Finally

Mar. 8th, 2010 02:36 pm
after a loooong dry spell, I have committed fic :-) (It's been so long I can barely remember how to do this *g*)

Adult, but not particularly explicit, SG1, Jack/Janet, J/D, 2700-ish words.

Fits into my 'Revolving Doors' series of fics. It's not strictly necessary to have read either of the others first (Ever Decreasing Circles and One Door Closes), but some small references in this might make a little more sense if you have, since the three are designed to be read as a sequence.

Anyway, missing scene for "Heroes". Much much MUCH thanks to [personal profile] paian, [personal profile] princessofgeeks and [profile] feather_autant for looking this over for me. I've taken some suggestions on board but sadly, ignored others, so any and all remaining mistakes are mine and mine only and due entirely to my own bull-headedness.

And finally - I pinched the 'image' conceit from [personal profile] teand and ran with it, which I sincerely hope she doesn't mind!

to the fic )
I have five-thingsed again :-) Except this time, being a milestone occasion for the comm and all, it's fifty things, which turned into a ficlet. *g*. '50 places Jack and Daniel got it on', parts A, B and C.

About 1400 words in total, humour in parts, rated R.
-- again -- although not quite as late as it seems, since MsB has had this since the day after her birthday. And she said she'd like to share, so...

For MsB with love. And apologies for being quite so late in getting this up. A little birthday ficlet featuring her pairing of choice ;-) Down and dirty betas by [livejournal.com profile] nicci_mac and [livejournal.com profile] ximeria because this was finished at Nicci's kitchen table and they were both handy ;-) Around 800 words and perfectly work safe.

Another day, another dollar )
Lo, I have five-thingsed again ;-)

Five crossword puzzle clues that Jack worked out

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] riverfox and [livejournal.com profile] sharp2799 for looking it over for me and making it a lot better than it started out to be :-) And with [livejournal.com profile] riverfox, it was really above and beyond the call - it's a ::gasp:: gen story :-0

ETA: and now a slightly slashier version is up on my site. Still only PG though *g*
Another entry for the 'better late than never' file: a very, very late Five Things.

Five times Daniel got a language wrong

Fic :-)

Apr. 7th, 2008 09:20 pm
This has been a long time coming (hmm, how appropriate for a slash writer though *g*) - new fic. Untitled, as yet, and I have to say, suggestions would be welcome...

apologia )

Anyhoo: J/D, of course, ER, AMTDI/fuck or die, hard R to NC17, and if I had to nominate a season as a background, it would be roughly s3. Oh, and it's pretty schmoopy, as schmoopy as a hard R/NC17 is able to be. Just a shave over 1200 words. Many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] riverfox for her usual, beautifully nit-picky beta :-) As usual, any remaining mistakes are due solely to my bull-headedness.

Edit: I decided on 'Interplay' as a title, because that's what the fic is basically about, and I liked the punning reference to the stage. Thanks to all who gave suggestions though, they were all a great help in coming up with something :-))

Jack had always speculated about aliens making them do it; he'd never thought it would actually happen. )
New fic :-) Not SG1 this time, but MacGyver. Slash, NC17, written for [livejournal.com profile] nicci_mac, who started the whole ball rolling by making a fabulous cover. An ep tag to the S1 episode "Trumbo's World". For any non-Mac fans who aren't familiar, this is the ep where MacGyver saves a plantation from marauding army ants mainly, yes, by busting a dam *g*. The story is ep-related, but I think it stands alone.

Grateful thanks to [livejournal.com profile] princessofg, [livejournal.com profile] yragg and [livejournal.com profile] feather_autant, whose comments and corrections made this story a whole lot better than it was to start with. Any remaining mistakes are mine alone and due solely to bull-headedness. And it goes without saying, many thanks to [livejournal.com profile] nicci_mac for the cover and for prodding me to get this done.

Dambuster

ROFLMAO!!!

Apr. 9th, 2007 04:54 pm
I was poking around online and went to Joy's site - looking at source code ::sheepish grin:: - and I found this! I'd forgotten all about it...

maybe best forgotten - but it still makes me laugh )

MdB darlin'- we should maybe write some more of these :-D

Um, just so's you know: not overlookable-safe, yanno?
This has been a *long* time getting done: started in 2003, finally finished after a long dry spell. Grateful thanks due to a lot of people other than the usual suspects (Joy, Jen, Carron and Gary) and I'll put up notes to that effect at the very end :-) Be warned though: this has turned out to be one monster fic! 11 parts in all, but it is complete. J/D, ER, rated a soft-ish R unless anyone has any comments to the contrary *g*

Here we go )
Daniel groaned as the ringing of his phone sliced through the layers of the best sleep he'd had in a while and dragged him into partial awareness. He glanced towards the bedside clock and came up empty. Of course, he wasn't at home, was he. With a grimace of annoyance he turned his head to the other side: three a.m. Shit. He'd only been asleep for an hour or so. And then sat bolt upright and groped for the receiver as the implications of its ring at this ungodly hour fully penetrated his consciousness.

"Jackson."

"Daniel, good." It was Janet, though at this time in the morning, that couldn't be great. He snapped on the bedside lamp.

"What is it? What's happened?" Daniel passed a hand over his face, wiping away the remnants of sleep, dragging his brain into focus.

"The colonel's had an episode."

He was on his feet now, phone in one hand, other hand groping for his pants.

"An 'episode'? What the hell is that? What happened?" He tucked the phone under his chin with a hiss of exasperation as he tried and failed to get into his fatigue pants one-handed. That was better, much easier with two hands - now where the hell was his tee? He picked up the whole phone and roamed to the limit of its cable, finally locating his tee half under the bed where he'd dropped it.

"We're not sure what happened. Colonel O'Neill was in considerable pain and then passed out. He's back in the infirmary under observation but he hasn't regained consciousness."

Some juggling with phone and tee and he was finally decent. Socks and boots still to find though, and he was never going to manage them while he was still talking to Janet.

"Okay. I'm on my way up. I'll be there in a few."

He made it in five, barrelling into the infirmary to be met by Janet.

"Janet! What's going on?"

She looked bone weary as she replied. "Daniel, I really don’t have a clue, not yet. Nothing more than I told you on the phone anyway. Herrera was doing the ward rounds. The first time she'd been around, the Colonel appeared to be sleeping. The second time, she noticed he was restless so she went in to check on him. He suddenly grabbed her when she got to the side of his bed. He was quite incoherent. She shouted for help, but before it could arrive the Colonel passed out. And he's been unconscious since then."

Daniel pushed past her and headed for Jack's room.

"He's not there, Daniel. He's back in intensive care."

"Shit." Daniel swung around and lengthened his stride in the opposite direction, Janet almost trotting by his side in the attempt to keep up. "Is he back on the ventilator again?"

"No, no need this time. He's breathing independently. We're monitoring that closely though. I did an MRI and a lumbar puncture before I called you, and I've ordered an EEG. We need to find out what's happening."

Daniel nodded sharply. Yes, of course they did.

They had reached Jack's bed. Daniel stood at the end of it, looking down at the figure lying completely still under the blanket. The monitors kept up a steady beep in the background, rhythmic and regular.

"He looks peaceful. Is he sedated?"

Janet shook her head. "No. He's been like this since we brought him here. No other outbursts. I can't say with any certainty what's happening until we get a chance to monitor his brain activity though."

"You think he might be in a coma?"

Janet looked regretful. "Daniel, we just don't know until we've done the EEG. I've carried out all the immediate physical checks. He's breathing okay, but his pupil reactions aren't normal. His labs are being checked out right now, although we'll have to wait a couple of days for the final results of the lumbar puncture. The EEG equipment will be here very soon and we'll get started the minute it gets here."

"Okay, I'll wait." Daniel pulled a chair over from the wall to a position beside the bed.

Janet looked as if she were about to say something. Instead, as Daniel sat down, she dropped a hand on his shoulder. When he looked up, she smiled faintly, squeezed his shoulder briefly then turned on her heel and went out.

She was back in less than ten minutes accompanied by a nurse wheeling a cart full of electronics. The EEG was hooked up in a very short time. Throughout the procedure, Janet kept up a running commentary. For his benefit, Daniel supposed, although he really wasn't sure. The only sense he grabbed from it was 'it looks like a coma, we just have to wait'. After a while he tuned it out, and thought of nothing at all until she finished up and left.

The next hour crawled past as Daniel watched quietly. Jack didn't move at all but lay completely still. If the monitor hadn't been sending out its reassuring signals, if he hadn't been able to see the shallow rise and fall of the blanket over Jack's chest, Daniel would have thought he was keeping vigil with a corpse. Every ten minutes or so a nurse would drop by, futz with the equipment and then leave with an apologetic shake of her head to Daniel's unvoiced query. Twice, Janet's head appeared around the door of the room. The third time, she came in with a coffee, which Daniel accepted gratefully, wrapping his hands around the mug as though chilled. Which was really stupid, he thought to himself - the infirmary wasn't cold.

While he was sitting there sipping, he reviewed the events of the previous day. His first reaction was that he'd done something to trigger this relapse - but he was damned if he could think what. Jack had seemed perfectly normal when he'd left him - strike that, what had passed for perfectly normal since he'd started to open up a little. He went over it and over it, wondering what the hell could have happened to have caused such a dramatic reaction. He came up empty every time. He'd kept his cool, even though Jack had been unwittingly, or maybe not so unwittingly, pushing him, and he'd avoided everything he'd discarded as being too traumatic. No, there was absolutely nothing there that he could point a finger at and say, 'Yes. That was it.'

Dammit, he hated having nothing to do except hang around.

The next moment he found himself on his feet, startled into reflexive action by the sudden hoarse yell from the bed. Jack was sweating and straining, shaking as if palsied. Another yell and his eyes snapped open as he reared up from the bed, electrodes popping out of the cap and falling back behind him. Daniel lunged for his shoulders and grabbed them, but Jack shrugged him off with ease. Out of the corner of his eye, Daniel saw a roundhouse punch coming from his blindside and tried to duck out of its way. Unfortunately, he wasn't quite quick enough and it connected with his cheekbone with a resounding smack, though thankfully towards the end of its swing rather than midway.

Through the ringing in his head he heard running footsteps as he went to grab Jack and restrain him again. This time he had help: the SF who'd been on duty outside the room took one side and Daniel took the other, both hanging on grimly as Jack bucked and struggled between them.

More rapid footsteps clicking against the cement floor and then Janet's voice, saying, "Restraints, quickly. I don't want him to hurt himself or anyone else. Herrera, you --"

Her voice suddenly cut off as one of Jack's feet kicked out and caught her in the side, dumping her on her butt on the floor. From the corner of his eye Daniel registered that she scrambled quickly to her feet again, a determined expression on her face, stopping only to slap the alarm button with the flat of her hand before launching back into the fray.

A couple minutes' more flailing and scrambling and this time, the footsteps were more solid, heralding a detachment of SFs who barrelled through the door. Jack had been fighting like a madman, wide eyed and snarling, but suddenly he slumped and fell back. Daniel glanced at Janet and she met his gaze, her eyes conveying a shrug as she blew a strand of hair that had worked loose away from her face.

"Stand down, Airmen," she barked. "I think we're free and clear. Herrera, Clark - get those straps secured and get the Colonel comfortable again."

Daniel let go of Jack's shoulders and staggered away from the bed to allow the nursing staff room to work in a room suddenly too full of people, coming up to rest against the wall. He blew out a sigh and gingerly explored the swelling on his cheekbone with his fingertips, taking in a sharp breath through his teeth as the flesh protested. He looked up and met Janet's eyes.

"Another 'episode', huh?"

"And worse than the last one." Janet was brisk as she buckled the strap around Jack's ankle and moved to the other one, dismissing the SFs as she did so. Only when she was done did she stop and feel her side, then rubbed her tailbone, allowing herself a wince as she did so. "Ouch."

"You okay?"

She grinned at him, all their previous mutual animosity pushed to one side. "I'll live. I'll have a butt that looks like a Hawaiian sunset in the morning I guess, but no real harm done. You? Oh hey, you'll need a cold pack for that. Clark, get a pack for Doctor Jackson when you're done there, will you? One for me as well, please. Thank you. You're going to look like you've done five rounds with Mike Tyson if you don't get one."

"I think I'll feel like it anyway. He packs a mean punch."

"No arguments from me." They smiled at each other briefly then Janet was all business again as she started to hook up the EEG.

"We really need to know what's going on here. I'm thinking we can rule out coma though," she said with a wry twist to her lips. Finished, she turned to scan the readout. "And now I'm sure of it. This is interesting,"

Daniel moved up to look over her shoulder. "What? What's interesting?"

"This is what's happening now."

Daniel looked at the readout, watched the steady pattern of peaks and troughs scroll across the screen. "Okay."

Janet continued, "These are delta waves. Just what you'd expect from a coma." She toggled a button on the machine. "And here's the readout from before the Colonel seized. Initially the rhythm was also pure delta, nothing above three hertz. But look here, the pattern changes. These waves are in the region of seven hertz and staying there. These are theta waves. And here, just before the cap was disconnected, there's a huge spike and wave pattern. As if his brain was idling and then something pressed the power switch. None of these waves fall below 40 hertz. They're gamma waves."

"And that means...?"

Janet was frowning, thinking furiously. "I'm not sure." As Daniel made a small involuntary sound of impatience, she qualified, "It does absolutely confirm that the Colonel's not in a coma. Theta waves imply limbic activity. Specifically, hippocampal activity. It's a brain state somewhere between sleep and consciousness and the thinking is that it's associated with memory and behavioural activation. Gamma waves are associated with high level information processing."

Sudden, wild hope blossomed in Daniel's mind. "So, on the brain as computer model he's what? Rebooting?"

"Could be. But it's not quite so straightforward as that. I can't totally rule out the possibility of meningitis until the culture results come through, and that'll take a couple of days. He's not showing any of the associated symptoms - but I can't say for sure until I get those results. If this persists he might be at risk of even more damage. Seizures are never good."

"So what do we do now?"

Janet turned to him and gave him a sympathetic squeeze on the arm. "I'm calling in Doctor Ross for a consult, he'll do more tests and advise me on the suitability of sedation. Then we go back to waiting again. I'm sorry, Daniel. It's all we can do."

Hope faded as suddenly as it had bloomed.

"Great. Just great." Daniel's disgusted mutter was accompanied by a hand scrubbing up through his hair and around over his face. He turned abruptly and snagged a chair, throwing himself down on it hard enough to scrape it back across the floor, and heaving a deep sigh. "Looks like it's going to be a long night."

"There's not a lot you can do here, Daniel. Why don't you --"

Daniel shook his head, a gesture that brooked no argument. "No. I'm staying." He folded his arms across his chest and stuck his legs out in front of him, crossed at the ankle. One look at his expression convinced Janet that his mind was made up. She chewed her lip for a moment then gave him a resigned look.

"Call me at once if anything at all changes. I'm going to go write up my notes until Doctor Ross gets here."

As the door swung to quietly behind her, Daniel shifted his position on the chair. He moved it closer to the side of the bed, angled so that he could keep an eye on the wave patterns on the monitor. Long minutes passed with no variation that he could see: the patterns stayed on the same frequency with hardly a blip.

The minutes slithered into an hour, then two. Ross appeared, ordered some blood work, advised against sedation and then left. Nurses came and went, walking on quiet feet; the machine chirred on in the background, a low electronic hum whispering of sleep. The night shift went off duty and was replaced with the day shift. Daniel's eyes felt gritty and he closed them to get some relief. His head began to droop.

He couldn't immediately figure out what had wakened him from his doze. A sound. A different sound to the ones he'd been hearing for the last - a glance at his watch - three hours. He looked at the figure lying on the bed.

Jack was no longer completely still. His eyes were shut and he was making no sound other than the soft whistling of breath through clenched teeth, but he was straining against the straps that were holding him down. The leather was creaking under the strain as the muscles in his arms and shoulders bulged with effort, veins standing out starkly against bunched flesh. Daniel jumped for the bell and then looked at the monitor. Christ, it looked like the Fourth of July, the waves spiking and changing almost too fast for the machine to keep up.

Jack started to speak just as Janet came through the door, a low mumble that Daniel had to lean right over him to make out. At first it made no sense at all to Daniel, his brain muzzy and disjointed from lack of meaningful sleep, until he realised with a shock that it wasn't English Jack was speaking, it was Arabic. He was cursing and grumbling in fluent Arabic, a thin note of hysteria rising in his voice.

Daniel automatically answered in the same tongue, marginally aware of Janet's nod of approval as she monitored the machine. He reached out to smooth Jack's hair and kept his voice low and soothing, urging Jack to relax, reassuring him that he was safe, taking the chance to slip in the odd endearment among his words, anything to calm Jack down.

It seemed to be working. Jack's voice became quieter and his muscles gradually relaxed. Finally his words petered out altogether and he sighed and lay still again.

"Good job, Daniel," Janet said quietly. He smiled tiredly at her and rubbed his forehead.

"I think I need some coffee."

"The machine's on in my office. I sent out for Danish too. Go help yourself, I'll hold things down here for ten minutes."

"Thanks." He flashed her a real smile and stumbled off in search of temporary nirvana.

As he stared, hollow-eyed, at the wall over the rim of his first mugful, he deliberately tried to think of nothing at all. Even Janet's industrial-strength caffeine was proving no antidote to the dragging exhaustion that was gripping him and did nothing to fortify him against the possibility of hours more of the same ahead, all with an uncertain outcome. He tried a couple of bites of Danish but very soon discarded the idea of attempting to finish it. He was too tired to chew, and tossed the remainder in the trash.

Thinking of nothing wasn't helping, he realised. He didn't need to slide into lethargy, couldn't afford to do that. The lack of progress was dragging him down: despite his reputation as a patient man, he really wasn't when it came down to this. This was way too personal for patience, and he hated balancing on a knife-edge, doing nothing at all of any use, while Jack just got sucked under by this slow, dragging undertow.

For a moment or two, he was irrationally angry with Jack. He always expected Jack to fight as hard as he could. And he wasn't convinced that Jack was fighting as hard as he could right now. But his anger fizzled out and died almost as soon as it reached its peak. He didn't have the energy for that, either. Might have been better if he had, at least he could channel it to give himself the impetus to carry on.

He heard Jack's voice quite clearly in his head: "Survival 101. Whadda we have and whadda we need?" Well right now, he had precisely squat. But, he thought severely to himself, that wasn't about to change if he just sat here holding his own private pity party. He not only could do this, he had to do this. On the thought, he dredged deep, gathered what energy he could, drained his coffee and forced himself to stand and move back towards the ICU.

*

Part 11
*

"I've brought some fresh coffee. Thanks, Airman; just put it down on the table. So. You've had time to think over everything I told you. What do you make of it?" Daniel tossed the question over his shoulder as he held the door open with his hip and gestured with the other shoulder to the accompanying airman to put the tray he was carrying down on the table. The man did so and left; Daniel finally let the door swing shut and crossed the room to dump the armful of folders he was carrying on the table beside the tray.

"Like I said, I don't really know what to think."

