Summary: Not supplied
Date: June 21, 2003
Notes: A round robin begun in HC chat a couple of years ago now. If memory serves it began as a result of conjecture on the subjects of season four and pod people. Finally fine-tuned and finally public after a brief foray in Pretense 5. ;)
Warnings: Contains one scene that begins as non-consensual sex.
Ah, to think how thin the veil that lies
Between the pain of hell and paradise.
Janus - George William ("A. E.") Russell
It had been hungry a long time.
Feeding on the small ones that abounded on this planet had kept it alive, but the hunger was never sated. The ones who had nourished it were gone through the stone circle long ago. It had waited for them to return, to feed it, to satisfy the gnawing emptiness within, but they never returned. Over time, it had thinned, stretching its essence to cover as much of the tropical landscape as possible and in this way touch as many of the little ones scurrying through the undergrowth, clinging to branches, or buzzing through the thick, steamy air to keep it alive.
The day the circle sprang to life again had taken it off guard. It took time to pull itself together, to gather its ragged edges in so that it might watch these new things that stepped into its world.
Hunger pains, sharp and feral bit at it. These beings were bright with a kaleidoscope of emotion. It touched them, gently at first. The large one was strange, bitterness over a strong, complex taste. The smallest one was infinitely sweet. Her taste was one to savor. The last one's flavor was tainted by possessiveness, protectiveness. It was most satisfying. As the beings wandered around, it followed them, careful not to take too big a bite at once. It had been far too long since it was filled. It was afraid it would drain them too quickly in its greed, and it wanted them to last.
One activity of the herd caught its attention. Over and over they tried to reactivate the stone circle. This caused it concern. Would they leave? It decided something had to be done to insure uninterrupted meals.
Later, in the dark of the moonless night, it swirled around the waking one. The others slept on the ground nearby, undisturbed by the heavy mist coalescing from the air to engulf its victim.
"Well, Carter, now what?" Jack O'Neill asked his second in command.
The lean blonde shook her head. They had been trying unsuccessfully to dial up Earth's address so they could go home.
"The DHD is functioning, sir. Earth must not have the beta gate working yet."
"I thought you said it would only take them three days to get it going."
"That's what I thought, sir. Guess I was wrong."
"We could dial another destination, O'Neill, where we can continue dialing Earth at our leisure. The Land of Light will welcome us."
"No. We stay here until we can go home."
"As you wish."
"Teal'c does have a point, sir. Why sit in this bug infested jungle when the Land of Light would be happy to house us until we can get home?"
"Whose uniform says "Colonel", Major?" At her muted, "yes, sir," he nodded, satisfied. "I'm going to check the perimeter."
"Yes, sir." Teal'c and Carter exchanged a glance behind their commander's back as he left.
"The Colonel has been moody for the last two days," she commented, sitting down on a fallen tree trunk.
"He is anxious to return home."
"We all are, Teal'c. It's more than that."
"Perhaps he is worried about Daniel Jackson."
"You're probably right. Daniel was just starting to recover from the emergency appendectomy when this mess began. He must be going crazy wondering what's happened to us."
"As must General Hammond."
"I wish they'd hurry up and get the damned beta gate up. I want to go home. I want to eat something without worrying if it's poisonous. I want to sleep in a real bed."
"I would like a shower."
"You and me, both."
Jack listened to their words from the safety of the trees and smiled. Even from this distance, he could feel their auras brimming with delicious emotion. It took a great deal of self control to touch them lightly on the shoulder or back, to withdraw after a small taste here and there when he wanted nothing more than to suck them dry, and leave their empty husks littering the ground, but he knew now there were many more like these through the circle. He could wait. It had been too long since he had fed from such rich bounty, but for the promise of more he could control his current urges.
He walked away from temptation, back into the jungle.
'Wha ... where am I?' Jack thought.
He had awakened in darkness. He tried to run a hand over his face, to make sure his straining eyes were actually opened. To his horror, nothing happened. He tried to move, to sit up, but nothing seemed to be working. Jack fought down the fear crawling through his gut. He focused his mind on the last thing he could remember.
He had been on watch. It had been over a week since he had fled Thor's doomed ship with Carter and Teal'c to this planet. The plan had been to wait a couple of days and dial home once Earth got the second gate up and running. They had been camped beside the Stargate, punching in the address every day almost on the hour. Nothing. So what happened? Why was he paralyzed in darkness? Where were the others?
He opened his eyes again, trying to make out something in the blackness. A flicker caught his attention. He squinted, trying to bring it into focus. The flicker became a blur, then widened to become a patch of light in the dark. He could see motion, movement, colors. Sounds began to trickle in, accompanying what he was seeing. There was Carter at the DHD. Teal'c was hovering nearby. A hand filled his vision. It was very familiar. The long fingers gestured and the dark skinned man nodded in response. Words whirled by in a voice he knew intimately.
It was like he was watching himself from a distance, not a participant so much as a spectator in what his body was doing. The images on the screen became clearer, the voices distinct. He tried to speak, to move. The mental commands had no effect on his body, either in the darkness or on the screen. With growing horror, he realized he was trapped, separated from himself and his team, able to see and hear what was going on but divorced from the action. He screamed in fear and fury.
No one heard him.
"Incoming travelers," the technician announced over the PA. General Hammond hurried from his office as the klaxons blared out warning.
"Is it them?" he asked without preamble as he strode into the Control Room. Beyond the wide window, the Stargate had sprung to life, power billowed like a cloud down the ramp, then settling back within its stone confines, the undulating surface splashing undulating blue light across the assembled soldiers in the Gate room.
"Receiving SG-1 ID, sir."
"Open the iris," General Hammond said.
A figure streaked in through the outer doors. Dr. Daniel Jackson skidded to a halt in front of the gate. Hammond could see he was panting. His shirttail hung out of his pants. His glasses were askew on his flushed face and he was carrying his jacket. His attention was focused solely on the Stargate.
Three figures emerged from the flashing blue surface of the event horizon. A dirty, sweaty Colonel O'Neill held out his hands in an impatient gesture. "Well, it's about time."
"We've been dialing home for over a week," Major Carter said as the three made their way down the ramp.
"It's great to see you guys, too," Daniel said. The three stopped in front of their teammate.
"I am pleased to see you well, Daniel Jackson."
"Thank you, Teal'c."
"You've got a ..." he wagged an index finger towards the strip of blonde facial hair on the large Jaffa's chin.
"Uh, don't touch it," Jack batted Daniel's hand away.
General Hammond descended the stairs to the Gate room. "Glad you made it, SG-1"
"Where's the fanfare, General?" Jack asked.
"We did kind of save the planet, sir," Carter interjected.
"Again," Jack added, rocking back on his heels. "This should not get old, General."
Hammond nodded, "Job well done."
"Thank you, sir. It was nothing."
"What happened to Thor?" Daniel asked.
"Oh, we got him out in a stasis pod," Carter answered.
"It was retrieved when we passed through the Stargate on P2x-234," Teal'c explained.
"It must have had a locating beacon," Carter said.
"They left you behind?" the general asked.
"We were fine, sir," she hastened to reassure him.
"I'd be happy to debrief you all after I debrief myself with a nice, hot shower," Jack said.
"Permission to shower granted. In fact, I insist on it, Colonel."
Jack looked from the general to the man beside him. "Bad?"
"I wasn't going to say anything," Daniel said quietly.
Jack cocked his head at his friend for a moment, then stepped past him, heading out, his second in command on his heels. Teal'c followed his teammates.
"It's at times like this I wish we had separate shower facilities," Carter groused as they walked down the corridor.
"There's always the option of sharing," Jack teased.
"That's quite all right, sir. I think I'll report for my post mission exam. Maybe Janet will let me use the infirmary shower first."
"Knock yourself out, kid," Jack patted her on the shoulder, his hand lingering for a moment too long before letting it fall back to his side. Her smile quivered a little around the edges as her eyes searched his face. "Catch you later."
"Yes, sir. Later." Samantha Carter turned left at the intersection, heading to the infirmary while her male teammates headed for the locker rooms. She was greeted with enthusiasm by the medical staff, Dr. Janet Fraiser in particular.
"Sam!" Janet had been waiting for her friend.
"Janet." The two women embraced.
"God, Sam, you smell like the bottom of a bird cage."
"It's nice to be home too."
"Go on, hit the showers. We'll check you over when you're done."
It felt wonderful to stand under the stream of hot water, letting the lather wash away the grit and grime of the planet. She scrubbed her hair twice. As she relaxed under the pulsing hot water, she could almost feel the colonel's hand on her shoulder. Her own hand slipped up to cover the spot. She was being foolish, she knew that. Anti-fraternization regs existed for a reason.
'Still,' she sighed, 'it's a sweet dream.'
In short order, showers and physicals were out of the way and the reunited SG-1 reassembled in the conference room for the debriefing. Jack seemed content to let the others tell the story. He nodded from time to time as Sam or Teal'c recounted the events of the last ten days. His eyes strayed from face to face around the table, clearly drinking in the sight of his comrades.
For his part, Daniel was having a hard time taking his eyes off Jack. Over every minute of the nine days it had taken to get the beta gate set up, fear for his friends had eaten away at Daniel. He felt exhausted under the weight of the prolonged worry, yet strangely euphoric now that Jack, and the others, was back.
His family was home once more, safe and sound.
What the hell was going on?
Daniel sat down and laid his head on his desk with a tired sigh, trying - once again - to process the confusion that had become almost second nature lately when it came to Jack O'Neill.
In the months since Jack's return following the destruction of the Replicators, Daniel had felt increasingly adrift from his friends. Not to such a great degree with Sam and Teal'c, although still there and still painful, but with Jack it was becoming impossible. A friendship Daniel had valued above all others, and had hoped for nearly a year was becoming something more, had disappeared along with the replicators. He didn't know Jack anymore - worse it didn't seem Jack wanted to know him either. Time after time he and Jack butted heads over issues large and small they had formerly been able to find common ground on through mutual respect and caring. Now.it was just gone.
