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DISCLAIMER: The characters of Stargate SG-1 are the property of MGM, World Gekko Corp and Double Secret Productions. This fanfic was written for my own and others' enjoyment. No money has been paid and no copyright infringement is intended.
CATEGORY: Angst, h/c, epilogue to "The Serpent's Lair."
I feel the thumping impact of the wall against my back a split second before a burning crushing pain slams into me and shreds my composure, turning my legs to water and sucking the air from my lungs. I slide slowly down the wall and slip bonelessly to one side until the corner stops my descent, no energy left in my body to keep me upright. An odor of charred flesh hangs in the air and a wisp of foul smelling smoke curls up my nose. I fight the urge to cough, finally giving in to the tickle tormenting my throat. I suck in a tortured breath as the hacking sends a shard of white-hot agony ripping through me and my hand comes away from my mouth splattered with flecks of blood. Shit! I've really done it this time.
I force my heavy head up at the sound of running footsteps and see Jack leaning over me, craning his neck to ascertain the status of the attack. My vision dims suddenly and my heart begins to pound as I force myself back from the abyss.
No! Not yet! Can't go yet. Need to see him once more. Need to tell him. Make him understand. I'm afraid. I'm not ready to die.
"Daniel!" His voice drags me back and I anchor myself on the sound. "Dammit!"
I feel his hands on my chest and shudder as his touch scorches fire over me, and what should be a refreshing breeze on my burning skin is a searing agony as he pulls open the shredded remains of my shirt.
"I'm dead anyway," I say, knowing the truth of it and needing him to see it in me.
His hand bunches up and clutches my jacket drawing me up toward him and I fight off the curtain of darkness that encroaches on my vision. "I am not leaving you behind," he grinds out but even as he says it, I can see that he understands. He knows this is not his decision or mine. He pauses and I press my advantage, knowing that this is the one final thing I can give him.
"You're just going to blow up with the other ship anyway. I'll stay here and watch your back." I appeal to the soldier in him, knowing I'm taking a chance. A soldier would not desert his comrades. He glances quickly behind him, and I can see him wavering, weighing the odds. The good of the many. I manage to bring one leaden hand up to his chest and push myself away from him, giving him the distance he needs to make the right choice.
In that moment, I can see that he knows. His hand comes up and brushes my cheek and I feel the slick wetness of blood smear my skin. Then he stands and turns and is gone so abruptly that I feel like my heart has been wrenched from my chest and I fight not to cry out at the pain of its loss.
I sink back against the wall, my heavy hand drops to the still warm barrel of my weapon and I sob in despair, knowing I do not possess the strength to lift it and fulfil my promise to him. The shadows lengthen and my hearing fades as my heartbeat swells in my ears, then I let the darkness take me.
Chills shudder me awake and I look around, momentarily confused at my whereabouts. I'm lying on something hard and distinctly uncomfortable and as I try to shift away, hot pain erupts in my chest and I feel bile surge up my throat. I manage to turn myself to one side and heave, the agony of the action bringing tears to my eyes. The forceful convulsions leave me shaking and drenched with sweat, teetering on the brink of consciousness. A distant explosion rocks my surroundings and my memory rushes back, leaving me breathless with shock.
I'm on Apophis' ship and by some miracle, I'm still alive. Oh God! I'm alive and alone. They left me behind. I try to breathe through the tendrils of fear, then I pull myself up to lean against the wall, and the agony of that movement focuses my wallowing self-pity on my immediate situation.
Klorel is alive, revived by the sarcophagus and as the realization hits me, I feel a spark of hope. I look down at my chest, bring one hand up to press my fingers gingerly to the shredded bloody mess and make my decision. I lower myself carefully to the floor, gasping as the jarring sends ripples of pain through my entire body. I stretch out one arm and laboriously drag my wounded body behind it. The going is slow, torturous and as I round a corner, I have a sudden, panic-filled moment as I become aware that I'm not entirely sure that I'm even heading in the right direction.
