Title: A Hand to Hold
Fandom/Genre: SG1 AU
Relationship(s): Past Jack/Daniel, Deaged Daniel
Content Rating: NC-17
Warnings: Death of a major character, suicidal ideation, discussion of euthanasia.
Word Count: 3996
A/N: Angst-arama with a weird twist. I think I was taking prescription drugs at the time. Its surprising how you can write something and not realise you are writing out your demons until you read it back. So yeah this is me writing out my cancer demons. The poetry is mine so please don’t quote it elsewhere without permission.
Summary: A teenage Daniel faces the worst moment of his life…his second life.
Bright sun beamed through the window, dappling the room with the reflected golden tones of the autumn leaves outside. Daniel had watched the turning of the seasons for many years both as an adult and a child. He was moving, finally, into his second adulthood and yet suddenly this was not something to be happy about.
He looked down at his shoes, the third pair in as many months. At fifteen his growth spurt had well and truly begun and he was beginning to push the six feet in height he knew he would finally reach. He didn’t have to look in the mirror to know that, while he had not fully grown into his man’s body, he was beginning to fill out; losing the gangling angles of adolescence for the harder lines of maturity.
He hooked a long finger under the collar of his shirt and wished for the hundredth time that morning that he didn’t have to go. Of course, there was no choice. He had done this before; too many times and would no doubt do it many times more. He thought it should be raining but that would be a cliché and he knew how Jack felt about those.
Daniel smiled; for a man who hated clichés, Jack O’Neill sure knew a lot of them.
The man-child raised his head at the familiar voice of his guardian and his breath hitched.
“’K, Da…” His throat dried and he found himself unable to continue.
‘No,’ he thought harshly, ‘I won’t let go, not today. There’s time for that tomorrow.’
“It’s time buddy.”
Daniel nodded once and stood stiffly, pausing to drag on his suit jacket and take one last look at himself in the mirror. He needed to be perfect today; anything out of place on the outside would make it too difficult to keep it all together on the inside.
The black sedan was waiting on the driveway, and as he slid over on the plush leather seat, he looked into familiar brown eyes. Suddenly the sadness and sympathy he saw there was all too much and despite his best intentions his eyes filled with tears. He looked away, fixing his gaze out of the window, studying the passing countryside and trying to ignore the weight of a hand on his arm; the weight of the world on his shoulders.
‘Tomorrow,’ he promised himself, ‘Tomorrow’.
Fifteen years earlier his life had changed. Not that he could remember the actual event, but Jack had taken great delight in telling him in glorious detail about his last ‘Dammit Daniel’ moment. A light touch on the wrong artefact and he had been ‘zapped.’ Janet had estimated his age at three months old and no one was in the least bit surprised that he had celebrated his birthday exactly three months before. This was Daniel after all.
So his second life had begun.
Jack had stepped up to the plate and had become his Dad. Taking semi-retirement, he had continued at the SGC as a consultant, finally taking over as civilian commander of the SGC from General Landry when Daniel began school.
Daniel’s childhood was almost idyllic. Jack worked tirelessly to give him everything he had missed the first time and Sam and Teal’c were there as beloved relatives. He was spoiled but never allowed to become a brat; Jack’s discipline was fair but swift and his rules consistent. Daniel’s innate intellect was intact and he had raced ahead at school. Only two weeks earlier he had received an unconditional acceptance from Yale to study Palaeolinguistics. He was to begin studying in the new college term that began only six weeks after his sixteenth birthday. Daniel found himself smiling; Jack was so proud…
Daniel was dragged back into the present as the car swung through the high metal gates of the SGC. He swallowed hard, squashing down the grief that threatened to overwhelm him and turned once again to the window. He was totally unmoved by the strangeness of bypassing the shuttle bus station and continuing to drive down the tunnel to the NORAD entrance: Nothing would be ordinary today.
His memories of his older self and his first crack at life had been totally repressed, until he hit puberty. Only two years ago, at thirteen, he had begun to remember…Everything.