Daniel had tried, repeatedly, to find the missing part of a friendship once so solid as to be unshakeable. Only to be rebuffed, excluded and treated like a stranger by the one man Daniel would have sworn knew him better than anyone ever had. Worse, he had to sit by and watch as Jack regressed into a hormonal teenager, and very nearly got himself and Sam into serious trouble with his blatant flirting. Teal'c had almost left the team when Shan'auc had come along, and despite the love Daniel knew the Jaffa felt for his old flame, he was equally sure a similar choice prior to the 'nine day mystery' would have never had Teal'c considering leaving.
Everything was so jumbled, so completely wrong. It was almost as if Jack wasn't Jack anymore..
With a gasp, Daniel realized where his wandering mind had led him.
It was impossible. Wasn't it? Jack had changed, sure, but..
Jack didn't smile anymore - not the smile that lit up his whole face and let them all know he was glad to be alive. Jack's eyes were all too often hooded, not the direct and assessing glance that could warm or chill as no other could. Jack seemed to have a problem remembering things, and had a definite problem expressing them in a way that proved he'd achieved his ranks on more than his looks. The Jack of the past few months was harsh, cold, and efficient as always, but harder than Daniel had known him to be since Abydos.
Jack.. wasn't himself.
Daniel raised his head quickly, looking wildly around his lab as scattered pieces of the month's long puzzle fought one another to fall into place.
Jack raged against the thing that held him prisoner in his own body. It was too much, too fucking much.
Over the preceding months, he'd gotten more adept at hearing and seeing what his occupied body was doing, but was still just as powerless to do anything about it as he had been in the first moment he'd realized what was going on. For a very long time he'd feared he'd been possessed by a Goa'uld that night, that the day would come when he'd have to watch helplessly as his body killed his friends and let the snakes in through the gate to destroy Earth.
But no, this - thing inside him had deeper plans, deeper needs. Every bit of pain and pleasure it generated was like a hit of the strongest drug Jack had ever dabbled with, willingly or otherwise, in his long life. The thing grew stronger every time it played with Carter's emotions, with Teal'c's loyalty, with Daniel's love.
Daniel. That one hurt most of all.
Jack had known for a long time that the thing between him and Daniel had grown way past the friendship stage, after nearly losing Daniel twice - first when he was out of phase thanks to Nick's giant aliens and later when his appendix had burst on a mission. Jack had come to terms with the certain knowledge that losing Daniel was an option he never wanted to face. The fishing trip invitation in Daniel's infirmary room had been a premature hope that the two of them could take some time away from work and risk and danger to just be together. So maybe Jack could see if the dim hope born in the desperation of possible loss had a chance in hell of becoming more.
The creature controlling his body seemed to know, seemed to revel in the waves of confusion and hurt even Jack could feel it absorb each time the foundations of all they had built over four years was shaken to the point of breaking. But it never did. And Jack knew - as he knew Daniel so well - that it never would. Daniel wouldn't give up.
Daniel would worry himself sick; he had already lost weight, looked terrible in fact, and had regained the painful habit of hugging himself to hold in his emotions, but Daniel wouldn't give up. His stubborn core and the faith they'd built together wouldn't let him. So he'd come back for more, over and over again, until the creature either killed his spirit entirely, or upped the ante on its sick game. Already Jack had felt stirrings of lust, stirrings the creature wasn't satisfying in its flirtation with Carter. Stirrings of hunger to consume the stronger, steadier brightness of Daniel's spirit. To destroy Daniel in ways unimaginable - and to use Jack's body to do it.
It couldn't happen. Jack wouldn't let it.
From outside the door of the working place of the one called Daniel, the creature could feel the inner tumult of the mind it held at bay. The foolish human refused to realize its puny spirit had lost. This body was its property now, the spirit within less than an annoyance. And the pleasures the body provided, the emotions it was capable of stirring within others - especially the young archaeologist - were astonishingly strong. Even from the corridor it could feel the passion, the pain, the anger, the love.the boy could sustain it all by himself.
The creature grew stronger with every new confrontation, every play on his pitifully easy to manipulate emotions, even as the boy grew weaker. Soon, soon it would be ready. The boy would be just weak enough to let it get close, and then it would strike. With the energy gained from the final absorption of the boy's spirit, it would mate in its own fashion with the female Carter and produce more of its kind. Then this world and the vast emotional energy its inhabitants possessed would be theirs for the taking.
A rush of emotion suddenly bled out of the office and directly to its receptive essence, the boy was upset, horrified even. Interesting. The creature reached out, wanting more of this new emotion.drew it around itself and savored.
Sam turned the corner heading for the showers, almost running into the colonel coming from the direction of Daniel's lab.
She prayed they hadn't had another fight; it seemed all they did lately. It was hard for Sam; she knew her feelings were more than a little ambivalent, but she'd done her best to make it clear to the colonel that the team and her place with SGC took precedence. But it was still hard and she'd even suspected the colonel might be taking the rejection out on Daniel or something. Looking at his flushed face as he brushed past her with barely a glance, Sam was more concerned than ever. Maybe she should just check in on Daniel, be sure he was all right..
"Daniel?" Sam knocked lightly on the door even as she pushed it open quietly.
Daniel was asleep, or it looked like he was. He hadn't reacted at all to her entry.he'd never even reacted to her voice or the sound of her footsteps. Come to think of it she realized Daniel had lately taken on the haunted, sleepless look she remembered so well from the first days after Chulak.
Why hadn't she noticed? Hell, why hadn't the colonel?
This was wrong.
She shook Daniel's shoulder gently, then more firmly as he didn't react. In a panic she shook him harder still, and barely caught hold of him to guide him as he slid from the chair to the floor, his face a pale mask and his body as limp as death.
Careless. So careless.
The creature made its way toward its next destination, cursing itself as it went. It had not survived for millennia by being careless. The boy was far too intoxicating. It had to control its appetite.
As it had opened the door to the boy's office and come face to face with its food source, the human's horror radiated to it in waves and it had absorbed it greedily. It was not stupid, though; it was aware of the human surveillance equipment in the room and made no move to cross the room.
"What the hell are you? What have you done with Jack?" The young human's strained voice, combined with its decreasing energy levels finally brought it to its senses. As it turned to leave the room, it was aware of the soft thud of the human's head and upper body impacting with the top of his desk.
Carter brushed by and in its current hunger-crazed state, it could have easily fed upon the female's confused and turbulent emotions, but it held itself back.
Careful. It had almost ruined its entire plan.
It had to be more careful.
Oh God, Danny.
Jack raged against the thing controlling his body. As it greedily fed off the younger man's emotions, Jack had managed to focus in on what it was doing to his friend--and what it had planned.
He had no control, no voice, but he was not giving up. He had to find a way to fight this thing.
He wanted so badly to comfort Daniel. Just to reach out and touch him. To let him know his love was returned.
He would find a way.
He just prayed that it wouldn't be too late.
General Hammond looked up from the file on his desk as he heard the soft rap on his office door. "What can I do for you, Colonel?"
"Sir, it's about Daniel," Jack started hesitantly, concern evident in his voice.
"What about Doctor. Jackson?"
"Well, sir, frankly I'm worried about him. He's been overexerting himself more than usual; going off with other teams, getting kidnapped by Unas, having an old girlfriend Goa'ulded." He trailed off for a moment before continuing, "Sir, I just went to see him. I wanted to try and convince him to take it easy for a while before he had a complete physical breakdown or something."
"And?" Hammond prompted as the younger man stopped, apparently to rein in his emotions. For O'Neill to be this worried over Jackson's welfare there had to be something more to go on.
"Sir, he looked at me like I was some sort of monster. He asked me what I was and what I'd done with 'Jack'."
"You're certain he wasn't being facetious?" The General's brow was creased with concern. Had this latest loss to the Goa'uld finally driven the young man over the edge?
"No, Sir. He looked outright horrified. I didn't know what to do, so I just left and came here." Jack began pacing, running a hand through his short hair. "I'd been hoping to talk to you about some time off for me and Daniel. I wanted to take him up to my cabin and let him rest for a while before he had a full-out collapse. Maybe work out this tension between us that seems to have crept in over the past few months."
Hammond nodded, frowning. He was aware of the distance that seemed to be developing between the two men. It was beginning to put a noticeable strain on his best field unit.
"Yes, Colonel, I agree that probably would've been a good idea, but do you think it's still feasible after this--" He was interrupted by the ringing of his phone. "Hammond," he announced as he brought the handset to his ear. The concern on his face deepened as he listened to the voice on the other end. "Yes, Doctor, Colonel O'Neill and myself will be right there."
"Sir?" O'Neill looked at him expectantly.
"We need to go to the infirmary, Jack." Hammond rose to his feet and moved toward him, intoning softly, "It seems Doctor Jackson has had some sort of collapse."
He could hear the rise and fall of voices murmuring nearby. "Blah blah blah blah Daniel blah blah Daniel...." People were talking about him, but he couldn't make out the words--wasn't even sure if he had the energy to try. He was so comfortable here, no sense of anything except...except those voices.
Maybe he should try to listen; it was never good if people were talking about him.
"...consistent with long term stress. I can't tell you anything more until he regains consciousness."
"Please call me when he does. If he's as delusional as the Colonel here fears, I won't have a choice in the matter; we'll have to call MacKenzie for an evaluation."
"Of course, General Hammond. I would just like the opportunity to rule out any other reasons before we go that route again."
"As it should be, Doctor."
MacKenzie? That didn't sound good. What'd happened to him? Why couldn't he remember? Whatever it was, he didn't need MacKenzie futzing about with his brain. Jack.... Had he been talking with Jack before--? The back of his hand itched and he rolled it over to rub the annoyance away.
A large, warm hand covered his and gently held it still. "Daniel Jackson. I believe you are awake." Teal'c's deep, strong voice spoke quietly from somewhere near his elbow.
With effort, Daniel blinked, then squinted his eyes against the light. "Hey, Teal'c," he whispered. "What's a, what's going on?" He could make out the utilitarian walls of the infirmary and an IV pole beside him, tubes descending in such a way he knew he was hooked to the bags of fluid dangling there.
