Please Note: This will likely be my last piece of SG fiction. Feedback in the SG world has become virtually nonexistent, and I don't know if that's b/c everyone's reading ship and/or slash or, heaven forbid, my stuff is far too formulaic *grin* No, don't feel compelled to send a dirth of feedback. This is a decision I've been pondering a while. But, it means I will likely not be making anymore updates to the webpage. In that case, the server may have various inactivity policies, especially Tripod, and the page may end up being deleted after a while. Hence, if you wish to have permanent access to the stories on the SG fiction page, please save them individually to your hard drives, but please do not post them to other archives without my express permission. You may contact me at nawdc@yahoo.com. Thank you.

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

H/C and Angst.
Warnings: Graphic descriptions denoting torture.
Spoilers for Need, The Prometheus, and Meridian, maybe minor ones for anything up to and including FALLEN.



MERCY



Daniel had been gone for three days. Colonel Jack O'Neill swallowed hard as he stepped away from the Stargate, venturing further into the dim, debri-cluttered room. He raised two fingers and jerked them forward, signaling Carter and Teal'c into position. They sped past him, moving to opposite sides of the door.

He didn't expect much resistance. The Prometheus should've done a fairly decent job of eliminating any threats. He only hoped Daniel had survived the ship's attack.

He'd argued with Hammond for almost two hours, trying desperately to find another way to rescue Daniel and prevent the small-time system lord from taking off with a highly advanced piece of Asgard technology. How the snake had acquired it, no one knew, but unfortunately the technology wasn't of value enough to merit immediate action by the Asgard. To them, it was apparently obsolete. To Earth, it was a century in the future. For the system lord, it could help conquer a world or two, gain a small army, build forces.

It was deemed, by the President of the United States, that although Daniel Jackson's life was valuable, and the knowledge in his head was almost irreplaceable, they could not risk the system lord escaping with such technology. Hence, the Prometheus attacked from the sky, its mission to prevent the escape of the Goa'uld and to aid ground forces in recovering the stolen technology and Daniel Jackson.

Jack glanced behind him as SG-5 came through the gate, and the wormhole disappeared. They quickly took their positions, securing the gate, and Jack nodded at the team's commander before jerking his chin toward the door.

Carter pushed a symbol on the wall panel, and the steel-looking door slid open as Jack moved to the side, out of any line of fire. At Carter's all-clear, Jack gave a nod, and he and his team rushed into the hallway.

They didn't know exactly where Daniel was, but scans had shown this to be the most heavily-fortressed area. It was likely that both Daniel and the Asgard technology were in the area.

"Let's go room-by-room." They split up but kept close, each one taking a door, moving systematically down the hallway. They had to hop over pieces of the ceiling and, occasionally, a dead body. The small-time system lord had already begun to accumulate forced servants from the planet's primitive population. Jack scowled at that thought. SG-1 had walked into an ambush, coming back after an initial, positive meeting with the locals. They'd had no reason to suspect any Goa'uld presence.

Apparently, the system lord already had the Asgard technology and had heard enough about SG-1 to decide he needed both Carter and Jackson to make full use out of the Asgard technology...and anything else he might happen upon. He'd scored one out of two before Jack had given the painful order to retreat through the open wormhole, sans one archeologist.

He heard a gasp behind him and spun around to see Carter standing in a doorway, her weapon hanging limp off her shoulder. Jack moved forward, seeing Teal'c do the same, and they stepped up behind her, guns ready, and looked into the room.

"Christ." Jack looked away briefly, swallowing the bile that rose to his throat. Then, he took a sharp, deep breath and pushed past Carter. "Ah...Daniel." The air seemed to drop ten degrees as he moved further into the cluttered room and marched rigidly up to the rectangular table that held the bloodied, unconscious figure.

Jack's eyes moved briefly to the sarcophagus resting near the far wall, and he said a silent prayer, asking that the sarcophagus be fully operational. A large piece of the ceiling lay two feet away from it, and no damage was evident to the machine.

Jack took another steadying breath as he looked back at the table. Daniel's eyes were closed, and his chest rose and fell in a shallow, slow rhythm. His face was pale, giving him an air of death, but otherwise whole and untouched. Pristine. Unlike the rest of him.

"He's still alive," Carter whispered behind him, a slight quiver in her voice.

Jack nodded, his eyes traveling down Daniel's battered body, and he blinked at the atrocity before him. Three large rods, apparently rising from the table, came up through Daniel's torso, making a brutal triangle with the top one protruding just below Daniel's breast bone. Bits of flesh, barely discernible in the bloody mess, covered the rods, along with the tattered remains of Daniel's SGC uniform.

A jagged piece of something metallic jutted out of Daniel's left shoulder, and Jack looked up, figuring it had come from the ceiling during the attack.

Jack opened his mouth, not sure what he had intended to say, but his throat closed up, and he simply shook his head and ran a hand over his face. He had no idea how Daniel was still alive. He should have bled to death a long time ago.

