For Yum@ *grin*

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole….
- Invictus
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Pit

"This letter is to Lieutenant Barber's family explaining that he died in the service of country."

Jack kept his ears tuned to the general's calm voice, but his eyes stayed pinned to Daniel. He barely recognized the man. Daniel just stood there, leaning forward, biting his bottom lip. He looked poised for an attack, ready to strike.

But it was Daniel's eyes that worried Jack the most. Even though Jack was standing to the side of Daniel, he could still see those eyes. They were angry. Wild. More animal than human.

What the hell was wrong with Daniel? Could Barber's death have hit him harder than he'd let on? Hell, even when Shau're had died, Daniel hadn't acted like this. No, he'd grieved, grown quiet, and turned even more stoic than usual, but he had never displayed the kind of simmering rage that seemed ready to erupt now.

Maybe Daniel was just tired – exhausted, like the General had said earlier. Let the kid get a good night’s rest, and in the morning he’d hopefully have a better attitude and a closer reign on his emotions.

"I spent the last two hours on it," Hammond continued. "I can't tell them anything about how he died, or anything about the work he did here, only that he's gone. Do you get the point?"

Jack held his breath as he studied Daniel’s face, waiting for a reply. All he saw on those normally soft, often distracted-looking features was smug rebellion. It was a look he'd expect to see on an angry fifteen year-old, not on a grown, educated scholar who had multiple PhD's and had already lived through some of life's toughest, most merciless lessons.

Deciding it would probably be better for everyone if Daniel didn't get the chance to supplement that look with words, Jack stepped forward quickly. "Yes, sir --"

Daniel shot a look at Jack, his eyes narrowing.

Jack met that gaze firmly and squared his shoulders, his voice steady as he finished, "-- he does."

Hammond gave a curt nod. "Get him out of here."

Daniel didn't wait for Jack to follow that command. Instead, he turned away from the general and stalked out of the room, brushing against Jack's arm with a tenseness that communicated more effectively than words exactly what Daniel thought at that moment about Jack, Hammond, and probably the entire U.S. military.

Jack didn't move for a few seconds. He stood there, slightly stunned, and met Hammond's gaze. The general's anger had already melted, and his eyes now held a silent question. It was the same question Jack wanted answered.

What the hell was wrong with Daniel Jackson?

Releasing a low sigh, Jack turned away from his superior and headed after the young man. He didn't know why Daniel was wound so tightly, but he sure as hell was going to find out.

By the time Jack made it to the hallway, it was empty. Daniel had obviously made a fast retreat. Breaking into a light jog, he headed for Daniel's office, figuring that's where the young man was headed next.

Sure enough, Jack arrived to find his friend standing in the middle of the room, stuffing books and papers into his pack.

"Hey." Jack stepped inside. "You want to tell me what the hell that was about back there?"

Daniel yanked the pack closed and tossed it over his shoulder, spinning around and storming past Jack. "That was about what it's always about, Jack." He spit the name out as though it burned his tongue.

"Okay." Jack took a deep breath and turned to follow Daniel into the hallway. "Mind telling me what it's always about, Daniel?" His tone bespoke of infinite patience as he hurried his pace to keep up with the archeologist.

"It's about me banging my head against a wall here." Daniel jerked to a stop in front of the elevator and punched the button. "I work and I work and I work, and none of you listen to me. What the hell do you pay me to do? Translate ancient languages? Fight the Goa'uld? Well, taxes are obviously being wasted because you all seem to think you know how to do my job a hell of a lot better than I do! I must have missed the PhD's hanging on your wall, Jack."

"Now wait just a minute!" Jack's anger flared, and he grabbed Daniel's elbow, forcing the young man around to face him. "What the hell's wrong with you? You know that's not true. And what's with the smug superiority? Your eyes about to start glowing, Danny Boy?"

"Go to hell!" Daniel yanked his arm away. "I'm not getting into this with you right now."

"Oh, yes you are!"

"No, I'm not." The elevator doors slid open, and Daniel hurried inside.

Jack followed, turning again to face his friend. "You were out of line with Hammond. Way, waaay out of line!"

"So fire me."

"Cut the crap –"

"You know, Jack, you're an asshole."

"And you're a self-important jack-ass. And, I swear, if you ever go over my head like that again—"

"Oh, so that's what this is about. Your precious ego."

