Title: Apartment 8-3
Season: Four and Five
Category: Friendship. Drama/Angst.
Spoilers: Implied spoilers for: The First Ones, The Curse, The Light, Beast of Burden, 48 Hours, Summit/Last Stand, Menace and Meridian.
Pairing/Character: POV/Original Character
Summary: Maggie Ducharme, an obsessive old woman who lives across from apartment 8-3, reflects on her relationship with her neighbor, Daniel Jackson.
Disclaimer: Stargate, Stargate SG-1 and all of its characters, titles, names, and back-story are the property of MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, Gekko Productions, SciFi Channel, and Showtime/Viacom. All other characters, the story idea and the story itself are the sole property of the author. This story cannot be printed anywhere without the sole permission of the author. Realize this is for entertainment purposes only; no financial gain or profit has been gained from this fiction. This story is not meant to be an infringement on the rights of the above-mentioned establishments
I'm the quiet one, the nobody from across the way. No one pays attention to me, really. Just me and Murphy. Always me and Murphy.
But I watch, and I listen. They might not listen to me, that crazy old bat. But it doesn't mean I can't see, and I can't hear, and I can't feel, too.
So when they came down the hall with their boxes, and those sad, sad looks on their faces, I just knew. Good Lord, I knew.
Something terrible must have happened.
Something finally had to have happened to the sweet but troubled young man of apartment 8-3.
The morning had started out a dreary one. It had been raining, and I had that feeling that this day was going to be one of those days I wouldn't forget.
I hadn't seen him in awhile. He had always been an enigma, but a good man. I could still remember the first day we met. When was that? A year or so ago? Maybe more or maybe less. Time is of little consequence when you're just an old woman. My motto has always been to just live for whatever the good Lord brings.
And that day, that crisp cool day, he had brought me a smile.
"Dang it," I muttered, reaching out one of my wobbly hands towards the elevator buttons while struggling to balance my armful of groceries. I swore they must make these buttons small on purpose, for whatever twisted reason. Huffing, I struggled for the button again. "Evil contraption."
My sense of balance just wasn't so good these days, and I knew I wouldn't be able to keep hold much longer. My knees felt like rubber. At this rate, I knew for sure once I got upstairs I'd be too tired to even enjoy my stories.
Grunting, I tried to reposition myself, and instead tumbled to the side. I bumped into something soft, but thankfully, I didn't fall onto my rear. All I needed was another hip replacement.
"Oh, um, sorry."
Squinting and scowling, I turned around to the sound of the voice, attempting to make out his features. So, he was the new boy, the young man that had just moved into the building.
"No apologies needed," I said a little too brusquely. "Just you watch out, now. Give an old woman some space."
Grumbling to myself about youth and their meddling ways, I barely noticed that my load had lightened. Blinking, a little confused, I wondered if another dizzy spell had come to claim me.
Not at all, I thought, astounded, as my gaze fell on the young man. He'd managed to tuck the book he was carrying under his arm, and had taken my groceries, clutching them tightly as he pressed the elevator button. When the blasted thing finally opened, he stepped inside and pressed a free finger on the hold button, allowing me to take my sweet time to enter.
What did he think? I was slow?
I shuffled into the elevator, glaring at him to make him know how displeased I was. Age discrimination and all.
But he wasn't paying attention. Instead, his face was wrinkled in concentration, the glasses on his nose sliding as he studied the elevator buttons like they were a myriad of foreign objects. Only when I had cleared my throat, did he turn to face me.
"Are you going to just stand there all day?" I asked him impatiently.
For a minute, I thought he was going to smile, but he didn't. He nodded, motioning with his shoulder to the array of buttons. "So, uh, what floor?"
"Oh," he said, managing to push the tiny button somehow. "That's my floor, too. I guess we're neighbors."
Neighbors, I thought. Just what I needed. Another drunken young whippersnapper, making noise and staying up all night. They were all the same, these young men.
