Daniel followed Jack into the briefing room, his notes clutched against his chest. He kept his head down, avoiding the eyes of those seated around the table, especially Hammond's.
"Nice of you to join us, Doctor," Hammond began. "Is everything all right?"
Daniel slid into the nearest empty seat and dropped his notes to the table. "Yes, sir. Sorry I'm late."
"Well, now that you're here, would you mind giving your report?"
"Of course." He swallowed, his throat tight, and shuffled through his notes, his eyes scanning the information, but he couldn't concentrate. All he could think about were the eyes focused on him. Hammond's. Fraiser's. Teal'c's. Sam's. Jack's.
He clenched one hand in to a fist and rubbed his thumb absently against his index finger.
"Yes, General." Daniel took a deep breath and looked up, solidly meeting Hammond's gaze and ignoring those of the others. "As I said previously, Hathor is the Egyptian goddess of fertility, inebriety, and music. She was both Ra's daughter and his wife."
Daniel tried not to flinch from the general's gaze. Was Hammond thinking of the images on that tape? And what about Fraiser? She'd supposedly seen it, too. Maybe they weren't even listening to him. Maybe they were just looking at him and picturing him on that bed with....
"And?" Hammond prodded. "I trust you have slightly more information to share with us?"
"Uh, yeah," he stammered.
Okay, so at least Hammond was listening. Daniel glanced down at his notes and saw that his hands were shaking. He clenched his jaw. Get a grip.
He took a deep breath and continued. "She was considered a midwife and the protector of pregnant women. As the goddess of music and dancing, her symbol was the sistrum. As a fertility goddess and a goddess of moisture, Hathor was associated with the inundation of the Nile. In this aspect, she was associated with the Dog-star Sothis whose rising above the horizon heralded the annual flooding of the Nile. In legends associated with Ra, she is known as the 'Eye of Ra.'"
The Eye of Ra... That necklace Kathryn gave me before my first trip to Abydos. It did bring me luck, I guess. Ironic, considering what it represented.
Daniel pushed the intrusive thought aside and continued his report. "In later times, when the Osiris cults gained popularity, Hathor's role changed. She began to welcome the arrival of the deceased to the underworld, dispensing water to the souls of the dead from the branches of a sycamore and offering them food."
And why would the dead need water and food?
"That's all very interesting, Doctor. What about Hathor as a Goa'uld?"
"Well, obviously she isn't a god. She is, however, very old, and as we've seen, the Goa'uld do tend to enjoy portraying themselves as Gods to enslave populations."
"Obviously." Hammond sighed. "Can you tell us anything about her motives today?"
Daniel fidgeted in his chair. God, he was having the hardest time keeping to one train of thought. "Uh, she, uh.... Well, she wanted DNA to make larvae. You know that. Her intent was to take over our planet..."
"Now that Ra is gone, we are finally free to rule this planet, with you, our Beloved, at our side for all eternity."
Daniel shook Hathor's voice out of his head. "Uh, she failed, obviously. She was happy we destroyed Ra. Apparently, Ra's death has freed her to take actions she hadn't been able to while married to Ra. It's a sure bet she wants what every Goa'uld seems to want -- power."
"Do you have any idea why she went to Chulak?"
"Not really, but perhaps she went there knowing it was populated with jaffa. She's been in the sarcophagus for thousands of years, so things may have changed significantly in that time. Perhaps in her time, Apophis didn't have such a strong hold over Chulak. So, she might not realize that Chulak is under Apophis' control. Or perhaps she does realize that and seeks to ally herself with Apophis. I really can't guess beyond that."
"I see. Well, thank you, Doctor. Now, Colonel..."
Daniel sighed with relief and dropped his gaze back to his notes. His thoughts turned to the videocassette he'd found on his table. Jack had pulled out the fragile tape from the casing and tossed the whole thing in the trash before ushering Daniel into the hall.
Jack had destroyed the evidence, so now he couldn't report anything to Hammond. Daniel supposed he should be grateful for that demonstration of friendship over duty. Okay, he was grateful, but even as he desperately didn't want to make a big deal out of the joke -- since doing so would only fuel the pranksters -- he did want to know who had made the tape. Who had entered his office and put it on his table beneath a golden Oscar statue? Who would pass him in the hall and nod while inwardly laughing? And had that person kept his own private copy of the tape for repeated viewing?
Daniel's stomach churned violently. He looked up. Jack was talking to the general about something. He didn't know what. He didn't care. God, the room was hot. Was there something wrong with the temperature controls? He had to get out of there. He wasn't needed, anymore. He'd given his report. Surely, they'd understand if he ducked out early.
He rose from his chair, and Jack stopped talking to look quizzically up at him. "Daaaniel?"
"I, uh," he grabbed his notes, "have to step out for a moment. Sorry."
He didn't bother waiting for permission as he turned and walked stiffly out of the briefing room, resisting the nearly overpowering urge to run away from the eyes he knew were boring relentlessly into the back of his skull.
Daniel hurried down the hall toward his office. He knew he'd be getting a visit from Jack as soon as the briefing concluded, and that visit might end with him paying another visit to the infirmary. Maybe he should just go home before Fraiser could snare him. He was scheduled to complete those tests, wasn't he?
Yes, home was looking like a great idea. Unfortunately, he was riding on pretty thin ice already. He knew Hammond was being more than generous in giving him those two days off and allowing him to take off in the middle of a briefing. If Daniel screwed up anymore, he could find himself grounded, and he couldn't let that happen. He couldn't give them any reason to pull him from SG1 because that was his only chance of finding Sha're.
And every day that Sha're was out there being raped by Apophis was one day too many.
His stomach twisted again, and he hurried his pace. He would not be sick. He'd thrown up enough over the past few days to last him a lifetime, but every time he thought of Hathor or Apophis or the things Sha're was likely going through, the agony went straight to his gut and threatened to shred his insides.
He collided with something and bounced to an abrupt halt, stumbling backward and managing to maintain enough of his balance to avoid falling flat on his rear.
"Oh, sorry, Doctor Jackson. You okay?"
Daniel blinked and looked at the uniformed figure in front of him, his eyes automatically going to the nametag on the man's jacket. Lt. Leval.
"Doctor Jackson?" Leval fidgeted, looking distinctly uncomfortable. "You okay?"
"Uh, yeah." Daniel looked up into the man's face. "Sorry."
Daniel nodded and slid around the man.
Daniel stopped, turning his head just enough so that he could see Leval in his peripheral vision. "Yes?"
"I...uh...Well. Just want you to know that Hammond has made that tape confidential, and we're keeping it --"
"What?" Daniel turned to face the man, his mouth suddenly dry. The tape. He stared at Leval. Was he the one who'd left the tape? Was this his way of reveling in his handiwork?
"The tape." Leval fidgeted again, his gaze dropping to his feet. "Uh, I know this must be awkward for you having it on video...I mean..." He looked back up at Jackson.
Daniel stood rigid, his chest tight. He couldn't breath.
"But, you know," a shaky smile touched Leval's lips, "a lot of the guys are actually jealous."
Heat stung Daniel's eyes, and he clenched his hands into fists.
"Uh... What was it like?" Leval leaned forward, lowering his voice. "You know, with a real goddess? I mean, I know you have a wife..."
Bright dots flashed across Daniel's vision, and a sudden, overpowering rage exploded within him. He felt a sharp pain in his right hand, then saw Leval sailing backward, his skull landing with a hard thunk on the corridor floor.
Jack hardly heard a word of Carter's report. His eyes kept straying to the empty chair that Daniel had occupied twenty minutes ago.
The door opened suddenly, and an armed guard stepped in, his eyes snapping to Hammond. "General, sir, Lieutenant Sumpton reporting. I'm sorry to interrupt."
Hammond straightened. "What is it, Lieutenant?"
"Doctor Jackson attacked Lieutenant Leval and is currently in a holding cell."
Jack leapt out of his seat. "What the hell...?" He sputtered, words tripping over themselves in their attempt to stumble off his tongue. What the hell did the guy mean "Jackson attacked Lieutenant Leval?" And what the hell was Jackson doing in a cell? Who's bright idea was it...?
"Calm down, Colonel." Hammond rose from his seat. "Lieutenant, report."
"Yes, sir. Apparently, Jackson was speaking to Leval in the corridor, and then Jackson struck Leval. The blow knocked Leval backward, and he hit his head. A passing airman came on the scene in time to see Jackson strike Leval. The airman called for a medic. Leval is now in the infirmary, but he is conscious. After the medics took Leval, Jackson was escorted to a cell for striking an officer. We thought it best to hold him there until we sort out what happened and you decide what appropriate action to take."
"Oh for crying out loud!" Jack stormed around the table, stopping in front of the lieutenant. He spoke to Hammond but kept his eyes locked on Lieutenant Sumpton. "Permission to adjourn, General."
"Sir." Carter spoke that single syllable like a plea.
O'Neill glanced over his shoulder at Carter. She and Teal'c were standing side-by-side near the table. "He doesn't need a crowd, Carter." His tone softened. "But don't worry. He's not staying there." He glanced at Hammond for confirmation.
The general nodded. "I want you and Dr. Jackson to meet me in the infirmary."
O'Neill nodded. "Yes, sir."
"He hasn't said a word to anybody," the airman
informed O'Neill as he opened the door. "I'll wait out here, sir."
"The key, if you don't mind." Jack held out his hand, and the airman handed him the key.
With a curt nod, Jack turned and strode into the small room. The holding cell was 10 x 12 and barricaded at the front by a wall of thick bars. Jack stopped and sighed as his eyes took in the forlorn figure on the small bunk inside the cell. Daniel sat on the thin mattress, his back to the wall, his knees to his chest, and his face buried in his arms.
"Hey." Jack strode up to the bars and slid the key into the lock. Still, Daniel didn't move, and Jack opened the door, stepping inside.
Plopping on to the bunk next to Daniel, Jack shifted so he was facing the younger man. "Daniel? You wanna give me a sign here that you're alive, or should I start CPR?"
Daniel raised his head slowly, revealing a haggard face and reddened, fatigue-heavy eyes. "Am I under arrest?"
Jack raised his eyebrows. The kid looked awful and sounded worse. "Well, you're a civilian. You can't exactly be court- martialed, and I don't see any civilian police around here." He offered a gentle, reassuring smile and jerked his head toward the open door. "You ready to spring this joint? Hammond wants to see us in the infirmary. He's there checking on Lieutenant Leval, by the way."
Daniel winced and looked quickly away. "How is he?"
"Don't know yet, but from what I heard, it doesn't sound too bad. You, uh, want to tell me what prompted the little tiff between you and Leval?"
Daniel unfolded his legs and stretched them out with his feet on the floor. He rested his head against the wall and closed his eyes. "Nothing really. He said something. I overreacted."
"Oh? You? Overreact? Why do I find that hard to believe?"
"I really don't know, Jack."
"So, what did he say?"
Daniel opened his eyes and rolled his head to look at Jack. "Nothing. It's not important. I'll take full responsibility."
"I see." Jack pursed his lips and leaned back against the wall. "So, you passed him in the hall, he said nothing important, and you decked him? That about sum it up?"
Jack sighed, his frustration flaring. "Come on, Daniel. Cut the crap. What did Leval say to you? Is this about...you know? The tape in your office? Is he the one who--"
"No. I don't know." Daniel closed his eyes again. "I don't suppose I could talk you out of springing me? I'm kind of liking it here. Alone. Quiet." He looked at Jack again. "At least it was." His lips nudged up in a faint smile, but his eyes remained sad and weary.
"You're just a regular ray of sunshine lately, you know that?" Jack patted Daniel on the shoulder and pushed himself to his feet. "Come on. Hammond's waiting. You sure you don't want to tell me what happened before we talk to the General?"
Daniel sighed and leaned forward, resting his elbows on his knees and clasping his hands loosely in front his legs. "He asked me what it was like to sleep with a goddess and, uh, said he knew I had a wife, but..." He shrugged, dropping his head and looking away. "It gets kind of fuzzy after that."
"He asked you...?" Jack shook his head. "Unbelievable. And that part about...Well, he kind of had it coming, I guess. A man should know when not to mention another man's wife. Know what I mean?"
Daniel didn't answer.
Jack held the silence a moment longer, then fidgeted. Talking to Daniel had become about as difficult and exhausting as benchpressing twice his body weight. "Uh, you think he had anything to do with the
"I have no idea. He actually seemed sincere, not malicious, now that I think about it. He didn't deserve to be punched out because he lacked tact."
"Maybe. Maybe not. Look, it's probably not as bad as you think. Hammond didn't even seem all that upset. Come on." He gently grabbed Daniel's arm and tugged upward. "Let's get to the infirmary before we keep him waiting too long and fall from his good graces."
"When were you ever in his good graces?" Daniel asked, yielding to Jack's pull and rising to his feet.
Jack chose to ignore that jibe and gave Daniel a gentle push toward the open cell door. He hadn't yet seen the injured airman yet, but he hoped for both Leval's and Daniel's sake that the lieutenant wasn't seriously hurt.
But if Leval was responsible for placing that tape and statue in Daniel's office, he'd have more to worry about than just a right hook to the jaw.
Daniel followed Jack closely into the infirmary, grateful for the physical shield between Hammond and Fraiser and himself. He kept his gaze low and almost bumped into Jack when the colonel stopped in front of Hammond.
"Doctor Jackson," the general's stern but subdued voice broke the silence.
Daniel forced himself to raise his head and meet Hammond's eyes. "Sir, I, uh..." He swallowed, and his gaze drifted around the infirmary. He spotted a curtained-off bed in the far corner. Was Leval behind there? He looked at Janet. "How is Lieutenant Leval?"
The doctor's face remained impassive. "He's fine, actually. A bloody nose, not broken. No concussion, but a very sore jaw."
Daniel breathed his relief, his shoulders slumping. "That's good to hear."
"Would you mind explaining why you assaulted the lieutenant?" Hammond stepped forward, and Jack moved to the side.
Daniel straightened and took a deep breath. If he didn't desperately need to be on an SG team, he could care less what Hammond or anybody else in the military did to him. None of it could be worse than what he'd already gone through. Not worse than being laughed off a lecture podium. Certainly not worse than getting a staff blast to the gut.
Definitely not worse than watching Sha're killed by Ra's jaffa.
And no where near as bad as having her taken again from him a year later by a Goa'uld.
And then there was Hathor. Nope. Nothing the military did to him could rise to the level of being...
His chest tightened. Suddenly, he couldn't breath. The room spun, and he felt a pressure on his arm.
"Dr. Jackson, are you all right?" Janet's voice, close to his right ear.
No. No, he wasn't all right. No, nothing was all right. Would everyone stop asking him if he was all right? He wasn't all right, and he didn't know if he'd ever be all right again.
"Come on, easy." Jack's voice, this time.
Daniel felt a hand on his shoulder, pushing him down. His legs folded, but something hard stopped his fall. He looked down. A chair. He was sitting in a chair.
