For Judy, as thanks for all the encouragement she has given Stargate writers and for the pleasure her stories have given me.
Daniel thought he could have handled the unrelenting headaches if it hadn't been for the dreams that haunted his sleep. The headaches left him exhausted, craving sleep, yet too afraid to succumb to it. He popped handfuls of Tylenol 3 whenever no one was looking and explained away the dark rings under his eyes, and his absent-mindedness, as the effect of too many late nights researching what Nem had told him about Babylon. He'd thought he'd been doing a pretty good job of it too, till now.
Jack was eyeing him suspiciously, his mouth set in a thin line. "What's going on, Daniel?" he asked finally.
"Hmm," Daniel replied, feigning interest in the computer screen in front of him. "What do you mean?"
"Oh, let's see." Jack planted his backside on the corner of Daniel's desk. "You're taking so many pills, I'm surprised you don't rattle when you walk, you're not sleeping worth a damn if those black circles around your eyes are anything to go by and-"
"I'm fine, Jack." Daniel sighed, turned off the PC and stood up, walking across to pull his jacket off the hook by the door. "I admit I've had some headaches, but I'm sure it's just eyestrain. I really need to make time to go get my eyes checked again. Probably need a new prescription for my glasses, and as for not sleeping, I've just been staying up too late as usual. We've got two days off and I intend to spend that time catching up on sleep. So, if it's okay with you, I'll head home now and get started on it."
"You sure you don't want some company?" Jack asked. "We could grab a pizza or some Chinese, have a few beers-"
"I don't think beer's going to do my headache much good, Jack, but thanks for offering." Daniel stopped at the door and turned, pasting a smile on his face. "I'll be fine, really." A sudden sharp pain stabbed at his temple and he clutched at his head, literally feeling the color drain from his face.
"Okay, that's it." Jack was at his side, his arm around Daniel's waist, supporting him. "You're going to the infirmary-"
"No! I'm okay now." Daniel rubbed gingerly at his temple. "It's gone. It happens sometimes when I get migraines. Janet's already checked me out and cleared me. Please, Jack, I really just want to go home and sleep in my own bed."
Jack was looking at him skeptically, his eyes narrowed again. After a moment, he nodded. "All right, but I'm driving you." He raised a hand to stop Daniel's objection. "You can sleep. I'll watch TV and sleep on your couch. This isn't open for negotiation, Daniel. We either do it my way or you go to the infirmary and spend the night in one of their lovely, comfy beds with a nurse waking you up every two hours to give you something to help you sleep." Jack grinned and Daniel shook his head resignedly. "Okay," he agreed. "Home it is."
"Sheesh, Daniel, you could sound a little more enthusiastic about having my company. We have fun together, don't we?" Daniel opened the door and headed for the elevator with Jack at his heels. "Yeah, we do, but not tonight, okay? I'm really not up for the O'Neill version of fun," he muttered.
"Your loss," Jack replied.
He was alone again, lost within his memories. Jack was gone. So were Teal'c and Sam. They'd left him here in this watery grave, believing him lost to them. He sobbed as the probe delved deeper into his mind, the pain excruciating. "God! I can't remember!" he screamed at Nem, but the sea creature just turned a control on the device and Daniel shrieked, arching his back in agony. Then, as suddenly as it had begun, the pain stopped and he opened his eyes.
He was in a bedroom, its walls painted light blue, the ceiling above him white. Turning his head, he saw a bedside table, a glass of water on top of it, a book lying next to the glass.
He lifted himself on his elbows then turned and pushed the covers back, swinging his legs to the side and climbed off the bed, onto his feet. The linoleum leached cold into his bare feet and he shivered, realizing he was dressed in just a t-shirt and boxers. He looked around for something warmer to wear and saw his bathrobe lying on the end of the bed. Pulling it on, he huddled into its warmth, then walked to the doorway of the room and opened it.
"What the hell are you doing up?" A harsh voice greeted him and he looked round in surprise, into what should have been his living room, where Jack should have been asleep on his couch.
A fist came out of nowhere and slammed into his cheek. He fell to the floor, gasping in shock and pain. A shadow loomed over him and he looked up and up into a face he'd thought... hoped he'd never see again. "Frank," he whispered, mortified to feel tears dripping down his face, his voice sounding smaller and younger than it should.
"Uncle Frank to you, you little bastard. Get up and get back to bed before I give you a proper belting."