"My God, they've practically dissected him." Carter sounded on the verge of tears.

Jack looked back at Daniel, forcing himself to take in more of the gruesome sights. His eyes confirmed the major's announcement. Beneath the blood and bits of flesh were several incisions. He reached a hand forward, not quite able to control the tremors coursing through him, and moved back some of the fabric from Daniel's jacket, exposing the flesh beneath. The incisions were long and deep, with pieces of fat sticking out of them. One incision, in particular, was still gaping, and Jack thought he could see part of an organ.

He turned away suddenly, looked at Carter's too-white face, and straightened his shoulders. "There's a sarcophagus. Carter, go see if it works. Teal'c and I will," he faltered over the words as he jabbed a hand behind him, "work Daniel off that."

Sam nodded quickly, then turned smartly, like a good soldier, and headed to the Sarcophagus. Jack took another breath, tried to steady his raging emotions, had a brief flash of tearing the Goa'uld that did this out of the host and ripping him apart...slowly... then glanced at Teal'c. "Come on. Let's do this."

Jack turned and went to the top of the table, near Daniel's head. Teal'c went to the other end and stood over Daniel's legs.

"I guess we just...lift?" Jack tried not to wince. It shouldn't be too difficult raising Daniel off the rods. They extended to only about a foot above him, but it wouldn't be a piece of cake, either. Daniel wasn't exactly a lightweight.

He just hoped Daniel stayed unconscious during the transport.

Jack heard a sliding noise behind him, then Carter said, "It appears operational, sir."

"On three." Jack reached forward, eyeing the metal that protruded from Daniel's shoulder, and slid his sleeve over his hand. He didn't want to move Daniel with that sticking out. It would be too awkward, and he might get cut himself. Besides, they'd have to remove it before sticking the archeologist into the sarcophagus.

He grabbed the edge of the metal, using his sleeve for protection and, with a grunt, pulled. It came out far too easily, taking pieces of flesh with it. Daniel's body jerked once, and he groaned. Jack watched in horror as, impossibly, Daniel's eyelids fluttered open, revealing slivers of blue.

"No. No. No. Stay out, Danny," Jack muttered, but the archeologist wasn't listening.

Daniel's face twisted, and a low gurgle erupted from his throat. His eyes closed, clenching tight, and tears leaked from beneath them, falling down the sides of his face.

"Easy, easy." Jack leaned forward, placing a palm on Daniel's forward, and placed his mouth next to Daniel's ear. "It's okay. Cavalry's here. We're getting you out."

Daniel was panting now, and he opened his eyes, focusing briefly on Jack's face before squeezing his eyes closed again. "P...leeee."

"What?"

Daniel muttered something unintelligible. Jack wasn't even sure it was English.

"Damn." Jack looked at Teal'c. "Let's do this now, and make it fast."

The Jaffa nodded, and Jack slid his arms beneath Daniel's shoulders. Teal'c grabbed Daniel's legs.

"One, two, three," Jack said quickly, lifting on three.

Daniel screamed, his body jerking violently, slick with blood, and Jack's grip slipped, sending Daniel crashing back to the table.

"Christ!" Jack stepped back, covered in blood, his arms and hands coated with the stuff. He was shaking visibly now, he knew, and he hated it. Hated the whole situation. There was no way he could do it. No way he could put Daniel through that again.

"O'Neill, we must do this now."

Jack nodded, coming to a decision. He turned to Carter. "You sure that's working?"

She nodded. "It's totally undamaged, sir."

Jack looked back at Daniel. He knew, without the sarcophagus, Daniel wouldn't survive the trip back to the gate. It was a miracle the man was still even breathing. He moved forward, his body stiff with determination, and leaned over Daniel, who was trembling now, panting again, his face twisted with agony.

"Shhhh." Jack rubbed a bloody hand over Daniel's forehead, then grimaced at the mess and wiped his hands on his pants. "It'll be over in a second, you'll go to sleep, and when you wake up, you'll be good as new." He took Daniel's head in his hands and, closing his eyes, twisted sharply, hearing the crunch that told him he'd done it right. Daniel went limp.

"Colonel!" Sam's shout came from just behind him.

Jack shook his head and opened his eyes. "Not now, Carter." He looked up at Teal'c. "Let's do this."

Together, he and Teal'c lifted Daniel's dead body off the table. Jack grunted as his arms protested the movement, raising Daniel high enough to slide him off the three rods. Then Teal'c moved to the side, bringing Daniel away from the table, and the two of them slowly lowered him to a more manageable height as they carried him toward the sarcophagus.

Together, they laid him gently in the machine and stepped back. The lid closed, sealing the pale, bloody figure from view. A low hum filled the room, and Jack sighed, backing up until he hit the wall. His legs, suddenly weak, betrayed him, and he slid down until he was on the floor, then dropped his head to his knees.

"O'Neil, DanielJackson will be rejuvenated. Your act of mercy freed him from his suffering."

