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Nunc Dimitis

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The joke is "my door is always open," because it's not. People who come to talk to the Chaplain need to have their privacy. Three years ago, I'd been shocked to find where General Hammond had placed my office. If an underground base can be said to have a main drag, mine's on it. I'm between the infirmary and the gate room, just next to the armory.

I'd had a pleasant conversation about it with the general. And after I left it, I was surprised to realize that I'd agreed with his reasoning well enough to try the location for a month.

My thought had been that people need privacy. His point had been that people need cover. If I were on some side corridor that no one ever went to, it would be obvious when people wanted to come see me. Obvious enough that people might avoid coming to me.

Instead, my door is open except when I'm with someone. I see the to-ing and fro-ing. I can tell which team might need me because a member has been injured or killed. People lean in and tell me things. SG-11 has gotten into the habit of asking for my blessing before they go through the gate. I'm just part of the life of the base.

Today, I see SG-1 walk past my door from the gateroom to the infirmary. No one's ill or hurt that I can see, although everyone is giving a grim-faced Daniel plenty of space. Colonel O'Neill glances my way as they pass. Something has him by the throat. The Colonel looks angry and near tears.

I say a prayer and go back to my translations.

***

Walter Harriman's put his head in my office.

"Major Pierce, the general thought you should know ... Doctor Jackson has a lethal dose of radiation. Doctor Fraiser gives him less than forty-eight hours." The man's face is ashen.

"Thank you for telling me, Sergeant." I'm certain my face matches his.

"If I may, ma'am?"

"Yes, Sergeant?"

"Take a few minutes for yourself, now. Once the base knows, you're going to be inundated -- especially since the infirmary is closed off."

"I appreciate the thought." I look again at his stricken face. "Is there anything I can do for you?"

"Tell me Doctor Jackson is going someplace better than this. Someplace where everyone will understand him."

"If the promises of the Bible are true, and I believe they are, Doctor Jackson will be welcomed with open arms."

He nods, turns on his heel, and leaves.

I shut the door behind him, and take his advice.

***

Before I "open" my door again, I go to the infirmary. Janet Fraiser has become a friend, and I know she'll tell me the truth.

When she walks into her office, she doesn't need to tell me. It's there on her face. Nothing will stop the relentless progress of this death.

"God allows this?" I'm shocked at the fury in her voice.

"God allows free will."

Janet nearly collapses in her chair. "He chose this. Daniel touched an unstable element that was about to go critical. If he hadn't done so, Sam assures me that the city would have been destroyed -- maybe even the whole planet. There's so much of this element there that she couldn't be sure."

There is nothing I can say.

"He's asked for you, Sheila."

"What can I expect?"

"There hasn't been much deterioration yet. The pain is already bad, but it will get much worse."

"I understand."

"By the end, morphine won't make a dent."

"How long?"

"Thirty six hours if we can keep him from drowning."

"Will he be lucid?"

"Yes. That's why I need better pain killers."

"Would it be overstepping if I told our biology department that?"

She looks at me hard. "I'll tell them. Thank you for thinking of it."

"Don't get caught, Janet."

"Go see him."

***

Colonel O'Neill starts to leave as I come in. Cameras and microphones will be here to the end, so the most he can say to his closest friend, the man I believe to be his lover, is "I admire you." How did the military get so twisted?

Daniel is talking before I've even had a chance to sit down.

"I've already talked to General Hammond. If it doesn't interfere too greatly with your other duties, I've asked that you be placed as the temporary head of linguistics. He has acceded to my request that the post be filled by a civilian, but I want you to run the tests and interview the candidates."

"Of course, Daniel."

"And about my funeral..."

"Yes?"

"I don't want one."

"Daniel. The funeral isn't for the dead. It's for the living."

"The living need to go on. I've had funerals before. I think not having a funeral might make this more final."

It's true.

"I've requested cremation. It's really the only way to handle the radiation. Go with Jack. Read him the 121st Psalm, and make sure I can be buried or scattered or whatever on a mountain. Please."

How can I say no?

***

Colonel O'Neill is waiting for me when I leave Daniel's bedside.

"They're blaming him for this."

"I'm sorry, sir. I don't understand."

"The Kelownans are trying to blame Daniel for this. I won't let it happen. His last act on this Earth..."

I can see the irony of his words play across his face. And the pain. I can see the pain.

He begins more quietly. "I want him remembered for who he is. None of us would be here without him, and I won't let them take that away."

"What can I do to help?"

"I'm going to Kelowna with a message. If I'm not back in time, please be there for him."

"Colonel, the entire base will be there for him."

He starts to say something else, and then stops. I walk with him as far as my office, and watch him all the way to the gate room.

My prayers go with him.

***

Sergeant Harriman wasn't wrong.

I have had people in and out of my office for several hours. Many have asked me to pray with them. Many have railed against God. Many have asked me to convey their sorrow to Doctor Jackson.

The love and the pain from everyone is nearly overwhelming. Even people who don't like him, have asked me to tell him that no one deserves this.

I saw Daniel again briefly. His condition was deteriorating, and he wanted me to know about some files that needed to be finished by Monday. I know that Daniel's been using the mundane things to distract himself from the reality, but I still don't know that I could be so organized.

The phone rings. It's Janet. Daniel's in a coma, and she doesn't think he'll come out of it.

Suddenly, a busy base seems silent.

***

My door is open. The visitors have tapered off for the moment. I've retrieved the files Daniel told me about and have the only one I can help with started on my desk.

General Hammond's voice rings out asking that the passage be cleared to the gateroom.

I look up and see -- something. A light, a face, a feeling of peace and love -- I've read SG-1's reports about Kheb; this must be an ascended being like the Oma Desala that Daniel spoke of.

It takes me a minute to realize that there are two. I recognize Daniel.

As they go to the gateroom, the words of the Nunc Dimitis come to me:

"Lord, now lettest Thou, thy servant depart in peace. For mine eyes have seen Thy salvation."