Alas, now we come to the end of the story...yes, this is the last chapter. I have enjoyed writing this and hope you have all enjoyed reading it. I hope to hear reviews from you so I know what you think of the story and its ending. I've never thought myself good at endings, but if you think I'm wrong I'll listen to you. :P :) If you liked this story enough, I might do a sequal. Let me know if you want one. I already have something in mind... Anyway I couldn't have done it without you all readers and reviewers! Thank you all!
Daniel lay quietly in his infirmary bed, half asleep. He was still too weak to do much more than talk to his friends when they came to visit him and he felt well enough to do so, and drift in and out of consciousness or sleep when he didn't. One staff weapon wound was always bad enough, but three was worse. He would be stuck in the infirmary for another few days, and probably be forced to rest more at home after that.
Even though not fully conscious at the moment, he was still thinking of Sha're, but as he fell deeper into sleep he lost control of the memories that came to the surface. In his dreams, his mind returned to the past again, though whether the memory itself was sorrowful, or in a way happy even he couldn't decide.
It was Thanksgiving Day, and the year was 1999. SG-1, Janet Fraiser, and her adopted human alien daughter Cassandra sat in Jack O'Neill's living room, engaged in friendly conversation after their hearty Thanksgiving dinner. Daniel was the only one of the group that was more subdued. After all, it had only been six weeks since Sha're's death. That was part of the reason the friends had decided to spend the holiday together; they could spend Christmas with their own families.
Stargate Command's flagship exploration team planned on staying late at the colonel's house simply to be together, but by the time it grew dark Janet stood.
"Leaving so soon?" Jack asked.
"Sorry to but out this early, but Cassie and I are going shopping in the morning," the doctor smiled. Cassie was standing as well, and the other four rose to bid goodbye to them.
"Really?" Carter said brightly, embracing the girl. "I'm sure you'll have fun."
Cassandra smiled. "We would have invited you, Sam, but a holiday calls for mother-daughter bonding time."
Fraiser grinned. "Uh huh, I'm sure. But it probably has more to do with the fact that you want more clothes before school starts back on Monday."
"Ah, she took notes on junior high fashion, did she?" Sam teased.
Cassie rolled her eyes. "Stop it you two. Of course I did, but I want to spend time with mom, too," she insisted.
"I know you do," Janet replied, hugging her.
"Later, Janet, Cassie. Have a good time," Sam said.
"I hope you find many suitable and inexpensive garments," Teal'c smiled, bowing his head in their direction in farewell.
Cassie laughed. "Thanks, Teal'c. See you later." Then, having already said goodbye to Carter, her next move was to hug Jack and Daniel.
"Later guys," she smiled. "It was fun."
"Bye," Daniel said in return, unable to resist giving the girl a smile.
"Good night, Cassie," Jack grinned in return.
"Bye!" she said once more, gathering up her coat and following Janet from the house. "The food was good, Jack!" she called as a final though before waving and closing the door behind her.
O'Neill's grin only widened as she left. "You're Welcome. Yep, having had a family still comes in handy sometimes…" He said it without thinking, but immediately regretted it when he saw the pained look that immediately appeared on Daniel's face.
"Ooops…" he muttered.
Daniel, however, heard him, and didn't want his friend to feel guilty about it. "No, Jack, it's okay," he said, swallowing back the lump in his throat. But it wasn't okay, he wasn't okay, and they all knew it.
For the weeks since Sha're's death life had gone on, they'd gone off-world…but to all of them it felt different. Daniel was quieter than usual, almost numb, and it worried all of them. They'd tried to talk to him, to comfort him, but he didn't seem to want it. He'd forgiven Teal'c immediately, and as well his friends knew him they knew it was genuine, and he'd told them about the message Sha're had sent to him through the ribbon device telling him to find the boy and to forgive Teal'c…but it still wasn't right yet. Life had gone on, but it hadn't yet returned to normal--only a façade semblance of normal. It was as if Daniel had been walking through the days blindly since that day weeks ago.
"I should go," Daniel said finally, starting for the door. He could feel tears pushing at the corners of his eyes and wondered where they'd come from. It wasn't Jack's comment, exactly, though that had contributed, but the feeling he'd been having all evening--of missing Sha're so much and wanting her here enjoying this day with his friends so badly that his chest literally hurt--had been building, and now felt ready to spill over for all to see. But if he was going to break down for once, he wasn't going to do it here.