Daniel chuckled as he sat down. "And it doesn't sound too convincing, does it? Doesn't matter how many times you hear it, it just sounds completely insane."

He got no response to that one, just a sharp, bright glance before Jack dropped his eyes to the table in front of him.

"It really isn't some sort of elaborate double bluff, you know. Any fucking with your mind was done back on that damned planet, and it stopped as soon as we busted you out of the cell you were in. I'm sure if you could just reach inside yourself, you'd find that your real memories and what I've told you would match up."

Still no comment.

"I uh, I brought along all this stuff if you want to have a look at it." Daniel indicated the pile of folders on the table with a sweep of his arm and a deprecating half smile. "It's all I could find of the paperwork associated with the Abydos missions. I thought maybe if you read it, it might help a little?"

Jack didn't look up and Daniel sighed quietly, tightening his lips.

"I guess not, huh? Okay, we can leave that for now, it's not a problem. So where do we go from here?"

Jack finally raised his eyes from his silent contemplation of the tabletop.

"Maybe you should go over it again. Start from where Hammond briefed me."

Daniel shrugged. "I can't really help you there, I wasn't at the SGC at that time. All that I could tell you would be things that you've told me about it."

"Well then, start from where you got involved with the whole thing."

"When Catherine approached me, or after that?"

"After that. After Hammond had gotten me on board. The first mission."

Daniel was puzzled. "To Chulak? Why there? Why not the first Abydos mission?"

He caught a flash of something he couldn't readily identify in the steady gaze that met him from across the table. Wait, something about Jack's body language, the slightly tense set of his shoulders, suggested that this could be a deliberately constructed pitfall, not just a casual error. So he was on trial here, was he? Interesting - and hopeful. Daniel leaned back in his chair. "General Hammond wasn't in command of this facility the first time we met, Jack. It was General West then."

"West." Jack's brow furrowed as he adopted a puzzled expression. But Daniel wasn't fooled: he still had an air of waiting for something, some subtle confirmation that Daniel was telling the truth. Daniel thought rapidly, and decided to play dumb.

"You don't remember him? Tall, about your height. Heavy set, dark hair, moustache, a real hard ass. Military through and through."

"You didn't like him."

Daniel shrugged dismissively. "It was mutual. He represented everything that I disliked about the military, he was a walking, talking cliché: no imagination and less ability to think independently. He did precisely what he was told. For his part, he looked at me and saw a liberal academic anarchist." Daniel grinned slightly. "I offended his sense of order, I think."

"Yet you worked with him. For him."

Again, Daniel shrugged. "I didn't have a whole lot of choice. It was either that or starve - I didn't have a whole lot of options right then. Plus, the whole thing was fascinating: it was a puzzle that needed to be solved, and one that was well within my area of interest and expertise, one that might give me the validation I wanted. I'd've been crazy to pass up the chance."

He watched Jack carefully and noted the infinitesimal relaxation in his posture as he gave his answer. He'd obviously scored a point or two there, although not enough, not quite yet.

"Anyway, I didn't meet Hammond until I came back from Abydos - after your second mission through the stargate."

"You stayed on Abydos between times."

Daniel's mood darkened as he flashed back to that time. So much water under the bridge, and yet the pain of losing Sha're was still with him, despite what he and Jack had now. He saw her in his mind's eye for a moment, tall and beautiful, infinitely passionate and courageous, and felt a sharp stab of grief at her loss, same as every time he thought about her; felt again the worm of resentment that the life he was building on Abydos was shattered by Jack's reappearance and the Goa'uld's subsequent, casual appropriation of his wife.

Not Jack's fault, he reminded himself. Shit happens. Daniel pulled himself back into the present. "Yes, I stayed on Abydos. I had responsibilities there. I was needed."

"But I came back here. I left you behind."

"You watched my back," Daniel corrected gently. "Same as always, you were on my six. I had to stay: you came home and covered my ass."

But Jack wasn't listening; he was following his own train of thought. "You didn't want to stay."

Daniel's mind skittered away into the morass of emotions that he'd felt then. The way he was needed, not just by Sha're but by a whole planet, balm to his ego after his comprehensive rejection on his home world. The intellectual fascination of living in a fossil culture and having his theories proved right. The desire to help rehabilitate that culture and steer Abydos away from the Goa'uld and their pernicious influence. The resentment that he could never share this with his peers at home and that the military had accepted his decision with such relief - that Jack had accepted it without a fight.

It didn't matter that it had been wrapped up in sentimental packaging: Jack always looked at all the angles in every situation. He would have fully appreciated the neatness of the solution and accepted it as being in his own best interests. Leave the geek behind to vegetate in peace, sweep him and the dangers he represented under the biggest damn rug available.

A particular memory bubbled up to the forefront of his mind. Jack, swaggering through the gate, taking in the scene in front of his eyes, raking the crowd and spotting Skaa'ra. Jack, walking forward towards a hug from his good-brother, shouldering him out of the way with that innate arrogance, that cast-iron cockiness of the alpha male. Strutting his stuff, putting on a display.

He'd known then, subconsciously. Known that Jack wanted him. More than that, he'd known too that in other circumstances, he would have wanted Jack. Always adept at reading people, Sha're had cottoned on quicker than him and gone all out to stake her prior claim. And he was only just realising it now. Funny, he'd always chalked that kiss up to premonition, some vague inkling that she might not see him again; he'd completely mistaken the real reason.

He sucked in a sharp breath as the realisation hit home, then let it out cautiously as he worked through the implications. Sha're had known. He wondered if she'd worked out that deep down, he'd wanted Jack. That he'd for a split second recognised and embraced the tug of mutual attraction that had been there under the surface since the beginning, even though he'd refused to acknowledge it, smothered it, buried it deep. If Sha're had picked up on that, Ammaunet would have delighted to torment her with it, and damn, the knowledge that he might have contributed even more to her pain cut like a knife.

He became aware that the room was very quiet, and that the knuckles of the hand he'd rested on the arm of his chair were showing white. Jack was sitting watching him, a fathomless expression in his dark eyes as they flicked between Daniel's face and his hand gripping the chair, patiently waiting for him to say something.

"Uh, sorry." Daniel forced his hand open and deliberately relaxed the tense set of his shoulders, smiling a smile that didn't quite work. "You were saying?"

"You didn't want to stay. You said you had to stay."

Daniel was plunged back into his own memories again. He had wanted to stay, he had, he'd wanted that so much. He'd wanted to stay with Sha're, to build a life with her, to love her and cherish her, to live happily ever after. He had. He had, damn it. And he'd done that. He'd done the best he could. 'Because,' a treacherous little voice whispered at the back of his mind, 'you knew you couldn't have Jack.' And god help him, he couldn't right at this moment say whether that was true or not.

Jack was still watching and waiting, his expression sharpening into wary speculation. Daniel willed himself to concentrate and cleared his throat.

"I didn't not want to stay, exactly. But I couldn't very well leave either. The decision was more or less made for me. And you supported that decision." Daniel worked very hard to keep any trace of his own turmoil out of his voice. "At the time, it was expedient for you. At least, that was the impression I got. You didn't try too hard to talk me out of it."

"Expedient for us both," Jack repeated quietly, eyes on Daniel's face. He nodded slowly, lips slightly pursed, eyes hooding and going distant, his forehead puckering in a small frown. "Yes, I suppose it was, at that."

It was unnervingly close to Daniel's own thoughts. "You remember that time?"

With a fractional shake of his head, Jack answered, "Not really. It would make sense, though."

An evasion, possibly - Daniel really wasn't sure. But it was a relief to have the opportunity to change the subject.

"Earlier on, you said you remembered some names and faces. Are you any closer to matching them up?"

Jack apparently took the question at face value. Daniel watched his posture change infinitesimally again, as the tension that had been sparking between them and tightening his shoulders ebbed a little, though his brow furrowed in concentration and he made a grimace of distaste.

"Some. Skaa'ra. Tall kid with goofy teeth. Didn't last long once Apophis attacked. Another kid with dreads. Don't remember his name."

"You've gotten them the wrong way around. The tall kid with the teeth was Nebeh. Skaa'ra was the one with the dreads. My good-brother. And that first time, it wasn't Apophis, it was Ra."

Again, Jack's facial expression was at odds with his body language. His face still looked puzzled, but his shoulders were relaxing more and more. Daniel was more than ever sure that he was being tested and wracked his brain to think of the tiniest details to prove his truthfulness.

"You gave Skaa'ra your lighter, do you remember that? I wasn't there when you gave it to him, but you told me about it afterwards. About how such a small thing was such a big deal to him."

Jack was nodding, slowly, the shadow of a ghost of a grin lurking in his eyes, soon smothered into wariness again. Abruptly, he leaned back in his chair, rubbing at his temples with one spread hand.

"What's up? Headache?" Daniel asked sympathetically.

"Yeah, some." Jack's head drooped forward, his shoulders in a weary slump as he rubbed tiredly at his eyes. Daniel glanced at the clock and was again surprised to see how little time had passed, considering how totally wrung out he felt. When he reached for his coffee, it was still lukewarm.

He cleared his throat. "You want to call it a day for now? I can get you some advil and leave you to rest."

Jack didn't answer immediately, staying silent as he rubbed for a few seconds more. Instead he said eventually, "I keep getting another name. Charlie. It seems to come from about that time."

Daniel's gut clenched momentarily with a surge of pure adrenaline. Dammit, this was the last place he'd wanted this conversation to go. He worked hard to retain his game face and said, neutrally, "Do you get a face to go with it?"

"Not sure."

Was Jack stalling or not? Daniel had to decide, and decide fast. If Ross was right, and emotional memory was the key, Jack surely couldn't be remembering his son. No way would he be this controlled, bearing in mind what a basket case he'd been at the time. Not even Jack was that good. But if he was remembering the face and not the relationship, fudging the issue now might be a good chance lost.

Daniel covered his indecision with a façade of consideration and forced his voice to come out easily, with nothing but convincing undertones. "Charlie Kowalski." He nodded his head decisively. "He was on the team for the first few missions."

"No, I don't think so. The name doesn't go with the military, somehow."

Not stalling then. Daniel gave Jack what he hoped came off as a guileless half smile, shrugged and took refuge in semantics. "Then I can't help you, I'm afraid. I never met another Charlie that you knew."

"Ah." The neutral syllable hung in the air between them as Daniel endured Jack's gaze, feeling the cold sweat of reaction trickling down his side, under his jacket.

"It'll maybe come to you."

"Maybe. It's no big deal, I guess." Jack winced and ducked his head as he spoke. When he glanced up briefly, Daniel could see the lines of strain around his eyes.

"Your headache's getting worse."

"Yeah." Jack pinched the bridge of his nose. "Yes, it is. I think I will have to call it a day. Sorry."

"No, 's okay. To tell the truth, I'm feeling kinda tired myself." And he needed a chance to reflect and regroup. Daniel started to gather up the unread files from the table in front of him. "We could probably both do with a break. I can come back tomorrow. Meantime, I'll scare up that advil for you."

Jack didn't look up again as he replied, "Okay. Thanks."

Daniel was never so pleased in his life to get out of Jack's presence and back to his quarters.

*

He lay quietly in the dark, forearm across his eyes: he was bone tired, but sleep was eluding him, his mind buzzing with everything that Daniel had told him, before dinner and after. This was giving him the mother of all headaches despite the pills he'd taken. It all seemed to chime, it all seemed to fit, and yet -- and yet, it all felt like it had happened to someone else, not to him. Like reading a book, getting involved in the story but leaving it when the book was closed. It seemed to happen all the damn time. When Daniel was talking to him, was physically there, the stuff in his mind made perfect sense, hung together in a totally logical and believable way, had clarity and immediacy even if there were still gaps. Then, when he was left alone, the clarity blurred and the immediacy got muffled.

Although Daniel had lied to him today. He knew it, couldn't say how he knew it, couldn't pinpoint the lie - but he was as certain of that as he'd ever been of anything in his life before. What he'd been starting to take for solid ground underneath his feet was nothing of the sort. And the knowledge left him feeling off balance, more rootless than he'd felt in a while.

Daniel, Daniel, Daniel. He gave a soft snort of impatience. It always seemed to lead back to Daniel, god alone knew why.

Daniel, wearing rough homespun robes, snickering as he choked on Skaa'ra's rough moonshine. His own immediate reaction to play to the gallery to save his blushes at not being able to handle it. Daniel, looking a little embarrassed and thoroughly bemused at nearly getting his face sucked off by his wife. Again, his own reaction: a sharp stab of envy, but overall amusement, not unmixed with admiration, that Sha're was prepared to take him on in a pissing contest. Daniel, his hair all mussed, looming above him red-faced and sweaty, head thrown back, eyes hooded and mouth stretched in a gape of pleasure that sent a current straight to his groin; Daniel glancing up at him with a lusty smile in his eyes, mouth wrapped around his dick and sucking hard, cheeks hollowing with effort; him guiding his own cock with one slippery hand, thrusting into slick warmth as Daniel urged him on, ass pushing back to meet him half way --

Where the hell had that come from? The images were so startlingly, vividly arousing he was hard-pressed to tell if they were genuine memories or merely wishful thinking. A small voice in his head whispered, 'Stockholm Syndrome' (now what was that?) but he dismissed it after the briefest consideration. That came from the reasoning side of his brain, don't ask him how he knew it, and he was still going with his instincts, just as he'd decided all those hours ago. And his instincts were giving him a five-alarm alert about Daniel.

So, what then? He was a faggot? He thought about it for a moment or two before he dismissed it - no big deal if true. He apparently either had been fucked by, or wanted to be fucked by, Daniel. Okay, now that was a bigger deal; that had implications for his current situation. He pursed his lips as he considered this new bit of information about himself. It was a bit of a surprise but he could live with it. His belly and his groin were certainly suggesting that he accept it as true even if they couldn't confirm that his visions had really happened (although he wasn't entirely convinced that he had that good of an imagination). He definitely found Daniel attractive. He shook his head irritably. This was an added complication that he could have done without.

Or maybe... maybe not a complication. Maybe it was something more than that, maybe it was him, the real him. Maybe Daniel was more than a fantasy, more than a colleague, more than what he'd presented himself as. The more he considered it, the more the idea sang to him and his cock thickened and lengthened in response.

As his arousal grew, the images came faster and faster and his arm dropped away from his eyes. His head was aching, but his dick was hard and aching worse. He opened his eyes against the darkness but could see nothing but white, piercing his nerves, scoring his brain with fire. And then against the white, Daniel again, mouth agape in a silent moan, lowering himself to sit on his dick with a shudder; writhing under his lips as he followed the faint trail of hair down over Daniel's stomach; Daniel thrusting into his mouth, his hands keeping up a quiet, unrelenting pressure on the back of his head; Daniel nosing his dick into his ass, causing bone jerking detonations of pleasure as he unerringly hit his prostate time after time after goddamn time.

Himself now, half out of his mind with pleasure and passion, begging, croakily pleading with Daniel to finish it now but wanting it to last for hours; him again contentedly mouthing Daniel's softening dick, the astringent, slightly ammoniac muskiness of Daniel's come catching at the back of his throat; sliding through the cooling mess of his own come on Daniel's leg...

Unconsciously, he was palming his cock through the cloth of his pants despite his headache. As the images sped up, each one more detailed, more real than the last, his hand sped up to match. Jeeze yeah, that was it, he was nearly there now even if it did hurt like hell.

As he built towards orgasm, the image in his head abruptly changed. A young girl, a pretty one at that, coming out of a doorway. Long dark hair swung against her narrow shoulders as her head turned at his call. The split second before it happened, he knew what was coming with an awful, sinking certainty that gripped his bowels and wilted his erection immediately.

The pretty face was still smiling despite the small round hole in her forehead as the back of her skull exploded into fragments, blood and brains spraying in a wide arc and falling to the ground alongside her as she swayed a little on her feet and crumpled downwards. And he knew with a sudden, sick conviction that this was no metaphor, nor was it his imagination: this was a memory. He'd waited for five hours for her to come out, crouched in a ditch with his weapon at the ready. His fucking feet had nearly frozen solid while he'd waited. He'd screwed her over on orders one day and killed her on orders the next, and hadn't felt more than a vague pang of regret.

The scene changed: the memory of dry, desert heat felt real against his skin. He stood in the rubble, amidst the scattering of small body parts, turning one small, brown, headless torso over with the muzzle of his gun. A child, maybe seven, maybe eight, maybe older: difficult to tell, the kids tended to be scrawny here. He'd planted the charges after he'd queried the intel. 'They say it's an orphanage. Just innocent kids,' he'd said. 'And one of those supposed 'innocent kids' suicide bombed a checkpoint,' his CO had replied. 'Three SFs died. Three guys with wives and kids who are never going to see those kids grow up. Eight kids left without a father.' There were maybe some innocents there, but -- collateral damage. Unavoidable in wartime. Be swayed once by the 'human shield' argument and they'd never win this war. What mattered was carrying out his orders and keeping his comrades safe. And God help him, he'd considered it and agreed, and gone ahead with the mission.

Jesus Christ! Was this really the kind of man he was? The kind of sick fuck who'd blow kids to hell and count that a victory?

The image segued again: the torso had a head, an achingly, horribly familiar head, tow headed and freckle faced. Jesus fuck no! Not Charlie! Not his bright, beautiful little boy, please God no! Not him lying slack-faced and pale in an obscenely bright puddle of blood while a voice in the back of his mind whispered, over and over, "Karma"...

He may have screamed as the pain in his head passed severe and reached unbearable: he wasn't sure if he had or he hadn't. All he knew was the body that miraculously appeared at his bedside and the way that he clutched at the hands that were reaching out to him, and the hoarse begging to make the pain stop some way, any way possible, before he spiralled down into the dark.

*

Part 10
He had him some serious thinking to do if he was going to make any sense of all this.

He pushed his lunch tray to one side and tipped his chair back onto two legs, swinging idly while he considered all the information that was jostling for space in his thoughts.

The whole thing felt wrong, somehow. And he wasn't sure exactly why, so that seemed a reasonable place to start. It wasn't just the change of tactics over the last few weeks, although that had been a continuing worry, that good treatment would succeed where ill treatment had failed. No, it wasn't that. He hadn't relaxed his guard at all, hadn't let anything slip, had managed rather well, in fact, to be non-committal enough to keep faith with his mission but not so offhand as to invite ill-treatment.

Now that was an odd way of putting it – 'keep faith with his mission'? Was that really what he was then? Onyel, the soldier? More than that, O'Neill the Colonel? He finally believed that after all? Or was that just the product of finding himself in an obviously military environment? Come to think of it, he did feel oddly at home here...

Consistency, that was what was bothering him: they were remarkably consistent. Daniel, Hammond, Fraiser, Carter and Teal'c when they'd been around, they'd none of them varied an iota from the line they were feeding him throughout the time he'd been held here. Was anybody ever that good? Part of him was willing to believe that they might be, hell, he had the evidence right in front of his nose. The other part, the part that was somehow gaining in confidence, wasn't so sure. Was becoming downright certain, in fact, that nobody could be so consistent, could carry all this stuff in their head without ever dropping their guard, making a foolish blunder. Fair enough, there had to be a first time for everything, but still... No, whichever way he looked at it, their sheer plausibility was impressive.