Memory, images, and sensations came to him, making him dizzy with their suddenness. A hand, on his shoulder. On his chest. Pushing him back. Down. The images on the tape assaulted him. His memory of the incident had been incomplete, hazy in parts. The video had filled in the gaps. It was like watching someone else, though. He didn't
remember it quite like that. That could not have been him...pliant...yielding...unresisting...with that emptiness in his
Pledging himself to her.
A slave. That's what he'd been. Her slave to do with as she pleased. And everyone in the room except for Jack had seen him like that, in full, vibrant color.
Just like everyone was seeing him lose it now.
No. He wouldn't lose it. They'd already seen him humiliated once. Not again. Not if he wanted to stay on the SGC. Not if he hoped of ever gaining their respect.
He looked up and blinked at the soft facing hovering above him. "I'm fine, Doctor Fraiser."
"Sure you are." She straightened and looked at Hammond. "I'd like to put him on an IV..."
Daniel felt his temper flaring. He was in the room. She didn't have to discuss his medical care as if he were a child or a pet.
"...and finish the tests."
God, not more tests. He studied his boots, wishing he were millions of miles away...back on Abydos with Kasuf, Sha're, and Skaara. Where he mattered. Where a boy had looked into his eyes and told him in a trembling voice that the Stargate had brought them something very good...it had brought them him, Daniel Jackson.
Tears stung his eyes. No one... No one had ever said anything like that to him. No one had ever needed, respected, and welcomed him like the people on Abydos. His friends. His family. People he had very little in common with except a hatred of the Goa'uld and a desire to be free. Somehow, he'd felt more at home with them than he ever had
There were moments, just like now, when he really missed them.
And here he was, on the planet of his birth but still far, far from home. No family. No real friends...besides Jack, who really was more of an SG commander than a friend.
And he'd lost everything that mattered. Sha're. Skaara. Abydos. His entire life was loss. One after another, and now all he did was struggle against the tide trying to not to lose any more and get back that one thing that mattered. That one person who made him feel not so alone.
He closed his eyes, suddenly seeing himself from the outside. What a pathetic figure. Wallowing in self pity.
And what had pity ever gotten him? Nothing. Every single thing he'd ever gotten he'd gotten by pushing and bullying his way to it...
...only to have it taken from him.
No! Damnit. No more self-pity.
He looked up. Jack this time.
Jack. Janet. Hammond.
He suddenly couldn't stand the sight of them. Wanted to be anywhere but near them. He'd had enough. Enough.
Jack's brow furrowed. "What was that?"
Daniel straightened. Damn, he hadn't meant to say that out loud. Still, maybe it needed saying. He rose to his feet, facing Jack, and spoke in a low, calm voice. "I said enough. I don't want any tests. I don't want an IV." He turned his gaze to Hammond. "If you want to lock me up, fine. You want to ground me, fine." He looked back at Jack. "But I'm holding you to that promise you made me seven months ago."
Jack's face flickered with confusion at first, then went slack with realization, and he gave a subtle nod.
"And," Daniel looked back at Hammond, "if you want to know why I assaulted Leval...you'll have to ask him. He did nothing but talk to me, and I punched him. It was out of line, and I have no excuse, nor am I offering one, so I'd appreciate it if you'd just lock me up or leave me alone."
Janet crossed her arms over her chest. "And just how long are we supposed to leave you alone, Dr. Jackson? You've had two days, and look where it's gotten you."
He faced her. "Two days? Well, I'm sorry." He felt his voice rising, but didn't care. "I'm sorry if I can't just get over things with a 48 hour leave. Sorry if having my wife stolen from the Goa'uld, knowing she's out there being raped every goddamn day..." Jack winced at that, but Daniel continued, "...makes me less than cheerful. Really, really sorry that I'm not okay with the fact that you all have been entertained, in living color, by something I'd really just rather forget. Sorry, I'm tired of everyone asking me if I'm all right and telling me when to eat and that I need sleep and--"
"Calm down, Daniel," Jack said.
"--and to calm down!"
"Dr. Jackson," Hammond's calm voice interrupted. "If you'd like to go back to the cell, I can arrange that."
"Sir, look," Jack interjected, "Daniel's just..."
"Yes, sir, I think I'd like that very much." Daniel glared at Hammond. "It's the only place on this entire planet where metal bars separate me from everybody else...and I seriously doubt Janet's gonna be performing her tests in the my jail cell, which is just fine by me."
"Whoa! Whoa!" Jack held up his hands and stepped between Hammond and Daniel. "You," he pointed a finger at Daniel, "shut up." He looked at Hammond. "Sir, if you'll please excuse Dr. Jackson," his voice was tight, "he's not exactly playing with a full deck, something that's painfully obvious." Jack threw a glare back at Daniel before returning his attention to the general. "Permission to knock him on his ass on a gurney and let Janet stick whatever she wants into him."
"Oh come on, Jack. What? I'm crazy because I show an inkling of anger? Because I don't act like you think I should?"
Jack took a deep breath, but ignored Daniel, keeping his eyes on Hammond. "Sir?"
Hammond remained silent a moment, his eyes traveling to Daniel, then to Janet, and finally back to Jack. "All right, Colonel. No jail cell." He looked back at Daniel. "You, Dr. Jackson, are to remain in this infirmary and do whatever Fraiser tells you. Understood?"
Daniel stood rigidly, clustered by the three figures. "I won't submit to any tests."
"Daniel," Jack warned.
"Colonel?" A soft, female voice drifted from the infirmary entrance. All heads turned to look at Sam.
Carter took a small step into the room, her eyes somber. "Colonel, General." She nodded a greeting, then looked at Fraiser. "Janet, could I speak to you for a moment alone please?"
Janet glanced uncertainly at Hammond, who sighed and nodded.
"Yeah, sure." Fraiser threw a final glance at Daniel before turning and walking to Carter, following her out of the infirmary.
"Okay, Sam, what is it?"
Sam leaned against the wall. The corridor was deserted except for Janet and herself, and since what she had to say would hopefully not take very long, she figured the hallway was as good a place as any to have the discussion.
Sam took a deep breath. "It's about Daniel."
No one had really told her what was going on with Daniel, but it certainly didn't take a genius to figure it out. She had, after all, been the one to find him the VIP room, staring into space. When he had later mentioned that Janet might find some of his DNA around the sarcophagus, Sam had come to her own sickening realization.
"What do you think you know about Dr. Jackson?" Janet asked.
"Janet, I know. At least, I have a pretty good guess that Hathor," she dropped her voice to a whisper, "raped him."
Janet's face remained impassive. "And?"
"I understand you want to protect his privacy, and I don't want to intrude where I'm not wanted, but I see what this is doing to him. I mean, come on, Janet, all you have to do is look at the guy to see that something is very, very wrong."
Janet nodded, but didn't say a word.
Sam sighed. "I had a friend in grad school who worked as a rape counselor. She'd been raped herself, and that's why she decided to volunteer at the local rape counseling clinic. Anyway, she told me about a study she did on how rape affects men versus women."
Janet's face flickered with interest. "Yeah?"
"Rape is a bad thing all around, for both men and women, but, there are some differences. Men usually don't report it, for one."
"I know. Many women don't either."
Sam nodded. "I know, but many, many more men percentage-wise remain silent because they're afraid of facing ridicule. Women victims of rape, especially modernly, get much more support. Society is now much more sensitive to issues of rape. With men, however..."
"It's a little different, I know."
"Yes, Janet, I think it is. Not worse, just different. Other guys, for one, are likely to be less sympathetic to a man who was raped than they would to a woman. They'd see the rape as either a conquest by the victim or they'd simply see the victim as a weakling for being 'overpowered' by a woman."
"I know, Sam, but I don't think much of that is going on here."
"I bet you it is, beneath the surface. I bet you that's one big reason for Daniel's behavior. He has no one to really confide in -- no one he trusts enough to open up to -- which means he's trying to deal with something very traumatic all on his own. And, come on, look around. This is a military installation. It's not exactly an encounter group. It's not an atmosphere that promotes emotional vulnerability."
"So, what are you suggesting? This is a military base. Daniel works here. There's nothing much we can do about the military atmosphere."
"I know." She spotted an airman approaching and stopped talking, studying her boots as she waited for him to pass. When he disappeared around the corner, she looked up and continued. "There's a lieutenant on the base who knows at least some of what Daniel's going through. She was raped by a friend of hers. A date rape. He drugged her, and she woke up naked on her couch with virtually no memory of the incident. That's somewhat similar to what Daniel experienced. I've already spoken with her, and if Daniel agrees, she's willing to talk to him."
Janet's eyes sparked with relief. "I think that would be a great idea. I've tried to convince him to talk to someone in mental health, but he refused. I don't know if he'll want to talk to the lieutenant, but he might feel less threatened by someone like her who has been through a similar experience." Janet leaned forward and placed a hand on Sam's elbow. "Thank you. If he agrees, I'll ask you for the lieutenant's name."
Sam nodded. "No problem."
Janet turned to head back into the infirmary.
"Oh and Janet," Sam called, waiting until the doctor stopped and turned to look at her. "You saw him, just like I did...in that room."
Janet's eyes grew somber, and she gave a small nod.
"Go easy on him," Sam continued. "I imagine it's not easy for him to...uh...no offense, but..."
"I know." A tiny, sad smile touched her face. "I'm a woman doctor. I get it, Sam. I got it days ago."
"Oh. Right. Sorry."
"No need to apologize. And thank you again."
"Daniel, sit down before you fall down." Jack gestured to the empty chair. His eyebrows rose in surprise when the young man complied and dropped into the seat, his arms still crossed over his chest.
Fraiser's heels clicked on the tile, and Jack turned to face her. "So, Doc, what's the word?"
The doctor gave a long sigh. "No tests."
Daniel's shoulders slouched with relief.
"But," she continued, "I do want to keep you here for a couple of hours at least. I want to check your vitals and put you on an IV."
"He did get breakfast this morning," Jack commented.
"Uh, actually, I meant something with mild medication...."
Daniel's head snapped up. "I don't need a sedative, if that's what you're thinking. I've slept for two days."
Jack nodded. "He did get a lot of sleep at his apartment. I can vouch for that."
"Then why do you still look exhausted?" Janet studied her patient critically.
"Look, I'd like to put you on an antidepressant."
Daniel shot out of the chair, meeting her gaze steadily. "No."
Fraiser shifted from one foot to the other. "Doctor Jackson, please--"
"No," he said again, his tone steady and calm, his eyes unwavering. "Last time I checked, I was a civilian, which means you can't order me to submit to medical care without declaring me incompetent."
She raised her eyebrows. "I'm not your enemy, Daniel."
He held her gaze a moment longer, then his expression softened, and his eyes flicked to Jack briefly before dropping to the floor. "I know." He looked back up at her and rubbed his forehead, then turned to face Hammond. "General, sir, I'd like to know if I'm under arrest."
Hammond's face remained serious, his eyes somber. "Your attack on Lieutenant Leval is a very serious matter, Doctor, especially if it was unprovoked. You sure there's nothing you want to tell me?"
"No, sir. I've told you everything already."
"Well, if that's your final answer--"
"Sir," Jack stepped forward, "can I..."
"Jaaack." Daniel threw a narrow gaze at Jack.
Jack faced him. "Daniel, we can handle this one of two ways. We can put all the facts on the table and let the general make an informed decision, or we can sweep everything under the rug, have the whole mountain come down on your head, and still not solve the problem."
"Nothing's going to solve the problem, Jack." Daniel's tone was bitter. "Just leave it be."
"General Hammond, sir," a weak voice spoke up from behind the curtain.
"Yes, son." Hammond moved to the curtain and slid it aside, revealing Lieutenant Leval, still dressed in his uniform but sporting a cut on his lip and bandage on his right temple.
Jack threw a glance at Daniel, who had his gaze plastered to the floor. Fraiser stood to the side, silently observing.
"About Dr. Jackson belting me," Leval began. "It was, uh, kind of my fault. I said a couple of stupid things, but I didn't mean anything by them. Just sort of put my foot in my mouth, like usual. It's not his fault, sir. If I were him, I'd have belted me, too."
Jack's eyebrows rose almost to his hairline. Maybe Leval had nothing to do with that tape in Jackson's office.
"I see." Hammond glanced back at Daniel, but the young man still had his eyes on the floor. "Well, I suppose given the circumstances," he looked back at the Lieutenant, "I'll let it go this time. I do, however, want you to write up a full report on the incident and have it on my desk twenty four hours after Doctor Fraiser releases you. Understood?"
Leval nodded. "Yes, sir."
Hammond turned and faced Daniel, who was still studying the tile. "Doctor Jackson."
Finally, Daniel raised his head to meet the general's gaze. "Yes, sir?"
"I'm going to do you a big favor. I'm going to adjust the schedule. SG1 is up for a one-week vacation in a month and half. If it's all right with Colonel O'Neill, I'm going to move up your vacation time, effective immediately, and give the mission to PX2432 to SG3."
"That's fine with me, sir," Jack announced. "Let SG3 study that cavern 'til their hearts' content."
Daniel nodded. "Thank you, sir." He eyed Janet. "Does that mean I can go home now?"
She sighed. "Yes, but first I want a word alone with you in my office." She jerked her chin toward the back room. "Colonel, General, if you'll excuse Dr. Jackson and myself."
"Go on," the general waved her away.
"I'll be waiting in the hall, Daniel." Jack slapped his friend hard on the shoulder. "See ya in a few minutes."
He saw the flicker of dissapointment in Daniel's eyes, but didn't care. He and the rest of SG1 had a week's down-time, and that meant he had only seven days to get Daniel up to par. That sure as hell wasn't a lot of time, he realized, to fix what was broken, but maybe it was enough time to start the healing process...and one week of isolation at the lake would be a very good start indeed.
"Colonel." Hammond stepped up to Jack. "While Fraiser is with Dr. Jackson, I'd like a word with you. I'm curious to know what it is exactly that you swept under the rug."
Jack fidgeted, catching the glare Daniel threw at him before following Fraiser to her office. "Uh, yes, sir."
Janet brought her chair to the side of the desk and sank into the seat. Daniel remained standing, and she gestured to the empty chair near him. After a moment's hesitation, he sank into it.
"Dr. Jackson, I realize this is a very difficult subject for you to talk about," she saw him stiffen, but continued, "however, there's someone on the base I think you should talk to."
Daniel's expression remained flat, and he kept silent.
"Anyway," she continued, slightly disconcerted by his silence, "Sam told me there's a woman on the base who might know something of what you're going through. She--"
He straightened and leaned forward, his eyes flashing with anger. "You told Sam?"
"No, no." She shook her head quickly. "We, uh.... Well, she and I found you in the VIP room after Hathor, uh, left you. Sam guessed, that's all."
He relaxed a little, but his bottom lip jutted out and he gazed at her with narrowed eyes.
