Summary: After the events of Orpheus, it seems as if the memories of Ry'ac and Bra'tac's capture, aren't the only ones that have been stirred
I love you tomorrow
I love you today
I love you beyond what
Mortal words can say
I love you in fury
I love you in control
I love you in circles
Seven times 'round my soul
--Seven Circles, sang by Eric Draven and Hangman's Joke in The Crow: Stairway to Heaven.
Closing the door to Teal'c's quarters carefully behind him, Daniel sighed. He felt... calm. H e'd told his friend he was now more at peace with himself and his place on Earth than he had been since his descension. As if he belonged. It was a good feeling, and one he planned on keeping hold of for as long as he could.
Turning as he heard his name called, his eyes fell upon Jack O'Neill. The Colonel was giving a strange look to a passing airman, a sort of lofty "Hmm" expression on his face as he made his way to Daniel's position.
So began Daniel's favorite game. He'd started playing it when his memories began to filter back to him, a sort of emotional recognition test, if anything. Basically, whenever he met someone, a person he knew from "before", he'd open himself to any thoughts or feelings associated with them. He firmly believed that it had been a factor in his recovery, and even though his mind was pretty much back in the condition it had been when he'd ascended, he hadn't really given it up. So as he sighted his friend, he allowed the play to start.
He relaxed. Opened. And felt something. Familiarity. Warmth, even a little frustration, still tinged with friendship, and... something else. Something he couldn't easily pin down. What *was* that? It had been eluding him for weeks now.
The sight of Jack now dismissing the airman from his radar with barely a raise of his eyebrow brought his thoughts back to the present, and he knew he didn't have time to try and sort it out. So reluctantly, he gave up trying, and answered his friend. "Hey."
O'Neill jogged up to him, stopping as he reached the archaeologist and assuming a casual pose, hands shoved deep in to his pants pockets. "How's he doing?" he asked, jerking his head to indicate the room that Daniel had just exited.
Daniel shrugged, thinking of all that had happened to his Jaffa friend in the last couple of weeks. "He's okay. I think he's resolved a lot of his issues. His wounds are practically healed, and being able to talk with Ry'ac and Bra'tac probably helped." And knowing that his son and mentor were no longer prisoners in a Jaffa death camp would go a long way to putting his mind at ease. He smiled, remembering Teal'c's words. "He said that he has his... mojo... back."
Jack nodded, brow furrowing a little -- probably at hearing the word "mojo" pass from Daniel's lips -- before he shrugged, clearly dismissing it unchallenged. "What about you?"
The other man looked surprised. "Me? What do you mean?"
Jack shuffled his feet a little as he made a visible effort to get his words together. Daniel knew that he'd always maintained he wasn't good at "the talking stuff", be it pep or heart to heart. He could struggle through it when absolutely necessary, but ultimately, it really didn't matter how much he practiced in front of the mirror.
"Well, what with our latest round of intergalactic ass kicking, alien abductions, and Jaffa coups, we haven't really had time to address certain things. Specifically, how things are going for you... on the whole, Back to Earth issue."
Daniel frowned, his feet moving as he began the trek back to his office, knowing that Jack would follow him. Apparently, if his mostly returned memories could be counted on, some things hadn't changed. "If this is about my fitness in the field...."
"Of course it isn't," Jack cut in, his long legs easily keeping stride. "There's no way I would have allowed you to step off world if there had been any question about your ability in the field."
Daniel dodged a passing technician, a part of his brain absently trying to figure out if the man had been known to him pre or post ascension. "Then what?"
They came upon Daniel's office before Jack could answer, Daniel preceding the officer in to the room. He puttered about for a few moments, all the while aware of Jack's eyes on him. Finally, he gave himself over to the inevitable. "What, Jack?"
Jack pursed his lips, taking a breath and then forcing the air out noisily. "I want to know how *you* are, Daniel. You've had a lot to adjust to the last couple of months...I'm your friend. So I want to know if you're okay."
"If I can cope, you mean?"
"No, Daniel," Jack said, keeping his voice carefully steady. "I know you can cope... just like I know that if you needed any help to do so, you'd come to one of your friends. Right?"
