The Diner at the End of the Universe
by Audrey Lynne
Thanks to Steph and Tam for the help in fleshing out this little ficlet! All songs mentioned within this fic are copyright their respective artists (listed at the end) and are not mine in any way. Their presence here is consistent with fair use laws. As for the title, all apologies to the late, great Douglas Adams, but I couldn't resist. I don't own any of these characters, all hail MGM, etc, etc. Don't sue. I have no money.
Missing scene for Season 8's "Threads"
Somewhere, Someplace, Sometime
Daniel Jackson watched from his booth seat in awe as Oma Desala corrected the mistake she'd made years before and launched herself at Anubis. Though she couldn't destroy him, she could fight him, and she could keep fighting him for all eternity-literally. Anubis would no longer be a threat to the galaxy.
It was another few minutes after the combatants had disappeared from the diner that Daniel realized he was still there. And he had no idea how to get out. Oma had indicated that if he headed out the door, he chose death, but Daniel also didn't want to ascend again. At least not fully. Here, he was partially ascended, as he understood it, in a holding pattern while he made his final decision, released his burdens, and got on with the full deal-or Oma had hoped he'd do that.
While the secrets of the universe were tempting, Daniel had been there, done that, and lost his shirt. He knew if he ascended, it was only a matter of time before the noninterference policy got to be too much for him again, and Daniel had no desire to wake up naked in a field somewhere again, an amnesiac to boot. Except death by RepliCarter wasn't a great option, either. Though the replicators had been vanquished, Daniel was pretty damned sure that wasn't a quick fix for the blade that had pierced his vital organs as the Replicator who looked exactly like Sam shoved it through his body, her eyes cold as steel.
So there Daniel was, in a diner full of people who refused to acknowledge his presence. Because he wasn't ascended and special like them, he didn't register on their radar. Oma had been the only waitress in sight, so there Daniel was, alone for all intents and purposes, and his coffee cup was empty. If he was going to spend the foreseeable future in this purgatory diner, Daniel definitely needed more coffee. Fortunately, Oma had left the coffee pot on the counter.
There were advantages to being the Invisible Man. No one so much as blinked an eye as Daniel walked up to the counter and poured himself a cup of coffee. Daniel considered firing up the jukebox and dancing the Macarena in the middle of the diner, just to see if it would get any reactions, but he wasn't quite that desperate for entertainment yet. Maybe in a couple hundred years. It appeared he was going to be here quite some time, as Oma was occupied with Anubis and Daniel had no idea how to leave.
A blonde woman glanced in Daniel's direction, but before he could be sure she was looking at him and not someone or something else, she returned her attention to the jukebox, flipping through the selections. After a moment, music began to play through the diner's tinny speakers.
"You've got a friend in me. You've got a friend in me. When the road looks rough ahead and you're miles and miles from your nice, warm bed...you just remember what your old pal said. Boy, you've got a friend in me."
The blonde shook her head, muttering to herself. "No, no, no." She hit another series of buttons on the jukebox and the song changed without even waiting for the previous one to finish. Anything was possible in a diner stuck somewhere between here and the hereafter, Daniel supposed.
"And I never thought I'd feel this way...and as far as I'm concerned, I'm glad I got the chance to say that I do believe I love you. And if I should ever go away, well, then close your eyes and try, feel the way we do today...and then if you can remember... Keep smiling, keep shining, knowing you can always count on me, for sure. That's what friends are for..."
Again, this failed to satisfy the woman. "Dammit. Hmm, maybe this one." She pressed another sequence of buttons and, again, the song switched.
"Earth angel, earth angel, will you be mine? My darling dear, love you all the time. I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you..."
It seemed this was more in line with whatever the blonde was looking for, because she gave a melancholy little sigh and slunk back to a nearby booth. There was a plate of fries on the table, but they didn't seem to be doing much for her either. She picked up one and nibbled at the very end of it before using the rest of the fry to poke at the others on her plate.
For someone who had ascended, the woman looked pretty damned depressed, Daniel thought. But maybe she wasn't ascended. Daniel hadn't noticed her in the diner before, when he'd been trying to pry answers from Oma, but it was possible she'd blended in with the crowd. Maybe that look the woman cast in his direction was her looking at him. There was only one way to find out. Daniel took the coffee pot with him as he walked over to the woman's booth. "Coffee?" he offered.
She wrinkled up her nose. "Ah...no. Thank you. It smells divine, but I can't stand the taste."
"Tea, then?" Daniel suggested.
"Tempting," she admitted, "but it appears our waitress is going to have her hands full for the next few millennia."
