Jack watched Daniel furtively as they sat on adjacent infirmary gurneys waiting for their MRI results. They had just returned from Torvan. Nice little place actually, Jack thought. The scenery was pretty, the weather was warm and the natives were downright friendly. It had been a routine meet and greet, getting to know the neighbors type of mission. Carter found some Naquada and Daniel found pyramids and papyrus texts. He had spent the better part of three days in the main pyramid with Teal'c in tow, studying every bit of papyrus he could get his hands on. Jack trailed along behind Carter, picking up stray rocks and offering them to her, weathering her impatient looks, knowing full well that he was being more of a hindrance than a help, and thoroughly enjoying it. So, they'd met the natives, read a bit, enjoyed the scenery and tasted the local culinary delights, a holiday really. So why did Daniel look so, well, peaked?
The archaeologist sat on the examination bed with his feet dangling over the side. One hand stole up every so often to massage his temple. He looked pale and tired.
It took two calls before Daniel responded to Jack's summons. His head lifted slowly and he blinked rather owlishly. "Are you feeling all right?" the Colonel asked.
"Why wouldn't I be?" Daniel snapped.
"You don't look very well."
Daniel sighed. "Sorry. I just have a headache."
"Did you tell Doc Frasier?"
"Would you?" Daniel asked, his gaze moving to the array of syringes and other medical equipment that sat on the trolley next to the bed.
"Good point," Jack said. He sat for a moment longer and watched Daniel massage his head some more. "So, you want to come over to my place? Beer, pizza, hockey?"
"Bed," Daniel replied decisively.
Jack pulled a face. "You're not exactly my type, Danny."
Daniel groaned and rolled his eyes, then winced as though the action had caused him pain. "I meant I'm going home to bed. I'm tired." He looked up as Janet Frasier entered the room.
"You're all clear to go," she said.
Daniel scooted off the bed and walked quickly to the door, pulling his shirt on as he went. "I'll see you tomorrow."
"Yep, debrief at 9 and then we have the weekend free. Wanna go fishing?" Jack asked.
"Um, Daniel?" Jack backed up a step; his concern flaring as the usually mild-mannered linguist rounded on him, his eyes blazing.
"What now, Jack?"
"Your shoes." Jack motioned at Daniel's bare feet and watched as the other man sighed heavily again and picked up the rest of his gear.
"Sorry," he said again. "I'll see you tomorrow."
Jack and Janet watched him leave. "Something I should know about, sir?" the diminutive doctor asked.
"Maybe." Jack shrugged. "He probably just needs some time off. I'll see you."
Daniel pulled off his glasses and tossed them onto the desk then rubbed tiredly at his face. His throat was sore and his eyes burned and he wondered if he should get his allergy prescription refilled. He fumbled with his desk drawer, finally pulling it open and extricating a bottle of aspirin. He shook three into his hand and swallowed them with the dregs of his cold coffee, grimacing at the bitter taste and the pain in his throat. Suddenly, he stood and bolted for the adjoining bathroom as the pills and coffee made a return appearance in a surge of bile.
Dropping to his knees in front of the toilet, he clenched an arm around his cramping stomach and heaved painfully. When he was done, he leaned his clammy forehead against the porcelain bowl. It felt good against his hot skin. When he was sure that the nausea had subsided, Daniel got shakily to his feet and tottered over to the hand basin. He splashed cool water over his face and brushed his teeth before heading back into his office. Deciding that he was too tired to drive home, he threw himself down onto the couch with a grateful sigh and was asleep in seconds.
Daniel awoke late the following morning and stumbled to the bathroom for a quick shower in the hope of refreshing his fuzzy head. A sudden dizzy spell made his vision gray out briefly and by the time he came back to himself, he was on his knees with water cascading down his back, and he was shivering violently despite the warmth.
Figuring that his light-headedness was probably caused by a lack of sustenance, the archaeologist quickly dried off and headed to the commissary in the hope of finding some toast. One look at the bread slathered in melted butter made his stomach churn ominously once more and he settled for a glass of orange juice and a mug of steaming coffee. By the time, he entered the briefing room, Daniel felt marginally human, though a glance at Jack's worried frown as he entered had him deciding that perhaps he didn't look as good as he felt.
He made his way to the conference table, managing not to scatter his notes all over the floor for once and chatted quietly with Sam until General Hammond called the meeting to order. He wasn't aware that his attention had wandered until the buzzing sound that he had registered vaguely suddenly coalesced into words and he realized the General was speaking to him. He cleared his throat and sat forward, picking up his glasses and placing them back on. "I'm sorry, sir. What was that?" He pointedly ignored Jack's stare.
"I was just asking if there were any more comments before we close," the General replied.
Daniel blushed under his scrutiny. "I haven't finished my conclusions on the texts we found yet," Daniel said. "I need some more time."
"I thought you said you got everything you needed," Jack put in, sounding impatient.
