Disclaimer: Stargate: SG-1 and all associated characters, places, and plot belong to the wonderful people of MGM. I'm just borrowing them for a little while.
A/N: God, it has been such a long time since I've uploaded anything here! For anyone waiting for Second Chances...I am incredibly sorry about how long it's taking. I do intend to finish it (it's my first baby, I do want to see it get finished), but I need to get back into the habit of writing in general first. That's what this is for. :)
This is a potential prequel/prologue to another story I'm working on called "This Time Around" (at the moment; whether it stays that way depends). But I want to have it finished or well on the way before I post it, so it might be a while. I've already learned that posting a long story with only 1 or 2 chapters done is a bad idea. But either way, this is still good enough to act as a stand-alone oneshot, so I figured I'd post at least this. It was never all that clear what happened to Daniel between Oma attacking Anubis, and his descent into Jack's office. Here's my take on it.
Title: Once More
Spoilers: Season 8 episode "Threads"
Summary: Threads tag. The Replicators have been destroyed, and Oma is now in eternal conflict with Anubis, leaving the galaxy (relatively) safe once more. "But now what do I do?" Daniel asked himself. Daniel gets some help returning back to the SGC after his time in the limbo diner.
Daniel sat at the booth in the Ascended diner, so reminiscent of the one from his childhood, staring down at his half-empty coffee mug. He barely saw it, his mind whirling from the events that had taken place since he arrived here, which felt at times as if it had been several days, and at other times only a few hours.
He didn't know what to do now.
Oma was gone. His only ally in this place had finally done what she should have done years ago and stopped Anubis, sacrificing herself in the process to a battle of Ascended Beings that would go on for all eternity. He didn't know how to feel about that. On one hand, he was glad to know that Anubis will never be able to hurt anyone on the lower plane ever again. The war against him was now over. But it was a war that should have been ended centuries ago, long before it got to the point where Anubis had been literally moments away from destroying all life in the galaxy. Instead, the Others had let him do whatever he wanted to do, get away with so much that they really shouldn't have, all to punish a good person who had simply made a mistake while trying to do the right thing. A colossal mistake, yes, but one that Oma has regretted ever since.
A surge of fury went through Daniel as he thought about what the Others had done and the reason for it. He was really getting fed up with their attitude towards those living on the lower planes and their laws of strict non-interference. He was certain that they had good reasons for those laws. He didn't know what those reasons were exactly, but he guessed that they were probably in place to prevent the Ascended from portraying themselves as gods. They certainly had the power to do so, but whether they would have been able to stay benevolent gods or not was another question, one they apparently decided not to take the risk of finding the answer of. But while they definitely had a responsibility not to overuse their abilities, they also had a responsibility to use their power to help others. Maybe not with the small, everyday problems, but if there was a galactic threat, then they should do something. The Ancients had helped to create life in this galaxy, and yet they would do nothing to protect it.
The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. The quote went through his mind, bringing with it the rush of guilt and self-disgust that Daniel had felt ever since he had regained the memory of standing by and doing nothing as Bra'tac and Rya'c were captured on Erebus with the other rebel Jaffa. That feeling, which may have faded in the later months since their rescue, had returned and been steadily growing during his time here as more of his memories of his time as an Ascended came back to him. It had been slow and gradual at first, but ever since Replicator Carter had dug into his subconscious for the knowledge buried in there, bringing up a few other memories along the way (either by accident, or done purposefully to distract him, though his money was on the latter), it had been like the gates on those memories that had been bared shut for two years were now wide open, letting those memories flood back into his mind. Most prominent in them were the far too many times he had stood by and done absolutely nothing to prevent his friends, his family, from being hurt, captured, or killed, even though he had had the power to help them.
He sighed heavily, repeating to himself what the rest of SG-1 had said many times before since he descended, though it did very little to reassure him; Even if I had tried to do something, Oma or maybe even one of the Others would've stopped me, and if it had been one of the Others, they wouldn't have been as nice as Oma about my punishment. Teal'c was right when he suggested that Oma cheated by only blocking my memories, rather than straight up removing them. Another memory came to him, about a conversation he had had with Sam once about Orlin and the Velonans, about how the entire civilization had been destroyed by the Others, even though it had probably only been the leaders who were the problem. Knowing that and what he knew now about Oma's own punishment, Daniel shuddered as he considered the thought that something similar could have been done as a way to punish him.
