A Different Road
AUTHOR'S NOTES: I needed a way to mourn Don too so I wrote this. I hope it's not too sad, and a little uplifting.
WARNING: Death of a character.
RIP Don. You'll be missed.
It had been a hell of a day. One of the worst Jack could remember in his life. In fact, if he thought about it, only one had ever been worse than this one, and in the mood he was in, there was no way he was going down that particular memory path.
The team had been together at his place since the night before and had closed ranks around each other the moment they left for the cemetery, as family does in times like this.
It had been especially hard on Daniel. Downsized a few months before into the body of a five year old but with the memories of his adult life, and his intellect left intact, he'd already been struggling to adapt to his new life, to relying on others, to thinking of Jack as his guardian, and this latest devastating news had hit him probably harder than any of them.
Jack hadn't wanted him at the funeral, concerned the grieving and emotion would be too hard for him to take. As much as his intelligence and memories seemed to be fully functional, his emotions seemed to vacillate between the adult he'd once been and the child he was now, but Daniel had insisted and Jack hadn't had the heart to say no. They were all family, after all.
Daniel had stayed plastered to Jack's side throughout the service. Cassie had tried to lure him away for ice cream and cake after but he'd shaken his head, tears glistening in his eyes but not falling and clung to Jack's leg even harder.
When they arrived home, Jack led him into the house and headed straight into the kitchen to make coffee and hot chocolate but Daniel had pushed past him, his earlier clinging attitude giving way to a barely suppressed anger.
"Hey, Sport, want some hot chocolate before bed?" Jack called out.
"Just leave me alone, Jack, okay? Leave me alone."
"Okay, Daniel. I'm just down here if you want to talk or anything."
Daniel had rounded on him, blue eyes blazing. "What's there to talk about? He's dead." And with that, he stomped up the stairs to his room.
Jack debated following him up but decided it wouldn't hurt to leave him be for a while, allow him to grieve on his own in his own way. He slumped down onto the couch and rested his head in his hands, feeling tears sting his eyes. He could let go now he was alone, do his own grieving for the man he'd come to admire, respect and love.
The sound of breaking glass had him up on his feet and racing up the stairs. Throwing open the door to Daniel's room, he stopped in the doorway. Daniel stood next to his bed, watching water drip down the wall. Shards of glass from a tumbler lay scattered over the carpet. He turned and looked at Jack, tears finally spilling down his cheeks. "It's not fair!" he shouted. "I hate her!" Picking up the books that were scattered on his bed, he began tearing at them, throwing the ripped pages into the air. "I hate her," he screamed again. "It's not fair!"
"Whoa!" Jack hurried over to him, pulling the last book from his hands, lifting Daniel into his arms and hugging him close when he struggled to get away. "It's all right, Daniel," he said over and over. "I know, I know."
Finally Daniel slumped, exhausted, into Jack's embrace, still sobbing his distress. Jack collapsed onto the bed with Daniel on his lap. He turned the distraught boy so Daniel could snuggle against his chest, stroking soothing circles of comfort across his back. "It hurts," he whispered. "I know."
Daniel nodded, his sobs subsiding to soft hiccupping. "I still hate her."
"Who?" Jack asked.
Daniel lifted his head and swiped a sleeve across his cheeks. "Why didn't she ascend General Hammond, Jack, like she did me? He was a good man - the best of men, you said at the service. He deserved to be ascended."
"Yes, he did," Jack agreed, "but I'm not sure where you're coming from, Daniel. How would that help?"
"Because she could descend him again. Maybe because I've already been there, she'd listen to me if I asked her to bring him back, if I told her how much we all missed him, especially Tessa and Kayla and me."
"Oh I gotcha." Jack smiled but he had to fight to keep his own tears from overflowing, and he felt pretty damn tempted to throw a glass or two against the wall himself. This moment though was for Daniel, for the little boy he held who was grieving the man they all loved as the child he had become. "Well, who knows. Maybe she asked him and he said no."
"Why would he say no?" Daniel asked. "Why wouldn't he want to come back to us?"
"I'm sure he would want to but maybe he decided to choose another road to travel. Maybe he decided it was time for a new direction "
"A new adventure?"
"Yeah." Jack pressed a kiss to Daniel's forehead. "General Hammond was always one for a new adventure."
Daniel took a deep shuddering breath then slipped off of Jack's lap and held out his hand. When Jack stood, he led the way over to the window. "When I was a little boy and my grandma died, my mother told me to find the brightest star in the sky and that would be her, looking down on us." He looked up at Jack, smiling through his tears. "I know it's kinda silly but do you think we could look?"
"I've got a better idea," Jack said. "Let me get our jackets."
"Where are we going?" Daniel asked.
"To look at the stars up close," Jack said, picking Daniel up and giving him a hug, "and say goodbye, have a great adventure, George."
And as he adjusted the telescope just right to find the brightest star, he was sure he heard the faint echo of a familiar, beloved voice. "Yee-haa!"
"Have a great adventure, General, wherever you are," Daniel said.