Daniel rubbed his temples and pulled his glasses from his face. "I just need some time to sift through it all, Jack," he answered tiredly. "It was a lot to take in. Dalen kept pushing more and more texts at me. It would have been better if he'd allowed me to bring some back here." He looked at the General. "I've got most of what I need, sir. I just need some more..." He pushed back from the table as the now familiar nausea flared again. "Excuse me." Not waiting for a response, he ran from the room and burst into the men's room across the hallway. Flinging himself into the first cubicle, he dropped to his knees as he began to vomit violently once more. By the time he was done, tears streamed from his eyes and his stomach cramped terribly.
He sat back against the wall as he heard the door open knowing that it was Jack. He heard water running and then a cool, damp paper towel was pressed into his hand. "Thanks," he whispered hoarsely.
"You're welcome," Jack replied. "You need some help or I could wait outside?"
Daniel nodded carefully. "I'll be out in just a minute."
Jack eyed him with a worried frown when he exited the bathroom a few moments later. He felt a hand slide under his elbow as they made their way back to the briefing room and he leaned into the support gratefully. He muttered a soft expletive as Janet Frasier stood and turned to face him, stethoscope in hand.
"I'm fine," Daniel said as he sank into his chair.
"Why don't we let the doctor decide that," the General said. He looked around at the rest of the team. "Any of you feeling unwell or experiencing any symptoms that Doctor Frasier should know about."
"I feel fine, sir." Sam looked worriedly at Daniel, then reached out and squeezed his arm sympathetically. "You look awful, Daniel."
"Gee, thanks, I think."
"I am well also," Teal'c answered.
"No problems with me," Jack added. "Honest injun," he added at Janet's searching look.
"It's probably just a stomach bug or something," Daniel griped as Janet took his temperature and pulse and then wrapped a BP cuff around his arm.
"Oh good. Suppose you've passed it on to all of us by now," Jack grumbled. He smiled apologetically at Hammond's frown. "Sorry, sir, I just don't do sick very well and if we're going to have some time off, I'd rather not be throwing up for the better part of it." He pulled a face and was relieved to see an answering grin on Daniel's face.
"Well, your temperature and pulse are a little elevated," the doctor said a moment later. "But not dangerously so, and the MRI and other tests yesterday were all okay."
"I'm fine," Daniel said again. He pushed himself upright as though to prove his point and shut his eyes briefly against the dizziness that ensued. "I just need to get some rest."
"I'll leave the decision in your hands, Doctor," General Hammond said.
Janet studied the archaeologist for a moment longer, then nodded slowly. "Okay. Home. Bed rest for twenty-four hours. If you're not feeling any better by tomorrow, you come back and see me. I'll give you something now for the nausea and vomiting."
Daniel nodded his agreement and smiled wanly at Sam as she touched his hand. "Do you want me to give you a ride home?"
"I'll be fine."
"No driving," Janet added.
Daniel smiled. "Thanks, Sam. A ride would be good."
"I could drop you home," Jack offered.
"I thought you wanted to go fishing?" Daniel said.
Jack shrugged and looked embarrassed. "I just thought you and I could hang out together. I don't have to go fishing."
"Why don't you ask Teal'c to go?"
"Are you kidding?" Jack groused good-naturedly, slapping the big Jaffa on the shoulder to show there was no malice in his words. "After the last time? Nah, I'll hang around. If you need anything..."
"I'll call," Daniel agreed, making his way to the door. "Thanks."
He wished he could pass out.
The form huddled on the bathroom floor shifted slightly and a soft moan issued from beneath the folds of a towel. He had staggered out here several hours before to throw up again and had decided after the fourth onslaught of violent dry heaving that he may just as well camp out here for the remainder of the night. Night or day? Between the bouts of nausea and the dizzy spells that kept him curled up on the floor, he wasn't entirely sure.
Taking a rasping breath, he lowered the towel from his head and risked opening his eyes. He slammed them shut again just as quickly with a grunt of pain as bright light blasted into his skull. Day, then. He probably should have phoned someone when he first began feeling truly awful but it was already too late. The pounding in his head increased exponentially with each movement he made and his neck and spine felt tender, his skin like sandpaper had been rubbed all over it.
He shivered again as another bout of chills assailed him despite the sweat that dribbled from his brow. Moaning in abject misery, he pulled the towel from his head and struggled back up to his knees as another bout of sickness rolled over him. Just as quickly, darkness swept over him and he frantically reached out with one hand to stop his fall as he felt himself plummet back toward the tile floor. His hand brushed something and he felt it skitter away from his flailing grasp then shatter on the floor. His searching hand managed to anchor itself around the rim of the toilet bowl and he sank against it, gasping raggedly for breath.
Somewhere beyond him, he heard a distant crash that threatened to make his head explode and then a shadow loomed over him. A cool hand rested soothingly on his hot cheek and he gave in to the exhaustion that tugged at him, flopping bonelessly into his samaritan's arms.