Jack merely nodded, not bothering to look up. He listened to the humming of the sarcophagus and tried not to think about the sickening crunch of Daniel's neck snapping. He'd just killed his friend in order to save him. He knew it wasn't a permanent death, but the thought twisted his gut, and he felt another tide of bile rise in his throat. He swallowed hard, wincing at the sting it made on the way back down, and prayed that Daniel would wake up, good as new, and remember very little about his torture...and rescue.

~~~

"Sir, I think something's wrong. It's taking too long."

Jack lifted his head and looked at the major. "How long is it supposed to take for something like this?" His words had more bite than he intended, and he immediately regretted them when he saw the grief flicker over Sam's face.

"I...I don't know, sir," she replied, softly. "But it's been almost an hour. It's never taken this long, to my knowledge. When we put you in after Hathor, it took only a few minutes."

Jack shrugged. "There's nothing we can do except wait." No way was he going to risk trying to interfere with the sarcophagus before it had completed its work.

"The time the sarcophagus takes to fully heal a subject varies depending on the nature and extent of injuries," Teal'c droned, his voice calm and soothing.

"Right." Jack sighed and leaned his head against the wall. THAT said volumes. Daniel was about as messed up as anyone could be, short of someone having body parts blown in all directions.

And wasn't THAT a nice thought?

The sarcophagus' hum died, and Jack shot to his feet just as Carter moved to the machine. The lid slid open of its own accord, and Jack took a breath, then leaned over to see the end result.

Daniel lay still, his eyes closed. Jack sighed when he saw that all the damage had, apparently, been repaired. Blood and bits of flesh still dirtied Daniel's ripped clothes, but the flesh beneath looked healed.

Holding his next breath, Jack reached a hand in and felt for a pulse. He exhaled and smiled when he found it, strong and steady.  "He's alive," he said, at the same time noticing the comforting rise and fall of Daniel's chest. He looked to Carter and gave her a reassuring smile, then returned his attention to the unconscious archeologist. "Okay, Daniel," He gave Daniel's cheek a gentle pat. "Wake up."

Daniel groaned, his eyelids slowly opened, stopping at half-mast, and his brow creased with confusion.

"Hey, there." Jack smiled, trying to look as reassuring and unconcerned as possible. "'Bout time you woke up."

Daniel held Jack's gaze a moment, then his eyelids closed again, and he appeared to succumb to sleep.

Frowning, Jack looked at Sam. "Maybe it hasn't finished all the way?"

"I don't think it's safe to put him through another cycle."

Jack nodded. "Right."

He wasn't going to risk Daniel getting addicted again. He was fairly certain -- or at least, that's what he told himself -- that putting Daniel through the sarcophagus this one time, when he really needed it, wouldn't reawaken the addiction. But even if it did, it's not like they'd had a choice. Addicted was better than dead. Daniel could recover from an addiction, no matter how brutal.

"He has been through a painful and lengthy ordeal, O'Neill. His body may be repaired, but he may require other forms of healing," Teal'c added.

"Okay, let's carry him back. Teal'c, give me a hand." Jack leaned forward, as did Teal'c, and together they lifted Daniel out of the sarcophagus. Jack draped one of Daniel's arms across his shoulders, and Daniel hung between Jack and Teal'c, limp and unresponsive.

It wasn't until they started moving that Daniel groaned, his head bobbing. His legs moved chaotically, as though trying to support his weight. Jack and Teal'c stopped momentarily to avoid tripping over Daniel's feet and gave the archeologist a moment.

Daniel's eyes opened, and again he found Jack's gaze. There was only partial coherency in the young man's expression, and his eyes slid away from Jack and focused on the table. His breath hitched, and his brow furrowed. Jack knew the bloody mess Daniel was looking at, and he opted to put an end to it.

"We're getting out of here," Jack said, moving forward quickly and dragging Daniel with him.

They left the room, with Carter covering them, though Jack didn't expect a threat. Still, they hadn't expected the ambush a few days ago, either. It paid to play it safe. Once at the gate, Jack found SG-5 waiting, still in position. O'Neill gave them a brief report, and Sam started to dial. The wormhole exploded toward them, and Jack and Teal'c wasted no time getting Daniel home. They had one of the two items they'd come for. SG-5 could search for the other one as soon as Hammond deployed another team through the gate.

~~~~~

Daniel was only vaguely aware of the disorienting trip through the wormhole. The familiar sound of boots hitting the ramp drummed against his ears, and through his partially-opened eyelids, he saw the green-clad guards lowering their weapons. Hammond stood at the base of the ramp, welcoming them. A voice over the PA system called for a medical team.

He wasn't entirely sure it was real. It all felt too much like a dream. A nice, wonderful, warm, comfy dream where Jack, Sam, and Teal'c came to save him and take him home, and there would be a soft bed, and coffee...and no more pain.

At least, for the moment, he was, in fact, free of the scorching agony that had been his companion for the past...weeks? He wasn't sure how long. He'd lost track a long time ago. The pain made everything seem so very much longer than it was, he knew.