"Right," Daniel replied after a short pause. He considered Jack's words. Of course he was okay... wasn't he? He had nearly all of his memory back, was enjoying the relationships with his friends that he could remember from before his "death". In fact, remembering back to what he'd just discussed with Teal'c, he felt even *better* now than a lot of his memories showed he had been since Sha're had died and things around the SGC had changed. He no longer wondered about the tales that people had relayed to him concerning his team... he could recall them all, even without consulting the mission reports. Sure, some of the details were a little fuzzy, but the majority were there. With only one glaring exception when it came to what had happened *after* his ascension, of course.
Daniel sighed as he finally answered. "Look... I am fine, Jack. I have my memories back, I... I'm doing worthwhile work with the SGC, I -- everything is fine."
Jack nodded. "Okay."
Daniel let the silence stretch on for a moment, knowing that Jack wasn't quite finished. He was proven right when the other man spoke again.
"So... no pep needed, huh?"
Daniel half-smiled at his friend's personal brand of humor, knowing that, while Jack wasn't convinced, he wasn't pushing it either. "Nope, no pep needed. All that time in front of the mirror wasted, huh?"
Jack raised an eyebrow, brushing one hand over his hair as he shrugged a shoulder negligently. "I wouldn't say *wasted*...."
Daniel kept a straight face, refusing to show amusement, knowing that his non-reaction to Jack's jokes always made the other man try harder. Raising the bar kept Jack happy, and Daniel obliged whenever he could.
Clearly playing his part in the small show of vanity he was putting on, Jack kept fussing with his hair, finally flattening it to his scalp with the palm of his hand.
Daniel's hand went to his own hair as he mimicked Jack's movements. "No, you know, it kind of... looked better...." He trailed off in to gestures, his hand moving up and down a few times above his head.
Jack's hand froze. "Better? Up? You think up?"
Daniel refused to answer, ignoring Jack's spluttering as he shook his head slightly, and pulled down the corners of his mouth. He knew he was winding Jack up, but that kept *Daniel* happy -- a fact recently rediscovered -- so, he didn't feel too bad.
Jack moved past Daniel, bending over next to the computer that sat on the desk. The monitor was off, the black screen presenting a slightly reflective look now, and Jack tried his best to see his image in it.
Daniel watched, aware that a great deal of this new "obsession" was for his benefit -- strangely, reactions like this were one of the ways that Jack tried to put people at ease. He wondered if he should just put an end to the display and tell Jack that it didn't matter which way he had his hair. He pretty much suited every style he'd seen him with. Of course he looked good.
Daniel paused a moment, wondering where *that* thought had come from. He mentally shrugged, not exactly in the mood for some in depth self-examination right now. "Jack, it looks fine."
Jack shot up until he was standing straight. "What? Oh...sure. Like it matters, anyway."
That was when Daniel realized that the other man was trying to catch sight of himself in his glasses. He sighed. "If that's all, Jack, I have a mission report to type up." He couldn't resist one more jab. "And, if I remember correctly, so do you."
Jack frowned, moving his arm to look at his watch. His eyes widened slightly as he skirted Daniel's position, backing out of the room. "Damn. Listen, it's been fun...let me know if you need that pep, okay? Seems a shame, all that practice for nothing...."
Daniel just nodded absently, his eyes already on one of the folders on his desk. He settled down in his chair, switching on the computer monitor while he straightened his glasses, and prepared to do battle with his paperwork.
He had been working for a few minutes when he was distracted by a noise from behind him. Laughter. Someone was laughing behind him, he realized. He sighed, guessing who the culprit was. "Look, Jack, I was serious about that mission report, okay?"
There was no answer. Daniel frowned, spinning in his chair. "Look...."
That was when Daniel discovered that there was no one behind him. He got up, moving to the doorway of his office, then beyond, scanning the corridor outside for his friend's presence. Nothing. In fact, except for an SF, the corridor was deserted. He thought about asking the soldier if he had seen anyone about in the last few minutes, but dismissed the idea. If the answer was no, it wouldn't do to add to the recently resurrected rumors of his flakiness.
Instead, he returned to his desk, determined to focus on his work. He succeeded for the most part, but even though the laughter never sounded again, it's echoes stayed with him for the rest of the day.
Time passed, two weeks of it. Missions were proposed, researched, prepped and completed, the most memorable their mission to the planet where they had discovered a domed city. They had arrived just in time to save the last handful of a civilization from certain destruction, though not everything could be put right easily. As they had when they had first been formed, SG1 seemed to pull closer, returning to their original formation. Daniel had reconnected with his friends, reformed bonds that he could remember being frayed before his ascension. All in all, things seemed to finally be going well for the group that had seen a lot of misery since the beginning of the SGC.