Jack had just about worn a trench in his living room floor. He'd phoned Daniel the evening before, and though the other man sounded groggy and weak, he had assured Jack that he was doing okay and needed no help. Jack called again at 7am and got no answer, on either Daniel's home phone or cell phone. By 9 am, he gave up the pretense and drove to Daniel's apartment. He couldn't put his finger precisely on what bothered him so much about Daniel's illness. It was probably no more than simple stomach flu as the archaeologist had suggested. This was Daniel though and that thought alone caused Jack to press his foot more firmly to the accelerator.
He knocked for several minutes at the apartment door without getting a reply and was beginning to work up a serious worry when he heard the crash from within. With no further thought, Jack put his shoulder to the door and launched himself into the apartment.
The living room was empty, as was the kitchen. Jack made his way to Daniel's bedroom, calling the archaeologist's name as he went. There was no answer. Daniel's bed was rumpled so he had definitely slept there the night before. Just as Jack lifted the damp sheets, grimacing distastefully at the sour smell of sweat and sickness, he heard a soft moan. Striding quickly into the adjoining bathroom, Jack froze for a brief second, then hurried quickly to Daniel's side.
The other man was on his knees, one arm wrapped loosely around the toilet bowl, his head drooping heavily onto his chest. The odor of vomit hung heavily in the air and Jack swallowed convulsively several times to keep his own nausea at bay. Daniel's eyes were open though there was no awareness in them. His face was white and beaded with perspiration. Jack stroked a hand down Daniel's cheek, frowning at the heat he felt beneath the stubble, then suddenly Daniel's eyes rolled up in his head and he fell forward. Jack caught the limp body before it hit the floor and lowered the unconscious man gently, positioning him on his side. A thin stream of bile dribbled from Daniel's mouth and the young man's breathing hitched slightly.
Jack pulled his cell phone from his pocket and dialed Janet Frasier. While he waited impatiently for her to answer, he kept up a mesmerizing stroke along Daniel's arm, unsure whether he was comforting the unresponsive man or himself. He snapped to attention when Janet answered the phone.
"It's Jack O'Neill, Doc. I'm at Daniel's. He's really sick."
"What are his symptoms, Colonel?" Janet's voice was calm and Jack bit back a curse at her unhurried manner.
"I broke in. I heard something smash." The colonel looked swiftly around and saw the shattered remains of a glass on the floor. "He's unconscious, burning up. He's been vomiting - a lot."
"I'll organize an ambulance, Colonel. Stay with him. I'll get it there as quickly as possible."
"Okay. Thanks. Shit!" Just as Janet closed the connection, Jack felt Daniel's body stiffen slightly beneath his hand. The younger man's body arched up from the floor, a horrible choking sound coming from between his tightly clenched teeth. He began to shake violently, his now open eyes flickering from side to side and his lips turning a ghastly shade of blue. Though it seemed to Jack like hours, the seizure was over in a matter of minutes, Daniel's body limp and unresponsive once more, a thin stream of blood dribbling down his chin from where he had bitten his tongue. Jack collapsed back onto his rear and reached for Daniel's hot hand, relieved to feel the weak and rapid pulse beneath his touch. "Come on, damn it," he urged the ambulance. "Where the hell are you?"
Jack was back to pacing again, pausing only whenever the door to the infirmary opened and someone hurried out. He jumped, startled by the touch on his shoulder and looked into Sam Carter's worried face.
"Sir? I just got the message. What happened?"
Jack shrugged and reached a hand up to massage the tense muscles in his neck. "I don't know. By the time, I got to his apartment, he was passed out and burning up. Then he had some kind of seizure. He had another one in the ambulance. I heard the medic tell Janet that he stopped breathing for a second. I'm still waiting to hear something more."
"You should sit, O'Neill," Teal'c's voice said from the doorway. "Or you will be in need of Doctor Frasier's expertise yourself."
"Hey, Teal'c." Jack allowed Sam to lead him to a chair and he lowered himself wearily. He tried not to look at the clock on the wall but his eyes were drawn to it nonetheless. "Two hours! What the hell is taking them so long."
"I'm sure Doctor Frasier will let us know something as soon as she can," Sam soothed.
"Yeah, well, it's not soon enough. Surely she could spare us a minute to let us know if he's gonna be all right."
"You would wish for the doctor to leave Daniel Jackson in someone else's care?" Teal'c asked. The voice of reason. "Daniel Jackson is strong." And the voice of hope. He was also first to the door when it opened and Janet Frasier stepped out.
"What's wrong with him?" Jack got straight to the point.
If Janet was offended by his straightforward manner, she didn't show it. "I'm not sure yet," she began. She held up a hand to stave off Jack's words when he opened his mouth. "Vomiting, high fever, headaches. The symptoms could fit any number of conditions."
"He's had two seizures, for crying out loud," Jack said in exasperation.
"Actually, three. I've done a lumbar puncture and taken CSF smears and fluid for testing. I'm waiting on the results now. I'm about to do a CT scan and skull series to rule out head trauma or lesions. I've got him on IV fluids and we're working on bringing his fever down. I can't be sure if the fever or the illness is causing the seizures. It could be something as simple as a severe stomach virus or food poisoning or it could be viral meningitis. The symptoms aren't usually this severe though. I'm sorry, I need to get back."