The Goa'uld, Amon, associated with the wind, or things hidden, also of the Hermopolitian Ogdoad...

Daniel creased his brow, trying to reclaim his line of thought. About Amon... What had Daniel told him? What had the Goa'uld asked? He couldn't even remember that.

Someone was talking to him. He forced his head up, but it felt like a block of cement, far, far too heavy. He was tired. His body didn't feel like his own, and for a moment, he thought he might be an apparition, dissociated, floating. Dead.

But then he realized he was being held up by Jack, and Doctor Fraiser was talking to him, so he couldn't be an apparition. He had to be alive. Somehow.

Oh, yeah, the dream.  Jack, Sam, and Teal'c had saved him, and now he was home. It was such a nice dream.

He could no longer hold his head up, and it dropped forward, his chin bouncing against his chest. His eyes took in the bloody mess of his uniform, focusing on the small bits of flesh clinging to the tattered fabric, drying on his bare skin. There was a particularly large chunk, maybe the size of a child's thumb, attached to the waistband of his pants. It looked sort of like a broken piece of rigatoni.

His lungs stopped working suddenly. It wasn't rigatoni. It was a part of his insides. A piece of one of his intestines, probably. There were pieces of his insides all over him. He reeked of dead flesh. His own dead, rotting flesh and blood... all over him, all over his clothes, all over....

~~~~~~

"Doctor Jackson, can you hear me?" Fraiser asked again, but Daniel didn't respond. He just hung there, his eyes open but glassy, staring down at his torn clothes.

Jack nodded at Teal'c, and together they moved toward the waiting stretcher. They never got that far. A low sound rumbled from Daniel's throat. It was the kind of sound a dying animal might make, and Daniel suddenly came to life, flinging himself away from Jack and Teal'c. He crashed to the floor, on his side, and curled into himself, trembling, his hands pulling at pieces of fabric, muttered, unintelligible sounds flying out of his mouth.

"Daniel." Jack grabbed the younger man's hands, trying to halt their action. He caught fragments of Daniel's mutterings.

"Get...off...."

"Help me with him!" Fraiser barked at an orderly, who rushed forward.

Jack looked up at the bulky man. "You grab his feet. I'll take this end. Easy with him." It was a challenge lifting Daniel in the state he was in, curled, frantic, and trembling all over, but they managed to get him to the stretcher.

Janet struggled with the chest strap, finally securing it over Daniel, and Jack told her not to bother with the rest. He and Teal'c took up positions on either side of the stretcher and trotted alongside, making sure Daniel didn't take a tumble to the floor.

~~~~~

Jack sat in a chair, waiting in the observation room with Carter, Teal'c, and Hammond. Below, Fraiser hovered over Daniel, who lay quiet and still on the bed, clean and dressed in a white gown, one arm attached to an IV. The doctor looked up at them briefly, then lifted the sheet to cover Daniel's chest and turned and left the room.

Seconds later, she walked through the door, into the observation room. Jack glanced at her, then returned his attention to the unconscious figure on the bed.

"The MRI came back clear. I gave him a sedative, so he should be out for the next few hours," Fraiser reported, stopping to stand at the glass.

"Did the sarcophagus heal everything?" Jack asked.

She nodded. "He's in perfect physical condition."

Jack rubbed at the back of his neck. "So, all that, back at the gate...?"

"Shock. He's been through...quite a lot. We don't know everything that happened to him during his captivity, or how many times he went into the sarcophagus."

Jack pushed out of the chair. "Great." He didn't want to think about having to watch his friend fight another round of withdrawal from that damn machine. Daniel had barely survived the last one.

"When he wakes up, I'll have someone from mental health evaluate him."

Jack's chin shot up.

