Originally published in Remote Control 17
Now my charms are all oíerthrown
And what strength I haveís my own,
Which is most faint. Now, Ďtis true,
I must be here confined by you....
But release me from my bands
With the strength of your good hands....
And my ending is despair
Unless I be relieved by prayer....
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.
"All right, who put out the lights?" griped Peter Venkman. "I was watching that. Somebody forget to pay the Con Ed bill?"
Nobody answered. Peter pushed himself up the couch in the darkness, still muttering to himself, and glanced out the nearest window. The streetlight on Mott Street still shone, so it couldnít be a power outage. The guys werenít supposed to be home; Egon and Ray had gone to a conference up at Columbia that had sounded too dry and scholarly to interest Peter, and Winston had a date, leaving Peter in full possession of Ghostbuster Central for the evening. The spud had vanished on his ghost business, probably to raid the neighborhood trash cans, and Peter had settled down to uninterrupted Bogart on the tube, with no Slimer to sneak into the popcorn. Now, all of a sudden, all the power on the second floor had gone off.
"This better not be a ghost thing," Peter called out. "Iíve got a thrower right where I can get at it."
"You wonít need a thrower, Peter."
The voice came out of midair, about two feet in front of him. Okay, so it was a ghost, because there was nobody in sight. And Peter had lied. There wasnít a thrower anywhere on the second floor. Youíre in deep shit, Venkman.
Except for one thing. The voice was familiar.
Peter backed it up in his mind. Not the guys, not his three buddies, thank god, but still, the voice of someone he knew. And ghostly. Shit, who died?
"It isnít death, not as you know it."
"You gonna appear or just project out of the ether?" Peter challenged. Where did he know that voice from? Not his pop, too young. He glanced at the coffee table. There was one of Egonís P.K.E. meters. Great. He snatched it up and turned it on.
It went into a major hissy fit, right off the scale in every way. But not in your normal ghost way. Not standard at all, and not negative valence, either. Wow, whatever this was would be sure to push all Egonís buttons. Heíd have a field day trying to figure them out. Peter hit the Ďrecordí command, so he could play it back for old Spengs when he got home.
"Iím not a ghost, Peter."
"Well, then, give me a clue here. Who are you?" Do I really want to know?
Something materialized in front of him, a white and glowing field, wispy, with streams of energy flowing out from a central location, ethereal and somehow soothing. Almost beautiful. He blinked at the brightness.
"You know me," the voice continued, and in the heart of the light a form took on shape. Dazzled by the glow, Peter squinted at it, then he gasped as if heíd been punched in the gut.
Oh, shit, what is this? Omigod, it canít be Daniel Jackson. Heís out in Colorado at the Stargate Command, not floating around transparent here in the firehouse. He canít be dead.
"I can be wherever I want to be, because time and space are just different aspects of the whole."
"O-kay." Peter stared at the glowing, transparent image of his friend Daniel Jackson. "We gonna do the mystical Shaolin thing here? You Master, me Grasshopper?" His stomach knotted up. The Ghostbusters hadnít had any official contact with the Stargate project for over a year. They stayed in touch with their friends in SG-1, but they hadnít heard anything from them for a couple of months after Jack and Daniel had shown up in New York for a long weekend. Daniel had been fine then. Egon had even had an e-mail from him a week or so ago about some weird ancient language. What the hell had caused this? Some dangerous mission beyond the Stargate on a distant world?
"Are you dead?" Peter asked unhappily. He didnít want to ask that question because he knew he would hate the answer.
"Not as you understand it." Daniel smiled gently. "Iím not like the ghosts you bust, Peter. But my body was dying of radiation poisoning. Not even Jacob could save me with a healing device. He might have kept me alive, but with so much wrong with me I couldnít have stayed with the team, even if Iíd been able to live without life-support equipment. What good would I be like that? A drain on my friends, no use to the planet. But you know about Oma Dessala?"
"The one who took Shifu." Peter had heard that story the last time he was in Colorado. The Ghostbusters were officially temporary members of the SGC on detached duty. Theyíd helped save the world from the return of Gozer a couple of years ago. So in a minor way they were kept in the loop. "Oh, hell. You mean you did this ascension number? You turned into a higher life form or something?" I am not having this conversation. I fell asleep in front of the TV and this is all a nightmare. Thatís it. Just a nightmare.
"Say rather that it is a dream of hope, Peter."
"There you go, reading my mind. Boy, Iíve gotta keep you away from the guys if you can do that. Youíll tell Ďem all my secrets."
Daniel smiled. "Your secrets are never dark ones, Peter. Not unless it is a secret to love your friends and worry about their well-being."
"Well, yeah, I...." He waved that away. "God, Daniel, this sucks. Jack, and Sam and Tealícówhat they must be going through."
Danielís inner glow dimmed slightly. "I know that. Jack understood enough to let me go, but they still grieve. Theyíll call you soon to tell you Iíve gone on. They wonít tell you about this." He gestured at his altered form. "But weíve been through so much together, you and I, that I didnít want you to think Iíd simply died. They canít tell you about this, but I had to."
"But...what are you? You said youíre not a ghost?"
"No. Iíve moved on. The universe is out there waiting for me. Itís so wide, so full of miracles." He glanced around. "Iím sorry the others werenít here, but you can tell them for me. Will you do that?"
Peter nodded. "Iíll tell them. Daniel...god, I donít know what to say. You look...you look so different."
"Transparent?" Daniel said with a slight laugh.
"No," Peter disagreed. "Fulfilled. Content. I never saw you look like that before." Ever since heíd known the younger scientist, Daniel had carried around the weight of his unhappiness over the loss of his wife Shaíre. Even in the middle of his friends, he had often seemed alone, isolated. Now, even more apart from them than ever, that quiet unhappiness had been wiped clean. Danielís eyes shone with renewed fervor.
