Epilogue to Fire and Water. Spoilers for Fire and Water and Gamekeeper, along with a few snippet spoilers for various first season episodes and the movie.

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Corners of the Mind
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Almost at the gate. We're almost there. Almost home. Daniel focused on putting one foot in front of the other. The surge of relief and adrenaline that had flooded him when he'd breached the surface of the water and seen Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had ebbed, leaving him almost numb with fatigue.

And cold. Very, very cold. He wrapped his arms around himself and stumbled over the sandy terrain, doing his best to ignore the pounding in his head. He tried not to think too much about what Nem had said.

"It could...damage."

Damage. Brain damage. He swallowed. No, no. He was okay. He felt okay. Well, except for the hunger pangs in his stomach and the tired trembling of his muscles and the throbbing in his head.

One times one is one. Two times two is four. Four times four is sixteen. The square root of twenty-five is five. My name is Daniel Jackson. I was born on July eighth.

He stumbled, and jerked back to the present, realizing his eyelids had drifted closed, plunging him into darkness. A tightness closed around his right arm, and he opened his eyes and looked at Jack, then at the hand wrapped around his bicep.

"Hey." Jack's grip tightened slightly. "You okay?"

Daniel realized they'd all stopped walking and were now looking at him, each with varying degrees of concern in their eyes. Even Teal'c's normally stoic face was tinged with worry.

"Yeah." Daniel raised one hand to rub at his temple and offered a tiny smile. "Just tired, and I really need half a dozen aspirin."

Jack's eyes narrowed. "Yeah?" He seemed to study Daniel. "Anything happen we should know about?"

Daniel felt his eyelids closing again. "Yeah." He thought he felt himself swaying, or maybe it was just a residual illusory effect from the ocean. "But later." His tongue felt like it was coated with paste.

"Hey." A shake of his arm jarred Daniel back awake.

"Huh?" He blinked at Jack, squinting against the glare of the daylight sky. "Oh. Sorry." The pain in his head flared.

"Oh God, he killed her!"

"Daniel?"

He looked back at her, standing against the darkening Abydonian sky, framed by the violet twilight.

"Hey, Daniel. You okay?"

Her weight in his arms. Limp. Warm. Lifeless. The look of horror on Jack's face."

"Shit. Daniel..."

"Wait for me."

"Daniel!"

A stinging pat on his cheek shattered the technicolor memories that had hijacked his mind. He saw Jack's face hovering in front of his. Carter's face was much higher above Jack's right shoulder. Too high. Daniel blinked and looked around, realizing he was on his knees. So was Jack.

"What happened?" Daniel rubbed again at his temple.

"That's what I'd like to know." Jack still had hold of Daniel's arm. "You think you can walk?"

"Yeah." Daniel struggled to his feet, and Jack pulled, helping him up.

The stargate loomed in the distance. Not too far. Maybe about a five-minute walk. He could do it. Then he would collapse and sleep for a week.

"Come on." Jack walked alongside Daniel, his grip remaining firm. "Easy steps."

They reached the gate, but the brief journey passed in a blur to Daniel. He watched as Carter dialed, the glyphs lighting up one by one. The gate activated, the splash of water reaching toward him.

He blinked again. No, not water. The event horizon. It was calm now, like a placid lake. Sparkling. Beckoning.

It glimmered before him. His heart thudded. His throat tight, he touched it. His fingers went cold. Swallowing, he leaned forward, closing his eyes. Coldness touched his face. What was on the other side? He opened his eyes and then he was somewhere else, gasping, freezing.

Jackson!

Jack was there, a shock of dark hair, hard eyes...

"Daniel!"

Jack's face seemed to morph before Daniel's eyes, the hair turning lighter, the eyes softer.

"Jack?"

"Yeah. You with us?"

"Yeah."

"Come on. Let's go. There's a bed in the infirmary with your name on it."

"Okay."

He felt himself being tugged forward by Jack's grip and forced his legs to move. The shock of stepping into the wormhole left him gasping when he emerged on the other side, and his knees hit something hard. Gray swirled around him. Then a blur of white appeared.

"Doctor Jackson?"

He looked up, realized he was laying flat on his back on the ramp, and tried a weak smile. Doctor Fraiser's concerned face faded to black.

Then the memories swallowed him.

~~~~~~~~~~

Jack paced.

"Colonel, help me!"

He closed his eyes, pushing the memory away. It wasn't real. It hadn't happened. He should've known it wasn't real. There were inconsistencies. He’d told Hammond Daniel had said, “Colonel, help me!” Later, however, he’d remembered it as “Jack, help me!”

Daniel hardly ever called him “Colonel.” That should’ve clued him into something.

“Jack, help me!”

Jack clenched his eyes tighter and swallowed. It didn't happen. He's okay. He's in there with Fraiser, getting looked over... He's okay. Just a little tired. That's all.

I'm NOT going to be giving another eulogy.

"Colonel?"

Sam's voice made him open his eyes. She and Teal'c were sitting next to one another, waiting with him outside the infirmary -- waiting for the word from Fraiser that Daniel would be okay.

Their fourth.

He remembered hearing the stargate activating. Running. Knowing it would be Daniel. But it hadn't been. Just another somebody returning. He couldn't even remember who.

He'd known that Daniel was alive. Out there. Left behind.

"Damnit."

"Sir?" Carter's concerned voice interrupted his dark thoughts.

He sank into the chair on the opposite wall, facing his two teammates. "What's taking so long?"

"I'm sure Janet's just being thorough."

"Yeah."

Jack tried not to think too hard about it. Tried not to think about how pale Daniel had looked. How he'd kept wigging out. Rubbing his temple. How his eyes had kept going blank...or closing entirely. How he'd passed out on the ramp.

The kid was just tired. He'd said so himself, and if Daniel admitted to being tired, he had to be beyond exhausted.

Footsteps tapped on the hard floor, and Jack sprang to his feet just as Fraiser emerged. Her eyes scanned them quickly, and she leaned against the wall. "I think he's going to be okay."

Jack stiffened. "You think?"

She sighed heavily, her eyes reddened with fatigue. "I can't be certain. Doctor Jackson told me he was subjected to an alien technology to enhance his memory. The alien who held him captive told him the device could damage him. I've performed all the tests I can, and I find no concrete evidence of brain damage. I'm guessing the device was the same thing used on you three to affect your memories, but from what I gather, it was used at a much higher level on Doctor Jackson. You have all been having vivid flashbacks to the false memories. Doctor Jackson's experiencing something similar, but with real memories. I'm hopeful that with time, these flashbacks will fade, just as yours have begun to fade."

Sam leaned forward in her chair, her face troubled. "What did you mean about not finding any concrete evidence of brain damage?"

Janet's expression remained somber. "Because the device is something we know very little about, I can't give any certain diagnosis. I can only run tests on things we know to test for. I've performed the standard MRI and CAT scans, and they read clean. I've tested for various levels of neurotransmitters, and the only abnormalities are increased levels of glutamate and other neurochemicals involved with memory. An EEG also showed some unusual neural activity, but nothing overtly alarming."

"Which means?" Jack prompted, frustration making his voice hard.

"I don't know." Janet rubbed at the back of her neck. "I'm assuming the abnormalities are a side effect from the device and that they're only temporary. The best I can do is give him a pain killer for his headache, let him catch up on his sleep, pump fluids and nutrients into him and see how he is tomorrow."

"Is Daniel Jackson currently resting?" Teal'c asked, remaining seated in the chair, his back rigid.

"Yes, Teal'c. He's asleep now. You should all follow his example and get some shut-eye yourselves. Come back tomorrow morning."

Sam rose to her feet. "Can we see him first?"

Janet hesitated a moment, her eyes drifting over them. Jack waited, his hands clenched into fists at his side. He had to see Daniel. He knew they all did. Even though his memories of Daniel burning to death were fake, and he knew they were fake, he still felt he horror of having watched Daniel die. Hell, he could still hear Daniel's screams.

"Okay." Janet offered a tired smile. "But just for a few minutes, and please don't wake him. Not that I think you could wake him. He's pretty out of it, but just in case..."

"Got it." Jack nodded. "Quiet as a mouse. I promise."

He hurried past her, heading to the back of the infirmary, and spotted Daniel laying in a bed, covered by a couple of thick blankets that rose to his chin. The only sign that he was alive was the steady rise and fall of his chest and the soft, rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor.

"Daniel." Sam whispered, moving past Jack. She stopped at the edge of the bed and just stood there, staring down at him.

They all just stared at him, watching him sleep.

"He's going to be all right," Sam whispered, looking up at Jack, her eyes wide and sad. "I still can't get it out of my head, though. We left him behind."

Jack looked away from her, his eyes settling on Daniel. "I know."

