WARNINGS: spoilers for THE OTHER SIDE and SHADES OF GRAY. Some bad language.
Jack eyed Daniel, then quickly returned his attention to the battlefield. The bodies of Jaffa and SGC soldiers littered the ground, many of the corpses still smoking from staff blasts. His stomach churned, and he swallowed bile. No matter how many times he witnessed such gruesome devastation, he never got over it.
His eyes strayed again to Daniel, and he noted with a frown that the young man looked a little too pale. Daniel was standing near Carter, his gaze drifting over the mess of bodies. A heavy sadness hung over him, and his eyes seemed distant. Daniel had certainly seen his share of cruelty and violence, and he was more hardened to it than he used to be, but...thank God...it still got to him.
He wondered if the day would come when death wouldn't even phase Daniel. He hoped not. The kid had already changed so much. Jack's stomach churned again, and he knew that a lot of that change had to do with him. Sure, a hell of a lot more of it was due to the Goa'uld and losing Sha're, and all the other shit he'd been through over the years, but Jack had his share of the blame, too.
Daniel hadn't quite been the same toward him since.... Well, since that undercover stint. Jack wasn't sure whether it was the words he'd said or the fact that he'd 'left.' He could still remember seeing Daniel at the rear of the embarkation room, looking about as shell-shocked as he had that day at the SGC after he'd lost Sha're. It was then that Jack had almost called it off, but it had gone too far, and he was in too deep. Still, when he'd agreed to go undercover without telling his team, even though he'd had some severe misgivings, he'd never expected to see quite that look on Daniel's face. It made him sick to know that he was the cause.
Daniel was getting way too used to losing people.
Then the whole Uranda thing came along, and well...that hadn't helped matters any. Jack had been meaning to talk to Daniel. Maybe they could still salvage their friendship.
He heard the sound of a staff weapon firing up and turned.
It was a replay of Ra on Abydos all over again. He saw it coming, but there was nothing he could do...except scream.
"No!" Jack lunged forward as Daniel's body jerked backward toward the edge of the cliff, his chest smoking, but he was too late.
He grabbed air, falling to his stomach at the edge of the mountainside, his eyes riveted on the gruesome spectacle below. Daniel bounced down the rocky terrain like a rag doll, smashing against boulders and jarring rocks from their tenuous positions. His skull hit a small outcropping of rock, and his neck bent at an impossible angle. Finally, he came to rest at the base of the hill approximately 60 feet below.
"Oh, God, Daniel," Carter choked.
Jack glanced up at Carter, then looked to Teal'c to see him holding his staff weapon. Following the line of fire, Jack saw the corpse of the Jaffa that had fired at them.
Son of a bitch.
It had been a Kamikaze maneuver. Shooting at them had accomplished nothing other than getting himself and Daniel killed. The Goa'uld system lord had taken off in his mothership, leaving behind a battlefield of dead and injured warriors. There was nothing left to fight for except revenge.
They'd won. Jack swallowed as he picked himself up and stared down the mountainside.
And they'd lost.
"Let's go." He barely heard his own order. His throat seemed incapable of producing any sound greater than a whisper.
Carter bolted past him, careening dangerously down the hill, barely keeping her balance.
For crying out loud. He was going to have two deaths on his hands.
Moving more carefully, Jack started forward, vaguely aware of Teal'c hovering close behind. The descent passed too quickly. Before he knew it, he was at the bottom, standing over Carter as she crouched next to Daniel's body.
She looked up at him, her blue eyes brimming with tears, and removed her fingers from the side of Daniel's neck. "No pulse, sir. No breath--" She choked on her words and turned her head away from him. "He's dead."
Yeah. Jack took a breath and stared at Daniel's broken, bloodied body. His glasses were still on his face, the lenses smashed. The left side of his skull had caved inward. His right arm was snapped in two places. A fragment of jagged white bone jutted out of a bloody hole in his left pant leg.
He's dead. Daniel's dead. Jack blinked. Maybe if he said it out loud....
Carter nodded, looking back up at him, her cheeks wet. "Yes, sir."
She'd obviously mistaken his statement for a question, but it was a reasonable interpretation from her point of view, he supposed.
Jack looked back at Daniel's motionless body. One minute, he was alive. Now, he's dead. It didn't make sense. It never did. It always happened this way. Death was always sudden. Sometimes it looked lingering, but there never was such a thing as a lingering death. One moment, someone was alive. The next moment, he was dead. Nothing lingering about that.