Except for the laughter.
It wasn't only laughter now, of course. As with his "visions" concerning the Jaffa death camp, they seemed to advance a little each time. First those sounds of amusement, followed by other sounds... a word, then two words, until he could almost hear full sentences. The voice was familiar, more familiar than the words being spoken, but... the knowledge of the speaker's identity hovered just outside his mind's grasp. It was time to do something about it, Daniel decided. And, thanks to his good friend Teal'c, he had the solution.
Taking one of the taper candles from its holder, Daniel used the lighter he'd picked up earlier with his supplies to light it. With one hand cupped under it to prevent wax from dripping on to any surfaces, he began to systematically ignite the other candles in the room, moving from one to the other until his room was awash in a flickering yellow glow. When he was done, he replaced the original candle in its holder, retreating to the bed. Climbing on, he assumed his meditative pose, legs folded and arms free, his hands resting palm up on his knees. His fingers curled loosely and his eyes closed. He was ready to begin.
Taking deep breaths, Daniel started the process of Kel'no'reem, following the instructions that Teal'c had patiently taught him. A part of him felt a little strange doing this without the support of the Jaffa -- after all, he remembered that he had only used this form of relaxation when he was completely stressed out; Teal'c's steady presence an added anchor as he struggled to find some sort of calm in his busy life -- but ultimately, he knew that this journey had to be his alone.
So, drawing in air slowly and exhaling it the same way, Daniel let his senses open. Allowed the scents and sensations of his surroundings to fill him, then consciously released them, feeling them slip in to the background, his all focused on the darkness in his mind's eye. And when the images and their soundtracks came, he gave himself over to them.
The pictures looked washed out. Gray. The sounds dim, almost as if they were underwater. But they were familiar. Somehow he knew them. He opened himself further, allowing them to soak in to him, bringing the memories. Almost as if he were experiencing them for the first time.
There was laughter. Warm, intimate. Knowing. Comfortable and comforting. Flashes of dialogue flew at him, almost too fast to focus on. But he knew the speaker, and had found himself almost uncannily in tune with that voice on a near daily basis. Could see him, his face obscured as he held someone.
"How was your day?"
There was an answer from the second figure. The words weren't distinguishable to Daniel -- his ears seemed to only have one focus -- but he knew what the reply had been, the knowledge seeping in to his mind. Because it was he who had replied.
"Same old, same old."
More amusement. More movement. The two faced each other now.
"You about ready for bed?"
Stronger feelings now, building to something... something. A new location was found.
A white lie. What his mother would have called a "fib". But he didn't mind. The look of mischief guaranteed that.
"I think you're a little overdressed."
Heat. Confining cloth, soothing cool air. Touches... caresses. Warmth. A body bared, thoughts following.
"God, Daniel... I love you."
A moment frozen. Time seeming to stop. Longing... so deep it was physical, even in his current state. He answered once more...and then gave himself over....
Daniel came back to himself slowly. Released a breath. Well, he had his answers now, for better or worse. Knew the course of events that he had read about in mission logs from a different view, knew what Teal'c had told him of when they last meditated together. But from his own perspective now, something Teal'c hadn't been witness to. He had the identity of the phantom speaker, the voice behind his latest set of auditory specters. Feelings that had teased him for the weeks that he'd been recovering himself since his return to Earth swelled, and he had a name for that, too. Affection. Warmth. Love. Quite simply... Jack.
And so Daniel found himself contemplating his relationship with Jack O'Neill -- apparently not the first time he'd done so, if his recovered memories were to be believed, but certainly a strange experience since his re-entrance in to the human race. Whatever. In his saner moments, those that weren't spent filled with images of his time in Teal'c's "make believe world"... he seemed to be stuck in some sort of circular thinking pattern... a revolving door of "what ifs" and "maybes". He wished he could put a stop to it all, but he feared that it would never be resolved. He only had to remember exactly who it was that employed him to travel to other planets, and their policies on the type of things he was considering.
Oh, and there was that small matter of the object of his affections... because, although he'd seemed enthusiastic -- *very* enthusiastic, actually -- in the fantasy that Daniel had apparently been unable to resist taking advantage of (and he couldn't help but wonder what the great and powerful Oma thought of *that* ), Daniel was well aware that that was all it had been -- a fantasy. Not unlike a hundred others that had slowly filtered back in to his conscious mind since he'd discovered the source of the "laughter" haunting him. They weren't real. He had absolutely no reason to expect that Jack would react with anything less than anger, disgust, and perhaps a request for his P-90.
