. My feet have again developed a mind of their own, taking me to a place I don't think I really want to be.
I'm at Daniel's office, and for the briefest of seconds I swear I see him bending over his desk. It's so vivid I can see the concentration lines on his forehead. Oh, shit. Hallucinating is bad. I bark out a laugh I know might be viewed as wholly inappropriate, but hell, that's been my middle name lately. So I just let it out and walk into the late Doctor Daniel Jackson's office. No, not late, I correct myself. Ascended. Better. Okay. It suddenly feels as though those two choices are exactly the same. For all intents and purposes, he is dead and gone.
Daniel. Gone. Gone?
Oh, I'm feeling it now, in the biggest, nastiest of ways. Shakily staggering to the desk, I sink into the chair before my legs give out. Daniel. I know why I'm here, in this place, and I was right. I *don't* want to be here, searching for fragments of a friend I only just let go. Bits and pieces to hang onto when it's already over and done with and far, far too late. I know it is, but I can't keep myself from wanting to uselessly cling to the physical representations that are all that is left of Daniel. His coffee cup. Artifacts I don't understand or care about. A stub of a pencil, eraser gone. Worthless.
He came to me, asked me to let him go. And I did and it was such a fucking hard thing to do. So hard and so terribly easy to let him walk right out of our lives. These conflictions I'm feeling are tearing me apart inside. Constant fluctuations of yes and no, right and wrong, truth and lies. Where does it end? Will it ever?
It occurs to me now that I should have argued with Daniel more, tried to convince him how much we need him. I didn't. I just fucking let him go. Me. I did it. Alone. No, not alone. Another contradiction. As simple as it was for me to let him go, convince myself it was for the best, Daniel seemed to have made his decision without difficulty. I don't understand how it was so easy for him, after hearing Carter pour her heart out into a huge puddle on the floor and Teal'c speaking with depth of feeling he's never shown concerning anyone else. How could a person hear those things, understand what his loss would do to friends, and still choose to go when there was another option?
'Why do you care?'
And there it is. The question should have taken me aback, but all it did was remind me Daniel's condition was unchangeable. About the futility of trying to fix mistakes and misinterpretations that had been happening for months, to smooth over mountainous bumps in a friendship as a last ditch effort in a man's dying hours. I knew the instant he said that it was far too late for that, and for pretending I didn't know what the question actually meant. So I told him I thought I'd come to admire him a little. A little. I thought the fact I'd been scrambling and working so hard to clear his good name should have been enough for him to realize, that words weren't necessary. And in verbally downplaying the truth, I made his choice easy.
The truth is that I've always admired Daniel, even if we've never, ever seen eye to eye on any given issue. The truth is the bumps in the friendship were only there because I became better at disguising my feelings behind a mask of seeming insensitivity. It wasn't my fault he didn't understand the feelings were still there, didn't look beneath the surface to realize that where it counted nothing had changed. Not really. It is my fault for seeing him take everything I said the wrong way and letting it fester to the point he believed we were no longer friends. That my friendship wasn't worthy of effort.
I let Daniel go long before he asked me to do it.
I don't have a clue why I didn't stop it when I had the option. Sitting here in this cluttered but so barren office, I suddenly wish I could turn back time. Not a day or a few hours. Years. It wouldn't have taken much overall effort on my part - a smile here, a touch to the shoulder there, a 'you did good, Daniel' every once in a while. Just enough to make the outcome of today different. I laugh at my ridiculousness and about a million clichs come to mind, the most notable being that hindsight is twenty-twenty.
I'm not stupid; I know there's nothing for me here, no comfort to be drawn from anything in this office. This stuff doesn't contain even a glimmer of the Daniel I want. A couple of years ago, I might have said this was the only place on Earth where Daniel was able to find any sort of happiness. I don't think that's been reality for a while. Maybe that's why I feel wrong here. The thing is, I have no idea where else to go. Or why. Why all of a sudden I feel the need to say out loud what I should have told Daniel before. Like I'll magically feel all better about his absence and my own part in it, even though I knew if I had said it, told him why and how much I cared, it still wouldn't have made a difference. I'm pretty sure he knew, anyway, but I can't be entirely certain.
He knew how Carter and Teal'c feel and still made his choice; does it really matter if I don't say it?
It matters, and it's really irrelevant where I do it. Yet I just can't spend one more minute in this godforsaken mountain that has sucked so much more out of my life than I care to think about. Home is where the heart is; I'll go there. Leaving the office, though, my throat is as tight as ever, constricting like a boa and burning like a raging forest fire. I'm beginning to realize why. This is all so wrong, and I'm still so very alone. I lean up against the wall for a second, close my eyes. Home is where the heart is. Not my home. Someone else's...maybe. Forcing my feet to move, I make my way up to the surface, and once I'm in my car I know exactly where I'm going. I drive, put myself on automatic pilot because I know the route so well.
The nearer I get, the more closed off my throat becomes. That's not right. The opposite should be occurring as I approach the means to alleviate that very real pain. Then I see Carter's car, parked right in front of the building and it's a warning beacon. The base instinct I've been following for hours kicks in, and I can't help but think now maybe I shouldn't go in at all. I instantly reconsider. Teal'c didn't tell me where he was going, but if he was headed off base a logical thing to consider was that he wanted to find her. I think. Pulling my truck right behind her car, there's no turning back now. If nothing else, I should at least go up there and let her know Teal'c is looking for her.