"Jackson, I swear—"

"Spare me." The elevator slowed to a halt, and the doors opened. Daniel marched into the hallway with Jack at his heels. "I'm going home to bed like everyone seems to think I should." He came to an abrupt stop and spun around, forcing Jack to slam to a halt to avoid a collision. "Get off my back. Leave me alone. Do I need to speak real slow to you, or something?"

Jack just gazed at Daniel, too stunned to speak, feeling like he'd just stepped into the twilight zone or one of those alternate realities. Daniel had never – never – thrown his intellect in Jack's face like that. Oh sure, he'd joke, crack a subtle insult now and then, but this…this was something altogether different. This was malicious. Hateful.

Jack took a slow, deep breath. Then another. His arms hung at his sides, straight and rigid, his fingers twitching as he resisted the urge to clench his hands into fists and send one of them crashing into Jackson's face.

He reminded himself that Daniel was exhausted. Daniel had just lost someone he'd been working closely with. Daniel had experienced a hell of a lot of shit in his life, and he obviously had some repressed anger that was choosing this particular moment to burst free.

Now was not the time to have this conversation. Later, after Daniel had gotten sleep and put some food in his mouth, Jack would sit him down and chew is ass until there was nothing left.

Later, but not now.

"Daniel." Jack kept his voice low and steady. Calm. He needed to be Calm. "Goodnight. Go home. Sleep. I'll see you in the morning."

The expression on Daniel's face flickered, the anger shifting to surprise, then uncertainty, finally settling on something that looked vaguely like remorse. He swallowed and turned slowly away, releasing a long, tired sigh. "Goodnight, Jack."

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

God, what the hell have I done? Daniel staggered into his apartment, leaving the door hanging open, and headed for the bedroom. Quickly, he pulled off his work clothes, peeling off the stench of military that seemed to hover over him these days, then threw on something more comfortable and headed to the kitchen. He kept a couple bottles of wine in the cabinet, one of which had been given to him as a birthday present years ago by a colleague.

Opening the cabinet, he withdrew the bottle, then rifled through his drawers with shaky hands until he found the corkscrew.

His hands were trembling so badly he could barely work the tool, but some time later, after his fingers seemed on the verge of going numb from the repetitive twisting motions, he managed to get the corkscrew firmly embedded and, with one swift motion, yanked the cork from the bottle.

Tossing the cork blindly away, he raised the rim of the bottle to his lips and swallowed a large mouthful of the wine. Right now, he wanted oblivion. He had never been one to drown his sorrows in a bottle, but there was a first time for everything.

And at the moment he needed to just stop thinking. He needed to stop hearing himself in Hammond's office. God, he'd acted like a child. A fool. How could he ever show his face there again? And why did he even bother? Why did he care so goddamned much about everything?

Why, why, why was he such an idiot? He hurled the bottle against the wall over the sink, and it bounced, the glass staying remarkably intact until it landed in the sink, where it finally shattered, drenching the white basin with rich, mahogany liquid that looked far too much like blood.

Blood. He could almost smell it, and that pseudo smell brought with it memories of times past he'd rather forget, days he wished he could erase.

But he couldn't. He couldn't erase the past. He couldn't make anything right. God, he'd tried. He'd tried so damn hard. He'd given everything he had, and it still hadn't been enough.

He hadn't been able to save her. He'd failed in so many ways. He was weak. So sickeningly weak. The Goa'uld had taken her from him so very easily. And, God, the horrors she must have endured.

Now she was gone. At peace. Knowing only the tranquility that comes with nothingness.

Knowing nothing at all.

Was there an afterlife, or was it all just one big joke? Were they just born to struggle for that elusive thing called happiness and then die, return to the nothingness from which they came? What was the point of it all? What was the point of anything?

He'd found it, though. For one blessed Abydonian year, he had found happiness. True happiness – that state of being that consumed the ponderings of philosophers and wove itself through the fabric of human strife. He had actually found it.

But only for a year. And that was the cruelest thing of all, because he hadn't even realized what he'd been missing until he'd found it, and now every day was just a shadow of what his life used to be like.

No, not even a shadow. Nothing at all. Just an empty shell. That's all he was. Not a person of flesh and bone but simply a thing walking around, going through the motions, trying to ignore the great big nothingness inside him.

A sob escaped him, and his knees gave way. He folded to the floor, fell to his side, and curled in a ball, wishing the world would just go away. Wishing he could just go away -- disappear into oblivion forever and ever.

Because no matter what he did from now on, nothing mattered. The thing that had kept him going – the search for Shau're – was over. She was dead. Gone forever. And the boy. Daniel had sustained himself with the promise he'd made to her to find the boy and keep him safe.

