AUTHOR: Rebecca Ratliff
DATE: April 2004
ARCHIVE: If I haven't submitted to your archive, please ask. (I'll say yes, I just like to know where it is.)
WARNINGS: Language, character death
SPOILERS: Heroes pt. 2 (major) Fragile Balance, Chimera, the whole Cassie arc (minor)
SEASON/SEQUEL INFO: Season Seven. Gates of War series, follows Deserving More
SUMMARY: Saying Goodbye. Heroes epilog.
DISCLAIMER: All Stargate SG-1 characters are the property of Stargate SG-1 Productions (II) Inc., MGM Worldwide Television Productions Inc., Double Secret Productions, Gekko Film Corp and Showtime Networks Inc.This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. Anybody that you don't recognize is probably mine, so if you borrow them please send me an email to let me know where they are and have them home by midnight. :)
FEEDBACK: Much appreciated.
"There she is." Carter followed O'Neill's gaze to the tall young woman in a denim jacket carrying her backpack by the straps. She spotted them at the same time and cut across the stream of fellow passengers to join them.
O'Neill pulled her close in a long embrace. "Cassie, I'm so sorry."
She nodded. "Thanks, Uncle Jack." She felt the tape circling his chest under his shirt. "Jack, were you hurt too?"
"Nothing to worry about, my vest took most of it. What about you, Cassie, how are you holding up?"
"I don't know." Cassie still looked stunned. It hadn't sunken in yet.
"We'll get through this, Cass."
She nodded. "Thanks for taking care of the funeral arrangements. I-I wouldn't have known where to start."
"Glad I could help," he replied. They made their way through the airport and to the parking lot. The cold wind off the mountains cut through Cassie's light jacket, but if she was cold, she gave no sign of it.
Once they were out of the lot, Cassie wanted to know how it had happened. Thanking God that Cassie had clearance, Sam told her. By now it had become rote--the injured man, the rescue, the ambush, Janet's death.
Cassie asked, "There wasn't anything anyone could do? The healing device--?"
Sam's eyes filled and Jack answered, "No, honey. We tried everything, but she was already gone. A bunch of us were ready to raid somebody and capture a sarcophagus, and Hammond was ready to let us, but Dr. Warner said it was unlikely to work. There was a head injury."
Cassie nodded and said firmly, "Mom wouldn't have wanted everybody to take a crazy risk like that when there was a good chance it wouldn't have worked at all anyway, and she wouldn't have wanted to come back if she wouldn't have been herself." She rested her head against the cold glass of the passenger side window and stared into space. It seemed to her that heaven had installed a revolving door for the likes of them, but not always. And who came back and who didn't was still apparently nothing more than random chance.
The house was spotless and there was enough food in the kitchen to feed an army. A neighbor had been house sitting until Cassie got in. Cassie thanked her and responded politely to her condolences. Finally she left.
Cassie dropped her backpack on the sofa. For a moment she looked around blankly as if waiting for someone to tell her what she was supposed to do now. Then she fell to her knees and started to cry.
The next thing she knew Jack was holding her like he'd done when she was little and in mourning for everyone she had ever known, and he held her until she cried herself out for the time being. Then Sam persuaded her to eat some of the food that had been brought in and go up to her room to rest for a few hours. "We'll be here in case more people drop by. I'll wake you in plenty of time to get ready to go to the funeral home tonight."
Cassie nodded. "I don't think I've slept or eaten since I heard." She took her backpack to her bedroom.
Sam stared out the window. "I feel like I'm going to wake up and find out it's all been a nightmare."
"I know," Jack replied, sounding equally lost. "Of all of us--I never thought anything would happen to Janet."
Sam said, "Or if it did, it would be a lab accident of some kind...."
Jack said, "Why someone like Janet should have to die and I'd survive is just--if somebody up there is deciding this stuff, he's an idiot! Janet deserved to live more than just about anyone I've ever met in my life!"
"Don't say that!" Sam yelled. "Nobody traded her for you! It was just--she was in the wrong place at the wrong time and there's nothing we can do about that! But if she knew you were thinking you should have traded yourself for her she'd kick your ass." Sam started crying, and Jack held her close.
"I didn't mean it that way," he said. "I just meant...the whole world's gone crazy, Sam. It doesn't make sense. Nothing makes sense."
A car pulled up outside and they heard the doors and the trunk open. It was Janet's two sisters, the one from Massachusetts and the one from Florida, who must have met at the airport and shared a cab. Lisa was collecting their luggage from the trunk while Stephanie paid the driver.