"Anyway," Janet continue, "the woman I'd like you to speak with went through a somewhat similiar situation. She was drugged and raped, and she might be able to help you deal with the things you're feeling. At the very least, she's someone you can talk to who will really understand."
Daniel held her gaze a moment longer, than his eyes shifted to the clock hanging high on the wall. He seemed to study it, engrossed by the moving red hand that tracked the passing seconds.
"Dr. Jackson?" Janet leaned forward in her chair. "Would you like me to have her contact you? Or, if you prefer, I could get her name from Sam and you could contact her yourself, when you're ready."
Finally, he looked back at her. "No, thank you, Doctor." His voice rang supremely calm. "I know you're trying to help, and I appreciate it, but General Hammond has given me a week off, and I think I'm going to put it to good use. I just need a little time away from this place...some time to myself." He gave a little smile. "I'll be okay."
She pursed her lips. "I think it would help if you spoke to someone."
"If I think it will, I'll ask you for her name later, but I've had a lot of practice dealing with things on my own, and it's what works for me." Another faint smile touched his lips. "Old habits are hard to break, after all."
She shook her head disapprovingly. "Maybe it's time you tried to break some of those habits."
"Doctor, I would be a lot better if everyone would stop telling me what I should do and what's best for me. I think I'm capable of making those decisions for myself."
"And punching out a lieutenant is your way of dealing with this on your own?"
He looked away. "Not one of my best moments, I admit." He met her gaze again. "But I promise not to go punching any more airman."
She had to smile at that comment, but quickly banished the display. "That's not exactly the point."
He sighed. "I know."
"And I still haven't completed my examination and tests."
He stiffened, his cheeks coloring. "As my wife is still out there, I don't plan on having sex in the immediate future. So, if I do have something, which you've indicated is a very rare possibility, I really won't be passing it on, now will I?"
"Okay, okay. No tests." She knew she wouldn't win that argument with him. There was no way, short of sedating him, that she'd get him to go through such an intrusive examination again. "The ones I've run on you have come back clean, so I'm fairly certain your safe. Just keep an eye out for symptoms, and if you notice anything..."
"I'll let you know. I promise."
"This'll be fine." Hammond stopped in an isolated section of the infirmary and faced O'Neill. "Now, Colonel, you want to tell me what's going on?"
Jack had the urge to fidget, but he managed to stand still and meet the general's gaze. "Sir, before we get into this conversation, I'd just like to say that, yes, something did happen. It was a small practical joke, and Daniel asked me to keep it in confidence. I promised him I would."
"I see." Hammond raised his eyebrows. "Does this practical joke have anything to do with why Dr. Jackson assaulted Lieutenant Leval?"
"It set him on edge, that's for sure, but I don't think Leval had anything to do with the joke. He seemed rather sincere in his apology. I believe him."
"So, since very few people know what happened to Dr. Jackson, someone has violated my orders?"
"It looks that way. Though technically you told them to keep it in confidence, right?"
Hammond nodded. "That's correct."
"Well, they've done that. Someone, uh, just decided to rub Daniel's nose in it."
"An adolescent prank." Jack's face twisted with disgust. The sick bastards... "It was in bad taste, but I'm asking you, sir, to let me deal with this one on my own."
Hammond nodded. "Very well. I won't ask you to break you word to Dr. Jackson. In the future, however, I'm strongly advising you not to make such promises. Next time, I might not be so accommodating."
"Understood, sir. Thank you."
Daniel closed the door to Janet's office and headed for the exit, but he stopped after just a few steps, his eyes going to the curtain around Lieutenant Leval's bed. Taking a deep breath, he walked up to the curtain and pulled it aside. Lieutenant Leval sat at a comfortable forty-five degree angle, propped up by several pillows, a magazine laying open on his lap. He looked up, his face flickering first with surprise, then with embarrassment.
"Oh, Doctor Jackson." Leval quickly closed the magazine, revealing the cover, which proclaimed the magazine to be, in fact, a dog supply catalog. "I, uh, kinda wanted to apologize."
"What?" Surprise made Daniel's jaw slack. "You don't have anything you need to apologize to me for. I, uh, actually came here to apologize to you."
"No, I do. I said a stupid thing. Put my foot in my mouth, and if I were you, hell, I'd have slugged me, too. I didn't mean anything about your --"
"I know," Daniel said quickly. He really didn't want to dwell on the subject. "But I had no right to hit you, and I'm sorry."
Leval shrugged, a lopsided grin touching his lips. He held out his hand. "No hard feelings?"
With a nod and a slight smile, Daniel took the lieutenant's hand and gave it a firm shake. "No hard feelings."
"I'm glad." Leval's hand dropped back to his lap.
"So, when is Fraiser letting you out of here?"
"Any minute. She said as soon as she got a chance to give me a final look-over, I'd be free as a bird."
"Good. Well, uh, I'll let you get back to your reading." He gestured to the closed catalog.
"Oh." Leval flashed a grin. "I got a mut that chews his way through my paycheck."
"Ah." Daniel nodded. "I have fish." It sounded pathetic, and he winced even as he said it.
Leval laughed. "Bet they're a lot cheaper and already housebroken."
Daniel chuckled. "Yes, that they are. Well, uh, thanks. And I really am sorry. I'm gonna head off now. I hope you're not in too much pain."
Leval waved a hand. "It's nothing. Don't worry about it. I'm a soldier, ya know. Used to this stuff. Go on now. I know you wanna get out of here. Don't like this place any more than I do, right?"
"Right." He found himself smiling again. "I'll see you later." He turned to leave, but Leval's voice stopped him.
"Yeah?" Daniel glanced over his shoulder.
Leval straightened and grinned broadly. "You got a mean right hook."
Jack saw Daniel heading straight toward him, which was probably only because Jack was standing two feet in front of the exit. He could tell, however, from Daniel's expression that the young man was hoping to make a quick and clean get-away.
Not this time, Danny boy. Jack stepped back to lean against the doorframe, blocking the exit and forcing Daniel to stop.
"Jack, please move."
An air of heavy fatigue surrounded Daniel, but since the kid had gotten plenty of sleep, Jack suspected the fatigue was more emotional than physical.
"I'm heading to the lake. You wanna come?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, I --"
"Good!" Jack slapped a palm on Daniel's shoulder and steered him out of the infirmary, ignoring the subtle look of disapproval on Daniel's face caused by the slight. "We'll just stop by your place, pack a few things, then stop by my place and pack a few things, and then we'll head off."
"My allergies don't like nature."
"Oh, than I guess all those planets with all those trees and plants and flowers and animals that we visit--"
Daniel sighed. "All right."
"You'll have fun." Jack said confidently, standing an inch behind Daniel and herding him into the hallway. "You may not believe me now, but trust me, you'll have so much fun, I'm going to have to drag you back here."
"Are we almost there yet?"
Jack sighed and glanced over at Daniel, who was slouched unhappily in the passenger seat. "I told you half an hour ago that it would be another hour. That means it's going to be another thirty minutes. Geez, Daniel, for a guy with more PhD's than wrinkles, you suck at basic math."
Daniel threw a glare at Jack, then returned his gaze to the road. Five minute later, he asked, "Are we almost there, yet?"
"For crying out loud, Daniel!" Jack slapped the steering wheel, then raised his finger at Daniel, another curse on his tongue. He stopped, finger in mid-air, when he saw the faint smile on Daniel's lips. His own lips twitched upward, and he turned his eyes back to the road. "This is your revenge for my kidnapping you?"
"Yep, and you've got a whole week of this to look forward to."
"I'm gonna need another vacation at the end of this vacation, aren't I?"
"You're a spiteful bastard, Daniel."
"Kidnapping is a federal crime, you know."
"Who sprang you from the joint?"
"Hammond. You were just following orders."
"I persuaded him."
Daniel remained silent for a moment, then muttered, "Leval says I have a mean right hook."
"Want a demonstration?"
Jack grinned. "Nah, if you broke your knuckles on my jaw, Fraiser would have my hide."
"Well, this is it," Jack announced proudly, opening the cabin's front door.
"This is it?"
"This is it."
Daniel threw Jack a doubtful look as he hesitated at the threshold. "Does it have running water?"
Jack looked heavenward. "Yes, Daniel."
"Hot running water?"
"Yes, Daniel." Jack placed a palm on Daniel's back and pushed him inside. "For a man who sleeps in a tent in the field, you're a real wuss."
"That's just it. On my vacation, I'd like all the comforts of civilization. You know, a decent bed. Hot shower. Maybe even room service."
"Oh please, if you had your way, you'd spend your vacation at some remote dig with no electricity, no running water, and sand for a bed."
Daniel pursed his lips as he surveyed the living room. The cabin was obviously old, the interior paint peeling and the wood floors faded, some were even warped. Dust covered everything, including the sagging beige couch in the center of the room.
A breeze drifted in from the open doorway, disturbing some of the dust and sending it drifting into the air like tiny fairies awakened from a long slumber.
A sneezing fit took Daniel by surprise. When it ended, he sniffled, pulled a hanky out of his pocket, and rubbed at his nose. "Nice place."
"It belongs to Sarah's father. He lets me use it on occasion in exchange for checking out the place while I'm here and doing a bit of upkeep."
Daniel's eyes narrowed. "What kind of upkeep?"
Jack smiled. "I packed a few cans of paint."
Daniel crossed his arms. "I can't believe you dragged me here, on my vacation, to paint some guy's cabin who I don't even know. Sniffing paint fumes for a week is not my idea of relaxing."
He turned to the door, but Jack grabbed his arm. "Wait. Look, you don't have to paint if you don't want to. And I can do the outside. Not the whole outside, because I brought mostly interior paint, but maybe the front door and around the windows."
Daniel just looked at the hand clutched around his arm, then leveled a look at Jack.
"Sorry." Jack released his grip, then reached into his pocket and took out his keys, dangling them in the air. "If you want to leave, here. I won't stop you. Just let me unpack, then promise to come back in a week and pick me up. Okay?"
Daniel studied Jack, his brow furrowed. "You think reverse psychology is going to work on me?"
"It's not reverse psychology, Daniel," Jack said, the familiar note of sarcasm touching his voice. "I just thought this would be a good way for us both to relax, but if you're going to be a grouch all week, I'd rather just be alone."
Daniel sighed, turning away from the door, his shoulders slouching. "I'm sorry, Jack. You're right. I'm being a jerk. This is very nice." He swept an arm out to indicate the room. "Thank you for bringing me."
Jack's grin returned. "That wasn't so hard now, was it?"
Daniel managed a faint smile. "No, actually, it wasn't." His smile brightened a bit. "Guess, I'm getting better at lying."
"Hardy, har, har. Now, here." He tossed the keys at Daniel, who just barely caught them. "Now, go unpack the car while I get rid of this dust. Can't have you sneezing your germs all over this place, now can I?"
"You're too kind." With a slightly petulant slouch, Daniel turned and headed outside, his steps disturbing the dust from the floorboards.
Another sneezing fit attacked as he hurried outside.
"Well, that was fun." Daniel wiped at his brow and collapsed onto the couch, sinking a bit too far into the sagging cushions.
It had taken them all day to strip the old paint from walls, and both of his arms were aching with fatigue. He'd be sore tomorrow for sure, and he'd probably have a headache, too. Even with all the doors and windows open, the chemical's fumes still made him a bit light-headed. He briefly entertained getting up to rest outside, but he was just too damn tired to move.
"A little manual labor is good for the soul." Jack's voice floated to him from somewhere near the rear of the living room. "So, whatchya feel like for dinner?"
Daniel closed his eyes, flirting with sleep. "Anything's fine," he mumbled.
"Good. Makes it easy. I'm gonna go wash up and then get the grub started. No, no. Don't get up. I can handle the cooking all by myself."
Jack grumbled something. A door slammed. One side of Daniel's mouth quirked upward briefly before sleep claimed him.
Jack slipped out of his sweat-dampened T-shirt and tossed it on the bed. A phone rang, and he hurried to the bureau and snatched up the cell phone. "Yeah."
"Lieutenant Leval, sir. The fingerprint results just came back."
Jack eyed the closed bedroom door and lowered his voice. "Who's?"
His hand tightened on the phone as he listened, and his eyes remaining fixed on the door. "Thank you, Lieutenant. Remember to keep this under your hat." He ended the connection and grabbed a clean shirt from the top drawer. He'd head to the shower, and then get dinner started.
The unpleasant stuff could wait until after the vacation.
"Daaaaniel." Jack waved the bowl of chili near the sleeping man's nose. "Wakey. Wakey."
Daniel's brow furrowed, and he shifted on to his side toward Jack, but seemed no closer to waking.
"Daniel... C'mon. I know you can't resist this. It's an old family recipe. Daniel. Daniel? Daniel!" He swatted the top of Daniel's head, and the young man's eyes flew open.
"Dinner." Jack shoved the bowl at him. "Here. You're welcome."
"Uh, thanks." Looking down at the brownish lumps of mass, Daniel twitched his nose. "And this is?"
"Going to be all over you if you make one negative crack about it."
"Ah." Daniel grabbed the spoon handle jutting upward from the mass and scooped a sizable portion into his mouth. His eyes widened momentarily, and he nodded as he swallowed. "It's good. Very good, actually."
"What do you mean 'actually?' Of course it's good. It's an O'Neill original."
"Smartass." Jack rose and shuffled back to the kitchen. "Not all of us live on Fifth Avenue bars and coffee."
"Speaking of which, do we have any?"
"For crying out loud, Danny! How do you not have a cavity in every tooth?"
"I meant coffee."
"Oh. Yeah, we've got some. You've got two legs and two arms, right?"
"Yeah, but a day of forced manual labor have turned them to Jell-O. I thought I was suppose to be resting?"
"All right, Your Majestic Couch Potatoness. I'll get you the damn coffee."
"With sugar, please."
"You're doing the dishes."
"Did I mention a day of breathing fumes has given me a splitting headache? Maybe I'll call Dr. Fraiser and ask if..."
"All right! All right! Blackmail is so unbecoming, you know that?"
Daniel grinned over his shoulder at Jack. "But effective."
Not bad. Not bad at all. His fishing pole virtually forgotten, its base wedged beneath the seat to keep it from plummeting into the lake, Daniel lounged back in the spacious canoe with his eyes closed. A floppy hat hung low over his face to block the afternoon sun. He had made himself comfortable on the bottom center of the canoe, his back and shoulders propped against one side and his calves dangling over the edge. The cool water lapped over his feet and ankles, and his baggy jeans were rolled almost to his knees.
After spending yesterday stripping the paint from the living room walls, Jack had suggested they take the day off and spend it relaxing by the lake. That was the first good idea Jack had had since dragging him to the cabin.
A grating voice intruded upon the tranquility. "Yes! Come on. I got ya!"
The boat rocked precariously, and Daniel opened his eyes, lifting his head to look at Jack, who was perched on the seat, struggling with his fishing pole.