"Do you not recall what has occurred?"
Daniel cleared his throat. "There was a...um.... No. Not at the moment."
He glanced over at Janet's office door. "...schedule further tests to rule out a number of possibilities before..." Janet's voice was brisk and no nonsense. Daniel looked back at Teal'c.
"Do you know what happened?" he asked worriedly.
Teal'c was frowning at the office. "I do not, but rest assured, every effort will be made to discover the true cause of your collapse."
Was it his imagination, or did Teal'c sound a mite protective just then?
"Teal'c? Is he awake?" Jack called out. Soon he and Janet were by his bedside, studying him intently.
Janet glanced at the wall monitor filled with numbers and wave forms, its regular beeps echoing Daniel's heart. She reached down and rested her hand on his forehead. Her touch was a cool, pleasant sensation, but after a brief moment she brushed his hair back and stared at him. "How do you feel, Daniel?"
He had flawless test-taking instincts; this question was safe. "Tired," he answered truthfully. "Drained, actually. What happened? Why do I have an IV?"
"You don't remember?"
"You collapsed in your office. When you arrived here, your vital signs were through the roof and your blood sugar was dangerously low. The IVs were started to stabilize you." She paused and looked uncomfortable. "Do you recall talking with the colonel earlier today?"
Ah, this question was more critical. "No," he answered truthfully, but something was niggling at this consciousness...something about Jack.... He glanced towards the foot of his bed where Jack stood silently watching him as he puzzled over it.
"You don't recall accusing him of being someone else?"
Daniel frowned and looked curiously back at Janet. That was an interesting question; he'd have to explore what that could mean later, but now was the time to assure them he was absolutely normal. He wasn't about to go see MacKenzie again, especially if there was something going on with Jack.
"Someone else? What do you mean? Who else would he be?"
Janet's eyebrows arched in surprised. "No one, of course." She looked questioningly to Jack.
"Could it have been stress?" Jack asked, shrugging. "A lack of proper meals and working long hours?"
"It's conceivable. I'll want to rule out a few other things, though," she said, carefully.
"Well, if all this was because Daniel's been working too hard--and I know it is--wouldn't you agree that a week or two at a mountain cabin be good for him?"
"Yes, I suppose."
"What do you say, Daniel? How about a couple of weeks of nothing but clean Earth air, sunshine and satellite TV?" Jack smiled.
There was something about those dark eyes, an intensity mixed with the invitation that made Daniel's heart quicken. Could there more to this invitation than it seemed? Jack had been so distant towards him lately. Maybe this would be a good time to try and rebuild their ailing friendship, though the thought of anything more was almost a forgotten dream within his heart.
A half a year ago, he had been so comfortable around Jack, both amused and hopeful at Jack's little forays into Daniel's personal space. Jack's fleeting touches that communicated reassurance and affection had threatened to become addictive, and his days were filled with small, intimate smiles and gestures they'd shared. Daniel had come to believe that one day in the future, these small intimacies would find fruition in something more tangible, something more intense. It'd been a promise he'd come to crave, but now there was only aching emptiness left within him and grief for a chance of happiness that had seemingly died stillborn.
The thought of loss reminded Daniel of something, but it flickered away from him before he could bring it into focus. Unsettled and slightly anxious under Jack's attention, he glanced briefly at Teal'c. The Jaffa regarded him quietly, his expression more impassive than normal. Whatever thoughts Teal'c had on the matter, they were apparently going to remain with Teal'c for the time being.
Well, what harm could come from spending a few days with Jack at his cabin? And if he were up in the Rockies, he wouldn't be at the SGC and at the mercy of any bored psychiatrists looking to make their reputation on a new mental illness. At least Jack hadn't mentioned fishing.
His decision made, he lifted his chin and met Jack's stare head on. "Thanks, I'd like that."
He fought. He ranted. He wailed in anguish.
The cabin and the lake.
Daniel and him.
Not-him. The... thing.
Bad. This was bad. Very bad.
He could sense something from the creature. Anticipation. Something would happen here. Something very bad.
And so Jack fought.
Time was about to run out...
So this is where the famous crappy hides, huh?
Daniel surveyed the rustic log cabin and the wide, blue expanse of the lake. Very nice. He could understand why Jack loved this place. It exuded peace. He took a deep breath, holding it. It felt good, but the effect was ruined as the air in his lungs expelled in a yawn.
"So?" Jack flashed him a grin as he unloaded the luggage and his fishing gear. The fishing topic had come up with their last minute packing. Surprise. "What do you think?"
A few thoughts demanded exit via his mouth, but Daniel bit on his lower lip for several long moments, looking around again. "It's nice."
"Nice?" he huffed. Duffel bags landed and brought up small clouds of dust. "Just nice, huh? This, Danny boy, is paradise found."
A nickname? Daniel nearly did a double take. He hadn't heard one of those from Jack in... Well, to be honest, he really could remember the last time an affectionate nickname was aimed his way. Hell, forget the affectionate part. Even in sarcasm, Jack O'Neill was the master of labels. Even those had been in short supply the last several months.
Daniel wandered up the path toward the cabin. He could see a dock and a little boat tied to its side. His heart sank a little bit as he realized that here was the scene of one of the many slights Jack had aimed his way of late. It was only a month ago when Jack had snarled at him long distance and tossed the cell phone's battery somewhere on the lawn leaving him, Sam, and Fraiser to travel to their disastrous meeting with Osiris alone. Teal'c had filled Daniel in on the details later as he recuperated in the infirmary.
Wow, if that was to be the extent of their conversation this weekend, Daniel was glad he'd brought a bag full of books. He'd anticipated a lot of time for reading, anyway. Teal'c was positive there were no fish at all in that lake. Mosquitoes, yes, but presumably the little fishes were evolved enough to recognize the O'Neill threat.
There was a thump from the truck, and Daniel turned in time to see Jack dropping more bags to the ground. The older man stretched and grimaced. "What the hell is in that one?"
"Just some stuff I need," Daniel replied, coming back over. He couldn't help feeling a little vindictive satisfaction at Jack's discomfort, but he immediately chastised himself. If they were here to mend fences - at least, that's what he thought they were doing - then he should restrain himself from those kinds of thoughts. Hostility wouldn't get them anywhere.
Jack was busy peering into the bag. "Books? Should have guessed. Okay, Biblio Boy. You carry that one yourself. The old guy here can't lug that much weight. Yeesh."
Two nicknames? Daniel nearly had a heart attack. Then he grinned at Jack's sulking, retreating figure. Maybe this really was the start of reconciliation. Maybe they just needed to get away from the multiple stresses of their jobs in order to rebuild their foundation?
The game was shifting.
When had its needs turned into a courtship between hunter and prey?
The creature watched hungrily as the boy moved within the cabin. He was still weakened and tired, despite sleeping throughout most of the voyage to this place. Even his flavor was changing, from tangy sweet and sour to a decidedly more piquant intensity. It was an intriguing taste, and all the more enticing.
The pursuit now possessed an element of play. The creature hid a smile. It would toy with the boy and his clearly hopeful and romantic emotions, then feast in a final consummation of physical desire and greater purpose.
The mind it held captive within cried out in protest, but it paid the voice no heed. This would be delicious...
"Daniel! Take it easy, will you? You're going to relax. I'll take care of everything."
"Relax. Right, I can do that." And he could too. He supposed it was like riding a bike; you never forgot how.he supposed. He put the box of supplies down and shrugged apologetically at Jack.
"Daniel, how long has it been since you've had some R&R?" Daniel though could almost detect a note of concern in the voice of his friend. It had been a while since he had heard that directed toward him, but he could never forget the emotions tied up with hearing Jack talk to him in that way. "Burst appendixes and old professor's funerals do not count."
He opened his mouth to answer the question only to find the answer was not so forthcoming. He knew it had been a while. But surely it could not have been that long. His job generally didn't allow for week long luaus in Hawaii, but the General was always very forthcoming with giving anyone at the SGC some down-time to remember what it was like to be human again.
He suddenly remembered his last real down-time with surprising clarity. Jack had decided his team needed some time away from the mountain and had partnered up with Teal'c to get Sam and Daniel out of the mountain. That accomplished, the team leader proceeded to drive to the Grand Canyon. He could still see Sam's smile as her mind let go of whatever project she'd been kidnapped from, Jack's ease with his 'team' now that his role as Colonel was far away locked up within the mountain, and Teal'c's curiosity as he experienced the closest thing to an actual Tau'ri style family outing. "The Grand Canyon."
"Right. That's what I thought," was the dry retort.
"Daniel, do you happen to remember how long your hair was when we went there?"
"It was... Oh. Well, I had time off after that."
"Yeah and then what? You're locked up, your wife dies, you fall for the Destroyer of Worlds," Jack would never let that one slip by. Any chance he could get to rub salt on old wounds. "Appendicitis, Super Danny," Jack had actually started ticking each event off with a finger.
Daniel decided drowning Jack out would be the best idea before he drained what little energy he had trying to defend himself. With the Colonel's lecture as background noise, Daniel began surveying the cabin in earnest. Typical cabin by the lake, not really anything he hadn't been expecting. It was all very rustic and rugged looking, much like its proud owner; the rough wood and earth tones inexorably giving a person a quaint feeling of home. A small kitchen attached to a large room which served as a dining room and living room all in one. He and Jack would be spending their nights in a cozy bedroom with two twin beds. The layout didn't allow many spots for Daniel to escape Jack, but he was sure he'd have ample opportunity to hide away when he needed to.
He realized Jack was at the end of his tirade. "Yes, Jack?"
"Didn't you hear a word I said?"
"Before or after you chastised me for circumstances beyond my control?"
"Af... Daniel! I never chastised! I was just pointing out that you have had some seriously bad shit happen to you and you need some time off to..."
"Think about all the 'seriously bad shit'?"
"No. Yes... Daniel."
"Jack, I came here didn't I?" Granted it was this or Mackenzie, and he'd rather donate a pint to the local mosquito population than to ever submit himself to the care of that quack again.
"Yeah, you did."
