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SG-1 fic: The Greatest Gift (Gen)

Title:  The Greatest Gift
Author:  dennydj
Word count:  3125
Rating/Warning:  Gen.  Hanky/Kleenex warning.
Spoilers: none.  Set after Continuum
Written for my good friend, Eilidh17's birthday!
Thanks to Marzipan77 for the beta and suggestions.

The Greatest Gift

The greatest gift of life is friendship,
and I have received it.
           ~~Hubert H. Humphrey


Three months.  Turned out, that was a life sentence.

Ten years of ‘gate travel, fighting the Goa’uld, the Ori, and miscellaneous bad guys, dying…  He’d survived all that, and what would be the thing to do him in?  Knowledge.  Yep, never would have seen it coming.

Three months.  Ninety days.  Two thousand one hundred and sixty hours.  Too many minutes to count.  Minutes that had slipped away too fast.

And it hadn’t even been an enemy that had caused it.  SG-1 had been among friends, doing what they did, especially now that they had time to explore and make friends.  A simple offer of knowledge—something Daniel could never resist—but given to him in an unexpected way.  Not through books, as he’d anticipated, but directly deposited in his brain.  Carter called before she’d had time to kick the dirt from the planet off her boots, telling me how a bright, blue light, like a laser, had shot out of some doohickey and straight into Daniel’s forehead.  She said he was only unconscious for a couple of minutes and woke up before they could load him up and head for the ‘gate, already spouting off about all of the information that he’d been given.  Yep.  Alien laser beam to the head.  That sounded peachy.  I caught the next flight west.

Doctor Lam couldn’t find anything wrong, any reason to hold him in the infirmary, and had released him.  And Daniel had been happy as a clam, recording every new piece of knowledge he’d gained.  Carter was nose to nose with him for days, along with every other scientist on base.  Until it all started to unwind.

“Jack, what’s the name of the leader of SG-3?”

“Last time I looked it was still Reynolds, why?”

“Just needed it for this report.”

“And you couldn’t remember his name?”

“I, uh…”

Tests, tests, and more tests.  Bottom line:  Daniel was losing the knowledge he’d gained, along with the knowledge he already had.  The people on the planet had never heard of this happening to anyone and had no ‘cure.’  The Asgard were gone, the Tok’ra scattered and unresponsive.  Surprise, surprise.  There was no one left to call for help.

Carter had pulled out the healing device and given it her best shot.  Daniel had been unaffected by it.

When he realized he was losing everything, Daniel worked twice as hard to record every piece of information he could.  Languages, history, all the knowledge stuffed into his brain.  He was a man on a mission, determined to leave as much behind as possible.

And I was here to help, not that there was much I could do but listen, talk, cajole him to eat and order (ha!) him to rest.  Carter, Teal’c, Cam, Vala, and me—one of us was with him at all times.  The fact that he allowed Vala to ‘help’ without throwing her out was a sure sign of his desperation to preserve everything he could.

I’ve never felt so helpless.  Except that I have felt this way before, only this time there were no radiation burns, just a desperate, sleep-deprived friend whose time was running out.  The burns were on the inside, eating away at Daniel’s very being.

Of course, we had no idea what would happen when everything was ‘gone’.  I really didn’t want to find out, but there was no way I was going to leave him.   I took a leave from Washington and relocated to the Springs.

I walked into Daniel’s office one day to find Carter rubbing circles on his back as he sat staring at his computer.  She looked up at me, tears threatening to spill, and shook her head.  That was the last day he spent in his office.

Lam argued for keeping him in the infirmary, but I said, “What’s the point?”  Everyone offered, but they all knew it would be me.  She let me take him home, to his home, which we thought would be more familiar to him.

Daniel was angry, frustrated, and scared, at alternating times.  He only spoke occasionally, as though it was too much effort to form the words.  We watched movies—even the old ones were new to him—took walks, and looked through old photos, until it became too painful because he couldn’t remember anyone.