But he'd found the boy. The boy was safe. So what was left for him? Nothing. The fašade was over. He had nothing. Just a glimpse of happiness that once was, and sometimes he thought maybe someday he'd get it back. And some days it wasn't even so bad. Some days he could smile and mean it. But then that feeling of not-so-bad would go away, and he'd be left in that black pit, tortured by remembering what true happiness really felt like, but knowing he would never find it again.

He tried. He really did. He tried to find that place of calm and reason that allowed him to put one foot in front of the other and just keep on going. But it never lasted, and he couldn't do it anymore. He was tired. So goddamned tired, and he deserved to rest. Finally. He could do it any time -- just get off the wild train ride and end it once and for all.

~~~~~~~~~

The ringing woke him. He stirred, opening his eyes and blinking against the blurriness. He saw the fuzzy shape of his glasses inches in front of his face, resting at an angle on the hard floor.

The ringing continued, sending spikes of pain through his skull. He groaned and shifted. His limbs felt numb and heavy, and it took a monumental effort for him to get to his knees.

He swayed haphazardly for a moment, and the room started to spin. Closing his eyes, he listened to the ringing, wincing each time the noise assaulted him.

Stop. Just stop! He pushed himself to his feet and staggered toward the phone, knocking the receiver off the cradle as he caught himself on the counter a second before his legs would've given out.

Silence. Blessed silence.

Then a small voice. Female. Sam? He stared at the phone as though it were an alien artifact.

No. No. No. No more. He wanted nothing to do with that world on the other end of the phone. It was all too hard. He had to get away. Forever. For good this time.

He pushed off the counter and made it to the sink, his hand automatically going to the teapot. It was a habit. Wake up. Make tea or coffee. Anything with caffeine.

He filled the kettle with faucet water, then set it on the burner and turned on the flame. The bright, orange-yellow ghosts danced beneath the smooth surface of the kettle, and he stared at them for several minutes, transfixed by their simple beauty.

He laughed suddenly – a hollow, bitter sound that filled the silent apartment. Hell, even fire had more life to it than he had inside himself.

He didn't want tea anymore.

His eyes drifted to the balcony. Bright sunlight filtered in through the glass. His apartment resided several stories above the ground. Heights were never his thing, but he could enjoy the view from the safe confines of the apartment.

As long as he didn't go near the edge, he was fine.

He didn't even realize he'd moved until he bumped into the glass. Automatically, his hand reached out, curling around the knob, and he turned it, opening the door and stepping out into the cool, morning air.

~~~~~~~

A wake up call, great. When I'm through giving him a wake-up call.... Jack decided it would be best if he didn't complete that thought, at least not until he found out for sure what was up with Daniel. He exited the elevator and strolled down the hallway toward his friend's apartment. After last night's tirade in Hammond's office, Daniel's tardiness put him on really thin ice.

Although he was angry at Daniel for behaving poorly in the general's office, as well as for embarrassing Jack as a commanding officer, and finally, for reflecting badly on the entire team by not showing up for the scheduled mission, Jack couldn't ignore the tight, cold fist of fear in his gut.

Daniel wasn't acting like himself, and Jack had yet to figure out why.

Approaching the apartment, the fist in his gut twisted when he saw the door hanging slightly ajar. He went rigid, moving slowly as he pushed the door open and hovering a moment at the threshold while he scanned the interior. The back of his neck tingled, the hairs raising.

Oh, he really didn't like this.

"Daniel?" He moved inside, closing the door behind him, barely noticing that it didn't catch and swung a few inches inward.

The first thing he noticed was the phone. It was lying off the hook, an incessant beeping audible from the earpiece.

Shit. He just stared at the receiver for several seconds. So, Sam had been right. She'd called and Daniel had picked up, but he'd never answered, and he hadn't hung up the phone.

What the hell was going on?

Daniel, what's happening here? He reached out, touching the receiver with his finger, imaging half a dozen scenarios that could cause Daniel to pick up the receiver and then leave it lying on the counter without answering the caller.

None of the scenarios he imagined were good ones.

A whistling sound caught his attention, and he looked to the kitchen, taking a few steps in that direction but stopping before he reached the tile. Shit. Shit. Shit. The kettle itself was both a good sign and bad one -- good because whatever happened probably hadn't happened all that long ago, bad because it had obviously happened suddenly.