"It only took you two invitations. Less time than it took for you to convince Sam that you'd found Paradise on Earth."
Immediately Daniel knew he shouldn't have said that. He really shouldn't have. Bitterness did not suit him, and he hated the rush of emotion bringing up that particular sour grape brought about. He would not be jealous of Sam.
He would *not*.
"What has that got to do with anything?"
And now Dense Jack was back and Daniel lacked the energy or will to try and deal with this latest incarnation of Jack O'Neill. He'd rather Suicidal Jack at times. At least that man could see what was in plain sight. He was suddenly very tired.
"You look like shit, Daniel."
"Thanks, Jack. Nice to know I can always count on you to tell me that." He tossed over his shoulder and sat down in the lazy man in front of the fire place. Rummaging through his bag he began to look for a suitable book to read. Lifting one up he cracked it open, only to have it snatched away instantly.
"Jack! Give that back!"
"No. No, Danny, you are here to relax. Relax meaning no books that weigh more than me. No books that are older than me. And *certainly* no books that are in any foreign language."
"Fine, I'll read my journals than. I've been mean..."
"'Fraid not." At once his bag was snatched away and he fought the urge to whine at Jack for this intrusion on his idea of relaxation. Jack moved to a cupboard against the opposite wall and started digging through its contents. "You need to keep your mind off all things related to work. Now, I know I have... Ah-hah!" Jack proudly pulled out a well worn paperback book.
"I thought you said no books older than you?"
"How long has it been since you've read a classic work of *fiction*, Daniel?"
"Flames of Passion? This is classic?"
"Yep." Jack's smile was not very convincing. "It's on all the must read lists."
"Right." Daniel flipped through the musty book speculatively, noting the many dog-eared pages.
"I'll leave you in the very capable hands of Günter and his buxom milk-maid Svetlana."
"Milk-maid?" He eyed his bag which was now being toted out of the room by Jack. "Jack..."
"Read, Daniel. I'll make you a fire as soon as I tuck your precious books away."
A delicious buffet for the creature. No one to interrupt him this time. This young man was so satisfyingly responsive. Incredibly easy to manipulate for it to get exactly what it wanted and needed. It hadn't been able to resist this latest taste, but it would resist taking more than it needed for a time. The boy needed to regain some of his strength for what was to come.
It was only a matter of time, time to be spent in playing upon the boy's clear attraction for the body the creature inhabited. Then it would strike.
"Hey, Doc. What'cha need?" The creature used Jack's voice to speak lightly into the phone.
"I need to know how Daniel's doing." Doctor Janet Fraiser's disapproving voice came through the receiver. "You didn't call in a report yesterday."
"That's because he's fine and dandy, just like the last report. Told you it was just stress. He just needed a few square meals in him and some uninterrupted sleep to set him back on his feet."
"No symptoms? Headaches, fever?"
"Before he collapsed, you said he was saying some strange things. Have you noticed anything else along those lines?"
"Not a thing. The only thing Daniel needed was some serious relaxation."
It could hear the woman on the other end of the line sigh. "Sounds good, Colonel, but if you see or suspect anything, I want you to call me immediately."
"I'm serious, Colonel. I know you and Daniel are good friends, but if there is a problem, I need to know. You aren't helping him if you don't tell me the whole story."
"You think I'm lying to you about him?"
"No. No, of course not, but I wouldn't put it past you to play down something hoping it will simply go away if you spend long enough sitting on a dock with a pole in your hand."
"Doc, I'm wounded."
"No, you're a good man who's trying his best to help a friend."
"He's not sick. He doesn't need a doctor. He's not crazy. He doesn't need a psychiatrist. He's tired and he needs time off."
"Okay, but keep in touch."
"I'd planned on it."
"You'd better. I'm depending on you to keep me updated."
With a dismissive sneer, the creature unplugged the phone. No more interruptions.
The days had passed for Daniel in a lazy blur of snoozing on the dock, playing chess, and reading the truly horrible novels Jack kept digging up for his benefit. With a sigh, he leaned back against the arm of the couch and picked up the latest 'approved' entertainment he'd been given. "Rage of Love". Where did Jack get these things? Hell, where did anyone get these things and did they actually pay money for them? He found his place and began reading. Despite his loud protests at having his own books forcibly usurped by low quality sex novels, the torrid love stories were actually rather hard to resist. Like pure sugar peppermint sticks, you couldn't leave them alone once you'd gotten started, even if they did leave you with a stomach ache afterwards.
He heard Jack rummaging around in the kitchen. He'd come in this morning with a string of fish, rightfully proud of his morning catch. He'd skinned them and was preparing to fry them for lunch. Daniel's stomach growled at the thought of food. Seemed like he was hungry all the time since they'd come to the cabin. Must be the fresh, country air. It was making him sleep a lot too. He kept nodding off during the day even after a full night's sleep. Jack said it was his body's reaction to being over-stressed, demanding the food and sleep he'd been depriving it of so long. Maybe Jack was right. He'd hardly gotten past Dirk's right hand grasping Tina's creamy thigh when his eyelids began to droop. As he slid once again toward sleep, Daniel felt the tawdry paperback novel slide from his unresisting fingers to the floor.
A hot wind was blowing, sending rivulets of sand coursing down the face of the dunes. It scoured his exposed flesh. His mouth was dry, his lips chapped and cracked. His tongue was swollen, feeling like a blotted worm left to die in the heat. The scraps of leather on his feet did nothing to protect him from the punishing sand. He knew if he didn't find shelter soon he would die. The wind-blown sand would strip his flesh, leaving sun-bleached bones half buried in the dunes.
The sun directly overhead was blinding. He hung his head and trudged on. Common sense said to dig a depression and use what little clothing remained as a shelter. Instincts said he had to go on. It was urgent he press forward. His bleeding feet and burning face were unimportant. All that matter was getting there - wherever there was. He concentrated on putting one foot in front of the other. His legs protested the movement. He was tired. He needed to sleep, but he couldn't rest. Not yet. He wasn't there yet.
It watched the young one sleep. It had been very careful, taking only tastes here and there as the days went by. It searched the memory of this body to find stories and memories it could use to make the other laugh. It drank in the happiness, guzzled the joy shining from the other's soul as it drew him in closer. It knew how to tease, how to draw out the eye contact to bring hope, and anticipation bubbling to the surface. It also knew how to pester and complain to bring out anger and frustration. It knew the best bait for the barbs to cause pain, confusion, and fear. Delicious. The last few days had been a sumptuous banquet, but it was beginning to take its toll. The young one was flagging, sleeping more as its energy was depleted. As much as it wanted to suck the human dry, it held back. There was still another realm of emotion for it to explore. Its plan was coming to fruition. Soon it would coax the young one into openly admitting its love of this body and the resulting consummation would be a feast unlike any it had ever known.
The sizzle of the skillet drew its attention back to task. First, it had to give the young man the opportunity to eat, and sleep, to rebuild his reserves. It would have to stop feeding from him in order to allow him to regain his strength, but the reward would be all the tastier for its fast. It turned the fish over, using the knowledge of the body to prepare the meal. Other knowledge would be used later and that meal would be its greatest in untold eons.
It smiled in anticipation.
Daniel woke to the smell of coffee. He opened his eyes to find Jack standing beside his bed, a steaming mug in hand. The morning sun shone golden through the bedroom window.
"Wakey, wakey. It's a beautiful day," Jack said, softly.
Daniel took the offered mug, scooting up to lean against the simple wooden headboard. He took a cautious sip.
"Mmm. Thanks, Jack."
"There's plenty more where that came from."
"Not fishing this morning?" Daniel eyed Jack's clothing. The semi-official fishing uniform was missing. In its place was an unbuttoned flannel shirt hanging over a faded pair of jeans, revealing a distracting amount of flesh.
"Nah. Thought I'd stay in today, if you don't mind the company?" Jack sat on the edge of the mattress, folding a bare foot under him.
"I don't mind." Daniel made to move over to give him more room, but Jack's hand on his arm stopped him. Effectively pinned into place by that light touch, Daniel settled back as Jack pushed himself further up the bed until they were sitting side by side, the length of their bodies pressed together. Daniel took another sip of coffee. He was keenly aware of his barely-dressed state, the sheets bunched up around the waistband of his boxers. The warmth of Jack's body burned into his side just as surely as the heat of the coffee burned his mouth.
"What do you want to do today?" Jack asked, his voice oddly husky. Daniel shivered. "Hey, are you cold?" He slipped an arm around Daniel's bare shoulders, pulling him into a hug.
"No, um, I'm not, I mean, it's not, um. .." the younger man stuttered. His heart was beating so hard he was surprised he could hear himself speak over the pounding. Jack's embrace tightened a fraction.
"Do you want me to move my arm?" The fingers of the hand cupping his shoulder began inscribing tiny circles on his bare skin.
Daniel had to swallow hard before he could speak.
"No. No, um, not if you don't want to."
"I don't want to. I kind of like my arm right where it is," Jack's breath tickled in Daniel's ear. He rubbed the tip of his nose into the soft, fine hair above that ear. "How about you, Danny? Do you like this?"
"Here, let me take that mug before one of us gets scalded." Jack pried the coffee mug from Daniel's nervous fingers and set it on the bedside table before returning to his fingertip survey of Daniel's skin, only this time with both hands.
"Jack?" Daniel whispered, afraid to wake himself from this very pleasant dream.
"What are you doing?"
"Something I've wanted to do for a long time." With one hand still holding him by the shoulder, the other hand tilted Daniel's chin up so Jack could claim the mouth for his own.
It was so overwhelming, everything Daniel had ever wanted and hoped for. Deep and strong, tasting of Jack, demanding yet gently coaxing. It was so completely right, and yet...
A loud knocking on the front door made both men jump.
"Were you expecting someone?" Daniel asked fretfully, his eyes darting from the sour look on Jack's face to the view of the living room through the bedroom's open door.
"No. Let's ignore it and maybe whoever it is will go away." Evading Jack's attempt to recapture his mouth and squirmed away, grabbing up his robe. As much as he wanted to continue what they'd started, Daniel needed time to think.