Everyone looked up as General Hammond strode hurriedly into the room. "I just got the message about Doctor Jackson."
Janet nodded. "Yes sir. If you'd like to come to my office, I'll brief you there. I'm waiting on lab results now."
"Can we see him?" Sam asked.
Janet pondered the question for a moment. "For a few minutes, and only one of you. I'm sorry."
"You go, sir," Sam offered. "Teal'c and I will wait here. You're the C.O. and well, it's Daniel." Jack nodded his thanks and pushed open the infirmary door.
It took him a moment to find Daniel amongst the wires and tubes and monitors that surrounded him. A nurse sat beside the bed writing something on a chart. She stood and smiled as Jack approached.
"Colonel O'Neill. I'll be back in a few minutes."
Jack nodded mutely and stepped up to the bedside. Daniel looked as bad as anyone could look and not be dead. The colonel clenched his eyes tightly shut to banish the unwelcome thought. Daniel was not going to die.
Daniel was pale, his skin sheened with perspiration, and his hospital gown damp and sticking to his body. Jack reached down and brushed away a drop of sweat as it rolled off Daniel's brow toward his eye. The younger man's hands twitched now and then with spasms, as did his legs. An oxygen mask covered the lower part of his face but through the clear plastic Jack could see the dried blood that caked Daniel's parched lips.
Jack shifted his hand until it lay against Daniel's brow and tried to smooth away the frown he saw there. "Hang in there, Daniel. You're going to be fine."
Daniel's eyes fluttered as he spoke and swollen eyelids cracked open, the deep blue of the eyes washed with fatigue. "Jack?" The archaeologist's voice was muffled beneath the mask and Jack had to lean down to hear him. He squeezed Daniel's hand.
"I'm here. You're in the infirmary. Just rest."
Daniel shook his head, then moaned. One hand lifted toward the mask and Jack captured it and returned it to the ailing man's side. "Leave it on, Daniel. Rest."
"Did something, Jack. Oh God!" Suddenly Daniel's eyes widened and then his back arched up, the veins in his neck standing out like blue cords as he began to fight for breath, his spine spasming in a rictus of agony, his jaws jammed so tight Jack was sure he could hear his teeth grinding. He hovered for a moment with just his shoulders, head and heels touching the mattress, then he collapsed back, shuddering violently. Thick white sputum erupted from his mouth and began to rapidly fill the oxygen mask. Jack ripped the mask off and attempted to push Daniel onto his side but the convulsions impeded his actions. "I need some help here," Jack yelled over the sudden scream of an alarm and then Janet was there, ducking under his arm to pull the pillow from beneath Daniel's head and fling it to the floor.
Jack watched as a nurse injected a syringe of fluid into Daniel's IV and Janet hurriedly checked Daniel's pupils. After long moments, Daniel's body relaxed, only his eyelids continuing to flicker in the end throes of wild electrical activity, his hands fisting spasmodically as though he was trying to clutch the sheets.
Jack reached out and grasped one clenching hand, trying to soothe it into rest. He could feel sweat dribbling down his own face, stinging his eyes, his own jaw aching from the tension, nausea churning ominously in his gut. "Jesus."
Janet handed a suction tube to one of the nurses who proceeded to suck the bloody fluid from Daniel's lax mouth and came around to Jack's side. "Colonel?" She waited until Jack tore his gaze away from Daniel's white face. "I need to get a CT scan done. See if I can find out what's happening inside his head."
Jack thumbed a dribble of blood from Daniel's chin. "Kid's mouth is going to be so sore," he said softly. "He's gonna be eating pureed food for a month."
"Can you wait outside?" Janet asked, slipping her hand under Jack's elbow. "I promise I'll come and see you in just a little while."
Jack looked at her as though seeing her for the first time. "What? Oh yeah, sure. I'll just ah..." He stole another lingering look at Daniel and reluctantly let go of the limp hand. "I'll wait outside."
Sam stood and came quickly to his side as he walked out of the infirmary but Jack walked past her in a daze and sank down in a chair by the wall. He leaned forward and rubbed at his face as though he could erase the awful scene he had just witnessed by that simple action. It was a long moment before he noticed the two figures standing in front of him.
Sam's face was almost as white as Daniel's had been, her hair mussed as though she had done her share of anxious hair-pulling, her hands fisted so tightly that Jack was sure she'd gouged bloody troughs in her palms. Teal'c looked as stoic as ever but a second glance told the Colonel that the Jaffa was holding himself under rigid control.
Jack looked up and smiled tiredly at them both. "Sorry, Carter, Teal'c. I know you're worried too. He had another seizure. I don't know anything about medicine but it looked worse to me. Frasier's taking him for a scan thing in a minute when he's stable. Fuck!" His hand lashed out suddenly and connected solidly with the table beside him but he didn't even register the splintering of wood nor the cascade of magazines around his feet as the legs disintegrated under his blow. "What the fuck is wrong with him?"