With that in mind, he had another reason to be grateful to Oma for offering him a choice. And the decision to descend hadbeen his choice, even if ending up naked with no memory of who he was on Vis Uban had not. That was a weight off his shoulders right there. While he had long since come to terms with his descension and had been honestly glad to be back, it was nice to know that it had been his decision, rather than someone else's.
"But now what do I do?" he muttered under his breath, barely aware of even speaking aloud.
He knew what he wanted to do. He wanted to go back to Earth, back to SG-1. Rejoin the land of the living, so to say. But the only way to do that would be to ascend and then descend. He knew that, but he wasn't sure he could ascend again on his own. From what Orlin had told Sam during his time with her, it was impossible to do so a second time without help from another Ascended Being. It had only been with Oma's help that he'd even done it the first time around, but with her now gone, he had high doubts that he'd be able to convince another Ascendant to do the same.
'Hello, my name is Daniel Jackson. I've been stuck here in limbo for the past few days, and since I'm not quite ready to die and actually stay dead just yet, I would really like to go home now. So if you could help me out with that, I'd really appreciate it.' Daniel snorted. Oh, yeah, that'd definitely be a great conversation to try! Especially since the people here still won't look at me, or even acknowledge my presence in any way. Yeah, good luck with that, Jackson!
"You know that you cannot remain here forever. So why are you still here?"
Daniel gasped, not expecting the interruption, jumping so hard that some of the now cold coffee in the cup he still held sloshed over the edge onto his hands. Spinning around, he gaped at the sight of the person standing next to him, one whom he had thought he would never see again.
The boy-Ascendant smiled at Daniel, looking the same as he had when he left through the SGC Stargate after giving Daniel that dream-vision, just as he had during the year Daniel had been Ascended. Which, admittedly, looked rather odd inside the 70s style diner. "Hello, Father. It is good to see you again."
His heart warming at the title that Shifu had given him, Daniel held out his arms for a hug, which was gladly accepted. "It's good to see you, too. I've missed you."
"How have you been?" Daniel asked after they had released the hug, and Shifu had sat down next to him in the booth.
"I have been well. My own journey along my chosen path still continues," He looked at Daniel speculatively. "Though the same cannot be said for you."
"No, I suppose not," Daniel said, lips twitching up to a brief, somewhat sardonic smile. Remember Shifu's original question, he sighed. "I find myself at a crossroads, but the road that leads to my chosen destination is blocked to me, and I can't see a way around it."
"And you're certain that it is the right one for you?" Shifu asked, though likely he already knew the answer.
"Yes," Daniel nodded. "I was wondering around lost for a long time, but now that I have found my path, I don't want to lose sight of it."
"Then if the way is blocked, you merely need to forge a new way, even if you must first travel along another in order to find the place to do so."
"It's not quite that easy, Shifu," Daniel said, dropping the metaphors. "I need to ascend in order to get back home, but I don't think I can do that on my own. I wouldn't have before without Oma's help, and after Sam's experience with Orlin, it's been my understanding that doing it a second time requires the help of more than one ascended. Although I'd definitely appreciate any help you can give in that regard."
"I cannot teach you what you already know, Father," Shifu said, the same enigmatic smile on his face that had been on the monk's and Oma's faces when they said those same words. But before Daniel could do much more than give him a confused frown, Shifu continued. "A bird can never learn how to fly until it stretches its wings and leaves the nest. Even if it falls to the ground at first, it continues to try until it soars."
Daniel frowned at the boy, thinking over what he had said. The message was surprisingly clear. He just didn't think it would work. Keep thinking like that, and it won't, he chastised himself. He knew that he had to ascend. Even if he had had help the first time, the memory and knowledge of how to do so was still there, somewhere in his mind. But he hadn't actually tried to find it. But if Shifu spoke the truth, maybe that's what he should have done. Thanks to Oma, he was already half-way there. Now he just needed to complete the process.
It's definitely worth a shot. Not like it'll hurt any to try.