Jack's hand on his arm stopped him. "Wait a minute, Danny-boy. We were going to hang out late. You can't leave now." The colonel sighed as Daniel turned back to him. "Really, Daniel, can't you at least try to cheer up some?"
"It is Thanksgiving, after all," Sam added, putting a hand on his arm.
Daniel blinked back tears and looked away. "What do I have to be thankful for?"
Carter sighed. "Daniel…"
Jackson shook his head. "No, Sam. Don't try to tell me it'll be okay. It's not okay. I promised her we'd be together—'forever', I said, but then Apophis took her, and I couldn't stop it, so I promised I'd find her, but I couldn't save her! And…and he was here, the other me was here, and he knew, but he didn't do anything about it. I hate him!"
"But, Daniel, that's no different than saying you hate yourself. You can't-"
"Why not, Jack?" Daniel scowled, pulling away from Sam's touch and taking a step back. "Why can't I hate myself? I let her die! I could have done something—'he' could have done something, but neither of us did. I couldn't stop Amaunet before she started trying to kill me, and he didn't want to damage the timeline and because of that Sha're is dead. It's not your fault, Teal'c, its mine. So why can't I hate myself?" he said heatedly.
"Stop it, Daniel," Jack frowned. "You couldn't have known she was going to be there, and you couldn't have known Amaunet would try to kill you."
Sam continued, "And your future self was right in not trying to change what happened just because he wanted things to be different. We all saw him, Daniel. We all know how much it hurt him not to tell us what was going to happen to her. Maybe we didn't know why he was feeling the way he was at the time, but we know now. You can't blame him for this, Daniel, and you can't blame yourself either."
Daniel heard her, and a part of him knew she was right, but another part just wanted out. Gulping, he turned to the door. "Maybe I should just go…" he said again.
"Daniel, just wait," Jack tried again. "We're your friends; we want to help you, but we can't do anything for you if you won't let us. Why don't you stay?"
The archaeologist shook his head weakly. "Not now, Jack," he said quietly, picking up his coat from the arm of the couch. He started to leave, and the rest of his team started to let him go, knowing they probably weren't going to get any farther on the subject tonight, but at the edge of the living room Daniel bumped into a free-standing shelf by accident, knocking a large photo album to the floor.
"Sorry," he mumbled, bending to pick it up.
O'Neill saw which one it was, knew what was in it, and immediately know that at the moment it would probably only make Daniel feel worse if he saw what was inside. Instinctively he stepped foreword.
"No, it's okay. I'll-" But he was too late.
Daniel had already reached for the album and it had fallen open when he missed, leaving the pictures it held exposed.
"-get it," Jack finished, sighing as the pain expression in his friend's eyes only deepened.
Photos that someone had managed to take during the original mission to Abydos, and even a year later, when Jack, Kawalsky, and Feretti had returned along with Samantha Carter—the day Sha're had been taken by Apophis—looked up at him, and Daniel stared at the pictures that contained Sha're and himself. The tears in his eyes were pushing to escape, and O'Neill could see it. He knelt next to his friend to pick the book up, but Daniel held onto it, gently running his fingers over his wife's face.
And the tears started to fall.
"Daniel…?" O'Neill asked softly, as Carter and Teal'c knelt beside them as well.
Daniel wasn't really listening, wasn't responding to the colonel's query, exactly, but he spoke. "I loved her, Jack. I didn't want her to die," he whispered, not caring if he was stating the obvious, or even if it sounded a bit pitiful. And the other three realized then that he hadn't meant some of what he'd said before. Daniel didn't really hate himself or anyone else, but he was hurting.
"None of us wanted her to die, Daniel," Sam comforted gently, putting her hand on one of his bent knees. "We miss her too."
He shook his head again as if trying to understand something, not bothering to wipe away the tears that were flowing freely now, silently down his cheeks. "But…after everything we did to try to save her…why did she have to die?"
"I don't know," Jack answered truthfully, his heart aching for his friend. "But at least she doesn't have to live that way anymore; she's not trapped by the Goa'uld. She's free, Daniel. You can be thankful for that."
Daniel was still staring down at the open album. "I know…" he answered. Then he fell silent again, and his friends sat around him, just being there if he needed them. After another moment or so of silence his shoulders started to shake, and his noiseless tears became quiet sobs. "But I miss her," he cried. "I miss her."
Jack grimaced, his friend's pain reflected in his own face, and he could see a similar expression from Carter. Teal'c, too, looked distressed. So the team did the only thing they could do.
