It didn't matter, what had happened but hadn't really at all.
He said words, went through motions and tried to walk on the path he had been told was the right one for him, but none of that healed this broken, twisted thing within. He feared he was forever wounded and that he would bleed painfully, hemorrhaging from the inside out. More than the endless, soul-murdering misery of his existence, it frightened him that with each passing month - each day - he was coming closer to wishing for it to just all be over. He felt emptied of everything that mattered.
He hid away without finding a dark corner or escape route, without actually hiding. It was so easy to fool everyone into thinking he was fine and normal and good. Sometimes he even pretended himself into believing that. What life he led was a matter of mechanically following his team through the Stargate. He loathed that device as much as he loved it, couldn't find passion for the places they visited and the people they met anymore. But he went through those same motions that killed him a little bit each time as just much as the corrosive internal lesion did. He filed report after report, sculpting his words carefully but not caring about them or their meaning. They had no meaning. He walked his path over and over again until he could do it without thinking. The routine was a safety zone, a fantasy.
He was perpetually asleep and some miniscule part of himself still aware of his own situation liked it that way. He carried on, did what he knew he had to do and forgot about the hurt. After so long carrying the pain with him, he became numb and tolerant of it in his foggy dream state. The gaping hole inside didn't matter because, after all, he was fine and normal and good.
Sometimes, though, sometimes all too often, he blinked and realized he wasn't sleeping. That he had never slept, only thought he had, and if there remained anything inside him these realizations would have gutted him clean anyway. Sitting here, staring down at the open drawer and what lay at the bottom of it was just such a blink. His eyes were a wasteland, a desert. He closed his eyes for a brief moment, and an involuntary rush of wetness returned to them. It did not provide relief but intense burning soreness, so he opened them again. The sting remained.
He picked up the item and fingered the tears in the fabric, which were rimmed with thick, crusted blood. Sam kept telling him it was morbid of him to keep it. He knew she was right but he couldn't throw it away. He made her believe he had done just that, though, just as he pretended everything else about his life, because he was tired of trying to explain its necessity. Because she *couldn't* ever understand, no one could. He didn't want anyone to. He lifted the shirt to his face, breathing in deeply. It smelled like sweat and piss and blood. Fear and pain and death. But interlaced among those horrible things was a thread of inexplicable hope, and that was the most terrible of all.
In moments like these, when he was cognizant of his existence, he suddenly wanted everything the shirt was - the pain, the death - to lacerate his insides, to replace that unnamable thing already wounding him. That made no sense, even in his own mind. He snuffed a laugh into the hated garment, and his nostrils filled with its putrid stench when he breathed back in. He leaned over and brought his forehead to rest on the desk, his stomach in agony. He wanted to cry but instead he laughed again. No matter how many times the shirt jolted him awake, it would never do what he wanted. It wouldn't kill him outright.
He knew it was the bizarre hope it contained which prevented such a thing, that it had been planted within the threads like a weed that refused to succumb to pesticide. Angry all of a sudden, he stopped laughing and jerked upright, thrusting the shirt away. His hands were grimy from touching it, the scent refused to leave his nose. He watched dispassionately as it slid halfway off the desktop, the large hole in the shoulder staring out at him like an amused eye.
In his head, he hurled insults at the shirt. Then he realized how foolish it was to give ownership of such dreadful hope to an inanimate object. So instead he hurled insults at the person who had made him hope when all he wanted to do was die. He laughed again, scarily high-pitched this time, because he couldn't say for sure that he wasn't still placing blame on something inanimate. He shoved at the shirt with his fingertips until it slithered onto the floor.
He felt as though he had no choice now but to face what else lay inside his drawer, the thing that was actually responsible for bringing him out of his stupor. Every time he blinked like this it was the same. The shirt began it all by taunting, but no matter how much the hope would try to lull him into believing it, no matter how much that pained him, it wouldn't succeed. It was just the warm up exercise. It was the picture that eviscerated but still left him wretchedly alive.
He rubbed his fingers on his pant legs a couple of times before he reached down and picked up her portrait. Sha'uri had been incredibly beautiful, and this picture had captured a moment where love was tangible in her eyes. He couldn't imagine when it had been taken. It didn't matter. It had, and it was here now, killing him but not in such a cruel manner. His hand shook as he traced his pointer finger across her cheekbone, along her hair. For some reason her image blurred and he couldn't distinguish her features anymore. Sam thought it was gruesome to keep the shirt, but he knew it was more so to keep this memento of a truly awful year. He didn't know why he tortured himself with it, when it would be so simple to put it in storage. Throw it away, even, because what right did he have?
"Goddamnit, Daniel," Jack said. His eyes burned. "Where the hell are you?"
And he knew, deep in his torn insides, that Daniel wasn't coming back and neither was real hope.
The End

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  Hawk50 Nancy Bailey Carrie AnnO  
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Disclaimer: Stargate SG-1 and its characters are the property of Stargate (II) Productions, MGM/UA, Double Secret Productions, and Gekko Productions. This story is for entertainment purposes only and no money exchanged hands. No copyright infringement is intended. This is a parody for entertainment purposes only. The original characters, situations, and story are the property of the author. This story may not be posted anywhere without the consent of the author.