Principalities and Powers by iiiionly
There was no fully-formed conscious thought; it was instinctive to battle the darkness pressing down like a smothering pillow. He grappled through the pain in his head, snapped the restraints tethering him inside his own mind, and finally wrestled his way to consciousness. There was no principality, no power, no primacy in the galaxy that could keep him down when one of his kids was in trouble.
His groping hand met gritty hair, cool flesh, and ultimately, a damp cheek.
“Who?” he croaked, foggy mind whirling with dread.
“Janet,” the muffled voice hitched. “We lost Janet. She’s dead, Jack. Janet is dead.”
“Where’s . . .” He had to stop and clear his throat. “Daniel? . . . Carter . . .” He willed his fingers to pat the cheek when his throat clogged again. “Who’s . . . who’s with Daniel?”
* * *
He was used to hiking. No part of his mind paid heed to the path he trod, no least bit of sentience was expended on the way he was going or where his feet landed.
Janet was dead.
He heard nothing. Not the gurgling rush of the stream beside which he walked, not the rustling song of the aspen leaves dancing their pas de deux as they floated earthward on their final journey, not even the sharp cry of the hawk spotting prey as it circled lazily on a mountain updraft.
Janet was dead.
None of the glory of the autumn day registered.
Nothing registered. Nothing except another unbearable loss.
Janet was dead.
Suddenly, as if driven, Dr. Jackson dropped to his knees and plunged his arms into the cold, clear stream, scrubbing feverishly. The water beaded and rolled down his wrists inside his soaked sleeves as he raised his hands to inspect them.
The faint stains of his friend’s life force were still embedded in his fingerprints. He stared, unseeing, at the bloodstains, and lived again the moment when the blood on his hands had been warm and nauseatingly slick as he’d tried to resuscitate her.
Janet was dead.
He would not try again to wash it off. Perhaps it would remain for the rest of his life, a reminder that he had failed yet another person dear to him.
He sank back on the grass, the smell of blood on his uniform mingling with the fresh scent of evergreen and forest detritus.
Janet was dead.
It had been his job to watch over her, to keep her safe; instead he’d been videotaping some airman who would live to tell his own story.
And Janet was dead.
What if I’d been paying attention to what was going on around us like Jack is always on my case about? What if I’d never packed the damn video camera to begin with? What if we’d realized he was going to live? What if . . .
Like mourning bells the questions rolled endlessly across the landscape of his mind.
Janet is dead.
How could he face Sam? Or Cassie, for that matter? How the hell was he going to live inside the shell of his own form for the next several months?
Janet is dead.
He was too old to do this again. Too old to suck it up and take it on the chin another time. Too old to be able to reconcile the loss of yet another loved one. Just plain too old to do this anymore.
Janet is dead.
He sat for a long time, head on his knees, arms wrapped around his ankles, until dusk began to set a chill on his outer self to match the chill around his heart. Still, he couldn’t find the effort to rise and go back in.
Janet is dead.
He did not want to face the rest of his team.
Janet is dead.
That was just wrong. It should have been him.
Daniel unfolded stiff limbs, and after a moment’s hesitation, lay back on the still-warm bank. If he turned his head just a little he could watch the sunset painting the sky with wide strokes of burnt orange and Christmas gold and cotton candy pink. The huge flat disc of blood red sun slid slowly into its evening accommodations, pulling in its last rays and tucking itself neatly beneath the horizon.
Janet is dead.
He dropped an arm over his eyes and decided spending the night up here wasn’t such a bad idea after all. Maybe by morning he’d be able to face the consequences of one more bad choice.
Slowly the sounds of the mountain settling for the night began to seep into his consciousness. Sleepy bird trills announcing their resting places to all and sundry; the hurrying, scurrying stream bent on finding its way down the mountain even in the dusk; the skitter of tiny animal paws over crunchy leaves; the evening cry of the hawk, still hungry and circling against the deepening purple twilight lingering above the Earth.
The breeze fashioned fingers that stroked through his hair and caressed his cheek, its warmth palpable in the cool of the darkening night. Solicitude slicked raw nerve endings, easing the throbbing disquiet in his soul until it gentled to a delicate ache.