Jack let them in while Sam started a fresh pot of coffee and tried to stop crying. She heard their hushed voices. Jack was telling them, "Cassie's just gone to her room, I doubt she's asleep yet. Why don't you let her know you made it in all right. You can just leave your suitcases and coats here for now."
"How's she taking it?" Lisa was the older one, very like Janet, calm and practical.
"She's still in shock. This is all pretty unbelievable."
"I know. When they called I thought it was some kind of a horrible mistake, how does a doctor get killed in a training accident? Where's Cassie's room?"
"Upstairs, second door on the left," he replied, and the two sisters went up to join their niece.
Dave Siler's wife stopped by with a big tupperware box of fried chicken. "There's already a bucket of chicken open here. I'll just put this in the refrigerator."
Sam dabbed at her eyes and forced herself to take an interest. "How much is left in there? I doubt there are more than a couple pieces."
"Right, we can just leave it out then. Is there anything else that Dave and I can do?"
Sam shook her head. "I think everything's mostly done...the neighbor lady was here until we left. Cassie's resting. Janet's sisters are with her, they just got in a few minutes ago."
"We'll see you at the funeral home tonight."
"Thanks, Megan. I'll tell Cass you stopped by, it will mean a lot to her."
Lisa and Stephanie came back downstairs, so quietly that O'Neill didn't really hear them. It was something else not quite defined that told him people were moving around quietly nearby. When he looked up, Lisa said, "She's sleeping, finally."
Sam said, "I-I need to pack up Janet's office, Jack, to make sure there's nothing classified in there. I forgot to pick up the key. Could you pick the lock for me? My hands are shaking too much."
Jack made short work of that, and put his arm around her shoulders for a quick moment. "Do you need some help with this, Sam?"
"No, I-I don't think she ever brings much home, maybe a few floppies or CD-roms."
He nodded, but left the door open in case Sam ran across a picture album or anything else that might get her all tore up again. He poured a cup of coffee on autopilot and drank half of it before he even realized there was a cup in his hand. Then he stood there staring at it like it was one of Daniel's rocks.
Lisa took it before he dropped it. "Sit down for God's sake. When's the last time you ate anything?"
He drew a blank. "I--guess it was before the...accident." It had to have been, they wouldn't have given him anything in the infirmary and he and Sam had run straight to the airport as soon as he'd been released.
"You'll be no help to anyone if you pass out in the kitchen floor! Were you in this accident too?" From the look on her face, it was clear that she knew full well it hadn't been any training accident--that was just convenient shorthand.
"Yeah, but I'm OK. Some cracked ribs from the impact."
"Go on, I'll bring you something."
At first he was a little surprised at her taking over, but it was such a Fraiser thing to do that it was a real comfort. He did as she said and wandered into the living room to land in the armchair. Lisa brought him some chicken and a biscuit, it had no taste whatsoever but as soon as he took the first bite his body demanded food.
Now that Lisa and Stephanie were here, Jack and Sam left. He dropped her off at the mountain to secure the things she'd got from Janet's office, then he went over to Jonathan's apartment. He'd be taking this hard too.
Lassie started barking before he was halfway up the stairs, but when Jonathan let him in it was as if she sensed that something was wrong. She got quiet and whined softly when he patted her head.
Jonathan asked, "What happened?"
"Thirteen got hit on some damn planet--they had a man down. I took three SG teams and the med team to extract him--we were thinking a dozen Jaffa tops. But the whole thing was an ambush. According to thirteen-niner, as soon as I radioed I was through the gate, all hell broke loose. We were in it with at least two platoons of ground troops, with air cover from an alkesh and a glider squadron."
Jonathan's head shot up. "They were after you personally?"
"Sounded like it to Dave." Jack wandered aimlessly around the kitchen until he realized he was doing it, and sat at the table.
"Jack, that does not make this your fault."
"Keep tellin' me that. Janet was working on the wounded man when she got shot. Killed instantly, there was nothing anyone could do. Danny was right there two feet away from her when it happened."
"God damn snakes," Jonathan said. He had Jack's memories of Fraiser, of course, but when he thought of her, it was a warm smile for a kid who had one foot in the grave and the other one on a banana peel, and who felt like everyone's excess baggage. He had never been excess baggage to Janet Fraiser. A freak of nature like Anubis should never have been allowed to live long enough to take her life. With a slow burn of fury Jonathan vowed, better late than never.