Daniel knuckled his eyes in frustration. His mind's circle continued to turn.
Daniel's attention was brought sharply back to the present by that voice. He refocused on the briefing that he'd been sitting through for what felt like forever, the pleasant drone of Sam's voice having long since resolved itself in to a background static as his mind twisted itself in to a loop. Jack was leaning slightly to the side, his eyes still on the writing pad in front of him, pen poised as if he were taking notes -- Daniel smothered the urge to laugh at that image.
"Fine, I'm... uh, yeah, I'm fine," he whispered back, finally able to get his vocal cords to agree to function.
Jack just nodded slightly, before straightening his slouch (you had to know Jack) and going back to his paper. Which appeared to be filled with several doodles. The images ran from the serious -- a fish, dangling from a line, obviously important to the artist. To the scribbles just for amusement -- such as the line that had a rather familiar looking serpent-like creature dangling just above the fish, clearly as bait.
Daniel just pulled his chair in further to the table, smiling slightly as Sam's eyes cut to him, her mouth not pausing as she spat out another line of technobabble. She smiled back at him, sending a warm look his way as she turned her gaze back to the General, continuing with her presentation.
It was completely foolish of him to get so distracted, he realized. Jack was already getting suspicious. He knew that, knew he had to stop looking, quit trying to figure out if there was any sign, *any* clue that would sway his indecision either way. So far there wasn't. Jack never gave any indication that he felt anything for Daniel other than friendship... and a recently developed paranoia that he had food on his shirt, or something hanging from his nose, thanks to the scrutiny he'd been under.
Before Daniel knew it, the briefing had drawn to a close, with the military officers in the room standing as the General exited to his office. Teal'c and Daniel stood slightly slower, but soon they were all up.
"Well," Jack declared, clapping his hands together. "I, for one, am very excited about our upcoming mission. Carter?"
Sam's head shot up, and she looked vaguely startled before the Colonel's meaning sank in to her brain. "Uh, yes, sir. I'm looking forward to it, sir."
The Jaffa raised an eyebrow. "I too find myself anticipating our scheduled mission to P46-786, O'Neill. The planet itself appears to be quite idyllic, and the potential for aid in our fight against the Goa'uld, combine to make the decision to travel to this world very sound."
Jack narrowed his eyes. "Huh?"
Teal'c's brow lowered, his body shifting slightly, his posture indicating that he wanted nothing more than to let the sigh that welled up loose. That movement let Daniel know he wasn't the only one who found himself frustrated with Jack's insistence of shielding his natural intelligence. "I am looking toward it as well, O'Neill," the big man replied, getting his echo of Sam's answer slightly wrong.
"Ah, good," Jack smiled. "Daniel?"
Daniel looked up from his regard of the byplay from his team-mates, his eyes immediately finding Jack's. He paused, all thoughts fleeing his mind. He scrabbled for them as they went, grasping the first he could in desperation. "Uh, yes... what they said."
Jack looked slightly puzzled, but quickly smiled, shaking his head a little. "Cool."
Daniel just couldn't return the expression, and he hoped that no one noticed. After another mental scuffle to try and find a thought to adequately describe his current predicament, he finally settled on the one that seemed most apt... *crap*.
One, two, three, four, five, turn. One, two, three, four, five, turn. His world was numbers. Precise steps, never deviating from his path, each placing of his foot precise. He felt he needed it... this constant, rote pacing. He needed structure right now... a frame to build his thoughts in to some semblance of sense. He snorted. He was apparently also getting a little punchy. His current state of mind was not exactly conducive to a good nights sleep, after all. Not with whirling thoughts and fragmented memories taking up his consciousness twenty-four hours a day.
Okay, Jackson, he told himself. Lay it on the line. You have feelings. For Jack. Your best friend. Apparently not for the first time, but... stronger? Somehow more insistent? How else could he explain the fact that he had obviously managed to function for however long before his ascension without any kind of resolution. Anyway... that really wasn't important now. Something had to be done. One way or the other, it had to be resolved... for better or for worse, he was going to have to --
Daniel jumped, startled again. Damnit, he hissed in his mind. The past day or two, people had been sneaking up on him left and right... but did it count as "sneaking up" if the only reason you didn't notice their presence initially, was if you were trying to figure out if you were having a post-ascension identity crisis?