With that decision made and a new sense of hope and determination filling him, Daniel closed his eyes, and started to clear his mind as he had been taught on Kheb and later relearned with Teal'c's help. The sights, sounds, and smells of the diner faded as Daniel searched deep inside himself for that spark, the intense feeling, that wonderful sense of enlightenment that came only with the Ascension transformation, and that he had never felt again even during that following year. While the answer could probably be found somewhere in the unlocked memories of that year, perhaps even within the knowledge that he had retained from RepliCarter's invasion, Daniel instinctively knew somehow that he would not find it there, that only one place held his answer. Realizing this, Daniel hesitated only a moment before diving into that dark corner of his mind where he kept the memories of his death from the radiation poisoning. The flashbacks that he had experienced of these particular memories after his return had been intense, so much so that Janet had actually had to sedate him a little in order to give his mind the time to process the memories of his death without forcing his body to experience the pain of it all over again. Since then, he'd locked them away so deeply that not even his subconscious could drag them out to haunt his nightmares. There had already been more than enough fodder for that without having to use the most traumatic of his many deaths.
Delving once more into those memories, Daniel did his best to ignore the pain that filled them, the utter agony of feeling his body failing and being torn apart by the radiation, pain that had thankfully been dimmed, though only slightly, by the many pain killers that Janet had pumped into him, and by Oma herself while she had tried to convince him that he truly was worthy of ascension. He pushed it all aside, along with the feelings of fear and hopelessness that came with them, searching for that one brief moment, the one he felt with complete certainty that he would find at the end of it all.
There! With a light that split the darkness of his memories, it surrounded him, immersing him completely in that one moment.
Standing in front of Jack in that representation of the gate room, the light of the active Stargate shining on them, Daniel felt his body die, finally succumb to the radiation. The sudden release from the pain drew a relieved gasp from Daniel's lips, tears stinging his eyes as he said a final goodbye to the man who, against all odds and despite the arguments and hardships, had become his best friend. Then he felt it, his damaged body transforming into energy, into a being of the higher plane.
Daniel surrounded himself in that indescribable feeling, every inch of his body brimming with it. The sudden sense of knowing, the power that filled him, feeling everything around him, from the heartbeats and emotions of the people around him, to the wind that blew through the trees on the mountain top, to the pulsing and flaring of the sun. Even as he floated away from that infirmary room, he senses continued to expand, encompassing and becoming a part of something so much grander than his previous existence, knowledge that he could never have hoped to learn in even a hundred lifetimes filling his mind. He felt overwhelmed by it all, even a little afraid of it, wondering if he really was deserving of this chance. He didn't know where to go from here, nor even where 'here' was exactly, unable to pinpoint any kind of destination. But then he felt another's presence, one who could guide him, point him towards the path to travel.
Daniel opened his eyes. The diner was gone now, replaced by a world of light that had no beginning and no ending, where concepts such as up or down mattered not. Both he and Shifu were alone, though he could feel the Others watching on the edge of his senses. He had succeeded. Once more, he had ascended. Whether or not he had done it on his own or had help from someone while he had been immersed in his memories, he didn't know nor care. All that mattered to him was that he had passed this particular hurdle, and the way back home was now only a hop, skip, and a jump away.
Daniel looked down at Shifu, smiling at him gratefully. "Thank you, Shifu."
The boy shook his head. "There is no need to thank me, Father." He looked at him inquisitively, though with a small amount of sadness as well. "Are you going back now?"
"Yes," Daniel nodded. "I'm not ready yet to travel along this path. Maybe someday I will be, but…not yet. My attachments to the lower planes are still too strong for me to let go, though, so I would probably just end up breaking the rules again, anyway. So it's best if I return now before the choice is taken from me." He pulled Shifu into another hug. "I'll miss you. Take care of yourself, and tell the Skaara and the others 'Hi' for me next time you see them, 'kay?"
Shifu nodded. "I will. Farewell, Father."
Daniel smiled at him one last time, and nodded. "Good bye, Shifu. See you later."
Their goodbyes said, Daniel left this plane of existence, focusing his senses on the presence of his friends, knowing that it will lead him home. Shifu stayed where he was a moment longer, staring at the place Daniel had stood before leaving himself.
"Good luck on your chosen journey, Father. Your path may be long and difficult, but I know that you will reach your destination in time."
A/N: Hope you all enjoyed that. Please review and let me know what you think.
I tried to include Skaara as well, but when I started on that, I blanked, so I just kept it to Shifu.