By the time O'Neill got to the funeral home, the weather had turned cold and the sky was spitting snow. The parking lot was already full. The rest of SG-1 was already there, he joined them. Ishta was there. Jack did a double take trying to figure out what was different about her, until he realized she had covered her tattoo with makeup. He didn't see Sha're but he knew she wouldn't stray far from Daniel's side at a time like this.
This time, Daniel was the strong one for all of them. Life after death was simple fact for him, and he knew someone like Janet was in a good place. He knew she would have wanted him to be there for their friends who didn't have that sure and certain knowledge--who still saw through a glass darkly and struggled to find the faith to get through this somehow.
A few minutes later, Jonathan came in with Nancy and Lydia. General Hammond and his daughter brought Alvin in. He joined his friends. They looked like different people, harbingers of the adults they soon would be, the boys wearing suits and the girls in dark skirts with their hair up.
That night SG-1 gathered at O'Neill's place. Cassie had insisted on sending some of the food over, there was plenty and none of them felt like worrying about cooking either. Jack could hear Teal'c and Ishta talking quietly in Goa'uld. He still missed a lot of words, but he caught the gist of it--how awful that a mother with such a young child had been taken. Concern that she would make some gaffe because she didn't know anything about Tau'ri funeral customs. Teal'c reassuring her that Cassie, an alien herself, would not be insulted by an innocent mistake. Teal'c had no trouble explaining the funeral to her, God knew they'd been to enough of them in the past few years.
Sam asked, "God, what am I doing with more coffee? I must have had a dozen cups of it tonight."
"Who the hell is going to be sleeping anyway?" Jack replied.
"Dammit!" She suddenly exclaimed. "I left my overnighter at Janet's...Cassie's...dammit."
He put his hand on her arm. "If that's the worst mistake anybody makes before this is over, we'll be lucky. Get a pair of my sweats out of the hall closet."
She nodded and left, almost at a run--she didn't want to cry again in front of everybody.
When Jack heard the shower, he checked the closet to be sure there were enough towels, and went down to the basement to get more from the dryer, then he checked on Jamie. He was sound asleep. He would miss his Aunt Janet, but with the faith of a little child who already knew about loss and grief, he had hugged Jack and said it was OK, that Mommy would keep Janet company until she got used to being in Heaven.
A couple six-packs of beer made the rounds. Teal'c and Ishta went back to the mountain about 0100h. Daniel said he was too drunk to drive and he and Sha're took Sirikat's room for the night. Sam hung her class-A's in the hall closet and, weary and sleepless, she and Jack spent the rest of the night sitting out on the stargazing deck outside his window trying to find some elusive peace in the eternal night.
Sha're brushed a gossamer kiss across Daniel's lips as he lay sleeping--or passed out, one--and made her silent way through the house to the kitchen. She wasn't surprised to see a small, dark haired figure at the back door, looking out over the darkened yard.
"Hello, Janet. I was expecting you sooner."
Fraiser whirled, startled. "I-I didn't know what happened. I didn't know I was dead. Neither did the Jaffa who shot me. It got really confused there for a while until the other Jaffa set us both straight."
"It's confusing at first. I knew I was dead, but it took me a very long time to truly believe that I was free of Amaunet."
"They wanted me to come to Kheb with them. They said that people of honor are all of one nation on this side. But I had to see my family. They can't see me, though."
Sha're nodded. "Dan'yel and Jack probably can, but unless you are going to stay as I do...."
"I know that now. We're from two different worlds now. I have to let them move on so that I can."
"That does not mean you cannot still look after them and love them. They will...know...in some way."
Janet nodded. "I went to Cheyenne Mountain. Why didn't you tell me there are so many ghosts there?"
Surprised, Sha're said, "I had no idea that you were unaware of it. Charlie Kowalski has been very good to me since I came here, especially at first when my Dan'yel was still amnesiac and I knew absolutely nothing about Earth except the language."
"I didn't have the honor until today, but you're right, he's a great guy." Fraiser looked up and asked, somewhat anxiously, "What happens now?"
Sha're said, "That is your choice. Your journey has not ended, but only you can decide where you will go from this crossroads. You will find your true path when you know what you learned from the life you have just left, and what lessons still await you. Oma Desala would say that all paths lead to the Great Path, but I think that our choices are not so limited."
Janet smiled. "It didn't end, did it? It's just beginning."