He scrambled to his feet, realizing as he did that the robe was gone and in its place he wore pajamas decorated with trains and cars. As he stood, he looked up at the man who'd made his childhood such a nightmare and realized with horror that he was back there, a frightened ten year old, with no one to turn to and nowhere to run.
The man's hand came out at him again and he shrunk back, but it caught him a glancing blow anyway and his head hit the wall. Pain flared through his skull and then everything went dark.
Jack turned off the television and stood up, stretching a kink out of his back. He glanced at his watch. It was almost midnight and he decided to call it a night. He headed for the bathroom then detoured past Daniel's room on his way back to get ready for bed. Daniel's bed was empty and Jack stepped into the room, inexplicable worry nibbling at the edge of his consciousness. A step around the bed and he froze momentarily then hurried forward, falling to his knees next to Daniel's prone body.
"Daniel?" Jack patted Daniel's cheek gently then a little harder when his friend didn't stir. For a moment when he'd seen him lying there, Jack thought he'd simply had a bad dream and fallen out of bed, but as Daniel continued to be unresponsive to his voice and touch, Jack felt his concern grow. He stood and ran to the en suite bathroom, wetting a washcloth with cold water and bringing it back to the bedroom where he knelt at Daniel's side again and wiped the cold cloth over the unconscious man's face. Getting no response, Jack turned Daniel onto his side and made sure his airway was clear before picking up the bedside phone. He frantically punched in the number he needed, then waited impatiently, a hand resting on Daniel's shoulder till he heard it picked up at the other end. "This is Colonel Jack O'Neill. I need an ambulance at Dr Jackson's apartment ASAP." He listened for a moment then broke into the questions being asked. "I don't know what's wrong with him. He's unconscious. Notify Doctor Fraiser that he's on his way in."
Jack slammed the receiver down then tossed the phone onto the bed. Sitting at Daniel's side, he pulled the blanket off the bed and covered him with it, then stroked his hair carefully, hoping that somehow his touch would let Daniel know that he wasn't alone. "I'm here, Daniel. I'm here."
There was a siren wailing somewhere nearby and it was making his head ache. He turned his head, hot tears dribbling down his cheeks.
"Daniel? Are you awake? Daniel, open your eyes."
The voice was soft and cajoling and he did as he'd been asked, blinking his eyes as he tried to bring his surroundings into focus.
"That's good, son," the voice said. "I just need to check you out. You took quite a tumble down those stairs."
Stairs? Daniel frowned, wincing as his head pounded even more with the movement. He didn't remember falling... Frank! He struggled to sit up, crying out in fear as his arms were grasped firmly and he was pushed back down and held there.
"Easy, easy, you're okay. We'll be at the hospital in a minute."
Daniel looked around wildly, his heart thundering a terrified rhythm in his chest.
"I'm here, Daniel, I'm here." This voice was different, oddly familiar, yet unknown, and he closed his eyes, letting the safe assurance of it calm him.
"Good, that's good, Danny." The first voice was back and Daniel felt whatever he was lying on, move. There was a bump, and when he jerked in reaction, a warm hand patted his in reassurance. Then more bright lights were whizzing past above his head, more voices and strange faces surrounded him. Daniel closed his eyes against the onslaught and let sleep carry him away.
Jack kept pace with the gurney, his hand on top of Daniel's as if just the sheer touch of it could keep Daniel from being lost to him again. Daniel had remained unconscious on the ride to the SGC, only the movement beneath his lowered eyelids giving any outward sign that he was alive.
Doctor Fraiser met them at the door to the infirmary, standing aside with a muttered, "Cubicle 3," as they passed through. She grabbed Jack's elbow as he went by her, pulling him to an unwilling halt.
He pulled his arm free of her hand and tried to move on, to follow Daniel, but she stepped in front of him, her small hand reaching up to his chest to hold him in place. "Doc, I need to go with him-" he began.
"No, you don't," she said firmly. "You need to let them get him settled and begin looking him over, and you need to tell me what happened." She lifted her hand from his chest and held it up in a gesture he'd become all too familiar with in the time he'd known her. "Colonel, I need to know as much as you can tell me about what happened before he collapsed. It will help me help him."
He looked down at her then back up to watch Daniel being wheeled away, inside the curtained off cubicle in the middle of the infirmary. Finally, when he could no longer see him, he nodded. She was right, he knew that, but almost every instinct called to him to stay with Daniel. He didn't want him to wake up and think he'd been left alone again. If he woke up... Jack stomped down on that train of thought and refocused on the doctor's voice. "Sorry," he said. "Okay, he's been having headaches and looks as though he hasn't slept much since he got back from that planet."