Daniel cast a glance at the kitchen. "So let's raid the kitchen. They've got to have some tea back there somewhere, and as we're apparently the only non-ascended people here, no one's gonna notice."
The blonde laughed as she stood to follow Daniel. "Hell, I could strip naked and dance on the tables and I don't think anyone would give me a second glance."
Daniel paused, contemplating that mental image. "I'd pay good money to see that."
She scoffed. "Dream on, Jackson."
"You brought it up." Daniel frowned suddenly as they walked into the abandoned kitchen. "Wait a minute. How do you know my name?"
"We've worked together before," she said casually.
Great, he was supposed to know her-except Daniel was confident he'd never seen the woman in his life. He was good with names and better with faces, but this woman was a stranger to him. "You sure about that?"
She nodded. "Trust me. I was there. You never saw me like this, is all. Actually, no one's ever seen me like this, but I needed an avatar on this plane and this body is apparently what the Great Ascended Ones feel my mental image of myself is. How I'd look if I were human."
"So you're not human?" Now Daniel didn't feel so bad about not remembering her.
"Nope." She shook her head, then began rummaging through a cabinet. "I've got to admit, a human body has its advantages, even if it's only on this plane."
"I can see where it might come in handy." Daniel snatched up a box of herbal tea he'd found on one of the counters. "Aha! I've got it. Now let me get some hot water and you'll have that cup of tea in no time." How weird was this, commandeering the kitchen in a diner that had been constructed from Daniel's memories and wasn't even real on most planes of existence?
"Thanks." The woman hoisted herself up onto the nearest counter while Daniel began to brew the tea. "I'm Selmak, by the way."
That stopped Daniel in his tracks. "Selmak? You mean-the Tok'ra? You're Selmak?"
"The one and only, I assure you." Selmak hopped down from the counter and took the mug from Daniel's hands, then put it in the microwave. "Before you ask, I've ended up here for the same reason you have-not sure which path to take. Oma was trying to talk me into this whole ascension deal, but...I don't know. It's got its perks, but I'm not convinced."
"Selmak?" Daniel echoed, still shocked. It made sense that Tok'ra could ascend-if Anubis could, anyone could-and Daniel could even understand needing an avatar, as in their natural form, symbiotes couldn't get a lot done without a host. But...Selmak? Here? Wouldn't that mean...? "You're dead?"
Selmak sighed. "Afraid so." She pulled the tea from the microwave, dropping back into the melancholy mood she'd been in when Daniel had first spotted her. Whatever was bugging her, it appeared Daniel's ability to distract her from it was only temporary. "I know I wasn't young anymore, but I never thought it would happen like that. Snuck up on me. Dammit, if only Jacob had listened to me! He could still be alive!"
If Jolinar had been willing to sacrifice herself to save Sam, whom she'd only been with a short time, it made sense that Selmak would have been willing to sacrifice herself for Jacob, which was what Daniel thought she was talking about. "He wouldn't let you?"
"No." Selmak sighed, her gaze dropping to the floor. "He said he needed me to help him at Dakara, fight the Replicators, all that. He wouldn't let me go. I shouldn't have listened."
Daniel wasn't surprised to hear that Jacob hadn't let Selmak go, even at the cost of his own life. Tok'ra and their hosts formed close bonds and, as much as Selmak hadn't wanted Jacob to die, Daniel was willing to bet Jacob had felt the same about her. "Wouldn't have done any good." But, God, if Jacob hadn't let her go... "Where's Jacob?" If Selmak had ascended, wouldn't he have, too?
Selmak nodded toward the ceiling. "Somewhere up there-or wherever ascended people hang out when they're not ignoring us in this diner. He had the Ancient gene, which is how he was able to work the device at Dakara, but it also gave him his ticket in to the Glow Club."
Daniel laughed. Glow Club, he liked that one, even if it saddened him to think of Jacob and Selmak dying. His heart went out to Sam; she must've been crushed, especially if she didn't know about their ascensions. "So why aren't you with him?"
Selmak pointedly ignored the question and took a sip of her tea instead. "You know, Mother used to make a tea similar to this, back on Tethys."
"Mother?" Daniel puzzled over that for a second before it came to him. "You mean Egeria, the Tok'ra queen?"
Selmak nodded. "Unlike Hathor and the rest of those Goa'uld bitches, Egeria actually cared about the children she spawned. She had a few secret nurseries to protect those too young to take a host yet, but those of us who were fortunate enough to learn the Tok'ra way at her feet were never forced into her service. She guided us, loved us...until Ra imprisoned her on Pangar."