~~~~~~~~~~

"You let him?"

Daniel nodded and closed his eyes, dropping his head back to the pillow. The image of Jack's shocked, angry eyes lingered in his mind. "Yeah.... And could you not talk so loud?" His headache clung tenaciously to life.

A long silence followed his question, and Daniel hoped that Jack would let the matter drop. It's not like he'd wanted to let Nem mess around with his mind, but he'd seen little choice at the time. Nem wasn't a bad guy, but he was someone determined to find his lost love. Daniel understood that kind of drive on a very personal level. He'd known Nem wouldn't let him leave until he'd gotten the information he so desperately wanted.

"What fate Omaroca?"

"What?" Jack asked in a noticeably quieter tone of voice.

Daniel opened his eyes. "His mate's name. It's what he kept asking me over and over again." He closed his eyes again, blocking out the lights from the infirmary ceiling and trying to will his headache away. "I'll probably be hearing that in my sleep."

"And so you decided to let him strap you into that machine and scramble your brains?"

"My brains aren't scrambled...and yes. At the time, I thought it was either that or risk staying there for a very, very long time. You all thought I was dead. I had no hope of rescue, and I couldn't chance remaining a prisoner for who knows how long. Not with Sha're still out there." He finally opened his eyes again, squinting slightly against the light.

"We came back," Jack said softly. "We were coming to rescue you."

"I didn't know that at the time."

"I know."

"I appreciate the effort, though."

"Well, golly gee, and thanks."

Daniel managed a faint smile. "So, uh, did you really pack up my entire apartment?"

Jack shrugged. "Well, we didn't get to all of it. You've got a lot of crap, you know."

"Yeah, I know. I hate moving. Hey, can I read the eulogy?"

"No."

"Okaaay."

"Carter exaggerated, by the way."

"Oh?"

Jack smiled shyly. "Well, okay. It was a pretty nice speech, if I do say so myself."

He brightened. "Really?"

"Yeah. Who knew I could be so eloquent?"

"You didn't pull it out of a book of eulogy speeches or something, did you?"

"Oh, c'mon..."

"Right. A book. What was I thinking?"

~~~~~~~~~~

Jack found he had trouble taking his eyes off of Daniel. Every time he stepped into the infirmary and saw the kid laying in bed, he thanked God or Luck or Whatever for the fact that Daniel was alive and not a burnt corpse on some lonely, alien world.

At the moment, the very-much-alive archeologist sat at a comfortable forty-five degree angle, the head of the bed propped up to support him. Fraiser, Jack, Sam, Teal'c, and General Hammond were all seated in the infirmary around his bed for the briefing. Fraiser had cleared him for the meeting, explaining that her approval was conditioned on the meeting lasting no more than thirty minutes and being held in the infirmary. The general had readily agreed.

"...and he told me that you all thought I was dead. No one was coming to rescue me," Daniel explained. "He intended to keep me there until I could give him the information he needed."

"About something that happened thousands of years ago?" Jack asked, anger in his voice.

Daniel shrugged. "I could read the ancient writings. He thought I would have the knowledge. Actually, I did have the knowledge, I just couldn't remember it."

"And so you let him put you under that mind thing?" The anger in Jack's voice rose.

"Yes." Daniel sighed wearily, closing his eyes. "I'd already been there for days. I was tired. Hungry. I thought you guys weren't coming back. The only way I knew to get out of there was to give him what he wanted. It was a risk I thought I had to take. He didn't want to use it on me, though."

"What do you mean?" Hammond asked.

Daniel opened his eyes to look at the general. "He said it could cause damage. He didn't want to risk it. I convinced him."

"Oh well, swell," Jack interjected. Leave it to Daniel to convince an alien to use him as a guinea pig.

Hammond threw the colonel a warning glance, then looked back to Daniel. "Go ahead, son."

"There's not much else to tell, really. I argued with him. Told him that I didn't have time to just wait around and hope I remembered. He was looking for his mate, I..." Daniel swallowed and dropped his gaze to the blanket. "Well, we had that in common. I couldn't afford to spend months or years there -- who knows how long really? -- until I either remembered or he decided I wasn't going to remember."

Jack suppressed a sigh. Okay, he could understand that. Daniel lived and breathe with a singular purpose...ever since that horrible day. He'd face death in a second if it meant freeing his wife from the Goa'uld. That kind of single-minded drive scared the hell out of Jack. What would Daniel do if the worst happened?

"And, this device, how long were you subjected to it?" Fraiser asked.

"I'm not sure." Daniel shook his head slightly. "It seemed like a long time."

She scribbled on her clipboard. "Can you describe its effects?"

He took a deep breath and looked back up. "Uh, it's hard to remember." His brow furrowed. "There was a pressure in my head, then, uh, images, sounds, smells, feelings. Words even, all mixing together. I tried to focus. Tried to think of Babylon. A name popped out, but I couldn't quite grab a hold of it, then the pressure increased. It, uh, felt kind of like the Goa'uld ribbon device, but the pain was slightly different. I was…more aware of it, I guess."

"On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the lowest pain you've felt and 10 the worst, how bad was the pain?" she asked.

"I don't know. Eight or nine maybe.... No, ten, I guess. I don't know, exactly. It hurt a lot. I remember thinking it was going to kill me, and I had made a mistake after all."

Jack felt suddenly light-headed, and the room tipped precariously. He grabbed onto the edges of his seat in an attempt to keep himself from toppling out of the chair.

"Colonel?" Fraiser's concerned face appeared in front of him. "Are you okay?"

The room steadied, and he nodded. "Uh, yeah, Doc. Just gotta go to the little boy's room for a minute."

He pushed himself to his feet and staggered out of the chair, vaguely aware of someone calling after him.

He made it as far as the corridor before his knees threatened to give out, so he leaned against the wall, resting his forehead on the cool metal.

"Colonel?"

He swiveled his head to see Carter standing to his left, her face tight with concern.

"Can you believe him?" Jack straightened as his anger resurfaced. He leaned his shoulders against the wall and stared up at the ceiling. "We could've gone back there only to find him dead...for real."

"I know," she answered, whisper soft. "But, you know, if Nem and Daniel hadn't come out of the water, we might never have found him."

"We would've found him." Jack looked at her, his voice hard. "No way in hell I was coming back without him." He closed his eyes, pushing back the images of flames. "Dead or alive."