Sam moved back a step and waved a vague hand at the door. "I'll get some coffee."
An hour later, Janet Frasier walked into the waiting room with a worried frown on her face that Jack knew did not bode well for good news.
"What?" he asked, as she sank wearily into a chair.
"He has a lesion in his brain but it's not like anything I've ever seen before."
"A tumor?" Jack croaked. He felt Sam's small hand creep into his and squeeze lightly.
Janet shook her head. "No, I don't think so. It doesn't appear to be organic in nature. It's like something has been implanted in his brain but it appears that it's caused an inflammatory response in the brain tissue surrounding it."
"Can't you just take it out?"
"It's not that simple, sir," the doctor replied. "It's in the right temporal lobe." She tapped the side of her head just above her ear. "Right here. If we attempt to remove it, we could do more harm than good. I've got a call in to the top neurosurgeon in Washington. General Hammond has a plane on standby to get him here asap."
"How could it get any worse than it is now?" Sam asked.
"Damage to the temporal lobe can cause short term memory loss, problems with long term memory loss, an inability to recognize faces, words, sounds, increased aggressive behavior..."
"Yeah, yeah, all right," Jack cut in looking sick. "We, uh, we get the picture, Doc." He scrubbed a hand through his graying hair and standing up, began to pace. "How the hell did it get in there?"
Janet shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine, Colonel. My best assumption is that Doctor Jackson picked it up somehow on Torvan."
"The holy man on Torvan told Daniel Jackson that he could aid him in absorbing the knowledge of the texts more easily and quickly," Teal'c put in.
Jack rounded on him, his eyes blazing. "You're just telling us this now? Jesus, Teal'c!"
"Daniel Jackson refused the offer, therefore it had no significance until now." Teal'c inclined his head. "I am sorry, O'Neill. I wish Daniel Jackson no harm."
Jack sighed and nodded. "It's okay, Teal'c. Not your fault."
"Sir, can we be sure that Daniel refused the offer?" Carter asked.
"Teal'c says he did. What are you getting at, Major?"
"He was frustrated that he couldn't get all the information he needed in the time we had there, sir," Sam replied, somewhat cautiously. "Especially when Dalen refused to allow him to bring any of the texts back with him."
"Yeah, but yesterday he was still complaining that he hadn't had time to go through all the tapes..." Jack stopped as a memory came. 'Did something, Jack.' "No. Wait. He said it was a lot to take in and that he hadn't had time to go through it all." He turned back to Teal'c. "You were with him all the time?"
"Except for a short time when Dalen wanted to show Daniel Jackson some carvings on the tombs. I was not permitted to accompany them because of the presence of my symbiote."
"So that could have been when Dalen slipped it to him," Jack concluded.
Janet grimaced at Jack's choice of words, then shook her head. "If it was only for a few minutes, I can't see that they would have had time."
"We've seen stranger stuff," Jack reminded her.
Sam raised her hands. "Wait a minute. Why didn't Daniel say anything? Do you think he'd let them put something like that in his head and then keep it a secret?"
"We have so-called amnesia drugs here on Earth," Janet said. "Drugs that don't actually render a person unconscious but they don't remember the procedure afterwards. They're being used more and more often."
Jack looked at Frasier. "How bad is he?"
"Critical," the doctor answered. "I've got him on corticosteroids for the swelling and inflammation but I'm concerned that his respiration or heart rate could become compromised. He's in septic shock. If he doesn't show some improvement within the next hour or so, I'll have to intubate him. It's going to be a couple of hours before the neurosurgeon arrives."
Jack snapped his fingers. "Teal'c, you're with me. Carter, stay here, keep us up with what's happening."
The two nodded. "Where are you going, sir?" Carter asked.
"To speak to Dalen. If he put the damn thing in there, maybe he knows how to get it out without hurting Daniel...any more than he already is." He motioned Teal'c out of the room. "Let's go clear it with Hammond."
Their return to Torvan was greeted with as much warmth and enthusiasm as the first time and Jack's anger dissipated somewhat. That in itself served only to increase his concern another notch. If the Torvans hadn't put the object in Daniel's head, then they were back to square one, not knowing what the hell it was.
Dalen's wife, heavy with pregnancy greeted Jack and Teal'c at the temple. "It is good to have you return, friends," she said, bowing as low as her swollen belly would allow. "Do more of you wish to have The Knowledge?"
"Ah, that would be a no," Jack answered. "Our friend who came with us the last time? Daniel? He's very sick and we wondered...Where's Dalen?"
"He worships the old ones in the temple," Marta said. "You may enter but I am unable to accompany you in my condition."
"That's okay." Jack nodded. "I'm sure we can find him." They stepped toward the door, then Jack turned back. "This knowledge thing? What's it mean?"
"Dalen gave Daniel The Knowledge," Marta replied, smiling widely. "He is indeed blessed."
"Yeah, right." Jack rolled his eyes and followed Teal'c into the temple. They could see Dalen at the far end of the vast pyramid, kneeling before a stone altar. Teal'c halted Jack.