Though, he didn't look as young as some of the others that were involved in that tomfoolery. Maybe a little older. Maybe married. I stole a quick peek. No ring.
A man like him not married? Maybe he was funny. One of those.
I narrowed my eyes, trying to discern his nature by his face. He didn't seem that way, but these days, you just never knew.
We arrived on the eighth floor. He was right. There were boxes piled right outside one of the apartments, the one closest to mine.
Good Lord, the man had a lot of books.
"Are you a librarian?" I asked him, fumbling for my keys at the doorway.
"Hmm? What? Oh, no," he answered, readjusting his hold on the bags. When I opened the door, he followed me into the apartment, his grip on the bags and his book starting to slip. "Here?" he asked with a quick motion to my coffee table with his chin.
"Yes, yes. That'll do," I told him.
As I watched him place the grocery bags down, and try and catch his book before it fell, I was able to discern some of the writing on the cover. Something about the French Revolution.
"You're a teacher, then," I asked him, waving my hand vaguely in his general direction. "At the local school? Or for those college kids?"
"No," he admitted.
Gazing down, he turned the book over in his hands. I noticed they were quite calloused, and I instantly thought maybe he was a construction worker of some kind who just happened to like books.
"I used to teach," he confided. "But that was a long time ago."
Unemployed, I decided. One of those lowlifes that lived off the system. Hell, I wouldn't stand for that. He had probably lost his job, drinking up a storm, and now was just a step barely above a bum.
Snorting with satisfaction, I moved over to him and grabbed one of my bags. I managed to sneak a quick sniff, but I didn't smell no booze on him.
Perplexed, and a little curious, I had to admit, I studied him intently, nearly tripping over these old legs of mine. But instead of just turning his back on me, dismissing me as a crazy old coot, he walked over to me and helped me to put my groceries away.
What a sweet thing to do.
He didn't say a word, but just smiled, one of those shy little smiles that I'd seen my nephews give on more than one occasion. It was sweet though, yet still subdued, like the poor man had something weighing heavily on his soul.
"I'm Daniel Jackson, by the way," he said at last. "Looks like we'll be living right across from each other."
"Hmph," I responded.
I still wasn't too sure if I liked the man, but there was something about him that told me a story of hope and trust. There was only one way to find out.
"Maggie Ducharme," I announced tersely. "One of the oldest tenants in this building, so don't you forget that. I've seen a lot of things in my day and I don't put up with no nonsense."
I saw him struggle to hold off another small smile. "I'm sure you don't."
"That's right," I said firmly with a nod. "And this here is Murphy."
I whistled sharply, motioning with a quick jerk of my hand over to my left side. Murphy came running out of that little spot of his, that place he seems to scurry off to whenever I get some company.
Mr. Jackson's eyes widened, and he absently started to scratch at his chin as he watched my Murphy hop onto the coffee table. Murphy seemed to like the attention he was getting, and to my surprise, he eased right up to the young man. Seemed like Mr. Jackson had been around cats before.
"He's a beautiful cat," Mr. Jackson said, stroking Murphy right under the chin. "Friendly, too."
"Not particularly," I admitted. Holding back a smile, knowing he'd passed the test, I walked over to the man. "He doesn't like strangers much."
He nodded, and for a second there, I thought I saw a flash of understanding in his eyes. Maybe he was smarter than I gave him credit for.
"Cats are highly intelligent," he told me. He rubbed behind Murphy's ears, eliciting a content purr from the cat. "In ancient Egypt, they were highly respected creatures, seated with the pharaohs themselves. To many, they held the same kind of divinity as the royal families." That shy little smile returned. "Those who recognized that and treated them well were revered as special in the eyes of the gods."
Just a fool's tale, but I am no fool. I understood the little cryptic meaning in his story.
"Well, it appears the Lord, then, has been very kind to me," I said softly.
That caused him to blush, and break into a full grin.
Out of all the times I had seen him, I never had the chance to see that grin very often. Daniel never had smiled much. He was always such a sad man.