"Not Mackenzie," she added quickly. "While Doctor Mackenzie is a competent psychiatrist, I'll make sure it's someone Daniel doesn't have a...history with."

~~~~~~~

The first thing he realized was the absence of pain. A warm numbness flowed through him. Something beeped faintly to his left. A familiar, ammonia-like scent stung his nose.

Then, slowly, fragments of the dream came back to him. Jack standing over him. Going through the wormhole. Janet's voice.

The sensations around him -- the softness beneath his head, the familiar scents of the infirmary -- told him that either it hadn't been a dream, or he was still dreaming.

It was time to open his eyes. Maybe, just maybe, it wasn't a dream. A sliver of light appeared, and he realized he had succeeded in opening his eyes. Rectangular fluorescent panels hung overhead in the ceiling.

His mouth was dry, and he tried to swallow, but his throat felt like sandpaper, and he only managed to make himself focus on the fact that he was very, very thirsty. He attempted to ignore the maddening sensation, and instead turned his head to inspect his surroundings. He was, in fact, in the SGC infirmary, and he was pretty sure it wasn't a dream. At least, he hoped it wasn't. It felt real, and the smells were real. His thirst was DEFINITELY real.

And Jack, slumped in the chair, snoring, looked one hundred percent real.

Daniel smiled and took a moment to reflect on his condition. Nothing hurt. Besides the sensation of overwhelming thirst, he felt pretty good. He looked down, a part of him still expecting to see the rods jutting out of his flesh, but found only a smooth, clean sheet. His arms were beneath the material, and he lifted them, feeling the tug of an IV in his left forearm. He slid his palms over the thin gown, confirming that he was, indeed, fully healed.

They must have put him in the sarcophagus. Of course.

In that case, he didn't really need to be in the infirmary. He sat up, slid the sheet off, and swung his legs over the edge of the bed. The air was slightly cold, and he rubbed his bare arms and let his eyes drift around the room.

Something swelled in his chest, and his vision suddenly clouded. The infirmary had never looked so beautiful.

"Doctor Jackson, it's good to see you awake."

Daniel's gaze snapped to the familiar face of Janet Fraiser as she strode into the infirmary.

Jack came awake with a jerk, his head shooting up. He nearly toppled out of the chair. "What?" His eyes went wide when he spotted Daniel, and he straightened instantly. "Hey, you're awake."

Daniel cleared his throat. "Apparently," he croaked. He really needed some water.

Janet stopped by the bed, pulled out her penlight, and turned it on as she moved it into position, but he stopped her, holding up a hand and leaning away. He wanted just a few minutes to make sure he wouldn't burst into tears before he started being poked and prodded.

"Just..." He tried to swallow again, to get SOME moisture into his parched throat. "In a minute...please."

She replaced the penlight and nodded. "Sure," she answered, softly. "Would you like some water?"

He gave a flicker of a smile and nodded. "Please."

"I'll be right back." She threw a look at O'Neill, then turned and left them alone.

"So," Jack rose to his feet and slid his hands into his pockets. "How are you feeling?"

Daniel shrugged a shoulder. "Good. Sarcophagus?"

"Yeah. Uh...How many times did you go round in that thing?"

Daniel swallowed hard again. "Once before."

"So...twice total?"

Daniel nodded.

"You feeling...okay?" Jack's eyes rose. "No, uh..." He waved a hand in the air. "You know."

"Yes...uh...no?" Which question was he answering? Yes, he was okay. No he didn't have the urge to attack anyone or hole up in a dark storeroom. How long had he been out? How long would it take for him to start feeling the symptoms of withdrawal. "I'm okay." He cleared his throat. "How long?"

"Were you away, or have you been back?"

"Both."

"Three days gone. About..." Jack looked at his watch, "nine hours back."

Daniel nodded. That was too soon for him to start showing symptoms. Last time, he'd been able to go almost two days before needing the sarcophagus.

He heard footsteps clicking on the floor and looked past Jack to see Fraiser returning, a glass held in her hand. She stopped at the foot of his bed and held it out to him.

With a grateful nod, he took it and drained the cup in seconds. "Thanks." He closed his eyes briefly, once again feeling the threat of tears. He wasn't sure why his emotions were so close to the surface. He'd been through...bad times before. He'd had a lot of practice in putting on a stoic face. Maybe...maybe he WAS feeling the affects of withdrawal.

"You okay?" Jack asked, and Daniel felt the cup taken from his hand.

"Yeah. Thanks." Daniel opened his eyes and tried his best to look reassuring. "Just...happy I'm back."

Jack leaned against the bed. "Ditto."

Daniel gave Jack a sidelong look. "Don't get mushy on me."

"Wouldn't dream of it." Jack gave Daniel's shoulder a quick pat, then looked to Fraiser. "So, Doc? What do you say about letting him out of here?"

She gave Daniel a critical look. "How are you feeling? Really?"

"Good." It wasn't a lie. "Really good."

She sighed, then turned her attention to Jack. "Okay, but keep him on base, and if there are any signs of withdrawal, such as restlessness, irritability...."

"Got it, Doc." Jack nodded. "If he gets even more annoying than usual, I'll bring him straight back here." He faced Daniel. "And, uh, the general...."

"I know." Daniel nodded and released a breath. "I need to make a report." He straightened. "Did you recover the--?"

"Yeah. SG-5 found the Goa'uld dead. Apparently, when the attack started, the natives decided they really didn't like their god. Turned on him. We found the device near the body. Not a pretty sight."

An imagined picture of the scene sprang in Daniel's mind. "He got what he deserved." He swallowed. "The host didn't, though."

"Yeah." Jack took a breath and grabbed Daniel's elbow, encouraging him off the bed. "How 'bout I treat you to something in the cafeteria, then we tell Hammond you're awake?"

Daniel looked down at himself. "Uh...."

"I'll find something suitable for you to wear." Fraiser offered a friendly smile, then turned. "Be RIGHT back."

"So." Jack seemed to watch her go. "You really doing okay?"

"You keep asking me that."

"And?"

"If I get the overwhelming urge to try to kill you, I'll let you know."

"So, to be clear, you don't NORMALLY have the urge to kill me, right?"

Daniel couldn't help but smile at that. "Well, not overwhelming, anyway."

"Funny."

"It wasn't meant to be." He countered, trying to school his expression into a serious one.

"Real funny." Jack clapped his palms together. "So, what are you in the mood for. Chocolate?"

"Coffee."

"Right. Should've guessed."

Daniel kept up on the small talk with Jack until Janet returned with a fresh pair of uniform pants, a black T-shirt, underwear, socks, and boots."

"Here you go, Doctor Jackson." She set the folded bundle next to him. "The boots might be half a size too big, but they should work for now."

"Thank you."

He waited as Janet removed his IV, then, when she left, began to dress. Jack wisely decided to turn his attention to a container of tongue depressors on one of the counters, taking the opportunity to test his ability to balance a stack of them on the bridge of his nose.

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

"Daniel!"

Daniel looked up from the half-eaten piece of chocolate pie and managed a smile as Sam and Teal'c approached.

Sam slid next to him, while Teal'c took a seat on the opposite side of the table, next to Jack.

"You look well, DanielJackson."

"Thank you."

"Why didn't you tell us he was awake, sir?" Sam threw the colonel an unhappy look.

Jack raised his eyebrows, giving the look of innocence. "I was just about to."

Sam didn't appear to believe him, but she smiled, anyway and turned to Daniel. "How are you feeling?"

Everyone seemed to keep asking him that. "Fine." He took another bite of the cake.

"When did Fraiser release you?" the major inquired.

"Just now. I'm confined to base, though."

"The doc wants him close by for the next three days, just in case," Jack explained.

Sam's expression turned serious. "Right. How many times...?"

"Twice," Daniel answered the question a bit too quickly. He was beginning to feel like a bug under a microscope. Everyone apparently kept waiting for him to go, as Jack had put it, all dark side again. "And, as luck would have it, I have an appointment tomorrow for a psychiatric evaluation."

"S.O.P." Jack ran a finger in the whip cream on top of Daniel's cake and put it in his mouth.

"Right." Daniel frowned. "If you get the urge to do that again, I might get that other urge we discussed."

Jack's eyes narrowed. "Touchy."

"The colonel has no sense of hygiene." Sam countered her words with a smile.

"Hey!" Jack straightened. "That's SO not true." He gave a quick sniff under his collar. "I showered this morning..." He frowned. "Or was that yesterday?"

Sam looked upward.

"Well, pardon me, it's been a hectic few days." Jack eyed the cake. "I'm hungry, actually."

"Here." With a smile, Daniel slid the plate toward Jack. "You can finish this off."

"Nah, I'm..."

"It's a bit rich for me. Guess my stomach's not quite up to this right now."

"Oh. Okay." Jack took the offering and snatched the fork from Daniel's hand. "I wouldn't want to make you sick. Doc'd kill me."

"You don't want a clean fork?" Daniel asked.

Jack shrugged and almost pointed out that swapping saliva hardly mattered when you've bathed in the other man's blood. Thank God he'd stopped himself in time. He suddenly lost his appetite.

"I'm actually not that hungry, either." He let the fork drop to the table, then looked up at Sam and Daniel. "I guess we should let the general know you're awake, if Fraiser hasn't already."

"Yeah." Daniel nodded. "I guess so."