"It's okay, Danny. It's okay…" Jack said, wrapping his arms around his sobbing friend as Daniel leaned into him and letting him cry on his shoulder. It was the storeroom after his sarcophagus addiction all over again, but this time Teal'c and Carter were there, too. Sam hugged him from the other side, offering her comfort as well, and Teal'c rested his hands on the younger man's shoulders.
"We're still here, Daniel, and we love you, too. You still have us," Sam said quietly as she held onto him.
"We are here for you, Daniel Jackson."
He nodded weakly against Jack's shoulder, but still cried. Again Daniel knew she was right, and he sobbed harder, missing Sha're, loving her…but loving his friends, too, and knowing that they wouldn't leave him. To know he had friends that cared this much for him was enough to make him want to cry all on its own.
Right now, they were all Daniel had to keep him going. Once he could pull himself together he would thank them, but for now it felt good just to be comforted. There had been no one there for him, really, when his parents had died, and he hadn't known any of his friends very well back when Sha're had first been taken, but now he did, and they were right…he had them, even if everything else in his life at the moment was down the drain.
I love you, Sha're, he thought once more, silently sending the message that he would carry in his heart forever, before releasing his sorrow as he sobbed and finally allowing his friends to begin to help him heal.
Daniel woke to find tears on his face, and a hand holding his. Once his eyes were open the hand squeezed gently, and a friendly voice came from beside him.
"Daniel? Are you okay?" Sam asked in concern.
Jackson quickly brought his free hand up and wiped away the tears before looking toward her and gently squeezing back. "Yeah, I'm fine, Sam…What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at home sleeping…?"
Carter grinned and glanced around them. "It's morning, silly. I got into work half an hour ago."
Daniel looked around as well, saw that the lights in the infirmary were up again and more people were bustling about the place, and blinked. "Oh…I guess it is."
"Are you feeling any better?" she asked.
"A little," he sighed.
It was then that Teal'c and Mitchell came up, planning to check on Jackson before beginning the day's work.
"Hey, Jackson, how's our archaeologist doing?"
Daniel smiled at them. "Hey guys."
Doctor Lam had seen that he awake and gathering a crowd and crossed over to them.
"Is Daniel Jackson improving, Doctor Lam?" Teal'c asked of her as soon as she was within earshot.
The doctor smiled at the group and checked the readouts of the monitor beside Daniel's bed. "Yes, he does seem to be doing pretty well, actually."
"So how long am I going to be stuck here this time?" Daniel asked.
Carolyn crossed her arms and stood. "Well, two or three more days, at least. And once I release you I want you off duty for another two weeks."
Daniel looked like he was going to protest--after all, the last thing he wanted was two and a half weeks to sit around with nothing to do but think about what had happened-- but Mitchell stepped in and did it for him.
"But doc, that's almost three weeks without him. What's SG-1 going to do?" he asked in good humor.
Daniel grinned. "I've been out of commission for that long before, Cam. You'll be fine without me." Not that he was happy about it, but he might as well make the best of it.
Mitchell shrugged. "If you say so, Daniel. But don't blame me if we all get shot down by some new aliens because we moved the wrong way and offended them."
Daniel laughed weakly at that, but stopped and grimaced when pain flared through his injured shoulder. Sam stood, took her hand away from his and put it on his other shoulder. "Easy, Daniel."
Doctor Lam looked at Daniel and then around at the rest of them. "All right, maybe we should let him rest now."
A moment before Daniel would have disagreed, wanting to talk to his friends more, but now he suddenly felt exhausted again and only nodded. He really must have lost a lot of blood.
"Okay," Sam sighed and nodded in agreement, then took and squeezed his hand again before moving off. "Get well," she smiled at him. "We'll be by to check on you again later."
Daniel squeezed back again before she let go, and gave a small smile in return. "See you later, Sam."
Teal'c and Mitchell said goodbye to him as well, and then all three were ushered away by Doctor Lam, who was every bit as protective of her patients as Janet Fraiser had ever been.
Once he was alone again Daniel closed his eyes and drifted back into sleep.
Samantha Carter turned off the engine to her car as she pulled up in front of Daniel's house. Beside her in the passenger's seat, Daniel fumbled as he tried to unbuckle his seatbelt, open the car door, and keep the single crutch that leaned against his seat from falling out of the vehicle--all with his left arm in a sling.
"You want some help?" she smiled, pushing open her own door.
He smiled back at her sheepishly. "Uhm…yeah, thanks…"
Sam stepped out of the car, closed her door behind her and came around to the other side. Daniel had gotten the door open already, so she pulled the crutch from inside--he could only use one because of the arm in a sling--leaned it against the car, and took his hand to help him out. Daniel winced as she carefully pulled him to his feet, the muscles in his right forearm still rather sore even though the minor burn there was almost healed.