Okay then, suppose he rolled with it. They were both plausible and consistent because what they were telling him was the truth, it wasn't the mind-fuck to end all mind-fucks. As theories went, it had a lot to recommend itself: trouble was, there was no hard evidence to back it up apart from the periodic chaos of images in his own head. And this could be used as evidence either way. Damn it, he hated circular arguments.

It all came down to who and what he could trust, which held an irony of its own: he suspected that at the best of times he wasn't really a trusting soul. But at the moment, all he had to work with was his instincts, since his reasoning was still obviously not quite up to par, and those instincts were giving him a message now that contradicted all that he had previously thought about his situation. The kindness was too sustained to be a trick – and besides, he was sick and tired of just sitting around waiting for the other shoe to drop. Maybe he should take everything that he'd been told about his condition at face value.

The shouted denial that echoed through his mind startled even him. Instinct was well and good -- it had saved his butt on more than one occasion, but he was not used to running on instinct alone. Reaction without analysis was a loose cannon, pushing you into making unnecessary, sometimes fatal, mistakes.

He worried at the thought for a moment or two, then he realised that it too came from the reasoning part of his brain, the part that had been apparently letting him down all along. The part that supplied his hunches seemed to be functioning far better; maybe it was time to really go with that, open up and just ask, for crying out loud.

The reasoning part of his brain was putting up a spirited defence though. He thought back to when he'd originally been taken from his room, knotting his brow in frustration when he realised that his recollection of those events was becoming distinctly foggy for no apparent reason. But he didn't have time to worry about that right now, it would keep until he'd worked out the problem in hand. Something had happened then, something that had made him disinclined to trust any of his new acquaintances, something he needed to put his finger on. Something to do with Katen...

That far he could get, but no further. Whatever that 'something' was, it kept slipping out of his grasp: the harder he tried to clutch at it, the further it receded. He remembered someone, somewhere, sometime way back, once saying to him: 'If you stop actively thinking about it, it'll probably come back to you.' Not the best advice, possibly, but all he had for now. Worth a try, anyway, in the absence of anything better. He let his thoughts drift and was rewarded with a sudden certainty: Daniel. He could trust Daniel. And he had no idea why, but his instincts seemed absolutely sure of it.

He closed his eyes and let the reasoning part of his mind drift some more while he attempted to allow his instincts to clarify themselves and provide some explanation for this conviction. Another varied slew of images drifted up from under: Daniel poring over something or other cradled in his hands, turning it over and over, frowning in concentration, oblivious to his surroundings. Daniel glancing up at him, his face alight with laughter, something not many people saw that often, he was sure, although he couldn't have said why. Daniel stomping around waving his arms, eyes flashing with irritation, arguing passionately with him about who knew what. A much younger Daniel, sneezing and stumbling around, generally bugging the shit out of him; that same Daniel drawing in the sand, looking puzzled as the small, swarthy man standing in front of him erased what he'd done with one foot and a startled exclamation.

The pictures surfacing inside his head were vivid and compelling, most especially the ones that involved Daniel in some way. Real memories of real events and situations, bright and three-dimensional. Convincing, somehow, in a way that he didn't think they would have been if he'd merely been told about them or they'd been induced by drugs.

His chair settled onto all four legs with a thump as he jerked upright, shaking his head with annoyance. This half-life deal was starting to get more than aggravating and his patience was wearing thin. Just when he thought he was maybe getting a handle on things, something else came along and threw him for a loop. Maybe it was time, if he was ever to put a stop to all this white noise inside his head, to start doing a little fishing of his own – no overt questions, he still probably wasn't quite up to taking that risk, couldn't make the calculations come out right – but maybe bait a few hooks and trail them in the water, see what he could find out obliquely. At least try and get his reason and his instincts working together again.

He glanced up at the clock. Fourteen hundred hours: good, that meant Daniel would be back again soon after his lunch, ready and willing to talk. He found that he was looking forward to it now that he'd finally decided on his course of action, and waited for the next quarter of an hour in a mood of rising impatience. Now that the decision was made, he wanted to get going before any objections could surface, 'cause he just knew that if he waited long enough some other consideration would jump out and bite him in the ass.

A knock on the door heralded Daniel's arrival and with the knock, his resolve started to waver and he started to feel a little shaky again. He was about to take a huge risk here, against all common sense. Maybe he should just forget it after all, because if he was wrong --

No, he wasn't going to go there. He'd considered the angles and thought the risk was worthwhile. He forced the half-acknowledged fear down as Daniel's head came around the edge of the door.

"Hey! Can I come in?"

He noted that Daniel actually stood in the doorway and waited for his reply rather than just barging straight in and this odd little observation coupled with the sudden realisation that this was what Daniel always did helped settle him in a way that nothing else quite could. Daniel held all the cards here, but until now he had never abused his position of strength. That could all change of course and he would do well to bear it in mind, but for now he allowed the thought to boost him. He waited until Daniel had settled himself in the chair on the other side of the table before he took a deep breath and said tentatively, "I know you."

There, it was done, for better or worse. Now all he could do was wait and see if his boldness had brought the whole thing crashing down on his head.

*

"I know you."

Daniel blinked at the unexpected approach and wondered what was coming next. This was the first time Jack had actually initiated a conversation. He seemed more animated than usual, excited almost, even though it was carefully banked down, wouldn't be obvious to anyone who didn't know him very well. He fought a brief internal battle to remain calm himself as he said slowly, "Yes, you do. You've known me for a lot longer than you've been back here. We go back a long way."

"That's what I mean. I know that I know you, I just can't quite..."

"Why not take a moment or two to think about it, see if you can't come up with something concrete?"

The mobile face knotted in an agony of concentration: Daniel had the strangest feeling that there was some form of internal argument going on here which he was not party to, before it rearranged itself into an expression of calm acceptance and Jack blurted out, "You’re... the geek."

Daniel fought hard to keep his expression as bland as he could as his emotions went haywire, but something must have shown in his expression because Jack’s face crumpled into defeat tinged with a flash of alarm. His head dropped and he muttered, "No, I’m sorry. I was wrong. I must have been thinking of someone else. Sorry."

"It’s okay, Jack. Don’t worry about it." And then with the urgent realisation that he had to reassure Jack further, keep the lines of communication open any way he could, he added with a smile, "You’re part right, that’s how you used to think of me. At least, it was how you thought of me when we first met. We’ve moved on since then."

"I’m sorry. I didn't mean to step out of line." The response was muffled, Daniel had to strain to hear.

"Don’t be. You haven't, not really. It’s a start."

Daniel waited quietly, wondering if this was indeed the start of the breakthrough, hoping against hope that Jack wouldn't retreat back into his shell. The silence stretched out and his hope gradually faded. No, damn it, he wasn't going to give up hope yet. Maybe he could prod Jack along a little further.

"Exactly how much do you remember about me? About us and what we've done together?"

Jack's head stayed down, and Daniel thought that he was going to get no answer. Damn, he felt he had been this close to getting something positive out of Jack, to starting to blast past the walls that had been erected in Jack's mind. There had to be something that he could do, or say, that would help.

Jack's answer, when it came, was muttered so quietly to the tabletop that he almost missed it.

"Some. It feels like I remember some. Just bits and pieces, all jumbled up and making no sense."

With a sudden spike of irritability, he looked up at last and added, "They crowd me. Faces with no names, names with no faces, bits and pieces of events that I'm not even sure have happened..."

His voice tailed off again, his small spurt of irritation spent, and went back to his contemplation of the tabletop. No, not the tabletop: it took Daniel a moment or two to realise that the object of his concentration was different, but when he noticed, his heart leapt in his chest. Jack was drumming his fingers, both hands going at once, and his attention was on them.

Daniel felt like cheering out loud. This was the first time he'd seen this since Jack's return. Since he'd recovered consciousness, he'd been unnaturally and worryingly still, the hands that were usually so restless lying lax and immobile. This had to be the start of something good. He considered his next move. First order of business, force his emotions to behave - he had to remain calm, he didn't want to spook Jack now of all times. Fine, he could do this: just as he'd said to General Hammond, this was just another mission, another first contact, this was what he did.

"Would you like me to tell you about it again?"

The hands stilled again at once as Jack looked up again, a familiar assessing look in his eyes: another first. Daniel held his breath and made a concerted effort to relax, to keep his body language open and unthreatening, but in the confines of his head he was praying hard for a positive answer, willing Jack to make the leap of faith.

"Yeah, I suppose."

The feeling of relief was dizzying but he didn't dare show it. Daniel forced it down and when he felt composed enough, said neutrally, "What would you like to know first? You must have so many questions."

Damn it, he'd made a mistake there. Fear flared briefly in Jack's eyes before they dropped again to stare at the hands, now curling into fists on the tabletop. Daniel thought furiously, wondering how to get the conversation back on track again. He'd tried so hard to keep it innocuous, so what the hell had he said that was wrong? He'd just invited Jack to ask questions, it had to be something to do with that, everything had been going well up until that point. Acting on a sudden hunch, Daniel took a deep breath and started to talk.

"O-kaay, I can see you're not comfortable with that idea. How about I just start from the beginning, from when we first met, will that be all right? You can just listen, and pitch in if and when you do feel comfortable."

When no answer was forthcoming, he plunged on. Later, when he was thinking about it, he couldn't have said exactly what he talked about, only that he seemed to talk for hours. His mouth and his brain seemed to be acting totally independently. The story of the original mission and the reopening of the 'gate poured out of him again, in one continuous narrative this time rather than piecemeal as before, but he wasn't paying attention to that: he was watching Jack, cataloguing the moments when his hands relaxed again, when his interest was kindled, when his head came up and he really started to pay attention, when he looked sceptical and when something of what he was telling him connected some of the dots.

When he eventually ran out of words, Jack sighed, leaned back in his chair and said with a small measure of satisfaction, "So we have a history then."

A statement, Daniel noted, not a question. So his hunch had been right. He smiled his relief as he answered, "Yeah, we have a history." And maybe they'd just been given hope for their future back too. "So. What do you think?"

"I think... I don't know what to think."

"Yeah, I suppose it's a lot to take in at one time."

Daniel glanced at his watch, surprised to find that only a couple of hours had passed since he'd returned after lunch. "Tell you what, why don't I go and see if I can't scare us up some decent coffee? Then I'll leave you for a while to give you a chance to think it all over, see if it makes sense to you, see if it prompts any more memories. I'll come back this evening, after we've eaten, will that be okay?"

"Fine. That will be fine."

"Okay."

*

Plausibility. That was what it all came down to. Or maybe -- not. Thinking about what he'd just been told now that Daniel had gone, plausible and credible came fairly far down the list of possible adjectives to describe the content. Try far-fetched maybe, or lunatic. Virtually instantaneous trans-galactic travel via rings made of stone, for crying out loud, how believable was that? Egyptian gods - sorry, actually a race of megalomaniac snakey-assed aliens - surviving in the twentieth century, throwing their weight about, threatening the existence of the planet, travelling in giant space-worthy pyramids? Yeah, maybe in some crazy sci-fi scenario. And Daniel seriously expected him to believe it all, to eat it up with a spoon? Pfft!

And yet, while Daniel had been feeding him this load of baloney, he'd almost believed him. It was only now that he'd left that doubts were starting to set in. He'd certainly scored more than a few direct hits with the stuff that had been floating around in his head for the past week or so, stuff that he was pretty sure he'd never mentioned to anyone here. And when you really got down to it, what possible advantage could there be in spinning some yarn that was so far off the wall and getting him to believe it? None that he could see no matter what angle he approached it from. Very much the reverse, in fact: Daniel had spent a huge amount of time trying to win his trust. And Daniel was nobody's fool. Why suddenly go and blow the whole deal when he must have realised he was this close to doing exactly that? If he himself'd been feeding someone a line now, he'd at least have made sure that it was a credible one, not some load of batshit crazy mumbo jumbo.

It was almost crazy enough to be true. And Daniel obviously did expect him to swallow it, showed every sign of believing it himself, every last far-fetched morsel of it. He'd had a lot of opportunity to observe Daniel closely over the last couple of weeks, and one thing that he was certain of was that he wasn't much of a dissembler: his emotions were easy to read in his eyes no matter how hard he tried to hide them. And he was nobody's fool either, that was a given. He wouldn't be able to carry off such a blatant fantasy, either emotionally or intellectually, unless he believed it himself. And he'd positively radiated sincerity.

So who exactly was the basket case here? It had to be one or the other of them. Or both. Yeah, make that definitely both, because perverse as it seemed, on balance he was inclined to make a leap of faith and believe Daniel. Crazy sounding nonsense or not, it seemed to fit, both with the situation he found himself in now and with the bits and pieces that he was coming to think might be real memories.

At least now he had a way of testing it out. He could and should ask. And no, he wasn't going to get all twitchy at the thought of asking a few simple questions, it was the obvious thing to do: he had to get over this ridiculous aversion. He didn't need to make them obvious questions though, or rather, questions with obvious answers: if he could ask obliquely enough, cryptically enough to allow Daniel to tangle himself up in ambiguities if he was in fact lying, then the proportion of direct hits that chimed with his memories would give him the benchmark he needed for measuring the truth about this whole deal.

Dead simple, as strategies went, and because of that, very pleasing. It felt right somehow, in tune with experience, inclination and training. The least convoluted plans were always the best ones. And he was finally, at long, long last, back on surer ground.

He even retained the presence of mind to turn his head out of view of the camera in one corner of his room, just in case, before letting a smug grin split his face. Man, that felt good. It had been a long time since he'd felt he had anything to smile about.

*

Part 9
It was strange: in this place he seemed to have so many names. He was Onyel, he knew that for a fact, but the only person who ever called him this was the huge black guy with the golden mark on his forehead – Talc. No, Teal, Teak, something like that. And even he didn't get it quite right, spoke the name with a strange emphasis, putting the stress on the wrong syllable – 'O-neel'. He supposed the guy must be foreign. Everybody else seemed to call him a variety of names, some of them even changing what they called him according to circumstances. It was very puzzling, but he was learning to respond to 'Colonel', 'Jack', 'Sir', 'O'Neill', 'Son', even if he didn't entirely believe that they all applied to him.

Mentally he tried the name and title out, rolling them on his tongue, trying to apply them to himself. Jack O'Neill; Colonel Jack O'Neill, United States Air Force, and didn't that just sound important... Nah, he couldn't see that, not at all. Just Onyel the drone, Onyel the insignificant, Onyel the disposable. Delusions of grandeur there, buddy, just a cog in the machine. And don't stray off the point again. Consider that an order.

In its own way, this place and its customs were just as frightening as Katen's regime had been. The methods were different though, that much he was grateful for. The food was regular, it was warm and comfortable, and no one had hit him yet in all the time he'd been here. So on balance, he supposed he was lucky. But this feeling of rootlessness, never quite knowing what was expected of him - that was unsettling. Made him wary, always on edge, always scared of doing something so wrong that the surface kindness would stop and the beatings and starvation would start over. So he minded his manners, and did his best to be submissive and compliant.

But even in this, he had the nagging feeling that somehow, he wasn't getting it quite right. This feeling was always strongest with the one called Daniel. Which was unfortunate, because Daniel was the one he seemed to see the most of; he was nearly always there. He had had to watch him pretty closely for that reason, and had caught some strange looks in the man's eyes, even when he was on his absolute best behaviour, making himself as agreeable as he knew how. Actually, when he thought about it, particularly when he was on his best behaviour.

Maybe he should just ask him what he was doing wrong, before he did something so wrong that the kindness stopped.

The thought started to scare him virtually the moment he thought it. Questions had not been encouraged in the other place, Katen's place. He had asked a few in the early days, with the inevitable unpleasant results, and he wasn't about to test any theories about whether or not the results would be the same in this place. 'Don't ask, don't tell.' The phrase drifted up out of his subconscious: where he'd heard it before, he had no idea. He knew it was significant though, and not to the other place. It was something he associated with where he was now – maybe something he'd overheard when he was on the edge of consciousness some time. Whatever, it seemed like sound advice.

Except, there seemed to be so many questions. Sometimes his head seemed to be so stuffed full of them that he could hardly think through the jumble. Bits and pieces of stuff floated into his head at all odd times of the day and night, sometimes in dreams, sometimes just popping up out of the blue, snatches of non sequiturs that seemed so real to him but so unrelated to everything he knew about himself. It was like watching a kaleidoscope, everything whirling around and settling into a pattern that lasted until the next piece popped up. Then everything whirled around again, settled into a new pattern. The patterns never lasted long enough for him to get a handle on them, just sent his thoughts off at strange tangents.

He seriously wondered if this was insanity, then dismissed the thought. If he was rational enough to question his rationality, then he couldn't be insane, could he? He certainly felt more rational than he had for a while. On the other hand, wouldn't insane people grab onto the fact that they could question their sanity in an odd rational moment to argue that they weren't insane? Maybe you could go insane just thinking about going insane; it was certainly driving him nuts. Not that being officially nuts mightn't come as a relief in a strange way, giving him license to plunge into the maelstrom and not care about the consequences.

No, he wasn't going to consider going nuts. As a strategy, insanity sucked even worse than indecision. He absolutely would not go down that route. Nor was he going to consider the possibility that he was nuts before this whole nightmare started, that this jumble of nonsense inside his head represented a return to what passed for normality for him, 'cause it sure didn't feel normal.

But if it wasn't insanity, what did that leave? Not a whole lot of options, if he was honest. In fact, far as he could see it boiled down to two. Either his current hosts - no, not 'hosts', he wasn't altogether comfortable using that term for some reason - were telling the truth, this was his home, he wasn't Onyel but rather O'Neill and he genuinely couldn't remember, or they were lying for some arcane purpose that he couldn't fathom. But try as he might, he really couldn't think of a valid reason for them to keep the fiction up for this long, if fiction it was, couldn't see how it would possibly serve their purposes to allow him to reclaim more and more of his mind. Because that was what was happening, he was sure of it now that he'd ruled insanity out. Well, fairly sure that it wasn't just wishful thinking, anyway.

Unless, of course, they had simply miscalculated. He'd noticed over the past week or so that immediately after he was given whatever those pills were that the doctor insisted he take, the stuff stopped surfacing in his head, for a while at least. But that 'while' was definitely getting shorter, had been ever since he'd been brought here. And although that had a downside in that it allowed the jumble back in full force, at least eventually it all subsided and he had periods like now where he could think with perfect clarity: all in all, he was grateful for that too.

Although he would be more grateful if he could organise his thoughts into a coherent plan of campaign: he had a nagging feeling that in his normal state of mind, strategising was something he was fairly competent at, and it was disturbing that this ability had apparently deserted him just when he really needed it. Well, he would just have to wait and see, it was all he could do: wait and see what they had planned for him, wait and see if he got any better at planning himself.

One thing he did know for sure though: he really, really sucked at just waiting to see.