~~~~~~~~~

"I don't remember." Daniel focused on a point on the far wall.

"It's a moot point, anyway, General," O'Neill interjected. "The Goa'uld's dead."

"I'm aware of that, Colonel."

Daniel swallowed. "I don't think I told him anything, but," he shrugged, "I can't be sure. A lot of it's a blur." All he really remembered, after the initial interrogation session, which had been a lot of talk and a bit of the ribbon device, was being led into the room, seeing the table, having arms force him onto it, and then.... pain.

"There were some symbols on the Asgard device he thought I should be able to translate," Daniel continued, finally tearing his gaze away from the wall to look at Hammond.

"Could you?"

He nodded. "I think so. Some of them, anyway."

"SG-5 recovered the device, and it's sitting safely in Sam's lab." Jack tapped a finger on the table. "I'm sure the Asgard will be here soon to claim it. Apparently, they're not all that concerned about the Goa'uld having it, but heaven forbid we should get the benefit of it."

The general shot O'Neill a disapproving look, then turned his attention again to Daniel. "Thank you for the briefing, Doctor Jackson. You're free to go now. Take it easy."

Daniel nodded and rose from his seat. "Thank you, General."

"It's good to have you back, son."

Daniel gave another nod, turned, and headed out of the briefing room as fast as he could without looking like he was fleeing.

Jack was right behind him, in the hall. "Hey."

Daniel forced himself to stop and, slowly, turned to face Jack. "Hey."

"Heading to your office?"

Daniel nodded.

"Going to start researching some of those other symbols you couldn't translate off the top of your head?"

Daniel frowned. Was he that predictable? "Yeah."

"No."

"No?"

"We've got tons of photos, there's no rush, the Goa'uld is dead, and you could use some R&R."