That had been a difficult year. He had fought with the normal hormonal changes that puberty wrought, alongside the overwhelming onslaught of thirty-eight years of memories. As if the stark reality of his former life was not enough to cope with, his recollections of his first relationship with Jack had almost torn them apart. His inability to reconcile Jack as his former lover and his father was not a surprise to anyone, least of all Jack, who had fought his own demons whilst caring for the child who had once been his life partner. On more than one occasion, Jack had pleaded with the fates to let him have his ‘true beloved’ back. Somehow, Jack had managed to bury his heartbreak at the loss of his soul mate whilst Daniel had not been able to remind him of it. But now, in the maelstrom of his emotions, Daniel seemed hell bent on dragging out every memory Jack had.
Finally, unable to cope any longer, Jack had left Daniel on Dakara with Teal’c and gated out to who knew where, only to return two weeks later, worn to a thread and desperate to see his son again.
Things had been better from then on. Daniel had realised that he wasn’t the only one who was suffering; Jack had no idea that his adopted son’s memories would return and had made the only decision he could, for his own sanity as well as Daniel’s.
The teen was pulled from his reverie by a gentle shake. Mirroring the familiar quirky smile with a slight quirk of his own lips he left the car, acknowledging the salute of the airman who held the door for Daniel with a nod of his head.
Sam was waiting at the doorway, stunning as ever in her Class A’s despite her greying hair and the tight lines of grief around her brilliant blue eyes. For a moment Daniel thought she would forget her promise to him but she stopped herself before she could hug him and just kissed him gently on the cheek. They had done their hugging and crying days before. Today was for everyone else.
“Love you, Danny.”
“Love you too, Sam.”
He could hear the low murmur of conversation in front of him but didn’t want to hear what they were saying. He just wanted this to be over. Without thinking about where he was going he followed behind the two blue uniforms, his eyes fixed resolutely on the broad shoulders of his guardian as they were saluted through each checkpoint.
A Guard of Honour was posted at every door, every elevator and finally at the entrance to the Gate room. His feet became heavier and heavier, and as he reached the ramp he found he could no longer make them move. Only the feeling of gentle hands at his elbows allowed him to make the four steps necessary to take his place.
‘Tomorrow, Daniel,’ he admonished himself. ‘Tomorrow.’
Three months earlier.
Janet was quiet when she had asked him to come down to the infirmary. School was out for the summer and he was earning some money cataloguing artefacts in the bowels of the mountain. He tried to pump her for information but she gently asked him to wait until they got to her office. His stomach rose into his throat when he found Jack sitting there. He greeted him with a small, soft smile but Daniel had two lifetimes of experience of reading the older man and he knew that whatever he was here for was not good.
“Daniel…Danny…” Jack looked beseechingly over at Janet but she just shook her head sadly.
Jack stood and took Daniel into his arms, holding him so tightly that the teen thought he might crack a rib or two. He sank back down into the chair and Daniel knelt at his feet, unsure what was going on but knowing that whatever it was, it wasn’t going to be good.
“I’m just going to say this, please don’t stop me, because if you do I might not be able to start again; Okay buddy?”
“Yes, Dad.” Daniel frowned slightly and worried his lip with his teeth.
“Janet made me come in for one of her physicals last week. You know the kinda thing; big honking needles and a finger up the …” Jack waved his hand towards the seat of his chair and Daniel smiled despite himself.
“Well, I’ve been a bit tired lately…Dammit! I’m sixty five; I have a right to be tired.” Jack scrubbed his hands through his hair then shook his head as if to clear away the anger that had shown in his voice.
“I made the mistake of telling our medical Rottweiler. So, there were more needles and half my blood…” He clenched his hands in his lap. Daniel slid his hand between the tight fingers but stayed silent. Jack smiled at him gratefully and took a deep breath.
“I have pancreatic cancer, Danny; in fact…I have…”
This time he didn’t have to look at Janet. She took over smoothly, her professional persona giving him the facts clearly and succinctly.