"I will remain here, O'Neill," he said softly. "The Torvans do not wish the blight of the Goa'uld near their place of worship now that they are free of them."
Jack nodded and walked quickly toward the kneeling man. "Dalen?"
Dalen did not respond immediately, continuing to whisper quietly to himself for several more minutes. Jack waited impatiently, tapping his foot. Finally, the other man raised his head and smiled at him. "You have returned, O'Neill. You thirst perhaps for the same knowledge as Daniel."
"No, but that's why I'm here," Jack answered, beginning to get an uneasy feeling in his gut.
Dalen stood and beckoned to Jack. "Walk with me, O'Neill. Tell me why you return if it is not for The Knowledge?"
Jack slapped a hand to his forehead. "Again with this knowledge stuff. All right, look." He pulled in a deep slow breath. "Here it is, Dalen. Daniel is sick, very sick." He closed his eyes briefly as the image of Daniel's convulsing body flashed unbidden in his mind's eye. "The doctor thinks that he has something inside his head that was put in there somehow while he was here and that's what's making him sick." He sighed and massaged the bridge of his nose. Daniel was better at this negotiation stuff than he was. If he didn't get a straight answer soon, he was tempted to pull out his sidearm and threaten the guy with bodily harm.
"Daniel asked for The Knowledge. I gave it to him. He's very lucky. Not all can tolerate The Knowledge. Our legends tell us it is that which banished the reviled Goa'uld from our homeland."
Jack raised an eyebrow and filed that bit of information away for later. "Well, it's not designed to be used on us either."
"Daniel wished that he could absorb the lessons from the texts and tablets more quickly. I meant him no harm, only to give him that which he desired. Knowledge."
'And nearly killed him in the process.' Jack thought savagely. 'Too many times now, Daniel, with the foreign shit. First the sarcophagus, then Machello - twice, now some kind of brainstorming device. I am going to hot-glue you to my side from now on.' "Can you take it out of his head?"
Dalen shrugged. "Of course."
"Without hurting him more?"
"If he so wishes."
"He can't speak for himself right now so you're going to have to take my word for it. He wants it out."
Dalen inclined his head. "So be it. Bring him to the temple after the moons have risen and I will do as you ask."
"You'll have to come with us," Jack said as he steered Dalen back toward Teal'c. "He can't be moved."
Dalen pulled his arm from Jack's grasp and took a step backward, a horrified expression on his face. "I cannot. It is forbidden. My wife is very near her time to give birth to our new Holy Leader. It is written in the texts that he shall succeed me. It is forbidden for me to leave Torvan unwatched until the child is born and can do that duty for me."
"How the hell..." Jack stopped short at the pressure of Teal'c's hand on his arm and spun to face the Jaffa. "I can't do this," he ground out through clenched teeth.
"Perhaps I can assist you, O'Neill," Teal'c said. He turned to the holy man. "How can a newborn child protect your people?"
"Not the child but the spirit who is reborn within the child," Dalen explained patiently.
"When is the child to be born?"
"Any time now." Dalen stopped and turned as a young man hurried through the door of the temple and approached them. He leaned into Dalen's side and whispered urgently in his ear. Dalen smiled widely at Jack and Teal'c. "It appears that time has arrived. Marta begins her journey to deliver our child."
"Can't someone else stay with her?" Jack asked impatiently. "There's a man's life at stake here, damn it."
Dalen merely smiled. "As soon as the child arrives, I will come to you. It will not be more than six of your hours."
"Oh, for Pete's sake," Jack took a step closer to Dalen and grabbed a fistful of the man's robe, pulling him in so that they stood nose to nose. "My friend is dying because of something you did to him. You are coming with me now through that gate and you're going to fix it."
Dalen surprisingly did not appear frightened by Jack's threat. He moved one hand up to push against the colonel's chest. His eyes glittered with anger. "You may force me to come with you, O'Neill and place my homeland in jeopardy but you cannot make me remove The Knowledge from Daniel unless I choose to do so."
Seeing the truth in the words, Jack let go of Dalen, getting some small satisfaction as the man stumbled back and almost fell. He turned away in disgust and thumbed his radio on. "This is O'Neill."
"Colonel O'Neill, this is General Hammond. I hope you've got good news."
"Yes and no, sir," Jack replied. He quickly relayed the story. "How's Daniel?"
"Doctor Frasier placed him on a ventilator a short time ago. He's very weak, Jack."
The General's use of his first name sent a sliver of fear through O'Neill. "Sir, I'm going to leave Teal'c here to bring Dalen back with him and I'd like to return now, if that's all right."
There was a moment's silence before the General spoke again. "I understand, Colonel. Permission granted."
"Thank you, sir."
Jack was shocked by the rapid deterioration in Daniel's condition in the short time he'd been gone. His friend was intubated and heavily sedated. The soft rhythmic hiss of the ventilator was one of the most terrifying sounds Jack had ever heard, the monotonous beeping of the heart monitor, one of the most comforting.