She nodded, steering him towards a chair in the waiting room. "Let's sit down," she said. "I've been on my feet for twelve straight hours already and you look about to fall down."
"I'm fine," he said but he let himself be moved anyway till they were sitting in the chairs across from each other.
"I know you are," she said but she didn't sound convinced. "So, start from the beginning. I checked Doctor Jackson when he first came back from Oannes and he seemed fine; tired and a little dehydrated but that was to be expected with what he'd been through."
"The past few days he's been popping Tylenol like they were M&Ms," Jack began. "He looked exhausted, had trouble concentrating in briefings, seemed klutzier than usual. When I went to see him earlier tonight, he said he had a migraine, nearly fell over at one point-" He raised a hand at her expected interruption. "I was going to bring him to see you, but he insisted he was fine, that he just needed some sleep. I agreed to let him go home, but said I was staying with him overnight. We got home, he took a shower and went to bed." Jack ran a hand over his hair. "Just before I went to bed myself, I went to his room, something was bugging me. Maybe I was worried he'd get up and have a dizzy spell, like he had in his office, I don't know. Anyway, when I went into his bedroom, he was on the floor, out cold. I couldn't wake him up."
"Okay," she said, her voice offering assurance. "Let's start with the Tylenol. What strength, do you know?"
He shrugged, shook his head. "I didn't look at the packet, Doc, I just saw him popping them." His voice had risen into the frustrated range and he took it down a notch then said, "Sorry."
"That's all right. Okay, did you see him or did he mention taking anything other than Tylenol, anything stronger than, say, Tylenol 3?"
"Daniel's not a pill-popper," Jack replied heatedly. "Most of the time it's as much I can do to get him to even take Tylenol when he's injured or sick. You know that. He's been in the infirmary enough times."
"I know," she said, raising her hand to stop him. "It's just that sometimes, when people have migraines and they're having trouble sleeping as well, they'll reach for anything that will take the pain away and let them sleep, even for a little while." She looked levelly at him, her dark eyes serious. "That doesn't mean that even if they do, they're addicts. One codeine or morphine tablet does not an addict make," she added.
"As far as I know, the only thing he was taking was Tylenol," Jack said. "You can test his blood anyway, can't you?"
"Yes, and we will," Janet replied. "But sometimes it helps move things along if a person close to the patient has seen something that tells us exactly what to test for."
"So, what now?" Jack asked.
"You let us do our tests and in a little while, I'll let you in to sit with him. Hopefully, he'll have come to by then."
It had been a vain hope, Jack realized as he entered the small cubicle and sat down next to Daniel's bed. Daniel was still unconscious, only the beeping of the life monitor machines and the rapid flickering of his eyes beneath his eyelids giving any indication he was still alive.
Jack touched the back of Daniel's hand, recoiling a little at the chill of his skin. He considered tucking it under the blankets but the back was pierced by an IV that Jack was worried he'd dislodge if he did, so instead he took Daniel's lax hand in his and then cupped his other over the top, warming the icy flesh with his own body heat.
"You gonna wake up for me soon, Daniel?" he said softly. "Life's gonna be pretty boring without you in my face, you know. Besides," he let a small grin tilt his lips, "I've developed something of an abiding tolerance for you." He gave the hand in his a gentle shake, sighing when there was no reaction from Daniel. He sat back in the chair and waited.
"You gonna wake up for me soon, Daniel?"
Daniel's eyes fluttered open and he gazed slowly around the room. His head ached terribly and he could feel the pressure of a bandage at his temple. Other voices were talking and he was finally able to focus on where they were coming from. In the corner, by the door, his foster father, Frank, was standing in huddled conference with Lucy, his foster mom and a doctor in a white coat.
Lucy turned as he moved in the bed, her face showing evidence of recent tears as she walked over to him, leaning down as she reached his bedside to kiss his forehead gently and take his hand in hers. "You gave us such a scare, Danny," she murmured.
"I'm sorry," he replied, though he wasn't sure what he should be sorry about. "I just wanted to get my book. The one with the stories about Babylon." He'd done something wrong, he knew. The memory of Frank's huge hand batting him against the wall was a clear enough memory even if everything else was unaccountably blurred.
The doctor had stepped over to the bed as well and he looked down at Daniel with kind eyes. "Hey there, champ," he said. "Think you can tell us what happened?"