"We should answer the door, Jack."
Daniel heard the other man swear as Jack followed him out of the bedroom, buttoning his shirt as he moved ahead toward the kitchen. The banging stopped when Daniel pulled the door open to reveal a grinning Sam Carter, balancing a basket on one hip.
"Surprise!" The men gaped at her. She shifted the basket forward. "I have croissants and donuts."
"Come in, Sam." Daniel recovered first. He stepped aside to let her in. Jack replaced his scowl with a smile of welcome, relieving his unexpected houseguest of her load of warm bakery products.
"Coffee's fresh. Help yourself," he told her as he uncovered the basket and selected one of the fluffy rolls.
"What are you doing here, Sam?" Daniel asked, helping himself to a roll as well.
"Would you believe I was in the neighborhood and thought I'd drop by?"
"No." Both men answered together. She shrugged.
"Okay, Janet sent me."
"Why?" Jack asked through a mouthful of the buttery bread.
"Doctor MacKenzie is making a lot of noise about Daniel coming in for observation. Janet's perfectly capable of holding her own against his demands, but she's been a little worried by the fact no one has answered the phone here in the past forty-eight hours. I volunteered to drive up and see how you two were making out."
Daniel flinched at Sam's choice of words, but couldn't find a response. He was relieved when Jack smiled at her. "As you can see, we're alive and well. You can tell Fraiser to quit her worrying."
"Is that true, Daniel? Everything is fine?"
"Yes, Sam. Jack's stuffed me full of food and actually let me sleep it off without forcing me to spend all day fishing or chopping wood or anything."
"I thought so. Maybe MacKenzie ought to be worried about Jack instead of me."
"You two are hysterical. I'm dying over here."
Daniel shared a grin with Sam as he poured three cups of coffee. "How long were you planning on staying, Sam?"
"I was given a couple of days leave. Thought I'd spend the night, report back to Janet, then head a little further north before going back. If that's all right with you, Colonel?"
"There's only the one bedroom, but you're more than welcome to sleep on the couch tonight." He offered after only a moment's hesitation.
"I've been napping on it for days and it hasn't crippled me yet, so I guess you can survive it for one night," Daniel said with an only slightly shaky grin.
"No problem." Jack shrugged.
"If you'll point me to the phone, I'll call Janet."
"Sure." He nodded towards a small table in the corner. "Be my guest."
Sam walked across the room and picked up the hand set. She listened for a moment, then tapped the button a couple of times before announcing, "Your line is dead."
"That's probably why Doc couldn't reach us then. See, there's nothing sinister going on. Daniel didn't flip out and chop me into quivering squishy bits with a hatchet," Jack teased as he reached into the basket for a donut.
"Don't think I haven't been tempted," Daniel replied, teasingly.
"Oh, here is the problem." She held up the unconnected phone line. "Let me plug it back in and, yes, you have phone."
"What do you know? A theoretical astrophysicist who makes house calls. While you're here, do you think you could do something about the dripping faucet in the bathroom?"
"I don't think so, sir. You wouldn't want to get my bill." Sam threw back as she dialed the base.
As Jack turned his back to her, Daniel's caught his gaze from across the kitchen table. "Later," he mouthed. Daniel flushed and nodded, his eyes darting to Sam and back again, more confused than ever.
The woman complicated things.
It had been so close to claiming the feast that was Daniel Jackson, to taking the final plunge that would prepare it to procreate. The female was necessary to the process, but not this soon. It took time to assimilate the energies it intended to generate with the boy's seduction, taking, and subsequent death. The creature could almost see the way Daniel's blue eyes would transmute from ultimate pleasure to ultimate horror as he realized - just at the moment of release - what his paramour had become. It almost regretted the necessity of killing Daniel, he was such a rare creature, even among his own kind, but there would inevitably be others.
The delay was frustrating, but there seemed to be little help for it. It needed the woman to spawn its offspring and she was expected back. If it kept her here for the time it would take to prepare, someone might come searching for her. She was strong, not the emotional feast that was Daniel, but capable of generating more than enough food for his offspring as they matured and drained her completely before moving out into this vast human world.
For now, all it could do was wait and keep either of the humans from suspecting. It could not alienate Daniel Jackson or the seduction would not work, at the same time it needed the female to remain hopeful and ready to accept its overtures after Daniel Jackson died.
Jack railed against the malevolent purpose of the creature controlling his body. It could not happen.
Little by little, Jack had gained something of a foothold on the limbo he'd existed in so long. While the creature itself was dormant as Jack's body took the rest biology demanded, Jack's consciousness remained awake, puzzling over what he had learned, probing for weaknesses in the creature's control. The lifting of a single finger the night before had been a major accomplishment, the feeling of that simple re-exertion of control over his own body nearly overwhelming. It was hope.
He'd managed to open his eyes for a time, to watch Daniel in the next bed looking so drained and vulnerable in the shafts of moonlight streaming in through the windows. The need to protect Daniel was so strong, the sick parody of his feelings for Daniel, the love that the creature was exploiting so cruelly horrified him.
It was Jack's right to explore these things with Daniel and the creature was making a mockery of everything they had ever been or ever could be. Even if - colossal 'if' - Jack managed to stop the thing from completing its plans, would there ever be a hope in hell of making things right between him and Daniel? Would Daniel ever be able to forgive the things done to him by his twisted doppelganger?
Jack saw the hopeful confusion in Daniel's face as the creature turned to Carter and led her to the kitchen area. He wanted to stay, wanted to somehow reassure Daniel things would be all right after all, but he couldn't make that promise. Hell, he couldn't promise anything.
Daniel stirred on the sofa and opened his eyes to darkness.
God, he'd fallen asleep again. He remembered dinner, Sam's donuts had satisfied a sweet tooth Jack had rarely indulged for him while they'd been here, but not much of anything afterward. There was enough moonlight streaming in through the open door for him to see the reflective dial of his watch, nine-fifteen. He wondered what Jack and Sam had been up to while he slept.
Rolling to his feet Daniel had to put his head down as a wave of dizziness overtook him. He'd been feeling so much better earlier in the day; this was worrying. He had no intention of telling Sam or Jack though. They'd report it to Fraiser and she'd make them go back and the last thing Daniel wanted to go back. Not when the promise of Jack's kiss that morning still lay between them. After a moment he stood and felt steadier, the cool air coming in through the open door from the porch helped immensely so he pointed himself toward more of it.
He reached the doorway in time to see Sam pulling away from Jack out on the dock. Her entire stance was wrong. She seemed defensive, almost panicked even from a distance. Daniel started forward only to stop as Jack pulled her back to him and she submitted, leaning into the embrace Jack enveloped her in.
Daniel felt the dizziness return, dropped painfully to his knees against the rough boards of the porch even as memory rushed in...
In his lab, before he'd passed out the utter certainty that Jack was no longer Jack, that some thing was lurking behind his eyes. Daniel was sure Sam had just seen it too, that was why she pulled away, but - like him - she didn't want to believe that wasn't their Jack.
'Our Jack...Whose Jack?' Daniel almost giggled at the inanity, then sobered in a rush of panic. 'Where the hell is Jack, and how are we going to get him back?'
Sam pushed against the solid muscle of her CO's chest. This wasn't right. Not just because it was her CO, but ...
She didn't love him. She wasn't sure she ever had, though it had been nice to bask in the focused attention of Jack O'Neill on a single-minded mission to please her. It had been flattering as hell, in fact.
But this was just...wrong.
Sam pulled away in time to see Daniel go to his knees in the shadows of the porch.
Then the colonel was forcibly pulling her back to him, and her resolve and concern drained away even as her own knees went weak. Something wasn't right, this wasn't right.
This wasn't the colonel...
Everything had happened too fast and now both of the creature's intended victims were alarmed and wary. Unfortunately with temptation all around, it had grown intoxicated on the delicious wealth of emotions and had become careless in its eagerness. Trying for too much, too soon, it had walked with the female down to the dock and attempted to entice her but she had dodged his hints and ignored his double entendres until it became bolder.
"Carter...Sam, I can't stand this any longer; it's driving me crazy. Being here with Daniel--seeing his pain over all his lost chances of happiness-it' s made me realize that if there is something between you and me, something real, I'd be a fool to walk away from it. I need to know if you feel about me...like I do about you." The creature touched her arm, but instead of the expected rush of intense devotion, it only felt confusion and shock.
"Sir! I can't believe you just said that. You know the regulations as well as I do. While this is all very flattering, we both know it's wrong. I find it hard to believe that you'd even suggest that..."
"But, Sam, I'd do anything for you!"
She laughed in disbelief. "Tell me you're not serious!" she said as she pushed him away. "You're not, are you? This isn't like y--" Suddenly, her eyes narrowed in suspicion and her gaze flicked up towards the cabin--towards Daniel.
The creature felt a surge of alarm flow from her, sharp and flavored with fear. Having lost any chance at keeping her willing and cooperative, the creature yanked her close. It needed her and would not lose her. Pressing her near, it sucked in her fear, fast and hard. The shock of its assault made her sway, then go limp. Catching her as she lost consciousness, it swung her up over its shoulder and carried her back toward the cabin.
The time for pretense was over; it would have to act now. The creature would take the boy first, leave and find a place more secure, and then, when all was prepared, it would plant the seed of its next generation within her.
Blackness swirled threateningly in on Daniel and he fell forward onto his hands. Desperate to avoid passing out, he rested his forehead on the back of his hands and concentrated on breathing deeply to keep unconsciousness at bay. He didn't have time to pass out, he had to think.
A worried voice broke his concentration. "Daniel? Daniel! Shit, not you, too. Look, Carter just passed out; she might have what you have. I'll get her settled on the couch and come back for you." Daniel heard weighted footsteps as Jack swept past Daniel and then screen door as it banged shut behind him.
Sam was unconscious? This was not good; this was so not good.
Suddenly, Jack was beside him again. One warm hand began to gently massage the back of his neck as the other man knelt down beside him.
"Hey, you okay here? Anything I can get you?" Jack's words were soft and full of concern.
