It was amazing how such simplicity could evoke such strong emotions.
For Jacob it was the roses.
White roses on his dead wife's coffin, his son's rigid back, his daughter's muffled grief.
White roses on his dead daughter's coffin, his son's rigid back, his daughter-in-law's muffled grief.
No father should outlive his children. It was a truth universally acknowledged. And yet such things change when you possess a symbiote who lengthens your lifespan.
She was gone, like her mother. Fled into the darkness of fleeting life, into the darkness of mortality. Gone forever. Her interminable curiosity, her intelligence, her pride, her beauty, her love...
Ashes to ashes and dust to dust.
Like skin peeled back from flesh, the words flayed Jacob raw to the soul. Worse than any ribbon device, than any torture the Goa'uld had developed through the years. The gaping edges of loss fluttered loosely in the gale of cruel life.
She was gone.
Sam was dead.
They handed him the flag - representative of all she had given for her country and her planet. Her life's work and her honour's duty compressed into the cloth and handed to her family.
And as he took the flag, Jacob wasn't sure that it had been given to the right person, after all.
Sam's 'family' stood rigidly beyond Mark and Diana. The people who had given more of themselves to Sam and to whom Sam had given more of herself over the last years than had been given or received by her blood family.
Janet Fraiser and her adopted daughter. George, Jonas, and Teal'c. And Jack O'Neill.
It was Jack who worried Jacob the most.
Over the years he'd grown affectionately fond of the Bird Colonel - in no small part because the younger man was a charmer. Over the years, he'd seen Jack O'Neill in a variety of tempers and states ranging from bored to buzzed.
Every man had his own way of dealing with grief.
Both the reports of the man after his son's death and Jacob's witness to the terse abruptness after Daniel's loss indicated that Jack O'Neill was the lock-it-all-away-and-toss-out-the-key type.
Jacob could sympathise.
But with an extra twenty years of life experience, Jacob could also see where Jack O'Neill's path led.
And he was fairly sure Jack didn't want to go there.
Of course, you couldn't lead a Jack O'Neill to water, let alone make him drink it.
Quietly, Jacob knew people thought he was taking this better than a man ought. They were both right and wrong. Jacob wanted to rage at the uncaring sky with its millions of stars that burned even when Sam's light had been extinguished. But Selmak was there in his mind, helping him with his grief, reminding him of the good times and gently suppressing the bad. With his years of experience of death and loss, the Tok'ra helped him deal with Sam's death, mourning alongside his host but helping him beyond it so it didn't swallow him whole.
The ceremony paced along its slow, arduous way, the bright sunlight stabbing down over the cemetary's green grass, making naked the grief of the mourners, mocking death with the brilliance of its intensity. And Samantha Carter - daughter of Jacob, sister of Mark, friend of many - was laid to rest in the poignant stillness of a warm spring afternoon.
Jacob endured the condolences and the tears. He tried to explain 'death' to Nina in a way his granddaughter would understand. He didn't snap at his son when Mark curtly told George 'not to bother' with sorting through Sam's apartment.
He watched Jack stand on the edge of the wave of mourners, among them but not of them. The Colonel accepted the words of those who approached him and the silent support of his team but never came towards Jacob.
They still hadn't discussed the circumstances of her death. Possibly, they never would – that was just who they were.
And now the mourners thinned in number. People climbed into cars and drove away somberly to continue their lives. Samantha Carter was gone, yes, but the world spun on and while life might pause in a moment of silence, the tug of time would draw it inevitably on.
Finally, it was just George and the men of SG-1.
George gripped Jacob's shoulder and left. He'd come by tonight to check that Sam didn't have anything still in her files at home. Then the two old men would sit down and talk over a glass or a dozen of whiskey.
And that left the men of SG-1.
They stood by the coffin, holding their own private ceremony for their friend and team-mate. But when Teal'c and Jonas left the graveside and headed for Jacob, Jack remained.
Jacob fielded their apologies and thanked them for looking after her all that time. He told them she'd died in the presence of people who loved her.
And then they left, too, leaving Jacob standing beneath the foliage and Jack O'Neill standing out in the sun by the coffin and the wilting flowers of the funeral bouquets.
Tears stung Jacob's eyes at the roses.
White roses in her wedding bouquet. White roses for every anniversary. White roses growing along the path up to the front door. White roses on her coffin.
And now a wreath of white roses on her daughter's coffin.
White roses for love and laughter and joy. White roses for death and regret and grief.
What kind of grief did Jack O'Neill hold at the death of a woman he'd worked alongside for six years?
Jacob wondered, but knew better than to ask. And in the end, he didn't need to.
Without looking around, Jack touched the coffin, his fingers resting on the polished wood. And in that small act were all the answers Jacob could have asked for.
Poignant regret and bitter grief; honour, duty, and respect. An apology for being unable to save her. Tenderness, affection, and love.
Jacob had done the same at her funeral.
It was amazing how such simplicity of gesture could reflect such strong emotions.
They stood there for a long time, a tableau frozen in time and space with the crickets chirping and the sun beating down upon them like a hammer.
Finally, Jack moved. His hand retracted into a fist by his side, then reached out again. His fingers closed around the stem of one white rosebud and he pulled it free of the wreath and held it in his open hand.
Then, as if he sensed the eyes upon him, Jack O'Neill turned his head and looked directly at Sam's father standing beneath the shade of the trees.
His hand closed around the flower.
He looked away.
He walked away.
And Jacob grieved alone.
- fin -