Daniel was ghostly pale, his skin slick with sweat as he fought the fever ravaging his body. He looked fragile, sunken in on himself as though the illness had worn him down, wearied him beyond his ability to withstand the suffering.
Jack stood at the bedside and looked down at the silent form. He reached out and brushed away what appeared to be a tear from Daniel's hot cheek. "Hang in there Daniel."
Suddenly, the cardiac monitor sped up and Jack looked up in alarm. "No!" Looking down again, he saw that Daniel's eyes were open, his gaze focused unwaveringly on him. Daniel couldn't speak around the tube in his throat but there was a wealth of words and a sad finality in his expressive eyes. As the alarm keened a constant soft wail, Jack understood.
"No!" he shouted as Daniel's eyes slowly closed. He leaned down and grasped fistfuls of Daniel's hospital gown. "You have to hang on. Just for a little longer. Don't you die!" Daniel's head lolled as Jack shook him forcefully then suddenly other hands were there, pulling him away. Janet was shouting orders and chaos seemed to erupt around him.
Jack allowed himself to be led out of the room. Once in the waiting room, he shook off the hands of the guard and strode to the corner. Sinking down onto the floor, he leaned forward and rested his head in his hands. He felt helpless, worse than useless. This wasn't a living enemy he could protect Daniel from. Surely they wouldn't get this close only to fail. His mind drifted over the other times they had almost lost Daniel. Somehow he'd always fought back, always survived. Jack steeled his jaw. He wasn't going to give in and he wasn't going to let Daniel give up either. Dying was not an option.
Just as he stood and prepared to push past the guard stationed at the door to the ICU, Janet came out. Her face was flushed and wisps of damp hair stuck to her forehead but she was smiling. "We got him back." Jack slumped against the wall in relief. "We've got to get that thing out of him soon though," the doctor continued. "I don't know how much more he can take and I can only artificially stimulate him for so long." Jack nodded his understanding; his mouth too dry to form words. "I have to get back. I'll let you know when you can come back in."
A flurry of activity in the corridor startled them both and they turned to see Teal'c stalk through the doorway, a calm Dalen behind him and a worried-looking Sam and Hammond bringing up the rear. Carter carried a small box. The box was constructed of a heavy dark wood, the sides intricately carved with glyphs.
"Dalen! It's about time."
Dalen nodded. "My son is born. Torvan is rejoicing. Perhaps you will honor us with your presence when I am done here."
Jack hooked a hand under the Torvan's elbow and hustled him into the infirmary. "Yeah, whatever. Just get that thing out of his head first."
Janet led the way to Daniel's bedside and Jack heard Sam suck in a breath in shock at Daniel's appearance. As he watched Dalen take the box from Carter's hands and pull a narrow instrument from within, Jack's hand strayed unconsciously to one of Daniel's, grasping the warm flesh gently.
Dalen stroked sweaty hair back from Daniel's forehead and shook his head sadly. "I am truly sorry," he whispered. "I meant him no harm." He looked suddenly at Hammond and took a hesitant step back from the bed. "Are you sure you are not Goa'uld?" he asked, his voice shaking slightly. "Our legends tell us that those of us infested with the Goa'uld died this way when given the knowledge."
General Hammond looked at Sam. "Any ideas, Major? Why does it affect us like this," he waved a hand at Daniel, "and not them?"
Sam shrugged but spoke to Dalen first. "I give you my word that there are no Goa'uld here." Then she turned to Hammond. "It could be a genetic adaptation, sir. I'd have to study it more."
Dalen nodded, seemingly satisfied and turned his attention to the task at hand. An hour later, it was over. Jack opted to keep his attention on Daniel, rather than the device that Dalen inserted into the archaeologist's right ear. The noise it emitted was not unlike the unpleasant sound of a dentist's drill and succeeded in setting Jack's teeth on edge in just the same way.
"It is done," Dalen said, holding up a tiny flat disc. "The Knowledge is gone." Jack was stunned to think that something so small could be so lethal. Then he remembered Hathor's memory devices and shuddered. 'The more we see and experience, the less I like,' he thought to himself.
"Could I keep that?" Carter asked, indicating the disc nestled in Dalen's palm. "I'd like to study it some more. Perhaps we can find out why it kills the Goa'uld."
Dalen bowed his head. "Of course. Now I must return to Torvan for the celebrations. I trust we will see you again soon."
Jack bade the holy man goodbye then turned his attention back to Daniel. If he expected a swift recovery, he was bitterly disappointed. There appeared to be no change and after checking the various monitors, Doctor Frasier confirmed his suspicions. "Now what?" Jack asked.
"Now we wait some more," Janet said. "The disc is gone but the inflammation has to subside before he's out of the woods. We have to hope too that the illness itself hasn't caused any damage."
"Damage?" Jack could feel a headache building behind his eyes.
"There could be complications. Brain damage, deafness, blindness, continued seizures." Janet looked at them apologetically.
Jack nodded and hooked his foot behind a rollaway stool and sat down. "So we wait."