"Wow." Daniel had no idea the Tok'ra queen had ever done more than to fuel the seeds of resistance, but it would have made sense that she would have been a loving mother. After all, Egeria was one of the mother goddesses in ancient Roman society. But Daniel wasn't going to let Selmak change the subject entirely. "You never answered my original question. If Jacob's ascended, why are you still here?"
Selmak brushed past him out into the main area of the diner, where "Earth Angel" was still playing. "I failed Releasing Your Burdens 101, okay? I'm not entirely sure I'd be welcome."
"What, by these guys?" Daniel wadded up a napkin and bounced it off one of the diner's ascended patrons, who was oblivious. "Forget them. They probably won't be thrilled that Oma put you on the path to ascension, but go for it. Who cares what they think?"
"It's not them I'm worried about," Selmak said. "It's Jacob. Ascension, it's not what he bargained for. He thought he was getting your Tauri concept of heaven, that he'd be with his wife Anna again, all that. Gods, I let him. I knew he had the Ancient gene! I knew it was a possibility he'd ascend! And I let him go on thinking what he wanted because I wanted him to ascend. But now he's finding out it's not the afterlife he bargained for. I don't know that he'd want me hanging around for the rest of eternity, considering I'm the one who got him into it."
"It's not a bad way to go," Daniel assured her. "If my friends hadn't kept getting in so much trouble, I might have been able to enjoy it a lot more. But that whole noninterference thing kept getting in my way. If you can live with that..."
"Live with it?" Selmak laughed. "I can handle ignoring the universe's affairs, drinking margaritas on the beach for the rest of eternity. Jacob, though...that's what I worry about with him. He's not exactly the non-interfering type."
"Then don't you think he needs someone to keep an eye on him?" Daniel asked.
"You don't understand," Selmak insisted, sliding back into the booth she'd occupied before as Daniel went to retrieve his cup of coffee.
"Then explain it to me."
Selmak stared into her cup of tea. "It's complicated."
Daniel crossed his arms over his chest as he took the seat across from her. "You're talking to the guy who can't remember if this is the third or fourth time he's died. I can do complicated."
Selmak had been bringing her mug to her lips, but she paused halfway, turning a look of sheer disbelief on him. "Third or fourth? I'd suggest you find yourself a Tok'ra symbiote when you get back to keep you alive, but the good ones are taken...and, besides, the poor thing would probably have a heart attack trying to keep up with you. I thought Jacob was-" A pained look crossed her face and she choked up. "I always thought it'd be some mission...I knew I could lose him, but I didn't think it'd be that way...my fault..." She ineffectually swiped at the tears that welled up in her eyes.
Daniel put a hand over one of hers. "Selmak, we've been here before, just a minute ago. You offered him a choice. It was his choice to take and he chose not to go on without you."
"He didn't know what he was getting into." Selmak picked up a napkin and wiped her eyes. "I was going to die either way. Why'd he have to die, too? I told him..."
"He was a general," Daniel reminded her. "The man didn't do a damned thing if he wasn't sure it was the right thing for him to do. He saved the universe, let you have one last, massively important mission...and I'm sure he died without regretting it." Daniel had grown fond of Sam's father over the years, and while his death-and Selmak's-was painful, it was hard to get too emotional when he was sitting in an ethereal diner, trying to talk Selmak into moving on and enjoying her afterlife.
She continued to cry softly, and Daniel got up and moved over to sit next to her. He pulled her into a hug and she didn't resist, so for the next few minutes, Daniel held Selmak in his arms while she cried. After a minute, she straightened up and collected herself. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be," Daniel said. "I'm sure it's tough, losing a host, especially if you tried to save him."
Selmak nodded. "When a blending is done properly, the friendship between host and symbiote is intense...more intense than any human friendship I've ever known of. Losing a host is difficult, and I've lost too many, most before their time."
Daniel saw where she was taking this. "And you think Jacob didn't have to go before his time."
"I know he didn't!" Selmak ran her hands over her face. "I appreciate what you're trying to do, Daniel, and don't think I don't want to be with him. I do. But...there's more than that, much more, and it's..."
"Complicated?" Daniel finished. "I told you, complicated is okay."
Selmak stared at the table. "Symbiotes are born without gender, but many of us develop a preference, one way or the other, and stick with hosts of that gender whenever possible. Until Jacob, I was always in female hosts, so I've come to think of myself as female. Jacob never minded-in fact, it amused him. He only started to call me 'he' around others because he was tired of having to explain the differences, why I hadn't 'taken on' his gender and played the game."
Daniel shrugged. "So you're a woman. So what?"
Selmak sighed. "My preferences remained, and though I learned how to live life through Jacob, the femininity I'd developed never faded, nor did the fact that I'd come prefer men as romantic partners."
