WARNING: This is a 'Death Fic.' but...
it has a happy ending. ..8-) ... Just trust me, okay?
(May require a hankie though.)
A cabin in Minnesota,
When Death came for Daniel for the last time, it came softly, gently, silent as the first snowflakes of winter.
The previous evening, he and Jack had celebrated their twelfth wedding anniversary. Gotta love those Democrats - those once described so disparagingly by the Neo-cons as 'wishy-washy pinko liberals'...
It had been a quiet celebration - just the two of them - but a celebration nonetheless. They had retired to bed at the slightly later hour of 2300. Jack still kept to military time-keeping. There, they had made love, not frenziedly as they had in the early days, but sensuously with sweet and caring words. Then they fell asleep in each other's arms, as they always did.
"For ever," Daniel agreed.
Jack awoke later than usual. He knew, at first touch, that hope as well as life was extinct.
"No," he whispered, panic-stricken, bereft. "No. No, no, no, no, nooo... It shoulda been me... It shoulda been me!" The last words came out cracked, tortured.
He pulled Daniel into his arms and cradled him, washing his face and chest with silent tears. Remained like that for a long time, just sitting there, holding him, until the insistent call of nature forced him to go take a leak.
He returned. Stood looking down at Daniel. It appeared as if he were merely asleep, would wake up any minute, ready to smell the coffee. Peaceful. He looked serenely peaceful in fact - everything Jack was not.
Then he remembered Daniel's response to his earlier suicidal feelings, back when they'd first met. Somehow, he thought it would be disrespectful to his memory. Respect. Someone had to be there at the funeral. He called the authorities.
The funeral was a quiet affair, a small gathering, mostly local friends. It rained, softly, gently, as if the heavens themselves mourned Daniel's passing. Sam was there, walking with a stick, her golden hair turned to silver now. Teal'c came too, impassive and dignified as ever but deeply sorrowful.
Cassie came, of course. Now Dr. Cassandra Fraiser, she was working in a hospital in Minneapolis, where she was close to two of that small number of people who formed a link with her home on Hanka. Besides, she was beyond grateful to Jack who'd funded her through med. school.
Paul Davis, another one of the 'snowy brigade,' came. Walter Davis, wheelchair-bound now, put in an appearance. Maybe others were present, but Jack didn't see them. There were still others missing too - the ones who had gone before, like Cassie's Mom.
Cassie had helped 'Uncle Jack' to cater for the gathering in the cabin. She was the last to leave after clearing away the remains and leaving everything tidy.
"If you ever need any help, you know where I am. Call me any time. Any time. Really."
Then she was gone and Jack was alone, feeling cold, empty and useless - like a single shoe where there used to be a pair.
Once the funeral was over, Jack had thought it would be better; one chapter of his life closed and another opening - or maybe just an epilogue. 'What next?' took up many hours of gloomy thought.
He considered selling the cabin but decided he couldn't bear the thought of others trampling through the home they'd spruced up and extended together. On the other hand he could hardly bear to live in the cabin without Daniel. It held so many reminders - reminders that Daniel was gone - reminders that lay around like unexploded ordnance, waiting for him to stumble across them. Then they'd detonate.
The first, maybe the worst, was Daniel's toothbrush, sitting in the rack next to his own, like it always had. Still there while Daniel wasn't. And should be. Leaning his back against the wall, he dumped it in the trash. Couldn't bear to look at it. Then he slid down the wall on to the bathroom floor, cradled his head on his knees and just plain cried.
The closet contained so many of Daniel's clothes. He figured he ought to pass them on to one of the Goodwill shops. It was so hard to do, but he couldn't leave everything as it was - as if Daniel had just stepped out for a while and would be back any minute. Jack was a realist and Daniel was dead - was never coming back.
Probably. He kept that old ribbed cream sweater that Daniel loved so much. It was so like the one he was wearing that dreadful time when Jack was a 'guest' of Baal. It held out a faint, tantalizing ray of hope...
Having 'gone through things,' Jack found himself with nothing to do - didn't know what to do with himself. Antsy just wasn't in it. Outwardly, he seemed to be holding together pretty well, friends thought. It was inside that he was falling apart. He wanted to get away, lose himself in the maelstrom of life outside this little private paradise-cum-hell. But his knees wouldn't indulge him further than a walk around the nearest park.