Daniel tried to talk, cleared his throat and tried again. "Just a little dizzy there for a moment."
"Can you walk? I can't leave you here and Carter's got the couch. Let's get you to bed." Strong hands slipped under Daniel's arms, gripping him around the chest as he was slowly lifted to his knees. "How's that? D'you need a minute?" Jack asked, as he shifted to Daniel's side. Without waiting for an answer, he dragged Daniel's arm over his shoulders and lifted, pulling Daniel to his feet. "I gotcha; don't worry. Let's get you to bed."
Jack's voice continued its litany of soothing words as Daniel was steered into the house and then the bedroom. He felt himself being seated on the bed and, in one steady motion, his feet were lifted and his head lowered onto the soft pillows. He felt his shoes tugged off, heard them fall on the floor.
The bed swayed as Jack settled beside him and gathered up Daniel's nearest hand, holding it trapped between both of his own and rubbing it briskly.
As Daniel began to feel a little more clear headed, he opened his eyes and stared up into Jack's worried gaze. He couldn't help but smile. "Do you think I've got frostbite?"
Jack smiled back. "Nooo, but you do feel cold to me. Still feeling weak?"
Daniel didn't even have to about it. "Yeah," he finally admitted.
"I gotta cure for that," Jack said, as he rose and disappeared through the doorway.
Daniel watched him go, then shut his eyes as he tried to reason through his confusion.
Was this Jack or not?
At times, like out on the porch moments ago, Daniel was so convinced that that it wasn't, and then suddenly, he'd look into those dark eyes and recognize his friend there after all. Even the simplest decisions became complicated when one factored in exposure to a whole universe of possible contaminants that could interfere with behavior. Maybe it was Jack, but a Jack under some sort of influence, or maybe he was always Jack but just going through some sort of testosterone-induced mid-life crisis. And then there was this miserable weakness that kept plaguing Daniel; where did that come from? It was hard to stay focused when he was either desperately needing a nap or fainting from dizziness.
He felt the bed shift and opened his eyes to see Jack staring back at him in concern.
"Ah, how's Sam?" Daniel asked.
Jack slipped his arm behind Daniel's shoulders and helped him to sit up. Leaving his hand supporting Daniel's back, he passed him a tall glass of orange juice.
"Drink," he ordered. "Sam's fine. She looks like she's sleeping. I've called Fraiser. She wants us to wait here to be transported out; she thinks it's safer than piling you both into the truck and racing for the mountain. They'll be knocking on our door in a few hours."
Daniel frowned. "Will this mean I'll have another visit with MacKenzie?"
Jack tipped the bottom of the glass up to encourage Daniel to finish the juice. "I doubt it. Since both of you are affected, maybe it's a bug or something. Maybe your blood sugar bottomed out again. I told you those donuts were bad for you."
Daniel finished the juice and handed the empty glass back to Jack. "That would be a ridicul--" He stopped and looked at Jack. The older man was staring at his lips. "What?"
"You ah...you have a..." Jack gestured towards Daniel's face. He shrugged and leaned over, using the pad of his thumb to slowly wipe away a stray drop of juice from Daniel's lower lip.
The touch sent a jolt through Daniel and suddenly the room seemed much smaller and warmer. He could only watch in helpless fascination as Jack hesitated only a moment then put his thumb in his own mouth and sucked off the fluid. Daniel licked his lips and swallowed hard. The room was a lot hotter now and he felt his face redden in desire and need.
Slowly, Jack tightened his hold on Daniel and pulled him close. The kiss was feather light at first, the barest brush of lips against lips. As it ended, Jack drew back a few inches and waited. Daniel's tongue flicked over his lips, moistening them.
Jack smiled. "You liked that?"
It was all so crazy, but Daniel's recent doubts seemed insignificant when weighed against the chance to have what he'd secretly desired so long. Back when their friendship was growing stronger, his wish to be more than friends was just a fanciful, impossible dream he entertained on long, lonely nights. As Jack had grown more distant to him, Daniel had increasingly craved what he was losing; the small touches, the encouraging smiles, the relaxed connection they'd shared. As distance grew between them, Daniel mourned the loss of any chance he'd had to be intimate with Jack. Now that it seemed possible again, his theories that Jack was not Jack seemed to be the product of an over-worked, over-imaginative mind. He wanted this, he wanted Jack.
Daniel let himself be pulled close again. This kiss started where the other one ended and deepened, growing in intensity until they were pressed against each other and Jack's hands were fumbling over Daniel's belt.
"I need you," he moaned into Daniel's mouth. "I need you now."
Daniel was intoxicated by Jack's touches. The older man's calloused hands were hot and demanding as they pushed his clothes away. Lost in the moment, Daniel didn't care anymore; he wanted to give what they were asking for, wanted to take what they offered.
"Yes. Anything," he murmured.
Minutes later, Daniel lay on his back, naked and glistening with sweat on the bed. Breathing hard, he allowed Jack's to nudge his legs further apart. Slick fingers found their way inside of him and twisted firmly in a circular motion as they prepared him, hard kisses dazed his senses as he felt himself being swept away on wave after wave of intensity. It was too good, too incredibly good...
Then something seemed to change as Jack pushed him back and climbed on top of him, taking him quickly and painfully. The pain and pressure of Jack's harshly thrusting cock stole his breath and he tensed, gripping Jack's arms in alarm and confusion as he searched the face that hovered inches above his own.
"Jack," he gasped. "Too fast! Give me a minute to...."
But the strong thrusts continued unchecked, skin slapping sharply against skin in an almost desperate cadence of possession. Jack made no response as he stared unblinkingly down at Daniel, his lips curved in a smug smile.
Daniel held on and tried to relax against the bruising pressure tearing into him again and again. This wasn't that way he imagined his first time with Jack would be at all. The Jack he knew would never treat him this way, not even in anger, and suddenly Daniel was certain once and for all that Jack wasn't really Jack. Daniel didn't know who or what was fucking him right now, but it wasn't his Jack.
His world seemed to grow smaller as he felt the dizziness returning and his strength disappearing beneath it. Confused, thoroughly miserable and feeling horribly betrayed, Daniel closed his eyes so he couldn't see that victorious smile. He was so tired....
Little by little, he let his mind go...away from the pain, away from the emotions, away from this pseudo-Jack who was so carelessly debasing everything about what Daniel felt for the real Jack. He - it - couldn't take what Daniel wouldn't give him.
As Daniel pointedly disassociated himself from the now, he became aware of decreasing pain and an increased weight upon his body. Opening his eyes with an effort, he saw that Jack was now lying fully upon him, his arms curled tight against Daniel with his hands gripping his shoulders. The hard thrusts were gone, replaced by a slow grind as the older man's body rocked against him. Jack's head had dropped down until his chin was locked over Daniel's shoulder, his face burrowed into Daniel's hair.
"Danny," Jack gasped. "Oh, Daniel, what am I doing to you?" The agonized and despairing tone shocked Daniel into hyper-awareness.
"Jack?" he whispered.
"Daniel? Oh god...I don't want to do this...I mean, I do, but not like this...This thing, it feeds on your emotions, your energy. That's why it's been toying with you, but it wants to kill you now, Daniel, then it's going to spawn more of its kind in Carter. Don't let it. Kill it; kill me if you have to."
Daniel had no doubt that this was his Jack and his body responded instinctively, encircling Jack's body within his arms and pressing him close, giving and accepting comfort he knew could not last. Jack slowly rocked against him, nearly sobbing words of regret, comfort and love.
"Tell me about the creature, Jack. Where and when? The creature is controlling your body, right?" He leaned his head into Jack's as he spoke, nuzzling at the short, soft hair, tasting the salt of sweat and tears.
"Damn you, Daniel...there's no time, you have to save yourself..."
"I won't leave you, Jack, not now. I don't think I could if I wanted to. Please, tell me now, while you still can..." he ordered.
Jack shifted his footing and cradled Daniel closer, his lovemaking as tender now as the creature's had been cruel before. For all Jack's protests, he was making no move to separate them; it seemed to Daniel he needed the contact as much as Daniel did.
"That planet we were stranded on after we destroyed Thor's ship...it happened there. It's been toying with you, Daniel...getting you ready for this. I haven't been able to lift more than a finger for months, but for some reason it's letting me have control now. It's sick, Daniel. It's given me back my body but I can't stop this and God help me I don't want to..." he groaned as he pushed harder into Daniel. "I'm sorry," he whispered. He brushed his lips against Daniel's ear as he confessed, "I wanted our first time to be special. I'm so sorry, Daniel."
Daniel could feel the drain on his energy taking hold again. He had no doubt he was going to die like this and there was nothing he could do about it, but he could only hold Jack tighter. "Don't be. I've wanted you for years. I just never planned on dying to get you into my bed."
Daniel wanted to laugh and cry all at once. He was hard now himself, had been for a while, his erection trapped between their bodies. Everything he ever wanted was right here in his arms, but the fact was they were only going to have a few brief minutes together and then....
No doubt about it, their timing sucked.
"I love you, Jack.never doubt that." Daniel pulled Jack's head down to him in a kiss meant as both hello and goodbye. If this was all they would ever have, he wanted it all. They were close, so close.
"I love you, too, Daniel.I just.I wish."
Without warning, something dark flashed on the periphery of Daniel's vision. There was a loud, hollow bang and Daniel felt Jack's body jerked hard once, then go limp, dropping heavily onto his own.
Cautiously, Daniel maneuvered Jack's head out of the way and looked around as Sam's blonde head bobbed into view.
"Daniel! Are you all right?" she asked, worriedly. She still had a two handed grip on the handle of a Jack's ancient, cast iron frying pan as her eyes darted quickly between Daniel and the unconscious man sprawled on top of him.
Daniel made no move to push off Jack. As confused as he was, he still figured this compromising position--complete with Jack's dick up his ass--was marginally better than flashing Sam his rapidly diminishing hard on. He swallowed against several answers to her question before stuttering out,. "I'm ah..." He cleared his throat. "I'm, I'm, I'm...a little embarrassed at the moment. You?"