Kidnappers. It fit the bill. The door hanging open. The phone hanging off the hook. The whistling tea kettle. He pictured a small group of men bursting in, grabbing Daniel while he was in the middle of making tea. That was probably around the time Sam had called. Perhaps Daniel had reached for the phone, managing to knock it off the hook, before being subdued by his kidnappers. Or perhaps the receiver had gotten knocked off during a struggle.

No. No. No. He swallowed hard. Who would kidnap Daniel? This was Earth. Daniel was supposed to be relatively safe on Earth, and he should be even safer in his own home.

It couldn't be kidnappers, Jack decided, taking another look around. Other than the phone, there were no signs of a struggle. Hell, even the delicate thingamagigs on the table were undisturbed. He reached out, touching one of them. It sat upright, in its proper place, undisturbed.

He knocked it over, itching with frustration as he watched it roll across the small table. His insides were screaming that he needed to take action, but he didn't know what action he needed to take.

Jack thought he heard something – a low, indistinguishable sound – and turned toward the balcony. He moved slowly toward the double doors leading outside. They hung open, revealing an overcast morning sky.

His eyes darted around, and he hesitated, taking another look around. There were no overt signs of danger. Everything was pretty quiet, and perhaps that's what was making him so uneasy. He half expected the boogey man to jump out at him, because the whole setup – the empty apartment, the screaming kettle, the beeping phone line – screamed of the unnatural.

He took a slow step toward the balcony, and then he saw it. A gray-clad arm. He picked up his pace, moving swift and silent, and saw that the arm belonged to Daniel.

He gave a sigh of relief, but, as he moved further toward the doors, his relief turned to stark, cold disbelief when he realized Daniel wasn't standing on the balcony, he was standing at the edge, outside the railing, looking over a dizzying drop, his back to Jack.

Jack's world came crashing inward, reduced to a pinpoint of time and space. The here and now. The balcony. Daniel.

About to jump?

No way. There had to be another explanation. Daniel wasn't the type to off himself. Not after all the shit he'd endured. Hell, if the kid was going to end his life, he'd have done it after Shau're died.

No, Jack realized suddenly. The promise. Daniel's promise to Shau're to find her child would've kept him going.

But now Daniel had found the boy, and the child was safe. What else was holding him to the SGC? What else was keeping him going?

God, what else did he have left?

Us. The stargate. He can't leave all this behind. He wouldn't. He's too hooked on it all.

But there was Daniel, standing out on the ledge. It's okay. I'm in time. We can work this out.

But, God, if I'd been five minutes later, Daniel could be following Barber.

Barber. Suicide.

A connection? There had to be. There had to be. But, at the moment, that didn't matter. What mattered was that Daniel was standing on the ledge, and all he had to do was let go of the rail….

Jack stepped to the doorway and stopped, afraid to go any further in case he spooked Daniel.

He spoke softly. "Daniel? What are you doing out here?" That's right. Keep it casual.

Daniel tensed almost imperceptibly, his head coming up a fraction as though he were listening to a far-off sound. Silence reigned for a moment longer, then his soft, pained voice carried like a gentle breeze toward Jack.

"None of it means anything."

Daniel sounded so resigned, so hopeless. Jack swallowed, taking a step forward, flashing back to a time when he'd been on the edge himself, a time when he'd been ready to put a bullet in his brain.

It had been Daniel, that time, who had helped him realize there were still a few things in life worth sticking around for. Death would come eventually. He didn't have to rush it.

Now, lord help him, it was Jack's turn to help Daniel. But, damnit, he wasn't any good at this stuff. He didn't want to have to talk anybody off a ledge, much less Daniel.

What the hell was he supposed to say?

He didn't have a clue, but he did know that he had to get closer to Daniel. He had to be within reach. Moving slowly, Jack took a step forward. "Um, Daniel, why don't you come inside here?"

"I tried. It just…. It goes away."

"Okay." Jack nodded, feeling totally lost. "Well, we'll, uh," C'mon, think of something to say, "we'll get it back."

"You can't get it back."

"W-Whatever's wrong, we'll…we'll fix it." We'll fix it. I promise. Just come inside, Daniel.

Daniel's head dropped forward. "You don't even know what I'm talking about."

Jack hesitated a moment. "No." Now was not the time for lies. His friend deserved better than that. "No, I don't. But…come inside."

Daniel lifted and turned his head suddenly, revealing half his face. A solitary tear slid down his cheek. His eyes were hooded, confused, and he looked around as though he wasn't sure where he was.

"Jack?"