~~~~~~~~~

"Home sweet home." Jack pushed the apartment door open and gestured inside. "And here are your keys." He dangled the set in front of Daniel.

"Thanks." With a weary smile, Daniel took the keys and wobbled into his apartment, heading straight for his couch.

He dropped onto the cushions and tilted his head back, closing his eyes. The keys dropped from his limp fingers and clattered to the floor.

"Daniel?" Jack sank into the armchair. "You okay?"

"Just tired."

"Head still bothering you?"

"A little." He opened his eyes and lifted his head. His eyes scanned the apartment, taking in the boxes and unusually sparse shelves. "Oh."

"Teal'c and Carter helped with the packing. There wasn't much, because we didn't get that far. Though, Hammond sent a team after we..." He shook his head, not really feeling up to explaining. "Anyway, we were going to put everything back before you came home, but..."

Daniel gave a soft, understanding smile, "I negotiated my way out of the infirmary earlier than you expected."

"Yeah," Jack returned the smile, "something like that."

"Thanks. No offense, but I doubt you'd have remembered where it all was supposed to go." He leaned forward and pushed off the couch, swaying slightly as he stumbled toward the nearest box at the end of the couch. "I'd rather just put it all back myself."

Jack moved quickly, intercepting Daniel. He put his hands on the young man's shoulders and steered him back to the couch. "Ah-ah." Gently, he pushed Daniel back to the cushion. "You can either stay here on the couch or go to bed, but Doc told you to sleep. No unpacking. No moving heavy items."

"But, Jack --"

"Ah-ah." He waved a finger in front of Daniel's face. "I'm under medical orders to make sure you follow medical orders."

Daniel's brow furrowed. "I, uh, don't think the chain of command works that --"

"Ah-ah." Another finger wave.

"Will you please stop doing that?"

"Ah-ah." Jack grinned.

"Jackass."

"Funny. Original, too. Not like I haven't heard that one before."

Daniel just threw a glare up at him and then leaned his head back and closed his eyes. "I am kind of tired."

"So sleep."

"I've been doing nothing but sleeping. I'm tired of sleeping, and I really want to get my apartment in order."

"Okay, okay. Tell you what. You sit there and tell me where to put stuff. I'll do the unpacking. You do the directing. You're lucky they didn't get to everything before we realized you were probably still alive. Hammond must have called them before they could finish packing."

Daniel opened his eyes. His gaze flickered uncomfortably over the chaotic apartment. "Uh...Okay. I guess. Thanks."

Jack frowned. That wasn't exactly overwhelming gratitude. Then it occurred to him why Daniel might be a little uncomfortable at the thought of having someone yet again go through his stuff. "We didn't read anything we weren't supposed to...and I won't...if that's what you're worried about."

A fleeting smile touched Daniel's lips. "No, I wasn't really...." His smile turned sheepish. "Okay, maybe a little. You didn't?"

"Nope."

"I thought maybe, you know, for national security purposes, several people would've had to..."

"Well, yeah, we would've, but we never got that far."

"Oh."

A hint of guilt twinged in Jack's chest. "Well, maybe except for a tiny, tiny part of one."

"Oh?" Daniel seemed to be avoiding Jack's gaze, his eyes hovering on the empty bookshelf.

"Yeah, uh... We did think you were dead at the time... sort of. I mean, we had this weird feeling that you weren't, but..."

"I understand, Jack."

Ah. Jack swallowed, realizing he'd been in danger of rambling. "Anyway, Sam opened one of your journals and read us a few sentences. Nothing major, though, I promise...."

"Which one?"

"From our first mission to Abydos."

"Oh?" He gave another faint smile. "I haven't read from that one in a while."

"Yeah, well. Anyway.... Just to set the record straight." He took a deep breath. He'd kicked himself over and over again for not saying the things he'd wished he'd said when he'd thought Daniel had died. Now, he had a second chance.

"Yeah?" Daniel tore his gaze away from the bookcase to look at Jack. "What?" His fingers plucked nervously at a stray thread on the sofa cushion.

"I might have thought you were a geek back then, but I don't now, you know."

Another smile, brighter this time. "I know."

A knock at the door stole both men's attention.

"Wonder who that could be?" Jack rolled his eyes and sauntered toward the door, swinging it open. "Carter. Teal'c. Surprise, surprise."

The captain offered an uncertain smile. "We, uh...just thought maybe Daniel might want some help reorganizing his apartment."

Teal'c nodded his agreement. "Indeed, especially since he is under Doctor Fraiser's medical orders to rest."

Jack stepped aside to let them in. "Doc Fraiser send you two over?"

"Nope." Sam strolled into the apartment and immediately spotted Daniel on the sofa. A grin blossomed on her face. "How are you feeling, Daniel?"

He managed a weak smile. "Still strangely tired."

"Yeah, well, I remember how drained and shaky I felt after we came back..." Her voice trailed off, and she sank to the cushion next to him, her eyes wide. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah," his smile brightened, but it looked forced. "Thanks."

"We are here to assist you in returning your home to its original condition." Teal'c stood beside Jack near the bookcase. "With your permission, I will begin."