Frank coughed in the corner of the room and Daniel's eyes flickered over to him. Frank smiled at him, a cold smile that never reached his eyes, and subtly, carefully, he drew his finger across his own throat in an unmistakable gesture.
"Danny?" Lucy prompted. "Answer the doctor."
Daniel closed his eyes, not even trying to stop the fat tears that welled up under his eyelids and trickled down his cheeks. "I fell down the stairs," he whispered. "It was my fault. I was running. I shouldn't have been running. Uncle Frank told me to slow down but I didn't..." He let his voice trail off as he opened his eyes and looked up into Lucy's face.
Her eyes looked suddenly old and tired but she gave him a small smile and kissed him again. "That's all right, Danny," she said. "It wasn't your fault. Accidents happen."
"I'm tired," he murmured. "My head hurts..." The room began to whirl around him and he cried out with fear. Then blackness descended and the whirling carried him away.
Jack stood up as Daniel's hand jerked in his and the monitors began to beep ominously. "What's wrong?" he asked as Doctor Fraiser reached his side, shouldering him easily out of the way despite her diminutive stature.
"Sir, you need to wait outside," she said briskly and he tried to leave, knowing this was her domain and she had every right to order him out, but he couldn't go. Instead, he moved back to the edge of the curtained entry and stood there, frozen in place, unwilling to tear his gaze from what was happening to Daniel.
Daniel convulsed, his neck and hips arching off the bed, his back bowing, wire-tight, before snapping back to the mattress.
Fraiser was barking out orders, her words a mass of numbers and names that Jack couldn't even begin to comprehend. Minutes later, there was a lull in the activity and Jack watched, breath held suspended in tight lungs as Daniel's body stayed where it had fallen after the seizure, his hands, so fiercely clenched a moment or two ago, now lying limp and open at his sides.
"Is he okay?" he finally managed to ask and he almost felt the relief weaken his knees and send him crashing to the floor as Fraiser nodded, her own face tight with worry.
"For now," she said. "I don't get this. His blood results are clean, there's no evidence of poisoning or infection. He doesn't even have a fever."
"What about the Tylenol he's been taking?" Jack asked. "You said-"
"He has a slightly higher than therapeutic level in his blood," Fraiser replied, pushing a wayward strand of hair back behind her ear. "Nothing that could account for this." She looked down at Daniel and slipped a gentle hand across his brow. "It's not like he's even really unconscious. He's showing evidence of REM sleep. It's obvious he's dreaming, yet he won't wake up."
"Could it be something to do with what happened on Oannes?"
Jack looked around, surprised to find Carter and Teal'c behind him. "What?" he asked, his mind still too focused on the horror of what he'd seen to snap back into coherent thought immediately.
"Oannes," Carter said again. "We know that Nem used some sort of mind probe on him."
Fraiser nodded. "It's the only thing I can think of," she said. She rubbed a hand over her eyes. "I should have thought of it myself before now."
"It's been a few weeks since we got him back," Sam said, offering an explanation. "He hasn't shown any symptoms till now-"
"Except the headaches and bad dreams and insomnia," Jack interjected. "God, I should have forced him to come to the infirmary the first time I saw what was happening to him."
"I do not believe you can blame yourself for not seeing what you could not have known at the time," Teal'c offered gravely. "On my world we have a saying, 'In reflection, all things are clear'."
"Hindsight is twenty-twenty," Jack said. He looked over at Daniel's quiescent body. "I still should have known there was more going on than what he was telling me, though. I know him; know how he hides stuff..."
"Let's not worry about blame right now," Fraiser said firmly. "Let's just try to work out what we need to do to bring him back."
"All right." Jack's command persona suddenly took over. This was something he was comfortable with, something he could finally do for Daniel, something that would hopefully be more fruitful than sitting at his friend's bedside, watching as his body convulsed and twisted and his mind, that wonderful mind, was destroyed by something they didn't even understand...
"Sir?" Carter's hand was on his arm, the force of her grip dragging him back to the present.
"Sorry," he muttered. "Call General Hammond, ask him for a briefing in fifteen minutes. I have an idea."
"Yes, sir." Carter cast a long look at Daniel then hesitantly stepped over to the bed, leaning down and placing a kiss on his hair. "Hang in there, Daniel. We're going to help you."
"Hang in there, Daniel. We're going to help you." This voice was lighter than the other, a woman's voice, but the familiar tone of it tugged at his memory, drawing him to the brink of consciousness.
