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Specters

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This story is No. 4 in the series "Cobwebs". You may wish to read the series introduction and the preceeding stories first.

Summary: A shadow, a human-shaped hollow in the air, hovering over his daughter’s crib. His heart was in his mouth as those phantom fingertips brushed the plastic sides, so very close to the oblivious infant within…

Categories Author Rating Chapters Words Recs Reviews Hits Published Updated Complete
Stargate > Joyce-Centered > Pairing: Jack O'NeillStrangerFR1311,5000113,31523 Jul 0823 Jul 08Yes
Disclaimer: I wish I owned them...but if wishes were horses, we'd all eat steak, and certain members of the male species would no longer be capable of procreating. Or breathing.





The first time it showed itself was not two days after the twins were been born.


A small complication had rendered Sara, Dawn and Charlie hospital bound for the next week for run of the mill tests and observation. Jack, immovable, was spending the time camped out on a chair in Sara’s room or drifting about in the nursery, gazing at his children.


It was then that the specter showed up.


Sara was sleeping, and Jack, hopped up on too much bad coffee wandered off to get in some quality baby-watching. They were little time-wasters. He could watch them for hours sometimes, and not get bored. Every little squirm or twitch or sigh was elating and heart-breaking in its perfection.


The nurses on duty gave him indulgent looks through the observation window, and he couldn’t stop himself grinning back.


Then Dawnie waved one of her tiny pink fists, catching his eye, and Jack nearly threw himself through the window in fright.


A shadow, a human-shaped hollow in the air, hovering over his daughter’s crib. His heart was in his mouth as those phantom fingertips brushed the plastic sides, so very close to the oblivious infant within…


And just like that, it was gone. A blink of the eye; a fraction of a second, maybe more, maybe less…just gone.


Jack pressed his hands and face to the glass, breathing harsh but already quieting, his gaze fixed upon his daughter and the space where…whatever it was…had been.


He spent the next twenty minutes under the watchful and impartial eyes of the nurses as he sat by Charlie’s crib and simply held Dawn. She blinked at him with those big dark blue eyes, almost seeming to frown at him.


“I know,” he told her. “I’m a big dumb daddy, seeing things…”


Three weeks later, it happened again.


~~~


There was a fizz in the air, a subtle charge that crawled along his skin and whispered things as he woke. Sara murmured in her sleep, and Jack simply lay watching her for a few moments, before that buzzing feeling came back and drove him out of bed. Restless, he padded downstairs to the kitchen.


His fingertips were shockingly warm against the glass as he filled it with water from the tap. Two gulps and it was gone, and he was pacing on feverish feet back upstairs, as though drawn there.


A flicker at the corner of his eye, he turned to the nursery only to freeze.


The specter.


But was it the same?


Light from the street filtered into the room, haloing it, showing up insubstantial features; the curve of a cheek, the hollow of a throat, the dip of a waist, the long clean lines of a woman’s limbs.


As she leant over Dawn’s bassinet, the light caught, fixed, showing up the gleam of her eyes, and the illusion of tears falling from them.


Jack drew his breath, deeply, and took a single step forward, only to see her disappear, simply folding in on herself and winking out of existence.


“Damn.”


He leapt forward and hovered, breath baited, over his daughter.


There, glistening on the tiny girl’s cheek, was single tear.


~~~


Jack didn’t see the specter for another two years.


One night, having gotten home late from a mission, he found himself camped out on the couch to keep from disturbing Sara with his nightmares. He slouched, brain fuzzy, eyes burning with fatigue but unable to sleep. The TV washed him with ever-changing coloured light, and he stared at it sightlessly.


Funnily enough (and if anyone had seen him they’d have had an chest injury from laughing) he still managed to leap three feet off the couch, perform a neat combat roll behind the nearest armchair and come up scanning the room with suspicious darting eyes…when one of the floorboards squeaked.


And there – there was Dawnie, tiny and bleary-eyed, brown hair fluffy from sleep…and oddly, holding one small hand up in the air, fingers clasped, as though she were holding…


…as though she were holding a person’s hand.


Jack tensed again, but stayed still and silent as his daughter toddled on her little round legs in the direction of the bathroom. Slowly he rose and followed.