Jack slapped Teal'c on the shoulder. "I was just starting when you two kids showed up. Daniel's gonna direct. We'll put things where he tells us."

~~~~~~~~~~~

Two hours later, the three of them had the apartment almost in order, with just a few items remaining. Of course, it would have gone a lot faster had Jack not commented on every piece before putting it where it belonged. Daniel lounged on the couch, guilt gnawing at him as he directed their actions. Even though Jack had been the one to insist they do all the work, Daniel still felt obligated to help. Every time he’d made an attempt to get off the couch, however, Jack had ah-ahed him back down.

“Ooh, a photo album.” Jack raised his eyebrows as he moved to the armchair and set the album on the coffee table, then flipped open the cover. “Well, well, Danny, lookie here. Your hair was even longer.” He grinned and tilted the album up.

Daniel leaned forward to look at the photo. “Ah, yeah, well, that was taken at a dig. No barbers or hair salons.”

Jack flipped the page. “Oooh. A museum. How interesting.” He quickly turned the page again.

Daniel blinked as the page turned. The New York Museum of Art.

The huge coverstone swung overhead, suspended by chains.

“Okay, careful with that coverstone.”

“Yes, Doctor Jackson.”

“Now move it this way! This way…Careful…. Careful….

“Watch it on your left.”

“On your left. Jake, can you bring this in? Careful. Bring it down.”

“It’s swinging.”

“It’s okay. It’s fine. We’ll be fine. Careful.”

“Slow and level, Jake.”

“Okay, Jake, bring it down.”

The chain snapped.

“Mom! Dad!”

“Daniel!”

“Nooo!”

“Daniel!”

Hands on his shoulders, shaking him. He blinked, and Jack’s face was in front his.

“Daniel? You with me?”

Daniel looked around. His apartment. He was in his apartment. Sam and Teal’c were standing at the edge of the living room, looking at him.

But he could still hear his parents’ screams.

“God.” He closed his eyes and his knees folded, but Jack’s hands held him and guided him into a controlled descent to the sofa.

“It’s okay. Easy. You’re okay.” The cushion shifted as Jack’s weight came down on it. “What was that?”

Daniel leaned forward and scrubbed his hands over his face. He felt wetness on his cheeks and clenched his eyelids tighter. He’d lost it, damn it. Lost it. In front of them.

“Daniel?” Sam’s voice. “Are you okay?”

“I-“ Pain lanced through his skull, and he winced, bringing his fingers up to his temples. “Ow, I…God….” The pain exploded to agony, and he cried out. He felt himself falling, but hands eased his descent. He curled into a ball, rocking with the all-consuming pain. God, it hurt.

Stop. Make it stop. God, please, make it stop.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Daniel!”

Jack lunged forward as Daniel screamed and toppled off the couch. He managed to keep the kid from diving head-first into the coffee table and guided him to the floor.

“Sir?”

Jack looked up at Carter. Teal’c stood silently next to her, his face somber. “Get Fraiser on the phone and tell her to get medics here ASAP!”

“Yes, sir!”

“Daniel,” Jack remained crouched next to the younger man.

Daniel seemed oblivious. He was conscious, curled in a fetal ball and rocking, his eyes clenched tightly closed. Moans mixed with sobs tore from his throat, and tears sprang from beneath his closed eyelids.

“Hold on, kid. Hold on.” Jack swallowed hard. He didn’t know what to do. Hell, what could he do? This had to be caused by that damn memory device.

Brain damage. He closed his eyes and ran a palm over his face. No. Not that. He’ll be okay.

“Goddamnit, this is taking too long!” Jack’s eyes sprang open and he glared at Carter, who was talking frantically into the phone.

Daniel cried out and flinched, covering his head with his arms. “God…Please.” The choked plea was barely decipherable. “Make it stop. Stop. Please, make it stop.”

“Shit.” Jack cursed himself for yelling. “It’s okay,” he whispered, dropping a hand to Daniel’s arm. “Hold on.”

Jack shot to his feet and crossed to Sam in three strides. He snatched the receiver out of her hand. “O’Neill here. We’re bringing him in ourselves. Have a team ready, got it?” Slamming the phone onto the hook, he waved a hand to Teal’c and hurried to Daniel. “Help me with him, will ya?”

Teal’c bowed his head and hurried forward. Jack crouched next to Daniel, who was still curled in his ball, but the rocking had stopped. He lay still, his breathing shallow and his eyes closed.

“Damn.” Jack placed two fingers on the side of Daniel’s neck. “His pulse is slow, but steady. Come on, Teal’c.”

“It will be faster if I carry him alone, O’Neill.”

“Right. Okay.” Jack stood and moved back. He grabbed his jacket from the back of the armchair he’d flung it over earlier and reached into the pocket for his car keys.

Teal’c knelt next to Daniel and slid his arms beneath the young man’s motionless, curled body, then lifted Daniel and turned toward the door. “We must hurry.”

“No kidding.” Jack nodded curtly. “Let’s go.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Pain throbbed in his head. It felt like someone was inside his skull trying to drill his way out. He groaned and raised a hand to rub his forehead, as though he could smooth away the pain.

“Doctor Jackson?”

He cracked his eyelids open. Bright, square panels of light screamed above him, and he quickly slammed his eyelids closed again.

“Sorry,” Fraiser muttered softly.

He heard the shuffle of her footsteps.

“The lights are out now. Try opening your eyes for me again, please.”

Bracing himself, he slowly lifted his eyelids. The room was, indeed, dim, but a faint light filtered in from the doorway, bathing the room in shadows. Janet stood to his left, a soft smile on her face.

“Headache?”

He closed his eyes and nodded.

“Okay, hold on. This should help.”

A few seconds later, he felt a burning in his left hand. It snaked up his arm, and then a wave of airy lightness washed over him. The pain receded, and his head felt like a balloon, as though it would float away at the slightest provocation.

“How’s that?”

He thought he managed a small smile. “Better.”

“Good. Do you remember what happened?”

“It’s swinging.”

“It’s okay. It’s fine. We’ll be fine. Careful.”

He squeezed his eyelids. “Y-Yeah.”

“Think you can tell me?”

“I, uh, I think I had a flashback.” Was the bed moving? He felt like he was on a raft, rolling with the gentle motion of the sea.

“To?”

He swallowed hard. “My parents’ dying.”

“Oh, I’m sorry.”

“It was…very real.” His stomach churned. Was he actually getting sea sick?

“Colonel O’Neill told me you were in a great deal of pain. Was that during the flashback or afterward?”

“After.” He took a deep breath and opened his eyes. No, the bed wasn’t moving, but he felt disconnected and insubstantial, as though he would float away at any minute. “I don’t remember much of what happened after, though.”

“Ah, well, Captain Carter called it in, then the Colonel informed us he would be bringing you here himself. You were unconscious when you arrived.”

“Hey, Doc!”

Daniel winced. The harsh exclamation sent his subdued headache into a brief flare.

“Colonel, please keep your voice low.”

“Oh, sorry.” Jack strode to the right side of the bed and looked down at Daniel. “How are you feeling?”

Daniel closed his eyes. He was starting to feel dizzy, even lying down. “Uh, not great.”

“What’s the verdict, Doc?”

“Same as before. There’s no apparent signs of brain damage. His neurochemistry is still out of whack, but slowly moving toward normal parameters.”

Their words drummed against his skull. “Guys?” Daniel swallowed the bile that touched the back of his throat.

“Yeah, Danny?”

“I’d really like to rest now.”

“Oh, right.” Jack patted Daniel’s right arm. “I’ll be back later.”

“I’ll keep the lights off for you,” Fraiser commented. “Get some sleep.”

“Thank you.”

He listened to their retreating footsteps, then sighed in relief when they faded and the room became silent. He beckoned sleep and hoped that whenever he woke next, he’d feel a hell of a lot better.