*

Now that he had a deadline, Daniel was starting to feel nowhere near as confident of his abilities to break through and reach Jack as he had when he was arguing for the chance to try. One lousy week. What sort of a difference was that going to make after two solid weeks of trying, and getting nowhere?

Maybe his approach was wrong. Maybe 'softly-softly' wasn't the way to go about this. Maybe he wasn't the right person to be doing this no matter what his approach, despite his earlier conviction that he was the only person who should be doing this. Maybe Janet was right and professional help was the only option. So many 'maybes'.

It was a blow to his pride. He'd been so totally certain that he'd be able to break through the walls that Jack was holding in place, that something of his memories would have survived, and if he was completely honest with himself, that that 'something' would be the bond they shared, the sense of fulfilment they'd found when they'd finally found each other. That this would be the bridge to what Jack had lost.

He cursed himself for a silly romantic fool. It hadn’t worked with Sha're after all, had it? And what they'd shared was at least the equal of what he and Jack had found. He might have been expected to have had the brains to work out that it wouldn't work this time either and to have thrown in the towel long since. That was the worst of idealism; it so often tossed cold common sense right out the window.

And cold common sense was now telling him that his failure wasn't much of a surprise. Jack had no reason to trust him if the bulk of what he could remember with any clarity was his time in that wretched cell and what happened when SG1 arrived to bust him out. He was bound to be aware, even peripherally, of the events leading to his location and rescue, and he was bound to have put two and two together about Daniel's starring role in locating him, and come up with a resounding four: he was amnesiac, after all, not idiotic, and Daniel's actions at the cells had not been remotely guaranteed to inspire confidence in someone who didn't know him. Trouble was, he could see no way out of it: unless Jack trusted him, he'd never open up, never give him his best chance of jogging a genuine memory out of him. And conversely until he could jog Jack's memory, get him to trust at last, he'd never open up. Damn it, he'd realised that he was going to suffer for his actions, but he hadn't before stopped to consider that they might bite him in the ass in just this way and coincidentally prolong Jack's suffering as well. What a fucking mess.

It would help if he were at least getting some sleep. Between researching all he could find about amnesia in every spare moment, trying to keep on top of his departmental duties and spending hours sitting with Jack, he was putting in long days. He'd hoped in the early days that exhaustion would keep the inevitable sleep disturbances at bay, but the hope had proved to be groundless. No matter how hard he worked, how bone tired he was when he finally dropped into his bunk in the guest quarters, he doubted if he'd had more than two or three consecutive hours of sleep since his first night back before being wrenched awake, brain racing in circles, worrying at the problem of how to get Jack back. Hiding it from Janet and his team mates was an additional strain, although in that at least he'd seemed to be successful – one small victory to chalk up, he supposed, at least he had nobody nagging him. Not that he would have paid much more than lip service to it, but it was one less drain on his energies. And now that Teal'c and Sam were temporarily reassigned to other units and had both gone off world, he only had to worry about keeping up a front for Janet, which made life that much easier still. On the downside, his intuition and creative thinking seemed to be letting him down just when he was most in need of them.

Damn it! This was so frustrating! He wasn't used to spending so much time thinking about a problem and still coming up empty, especially not one that mattered as much as this did. He wasn't just fighting for Jack's life and career, he was fighting for his own. He missed Jack, his Jack, lover, friend, sparring partner and confidant, with an ache that was frighteningly physical, an ache that got worse every single time he had to confront the shell of the man he'd known.

The shrilling of his office phone cut across his thoughts. He uncurled the hand that had formed a fist on top of his desk and stretched out to answer it.

"Jackson."

"Daniel, Janet here." She didn't sound too pleased with him and Daniel sighed inwardly. The last thing he wanted was another fight over Jack's treatment. He didn't allow it to colour his voice though.

"Yeah, Janet, what can I do for you?"

Her voice was crisp as it echoed along the wire, cool and professional.

"I've assigned someone to give you some pointers on Colonel O'Neill's condition. Hopefully they will be to your satisfaction."

Daniel clearly heard the slight stress on 'they'. No, she definitely wasn't pleased with him, and he felt a brief surge of defiant irritation coupled with an increased determination to work until he dropped to pull Jack back into his life, personality intact. Although he realised that he hadn't handled the situation well. With a sudden pang of sympathy, he appreciated that she had to be worried too: it was making them both more sensitive than they might otherwise have been.

"Ah, okay. Who is it?"

"The name's Ross. Civilian psychologist attached to psych. services. I've called him and asked him to get in touch to arrange a preliminary chat."

"Uh, thanks, Janet. Listen, about earlier --"

"Yes?" Daniel felt the emotional temperature drop another couple of degrees.

"I'm sorry. I lost my temper, and I shouldn't have. Chalk it up to stress?" He made it into a slight question.

There was no sign of a thaw on the other end of the line; Janet's voice remained chilly. "Agreed." Although which part of his apology she was agreeing with, Daniel had no idea.

"Expect Ross to call you sooner rather than later. We need to get moving on the Colonel's rehab."

"I will. Thanks."

The connection was cut, and Daniel stared ruefully at the whirring receiver in his hand before carefully replacing it on its cradle. He obviously had fences to mend there, another problem to add to an interminable list.

Fuck it. He needed coffee. Double-fuck it: he obviously wasn't going to get any any time soon as the phone shrilled again.

"Jackson."

"Doctor Jackson? My name is Ross. Doctor Fraiser asked me to get in touch with you as soon as I could to arrange a meeting. About Colonel O'Neill?"

"Um, yeah. When would be convenient?" Daniel pulled up his diary on the monitor of his pc.

"Ah well, uh - no time quite like the present, eh? I have a free slot coming up - have you some free time now?"

Daniel sighed heavily, not particularly caring whether Ross heard him or not, nor what interpretation he put on it. Given that they were inevitable, some situations were better over and done with. Besides, if Hammond heard that he was avoiding following his orders, he might just suddenly find that the General's patience had run out. Best to bite the bullet. Just - not too enthusiastically.

"I could manage ten minutes or so," he replied coolly. "Where's your office? Exactly?"

"Level 21, C wing. Room 27."

"Okay, I'll be there in, fifteen minutes?" Because, damn it, he was going to get that coffee first.

"That will do fine."

The connection was cut.

*

"Come."

With a deep sense of gloom, Daniel opened the door and walked in. His long awaited coffee had done nothing to lift his spirits or engender any enthusiasm for what he was sure was going to be a difficult meeting.

Whatever he'd been expecting, it certainly wasn't this. The room he walked into was a startling contrast to the drab, utilitarian grey on the other side of the door and he stopped dead just over the threshold. The room glowed; there was no other term for it. The walls were painted a soft apricot-gold colour. No institutional desk: instead a roll top writing desk and a couple of chairs and a couch, deeply padded and in a shade of blue that sang against the gold. Even the quality of the light was subtly different, in no way that Daniel could put his finger on.

"Doctor Jackson, I presume?"

The deep, soft voice came from his left and he swung around to find its source.

The individual to whom the voice belonged wasn't quite what Daniel had expected either. His mental picture had been his usual less than flattering image of the psychiatric profession as a whole: middle aged, stoop shouldered, quiet voiced and with an insidiously unhealthy interest in cigars. This guy was pretty far removed from that.

He was huge. That was Daniel's first impression as he tipped his head back slightly. At least three inches taller than Jack and about twice as wide, he was built like a pro wrestler or a boxer. And he had the face to match his physique: his nose didn't run down the centre of his face so much as snake down it and was flattened beyond redemption at the bridge.

As he extended his hand, his eyes caught and held Daniel's. They were large, liquid brown, sharp with intelligence but twinkling with kindly good humour. Daniel extended his hand in turn. The man had a firm, uncompromising handshake, a sharp downward tug like someone testing a knot in a rope.

"Doctor Ross."

"One and the same. I'm pleased to meet you at long last. Please, come and sit down."

Daniel pulled himself together and followed Ross to the group of chairs that formed the focal point of the room. As he sank into his chosen armchair his gaze swept around the room again, enjoying the opulence of it all.

Ross had been watching his reactions with some amusement, and said as he took his own seat, "I take it you approve of the décor."

"Uh, yeah." Daniel's eyes swept around the room again as he replied. "It's, uh, unexpected is the word. Striking, even."

Ross chuckled, a rich, deep, bubbling sound, infectious enough to crack through the veneer of Daniel's crankiness and make him grin faintly back. "Uh huh. I find it a great antidote to the rest of the base. I spend way too much time here to ignore my own comforts and I've never been a huge fan of institutional grey, it's too depressing for words."

Daniel could sympathise with that one, it reflected his own thoughts on the matter with uncanny accuracy. But at the same time, he was curious. And to tell the truth, slightly envious. He indicated the room with a sweep of his arm.

"You managed to get a budgetary allowance for this?"

Ross laughed outright. "Hell no! Have you ever tried to get the goddam stingy Air Force to spring for anything out of the ordinary? Okay, stupid question, I guess. I thought the bean counters would pass out when they saw my list of requirements. I managed to finagle the paint job, but the furniture and the daylight bulbs were at my own expense. Bastards couldn’t see what was in front of their noses even when I pointed out they were therapeutic aids and much cheaper than the usual, drug-based approaches. It was too 'out there'," Ross added exaggerated air quotes, "for them."

At Daniel's inquisitive lift of his brows, Ross expanded, "My background is in endocrinology. With particular emphasis on the interdependence of the limbic system and the function and state of the brain. Which in turn led to examining alternative therapies and their clinical usefulness and that's what I've based my career on to date. Which is tantamount to hippy-trippy navel-gazing to the unimaginative idiots in charge of this man's Air Force. Tell me, do I look like a hippy?"

"No," Daniel was caught flatfooted by the demanding tone of the question. "You're way too --," he caught himself just in time and hastily jettisoned what he'd been going to say. "Uh, just 'no'," he finished lamely. Ross didn't seem to take offence. Instead he snorted quietly and Daniel strongly suspected that he knew what he'd been going to say without him saying it.

"Exactly. Idiots, every last one of them."

"But you're here despite that."

Ross nodded. "Yep, I'm here. Thanks to Doctor Fraiser. She went to bat for me. She's prepared to accept that these therapies might be useful tools in the right circumstances. So thanks to her, I'm here to research their practical applications in the military in a high stress environment. Believe me, they do work."

"Do they?" Daniel looked and sounded a little sceptical. "Stuff like crystals? Auras?" He trawled his memory for other, more extreme examples. "Rainbow water?"

"Okay," Ross conceded with a grin, "some of the ideas maybe are a little 'out there'. But the basic principles are sound; I've proved that to my own satisfaction. For example, how are you feeling right now? I'd be prepared to put money on you feeling more positive, less edgy, than when you came in."

Daniel stopped to consider this for a moment. His spirits had lifted - not that much, but they had. "Maybe, a little."

"You see? Orange and blue. Calming and antidepressant. And natural light. Also antidepressant. Yes, this stuff works." It suddenly struck Daniel how utterly surreal it was to be sitting discussing interior decorating with a guy who was built like a brick wall: his lips twitched with amusement and he ducked his head to hide it.

Ross noticed this too. He gave Daniel a forthright look, his demeanour immediately businesslike. "Be that as it may, you're not here to listen to me pontificating from my favourite soapbox. You're wondering what possible relevance this might have to Colonel O'Neill. "

Daniel opened his mouth to confirm this, but Ross gave him no chance to speak. "You'll be glad to hear I'm not going to propose shining pretty coloured lights at him. At least, not yet."

Again, Daniel took a breath to reply and again, Ross kept right on going. "But there are other therapies and strategies that we can consider. All of which tie directly in with the Colonel's physical condition."

At last, Daniel managed to get a word in edgeways. "You do think it's a physical condition then? Janet seemed to think that it might be purely psychological."

"Yes, I've read the notes. And no, I'm not convinced by the purely psychological argument. Admittedly O'Neill is a prime candidate for PTSD but I'm thinking there's more to this than that. There is a physical condition there, I'm convinced of it, probably a residual effect of the drug. The evidence is all there in the blood tests." Ross ticked the points off on his fingers as he spoke. "The limbic system isn't working as it should, the hypothalamus is part of the limbic, the hypothalamus was the original target of the pharmaceutical cocktail used to keep the Colonel quiet when he was captive. The inescapable conclusion is that even if we can't define it, the drug is still having an inhibiting effect on the limbic system as a whole."

Daniel nodded. That chimed with his gut feeling. And the man's innate self-confidence and his undoubted enthusiasm appealed to him somehow. He was at least prepared to listen, regardless of whether he followed his advice or not.

"And," Ross added, "it's now my job to figure out how. And how to help you get around it. As I understand it, you're not that keen for me to get involved directly? Well, I can see your reasoning there, based on your knowledge of the Colonel's normal state of mind and reactions."

"I'm glad someone can," Daniel said drily. "So, have you figured out how yet?"

"Maybe. Maybe not. I have a working hypothesis, but you're the one who'll have to test it out. How much do you know about endocrine function?"

"The average layman's knowledge, I suppose. Glands secrete hormones, hormones kick-start various responses within the body - adrenaline, for example, fight or flight - that kind of thing."

"Yes, that's about the usual level of perception. But there are a lot more implications than that. According to the notes I've read, the Colonel has been uncharacteristically calm and unemotional throughout his return and subsequent treatment here. And that makes me think that his lack of emotion might be key to the drug's MO."

Daniel kept listening to him with pursed lips and without comment, and Ross continued, "Doctor Fraiser has already hypothesised that the drug, whatever it is, has its main effects on the pathways between the hippocampus and the cerebral cortex, effectively blocking the memory by disrupting the pathways between the two areas of the brain.

"The hippocampus however is not only implicated in long term memory, but in emotional function also. It seems reasonable then to assume that by blocking these pathways, emotional function will be affected as well as memory, although which of these is the intended effect of the drug is anyone's guess at the moment. And it seems further reasonable to hypothesise that if the two conditions are closely linked, one might provide the key to alleviating the other. If you follow me. If one could access the memories, the emotions would follow. Conversely, if one was to stimulate the emotions, that might provide the impetus to smash the block on the memory."

Daniel was forced to admit that this made some sort of sense. "Okay, that seems logical. I've been trying to get Jack to remember by telling him about things that have happened and it hasn't done much. He had trouble remembering what I'd told him to start with. His short-term memory was shot too, thanks to the halcion. But even now that his short-term memory's improving, I'm still not making much headway. I was actually starting to wonder about my approach - whether it was too soft. So, you're saying you think I should traumatise Jack in some way, scare a response out of him?"

He got what he felt was a slightly condescending look for his trouble. "Not exactly, no. That might have long-term negative implications. I'd tend to put that approach into the 'taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut' school of psychotherapy - typical layman's approach, no finesse at all, if you don't mind me saying so. But there is overwhelming evidence for the durability of the emotional memory attached to life experiences and its continued accessibility even when physical memory is suppressed. After all, it's the rationale behind hypnosis as a therapeutic tool."

As Daniel took a breath and opened his mouth, Ross held up his hand to forestall comment yet again. "And I'm not proposing we try that either, not just yet anyway. I'm just suggesting that as well as continuing to appeal to the Colonel's rational mind, you reach out to his subconscious with an emotional appeal. If you can find the appropriate stimulus, an event or experience with strong enough but not overwhelming emotional connotations, not necessarily negative emotions, it might be enough to start the process of total recall."

And there, Daniel couldn't help thinking, lay the problem with this approach. There was certainly no lack of choice when it came to emotional connotations, very much the reverse in fact. The trouble was that little weasel word 'overwhelming'. It ruled out one hell of a lot of potential stimuli.

"So what kind of thing do you suggest?"

"To be honest, I'm really relying here on your knowledge of O'Neill's past to come up with something appropriate. I haven't had a whole lot of time to work through the files General Hammond made available to me so I'm boxing in the dark here. Although I'm not convinced that anything work-related would be as effective as something personal anyway. You two are close, I'm sure you'll be able to come up with something. Some shared memory that has significance."

So, back to square one. Daniel took a long, considering breath. The obvious route, their current relationship, was completely out of bounds: if - no, when - Jack's memories of that returned, Daniel wanted them to be spontaneous. No way was Jack ever going to wonder if that situation had been manufactured. But Ross was still talking.

"Also, it might be a good thing if you can use an emotional memory from early on in your acquaintance with Colonel O'Neill. Something from when you first met, for instance. It might be the case that if you can access an early memory, it could make the recall of subsequent events easier. Although," he added with a slight frown, "I have nothing other than gut feeling to back that idea up."

Daniel mentally reviewed his own memories of his early days with the program. When he'd first met Jack - well that was obviously another no-go area. He wasn't altogether sure that reminding Jack of the coldly suicidal man he'd been then would be the most reassuring way forward for him. And he certainly didn't feel comfortable about making Jack revisit the grief of losing Charlie and Sara all over again, even if those events had fit all Ross' criteria. The second Abydos mission wasn't much better (he wasn’t prepared to revisit his emotions at that one), nor was the mission to Chulak that had followed it. That had led to the death of one of Jack's good friends and at Jack's order. A mercy killing of a sort, granted, but a killing nevertheless.

So much death, so much loss, so much suffering. Maybe Jack was better off not being able to remember any of it.

"Doctor Jackson?"

Ross' voice sliced across his gloomy thoughts and Daniel's head jerked up.

"I'm sorry. You were saying?"

There was a glimmer of some emotion that Daniel couldn't quite put a name to in Ross' eyes as he answered, "At least it seems my approach has gotten you thinking. When are you next due to visit with the Colonel?"

"I usually go in the afternoon and evening. Mornings he has PT and I have to catch up with departmental work. So," Daniel glanced at his watch, "a couple of hours' time, I guess. More or less."

Ross was getting to his feet, the interview obviously over so far as he was concerned.

"Well, hopefully you'll have a chance to come up with something. I'll touch base with you again in a day or two. Meantime, if you want to run anything by me, you know where I am."

He extended his hand again and Daniel shook it with a small smile as he got up out of his chair. "Thanks."

He had some serious thinking to do if he was going to make this work.


*

Part 8
It was the unvarying politeness that was the most dispiriting thing, Daniel thought as he pulled the door quietly shut behind him after yet another session with Jack: well, that and the constant repetition of the same damn stuff. Jack's short-term memory was still not good although it at least was improving. But the politeness was so utterly uncharacteristic, far too worryingly submissive. He leaned against the corridor wall and sighed as he pulled off his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose. The best part of two weeks of sitting periodically with Jack, attempting to reassure him, trying to convince him of the truth of his previous existence, trying to jog some sort of response from him and what did he have to show for it? Pretty much nothing. It wasn't as if he hadn't tried, they'd all tried, he and Sam and Teal'c taking it in turns. Jack was still behaving like an obedient child scared of upsetting his elders and betters, minding his manners with that awful, determined politeness. They were making no headway whatsoever, and that was hard to bear.

Sure, Jack was physically starting to look a lot better in the couple of weeks since he'd been back. The bruises had faded away and he'd started to put on some of the weight he'd lost – just a few pounds, but they made a huge difference to his appearance. The physiotherapy seemed to be going well, although it was still early, and he'd been persuaded to start shaving again on a regular basis. But mentally? Who knew?