Sam's mouth curved up a little as she tried unsuccessfully to hide her relieved smile. "Not too bad. Once the creature focused on you, I immediately started feeling stronger."
Daniel nodded his head. "Right. So, ah, how much did you hear?"
"Everything, Daniel, sorry. It's a small cabin. The good thing is that now we know what happened and we can try to save the Colonel."
"Yeah, yeah...that's good...that's a good plan."
They stared at each other for a moment. "Daniel?"
"Do you need a little help there? We've got to get the Colonel restrained and isolated. He's too dangerous free."
Jack was getting heavy. Daniel shifted a bit and felt Jack's erection stretching, impaling him still. He had to concentrate on keeping his hips still and ignore the delicious desire to continue to fuck himself on Jack--which was realistically about the only thing he was capable of at the moment. As much as he hated to admit it, he was too weak to get out of this predicament by himself. "Yeah, I guess I do."
She turned and laid her hands on Jack's back, preparing to push him off Daniel and to the side.
"No! Not that way!"
"Trust me on this, okay? Just, uh, grab his hips and pull down, straight down 'til I tell you to stop."
Enlightenment dawned over Sam's head like the proverbial light bulb. She ducked her head quickly to hide her grin and moved down to the foot of the bed. "I think I'll just grab his feet. Tell me when."
She pulled slowly and Daniel felt every inch of Jack's cock as it left his body far more gently than it had entered it.
"Okay, that's enough. I can probably handle it from here."
Sam put her hands on her hips. "Daniel, I'd like to give you your privacy here, but we really don't have that luxury. I tried to hit the Colonel hard enough to knock him out, but not hard enough to permanently disable him. I don't know how much time we have and if he wakes up before we can tie him up, we could very well end up dead. Do you understand?"
Daniel squinted in pain at the logic, then sighed. "Yes. I can either die from a soul sucking alien or I can die from embarrassment."
This time she laughed outright. "Daniel, don't worry about it, alright? We'll figure it all out later." She braced herself and rolled the Colonel off Daniel until he flopped over onto his back. Daniel caught her quick glance at them both before she flicked a corner of the bedspread over their groins for modesty sake. "I would have thought an unconscious man would be a little less...firm."
Daniel swung his feet off the bed and slowly sat up. "Yeah, that kinda surprised me, too."
"I bet it did." She ripped the electrical cord out of the bedside lamp and proceeded to tie up the Colonel.
"Daniel, lighten up. What if that fact turned out to be significant? How could I have told Janet or General Hammond that I didn't notice because I was too embarrassed to look? Besides, would it help if I said you both were pretty hot together?"
He covered his eyes with his hand. "No. It wouldn't." He sighed heavily. "Hammond and Janet?" he asked miserably.
"Daniel, we'll face that if and when we need to."
Sam wrapped her arm around Daniel's bare back and helped him to his feet. He swayed for a minute, his face going impossibly paler, his eyes unfocused. Sam tensed, ready to catch him if his knees buckled.
"Sam?" the hoarse voice whispered above her ear.
Without turning her head, she answered him as she propelled him forward a few steps. "Yeah, Daniel?"
"What are we going to do about Jack?"
"I don't know. Something's controlling him, a parasite or an alien entity."
"How are we going to get it out of him?"
"I don't know, but we'll think of something."
"Can't leave him like that."
"We won't." He was leaning heavily on her, his weight pressing down against her as they trudged through the door and into the living area. She aimed for the couch. There was no way he'd make it outside and into her car, not as weak as he was.
"It . ...wants to kill us," Daniel huffed out.
"We're onto it now."
"Not soon enough," Daniel panted in her hair. She felt a tremor run through him and tightened her grip.
"Just a little further," she encouraged him as she guided his wobbly steps across the floor. They managed to reach the couch and she let him drop onto the cushions. He slid sideways until his head was resting against the arm of the couch. Sam helped him lift his legs so he could stretch out and managed not to let her eyes linger on his naked state.
Making sure he was in no danger of falling for the moment, Sam went to the phone and dialed the direct line for General Hammond's office.
"General Hammond," he answered the secure line on the first ring.
"Sir, this is Major Carter."
"Yes, Major?" he asked, his tone alert.
"Colonel O'Neill has been compromised. It looks as if he's had a passenger since our return from P4X-234. He's been contained fir the moment, but we need immediate pick-up."
"Understood, Major. There will be transport there within two hours."
"Send Dr. Fraiser too, sir. Daniel's in bad shape. Whatever it is that has the colonel has been feeding off Daniel's life energy...like some kind of vampire, or something."
"What about yourself, Major?"
"I'm fine, Sir."
"Be careful, Major."
Sam hung up the phone and turned to check on Daniel. He was already asleep, his chest rising and falling with each breath. She moved to his side, snagging an old quilt puddled on a nearby chair and draping it over his naked form.
Leaving him in the living room, she went back to where the colonel was trussed up and unconscious on the bed. Blood had clotted under his head, not so much as to be alarming, but enough to make her momentarily regret hitting him so hard - it was the colonel's body after all. She cautiously approached, wary of surprises. When he didn't react, she knelt on the mattress beside him and ran a hand along the back of his skull. There was a huge knot where she'd beaned him with the skillet. She probed the area with her fingers trying to assess the damage. She was pretty sure his skull wasn't fractured. Sam checked to make sure the bonds were tight then stood up and rubbed the blood off on her jeans.
As an after thought, she flicked the bedspread over her commanding officer's nude body, noting with relief his earlier state of... arousal had finally abated. Tracings of blood on the colonel and on the spread told her Daniel might be more hurt than had been immediately apparent.
They had so much explaining to do...
Jack woke to darkness. Disoriented, he tried to understand what was happening, but all he could remember was floating in this deep blackness. He tried to clear his mind, tried to focus on seeing what was going on around him. The darkness shifted and rippled. Long cracks appeared letting dull gray light seep through the black wall surrounding him. Pain coursed through him, making him gasp.
The memory of the past hour rushed in on him and panic made his heart race at the thought the creature had already carried out its plan to kill Daniel. He fought the darkness, willing it to part and reveal the world outside his prison. The image of Daniel's face as he'd last seen it - pale and haggard as the creature claimed his body, resigned to the creature's insensitive cruelty, then willing to die for one moment of hope Jack could be saved - made Jack fight harder.
The fissures in the blackness that was his world spread and light flickered through. He concentrated on a spot of color until it widened into a blurry square that rippled along the edges. It wasn't much, but it was enough for him to see what was going on.
Daniel was definitely out for the count.
After checking the colonel, Sam had hunted out a pair of boxers and a tee shirt for Daniel. Dressing the deeply unconscious man with as much professionalism and detachment as she could muster, Sam discreetly checked for bleeding while trying not to notice his other assets. It wasn't easy. Somewhere between the 'little brother' days of their early friendship and now Daniel had changed.
She'd never really considered Daniel as a sexual creature. Their relationship had always been more one of easy understanding, intellectual challenge, and a love not born of physical things but of deep and abiding trust. Seeing Daniel with the colonel, hearing the two of them together once the colonel had regained control, Sam knew she had never seen two people more right for each other in her life.
And hot...damn, they were hot...
She giggled a little to herself as she guided Daniel's hand into the shirtsleeve. Their little archaeologist had grown up on them, become the stuff of many a woman's - and apparently man's - wet dream and she'd missed it. Missed a lot of things, it seemed. The colonel hadn't been himself at all during their misguided flirtation. In her heart it had always felt wrong, and for more reasons than just the regs she had quoted so many times. The colonel was wrong for her because he belonged with Daniel...always had.
The sense of relief she felt as she recalled some of the less spectacular moments of the past months found her hugging Daniel tightly, wishing her dear friend would wake up and accept the abject apology she owed him. Things had gone so very wrong and knowing they'd all been manipulated didn't begin to make her feel better. Once they freed the colonel, they all had a lot of healing to do. But now they knew what they were fighting, there was no doubt in her mind they would win.
Daniel shivered beneath her and she withdrew, placing the quilt back over his lean-muscled body. While he only had a small amount of visible tearing and bleeding, there was no way to know how much damage had been done inside him. She'd made up her mind Daniel would never know just how much she had heard after the creature using the colonel's body had manipulated him into what amounted to sexual assault. If the colonel hadn't regained control, then she couldn't begin to imagine what fate both of them would have faced.
Daniel would be okay, both of them would, she'd make sure of it. And when they got the colonel back, she had no doubt he'd make sure of it too. She shuddered and smiled again remembering the all over look she'd peeked at him before.
Definitely all grown up.
Daniel drifted in and out of dreams.
He dreamed of making love to Jack, dreams of both of them driving toward completion. Holding, touching, needing, feeling.only to have Jack change between one kiss and the next into a hideous blackness devoid of anything save greed for its own evil needs. Taking and taking and taking until there was nothing left of Daniel but an aching void where the other half of his soul belonged, where Jack belonged.
A distant part of Daniel's mind knew he should be having greater issues with how the creature inside Jack's body had used him, and if things had been different Daniel knew he probably would, but Jack, as he had so often in the past, had anchored him. Somehow Jack had emerged past the creature's control in order to turn what had nearly become so unbearable into a connection that transcended the physical coupling of their bodies. In those few brief moments they had truly become one and only Daniel knew just how close he had come to shutting down in a way that would have killed him as surely as the creature had intended.
Daniel had come close to it before, long ago when his parents had died before his eyes. A caring set of foster parents had pulled him back from the edge of disassociation from the trauma not only of their loss but his own helplessness to stop it. He'd felt nothing, said nothing, done noting.and had so nearly been lost completely. Just like when..
Daniel woke with a start, sitting up on the sofa too quickly, nearly tumbling to the floor as the soreness and weakness of his body blackened the edges of his vision. Then Sam was there, keeping him securely upright and murmuring words of comfort thinking he'd had a bad dream.
"No...Sam, no...." Daniel gulped in deep breaths of air, trying to make sense of what his dreams had revealed to him. Finally he was able to open his eyes without feeling as if the room was spinning off without him and he met Sam's concerned gaze with the first real optimism he'd felt in months. "I know, Sam. I know how to help Jack."