~~~~~~~~~~~

Teal'c stood rigidly at the foot of Daniel's bed. O'Neill sat slouched in the chair to the right of Daniel's bed, his feet propped on the very edge of the mattress. He had been standing his vigil for nearly an hour, and Daniel Jackson had given no signs of waking.

"Teal'c why don't you sit down?"

"You are occupying the only chair, O'Neill."

Jack looked around. "Oh, right."

"I am accustomed to standing."

Jack sighed tiredly. His eyes drifted over Daniel Jackson, and Teal'c followed Jack's gaze. The archeologist was asleep, a blanket pulled up to his chest. The lights in the infirmary were still dimmed for his comfort. Lines no longer creased his brow, so Teal'c hoped that meant Daniel Jackson's headache was gone.

"Sha're." Daniel turned his head toward Jack, his forehead crinkling again.

Jack's feet dropped to the floor and he leaned forward. "Daniel? You waking up?"

"Jack, help me, please." His voice desperate, Daniel surged upward from the mattress.

"Whoa." Jack shot out of his chair and placed his hands on Daniel's shoulders, pushing the young man back down and giving him a gentle shake. "Snap out of it, Daniel. C'mon."

Daniel seemed oblivious, struggling upward against the restraint. "How much would I remember if you chose me?" His voice trembled, threatening to break. "Something of the host must survive."

Teal'c closed his eyes, memories surging forward. He had stood and watched that day as first Sha're and then Ska'ara had been chosen. At the time, he had not known the Tau'ri, but he had felt for them nevertheless, just as he had felt for every innocent victim of the Go'auld, many of whom had died by his own hand.

"That's it, Daniel. Sleep." Jack's voice intruded on the images playing behind Teal'c eyelids.

Teal'c remembered that day vividly. Standing in the dark dungeon, ordering the prisoners to kneel. Daniel Jackson had surged forward as soon as he'd seen Sha're and begged the Goa'uld to choose him.

An unwise, desperate request.

"Something of the host must survive."

That foolish, grief-stricken plea had struck Teal'c to the core, and he had felt ashamed. He had been there to watch as Sha're fought and screamed as the Goa'uld invaded her. He had seen her transformed from a fiery, innocent woman into a vessel for an arrogant, evil queen.

And he had chosen her. He had helped Apophis claim her as his queen.

He had caused the very pain tormenting Daniel Jackson now.

"Teal'c."

Teal'c opened his eyes to see Jack standing in front of him, his face dark with concern.

"You okay?"

Teal'c nodded once. "I am fine, O'Neill." He turned slightly toward the door, his head bowed. He could still see Daniel Jackson in his peripheral vision. Thankfully, the young man was now peacefully asleep. "I must engage in kel noreem." He straightened and met O'Neill's eyes. "With all that has happened, I have not had the opportunity to do so for longer than is wise."

"Ah. Okay." Jack glanced back at Daniel, his face thoughtful, then returned his gaze to Teal'c.

With another bow of his head, Teal'c turned and walked toward the door.

"Teal'c."

Jack's voice stopped him, but he did not turn around. "Yes, O'Neill?"

"If it weren't for you, we wouldn't even be here right now. You did what you could."

Teal'c nodded once and walked stiffly out of the infirmary. He did not deserve the peace that kel noreem would provide, but he needed it before he could return to Daniel Jackson's side.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Soft voices pulled him toward consciousness, their alternating timbers sailing over him, left to right and right to left, like a dizzying tennis match. He cracked his eyelids open and saw a figure in white standing over him.

"Doctor Jackson?"

He opened his eyes all the way, grateful that the overhead lights were off. "Hello." He gave a subtle nod for Doctor Fraiser, who held a clipboard in her arms.

"Sleeping beauty awakes," Jack's soft voice announced to Daniel's right.

Daniel turned his head to see the older man standing at the edge of the bed, his face lined with fatigue.

"How's the headache?" Jack asked softly.

"Better." Thank God. He closed his eyes briefly, then looked back at Doctor Fraiser. "Thank you."

She smiled. "You're welcome, but you can thank the meds. How do you feel otherwise? Any pressure in your head? Ringing in your ears? Unusually blurry vision?"

He shook his head. "No, I feel fine," he blinked up at the ceiling, "like nothing happened."

"That's good to hear." Fraiser scribbled something on the top sheet attached to her clipboard. "We've re-tested the levels of your neurotransmitters, and there are still abnormalities, but it seems your neurochemistry is slowly returning to normal."

"So, I'll be okay with time? Can I expect more flashbacks in the meantime?"

"I'd like to know that, too, Doc." Jack leaned his hip against the edge of the mattress.

Fraiser sighed. "It's almost impossible for me to say, but as a guess, I believe it's possible, yes. Can you tell me what happened at your apartment? Do you remember anything that might have triggered the flashback?"

Daniel nodded and closed his eyes. "A picture of the museum where my parents were killed."

"Damn." Jack's soft curse caused Daniel to open his eyes and look at his friend.

"It's okay, Jack. It's not like you could've known."

Jack gave a half-hearted tilt of his head in response.

"That confirms what I suspected," Fraiser remarked.

Daniel looked at Fraiser just in time to see her shoot a look at Jack. Then she smiled reassuringly at Daniel. "Your flashbacks are likely to have triggers. Granted, from what the Colonel tells me, there were no apparent triggers on your walk back to the gate, but there doesn't always have to be an overt trigger. Sometimes it can be subtle. A thought. A smell. A sound. Something your conscious mind doesn't even register."

"So, as long as I don't encounter anything that could remotely remind me of anything, I should be fine," Daniel muttered, a hint of frustration coloring his voice. "For how long?"

"At the rate your neurochemistry is changing, I'd say you'll be out of the woods, so to speak, in a couple of days or so."

"Why, uh...." Daniel swallowed, suddenly aware of how dry his mouth was. "Why did it hurt so much?"

"I don't know." Fraiser's expression turned apologetic. "We're dealing with an alien technology here. I can only go with what I know, and right now, all I know is that your neurochemistry is out of whack, but moving toward normal parameters. If I could get some kind of EEG or PET scan during one of your flashbacks, that might provide some useful information."