A private man. So, when they had come to his apartment, with their boxes, I couldn't help but feel nervous. I had known. While I was standing there in my doorway, I had watched the people come to and from his apartment. I had recognized them, though vaguely. I knew the man, the older man with the gray hair. He had been around here more than once. The other man I had seen on occasion too. The colored man. African was he? And the pretty blonde girl, well I'd seen her here before, too.
She was visibly upset, banging things around before she finally had stormed out of the apartment, marching down the hallway with her hand covering her mouth. I could tell she had been crying, poor thing, and was having a rough time.
What had happened this time?
"Oh, it's nothing to fuss over," Mr. Jackson said.
"You've got an awful scratch on your face," I said with displeasure. Dang scratch looked like someone had sliced his face open with a claw. "What kind of creature would do such a thing?"
He shook his head, refusing to talk about it. "I'm sort of clumsy, and things happen. Don't worry about it, Ms. Ducharme."
I snorted at him, sending him my most disapproving look. "I told you to call me, Maggie, young man, and I don't appreciate it when you start telling fibs."
"All right, Maggie," he said, easing himself into his couch. It was old, rustic, with a scent of musk to it. I immediately decided I should start coming over and clean his house. "It was just an accident," he continued. "It's been treated. I'm okay, really."
I knew he wasn't telling me the truth, but I decided to let it slide. He'd only been here for a short while, and I'd already figured his work had something to do with that mountain, over with all the military types. When I had pressed him for more information, he admitted he couldn't talk about it, but he was a translator, and he helped the Air Force with international relations within the deep space telemetry program.
I didn't see what good it was sharing information with other countries about deep space telemetry, whatever that nonsense was, but I knew better than to push him.
"Well, come have some tea, Mr. Jackson."
"Daniel," he said. "Remember, it's Daniel."
I smiled at him. Yes, yes. Daniel. Just as I was about to lead him away, back to my apartment, I noticed something I hadn't noticed before. A picture, just a small one, was propped up on his coffee table, next to an assortment of God knows what. He called them "artifacts." The boy certainly knew how to collect junk.
But the picture was different. I picked it up, and examined it.
"Who are these people?" I asked him. "Your family?"
Daniel stood and stretched. I frowned as I heard his back crack, but he just shook his body, loosening himself up. Slowly, he walked over to me and peered over my shoulder.
"I guess you could say they're family," Daniel answered. He passed me a small smile. "They're friends of mine. This is Jack. And Sam. This guy, his name is Teal'c."
"Teal'c? That is quite the name."
"Uh, it's...African," he said quickly. "Tribal."
"Yes, tribal," I repeated before sighing. Yet another little thing he couldn't tell me. But he was a good boy. "You had longer hair here," I said pointing to it before looking up to him. With a soft smile, I reached up and tousled his short hair. "Come! Come, now," I said, putting the photo down. "Let crazy old Ms. Ducharme fix you up some tea for those aches and pains."
While I had stood there watching them empty out his apartment, taking away boxes upon boxes, I had thought about offering them some tea, too. Tea always seemed to help make things better. But I also could tell by their attitudes, and the way they carried themselves that I should stay out of the way. I hadn't wanted them to think I was nosey, after all. I knew of my reputation for being a pain, but it's only because I care.
"Where are you going?" I asked him, coming to my doorway with Murphy. Daniel had just returned from yet another long disappearance and I wasn't comfortable with seeing him go again. "Have you eaten?"
He nodded quickly, distractedly, before locking his door. He had a suit with him, wrapped, and slung over his shoulder. I honestly believed if I hadn't stopped to say something, he would have walked right on by without a hello.
"Yeah, I'm fine, Maggie," he said with a frown. "I'm sorry I can't stay and chat. I've got to get to a funeral."
A funeral? Oh, dear.
"Oh, don't worry," he said, coming to me to and giving me a gentle squeeze. "I'm fine. One of my old professors passed away and I really need to go. I won't be in Chicago long."
"Make sure you eat, Daniel."