I tried to give him space when he needed it, and be there when he couldn’t handle it.  Over the last few weeks, he’s gone through various phases.  One day he sat down at his piano and began playing.  I can’t remember ever hearing him play like that.  I recognized it, though.  The gentle rocking eighth notes, the melody that builds to a climax and then falls with heart wrenching delicacy.  It was one of my favorites—one my mother used to play:  Chopin’s Etude in E.  I was mesmerized by his playing.  When he finished he looked over at me, smiled, and shrugged.  He played more:  Mozart, Lizst, Schumann.  But after several days, he sat down at the keyboard and just stared.  He set his fingers on the keys but nothing happened.  I jumped when he slammed his fists down on them.  It was the first time he let me comfort him—I just put my arm around his shoulders and let him lean into me.  After that, the house became eerily quiet.

That’s when Daniel started drawing.  Every scrap of paper was fair game.  He’d sketch objects:  fruit, dishes, artifacts hanging on his wall.  Then he began to draw scenes; some I recognized and some were places I’d never seen before.  I don’t know if they were places he’d visited, or if they were remnants of the knowledge he’d been ‘blessed’ with.  And they were good.  I saved them all.

One day he put his pencil to the paper and slowly drew a line.  Then another one.  He stopped and stared at the paper and let the pencil drop.  That was the end of the drawing phase.

Soon I couldn’t get him interested in TV.  He just sat and looked out the window.  He ate when I brought him something and there was always a small smile of thanks, but no words.  I cursed myself for ever telling him to ‘shut up.’  I played CDs, mainly because I couldn’t stand the silence, and occasionally watched football.  The rest of the time, I watched Daniel.  What was he thinking?  Was he thinking at all?  I didn’t know what to do for him, other than just be there.

It stormed one day and Daniel sat watching the rain slide down the window.  A loud clap of thunder shook the house, rattling anything not nailed down.  I jumped but Daniel acted as though nothing had happened.  I called him by name and got no response.  I walked over and touched him on the shoulder; he slowly turned his head and looked at me.

“Daniel?”

He blinked, glanced at my hand on his shoulder, and went back to looking out the window.  My stomach twisted into a knot.  We’d lost him.

I didn’t think things could get much worse—I was wrong.  A few days later I couldn’t get him out of bed.  He would open his eyes, look at me, and close them again.  I called in the cavalry; SG-1 showed up with Lam, and even Landry made a visit.

Carter decided to try the healing device again, unwilling to sit back and watch Daniel fade away.  It didn’t slow the process, but she did discover that when she used it, he would open his eyes and smile at her.  That one thing has kept her coming and kept her using it, just so she can see him smile.

Vala sits and chatters on about the gossip at the SGC.  Her words are flip, but she holds Daniel’s hand tightly the entire time she’s talking.  Cam tells stories from his childhood or about flying, occasionally arguing with Vala over some irrelevant point.  Teal’c just stands quietly at the foot of the bed, a silent sentry, keeping one last watch over his teammate.

Lam brought some equipment with her and keeps busy checking Daniel’s vitals.  Nothing’s changed, but I think it makes her feel like she’s doing something.

Today, for the first time, Daniel hasn’t opened his eyes.  Carter tried the healing device earlier, but there was no response.  She set it on the nightstand and left the room, Vala on her heels.  Cam’s fixing sandwiches in the kitchen; Lam went with him.  Guess if she can’t heal Daniel, she can at least make some lunch. 

Daniel’s silent sentry is doing his thing at the end of the bed—silently—so I pull up a seat and focus on the guy doing a good impression of Rip Van Winkle.  I just hope he’s not planning on sleeping for the next hundred years, although it would be preferable to… other things.

He looks normal, like he really is just taking a nap.  But even without Lam’s tests, I know differently.  This is just a shell, an outward husk.  The important stuff is inside—was inside—it’s gone now.  I’ve been around this BBQ before; I’m familiar with the ache building in my stomach.  I lucked out last time—we all did—and got him back.  But all of his Ancient buddies are off keeping the universe safe from the likes of Anubis and Adria.  Daniel told me once that ascension would never be an option again.  He was fine with that, actually happy about it.  Right now, I’m not so sure I wouldn’t welcome one of those glowy do-gooders.

I’ve lost a lot of friends in my life, but this time is harder than any I can remember.  Maybe I should just blame it on getting old, but I’d be lying to myself.  There are some people in the world who come into your life and fundamentally change it for the better.  I can’t imagine what my life would have been like if Daniel hadn’t been in it.  He changed a lot of lives, and it’s not fair that he got dealt such a stinkin’ bad hand.