Or maybe he could take off on a world cruise? But where would be the fun in that for a guy who'd high-tailed it across so many worlds, galaxy-wide and beyond? Moreover, the absence of Daniel's companionship and encyclopedic knowledge would simply underline his state of aloneness.
Even if he did take off, 'go walkabout,' whatever - what then? Sometime he'd have to come home - home to a cold hearth and an empty bed. Might as well stay - maybe get a dog...
The Maplehurst Nursing Care Home,
Two years earlier, Jack had had a stroke. There had been a series of small strokes first. He'd recovered well enough to remain in the cabin, and was cantankerous enough to make sure he did, with a little assistance from a private support service which Cassie arranged for him.
Then came a bigger one - big enough to incapacitate him, intermittently robbing him of his mind.
Cassie, herself retired now, found him on one of her regular visits, a picture of abject misery. He was sitting on the floor beside the body of Abby, his golden retriever, hugging a cream sweater and sobbing. He looked up mournfully at Cassie.
"Daniel's dead," he said, looking up at her with confused unfocussed eyes.
There was no further argument about staying in cabin. Cassie got him into the Maplehurst Nursing Care Home almost immediately; she had contacts there and had prepared for this eventuality.
"It's really nice, Uncle Jack," she told him as she broke the news, "with a view out over Lake Minnetonka. Maybe, if you're really good, they'll take you fishing there sometime. How'd you like that?"
"Sweet," Jack said with a wavering smile. "Will they let Daniel come too?"
Cassie fought back tears as she said with false brightness, "Sure they will, Uncle Jack."
"They will? Well then, let's go."
As she wheeled him out of the cabin for the last time, he caught sight of himself in the long mirror in the hall.
"Who's that?" he demanded aggressively. "What's he doing in my house?"
"That's you, Uncle Jack," Cassie said gently.
"Nooo! No it's not! He's old! I'm not."
"Yes Uncle Jack, it is you."
"It is?" He paused, trying to get his head round his sudden loss of years. "It's the goold, isn't it? They've done this to me, haven't they?" he snarled, trying to push himself up out of the wheelchair and failing.
"No, I'm afraid it's just natural."
"But... but where did the years go? I don't remember them. I went to bed a young man, and now I'm... old?"
The distress in his voice cut her to the quick. From his point of view, it really had happened overnight. Unable to access those memories, the last - what? forty-odd years? - might as well not have happened. Strokes could be so cruel, she thought sadly. Yet still he remembered Daniel.
The next couple of years were a roller-coaster ride. Jack had good days, days of lucidity, when memories resurfaced. He even got to go fishing again. And he had bad days - two sorts of bad days really. On the one hand, he could remember little of the time since he left the S.G.C. and raged against the alien intervention that had to have robbed him of his life; on the other, he remembered that Daniel was dead.
The old man was dozing fitfully, his hand occasionally tugging at the crisp white sheet. Against it, his skin, translucent like fine parchment, was hardly darker in tone. Cassie knew it would not be long now - hours rather than days.
Earlier, she'd tried to contact all those who might be interested, but nobody came. Sam had had a fall and was in hospital in San Diego with a badly fractured hip. Teal'c, who had also been unwell, was off-world somewhere and they hadn't been able track him down in time. Paul Davis was somewhere in Europe and, like Teal'c, by the time he was located, it would be too late to reach Minneapolis.
Jack roused a little. He opened his eyes slightly, then a little wider. They seemed to be looking into the middle distance, somewhere near the foot of the bed.
"Daniel? You came..." he said, his voice a soft croak.
"No, Uncle Jack," Cassie said gently, "Daniel died seventeen years ago."
"It's been such a long wait," he went on, a little breathlessly, taking no notice of her.
There was a short pause, then Jack suddenly seemed to notice her.
"Who are you?" he asked brusquely.
His wits must be wandering again, she thought sadly.
"I'm Cassie Doctor Fraiser," she replied.
"No, you're not. We lost her. A long time ago. Should never have happened..."
"No, it shouldn't," she agreed, pleased to find she'd caught him partially lucid. Her Mom's death had led to an estrangement from Colonel Carter for many years. "And I am Dr. Cassandra Fraiser."