"You awake?" a brusque voice asked impatiently and Daniel forced his eyes open and turned his aching head to the side. His whole body felt as if it had been through a wringer, muscles twinged and complained with every move he made. He winced as he tried to turn on his side, away from the face that had haunted almost every moment of his life since he'd been placed in foster care. A meaty hand clenched his shoulder, uncut nails digging painfully into his tender skin. "Don't you turn away from me, you little bastard. You look at me when I'm talking to you."
"Sorry, I'm sorry," he murmured, hot tears springing too readily to his eyes before he could stop them.
"Wimp," Frank said scathingly. "Just as well you're worth money to take in or I'd have dumped you along the road somewhere months ago. Listen, anybody asks what happened, you tell them you fell down the stairs."
"I did," Daniel whispered, "that's what I said happened."
"Yeah, well, don't change your story, all right?" Frank grinned mirthlessly down at him. "You wouldn't have got hurt anyway if you'd stayed in bed like you're supposed to."
Daniel nodded agreement though his mind told him that wasn't true. Frank had always found reasons to hit him, to hurt him, and humiliate him, almost from the first day Daniel had moved into their home. He was a bully, and Daniel was small and an easy target. He was also alone in the world, his parents dead, and his grandfather off in parts unknown. He clenched his teeth down hard on his lip as he realized that there was really no one who would even care how he got hurt. Survival was all that mattered, he decided, and if that meant agreeing with Frank, he could do that, and then as soon as he could, he'd just run away...
"I'll be back, Daniel. Just hold on till then, okay?"
The relief Daniel felt at hearing that unknown, yet so familiar voice was so palpable that he let out a sigh, the tears that had threatened to overwhelm him banished now behind dry eyes and a firm jaw. He closed his eyes and shut out Frank's threatening visage, the menace of his presence, and let himself drift off.
"I'll be back, Daniel. Just hold on till then, okay?" Jack looked down at his silent friend then patted the shoulder nearest him gently. "Hang on, buddy. We'll work it out." Then he turned and left, worry dogging his steps toward the briefing room.
Hammond was already seated at the head of the table when Jack entered the room. He looked up, concern evident in his eyes. "How's he doing?" he asked.
Jack shrugged as he sat down. "Not good. Fraiser doesn't have any idea what's causing it, but Carter thinks it's connected with what that slimy fish thing did to him on Oannes."
"What do you think?" Hammond asked.
"I can't think of any other reason for this to have happened," Jack replied. "I should have picked up on it earlier. The signs were there."
"He was doing a pretty good job of covering up," Hammond remonstrated. "He's one of my people and part of my job is seeing when they're having problems-"
"Well, we'll have to agree to share the blame on this, sir. That's part of my job description, too." Jack rubbed at his aching eyes with the heels of his hands. "I want to take Carter and Teal'c and go back to Oannes. Even if we can't find Nem, maybe we can find the device he used on Daniel. Carter can probably work out what it does..."
"You have a go," Hammond said, standing up.
"Just like that?" Jack asked, standing as well, eagerness to find a way to help Daniel already sending him heading toward the door.
"I want to help Doctor Jackson as much as you do," Hammond said quietly. "Godspeed, Colonel."
Despite his urgency to get back to Oannes, Jack couldn't resist stopping at the infirmary on his way to the locker room. He stood beside Daniel's bed, the interrogatory lift of his eyebrow at Fraiser getting a sad negative shake of her head in response. No change then.
Daniel still looked as if he was sleeping, the dreams still evident in the fluttering of his eyelids and the occasional twitch of his lips. "Hey, Danny." Jack bent low over the bed, his mouth against Daniel's ear. "We're going to help you. You wait for me to come back. Don't you be thinking of heading off anywhere, okay?"
There was a soft sigh that Jack hoped was in response to his words but when he straightened and looked at Daniel's face, there was no change in his friend's expression, no obvious lightening of the deep sleep that held him in its thrall. He placed a hand on Daniel's head in a benediction of sorts, then left the room, all his mind focused now on finding Nem and his cursed machine.
"Hey, Danny, we're going to help you..." The voice was closer this time. Daniel almost succeeded in dragging his leaden eyelids open but then he heard Frank's harsh voice over-riding the other and instead he let sleep claim him and pull him under once more, down into safety, away from the threat of harm.
"Okay, so now what?" Jack asked, seating himself on the sand at the edge of the water.
"Well, the first time we were here, Nem pretty much appeared as soon we got here," Carter said. "I'm guessing he has some sort of surveillance type equipment or an early warning alarm that lets him know when someone comes through the Stargate." She shrugged. "I guess we wait and see if he shows up."