And yet, there was something there, some stirring of recognition maybe, but a... what, exactly? At times, he had seen a spark there, he was sure: quickly suppressed, granted, but there nonetheless. Almost as if the submissiveness were a front. That was it, he was nearly certain: under the obedient veneer, Jack was falling back into the habit of threat assessment, of analysis. He didn't think it was wishful thinking although there was maybe a good element of that in his conviction.

No. It wasn't just wishful thinking. The more he thought about it, the more he was convinced that he wasn't just kidding himself. There was something there, some small filling in of the gaps, if not in Jack's memories, at least in his personality. He just couldn't seem to find a crack in the façade that Jack was presenting, couldn't find a way to worm his way in, gain his confidence, open the crack wider and get him to respond.

Daniel laughed bitterly to himself. This was irony indeed: this was his job, for fuck's sake, to reach out to people, to make contact with them. He did this on a daily basis – the whole 'member of the premier first contact team' thing. He was good at it too: for whatever reason, people generally responded favourably to his overtures. Yet he couldn't reach out and touch Jack, couldn't seem to connect with the one man should have been able to reach. The one man he knew intimately, inside and out, physically and mentally.

He sighed again as he replaced his glasses and pushed himself away from the wall. He supposed he'd better go and check in with Janet.

She was sitting at her desk when he knocked and stuck his head around the door. She smiled warmly at him and indicated that he should come in and sit down, her expression changing to a slight frown as she registered the weary slump of Daniel's shoulders.

"Still no progress, I take it."

"Not outwardly, no. Maybe it's a bit soon to expect any, I don't know. He has only been off that damned drug they were feeding him for a couple of weeks. Maybe it's a bit optimistic to expect its effects to wear off so soon."

"I don't know, Daniel. The halcion seems to have cushioned the worst of the withdrawal; at least the Colonel's never complained or seemed distressed. Physically he's improving rapidly – but then I'd have expected that anyway. The Colonel always has healed fast. In that respect, at least, he's the ideal patient," she added drily.

Daniel gave a mirthless laugh. "Yeah, usually about the only respect. I admit I for one would be a lot happier if he was a little crankier. Especially since he's now almost at the end of the treatment to taper off his dependence on the benzos."

Janet chuckled quietly. "I have to agree, although I doubt my nurses would." She sobered up and took a deep breath before continuing.

"You said you could see no 'outward' signs of improvement. Does that mean that you think the Colonel might be improving inwardly?"

"I don't know, Janet. Sometimes I think there's something there, something that he won't allow himself to show. He seems to be processing the information we're feeding him, but I'm not sure if he really believes it or not. I can't seem to get him to open up, somehow, so I'm not sure whether he's really taking it in or not. Actually, that's not quite true: I think he's taking it in, but I'm not sure he's really applying it to himself. I don't think he's convinced yet that we're telling him the truth.

"But I don't know, not for sure. He won't talk to us unless spoken to. It's taken us this long to get him to answer direct questions without prevarication, and even then he only gives minimal answers. But sometimes... sometimes I wonder if there isn't something more there."

Janet nodded. "Yes, that's the impression I get too. It's good to have it confirmed, it makes my next decision easier."

Daniel looked sharply at her. From her manner, he was getting the impression that he wasn't about to like what was coming. "Which is what, exactly?"

"We've established that there's no brain damage and his most recent scans have given every indication that the alien drug's effects on the neural ganglia are diminishing quite rapidly. He's growing stronger physically every day. This is starting to look more and more to me like a case of hysterical amnesia due to post-traumatic stress, rather than something drug-induced. So I think some specialist help is now indicated. I'm referring him for a psych. eval. with Doctor Mackenzie."

Daniel's protest was instinctive and vehement.

"No, Janet, you can't do that."

"Daniel, it's getting to the stage where I really don't have a choice. I'm not a clinical psychiatrist, I'm a physician. A physician who's reached her limits as far as advancing the treatment of the Colonel's condition is concerned. There's only so much that can be achieved by drug therapy. And, forgive me, SG1 don't seem to be having much success in helping him retrieve his memories. We don't even know yet if they are capable of being retrieved. A psych. consult and further specialist treatment is the next logical step. I would be failing in my responsibilities as the Colonel's doctor if I didn't refer him."

"What if Jack lets slip to Mackenzie about us? Have you thought of that? We told you because we trusted you as a friend, but Mackenzie? No way! He'd turn Jack in, end his career."

"Daniel, you have to appreciate my position here. I can't base recommendations for treatment for the Colonel on the fact that you're lo-- friends. I swore an oath to do the best for my patients based on their medical requirements. And in my opinion, Jack needs more help than you can possibly give him – professional help." She added drily, "And I'm not naïve enough to think that you would have told me if I hadn't been more than half way to finding out for myself, anyway. I'm your physician, I'd have figured it out eventually and you know it."

That was maybe nearer to the truth than Daniel was prepared to admit - but he wasn't going to let himself be distracted by a red herring even if he was quite prepared to try the same tactics on Janet. "I'm not going to let him anywhere near Mackenzie's clutches. You know Jack loathes him, he doesn't trust him an inch, and if he remembers that - well, how the hell is seeing him now going to do Jack any good? Besides, that quack will have him doped up to the gills again and in a straitjacket before you can say 'knife'."

"That's unfair. Doctor Mackenzie is a good psychiatrist, he- -"

"Is it so unfair? He did it to me, remember: he doesn't have the imagination to be able to see beyond the end of his nose. The man is an idiot."

Janet's face hardened. "In your opinion. But I'm the Chief Medical Officer here and I'm telling you that in my professional judgement- -"

"Doctors? Do you have a problem?"

Both whirled around: they'd been so engrossed in their burgeoning argument that neither had noticed General Hammond coming into the room behind them.

Janet was the first to recover. "No, Sir, just a slight disagreement over how to proceed with the Colonel's treatment."

"Doctor Jackson?"

Daniel took a couple of deep breaths to calm his temper. "Doctor Fraiser has suggested psychiatric treatment for Jack, Sir. I was just explaining to her that I'm opposed to that course of action."

General Hammond's eyebrows had been crawling up his head, but now they lowered.

"That sounded more than a slight disagreement to me. I could hear you both out in the corridor – you might care to reflect on the fact that Colonel O'Neill might have heard you as well. Now, will you both calm down and tell me, quietly, what this is all about? Dr. Fraiser?"

"As Daniel says, I've decided to refer Colonel O'Neill to Doctor Mackenzie for a psych. consult with a view to starting a course of psychiatric treatment."

"I see. This is your medical opinion, based on the Colonel's progress thus far?"

"Yes Sir, it is. I don't feel that I can do much more for him as his physician."

"Doctor Jackson, I take it that your position on this is different?"

"It certainly is. I refuse to allow it. General, you know how Jack feels about psych. services in general and Doctor Mackenzie in particular. I can't see it would dong him any good."

Hammond's eyebrows were on the upward track again.

"You refuse to allow it?"

Daniel's mouth was set in a stubborn line. He wasn't about to back down, this was too important. "Yes, General, I do."

"Daniel can't do that Sir. As Chief Medical Officer of this facility- -"

"Ah, in point of fact, I can. If you check our personnel records, you'll see that Jack and I have named each other as next of kin in the absence of any closer relatives. We had the change made just before Jack's disappearance. As I understand it, I can refuse treatment on his behalf as long as my refusal doesn't threaten Jack's life. And I can tell you categorically that Jack would object strenuously to this course of treatment if he were in a position to do it himself, unless all the other options had been exhausted. And probably even then," Daniel added as an afterthought.

"Which is my point exactly Daniel. I think all the other options have been exhausted. General, I really can't think of anything else to try."

"And I'm afraid I'm not convinced that they have been. Sir."

"Daniel, you can't refuse treatment for the Colonel based on your own prejudices. It's not fair to him, and it might ultimately jeopardise his recovery. And as far as refusal of treatment not threatening the Colonel's life is concerned, well, strictly speaking, I suppose you're right. But we have to make a qualitative judgement here as well as a quantitative one: referral for treatment might make the difference between the Colonel regaining full functionality with his memories restored and living a half-life, unable to remember any of the experiences that have made him him and being ultimately unfit to command. Which of those options do you think he'd prefer?"

Daniel opened his mouth to reply but Hammond held up a hand. "A moment please, Doctor Jackson. This is getting us nowhere. Give me a chance to think about this." Daniel subsided, albeit unwillingly, to wait in mutinous silence. When General Hammond spoke again, his voice was kindly.

"Son, the Doctor is right. I can't allow your personal misgivings about Doctor Mackenzie to colour my judgement and neither can Doctor Fraiser. We would both be failing in our responsibilities if we allowed that to happen."

"I would agree if that was all it was, Sir. But it's not just that. I genuinely don't think that Doctor Mackenzie would be able to do anything to help Jack." Daniel paused for a moment to formulate his thoughts. " General, you know I've been spending most of my free time here with Jack since he's been back, so I've probably had the best chance to observe his behaviour for the longest period out of any of us here. I said to Doctor Fraiser earlier in our, uh, conversation that I felt there was something different about him.

"But he's hiding that, or trying to. Think of it from his point of view: he's been pitchforked into a situation that is quite outside his realm of experience as he remembers it. He's been held captive and abused to the point that he's completely forgotten his previous existence, can remember nothing except the abuse. It's become the only normality that he can remember and now that the abuse has stopped, he's more confused than ever. He knows he's still captive, he's seen the SF stationed outside his door whenever he's been taken to the gym for his therapy, he knows that the SFs escort him to the gym and back. He knows that he's rarely left alone, I'm there a lot of the time he's awake, talking to him, trying to... well, it must seem like trying to break him down, from his point of view. Which is nothing more than the simple truth, when I think about it. So I think he's taking refuge in something else that he knows, something that's been deeply engrained in him. I think he's hanging on to his training to get him through this. If you think about it, it's a perfectly logical reaction in the circumstances as he perceives them."

"Your point being?"

"That I'm starting to think that his best chance of recovering all of his memories will come if we can just persuade him that it's safe to let his guard down. Maybe they have already started to return to some extent, we just don't know until we can get him to open up to someone. And the best chance of that happening will be with someone that he has 'known' since he got back here, if we can just persuade him to trust us enough to try. Kind of a 'first contact' type of situation. I think that maybe introducing another stranger into the equation might just be enough to make him suspicious all over again and set the process back. "

Hammond pursed his lips for a moment or two, a considering look on his face, before he turned back to the doctor. "I have to say that to a layman, that argument sounds logical. Doctor, will a delay in seeking psychiatric help for Colonel O'Neill damage his chances of recovery?"

Janet paused before answering, and reluctantly shook her head. "I can't say for sure, Sir, but if pressed for an answer, I would say that a short delay would probably have limited impact on his long-term chances. I have to stress though, Sir, a short delay. And I want to state for the record that any delay at all is against my best judgement. I'm starting to think that the Colonel's state of mind is not merely drug induced, that there's something more, some event behind it that he's suppressing. In which case, the sooner after such an event psychiatric treatment is started, the better for the patient."

Hammond turned back to Daniel. "If that's the case, if there's something more to this than drugs, what makes you think that you're the best one to help Colonel O'Neill sort through it all, rather than a professional therapist?"

"General, we're friends. I know things about him, have shared experiences with him, that he's never shared with anyone else. Things that aren't on his record. Personal things. I can use those to gain his trust."

"If his memories start to return spontaneously."

"As I said to Janet at the start of our discussion, Sir, I'm convinced there's something there. His attitude is changing – slowly, I'll grant you, but I'm convinced of it. And I'm about the only one who can help him sort out his personal memories."

"Some of those memories will be classified."

"I've got the clearance – what could be more classified than the Stargate program?"

Daniel held himself completely still as he waited for the General to speak again, marshalling his resources for further argument. As it turned out, he could have saved himself the effort, as Hammond pursed his lips before turning to Doctor Fraiser again.

"How long a delay would you be prepared to sanction, Doctor?"

"No more than three or four days, Sir. A week at most. As I've said, I don't take this decision lightly, but I would be failing in my responsibility to my patient if I didn't progress his treatment as quickly as possible."

"Very well. Let's see if we can't find some middle ground here. Son, I'm not prepared to completely discount the opinion of my Chief Medical Officer when it comes to medical matters. But at the same time, Doctor," Hammond turned back to nod at Janet, "I'm unwilling to rush into referring Jack for psych. treatment. You and I both know how that looks on the record. So I suggest a compromise: delay the referral for a full psych. eval. for that week and give Doctor Jackson the best possible chance to make the breakthrough, but at the same time assign a psychologist to the case to give Doctor Jackson any support or help that he needs. Not Doctor Mackenzie - I'm sure you'll be able to come up with something plausible to delay his involvement for now. That seems to me to be a reasonable course of action to be fair to all three of you. And I am aware, Doctor Fraiser, that you have the authority to overrule me on this. But I'm asking you not to."

Daniel and Janet both took a breath to speak, but the General quelled them with a look, and they both rapidly revised what they had been intending to say, merely nodding their agreement instead. The General gave a sharp nod of satisfaction as he turned on his heel and left the room, throwing over his shoulder as he went, "Good. Keep me advised of any progress."

"Yes, Sir."

"Uh, one other thing, General?"

Hammond's expression as he swung back around to face Daniel was intimidating, but he said mildly enough, "Doctor Jackson?"

"Can we, I mean you, arrange for the guards to be removed? It might give Jack a little more confidence if we make some visible show of faith...?"

"I think not just yet, son. I would be happier about doing so if you'd shown any real advances, but as things stand --"

Daniel cut the general off. "I just think--"

"Asked and answered, Doctor. My decision stands for now."

Once again, Daniel recognised whipcrack finality when he heard it. He murmured a faint "Yes Sir. Thank you, Sir," to the General's retreating back and then sighed when the door shut behind him. A week. Ah well, it was a reprieve albeit a brief one, and better than nothing. At the end of the week – well, they would see. He caught Janet's eye, shrugged an apology of sorts, and went in search of some peace and quiet to help him decide what to try next.

*

Part 7
"Okay, people, we still have no idea at all exactly why Colonel O'Neill was taken?" General Hammond's gaze swept around the table, alighting at last on Sam.

Sam shook her head. "None at all, sir, we can only speculate – we didn't hang around long enough when we went back to actually ask many questions. At least, not questions about their motivation."

There were a few grins around the table at that and Daniel was aware of a few sidelong glances in his direction.

He sat quietly, letting the debriefing wash over him. He had taken little or no part in the proceedings, leaving the dissection of the two teams' tactics to the military personnel assembled around the table, merely tersely confirming his role in the operation at various points. He'd hardly said a word since he'd entered the room, except to enquire after Major Wade's state of health and to reply "Fine, I'm fine," out of deeply engrained habit to any and all enquiries about his own state. Instead he sat silently in his usual chair, painfully aware of the empty chair next to him, which by tacit consent everybody else had avoided sitting in. He was oddly grateful for that even though it hurt him to be reminded that its rightful tenant might never reclaim it.

Strangely, he did feel better than expected today. Against all the odds, he'd had a long and dreamless sleep when he'd gone back to his quarters and finally turned in, although he harboured no illusions about his subconscious' ability to bite him in the ass more than once about his actions yesterday. Once his conscience had finished with him, that was.

The General was speaking again. "Well then, SG3, I guess that just about wraps up your contribution. I expect your final reports on my desk by ten hundred tomorrow. Congratulations on a successful mission, gentlemen. Dismissed. SG1, I'd like you to stay back for the final part of the debriefing. I've asked Doctor Fraiser to join us: I imagine you're all as concerned as I am with the state of Colonel O'Neill's health at the moment, and it will probably prove to be less stressful all round for the medical staff if she makes her report to us all."

SG3 stood up and filed out. Daniel took the opportunity to head to the coffee machine for a refill, only peripherally aware of Sam doing the same thing. When she spoke to him he was startled, some of the coffee he'd just poured sloshing out of his mug.

"Hey... oh Daniel, I'm sorry... here," she grabbed a wad of paper towels and swabbed at the coffee on his hand, "let me help you. Are you okay? That coffee's hot."

"No, it's okay Sam. I'm fine."

Sam looked at him sharply. "Are you sure? You've seemed a bit distracted so far."

"Not distracted, Sam – just nothing much to contribute. I leave the military stuff up to you guys, you're better at it than I am."

And that, he reflected bitterly, was no more nor less than the simple truth. None of them, even Sam, seemed to have any problem with coming to terms with what they had done during the mission. But then, he supposed, none of them had done anything at odds with either their inclinations or their training, so it wasn't altogether surprising.

"I wouldn't say that. You do your share. We wouldn't have been in and out again half as quick without your contribution."

Daniel's mind flashed back yet again to his 'contribution' as she continued to talk and he had to suppress a tremor of disgust. Part of him appreciated what she was trying to do, that she was making the effort as a friend, in Jack's absence, to draw him out, reassure him, whatever: the other part ascribed her efforts to her being the unit 2IC, straight military and by the book through and through, and wondered how somebody so close to him could seem quite so alien at the same time. The two parts together just wished she would shut the fuck up regardless of her motivation. He felt ashamed of himself for the thought, but he would talk about it when he was good and ready, and even when that happened he would talk to Jack or not at all.

He got his wish when the briefing room door opened again, Janet came in and General Hammond called the meeting to order again.

"Doctor Fraiser, I've asked SG1 to sit in on your medical report on Colonel O'Neill in order to save you some time – better that you only have to explain the circumstances once rather than four times over."

Janet inclined her head with a smile. "Thank you sir, that makes sense." Then she was all business again. "Essentially, the Colonel's condition is no different from last night. He's resting under light sedation in an attempt to alleviate any short term withdrawal symptoms from the drugs that he's been given while held captive."

"Are you any further forward with identifying the drugs?"

"We think so. We knew yesterday that the preparation was very similar chemically to the benzodiazepines, but there was some other component that we couldn't identify. We still don't know exactly what it is, but we do now have some idea of what it does. It apparently attaches to the synapses between ganglia in a very specific part of the brain, the hippocampus, and effectively blocks the memory pathways between the hippocampus and the neocortex. The net result is retrograde amnesia."

"Like the drug Linea used," said Daniel.

The doctor turned to look at him. "Similar in its effects, but completely dissimilar in its composition," she said. "We can't really use Linea's drug as a point of comparison to help us find a cure, if that's what you're thinking."

Daniel pulled a face and fell silent.

"So the Colonel can't remember anything at all?" This from Sam.

"Again, we're not sure. Colonel O'Neill has only had one brief period of consciousness yesterday evening, during which Daniel and I observed him to be very confused and disorientated."

They all glanced across at Daniel, who nodded his head in confirmation as Janet continued.

"If the amnesia presents as I would normally expect, then the Colonel will be unable to remember anything that has happened in his life up to the point he was taken captive and deliberately addicted to the drug. However, this is an alien drug, designed for alien physiology, and it may not be one hundred per cent effective in blocking human memory pathways. Alternatively, it may of course be even more effective, in which case we have a problem."

"How so?"