Yes! Jack practically lunged forward, latching on to Daniel's arm. "Yeah." Right here. I got you. I got you.

Daniel was trembling, standing there with a death grip on the railing, his bewildered eyes darting back and forth. Whatever had happened, Daniel's sudden shivering and panicked, shifting gaze told Jack everything he needed to know.

Daniel didn't remember stepping out onto the ledge.

It's gonna be okay. Jack's free hand slid around to rub briskly at Daniel's other arm. "Let's go inside."

Daniel turned his head to look at Jack, blinking as though he were trying to clear his vision. "Inside?"

Daniel twisted his neck further and glanced at the open balcony door, then brought his gaze forward and down, focusing on the dizzying drop. His toes hung just off the edge, emphasizing just how fragile the barrier was that separated life from death for him.

"Yeah," Jack said gently. "Inside." He wrapped his right arm around Daniel's waist. "Think you can get your legs over the rail?"

Daniel shifted slightly to his left.

"Easy!" Jack automatically tightened his hold as he watched Daniel's feet turn precariously on the narrow ledge.

"J-Jack?' Daniel stopped, his brow furrowed, his face suddenly pale.

"Dan…Shit!"

Daniel went limp suddenly, as if an unseen puppet master had just cut his strings, and the unexpected dead weight yanked Jack forward, nearly bringing him over the railing. He caught himself, using his legs as a brace against the forward momentum. With a hard grunt, he pulled with all his strength, bringing Daniel's limp form over the railing and onto the hard, cold cement in a barely-controlled crash.

Daniel landed on top of him, limp and heavy. Finding it difficult to breath with the weight on his chest and stomach, Jack quickly squirmed out from beneath his friend.

Once he was free, he began basic first aid protocol -- check pulse and respiration. He placed his fingers on the side of Daniel's neck and found a strong, fast pulse. In fact, it was a bit too fast. At least it was beating, though. Daniel's chest rose and fell in a steady, shallow rhythm. That was good, too, not the shallow part, but the breathing part. Breathing was very good. Yes, indeed.

Jack took a deep, steadying breath, trying to calm his nerves, and closed his eyes briefly, running a hand over his face.

"Daniel?" He looked back down and gave the young man a firm pat on the cheek, receiving a soft moan in response. "That’s it, Danny, c'mon. Open your eyes."

Another moan. Daniel's head lolled toward Jack, his eyelids fluttering.

"That's it. That's it." He gave Daniel's cheek another pat. "Two more seconds and I'm carrying you over my shoulder down to the car. Now, you don't really want the neighbors to see that, do you?"

Daniel released a long, almost whining sigh and opened his eyes. He squinted at Jack, then blinked. "Huh? Jack?"

"Yeah. You think you can work with me as I get you to your feet?"

"My feet?" He lifted his head and looked around, apparently just realizing he was laying flat on his back. Then he closed his eyes and dropped his head back to the floor. "No."

"No?" Jack took a deep breath. "Okay, that's it. Come on." He grabbed Daniel's arms and pulled him up, hefting him over his shoulders.

He stumbled into the living room and dropped Daniel onto the couch, slapping the young man's cheek again. "Come on. We've got three choices here. I carry you all the way down or I call Fraiser to send an EMT transport team over here or you and I walk down to my car and I drive you to the SGC. Now, I'm thinking I'm not carrying you all the way down, so that leaves us with two remaining choices. Which one's it gonna be?"

His tone was a bit harsh, he had to admit, but he was just so…so…

God. He closed his eyes. He'd almost been too late. He'd almost dropped Daniel. Too many almosts.

But almost doesn't count.

A small sound, something between a groan and a whimper, made him open his eyes, and he was surprised to see tears on Daniel's cheeks.

Suddenly, all the anger left him. "D-Daniel?"

Daniel sat there, hugging himself, his eyes closed. He shook his head violently and fell onto his side, his face turned into the cushion. Muffled, broken words came from him, but Jack couldn't decipher them. He wasn't even sure they were English.

"Daniel, c'mon. Don't." He fidgeted and swallowed, then took another deep breath and leaned forward, placing a hand on Daniel's arm. "It'll be okay. Whatever's wrong, Janet'll fix it. Okay?"

"No!" The word was muffled but strong. Daniel finally turned his head and opened his eyes to look at Jack. "It's all wrong. I can't…can't…It's too hard."

"Daniel, listen to me." Jack leaned forward some more, dropping his voice a notch. "This isn't you. Remember Barber? First him, now you, and both of you were on that planet. Just hang in there, okay, and let me get you to the SGC."