"Would it not have been prudent to bring underwater diving equipment so we could swim out to where he kept DanielJackson?" Teal' c asked.
"We don't know what sort of defenses he has set up," Jack pointed out. "I'd rather wait a little while and see if he comes to us."
"There's also the possibility that he'll be more inclined to help us if he doesn't see us as invaders," Carter added.
Teal'c inclined his head in agreement with her words. "I find it difficult to simply sit and wait," he said. "It is not my natural inclination." "Mine neither," Jack said, looking up at him. He patted the sand next to him. "Pull up a pew, T, we could be in for a long wait."
"How long should we wait for?" Sam asked. "Daniel may not have that much-"
Jack leapt to his feet as a bow-wave appeared in the water, approaching the shore at a rapid pace. "Speak of the devil," he said. He checked his zat and made sure it was set to stun, nodding to Teal'c to do the same. "I'm hoping we won't need to use force but just in case..."
Sam took a hesitant step backward as Nem rose from the water and waded toward them.
"Why have you returned?" Nem asked. He eyed them with what looked more like curiosity than hostility. "Where is Daniel Jackson?"
"Well, that's why we're here, Nem." Jack stepped forward, keeping the zat aimed down at the ground. "Daniel's sick. We think it might have something to do with that contraption you used to probe his mind. We need you to come back with us, or at least let Carter here take a look at the device so we can help him."
Nem shook his head. "I am sorry," he said haltingly. "I cannot return with you to your world. I must submerge myself within the sea periodically. It is how I survive."
"I think he's saying he's amphibian, sir," Carter murmured in Jack's ear. "He can only stay on land for a certain amount of time." "Then let us take the device with us," she said to Nem. "If you can give me some idea how it works-"
Nem shook his head again. "That is not possible," he replied. "I am sorry. I cannot help you."
Jack moved forward, all the frustration he'd been keeping simmering just below the surface ever since he'd found Daniel unconscious, now raging to the fore. "Don't you tell me that!" he yelled. "Don't tell me you can't help Daniel. He went through hell in that damned machine of yours to tell you what you wanted to know."
"I told him there would be great pain, great risk..." Nem said, his tone sorrowful.
"And he did it anyway," Jack replied bitterly, "because he wanted to be able to go home."
"And because he empathized with your loss as well," Teal'c added, moving forward to stand next to Jack. "DanielJackson is of great importance to us, as Omoroca was to you," he said quietly. "We wish only that he be restored to us as he once was. If there is some way you can help him, we would be grateful."
Nem looked at them, his great eyes glimmering. "I cannot go with you," he said again, "nor can you take the device. But if you bring Daniel to me, I will try to help him."
"Oh, I don't know about that, sir," Carter said. "He may be too weak."
Jack looked at the alien. Something told him Nem did want to help and he was probably Daniel's only hope. "Let's head back and talk to Fraiser. If there's any way to bring him here, we're going to do it."
"What? No way." Fraiser shook her head adamantly. "I'm sorry, sir, but every minute he's in this unconscious state, he's growing weaker. I just don't think we should risk it."
Jack leaned his hands on the briefing room table and looked across at her. "And if we don't risk it, he could stay like this forever," he said not unkindly. "Isn't that right? Do you think he'd want that?"
"I don't know," she replied. She looked at Hammond then back at Jack, compassion in her eyes. "I know you only want to help him, sir," she said softly, "but I need to run a few tests. I need to work out the pros and cons of moving him to an alien underwater environment and putting him under the influence of a device that has the potential to kill him." She turned to Hammond. "I need to get back to my patient."
"Of course. You're dismissed, Doctor."
Jack caught up with her just as she was about to enter the elevator. "Doc, wait," he said, reaching out and grasping her arm. "Sir, I want to help Daniel as much as you do-"
"I know," he said, "but just listen to me for a minute, okay? When we went to Abydos the first time, I was on a suicide mission." He watched her eyes widen in shock and put a hand up to quell her response. "It was just after my son died and... Look, I'll tell you all about it when we get back from Oannes if you really want to hear it, but right now I'm only concerned about Daniel. The thing is, it was Daniel who made me see that life was still worth living, that I still had something to offer. He showed me there was more to life than loss and guilt, and he showed me that again after Sha're was taken and he fought tooth and nail to be part of SG-1. But, Doc, do you really think he'd want to live like this? This isn't the way Daniel should live. He should be out there, with us, helping to fight the Goa'uld and looking for Sha're. He wouldn't want to be just a shell of the man he used to be. He'd take the risk, just like he did when Nem used the device on him the first time. He took the risk then to come back to his life. I just want to give him that chance again."