Sweat drips from my brow and mingles with the bloody streaks I leave on the floor as I pull myself along. I stretch out my arm once more and as I heave my body up, my strength gives out and my arm collapses beneath me, sending me to the floor with a mind-numbing thump. My heart is racing and I can scarcely catch my breath. A dribble of perspiration snakes down my collar causing me to shiver and the cold somehow rouses me. I push my hand out in front of me again, ignoring the torn, bleeding nails that are testament to my struggle. This time, my elbow locks and with a trembling sob, I drag myself the final few feet to the base of the sarcophagus.
And look up. It may as well be Mount Everest. I rest my burning forehead against the soothing metal of the life-saving tomb. As my shoulders begin to shake with sobs I can no longer hold back, my mind rails against the unfairness of it all. How could you let me get this far? If I was doomed to fail, why not let me die back there?
A voice tickles softly at the periphery of my despairing mind. "Are we not the architects of our own destiny?" As though of its own volition, my hand reaches up, trailing over the etched letters of the crypt, to curl tightly around the lip. Totally uncoordinated, I manage to get my knees beneath me and haul myself up inch by agonizing inch until I am standing, dragging gulps of air into recalcitrant lungs. My numb fingers slide clumsily over the glyphs and just when I am about to give up, I feel one give beneath my questing touch and the lid to my haven slides open. The darkness I have held at bay for so long finally overtakes me and I feel myself falling. I try futilely to pull away from its clutches but it overwhelms me so rapidly, it steals my breath and in the end, I fall gratefully into its soft embrace.
"Where are the rest of SG-1?"
Words desert me at General Hammond's question and the awful realization slams into me. "You're just going to blow up with the other ship." My legs buckle under me and my butt hits the ramp with a bone-jarring thump that rattles my teeth and through my blurring vision I see the General's face just inches from my own.
"Doctor Jackson, are you all right?"
I take a deep breath, wincing reflexively at the pain that should be there but of course, is not. Slowly I nod. "I thought I hoped "
Hammond closes his eyes for a brief moment and I see my sorrow mirrored in his face. I don't need to finish my sentence. I attempt to get my leaden legs beneath me but the General is pushing me back, his hand on my chest where the wounds should be. I get a flash of sensation, a burning agony and the awful smell of blood and burning flesh. Oh God, I think I'm going to be sick. I take a couple more deep slow breaths and push the nausea back where it belongs to be dealt with later, along with the guilt and the memories.
"Are you injured?"
It takes me a moment to register his question but I shake my head. "No, at least not now. It's a long story."
"One I'm eager to listen to, after we get you checked out."
"I'm fine," I lie.
"If Doctor Frasier agrees with your diagnosis, I'll accept that." Then finally he allows me to stand, keeping one hand under my elbow. He leads me off the ramp and motions to an airman. "Accompany Doctor Jackson to the infirmary." Turning back to me, he smiles. "Take your time, son. You've had a rough time."
I'm cold but I don't think it's the atmosphere. The chill I feel seeps into your bones and saps your strength and I seriously doubt that I'll ever feel warm again. Even if I were now to find my beloved Sha'uri, I will always have this empty ache within me. My friends, my family is gone.
I shift on the floor, trying to find a comfortable spot and pull my legs up so that I can wrap my arms about my knees. My sight wavers and blurs and I wipe ineffectually at the tears that burn my eyes.
I barely restrained myself earlier from pushing Doctor Frasier away, attempting to convince her with words and actions that I was fine. Will be fine.
"Your blood pressure's a little low," the doctor says as I slide off the gurney and pull on my tee shirt. "That could be due to the sarcophagus. We know so little about its effects." I nod, unwilling to be drawn into a conversation. "I could give you something so you can rest."
I shake my head. To sleep, perchance to dream? I don't think I want to sleep again for a long time. "It's okay, thank you. I'm "
"Fine," she finishes with me.
I nod and leave. I feel the good intentions of others pressing against me, smothering me and as soon as I am able, I escape to find solitude.
I raise my head from my knees at the soft, timid knock at my door. My thoughts feel scattered and flimsy. My movements are slow as I fumble for my glasses before granting my caller permission to enter.
A very young airman stands stiffly just inside the door. I discard several names before coming up with the correct one. "Airman Kerr, how can I help you?"