Jack wondered when exactly Daniel had died. When the staff weapon had charred a hole in his chest? When he'd snapped his neck? Maybe, if there was anything good in the universe, Daniel had been dead before he'd hit the ground. Maybe, just maybe, he hadn't felt a thing.
Carter's voice jarred him from his thoughts. His gaze darted to her. She was blinking up at him, her eyes red and puffy, a crease in her brow and a vaguely disapproving frown on her face.
Her frown deepened. "Are you okay?"
"I'm not the one who's dead, Major."
Her eyes widened. Damn, his voice sounded cold, flat. What was wrong with him?
Daniel was dead. He should feel something.
He shivered. How'd it get so cold?
He wrapped his arms around his torso and looked up at the clear blue sky. "Teal'c, can you carry Daniel?"
"I can," Teal'c answered, his voice strangely subdued.
This wasn't right. Jack looked back down at Daniel's corpse. The timing was all wrong. He'd never gotten the chance to...
His vision swam, and he blinked, surprised to feel wetness slide on to his cheeks.
"Sir?" Carter rose to her feet, taking a step toward him.
How could he be crying when he didn't feel anything? He should feel something. He had to feel something.
"Did he know?" he asked, surprising himself with the question.
"Know what, sir?" Carter choked out.
It wasn't supposed to happen like this. Jack's eyes fell again to Daniel. He was supposed to talk to Daniel. Fix things. Daniel was still smarting from that whole Uranda thing. He'd been more distant lately. Quieter. Telling Daniel to shut up in front of a room full of people hadn't help their friendship any, especially coming on the heels of Jack's harsh words during his undercover stint to recover the stolen technologies.
Their friendship was so strained that Daniel had tossed himself in front of a staff weapon to take a hit meant for Jack.
Son of a bitch.
They'd never really talked about any of it. Damn, why hadn't they talked? Jack had meant to. It had been on his to do list. He was going to square things between them. He just hadn't found the right time.
"Sir?" Carter stepped closer to him. "Did he know what?"
That I'm sorry, he answered her silently.
"It is possible that we may find a sarcophagus in the temple."
Jack looked up at Teal'c. Huh?
"The mothership left, Teal'c." Carter answered, her voice steadier. "If the Goa'uld had one, it was on that ship."
"Perhaps not. Goa'uld system lords often hide valuable technology in temples as additional security in the event they are forced to abandon their ship."
"The temple's destroyed," Jack informed them, his tongue unusually heavy in his mouth.
"Goa'uld technologies are not so easily destroyed."
Jack looked back down at Daniel's broken corpse. "Can it repair this?" His throat went tight, almost cutting off that last word.
"It can," Teal'c affirmed.
Jack looked up. "Then let's go."
Teal'c nodded, and Jack watched as the Jaffa moved forward, crouched next to Daniel, and lifted the broken body into his arms.
"Go on," Jack whispered, waving them up the hill. They moved past him, but he held back.
"Sir?" Carter turned to look at him.
"Go, Major! I'm coming."
She nodded and resumed her hike. When she and Teal'c vanished over the top, Jack dropped to his knees and threw up.
"Will it work?" Carter asked, setting the chemical flare on the ground. The pale yellow glow cast an eerie feel to the dim interior of the temple.
Jack took a breath, staring at Daniel's only hope...buried beneath an impressive amount of dust and rocks. The only portion of the sarcophagus visible was the coffin-like tip.
"I do not know." Teal'c carefully set Daniel's body on the ground, then stepped around him and began methodically removing rocks.
"Okay." Jack placed a hand on his shoulder radio. "Sierra Gulf niner, this is Sierra Gulf one, come in."
"Sierra Gulf niner responding," came the hollow voice.
"Temple is secure. We've located the sarcophagus. It's buried, so it'll take us a little longer than we thought."
"Understood. Perimeter is secured. This whole place is a graveyard, Colonel. I don't think we need to worry about any surprises."
"O'Neill out." Jack clicked off his radio and moved forward to help Teal'c.
Their labor lasted only about five minutes before they got the top of the sarcophagus cleaned off enough to inspect the damage. Its smooth gold surface looked unscathed, but then again, a good portion of the thing was made out of Naquada.
"Okay, I guess that's it," Carter announced, turning wide eyes to him. "We won't know until we try it."
Jack nodded, his gaze returning again to Daniel. He swallowed, and a cold fist tightened around his heart. "All right, Danny. This is it." He leaned forward, slid his arms beneath Daniel's mangled corpse, and lifted. Daniel's head fell back -- way too far for a normal neck -- and his arm flopped toward the ground. Rigor mortis hadn't yet set in. Thank God.