Jack yanked back hard, snapping the line and bringing a large, gray fish flying into the boat. The animal dropped onto Daniel's lap, flopping desperately, its mouth opening and closing as it fought for life.
Daniel froze, staring at the creature. Its glassy eyes seemed to lock with his as its body fought against the pull of death.
Had Sha're fought like that? Had she looked into the eyes of the Goa'uld just before the creature buried its way into her? Had Apophis stood over her and watched just like Daniel was watching now?
Jack snatched the fish from Daniel's lap, carefully removed the hook, and dropped the fish into the ice bucket wedged near his seat and closed the lid.
Death. Daniel closed his eyes. He couldn't even escape it on his vacation.
"What?" Jack looked at him, his brow furrowed.
"No," Daniel said it more forcefully and opened his eyes. He lifted the lid to the ice box and grabbed the fish.
"Hey!" Jack protested, but Daniel threw the creature back into the lake before Jack could stop him.
"What the hell...."
Daniel grabbed his own pole and silently reeled in the line.
"What?" Setting the pole flat on the floor of the canoe, Daniel finally looked up at Jack.
"Mind telling me why you threw our dinner back into the lake?"
Daniel pulled his legs back into the boat and sat up straighter against the side. He wrapped his arms around himself and studied the glistening surface of the water.
"I know you're not a vegetarian, Danny, so what's with the PETA act?" Jack gestured to the water.
Daniel shrugged. He suddenly felt queasy. "Just leave it alone, Jack." He slouched lower and brought his hat down to cover his face, avoiding Jack's eyes. "It's nice and peaceful here. Why not let it be?"
"Ah. Okay." Jack didn't sound at all like he understood, but Daniel heard him reel in the line. "I guess we could just doze here on the lake."
Daniel closed his eyes and tried to clear his mind of the morbid thoughts that had attacked him moments before. He heard Jack shift and settle into what he presumed was a more comfortable position, but didn't bother opening his eyes. After several long, quiet minutes, the gentle rocking of the canoe lulled him to sleep.
Jack sat propped next to Daniel on the bottom of the canoe, his head positioned near Daniel's legs, and let the boat drift. The lake was small enough that they didn't have to worry about drifting out of sight of the dock. He kept an eye on Daniel, though he could only see the lower half of the kid's face. The hat effectively shielded his eyes, which Jack assumed were closed.
He couldn't quite tell whether Daniel was sleeping, but the young man's breathing was shallow and steady, and he looked relaxed. Leaning his head against the rim of the boat, Jack closed his eyes and focused on the feeling of the sun on his face as he tried to figure out what was up with his friend.
Daniel had stared at that fish as though it were his best friend dying in front of him, but Daniel had said he'd fished before, and he'd certainly helped prepare animal flesh for dinner on Abydose. So, why had Daniel suddenly developed a pang of conscience over the demise of a fish?
Just what was going through the kid's head? More Hathor stuff? Goa'uld stuff in general?
Hell, the snakes followed them everywhere, intruding upon their vacation. Even their dreams. In many ways, Jack wished he could go back to the time when humanity was clueless about the Stargate and the Goa'uld. Ignorance really was bliss.
But the genie had been let out of the bottle and it wasn't going back inside.
Jack was so engrossed in his thoughts that he was totally taken by surprise when Daniel sprang to life with a scream. The canoe tipped dangerously, and Jack tried to compensate, but Daniel flung himself backward, toppling over the edge of the boat and hitting the water with a loud splash.
"Shit!" With Daniel's weight gone, the canoe tipped back the other way. Jack couldn't adjust his position fast enough, and he fell backward himself, slamming head first into the chilly water.
He surfaced quickly, gasping for air. "Daniel!"
Diving beneath the canoe, he swam to the other side of the boat, opening his eyes. The murky water stung, and he could barely see anything, but he did make out a dark shape ahead, and he could feel the strong vibrations as Daniel flailed awkwardly.
The kid was sinking fast. Shit! Jack dived lower, wrapping his arms around Daniel and almost taking a hit to the jaw from the kid's elbow. Kicking, Jack pushed upward, then broke the surface, gasping again for air.
"Daniel! Easy! Easy!" He wasn't sure if the young man was still caught in the throes of the nightmare, but he'd be damned surprised if the cold water hadn't thrust him back to consciousness.
The fight drained from Daniel, and he went limp in Jack's hold, his hands coming up to grab at Jack's arms.
"What... Where am I? What happened?"
"You fell out of the boat, so that would put us in the lake."
"The lake?" Daniel's head swiveled left, then right. "N-Nem?"
"What? No... Oh. Jesus, Daniel. No, we're on Earth, at the lake."
For crying out loud, as if Hathor wasn't enough to torment Daniel, Nem had to make an appearance, too. It had only been weeks since Daniel had returned from Nem's underwater facility, and he'd just barely recovered from that mind thingie when Hathor had sunk her claws into him.
Somehow, Jack didn't think a week of downtime had any hope of compensating for the crap Daniel had been through over the past month, but unfortunately, a week would have to do.
He hoped to God it would do well enough. Daniel was nothing if not resilient. He'd be okay. Eventually.
"Are we just gonna tread water all day?"
Jack smiled. "If I let go, you promise not to sink?"
"I think I can handle it. Thanks."
"Okay then." Jack released his hold, and Daniel stayed afloat.
Well, that was good. He twisted in the water and made laps toward the canoe, which floated lazily upright, drifting slowly toward the shore.
Jack reached the boat in seconds and hefted himself over the side, forming an instant pool of water on the floorboards. He turned just in time to help Daniel up, pulling the young man over the side and easing his descent. Daniel collapsed on the center bottom of the canoe, shivering and breathing hard.
"Yeah." Daniel nodded, content to lay curled in a shivering ball. "Just cold."
"Right." Jack looked around for the oars and released a relieved sigh when he saw both of them laying flat beneath the seats next to Daniel's fishing pole. His own pole, however, was no where to be seen. The ice chest, too, was missing.
"What?" Daniel looked up, then around at the boat. "Oh. Sorry."
"Don't worry about it. I just want to make it back to shore before vital parts of my body get frostbitten. I can always buy another pole and ice chest." He grabbed the oars and started rowing toward the dock. "But the things I'm personally attached to are a bit harder to replace."
By the time Jack got the boat to shore, the sun had taken the bite out of the coldness soaking their clothes. Daniel seemed content to lie on the floorboards, but had shifted so that his back rested against the side of the boat. His legs were pulled up to his chest, probably in an effort to stay warm.
Hopping out of the boat, Jack plunged into the shallow water and pulled the canoe the rest of the way to shore. Daniel finally stirred, apparently just realizing they were no longer floating, and eased his way over the side, then helped move the canoe completely out of the water.
Jack kept a subtle eye on Daniel. The young man had been remarkably silent during the trip back to shore. Even now, he moved with a mechanical detachment, as though his body was on autopilot and his brain was somewhere far, far away.
Together, they tipped the canoe upside down to drain the water, and Jack tossed the oars on the ground next to the boat, along with the one remaining fishing rod.
"Hey." Jack moved closer to Daniel and clapped him on the shoulder, trying to jar Daniel out of his pseudo-trance. "You hungry?"
Daniel looked at him with blank eyes. It took him several seconds to form a reply. "Uh, sure."
"Good." Jack suppressed a sigh, resisting the urge to shake the kid. "How 'bout we get out of these wet clothes, and then I'll whip us up something to eat?"
"Okay." The reply was faster this time, but just as distant.
Jack narrowed his eyes. "How 'bout we go into town and get you a nose ring?"
Jack rolled his eyes. "Daniel!"
"Yeah?" Although he answered, his eyes studied some point in the distance.
Jack waved his fingers in front of the young man's face. "Earth to Daniel. You in there?"
Finally, Daniel's eyes locked with Jack's, focused with an intensity that made the hair on Jack's arms stand straight.
"Yes." Daniel's eyes returned momentarily to that distant point, and he moved past Jack and walked stiffly to the cabin, disappearing through the front door.
"Good to know," Jack muttered, turning and heading inside himself. Daniel was seriously starting to freak him out.
He emerged into the living room and stopped, his mouth tight with concern. Daniel was sitting on the couch, his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands.
A sigh escaped Jack, and the tension left his shoulders. He recognized something of himself in the dejected figure on the couch...something from a long time ago. "Hey," he said more softly, moving to sit next to Daniel. "What's wrong?"
Daniel scrubbed his hands over his face and shook his head, dropping his arms to his lap. "I feel old." He took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "Very old."
Jack nodded, his lips pursed. He could understand that. Too much crap had happened to all of them. He felt ancient himself. Worn out.
But at least Daniel seemed to be opening up. Jack seized the opportunity. "What happened back there on the lake?"
Daniel shrugged. "Bad dream."
"And with the fish?"
Daniel turned his head away to stare at the dark fireplace. "Does everything we do have to be a life-or-death struggle?"
Daniel sighed. "Nothing. Never mind."
Damn. Jack was losing the moment. He wished he had a clue what to say, but he'd never been very good at these sorts of things. He decided to forget about the fish for the time being.
"So, what about the dream?"
"Sha're was at the SGC, free of Ammuonet."
"Sounds like a good dream."
"Hathor was there, too."
"Sha're was, uh...watching."
Daniel closed his eyes and leaned back. "Yeah. You know, when Hathor...."
"Oh." Jack waited for Daniel to continue, knowing there was likely more to the dream, but after several moments of silence, he decided Daniel wasn't going to say anything more without prompting. "What about Nem?"
"Huh?" Daniel looked at him finally, his brow furrowed.
"In the lake, you asked about Nem."
"Oh." He shrugged. "Just the water I guess. I woke up when I hit the water, and for a moment I thought I was back on Nem's planet."
"So, is there any more to the dream?"
"Yeah." Daniel looked away again. "But, if it's all the same to you, I'd rather not talk about it."
"I see." Jack nodded and leaned against the arm of the couch. He realized both of them were getting the couch cushions soaked, so he pushed himself to his feet and gestured to Daniel's bedroom. "You should get into some dry clothes."
"Oh." Daniel looked down at himself. "Right." Despite his words, he made no move to get up.
With a sigh, Jack grabbed Daniel's arm and pulled him to his feet. "Go on." He gave the young man a gentle push toward the bedroom.
Daniel stumbled a few steps, then stopped and turned to look at Jack. His face flickered with uncertainty, and Jack waited patiently for Daniel to resolve whatever internal conflict raged within him.
Daniel stood there another moment, shivering, his wet hair clinging to his skull. He wrapped his arms around himself and took a small step backward. "There's uh, something I haven't told Fraiser."
Jack's stomach sank, but he remained perfectly still. "What's that?" He kept his words casual.
"I'm, uh...Well, I'm not sure if this is normal, or not."
"Yeah?" Jack prodded. "What?"
"You remember things from when you were under Hathor's control, right?"
Jack nodded. "Unfortunately."
"What are the memories like?"
"Huh? Whatdya mean?"
"Are they vivid or kind of hazy?"
He shrugged. "Mostly hazy. I try not to think about it much."
Daniel's brow furrowed, and his gaze dropped to the floor. "I keep having these flashbacks."
"I think that's normal..."
"But it's like it's really happening."
"Yeeaah. That's kind of the way flashbacks are."
Daniel shook his head. "No, I think it's more than that."
He shrugged again and turned away from Jack. "I don't know. Never mind. I'm gonna change into dry clothes." He took a few steps toward the bedroom.
Jack's voice stopped him. "You think Nem's memory thingamagic might be making the flashbacks more vivid?"
Daniel turned halfway toward Jack but didn't look at him. "Maybe."
"'And why haven't you told Doc Fraiser about it?"
Another shrug. "What can she do?"
"I don't know, but maybe she can run some tests...."
Daniel shook his head. "I'm tired of tests. Besides, she ran a battery of tests on me after you guys brought me back from Nem's planet. She couldn't come up with any answers then, and she won't be able to now."
"Okay, maybe you're right."
Finally Daniel looked at Jack, and a small smile touched his lips. "Of course I'm right."
Daniel turned back to his bedroom. "This is just something I have to wait out, I guess. I'm sure it'll all fade in time, but thanks for listening."
"You won't tell Janet what I said, will you?"
"Not unless you wig out."
Daniel glanced back, another soft smile on his lips. "Too late."
"Okay, not unless you wig out more than you already have. I'm inclined to overlook the fish thing. I didn't really feel like scaling and cooking it, anyway."
"Thanks, Jack." Daniel held his smile a moment longer, then headed into his bedroom, shutting the door behind him.
By the fifth day of their vacation, Jack and Daniel had finished painting the cabin's living room. Daniel's arms and shoulders were sore from countless up-and-down strokes, but now that the work was finished, he took a moment to enjoy the fruits of his labor. He stood in the center of the living room, next to Jack, and surveyed the off-white walls. The place certainly looked brighter than it had when they'd first arrived.
"We done good." Jack said. "How 'bout a beer?"
"I'll go with coffee."
"Why am I not surprised?" Jack headed into the kitchen. "Hey, tomorrow you wanna go for a hike?"
"Sure, why not." His lips quirked faintly upward. "It'd be a nice change of pace from all the hiking we do on missions. Maybe we'll even see some more trees."
Jack opened the refrigerator and threw a glare at Daniel. "Since when did you become such a smartass?"
"Well, I guess since I've been hanging out with you. Bad associations spoil useful habits."
"Bad associations?" Jack quirked an indignant eyebrow. "Well, I've been called worse. Who said that, by the way?"
"It's from the Bible."
"Oh." Jack reached into the fridge and pulled out a bottle of beer. "Let me guess, you read the thing cover to cover?"
"I've read many books cover-to-cover, Jack."
Daniel moved into the kitchen himself and headed to the sink. He grabbed his mug from the counter, and shuffled to the coffeepot, then poured the steaming liquid to the rim of his mug.
"Yeah?" Jack closed the refrigerator door and took a swallow of his beer.
Daniel leaned against the counter and stared down at the mug in his hands. "Thanks for this."
"Uh, the coffee's yours. I snagged it from your office when you were packing every damn book on your shelves."
Daniel gave an exasperated smile and looked up at Jack. "I meant thanks for bringing me here to the lake. It's been kind of nice, although I suppose I could just be high from the paint fumes."
"Ah, that. Well, you're welcome. And I told you so."
Daniel rolled his eyes and pushed off the counter, heading to the couch. "Well, I suppose you were bound to be right about something sooner or later." He stopped, and looked back at Jack, tilting his head quizzically. "Though, speaking of the Bible, I think you've just fulfilled one of the prophecies signaling the apocalypse."
Jack's eyes narrowed, and he set his beer on the counter, then moved into the living room. The newspaper they'd laid down all over the floor crinkled beneath his feet. "Damn." He moved to the brush resting in the bucket of paint thinner. "I missed a spot," he said, dunking the brush into the paintcan.