Daniel gasped as he put it together. "Oh, my God. You fell in love with someone, didn't you?"
"Not just anyone." Selmak looked up long enough to meet his eyes. "Jacob and I were the most intimate of friends, but one day, when we were out on a mission and I did nearly lose him, I realized what had happened to me. Somewhere along the line, I went from loving him to being in love with him. He was exactly the sort of man I always liked, always hoped my hosts would marry..."
It was a bit much for Daniel to take in at first. Selmak, in love with her host? "That's sweet."
"I'm glad you think so." Selmak closed her eyes. "That was when the trouble started, the accusations that he had corrupted me. It had never happened to a Tok'ra before, so since it was unheard of, they assumed it had to be perverted and wrong somehow. I was perfectly happy to platonically love him the rest of his natural life. I didn't even tell him I felt that way!"
"He had to have known," Daniel told her. "If you two shared emotions..."
"Not the very deepest," Selmak sighed. "I could hide some things from him. He knew I loved him, just not on that level."
"But the Council figured it out."
"I told only one person, one night while Jacob slept. She was a dear friend of mine and I thought she'd react better." The anger and pain of betrayal burned in Selmak's eyes. "She told me it was disgusting, something shameful, and she told the rest of the Council that he and his Tauri ways had corrupted me. I hated to hear them talk about my Chosen like that, in love with him or not, so I became defensive, which only made matters worse..." She trailed off, as "Earth Angel" was finishing up for the second or third time.
"I'm just a fool, a fool in love with you..."
"That's exactly what I was," Selmak muttered to herself. "For the oldest and wisest, I sure made a fool of myself."
Daniel shook his head. "You were defending someone you cared about-loved. I'd call that admirable."
"You aren't on the Council-and, more importantly, you aren't Delek. He was the one who made my life a living hell. Jacob didn't understand all the details and I didn't want him to, but Delek created so many problems for us... He never liked me anyway, and that was simply his excuse to do something about it."
"I understand that," Daniel sympathized. "Not the exact situation, but I had made enemies in the academic community. When I made my theory that aliens had built the pyramids public, they jumped on it to try to bring me down. Because it couldn't be proven, it had to be wrong. Now, that was only a theory, but as far as I'm concerned, love is never wrong, no matter how unconventional it happens to be. The universe needs more people willing to let love rule."
"Oh, I was willing, consequences be damned," Selmak said, "but only until the consequences started affecting him. I was not letting him suffer for something he had no control over. But he did anyway and he put up with it, kept trying to do the right thing..." She sniffled, but didn't completely break down again. "Some stood by us, like Malek, but...let me tell you, there are ways to find out who your true friends are, and I came to realize how few I had still among the living." She clasped her hands together, interlocking her fingers. "Just when I thought things might have finally begun to settle down and let us move on, this happens."
Daniel assumed she meant her death was the "this." "There's never a convenient time for death, you know."
"I know, but maybe if we hadn't been so preoccupied with the damned Replicators, I might have been able to convince Jacob to see things my way." She held up a hand. "I know, it was his choice and he made it. But you have to understand, I would have rather died than lose him-and since I was dying no matter what, the decision was pretty clear-cut from my perspective."
Daniel nodded thoughtfully. "Yeah, but it works both ways. Your relationship was pretty intense, regardless of whatever feelings you might have felt you had to hide from him. Did you ever think that maybe he was willing to make his own sacrifice, so he wouldn't have to lose you? Or maybe so you wouldn't have to be alone?"
"You really think so?" The wary hopefulness in her tone was something Daniel had never thought he'd hear from a Tok'ra, but Selmak wasn't just any Tok'ra.
Daniel nodded. "I do." She'd shared a lot of deeply personal information with him and so he felt no hesitation about doing the same. "When my wife died, Sha're, you don't know how many times I wished I could have died with her or died in her place. When you love someone, you'll do anything for them, so trust me, I understand what you're saying. And it doesn't strike me as impossible that Jacob might have felt the same about you."
Selmak gave him her best You're kidding, right? look. "You can't honestly tell me you think Jacob was in love with me. You understand the way Tauri view romantic relationships better than I do. Could you have been in love with someone who shared your body?"
Daniel had to admit, it would have been hard, but he didn't back down. "Having never been in that situation, it's tough to imagine, and given how much of a realist Jacob is, sure, it's probably safe to say he never looked at it that way. But so what if he didn't think of himself as in love with you? He did love you deeply and there are many forms of love. Even if you were never more to him than the best friend he'd ever had, I don't find it impossible to believe he was willing to lay down his life for you. I'd do it for Jack, Sam, or Teal'c." Assuming he ever returned to that plane of existence. It might have been a lowly place to be in the grand cosmic scheme of things, but Daniel was fond of it.