"But You can't be Cassie. You're an old woman. Cassandra's young."
"Oh Jack," she sighed, "how I wish I were! You too."
"Am I old then?"
"You were ninety last October."
"Ninety? You hear that, Daniel?" he asked the space at the foot of the bed. "'m ninety. 'Said it was a long time to wait. Didn't think it was that long."
The effort of speaking seemed to tire him. He closed his eyes and slipped back into sleep.
The next time he roused, Cassie was still there, holding his hand between hers. That hand felt pleasantly warm and comfortable, unlike the other one which was attached to an IV drip.
"So, Daniel," he said. "You come to fetch me, or are you a hallucination like the last time? Like Cassie thinks you are?"
"No, Jack. It wasn't a hallucination - you know that - and I'm not ascended this time either. It's the real deal now."
"Oh. Better say goodbye to Cassie then." He turned his head to her and withdrew his hand. "It's time for me to go, Cassie, so I'd just like to thank for all you've done for me for us, over the years. You're a good kid woman! Thank you."
He looked towards the foot of the bed again, pushing against the pillows in an attempt to sit up and reaching out a hand. "Okay, Daniel, let's go..."
As Cassie watched, he flopped back on to the pillows with a gentle smile on his lips. She knew, even without the flat lines on the monitors that he had gone. She closed the sightless eyes and dropped a gentle kiss on his brow.
"Thank you, Uncle Jack, and goodbye." Cassie pulled the sheet over his face and crept out of the room.
High above, Jack was saying, "Well, it's about time! Where've you been, and what've you been doing?"
"Oh you know, places to go, people to see," Daniel grinned.
"Pity you didn't come and see me! I've missed you so much every single day since you... died."
"I was there, Jack, all the time - well, most of it. You just couldn't see me. It was hard for me too, y'know, watching you growing old all alone."
"I wasn't alone all the time. Cassie looked in on me often and there was the chess club every Thursday night... It was nice to win for a change! Ya know, you're looking very well, very... young..."
"So are you, Jack. How're the knees, by the way?"
"They're Hey! They feel fine! Jeez, this being..."
"...dead... thing is pretty good! Why didn't we try it sooner?"
"Because it doesn't work like that."
"You can't just... 'play hooky'... when things don't go the way we want. 'They' have ways of dealing with that."
"Noo, something else entirely."
"So, when I was thinking of eating my gun...?"
"I... erm... meddled a little."
"Couldn't you have 'meddled' a little more?"
"It's not allowed."
"But you "
"Did it anyway? Yes."
"Yes, I got caught."
"I didn't do it again."
"Ah. So where are we?" Jack asked as the starry darkness faded to green.
"We're in another universe - kinda."
"Well it looks pretty much like the old one to me," Jack remarked, looking around, "right down to the cabin, and the jetty..."
"I don't know quite how to explain it. We'd need Sam. It's kind of like... I don't know... radio frequencies maybe. Our current frequency is higher than the one we were on before and the cabin and - and Minnesota and - and everything... they exist on both frequencies."
"So it's kind of like... we'll be haunting the cabin?"
"Ah no, we'll be living in it."
"Really? Sweet! Just a minute. This is January. We should be feet deep in snow!"
"It doesn't seem to operate that way. It's more like perpetual spring here."
"So no mozzies? Cool!"
There was an excited bark and a golden retriever came running out of the cabin to greet them.
"Abby?" Jack asked, a disbelieving smile lighting up his face.
"Yes, I've been looking after her for you," Daniel said, bending down to fondle her. "I've been wondering, Jack. Why Abby?"
"What, Mr. I've-Got-Three-Doctorates couldn't work it out?!"
Daniel looked baffled. "No. I can't. We don't know anyone called 'Abby' do we?"
Jack looked so smug. "Not a her, a where. It's short for Abydos."
"Oh. Because her coat's the color of the desert sand?"
"No, Daniel," Jack said patiently, "It's because, while I wasn't aware of it at the time, that's where you first planted the seeds of love in my heart."
Daniel took his hand and led him towards the cabin. "Jack, sometimes you say the sweetest things," he smiled.