Abruptly, Daniel bowed his head. "I had to let so much go. Things that mattered to meóand still do. But I have a new purpose, and Iím just finding out about it. I should be spouting mysticism at you, but that was never your game, was it, any more than itís Jackís."
Peter grinned involuntarily at the thought of Jack OíNeill calmly listening to a lot of mystical mumbo jumbo. It was even less his gig than it was Peterís. Heíd seen a lot of strange things after all these years of Ghostbusting, but this might be the strangest, a transformed friend who had become...what? Nearly a god? Winning the freedom of the universe? He wanted to be glad for Daniel because he could see that Daniel was happy for himself, but it was hard when all he could see was how much Danielís friendsóhimself includedówould miss him. "Iím trying to be happy for you," he said more soberly.
"I know itís hard. But, Peter, Iím afraid it will be hardest for Jack, and Sam, and Tealíc. Will you do me one last favor?"
"Anything, buddy. Anything I can."
"You say I look fulfilled and content. Will you take a message to them from me?"
Peter nodded. He had a feeling it would be a tough one, but he owed Daniel so much for taking him in the time the entity had convinced the guys to hate Peter, offering him another life until the spell broke and he could come home, for understanding when Dana Barrett had been revealed as a Tokíra host and had gone offworld to live with the Tokíra. He hadnít heard anything from her since, and he had an idea that she was dead out there, but he didnít ask Daniel about that. He didnít want to know.
If Daniel could read that thought, he must have read Peterís urgent need not to know because he didnít respond to it. Instead he said, "Please, tell Jack that Iím happy in the life I chose. But tell him one more thing, too, and this is something I think you can understand."
"Go ahead, Danny. Iím listening."
"Tell them that Iíll never forget. That, for a little while, they let me be a part of their family, and thatís something I never had anywhere else, except with Shaíre. Iíll never forget it. I...couldnít tell them that when I was dying. It would have hurt them too much. But one day when a little time has passed, will you tell them?"
"Do I tell them Iíve seen you?"
"If you think you should, when the time comes. Youíll know, for you have a knack for understanding people, one you donít always realize. Donít ever lose that, Peter."
"But...are we ever going to see you again?"
"That is possible because everything is." He took a step closer and put out a transparent hand. Peter reached out to it, felt his fingers brush something that felt like pure energy. Touching it was like touching joy and he found himself smiling in spite of the poignancy of the moment. Then Daniel drew back his hand. "Goodbye, Peter. Stand with your friends, because that has always been your greatest destiny."
Then he faded back into the glowing light again, drifting gently in front of Peter as if Daniel stood in the heart of it taking one long, last look.
A second later he was gone.
The lights and the TV came back on, but Peter scarcely noticed them. He stared at the space in front of him and was still staring at it numbly when the telephone rang. Even before he stretched out his hand and scooped up the receiver Peter knew who it was going to be.
"Caller ID?" challenged a familiar voice, a sad and weary voice. "That shouldnít happen."
"Special visitor. He just popped in and out again," Peter said. "I know what youíre calling about, Jack."
"Special visitor?" Colonel Jack OíNeillís voice rose to a screech. "You mean...."
"Drifting around in a white cloud? He was just here. He came to say goodbye." He drew a deep breath. "I donít think heíd want you to grieve, Jack."
"How the hell can I not?" OíNeill blurted out involuntarily.
Peter hesitated, then he knew the answer. "Because you care about him more than you care about yourself. And because heís finally going to be happyóand if anybody ever deserved happiness, itís Daniel."
There was a long, shuddering breath at the other end of the line. Then OíNeill said in a shaky voice that was heavy with unshed tears, "Damn it, Venkman, how do you do that?"
"Because I know how Iíd feel if it had been Egon or Ray or Winston. Iím sorryóIím going to miss him, too, and I was never as close to him as you and your team were. But if it were one of my buddies and it was a choice of that or living on life-support or whatever, and he wanted this, then I hope Iíd be brave enough to want it for him. He isnít dead, not really."
"You only say that because you...youíre used to ghosts." The attempt at flippancy was a total failure. His voice quavered and he had to work to prevent it from breaking.
Peter had to breathe deeply to steady his own voice. "No," he said softly, letting out the inner Peter that he never showed to anybody except his three buddies. "Because I know what it means to love a friend like a brother. And so do you."
"Shit, shit, shit." After that outburst, Jack fell silent a long moment. Peter could hear his unsteady breathing.
"Jack, hereís what you do," Peter said hastily, convinced that only if he talked hard and fast could he hold back his own tears. "You go and find Sam and Tealíc. The three of you go out to OíMalleyís or someplace, and you get blind, stinking drunk. And then you hold onto each other and you cry if you need to. And when youíve done that, you think about Daniel, out there, free, exploring his new nature. Itís a whole new universe for him to explore, and you know how fascinated he gets over new experiences. What a sense of wonder he has. Hold onto that. Okay?"
"Damn it, Venkman...." Jack hesitated, then he said, "Thanks," and put the receiver down quietly.
Peter stood there clutching his own receiver until a dial tone finally clicked in. Then he hung up.
He was still standing there beside the phone when Egon and Ray came in together, talking about the conference theyíd attended. Then Egon saw Peterís face and he stopped talking and nudged Ray.
"Omigod, Peter," cried Ray and lunged at him. "Who died?"
"He didnít die, guys. He transformed," Peter said, and he smiled in spite of the tracks of tears on his face. "Come on, sit down. Iíve got a really incredible story to tell you...."