"You... okay?" Jack was waiting patiently, clearly expecting a response.
A small part of Daniel -- the piece of him that was starting to feel vaguely hunted, for some reason -- wondered if it was fair that Jack actually expected a reply to his query. He shook that part off. "Fine," he answered. "Just... translations, you know. Cuneiform, and... other... language... things."
Jack just nodded again, in a way that was beginning to get unfortunately familiar to Daniel. It was his, "He's tired, he's cranky, he's *Daniel*" nod. "Okay, well... if you're sure."
"I'm sure," Daniel said firmly, leaning against the corner of his desk for support as unobtrusively as he could.
Jack nodded again, his body hitching to one side as if he were about to turn for the door. Then he paused, hitching back. "I don't know, you just seem a little...."
"A little?" Daniel picked up where Jack left off.
"Mmm, yeah," Jack replied.
"Oh." Daniel thought this over. "Well... no. I'm okay."
Jack seemed inclined to accept this. "Okay," he agreed, his mouth curving up slightly at the corners to produce a soft grin.
But that expression hit Daniel hard, taking his memory back to when that same look -- on a fantasy Jack, but one who was starting to feel startlingly real to Daniel -- had been sent to him. The knowledge made his face heat a little, and he just prayed -- to any God who *wasn't* really an alien being masquerading as a deity -- that it was too dark for him to be able to see anything.
Apparently his prayers were answered, as Jack sent one final inquiring glance his way, and then sloped towards the door. He paused there, his hands burying themselves in his pants pockets as he checked for traffic both ways, and then took his leave.
Daniel let out a sigh, slumping back. He jumped forward again quickly, as the corner of his desk jabbed his backside painfully. It was really no less than he felt he deserved.
A full day later, Daniel was vacillating a little wildly from joy to despair. After finally turning to further distractions in an effort to clear his mind, he'd succeeded in getting a full hours nap that afternoon. No, it hadn't been planned, and perhaps his desk hadn't been the best of places to take it, but he was rested. Mostly. But that was really neither here nor there. The point was, that in that space between sleep and the waking world ( a place he had actually been known to do some of his best work ), an idea had come to him. He had mentally taken it all back to the start of this mess, when the memories of Bra'tac and Ry'ac being captured had been tripped somehow, revealing their predicament. Meditation had then helped clarify them, bringing them to the fore -- that was why he'd tried it when he had become haunted by the laughter in his mind, after all. So, he figured, all he had to do was try to repeat the sequence of events that had helped last time.
Which had been fine in theory. He'd scrounged up some candles, forced to try the relaxation technique in his office on base. It hadn't worked, and Daniel was left wondering if it was his lack of privacy that had blocked him, frustrated that there was nothing he could do about that, anyway. He hadn't really wanted to return to his apartment yet, as there were several projects on base he had wanted finished and off his plate before their next mission.
Which was when the despair had kicked in. Because that, of course, raised new problems for him -- how was he supposed to relax and achieve the state of mind needed, when he was unable to find the peace to do it?
And then an answer to his answer's question had materialized. What was he to do when he had a problem with his practice of Kel'no'reem? Go to the master, of course. Who, he just happened to know, would be doing the very same thing right now.
So he retraced the path to Teal'c's quarters, pausing once he'd arrived. It was a view that he knew held much familiarity. This was, after all, where he'd been shortly before he had first heard the laughter. Circles, indeed. He raised his hand and made it in to a fist, rapping gently on the door with his knuckles. After a moment, he heard his team-mate's voice bid him enter.
He stopped, half wrapped around the door, taking in the interior that was bathed by the flickering of many candles. He could smell the burning wick and wax, and found himself taking a deep breath as his eyes fell upon Teal'c. The Jaffa was seated cross-legged on the floor, the position easily achieved now that his wound had healed.
"Am I disturbing you?" It was habit more than anything that made him ask. He had sincere doubts that Teal'c would ever actually tell him if his presence wasn't welcome.
He was right. "You are not, Daniel Jackson," the man on the floor assured. He indicated the patch of ground opposite him, and calmly waited while Daniel sat there. Then he continued the silence, allowing Daniel to make the first conversational move.
The younger man cleared his throat. "I, uh... I was just wondering if... you would mind me joining you... in Kel'no'reem."