"Jaaack..." Daniel backed up a few steps, his mug clutched to his chest.
Jack turned to him, holding the dripping brush in his right hand, an evil grin on his face. "How fast can you run, Dannyboy?"
"I'm hungry." Jack pulled the vehicle into the small parking lot of the diner.
Daniel eyed the old, wooden building apprehensively. It looked like it had no hope of passing a health inspection. "We're almost home."
"But I'm hungry now." Jack turned off the engine and unbuckled his seat belt. "Come on," he slapped his friend on the arm. "I was right about the lake, and I'll be right about this place. I bet the food's great."
Daniel looked around at their barren, rural surroundings. "Of course, what with all this competition forcing them to strive for perfection."
Jack opened his door and slid out. "Don't be a snob, Daniel."
With a reluctant sigh, Daniel unfastened his own seat belt and got out of the car. "Fine," he closed the door, "as long as you're treating."
Jack shuffled casually toward the restaurant, his hands in his jacket pockets. "I am, huh?"
"Don't worry, I doubt they have anything as expensive as Filet Mignon in a place like this."
They entered the establishment and Daniel noted with relief that the place looked a lot cleaner and well-kept on the inside. The walls and floor were wood, obviously deliberately kept 'natural' to give the place a rustic feeling.
A waitress passed, dressed in a knee-length skirt and a beige apron. She smiled at them and gestured to the dining area. "Seat yourselves, gentlemen."
"Thanks." Jack strolled passed Daniel, leading the way to a secluded spot in the back.
Daniel slid into the booth just as the waitress set two glasses of water and two paper-sealed straws in front of them.
"How are you two boys today?" She reached into her large apron pocket and withdrew two small menus, setting them in front of each man.
Daniel huffed an abbreviated chuckled and dropped his eyes, picking up the menu.
"Just fine, thank you," Jack answered.
Daniel listened to the woman retreat, her sneakers squeaking softly against the floor. "She must be blind."
"Shut up, Daniel."
Daniel smiled as he perused the menu. "Oh look here. They have discounts for seniors."
"Shut up, Daniel."
"Hey!" Daniel flinched and jerked back as something small and soft smacked him in the forehead.
Jack grinned at him, a straw clutched in his teeth.
Daniel shook his head and looked back down at his menu. "Juvenile."
"Now that's more like it. Thank you."
Daniel was still looking over his menu several minutes later when a woman's voice, different than their first waitress, asked if they were ready to order.
"Uh, yeah, I think so." He looked up to see a shock of red hair, and his lungs froze.
Laying on the bed. Her face above him. Eyes glowing.
Her hands on him. Her weight on top of him.
He came out of the memory with a gasp, his lungs burning. He gulped a deep breath, feeding his starved lungs, and pushed himself out of the booth, nearly bumping into the waitress, who stumbled back a few steps.
"Excuse me. Sorry."
Daniel brushed past the waitress, his eyes searching for the bathroom. His chest felt tight, and he could barely get in enough air to breathe. He just passed the register when he spotted the blue and white sign with the stick-figure man, and he hurried his steps, trying not to break into a run.
He pushed his way into the bathroom. It was small, with only three stalls, two of which were closed. The third and last one was open. He didn't bother to check to see if anybody was in the two closed stalls. Instead, he hurried to the sink and gripped the cool porcelain edges, leaning over the basin as he tried to catch his breath.
It took him less than a minute to regain his control. Turning on the faucet, he splashed cold water on his face.
Daniel jumped away from the sink, nearly colliding with the trash bin a couple of feet behind him.
Jack leaned against the wall, his arms hanging loosely at his sides. "You okay?"
Daniel turned away and rubbed his hands over his face. He rested his forehead against the wall. It was cool against his skin, and he sighed and closed his eyes. "This has to stop."
"Come on." Jack grabbed his arm and urged him away from the wall. "Let's blow this joint. We'll crash at my place and order some pizza. How does that sound?"
Daniel nodded and offered a weak, grateful smile. "Thanks."
"Home sweet home," Jack followed Daniel into
the apartment, "at least for you."
They'd decided to do the pizza, TV, and beer thing at Daniel's place since they'd taken Jack's vehicle to the lake and Daniel would otherwise need a ride home.
Jack looked around Daniel's apartment. He always did, every time he visited, which wasn't very often. The place looked clean as usual.
"You know, this place is like a museum, Daniel. You need to give it a more lived in look." He slipped out of his jacket and tossed it on the armchair. "There. That's a little better."
Daniel just looked at him with an all-too familiar expression of long-suffering tolerance. "It's easy to keep clean. I'm hardly here."
"Yeah, I know. Why even pay rent? You practically live in your office, anyway." Jack dropped onto the couch and leaned back with a tired sigh. "I'm beat. And hungry. You wanna do the honors and order us a couple of large pizzas?"
"Don't you think one will be enough?"
Jack just looked at him.
"Okay, two it is." Daniel grabbed the yellow pages from the shelf next to the phone and flipped through until he found the pizza section. Quickly, he dialed. "'What kind?"
"One large supreme for me. You can get whatever you want for the second one."
"You're too generous," Daniel commented dryly.
Three hours later, Jack's stomach was uncomfortably full. He sat lazily on the couch, his eyes drooping, as the credits for a movie scrolled across the television screen.
With a yawn, Daniel leaned forward and grabbed the remote, then turned off the television. "You want to stay the night?"
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Why Daniel, whatever will the neighbors think?"
Daniel smiled tiredly. "I just mean so you don't have to drive home at this hour." He glanced at the VCR clock. "It's almost midnight, and you've had a few beers."
"Well, I do have my toothbrush and pajamas, and a change of clothes all packed in the duffel bag down in the car."
"You get the couch, though."
"I think I can manage." Jack rose to his feet and gathered up the pizza boxes. They'd eaten all but two pieces. "Where do you want these?"
Daniel stood and grabbed the box that held the two remaining slices. "I'll put the leftovers in baggies. The boxes can just go on the kitchen counter. Or would you mind taking them down to the large trash bin when you get your clothes?"
"No problem." Jack set the box on the counter, then grabbed the empty beer bottles from the living room and tossed them in the recycle bin Daniel kept under the sink.
Daniel placed the remaining pizza box on the counter next to the sink and sealed the leftovers in a baggie, then tossed them in the refrigerator. With another yawn, he headed back to the living room and sank onto the couch, leaning his head back and closing his eyes. "I'm beat."
"Yeah, it's been a long day," Jack said.
"The lake was nice, though." Daniel opened his eyes and looked at Jack. "Thanks for that. I even enjoyed painting, and, uh, thanks for putting up with my weirdness."
Jack sauntered to the couch and propped himself on the arm. "Geez, Daniel, that's nothing. I put up with your weirdness every day."
"That may be true," a slight smile touched his lips, "but it's not every day I throw your dinner away, dive fully dressed into a cold lake, and freak out at a restaurant."
Jack nodded slowly and dropped to the cushion. "It's okay." He shrugged nonchalantly. "I like catching fish more than I like eating them, anyway."
Daniel closed his eyes again, his head tilted back. "To be honest, I'm not too crazy about going back to the base tomorrow."
"If you're worried about those practical jokers..."
Daniel shrugged. "It's not just them. It's everyone. Everyone looks at me differently. At least at the lake I got away from all that.... Well, until I scared the waitress."
"No one looks at you differently."
Daniel opened his eyes, his expression disapproving. "C'mon, Jack, I'm not blind and deaf."
"Okay," he sighed. "Maybe some people do, but it's only because they're concerned."
"Except for a few who just like to get their jollies."
"They don't bother me all that much. It's just weird walking around there not knowing who saw that tape.... who thought it was funny enough to break into my lab and leave such a tasteful gift. And, on top of that, I get to dodge Janet every other minute. She looks at me like I'mdamaged goods that she needs to fix."
"And Sam even knows." His voice took on a hard edge. "She went to Janet and gave her the name of someone she thinks I should talk to. Someone who apparently went through a, uh, roughly similar experience."
"Maybe that's a good idea."
Daniel's eyes flashed with anger. "I don't want to talk about it. I just want people to stop treating me differently and telling me what they think I need."
"What's wrong with talking about it?"
Daniel shifted away from Jack to look at the blank television screen. "It's embarrassing." His voice dropped to a whisper. "It's bad enough the whole thing got caught on tape. Would you want to talk about it?"
"No," Jack answered gently, "but I'm rarely right about things, remember?"
A flicker of a smile crossed Daniel's lips. "Yeah, I remember." He pulled his gaze away from the dark screen to look at Jack. "I feel like an idiot for letting this thing get to me so much."
"It should get to you. Don't feel stupid for being affected by it."
"You got turned into a Jaffa and almost died, and look how you're handling it."
"Daniel, don't compare yourself to other people. I told you, it's all kind of hazy to me, and if you're right, you're having more vivid flashbacks because you let Nem almost fry your brain with that memory device. I remember the kind of 'flashbacks' Carter, Teal'c, and I had after Nem messed with our minds. Pretty powerful stuff, and you got
the full treatment. Besides, getting turned into a Jaffa, while not on my list of top one thousand favorite things to have happen to me, is, uh, slighly different than, uh....you know."
"Slightly," Daniel agreed.
"There's nothing you should feel embarrassed about."
Daniel dropped his gaze to the floor. "Right. Notice she picked me. She duped me from the beginning, and it wasn't even hard for her."
"Daniel, we've been over this. You didn't know. I didn't know. Hell, I thought she was just crazy, even though she knew all that crap about the Stargate. If it had been up to me, I'd have turned her over to the loony bin guys, and then she might have actually succeeded in taking over the planet."
"I know that..."
"Well, you don't have to agree so quickly. I mean, it'd be nice if you at least tried to tell me it wasn't my fault, either."
Another faint smile brightened Daniel's face. Jack considered the reaction a small victory.
"It wasn't your fault, Jack," Daniel obliged.
"Thank you. And, uh, all joking aside," he picked at a piece of fuzz on the couch cushion, "if you want to talk about it with me, I don't mind. I mean, uh..."
"Thanks, Jack." The smile hovered on Daniel's lips, but it seemed forced now. "I appreciate that, but really, there's nothing to talk about." His smile faded, and he returned his gaze to the dark television screen. "What happened really wasn't anything. Just a simple bodily, uh, function, right? It doesn't mean anything other than the meanings we
give to it. I know it shouldn't bother me so much..."
"Daniel, it should bother you, but not for the reasons you're probably thinking."
Daniel finally looked at him again. "You know, if this is your idea of a cheering up session..."
"No, it's not. It's my idea of a reality check." The words came out a bit harsher than he intended, and he saw Daniel's face darken. Damn. He was about to blow it. He made an effort to keep his own feelings out of the way and softened his voice. "I know you think no one understands, and we're all looking at you differently. We either see you as a sniveling weakling for freaking out over something that's not a big deal or we see you as damaged goods. Right? Isn't that what you said?"
Daniel shrugged and looked away again, studying the floor. "Can I take a rain check on the reality check, Jack?"
"Daniel, I know what you're going through."
Daniel's head snapped up, his eyes flashing. "No, I don't think you do."
Daniel's eyes narrowed, confusion softening his features. "How could you, unless..."
This time Jack looked to the dark television screen. "It was years ago on a mission gone bad. I was held in Iraq. Things happened. That didn't happen," he turned his eyes back to Daniel, "but it almost did"
"Oh..." A long silence followed Daniel's acknowledgment, then he took a slow breath. "Did you talk about it?"
"Actually, no." Jack managed a small, self-deprecating smile. "You're the only person I've ever told. I didn't even put it in my report after I got back home. I figured nothing really happened, so what did it matter? It wasn't worth mentioning. But I had nightmares about it, and, frankly, it scared the hell out of me. I mean, I've been shot at and
all that, but somehow that affected me more than any normal post-mission adrenaline let-down. I know you know this Daniel, but an attack of that nature is all about control, and I guess it goes to something deep inside of us that we really try not to look at too closely. Maybe it doesn't mean anything more than the meaning we give it, but for some reason, we do give it a lot of meaning. It's an intimate thing. An invasion. It can be used in so many different ways, and it's powerful enough that it's used to break the spirits of strong-willed soldiers who could face down the barrel of a gun and not say a word. So don't -don't - feel ashamed for letting it affect you. It just means you're human, Daniel, like the rest of us. And it does mean something to you. And that's a good thing, even if it doesn't feel like such a good thing right now."
A hint of wetness touched Daniel's eyes. "So you do know how I feel," he whispered, his words strained. "And it's hard for you to talk about even now, years after, with me, knowing I have an idea of what it's like. So, you can see why I'm not too crazy about talking about it with Fraiser or anybody else."
"It makes it more real."
Daniel nodded. "Yeah. Talking about it means thinking about it, and thinking about it doesn't accomplish anything because I can't go back and change it. All it does is make me sick to my stomach. And," his voice trembled, "it makes me think about Sha're and...." He swallowed hard and closed his eyes. "I can't think about that right now. It's
"Okay." Jack nodded. "I'm not gonna push. It'd be kind of hypocritical of me, wouldn't it? But if you do ever want to talk about it..."
"I know. And thanks, Jack."
Jack placed a gentle hand on Daniel's shoulder, managing a smile when the younger man opened his eyes again. "Hey, you wanna go to that sea food place on Broadway and free all the lobsters and crabs?"
Daniel's face flickered with surprise, then he gave into a sheepish smile. "You're going to stop teasing me about that soon, right?"
"Maybe." Jack grinned. "Or maybe not."
Jack stopped in front of the closed door and looked down at the sheet of paper in his hands. Four gray blotches stood in a row in the center of the page. Two were partially smudged, and two were clean. The far right one was an obvious thumbprint.
He withdrew his pass key from his pocket and slid the magnetic strip through the reader. The light on the panel changed to green and, with a smile, he pushed open the door and strolled inside.
A row of computers and monitors lined the far wall in the cramped office, and two technicians, chatting casually, stopped their conversation and looked up at him.
"Hey there." Jack let the door swing closed behind him as he sauntered to the consoles and leaned on the edge of one of the long tables.
"Uh, Colonel." The two officers rose to attention, standing straight. "What can we do for you, sir?" the shorter one asked.
The two men were complete physical opposites. Both were in their thirties, but the shorter man, Lieutenant Janson, had spiky blond hair and plain brown eyes. He looked like he barely met the military height requirement, but his shoulders were broad and his neck thick, indicating a solid, muscular build.
The second man, and the one Jack focused his attention on, had hair that looked almost black. His eyes were equally dark, and although he was muscular, he had a leaner frame and stood about six inches taller than his companion.
"Captain Barker." Jack nodded to the second officer, then looked at the shorter man. "Janson, take ten."
"Yes, sir." Janson glanced uncertainly at Barker before hurrying out of the room.
Jack waited until the door closed behind the young man, then smiled at Barker. "So, Captain, how's it going down here in the tech dungeon?"