Daniel blinked . . . blinked again, and rolled to his knees, breath caught in his throat.
The breeze began to glow.
“Kasuf came for me.”
“I hoped . . . and yet . . . how could I wish this for you? . . . Janet . . . I’m so sorry. I should have . . .”
Glowing fingers pressed against his mouth.
“I don’t have much time.” Maternal hands whisked away the diamonds glittering on his cheeks. “Let’s not waste it with recriminations.”
Daniel kissed her fingers. “I can’t . . . I can’t do this again.”
“Shhhhhh, you can and you will, because you’re resilient. Life blessed you with the gift of bending but never breaking, though you bear a weight we never even imagined.” She smiled tenderly, cupping his face between her hands.
His eyes widened and he was sucking air again as he brought his own hands up to cover hers.
“Can you feel my touch?” Janet asked urgently.
“Here,” he said, placing a hand over his heart, “I feel it here.” Daniel brushed the back of his knuckles against hers, “so I can feel it here too.”
A very real, crystalline tear plopped down on his camo-clad knee, glowing brightly against the dark fabric.
“I thought it might be possible with you.” She leaned her forehead against his for a just a moment before pulling back to continue with even more urgency. “I know you understand here,” she touched his temple briefly, “this wasn’t your fault; but, Daniel, I need you to understand it here too.” She laid a hand over his heart and the ache gentled still more.
“If I . . .”
“No,” the glow admonished tartly. “You are not God and have no say in the timing of anyone’s life, not even your own, Dr. Jackson. Now stop feeling sorry for yourself and listen to me. I don’t have a lot of time as you very well know.”
Ever the Napoleonic power monger, he thought thankfully, stilling the ten thousand questions bubbling up.
She studied him for a moment longer before moving her hands from his face to slide them down his arms until ethereal, glowing fingers threaded through corporeal flesh and blood, squeezing tightly.
“I have a terrible favor to ask . . .”
“You can still say no after I tell you what I want.”
Brown eyes met blue, both searching.
“My affairs are all in order, it’s just . . . I thought if I could touch you, really touch you . . . you might, in turn, be able to share with . . .” Her breath hitched and she wiped away a tear with her shoulder. “I’m sorry; I shouldn’t ask this of you. It’s just . . .” she repeated, trailing off again. “Cassie and Sam . . .”
Instinctively he understood her dilemma. “Anything,” he said again, putting all his conviction into the single word.
“Do you remember Sam telling us about Orlin?”
She waited a heartbeat. “You’ve been here, Daniel, you know better than I what the cost might be, is it safe?”
In answer, he bent slightly, and with exquisite gentleness touched his lips to hers so they breathed as one.
The initial, tentative joining jolted every nerve ending in his body, reawakening neural paths gone dark with disuse. But it hadn’t been so long that the memory patterns embedded in his brain cells had been overwritten or scrubbed clean. Recognition of the light poring through him roused the dormant patterns and joyously welcomed the warmth spreading from the center of his being through every link in his DNA as their spirits merged in a single flame.
Not of desire, though desire awoke and throbbed tinglingly in the mix, a pulse of pure joy at a joining long delayed by circumstance and protocol.
This was a union of spirits unequaled since time began. It was tender and fierce, peace and mayhem, stillness wrapped inside solitude and covered with tranquility. It was completeness and fulfillment incalculable on the human plane.
Whether it lasted only moments or for hours, for both of them, it was time out of time, inexpressible in mere words.
And then she was pouring into the vessel he created for her, all the maternal love she could gather. It cascaded over him like a waterfall, so for a moment he was drowning in it.
For Cassie, Janet told him, give this to Cassie from me.
Pride and joy, pleasure and gratification for the time she’d been given with the precious gift of her daughter, she poured it all into him, knowing he could in turn, share it with Cassie. Her goodbye was a gentle swell of sorrow, overlaid with tender concern and a sense of well-being, of strength and courage that would imprint as though instinct had buried it to be awakened when most needed.