He squeezed my shoulder again. "I will. Everything will be fine. Don't worry."
I had worried. All the time I would worry. Daniel would go away for such long periods of time, and when he came back, sometimes he was hurt. All those accidents. I cannot see how a translator could get into so many accidents.
He hadn't yet shown up once. Just his friends. Sam, Jack, and Teal'c. They had spent the afternoon in and out of his apartment, bringing in more and more boxes, carrying more stuff out.
I had feelings beyond worry at that point. But then again, I had started to feel that way ever since that...day.
"Oh my God! Ms. Ducharme, open the door! Ms. Ducharme!"
The pounding on the door was giving me quite the headache. Can't anyone just let a woman nap?
"What's the problem, Charlotte?" I asked my neighbor.
She was the new girl from down the hall, just a young thing and likely in college. I hardly had the opportunity to talk to her, with her being busy and all. I wondered what could be so urgent she'd be pounding on my door first thing in the morning.
"Oh, God! I don't know what to do! I don't know!"
She was pacing in front of my door, her eyes wild, and her hair a mess. I'd never seen her in such a panic before.
"Calm down, child. What's the matter?"
"Oh, God, Ms. Ducharme. He's gonna—" She swallowed hard, nearly breaking into another fit. Thank the Lord she had the strength to continue. "I saw him on my way in, Call 911! Call someone!"
"He's gonna jump!" she cried. "He's on the balcony! You need to talk to him! Call 911."
My heart froze and I nearly stumbled. "Who?"
"Daniel! Daniel's gonna jump! Eight stories! He won't make it. God, he's gonna kill himself!"
That is when I noticed it. His door was slightly ajar. Then, I remembered. The night before, the man had looked sickly. He had barely said a word to me, and was frightfully thin. I'd asked him if he'd been eating and he snapped at me. Downhearted, I thought he'd taken to drugs.
But I didn't want to jump to conclusions. Daniel was a nice boy. Maybe he had a rough day and wanted some time alone.
Maybe I should have insisted on tending to him that night. Now, it might be too late.
I rushed over to his door, but stopped immediately when I saw another man emerge. It was his friend Jack, the military man who loved deep space telemetry so much. He looked haggard too, I noticed, but still managed to keep himself steady, shooing me, Charlotte and a crowd of people that had gathered in the hallway.
Daniel was with him, leaning on his shoulder for support.
"Hey, clear the way, folks. Nothing to see here," Jack said firmly.
"Daniel?" I asked, reaching out to him.
He didn't answer me. He didn't even see me. There was something off about him, and my mind turned to drugs again. His eyes were glassy, unseeing, his hair a mess. Jack practically dragged him towards the elevators, carrying the man dressed only in his sweats.
Then, within moments, they were gone.
Sometimes, when Daniel was gone like that, for long periods of time, it was almost a blessing. Ignorance is bliss, isn't that the saying? At least I could hope, and know that if he wasn't there, and his friends weren't here, then they must have been together.
When they had come alone...
But the boy, whatever happened, he always had bounced back. I don't know how much stress goes on in that mountain, but it must take its toll. Daniel and all his friends, they had seemed so much older. They had seemed to have aged so much. Weary.
"I'm just tired," he said to me as he struggled to find his keys.
"You don't look good," I told him, eyeing him carefully. He was still far too thin for my liking. And though it had been weeks since that incident on his balcony, I was still worried. "Have you had something to eat?"
He nodded, refusing to face me. He finally found his set of keys, but dropped them as quickly as they were found.
"Daniel, come let me help," I said softly. "Murphy hasn't seen you in awhile."
I could tell that had struck him. Stealing a peek at me over his shoulder, he raised his eyebrows. "Murphy's missed me, huh?"
Ah, his sparkle had returned. That subdued sparkle, but it was still there. I grinned, urging him forward. I had heard rumors that he'd spent the past three weeks in therapy for what happened on the balcony, but I didn't believe it. Every one has a moment of weakness, and I chalked it up to stress on the job. If he was away, then it was another business trip, that was all.