Daniel sighed. "I'm stuck on base, I might as well work."

"Wanna play Gin?"

"No. You'll win."

Jack smiled. "Yeah, and your point?"

Daniel sighed. "Okay, but I need to get my spare glasses." He'd gone through too many pairs over the past few years. It was a good thing the government offered such good health benefits.

"Good!" Jack clapped Daniel on the shoulder. "Give me three good games where I win, and then maybe I'll agree to a game of chess."

~~~~~

Jack yawned, eyeing the cards on the table. He wasn't into solitaire. He glanced at Daniel on the bed. They'd taken over a VIP room and played several card games, but Daniel had conked out before they could break out the chess board, and Jack had discreetly guided Daniel to the bed, slipped off his boots, and removed his glasses. He'd told Fraiser he'd keep an eye on the archeologist, and rather than have a guard stationed outside the room, he decided to play babysitter. So, for the next three days, he'd have the joy of being Daniel's shadow.

Rising, he headed to the bathroom, keeping an ear on his slumbering friend. He did his business, washed up, and then headed back to the room. Sleeping arrangements would be tight, but he'd had worse. Opening the closet, he pulled out the extra pillow and blanket he'd made sure were available and got settled on the floor between the bed and the door.

~~~~

The scream woke him. Jack shot off the floor, disoriented by the thick darkness, then remembered where he was and dove for the light switch. He blinked as the room went bright, and he saw Daniel sitting up in bed, his short hair wet and his shirt blotchy with sweat. He was shaking, wincing from the light even he looked frantically around.

"Hey, hey." Jack moved forward quickly and sat on the bed, careful not to touch Daniel just yet. "This way, Daniel."

Daniel finally focused on Jack, blinking some more. Gradually, his trembling eased, and he sighed, dropping back to the pillow. He stared at the ceiling, and his chest rose and fell heavily.

"Doozy?" Jack asked.

Daniel simply nodded, then he raised his arms and rubbed shaking hands over his face.  "What time is it?" He dropped his arms and sat back up again.

Jack glanced at his watch. "Four."

A crease formed in Daniel's brow. "AM or PM?"

"AM."

"I think I'm done sleeping." Daniel shot off the bed and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms over his chest. "You want the bed?"

"Nah. I'm wide awake."

"Sorry."

"It's okay, Daniel."

"No...it's not." Daniel unfolded his arms and lowered one hand to his stomach, gently rubbing at one of the spots that had, not so long ago, been skewered.

"Daniel?" Jack pushed to his feet and moved around the bed toward his friend. "Infirmary?"

Daniel jerked away from the wall and paced. "I'm not in withdrawal!"

"You're irritable."

Daniel spun to face him, anger in his eyes. "Wouldn't you be, under the circumstances?"

"Why don't we just play it safe?" He moved slowly toward the phone.

Daniel seemed to realize his intent, because his shoulders slumped and he sighed, sinking quickly into one of the empty chairs. "I know what the withdrawal feels like, Jack." He tilted his head back and stared at the ceiling. "This isn't it."

"What is it, then?"

"What do you think?"

"Ah. Okay." He moved forward and took the other chair. He'd been where Daniel was now. He'd pushed through his own bout of sleepless nights and flashbacks. He certainly had enough experience to know what the kind of torture Daniel had experienced did to a person, though before he'd encountered the Goa'uld, there wasn't the added bonus of being able to be killed and revived. That was special to the snakeheads.

"So, you're not in withdrawal."

"No."

"All right. So... wanna play chess?"

Daniel didn't even attempt to smile. "No, Jack." He sighed heavily, still gazing upward.

"Gin?"

"No."

"Fish?"

"No."

"Poker?"

"No, Jack."

"Ooookay. What do you want to do?"

Daniel pushed out of the chair. "Take a shower, actually. A nice, long, hot shower." He headed to the bathroom.

"Okay."