"Fine, sir." Barker remained at attention, his shoulders squared.
"Betcha see a lot of interesting things on the security tapes, huh?"
"Uh..." Barker's eyes flashed with anxiety. "I guess so. Sometimes."
Jack glanced down at the report in his hands. "Must be better than cable." He smiled brightly and looked back up. "Got any good stories to relate?"
"No, sir. I'm not in the habit of gossiping about the things I see on the tapes. If it's not a threat to the base's security or a breach of regulations, it's not discussed."
"Really? Well, that's very honorable of you."
"Thank you, Colonel."
"You know Doctor Jackson, right?"
"Yes, sir, I know of him."
"See him on one of your security monitors recently?"
"Ah. Anything interesting?"
"Just the stuff with Hathor, sir."
"Right. Hammond told me about that. Said he gave everyone here orders to treat that material with the utmost care and confidence."
"Yes, sir, he did."
"Yeah, so what I'm wondering is why these were found on a tape somebody left inside Jackson's office."
Jack handed the report to Barker. The officer took it hesitantly, his eyes scanning the page. His jaw went tight, and he looked up, his eyes hard.
"I don't know, sir."
"You don't know?"
"I can guess that my prints were probably found on the tape if the tape was taken from our tech department. I handle a lot of the materials here. "
"I see. Funny thing, though. No one else's prints were found except mine and Dr. Jackson's."
"I wouldn't be stupid enough to leave my prints all over the evidence, sir. Whoever put it there probably wiped it down first."
Jack's eyes narrowed as he studied the man. Maybe Barker was telling the truth. "How many people have access to the security tapes here?"
"There are six regular tech personnel and two or three nonregulars who also have access to the machines and materials, not including officers such as yourself whose pass keys give them access."
"So, a lot."
Barker nodded. "Yes, sir."
"But only about eight people who would likely know about the tape of Jackson and Hathor?"
Jack took a step toward the man. "Any idea who the practical joker is?"
"Would you tell me if you did?"
Barker hesitated a moment, then shook his head. "Probably not, sir."
Jack took a breath and moved even closer to the man, stopping until he was only an inch away. "I'm going to dig until I find the son of a bitch who did this, and when I do, some very bad things are going to happen to that officer. Got it, Captain?"
Barker nodded curtly. "Yes, sir."
Daniel blinked several times at the photographs on the table. He'd been working in his office for hours -- he didn't know exactly how long -- and his vision was starting to blur with fatigue. His week-long vacation had resulted in a backlog of work. There were only a few civilians on the base, and of those, only two were educated in the general field of anthropology. Besides those two, there was a woman who was strictly a linguist, but her specialty was Latin and ancient Greek, not ancient Egyptian, and she was still learning Goa'uld.
That basically meant that Daniel had a hell of a lot of work to catch up on. He really needed to talk to Hammond about getting more doctoral level help on the base. They had more soldiers than they could count, but only a handful of scientists and PhD's. Considering the work the SGC was involved with, most of which required either a firm grasp of medicine, physics, archeology, or ancient languages, the SGC really needed a higher researcher-to-soldier ratio.
His door creaked open, and he looked up, not surprised to see Jack stroll casually into the dim office.
"Hey," Daniel answered casually, dropping his gaze back to the photographs.
"We've got that mission briefing at seventeen hundred."
"Yeah, I know."
"Whatcha workin' on?" Jack strolled over to the table and peered at the photographs.
"Just some stuff."
"Ah. Stuff. I see that."
"You wanna get a bite to eat after the briefing?"
Daniel looked up. "Uh, actually, I just want to go home and relax."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "You want to go home and relax?"
"Who are you and what have you done with Dr. Jackson?"
Daniel threw him a long-suffering look.
"Okay, okay." Jack raised his hands.
Daniel's expression softened. "But, uh, if you want to come over for some pizza and beer..."
"You can ask Sam and Teal'c if they want to come, too." Daniel looked back down at the photographs, but his gaze went distant and they blurred into amorphous shapes. "Seems like forever since I've actually seen either one of them." He had to wonder if they were avoiding him. Hell, Sam hadn't even approached him about her 'friend' that she wanted him to talk to. She'd went to Janet instead.
"Yeah, well, you haven't exactly been a social butterfly lately," Jack commented. "Not that you ever are, but...."
"I know." Daniel shook himself out of the daze, and the photographs snapped back to solid images.
"You actually got beer in your fridge?"
Daniel thought about that. "Uh, I'm not sure."
"I'll stop by the store after work and pick up a case."
"So, I guess I'll see you at your place at about seven, depending on how long the briefing takes? And I figure I'll spend about half an hour just waiting in line at the grocery store."
Daniel gave a small smile. "Yeah, that's okay."
"Dismissed," Hammond said, nodding to Colonel O'Neill.
"Thank you, sir." Jack and the rest of SG-1 rose from their chairs and wandered as a group into the hall.
Daniel stopped and leaned against the wall, crossing his arms in front of him. "So, did Jack invite you two over to my place tonight?" His eyes darted from Sam to Teal'c.
"Yes," Sam smiled brightly at him, "and you can count me in as long as one of the pizza's has extra pepperoni."
Daniel smiled and nodded. "I think that's doable." He looked to Teal'c.
"I will be there as well," the Jaffa nodded his head. "Thank you, Daniel Jackson. Such a diversion will be most welcome at this time."
Jack grunted. "Been spending too much time on the base, Teal'c?"
"That is an understatement, O'Neill."
"Good." Daniel tried to put forth his brightest smile, but he had a feeling it looked fake. "I'll see you in a little while. I'm gonna head home now, so I'll be there when you guys arrive."
"Great!" Sam looked genuinely pleased. "I'm stopping at the store with the colonel to pick up some things, too, so it'll probably take us about half an hour or so."
"And I will also accompany Colonel O'Neill and Captain Carter. Chulak does not have such large merchant establishments, and I am most curious to see one."
Daniel suppressed a yawn as he turned off the engine and got out of the car. He shouldn't be so tired. Hell, he'd just gotten back from a week's vacation and only spent one slightly-more-than full day at work. Maybe the down-time was the reason he was so tired. As long as he didn't stop to rest, his body didn't know just how tired it actually was.
He strolled into the elevator and punched the number for his floor, then leaned against the wall and closed his eyes. A knot twisted in his stomach, and he pushed down the anxiety. Maybe inviting his friends over had been a mistake. He suddenly didn't feel like company. All he wanted to do was relax in his nice, quiet apartment, maybe get some reading done, then head to bed.
The elevator languished to a halt, and the doors slid open. Daniel opened his eyes, pushed himself off the wall, and shuffled to his apartment.
Captain Barker watched Daniel enter the building, then slid out of his car and locked the door. His companion did the same thing, quietly closing the passenger door, a small video camera slung over his shoulder.
"Captain, you sure about this?"
Barker nodded. "Yeah. Just don't screw up, and we shouldn't have a problem."
He was taking a huge risk, he knew, but if something didn't happen fast, his career would take a serious beating anyway. Colonel O'Neill wasn't going to give up, and with the fingerprints as evidence, Barker could find himself facing charges for violating orders.
It had just been a stupid practical joke. Anyone in the military would've put up with it... maybe blow off some steam, but a soldier would never have made such a big fucking deal out of a joke.
Dr. Daniel Jackson, however, had to go running to his good buddy, the colonel. Well, if the doctor wanted to play that game, Barker would play it better.
And this time he'd leave no evidence that could link him to the act. Oh sure, O'Neill might be chock full of suspicion, but he'd have nothing solid to go on, and hopefully, if Barker made his point very well, Jackson would convince O'Neill to back off entirely and let the matter drop.
"Let's go, Rossi." Barker zipped up his black leather jacket, then stuck his hands in the large pockets. The fingers of his right hand closed around the cottony material of the ski mask, and a grin tugged at his mouth. "This should even be fun."
Daniel slid out of his jacket and draped it over the armchair, then kicked off his shoes. Stretching his arms above his head, he gave into a yawn before turning and heading to the kitchen. He pulled a stack of paper plates out from the cabinet and set them on the counter, then opened his refrigerator to see whether he did, in fact, actually have any beer.
Nope. Not a surprise. He only kept it around for the times Jack came over, which actually wasn't too often...except for lately, of course. O'Neill was starting to become his shadow, and while Daniel was somewhat pleasantly touched by the concern, he was also beginning to feel stifled.
It wasn't just Jack, though. Fraiser, too. It seemed every time he turned around someone was expressing their concern for his welfare.
At least he had people to care about him, he reminded himself. For too long, he'd wandered alone, wishing for the very thing he had now, and now that he had it, he found himself wishing for a bit more of the solitude he used to have.
Nothing, however, had compared to his year on Abydos. He'd been flustered, at first, to find himself suddenly part of a family -- a very large family. A smile touched his lips. He missed them a lot. All of them....but, when he found Sha're and Ska'ara and freed them from the Goa'uld, he'd get his family back.
Knocking pulled him out of his thoughts, and he shivered, realizing he'd been leaning on the open door of the refrigerator and staring blankly inside. Wow, Jack, that was fast. Closing the refrigerator door, he moved to his apartment's front door and opened it.
"What did you do, speed --?"
A fist smashed into his jaw, sending his glasses flying from his face and stars dancing across his vision. He staggered back as two men in black ski masks descended upon him, slamming the door closed behind them. Before he could yell for help, the taller of the two stuffed a wadded ball of soft material into his mouth. A foot swept his feet from beneath him, while hands eased his descent and flipped him onto his stomach. One set of hands bound his hands behind his back with some kind of thick wire. The other man tied a gag around his mouth to hold the wadded ball firmly in place.
He kicked and twisted, but they held him down with his cheek pressed against the floor. The cottony material in his mouth scraped against the back of his throat, and he tried not to gag even as he screamed against it. His screams ended quickly, however, when one of them rammed a foot into his ribs.
Hey lay there, gasping for breath with the gag suffocatingly firm in his mouth. One of the men grabbed his legs while the other grabbed his shoulders, and they carried him, as he bucked and twisted, to his bedroom.
His heart pounded, and he continued to struggle, but the two large men seemed aggravatingly unaffected by his resistance. They tossed him onto the mattress, and he hit hard, bouncing several times and almost careening off the edge before more hands grabbed him and held him down. One of the intruders straddled him, sitting on top of his bound hands. He winced against the pain in his wrists and arms, and turned his head as far to the left as he could so that the pillow wasn't blocking his airways.
The man on top of him leaned forward until his mouth was inches from Daniel's ear, and Daniel could feel the warm breath on his neck. "The tape and statue were a joke. You should've kept O'Neill out of it." The man's voice was low and hard, and Daniel didn't recognize it.
The other black-clad man walked into Daniel's line of sight, a camera held in his hands, the red recording light glowing steadily.
Bile touched the back of Daniel's throat, but he forced it back down. No. No. No. He closed his eyes tight and went limp beneath his assailant's weight. There was nothing he could do in his present position to fight back.
"Since you're such a star of the X-rated genre," the man on top of Daniel hissed, "we're gonna give you a chance to be a star again. Convince O'Neill to drop his investigation, and no one but us has to know this tape exists. If O'Neill doesn't back off, a whole lot of people are going to get to see your ass at its finest."
Daniel's chest tightened, his heart hammering
frantically. He screamed again against the gag, kicking out blindly. The man's weight
lifted, and Daniel felt himself being flipped onto his back. His assailant's hands went to
Daniel's belt, quickly unfastening the buckle.
"Nnnn." Daniel screamed against the gag, bucking wildly. For a moment, it looked like he'd succeed in tossing the man off of him, but the guy slammed an angry fist into Daniel's jaw, and blackness slid over him. He struggled to remain conscious, and when he came to his senses, he realized he was laying on his stomach again, his legs bare. His boxers still protected some of his dignity, but the man's fingers tugged at the waistband of his underwear, and the light material began to slide down.
A knocking at the door brought a sudden stillness to the room. All three men froze, but Daniel's stupor lasted only a second. He bucked and twisted wildly, managing to catch his assailant off-guard and toppling him onto the bed. Daniel rolled off the edge, hitting the floor hard, and yelled with everything he had, but he doubted the sound was loud enough to be heard in the living room, much less out in the hall.
"Shit!" The cameraman spun toward the bedroom door. "Who the hell could that be? You said--"
"Shut up!" The other man hissed quietly.
"Daniel?" Jack's muffled voice, tight with concern, drifted into the room.
The assailant rushed Daniel, and Daniel realized his chance at evading serious bodily injury was quickly diminishing. He scrambled back, his hands still bound behind him, and hit the nightstand hard. The small table lamp toppled over and hit the floor, shattering next to Daniel. He winced as a shard of glass sliced into his bare thigh.
They had to hear that. Daniel sat huffing against the nightstand, his eyes wide as he watched his two assailants. They stood frozen, seemingly uncertain what to do.
"Daniel!" Jack's voice again, then a pounding. They were trying to kick the door in. Daniel hadn't realized that the two men had had a chance to lock it.
"Shit," the taller one said, glancing at the cameraman. Then he looked back at Daniel. "Fire escape! Where?"
"Hhhhh." Daniel's eyes went wider.
"Just jab your chin toward it. We get out of here, you remain relatively unharmed. Got it?"
A crash in the living room sent the two men into a panic. The larger assailant rushed toward Daniel, but Daniel rolled, dodging him. Then he heard a loud thud that he felt through the floor, and he bolted to his feet, his ribs twinging angrily, and slammed backward into the corner, panting fiercely.
Teal'c had the larger assailant pinned to the ground, while Jack held the second man face-first on the mattress, stradling him as he used a phone cord to tie his wrists together.
"Daniel?" Sam moved slowly toward him, her eyes wide. "You okay?"
He blinked, realizing he was shaking, and slid slowly down the wall until he hit the floor, his knees to his chest. She crouched in front of him, her fingers sliding beneath the gag and tugging it down so it hung around his neck.
He spit out the wadded ball of cotton and rested his head against the wall. "Thanks." His voice shook even on that one word, and he closed his eyes, trying to calm his frantic heart.
"Carter, how is he?"
Daniel felt something soft wipe at his chin and then move to the corners of his mouth. He opened his eyes to see her pull away a bloodied piece of material. Was that the gag that had been stuffed in his mouth? And when had he started bleeding?
"I'm not sure yet, sir." Carter smiled softly, studying him. "Think you can answer that question, Daniel? Are you hurt?"
He looked down at himself, his cheeks flushing when he realized he was in his boxers. Thank God they hadn't managed to pull those down.
"Daniel?" She asked again, her eyes drifting low, then going wide when they spotted the blood on his thighs. "Oh man, let me see..."
"My ribs, I think," he interrupted flatly, his voice marginally steadier. "He kicked me."
"Damnit. Carter, take care of this joker, will ya?"
"Yes, sir." Carter rose to her feet. "Daniel's got a small gash on his leg."