“There are secondary tumours throughout his body. Jack is surprisingly well considering the spread of the disease. Anyone else would have been very ill before now. But you know your dad; he’s a stubborn bastard. The disease has finally begun to take over and it won’t be long before Jack will start to deteriorate.”
Daniel smiled brightly, “Its okay, Dad, you can beat this. You’ve started treatment, right?” He turned to Janet expectantly.
“Daniel…” Janet started, but Jack placed a hand on hers and squeezed gently.
“Danny, there is no treatment. It’s too late for that.” The sadness in Jack’s eyes was not for himself, Daniel knew that for certain.
“OK! A sarcophagus then…Tok’ra healing device…a Tok’ra symbiont – it worked for Jacob.” Daniel’s voice was getting louder with each idea. This could NOT be happening; not to Jack. He had survived for all those years, first in Special Ops and then going through the gate, facing unknown hostile aliens and had prevailed. He was supposed to die an old man, decades in the future… not now, not when Daniel was about to go away to college. He had gone to school by himself a whole lifetime ago, with no one to support him; no home to call his own. He couldn’t do it again. Hot angry tears spilled down his cheeks and he felt anger welling up in his chest.
Jack shook his head sadly, “Daniel, you know there are no working sarcophagi left that we can access. Area 51 blew the last one up a year ago trying to backward engineer it. And there are no more Tok’ra in contact with us here at the SGC.” Jack drew a calloused thumb across Danny’s hot cheek, holding his face in his large hand.
“Sam tried the healing device but…it’s gone too far Danny and she doesn’t have all of Jolinar’s power.”
“No! No! NO! You fucking bastard. You will not give up. You can’t leave. I need you…please Dad…Jack… Please.” Daniel flung himself at Jack winding his arms around his dad’s waist, sure that if he just clung on tightly enough he could keep him here.
With a nod from Jack, Janet left the room, closing the office door quietly behind her.
“It’s alright son, I’m here. I love you so much and if I could I would stay…”
“How long?” Daniel choked out, not wanting to know but needing the numbers nevertheless.
“Not long.” Jack replied, his words matter of fact but his voice tender. He pushed on Daniel’s shoulder and lifted his face to make him meet the older man’s eyes.
“Daniel, I have something to ask you and it’s a big ask but I know you can do this for me.” He held onto the youngsters face as he tried to look away.
“I don’t want to linger with bedside vigils and you watching me die in pieces. I’m a pilot; a fighter; a soldier. I was supposed to die on some godforsaken planet not in a hospital. I’ve asked Janet to let me have the…the right stuff so that when we decide that it’s time we can say goodbye properly and that I can have a little dignity. After all there has to be a first time, huh kiddo?”
Daniel knew what Jack was trying to do but he couldn’t smile. He was going to lose the man he had loved in two lifetimes and he didn’t want to let him go until the very last moment. Still, the adult in him knew that he could give this final gift to this special man, who had adored him unconditionally for so long.
“Can we go to the cabin until it’s time?” Daniel’s voice cracked as he fought the tears that he was barely holding back.
“Hey kiddo, great minds,” Jack nodded sadly. “I’ve arranged it with Janet that we can come back whenever we are ready.”
“You won’t…You won’t have…Oh, daddy, it won’t hurt you will it.” Daniel couldn’t stop it any longer. The pain of what was coming ripped through him and he collapsed in sobs, his head cradled in Jack’s lap.
“Shhh…Shhh… I’ve got you…I’m here.” Jack crooned softly. “There won’t be any pain, Danny, Janet promised and you don’t have to be there when…”
But he had been there, right to the end. For ten weeks they’d spent a very special time together at the cabin, fishing, talking, making plans for Danny’s future. But eventually Daniel had begun to see the pain etching itself onto Jack’s face. He’d realised Jack was holding on for him, waiting until he thought Daniel was ready. It had been the most difficult thing he had ever done, but Daniel was the one who suggested it was time to go home, and he’d known it was the right thing when he saw the look of peaceful acceptance that passed over Jack’s face.