But Daniel's body was cold, and the chill seeped into Jack's chest. He shivered, taking a breath, then turned and carried Daniel to the now-open Sarcophagus.
Catching Carter's doubtful gaze, he lowered Daniel into the sarcophagus, then straightened and stepped back. "This'll work. It has to."
The sarcophagus' cover slid closed, making an unusual scraping sound. The creases at the edge of the lid seemed wider than normal, and Jack could see a hint of a faint glow from the interior. A low hum rose, then dropped suddenly. Something rattled. The sarcophagus trembled, then the hum returned, its rhythm somewhat unsteady.
That didn't sound good.
Jack looked at Teal'c, and his stomach dropped at the worry he found in the Jaffa's normally stoic face.
The sudden sound of bone crunching sent a stab of ice into Jack's chest.
Daniel felt warm. A dull, ubiquitous pain pulsed inside him. What was happening? He heard a sickening crunch. Then another. Something pressed down on his chest, heavy, and he couldn't breathe.
The dull ache erupted to white, hot agony, and he convulsed, kicking out with legs that didn't feel right. Inside, he felt his bones moving, scraping against one another, and sharp pain tore through his ribs, arms, legs, and back.
His screams drowned out the sounds of flesh and bone twisting and snapping into place.
"What the hell?" Jack staggered back from the sudden screams.
Inside, the terrible sound of a body being reconstructed drifted from the small crevice around the sarcophagus' lid, barely discernible beneath Daniel's screams.
"Oh, God." Carter shook her head, her eyes wide. "He's supposed to be out. It doesn't... Oh God, it's malfunctioning, sir."
"No shit!" He spun around, glaring at Teal'c. "What the fuck do we do?"
Teal'c looked almost pale. "We can do nothing but wait."
"Wait?" Jack almost laughed. God, those screams....
He wanted desperately to cover his ears. This was too much. What the hell had they done?
Daniel's screams continued, punctuated by dull thuds.
Jack closed his eyes. Goddamnit, the kid was awake, aware, and trying to fight his way out.
Jack collapsed next to the sarcophagus, leaning on the side, feeling the vibration and thuds through the cool stone. He clenched his eyelids tight. This had to end soon. How the hell long would it take for the machine to put Daniel back together again?
Finally, Daniel's screams died, but the wet, crackling sound of flesh under construction continued to drift out of the sarcophagus, accompanied by Sam's soft crying.
"Finish it. Just finish it," Jack chanted between gritted teeth. He prayed that Daniel's silence meant he was now blessedly unconscious.
Soon, the fleshy sounds faded. The sarcophagus' hum died, and the cover slid open.
"D-Daniel?" Carter's shaky voice penetrated the silence.
Jack opened his eyes. Carter was standing several feet away from the sarcophagus, unmoving, her eyes wide and fixed on the box.
Forcing air into his lungs, Jack grabbed the edge of the sarcophagus and pulled himself up. He looked inside. Daniel was curled on his side, his eyes open and focused on some point on the interior wall of the tomb.
"Daniel?" Jack took a breath.
Daniel shuttered, his chest caving inward as air rushed out of his lungs.
Jack's hands tightened around the sarcophagus, his heart skipping a beat. If, after all that, the shock had killed Daniel....
He sighed when he saw Daniel flinch and his eyes dart upward.
"Danny?" Jack leaned further into the sarcophagus. "Say something."
The heaving started again, and Daniel's chest rocked with each tortured breath. He was obviously in trouble. Big time.
Damnit. "Carter! Teal'c!" Jack leaned all the way in and grabbed Daniel, pulling him out of the sarcophagus.
Teal'c was there, lifting Daniel's legs, and between the two of them, they carried Daniel away from the sarcophagus and carefully set him, still heaving, on the ground. He curled back into a ball, his gasps turning to shuttered, violent breaths, and began shivering.
"He's gotta be in shock." Carter crouched next to Daniel, apparently over her earlier stupor.
"Ya think?" Jack hit his radio. "Baker, dial up the gate. Tell Hammond to have a med team standing by. Find us a stretcher and get it the hell in here, now!"
Jack ended the connection and knelt next to Daniel. He placed a hand on Daniel's trembling arm and leaned forward. "It's over now. Breathe through it. It's all over, and we're going home, Danny."
He slipped out of his jacket and carefully draped it over Daniel trembling form.
Cold. So cold. He couldn't breathe. God, he couldn't breathe!
He hurt, deep inside. He thought he could feel every muscle. His chest felt weird, tight, and no matter how many gulps of air he took, he felt like he was suffocating. The pain vibrated through him. His teeth rattled. The hard ground dug painfully against his hip and shoulder.