The maternal pride faded, to be replaced with the contentment and satisfaction of having shared so much with her friend and cohort in everything from crime to passion. For Sam there were memories of shared giggles and grins as well as tears and sorrow, of solidarity in the face of overwhelming odds, and a sense of fulfillment rather than loss. Admiration and respect, layered with a judicious bit of joviality to keep it light, was decanted into him.
For Jack, she gave him respect tinged with awe and her appreciation for the warmth of kinship in their joint efforts to keep SG-1 ticking. She shared her high opinion of his never-give-up, no-one-gets-left-behind philosophy, and her enjoyment of the amusement he’d afforded in her often intense life.
Teal’c’s goodbye was full of gentle approbation for the mighty warrior that had surrendered his most valuable assets - family and home - in the quest for freedom for his people. There was an element of thankfulness for the gift of his many unspoken kindnesses, for the towering strength and courage he imbued in those around him, and for his courageous example to her own alien daughter.
And then she was pouring all of her love for all of them into him.
He was unprepared for the physical force of so much unconditional love. The limitations of his corporeal body could not contain the outpouring; he swayed, and the joining flickered, then flared with brilliance as flesh and blood and energy separated by degrees until only their hands were still entwined.
“Thank you,” she murmured softly, “thank you, thank you.”
Daniel swayed again, dizzy and disoriented. He closed his eyes, the better to see the internal landscape she’d rearranged, and when he opened them found himself lying back on the bank with a view of the night sky disrobing its evening adornments, though the spectacle of stars was muted by the soft glow emanating from his companion.
“Rest,” she ordered, laying a hand on his chest to assure compliance. “I have to go; I don’t want to get Kasuf in trouble on my very first day.”
“Janet . . .”
“Shhhhhhh,” she touched a finger to his lips again. “It’s enough, Daniel. Just rest. I’ll figure it out as I go along and I’ll be back.”
“Promise?” Instinct had him reaching for her hand, anything to hold her there a moment longer.
“Absolutely. Close your eyes and rest.”
The breeze was fluttering through his hair again, caressingly. It trailed down his cheek so his eyes closed against his will and he sank quickly and deeply into a restorative sleep.
“You have shared all things with my goodson?”
“No, but I will go with you now.”
“There are others who wish to welcome you.”
“Kasuf, is Sha’re among you?”
“She is not.”
“But . . .”
“There was no one to open the Great Path for her as Shifu did for us. Dan’yel did not tell you this from his time here?”
“He still doesn’t remember much of his time here.”
“Yes, of course. My goodson will be fine. He is like a reed in the sandstorm, supple and strong; though he has known much sorrow, it does not break him. Come, we must go.”
“Yes.” The glow around her began to intensify as she became less distinct.
With a tsk, she brushed her hand over Daniel’s filthy, blood encrusted uniform. “I can’t send you back looking like you just came from the battlefield now, can I?”
That done, she dusted off her ethereal hands and rose, smiling at the Abydonian. “Well, I suppose there are some compensations.”
“Come,” Kasuf said again, gruffly. “He will be as fine as he always claims he is – in time. We must go.”
* * *
“Sir, Dr. Warner said . . .”
“I don’t give a damn,” Jack growled as he pulled his t-shirt down, gingerly tucking it in over the bandage wrapped around his lean middle.
If principalities and powers could not contain him in unconsciousness, nothing less than legions of them would hold him back now, when he was fully conscious and aware that one of his kid’s was in agony.
“If you’d sent someone after him hours ago when I told you to, we wouldn’t be in this situation now.”
“O’Neill, Danieljackson . . .”
“Is here,” Daniel said, closing the door to the medical suite behind himself. He shoved his hands in his pockets and leaned wearily back against it as his gaze glanced off his teammates and settled on Cassie.
“Daniel . . .” Sam began, but was overridden.
“About time. Where the hell have you . . .” Jack trailed off, too. “Daniel?”
“No, I’m not.” Daniel glanced down at himself and amended, “Well, if I am, it’s left over stuff; it’s not me, not mine. I’ve been with your mom, Cass.” He pushed off the door and crossed the room to her chair, reaching down to draw the distraught girl to her feet. “She asked me to give you something.”