The funeral was Thursday. Jack kept flashing back to Charlie's funeral, and only telling himself over and over that Sirikat was fine was all that got him through it. Cassie had asked him to be one of the pallbearers. He sat with the others--Daniel, Teal'c, Dr. Warner, Sgts. Davis and Siler. Dave Siler looked as shell-shocked as Jack felt, and no wonder--Janet had saved his life at least as often as Jack's. They had carried the casket themselves, the old fashioned way--not a one of them would have missed paying Janet that final honor, Jack's injuries and Warner's age notwithstanding.
Hammond looked every year of his age. As he had told Sam, some losses were different from others. Jack couldn't count the number of times he had seen Hammond and Fraiser in the cafeteria late at night, discussing something over a cup of coffee. He would miss being able to confide in the one person on base who could give him orders.
The grave side service was easier, somehow. Taps and the rifle salute echoed over the cemetery. Cassie looked towards Petersen AFB a few seconds before a group of fighters came into view. Tears spilled down her face as one plane veered off from the formation.
She stood like she was carved from stone as the honor guard folded the flag, and accepted it solemnly in both arms. When her knees started to tremble, her aunts were standing on either side of her.
How she did it, O'Neill never knew, but she kept her composure through all the hugs and handshakes as the mourners left the graveyard. He hadn't realized before today exactly how many of the white crosses here were from the SGC, but Janet was in good and brave company.
At that, things started to get back to normal, whatever that was. Teal'c drove the aunts over to Cassie's, where they were going to stay for a while before scattering across the country again.
Jonathan hung back to talk to Sam for a moment.
"Keep an eye on my brother. I know he's going to find a way to make this his fault."
"Yeah. Jonathan, since we don't know precisely why Anubis has taken a personal interest and whether his intentions were to kill or capture Colonel O'Neill, you should be on guard yourself. Osiris could have taken or killed Daniel, if that had that been her intention. They can get to us here."
Jonathan nodded. He already had enemies enough in the NID to keep his eyes open, it made little difference that trouble might come from yet another quarter. Sam knew that as well. Jonathan crossed the manicured lawn of the cemetery and caught up with his friends near his car.
Nearly everyone who had been at the cemetery came to the house afterwards. The SGC had held their own memorial earlier in the week, so that those who had known the whole story could remember her without security concerns. Now they got a glimpse of the Janet Fraiser that they had hardly known. Her sisters told family stories, and professional friends related tales from med school and residency. Hammond told a couple of anecdotes, leaving out classified details that really had no bearing on who Janet Fraiser had been anyhow.
Friday, Sam found Cassie making final business arrangements, selling Janet's car and finding a real estate agent to rent the house out. They put first Lisa and then Stephanie in cabs to the airport.
Sam asked, "Will you be OK? Bill Lee can run the lab for another day if you need me to stay with you."
"Thanks, Sam, but I'll be fine. It's all signing papers now."
"What are you going to do now?"
"I'm more determined than ever to become a doctor, for Mom."
"I know I will," Cassie replied. "I finally got around to checking my email this morning. Mom must have sent it when she got called out, because it was just, be careful, love ya. You know, I sat there and I answered it, how crazy is that? But I know she read it somehow."
Sam said, "Knowing what we know now about Sirikat and Sha're and life after death, Cassie, it doesn't seem crazy to me at all."
They parted with a last embrace then Sam walked to her car and drove away. Cassie squared her shoulders and left the final remnants of childhood behind her as she set about the business of closing up the house and settling the estate.
Living up to her heritage would be a lifetime effort, she knew. But she would never be without a goal and a guiding star to reach it. That, she thought, was the greatest honor anyone could bestow upon her mother--that she had lived her life so well as to leave a clear and unmistakable trail for her daughter to follow. Janet had shown anyone who needed an example how to die...but more importantly, she had shown them all how to live.
Someday, Cassie hoped to pass that lesson on to children of her own. That was something that would echo down the years long after their names were all forgotten. Janet Fraiser's life was one more reason why the name Tau'ri would be spoken with pride throughout the galaxy generations from now. Cassie would never rest until the freedom for which her mother had given her life was the birthright of every child, on Earth and beyond.
Sam Carter stopped her bike at an overlook high in the mountains on a bright, cold Saturday morning. It was so hard to believe that her best friend was gone. All of the milestones they had expected to share...Cassie's graduation...Sam's wedding one of these days....
Sam thought she must be all cried out because no more tears would come. What is, is. She gave her sorrow to the mountain wind and watched the eagles soar.
~To my mother, Faye Destocki, who passed away ten years ago in January.~
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