Fraiser looked up into his face, tears in her eyes. After a moment, she nodded. "All right, let me make sure he's as stable as he can be and..." she used a finger to poke at Jack's chest, "...I'm going with you. No arguments on that, all right? Sir," she added, almost as an afterthought.
"Welcome to SG-1," Jack said, sketching a hasty salute. "I have to go see Siler about some equipment we'll need. I'll see you in the infirmary in a while."
In the end, it had taken less time than Jack thought it would to organize all they needed to transport Daniel to Oannes and down to Nem's underwater lair. Siler had rigged up a portable capsule that was waterproof and could maintain the correct pressure and oxygen that Daniel would need to make the trip safely. He'd also come up with, from God only knew where, scuba equipment for SG-1 and Fraiser. Jack looked at the bounty piled up in the gear up room and made a mental note to buy Siler the biggest bottle of Scotch available on Earth when they got back. Then he headed down to the infirmary to see Daniel.
Daniel had already been transferred into the capsule when Jack got there and he looked at it, shuddering inwardly at how coffin-like it appeared. Then, shaking off the morbid thoughts, he walked across the room and knelt next to it, reaching inside to take Daniel's lax hand in his. "Daniel, you keep on hanging in there for us, okay? We're taking you back to Oannes. Nem's going to fix this and then we'll come back and you can tell me all about those dreams you've been having, all right?" He swallowed down hard against the lump of emotion that was almost making it impossible to say any more. "Daniel, I'm here. I'll be with you all the way. You're safe. You're safe."
Jack stood and motioned to Siler to lock the top of the capsule into place, then he, Teal'c, Siler and Carter picked it up and carried it from the infirmary with Fraiser trotting alongside.
"I'll be with you all the way. You're safe. You're safe." Daniel let the words reverberate inside the darkness of his mind and held onto the assurance in them, as if they were an anchor holding him to life.
Jack watched as Teal'c unlatched the clasps locking Daniel into his protective casket and then reached inside, one massive arm going beneath Daniel's legs, the other under his neck. Carefully, the big Jaffa stood cradling Daniel against his chest as if bearing the treasured weight of a child. Tears prickled at Jack's eyes as he watched how gently Teal'c placed Daniel down on the table beneath Nem's alien device, how Teal'c's hand hesitated a moment, then bestowed a soft pat on Daniel's head.
Nem stepped up to the table and looked down at Daniel. One clawed finger reached out and traced a path along Daniel's cheek up to his forehead, then rested there. "He is lost in his own memories," Nem said. He turned to Jack. "I am sorry. I did not know this would happen. Perhaps the memory he had of Babylon was connected with this time of his life. He has returned to it and is unable to break free."
"Well, break him free, dammit!" Jack said harshly. "You can do it, can't you? You put him back there so you must be able to bring him out of it."
Nem gazed steadily back at him then what could have been a smile crossed his face. "I believe it is possible," he replied. "I was concerned he was lost in a false memory, one of the device's making, but he told me of Omoroca and Babylon and I believe that was from his own mind, just as this is."
He turned to the device and moved a luminescent green control. "It will cause him pain," he said.
Daniel arched up from the table, his eyes staring, his mouth open in a rictus of what looked like sheer agony.
Jack forced himself to stay in place, his nails digging deep into the palms of his hands, fighting the urge to go to Daniel, grab him away from the nightmare device and hold him till the pain was gone.
Nem moved another dial and Daniel slumped back to the table, his chest heaving, his head falling to the side.
Fraiser was moving as soon as Nem nodded at them, her stethoscope already in her ears. She placed the bell on Daniel's chest and listened, then Jack saw a small smile tilt her lips as her hand brushed a strand of hair from Daniel's sweat-beaded forehead. "Well, hello there, Doctor Jackson," she said, "it's nice to have you back."
Jack fought the urge to shove her bodily out of the way but stepped as close as he could to the table while she finished her examination.
Daniel's eyes were open, looking somewhat glazed and confused. "Nem?" he whispered.
"I am sorry for causing you pain, Daniel," Nem said, bowing his head.
Jack reached out a hand and clasped Daniel's in his. "Hey there, sleepyhead," he said, "it's about time you woke up." He swallowed back the anguish that had been building since he'd found Daniel unconscious and grinned at him instead. "Didja miss me?"