They had come back to the SGC the same day. Sam and Teal’c met them at the elevators and they had walked together to a VIP room. Jack had gone to the bathroom then Daniel had joined him on the bed. Sam and Teal’c made to leave but Jack had asked a relieved Daniel if he would like them to stay. They had made themselves comfortable on the small couch, Sam leaning heavily on Teal’c’s shoulder.
“I love you, my beautiful boy; my sweet Danny,” Jack whispered softly as he wrapped Daniel in his arms and rocked him gently; just as he had when he was a baby.
Despite his best efforts Daniel had fallen asleep feeling safe in his daddy’s arms one last time. He had woken as Teal’c lifted him from the bed and had known without needing to look that Jack was gone, and with him what remained of Danny’s heart.
“Danny…Daniel.” The familiar voice pulled the boy through the fog of pain surrounding him and out of his memories. He looked over to see Jon trying to get his attention. Jack’s clone looked out of his depth, unsure of what to do to comfort his young ward.
The stipulation in Jack’s will that Jon should be Daniel’s guardian was a surprise to everyone, particularly to the boy himself. He knew Jack had thought it was the best idea; Jon was young enough to be there for Daniel for a long time.
‘If I can’t be there,’ Jack had written to Sam, ‘who better to look after Danny, than the other me!’
But it had been a mistake. In Daniel’s highly charged emotional state, although he was thirty years too young, the clone looked enough like Jack to hit the boy hard, and he had found it hard to be anything but civil to Jack’s doppelganger. It had made everything so much harder to deal with.
‘Tomorrow…’ a voice whispered deep in his mind.
Everyone was waiting for him, unwilling to start the memorial until he was ready, and as he turned to make his way to the lectern he stumbled slightly. Teal’c’s large hand was there to steady him and he met the old Jaffa’s sad gaze with surprise. He hadn’t even realised the big man had arrived.
Pulling a faded piece of paper from his jacket pocket, Daniel smoothed out the wrinkles with great care. Taking a deep shuddering breath he began to speak.
“Major General Jonathon ‘Jack’ O’Neill was the thread that held me together through two lifetimes. He protected me as a warrior, a friend and a lover through ten years of my first life, and as my father through my second. No-one could have ever had a more loyal, caring, protective and intelligent person in their life as I have had in both of mine. Others will speak of the debt the galaxy owed him; I can only say that my life was enriched for knowing him. The debt I owe him for his unconditional love for me could never be paid, even if I had a thousand lifetimes.”
Daniel looked up at the gathered crowd of people who filled the Gateroom to overflowing. ‘Just let me get through this,’ he thought desperately before he continued.
“When I looked through his papers I found to my surprise that he was also a poet. He wove words with a beauty and skill that most of us here would not have believed possible of him. He liked to play dumb, to keep us all off guard, so that when he did say something profound or intelligent it had so much more impact.
“This is dated July 8th 2009, which was my first birthday…for the second time.”
Daniel looked down at the crumpled paper, but did not have to read the words he had already committed to memory.
“When I step between the vortex and the black,
And wait the nanosecond for my soul’s return
There is no rearguard step, no going back,
To march ahead the only way to learn.
And I could not do that without your face
Imprinted on my mind in colours bold
I would not want to step into that space
Without one precious thing; your hand to hold.
When some would give up life to keep me sane
And others with their brilliance split the sun,
And Warriors risk their lives time and again
Who stand to fight while those about them run,
It’s only you who makes my spirit sing
And warms my heart when terrors freeze it cold
But there’s one gift I crave: Just this one thing,
My true beloved one; your hand to hold.”
The rest of the memorial passed without Daniel even noticing it. Someone led him down from the lectern but he had no idea who. He suddenly found himself sitting alone in the briefing room, a neatly folded flag on the table in front of him. He could hear the murmur of voices from the Gateroom below and he was vaguely aware of Landry’s voice coming from the office behind him.
“Tomorrow,” he whispered to the room, the word giving him a feeling of comfort he had not felt for days.