Daniel shook his head, his eyes darting worriedly to Jack. "No." He looked back at Fraiser. "You're not going to try to trigger one."

"Easy." Jack's hand came to rest on Daniel's arm. "No, the doc's not going to do that. Right, Doc?"

"Of course not," Fraiser reassured him quickly. "I was just trying to elucidate the situation. Besides, because we know nothing about the alien technology, I wouldn't recommend trying to trigger another one. If they hurt that badly, they're probably something that should be avoided."

Daniel released a relieved sigh, then pursed his lips. "They didn't all hurt when I was walking to the gate."

Fraiser cocked her head slightly. "But there was some pain?"

He nodded. "I had a headache, yes."

"Well, it could easily be that they vary randomly in intensity. You could have very minor episodes or very intense ones. Or it could be that you were coming down from an adrenaline rush. That can certainly affect pain. You... uh... You had what may have been a minor flashback while you were asleep. You didn't wake up, so I can only guess you weren't experiencing the same degree of pain."

"I...I did?" Daniel's brow crinkled, and he glanced at Jack.

"Yeah," Jack nodded, "but it wasn't a biggie.

"What about?" Daniel looked at Fraiser. "Did I say anything?"

She smiled softly at him. "It was about Sha're. Colonel O'Neill and Teal'c were here, and from what the Colonel tells me, I'm guessing it was triggered by Teal'c's voice."

"Oh.... Oh!" Daniel's eyes darted to Jack's, then quickly scanned the infirmary. "He's not here, now?"

"No." Jack sighed softly.

"Did, I, uh, offend him?"

"No, no. He understands. He's doing the kel noreem thing right now. I'm sure he'll be here to check up on you soon. He was practically a statue at the end of your bed for a while there."

"Daniel." Sam's light, cheerful voice filled the room suddenly. "You're awake."

"Good call, Captain." Jack snorted, sinking back into his chair.

Sam smiled at Jack's sarcasm and hurried up the bed, stopping to stand next to Janet. "How are you feeling?"

Daniel managed a slight, almost shy smile. "Much better. Sorry for," he waved a hand in the air. "You know. Back at my place."

She sat on the edge of his mattress and placed a hand on his arm. "Don't be.

"So." Jack clapped his hands once. "When can he get out of here, Doc?"

Fraiser threw the colonel a tolerant look. "Well, I'd like to keep him here for at least a few more hours. If he's still feeling okay in that time, I'll release him." She looked back down at Daniel. "But absolutely no driving."

Daniel nodded, frowning as he pictured what might have happened had he had a flashback on the way to his apartment the first time. "Okay."

~~~~~~~~~~

Teal'c hesitated a moment before entering the section of the infirnary that held Daniel Jackson. O'Neill had explained that no one was to say or do anything that might remind Daniel of moments in his past which could trigger more flashbacks. As a result, Teal'c could not yet apologize to Daniel Jackson for inadvertently causing his last flashback, nor could he discuss his regret at having caused Daniel Jackson such pain in the first place.

Suppressing a sigh, Teal'c walked into the room, immediately spotting Daniel Jackson sitting up in the bed. A journal rested open on his lap, and he wrote furiously on one of the pages. His free hand drifted up to push his glasses up, but the pen never once faltered.

Teal'c stopped several feet from the end of the bed, remaining silent. He did not wish to disturb Daniel Jackson's train of thought. He observed quietly, watching as Daniel's brow furrowed as he finished one sentence and started another. Teal'c could not, nor did he try, to view the words on the page. Doing so would breach Daniel Jackson's privacy, but he wondered whether it was prudent for Daniel to be writing in his journal.

Finally, Daniel stopped writing and laid the pen in the crease between the two pages, then closed the cover. His head came up, and his eyes widened with surprise. "Oh, hi, Teal'c."

Teal'c bowed his head. "It is good to see you well, Daniel Jackson."

"Thank you."

"Is it wise for you to write in your journal? Doctor Fraiser has said that such things might trigger further flashbacks."

Daniel leaned his head back against his pillow. "I was just writing some stuff down about Nem and Babylon. Bellas, the Babylonian that killed Nem's mate, was a Goa'uld."

Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "That is unfortunate."

"Yeah." Daniel's face darkened.

Teal'c feared he may have already erred. Perhaps speaking of Nem's mate lost to the Goa'uld had reminded Daniel Jackson about Sha're. Teal'c decided it prudent to steer the conversation to another topic.

"The pain in your head is gone?"

"Yes, it is." Daniel's fingers drummed idly on the soft cover of his journal. "Look, Teal'c, about before. Fraiser told me about the flashback I had while I was asleep. You--"

Teal'c squared his shoulders. "I do not think we should discuss that at this time, Daniel Jackson."

"Right." Daniel sighed. "You know, it's almost impossible for me not to think about things that could trigger a flashback. Doctor Fraiser's orders are pretty useless in that sense. By trying not to think about them, I end up thinking about them, if you know what I mean."

"I do."

"So, then, just let me say, without us actually talking about it, that I don't blame you. I know I've told you that before, but I'm sorry if I said anything when I was having that last flashback, dream, or whatever it was, that may have, uh, hurt you."

Teal'c closed his eyes momentarily and bowed infinitesimally from the waist. "Thank you, Daniel Jackson. I must also apologize to you, but I will do so later, when you are well. At the moment, we should refrain from discussing this further."

"Okay." Something between a grimace and a smile touched Daniel's lips. "You realize Fraiser's orders pretty much bar any kind of meaningful conversation? We could talk about the weather, and I might be reminded of--"

"Daniel Jackson!" Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "Perhaps I should leave. I do not wish to be the cause of another flashback."

"Relax, Teal'c." Faint amusement crinkled Daniel's eyes. "It's okay. I promise I won't venture into that territory. You don't have to walk on eggshells around me, though."

"I am not walking on eggshells, Daniel Jackson."

Daniel gave a faint smile. "This is going to be a long couple of days."

~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel closed his office door and, with the tape in hand, hurried to the VCR. He'd been on the base so long, he was starting to get cabin fever, but Doctor Fraiser still insisted he remain at the SGC until his tests showed that his neurochemistry was back to normal.

He sighed and popped the tape in the VCR. At least she'd released him from the infirmary. He counted that as a blessing.

Sinking into the chair, he grabbed the universal remote from the work table and turned on the television, then hit the PLAY button. The screen flared to life with an image of the gateroom. It was filled with people, all wearing blue, dress uniforms. The gate itself was active, the shimmering wormhole casting dancing patterns of light and shadows on the walls. A group of four men, also dressed in blue uniforms, entered the gate room. The first held a rifle, the second an American flag, and the third a royal blue flag. Another group of soldiers held open an American flag on the ramp leading to the gate.

Daniel blinked and held his breath. "Wow." It all looked so...auspicious.

Not many people ever got to see their own eulogies. Part of him didn't want to see it, but a much larger part of him just had to know. Had anyone shed a tear? What kind of ceremony had it been?

Hammond was on the left side of the screen, standing at a podium with a set of microphones. SG1 stood next to him. They all looked somber, from what he could see. The video image was too small to make out their expressions clearly.

 "Colonel." Hammond's voice was barely audible.

Daniel leaned closer and punched up the volume via the remote. He hadn't known that the security camera was equipped with a mic. Obviously, it wasn't meant to record conversation, but the microphones at the podium must have boosted the volume of their voices enough for the camera to pick them up.

Jack walked to the podium.

 "Daniel Jackson..." Jack paused and closed his eyes briefly, "made this place happen."

Daniel leaned back in his chair, blinking. As Jack talked, the soldiers on the ramp folded the flag.

 Jack continued, his words slow and careful. "As a member of SG1, he was our voice, our conscience. He was a very courageous man. He was a good..." the word caught in his throat, "man. For those of us lucky enough to have known him, he was also a friend."

Daniel's eyes stung, and he blinked back tears as he watched Jack leave the podium and take the flag from the soldier. He brought the cloth to his chest, then turned smootly and handed it to Teal'c.

Daniel swallowed hard. It was all so...military. It wasn't really him, but watching the solemn ceremony made something twist painfully inside him. They all looked so sad. That was kind of nice to know. He knew he was selfish for feeling that way, but it was nice to know there were people who'd mourn him.

 Jack and Sam walked up to the gate, a wreath held between them, and placed the arrangement delicately on the surface of the wormhole.

Daniel leaned forward as the wreath slowly sank into the shimmering event horizon. He pictured it drifting slowly out the other side and falling to the sandy surface of Nem's planet. The plants would eventually decay. He hoped they didn't carry any hitchhiking insects. He'd hate to be the cause of upsetting the ecological balance on an alien world.

 Hammond's deep, somber voice filled the gateroom. "We commend Daniel Jackson's spirit to the universe he opened up for us," the wormhole swallowed the wreath, "and pledge to continue our journey of discovery in his name." Jack and Sam saluted the glittering event horizon. "May he rest in peace."