"I have cookies, coffee, and pastries for you," I announced triumphantly. "Come and enjoy."
"Thank you," she had said to me, when I offered some cookies to his weary female friend.
"Anything for one of Daniel's friends," I had told her.
Thinking back, that had been a stupid thing to do. The comment had caused a reaction just the opposite of what I had been hoping for. Sam—Samantha's eyes had started to pool with water again, and I had noticed she had started to chew on her lip. Instead of saying anything more, she had just nodded, acknowledging me, and had hurried back into Daniel's apartment.
It was then I had known. I knew to expect the worst. Actually, I had known the moment I saw the three of them come alone. But I hadn't wanted to believe it.
Even when he had gone away for long periods of time, he had always come back.
But even I had to admit, this past year, he was wearing thin.
"I'm sorry," Daniel said, leaning on the doorframe to his apartment for support. "I'm just too tired. Please understand."
He'd been gone for days, but he looked absolutely horrible. Almost as if the poor boy had been tortured.
"I understand," I said quietly. "But rest up."
He had listened to me, for once. I had made him some tea that night, and he'd already fallen fast asleep on his couch. He kept murmuring "chaka" in his sleep, and I didn't quite understand. I had figured it must have been Russian or something.
I had assumed I was right because some of his mail got mixed in mine some time later. There was a letter from some man from the Soviet Union, or whatever they called themselves now, tucked between my Publisher's Clearing House letter and my Reader's Digest.
I would never understand the man, I had realized. Letters from Russia, strange people visiting him in the middle of the night...he could get so moody at times.
"Please, Maggie, not today," he said wearily. "I've had a very bad day and I just want to be alone."
"Honey, spending all your time alone isn't going to help you," I told him.
"I know," he said sadly. "But this is one of those times I need to be alone."
Later, one of my neighbors had told me she had heard the young man crying. He had been on the phone with someone, and he was distraught over the inability to save a girl named Sarah again. Poor thing. I had known he'd lost his wife a couple of years back, but more problems? Would luck ever shine on that boy?
I had continued to worry. He had begun to look frightful. He'd put on some weight again, but he lacked that vigor he had always seemed to carry. Then, he'd just seemed to snap under the pressure.
Frowning, I stumbled out of bed and moved to the door. I shooed Murphy away with my slippered foot, and opened the door a crack to see what all the commotion was about.
Daniel was in front of his door, swearing lightly to himself. I never had heard him swear like that before. What concerned me most was that his arm was in a sling. Yet another on the job accident?
"Daniel," I whispered, clearing my scratchy throat. "Are you alright?"
He nodded vigorously as he fumbled with his keys. "Yes, fine, Ms. Ducharme. Go back to sleep."
He hadn't called me Maggie. That just wouldn't do.
"Now, young man," I said sternly, stepping out into the hallway in my robe. "I would appreciate it if you be honest with me."
"Accident," he said quickly. "It was a big mistake."
"Dear, you realize your arm is broken, don't you?" Flabbergasted, I marched over to him. "What happened at your work? Is someone hurting you there?"
"No, no." He still wouldn't face me. "It really was an accident. It wasn't supposed to happen." He shot me a quick glance, and I thought I saw tears beneath his glasses. "But I need some rest. Please, Maggie. I promise it will all be better soon. I promise." He smiled weakly. "Then, we'll go to the park like I promised."
I set my jaw. I wouldn't be bribed.
"Please," he implored me. "Just a little while. I need to think alone."
Finally, I nodded, patting him on the back as I moved back to my room. I watched him hurry into his apartment and shut the door. I had just about turned to get back to my Murphy when I heard footsteps.
The man, his friend Jack, was walking down the hallway. He was angry, I could tell that much. Marching right past me, he stopped at Daniel's door and started pounding.
"Open up, Daniel."