This room shouted Daniel, Jack thought as he ran a hand over the funerary urn that sat on Daniel's desk. Stuff - artifacts, Jack corrected himself covered every available surface, notebooks and scattered pieces of paper littered the floor and desk. A framed photograph sat on one corner of the desk, a memory of happier times. Jack picked it up and skated his hand gently over the glass. The four of them and a rather worried-looking Kasuf in the center. Jack smiled, remembering Daniel gently cajoling his father-in-law into posing for the photo, assuring him that his soul was safe. The colonel placed the photo back on the desk and pulled out a sheet of paper that peeked from the pages of a thick textbook.
Sha'ure, her beautiful, innocent face captured in a rough pencil sketch. The tiny initials, DJ, in the bottom corner confirmed the artist's identity. Abruptly, Jack wheeled around and strode from the room.
As he approached the infirmary he could see Sam Carter seated at Daniel's bedside, one of her hands absently stroking his while the other held the tiny flat disc that Dalen had retrieved from Daniel's brain.
Sam turned at his voice and stood up, smiling tiredly at him. "No change yet, sir."
Jack nodded. "Why don't you go get some rest. I'll stay with him."
"Are you sure, sir? You haven't had any rest yourself since all this began."
"I'm sure," Jack assured her. "I need ...I need to be here."
The major smiled. "I understand, sir."
Jack nodded, knowing she did and slid into the seat Sam had vacated. Pulling the sketch from his pocket, he smoothed it out and placed it into Daniel's hand, closing his own around Daniel's.
He looked around the room to ensure no one was within hearing distance, then leaned forward and cleared his throat. "Daniel, I don't know if you can hear me or not. I've got to admit I feel pretty silly right now sitting here talking to someone who's unconscious but we're - I'm getting pretty desperate. I know you might be thinking that there's nothing for you to come back to, Sha'ure is gone and so is the boy, and I know you think that you've lost everyone who was ever important to you. But I need you to know that you still have us. SG-1 is your family too and we need you here."
There was no response. Jack leaned in so that his mouth brushed Daniel's ear. "Come on, Daniel. Fight this thing. I know how strong you are. I've seen you survive death before. I know you can do it."
It was a small movement, the slightest pressure and the paper under Daniel's hand rustled. Jack looked up to see drowsy blue eyes open and look at him. This time there was no accompanying wail of alarms. "About time, Jackson," Jack whispered. "I was beginning to think you were ignoring me."
"Hey Sam, Teal'c." Daniel shifted in his bed and made room so that Sam could sit beside him. "Come on in. Jack was just telling me about Dalen's baby."
The archaeologist was still pale, twin points of low-grade fever still colored his cheeks and his hands trembled slightly as he placed a tumbler of water back on the table. The doctor had pronounced him almost recovered and free from any side effects from the Torvan knowledge device, the brain inflammation gone.
Sam smiled and placed her usual gift of chocolate-walnut cookies on the bedside table and sat down. Teal'c stood at the foot of the bed, his normally stern features giving in to a gentle smile. "How are you feeling, Daniel Jackson?"
"Pretty good," Daniel answered. "A little tired but Doctor Frasier said that will pass. She's letting me go home tomorrow." He turned back to Jack. "So, Dalen was really going to name the baby after you?"
A muffled snort of laughter from Carter told Jack the game was up and he squared his jaw defiantly. "For a middle name, actually. What can I say? The guy likes me."
Daniel grinned. "Right." His face became serious. "Have you learned any more about the device Dalen put in my head, Sam?"
"It's going to take some time," Carter said. "We're working on it."
"It sounds like the Torvans have a belief in reincarnation, from what Jack told me about Dalen's reticence to come here until after the baby was born," Daniel said thoughtfully. "I really would like to go back. Talk to Dalen some more. There's so much more we can learn there. Jack, can you pass me my notebook? I should cross-reference everything as well. Sam, could you bring me Budge? It's in my office. Third shelf down. I need to see General Hammond, ask if he can okay some extra time on Torvan..."
"Uh-uh, no way, Danny boy." Jack pressed Daniel back onto his pillows with a firm hand on his chest as the archaeologist made an attempt to sit up. "You've got more than enough useless information floating around in that head of yours without trying to cram extra in." He stood up and motioned to the others. "We're gonna go. Let you get some sleep before Doc Frasier comes in and hits you with more sedative to calm you down. I'll be by in the morning to pick you up. Wanna go fishing?"
"Sure, why not," Daniel answered around a jaw-cracking yawn. His voice was already drowsy and his eyes drifting closed.
Jack stopped midway to the door and turned around. "You do?" he asked doubtfully.
"Mm-hmm," Daniel sighed. "Be nice."
Jack shook his head. He ushered the others out the door and pulled it closed behind him.
Daniel curled further under the covers, then opened sleepy eyes. He reached one hand out and stroked a gentle finger down the glass of the framed sketch that sat on the bedside table next to the photo of Kasuf and the team. "Thanks, Jack," he whispered.