Daniel shook his head. "I dreamed about you," he replied huskily. "Well, not about you but I thought I could hear you talking to me."
Jack just nodded and kept his hand firmly around Daniel's. He turned to Teal'c and Carter. "How about we get our boy back home where he belongs?" He looked at Nem. "Thank you," he said.
Jack peered around the corner of the infirmary door and stifled a laugh with his hand. Daniel was reclining back against a stack of pillows that Teal'c was resolutely fluffing while Carter was holding a spoonful of blue Jell-O to Daniel's equally resolutely closed lips.
"Aw, come on, Daniel, it's delicious." Carter raised the spoon to her mouth and took a swallow. "See," she chirped, dipping the spoon back into the plastic cup and digging out another morsel.
"Sam, I hate blue Jell-O," Daniel said in a patient tone. "As a matter of fact, I hate Jell-O of any color."
Sam looked momentarily put out then her face brightened as she dug into the bag at her side. "I've got chocolate walnut cookies," she announced. "Just try one," she entreated. "I know they're probably not as good as the store bought ones-"
"You made me cookies?" Daniel looked up and caught Jack's eyes, beckoning him into the room.
"Well, yeah," Sam replied. She made to grab the cookie from Daniel's fingers. "They probably taste lousy-"
"Hey," Daniel said, tightening his fingers around it, "that's mine." He put it in his mouth and rolled his eyes blissfully. "Better than store bought," he said dreamily.
"Really?" Sam sounded stunned.
"Much better. Jack, have a cookie. They're to die for," Daniel said, grabbing the bag from Sam's hand and holding it up to Jack, who reached inside, grabbed one, took a bite and grinned around the grimace that was fighting for control of his face.
"Well?" Sam asked anxiously. "Daniel's just being nice, isn't he?"
"Mmm-mmm," Jack replied, swallowing down hard against his gag reflex. He coughed. "These are great. You should bake more often."
Sam beamed, pure sunlight across her face. "Well, I gotta go." She leaned down and planted a kiss on Daniel's forehead. "See you tomorrow. I'm glad you're okay."
Teal'c watched as she left the room then reached into the cookie bag only to have his hand stopped by Daniel. "Teal'c, you really don't want one of these."
"You said they were delicious," Teal'c said. "Do you not wish to share them with me?"
Jack grinned. "Let the big guy have a cookie, Daniel. Don't want him pouting."
"Jaffa do not pout," Teal'c rejoined, pushing the whole cookie into his mouth then licking his lips. "These cookies are satisfactory."
"You're kidding, right, T?" Jack asked, looking at the Jaffa closely. He shook his head as Teal'c simply grabbed another cookie from the bag.
"He likes them," Daniel said, smiling. "Here, Teal'c, take the bag."
"I do not wish to deprive you of your treat," Teal'c said, but his fingers clenched a little more tightly over the top of the bag as if unsure it would be taken away.
Daniel waved his hand. "I've got plenty of stuff to eat," he said. "Really, be my guest, take them."
"I shall not tell CaptainCarter you gave them to me," Teal'c said, giving the pillows one final Jaffa-like maneuver. "I will simply tell her that you allowed me a taste and they were delicious." He bowed his head. "I am glad you have returned to us, DanielJackson. I need to spend time in Kelno'reem."
"Knock yourself out, big guy," Jack said with a wave. He sat down in the chair at Daniel's bedside as Teal'c left, his cookie stash buried under his arm. "No accounting for taste," he said.
Daniel shrugged. "Do you think you could move my pillows back down a bit?" he asked. I kinda feel like I've got a poker stuck up my ass."
Jack laughed and did a quick change of position for him then sat back down, looking his friend over searchingly.
Daniel looked exhausted still, dark circles apparent under his eyes, his skin still far too pale.
"When you were out," Jack began, "it looked like you were having some pretty heavy-duty dreams..."
Daniel closed his eyes for a moment then opened them and nodded. "I remember most of them," he said. "They weren't dreams though. They were memories from when I was a kid, just after my parents were killed."
His eyes looked haunted then and Jack reached out and gripped his hand firmly. "You know," he said, "if you want to talk about them, I'll listen."
Daniel didn't answer but there was an expression in his eyes that said as eloquently as words could, 'Not now, maybe soon I'll tell you, but not now'. He gave Daniel's shoulder a gentle squeeze and nodded. It was enough. Having Daniel back was enough for now. The rest could wait.