Teal'c's expression never wavered, though Daniel was willing to lay odds that the other man knew that he wasn't getting the full story. "It would please me greatly, Daniel Jackson. As I have mentioned previously, I no longer require Kel'no'reem to ensure the health of my symbiote. But recently, I have found it to be of great benefit in maintaining a sense of... balance."
Daniel nodded. "Ah... yeah, me too." Seeing nothing but acceptance in Teal'c's face, he tried to explain. "That's sort of why I'm here, actually. You see, Teal'c... when I recovered the memories of the Jaffa death camp, it... I don't know, it... triggered other memories, which raised a few issues for me. And now, I... I'm trying to decide what to do about it."
Teal'c tilted his head. "And you believe that Kel'no'reem will aid you in reaching a conclusion?"
Daniel shrugged. "I don't know. But it's helped before, and... I just... I have to try." He met Teal'c's gaze head on, wondering if the understanding he saw there was his imagination.
"Very well," was all the Jaffa said, before shifting a little in place, his eyes slowly sinking closed.
Taking a breath, Daniel decided to follow his friend's example, and allowed his eyes to do the same thing, beginning the process of Kel'no'reem for the second time that day.
Thoughts floated in to his mind. Random musings and memories, bits and pieces of conversations that he vaguely remembered participating in during the last few days. But nothing substantial... no magic solution to his quandary.
His eyes popped open in frustration, moving to Teal'c to see if his restlessness had disturbed his friend. If it had, the Jaffa gave no indication, merely continuing on in his meditation. Daniel shook his head, wondering if he'd ever get through this. It was as if... as if he were in limbo -- unable to simply deny what he had realized, to bury it and ignore it's existence, but equally unable to go forward, to proceed with any definite course of action. He looked to Teal'c again, envying his friend his seemingly effortless relaxation. Oh, he knew that Kel'no'reem didn't come to Teal'c as easily as it had when he had carried a symbiote within his body. But still... now that his recent worries of inadequacy had been laid to rest, he appeared more comfortable with the whole thing. Daniel was glad. At least someone was able to get a little peace around here.
He focused completely on his friend, about to give up, when something struck him. The scene laid out in front of him seemed so familiar -- and it should, he supposed. He'd seen it before -- the candles, the meditating form of his friend -- and yet... this time it seemed different. The image snagged something in his brain, pulling it to the surface. His vision blurred a little as it came to him.
Seeing Teal'c. Knowing that he had to do *something*. Nothing big enough to risk the wrath of Oma or the "Others", but... something. Before everything was lost... before *Jack* was lost.
His eyes cleared as he blinked, struggling to deal with the sudden rush of information. What... he'd visited Teal'c... when? During his ascension? He frowned. He knew he had, but this... this had apparently taken place before his assistance during Teal'c's internal battle as he lay dying after the rebel Jaffa massacre. No, this... this had something to do with Jack. He had feared for Jack... on every level. Something... had happened to Jack, and he had witnessed it. Witnessed and... interfered?
Daniel raised his gaze from where it had fallen during his internal quest for answers. He had to find out if this was true. "Teal'c," he said urgently. "Did I -- I mean, other than the whole experience when you were trying to keep yourself and Bra'tac alive, do you -- did I ever visit you?"
Teal'c raised an eyebrow. "You do not know?"
Daniel shook his head. "No, but... I just get this sense of... familiarity, I guess. You, sitting here in Kel'no'reem is tripping something for me, and I don't know what." He was a little breathless after his speech, his confusion forcing his respirations faster.
His friend remained calm. "I am uncertain, Daniel Jackson," he replied finally.
Daniel's eyes narrowed behind his glasses. "Wh- what do you mean you're uncertain?"
"Precisely that," Teal'c said serenely. "Have you read of the measures taken to cure O'Neill of a deadly virus he contracted during a trip undertaken by SG1 to the Antarctica facility?"
Daniel nodded. "Yes... Jack eventually agreed to host a Tok'ra symbiote. I read about it in the reports."
"Did you also read of the symbiote Kanaan's rogue mission to one of Ba'al's bases?"
Daniel indicated yes with another bob of his head. "Of course.... Uh, Jack was captured by Ba'al's Jaffa, while Kanaan presumably abandoned him. Ba'al was convinced that Jack knew a lot more about the Tok'ra than he was letting on, and he... tortured... him." He stopped there, shifting a little as he felt the burn of anger that Jack had been put in that position, forced to endure what was undoubtedly a horrible experience.