“No one ever said life was fair, Jack.”

I can so hear him saying that.  He knows I know that.  But he’d say it, anyway.

His breathing is slowing down, his chest barely rising and falling.  I should call the others, but I don’t.  Let him go quietly, without fuss, the way he’d want it.

I reach out and take his hand between mine.  It feels warm and alive.  “Thank you, Daniel.  For being my friend, for changing me.  We’re gonna miss you.”

His body is still now.  There’s no glowy ball of light rising up, nothing to note the passing of a true genius, a kind soul, a unique spirit.

After a few seconds I lay his hand gently back on the bed.

“Do you wish me to inform the others, O’Neill?”

“Yeah, that’d be good.  Thanks, Teal’c.”

He leaves quietly and soon the others are crowding into the room.  I slip out and go to the deck for some air.  It’s a beautiful day, cool and sunny, with the promise of more to come.  But I feel dark on the inside and don’t think I’ll feel sunny for a long, long time.

“Doctor Lam wishes to speak with you.”

Teal’c’s standing at the door, trying his best not to disturb me.  Too late.

“Thanks.”

I head back inside and am met by Lam.

“General, I’m going to call for transport.  Do you have the papers and the clothes Daniel picked out?”

That’s Daniel, always planning ahead, even for his own funeral.

“Yeah, I’ll get them.”

In his spare room closet I find the suit Daniel chose.  As I reach for it, I see an envelope sticking out of the pocket.  I pull it out and find my name on it.  I open it and find two sheets of paper.  One is a drawing—it’s of me and Daniel in our BDUs, arms across each other’s shoulders.  It’s from a photo Carter took on one of our first missions after Daniel came back from glow-land.  I have no idea when he drew this one, but it’s good and it makes the ache in my stomach churn harder.  The second is a note:

If you’re reading this, then I must be gone. 

Thank you, Jack, for everything you’ve done for me.  From leaving me on Abydos, to bringing me back, to searching for Sha’re, fighting to keep me on your team, allowing me to explore, challenging me when I was wrong, gloating when you were right, giving me a family, and being my friend. 

If I had it to do over again, I might change a few things, but you wouldn’t be one of them.  The same goes for Sam and Teal’c, Cam and, yes, even Vala. 

Now that I’m gone, I hope you will help the others through their grief.  Please share this poem with them, and tell them I love them.

Daniel

           Do not stand at my grave and weep,
           I am not there, I do not sleep.
           I am a thousand winds that blow,
           I am the diamond glints on snow.
           I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
           I am the gentle autumn rain.
           When you awaken in the morning hush,
           I am the swift uplifting rush
           Of quiet birds in circled flight,
           I am the soft stars that shine at night.
           Do not stand at my grave and cry,
           I am not there, I did not die.
                                   ~~Jane Ormes

He had to have written this early on—when he could still write.  He knew what was coming.

“Sir!”

“O’Neill!”

Carter’s and Teal’c’s voices are urgent—something’s happened.

I dash back to the bedroom, papers in hand, to find everyone leaning over the bed.  They back off enough for me to get a look at Daniel—who’s looking back at me.

“How?  What—”

“I think somebody hit the reset button in his head,” Cam says smiling.

I glance at Lam who looks as though she’s in shock.  She shakes her head and shrugs.

I push past a sniffling Vala and sit on the edge of the bed.  I can’t quit looking at the bright, blue eyes staring back at me.  “Daniel?”

“Jack.”  It’s spoken softly, but clearly.  Daniel’s smiling.

I laugh and shake my head.  “I should have known not to count you out just because you quit breathing.”

“You’re surprisingly hard to kill, Jackson,” Cam says seriously.

“Sorry to disappoint,” Daniel replies cheekily.

“How are you feeling?” Vala asks, moving closer.

“Tired.  Headache.  Not too bad, I guess, considering I was dead.  Sort of.”

“No ‘sort of’ about it,” Lam counters.  “I have no explanation, either.”

“Neither do I,” Daniel says.

“Doesn’t matter,” Carter says.  Carter—who always insists on a scientific explanation—is so happy to have Daniel back that she doesn’t care how it happened.  I think I agree with her.

“We are pleased you are well again, Daniel Jackson.”