~~~~~~~~~~~

"Well, Doc?"

Fraiser frowned as she looked up from the paper held in her hand. "Well, I just gave him another check up, and he seems physically okay. His neurochemistry is still abnormal, but it's progressing steadily toward normal parameters."

"So?"

"All right, but on the condition that he's with someone for the next couple of days. If he were to have a flashback with no one around, he could hurt himself."

"Not a problem." Jack nodded and spun on his heels away from the doctor, barely hearing her sigh as he ducked through the doorway and into the section of the infirmary that housed the archeologist.

He spotted Daniel sitting in bed, fully clothed, with his head tilted back against the pillow. He seemed engrossed with the ceiling.

Jack grinned. "Hey!"

Daniel's head shot up. "Jack."

"You ready to get out of here?"

Daniel's face brightened subtly. "The infirmary or the base?"

"The base."

"Fraiser told you I could leave?"

"Yes, I did," the doctor answered.

Jack looked over his shoulder at her, then back at Daniel. "And you doubted me."

Fraiser's hurried steps carried her to the left side of Daniel's bed, where she stopped and crossed her arms. "As long as you stay with Colonel O'Neill."

Daniel's eyes narrowed. "For two days?"

Jack moved closer to the foot of the bed and slapped Daniel's leg. "You'll live. Trust me."

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Daniel gazed out the passenger window as the mountain scenery drifted by. "We need to stop by my place first. I've got to pack a few things and fill the aquarium feeder."

"Okay." Jack drummed the fingers of one hand on the wheel as he steered. "You wanna grab some real food?"

"Sure."

"O'Malley's?"

"No."

"Okay, uh.... Pizza?"

"Not really in the mood for pizza." Daniel looked at him "How about that Greek place on Broadway?"

"Greek food?"

"Yeah."

"Okay, sure."

"You don't sound enthusiastic."

"No. No." Jack shot him a grin. "I can't wait."

"We can go somewhere--"

"No, you've been eating hospital food for how long? Today is your pick."

Daniel gave a small smile. "Thanks."

He turned back to the window and stared at the profile of Jack's face reflected in the glass.

 "For those of us lucky enough to have known him, he was also a friend."

A smile tugged at Daniel's lips, but he suppressed it quickly. He hadn't told Jack about watching the funeral.

 The chill of the New York morning. The sad faces of the adults around him. The social worker's hand on his shoulder.

"You want to rent a movie, or something?"

Daniel flinched, jerked out of the memory, and snapped his head around to look at Jack. His mouth was dry, and he swallowed, opting for a nod. He didn't trust his voice.

"You okay?" Jack glanced at him.

He swallowed again. "Yeah." The word came out barely better than a croak.

"You're not... you know?" Another worried glance.

Daniel looked back to the window. "Maybe we should get something to go." He could just picture himself having a flashback at the restaurant and freaking out. Definitely better to just go home.

There was a moment of silence, then Jack said, "Sure. That greek place offer to go?"

Daniel nodded. "Yeah."

His memory of his parents' funerals had always been vague and incomplete, unlike the memory of their deaths, which was carved in vivid detail in his heart. But, for a moment, he'd been back there. In that time. That moment. His mom and dad gone. Forever. And he had no one in the world. What would happen to him? Where would he go? Who would take care of him? He didn't want to go to that place with the other kids. He just wanted his mom and dad back. He hadn't meant to distract them. He didn't know the chain would break. He'd never get in the way again. Sorry. I'm sorry. Just please, come back. Come back.

"Daniel.... Daniel!"

Daniel blinked. His chest hurt, and he started breathing again, sucking in a deep, greedy breath.

"Look at me. Come on."

A hand on his jaw. Wetness on his cheeks. Jack's face shimmering before him.

"You back with me?"

"They're gone," he croaked, a wrenching pain tearing inside of him.

"Who?"

"They left me."

"Daniel?" A gentle slap to his cheek. "Come on, snap out of it."

Daniel reached out and grabbed Jack's arm, holding on with everything he had. "Please, don't leave me. Don't leave me all alone. Please."

Jack paled, and an indefinable pain flickered over his face. "I'm sorry. We didn't know. I'm sorry, Daniel."

Jack? Daniel blinked and looked around. The car. They were sitting in the car, parked along a curb. "What--"

"Daniel?"

He looked back at Jack. "I...I'm sorry. I thought..." He shook his head. A shiver ran through him. Why was it so cold?

"I'm taking you back to the base."

Daniel closed his eyes and leaned his head back. "Please, Jack, I just want to go home. Sleep in a real bed."

A long silence followed, then Jack gave a sigh. "All right. Fraiser said we should expect more flashbacks, so I guess this is okay. You sure you're feeling all right?"