It wasn’t until some unseen force nudged the door open for the two-year-old and light poured from the bathroom that he caught sight of her outline.


The specter.


Even more detail this time. He saw again the long clean lines, the neat elegance of her limbs and body. But now he made out the fine lines around her the hollows where her eyes should’ve been, the individual filaments of her dusky blonde hair, the two spots of shiny scar tissue on one side of her throat, about two inches apart.


Like the tines of a barbeque fork, he thought, or human eyeteeth.


Then she turned to look at him, full in the face, and he was trapped in her gaze, watching helplessly as her eyes filled up with colour and soul.


They were green, and Jack fell quietly, sorrowfully in love.


She smiled at him, as though she were about to cry, before melting away to nothing.


There was the sound of little feet pattering over linoleum. Dawn stumbled over to him, blinking.


“Daddy?”


“Hey, squeaker,” he murmured, bending and swinging her into his arms. He flicked off the light and carried her to the stairs. “Back to bed, okay?”


His only answer was a soft “mmph” where she had her downy head on his shoulder.


“Yeah,” Jack muttered. “Back to bed we go.”


The next day Charlie and Dawn came home from a play date, the latter with a bright orange splotch painted on her stomach, claiming it was a “pubkin’d”. Jack forever after called her Pumpkin Belly.


~~~


The last time he saw her, Dawn had just turned fifteen.


He had gone into the house to get the cake, and there she was, a ghost of a woman in a shaft of sunlight filtering in through his kitchen windows. Glorious curling hair, like a crown, and he saw her suddenly as queenly; her bearing and height, the shape of her hands, the fine bones of her face and wrists, the warmth of her skin, the sun upon her shoulders.


This spectral woman, whom he might have loved in another life.


She was watching him calmly, a small smile beginning at the left-hand corner of her mouth.


Jack was hypnotized.


“Who – who – oh, God.”


There was a sound like a sigh and she was at his side, white gown swirling gently with the dust motes. Her hand felt like watered silk against his fingers, her hair as insubstantial as spun sugar as she whispered cobwebs to him, butterfly-wing lips to his ear.


“Love her, save her…”


He gasped out shallowly, “who are you?”


There was only silence and then a feather-light fingertip against his cheek. Jack closed his eyes, sighing out.


“Do you love her?”


“Dawn?”


“Yes, do you love her?”


“More than life itself.”


Her forehead touched his temple. “Then you’ll save her. You’ll keep her safe.”


“Always.”


He turned, bravely, to look at her then. She looked boldly back at him. Brown to green, earth to sea.


“Who are you?”


Warmth flushed through her, like the blush of a sunrise, and he watched as it filled colour into her cheeks, showed up scars on her neck, flushed the whorls of her fingertips.


“Joyce,” she whispered, before she kissed him with lips the colour and textual of rose petals.


Somewhere a door slammed in the breeze. Jack’s eyes snapped open, and he felt more than saw that she had melted away. Something tightened in his chest. He knew that that was the last time he would see her. Joyce was gone forever.


But now he knew where his daughter got her eyes.


~~~


“Dawn?”


“Mmm?” She looked up at him from her tattered copy of Pride and Prejudice. “What’s up? Dad?”


He sat on the bed beside her, level with her elbows. Something must have shown in his face, because she was giving him a quizzical, faintly worried look.


Jack fidgeted for a bit.


“You know I love you, right?”


Dawn scowled. “What do you mean ‘you know I love you?’?” She glowered suspiciously at him. “Are you dying? Do you have cancer? ‘Cos isn’t this the sort of thing people say when they think they’re going to bite the big one?”


When Jack gave her a pained look, she panicked.


“Oh God, you are dying!”


“No! No, no, I’m not dying! Jeez!”


Pause.


“…oh.”


A second pause, in which his daughter gave him a look that was at once affectionate and withering.


“Dad,” she said finally, sitting up and hugging him, “you are a huge sap.”


“Yeah,” he murmured into her hair. “I’m a big dumb daddy…”


…seeing things.





AN: Who says I can't write (mild) intrigue? Review, my dears, review...

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