"No!" Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head again. "You don't know. It's nothing. Nothing. There's no point to it, anymore. They're all gone. All gone."

"Who? Daniel, I'm here. Right now. Focus on me. Stay with me, okay?" The last part came out more as an order than a plea.

The tension leaked from Daniel's body, and the creases in his forehead faded. "Jack?"

"Yeah?"

"I…I don't feel very well." A sigh drained from him, and he went limp again, his arms loosening their hold and falling to the cushion.

Jack's heart skipped a beat, and his hand shot out, his fingers checking for and finding a pulse. Weak this time.

Shit! His decision made, he pulled Daniel off the couch and over his shoulders. Forget calling for an emergency transport team. He'd get Daniel there faster than it would take the medics to get to the apartment.

Jack staggered a bit as he carried Daniel out of the apartment, stopping to turn the lock on the knob just before closing the door. The hallway was empty, and he hurried to the elevator, already breathing hard.

The lift doors slid open immediately, and he stumbled inside, shifting Daniel's weight to keep the young man from slipping, then punched the button for the ground floor.

He rode the elevator down, listening to the shallow rhythm of Daniel's breathing. Daniel's heart was pounding, and Jack could feel each beat drumming against the back of his shoulder.

The lift stopped, the doors parted, and Jack hurried out of the elevator, passing an elderly couple on their way inside. They cleared a wide path around him, their eyes wide, and hurried their footsteps.

Jack ignored them, focusing on just breathing in and out and keeping his legs moving. Daniel was lean, but he was definitely no lightweight.

He sighed with relief when he reached his vehicle, parked at the curb just in front of the doors. He'd lucked out and caught someone leaving, giving him a premium parking space for which he was now very, very grateful.

"Okay, Daniel, here we are." Jack reached into his jacket pocket and withdrew the keys, quickly opening the passenger door.

He stooped, dropping Daniel carefully into the seat. Daniel was like a rag doll, his head falling back against the headrest, a sliver of his blue eyes visible beneath his lids.

Jack took a moment to catch his breath, utilizing that time to check Daniel's pulse. He placed his fingers along Daniel's neck and felt the frantic pounding. He counted for six seconds, then multiplied the number of beats by ten.

Damn. Daniel's heart was racing at 130 beats per minute – way too fast for even a normal, conscious person, much less someone slumped unconscious in a car seat.

"Hang in there, kid." Jack patted Daniel's cheek, flinching in surprise at the resulting moan.

Daniel's eyelids fluttered open, and he blinked at Jack, his brow furrowing. "Jack?" His voice was hoarse, barely a whisper.

"Yeah. Just sit tight." Jack leaned further inside, fastening the seatbelt over Daniel's chest and lap. "I'm taking you to the SGC."

Daniel tensed suddenly, pushing forward against the shoulder restraint, his gaze drifting downward to the straps holding him in place. "No. No, please."

"Daniel, easy." Jack placed a firm hand on Daniel's chest and pushed him back against the seat. "Everything's going to be okay."

"NO!" Daniel's hand went for the lock, but Jack grabbed the young man's wrist, preventing him from reaching the release button.

"Stop it!" Jack tightened his grip. "I need you to work with me, okay?"

Daniel closed his eyes and shook his head. "No. I'm not going back there." His words were slurred, running together. "Please, Jack."

Jack's brow furrowed as he tried to figure out what Daniel was talking about. "It's the SGC, Daniel. The SGC. Doc Fraiser. You need help."

"No!" Daniel's eyes shot open and he looked straight at Jack, his gaze suddenly lucid. "They'll take me back to MacKenzie, put me in that room, take away my glasses…"

Oh, shit. Jack swallowed hard before he could answer. "Daniel, I promise you – I promise you – no one is going to lock you away. I won't let them. You have my word."

"But—"

"Ah-Ah! No buts. This is physical, Daniel. First Barber. Now you. It's something happening to you, but it's not you. Got it?"

Daniel's brow furrowed, his head falling back to the seat. "What…What's wrong with me?"

Jack took a deep breath, wishing he could give an answer. "I don't know." He placed a gentle palm on Daniel's cheek, giving a soft pat. "But we'll find out, and we'll fix it. All you have to do is hang in there until then. Okay?"

Daniel didn't answer. He was unconscious again.

~~~~~~~~ The End ~~~~~~~~

I would appreciate any feedback you'd be willing to send my way *grin*

NawdC@yahoo.com

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