Cassie pressed against him, seeking his warmth, though he carried the chill, still, of the crisp autumn night. “She’s . . . she’s ascended?” Tears clogged the thin, child-like whisper. “Like you did?”
“Yes, and she sent you a message. Close your eyes, Cass; close your eyes and think of your mom and how much she loved you.”
Cassie laid her head against his chest and closed her eyes, though tears continued to seep from beneath the damp lashes.
Daniel tightened his hold and eased open the channel, reaching for the ethereal connection he shared with the teenager. She shuddered in his arms, then went limp as Janet’s farewell began to flow through the link.
Reaching a hand blindly for Sam, Daniel pulled her into the embrace,
found the tiny chink in her science-is-my-god armor and delivered that
message as well. Turning Cassie, he gave her into Sam’s keeping,
leaving them with their arms around each other, weeping silently.
“It is too much, Danieljackson. You must rest between.”
“No time. Come with me.”
The strong spiritual bond, re-forged during their hours of mediation
since his own descending, served him well as a conduit. The message
flowed out of him like water from the rock.
“Are you gonna kiss me, too?” the Colonel inquired impudently, dispelling the mounting tension with his inimitable precise timing as the messenger turned toward him.
“Give me your hands,” Daniel replied, a smile twitching. “And be still, Jack. You have to be quiet to hear this.”
“I can do still . . . when I’m sleeping.”
“Then pretend you’re sleeping,” Daniel instructed mildly. “I don’t have a lot of strength left. Do you want this or not?”
“Jack . . .”
Daniel perched on the bed beside his C.O. and held out his hands.
Jack immediately set his palms over the outstretched hands and closed his eyes. However, the moment he felt the bond establish itself he opened his eyes again, watching Daniel anxiously.
A flicker of apprehension nearly doused the download, but Daniel persevered.
“Stop,” he murmured, “you’re not helping.”
Jack let go of his own anxiety and allowed Frasier’s message to sink in. He was an excellent judge of character and had always been aware, intellectually, of the good doctor’s regard. It was something altogether different to actually experience how she felt about him from her perspective. He was momentarily left breathless and at a loss for words, but he was still ready when Daniel collapsed.
“Teal’c,” he grunted, “need a hand here.” He slid off the bed, pulling an elbow into his own badly bruised ribs while keeping both hands on Daniel to keep him from sliding off the bed as well.
“Should we not call Dr. Warner?” Teal’c scooped up the boneless archeologist and laid him down.
“I think he’ll be okay,” Sam said softly, “he’s just burnt out for the moment; it must have required a tremendous amount of energy. Shhhh, sweetie,” she whispered, sliding her fingers into Cassie’s hair to hold her more securely as she rocked the exhausted teen. “He’ll be fine. He’s just sleeping. Like you should try to do. Honey, why don’t you lie down with Daniel?”
“No, I can’t sleep, but I’ll stay with him if you all need to be somewhere else. He shouldn’t wake up alone.”
“No one’s going anywhere for awhile. But maybe we should at least let Dr. Warner know what’s happened here,” Sam suggested.
“I believe that would be the best option as well, I will ascertain his whereabouts and inform him of the situation.” Teal’c headed for the door.
Jack, in the act of pulling the covers over the still, spent figure, flipped the blankets back. “Uhh, if he walked out of the Gate Room and straight out of the Mountain, when did he change his uniform?”
“I don’t think he did.” Sam exchanged bewildered glances with the Colonel and they both turned to the Jaffa.
“I do not believe he stopped to change either.”
A whisper of amusement ghosted through the room and a gentle zephyr wafted the covers over the archeologist.
“Mom?” Cassie pulled out of Sam’s arms. “Mom?” She spread her own arms wide, turning in a full circle, then hugged herself as the tears spilled over again. “Mom . . . I love you.”
* * *
“You are done now, yes?”
“Yes, Kasuf, I am done now.”
“You have fully released your burden? You are ready to go?”
“I have . . . I am.”
“Good. Let us go.”