"Okay." Daniel slammed the door behind him and, moments later, Jack heard the dull roar of water.

~~~~~~

Daniel closed his eyes and let the hot spray pound his face. He stood there until he could barely stand it anymore, then turned and dropped his head, shifting until the water hit just the right spots on his neck and shoulders.

He tried to clear his mind, tried especially not to think about that dim room or Amon's face, hovering over him, or what it felt like to be secured to the table by rods that pierced his flesh.

He opened his eyes and looked at his stomach. The flesh was pink from the hot water, but otherwise undamaged. The sarcophagus had repaired him. He wasn't sure how it did it's thing. Not even Sam knew for certain. But, somehow, it had taken his torn body and put it all back together.

How, exactly, did it know what went where? How did it seem to fix bodies of various species? Repair organs? Bones? Even replace flesh that just wasn't there anymore?

The first time he'd died in the room was at the wrong end of Amon's ribbon device. Ironically, that had killed him much faster than the table had. The Goa'uld had, apparently, set up the platform to do the most damage possible while preserving his life for as long as possible.

A nice, slow, agonizing death.

He'd had too many of those. With a few more experiences, he could write a book rating the various forms of death. Of all the ones he'd experienced, probably the easiest had been being crushed in a rock slide. He was pretty sure he'd died that time, and even if he hadn't, he'd been close enough to have it count.

Yes, he was becoming quite the expert. All in all, death was a piece of cake. It was the dying part he could do without.

Dying by radiation was probably one of the worst ways to go. Being skewered, if it didn't kill you right off the bat, was also a top contender. Having your neck snapped, definitely in the top five. Actually, he'd rate it above the rock slide, and...

Surprise made him stiffen, and his feet slipped on the slick porcelain. He landed with a hard thud on his hip, smacking his head on the tile wall on the way down. He lay there a moment, stunned, seeing bright dots in his vision, the hot water cascading over his face and making it hard to breathe.

A pounding sounded at the door. "Daniel! Are you okay, damnit? Daniel? Daniel! If you don't answer me, I'm kicking this door in, so help me---"

"I'm okay!" He winced at the loudness of his voice and raised a hand to his head. He probed the tender area carefully, then pulled his fingers away and found blood, which was quickly washed away.

Beautiful. Well, he would officially once again be a resident of the infirmary.

"Daniel?"

"A minute, please." His voice was softer, and he wondered whether Jack could even hear him. Reaching up, he turned off the water, bathing the room in silence. "I'm coming."

He forced himself to his feet and pressed a hand against the tile to steady himself as he opened the plexiglass door. Looking down at the smooth shower bottom, he made a mental note to memo everyone to hell about the merits of slip guards.

There were two ear-pounding thuds against the door, then the sound of wood breaking and Jack crashed through the doorway. He skidded to a halt just before the stall, his eyes wide, giving Daniel a once over, then scowling.

"Goddamnit!"

"I slipped." Daniel reached a hand out toward the towel rack, feeling much too exposed.

"Ya think?" His scowl deepening, Jack snatched the towel off the bar and handing it to Daniel. "Fraiser's never going to let me watch you again."

Daniel frowned and grabbed the towel. "Oh, the horror." Quickly, he wrapped the towel around his waist and stepped out of the stall.

The room spun, and he thought he was about to take another header when hands grabbed him and guided his fall into a hard sit on the toilet.

"Jesus, Daniel, are you TRYING to take away the few strands of color left in my hair? What happened?"

"I slipped."

"And so we've established that."

Daniel closed his eyes. "I just remembered something."

"Yeah?" Jack's voice was soft suddenly.

Daniel took a deep breath and opened his eyes. Jack was kneeling in front of him, gentleness in his eyes.

That was almost his undoing, and Daniel quickly blinked back the rush of emotion. "I..." He cleared his throat. "I should thank you."

"You're welcome." Jack tilted his head. "For what, by the way?"

"For..." How was he supposed to put it? "You know."

"Uh, no. I don't."

Daniel decided there really wasn't any delicate way of putting it. "Thank you for killing me."

Jack's face lost color, and he fell onto his tailbone. He winced, then scooted back against the wall. "Don't mention it. Been wanting to do it for years."

"Yeah, I figured." He unrolled a wad of toilet paper and pressed it against his bleeding temple. "Get it out of your system?"

"Jesus, Daniel. It was a joke." Jack scrubbed a hand over his face, then seemed to notice that Daniel was still bleeding and shot to his feet.

"I know, Jack."

"Let's get you to the infirmary."

"Can you grab my clothes first?"

"Right." Jack turned and headed out, returning seconds later with the bundle in his arms. He set them on the floor and held a hand up when Daniel reached forward. "Don't move. With the way you look, you're liable to end up kissing the floor. Just let me do the work."

Daniel's cheeks flushed. "Uh, you know. I'm okay. Really."

"You're bleeding, Daniel." Jack grabbed the T-shirt from the floor, his gaze on the pile of clothes.

"Jack."

"Daniel."

"I mean it."

"You're not fine."

"I mean, thank you."

Jack sighed and looked up finally. "You're welcome."

"I couldn't have handled..." his voice faltered.

Jack nodded and tossed the T-shirt on Daniel's lap. "Yeah. Me either, actually."

"If it makes you feel better, I'd do the same for you." His lips lifted ever-so slightly. "In a heartbeat."

Jack's eyes narrowed, but his mouth twitched. "Don't get your hopes up."

"I'll try not to." He finally smiled.

Jack managed a grin and shook his head. He gently took the wad of toilet paper out of Daniel's grip and tossed it in the basin. "Put your shirt on," he ordered, then grabbed a clean rag from the rack and dampened it beneath the faucet.

"Yes, sir." Daniel did as he was told, and Jack dabbed at the wound with the rag.

"It doesn't look too bad. Maybe Fraiser won't kill me, after all." Jack knelt until he was eye-level with Daniel, and his face suddenly got serious. "You're okay?"

Daniel swallowed, understanding all the nuances of that question. "I think I will be."

~~~~

The End.
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