Upon my entrance, the doorman gives me an extremely perplexed stare. I don't blame him; the guy runs a tight ship and Daniel hasn't been home in a couple of days. He's certainly not here now. God, something of him better be or I really am screwed. Luckily for me, the doorman recognizes me and seems okay with my appearance. I almost make it past him when he suddenly breaks the silence.
"Sir? Sir, please wait."
Stopping right in front of the elevator door, I don't turn around like I should, but give the floor an intense once over. I really, really...
"If I may, sir?" he continues nervously. I finally give him my attention, such that it is. "You're the third visitor Mr. Jackson has had today, and I know he's not there. That strikes me as odd."
Really? Odd. Yeah, I guess that works. I raise my eyebrow at the mention of a third, and quickly assume Teal'c is already up there. The doorman keeps staring at me, clearly expecting an answer I'm not ready to give him quite yet. It should be easy to say, because it was easy to let happen. But it's not.
"Some things have come up at work," I manage to choke out, amazed at how neutral my voice actually sounds.
He parrots me, adding a question mark at the end as if he really expects me to elaborate. I just stare at him until he finally backs away, looking as baffled as he had from the get-go. Swallowing, I jab the elevator button over and over again until the damned thing arrives. In it before it really settles, I repeat the process for the eighth floor button and for some reason hold my breath as the contraption ascends through the building. As it gasps to a stop, I exhale right along with it and step into the hall, going over in my mind what I need to say both to Daniel and to Teal'c and Carter. I'm suddenly struck by a lack of purpose. What am I really doing here? I don't even know. It's far, far too late.
I reach the door, right hand raised in preparation to knock when I realize how stupid that is. Letting it fall, I test the door and find it open so I simply slip into the apartment. A couple of steps in, I know it's disappointingly empty. There's nothing here for me either. Turning around before I make it to the den, I head for the door when I hear music. My heart starts to beat as my mind makes the irrational leap that Daniel is here. Opening my mouth to call out his name, all I do is croak like the fool I am.
Then I remember the other reason I'm here, that Daniel isn't the only one I need to speak to. And there are no excuses because unlike Daniel, Carter and Teal'c are solid. They're here. I swing back around and let the music pull me toward it, around the counter and by the table. Wreckage in the kitchen catches my eye, and it makes me freeze for a moment. Half of the pots and pans are scattered like refuse on the floor, the other half hangs neatly. Without knowing there was disaster on the ground, I might have thought everything was status quo. I take a step toward them, wanting to put right the fragments on the floor, line the neglected items up where they belong and make them whole. I squat down and stare for a minute, then rise and leave the ruins as they are - not nearly mended.
Terribly, inexplicably disturbed by that image, I make my way up the few stairs toward the bedroom. Hovering at the partly open door, I listen for any indication of what to expect on the other side. I hear nothing but the music, a nasally, unusual but so gripping voice singing right to me.
//Hear me God, I'm on the level. Mapping silence, seeing things; crying, laughing like the devil.//
I take a step forward, peer into the darkened room and suddenly feel very out of place. Barely seeing their outlines is enough; Carter and Teal'c are huddled together on Daniel's bed in an embrace I'd deem inappropriate under other circumstances. I hear Carter snuffle once, Teal'c's answering rumble of an assurance.
//And before the might of all that's seen, I'll raise my head and wake to dream with a clean pair of eyes.//
They've come here, both of them seeking comfort from Daniel and from each other. Not from me, I'm not welcomed through this door. Both of them had an opportunity to include me, and didn't. Or couldn't. Wouldn't? And I see now the real reason I needed to come here; it's all too obvious. I can't move, can't breathe or even feel with the magnitude of this realization. The song continues to pound into me, its message positive and shocking. It shouldn't be shocking and it doesn't feel remotely positive.
//A clean pair of eyes, don't need no right or wrong. Don't need no disguise, no sugar to fix my tongue. A clean pair of eyes.//
I see now. I understand why I haven't been able to rid myself of the burning in my throat, though I understand I already and always knew. I've made it so the last person any member of my team would ever turn to is me. Made it easy for them to walk away from me instead of toward, and that cuts me right down the middle. I've acknowledged to myself as much was true with Daniel and should have immediately made the connection to Carter and Teal'c. It took this, this revelation of my status as interloper here in this house of grief and pain and solace to make me see what it is I came here to get from Daniel. And, as insane as I know it to be, I believe he is responsible for opening my eyes. I let him go, and he's now telling me not to let the same thing happen with them.
But I can't bring myself to go through the door. Not today. Not here. I take a silent, harsh breath and one step backward. I know what I have to do, but knowing is not doing. Doing is so much more difficult, and I've trained myself to repress so well the truth hits me like a nail between the eyes. I can't take it for granted they know without words, and it's easy to champion and advocate a touch here, a smile there. An encouraging word or two.
The cold, hard truth is that I'm nowhere near certain I remember how to demonstrate and say what I hope Carter and Teal'c know I feel about them, and how I felt about Daniel. Still feel about Daniel. The truth is I can already feel myself falling into routine patterns. Moving on, trying to forget and forge ahead so the pain doesn't seep into my soul with such terrible cruelty I can't function.
And the truth, it hurts.
The End


Music credits:
Part One - Hold On, by Sarah McLachlan
Part Two - I Will Not Take These Things For Granted, by Toad The Wet Sprocket Part Three - A Clean Pair Of Eyes, by David Gray

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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.