Teal'c focused on the flickering flame of a candle as his thoughts turned inward. "We were unable to effect a rescue," he went on, his voice flat. "Ba'al's outpost was too heavily defended." He turned back to Daniel. "Hoping that a solution would present itself, I retired to my quarters, and began Kel'no'reem. The presence of my symbiote allowed me to go deeper than I am able to now. It was there that an idea presented itself to me."
Daniel knew the rest. "You realized that only another System Lord would have the resources to go after Ba'al, and suggested alerting Yu to the location of his fortress."
Teal'c inclined his head. "Indeed. However, upon further reflection, I began to wonder about the origin of the idea."
Daniel's face scrunched up slightly in confusion. "What do you mean?"
Teal'c looked as close to pensive as Daniel had ever seen him. "While meditating, I... believe that I sensed a presence. Upon further reflection, I became certain. This... presence... seemed to inspire me. To remind me of the Goa'uld and their petty nature. I then knew that Yu could never allow a rival to hold that kind of power -- his ego would not permit it."
His eyes seemed to burn in to Daniel's for a moment, and it dawned on the archaeologist. "You think it was me," he realized. "That I somehow suggested using Yu to distract Ba'al's forces to give Jack a fighting chance."
Teal'c just gazed back, his expression all the answer he needed to give.
Daniel squeezed his eyes shut. "I think... I think I remember," he whispered. "But I'm not sure. I've been trying to connect to my memories like I did before, but... it's not working."
He heard only silence, until the low, even tones of his friend sounded again. "I have often heard it advised, that if one tries too hard to remember something, it will most likely never be recovered. If one does one's best to *forget*, however... the answer will make itself available."
Daniel had to look at him then, his lips twitching in genuine amusement. Jack had suggested something very similar the last time he had been struggling to fill in some memory gaps. "Of course," he murmured. "Why didn't *I* think of that?"
Teal'c's only answer was to close his eyes once more, and Daniel did the same, his mind much lighter now. He felt... open. Regulating his breathing, he concentrated on the dark behind his lids, tinted a pinky-red thanks to the candles that surrounded him. He watched it brighten, expand, encompass him. The colors slowly dulled, and the memories came.
It was different from the last time. Instead of being an observer, only privy to an outside view of what he was seeing, this time he was there. In every sense of the word. He could feel the heavy sweater he wore, the shoes on his feet -- clothes that weren't real, merely a precautionary measure to save alarming Jack more than he already would be.
He could feel emotions... his own emotions, as experienced at the time. It was as if he was going through it all again, his reactions new and familiar at the same time.
He knew he was needed...knew, *felt*, with every fiber of his being -- whatever, exactly, that might be right now. Jack was in trouble. And, apparently, this latest life threatening experience hadn't changed his friend one bit so far. The reunion hadn't gone well.
"It's a shame you're a delusion."
Ah, how to explain it? Explain that, yes, he wasn't corporeal, but... he was here. He was real.
"Sure you are."
Jack's tone was laced with skepticism. He knew his situation better than anyone, and obviously believed that the stress had finally gotten to him. How to prove that not true? He was still trying to figure something out as he watched Jack draw off a shoe, a prop to be used in his own experiment -- Daniel: fantasy or reality? The footwear was thrown at him, sailing through his form harmlessly, and bouncing off the wall behind him.
Daniel was forced to explain *again*.
"So...not a delusion?"
Hope was mixed with disbelief this time, Jack's voice rapidly showing irritation as Daniel's limitations were explained.
"What good's the power to make the wind blow or toss lightening around if you can't use it to spring an old friend outta jail?"
The words were almost light, but Daniel could hear the disappointment that ran through them. So, he made the only offer he could.
"So...you wanna be my Oma?"
Well, he wouldn't have phrased it quite that way, but....
"If I'm catchin' the next plane of existence out of here, you gotta give me somethin'."
If only that were possible. What was he supposed to say? No, Jack, I have no idea if it will work out... but I want you to join me because... because I need you. He couldn't... just as he couldn't listen to Jack's continued attempts to have him take the easy way out, the one guaranteed to get him punished, left in a position where he wouldn't be able to help him anyway. So Daniel ran.
He returned later, still unable to achieve any sort of equanimity. As Jack realized his ideal escape plan was not going to happen, things rapidly went down hill.
"You listen to me. I don't want to go through that again. If you were really my friend and had the power to stop it, you'd stop it!"
If only he could! God, what would it take to make Jack understand? If he'd just *consider* it....