"You okay?" Carter asked, shutting the door once he was out.
"Yeah," he sighed, taking the crutch when she handed it back to him. "Thanks for bringing me home."
Sam smiled. "You're welcome. At least you're not stuck in the infirmary anymore, but are you sure you'll be okay here by yourself?"
"I'm not an invalid, Sam."
"I know, sorry…just concerned…" she said, walking with him as he hobbled toward his front door.
Under normal circumstances she would have been concerned, but known he could take care of himself. This time, however, the injury to his shoulder made it impossible to use two crutches, and his sore right arm didn't make it any easier to use the one he could. He wouldn't need one at all for very much longer, as the leg wound hadn't been too terribly much worse than the one on his forearm, but Carter couldn't stop herself from worrying about whether he'd be able to get around easily enough to be by himself.
"I know you are," Daniel answered. "But I'll be okay, really. You'd think I've gotten enough sleep the past few days, but I'll still probably do more of it…maybe sit in front of the History Channel for a while…"
"How did I know you were going to say something about that channel?" Sam grinned, shaking her head.
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know."
"It could have something to do with the fact that its all you ever watch."
"Well, I do occasionally skip over to the Discovery Channel…"
Carter raised an eyebrow.
"Okay, you're right, that's not much different," Daniel admitted. They had stopped at the door and were standing on the landing. Jackson was trying to pull his keys from his pocket without dropping the crutch and falling over. He retrieved his keys successfully, but was too late to keep his support from falling.
"Whoa!" Sam cried, catching Daniel's good arm as he gasped, his right leg fell out from under him and he dropped the keys. Looking around desperately trying to figure out what to do, Carter helped him hope backwards once so he could sit on the railing of the small concrete landing into front of the door. She made sure he was all right before bending to pick up the keys and open the door. Then she picked up Daniel's crutch from the ground, handed it to him and helped him stand and get into the house.
Once inside, Daniel went for the couch and collapsed there, out of breath from the incident.
"Are you all right?" Carter asked, worry etched on her face.
Daniel saw it and quickly put it to rest. "I'm fine, Sam. And it's not your fault, either," he smiled, knowing that Sam was just as quick to blame herself for things as he was to blame himself.
Sam nodded and sat on the edge of the couch beside him, where he was trying to get his injured leg up onto the cushions. "Here, let me help…" she said, and gently set it up onto the couch.
"Thanks," Daniel winced.
Carter sighed, and the two sat in silence for a moment. "So you'll be okay?"
"Yeah, Sam. You can go on."
"Okay," Sam answered. She leaned to hug him carefully before standing.
"One more thing…?" he asked, his eyes now drawn to something across the room
"Could you bring me that?" he asked quietly, gesturing toward the mantelpiece over the fireplace. There was more than one thing on it, but it wasn't hard it figure out what Daniel wanted. Among other frames, one was a copy of his picture of Sha're.
Sam nodded and crossed to it, taking the photo from the mantle and bringing it back to him.
"Thank you," he smiled, taking it from her when she offered it.
"You're welcome," Sam answered. She smiled in return, but for some reason felt her throat clog up again. It had done that many times in the past few days, and even more often six years ago, when she'd seen what had happened to him while he'd been stuck in the past, and then after Sha're had died. A part of her hurt whenever Daniel or another of her friends did.
"See you later," she said finally. Usually Carter would have left then, but suddenly felt compelled to do more to comfort him, so she bent and gave Daniel's cheek a friendly kiss.
"Bye," he answered, pecking her cheek in return.
"Bye," Sam said finally, straightening. Then she smiled once more and left, promising herself she would return the next day to see how he was doing.
Daniel sighed and looked down at the framed picture in his hands once she had gone. Another adventure come and gone…and nothing's changed. Well, that wasn't entirely true. He had been able to see Sha're again. For two days he'd had her again, and again they'd had no choice but to part. But for once the tears didn't come only at the thought.
We'll be together forever…even if its not physically, she had said, before stepping through the stargate without him.
She was right, Daniel thought, running his fingers over the photo. And he knew then that he would be all right.
"I love you, Sha're," he whispered aloud, smiling to himself at her memory. "Forever," he added even more quietly.
And in his mind, he heard her voice from long ago. Dan'iel, how long is 'forever'?
"Forever is a 'long' time, Sha're…a very long time."