Janet watched her monitors carefully. The past forty-eight hours had been some of the strangest she'd experienced in all her time with the Stargate program. The story Sam had related to her sound so B-movie impossible, Janet had been tempted to send all three of them to MacKenzie, but the physical evidence was clear. Daniel was a physical wreck, his chemical balance all over the map, and she had very carefully repaired the damage caused by the sexual assault herself. She didn't even want to think about the emotional damage Daniel claimed wasn't a real issue because it hadn't been Jack who attacked him but the thing inside him. She had her doubts, but wasn't pushing.yet. Daniel had a lot of recovering to do before she would even begin pushing him. At the moment he was sedated to keep him in his infirmary bed instead of by her side where he so desperately wanted to be.
The colonel was isolated in a hyperbaric chamber, cut off from all contact with anyone who could feed the monster inside him. She'd watched for the better part of those forty-eight hours as the creature inside him begged to be allowed out, promised to leave the colonel and Earth if they would only let him live. Gradually the creature had resorted to physically harming the colonel, but apparently the colonel had been listening when Daniel had outlined his idea to Sam that depriving the creature of its food source was the only way to defeat it because he'd refused to react in any way at all that Janet could see.
The past few hours had been very quiet as the creature seemed to give up its desperate attempts to get out, or maybe its waning energy could no longer animate the colonel's body and it was taunting the man internally to get any reaction at all that would sustain it.
Sam had taken a short break from her endless traveling between where Janet sat watching the monitors and Daniel's bedside. Teal'c had appointed himself Daniel's guardian and refused to leave the man's side in the event the creature should somehow escape. Sam's private telling of their experiences at the colonel's cabin had left Janet with a lot of things to think about...not the least of which was knowledge that the relationship between the colonel and Daniel had undergone more changes than just the obvious ones attributable to the alien creature on all the official reports - as yet only shared between her and General Hammond. They hadn't decided how much would reach the reports the Pentagon would get. A lot depended on the colonel, and whether he survived this ordeal.
It was like a window opening, Jack thought. The dusty stale places in his soul that had been trapped so long were gradually reawakening under the influence of the fresh breeze being let in so slowly in the hours since he'd been put into this place. The thing inside him was less and less active as t ime went on, weakening as it was deprived longer and longer of the emotional hits that kept it alive.
Jack knew the walls of the chamber were lead-lined, which, combined with the decrease in atmospheric pressure, creating a hollowness and isolation even Jack could feel. It was almost all he could do to quell the hope that this might actually work and he might very soon be free, but he had done isolation before and learned well how to sublimate his emotions so as not to 'feed' those who would use them against him.
He remembered hearing Daniel in the cabin. After Carter had knocked him in the head, he'd woken up enough to listen and see things with his own eyes, though movement - even if he hadn't been trussed up like a Christmas goose - was beyond him. The desperate hope in Daniel's voice as he outlined his idea had heartened Jack's own flagging will to keep fighting, knowing what the creature had done to Daniel using his body. They had so much to resolve between them, assuming Daniel's plan worked.
In the meantime, Jack waited, watching himself as if from a distance, dispassionately divorcing himself from his body and the presence which invaded it. Unlike the time when the creature had kept him prisoner in his own mind, Jack felt in control for the first time in months. The thing couldn't take what Jack refused to give.that was the lesson Daniel had learned, almost at the cost of his life as the creature tried to take away the very essence of what made Daniel 'Daniel'. Jack remembered the moment Daniel had simply turned off, somehow withdrawing to the point where the creature, so solely concentrated on receiving and taking, had gone into a kind of shock when its source had simply disappeared. That shock had allowed Jack to come out again, to let Daniel know how he felt, to experience the exquisite pleasure of the man he now knew he loved more than life itself. He just prayed Daniel was okay and they would be given the chance to begin again.
Holding her breath seemed to have become a habit, Sam reflected. They were almost into the third day of the colonel's isolation and, while water and food had been provided but not consumed, they couldn't leave him in there much longer or he would surely begin to die as his bodily systems failed to receive what it needed to survive. The creature had been dormant nearly thirty-six hours, during which time the colonel hadn't moved at all from his seated position against the far wall of the chamber. He looked dead already, though Janet assured her he was alive.
Daniel had finally broken out of his infirmary bed, abetted by Teal'c, and sat beside them slumping tiredly more and more by the second in a wheelchair. He still looked like death warmed over, but Janet hadn't had the heart to send him away yet. It was if he knew that something had to happen soon, or they would be forced to either let the colonel die or let him, and the creature inside him, go back through the gate to where they'd found it. They all knew which option the colonel would choose, so they watched and waited together in silence, each in their own way preparing to say goodbye even as they hoped against hope it wouldn't be necessary.
Janet had remained silent for hours now, but Sam knew she was contemplating the unthinkable prospect of standing aside and letting a patient, and friend, die. The general had been in and out all morning, sharing quiet strength with the assembled friends and teammates, and a quiet word with Daniel that had left him misty-eyed and somber long afterward. They were running out of time and they all knew it.
Teal'c sighed deeply and started to move Daniel's chair, clearly intending to take the younger man back to bed, and Daniel's head shot up alertly.
"No, Teal'c, not yet..."
Janet started to protest, but Sam placed a hand on the doctor's arm to stop her. It was Daniel's right to choose to see this through to the end.whatever the end might be.
"Okay, Daniel, but not much longer, you still need..."
But Daniel wasn't listening, his eyes fixed and widening as they fixed on the monitors. Sam turned to see what had captured his attention so completely, knowing the others were doing the same.
The chamber was gradually filling with an inky, cloudy mist, swirling weakly around the colonel's body - actually coming out of his body, Sam saw. This was the creature that had made their lives such an emotional rollercoaster for so long, this was the evil within that had nearly destroyed them all. Sam glanced back to see if Daniel had recognized it and was pleased to see anger on his face. She knew Daniel had already forgiven the colonel, indeed hadn't even seen the need to forgive the colonel for what the thing inside him had done, but she knew this view of their true enemy could only help Daniel's already amazing and healthy discrimination between attacker and victim.
The cloud swirled idly around the room, at first almost aimlessly then with increasing frenzy and purpose as it searched for a way out. Lacking a means of communicating without the colonel, it darted over his still unresponsive body threateningly, as if telling them to let him out or it would kill the man.
"I don't think it can...." Daniel whispered, and none of them thought to question his certainty.
The creature descended toward the colonel, but as far as they could see there was no reaction or effect. Again and again it tried but failed, Sam assumed, to either re-enter the colonel or to hurt him in retaliation for its own failure.
Long minutes passed as they watched in helpless anticipation that, one way or another, the hell they'd lived under for so long was about to end. Slowly, far too slowly, the dark mist thinned to a sickly gray, expanding further and further until it ceased to be visible at all. Could it really be over?
Now came the hard part. They needed to reduce the interior pressure of the chamber, then the colonel would have to get himself out into the antechamber and out. They didn't dare risk sending anyone else in. Once the colonel was safely out, they intended to irradiate the chamber to make certain the thing was truly dead and gone from their lives forever. Janet started the process of reducing the pressure, but somehow they needed to wake the colonel out of his self-imposed stupor and let him know it was safe to do so.
It would be a matter of a few hours before they could even attempt to get him out, but Sam was sure none of them were going anywhere.
He could breathe.
For the first time in longer than Jack could remember, he could feel the air as it moved in and out of his lungs, feel his heart as it pumped blood through his body. He felt.free.
Someone was calling him, a beloved voice he'd never really expected to hear again. A voice low and urgent and possessing a tone both intimate and personal.
Jack knew there had to be others around, but he also knew nothing else could have reached him in the place he'd let his mind go to in order to escape the influence of the creature.apparently Daniel knew it too.
It didn't matter. What did matter was that Daniel was saying that the creature was gone, that at long last Jack was free, and that the only thing left for Jack to do was to move and come to them.to Daniel.
Jack could do that. Wanted nothing more. Opening his eyes, he took in his surroundings and located the door. With a little effort, he pointed to it and asked the air, "There...?"
"Yeah, Jack, just through there. We're waiting, "Daniel's voice laughed in return, that laugh that bordered so closely on a sob that never failed to break Jack's heart. Daniel was trying not to cry, but he was happy and that warmed Jack to his very soul, warmth he'd never expected to feel again. He reveled in it the sheer, simple pleasure of knowing Daniel was waiting, that Daniel didn't hate him for what had happened and that there was a future for them waiting just outside the door.
With more thought than it should have taken, Jack let his body slump sideways and began dragging himself toward the doorway. It seemed to take forever, each inch gained at an impossible price of willpower and concentration, but Daniel called encouragement every step of the way, urged Jack to come out, to come to him.
After what seemed like an eternity of effort, Jack reached the portal. All that was left was for him to stand and turn the wheel that would let him out; truly free for the first time in far more than the months he'd spent under the control of the hated creature. Daniel waited for him out there and Daniel's voice told him more than words ever could of the unshakeable faith and love he held for Jack was untarnished by what the creature had done.
The future - his and Daniel's - waited just outside the door and Jack could not let himself fail either of them now. Slowly, he urged his body upward, clinging to the doorframe and straining every sluggish muscle in his body until he stood upright and swaying, one hand on the wheel of the door mechanism as his brain gradually worked out which way to turn it.
A sudden thought occurred to him. "Daniel?"
"You gonna let me see your scar this time?"
It was one of the last things Jack had said to Daniel when he was still himself; he knew Daniel wouldn't miss the significance of it. Though Jack had no expectation of a different answer, he wanted to let Daniel know it really was him, that he was back and there was no reason to fear any longer.
After a long moment, Daniel's voice responded softly, definitely sounding a little snuffly with emotion now, "Sure, Jack, anything you want..."
Jack smiled to himself; the day was just getting better and better.
"Cool, on my way...." he answered, firmly grasping the wheel and rotating it.
Pushing with his full weight, Jack felt the door slowly give way before him. Placing one foot painfully in front of the other, he stepped out of the silence of the chamber, out of the shadows of the past into his future. To Daniel.