“Thanks, Teal’c.  And thanks, all of you, for being here for me.”

He lets loose with a big yawn and Lam goes into doctor mode.  “Okay, everyone out while I check out my patient.”

Reluctantly, we all step outside.  Daniel’s still watching me, so I give him a nod and a smile.  We’ll talk later, as in as soon as Lam’s done.

We all stand in the hall, everyone lost in their own thoughts.  I’m sure we’re all thinking the same thing:  how in the hell did he do it?  A couple of minutes later, Lam reappears.

“He’s asking to talk with you, General.”

I ignore the wistful stares of the others—they’re all eager to be with Daniel—and re-enter the bedroom.  Daniel’s propped up against the pillows, his gaze on his hands as they rest on the blanket.

“You okay?”

He looks up, his expression serious.  “Like I said, for someone who was dead a few minutes ago, I’m just fine.”

I take the seat next to the bed.  He’s looking at his hands again.

“Do you remember what happened?”

“Um, yeah, I do.  At least, the beginning.  After it happened, I just remember bits and pieces.”

“We thought we’d lost you again.  But this time it happened really slowly.”

He looks at me again and I can tell this whole thing has unsettled him.  Join the club.

“I’m sorry.  Sorry you all had to go through that.”

“You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but I gotta tell ya, it’s the kind of thing you can’t get used to.”

“Yeah, I know.”

Now I’m wondering which bits and which pieces he remembers.  “Hey, I’m sure it was no fun going through that.  We all tried to make you as comfortable as possible.”

He reaches out and lays his hand on my arm.  He’s never been touchy-feely, so this tells me just how difficult this has been for him.  “That’s one thing I do remember.  And I appreciate it more than you know.”

“That’s what friends do.”

He smiles again and folds his hands on the blanket once more.

“You’re sure you’re feeling all right?”

“Believe me, I feel fine.  And extremely grateful.”

“Well, since you’re feeling so appreciative, promise me something.”

“If I can.  What?”

“Let me be the one to go first.”

“Jack—”

“Aht!”  I hold up a finger, cutting him off.  “You’ve done this dying ‘thing’ several times now.  I’d say it was my turn.  Besides, I don’t think I can go through this again.”

His eyes fill with regret, and lines of pain—emotional pain—crease his forehead.  I didn’t mean to hurt him, but I want him to know how much he means to me, to all of us.  I pull out the papers I’d stuffed in my pocket.

“I found this in your suit jacket.”

He looks confused and I hand them to him.  He scans the drawing and reads the note.

“I remember this.  Did you show it to the others?”

“I didn’t get a chance.  I think I’ll put it away for future reference. “

“I meant every word,” he says.

“I know,” I reply.  “Ditto.”

“Ditto?”

“You don’t want me to get all mushy, do you?”

“Mushy?  You think it’s mushy?”

“Mushy, cheesy, sappy, sentimental—”

“Jack!”

I smile and he shakes his head.

“Is everything okay?”  Lam’s at the door, surrounded by Daniel’s friends, all trying to get a glimpse of him.

“Everything’s fine,” I assure them.

Daniel grins at me and then turns to his audience.  “Yeah, everything’s just fine.”

End

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Comments

( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
eilidh17
Oct. 28th, 2013 03:48 am (UTC)
So perfect.

You broke my heart and fixed it again. Had me panicking, reaching for the Kleenex, and then needing to wrap my boy up and hold him to my heart.

Thank you for my amazing pressie!

I <3 our fandom so much!

XXXXXXX
dennydj
Oct. 28th, 2013 03:55 am (UTC)
You are quite welcome. I'm glad you liked it. Had to do something special for a special friend. :-)
magnavox_23
Oct. 28th, 2013 07:28 am (UTC)
I bawled.

Seriously some amazing talent there. Ouch!

<3
dennydj
Oct. 28th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks! Glad you liked it.
marzipan77
Oct. 28th, 2013 01:45 pm (UTC)
Such a perfect story of friendship. Every moment was straight to the heart - my heart, and to the heart of this wonderful duo. Thanks for sharing this with all of us, Denny and Cheryl!
dennydj
Oct. 28th, 2013 10:46 pm (UTC)
So glad you enjoyed the story. And thanks so much for your help with it!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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