Daniel heard Jack say something, but he was no longer listening. He looked passed Sam to see Jack pushing himself off the guy who had held the camera. The man had brown hair, but that's all Daniel could see. His eyes sought out the second intruder. He found him on the floor next to the nightstand, held firmly down by the bottom of Teal'c's boot, practically kissing the floor, his face turned toward Daniel. His ski mask lay discarded next to him. He had black hair and dark eyes, and Daniel thought he looked a little familiar, but he couldn't come up with a name.
Daniel's eyes snapped to Jack, who was now crouched in front of him.
"You okay?" Jack's eyes hung low and he tilted to the side to peer at the cut on Daniel's leg.
Daniel shook his head. "No." His tongue felt coated with paste, and he was still shaking, damnit.
"Here." Jack reached toward him.
Her hand reached for him, sliding behind his neck.
Daniel could almost feel Hathor's hands on him...almost smell her. He flinched back against the wall, and Jack's hand froze in mid-air, then slowly pulled back.
"I just want to untie you," Jack explained softly. "Okay?"
Daniel's cheeks flushed hot. He felt like a fool. Slowly, he nodded. He hated Hathor, and he cursed Nem for giving him no choice but to allow himself to be strapped into that memory machine.
Jack gave a reassuring smile and slowly reached out again. His hand slid behind Daniel, pulling him carefully forward, and Daniel twisted to give Jack better access to the bindings. He felt the man's hands tugging at the wire, then the wire loosened and Jack unwound it until Daniel's hands were free.
"Thanks." Daniel pulled his arms in front of him and leaned back, rubbing at his wrists.
Jack smiled, then said gently, "Wait here. Okay?"
Daniel nodded, and Jack rose to his feet and turned toward Teal'c, walking closer to the captive held firmly beneath the Jaffa's foot.
"Well, Captain Barker, I guess I can take this as a confession."
"I've got nothing to say to you, O'Neill."
"Fine by me." Jack jerked his chin toward Carter. "Is someone on the way?"
She nodded. "I called the base. Assistance is en route."
Jack moved to the camera resting on its side at the head
of the bed. Its red light still glowed, and he leaned over and switched it off. "Son
of a bitch," he muttered, then turned and hurried back to Daniel.
Daniel shook his head. "Fraiser can check me over."
Jack nodded, crouching in front of him again. "You want to get dressed?" He asked, his voice soft again.
Daniel felt the heat rise again to his cheeks, and he nodded. "Y-Yeah. Pants, please." He jerked his chin toward his Dockers laying on the floor at the bottom of the bed. His arms and legs felt like Jell-O, so he was content to stay huddled in the corner.
"Gotcha." Jack slid back and grabbed the pants, then handed them to Daniel. "You sure you're not seriously hurt? How bad are your ribs?"
Daniel clutched the pants to his chest and took a deep breath, gauging the pain in his side. "Bruised, I think. Not broken. I'll be okay." He swallowed, studying Jack. "You lied to me."
"What?" Jack leaned back, surprised.
"I asked you to let the thing with the tape go. You said you would."
"No, Daniel," Jack shifted so that he was sitting cross-legged on the floor. "I said I wouldn't tell Hammond."
"That's not exactly what you said." He jerked his chin toward Barker. "I told you it would only make things worse."
"No." His voice trembled, and he shook his head. "I...I..." He looked down again, his hands clenching into fists as he clutched his pants. God, if they'd been only a few minutes later...
Daniel's eyes stung, and he closed them. "I'm a mess, Jack," he choked.
He felt Jack shift to sit beside him, then an arm slid gently over his shoulders, pulling him against a warm, solid mass.
"It's over now. All over."
Daniel relaxed against his friend, almost feeling Sam's and Teal'c's eyes on him, but at the moment, he didn't care. He just really needed a moment.
Hammond sat behind his desk, his expression hard, and leveled a cold look at Jack. "I see you took care of things quite well, Colonel."
Jack swallowed and glanced at Teal'c and Sam. Their faces remained impassive, and a surge of guilt twisted in his chest. He hadn't told them about the practical joke, and he wasn't even sure whether Teal'c knew that Hathor had raped Daniel, though he figured the Jaffa had to at least suspect.
He wondered if Carter and Teal'c were as angry with him as Hammond was and dropped his gaze to the floor. "I'm sorry, General. I had no idea Barker would go psycho."
"Well, your error in judgment almost resulted in serious injury to Doctor Jackson."
Jack winced. "I know."
Hammond's voice softened. "But I have to take some of the blame here, too. I didn't order you to divulge the information. I gave you permission to pursue it on your own."
Jack looked back up at the general. "I take full responsibility, sir."
Hammond sighed tiredly and gestured to the small TV-VCR combo on the table against the wall. The camcorder sat next to the television, hooked up via RCA jacks.
"Bring it up, Colonel."
"Yes, sir." Jack glanced again at his silent teammates and moved stiffly forward, then turned on the television and hit the play button on the camera.
He'd been tempted to smash the tape into lots of little pieces, but it was crucial evidence against Barker and Rossi. Daniel probably wouldn't be too happy about that, Jack knew, but this time they'd have to follow procedure to the letter. The screen flared to life with an image of Daniel pinned face-first on his mattress, a black-clad figure straddling him. He struggled weakly beneath the man's weight, but to no avail.
The assailant leaned forward, apparently to whisper something in Daniel's ear. Daniel closed his eyes, going limp, and the intruder continued his whispering. Whatever he'd said provoked another violent outburst from Daniel, who kicked blindly, his feet hitting nothing but air.
The assailant lifted himself and flipped Daniel onto his back, then quickly began unfastening Daniel's belt buckle. Daniel screamed against his gag, bucking and twisting violently, but the attacker slammed a fist into Daniel's face, causing him to go suddenly limp.
"Oh, God," Carter whispered.
"Son of a bitch," Jack muttered, turning his face briefly away from the screen.
Teal'c spoke up, his voice laced with tension. "What will be the punishment for these men?"
"In a moment, Teal'c," Hammond spoke up. "Let's just get through the video first."
The Jaffa nodded solemnly, only his eyes betraying his anger.
On the screen, Daniel was back on his stomach and just beginning to stir. A faint knocking, barely picked up by the camera's microphone, caused both Daniel and his assailant to go still, but Daniel overcame his stupor quickly and bucked hard, throwing his assailant to the side and rolling off the bed, screaming against his gag.
A few seconds later, Jack watched as he, Sam, and Teal'c burst into the room. The rest of the video played until the screen cut to black, which was the point at which Jack had turned off the camera. He did the same thing now, turning off the power on both the camera and the TV-VCR, and turned to face the general.
"That's all of it. Help came, Barker and Rossi were taken away, and we drove Daniel here."
Hammond nodded. "Thank you, Colonel." His eyes scanned the three SG-1 members, "I want your reports on my desk by tomorrow morning. Dr. Jackson's report can wait a little longer until he gets the clear from Fraiser."
Hammond rose from his desk. "Now, why don't we all go see how he's doing?"
Jack, Sam, and Teal'c followed Hammond into the infirmary. They found Fraiser in a back room. Daniel was sitting bare-chested on an exam bed with his legs dangling over the side. His shirt rested in a haphazard heap on the bed next to a small, white bag. His split lip was swollen, and bruises darkened his jaw, cheek, and left eye.
"Good evening, Doctors." Hammond stopped at the foot of the bed.
Daniel looked at them, surprise flickering over his face. He set his jaw, then turned his head back to Janet, his gaze fixed on some point over her right shoulder.
"How are you, Doctor Jackson?" Hammond asked.
Daniel gave the general only a brief glance. "Peachy."
Jack caught Sam's worried glance out of the corner of his eye, but didn't turn to look at her. He tried to maintain a casual air as he stood to the right of the general, his hands in his pockets.
Janet threw an apologetic look at Hammond. "Some bruised ribs and a couple of stitches in his thigh, and he's all set." She scribbled something on the top sheet attached to her clipboard and smiled up at Daniel. "You're free to go. Just remember to finish the antibiotics I've prescribed and come back tomorrow so we can do those tests."
Daniel nodded tiredly. "Thank you." He hopped off the table, only slightly favoring his injured leg, and grabbed his shirt, slipping into it and quickly buttoning the front. When he finished, he grabbed the bag off the bed and looked back up, his eyes drifting over Hammond, Jack, and Teal'c. Then he stepped forward. "If you'll excuse me, please."
"One moment, Doctor Jackson," Hammond commanded, his tone gentle.
Daniel stopped, standing just to the left of the general. "Yes?"
"I'll need your report and statement on my desk as soon as possible. It doesn't have to be tomorrow morning, but no later than forty-eight hours."
"Is that all?"
Hammond breathed deeply, his eyes betraying his concern. "How are you really doing, son?"
Daniel finally looked at Hammond, his face unreadable. "It's been a long night. I'd like to get home as soon as possible."
Hammond took the hint and nodded. "Of course. Goodnight."
With a nod, Daniel brushed past Sam and Teal'c.
Oh for crying out loud! Jack sighed and threw his teammates an exasperated look, then hurried after the archeologist. "Daniel, wait!"
Daniel stopped just before stepping into the corridor, his back to Jack. "What?"
"Your apartment door's kind of...broken right now. Lieutenant Steinberg's there on guard duty. You know, make sure your journals don't get stolen -- that sort of thing -- just 'til we can get it fixed in the morning. So....why don't you just crash at my place tonight?"
Daniel remained silent a moment, then sighed and turned toward Jack. "Yeah, okay. Thanks."
Jack grinned, pleasantly surprised at the easy victory, just as Sam and Teal'c stepped beside him.
"Daniel," Sam took another step toward Daniel, then stopped, "I'm sorry this happened. Are you sure you're okay? You need anything?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, I'll be okay." His eyes darted from Sam to Teal'c, then back again, and a hint of embarrassment touched his face. "Thank you...for tonight. If you hadn't shown up when you did..."
Teal'c stiffened. "I regret that we did not arrive sooner, Daniel Jackson. I also regret that I was unable to cause your attackers the same degree of damage they bestowed upon you."
A tiny smile curled Daniel's lips. "Thanks, Teal'c. It's the thought that counts."
Sam moved forward slowly, then leaned closer to Daniel, hesitant, and slid her arms around him. He stood stiff in her embrace, then, after a moment, relaxed into her, bringing his arms up to return the hug.
She whispered something in his ear, and he smiled, pulling back to look at her. "Thanks, Sam."
She nodded and stepped away. "See you tomorrow."
"Good, now if the mushy stuff is all over," Jack interjected, "can we blow this joint?"
"Yes, please." Daniel moved aside, waving a quick goodbye to Sam and Teal'c, and fell into step alongside Jack as they headed toward the elevators.
"So, uh," Jack began, when they reached the lifts, "what tests?"
"Huh?" Daniel pressed the call button.
"Fraiser said you had to come back for tests.... Not that it's any of my business, I suppose, but..."
"That's never stopped you before."
He sighed and leaned against the wall. "I told her about the flashbacks and that I thought maybe they were being made more vivid because of the thing with Nem."
"Right. The thing with Nem," Jack nodded. "So what did she say, and why did you change your mind about telling her?"
Daniel shrugged. "I'm getting fed-up of the flashbacks. Maybe she can help. She told me she thought they'd diminish on their own. They're already getting less frequent, I think. Anyway, she wants to run some neurological tests, and she recommended hypnosis. Sam's flashbacks almost disappeared after her session."
"Yeah, but Carter had a fake memory."
The elevator dinged, and the doors slid open.
"I know." Daniel stepped inside with Jack. "But the substance Hathor used to exert control did make things fuzzy, and Fraiser thinks if I confront the memories in their entirety, that the flashbacks may start to fade. Nem's device helps bring forth memories that aren't right on the surface, at least in the way it was used on me. So maybe by bringing the whole ordeal to the forefront of my memory, rather than trying not to think about it, that'll help alleviate the flashes."
"Sounds like it might work, I guess."
"I hope so."
Jack turned to face Daniel completely. "Are you hungry? We never did get dinner."
Daniel shook his head. "I'm more tired than hungry. I just want to get to bed."
"You sure? I've got a case of beer in my car."
"Actually, an alcohol-induced stupor sounds like a good idea right now."
Jack raised his eyebrows. "Good. We'll get shit-faced at my place."
Daniel smiled faintly. "Thanks, Jack."
Jack leaned against the wall, waiting for the elevator to bring them to the parking level. He gave into a small smile. Daniel was starting to act like himself again, even after the night's near-tragedy....
Jack's smile faded. He'd wished he'd let Teal'c 'damage' the two men...and he'd have eagerly taped every second of their torture. Instead, they were sitting in a relatively comfortable cell.
They wouldn't be comfortable for long, Jack vowed. He'd push to make sure they were stripped of their rank and given the maximum sentence allowed...which wasn't enough punishment for either of them, but it was, unfortunately, the best they could hope for.
Too bad stoning had gone out of style. Those old-timers sure knew a thing or two about retribution.
Daniel sank onto the couch with a sigh.
"How's the leg?" Jack asked, grabbing two warm beers from the case.
"A little achy, bphut okay."
"And the ribs?" Jack snatched two large glasses from the cupboard and filled each with ice.
"Abphout the same."
Jack carried his two handfuls into the living room and set one glass and one beer in front of Daniel. He dropped into the armchair and held the glass between his legs as he popped off the beer's top and poured the liquid over the ice.
Jack looked up with a small smile. Daniel's bottom lip seemed to be growing larger with each passing minute, and he sported a couple of impressive bruises on his jaw.
"You're getting a fat lip."
"I know. It hurts," Daniel conceded.
"Right." He placed his beer bottle and glass on the coffee table and rose quickly, hurrying into the kitchen and returning with a bag of frozen green beans. "Here." He handed the bag to Daniel.
"Thanks." Daniel took the offering and tilted his head back, his glass balanced precariously on his knee, held loosely with one hand. He used the other hand to hold the cold bag over his lip.
Jack sank back into his chair and took a sip of the beer. "Did Fraiser give you any pain pills?"
"I didn't feel like spending the next few days doped up." Daniel closed his eyes, but kept the cold bag on his lip.
Jack studied Daniel quietly for a moment and suddenly realized the young man was without his glasses. They must've gotten knocked off in the assault, but he couldn't remember seeing them in the apartment. Of course, at the time, he'd had more important things on his mind.
Jack took a sip of his beer. "Uh, Daniel..."
"Yeah?" he answered, not bothering to look up.
"Yeah, I figured. Broken?"
"I havhe no idea."
"You got a spare set in your office, right?"
"You, uh, need them or something? I can have an airman..."
"I'm not doing any reading tonight."
"Right." Jack took another sip of his beer. Well, that had been a scintillating conversation. His eyes focused on the bag of green beans Daniel kept pressed to his mouth, then drifted lower to study the thin red line around the kid's wrist.