"You may have a point," Selmak admitted. She shoved her tea away; surely it had grown cold by now. Daniel's coffee certainly had. Odd that such inconveniences of life would apply, but the Ancients had probably wanted a realistic dining experience. Or maybe their coffee never got cold once they ascended. It was hard telling. Daniel didn't intend to find out for himself. "Thank you, Daniel."
"Anytime." Daniel chuckled self-deprecatingly. "Apparently, I'm going to be stuck here awhile-perfect opportunity for a little nickel psychology." At the blank look she returned, he explained, "Peanuts. It's a comic strip. One of the characters sets up an booth-you pay a nickel for her advice."
"Ah." Selmak smiled. "Even after six years with Jacob, I still find some of your American pop culture references confusing."
Daniel shrugged. "Don't sweat it. You've got all of eternity for him to explain them to you." Idly, he noticed that "Earth Angel" had stopped its endless repeats on the jukebox and had been replaced with "Stuck in a Moment" somewhere along the way.
"I never thought you were a fool-but, darling, look at you. You gotta stand up straight, carry your own weight; these tears are going nowhere, baby. You've got to get yourself together; you've got stuck in a moment and now you can't get out of it."
Appropriate, Daniel thought, but he shouldn't have been surprised. He stole one of the now-cool fries from the plate on the table before them and bit into it. Not bad.
"So what now?" Selmak asked.
"I don't know," Daniel replied. "It would be logical to assume this is the part where you do that glowing jellyfish thing and move on and I do...whatever I'm going to do...but these guys don't always work logically."
Selmak inclined her head in admission. "Yeah, that would just be too easyyyyyyyyyy-" She dragged the last word out as the door chime jingled and a man entered the diner, looking around. He saw them and hurried over.
The diner's newest arrival looked almost exactly like Daniel would have imagined a younger Jacob Carter might. As the man hurried over, Daniel realized it was Jacob. And why not? If Selmak could take on human form, what was there to stop Jacob from returning to his youth? When one ascended, anything was possible.
"Sel?" Jacob asked. He frowned in that way he had of pretending to be annoyed when he really wasn't. "Where the hell have you been? I've been waiting for you!"
Selmak laughed and jumped up, then threw her arms around his neck in a tight hug. "Right here," Daniel heard her tell him before she buried her face in Jacob's neck. "I'm right here."
He hugged her back and the two of them began to wander back toward the door. Selmak paused to wave at Daniel, mouthing another thank you. Daniel returned the wave and sank back into the booth with his cold coffee and leftover fries.
The song on the jukebox changed yet again as Jacob and Selmak walked out the door together, arm in arm. "Anyone can see the road that they walk on is paved in gold. It's always summer; they'll never get cold. They'll never get hungry; they'll never get old and grey..."
"Cute," Daniel said to no one in particular. And now he really was alone. With a sigh, Daniel stood up and headed for the door. It was the only way he could see of getting out. And he didn't feel like staying in the diner until the end of all time. If he died, he died. He'd done it before, right? Daniel took a deep breath to steel himself, then stepped out the door...
...and found himself in Jack's office. Interesting. Daniel was happy to find he remembered that it was Jack's office, but he wasn't sure why. Oh, wait, the memory thing. Apparently, Oma had been too busy to bother wiping his memory for this return trip to Earth. That was fine with Daniel, though he supposed he shouldn't have been counting his chickens before they hatched. He remembered that Oma was busy kicking Anubis' ass, but not why-beyond the fact that Anubis needed a good ass-kicking. In fact, the last thing Daniel remembered was being aboard the Replicator ship, with that bitch RepliCarter pushing him to remember Dakara, and then...Jack's office. Daniel sighed, but he supposed he should have been grateful for what he had. It was awfully chilly in Jack's office, though, and... Oh, shit, not again! Daniel howled in silent frustration as he realized he'd returned to Earth the same way he had before: not a stitch of clothing on him.
And, worse, Jack was coming back into his office. Daniel barely had time to shout a warning before Jack was backing out and passing the SGC flag in so Daniel could cover himself. Great. Daniel wrapped the flag around his waist and headed out into the briefing room. He had no idea how he was going to explain this one.
"You've Got a Friend in Me" - Randy Newman
"That's What Friends Are For" - Dionne and Friends
"Earth Angel" - The Penguins
"Stuck in a Moment" - U2
"Where Were They Going?" - Fastball