"To put it at its simplest, Sir, if all the memory pathways are effectively blocked and the hippocampus is permanently affected, the Colonel will be incapable of remembering anything at all, even in the short term, without constant reminders. Which would make rehabilitation to any degree impossible. However, I suspect from the similarity of chemical composition between this drug and Halcion that it had to be administered on a regular basis, that its effectiveness on alien physiology was not permanent. In other words, its effects could be reversed by cessation of treatment, or possibly more quickly by the administration of an antidote."

Daniel leaned forward to interrupt her. "So we should go back there, see if we can scare an antidote out of them?"

Hammond looked enquiringly at Janet, who shook her head with a small frown.

"I'm not that certain of my facts, sir, I wouldn't like to state categorically that there is an antidote."

"But it would be worth a try, surely, in the absence of any better strategy?"

Hammond shook his head warningly at Daniel, and said heavily, "I'm sorry, Doctor Jackson. The rescue mission was a success in that we retrieved one of our own with minimal casualties. But there were casualties, and I'm not going to risk them being worse. I'm not prepared to sanction a return trip based on speculation. Doctor, you were saying?"

A small voice in the back of Daniel's head, sounding remarkably like Jack's, warned quietly of the advisability of choosing one's battles as he recognised the finality of the General's tone and subsided back into his chair.

"Any amnesia resulting from the addiction might be total or it may only be partial, even in the planet's indigenous population: we simply can't tell from analysis alone what its effects were designed to be. As I've said, we're fairly confident that these effects are reversible in conjunction with alien physiology, but if this mystery component reacts adversely with human physiology we cannot be one hundred per cent sure that all or even any of the Colonel's memories will prove to be recoverable, whether he will recover them spontaneously, or whether he will need professional help. But this is really hypothesising ahead of the facts – we can't make any judgement at all until the Colonel is stable with his current drug regimen and aware."

"And this will be when?"

"I'm sorry Sir, I can only guess at that. He seems to be quite comfortable with the dosages he's receiving, but I would rather he remained sedated until I was sure."

"So, basically, we just have to wait some more and there's not a damn thing we can do except hang around," Daniel said.

Janet shrugged, though not without sympathy. "That's the best I can do for now, Daniel. I'm sorry that I can't be more positive, but..."

Daniel started to protest at this, but thought better of it when he caught another warning look from the General and closed his mouth with a snap as Hammond cut across him.

"We understand, Doctor. You have nothing more to add? You'll keep us all informed of any changes in the Colonel's condition, of course."

"Of course, Sir."

"That wraps it up then, people. SG1, barring emergencies, you're on stand-down for the foreseeable future. Dismissed."

*

He was detached again, warm, relaxed and distinctly disinclined to change his circumstances. But, he realised with a pang of disappointment, that choice was probably not available to him. Consciousness was apparently returning whether he wanted it to or not, and he felt the moment when he became anchored to the here and now.

More dreams, half remembered as his thinking cleared...

Not dreams. He knew that now. He was fully aware and something was out of kilter. He was still warm, still comfortable, feeling strangely rested. And that was not as it should be. Why not? With an effort of will he stopped his eyes from flying open until he could assess his situation. He started to run a quick appraisal of his condition, and that in and of itself was strange. That was something he'd not had the thought or energy to do in a long while, not since -- no, whatever that thought had been, it had slipped away from him. Think, he silently urged himself, organise your thoughts into some semblance of order. It might be the difference between surviving and... not. He felt the familiar panic again and ruthlessly forced it down: not far enough though, he could feel it bubbling just under the surface, waiting to spring out and claw at him. For a moment he felt a flash of irritation at his inability to suppress it entirely: time enough for that later, when there was something to panic about. He pushed harder at it, struggled with it, and felt it subside far enough. First things first: how exactly was he feeling? What was the downside?

Okay, he could do this. He was in unfamiliar surroundings, feeling uncharacteristically comfortable and rested. Chest still hurt (still? Sure, it had hurt in his dream, but...). Correction, obviously not a dream. He'd already decided that, hadn't he: stupid to allow himself to be distracted by semantics when he had to concentrate. He was still hooked up to heavens knew what. He felt surreptitiously under him, testing out what his senses could tell him. He was lying on a bed, apparently, a real bed, a bed with real sheets on it, not the usual rough cot like the one in his room. The linen felt a bit rumpled underneath and around him, so he'd obviously been there a while. In contrast, the blanket draped over him felt undisturbed where his hooked-up arm was lying on it, as if maybe it had been recently straightened. So, was he alone or not right now?

He listened hard. He could hear the faint sounds of machinery, soft beeps and somewhere in the distance, a trilling sound, all vaguely familiar but maddeningly strange at the same time. Nothing else.

When he sniffed the air tentatively, he could smell a faintly pungent aroma. Not the usual depressing, pervasive pungency he was used to from the vile bucket in the far corner of his room: this was a clean smell, somehow. Not fresh, not refreshing, but indefinably clean. His mouth was dry and tasted ghastly, in distinct contrast to the smell. Something else was missing: he couldn't smell himself. The thought threatened to unnerve him again as he worked through the implications. Someone had been touching him, working on him while he slept, cleaning him up, and he hadn't noticed. He'd damn well not realised, and they could have done anything to him. The idea made him sweat. Small comfort that they hadn't apparently done anything bad bit it underlined the fact that he was here, that they could do what they liked and he still had no control over what happened to him. He was still disposable, still a thrall. Maybe a gilded cage this time, for whatever unfathomable reason, but still a cage.

Cage? Now there was a strange turn of thought. Where had that come from? He tried to cast his mind back to the time in the room. Much as he tried, he couldn't remember ever thinking in these patterns there. Back there, he'd accepted, not questioned, not recently anyway; he'd just been. Onyel, in his room when he wasn't working, avoiding Katen when he was, and that was just as things should be. He was Onyel. Katen and his lapdogs were in charge. He couldn't remember ever thinking of his room as a 'cage'. It was his room, it just... was. Naturally. You kept your head down and tried to avoid being noticed, though it rarely worked.

So what was with the 'cage' motif? Damn, there he was, getting distracted again by questions of language. Didn't do much to help him out in his current situation, getting distracted. Better to concentrate on the job at hand, threat-assessing his current predicament.

He was going to have to open his eyes, there was nothing much else his other senses could tell him. Dangerous, maybe, but there it was. He had to know, had to have complete information to formulate a strategy.

Much as he could see the necessity, it took him a while to pluck up the courage. When he finally did summon up the nerve to crack open his eyelids, he almost laughed at himself for being such a craven fool. Nothing to be seen except an expanse of ceiling, painted grey and lined with cracks. He felt almost giddy with relief. No faces gathered around him, no pain in his immediate future. What a schmuck, to let his imagination get the better of him! Imagination, the curse of the good drone.

He slid his eyes over to his left, finally seeing what he was hooked up to: a tube from his arm went to some kind of bag arrangement hanging on a stand beside him and some sort of machine stood beside it with a lead coming from it. When he followed the lead with his eyes, he realised it connected with the metal fingerstall on his forefinger. Didn't seem to be much of an immediate threat, but he would have been happier had it not been there, even though it seemed too sophisticated for a lout like Katen. The other tube, the one leading from his groin, was a bigger worry, until he suddenly joined up the dots and realised the full implications of being clean. He'd been here for a while, he knew that, and he wasn't lying in his own filth. So this tube must be helping him pee. Good thing, right? Right. He dismissed it and went back to his reconnaissance.

Apart from the machine and the tubing, nothing but grey painted walls, an empty chair pushed haphazard against the wall at the side of the metal bed and a shut door. Well, as long as it stayed shut, that was okay. Closed doors were good when you were alone. Closed doors gave you space, respite, peace. Closed doors were safe as long as they stayed closed. He opened his eyes fully as he carried on with his survey, finally looking over to his right.

He actually thought his heart was going to stop for the split second before it hammered up into his throat. Damn it, his senses had let him down, he wasn't alone and now he was staring into a pair of blue eyes. The one called Daniel had been here all the time, quietly observing him, waiting to catch him. This was starting to smell bad: one small mistake and as usual, everything was going horribly wrong. The panic that had been hiding just underneath the surface threatened to choke him. Closed doors were a bad thing when you had company, and he was just about to find out how bad. He held himself tense, waiting for the axe to fall.

"Hi. You're awake. Welcome back."

The lopsided grin that accompanied this comment didn't seem threatening, but he knew better than to be suckered. He wasn't about to let his guard down, no sir. He hadn't entirely cracked when they were hitting him, he was damned if he would cave for kindness. So he just kept watching, waiting.

"How do you feel? Are you in any pain?"

What kind of a fool question was that? One that was unanswerable, that was for sure. Yes I am? So glad to hear it, that's as it should be. No I'm not? I can arrange it then. Shafted either way.

He flinched as Daniel got up off his chair and came to the head of his bed, he couldn't stop himself, even though he tried to minimise it, but the man merely said, "What am I thinking of? You must be thirsty; I know I normally am when I come to after sedation. Here, have some of these: it's only ice chips – doctor's orders – which sucks, but they'll help."

The arm that slid under his shoulders to raise his head was gentle, but he wasn't fooled. He was grateful though for this slight improvement in his circumstances, even if he couldn't show it. He tried not to suck at the welcome moisture at his lips too greedily: he was helpless enough as it was, no point in giving this... Daniel another weapon to use against him.

"Is that better? Can you answer me now? Are you in any pain?"

He'd been right again, luckily, at least his instincts seemed to be holding true: not kindness – expediency. And there was still no answer that he could give.

"Jack? Do you understand what I'm saying?" The blue eyes came closer, searching his own. He held himself as still as he could, tried to assume a dull expression. It was the best he could do.

"Actually, I can see that you do. So you choose not to answer for whatever reason."

He obviously hadn't been quick enough to hide the understanding in his eyes. Katen had been a lot easier to fool. But now he had a problem, he had to think quickly. Trouble was, his thoughts wouldn't cooperate, the fear got in the way too badly. Too late. Daniel was talking again, his voice still gentle, but with a slightly harder expression in those eyes.

"Do you know who I am?"

Damn questions, he was sick to death of questions. All those questions, and he never seemed to get the answers right, no matter what he said. Why couldn't they just stop with the questions? Now here was yet another one, and he was going to get this answer wrong too. With an effort he resisted the habitual impulse to curl up small, present less of a target. Could hardly manage it anyway, all these damn tubes in the way.

"Jack, do you know me?"

He was going to have to answer, too risky not to after a question had been asked more than once.

"Yes, sir."

Wrong answer, he just knew it. There was a flash of disappointment in those eyes, quickly suppressed.

"What's my name?"

"Daniel, sir."

"How do you know that? Do you remember me?"

He almost shuddered, but caught himself in time thankfully, as he heard a cold, hard voice echo in his mind, 'Listen to me... I'm going to find him...'

"You told me, sir."

"When was that?"

"When you came to my room, sir."

"You remember that, do you? No, It's okay, you don't need to answer that, I was just thinking out loud." Another short pause: Daniel seemed to be thinking again, quietly this time, before he spoke again.

"Actually, I wasn't thinking about that time. I was thinking more before that."

He didn't understand. He'd never met this man before he'd appeared in his room, of that he was certain: another trick then. Safer to say nothing, wait and see where this was going. Especially in light of the sounds he had heard immediately before the guy had appeared in his room.

The pause stretched out. Daniel was seemingly quite content to wait it out with him, just standing there, looking down at him, starting his heart thumping as he waited for the action to start. He was suddenly very aware that the steady rhythmic beeping of the machine he was hooked up to was changing, speeding up as his fear rose up to choke him. Damn it, if they were monitoring him that closely, what chance did he stand?

Daniel seemed suddenly to become aware of it too, glancing over at the machine before stepping back a pace or two, saying, "I'm sorry. Standing too close, huh? I didn't mean to frighten you. It's okay, I'll keep my distance."

That was a pace too many, now he had to squint down his nose to keep an eye on him. The effort was too much though, he had to give it up and go back to looking at the ceiling again. It made him even more tense when he couldn't see what was coming and he had to fight hard for control.

Daniel must have been watching him quite closely, because without missing a beat or making any comment he moved further away and slightly around the bed, coming back into his comfortable line of sight as he continued, "Nobody's going to hurt you here, I promise. You're home now, and safe. Guess it didn't quite sink in when you were awake before, did it?"

The sound of the door opening saved him at least temporarily, before that calm, steady gaze unmanned him entirely, even if it did give him a whole new direction to worry in. The eyes flicked up for a moment or two, acknowledging the presence of the other, before they sought out and held his again.

"You really are okay now, you know. You're safe, and you're going to get better. You look a lot better already in fact, and you've only been here a few days."

That pulled his mental processes up short. Days? How did it work out to days? Hours, surely – he hadn't been here that long, couldn't have been. Although maybe, thinking about the state of his bed and the way he was feeling physically, maybe it was days.

"Daniel, he's awake again? You should have called me."

"He's only been awake for a moment or two, Janet. I was just about to do that."

"Colonel, how are you feeling now?"

Another face came into his line of sight on the other side of his bed. A short, pretty, brunette woman with large, expressive brown eyes, face arranged into an expression of warm concern. He remembered her as well from the last time he'd been compos mentis, hers had been the second face in what he'd taken for a dream. A pleasant enough face, a pleasant enough expression, but he wasn't fooled. He was still on dangerous ground here; he couldn't afford to relax for a moment. Again, he held his peace.

"Daniel? Has he spoken at all since he recovered consciousness?"

"Yeah, some. He's answered a couple of questions."

The woman was busying herself at the side of his cot, readying some kind of equipment. He held himself rigid, waiting for he didn't know quite what, as she turned back to him with something in her hands. The damn monitor started to speed the pace of its beeping again, giving him away despite himself.

"Well, that's good. That's an improvement." Her face assumed a different expression as she glanced at the readout and continued, "Colonel, calm down. I'm not going to hurt you, I just want to take your blood pressure."

The smile she threw at him as she said this struck him as falsely bright and did nothing to dispel his tension. The beeping of the machine sounded insane, manic, echoing the way his thoughts were bouncing around, underscoring the simple fact that out and out panic was being held at bay by the merest thread of self-control.

"Jack. Jack, look at me. It's okay, really. Look at me."

He really didn't want to, but he saw no alternative. Reluctantly, he dragged his gaze towards Daniel, instinctively started to relax a little as he read the expression in those compelling eyes. He saw a spark there, something... what? He couldn’t put a name to it even though he recognised its effects. Damn, he was further gone than he'd thought, he'd need to guard himself against this, this could be his undoing. It was different from what Katen had inspired, no inherent loathing in it: it was insidious, worming past his carefully constructed defences, dangerous. The eyes didn't deviate from his as Daniel held out his arm and spoke.

"Janet, take my blood pressure first. See, Jack, this is nothing to worry about, there's no pain involved, just a feeling of tightening around your arm. A bit uncomfortable maybe, but that's all. It's not designed to hurt you, it's going to help Janet make you well. She has to know how you feel inside to help her to help you. Look, I'm fine and she's all done. It doesn't hurt, it helps. Will you let her do it to you now?"

Despite his misgivings, despite his dim sense of grievance at being spoken to like a recalcitrant child, he nodded eventually. It seemed to be the right response: Daniel smiled encouragingly, as did the one called Janet, and in truth once he gave in, relaxed a little, it was nothing really. He didn't show it, he wasn't that green, but relief flooded through him just the same. Score one to the underling, he'd pulled that one off okay.

"I need to take a blood sample too."

The eyes flicked away from his for a moment as Daniel asked, "Is it essential?"

The woman looked sympathetic but determined as she nodded her head. "Yes."

Daniel shrugged slightly, then sought his own eyes out again as he asked gravely, "Will you allow it? You do have a choice. You can say 'no' if you want to."

He watched as the woman made an instinctive movement of protest and Daniel's hand came up to forestall her, waving her back in peremptory fashion. He noted the momentary annoyed tightening of her lips and the moment in which she capitulated, and filed the information away for future reference without even thinking about it. Who knew, it might come in useful.

Daniel was still talking. "You'll feel a little prick in your arm, nothing to worry about though. Just a couple of seconds' discomfort, that's all. I'll have it done first again, if you'd like, just to let you see it's okay. Would you like me to do that?"

He felt another spurt of irritation. Damn it, he really wasn't a child. He shook his head before he could stop himself, before he could wonder where this odd, yet oddly natural, irritability was coming from. Wherever, it was making him reckless, something he'd have to guard against.

"Then may I? Thank you, Colonel. This won't take a moment, just a little prick now... and that's it. All done."

For now. The phrase hung in the air between them, it seemed to him, even though it hadn't been spoken out loud. Her hands had been gentle though, and that was another puzzle.

"Now, let's see about making you a little more comfortable." The woman was moving as she spoke, towards the head of the bed and he tensed up again, the damned machine ratting him out once more as he did so. She paused and looked down at him.

"It's okay, nothing to worry about. I'm just going to raise the head of the bed, let you sit up and see exactly where you are."

He schooled himself not to show any curiosity about his surroundings as the mechanism whirred into action: even though he was relieved to finally be able to see exactly where he was, he kept his face carefully blank. The room was sparse and utilitarian, and it turned out that he'd seen most of what was in it from his position on the bed anyway. But at least now he could see the door, and through the observation window in it a small square of wall on the other side of the door, though whether that was for the better or not remained to be seen.

The woman turned to Daniel again and smiled. "I'm finished here. I'll get this sample off to the lab. In the meantime, I'll leave you to it. Don't stay too long, Daniel – or at least, don't talk too long." She smiled again, and this time included him before she turned on her heel and crossed to the door. As it swung open, he noted with a brief prickle of excitement that it wasn't locked before he caught a glimpse of the man standing at parade rest just outside it. So he was guarded then: no way out that way, even if he'd been in a fit state. And then he wondered at his boldness. Sighing internally, he turned his attention back to Daniel, who hadn't moved from his position in his line of sight but out of arm's reach.

"Well, this is weird. I've never, uh, never had to do anything quite like this before. I mean, where do I start?"

This question didn't seem to require an answer, as Daniel continued, running a hand through his hair and cupping the back of his neck before snagging a chair and sitting down, "Well, we've already established that you don't remember anything about before you were held by the Geans, so I suppose the obvious thing is to tell you who you really are.

"Your name is Jack O'Neill, you're a Colonel in the United States Air Force, serial number USAF 66-789-7876-324, currently working out of Cheyenne Mountain under the command of General George Hammond..."

He listened for a while before he tuned the words out: they had no possible relevance to his current situation. Instead he wondered about Daniel's motivation in spinning him this yarn, tried to work out what possible good all this preamble could do, wondered why these people didn't just cut to the chase and get on with whatever they had in mind for him this time.

"You're not really listening any more, are you?"

The comment cut across his reverie, startling him back to full attention. Damn, that had been a silly mistake to make, to forget how well Daniel could apparently read him, how acute he was. A silly mistake that was about to bring its own retribution, if he was any judge, and he was just going to have to suck it up, again. Nothing he could do to avoid it, nothing at all: if Katen had taught him anything, it was that resistance only prolonged the agony. He forced himself to stay still enough to get it over with quickly, struggling with his instinct to protect himself at any cost.