Something touched him, feeling almost hot even through his sleeve. A soft voice hummed in his ear.
God, he was so cold.
A soft weight settled over him, and warmth radiated from it. He closed his eyes and focused on the comforting sensation. The deep ache inside him seemed to fade, replaced by a numbing exhaustion. Hands touch his legs and arms, then the ground dropped from beneath him, and everything went dark and quiet.
Jack sat with Teal'c and Sam in the infirmary. They'd each grabbed a chair and formed a rough arc around the bed. Jack sat at Daniel's left side, slouched in the chair, his fingers drumming on the edge of the mattress. Teal'c was on the opposite side, also seated in a chair after too many hours standing. Carter had taken up a position near Daniel's left leg.
All they were doing now was watching Daniel sleep and, occasionally, getting in the way of the nurses.
Daniel had lost consciousness soon after they'd put him on the stretcher, and he hadn't opened his eyes since. Doctor Fraiser had put him through a battery of tests and declared him physically normal. Every bone had been healed. His body was as good as new.
He just hadn't woken up yet, and it had been over twenty-four hours. Fraiser was starting to worry. Jack had passed that point a long time ago.
Jack had been glued to his chair for so long that his butt had lost all feeling. He was tired. His vision dimmed. His eyes drifted closed. The soft beeping of the EKG lulled him toward sleep. His head nodded forward, and a numbing warmth spread over him.
A gasp and the clatter of something metallic jarred him awake. He almost fell out of his chair as his eyes sprang open. Daniel was sitting bolt upright, trembling, his wide eyes darting around the room.
"Daniel." Jack rose to his feet.
"I'll get Fraiser." Carter took off running.
"Daniel Jackson." Teal'c was out of his chair. "You are safe."
Daniel's eyes snapped to Teal'c. "Jack?"
Daniel flinched, his head snapping toward Jack. He blinked, his brow creasing, then raised his arms and hugged himself. "W-What....?"
"Hey." Jack slid onto the edge of the mattress. "You're okay. You had a nasty fall, but it's all okay, now."
Daniel blinked at him. "I..." He frowned, trembling. "I remember."
Jack closed his eyes briefly. "The sarcophagus?"
A sob escaped Daniel, and Jack opened his eyes and slid a hand behind Daniel's neck. "I'm sorry about that. God, I'm sorry."
Daniel blinked. "W-What the hell was that?"
"The sarcophagus . It was, uh, damaged." Jack shook his head, his throat tight.
"The sarcophagus was not able to function normally, but it did heal your wounds," Teal'c's calm voice interjected. "I have never seen a sarcophagus function in such a manner. That was...most unfortunate."
"Doctor Jackson?" Fraiser hurried into the room, pen light and clipboard in hand. She slid around Teal'c and moved to the side of the bed. "How are you feeling?"
Daniel turned his wide-eyed gaze on to her. He blinked again. "I guess I should be feeling fine." He shivered and curled into himself. "Why's it so cold?"
Jack grabbed the blanket from Daniel's lap and lifted it to Daniel's shoulders. He wrapped it around the young man, then slid his arm around Daniel and tried to rub some of the chill away. "It's not that cold," he said. "You're body's probably still coming out of shock."
"Colonel, Teal'c," Janet nodded at them. "I'm going to need you both to step outside for a moment while I examine Doctor Jackson and perform some tests."
"Okay." Jack released his hold on Daniel and stepped away. "I'll be back soon."
Daniel remained huddled in the blanket. He nodded, then pulled his legs up and set his chin on his knees.
Jack caught Fraiser's eye. "Let us know when---"
"I will, Colonel." She gave him a tiny, reassuring smile. "I promise."
With a nod, Jack glanced at Teal'c and jerked his chin toward the doorway. "Let's go, big guy."
Daniel studied the artifact in front of him. He straightened from his slouched position and rubbed at his neck. He heard his office door open and tore his gaze away from the statue on his work table to look at the newcomer.
The colonel sank into a neighboring chair. "Hey."
Daniel turned his attention back to the statue. How long had he been staring at it before Jack had walked in, anyway?
"How are you doing?"
Daniel shrugged. "I'm fine." He swallowed and took a deep breath. He tried not to think about waking up in that box...hearing those sounds... feeling his bones and muscles being twisted, pulled, and put into place by some unseen force.
Jack's voice startled Daniel from his morbid thoughts, and he looked up.
Jack leaned toward him. "I'm sorry you had to go through that." He shook his head. "You're here, though. You're alive. And we need to talk."