The young man is bouncing on his toes, his body tight with tension. "Doctor Jackson, sir, the General asked if you could meet him in the briefing room. It's important, sir. I "
We both start at the sound of the klaxons and I am up and out of the door, almost bowling over Airman Kerr in my haste to get out. The General stands at the door with an uncharacteristic smile on his face as I pound up the corridor toward him. He nods at my hopeful expression.
"We got them back."
My strength suddenly depleted, I slump and stoop down to rest my hands on my knees. I feel a gentle pressure on my back.
"Are you all right, son?"
I nod, then regret it as the floor tilts. "Just relieved."
General Hammond bestows a pat to my shoulder. "Why don't you try to get some more rest. They won't be here for another four hours."
"Okay," I say agreeably to appease him, knowing I won't.
I slip into the gate room and stay at the rear behind a large crowd of soldiers. This is my teammates' moment of glory, their heroes' welcome. I press back into the wall as Bratac strides past me. I feel a strange reluctance to let him see me. I don't want to chance seeing disappointment in his eyes that I was not up to the task.
My attention is drawn to the front as I hear the General speak. "SG-1,
there's someone here who'd like to see you."
I'm on! I push my way past the assembled soldiers as I make my way to the front, my eyes firmly fixed on the ground.
I look up at Sam's voice and see the faces of my friends, alive and grinning widely. I stop a little uncertainly and Jack makes the first move, stepping in to wrap his arms tightly around me. I can feel his strength and his breath and I can't stop the muffled sob that escapes past the lump in my throat. A hand moves up to cup my head, ruffling my hair. "Space monkey," he whispers, and suddenly I can't stop smiling.
He steps away and allows Sam to take his place. Her embrace is warm and welcoming,
grounding me and I feel an enormous relief wash over me that leaves me lightheaded and
exhausted. We made it. We're all alive.
The crowd closes in on my teammates and I feel a sudden claustrophobia. I step to one side to avoid the rush and start at the touch on my shoulder. I turn my head and smile at Jack.
"It's going to be some story you have to tell at the debrief."
I nod, feeling enormously weary. "You too." I pause. "Jack, I'm sorry."
His hand on my shoulder is a welcome weight. "What for?"
"I let you down back there."
"Are you nuts? You took out three of the guys on your own. I'm the one who should be apologizing. I should never have left you out there with no back up. I should have thought of the sarcophagus. I shouldn't have left you behind."
His words are rushing together and there's a loud buzzing in my head. I feel hot and cold all at the same time and sweat beads my brow. Jack's face appears inches from my own. He looks worried.
"Daniel? You okay?"
I think I nod but then my legs disappear and I collapse, feeling myself caught up in a strong grip, the darkness swiftly swallowing me up. I fight to stay awake but it's a losing battle. Dimly, above the roaring in my ears, I hear Jack's panicked voice.
"I need a medic here."
I draw in a whooping gasp of sweet air and surge upwards, my eyes opening wide and staring into the darkness. I hear a muted click and a soft yellow glow surrounds me, causing my head to throb slightly. I feel a hand touch my shoulder and I flinch away but I am too weak to fight as that same hand moves to my chest and gently pushes me back to lie flat.
"It's okay. Relax. You're safe."
My heart stops in my chest and I can't breathe. "Jack?"
"Yep." His hand is on my brow, stroking small circles of comfort and I struggle against the intoxicating pull of sleep.
"What happened?" My mind feels slow, and my body heavy.
"You passed out, after you met up with us in the gate room."
"Yeah. Doc Frasier says your lab tests indicate that you lost a lot of blood when before you got back."
My thoughts are drifting but I manage to snag one before it is lost to me. "I thought the sarcophagus healed me."
Jack moves his hand and my own reaches up in a panic, but then he's back with a cool, damp cloth stroking across my brow. "It's all right. I'm still here," he assures me. "The sarcophagus healed your injuries but you weren't in it long enough for it to finish the job. Thank God."
I feel a vague offence at his comment but before I can voice it, he says, "If you'd stayed in there any longer, you would have died. Blown up with the ship."
"I wonder what woke me?" I ask, only mildly curious, not really caring.
Jack's hand is back, pushing my sweaty hair back from my face. "Luck?"
I smile and shake my head, surrendering to the sleep that's pulling me under. "Destiny."
4th December, 2002.
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