No. Not even close. "I'm about as good as I can be."

~~~~~

Daniel rubbed absently at his temple as he followed Jack into the house. The flashback he'd had in the car had left him with a modest headache, but thankfully it was nowhere near the agony he'd experienced during the last attack at his apartment.

"Head hurt?"

Daniel nodded. "Yeah, a little."

"Doc said it would be okay for you to take over-the-counter stuff. Want some aspirin?"

"That'd be nice. Thanks."

Jack nodded curtly and headed off to the bathroom. Daniel shuffled to the armchair and sank into it, leaning his head back and closing his eyes.

"I'm sorry. We didn't know. I'm sorry, Daniel."

Daniel's head jerked up. He could almost hear Jack's voice, and looked over his shoulder, half-expecting to see him.

Jack had apologized for something -- when? In the car? Daniel closed his eyes and tried to remember what exactly had happened during the drive. It was all jumbled in his head. Watching his own funeral, then standing out in the open amidst a sea of adults at the service for his parents.

"Here ya go."

Daniel opened his eyes to see Jack standing in front of him, his palm outstretched, displaying two small, white pills. His other hand held a glass of water.

"Thanks." Daniel leaned forward and took both offerings. He swallowed the aspirin quickly and set the glass on the table. "Jack?"

"Yeah?" The older man sank into the opposite armchair.

"What did you mean back there?"

"What?"

"You said you were sorry about something." Daniel shook his head. "It's a bit fuzzy."

Jack's eyes snapped to a point just over Daniel's shoulder. "Then how do you know that's what I really said?"

"Did you?"

He sighed. "Yeah."

"What could you possibly have to feel sorry about?" He gave a tiny smile. "Besides my apartment, that is."

Jack hesitated a moment. "Leaving you behind."

"What?" Daniel leaned forward, confused. "You didn't--"

"It happened to me once." Jack locked eyes with Daniel briefly before looking away. "After that, I made a promise -- never on my shift. No one gets left behind." His gaze turned hard and distant. "I broke that promise."

"Jack," Daniel leaned back in the chair and rubbed again at his temple. The aspirin hadn't yet touched the headache. "You thought I was dead. It would have been foolish for you to risk yourself, Sam, and Teal'c for a dead man."

"I know that." Jack sighed and looked at Daniel again, a weariness in his eyes. "But you weren't dead, were you?"

"That's not the--"

"And if Nem's memory plant hadn't been less than perfect, you'd still be there. No GDO. No way home. And that planet was off our dialing list as dangerously unstable."

"I'd have figured out something. Gated to somewhere else." A hint of a smile touched his lips. "Or rounded up a bunch of rocks and played SOS on the Iris."

Jack didn't look amused. "Yeah, well, I'm sorry. I shouldn't have left. Not without you or a body."

Daniel swallowed. "Thanks for the sentiment." He grimaced, picturing Jack carting his charred body back through the gate.

"Sorry." Jack shook his head. "I--"

"It's okay, but for future reference, if I am ever...you know...and you have to leave. Do it. Don't risk your lives just to bring back a body."

Jack closed his eyes briefly, then took a deep breath. "Well," he said, springing off the couch, "this is a cheery conversation."

Daniel pursed his lips in a tolerant smile. "Jack." Frustration pushed him to his feet. "I had a lot of time in that place to think about what it would mean never to see my friends or my wife again." His voice cracked, and he swallowed quickly.

Jack stopped his trek to the kitchen and turned to face Daniel, his eyes soft. He waited.

Daniel started pacing slowly. "Nem has been alive for over four thousand years. What's one Earth year to him? Or ten? Or twenty? Nothing." He huffed angrily as he spun on his heels to switch directions. "But to me, that's time I couldn't afford to lose. It's time none of us can afford to lose." He stopped pacing and looked straight at Jack. "Every second you can spend with someone you care about is a second not wasted. Don't take that away from yourself, Jack, and don't take it away from Sam and Teal'c." He shook his head. "Not just to cart home my body." A sad smile touched his lips. "All I'd ask is that you find Ska'ara and Sha're and tell Sha're that I loved her, and I never stopped looking for her."

Jack nodded slowly. "Okay. You have my word."

~~~~~~

 Fire. All around. Hot! Damnit! Daniel!

"Jack, help me!"

"Daniel!"

Bright, orange flames. Heat on his face, his hands, stinging his eyes. Smoke. Ash.

"Jack, help me! Help me!"

"Daniel!"

"Jack!"

"Daniel!"

"Jack, wake up! Come on!"

The inferno vanished, replaced by sudden blackness. Something was around him, trapping his arms to his chest. It was hot, and he was wet all over.

Someone's hands were on him. He lashed out, but his arms remained trapped. He kicked at the mass wrapped around him, fighting to free himself.

"Jack!"

Light flooded the room, and he blinked several times before his eyes adjusted.

Daniel was there, in front of him. Alive. Whole.

He looked around frantically, suddenly aware that he was breathing hard.

No flames. No fire. He was home.

And Daniel was alive.

"There you go."

Huh? Jack looked down and realized it had been the blanket that had trapped him. It now lay mostly untangled around his legs, leaving his arms free.

"You okay?"

Jack looked back up at Daniel and blinked.

Alive.

It was just a dream. Just a dream.

"Jack?"

Blue eyes stared at him, wide with concern. Daniel's hair was ruffled, and he looked far too young.

"Say something, Jack."

Tears stung Jack's eyes. A second chance. There it was, right in front of him. Daniel was alive. He'd left him behind, but he'd gone back. Found him in time.

"Aww, hell, Daniel." He lunged forward and engulfed Daniel with his arms.

A surprised huff escaped the young man, muffled against Jack's shoulder, but he quickly relaxed into the embrace. Slowly, his arms came up and wrapped around Jack. Neither of them said a word, not until Jack released his hold.

Daniel slowly pulled back, a bashful smile on his face, and sat on the bed next to Jack. "You okay?"

Jack took in Daniel's disheveled appearance -- the messy hair, the rumpled T-shirt -- and smiled, "Yeah. Just didn't want those seconds to go to waste."

~~~~~~~~~~

 Epilogue

Doctor Fraiser hung the stethoscope over her shoulders and smiled. "Well, you check out fine. Your bloodwork shows that your neurochemistry is back to normal, and you haven't had a flashback in several days, right?"

Daniel shifted on the edge of the exam table, his feet hanging over the side, and nodded. "No. All clear."

"Then I'm officially certifying you fit for duty."

"Great!" a familiar voice exclaimed.

Daniel turned to see Jack strolling haughtily into the infirmary, his hands in his pockets. "So I guess this means P3X-382 is a go."

Daniel nodded. "I guess so."

"Good. There'll be one small change to our procedures, this time."

"Oh?" Daniel narrowed his eyes. "What?"

"We're tagging you with a subdermal tracking device."

~~~~~~

The end!

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