When Daniel didn't respond, he pounded again. "I know you're in there. Teal'c and I just drove you home, so open up." Still no reply. Jack leaned against the doorway, bracing himself against the frame. "Dammit, you know I had to do what I had to do. It was the best decision to make. It was the right decision and you know it. I told you...I...was sorry..." His voice trailed off as he found me watching intently.
I narrowed my eyes.
It didn't deter the man at all. "It's not what you think," he told me. "He had an accident at work. I shouldn't have let him get himself into a particular situation." He paused and scrubbed his head. "Look, you wouldn't have a spare to his room, would you?"
I shook my head. "No. And I wouldn't give you one even if I did."
With that, I shut the door.
I had decided not to shut the door this time. Instead, I had just continued to watch, uncharacteristically quiet, as they finished packing his stuff. A couple more people had come to join them during the afternoon. There was a bald headed man and a short little woman, both appearing equally as distressed.
By nightfall, they had finally finished. I had watched as the African man carried away the last large box, and Samantha sniffled alongside her short little friend. The bald man was waiting for them by the elevators.
Jack had been the last to leave, checking over the apartment once more before he finally shut the door. With a heavy sigh, I had seen him hand over the key to the super, Mr. Berkley, before he had shoved his hand in his pocket, and had scooped up a small box under his arm.
It was at that moment, I had stopped to ask.
Clutching Murphy tightly, I stared at the gray haired man. He was tense, and for a moment, I was afraid he wouldn't tell me anything at all. He was military, after all.
He stopped, taking a moment to size me up, before he moved over to meet me. And while he held a cool exterior, I could see the pain in his eyes. Deep, embedded pain.
It was the same kind of pain I felt when my brother Henri had died in the war.
I choked back a sob, but still found the strength to continue. I knew what happened, I wasn't as crazy as they say. But I didn't know how, and after what happened a year ago, on that balcony...
"No, ma'am," he said curtly. Then, he paused, glancing to the side, staring into the nothingness. I wondered what was on the poor man's mind, if he would ever make it past the pain . "He did something very brave."
Brave. I knew he was far more than just a translator, but just knowing this much gave me small comfort.
"Ma'am, you a religious woman?"
I nodded, taken aback by the question. "Why, yes I am. I fail to see—"
"Well, know this. His soul is clean."
Yes, that felt right. That sounded more like the gentle boy that helped me that first day, so long ago.
I thanked him, holding out my shaking hand to him. For a moment, I thought he was going to tear up, but he didn't. With a soft smile, he patted me on the shoulder, a nice gentle reassuring pat before he dug out a photo. He handed it to me.
"Keep that. He'd have wanted you to have it."
It was a picture of the two of us, taken with something called a digital camera that Daniel had been sweet on. Murphy had taken up a good portion of the photo.
I couldn't hold it in any longer. I started to cry.
"He's with the angels now, isn't he?" I asked.
Mr. O'Neill nodded slowly. "Yeah," he said. "Something like that."
With that, Jack cleared his throat and walked away. His gait was slower, and I realized he'd aged quite a bit. Solemnly, he went to meet the bald man, the two of them speaking for a moment, taking the time for a quick friendly tap on the shoulder.
Then, they were gone.
That night I had stood there in the hallway for the longest time, unable to come to grips with what had happened. Daniel was a good man. He didn't deserve this. He was too young for any of this.
Murphy had agreed with me.
We had spent the rest of night mourning him. I just couldn't see my life ever being the same again.
It's been a couple of weeks now since that day, that fateful day when they came and packed his stuff away.
I'm still sad, and it hurts knowing that I won't hear him humming as he walks down the hall, or have a chance to share some tea and cookies with him anymore.
But sometimes at night, I can almost feel him nearby, like he's watching over me, just like my other guardian angels.
I pray every night, and ask the good Lord if He may just for a moment, let me see him. Or maybe, by some chance or miracle, God will send him back one day.
Silly thoughts from a silly old woman, I know.
But at least I know, and at least in some way I know he'll always be with me. For despite what happened, his memory lives on.
And I'll never speak again of the tragic end to the sweet but troubled young man in apartment 8-3.