Jack asked him what he would do if they were in each other's shoes? Be there for him, of course, Daniel answered, playing right in to Jack's plan.
"Damn straight! I'd have busted you out, blown this rat hole to hell and made sure that sonovabitch suffered!"
And he would have... Daniel could see it in his eyes. He would have destroyed every last living creature in the outpost if they'd hurt Daniel. But couldn't he see the repercussions? What... surely there were other options?
"Any minute now they're gonna come. Ba'al is gonna kill me again. You can make it the last time."
Not that... no, how could Jack ask that of him?
"You can put an end to it."
No, not like... not like that.
"I'd do it for you, and you know it."
And he did. He did know... Jack would do what he could to stop Daniel's suffering. But didn't he realize that was what Daniel was trying to do?
He escaped again, only to return a time later. He'd done what he could for the moment. He found his friend slumped against a wall, looking drained... looking almost frail.
"You were gone."
They were just words, but filled with a vulnerability he'd rarely ever heard from Jack. He wasn't going to leave again... he was staying now. He tried to distract them both from the horrors they knew could be around the corner by starting a conversation... trying to figure out why Jack had ended up at the fortress.
"He came back for her. He wanted to save her."
Kanaan and the female Lo'taur. A situation that he now knew to mirror the one the two of them were in.
After all he'd been through, now Jack was doubting himself, but Daniel knew. Daniel knew... it was almost over.
"What d'you do?" Spark had returned to Jack with that question, his eyes brighter.
What had Daniel done? Nothing... well, nearly nothing. A whisper here, a little inspiration there. And with it had gone his last chance at having Jack with him, but... he found himself content with the outcome.
Certain that his friend would be fine for now, he left again.
He'd been unable to stay away for long. And now it was time for goodbye again. No visits, not even special occasions.
"I've got my journey, you've got yours?"
It was something like that. Truth was, Daniel didn't know if he'd be able to take interacting with Jack again. But he smiled, knowing that Jack was going to be alright. How did he know? Well, Jack was just going to have to trust him on that.
"I can do that."
He smiled again.
"You gonna be okay?"
If he'd had breath, it would have deserted him then at Jack's question. His shields lowered by his recent experiences, there was emotion in Jack's eyes... honest, open emotion. Affection, friendship... and promise.
Daniel felt himself shy from the knowledge he'd just been granted, knowing that he was about to leave. He fell back on skills he'd learned during his time on the mortal plane, telling his friend he'd be fine.
And then he was leaving, going to face Oma, to be tormented by feelings that he'd fooled himself in to believing had lessened since his ascension....
Back in the present, Daniel slowly opened his eyes. All thoughts of on base projects and off world missions were banished. He discovered his Jaffa friend regarding him solemnly.
"Were you successful, Daniel Jackson?"
Daniel nodded, robbed off his voice for a moment. "Yes, Teal'c," he said finally, his voice a little hoarse. He cleared his throat. "Yes, I think I was."
Wood. Nice, solid, sturdy wood. The door in front of Daniel vibrated a little under the force of his knocking, and his knuckles stung slightly as they rubbed against the grain, but he couldn't bring himself to care at that moment. He was nervous as hell, and judging by his shaking hands, his body wasn't really shy about letting the world see that fact.
Before he could work himself in to a full blown panic-attack, movement from behind several panes of glass caught his eye, and the door he stood by jerked open.
"Daniel." The words were calm, a simple statement of fact.
"Jack," he forced himself to reply. He wondered again at his reason for being there. Was he making the biggest mistake of his life?
The silence between the two stretched on as he thought it over. His next moves could secure one of two outcomes. One, he would get what he wanted. Two... well, number two was, that he got his face punched in by a rather insulted Colonel, and lost his best friend in the process. Was it really worth it?
He opened his mouth to speak, but something stopped him. He paused, once more remembering. Recalling what it felt like to see Jack in Ba'al's cell, wanting to offer comfort but knowing how it would be received. Having Jack in his arms in the reality created by Teal'c, hearing him say... hearing him say "I love you". Knowing that he would never have that as his own reality, had never had it because he'd been afraid. Suddenly, he had his answer.
"Can I come in?"
Jack pursed his lips, perhaps wondering what had inspired Daniel's little impromptu visit. But he didn't ask, just stepped back, jerking his head in the direction of the living room, giving Daniel permission with a small smile.
And Daniel stepped over the threshold, the mental wheel he'd been twisting on for days finally ending its spin.