He clenched his jaw briefly and took another quick sip of his beer, almost slamming the bottom of the bottle onto his kneecap when he finished. His thoughts turned again to the two men responsible for Daniel's injuries -- Barker and Rossi.
A couple of disgraces to the military. Jack wondered how men like that managed to get as far in the ranks as they had. If they couldn't even follow a simple order without going psycho....
"Huh?" He looked up to see Daniel blinking at him, the bag of green beans resting on the cushion next to him.
"I'm tired. Think I'll turn in."
"Oh, yeah. Sure." He set his beer on the table and pushed himself out of the armchair.
Daniel waved him back. "I know my way to the guestroom."
"Right." Jack dropped back down. "You sure you don't need anything?"
"Nope." Daniel grabbed the bag of beans, tightened his grip on his beer, and rose from the couch. "G'night, Jack."
"Goodnight, Daniel." And sleep well, kid. God knows you need a good night's sleep.
Daniel curled beneath the covers, his eyes closed, feeling himself drift toward sleep. He floated deeper and deeper until consciousness bled away to jumbled, nonsensical dream images.
He hovered on that precipice of true slumber when he felt a touch on his shoulder. He jerked awake, sure he'd opened his eyes, but saw only darkness. Hands grabbed him, rolling him roughly onto his stomach and yanking his hands behind his back. Somehow, a cottony gag had been stuffed in his mouth, and he screamed, even as the gag swallowed the sound.
He felt hot breath on his ear and heard whispered words spoken in a rough voice. His bottoms were pulled down, exposing his bare thighs. The thick odor of a sweating body filled his nostrils, and he felt clammy hands press along his ribs and slide beneath his shirt.
Jack jerked awake, nearly spilling his beer. He was in the armchair. When had he fallen asleep? And what had woken him?
A scream blasted the silence, and this time he did drop his beer as he leapt from the armchair and bolted toward the guestroom. Flinging the door open, he saw Daniel tangled in the covers, screaming for help as he fought off imagined attackers.
"Daniel!" Jack lunged forward, grabbing Daniel's shoulders and shaking him. "C'mon. Wake up! Wake up!"
He was rewarded with a fist to the jaw. His head snapped back, and he crashed to the floor, dazed, and had no time to recover before a hard mass crashed into him.
Daniel was all over him, throwing punch after punch. Jack struggled to keep up, deflecting each one as best he could without hurting the kid. He scrambled back, trying to put some distance between himself and the archeologist, but Daniel scurried after him, his eyes open and his face twisted with anger.
"Daniel, Jesus!" Jack found himself pressed into a corner, his arms in front of him as a shield. "Daniel, it's me! Jack! Goddamnit, don't make me..."
"Jack?" The attack ceased suddenly.
Jack slowly lowered his arms, then breathed a sigh of relief when he saw Daniel sitting on the floor in front of him, blinking, looking confused and shaking like a terrified pup.
"Jack? Oh, God." Daniel slouched forward and buried his face in his hands. "Oh, God, I'm sorry. It was so real..."
"Hey, no harm done." Jack leaned forward. "You've got lousy aim. Didn't land one good punch."
Daniel just shook his head. "No more. I can't keep going through this." His head snapped up, and he shot to his feet, still shaking his head. His arm went to his ribs, and he turned away from Jack and limped toward the door.
"Hey!" Jack scrambled to his feet. "Where are you going?"
"To call Fraiser." Daniel stopped in the doorway and leaned tiredly against the frame, his back to Jack. "I'm going to ask her to set up the hypnosis session as soon as possible." He pushed himself off the frame and disappeared into the darkened hall.
"And this can't wait until morning?" Jack yelled, hurrying after the young man.
Jack leaned against the wall, arms crossed, a sense of déjà vu overcoming him. The room was the same one MacKenzie had used for Carter when trying to pierce through the false memories of Daniel's fiery death. Jack swallowed hard and pushed the gruesome images and gut-twisting screams out of his mind. Nem, that walking piece of sea weed, had gotten off way too easy for the grief he'd caused. Jack was half-tempted to go back to that planet and do a little fishing...
Daniel sat in a chair in the center of the room, a small lamp next to him, while MacKenzie spoke in a calm, slow voice. Daniel was already under, and the doctor was now guiding his memories to those moments with Hathor in the VIP room.
"That's very good, Doctor Jackson. Then what happened?"
"She slides off my jacket." Daniel's voice was low and flat, his eyes closed. "I'm going to be her pharoah. Contribute the code. She touches me, her hand at the back of my neck, playing with my hair. She's beautiful.... I.... No... More Goa'uld. She wants to use me to make more Goa'uld. She pulls me toward her. I can't think straight. I try to pull back, but I can't. I... No. My arm. I move my arm. Grab hers. Pull back. I try. She leans closer. Her breath on my face. I...hear her voice. Ra is gone. She can rule the planet. With me. Together. Yes... No. No. I....Her lips. She's kissing me. Her breath in my mouth. My throat. I... What? The bed. I'm on the bed. She's on top of me, pulling down my pants.... I...." Daniel's voice trembled, his brow furrowing.
Jack closed his own eyes, his chest tight with anger.
"It's all right, Doctor Jackson," MacKenzie's deep, calm voice intruded. "You're safe. This is just a memory. You have complete control."
Daniel shook his head, squeezing his eyes closed. "I... Sha're... God... Her hands... all over me. Under my shirt. My boxers. Over me. Her breath in my mouth. I...want her. Need her. Her voice. Asking me. Pledge? Yes. Beautiful. So beautiful. I do. Her eyes. Glowing. God. I... No!"
Daniel was out of his chair, trembling and breathing hard, his eyes wide.
Jack crossed the room in a second, but MacKenzie was closer.
"Easy, Doctor Jackson. It's okay," the doctor soothed.
Daniel staggered away from the psychiatrist, shaking his head, his arms wrapped around himself, until he hit the wall and leaned against it.
"It's okay. You did it." Jack stopped inches from the young man, being careful not to touch him... not yet, anyway. "Hey. Daniel." He bent his knees, stooping to get a look at Daniel's face. "You okay?"
Daniel had his eyes closed tightly, and he shook his head. "I... God, this is so embarrassing."
"There's nothing you should be embarrassed about." Jack finally reached out and cautiously placed a hand on Daniel's arm. "Everyone with a Y chromosome was under her influence, and if I'm not mistaken, you have one of those."
"Doctor Jackson, do you feel up to continuing?" MacKenzie asked. "I'd like to go over the recent attack and offer some calming suggestions. If your flashbacks are being made more vivid as a result of the alien technology you and the rest of SG1 were subjected to, this session should help."
Daniel took a deep, shuddering breath and opened his eyes to look at the psychiatrist. He gave a shaky nod. "Okay.... Just give me a minute, please."
"Sure. How about I give you ten minutes? I'll go grab a cup of coffee."
Jack waited until MacKenzie was gone, then steered Daniel back to the chair, easing him into it. "How're you doing, really?"
Daniel slouched in the chair and looked up at Jack. "Shaky, but I'll be okay. It just... It felt very real."
"Yeah." He nodded, remembering the flashbacks he'd suffered of bubbles and fire. "I know."
The ride from the base to Daniel's apartment passed in silence. Daniel sat slouched in the passenger seat, gazing out the side window at the passing scenery. Jack occasionally fiddled with the radio as he drove, letting the drone of the music compensate for the lack of conversation.
When Jack pulled the vehicle in front of the apartment building, Daniel didn't seem to notice. His gaze remained focused on some indistinct point outside.
"Hey." Jack turned off the engine and gently slapped Daniel on the arm. "Home sweet home."
"Huh? Oh." Daniel jerked out of his semi-trance and unbuckled his seat belt. "Thanks for the ride."
"You trying to ditch me?"
"I'm hungry. Wanna order pizza?"
Daniel opened the car door. "Uh, no. I think--"
"Think I'll just--"
"Kentucky Fried Chicken?"
A tiny smile lifted Daniel's lips, and he leaned back in his seat in resignation. "Actually, I don't really feel like going home."
"Okay, so we go out to eat."
"Why don't we grab something to go? I'm in the mood to do something outdoors."
"Oooh! He scores!" Jack exclaimed as the bird intercepted the bread in mid-flight.
Daniel grinned softly and tore off a piece of his biscuit. Two nearly-empty cartons from Kentucky Fried Chicken sat on the grass next to them, holding mostly crumpled napkins and chicken bones.
Daniel sat cross-legged on the cool grass, enjoying the mild weather. Sunset was approaching quickly, and the early twilight bathed the quiet park in a soft light. He lightly tossed the piece of bread into the air, watching with a slight smile as a small bird dove for it and missed, then landed hard on the ground where it hit and snatched it up before another could claim it.
A large crowd of birds surrounded them on the grass, and Jack seemed to take great pleasure in tossing the pieces as high up as he could to induce the birds to engage in acrobatics for their supper. Daniel, on the other hand, simply tossed each offering outward lazily, using the distraction to relax.
He saw one tiny, black bird hopping at the rear of the flock, and he tossed a piece to the animal, but a fat pigeon lunged for it and fluttered its wings angrily, chasing the smaller bird away and snatching the bread with its beak.
Daniel sighed. Ah, survival of the fittest at its finest. Watching the animals fight for food sort of reminded him of pizza day at the SGC's cafeteria.
"Yes!" Another exclamation from Jack had Daniel's lips twitching upward further.
"This isn't a contact sport, Jack."
Jack shrugged and threw a quick grin at him. "Bird hockey. Gotta love it."
With a glance heavenward, Daniel tossed the small black bird another piece of bread, but again, a larger bird stole it. Daniel raised his eyebrows. The black bird hopped on its two feet, gazing at him curiously, cocking its head as though in anticipation.
Daniel tore off another piece of bread and, this time, held it out high above the heads of the birds hopping on the grass. The black bird stretched its head out, then leapt into flight over the crowd.
A surprised smile broke on Daniel's face as the bird plucked the piece of bread out of his fingertips in mid-flight.
"Pretty cool." Jack gazed wide-eyed at him. "Daniel Jackson, cultural liaison to Colorado's winged population.
Daniel gave a shy smile. "That was pretty cool. Wonder if he'll do it again."
Daniel tore another piece from the biscuit and held it up. Again, the black bird snatched it from his fingertips in mid-flight.
"Hey, let me try." Jack grinned happily and held a piece of his biscuit in the air. The bird landed on the grass at the rear of the crowd, cocked its head at Jack, and hopped hesitantly back.
"Just keep it still," Daniel suggested. "He'll go for it."
"Ten bucks says he doesn't."
The bird hopped forward and back a few times, then broke into flight and snatched the offering from Jack's hand.
Jack scowled and reached into his back jean pocket for his wallet.
Daniel grinned. "Easiest ten bucks I've ever made."
"Yeah, yeah." Jack slapped the bill into Daniel's hand and stuffed his wallet back into his pocket. "Twenty bucks says you can't get another bird to go for it."
"Nah, I think--" A sneeze caught him in mid-sentence and sent the birds scampering into flight. Daniel reached into his jacket pocket and pulled out a handkerchief, then rubbed his nose.
"Guess so." Daniel sniffled, stuffing the cloth back into his pocket. Then he tore off another piece of biscuit and tossed it several feet. It landed on the grass, and a few seconds later, a bird claimed it. "So..." Daniel shifted position, straightening his legs to restore their circulation.
"So," Jack echoed.
Daniel tossed another piece of his biscuit to the birds. "About Barker and Rossi...."
"Guess I have to testify?"
"Which also probably means they'll ask about Hathor."
Jack threw another piece of his biscuit into the air, but it landed before a bird lunged for it. "Probably. The whole motive thing."
"Yeah." He sighed as he tossed another piece of the biscuit. His stomach churned, and he suddenly didn't feel like feeding the birds, anymore. He crushed the rest of the biscuit in his hand and threw the chunks and crumbs to the cluster of birds. The animals erupted into hopping, fluttering chaos as each scrambled to claim a piece. "They're going to show the tape with Hathor and me, aren't they?"
"I'm not sure," Jack answered, his voice soft. "Maybe not."
"The whole thing started because of the tape they left in my office. It's relevant."
"Probably. I don't know, Daniel."
"Actually, they'll show both tapes." He sighed heavily, brought his knees up, and dropped his forehead on them.
Jack slid closer to Daniel. "It'll be okay."
"Yeah." Daniel gave a harsh chuckle. "Easy for you to say."
"Yeah, I guess it is." Jack crumbled his biscuit and threw it to the birds. He slapped the crumbs off his hands and then drew his own knees up and rested his elbows on them. "But there's not much we can do about it. That's the way things work."
"I know." Daniel's head bobbed as he banged his forehead gently against his kneecaps. "Hundreds of men on the base, and I'm the only one whose sex life ends up a national security concern."
"Hey." Jack nudged Daniel's arm. "At least you didn't get turned into a Jaffa and dumped in to a tub full of slimy, baby snakes."
Daniel raised his head to look at Jack. "Do you actually remember that?"
"Bits and pieces, but I got the details from Carter's report."
"Ah, right." He winced. "The reports. Forgot about those." He sighed and rested his chin on his knees, staring out over the cluster of birds that picked at the remaining crumbs on the grass. "She almost succeeded, Jack. Hathor could have bred a whole new generation of Goa'uld and tried taking over the planet."
"Yeah, but she didn't, and that's what counts. We beat her."
"Did we? She raped me, turned you into a Jaffa, and then escaped. She's still out there, Jack."
Jack winced. "I know."
"She raped me." Daniel closed his eyes. "Feels weird to say."
He squeezed his eyes tighter. "I thought it was going to happen again." He swallowed hard. "With Barker and Rossi. Only...I'd remember it without the cloud of a drug."
Jack took a deep breath. "It didn't. Thank God." His voice sounded strained. "I'm sorry I screwed up."
"What?" Daniel opened his eyes finally and looked at Jack. "What are you talking about?"
"I handled the tape thing wrong. I either should have gone to Hammond up front with it or just let it drop like I'd promised you, probably the first."
Daniel shook his head and dropped his forehead back to his knees. "No, I wasn't being entirely rational. You were just trying to be a good friend...and you were. Are, I mean." He lifted his head again and gave a shaky smile. "Thank you, Jack."
A faint smile momentarily brightened Jack's face, but it faded quickly. "You gonna be okay about all this?"
Daniel shrugged. "I guess I'll have to be."
"You will be."
"Yes, you will." He draped an arm across Daniel's shoulders and patted Daniel's arm. "Trust me."
Daniel nodded slowly, glancing sideways at Jack and managing a smile. "Okay."
"Okay then." Another pat to Daniel's arm, and Jack pushed himself to his feet. "I'm glad that's settled."
Daniel raised his eyebrows as he got to his feet.
"But, you know, just so you know, whenever you need--"
"I know, Jack." Daniel glanced quickly at the grass, then, with his head bowed, eyed Jack. "Thanks."
Jack grinned shyly. "You're welcome."
~~~~~ The End ~~~~~
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