“What’s going to happen tomorrow, Danny?”
Not bothering to turn around he shook his head hunching down further into the seat, not wanting to talk to his guardian.
“Nothing, Jon. I was just…”
“I know what you were just, young man and you can forget it!”
Daniel spun around on the chair launching to his feet, his heart beating amost out of his chest. “Jack…Oh! Jack.
“In the flesh…well actually,” Jack continued sheepishly, “in the glow.”
“But how did…I thought you….Dad? Jaaaack?”
“Aht! We’ll get to that in a minute. Now, I do actually know what you’re planning for tomorrow, Danny. Care to enlighten me as to why?”
The joy at seeing Jack was overlain with such a jolt of pain that fat tears rolled down Danny’s cheeks. He bit down so hard on his lower lip that a large drop of blood welled up and began to trickle down his chin. Jack leaned towards him and a fine tendril of golden light stroked against his mouth, healing the small wound immediately.
“Jack, I can’t do this. I can’t carry on, not without you. It’s too hard. I miss you so much. I would rather be dead.” Daniel dropped his head into his hands and sobbed in earnest.
“Danny, I’m right here,” Jack said gently, his essence flowing around the sobbing teen’s body, seeking to ease his pain.
“But you can’t stay!” Daniel shouted. “You forget Jack, I know – been there, t shirt…” If the boy had not been so distraught Jack would have laughed at the typical teenage response. “You shouldn’t even be here now. If the others find out…”
Jack’s face transformed into the visage of a naughty schoolboy. “Hey this is me we are talking about. I know how to fly under the radar, Danny. I’ve been up there…” Jack waved, flapping his hand above his head, “…a while now, relatively speaking and I’ve worked out some of the angles.”
“But I don’t want to be here Jack. Please let me come with you. I have the stuff at home; there’s enough left of the medication Janet gave you; then you could come and get me. Don’t make me stay all alone…Please, Jack.”
Jack’s aura began to fluctuate and for a moment Daniel thought he was going to leave. He reached out even though he knew it was futile, unwilling to say goodbye already. Before he could cry out, Jack was back and more solid than ever, looking stronger and younger.
“You sure you want to do this again; after all it wasn’t such a great deal for you last time.” Jack looked at him sadly. “There is so much more you could achieve with a second lifetime.”
“I want to be with you, Jack. I remember what we had before and what I’ve just lost. How much more am I supposed to take?” Danny knew he was begging but he didn’t care. He’d know death and grief all his life and now he was ready to leave it all behind.
“OK,” Jack smiled broadly, “You’ve made your case.”
Jack thought he had never seen such a beautiful sight as Daniel’s smile at that moment. “But – you don’t have to die to ascend.”
“Errr…Yes Jack, you do.” Daniel frowned in confusion.
“Ah, that’s what they want you to think. However, I met a man who knew a woman, who…well anyhow…Take my hand, Danny.”
Daniel reached out and found himself hand in hand with Jack. He watched entranced as his body was engulfed in Jack’s golden glow. Soon he could feel the power moving from his corporeal body and recognised the freedom of ascension. He watched as his clothes drifted down into a pile on the briefing room floor.
“Well, there you are finally, my beautiful Danny,” Jack said, a little breathlessly.
Looking down in surprise, Daniel realised that he’d once again taken his adult form. He smiled shyly at Jack and then turned to look down into the Gateroom.
“What about Sam and Teal’c…and Jon?”
“Oh, we’ll come back and see ‘em.” Jack shrugged. “Anyway, they’ve been through this enough with you before, I think they’ll work it out for themselves.”
Without looking back, they drifted away through the empty corridors of the SGC, their energies intertwined, talking as they went.
“So how did you ascend with out anyone realising?”
“Special Ops, Daniel, remember.”
“Nice eulogy by the way.”
“Thank you. I might have known you’d be at your own funeral.”
“Well I had an opening in my schedule; although, I might have preferred it if you hadn’t outted us to the whole of the SGC.”