Daniel was looking at him closely, trying to gauge his reactions, before he smiled again, a small, rueful smile that didn't quite reach his eyes and said, "Yeah, well, that's probably enough to try and take in for now. We should leave it there for a bit. You think over what I've told you, and try and get some more rest, huh? I'll come back later."

And that was it. That was all. Daniel got up, put the chair back against the wall and turned for the door, smiling once more before he went through it and closed it carefully behind him.

He could feel the cold sweat of reaction trickling down his sides as he sighed and closed his eyes. If he was waiting for the other boot to drop, it looked like the wait was going to be a lengthy one. He wasn't sure that he could stand it.

*

Part 6
For the first time in a long time he felt good. Comfortable. Warm and floating, wrapped in darkness. So warm, so beautifully warm: such a change to be warm, to be able to enjoy the darkness, no bright lights shining anywhere, none at all, just blessed, blessed dimness and warmth. He stretched slightly and sighed, luxuriating in the feeling of sleep stealing up on him, then tried to curl onto his side, pillowing his cheek on his palm. For some reason he couldn't do it: a small part of his mind tried to work out why, and he sighed again as something tugged at the edges of memory. But he was too warm and comfortable to bother thinking about it; it would keep ‘til morning. Or what passed for morning in this place. He was tired and warm and comfortable, and thinking was an effort at the best of times. He let it slide and followed it over the edge.

Consciousness, when it returned properly, returned abruptly. Something wasn't right; he felt it deep in his bones. Then he realised what had unsettled him: he'd had a dream. First one in how long? A long time, anyway, so long that he'd nearly forgotten how real they could seem. He almost laughed out loud with the sheer pleasure of knowing that he'd been asleep long enough to dream but out of long habit checked himself, just in case. He schooled himself to stay still and assess his situation, waiting until the initial panic subsided before cracking open his eyes a fraction, peering out from under lowered lids.

He had no idea where he was. Not in his room anyway, the lighting was too dim and the noises weren't right. The panic surged up again and he had to force it down as he wondered what Katen had planned for him this time. No, better not go there: experience had taught him that the anticipation was often just as bad as the reality. Not often worse though, just equally bad and essentially pointless. What was going to happen, would happen, whether he worried about it in advance or not. There was nothing he could do about that. He closed his eyes again and concentrated on slowing down his heartbeat.

Eventually it worked. The next decision was whether to open his eyes again or not: did he really want to know where he was? Not really, part of him thought wearily, it really made little difference one way or another: pain was pain, no matter where it was inflicted, and he was fairly sure that pain was going to figure in his immediate future yet again. But another part of him, the unruly part that even Katen had never quite been able to subdue, insisted on knowing. He took a deep breath and winced when his chest hurt but opened his eyes a fraction.

He definitely wasn't in his room. He was lying on a bed – a comfortable one at that, when he stopped to consider it. But he didn't feel comfortable, not entirely: he was hooked up to some sort of tube arrangement which made his arm itch, his throat was sore and his chest hurt like a son of a bitch. He had another flare of panic when he realised that he was hooked up to another tube, this one going to his groin, and the bile rose in his throat as he considered the implications. He'd been threatened with gelding more than once in the early days, on the principle that it worked in making beasts of burden more tractable. Maybe this time...

He experienced a few bad moments of sweating weakness before he plucked up the courage to explore his groin with his unencumbered hand, and the relief at finding that he was still a man almost prompted tears. Almost, but not quite, as a new wave of fear thudded into him when he realised he wasn't alone. A hand dropped onto his arm, stilling the movement of his hand, moving it away gently, and a voice said, "Be careful Jack. Lie still, you don't want to pull out the catheter. I'll call Janet."

He did as he was told. The voice was vaguely familiar, and he closed his eyes again, listening to the sound rather than the words, trying to place it as it spoke rapidly and one sidedly to someone outside the room. Summoning them apparently, because the door opened very shortly thereafter and he heard the sound of shoes clicking across a hard floor.

He kept his eyes shut. He really didn't want to see the faces of his new tormentors until he had to, and the absurd hope was still there that if he behaved, nothing too bad would happen this time and he might yet escape comparatively unscathed.

"He's conscious, Janet – his eyes were open anyway – but he seems a bit disorientated."

"That's only to be expected, Daniel."

A woman! That was new; he hadn't seen one of them in the longest time. Hadn't seen much of anybody except Katen and his bullyboys. Maybe this one was a new recruit, some fresh blood to the business of making life miserable. He'd heard somewhere that women could be spectacularly cruel... He tensed as the footsteps moved closer until their owner was standing right beside him.

"Colonel O'Neill? Jack? Can you hear me?"

Small, cool hands touched his face and he flinched despite himself as his eyelids were pulled up and a bright light shone into each one before they were allowed to drop down again. The hands were gentle though, even if they were firm, and the voice was kindly. Maybe, just maybe, this was going to turn out okay for once.

"Colonel, I know that you're awake. I need to talk to you if I can. Will you open your eyes for me?"

But what if it was a trick? His mind skittered around the problem, trying to find all the angles, trying to work out what he was supposed to do. He was still in an agony of indecision when the other voice, the almost-familiar man's voice, spoke again.

"Let me try. Jack, listen to me. It's Daniel, remember me? You're home and you're safe now. Please open your eyes?"

'Home'? Now he was sure it was a trick. The only place he knew was his room, and he quite obviously wasn't there. And these bozos couldn't even get his name right, why was that? He was Onyel. If they were trying to get him to answer to the wrong name they must be trying to trick him. A new angle presented itself as he suddenly realised just why the man's voice was familiar. Daniel. So it hadn't been a dream then. He really had been taken away and this was definitely a trick. Not that the realisation helped him any: he still had no idea what he was expected to do, and that was dangerous. That meant blows and hunger and pain again most likely, and probably soon. He started to shake.

He felt a hand on him again: a large, warm hand, lying against his cheek for a moment, cradling it gently, stroking it softly before straying up to smooth across his forehead and through his hair, soothing and calming him. He was almost tempted to nuzzle into it when it lingered on his cheek: how long had it been since anyone had touched him like that? He couldn't remember. Wait a minute - what on earth was he thinking of? Damn, they'd nearly caught him out there with this change of tactics, nearly sucked him in. He'd nearly let them see that there was a small corner of his mind that remained his and his alone. He'd have to guard against that.

The woman's voice broke pulled him back to the present, a single word, questioning and warning at the same time,

"Daniel."

"'S okay, Janet. He needs this; trust me, I know."

"I know you know. Just – be careful?"

He opened his eyes in time to catch a quick flash of a wry, gentle smile from the one called Daniel as he answered her, "Always. You know that too." But as he answered, Daniel's eyes remained fixed on his face.

Another puzzle, there was some subtext there he couldn’t quite grasp, some message passing between the two of them that he wasn't privy to, although he felt he should have been. Which was weird, he'd never seen either of them in his life before his abduction. He looked at the expression in those eyes. If he hadn't been so sure this was a trick, he would almost have believed that this one cared. Same with the woman. But he knew better: the Daniel of his not-dream hadn't thought twice about doing something, he wasn't sure quite what, to Katen. Whatever it was, it had sounded painful. Now here he was with his sidekick, acting kind and concerned, and they were passing unspoken messages to each other.

The woman spoke again in a gentle voice laced through with satisfaction. "Good, thank you for opening your eyes, Colonel. It's good to have you back with us again."

He deliberately didn't switch his attention to her as soon as she spoke but slid his eyes over to her face when she leaned over him, gauging her expression: pretty little woman and she looked kind enough. Intelligent too, if he was any judge. He was right to be careful then, right to sense danger. In fact, this was probably even more dangerous than he'd originally thought: these two were subtle. He kept his expression carefully blank. He would hold his peace until he managed to figure out what was expected of him.

"Do you know where you are?"

Scary things, questions, one way or another they always seemed to lead to pain. What did they want him to say? 'No, I have no idea where I am'? 'Yes, you've just told me, I'm home'? Which one was right? Which one was safer? Maybe neither was, same as usual. In which case, silence was no safer either. Suckered again, back in the classic lose/ lose scenario.

"Colonel? Do you know where you are?"

He kept looking at her, but he stayed dumb, giving no sign that he'd heard her. There, there it was again, a silent message passing between them as they glanced at each other across him. He deliberately didn't react yet again, instead using his peripheral vision to keep an eye on both of them as far as he was able.

Whatever the message was, the result was unexpected. He'd half expected a threat, or even more than a threat, but it didn't materialise. Instead, the woman made a small grimace of disappointment and said, "Maybe we're expecting too much here, he hasn't been conscious for very long and he's been through a lot. Try and get some more sleep, Colonel. We can try again when you're more rested. Daniel..."

"I'll stay with him until he goes to sleep. Will you be in your office?"

"I'll wait for you there."

With a small half-smile to him she turned on her heel and moved out of his field of vision. He kept his eyes fixed on the place where she'd been, couldn't follow her with his gaze, not without giving himself away. A short pause, and then he heard her heels clicking on the floor again, and finally the door as it opened and closed. He felt weak with relief at his reprieve – temporary, no doubt, but still a reprieve – as he closed his eyes once more. Now that it had been suggested to him, he did think that he could sleep some more. Or maybe she'd done something to help him along out of his line of sight.

It was only when he was about to float away again that he realised that the hand stroking his hair had not stopped throughout and that the realisation, rather than scaring him as it should have, was oddly comforting. Oh yeah, these two were good...

*

Janet was replacing the telephone receiver on its cradle as Daniel gave a perfunctory knock prior to entering her office and she looked up with a small smile as he came in and flung himself down into an available chair.

"He went out pretty quickly once you'd left. What did you put into the line?"

"I've started him on a tapered dose regimen to treat his addiction."

"Isn't that a bit soon?" Daniel stopped as he noticed Janet's eyebrows crawling up towards her hairline and gave her a rueful look. "Uh, sorry. I didn't mean to question your medical judgement. I was just concerned. Sorry."

"I should hope not. How come you're such an authority all of a sudden?"

Daniel had the grace to look a bit sheepish. "I, uh, checked some stuff out on the 'net after you mentioned the drug he'd been given. Just before I came through here."

"Well, you should also have checked out what the 'net has to offer about Narcan and its effectiveness in the treatment of opiate overdose. Unfortunately he may well be less receptive to certain painkillers as a side effect of treatment and I want to keep him as comfortable as I can. Plus I don't think that withdrawal symptoms from whatever it is he's been pumped full of would do much to contribute to his general well being at this point, do you?"

Sheepish descended into shame-faced and Daniel sighed gustily, removed his glasses and pinched the bridge of his nose before he looked her in the eye and said quietly, "Touché. Sorry." He looked up at the ceiling as he continued, "I've been so worried, you know? First he was missing for all that time, then when we find him we end up making it worse all round instead of better, and the waiting's not over even yet. I just wanted to do something."

He pulled a wry face and put his glasses back on, then hugged both his arms across his chest, wincing slightly as his singed shoulder pulled.

Janet was immediately all professional concern.

"How are you feeling just now Daniel? Physically, I mean? Is your shoulder giving you a lot of pain?"

"What?" Daniel pulled his attention back to the woman in front of him. "Oh, I'm fine. No, it's not hurting at all really – just sometimes when I forget and overstretch it."

"And when was the last time you ate?"

"I don't really feel like eating right now." Which was true enough even if he neglected to mention that he was still feeling a little nauseous as an after-effect of his earlier adrenaline high despite having thrown up twice already. Bitter experience had taught him that it would wear off in a little while anyway, whether he took steps to alleviate it or not.

"That's not what I asked you. I asked when you ate last. Look, Daniel, I know what a strain this has been on you, but it doesn't do anyone any good if you let yourself get run down. Go and get something to eat and try and rest for a couple of hours. The Colonel will be out for that long at least."

Daniel went to protest, but she forestalled him. "Doctor's orders, Daniel. While you're away, I've arranged for him to have an MRI so I can get the scan done while he's sleeping. No point in stressing him out even further by having to immobilise him for the procedure. After, oh, three hours or so you can come back: I should have the results by then. In view of your... close friendship with the Colonel, I think you might be kept fully informed about his treatment, regardless of what the conventions say."

Daniel shot her a sharp look. "Why do I get the feeling that my return later is dependent on my capitulation now?"

She traded him a limpid look in return. "Why, I'm sure I don't know, Daniel. I never said that," she drawled.

The fight went out of Daniel all at once as the tension broke; in other circumstances he might have laughed as he held his hands up in mock-surrender. "Okay, I'm going, I'm going. But I'll be back – three hours, you said?"

"That should about do it."

It was a long three hours, despite the fact that he found that he was hungry after all when he finally got to the mess hall: he didn't taste much of his selection though, this was strictly a refuelling stop. One meal of indeterminate derivation and two or three mugs of coffee later and he found himself staring obsessively at the clock as its hands crawled around, unwilling to believe that he still had almost two hours to go.

Which gave him plenty of time to – what? Hang about here in the mess hall? Not much to hold his attention here. Go down to his office and try and do some work? That was a total waste of time; he had the attention span of a goldfish right at this moment, and probably roughly the same mental capability to boot. Sit some more and watch the clock go around? He certainly couldn't stand another couple of hours of that, his teeth were starting to ache with the combination of boredom and tension already. Review the rescue mission? The way he'd acted there probably wouldn't bear too much introspection and he knew it.

Once his mind had gone there, he couldn't help himself, try as he might. He played and replayed events over in his mind, up to and including the moment when he'd pulled the trigger of his gun, shot that poor bastard in the leg, remembered the moment, the very last moment, when he'd pulled the gun away from its originally intended target. Right up until the very last second he'd intended to shoot him in the groin, had ached with the need to fix him and fix him but good, spite, anger and the lust for revenge urging him on. He was still uncertain what exactly had stopped him, but he was grateful that it had. Not that it made much difference, the man was probably long dead, bled out from the wound he'd inflicted: when SGs 1 and 3 had swept through, they'd left next to no one compos mentis enough to help him.

Part of him could deal with the man's death, it really could. He'd known for a long time what he was capable of, how easy it was to dismiss taking lives, how easy it was not to dwell on the fact that his growing friendship with Teal'c had shown him, that 'the enemy' had lives and families, hopes and dreams, were really quite normal in every respect apart from the fact that they happened to have taken the 'wrong' side either through choice or force of circumstance. Furthermore, when all was said and done, his instincts for self-preservation were just as strong as the next man's.

But this – this was different. Dirty. This was cruelty, deliberate and exploitive, worse than that it was actual torture, no matter if there was a school of thought that would call it pragmatism, or maybe even justice. The man had been screaming, thin and high, his mouth stretched nearly square in disbelief and pain, clutching his leg, trying desperately to stem the flow of blood. And he had felt nothing but grim satisfaction and elation at his new-found power to extort information from the other guy.

The moment and his reaction to it were etched on his mind. Graphic. Horrifying. To find that he was capable of aping exactly what he'd thought he was fighting against was a shock. No matter how he tried to think his way around the problem, he couldn't get past this, couldn't rationalise the taking of this life, the manner of the taking. Even worse, it might yet prove to be all for nothing: if Jack didn't recover, his only slight justification for his actions would be rendered null and void. Although, he thought in a moment of searing honesty, even that small justification was just another attempt to avoid the simple truth: he'd enjoyed it, he'd enjoyed briefly being top dog, holding all the cards.

He looked around the mess hall with its harsh lighting and institutional furniture and wondered yet again at the circumstances that had brought him to this point and kept him here. Nothing of beauty, certainly: the base was as ugly and utilitarian as anything he'd seen, on world or off, both in its décor and in the attitudes it fostered. And those attitudes sucked you in, boy did they ever, the more so in the absence of any counterpoint to them. Nothing of the wider world here, not even light or air; just miles of drab corridors and drabber quarters, a place to make hard-bitten men even more callous. A dark place that fostered darkness, removed from most of the things that made life worthwhile even as it fought to protect them.

Apart, that is, from Jack. It always came down to Jack. But even that relationship was a double-edged sword, and this time it had twisted in his hand and cut him to the bone. If it wasn't for Jack he wouldn't be here still, not since Sha're had died. Jack had kept him on an even keel after that, all the more so once they had moved from friendship to their current status. And it went both ways, he was sure: Jack relied on him as well, one certainty in an inherently chaotic environment. But it was precisely that relationship that had precipitated today's events, had tinged Daniel's approach to the rescue mission with enough desperation to incline him to do what he had done. More than ever Daniel wished that Jack were sitting here with him, missed the warmth that he generated, missed their usual post-mission routine. A discussion, sometimes even an all-out fight about the rights and wrongs of what they had done until they both had their perspective sorted out, and often home eventually together to make love and find comfort in the loving. Intolerable to think that might not happen again.

He shuddered and pulled himself back to the present to look again at the clock. Five minutes to go until his deadline was reached; he'd better move. He went to drain his coffee mug, thinking better of it as the import of the clock's message penetrated: it had been sitting here alongside his elbow for a couple of hours: it was stone cold. He got up and headed for the Infirmary and Jack.

When he got there, Janet was waiting for him.

"Daniel, I knew you'd be punctual. Take a seat."

"What's the news? Have you got the results yet?"

"Yes I have, and as far as I can see, they're encouraging. No physical signs of damage."

Daniel sagged back against the chair he was sitting in. One less worry anyway, although there were several more standing in line to take its place.

"However, we are still left with a couple of problems. How exactly did the Colonel seem when you found him?"

"Confused. He didn't know who we were. And frightened because of that. That's what gave me the clue that he'd been drugged. That must be the benzos, right? Didn't I read on the site I was looking at that one of the side effects can be amnesia?"

"Anterograde amnesia, yes. The Colonel seems, from what you've said, to have retrograde amnesia."

"The significance being?"

"I don't know. It's unexpected. But I wanted to let you know that I've decided to keep him under light sedation for now to try and alleviate any withdrawal symptoms as far as I can, at least until he's stronger. So there really is no point in you hanging around here and further defying your doctor's medical order to get some rest."

"But..."

"No, Daniel. Rest. Either with a shot or without, your call. And do I need to call a couple of SFs to escort you to your quarters?"

It was a well-worn sally, but as usual it acted as the signal that this time Janet evidently meant what she said. "No. I'm out of here."

"Good. Come back in the morning and I'll check you over and give you a progress report. But not before ten hundred hours, and not even then without a decent breakfast inside you."

*

Part 5
"Report, Doctor?"

Doctor Fraiser was startled out of writing up her notes when General Hammond appeared by her side at the foot of the bed.

"Three injuries, General. Major Wade's arm is broken, a clean break, fortunately. It's been set and he's resting comfortably. Doctor Jackson received a grazing shot from an energy weapon of some kind and some minor lacerations on his face. His shoulder is burned, though not severely, I'm happy to say. Both of them should be able to cope with a debriefing tomorrow."

Hammond smiled his satisfaction at her prompt and full repsonse. "As usual, Doctor, you have anticipated what I was going to ask you."

His smile faded as he turned his head to look towards the curtained off area where O'Neill lay.

"And the Colonel?"

The doctor's voice hardened appreciably as she replied.

“He’s recovering from the cardiac arrest, which was caused by the administration of morphine. Neither Major Carter nor Doctor Jackson could have known it would cause that reaction. He is currently breathing independently, but his lungs have been damaged so we have him on additional oxygen. I won’t be able to assess his neurological state until he regains consciousness.”

She paused briefly to gather her thoughts and when she continued, the anger in her voice was unmistakeable.

"Somebody’s really done a number on him, that’s for sure. He’s suffering from malnutrition with deficiencies in vitamins C and K - he hasn't had an anywhere near adequate diet since he disappeared. He’s obviously lost a lot of weight and suffered some muscle wastage as his body’s metabolised lean tissue to fend off starvation."

"What are the implications of that?"

"Long-term, General? Nothing that can’t be put right with a couple of shots, a monitored diet program and some intensive physical therapy. We should have him bulked up to his fighting weight within a few weeks. Short term, his resistance to infection is bound to be abnormally low. But with care, we should be able to circumvent that.

"Physically, apart from the malnutrition, he has extensive bruising, particularly to his kidneys, but his immune system seems to be functioning well since the damage is healing. No broken bones apart from two cracked ribs, probably caused by Daniel's CPR – whoever’s been beating him on a regular basis has been an expert at causing maximum discomfort without lasting damage. The bruising is fairly extensive due to the vitamin K deficiency.

"He’s apparently also been drugged on a regular basis with a preparation similar to one of the benzodiazepines. Similar but not identical to Halcion. Had it been identical, I could have been fairly confident in my prognosis. As it is..." Janet trailed off and shrugged ruefully. "I really can’t say at this time, sir. Halcion is a dependency-forming drug and a tapered dose regimen is the recommended way of reducing dependency, so I’m assuming that the same strategy will work for whatever it is that the Colonel has been having administered to him. The best I can think of to do is to try and stem any withdrawal by substituting Halcion for whatever it was in the hope that it works in much the same way, and then wean him off that in the usual way. Even if that works, I can’t predict whether or not there will be any long-term effects. We’re still working on it though, to see if we can’t come up with a more positive strategy."

Hammond sighed. "I’m sure you are, Doctor. I have every confidence in you and the entire medical team."

"Yes, sir. Thank you, sir."

*

Daniel was standing at the foot of Jack’s infirmary bed, his arms hugged across his chest, when Janet returned to check on her patient. He looked up as she came in and acknowledged her with a small half smile before his attention switched back to the man lying on the bed.

"You've taken him off the ventilator. When did that happen?"

Janet opened her mouth to give Daniel the standard spiel about being up and about so soon but then took pity on him and answered straightforwardly, "About an hour ago, when you were getting the second part of your physical. After which you were told to rest, as I recall. Not much point in coming to your friendly neighbourhood doctors for treatment if you refuse to follow their advice."

Daniel didn't show much sign of having heard her.

"We did this to him, didn't we?"

She didn't pretend to misunderstand. "You couldn't have known, Daniel."

"Uh, actually, I did. I guessed, anyway – I knew he’d been drugged up with something. What was it, by the way?"

"One of the benzos, but with a twist."

"Like I said, I knew there was something. And what we did... just made it worse. I nearly killed him. Maybe I have killed him in most of the ways that count." His mouth twisted on the words, as though they had unpleasant taste. "I just couldn’t bring myself to quieten him down any other way. I couldn’t bring myself to hit him."

Janet tried to offer what comfort she could. "It may not seem like it right now, but you and Sam made a good call, Daniel. Hitting him hard enough to knock him out would have been equally bad, if not worse. You could have started a fatal bleed in his brain, his vitamin K level is so low. That’s what’s making the bruising look so bad. And when you look at the marks you and Teal’c have left on his arms when you were trying to restrain him... I know you both would have been as gentle as possible, but the bruising is very extensive. It probably wouldn’t have taken much of a blow to be fatal, and it would have been a lot quicker than this. At least this way he had half a chance. And going by previous experience, half a chance to Colonel O’Neill is worth three chances to anyone else."

"You think he’ll recover then?"

"He should recover consciousness, yes. When, I can't say."

"But?" Daniel gave her a sharp glance as she opened her mouth to speak and added, "Don't try to snow me, Janet. I heard a definite 'but' there."

Janet took a breath to give the usual easy assurances, then really looked at Daniel’s face and thought better of it. If she didn't tell him, he'd soon enough work it out on his own, if he hadn't already. With obvious reluctance, she said gently, "We have to consider the possibility of brain damage due to oxygen deprivation. He was down for quite a long time."

"I figured as much. Tell me honestly, what are his chances?"

"Of brain damage? At the moment, and until he regains consciousness and I can do a proper assessment, I can't say better than fifty-fifty. Maybe a bit less."

Daniel pinched the bridge of his nose over the top of his glasses frames and puffed out a breath. "So I guess we just have to wait then."

"That's all we can do."

*

Part 4
As they made their way back to the ‘gate, Daniel was aware of the sidelong glances he was getting from SG3 and from Sam. The part of his brain that automatically registered such things catalogued their expressions: admiration, speculation, grudging respect and from Sam, worry. Not that he really cared much. Actually, that wasn’t quite true: now that the immediate fear for Jack’s life had subsided, leaching away with it much of the cold fury he had felt for Jack's captors, and they were actually on their way home, he was starting to feel slightly ashamed of himself over the exultation he had felt about getting some small measure of revenge on these people.

No, strike that, he was starting to feel very ashamed. He had actually enjoyed shooting that creep, cutting a bully down to size, getting one back on Jack's behalf, watching the man's oily self-assurance degenerate into abject snivelling. For a brief moment he had had the power of life or death or excruciating pain over another being and it had been a rush. Oh, he could rationalise his actions back at the cells to himself – the need for speed, the overriding imperative to find Jack and get him back again safe and whole, his selfish and fervent desire not to lose another person that he loved: the whole scene the product of adrenaline. But not just that, a sneaky little voice whispered at the back of his thoughts: the rush of feeling such power had been almost orgasmic in its intensity. The thought made him feel hot and cold all over and he would have started to shake if he hadn’t looked at Jack again, used the sight of him to bolster his flagging resolve.

Jack. Lying still and slack, cradled in Teal’c’s arms as they jogged along the corridor. Christ, he looked terrible: too thin, far too thin for his lanky frame. His face was gaunt under the scraggly grey beard where the flesh had fallen away from his cheekbones, his eyes sunken. His skin had a yellowish tinge and was mottled with bruises on the exposed wrists and ankles where the drab coverall he was wearing had ridden up. Daniel thought back to the last night before the fateful mission, pictured Jack fucking him like an angel, hard-bodied and strong. He felt the rage start to bubble up inside him again and welcomed it, hugged it tight to his chest as it boosted his determination and kept him going. Time enough to worry about all the other stuff when they were finally down the ramp in the Gate room.

They were by no means out of the woods quite yet. They were making good time to the ‘gate, but it couldn’t be expected to last. They might have to fight their way out of this eventually. Ahead of him, Major Wade held up his fist in the signal to stop as he reached a turn in the corridor and motioned to Lieutenant Morrison to take the other side. Smoothly the two men moved to round the corner, one high, one low, only to duck back quickly as a sudden burst of weapons fire narrowly missed them.

Daniel cursed in the privacy of his own head, fighting a niggling feeling that by allowing the thought he had pulled the reality down onto their heads, and turned his attention back to the direction from which they’d come. He was starting to feel really antsy now, the small space between his shoulder blades cold and prickling in the expectation of a shot finding its mark out of the darkness at any time.

He scanned the corridor behind him: a swift movement caught his eye, far off in the gloom. He had been right to feel antsy then, and he almost grinned at the thought that apparently something of Jack’s sixth sense for trouble was starting to rub off on him. But the impulse faded as he thought through the implications. They were coming, and now the SGC personnel were trapped. He whistled softly to attract Sam’s attention, a tiny sliver of sound between clenched teeth, and gestured down the corridor. Sam ghosted over to his side.

"What is it?"

"Movement, back there. I think they're onto us."

She peered back and yes, there it was again: a tiny flicker of movement in the shadows. Daniel whispered to her again.

"Did you see that?"

"Yeah. Not many of them I don’t think, or they’d come in more confidently. They must know we’re bottled up here so they’ll be hoping to sneak in close and either snipe at us or catch us in crossfire."

"Which makes us the fish in the barrel. I kinda wish you hadn’t chosen to plant that image in my mind."

She gave a shrug and a closed-mouthed half-smile. "Well, it’s what I’d do if I was in their position." She turned away and whistled softly in her turn, the merest thread of sound, attracting the attention of the next man in the chain. She passed on the information with a series of rapid hand signals, careful to hold her pale palms out of sight of their pursuers, and watched as it was passed along to Major Wade.

"Sam, what if we could manage to turn the tables? They can’t know we’ve made their positions. We’re standing in a lot deeper shadow than they are, and anyway they wouldn’t still be sneaking forward if they did. Maybe we could manage to take them out."

She considered for a moment. "It might work at that, if we’re careful. Hold on while I suggest it to the Major."

Again Daniel had to wait for the silent pantomime to run its course, curbing his impatience to be actually doing something now that the idea was on the table. He saw Sam make a ‘thumbs up’ signal.

"Okay, Daniel, we have a go."

"So how do we go about it?"

Sam considered for a moment, chewing her lip. "Those recesses we passed on either side of the corridor, very nearly at the next light. If we can make it to them before they do and without being seen, we can wait there until they’re on us, take them out when they're least expecting it."

"How, exactly?"

"Depends exactly how many of them there are and how quiet we think we need to be."

Daniel shuddered inside at the implications of ‘being quiet’ - knife work, which he loathed - but suppressed it and said merely, "I’ve been watching while you’ve been chatting with Major Wade." Sam rolled her eyes at the term ‘chatting’, but made no comment. "I think I’ve seen three definite movements: there might be another one, but there’s certainly not many of them. Not surprising, we zatted a fair few on our way to the cells and they can’t possibly have recovered yet."

"Okay then. Once we’re sure that they’re all past us, we shoot them if there’re only three or four – we should be able to manage that easily - and then hightail it back here. Hopefully by the time we’ve done that, SG3 will have cleared the way forward and we can get through to the ‘gate. That sound like a plan?"

"That sounds like a plan to me."

And if we pull it off and manage to stay in one piece, it’ll be a fucking miracle, he added internally. Still, the two of them might just manage to even up the odds a little, buy Jack a better chance. And that was all he was really concerned with right now. But he said nothing out loud, just tightened his grip on the Beretta he was holding, flattened himself against his side of the corridor and started to edge towards the recess.

It was nerve-wracking to be creeping towards danger rather than away from it and Daniel was thoroughly glad when he was able to round the angle of the wall into the pool of deeper shadow that lay there and could squat down to minimise his potential as a target. So far, so good: if he was honest, he was surprised that they had made it this far without being made. But in many ways his position now was far worse in that he had no clue how close the opposition were or what they were now doing as the angle of the wall hid them completely from his sight. Not for the first time he wondered to himself how Jack had functioned for years at this level of adrenaline rush. He seemed to thrive on it: it just made Daniel feel sick.

But thoughts of Jack were good, they reminded him of the absolute necessity of fighting their way through to the ‘gate, and as soon as they could manage it. The number one priority was to get Jack home as quickly as humanly possible and he was quite certain, as he carefully checked that his knife was where it should be, that if he had to kill again to do that, he would. He had rarely encountered an abstract that was worth killing for, but show him something concrete that he cared enough about to protect and he was quite capable of killing. In that at least, in the ability to kill when necessary, he and Jack were more similar than either cared to admit.

Suddenly all hell broke loose at the other end of the corridor as a stun grenade was set off, closely followed by the rapid chatter of automatic fire. This proved to be the enemy’s undoing, as they rushed forward to support their colleagues. Daniel found himself with three of the opposition in his sights and managed to down two of them as the third man whirled and fired off a couple of shots in his general direction. Daniel flung himself to the ground, but was not quite quick enough and felt the sting of an energy bolt grazing his shoulder. He heard Sam opening up from the other side of the corridor as he retained the presence of mind to roll rapidly to his right, hearing another bolt sizzling past his ear and feeling small chips of stone scoring his cheek. Damn, that had been close, and his heart leapt in his chest as he realised just how close. There was a smoking hole in the wall just behind where his head had been a couple of seconds before.

When he cautiously raised his head again, there were three bodies lying in the corridor, two of them unconscious and one moaning feebly. Shit, where was the fourth one? He got his answer as a single shot rang out and the man who had been about to shoot him was spun around by the force of its impact and discharged his weapon wide of its intended mark.

"Thanks, Sam."

She grinned, "No problem," her teeth flashing briefly white in her darkened face before she scanned the gloom to check for any other pursuit. She gave a quick ‘thumbs up’ and they both turned and ran back towards the mayhem at the other end of the corridor. Teal'c was still guarding Jack, his large frame in its full Jaffa body armour shielding the unconscious man from further harm.

He looked up at them as they skidded to a stop beside him and squatted down.

"Were you successful, Major Carter?"

"Yes. Four down and no sign of any others. They're bound to be on their way though. How’s SG3 doing? And how’s the Colonel?" As she spoke, she reached out to check the pulse in the unconscious man’s neck, pulling a worried face as she did so.

"I believe they are prevailing. The return fire is diminishing very rapidly. O’Neill’s condition does not appear changed."

"Sam? What is it?"

She chewed briefly on her bottom lip. "His pulse is very slow – it seems a bit slower than it was before. Damn it," she muttered in an outburst of frustration, twisting around and peering towards the noise of the battle taking place, "what’s taking them so long? There’s no way this bunch of morons should be able to hold off a crack Marine unit for this long." She drummed a tattoo on the stock of her P90 with her fingers, then abruptly reached a decision. "I’m going up ahead, maybe I can help. Keep an eye on him, Daniel. And watch out for more company coming."

"You got it. Be careful..."

But she was gone. Daniel scooted over to take her place: Sam was right, Jack’s pulse did seem to be slowing down even although it still felt quite strong and the rise and fall of his chest seemed to be slowing down too. Worry gnawed at him: what if the sedative morphine shot they had administered had made things worse, not better? Shit, that was all they needed, to have found Jack alive and then to have hurt him further with the best of intentions. He puffed out a breath and tried to channel his worry into irritation. Sam had been right – what the fuck was taking those idiot jarheads so long?

"Daniel Jackson. They are doing as much as they can and as fast as they can. Major Wade is as determined to get O’Neill home as we are."

Daniel sighed out his next breath and tried to will the tension to ebb away.

"You’re right, of course. It’s just- -"

"I understand. Inaction is always the most difficult task. But SG3 is being both speedy and efficient."

Daniel looked at Teal’c, and realised just how much it was costing the Jaffa not to be a part of the battle to win through to the ‘gate. Wordlessly, he reached out and gave him an awkward pat on the arm. He cocked his head and listened, then jerked his head in the direction Sam had taken.

"Firing’s stopped."

Teal’c rose to his feet in one fluid motion, then bent to gather Jack up again.

"Indeed. It would be as well to be ready to move out as soon as we are instructed to do so."

Daniel scrambled to his feet, and then tightened his grip on his weapon as the sound of running feet floated down the corridor towards them. Lieutenant Morrison appeared out of the gloom at the corner, waving his free arm in a ‘move out’ gesture.

"Go, go, go! The way’s clear to the ‘gate, but I don’t know how long it’s gonna stay that way."

Morrison waited until Teal’c and Daniel moved up to his position, then fell in behind them to guard their rear as they rounded the corner. "Doctor Jackson? The Major wants you to dial us out. We'll provide the necessary covering fire."

"About time," Daniel muttered under his breath, then flushed a little and added, "Sorry," as he realised that Morrison had caught what he’d said. He took off around the corner at a good clip, but soon had to slow up to avoid slipping and almost falling in blood that had been shed. Whose, he had no way of telling. Still, he got to the DHD in good time, making straight for it and beginning to dial out without waiting for the order. Only once he had dialled in the seventh symbol did he stop and look around. Sam had moved forward to send the GDO signal and the others -- were all there. All of them, praise to all the powers that be, although Major Wade was holding his right arm awkwardly.

The wormhole exploded outwards and settled into its watery pattern just as Teal’c came forward with Jack, Morrison still walking backwards, alert for any threat from behind. Jack looked very still. Too still. Daniel moved out to meet them and felt Jack’s neck for a pulse.

"Teal’c, wait!" Daniel put a hand on Jack’s chest as Teal’c stopped his forward progress. Nothing. Again, not fully believing what he was feeling, he groped for the pulse in the neck, feeling it faint and thready under his fingertips.

"He’s not breathing. Damn it, he’s stopped breathing. Let's go!"

Teal'c surged up to the wormhole, his face grim, Daniel hot on his heels. The trip through the event horizon seemed to take forever before they emerged in the gateroom and raced down the ramp to put Jack on the floor.

It felt like he was wading through quicksand, everything in slow motion, as Daniel watched himself from outside when the training kicked in and he started CPR. Two breaths, fifteen pumps. Two breaths, fifteen pumps. Come on, Jack, don't give up here, don't you dare die on me now.

"Medic! Medic now!" Teal'c's roar cut across the clatter of feet down the ramp.

Two breaths, fifteen pumps. Again. Again. You die on me now, just when I've got you back, I'll kill you – I mean it, I'll kill you for sure, you bastard! Two breaths, fifteen pumps... count them carefully... seven, eight, nine...

Eleven, twelve, thirteen... and at last, Janet's voice, and firm hands moving him out of the way.

"I've got it, Daniel – move back. Gurney! Where the hell's that gurney?"

"Ready? One, two, three, lift..."

"Intubate - - do it now! Move, move!"

"I'm in!"

"Okay, bag him. Major Carter?"

"One ampoule of morphine --"

"He's in A-fib!"

Snatches of orders whirled around Daniel's head, slowly receding and leaving him cast up on the shore in their wake, oddly stranded and purposeless now that his immediate involvement was over. He slumped back, feeling behind himself to find the deck, no thoughts in his head except an insistent mantra: 'C'mon, Jack. You can do it, Jack. You have to do it, Jack, you can't, you mustn't leave me now. C'mon, Jack. You can do it..."

He hardly noticed the approaching medic and paid little attention as he was hustled along to the infirmary, not until he finally arrived and witnessed the flurry of activity around one of the occupied beds. As he passed, the curtain was whisked shut by a grim-faced nurse. For a moment, the rhythm of his internal chant was broken: how long had Jack been down now? For the life of him, he couldn't quantify it; his internal clock was still dragging its feet. He dismissed the thought and went back to willing Jack to pull through.

*

Part 3

Yay!

Jun. 21st, 2006 12:30 pm
Today isn't [livejournal.com profile] skater_g8r's birthday! Happy Unbirthday, [livejournal.com profile] skater_g8r! And to mark the occasion, here's a little unbirthday present for you :-)

Unbirthday smutlet )
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